Of Love and Dust
Ernest J. Gaines
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Ernest J. Gaines is best known for his prize-winning THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN, but OF LOVE AND DUST has equal power and fascination. It zeros in on an explosion in the making between two men, one black and one white, trapped in the vise of Southern back country prejudice.
When young Marcus is bonded out of jail, he is sent to the Hebert Plantation to work in the fields. He treats Sidney Bonbon, the Cajun overseer, with contempt and Bonbon retaliates by working him nearly to death. Marcus decides to take his revenge.
roll book and the money on the table in front of him. He had stacks of twenty-dollar bills, tens, fives, and ones; in change he had halves, quarters, nickels, and pennies. Marshall was a big man with a red face and light blue eyes. He was a heavy drinker and even now he looked half drunk. Winter and summer he wore a seersucker suit and a panama hat. His coat and hat hung on the back of the chair now. His shirt collar was opened and his shirt was soaking wet with sweat. The line of people waiting
while, then she went out on the back gallery. Next, Aunt Margaret saw her walking across the yard. She looked small and lost under the black, moss-heavy trees, Aunt Margaret said. “Yes,” she thought. “That’s what it is. That’s what it done come to now.” Louise went to the gate. “But how?” Aunt Margaret thought. “How in the world could the Master let a thing like that happen—Ehh, Lord.” Louise held on to one of the pickets in the gate and looked out in the road. Then Aunt Margaret saw her coming
if he press him enough, sooner or later he will have to kill Bonbon …?” Bishop lowered his head. It was the truth. But Bishop couldn’t ever say anything like that about Marshall Hebert. He would rather put it all on Marcus: Marcus’s clothes, his strutting, his side glances at Bonbon. 44 We talked for a couple of hours. Bishop wanted to know what we could do to keep this from happening. That’s why he had come down the quarter to see me. He felt so helpless up there in that big house,
Louise said. Aunt Margaret went down the steps. At the gate, she looked back at them again. They still watched her from the gallery. She turned from the gate and went out in the road. The dust was so white and hot it made her eyes burn, she said. About five thirty, Bonbon went up to the big house. Bishop said Pauline was still there. She could have been gone since three thirty, but she stayed because she knew Bonbon was coming back. When he came in, she asked him if he wanted to eat. He sat
couldn’t do a thing. Bonbon had said, “We is nothing but little people. They make us do what they want us to do and they don’t tell us nothing.” So why blame Marcus? Why blame him? No, I didn’t blame Marcus any more. I admired Marcus. I admired his great courage. And that’s why I wanted to hurry up and get to the front. That’s why my heart had jumped in my throat when the tractor went dead on me—I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to tell him how much I admired what he was doing. I wanted to tell him