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He stopped in the hall and looked silently into the living room. His expectantexpression faded. His face seemed suddenly as old as his white hair. The twoboys were sitting close together on the sofa, reading the same book. Norton’scheek rested against the sleeve of Johnson’s black suit. Johnson’s finger movedunder the lines they were reading. The elder brother and the younger. Sheppardlooked woodenly at this scene for almost a minute. Then he walked into theroom and took off his coat and dropped it on a chair. Neither boy noticed him.He went on to the kitchen.Leola left the supper on the stove every afternoon before she left and heput it on the table. His head ached and his nerves were taut. He sat down onthe kitchen stool and remained there, sunk in his depression. He wondered ifhe could infuriate Johnson enough to make him leave of his own accord.Last night what had enraged him was the Jesus business. It might enrage John-son, but it depressed him. Why not simply tell the boy to go? Admit defeat.The thought of facing Johnson again sickened him. The boy looked at him asif he were the guilty one, as if he were a moral leper. He knew without conceitthat he was a good man, that he had nothing to reproach himself with. Hisfeelings about Johnson now were involuntary. He would like to feel compas-sion for him. He would like to be able to help him. He longed for the timewhen there would be no one but himself and Norton in the house, when thechild’s simple selfishness would be all he had to contend with, and his ownloneliness.330He got up and took three serving dishes off the shelf and took them to thestove. Absently he began pouring the butterbeans and the hash into the dishes.When the food was on the table, he called them in.They brought the book with them. Norton pushed his place setting aroundto the same side of the table as Johnson’s and moved his chair next to Johnson’schair. They sat down and put the book between them. It was a black book withred edges.“What’s that you’re reading?” Sheppard asked, sitting down.“The Holy Bible,” Johnson said.God give me strength, Sheppard said under his breath.
396CH. 8 / THE AUTHOR’S WORK AS CONTEXT335“We lifted it from a ten cent store,” Johnson said.“We?” Sheppard muttered. He turned and glared at Norton. The child’s facewas bright and there was an excited sheen to his eyes. The change that had comeover the boy struck him for the first time. He looked alert. He had on a blueplaid shirt and his eyes were a brighter blue than he had ever seen them before.There was a strange new life in him, the sign of new and more rugged vices. “Sonow you steal?” he said, glowering. “You haven’t learned to be generous but youhave learned to steal.”“No he ain’t,” Johnson said. “I was the one lifted it. He only watched. He can’tsully himself. It don’t make any difference about me. I’m going to hell anyway.”Sheppard held his tongue.