The objectionable smell around Miss Emily's house posed a real problem for the town of Jefferson. The younger members of the Board of Aldermen simply wanted to handle the problem as they would with any other citizen:
Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and she don't. . . .
The head of the Board responded that they can't "accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad," a response that is part of the Old South/New South conflict that Faulkner explores in this story. Because Miss Emily is still, although now poor, part of the once-powerful aristocratic stratum of Jefferson society, the judge can't bring himself to treat her as if she were just another town citizen.
Avoiding direct conflict with Miss Emily, the aldermen go onto Miss Emily's property at midnight and spread lime wherever they think the smell is coming from, even breaking open her cellar door to toss some lime into the cellar. They apparently make enough noise to wake Miss Emily because they notice a light that had been out is now on, and they see Miss Emily's "upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across the lawn and into the shadow. . . ." This episode illustrates the power that Miss Emily exercises over the town--they have every right to deal with her directly, but they simply cannot bring themselves to discuss such an unpleasant problem with someone who represents the old aristocracy in Jefferson.