Chapter no 15

East of Eden

Adam sat like a contented cat on his land. From the entrance to the little draw under a giant oak, which dipped


roots into

underground water, he could look out over the acres lying away to the river and across to an alluvial flat and then up the rounded foothills on the western side. It was a fair place even in the summer when the sun laced into it. A line of river willows and sycamores banded it in the middle, and the western hills were yellow-brown with feed.

For some reason the

mountains to the west of the Salinas Valley have a thicker skin of earth on them than have the eastern foothills, so

that the grass is richer there. Perhaps the peaks store rain and distribute it more evenly, and perhaps, being more wooded, they draw more rainfall.

Very little of the

Sanchez, now Trask, place was under cultivation, but Adam in his mind could see the wheat growing tall and squares of green alfalfa near the river. Behind him he could

hear the rackety

hammering of the carpenters brought all the way from

Salinas to rebuild the old Sanchez house. Adams had decided to live in the old house. Here was a place in which to plant his dynasty. The manure was scraped out,

the old floors torn up, neck-rubbed window


ripped away. New sweet wood was going in, pine sharp with resin and velvety redwood and a new roof of long split shakes. The old thick walls sucked in coat after coat of white-wash made with lime and salt water, which, as it dried, seemed to have a luminosity of its own.

He planned a permanent

seat. A gardener had trimmed

the ancient roses, planted geraniums,

laid out the

vegetable flat, and brought the living spring in little channels to wander back and forth through the garden.

Adam foretasted comfort for himself and his descendants. In a shed, covered with tarpaulins, lay the crated heavy furniture sent from San Francisco and carted out from King City.

He would have good

living too. Lee, his pigtailed Chinese cook, had made a special trip to Pajaro to buy the pots and kettles and pans, kegs, jars, copper, and glass

for his kitchen. A new pigsty was building far from the house and downwind, with chicken and duck runs near and a kennel for the dogs to keep the coyotes away. It was no

quick thing Adam

contemplated, to be finished and ready in a hurry. His men worked

deliberately and

slowly. It was a long job. Adam wanted it well done. He inspected every wooden joint, stood off to study paint samples on a shingle. In the corner of his room catalogues piled

up—catalogues for

machinery, furnishing, seeds, fruit trees. He was glad now that his father had left him a rich man. In his mind a darkness was settling over his memory

of Connecticut.

Perhaps the hard flat light of the West was blotting out his birthplace. When he thought back to his father’s house, to the farm, the town, to his brother’s face, there was a blackness over all of it. And he shook off the memories.

Temporarily he


moved Cathy into the white-painted, clean spare house of

Bordoni, there to await the home and the child. There was no doubt whatever that the child would be finished well before the house was ready.

But Adam was unhurried.

“I want it built strong,”

he directed over and over. “I want it to last—copper nails and hard wood—nothing to rust and rot.”

He was not alone in his preoccupation with the future. The whole valley, the whole West was that way. It was a time when the past had lost its sweetness and its sap.

You’d go a good long road

before you’d find a man, and he very old, who wished to bring back a golden past.

Men were notched and

comfortable in the present, hard and unfruitful as it was, but only as a doorstep into a fantastic future. Rarely did two men meet, or three stand in a bar, or a dozen gnaw tough venison in camp, that the valley’s future, paralyzing in its grandeur, did not come up, not as conjecture but as a certainty.

“It’ll be—who knows? maybe in our lifetime,” they said.


people found happiness in

the future

according to their present lack. Thus a man might bring his family down from a hill ranch in a drag—a big box nailed on oaken runners which pulled bumping down the broken hills. In the straw of the box, his wife would brace the children against the tooth-shattering,

tongue-biting crash of the runners against stone and ground.

And the father would set his heels and think, When the roads come in—then will be the time. Why, we’ll sit high

and happy in a surrey and get clear into King City in three hours—and what more in the world could you want than that?

Or let a man survey his grove of live-oak trees, hard as coal and hotter, the best firewood in the world. In his pocket might be a newspaper

with a squib: “Oak cord wood is bringing ten dollars a cord in Los Angeles.” Why, hell, when the railroad puts a branch out here, I could lay it down neat, broke up and seasoned, right beside the track, for a dollar and a half a cord. Let’s go whole hog and say the Southern Pacific will charge three-fifty to carry it.

There’s still five dollars a

cord, and there’s three

thousand cords in that little grove alone. That’s fifteen thousand dollars right there. There were others who prophesied, with rays shining on their foreheads, about the sometime ditches that would carry water all over the valley

—who knows? maybe in our lifetime—or deep wells with steam engines to pump the water up out of the guts of the world. Can you imagine? Just think what this land would raise with plenty of water!

Why, it will be a frigging garden!

Another man, but he was

crazy, said that someday there’d be a way, maybe ice, maybe some other way, to get a peach like this here I got in my

hand clear to


In the towns they talked

of sewers and inside toilets, and some already had them; and arc lights on the street corners—Salinas had those— and telephones. There wasn’t any limit, no boundary at all, to the future. And it would be so a man wouldn’t have room to

store his


Contentment would flood raging down the valley like the Salinas River in March of a thirty-inch year.

They looked over the

flat dry dusty valley and the ugly mushroom towns and they saw a loveliness—who knows?

maybe in


lifetime. That’s one reason you couldn’t laugh too much at Samuel Hamilton. He let his

mind range more

deliciously than any other, and it didn’t sound so silly when you heard what they

were doing in San Jose. Where Samuel went haywire was

wondering whether

people would be happy when all that came.

Happy? He’s haywire now. Just let us get it, and we’ll show you happiness. And

Samuel could

remember hearing of a cousin of his mother’s in Ireland, a knight

and rich and

handsome, and anyway shot himself on a silken couch, sitting

beside the most

beautiful woman in the world who loved him.

“There’s a capacity for appetite,” Samuel said, “that a whole heaven and earth of cake can’t satisfy.”

Adam Trask nosed some

of his happiness into futures but

there was present

contentment in him too. He felt his heart smack up against his throat when he saw Cathy sitting in the sun, quiet, her baby growing, and a transparency to her skin that made him think of the angels

on Sunday School cards. Then a breeze would move her bright hair, or she would raise her eyes, and Adam would swell out in his stomach with a pressure of ecstasy that was close kin to grief.

If Adam rested like a sleek fed cat on his land,

Cathy was catlike too. She had the inhuman attribute of abandoning what she could not get and of waiting for what she could get. These two gifts gave her great advantages. Her pregnancy had been an accident. When her attempt to abort herself failed

and the


threatened her, she gave up that method. This does not mean that she reconciled herself to pregnancy. She sat it out as she would have weathered an illness. Her marriage to Adam had been the same. She was trapped and she took the best possible way out. She had not wanted to go to California either, but other plans were denied her for the time being. As a very young child she had learned to

win by using the

momentum of her opponent. It was easy to guide a man’s

strength where it


impossible to resist him. Very few people in the world could have known that Cathy did not want to be where she was and in the condition she was. She relaxed and waited for the change she knew must come some time. Cathy had the one quality required of a great and successful criminal: she trusted no one, confided in no one. Her self was an island. It is probable that she did not even look at Adam’s new land or building house, or turn his towering plans to reality in her mind, because she did not intend to live here

after her sickness was over, after her trap opened. But to his questions she gave proper answers; to do otherwise would be waste motion, and dissipated energy, and foreign to a good cat.

“See, my darling, how the

house lies—windows

looking down the valley?” “It’s beautiful.”

“You know, it may sound foolish, but I find

myself trying to think the way old Sanchez did a hundred years ago. How was the valley then? He must have planned so carefully. You know, he had pipes? He did

—made out of redwood with

a hole bored or burned through to carry the water down from the spring. We dug up some pieces of it.” “That’s remarkable,” she said. “He must have been clever.”

“I’d like to know more about him. From the way the house sets, the trees he left, the shape and proportion of

the house, he must have been a kind of an artist.”

“He was a Spaniard, wasn’t he? They’re artistic people,

I’ve heard. I

remember in school about a painter—no,


was a


“I wonder where I could find out about old Sanchez.” “Well, somebody must know.”

“All of his work and planning, and Bordoni kept cows in the house. You know what I wonder about most?” “What, Adam?”

“I wonder if he had a Cathy and who she was.” She smiled and looked down and away from him. “The things you say.”

“He must have had! He must have had. I never had

energy or direction or—well, even a very great desire to live before I had you.”

“Adam, you embarrass

me. Adam, be careful. Don’t joggle me, it hurts.”


sorry. I’m so


“No, you’re not. You

just don’t think. Should I be knitting or sewing, do you suppose? I’m so comfortable just sitting.”

“We’ll buy everything

we need. You just sit and be comfortable. I guess in a way you’re working harder than anyone here. But the pay— the pay is wonderful.” “Adam, the scar on my forehead isn’t going to go away, I’m afraid.”

“The doctor said it would fade in time.” “Well,

sometimes it

seems to be getting fainter, and then it comes back. Don’t you think it’s darker today?” “No, I don’t.”

But it was. It looked like

a huge thumbprint, even to whorls of wrinkled skin. He put his finger near, and she drew her head away. “Don’t,” she said. “It’s tender to the touch. It turns red if you touch it.”

“It will go away. Just

takes a little time, that’s all.” She smiled as he turned,

but when he walked away her eyes

were flat and

directionless. She shifted her body restlessly. The baby was kicking. She relaxed and all her muscles loosened. She waited.

Lee came near where her chair was set under the biggest oak tree. “Missy likee tea?”

“No—yes, I would too.”

Her eyes inspected him

and her inspection could not penetrate the dark brown of his eyes. He made her uneasy. Cathy had always been able to shovel into the mind of any man and dig up his impulses and his desires. But Lee’s brain gave and repelled like

rubber. His face was lean and pleasant, his forehead broad, firm, and sensitive, and his lips curled in a perpetual smile. His long black glossy braided queue, tied at the bottom with a narrow piece of black silk, hung over his shoulder

and moved

rhythmically against


chest. When he did violent work he curled his queue on top of his head. He wore narrow cotton trousers, black heelless

slippers, and


frogged Chinese smock.

Whenever he could he hid his hands in his sleeves as though he were afraid for them, as most Chinese did in that day. “I bling litta table,” he

said, bowed slightly, and shuffled away.

Cathy looked after him,

and her eyebrows drew down in a scowl. She was not afraid of Lee, yet she was not comfortable with him either. But he was a good and respectful servant—the best. And what harm could he do her?


The summer progressed and the Salinas River retired

underground or stood in green pools under high banks. The cattle lay drowsing all day long under the willows and only moved out at night to feed. An umber tone came to

the grass. And the

afternoon winds blowing

inevitably down the valley started a dust that was like fog and raised it into the sky almost

as high as the

mountaintops. The wild oat

roots stood up like nigger-heads where the winds blew the earth away. Along a

polished earth, pieces of straw and twigs scampered until they were stopped by some rooted thing; and little stones

rolled crookedly before the wind.

It became more apparent than ever why old Sanchez had built his house in the little draw, for the wind and

the dust did not penetrate, and the

spring, while it

diminished, still gushed a head of cold clear water. But

Adam, looking out over his dry dust-obscured land, felt the panic the Eastern man always does at first in California. In a Connecticut summer two weeks without rain is a dry spell and four a drought. If the countryside is not green it is dying. But in California

it does not

ordinarily rain at all between the end of May and the first of November. The Eastern man, though he has been told, feels the earth is sick in the rainless months.

Adam sent Lee with a

note to the Hamilton place to ask Samuel to visit him and

discuss the boring of some wells on his new place.

Samuel was sitting in the shade, watching his son Tom design

and build a

revolutionary coon trap, when Lee drove up in the Trask cart. Lee folded his hands in his

sleeves and waited.

Samuel read the note. “Tom,” he said, “do you think you could keep the estate going while I run down and talk water with a dry man?” “Why don’t I go with

you? You might need some

help.” “At

talking?—that I

don’t. It won’t come to digging for some time if I’m any judge. With wells there’s got to be a great deal of talk

—five or six hundred words for every shovel of dirt.” “I’d like to go—it’s Mr.

Trask, isn’t it? I didn’t meet him when he came here.” “You’ll do that when the digging starts. I’m older than you. I’ve got first claim on the talk. You know, Tom, a coon is going to reach his pretty little hand through here and let himself out. You know how clever they are.” “See this piece here? It

screws on and turns down here. You couldn’t get out of that yourself.”

“I’m not so clever as a coon. I think you’ve worked it out, though. Tom, boy, would you saddle Doxology while I go tell your mother where I’m going?”

“I bling lig,” said Lee. “Well, I have to come home some time.”

“I bling back.” “Nonsense,” said

Samuel. “I’ll lead my horse in and ride back.”

Samuel sat in the buggy

beside Lee, and his clobber-footed saddle horse shuffled clumsily behind.

“What’s your name?” Samuel asked pleasantly.

“Lee. Got more name.

Lee papa family name. Call Lee.”

“I’ve read quite a lot about China. You born in China?”

“No. Born here.”

Samuel was silent for quite a long time while the buggy lurched down the

wheel track toward the dusty valley. “Lee,” he said at last, “I mean no disrespect, but I’ve never been able to figure why you people still talk pidgin when an illiterate baboon from the black bogs of Ireland, with a head full of Gaelic and a tongue like a potato, learns to talk a poor grade of English in ten years.”

Lee grinned. “Me talkee Chinese talk,” he said. “Well, I guess you have

your reasons. And it’s not my affair. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t believe it, Lee.”

Lee looked at him and

the brown eyes under their rounded upper lids seemed to open and deepen until they weren’t foreign any more, but man’s

eyes, warm with

understanding. Lee chuckled. “It’s

more than a

convenience,” he said. “It’s even

more than

self-protection. Mostly we have to use it to be understood at all.”

Samuel showed no sign of having observed any

change. “I can understand the first

two,” he said

thoughtfully, “but the third escapes me.”

Lee said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but it has

happened so often to me and to my friends that we take if for granted. If I should go up to a lady or a gentleman, for instance, and speak as I am doing now, I wouldn’t be understood.”

“Why not?”

“Pidgin they expect, and pidgin they’ll listen to. But English from me they don’t listen to, and so they don’t understand it.”

“Can that be possible? How do I understand you?” “That’s why I’m talking

to you. You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”

“I hadn’t thought of it.

And I’ve not been so tested as you, but what you say has a candle of truth. You know, I’m very glad to talk to you.

I’ve wanted to ask so many questions.”

“Happy to oblige.”

“So many questions. For instance, you wear the queue. I’ve read that it is a badge of slavery imposed by conquest by the Manchus on the Southern Chinese.”

“That is true.”

“Then why in the name

of God do you wear it here, where the Manchus can’t get at you?”

“Talkee Chinese talk.

Queue Chinese fashion—you savvy?”

Samuel laughed loudly. “That does have the green touch of convenience,” he

said. “I wish I had a hidey-hole like that.” “I’m wondering whether

I can explain,” said Lee. “Where there is no likeness of

experience it’s very difficult. I understand you were not born in America.”

“No, in Ireland.”

“And in a few years you

can almost disappear; while I, who was born in Grass Valley, went to school and several

years to the

University of California, have no chance of mixing.”

“If you cut your queue, dressed and talked like other people?”

“No. I tried it. To the so-called whites I was still a Chinese, but an untrustworthy

one; and at the same time my Chinese friends steered clear of me. I had to give it up.”

Lee pulled up under a

tree, got out and unfastened the check rein. “Time for lunch,” he said. “I made a package. Would you like some?”

“Sure I would. Let me

get down in the shade there. I forget to eat sometimes, and that’s strange because I’m always hungry. I’m interested in what you say. It has a sweet sound of authority.

Now it peeks into my mind that you should go back to China.”

Lee smiled satirically at him. “In a few minutes I

don’t think you’ll find a loose bar I’ve missed in a lifetime of search. I did go back to China. My father was a fairly

successful man. It didn’t work. They said I looked like a foreign devil; they said I spoke like a foreign devil. I made mistakes in manners, and I didn’t know delicacies that had grown up since my father left. They wouldn’t have me. You can believe it or not—I’m less foreign here than I was in China.”

“I’ll have to believe you because

it’s reasonable.

You’ve given me things to think about until at least February twenty-seventh. Do you mind my questions?” “As a matter of fact, no.

The trouble with pidgin is that you get to thinking in

pidgin. I write a great deal to keep my English up. Hearing and reading aren’t the same as speaking and writing.” “Don’t you ever make a mistake? I mean, break into English?”

“No, I don’t. I think it’s

a matter of what is expected. You look at a man’s eyes,

you see that he expects pidgin and a shuffle, so you speak pidgin and shuffle.”

“I guess that’s right,”

said Samuel. “In my own way I tell jokes because people come all the way to my place to laugh. I try to be funny for them even when the sadness is on me.”

“But the Irish are said to be a happy people, full of


“There’s your pidgin and your queue. They’re not. They’re a dark people with a gift for suffering way past their deserving. It’s said that without whisky to soak and soften the world, they’d kill themselves. But they tell jokes because it’s expected of them.”

Lee unwrapped a little bottle. “Would you like some

of this? Chinese drink ng-ka-py.” “What is it?”

“Chinee blandy. Stlong dlink—as a matter of fact it’s a brandy with a dosage of wormwood. Very powerful. It softens the world.”

Samuel sipped from the bottle. “Tastes a little like

rotten apples,” he said. “Yes, but nice rotten apples. Taste it back along your

tongue toward the roots.” Samuel took

a big

swallow and tilted his head back. “I see what you mean. That is good.”

“Here are some

sandwiches, pickles, cheese, a can of buttermilk.”

“You do well.” “Yes, I see to it.”

Samuel bit

into a

sandwich. “I was shuffling over half a hundred questions. What you said brings the brightest one up. You don’t mind?”

“Not at all. The only

thing I do want to ask of you is not to talk this way when other people are listening. It would only confuse them and they wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

“I’ll try,” said Samuel.

“If I slip, just remember that I’m a comical genius. It’s hard to split a man down the middle and always to reach for the same half.”

“I think I can guess what your next question is.” “What?”

“Why am I content to be a servant?”

“How in the world did you know?”

“It seemed to follow.” “Do you resent the question?”

“Not from you. There

are no ugly questions except those

clothed in

condescension. I don’t know where being a servant came into disrepute. It is the refuge of a philosopher, the food of the lazy, and, properly carried out, it is a position of power, even

of love. I

can’t understand why


intelligent people don’t take it as a career—learn to do it well and reap its benefits. A good servant has absolute security, not because of his master’s

kindness, but because of

habit and

indolence. It’s a hard thing for a man to change spices or lay out his own socks. He’ll

keep a bad servant rather than change. But a good servant, and I am an excellent one, can completely control his master, tell him what to think, how to act, whom to marry, when to divorce, reduce him to terror as a discipline, or distribute happiness to him, and finally be mentioned in his will. If I had wished I could have robbed, stripped, and

beaten anyone I’ve

worked for and come away with thanks. Finally, in my circumstances



unprotected. My master will

defend me, protect me. You have to work and worry. I work less and worry less.

And I am a good servant. A bad one does no work and does no worrying, and he still is fed, clothed, and protected. I don’t know any profession where the field is so cluttered with incompetents and where excellence is so rare.”

Samuel leaned toward him, listening intently.

Lee went on, “It’s going

to be a relief after that to go back to pidgin.”

“It’s a very short

distance to the Sanchez place. Why did we stop so near?”

Samuel asked.

“Allee time talkee. Me Chinee number one boy. You leddy go now?”

“What? Oh, sure. But it must be a lonely life.” “That’s the only fault

with it,” said Lee. “I’ve been thinking of going to San Francisco and starting a little business.”

“Like a laundry? Or a grocery store?”

“No. Too many Chinese laundries and restaurants. I thought perhaps a bookstore.

I’d like that, and the

competition wouldn’t be too

great. I probably won’t do it though. A servant loses his initiative.”


In the afternoon Samuel and Adam rode over the land. The wind came up as it did every afternoon, and the yellow dust ran into the sky.

“Oh, it’s a good piece,” Samuel cried. “It’s a rare piece of land.”

“Seems to

me it’s

blowing away bit by bit,” Adam observed.

“No, it’s just moving

over a little. You lose some to the James ranch but you get some from the Southeys.”

“Well, I don’t like the wind. Makes me nervous.” “Nobody likes wind for very long. It makes animals nervous and restless too. I don’t know whether you

noticed, but a little farther up the valley they’re planting windbreaks of gum trees.

Eucalyptus—comes from

Australia. They say the gums grow ten feet a year. Why don’t you try a few rows and see what happens? In time they should back up the wind a little, and they make grand firewood.”

“Good idea,” Adam said. “What I really want is water. This wind would pump all the water I could find. I thought

if I could bring in a few wells and

irrigate, the topsoil

wouldn’t blow away. I might try some beans.”

Samuel squinted into the wind. “I’ll try to get you water if you want,” he said. “And I’ve got a little pump I made that will bring it up fast. It’s my own invention. A windmill is a pretty costly thing. Maybe I could build them for you and save you some money.”

“That’s good,” said

Adam. “I wouldn’t mind the wind if it worked for me. And

if I could get water I might plant alfalfa.”

“It’s never brought much of a price.”

“I wasn’t thinking of

that. Few weeks ago I took a drive up around Greenfield and Gonzales. Some Swiss have moved in there. They’ve got nice little dairy herds, and they get four crops of alfalfa a year.”

“I heard about them.

They brought in Swiss cows.” Adam’s face was bright with plans. “That’s what I want to do. Sell butter and cheese and feed the milk to pigs.” “You’re going to bring

credit to the valley,” Samuels said. “You’re going to be a real joy to the future.”

“If I can get water.” “I’ll get you water if

there’s any to be got. I’ll find it. I brought my magic wand.” He patted a forked stick tied to his saddle.

Adam pointed to the left where a wide flat place was covered with a low growth of sagebrush. “Now then,” he said, “thirty-six acres and almost level as a floor. I put an auger down. Topsoil averages three and a half feet, sand on top and loam within plow reach. Think you could get water there?”

“I don’t know,” Samuel said.


see.” He

dismounted, handed his reins to Adam, and untied his forked wand. He took the forks in his two hands and walked slowly, his arms out and stretched before him and the wand tip up. His steps took a zigzag course. Once he frowned and backed up a few steps, then shook his head and went on. Adam rode slowly behind, leading the other horse.

Adam kept his eyes on the stick. He saw it quiver and then jerk a little, as

though an invisible fish were tugging at a line. Samuel’s face was taut with attention. He continued on until the point of the wand seemed to be pulled strongly downward

against his straining arms. He made a slow circle, broke off a piece of sagebrush, and dropped it on the ground. He moved well outside his circle, held up his stick again, and moved inward toward his marker. As he came near it, the point of the stick was drawn down again. Samuel sighed

and relaxed and

dropped his wand on the ground. “I can get water here,” he said. “And not very deep. The pull was strong, plenty of water.”

“Good,” said Adam. “I want to show you a couple more places.”

Samuel whittled out a

stout piece of sagewood and drove it into the soil. He made a split on the top and fitted a crosspiece on for a mark. Then he kicked the brittle brush down in the area so he could find his marker again.

On a second try three hundred yards away the wand

seemed nearly torn downward out of his hands. “Now there’s a whole world of water here,” he said.

The third try was not so productive. After half an hour he had only the slightest sign.

The two men rode

slowly back toward the Trask house. The afternoon was golden, for the yellow dust in the sky gilded the light. As always the wind began to drop as the day waned, but it sometimes took half the night for the dust to settle out of the air. “I knew it was a good place,” Samuel said. “Anyone can see that. But I didn’t know it was that good. You must have a great drain under your

land from the

mountains. You know how to pick land, Mr. Trask.”

Adam smiled. “We had a farm in Connecticut,” he said. “For six generations we dug

stones out. One of the first things I remember is sledding stones over to the walls. I thought that was the way all farms were. It’s strange to me and almost sinful here. If you wanted a stone, you’d have to go a long way for it.”

“The ways of sin are curious,” Samuel observed. “I guess if a man had to shuck off everything he had, inside and out, he’d manage to hide a few little sins somewhere for his own discomfort.

They’re the last things we’ll give up.”

“Maybe that’s a good

thing to keep us humble. The fear of God in us.”



so,” said Samuel. “And



humility must be a good thing, since it’s a rare man who has not a piece of it, but when you look at humbleness it’s hard to see where its value rests unless you grant that it is a pleasurable pain and very precious. Suffering

—I wonder has it been properly looked at.” “Tell me about your stick,” Adam said. “How does it work?”

Samuel stroked the fork

now tied to his saddle strings. “I don’t really believe in it

save that it works.” He smiled at Adam. “Maybe it’s this way. Maybe I know where the water is, feel it in my skin. Some people have a gift in this direction or that.

Suppose—well, call


humility, or a deep disbelief in myself, forced me to do a magic to bring up to the surface the thing I know anyway. Does that make any sense to you?”

“I’d have to think about it,” said Adam.

The horses picked their own way, heads hung low, reins loosened against the bits.


you stay the

night?” Adam asked. “I can but better not. I

didn’t tell Liza I’d be away the night. I’d not like to give her a worry.”

“But she knows where you are.”

“Sure she knows. But I’ll ride home tonight. It

doesn’t matter the time. If you’d like to ask me to supper I’d be glad. And when do you want me to start on the wells?”

“Now—as soon as you can.”

“You know it’s no cheap thing, indulging yourself with water. I’d have to charge you

fifty cents or more a foot, depending on what we find down there. It can run into money.”

“I have the money. I want the wells. Look, Mr. Hamilton—”

“ ‘Samuel’ would be easier.”

“Look, Samuel, I mean

to make a garden of my land.

Remember my

name is

Adam. So far I’ve had no Eden, let alone been driven out.”

“It’s the best reason I ever heard for making a

garden,” Samuel exclaimed. He chuckled. “Where will the

orchard be?”

Adam said, “I won’t

plant apples. That would be looking for accidents.” “What does Eve say to that? She has a say, you

remember. And Eves delight in apples.”

“Not this one.” Adam’s eyes were shining. “You don’t know this Eve. She’ll celebrate my choice. I don’t think anyone can know her goodness.”

“You have a rarity.

Right now I can’t recall any greater gift.”

They were coming near to the entrance to the little

side valley in which was the Sanchez house. They could see the rounded green tops of

the great live oaks. “Gift,” Adam said softly.

“You can’t know. No one can know. I had a gray life, Mr.

Hamilton—Samuel. Not that it was bad compared to other lives, but it was nothing. I don’t know why I tell you this.”

“Maybe because I like to hear.”

“My mother—died—

before my memory. My stepmother

was a good

woman but troubled and ill. My father was a stern, fine man—maybe a great man.” “You

couldn’t love him?”

“I had the kind of feeling you have in church, and not a little fear in it.”

Samuel nodded. “I know

—and some men want that.” He smiled ruefully. “I’ve always wanted the other. Liza says it’s the weak thing in me.”

“My father put me in the army, in the West, against the Indians.”

“You told me. But you don’t think like a military man.”

“I wasn’t a good one. I seem to be telling you everything.”

“You must want to.

There’s always a reason.” “A soldier must want to

do the things we had to do— or at least be satisfied with them. I couldn’t find good enough reasons for killing men

and women, nor

understand the reasons when they were explained.”

They rode on in silence

for a time. Adam went on, “I came out of the army like dragging myself muddy out of a swamp. I wandered for a long time before going home to a remembered place I did not love.”

“Your father?”

“He died, and home was

a place to sit around or work around, waiting for death the way you might wait for a dreadful picnic.”


“No, I have a brother.” “Where is he—waiting for the picnic?” “Yes—yes,


exactly what. Then Cathy came. Maybe I will tell you some time when I can tell and you want to hear.”

“I’ll want to hear,” Samuel said. “I eat stories like grapes.”

“A kind of light spread

out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there

were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome.

And I was not afraid any more.”

“I recognize it,” Samuel said. “That’s an old friend of mine. It never dies but sometimes it moves away, or you do. Yes, that’s my acquaintance—eyes,


mouth, and hair.”

“All this coming out of a little hurt girl.”

“And not out of you?” “Oh, no, or it would

have come before. No, Cathy brought it, and it lives around her. And now I’ve told you why I want the wells. I have to repay somehow for value

received. I’m going to make a garden so good, so beautiful, that it will be a proper place for her to live and a fitting place for her light to shine on.”

Samuel swallowed

several times, and he spoke with a dry voice out of a pinched-up throat. “I can see my duty,” he said. “I can see it plainly before me if I am any kind of man, any kind of friend to you.”

“What do you mean?” Samuel said satirically, “It’s my duty to take this thing of yours and kick it in

the face, then raise it up and spread slime on it thick enough to blot out its

dangerous light.” His voice grew strong with vehemence. “I should hold it up to you muck-covered and show you its dirt and danger. I should warn you to look closer until you can see how ugly it really is. I should ask you to think of inconstancy and give you examples. I should give you Othello’s handkerchief. Oh, I know I should. And I should straighten out your tangled thoughts, show you that the impulse is gray as lead and rotten as a dead cow in wet weather. If I did my duty well, I could give you back your bad old life and feel good about it, and welcome you back to the musty membership in the lodge.”

“Are you joking? Maybe I shouldn’t have told—” “It is the duty of a

friend. I had a friend who did the duty once for me. But I’m a false friend. I’ll get no credit for it among my peers. It’s a lovely thing, preserve it, and glory in it. And I’ll dig your wells if I have to drive my rig to the black center of the earth. I’ll squeeze water out like juice from an orange.”

They rode under the great oaks and toward the

house. Adam said, “There she is,

sitting outside.”


shouted, “Cathy, he says

there’s water—lots of it.” Aside he said excitedly, “Did you know she’s going to have a baby?”

“Even at this distance

she looks beautiful,” Samuel said.


Because the day had been hot, Lee set a table outside under an oak tree, and as the sun

neared the western

mountains he padded back and forth from the kitchen, carrying the cold meats, pickles, potato salad, coconut cake, and peach pie which were supper. In the center of the table he placed a gigantic

stoneware pitcher full of milk.

Adam and Samuel came from the wash house, their hair and faces shining with water, and Samuel’s beard was fluffy after its soaping. They stood at the trestle table and waited until Cathy came out.

She walked slowly,

picking her way as though she were afraid she would fall. Her full skirt and apron concealed to a certain extent her swelling abdomen. Her face was untroubled and childlike, and she clasped her hands in front of her. She had reached the table before she

looked up and glanced from Samuel to Adam.

Adam held her chair for her. “You haven’t met Mr. Hamilton, dear,” he said. She held out her hand. “How do you do,” she said.

Samuel had been

inspecting her.

“It’s a

beautiful face,” he said, “I’m glad to meet you. You are well, I hope?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, I’m well.”

The men sat down. “She makes it formal whether she wants to or not. Every meal is

a kind of occasion,” Adam said.

“Don’t talk like that,” she said. “It isn’t true.” “Doesn’t it feel like a

party to you, Samuel?” he asked.

“It does so, and I can tell

you there’s never been such a candidate for a party as I am. And my children—they’re worse. My boy Tom wanted to come today. He’s spoiling to get off the ranch.”

Samuel suddenly

realized that he was making his speech last to prevent silence from falling on the table. He paused, and the silence



looked down at her plate while she ate a sliver of roast lamb. She looked up as she put it between her small sharp teeth. Her wide-set eyes communicated


Samuel shivered. “It isn’t cold, is it?” Adam asked. “Cold? No. A goose

walked over my grave, I guess.”

“Oh, yes, I know that feeling.”

The silence fell again. Samuel waited for some speech to start up, knowing in advance that it would not. “Do you like our valley,

Mrs. Trask?”

“What? Oh, yes.”

“If it isn’t impertinent to

ask, when is your baby due?” “In about six weeks,”

Adam said. “My wife is one of those paragons—a woman who does not talk very much.”

“Sometimes a silence

tells the most,” said Samuel, and he saw Cathy’s eyes leap up and down again, and it seemed to him that the scar on her forehead grew darker. Something had flicked her the way you’d flick a horse with the braided string popper on a buggy whip. Samuel couldn’t recall what he had said that had made her give a small inward start. He felt a tenseness coming over him

that was somewhat like the feeling he had just before the water wand pulled down, an awareness

of something

strange and strained. He glanced at Adam and saw that he was looking raptly at his wife. Whatever was strange was not strange to Adam. His face had happiness on it.

Cathy was chewing a

piece of meat, chewing with her front teeth. Samuel had never seen anyone chew that way before. And when she had swallowed, her little tongue flicked around her lips. Samuel’s mind repeated, “Something—something— can’t

find what it


Something wrong,” and the silence hung on the table.

There was a shuffle

behind him. He turned. Lee set a teapot on the table and shuffled away.

Samuel began to talk to push the silence away. He

told how he had first come to the valley fresh from Ireland, but within a few words neither Cathy nor Adam was listening to him. To prove it, he used a trick he had devised to

discover whether his

children were listening when they begged him to read to them and would not let him stop. He threw in two sentences of nonsense. There was no response from either Adam or Cathy. He gave up. He bolted his supper,

drank his tea scalding hot, and

folded his napkin.

“Ma’am, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll ride off home. And I thank

you for your


“Good night,” she said. Adam jumped to his

feet, He seemed torn out of a reverie. “Don’t go now. I hoped to persuade you to stay the night.”

“No, thank you, but that

I can’t. And it’s not a long ride. I think—of course, I know—there’ll be a moon.” “When will you start the wells?”

“I’ll have to get my rig together, do a piece of sharpening, and put my house in order. In a few days I’ll send the equipment with Tom.”

The life was flowing back into Adam. “Make it soon,” he said. “I want it

soon. Cathy, we’re going to make the most beautiful place in the world. There’ll be

nothing like it anywhere.”

Samuel switched his

gaze to Cathy’s face. It did not change. The eyes were flat and the mouth with its small up-curve at the corners was carven.

“That will be nice,” she said.

For just a


Samuel had an impulse to do or say something to shock her out of her distance. He shivered again.

“Another goose?” Adam asked.

“Another goose.” The

dusk was falling and already the tree forms were dark against the sky. “Good night, then.”

“I’ll walk down with you.”

“No, stay with your

wife. You haven’t finished your supper.”

“But I—”

“Sit down, man. I can

find my own horse, and if I can’t I’ll steal one of yours.” Samuel pushed Adam gently down in his chair. “Good night. Good night. Good night, ma’am.” He walked quickly toward the shed.


platter-foot Doxology was


nibbling hay from the manger with lips like two flounders.

The halter chain clinked against wood. Samuel lifted down his saddle from the big nail where it hung by one wooden stirrup and swung it over the broad back. He was lacing the látigo through the cinch rings when there was a small stir behind him. He turned and saw the silhouette of Lee against the last light from the open shadows. “When you come back?”

the Chinese asked softly. “I don’t know. In a few

days or a week. Lee, what is it?”

“What is what?”

“By God, I got creepy!

Is there something wrong here?”

“What do you mean?” “You know damn well what I mean.”

“Chinee boy jus’ workee

—not hear, not talkee.” ‘‘Yes. I guess you’re right. Sure, you’re right.

Sorry I asked you. It wasn’t very good manners.” He turned back, slipped the bit in Dox’s mouth, and laced the big

flop ears into the

headstall. He slipped the halter and dropped it in the manger. “Good night, Lee,” he said.

“Mr. Hamilton—” “Yes?”

“Do you need a cook?” “On my place I can’t afford a cook?”

“I’d work cheap.” “Liza would kill you.

Why—you want to quit?” “Just thought I’d ask,” said Lee. “Good night.”


Adam and Cathy sat in the gathering dark under the tree. “He’s a good man,”

Adam said. “I like him. I wish I could persuade him to take over here and run this place—kind

of superintendent.”

Cathy said, “He’s got his own place and his own


“Yes, I know. And it’s the poorest land you ever

saw. He could make more at wages from me. I’ll ask him. It does take a time to get used to a new country. It’s like being born again and having to learn all over. I used to know from what quarter the rains came. It’s different here. And once I knew in my skin whether wind would blow, when it would be cold. But I’ll learn. It just takes a little time. Are you comfortable, Cathy?”


“One day, and not too

far away, you’ll see the whole valley green with alfalfa—see it from the fine big windows

of the finished house. I’ll plant rows of gum trees, and I’m going to send away for seeds and plants—put in a kind of experimental farm. I might try lichee nuts from China. I wonder if they would grow here. Well, I can try.

Maybe Lee could tell me. And once the baby’s born you can ride over the whole place with me. You haven’t really seen it. Did I tell you? Mr.

Hamilton is going to put up windmills, and we’ll be able to see them turning from here.” He stretched his legs out comfortably under the table. “Lee should bring candles,” he said. “I wonder what’s keeping him.”


spoke very

quietly. “Adam, I didn’t want to come here. I am not going to stay here. As soon as I can I will go away.”




laughed. “You’re like a child away from home for the first time. You’ll love it once you get used to it and the baby is born. You know, when I first went away to the army I thought I was going to die of homesickness. But I got over it. We all get over it. So don’t say silly things like that.” “It’s not a silly thing.” “Don’t talk about it,

dear. Everything will change

after the baby is born. You’ll see. You’ll see.”

He clasped his hands behind his head and looked up at the faint stars through the tree branches.

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