Chapter no 16

East of Eden

Samuel Hamilton rode back home in a night so flooded with moonlight that the hills took on the quality of the white and dusty moon. The

trees and earth were moon-dry, silent and airless and dead. The shadows were

black without shading and the open places white without color. Here and there Samuel could see secret movement, for the moon-feeders were at work—the deer which browse all night when the moon is

clear and sleep under thickets in the day. Rabbits and field mice and all other small hunted that feel safer in the concealing light crept and hopped and crawled and froze to resemble stones or small bushes when ear or nose suspected



predators were working too— the long weasels like waves of brown light; the cobby wildcats crouching near to the ground,

almost invisible

except when their yellow eyes caught light and flashed for a second; the foxes,

sniffling with pointed up-raised noses for a warm-blooded supper; the raccoons

padding near still water, talking frogs. The coyotes nuzzled along the slopes and, torn with sorrow-joy, raised their heads and shouted their feeling,

half keen, half

laughter, at their goddess moon. And over all the shadowy screech owls sailed, drawing

a smudge of

shadowy fear below them on the ground. The wind of the afternoon was gone and only a little breeze like a sigh was

stirred by

the restless

thermals of the warm, dry hills.

Doxology’s loud off-beat hoofsteps silenced the night people until after he had

passed. Samuel’s beard

glinted white, and his graying hair stood up high on his head. He had hung his black hat on his saddle horn. An ache was on the top of his stomach, an apprehension that was like a sick thought. It was a Weltschmerz—which we

used to

call “Welshrats”—the world

sadness that rises into the soul like a gas and spreads despair so that you probe for the offending event and can find none.

Samuel went back in his mind over the fine ranch and the indications of water—no Welshrats could come out of that unless he sheltered a submerged envy. He looked in himself for envy and could find none. He went on to Adam’s dream of a garden like Eden and to Adam’s adoration of Cathy. Nothing there

unless—unless his

secret mind brooded over his own healed loss. But that was so long ago he had forgotten the pain. The memory was mellow

and warm and

comfortable, now that it was all over. His loins and his thighs had forgotten hunger.

As he rode through the light and dark of tree-shade

and open his mind moved on. When had the Welshrats started crawling in his chest? He found it then—and it was Cathy, pretty, tiny, delicate Cathy. But what about her?

She was silent, but many women were silent. What was it? Where had it come from?

He remembered that he had felt an imminence akin to the one that came to him when he held the water wand. And he remembered the shivers when the goose walked over his grave. Now he had pinned it down in time and place and person. It had come at dinner and it had come from Cathy.

He built her face in front

of him and studied her wide-set eyes, delicate nostrils, mouth smaller than he liked

but sweet, small firm chin, and back to her eyes. Were they cold? Was it her eyes? He was circling to the point. The eyes of Cathy had no message, no communication of any kind. There was nothing recognizable behind them. They were not human

eyes. They reminded him of something—what was it?— some memory, some picture. He strove to find it and then it came of itself.

It rose out of the years complete with all its colors and its cries, its crowded feelings. He saw himself, a very little boy, so small that he had to reach high for his father’s hand. He felt the cobbles

of Londonderry

under his feet and the crush and gaiety of the one big city he had seen. A fair, it was, with puppet shows and stalls of produce and horses and sheep penned right in the street for sale or trade or

auction, and other stalls of bright-colored knickknackery, desirable, and because his father was gay, almost possessable.

And then the people

turned like a strong river, and they were carried along a narrow street as though they were chips on a flood tide, pressure at chest and back and the feet keeping up. The narrow street opened out to a square, and against the gray wall of a building there was a high structure of timbers and a noosed rope hanging down.

Samuel and his father

were pushed and bunted by the water of people, pushed closer and closer. He could hear in his memory ear his

father saying, “It’s no thing for a child. It’s no thing for anybody, but less for a child.” His father struggled to turn, to force his way back against the flood wave of people. “Let us out. Please let us out. I’ve a child here.”

The wave was faceless and

it pushed without

passion. Samuel raised his head to look at the structure. A group of dark-clothed, dark-hatted men had climbed up on the high platform. And in their midst was a man with golden hair, dressed in dark trousers and a light blue shirt open at the throat. Samuel

and his father were so close that the boy had to raise his head high to see.

The golden man seemed

to have no arms. He looked out over the crowd and then looked down, looked right at Samuel. The picture was clear, lighted and perfect. The man’s eyes had no depth— they were not like other eyes, not like the eyes of a man.

Suddenly there was

quick movement on the platform, and Samuel’s father put both his hands on the boy’s head so that his palms cupped over the ears and his fingers met behind. The hands forced Samuel’s head

down and forced his face tight in against his father’s black best coat. Struggle as he would, he could not move his head. He could see only a band of light around the edges of his eyes and only a muffled roar of sound came to his ears through his father’s hands. He heard heartbeats in his hears. Then he felt his father’s hands and arms grow rigid with set muscles, and against his face he could feel his father’s deep-caught breathing and then deep intake and held breath, and his father’s hands, trembling.

A little more there was

to it, and he dug it up and set it before his eyes in the air

ahead of the horse’s head—a worn and battered table at a pub, loud talk and laughter. A pewter mug was in front of his father, and a cup of hot milk, sweet and aromatic with sugar and cinnamon, before himself. His father’s lips were curiously blue and there were tears in his father’s eyes.

“I’d never have brought you if I’d known. It’s not fit for any man to see, and sure not for a small boy.”


didn’t see any,”

Samuel piped. “You held my head down.”

“I’m glad of that.” “What was it?”

“I’ll have to tell you. They were killing a bad man.”

“Was it the golden man?”

“Yes, it was. And you

must put no sorrow on him. He had to be killed. Not once but many times he did dreadful things—things only a fiend could think of. It’s not his hanging sorrows me but that they make a holiday of it that should be done secretly, in the dark.”

“I saw the golden man.

He looked right down at me.” “For that even more I

thank God he’s gone.” “What did he do?” “I’ll never tell you nightmare things.”

“He had the strangest

eyes, the golden man. They put me in mind of a goat’s eyes.”

“Drink your sweety-milk and you shall have a stick with ribbons and a long whistle like silver.”

“And the shiny box with a picture into it?”

“That also, so you drink

up your sweety-milk and beg no more.”

There it was, mined out of the dusty past.

Doxology was climbing

the last rise before the hollow of the home ranch and the big feet stumbled over stones in the roadway.

It was the eyes, of

course, Samuel thought. Only

twice in my life have I seen eyes

like that—not like

human eyes. And he thought, It’s the night and the moon.

Now what connection under heaven can there be between the golden man hanged so long ago and the sweet little bearing mother? Liza’s right. My imagination will get me a passport to hell one day. Let me dig this nonsense out, else I’ll be searching that poor child for evil. This is how we can get trapped. Now think hard and then lose it. Some accident of eye shape and eye color, it is. But no, that’s not it. It’s a look and has no

reference to shape or color. Well, why is a look evil then? Maybe such a look may have been sometime on a holy face.

Now, stop this

romancing and never let it trouble



shivered. I’ll have to set up a goose fence around my grave, he thought.

And Samuel Hamilton resolved to help greatly with the Salinas Valley Eden, to make a secret guilt-payment for his ugly thoughts.


Liza Hamilton, her apple

cheeks flaming red, moved like a caged leopard in front of the stove when Samuel came into the kitchen in the morning. The oakwood fire roared up past an open damper to heat the oven for the bread, which lay white and rising in the pans. Liza had been up before dawn. She always was. It was just as sinful to her to lie abed after light as it was to be abroad after dark. There was no possible virtue in either. Only one person in the world could with impunity and without crime lie between her crisp ironed sheets after dawn, after sunup, even to the far reaches of midmorning, and that was her youngest and last born,

Joe. Only Tom and Joe lived on the ranch now. And Tom, big

and red, already

cultivating a fine flowing mustache, sat at the kitchen table with his sleeves rolled down

as he had been

mannered. Liza poured thick batter from a pitcher onto a soapstone griddle. The hot cakes rose like little hassocks, and small volcanos formed and erupted on them until they were ready to be turned. A cheerful brown, they were,

with tracings of darker

brown. And the kitchen was full of the good sweet smell of them.

Samuel came in from the yard where he had been

washing himself. His face and beard gleamed with water, and he turned down the sleeves of his blue shirt as he

entered the kitchen. Rolled-up sleeves at the table were not

acceptable to

Mrs. Hamilton. They indicated

either an ignorance or a

flouting of the niceties. “I’m

late, Mother,” Samuel said.

She did not look around at him. Her spatula moved

like a striking snake and the hot cakes settled their white sides

hissing on


soapstone. “What time was it you came home?” she asked. “Oh, it was late—late.

Must have been near eleven. I didn’t look, fearing to waken you.”

“I did not waken,” Liza

said grimly. “And maybe you can find it healthy to rove all

night, but the Lord God will do what He sees fit about that.” It was well known that Liza Hamilton and the Lord God held similar convictions on nearly every subject. She turned and reached and a plate of crisp hot cakes lay between Tom’s hands. “How does

the Sanchez place

look?” she asked. Samuel went to his wife,

leaned down from his height, and kissed her round red cheek.

“Good morning, Mother. Give

me your


“Bless you,” said Liza automatically.

Samuel sat down at the table and said, “Bless you, Tom. Well, Mr. Trask is making great changes. He’s

fitting up the old house to live in.”

Liza turned sharply from

the stove. “The one where the cows and pigs have slept the years?”

“Oh, he’s ripped out the floors and window casings. All new and new painted.” “He’ll never get the

smell of pigs out,” Liza said firmly. “There’s a pungency left by a pig that nothing can

wash out or cover up.” “Well, I went inside and looked around, Mother, and I could smell nothing except paint.”

“When the paint dries you’ll smell pig,” she said. “He’s got a garden laid

out with spring water running through it, and he’s set a place apart for flowers, roses and the like, and some of the bushes are coming clear from Boston.”

“I don’t see how the

Lord God puts up with such waste,” she said grimly. “Not that I don’t like a rose myself.”

“He said he’d try to root some


for me,”

Samuel said.

Tom finished his hot

cakes and stirred his coffee. “What kind of a man is he, Father?”

“Well, I think he’s a fine man—has a good tongue and a fair mind. He’s given to dreaming—”

“Hear now the pot blackguarding the kettle,” Liza interrupted.

“I know, Mother, I know. But have you ever

thought that my dreaming takes the place of something I haven’t?

Mr. Trask has

practical dreams and the sweet dollars to make them solid. He wants to make a garden of his land, and he will do it too.”

“What’s his wife like?” Liza asked.

“Well, she’s very young and very pretty. She’s quiet,

hardly speaks, but then she’s having her first baby soon.” “I know that,” Liza said. “What was her name before?” “I don’t know.”

“Well, where did she come from?”

“I don’t know.”

She put his plate of hot cakes in front of him and poured coffee in his cup and

refilled Tom’s cup. “What did you learn then? How does she


“Why, very nice, pretty

—a blue dress and a little coat, pink but tight about the waist.”

“You’ve an eye for that. Would you say they were made

clothes or store

bought?” “Oh,


think store bought.”

“You would not know,”

Liza said firmly. “You

thought the traveling suit Dessie made to go to San Jose was store bought.” “Dessie’s

the clever

love,” said Samuel. “A needle sings in her hands.”

Tom said, “Dessie’s thinking of opening a

dressmaking shop in Salinas.” “She told me,” Samuel

said. “She’d make a great success of it.”

“Salinas?” Liza put her hands on her hips. “Dessie didn’t tell me.”

“I’m afraid we’ve done bad service to our dearie,”

Samuel said. “Here she

wanted to save it for a real tin-plate

surprise to


mother and we’ve leaked it like wheat from a mouse-hole sack.”

“She might have told

me,” said Liza. “I don’t like surprises. Well, go on—what was she doing?”


“Why, Mrs. Trask of course.”

“Doing? Why, sitting,

sitting in a chair under an oak tree. Her time’s not far.” “Her hands, Samuel, her hands—what was she doing with her hands?”

Samuel searched his

memory. “Nothing I guess. I remember—she

had little

hands and she held them clasped in her lap.”

Liza sniffed. “Not

sewing, not mending, not knitting?”

“No, Mother.”

“I don’t know that it’s a good idea for you to go over

there. Riches and idleness, devil’s tools, and you’ve not a very sturdy resistance.”

Samuel raised his head and laughed with pleasure.

Sometimes his wife delighted him but he could never tell her how. “It’s only the riches I’ll be going there for, Liza. I meant to tell you after breakfast so you could sit down to hear. He wants me to bore four or five wells for him,

and maybe put

windmills and storage tanks.” “Is it all talk? Is it a

windmill turned by water? Will he pay you or will you come back excusing as usual?

‘He’ll pay when his crop comes in,’ ” she mimicked, “ ‘He’ll pay when his rich uncle

dies.’ It’s my

experience, Samuel, and

should be yours, that if they don’t pay presently they never pay at all. We could buy a valley farm with your promises.”

“Adam Trask will pay,” said Samuel. “He’s well fixed. His father left him a

fortune. It’s a whole winter of work, Mother. We’ll lay something by and we’ll have a Christmas to scrape the

stars. He’ll pay fifty cents a foot, and the windmills, Mother.


can make

everything but the casings right here. I’ll need the boys to help. I want to take Tom and Joe.”

“Joe can’t go,” she said. “You know he’s delicate.” “I thought I might scrape off some of his delicacy. He can starve on delicacy.” “Joe can’t go,” she said finally. “And who is to run

the ranch while you and Tom are gone?”


thought I’d


George to come back. He doesn’t like a clerk’s job even if it is in King City.”

“Like it he may not, but he can take a measure of

discomfort for eight dollars a week.”

“Mother,” Samuel cried, “here’s our chance to scratch our name in the First National Bank! Don’t throw the weight of your tongue in the path of fortune. Please, Mother!”

She grumbled to herself all morning over her work

while Tom and Samuel went over the boring equipment, sharpened bits, drew sketches of windmills new in design, and measured for timbers and redwood water tanks. In the

midmorning Joe came out to join them, and he became so fascinated that he asked Samuel to let him go.

Samuel said, “Offhand I’d say I’m against it, Joe.

Your mother needs you here.” “But I want to go,

Father. And don’t forget, next year I’ll be going, to college in Palo Alto. And that’s going away, isn’t it? Please let me go. I’ll work hard.”

“I’m sure you would if you could come. But I’m

against it. And when you talk to your mother about it, I’ll thank you to let it slip that I’m against it. You might even throw in that I refused you.”

Joe grinned, and Tom

laughed aloud. “Will

you let her

persuade you?” Tom asked.

Samuel scowled at his

sons. “I’m a hard-opinioned man,” he said. “Once I’ve set my mind, oxen can’t stir me. I’ve looked at it from all angles and my word is—Joe can’t go. You wouldn’t want to make a liar of my word, would you?”

“I’ll go in and talk to her now,” said Joe.

“Now, son, take it easy,” Samuel called after him. “Use your head. Let her do most of it. Meanwhile I’ll set my stubborn up.”

Two days later the big wagon pulled away, loaded with timbers and tackle. Tom

drove four hordes, and beside him Samuel and Joe sat swinging their feet.

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