Chapter no 17

East of Eden

When I said Cathy was a monster it seemed to me that it was so. Now I have bent close with a glass over the small print of her and reread the footnotes, and I wonder if it was true. The trouble is that since we cannot know what

she wanted, we will never know whether or not she got it. If rather than running toward something, she ran away from something, we can’t know whether she escaped. Who knows but that she tried to tell someone or everyone what she was like and could not, for lack of a common language. Her life may have been her language, formal,


indecipherable. It is easy to say she was bad, but there is little meaning unless we know why.

I’ve built the image in my mind of Cathy, sitting quietly

waiting for


pregnancy to be over, living on a farm she did not like, with a man she did not love.

She sat in her chair

under the oak tree, her hands clasped each to each in love and shelter. She grew very big—abnormally big, even at a time when women gloried in big babies and counted extra pounds with pride. She was misshapen; her belly, tight

and heavy and

distended, made it impossible for her to stand without supporting herself with her

hands. But the great lump was local. Shoulders, neck, arms, hands, face, were unaffected,

slender and

girlish. Her breasts did not grow and her nipples did not darken.

There was no

quickening of milk glands, no physical planning to feed the newborn.

When she sat

behind a table you could not see that she was pregnant at all.

In that day there was no

measuring of pelvic arch, no testing of blood, no building with calcium. A woman gave a tooth for a child. It was the law. And a woman was likely to have strange tastes, some said for filth, and it was set down to the Eve nature still under sentence for original sin.

Cathy’s odd appetite was simple compared to some. The carpenters, repairing the old house, complained that they could not keep the lumps of chalk with which they coated their chalk lines.

Again and again the scored hunks disappeared. Cathy stole them and broke them in little pieces. She carried the chips in her apron pocket, and

when no one was about she crushed the soft lime between her teeth. She spoke very little. Her eyes were remote. It was as though she had gone away, leaving a breathing doll to conceal her absence.

Activity surged around her. Adam went happily

about building and planning his Eden. Samuel and his boys brought in a well at forty feet and put down the newfangled expensive metal casing, for Adam wanted the best.

The Hamiltons moved

their rig and started another hole. They slept in a tent beside the work and cooked over a campfire. But there was always one or another of

them riding home for a tool or with a message.

Adam fluttered like a bewildered bee confused by too many flowers. He sat by Cathy and chatted about the pieplant roots just come in. He sketched for her the new fan

blade Samuel had

invented for the windmill. It had a variable pitch and was an unheard-of thing. He rode out to the well rig and slowed the work with his interest.

And naturally, as


discussed wells with Cathy,

his talk was all of birth and child care at the well head. It was a good time for Adam, the best time. He was the king of his wide and spacious life. And summer passed into a hot and fragrant autumn.


The Hamiltons at the well rig had finished their lunch of Liza’s bread and rat cheese and venomous coffee cooked in a can over the fire. Joe’s eyes were heavy and he was considering how he could get away into the brush to sleep for a while.

Samuel knelt in the

sandy soil, looking at the torn and broken edges of his bit.

Just before they had stopped for lunch the drill had found

something thirty feet down that had mangled the steel as though it were lead. Samuel scraped the edge of the blade with his pocketknife and inspected the scrapings in the palm of his hand His eyes shone

with a


excitement. He held out his hand

and poured the

scrapings into Tom’s hand. “Take a look at it, son.

What do you think it is?”

Joe wandered over from

his place in front of the tent. Tom studied the fragments in

his hand. “Whatever it is, it’s hard,” he said. “Couldn’t be a diamond that big. Looks like metal. Do you think we’ve bored

into a

buried locomotive?”

His father laughed.

“Thirty feet down,” he said admiringly.

“It looks like tool steel,” said Tom. “We haven’t got anything that can touch it.” Then he saw the faraway joyous look on his father’s face and a shiver of shared delight came to him. The Hamilton children loved it

when their father’s mind went free. Then the world was peopled with wonders.

Samuel said, “Metal, you say. You think, steel.

Tom, I’m going to make a guess and then I’m going to get an assay. Now hear my guess—and remember it. I think we’ll find nickel in it, and silver maybe, and carbon and manganese. How I would like to dig it up! It’s in sea sand. That’s what we’ve been getting.”

Tom said, “Say, what do you think it is with—nickel and silver—”

“It must have been long thousand

centuries ago,”

Samuel said, and his sons knew he was seeing it. “Maybe it was all water here

—an inland sea with the seabirds circling and crying. And it would have been a pretty thing if it happened at night. There would come a line of light and then a pencil of white light and then a tree of blinding light drawn in a long arc from heaven. Then there’d be a great water spout and a big mushroom of steam. And your ears would be staggered by the sound because the soaring cry of its coming would be on you at the same time the water exploded. And then it would be black night again, because of the blinding light. And

gradually you’d see the killed fish coming up, showing silver in the starlight, and the crying birds would come to eat them. It’s a lonely, lovely thing to think about, isn’t it?”

He made them see it as he always did.

Tom said softly, “You think it’s a meteorite, don’t you?”

“That I do. and we can prove it by assay.”

Joe said eagerly, “Let’s dig it up.”

“You dig it, Joe, while we bore for water.”

Tom said seriously, “If the assay showed enough

nickel and silver, wouldn’t it pay to mine it?”

“You’re my own son,”

said Samuel. “We don’t know whether it’s big as a house or little as a hat.”

“But we could probe down and see.”

“That we could if we did it secretly and hid our thinking under a pot.” “Why, what do you mean?”

“Now, Tom, have you no kindness toward your

mother? We give her enough trouble, son. She’s told me plain that if I spend any more money

patenting things,

she’ll give us trouble to remember. Have pity on her! Can’t you see her shame when they ask her what we’re

doing? She’s a


woman, your mother. She’d have to say, ‘They’re at digging up a star.’ ” He laughed

happily. “She’d

never live it down. And she’d make us smart. No pies for three months.”

Tom said, “We can’t get through it. We’ll have to move to another place.” “I’ll put some blasting powder down,” said his father, “and if that doesn’t crack it aside we’ll start a

new hole.” He stood up. “I’ll have to go home for powder

and to sharpen the drill. Why don’t you boys ride along with me and we’ll give Mother a surprise so that she’ll cook the whole night and complain. That way she’ll

dissemble her pleasure.”

Joe said, “Somebody’s coming, coming fast.” And indeed they could see a horseman riding toward them at full gallop, but a curious horseman who flopped about on his mount like a tied chicken. When he came a little closer they saw that it was Lee, his elbows waving like wings, his queue lashing about like a snake. It was

surprising that he stayed on at all and still drove the horse at full tilt. He pulled up, breathing heavily. “Missy Adam say come! Missy Cathy

bad—come quick.

Missy yell, scream.” Samuel said, “Hold on, Lee. When did it start?” “Mebbe bleakfus time.” “All



yourself. How is Adam?” “Missy Adam clazy. Cly

—laugh—make vomit.” “Sure,” said Samuel.

“These new fathers. I was one once. Tom, throw a saddle on for me, will you?”

Joe said, “What is it?” “Why, Mrs. Trask is

about to have her baby. I told Adam I’d stand by.”

“You?” Joe asked. Samuel leveled his eyes on his youngest son. “I

brought both of you into the world,” he said. “And you’ve given no evidence you think I did a bad service to the world. Tom, you get all the tools gathered up. And go back to the ranch and sharpen the metal. Bring back the box of powder that’s on the shelf in the tool shed, and go easy with it as you love your arms and legs. Joe, I want you to stay here and look after things.”


said plaintively,

“But what will I do here alone?”

Samuel was silent for a moment. Then he said, “Joe, do you love me?”

“Why, sure.” “If

you heard I’d

committed some great crime would you turn me over to the police?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Would you?” “No.”

“All right then. In my basket, under my clothes, you’ll find two books—new,

so be gentle with them. It’s two volumes by a man the world is going to hear from. You can start reading if you want and it will raise up your lid a little. It’s called The Principles of Psychology and it’s by an Eastern man named William James. No relative to the train robber. And, Joe, if you ever let on about the books I’ll run you off the ranch. If your mother ever found out I spent the money on them she’d run me off the ranch.”

Tom led a saddled horse

to him. “Can I read it next?” “Yes,” said Samuel, and

he slipped his leg lightly over the saddle. “Come on, Lee.” The Chinese wanted to

break into a gallop but Samuel restrained him. “Take it easy, Lee. Birthing takes longer

than you think, mostly.”

For a time they rode in silence, and then Lee said, “I’m sorry you bought those books. I have the condensed form, in one volume, the textbook. You could have borrowed it.”

“Have you now? Do you have many books?” “Not many here—thirty

or forty. But you’re welcome to any of them you haven’t read.”

“Thank you, Lee. And

you may be sure I’ll look the first moment I can. You know, you could talk to my boys. Joe’s a little flighty but Tom’s all right and it would do him good.”

“It’s a hard bridge to

cross, Mr. Hamilton. Makes me timid to talk to a new person, but I’ll try if you say so.”

They walked the horses rapidly toward the little draw of the Trask place. Samuel said, “Tell me, how is it with the mother?”

“I’d rather you saw for yourself and thought for yourself,” Lee said. “You know when a man lives alone as much as I do, his mind can go off on an irrational tangent

just because his social world is out of kilter.”

“Yes, I know. But I’m not lonely and I’m on a

tangent too. But maybe not the same one.”

“You don’t think I imagine it then?”

“I don’t know what it is, but I’ll tell you for your

reassurance that I’ve a sense of strangeness.”

“I guess that’s all it is

with me too,” said Lee. He smiled. “I’ll tell you how far it got with me though. Since I’ve come here I find myself thinking of Chinese fairy tales my father told me. We Chinese

have a

well-developed demonology.” “You think she is a


“Of course not,” said Lee. “I hope I’m a little

beyond such silliness. I don’t know what it is. You know, Mr. Hamilton, a servant develops an ability to taste the wind and judge the climate of the house he works in. And there’s a strangeness here. Maybe that’s what makes me remember my father’s demons.”

“Did your father believe in them?”

“Oh, no. He thought I

should know the background. You Occidentals perpetuate a good many myths too.” Samuel said, “Tell me

what happened to set you off. This morning, I mean.”

“If you weren’t coming I would try,” said Lee. “But I would rather not. You can see for yourself. I may be crazy. Of course Mr. Adam is strung so tight he may snap like a banjo string.”

“Give me a little hint. It might save time. What did she do?”

“Nothing. That’s just it.

Mr. Hamilton, I’ve been at births before, a good many of them, but this is something new to me.”

“How?” “It’s—well—I’ll tell you

the one thing I can think of. This is much more like a bitter, deadly combat than a


As they rode into the

draw and under the oak trees Samuel said, “I hope you haven’t got me in a state, Lee. It’s a strange day, and I don’t know why.”

“No wind,” said Lee.

“It’s the first day in a month when there hasn’t been wind in the afternoon.”

“That’s so. You know I’ve been so close to the

details I’ve paid no attention to the clothing of the day.

First we find a buried star and

now we go to dig up a mint-new human.” He looked up through the oak branches at

the yellow-lit hills. “What a beautiful day to be born in!” he said. “If signs have their fingers on a life, it’s a sweet

life coming. And, Lee, if Adam plays true, he’ll be in the way. Stay close, will you? In case I need something.

Look, the men, the

carpenters, are sitting under that tree.”

“Mr. Adam stopped the work.

He thought the

hammering might disturb his wife.”

Samuel said, “You stay

close. That sounds like Adam playing true. He doesn’t know his wife probably couldn’t hear God Himself

beating a tattoo on the sky.”

The workmen sitting

under the tree waved to him. “How do, Mr. Hamilton.

How’s your family?” “Fine, fine. Say, isn’t that

Rabbit Holman?

Where’ve you been, Rabbit?” “Went prospecting, Mr.


“Find anything, Rabbit?” “Hell, Mr. Hamilton, I couldn’t even find the mule I went out with.”

They rode on toward the house. Lee said quickly, “If you ever get a minute, I’d like to show you something.” “What is it, Lee?”

“Well, I’ve been trying

to translate some old Chinese poetry into English. I’m not sure it can be done. Will you take a look?”

“I’d like to, Lee. Why,

that would be a treat for me.”


Bordoni’s white frame house was

very quiet, almost

broodingly quiet, and the shades were pulled down. Samuel dismounted at the stoop, untied his bulging saddlebags, and gave his horse to Lee. He knocked and got no answer and went in. It was dusky in the living room after the outside light. He looked

in the


scrubbed to the wood grain by Lee. A gray stoneware pilon coffeepot grunted on the back of the stove. Samuel tapped lightly on the bedroom door and went in.

It was almost pitch-black inside, for not only were the shades down but blankets were

tacked over the

windows. Cathy was lying in the big four-poster bed, and Adam sat beside her, his face buried in the coverlet. He raised his head and looked blindly out.

Samuel said pleasantly, “Why are you sitting in the dark?”

Adam’s voice was

hoarse. “She doesn’t want the light. It hurts her eyes.”

Samuel walked into the room and authority grew in him with each step. “There

will have to be lieht,” he said. “She can close her eyes. I’ll tie a black cloth over them if she wants.” He moved to the window and grasped the blanket to pull it down, but Adam was upon him before he could yank.

“Leave it. The light hurts her,” he said fiercely.

Samuel turned on him.

“Now, Adam, I know what you feel. I promised you I’d take care of things, and I will. I only hope one of those things isn’t you.” He pulled the blanket down and rolled up the shade to let the golden afternoon light in.

Cathy made a little

mewing sound from the bed, and Adam went to her. “Close your eyes, dear. I’ll put a cloth over your eyes.”

Samuel dropped his

saddlebags in a chair and stood

beside the bed.

“Adam,” he said firmly, “I’m

going to ask you to go out of the room and to stay out.” “No, I can’t. Why?” “Because I don’t want

you in the way.


considered a sweet practice for you to get drunk.”

“I couldn’t.”

Samuel said, “Anger’s a slow thing in me and disgust is slower, but I can taste the beginnings of both of them. You’ll get out of the room and give me no trouble or I’ll go away and you’ll have a basket of trouble.”

Adam went finally, and from the doorway Samuel

called, “And I don’t want you bursting in if you hear anything. You wait for me to come out.” He closed the door, noticed there was a key in the lock, and turned it. “He’s an upset, vehement man,” he said. “He loves you.”

He had not looked at her closely until now. And he saw true hatred in her eyes, unforgiving,

murderous hatred.

“It’ll be over before

long, dearie. Now tell me, has the water broke?”

Her hostile eyes glared at him and her lips raised

snarling from her little teeth. She did not answer him.

He stared at her. “I did

not come by choice except as a friend,” he said. “It’s not a pleasure

to me,


woman. I don’t know your trouble and minute by minute I don’t care. Maybe I can save you some pain—who knows? I’m going to ask you one more question. If you don’t answer, if you put that snarling look on me, I’m going out and leave you to welter.”

The words struck into

her understanding like lead shot dropping in water. She made a great effort. And it gave him a shivering to see

her face change, the steel leave her eyes, the lips thicken from line to bow, and the corners turn up. He noticed a movement of her hands, the fists unclench and the

fingers turn pinkly

upward. Her face became young and innocent and bravely hurt. It was like one magic-lantern slide taking the place of another.

She said softly, “The water broke at dawn.” “That’s better. Have you had hard labor?”


“How far apart?” “I don’t know.”

“Well, I’ve been in this room fifteen minutes.” “I’ve had two little ones

—no big ones since you came.”

“Fine. Now where’s

your linen?”

“In that hamper over there.”

“You’ll be all right, dearie,” he said gently.

He opened his

saddlebags and took out a thick rope covered with blue velvet and looped at either end. On the velvet hundreds of little pink flowers were embroidered. “Liza sent you

her pulling rope to use,” he said. “She made it when our first-born

was preparing.

What with our children and friends’, this rope has pulled a great number of people into the world.” He slipped one of the loops over each of the footposts of the bed.

Suddenly her


glazed and her back arched like a spring and the blood started to her cheeks. He waited for her cry or scream and looked apprehensively at the closed door. But there was no scream—only a series of grunting squeals. After a

few seconds her body relaxed and the hatefulness was back in her face.

The labor struck again. “There’s a dear,” he said soothingly. “Was it one or two? I don’t know. The more you see, the more you learn no two are alike. I’d better get my hands washed.”

Her head threshed from

side to side. “Good, good, my darling,” he said. “I think it won’t be long till your baby’s here.” He put his hand on her forehead where her scar showed dark and angry. “How did you get the hurt on your head?” he asked.

Her head jerked up and her sharp teeth fastened on

his hand across the back and

up into the palm near the little finger. He cried out in pain and tried to pull his hand away, but her jaw was set and her head twisted and turned, mangling his hand the way a terrier worries a sack. A shrill snarling came from her set teeth. He slapped her on the cheek and it had no effect.

Automatically he did what he would have done to stop a dog fight. His left hand went to her throat and he cut off her wind. She struggled and tore at his hand before her jaws unclenched and he pulled his hand free. The flesh was torn and bleeding. He stepped back from the bed and looked at the damage her teeth had done. He looked at

her with fear. And when he looked, her face was calm again

and young and innocent.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. “Oh, I’m sorry.” Samuel shuddered.

“It was the pain,” she said.

Samuel laughed shortly. “I’ll have to muzzle you, I guess,” he said. “A collie bitch did the same to me

once.” He saw the hatred look out of her eyes for a second and then retreat.

Samuel said, “Have you got anything to put on it?

Humans are more poisonous

than snakes.” “I don’t know.”

“Well, have you got any whisky?

I’ll pour some

whisky on it.”

“In the second drawer.” He splashed whisky on his

bleeding hand and

kneaded the flesh against the alcohol




quaking was in his stomach and a sickness rose up against his eyes. He took a swallow

of whisky to steady himself. He dreaded to look back at the bed. “My hand won’t be much good for a while,” he said.

Samuel told Adam

afterward, “She must be made of whalebone. The birth happened before I was ready. Popped like a seed. I’d not the water ready to wash him. Why, she didn’t even touch the pulling rope to bear down. Pure whalebone, she is.” He tore at the door, called Lee and demanded warm water.

Adam came charging into the room. “A boy!” Samuel cried. “You’ve got a boy! Easy,” he said, for Adam had seen the

mess in the bed and a green was rising in his face.

Samuel said, “Send Lee

in here. And you, Adam, if you still have the authority to tell your hands and feet what to do, get to the kitchen and make me some coffee. And see the lamps are filled and the chimneys clean.”

Adam turned like a

zombie and left the room. In a moment

Lee looked in.

Samuel pointed to the bundle in a laundry basket. “Sponge him off in warm water, Lee. Don’t let a draft get on him. Lord! I wish Liza were here. I can’t do everything at once.”

He turned back to the bed. “Now, dearie, I’ll get you cleaned up.”

Cathy was bowed again, snarling in her pain. “It’ll be over in a little,” he said. “Takes a little time for the residue. And you’re so quick. Why, you didn’t even have to pull on Liza’s rope.” He saw something, stared, and went quickly to work. “Lord God in Heaven, it’s another one!”

He worked fast, and as with the first the birth was

incredibly quick. And again Samuel tied the cord. Lee took the second baby, washed it, wrapped it, and put it in the basket.

Samuel cleaned


mother and shifted her gently while he changed the linen on the bed. He found in himself a reluctance to look in her face. He worked as quickly as he could, for his bitten hand was stiffening. He drew a clean white sheet up to her chin and raised her to slip a fresh pillow under her head.

At last he had to look at her. Her golden hair was wet with perspiration but her face had changed. It was stony, expressionless. At her throat the pulse fluttered visibly. “You have two sons,” Samuel said. “Two fine sons. They aren’t alike. Each one born separate in his own sack.”

She inspected him coldly and without interest.

Samuel said, “I’ll show your boys to you.” “No,” she said without emphasis.

“Now, dearie, don’t you want to see your sons?” “No. I don’t want them.” “Oh,

you’ll change.

You’re tired now, but you’ll change. And I’ll tell you now

—this birth was quicker and easier than I’ve seen ever in my life.”

The eyes moved from

his face. “I don’t want them. I want you to cover the windows and take the light away.”

“It’s weariness. In a few days you’ll feel so different you won’t remember.”

“I’ll remember.


away. Take them out of the room. Send Adam in.”

Samuel was caught by her tone. There was no

sickness, no weariness, no softness. His words came out without his will. “I don’t like you,” he said and wished he could gather the words back into his throat and into his mind. But his words had no effect on Cathy.

“Send Adam in,” she said.

In the little living room Adam looked vaguely at his

sons and went quickly into the bedroom and shut the door. In a moment came the sound of tapping. Adam was nailing the blankets over the windows again.

Lee brought coffee to Samuel.

“That’s a

bad-looking hand you have there,” he said.

“I know. I’m afraid it’s going to give me trouble.” “Why did she do it?”

“I don’t know. She’s a strange thing.”

Lee said, “Mr. Hamilton,

let me take care of that. You could lose an arm.”

The life went out of

Samuel. “Do what you want,

Lee. A frightened sorrow has closed down over my heart. I wish I were a child so I could cry. I’m too old to be afraid like this. And I’ve not felt such despair since a bird died in my hand by a flowing water long ago.”

Lee left the room and shortly returned, carrying a small ebony box carved with twisting dragons. He sat by

Samuel and from his box took a

wedge-shaped Chinese

razor. “It will hurt,” he said softly.

“I’ll try to bear it, Lee.” The Chinese bit his lips, feeling the inflicted pain in himself while he cut deeply

into the hand, opened the flesh around the toothmarks front and back, and trimmed the ragged flesh away until good red blood flowed from every wound. He shook a bottle of yellow emulsion labeled Hall’s Cream Salve and poured it into the deep cuts.

He saturated a

handkerchief with the salve and

wrapped the hand.

Samuel winced and gripped the chair arm with his good hand.


mostly carbolic

acid,” Lee said. “You can smell it.”

“Thank you, Lee. I’m

being a baby to knot up like this.”

“I don’t think I could

have been so quiet,” said Lee. “I’ll get you another cup of coffee.”

He came back with two cups and sat down by Samuel. “I think I’ll go

away,” he said. “I never went willingly

to a

slaughter house.”

Samuel stiffened. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know. The words came out.” Samuel shivered. “Lee, men are fools. I guess I

hadn’t thought about it, but Chinese men are fools too.” “What made you doubt


“Oh, maybe because we think of strangers as stronger and better than we are.” “What do you want to


Samuel said, “Maybe the foolishness is necessary, the dragon fighting, the boasting, the pitiful courage to be constantly knocking a chip off God’s shoulder, and the childish cowardice that makes a ghost of a dead tree beside a darkening road. Maybe that’s

good and necessary, but—” “What do you want to

say?” Lee repeated patiently. “I thought some wind

had blown up the embers in my foolish mind,” Samuel said. “And now I hear in your voice that you have it too. I feel wings over this house. I feel a dreadfulness coming.” “I feel it too.”

“I know you do, and that makes me take less than my usual

comfort in


foolishness. This birth was too quick, too easy—like a cat having kittens. And I fear for these kittens. I have dreadful thoughts gnawing to

get into my brain.” “What do you want to

say?” Lee asked a third time. “I

want my wife,”

Samuel cried. “No dreams, no ghosts, no foolishness. I want her here. They say miners take canaries into the pits to test the air. Liza has no truck with foolishness. And, Lee, if Liza sees a ghost, it’s a ghost and not a fragment of a dream. If Liza feels trouble we’ll bar the doors.”

Lee got up and went to

the laundry basket and looked down at the babies. He had to peer close, for the light was going

fast. “They’re

sleeping,” he said. “They’ll be squalling

soon enough. Lee, will you hitch up the rig and drive to my place for Liza? Tell her I need her here. If Tom’s still there, tell him to mind the place. If not, I’ll send him in the morning. And if Liza doesn’t want to come, tell her we need a woman’s hand here and a woman’s clear eyes.

She’ll know what you mean.” “I’ll do it,” said Lee.

“Maybe we’re scaring each other, like two children in the dark.”

“I’ve thought of that,” Samuel said. “And Lee, tell her I hurt my hand at the well

head. Do not, for God’s sake, tell her how it happened.” “I’ll get some lamps lit

and then I’ll go,” said Lee. “It will be a great relief to have her here.”

“That it will, Lee. That it will. She’ll let some light into this cellar hole.”

After Lee drove away in

the dark Samuel picked up a lamp in his left hand. He had to set it on the floor to turn the knob of the bedroom

door. The room was in pitch-blackness, and the yellow lamplight streamed upward

and did not light the bed.

Cathy’s voice came

strong and edged from the bed. “Shut the door. I do not

want the light. Adam, go out! I want to be in the dark— alone.”

Adam said hoarsely, “I want to stay with you.” “I do not want you.”

“I will stay.”

“Then stay. But don’t

talk any more. Please close the door and take the lamp away.”

Samuel went back to the living room. He put the lamp on the table by the laundry basket and looked in on the small sleeping faces of the babies. Their eyes were pinched shut and they sniffled a little in discomfort at the light.

Samuel put


forefinger down and stroked the hot foreheads. One of the twins opened his mouth and yawned

prodigiously and

settled back to sleep. Samuel moved the lamp and then went to the front door and opened it and stepped outside. The evening star was so bright that it seemed to flare and crumple as it sank toward the western mountains. The air was still, and Samuel could smell the day-heated sage. The night was very dark. Samuel started when he heard a voice speaking out of the blackness.

“How is she?”

“Who is it?” Samuel demanded.

“It’s me, Rabbit.” The

man emerged and took form in the light from the doorway. “The mother, Rabbit?

Oh, she’s fine.” “Lee said twins.” “That’s right—twin

sons. You couldn’t want better. I guess Mr. Trask will tear the river up by the roots now. He’ll bring in a crop of candy canes.”

Samuel didn’t know why he

changed the subject.

“Rabbit, do you know what we bored into today? A

meteorite.” “What’s that,

Mr. Hamilton?”

“A shooting star that fell a million years ago.” “You did? Well, think of

that! How did you hurt your hand?”

“I almost said on a shooting



laughed. “But it wasn’t that interesting. I pinched it in the tackle.”


“No, not bad.” “Two

boys,” said

Rabbit. “My old lady will be jealous.”

“Will you come inside and sit, Rabbit?”

“No, no, thank you. I’ll get out to sleep. Morning

seems to come earlier every year I live.”

“That it does, Rabbit. Good night then.”

Liza Hamilton arrived about four in the morning. Samuel was asleep in his chair, dreaming that he had gripped a red-hot bar of iron and could not let go. Liza

awakened him and looked at his hand before she even glanced at the babies. While she did well the things he had done


a lumbering,

masculine way, she gave him his orders and packed him off. He was to get up this instant, saddle Doxology, and ride straight to King City. No matter what time it was, he

must wake up that good-for-nothing doctor and get his hand treated. If it seemed all

right he could go home and wait. And it was a criminal thing to leave your last-born, and he little more than a baby himself, sitting there by a hole in the ground with no one to care for him. It was a matter which might even engage the attention of the Lord God himself.

If Samuel craved realism and activity, he got it. She

had him off the place by dawn.

His hand was

bandaged by eleven, and he was in his own chair at his own table by five in the afternoon, sizzling with fever, and Tom was boiling a hen to make chicken soup for him.

For three days Samuel

lay in bed, fighting the fever phantoms and putting names to them too, before his great strength broke down the infection

and drove it

caterwauling away.” Samuel looked up at

Tom with clear eyes and said, “I’ll have to get up,” tried it and

sat weakly back,

chuckling—the sound


made when any force in the world defeated him. He had an idea that even when beaten he could steal a little victory by laughing at defeat. And Tom brought him chicken soup until he wanted to kill him. The lore had not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for the funeral either.


Liza stayed away a week. She cleaned the Trask house from the top clear down into the grain of the wooden floors.

She washed everything she could bend enough to get into a tub and sponged the rest.

She put the babies on a working basis and noted with satisfaction that they howled most of the time and began to gain weight. Lee she used like a slave since she didn’t quite believe in him. Adam she

ignored since she couldn’t use



anything. She did make him wash the windows and then did it again after he had finished.

Liza sat with Cathy just enough to come to the conclusion that she was a sensible girl who didn’t talk very much or try to teach her grandmother to suck eggs.

She also checked her over and found that she was perfectly healthy, not injured and not sick, and that she would never nurse the twins. “And just as well too,” she said. “Those great lummoxes would chew a little thing like you to the bone.” She forgot that she was smaller than Cathy and had nursed every

one of her own children. On Saturday afternoon

Liza checked her work, left a list of instructions as long as her arm to cover every possibility from colic to an inroad of grease ants, packed her traveling basket, and had Lee drive her home.

She found her house a stable

of filth and

abomination and she set to cleaning it with the violence and disgust of a Hercules at labor.

Samuel asked

questions of her in flight. How were the babies?

They were fine, growing.

How was Adam?

Well, he moved around

as if he was alive but he left no evidence. The Lord in his wisdom gave money to very curious

people, perhaps because they’d starve without.

How was Mrs. Trask? Quiet, lackadaisical, like most rich Eastern women

(Liza had never known a rich Eastern woman), but on the other

hand docile and

respectful. “And it’s a strange thing,” Liza said. “I can find no real fault with her save perhaps a touch of laziness, and yet I don’t like her very much. Maybe it’s that scar.

How did she get it?” “I don’t know,” said Samuel.

Liza leveled her forefinger like

a pistol

between his eyes. “I’ll tell you something. Unbeknownst to herself, she’s put a spell on

her husband. He moons around her like a sick duck. I don’t think he’s given the twins a thorough good look yet.”

Samuel waited until she went by again. He said, “Well, if she’s lazy and he’s moony, who’s going to take care of the sweet babies?

Twin boys take a piece of looking after.”

Liza stopped in mid-swoop, drew a chair close to him, and sat, resting her

hands on her


“Remember I’ve never held the truth lightly if you don’t believe me,” she said.

“I don’t think you could

lie, dearie,” he said, and she smiled,

thinking it

a compliment.

“Well, what I’m to tell you might weigh a little

heavy on your belief if you did not know that.”

“Tell me.”

“Samuel, you know that Chinese with his slanty eyes and his outlandish talk and that braid?”

“Lee? Sure I know him.” “Well, wouldn’t you say offhand he was a heathen?” “I don’t know.”

“Come now, Samuel, anybody would. But he’s not.” She straightened up.

“What is he?”

She tapped his arm with an

iron finger. “A

Presbyterian, and well up— well up, I say, when you dig it out of that crazy talk. Now what do you think of that?”

Samuel’s voice was

unsteady with trying to clamp his laughter in. “No!” he said. “And I say yes. Well

now, who do you think is looking after the twins? I wouldn’t trust a heathen from here

to omega—but

a Presbyterian—he learned

everything I told him.” “No

wonder they’re taking on weight,” said Samuel.

“It’s a matter for praise

and it’s a matter for prayer.” “We’ll do it too,” said Samuel. “Both.”


For a week Cathy rested and gathered her strength. On Saturday of the second week of October she stayed in her bedroom all morning. Adam

tried the door and found it locked.

“I’m busy,” she called, and he went away.

Putting her bureau in order, he thought, for he could

hear her opening

drawers and closing them. In the late afternoon Lee came to Adam where he sat

on the stoop. “Missy say I go King City buy nursey bottle,” he said uneasily.

“Well, do it then,” said Adam. “She’s your mistress.” “Missy say not come

back mebbe Monday. Take



spoke calmly

from the doorway. “He hasn’t had a day off for a long time. A rest would do him good.” “Of course,” said Adam.

“I just didn’t think of it. Have a good time. If I need anything I’ll get one of the carpenters.”

“Men go home,


“I’ll get the Indian.

Lopez will help.”

Lee felt Cathy’s eyes on him. “Lopez dlunk. Find bottle whisky.”

Adam said petulantly,

“I’m not helpless, Lee. Stop arguing.”

Lee looked at Cathy standing in the doorway. He

lowered his eyelids. “Mebbe I come back late,” he said, and he thought he saw two dark lines appear between her eyes and then disappear. He turned away. “Goo-by,” he said.

Cathy went back to her room as the evening came down. At seven-thirty Adam knocked. “I’ve got you some supper, dear. It’s not much.” The door opened as though she

had been standing

waiting. She was dressed in her neat traveling dress, the jacket edged in black braid, black velvet lapels, and large

jet buttons. On her head was a wide straw hat with a tiny crown;



hatpins held it on. Adam’s mouth dropped open.

She gave him no chance to speak. “I’m going away now.”

“Cathy, what do you mean?”

“I told you before.” “You didn’t.”

“You didn’t listen. It doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t believe you.”

Her voice was dead and metallic. “I don’t give a damn what you believe. I’m going.” “The babies—”

“Throw them in one of

your wells.”

He cried in panic,

“Cathy, you’re sick. You can’t go—not from me—not from me.”

“I can do anything to you. Any woman can do anything to you. You’re a fool.”

The word got through

his haze. Without warning, his hands reached for her shoulders and he thrust her backward. As she staggered he took the key from the inside of the door, slammed the door shut, and locked it. He stood panting, his ear close to the panel, and a

hysterical sickness poisoned him. He could hear her moving quietly about. A drawer was opened, and the thought leaped in him—she’s going to stay. And then there was a little click he could not place. His ear was almost touching the door.

Her voice came from so near that he jerked his head back. He heard richness in her voice. “Dear,” she said softly, “I didn’t know you would take it so. I’m sorry, Adam.”

His breath burst hoarsely out of his throat. His hand trembled, trying to turn the key, and it fell out on the floor after he had turned it.

He pushed the door open. She

stood three feet away. In her right hand she held his .44 Colt, and the black hole in the barrel pointed at him. He took a step toward her, saw that the hammer was back.

She shot him. The heavy slug struck him in the shoulder and flattened and tore out a piece of his shoulderblade. The flash and roar smothered him, and he staggered back and fell to the floor. She moved slowly toward him, cautiously, as she might toward a wounded animal. He stared up into her eyes, which inspected him impersonally. She tossed the pistol on the floor beside him and walked out of the house. He heard her steps on

the porch, on the crisp dry oak leaves on the path, and then he could hear her no more. And the monotonous sound that had been there all along was the cry of the twins, wanting their dinner. He had forgotten to feed them.

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