Chapter no 18

East of Eden

Horace Quinn was the new deputy sheriff appointed to look after things around the King

City district.


complained that his new job took him away from his ranch too


His wife

complained even more, but the truth of the matter was that

nothing much had

happened in a criminal way since

Horace had been

deputy. He had seen himself making a name for himself and running for sheriff. The sheriff was an important officer. His job was less flighty than that of district attorney, almost as permanent and dignified as superior court judge. Horace didn’t

want to stay on the ranch all his life, and his wife had an urge to live in Salinas where she had relatives.

When the rumors,

repeated by the Indian and the carpenters, that Adam Trask had

been shot reached

Horace, he saddled up right away and left his wife to finish butchering the pig he had killed that morning.

Just north of the big sycamore tree where the Hester road turns off to the left,


met Julius

Euskadi. Julius was trying to decide whether to go quail hunting or to King City and catch the train to Salinas to shake some of the dust out of his britches. The Euskadis were well-to-do, handsome people of Basque extraction.

Julius said, “If you’d

come along with me, I’d go into Salinas. They tell me that right next door to Jenny’s, two doors from the Long Green, there’s a new place called Faye’s. I heard it was pretty nice, run like San Francisco. They’ve got a piano player.”

Horace rested his elbow

on his saddle horn and stirred

a fly from his horse’s shoulder with his rawhide quirt. “Some other time,” he said. “I’ve got to look into something.”

“You wouldn’t be going to Trask’s, would you?” “That’s right. Did you hear anything about it?” “Not to make any sense.

I heard Mr. Trask shot himself in the shoulder with a forty-four and then fired everybody on the ranch. How do you go about shooting yourself in the shoulder with a forty-four, Horace?”

“I don’t know. Them Easterners are pretty clever. I thought I’d go up and find out. Didn’t his wife just have a baby?”

“Twins, I heard,” said Julius. “Maybe they shot him.”

“One hold the gun and the other pull the trigger? Hear anything else?” “All mixed up, Horace.

Want some company?” “I’m

not going to

deputize you, Julius. Sheriff says the supervisors are raising hell about the payroll. Hornby out in the Alisal deputized his great aunt and kept her in posse three weeks just before Easter.”

“You’re fooling!” “No, I’m not. And you get no star.”

“Hell, I don’t want to be

a deputy. Just thought I’d ride along with you for company. I’m curious.”

“Me too. Glad to have

you, Julius. I can always fling the oath around your neck if there’s any trouble. What do you say the new place is called?”

“Faye’s. Sacramento woman.”

“They do things pretty nice in Sacramento,” and Horace told how they did

things in Sacramento as they rode along.

It was a nice day to be

riding. As they turned into the Sanchez draw they were cursing the bad hunting in

recent years. Three things are never any good—farming, fishing,

and hunting—

compared to other years, that is. Julius was saying, “Christ, I wish they hadn’t killed off all the grizzly bears. In eighteen-eighty


grandfather killed one up by Pleyto

weighed eighteen

hundred pounds.”

A silence came on them as they rode in under the

oaks, a silence they took from the place itself. There was no sound, no movement.

“I wonder if he finished

fixing up the old house,” Horace said.

“Hell, no.


Holman was working on it, and he told me Trask called them all in and fired them. Told them not to come back.” “They say Trask has got

a pot of money.”

“I guess he’s well fixed,

all right,” said Julius. “Sam Hamilton is sinking four wells—if he didn’t get fired too.”

“How is Mr. Hamilton? I ought to go up to see him.” “He’s fine. Full of hell

as ever.”

“I’ll have to go up and

pay him a visit,” said Horace.

Lee came out on the stoop to meet them.

Horace said, “Hello,

Ching Chong. Bossy man here?”

“He sick,” said Lee. “I’d like to see him.” “No see. He sick.” “That’s enough of that,” said

Horace. “Tell him

Deputy Sheriff Quinn wants to see him.”

Lee disappeared, and in

a moment he was back. “You come,” he said, “I take horsy.”

Adam lay in the four-poster bed where the twins

had been born. He was propped high with pillows,

and a mound of home-devised bandages covered his left breast and shoulder. The

room reeked of Hall’s Cream Salve.

Horace said later to his wife, “And if you ever saw death still breathing, there it was.”

Adam’s cheeks hugged

the bone and pulled the skin of his nose tight and slimy. His eyes seemed to bulge out of his head and to take up the whole upper part of his face, and they were shiny with sickness, intense and myopic. His bony right hand kneaded a fistful of coverlet.

Horace said, “Howdy, Mr. Trask. Heard you got

hurt.” He paused, waiting for an answer. He went on, “Just thought I’d drop around and see how you were doing.

How’d it happen?”

A look of transparent eagerness came over Adam’s face. He shifted slightly in the bed.

“If it hurts to talk you

can whisper,” Horace added helpfully.

“Only when I breathe deep,” Adam said softly. “I was cleaning my gun and it went off.”

Horace glanced at Julius

and then back. Adam saw the look and a little color of embarrassment rose in his cheeks.

“Happens all the time,”

said Horace. “Got the gun around?”

“I think Lee put it away.”

Horace stepped to the door. “Hey there, Ching Chong, bring the pistol.”

In a moment Lee poked

the gun butt-first through the door. Horace looked at it, swung the cylinder out, poked the

cartridges out,


smelled the empty brass cylinder of the one empty shell.

“There’s better

shooting cleaning the damn things than pointing them. I’ll

have to make a report to the county, Mr. Trask. I won’t take up much of your time. You were cleaning the barrel, maybe with a rod, and the gun went off and hit you in the shoulder?”

“That’s right, sir,” Adam said quickly.

“And cleaning it, you hadn’t

swung out the

cylinder?” “That’s right.”

“And you were poking the rod in and out with the barrel pointed toward you

with the hammer cocked?”

Adam’s breath rasped in a quick intake.

Horace went on, “And it must have blowed the rod right through you and took off your left hand too.” Horace’s pale sun-washed eyes never left Adam’s face.

He said kindly, “What

happened, Mr. Trask? Tell me what happened.”

“I tell you truly it was an accident, sir.”

“Now you wouldn’t

have me write a report like I just said. The sheriff would think I was crazy. What happened?”

“Well, I’m not very used

to guns. Maybe it wasn’t just like that, but I was cleaning it and it went off.”

There was a whistle in Horace’s nose. He had to breathe through his mouth to stop it. He moved slowly up from the foot of the bed, nearer to Adam’s head and staring eyes. “You came from the East not very long ago, didn’t you, Mr. Trask?” “That’s



“I guess people don’t

use guns very much there any more.”

“Not much.” “Little hunting?” “Some.”

“So you’d be more used

to a shotgun?” “That’s right. But I never hunted much.” “I guess you didn’t

hardly use a pistol at all, so you didn’t know how to handle it.”

“That’s right,” Adam said

eagerly. “Hardly

anybody there has a pistol.” “So when you came here you bought that forty-four because everybody out here has a pistol and you were going to learn how to use it.” “Well, I thought it might

be a good thing to learn.” Julius

Euskadi stood

tensely, his face and body receptive,

listening but


Horace sighed and

looked away from Adam. His eyes brushed over and past Julius and came back to his hands. He laid the gun on the bureau and carefully lined the brass and lead cartridges beside it. “You know,” he said, “I’ve only been a deputy a little while. I thought I was going to have some fun with it and maybe in a few years run for sheriff. I haven’t got the guts for it. It isn’t any fun to me.”

Adam watched him nervously.

“I don’t think anybody’s

ever been afraid of me before

—mad at me, yes—but not afraid. It’s a mean thing, makes me feel mean.” Julius said irritably, “Get to it. You can’t resign right this minute.”

“The hell I can’t—if I

want to. All right! Mr. Trask, you served in the United States Cavalry. The weapons of the cavalry are carbines and pistols. You—” He stopped

and swallowed.

“What happened, Mr. Trask?”

Adam’s eyes seemed to grow larger, and they were moist and edged with red. “It was

an accident,” he whispered.

“Anybody see it? Was your wife with you when it happened?”

Adam did not reply, and Horace saw that his eyes were closed. “Mr. Trask,” he said, “I know you’re a sick man.

I’m trying to make it as easy on you as I can. Why don’t you rest now while I have a talk with your wife?” He waited a moment and then turned to the doorway, where Lee

still stood. “Ching

Chong, tell Missy I would admire to talk to her for a few minutes.”

Lee did not reply.

Adam spoke without

opening his eyes. “My wife is away on a visit.”

“She wasn’t here when it happened?” Horace glanced at Julius and saw a curious expression on Julius’s lips. The corners of his mouth were turned slightly up in a sardonic



thought quickly, He’s ahead of me. He’d make a good sheriff. “Say,” he said, “that’s

kind of interesting. Your wife had a baby—two babies— two weeks ago, and now she’s gone on a visit. Did she take the babies with her? I thought I heard them a little while ago.” Horace leaned over the bed and touched the back of Adam’s clenched right hand. “I hate this, but I can’t stop now. Trask!” he said loudly, “I want you to tell me what happened. This isn’t nosiness. This is the law. Now, damn it, you open your eyes and tell me or, by Christ, I’ll take you in to the sheriff even if you are hurt.”

Adam opened his eyes, and they were blank like a

sleepwalker’s eyes. And his voice came out without rise

or fall, without emphasis, and without any emotion. It was as though he pronounced perfectly words in a language he did not understand.

“My wife went away,” he said.

“Where did she go?” “I don’t know.” “What do you mean?”

“I don’t know where she went.”

Julius broke in, speaking for the first time. “Why did she go?”

“I don’t know.”

Horace said angrily,

“You watch it, Trask. You’re playing pretty close to the edge and I don’t like what

I’m thinking. You must know why she went away.”

“I don’t know why she went.”

“Was she sick? Did she act strange?”


Horace turned. “Ching Chong,

do you know

anything about this?” “I go King City Satdy.

Come back mebbe twelve night. Find Missy Tlask on floor.”

“So you weren’t here when it happened?” “No, ma’am.”

“All right, Trask, I’ll

have to get back to you. Open

up that shade a little, Ching Chong, so I can see. There, that’s better. Now I’m going to do it your way first until I can’t any more. Your wife went away. Did she shoot you?”

“It was an accident.” “All right, an accident,

but was the gun in her hand?” “It was an accident.”

“You don’t make it very easy. But let’s say she went away and we have to find her

—see?—like a kid’s game. You’re making it that way. How long have you been married?”

“Nearly a year.” “What was her name

before you married her?” There was a long pause,

and then Adam said softly, “I won’t tell. I promised.” “Now you watch it.

Where did she come from?” “I don’t know.”


Trask, you’re

talking yourself right into the county jail. Let’s have a description. How tall was she?”

Adam’s eyes gleamed.

“Not tall—little and delicate.” “That’s just fine. What

color hair? Eyes?” “She was beautiful.” “Was?”


“Any scars?”

“Oh, God, no. Yes—a scar on her forehead.”

“You don’t know her

name, where she came from, where she went, and you can’t describe her. And you think I’m a fool.”

Adam said, “She had a secret. I promised I wouldn’t ask her. She was afraid for someone.”

And without

warning Adam began to cry. His whole body shook, and his breath made little high sounds. It was hopeless crying.

Horace felt misery rising

in him. “Come on in the other room, Julius,” he said and led the way into the living room. “All right, Julius, tell me what you think. Is he crazy?”

“I don’t know.” “Did he kill her?” “That’s what jumped into my mind.”

“Mine too,” said Horace. “My God!” He hurried into the bedroom and came back with the pistol and the shells. “I

forgot them,” he

apologized. “I won’t last long in this job.”

Julius asked, “What are you going to do?” “Well,


think it’s

beyond me. I told you I wouldn’t put you on the

payroll, but hold up your right hand.”

“I don’t want to get

sworn in, Horace. I want to go to Salinas.”

“You don’t have any choice, Julius. I’ll have to arrest you if you don’t get your goddam hand up.” Julius reluctantly put up his hand and disgustedly

repeated the oath. “And that’s what I get for keeping you company,” he said. “My father will skin me alive. All right, what do we do now?”

Horace said, “I’m going to run to papa. I need the

sheriff. I’d take Trask in but I don’t want to move him.

You’ve got to stay, Julius. I’m sorry. Have you got a

gun?” “Hell, no.”

“Well, take this one, and take my star.” He unpinned it from his shirt and held it out. “How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

“Not any longer than I can help. Did you ever see Mrs. Trask, Julius?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Neither did I. And I’ve got to tell the sheriff that

Trask doesn’t know her name or anything. And she’s not very big and she is beautiful.

That’s one hell of


description! I think I’ll resign

before I tell the sheriff, because he’s sure as hell going to fire me afterward. Do you think he killed her?” “How the hell do I


“Don’t get mad.”

Julius picked up the gun

and put the cartridges back in the cylinder and balanced it in his hand. “You want an idea, Horace?”

“Don’t it look like Ineed one?”

“Well, Sam Hamilton knew

her—he took the

babies, Rabbit says. And Mrs. Hamilton took care of her.

Why don’t you ride out there

on your way and find out what she really looked like.” “I think maybe you

better keep that star,” said Horace. “That’s good. I’ll get going.”

“You want me to look around?”

“I want you just to see

that he doesn’t get away—or hurt himself. Understand?

Take care of yourself.”


About midnight Horace got on a freight train in King City. He sat up in the cab with the engineer, and he was in Salinas the first thing in the morning. Salinas was the

county seat, and it was a fast-growing town. Its population was due to cross the two

thousand mark any time. It

was the biggest town between San Jose and San Luis Obispo, and everyone felt that a brilliant future was in store for it.

Horace walked up from the Southern Pacific Depot and stopped in the Chop House for breakfast. He

didn’t want to get the sheriff out so early and rouse ill will when it wasn’t necessary. In the Chop House he ran into young

Will Hamilton,

looking pretty prosperous in a salt-and-pepper business suit.

Horace sat down at the table with him. “How are you, Will?”

“Oh, pretty good.”

“Up here on business?” “Well, yes, I do have a little deal on.”

“You might let me in on something


Horace felt strange talking like this to such a young man, but Will Hamilton had an aura of success about him.

Everybody knew he was going to be a very influential man in the county. Some people exude their futures, good or bad.

“I’ll do that, Horace. I thought the ranch took all your time.”

“I could be persuaded to

rent it if anything turned up.”

Will leaned over the

table. “You know, Horace,

our part of the county has been pretty much left out. Did you ever think of running for office?”

“What do you mean?” “Well, you’re a deputy

—did you ever think of running for sheriff?” “Why, no, I didn’t.” “Well, you think about

it. Just keep it under your hat. I’ll look you up in a couple of weeks and we’ll talk about it. But keep it under your hat.” “I’ll certainly do that,

Will. But we’ve got an awful good sheriff.”

“I know. That’s got nothing to do with it. King City hasn’t got a single county officer—you see?” “I see. I’ll think about it.

Oh, by the way, I stopped by and saw your father and mother yesterday.”

Will’s face lighted up.

“You did? How were they?” “Just fine. You know,

your father is a real comical genius.”

Will chuckled. “He

made us laugh all the time we were growing up.”

“But he’s a smart man too, Will. He showed me a new kind of windmill he’s invented—goddamnedest thing you ever saw.”

“Oh, Lord,” said Will, “here

come the


attorneys again!”

“But this is good,” said Horace.

“They’re all good. And the only people who make any money are the patent

lawyers. Drives my mother crazy.”

“I guess you’ve got a point there.”

Will said, “The only way

to make any money is to sell something somebody else makes.”

“You’ve got a point there, Will, but this is the

goddamnedest windmill you ever saw.”

“He took you in, did he, Horace?”

“I guess he did. But you

wouldn’t want him to change, would you?”

“Oh, Lord, no!” said

Will. “You think about what I said.”

“All right.”

“And keep it under your hat,” said Will.

The sheriff’s job was not

an easy one, and that county which, out of the grab bag of popular elections, pulled a good sheriff was lucky. It was a complicated position. The obvious duties of the sheriff

—enforcing the law and keeping the peace—were far from the most important ones. It was true that the sheriff represented armed force in the


but in a

community seething with

individuals a harsh or stupid sheriff did not last long.

There were water rights, boundary

disputes, astray arguments, domestic

relations, paternity matters— all to be settled without force of

arms. Only when

everything else failed did a good sheriff make an arrest.

The best sheriff was not the best fighter but the best diplomat.

And Monterey

County had a good one. He had a brilliant gift for minding his own business. Horace went into the sheriff’s office in the old county jail about ten minutes after nine. The sheriff shook hands and discussed the weather and the crops until Horace was ready to get down to business.

“Well, sir,” Horace said finally, “I had to come up to get your advice.” And he told his story in great detail— what everybody had said and how they looked and what

time it was—everything. After a few moments the sheriff closed his eyes and laced his fingers together. He punctuated

the account

occasionally by opening his eyes,

but he made no


“Well, there I was on a limb,”

Horace said. “I

couldn’t find



happened. I couldn’t even find out what the woman looked like. It was Julius Euskadi got the idea I should go to see Sam Hamilton.”

The sheriff stirred, crossed his legs, and

inspected the job. “You think he killed her.”

“Well, I did. But Mr. Hamilton kind of talked me out of it. He says Trask hasn’t got it in him to kill anybody.” “Everybody’s got it in

him,” the sheriff said. “You just find his trigger and

anybody will go off.” “Mr. Hamilton told me

some funny things about her. You know, when he was taking her babies she bit him on the hand. You ought to see that hand, like a wolf got him.”

“Did Sam give you a description?”

“He did, and his wife

did.” Horace took a piece of paper from his pocket and read a detailed description of Cathy. Between the two of them the Hamiltons knew pretty

much everything

physical there was to know about Cathy.

When Horace finished

the sheriff sighed. “They both agreed about the scar?”

“Yes, they did. And both

of them remarked about how sometimes it was darker than other times.”

The sheriff closed his

eyes again and leaned back in his

chair. Suddenly he

straightened up, opened a drawer of his rolltop desk, and took out a pint of whisky. “Have a drink,” he said. “Don’t mind if I do.

Here’s looking at you.” Horace wiped his mouth and handed back the pint. “Got any ideas?” he asked.

The sheriff took three

big swallows of whisky, corked the pint, and put it back in the drawer before he replied. “We’ve got a pretty well-run county,” he said. “I get along with the constables, give them a hand when they need it, and they help me out when I need it. You take a town growing like Salinas, and strangers in and out all the time—we could have trouble if we didn’t watch it pretty close. My office gets along fine with the local people.” He looked Horace in the eye. “Don’t get restless.

I’m not making a speech. I just want to tell you how it is.

We don’t drive


We’ve got to live with them.” “Did I do something wrong?”

“No, you didn’t, Horace.

You did just right. If you hadn’t come to town or if you had brought Mr. Trask in, we’d of been in one hell of a mess. Now hold on. I’m going to tell you—”


listening,” said Horace.

“Over across the tracks down by Chinatown there’s a row of whorehouses.”

“I know that.” “Everybody knows it. If

we closed them up they’d just move. The people want those

houses. We keep an eye on them so not much bad happens. And the people that run those houses keep in touch with us. I’ve picked up some wanted men from tips I got down there.”

Horace said, “Julius told me—”

“Now wait a minute. Let me get all this said so we

won’t have to go back over it. About three months ago a fine-looking woman came in to see me. She wanted to open a house here and wanted to do it right. Came from Sacramento. Ran a place there. She had letters from some pretty important people

—straight record—never had any trouble. A pretty damn

good citizen.”

“Julius told me. Name of Faye.”

“That’s right. Well, she opened a nice place, quiet, well run. It was about time old Jenny and the Nigger had some competition. They were mad as hell about it, but I told them just what I told you. It’s about time they had some competition.”

“There’s a

piano player.”

“Yes, there is. Good one too—blind fella. Say, are you going to let me tell this?” “I’m

sorry,” said


“That’s all right. I know I’m slow but I’m thorough.

Anyways, Faye turned out to be just what she looks like, a good solid citizen. Now there’s one thing a good quiet whorehouse is more scared of than anything else. Take a flighty randy girl runs off from home and goes in a house. Her old man finds her and he begins to shovel up hell. Then the churches get into it, and the women, and pretty soon that whorehouse has got a bad name and we’ve got to close it up. You understand?”

“Yeah!” Horace said softly.

“Now don’t get ahead of

me. I hate to tell something you already thought out. Faye sent me a note Sunday night. She’s got a girl and she can’t make much out of her. What puzzles Faye is that this kid looks like a runaway girl except she’s a goddam good whore. She knows all the answers and all the tricks. I went down and looked her over. She told me the usual bull, but I can’t find a thing wrong with her. She’s of age and

nobody’s made


complaint.” He spread his hands. “Well, there it is.

What do we do about it?” “You’re pretty sure it’s

Mrs. Trask?”

The sheriff said, “Wide-set eyes, yellow hair, and a scar on her forehead, and she

came in Sunday afternoon.”

Adam’s weeping face

was in Horace’s mind. “God all mighty! Sheriff, you got to get somebody else to tell him. I’ll quit before I do.”

The sheriff gazed into space. “You say he didn’t even know her name, where she came from. She really bullshitted him, didn’t she?” “The

poor bastard,” Horace said. “The poor

bastard is in love with her.

No, by God, somebody else has got to tell him. I won’t.” The sheriff stood up.

“Let’s go down to the Chop House and get a cup of coffee.”

They walked along the street in silence for a while.

“Horace,” the sheriff said, “if I told some of the things I know, this whole goddam county would go up in smoke.”

“I guess that’s right.” “You

said she had


“Yeah, twin boys.” “You


to me,

Horace. There’s only three people in the world that knows—her and you and me. I’m going to warn her that if she ever tells I’ll brush her ass out of this county so fast it’ll burn. And, Horace—if you should ever get an itchy tongue,

before you tell

anybody, even your wife, why, you think about those little boys finding out their mother is a whore.”


Adam sat in his chair under the big oak tree. His left arm was

expertly bandaged

against his side so that he could not move his shoulder. Lee came out carrying the laundry basket. He set it on the ground beside Adam and went back inside.

The twins were awake,

and they both looked blindly

and earnestly up at the wind-moved leaves of the oak tree.

A dry oak leaf came whirling down and landed in the basket. Adam leaned over and picked it out.

He didn’t hear Samuel’s horse until it was almost upon him, but Lee had seen him coming. He brought a chair out and led Doxology away toward the shed.


sat down

quietly, and he didn’t trouble Adam by looking at him too much, and he didn’t trouble him by not looking at him.

The wind freshened in the treetops and a fringe of it ruffled Samuel’s hair. “I thought I’d better get back to the wells,” Samuel said softly.

Adam’s voice had gone rusty from lack of use. “No,” he said, “I don’t want any wells. I’ll pay for the work you did.”

Samuel leaned over the basket and put his finger against the small palm of one of the twins and the fingers closed and held on. “I guess

the last bad habit a man will give up is advising.”

“I don’t want advice.” “Nobody does. It’s a giver’s present. Go through the motions, Adam.” “What motions?”

“Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a

long while, it will be true.” “Why should I?” Adam asked.

Samuel was looking at

the twins. “You’re going to pass something down no matter what you do or if you do nothing. Even if you let yourself go fallow, the weeds will grow and the brambles. Something will grow.” Adam did not answer,

and Samuel stood up. “I’ll be

back,” he said. “I’ll be back again and again. Go through the motions, Adam.”

In the back of the shed Lee held Doxology while

Sam mounted. “There goes your bookstore, Lee,” he said. “Oh, well,” said the

Chinese, “maybe I didn’t want it much anyway.”

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