Chapter no 39

East of Eden

At intervals Salinas suffered from a mild eructation of morality. The process never varied much. One burst was like another. Sometimes it started in the pulpit and sometimes

with a new

ambitious president of the Women’s

Civic Club.

Gambling was invariably the sin to be eradicated. There were certain advantages in attacking



could discuss it, which was not true of prostitution. It was an obvious evil and most of the games were operated by Chinese. There was little chance of treading on the toes of a relative.

From church and club

the town’s two newspapers caught



demanded a clean-up. The police agreed but pleaded

short-handedness and tried for increased budget and sometimes succeeded.

When it got to the

editorial stage everyone knew the cards were down. What followed was as carefully produced as a ballet. The police

got ready, the

gambling houses got ready, and

the papers set


congratulatory editorials in advance. Then came the raid, deliberate and sure. Twenty or more Chinese, imported

from Pajaro, a few bums, six or eight drummers, who, being strangers, were not warned, fell into the police net, were booked, jailed, and in the morning fined and released. The town relaxed in its new spotlessness and the houses lost only one night of business plus the fines. It is one of the triumphs of the human that he can know a thing and still not believe it.

In the fall of 1916 Cal was watching the fan-tan game at Shorty Lim’s one

night when the raid scooped him up. In the dark no one noticed him, and the chief was embarrassed to find him in the tank in the morning.

The chief telephoned Adam,

got him up from his

breakfast. Adam walked the two blocks to the City Hall, picked up Cal, crossed the street to the post office for his mail, and then the two walked home.

Lee had kept Adam’s

eggs warm and had fried two for Cal.

Aron walked through the dining room on his way to school. “Want me to wait for you?” he asked Cal.

“No,” said Cal. He kept his eyes down and ate his eggs.

Adam had not spoken

except to say, “Come along!” at the City Hall after he had thanked the Chief.

Cal gulped down a breakfast he did not want, darting glances up through his eyelashes at his father’s

face. He could make nothing of Adam’s expression. It seemed at once puzzled and angry and thoughtful and sad.

Adam stared down into his coffee cup. The silence

grew until it had the weight of age so hard to lift aside. Lee looked in. “Coffee?” he asked.

Adam shook his head

slowly. Lee withdrew and this time closed the kitchen door.

In the


silence Cal began to be afraid. He felt a strength flowing out of his father he had never known was there. Itching prickles of agony ran up his legs, and he was afraid to move to restore the circulation. He knocked his fork against his plate to make a noise and the clatter was swallowed up. The clock struck nine deliberate strokes and they were swallowed up.

As the fear began to chill, resentment took its

place. So might a trapped fox feel anger at the paw which held him to the trap.

Suddenly Cal jumped

up. He hadn’t known he was going to move. He shouted

and he hadn’t known he was going to speak. He cried, “Do what you’re going to do to me! Go ahead! Get it over!”

And his shout was sucked into the silence.

Adam slowly raised his head. It is true that Cal had never looked into his father’s eyes before, and it is true that many people never look into their father’s eyes. Adam’s irises were light blue with dark radial lines leading into

the vortices of his pupils. And deep down in each pupil Cal saw his own face reflected, as though two Cals looked out at him.

Adam said slowly, “I’ve failed you, haven’t I?” It was worse than an

attack. Cal faltered, “What do you mean?”

“You were picked up in

a gambling house. I don’t know how you got there, what you were doing there, why you went there.”

Cal sat limply down and looked at his plate.

“Do you gamble, son?” “No, sir. I was just watching.”

“Had you been there before?”

“Yes, sir. Many times.” “Why do you go?”

“I don’t know. I get restless at night—like an alley cat, I guess.” The

thought of Kate and his weak joke seemed horrible to him. “When I can’t sleep I walk

around,” he said, “to try to blot it out.”

Adam considered his words, inspected each one. “Does your brother walk around too?”


no, sir.


wouldn’t think of it. He’s— he’s not restless.”

“You see, I don’t know,” said Adam. “I don’t know anything about you.”

Cal wanted to throw his arms about his father, to hug

him and to be hugged by him.

He wanted some wild

demonstration of sympathy and love. He picked up his wooden napkin ring and thrust his forefinger through it. “I’d tell you if you asked,” he said softly.

“I didn’t ask. I didn’t

ask! I’m as bad a father as my father was.”

Cal had never heard this tone in Adam’s voice. It was hoarse and breaking with warmth and he fumbled among his words, feeling for them in the dark.

“My father made a mold

and forced me into it,” Adam said. “I was a bad casting but I

couldn’t be remelted.

Nobody can be remelted. And so I remained a bad casting.”

Cal said, “Sir, don’t be sorry. You’ve had too much of that.”

“Have I? Maybe—but maybe the wrong kind. I don’t know my sons. I wonder whether I could learn.”

“I’ll tell you anything

you want to know. Just ask me.”

“Where would I start? Right at the beginning?” “Are you sad or mad because I was in jail?” To Cal’s surprise Adam laughed. “You were just there, weren’t you? You

didn’t do anything wrong.” “Maybe being there was

wrong.” Cal wanted a blame for himself.

“One time I was just there,” said Adam. “I was a

prisoner for nearly a year for just being there.”

Cal tried to absorb this heresy. “I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Sometimes I


either, but I know that when I escaped I robbed a store and stole some clothes.”

“I don’t believe it,” Cal

said weakly, but the warmth, the

closeness, was


delicious that he clung to it.

He breathed shallowly so that the warmth might not be disturbed.

Adam said, “Do you remember Samuel Hamilton?

—sure you do. When you were a baby he told me I was a bad father. He hit me, knocked me down, to impress it on me.”

“That old man?” “He was a tough old

man. And now I know what he meant. I’m the same as my father was. He didn’t allow me to be a person, and I haven’t seen my sons as people. That’s what Samuel meant.” He looked right into Cal’s eyes and smiled, and Cal ached with affection for him.

Cal said, “We don’t

think you’re a bad father.” “Poor

things,” said

Adam. “How would you know? You’ve never had any other kind.”

“I’m glad I was in jail,” said Cal.

“So am I. So am I.” He laughed. “We’ve both been in jail—we can talk together.” A gaiety grew in him. “Maybe you can tell me what kind of a boy you are—can you?” “Yes sir.”

“Will you?” “Yes, sir.”

“Well, tell me. You see, there’s a responsibility in being a person. It’s more than

just taking up space where air would be. What are you like?”

“No joke?” Cal asked shyly.

“No joke—oh, surely, no joke. Tell me about yourself

—that is, if you want to.” Cal began, “Well—I’m

—” He stopped. “It’s not so easy when you try,” he said. “I guess it would be— maybe impossible. Tell me about your brother.”

“What do you want to know about him?” “What you think of him,

I guess. That’s all you could tell me.”

Cal said, “He’s good. He doesn’t do bad things. He doesn’t think bad things.”

“Now you’re telling

about yourself.” “Sir?”

“You’re saying you do and think bad things.” Cal’s cheeks reddened. “Well, I do.”

“Very bad things?” “Yes, sir. Do you want me to tell?”

“No, Cal. You’ve told. Your voice tells and your eyes tell you’re at war with yourself. But you shouldn’t

be ashamed. It’s awful to be ashamed.

Is Aron ever


“He doesn’t do anything to be ashamed of.” Adam leaned forward. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Tell me, Cal—do you protect him?”

“How do you mean, sir?”

“I mean like this—if you heard something bad or cruel or ugly, would you keep it from him?”

“I—I think so.” “You think he’s too

weak to bear things you can bear?”

“It’s not that, sir. He’s good. He’s really good. He

never does anyone harm. He never says bad things about anyone. He’s not mean and

he never complains and he’s brave. He doesn’t like to fight but he will.”

“You love your brother, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir. And I do bad

things to him. I cheat him and I fool him. Sometimes I hurt him for no reason at all.” “And

then you’re

miserable?” “Yes, sir.” “Is

Aron ever


“I don’t know. When I

didn’t want to join the Church he felt bad. And once when Abra got angry and said she

hated him he felt awful bad. He was sick. He had a fever. Don’t you remember? Lee sent for the doctor.”

Adam said with wonder,

“I could live with you and not know any of these things!

Why was Abra mad?” Cal said, “I don’t know if I ought to tell.”

“I don’t want you to then.”

“It’s nothing bad. I guess it’s all right. You see, sir, Aron wants to be a minister.

Mr. Rolf—well, he likes high church, and Aron liked that, and he thought maybe he would never get married and maybe go to a retreat.”

“Like a monk, you mean?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And Abra didn’t like that?”

“Like it? She got spitting mad. She can get mad sometimes. She took Aron’s fountain pen and threw it on the sidewalk and tramped on it. She said she’d wasted half her life on Aron.”

Adam laughed. “How old is Abra?”

“Nearly fifteen.


she’s—well, more than that some ways.”

“I should say she is. What did Aron do?” “He just got quiet but he felt awful bad.”

Adam said, “I guess you

could have taken her away from him then.”

“Abra is Aron’s girl,” said Cal.

Adam looked deeply into Cal’s eyes. Then he

called, “Lee!” There was no answer. “Lee!” he called again. He said, ‘“I didn’t hear him go out. I want some fresh coffee.”

Cal jumped up. “I’ll make it.”

“Say,” said Adam, “you should be in school.”

“I don’t want to go.” “You ought to go. Aron went.”

“I’m happy,” Cal said. “I want to be with you.”

Adam looked down at

his hands. “Make the coffee,”

he said softly and his voice was shy.

When Cal was in the

kitchen Adam looked inward at himself with wonder. His nerves and muscles throbbed with an excited hunger. His fingers yearned to grasp, his legs to run. His eyes avidly brought the room into focus. He saw the chairs, the pictures, the red roses on the carpet, and new sharp things

—almost people things but friendly things. And in his brain was born sharp appetite for the future—a pleased warm anticipation, as though the coming minutes and weeks must bring delight. He felt a dawn emotion, with a lovely day to slip golden and

quiet over him. He laced his fingers behind his head and stretched his legs out stiff.

In the kitchen Cal urged on the water heating in the coffeepot, and yet he was pleased to be waiting. A

miracle once it is familiar is no longer a miracle; Cal had lost his wonder at the golden relationship with his father but the pleasure remained.

The poison of loneliness and the gnawing envy of the unlonely had gone out of him, and his person was clean and sweet, and he knew it was.

He dredged up an old hatred to test himself, and he found the hatred gone. He wanted to serve his father, to give him some great gift, to perform

some huge good task in honor of his father.

The coffee boiled over and

Cal spent minutes

cleaning up the stove. He said to himself, “I wouldn’t have done this yesterday.”

Adam smiled at him when he carried in the

steaming pot. Adam sniffed and said, “That’s a smell could raise me out of a concrete grave.”

“It boiled over,” said Cal.

“It has to boil over to taste good,” Adam said. “I wonder where Lee went.” “Maybe in his room.

Shall I look?” “No.

He’d have


“Sir, when I finish

school, will you let me run the ranch?”

“You’re planning early. How about Aron?” “He wants to go to

college. Don’t tell him I told you. Let him tell you, and you be surprised.”

“Why, that’s fine,” said Adam. “But don’t you want to go to college too?”

“I bet I could make

money on the ranch—enough to pay Aron’s way through college.”

Adam sipped his coffee.

“That’s a generous thing,” he said. “I don’t know whether I ought to tell you this but— well, when I asked you earlier what kind of boy Aron was, you defended him so badly I thought you might dislike him or even hate him.”

“I have hated him,” Cal said vehemently. “And I’ve hurt him too. But, sir, can I tell you something? I don’t hate him now. I won’t ever

hate him again. I don’t think I will hate anyone, not even my mother—”

He stopped,

astonished at his slip, and his mind froze up tight and helpless.

Adam looked straight

ahead. He rubbed his

forehead with the palm of his hand. Finally he said quietly, “You

know about your mother.”

It was not a

question. “Yes—yes, sir.” “All about her?” “Yes, sir.”

Adam leaned back in his chair. “Does Aron know?” “Oh, no! No—no, sir.

He doesn’t know.” “Why do you say it that way?”

“I wouldn’t dare to tell him.”

“Why not?”

Cal said brokenly, “I

don’t think he could stand it. He hasn’t enough badness in him to stand it.” He wanted to continue, “—any more than you could, sir,” but he left the last unsaid.

Adam’s face looked

weary. He moved his head from side to side. “Cal, listen to me. Do you think there’s any chance of keeping Aron from


Think carefully.”

Cal said, “He doesn’t go

near places like that. He’s not like me.”

“Suppose someone told him?”

“I don’t think he would believe it, sir. I think he would lick whoever told him and think it was a lie.” “You’ve been there?”

“Yes, sir. I had to know.” And Cal went on

excitedly, “If he went away to college and never lived in this town again—”

Adam nodded. “Yes.

That might be. But he has two more years here.”

“Maybe I could make

him hurry it up and finish in

one year. He’s smart.” “But you’re smarter?” “A different kind of smart,” said Cal.

Adam seemed to grow

until he filled one side of the room. His face was stern and his blue eyes sharp and penetrating. “Cal!” he said harshly.


“I trust you, son,” said Adam.


Adam’s recognition brought a ferment of happiness to Cal.

He walked on the balls of his feet. He smiled more often than he frowned, and the secret darkness was seldom on him.

Lee, noticing the change

in him, asked quietly, “You haven’t found a girl, have you?”

“Girl? No. Who wants a girl?”

“Everybody,” said Lee. And Lee asked Adam, “Do you know what’s got into Cal?”

Adam said, “He knows about her.”

“Does he?” Lee stayed out of trouble. “Well, you remember I thought you should have told them.” “I didn’t tell him. He knew.”

“What do you think of that!” said Lee. “But that’s not information to make a

boy hum when he studies and play catch with his cap when

he walks. How about Aron?” “I’m afraid of that,” said Adam. “I don’t think I want him to know.”

“It might be too late.”

“I might have a talk with Aron. Kind of feel around.”

Lee considered.

“Something’s happened to you too.”

“Has it? I guess it has,” said Adam.

But humming and sailing his

cap, driving quickly through


schoolwork, were only the smallest of Cal’s activities. In his new joy he appointed himself

guardian of


father’s content. It was true what he had said about not feeling hatred for his mother. But that did not change the fact that she had been the instrument of Adam’s hurt and shame. Cal reasoned that what she could do before, she could do again. He set himself to learn all he could about her. A known enemy is less dangerous, less able to surprise.

At night he was drawn to

the house across the tracks. Sometimes in the afternoon he lay hidden in the tall weeds across the street, watching the place. He saw the girls come out, dressed somberly,

even severely.

They left the house always in pairs, and Cal followed them with his eyes to the corner of Castroville Street, where they turned left toward Main Street. He discovered that if you didn’t know where they had come from you couldn’t tell what they were. But he was not waiting for the girls to come out. He wanted to see his mother in the light of day. He found that Kate emerged

every Monday at one-thirty.

Cal made arrangements

in school, by doing extra and excellent work, to make up for his absences on Monday afternoons.

To Aron’s

questions he replied that he was working on a surprise and was duty bound to tell no one. Aron was not much

interested anyway. In his self-immersion Aron soon forgot the whole thing.

Cal, after he had

followed Kate several times, knew her route. She always went to the same places— first to the Monterey County

Bank where she was admitted behind the shining bars that defended



vault. She spent fifteen or twenty minutes there. Then she moved slowly along Main Street, looking in the store windows. She stepped into Porter

and Irvine’s and looked at dresses and

sometimes made a purchase

—elastic, safety pins, a veil, a

pair of gloves. About two-fifteen she entered Minnie Franken’s

beauty parlor,

stayed an hour, and came out with her hair pinned up in tight curls and a silk scarf around her head and tied under her chin.


three-thirty she

climbed the stairs to the offices over the Farmers’ Mercantile and went into the consulting

room of Dr.

Rosen. When she came down from the doctor’s office she stopped for a moment at Bell’s candy store and bought a two-pound box of mixed

chocolates. She never varied the route. From Bell’s she went

directly back


Castroville Street and thence to her house.

There was nothing

strange about her clothing. She dressed exactly like any well-to-do Salinas woman out shopping

on a

Monday afternoon—except that she always wore gloves, which was unusual for Salinas.

The gloves made her

hands seem puffed and

pudgy. She moved as though she were surrounded by a glass shell. She spoke to no one and seemed to see no one. Occasionally a man turned and looked after her and then nervously went about his business. But for the most part she slipped past like an invisible woman.

For a number of weeks

Cal followed Kate. He tried not to attract her attention.

And since Kate walked always

looking straight

ahead, he was convinced that she did not notice him.

When Kate entered her own

yard Cal strolled

casually by and went home by another route. He could not have said exactly why he followed her, except that he wanted to know all about her.

The eighth week he took the route she completed her journey and went into her overgrown yard as usual.

Cal waited a moment,

then strolled past the rickety gate.


was standing

behind a tall ragged privet. She said to him coldly, “What do you want?”

Cal froze in his steps. He

was suspended in time, barely breathing. Then he began a practice he had learned when he was very young. He observed

and catalogued

details outside his main object. He noticed how the wind from the south bent over the new little leaves of the tall privet bush. He saw the muddy path beaten to black mush by many feet, and Kate’s feet standing far to the side out of the mud. He heard

a switch engine in the Southern

Pacific yards

discharging steam in shrill dry spurts. He felt the chill air on the growing fuzz on his cheeks. And all the time he was staring at Kate and she was staring back at him. And he saw in the set and color of her eyes and hair, even in the way she held her shoulders— high in a kind of semi-shrug

—that Aron looked very like her. He did not know his own face well enough to recognize her mouth and little teeth and wide cheekbones as his own. They stood thus for the moment, between two gusts of the southern wind.

Kate said, “This isn’t the first time you’ve followed me. What do you want?” He dipped his head. “Nothing,” he said.

“Who told you to do it?” she demanded. “Nobody—ma’am.” “You won’t tell me, will you?”

Cal heard his own next speech with amazement. It was out before he could stop it. “You’re my mother and I wanted to see what you’re like.” It was the exact truth and it had leaped out like the stroke of a snake.

“What? What is this? Who are you?”

“I’m Cal Trask,” he said.

He felt the delicate change of

balance as when a seesaw moves. His was the upper seat

now. Although her

expression had not changed Cal knew she was on the defensive.

She looked at

him closely, observed every

feature. A dim remembered picture of Charles leaped into her mind. Suddenly she said, “Come with me!” She turned and walked up the path, keeping well to the side, out

of the mud.

Cal hesitated only for a moment before following her up the steps. He remembered the big dim room, but the rest was strange to him. Kate preceded him down a hall and into her room. As she went past the kitchen entrance she called, “Tea. Two cups!”

In her room she seemed

to have forgotten him!. She removed her coat, tugging at the sleeves with reluctant fat gloved fingers. Then she went to a new door cut in the wall in the end of the room where her bed stood. She opened the door and went into a new little lean-to. “Come in here!” she said. “Bring that chair with you.”

He followed her into a box of a room. It had no

windows, no decorations of any kind. Its walls were painted a dark gray. A solid gray carpet covered the floor. The only furniture in the room was a huge chair puffed with gray silk cushions, a tilted reading table, and a floor lamp deeply hooded.

Kate pulled the light chain with her gloved hand, holding it deep in the crotch between her thumb and forefinger as though

her hand were


“Close the door!” Kate said.

The light threw a circle

on the reading table and only diffused dimly through the gray room. Indeed the gray walls seemed to suck up the light and destroy it.

Kate settled herself

gingerly among the thick down cushions and slowly removed her gloves. The fingers of both hands were bandaged.

Kate said angrily,

“Don’t stare. It’s arthritis. Oh

—so you want to see, do you?” She unwrapped the oily-looking bandage from her right forefinger and stuck

the crooked finger under the light. “There—look at it,” she said. “It’s arthritis.” She whined in pain as she tenderly wrapped the bandage loosely. “God, those gloves hurt!” she said. “Sit down.”

Cal crouched on the edge of his chair. “You’ll probably get it,”

Kate said. “My great-aunt had it and my mother was just beginning to get it—” She stopped. The room was very silent.

There was a soft knock

on the door. Kate called, “Is that you, Joe? Set the tray down out there. Joe, are you there?”

A mutter came through the door.

Kate said


“There’s a litter in the parlor. Clean it up. Anne hasn’t cleaned her room. Give her one more warning. Tell her it’s the last. Eva got smart last night. I’ll take care of her.

And, Joe, tell the cook if he serves carrots again this week he can pack up. Hear me?”

The mutter came

through the door. “That’s all,” said Kate. “The

dirty pigs!” she

muttered. “They’d rot if I

didn’t watch them. Go out and bring in the tea tray.” The bedroom was empty when Cal opened the door. He carried the tray into the lean-to and set it gingerly on the tilted reading table. It was a large silver tray, and on it were a pewter teapot, two paper-thin

white teacups,

sugar, cream, and an open box of chocolates.

“Pour the tea,” said

Kate. “It hurts my hands.” She put a chocolate in her mouth. “I saw you looking at this room,” she went on when she had swallowed her candy. “The light hurts my eyes. I come in here to rest.” She

saw Cal’s quick glance at her eyes and said with finality, “The light hurts my eyes.” She said harshly, “What’s the matter? Don’t you want tea?” “No, ma’am,” said Cal,

“I don’t like tea.”

She held the thin cup

with her bandaged fingers. “All right. What do you want?”

“Nothing, ma’am.” “Just wanted to look at me?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Are you satisfied?” “Yes, ma’am.”

“How do I look?” She smiled crookedly at him and showed her sharp white little teeth.

“All right.”

“I might have known

you’d cover up. Where’s your brother?”

“In school, I guess, or home.”

“What’s he like?” “He looks more like you.”

“Oh, he does? Well, is

he like me ?” “He wants to be a

minister,” said Cal.

“I guess that’s the way it should be—looks like me and wants to go into the church. A man can do a lot of damage in the church. When someone comes here, he’s got his guard up. But in church a man’s wide open.”

“He means it,” said Cal. She leaned toward him,

and her face was alive with interest. “Fill my cup. Is your brother dull?”

“He’s nice,” said Cal. “I asked you if he’s dull.”

“No, ma’am,” said Cal.

She settled back and

lifted her cup. “How’s your father?”

“I don’t want to talk about him,” Cal said. “Oh, no! You like him then?”

“I love him,” said Cal. Kate peered closely at him, and a curious spasm

shook her—an aching twist rose in her chest. And then she closed up and her control came back.

“Don’t you want some

candy?” she asked. “Yes, ma’am. Why did you do it?”

“Why did I do what?” “Why did you shoot my

father and run away from us.” “Did he tell you that?”

“No. He didn’t tell us.”

She touched one hand

with the other and her hands leaped apart as though the contact burned them. She asked, “Does your father ever have any—girls or young women come to your house?” “No,” said Cal. “Why

did you shoot him and go away?”

Her cheeks tightened

and her mouth straightened, as though a net of muscles took control. She raised her

head, and her eyes were cold and shallow.

“You talk older than

your age,” she said. “But you don’t talk old enough. Maybe you’d better run along and play—and wipe your nose.” “Sometimes I work my brother over,” he said. “I make him squirm, I’ve made him cry. He doesn’t know how I do it. I’m smarter than he is. I don’t want to do it. It makes me sick.”

Kate picked it up as though it were her own

conversation. “They thought they were so smart,” she said. “They looked at me and thought they knew about me. And I fooled them. I fooled every one of them. And when

they thought they could tell me what to do—oh! that’s when I fooled them best.

Charles, I really fooled them then.”

“My name is Caleb,” Cal said. “Caleb got to the Promised Land. That’s what Lee says, and it’s in the Bible.”

“That’s the Chinaman,” Kate said, and she went on eagerly, “Adam thought he had me. When I was hurt, all

broken up, he took me in and he waited on me, cooked for me. He tried to tie me down that way. Most people get tied down that way. They’re grateful, they’re in debt, and that’s the worst kind of handcuffs. But nobody can

hold me. I waited and waited until I was strong, and then I broke out. Nobody can trap me,” she said. “I knew what he was doing. I waited.”

The gray room was

silent except for her excited wheezing breath.

Cal said, “Why did you shoot him?”

“Because he tried to stop me. I could have killed him

but I didn’t. I just wanted him to let me go.”

“Did you ever wish you’d stayed?”

“Christ, no! Even when I was a little girl I could do anything I wanted. They never knew how I did it. Never. They were always so sure they were right. And

they never knew—no one ever knew.” A kind of realization came to her. “Sure,

you’re my kind.

Maybe you’re the same. Why wouldn’t you be?”

Cal stood up and clasped

his hands behind his back. He said, “When you were little, did you”—he paused to get the thought straight—”did you ever have the feeling like you were missing something? Like as if the others knew something you didn’t—like a secret they wouldn’t tell you? Did you ever feel that way?” While he spoke her face began to close against him,

and by the time he paused she was cut off and the open way between them was blocked.

She said, “What am I doing, talking to kids!”

Cal unclasped his hands from behind him and shoved them in his pockets. “Talking to snot-nosed kids,” she said. “I must be crazy.”

Cal’s face was alight

with excitement, and his eyes were wide with vision.

Kate said, “What’s the matter with you?”

He stood still, his

forehead glistening


sweat, his hands clenched into fists.

Kate, as she had always, drove in the smart but senseless knife of her cruelty. She laughed softly. “I may have

given you some

interesting things, like this—” She held up her crooked hands. “But if it’s epilepsy— fits—you didn’t get it from me.” She glanced brightly up at him, anticipating the shock and beginning worry in him. Cal spoke happily. “I’m going,” he said. “I’m going now. It’s all right. What Lee said was true.”

“What did Lee say?” Cal said, “I was afraid I had you in me.”

“You have,” said Kate. “No, I haven’t. I’m my

own. I don’t have to be you.” “How do you know

that?” she demanded. “I just know. It just

came to me whole. If I’m mean, it’s my own mean.” “This

Chinaman has

really fed you some pap. What are you looking at me like that for?”

Cal said, “I don’t think the light hurts your eyes. I think you’re afraid.”

“Get out!” she cried. “Go on, get out!”

“I’m going.” He had his hand on the doorknob. “I

don’t hate you,” he said. “But I’m glad you’re afraid.”

She tried to shout “Joe!” but her voice thickened to a croak.

Cal wrenched open the door and slammed it behind him.

Joe was talking to one of the girls in the parlor. They

heard the stutter of light quick footsteps. But by the time they looked up a streaking figure had reached the door, opened it, slipped through, and the heavy front door banged. There was only one step on the porch and then a crunch as jumping feet struck earth.

“What in hell was that?” the girl asked.

“God knows,” said Joe. “Sometimes I think I’m seeing things.”

“Me too,” said the girl. “Did I tell you Clara’s got bugs under her skin?”

“I guess she seen-the shadow of the needle,” said Joe. “Well, the way I figure, the less you know, the better off you are.”

“That’s the truth you

said there,” the girl agreed.

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