فصل 10

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فصل 10

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CHAPTER TEN

Truth and Lies

That year the rains had come so gently that the Salinas Paver did not overflow. A narrow stream twisted from one side to the other of its broad bed of gray sand, and the water was clear and pleasant. It was very warm for March, and the wind blew steadily from the south and turned up the silver undersides of the leaves.

Cal and Aron climbed up out of the river bottom to the level land. “We ought to start back,” said Aron. “Maybe Father’s back by now.”

Aron’s eyes were very wide and he had a beautiful soft mouth. The width between his blue eyes gave him an expression of innocence. His hair was fine and golden. The sun seemed to light up the top of his head.

Cal looked more like Adam. His hair was dark brown. He was bigger than his brother, bigger of bone, heavier in the shoulder, and his jaw had the squareness of Adam’s jaw. Cal’s eyes were brown and watchful, and sometimes they looked black.

They walked along in silence for a time and then Cal said, “All this is our land - all the way over to the river.”

“It’s Fathers’.”

“Yes, but when he dies it’s going to be ours.”

This was a new thought to Aron. “What do you mean, when he dies?”

“Everybody dies,” said Cal.

“I know that.” Aron wanted to think of something else.

Cal said, “I know a secret. Where do you think our mother is?”

“She’s dead.”

“No, she isn’t. She ran away. I heard some men talking.”

“I don’t believe it,” said Aron. “They were liars. Father said she was in Heaven.”

Cal said quietly, “Pretty soon I’m going to run away and find her. I’ll bring her back.”

“Don’t you think she’s in Heaven?” And when Cal did not answer, “Why would she want to run away?”

“Maybe because she didn’t like us.”

Through his gathering tears Aron could see his brother’s eyes, hard and reasonable. There were no tears in Cal’s eyes. Cal felt pleasantly excited. He had found a secret tool to use for any purpose he needed.

He studied Aron, saw his trembling lips, but he noticed in time the narrowed eyes. Aron would cry, but sometimes, pushed to tears, Aron would fight too. And when Aron cried and fought at the same time, he was dangerous. Nothing could hurt him and nothing could stop him.

Cal put his new tool away. He could bring it out any time, and he knew it was the sharpest weapon he had found. He would inspect it at his leisure and judge when and how much to use it.

He made his decision almost too late. Aron leaped at him and hit him in the face with his open hand. Cal jumped back and cried, “I was just joking. Honest, Aron, it was only a joke.”

Aron stopped. Pain and puzzlement were on his face. “I don’t like that joke,” he said.

Cal came close to him and put his arm around him and kissed him on the cheek. “I won’t do it anymore,” he said.

The boys walked silently for a while. Aron said, “Did you really hear those men?”

“Maybe I only thought I did,” Cal said quickly. The twins came in sight of the ranch buildings in time to see Lee leading a strange horse and carriage toward the barn. “Who’s here?” said Cal.

“Just some people going by,” said Lee. “They were looking for the Long ranch. Your father’s back from Salinas. You’d better go in.

The two looked down shyly as they entered the living room. There was a man in city clothes and a woman in the fanciest clothes they had ever seen. Her coat and hat lay on a chair beside her, and she seemed to the boys to be entirely dressed in black silk and lace.

But that was not all. Beside the woman sat a girl, a little younger maybe than the twins, but not much. She wore a wide blue sunhat with lace around the front and a flowery dress. The boys could not see her face because of the sunhat, but her hands were folded in her lap and it was easy to see the little gold ring she wore on her third finger.

“These are my boys,” their father said. “They’re twins. That’s Aron and this is Caleb. Boys, shake hands with our guests, Mr. and Mrs. Bacon and their daughter, Abra.”

Aron shyly held out his hand to the little girl with the hidden face, but nothing happened. Her hand was held out, but it did not move toward his. There was a long silence, then he heard his brother laugh.

Aron reached out and grabbed her hand and pumped it up and down three times. It was as soft as a handful of flowers. He felt a pleasure that burned him.

“Children, go outside and play,” Mrs. Bacon said. Abra and Cal and Aron went out and stood side by side on the small covered porch.

Cal demanded, “How old are you?”

“Ten, almost eleven.”

“Ho!” said Cal. “We’re eleven, almost twelve.”

Abra pushed her sunhat back. She was pretty, with long, dark hair. One day her nose would be sweet and turned up where now it was still like a button. But two features would be with her always. Her chin was firm and her mouth was as sweet as a flower and very wide and pink. Her green eyes were intelligent and completely fearless.

“You can come here and play if you like,” said Cal boldly.

“I live in Salinas,” Abra said in such a tone that they knew they were dealing with a superior being who had no time for rural pleasures.

Abra saw that she had crushed them, and while she knew the weaknesses of men she still liked them, and, besides, she was a lady. “Sometimes, when we are driving by, I’ll come and play with you - a little,” she said kindly, and both boys felt grateful to her.

Now Abra felt warmer toward the boys. She noticed their thin washed-out clothes and remembered the children’s stories she had read. “You poor children,” she said. “Does your father beat you?”

They shook their heads. They were interested but puzzled.

“Is your mother mean to you?”

“We don’t have a mother,” said Aron. “Our mother’s dead.”

His words destroyed the story she was writing but immediately supplied her with another. “Little motherless orphans,” she said sweetly. “I’ll be your mother. I’ll hold you in my arms and tell you stories.”

“Were too big,” said Cal. “You’d fall over.”

Abra turned away from his cruelty. Aron, she saw, was entering into her story, and he seemed to be imagining that he was in her arms. Abra looked at his sunny hair and at his eyes that seemed so near to tears, and she felt the beginning of love. She put her hand on his arm and felt him shiver.

“Tell me,” she said pleasantly. “Where is your mother buried? You could put flowers on her grave.”

“We don’t know,” said Aron.

Cal’s eyes shone with a new interest. “I’ll ask our father where it is so we can take flowers,” he said. He was already planning his revenge on Aron because Abra liked his brother better.

At that moment, Lee came out leading the Bacons’ horse and carriage. Mrs. Bacon called, “Hurry, Abra, we’re going.” Lee and Adam and the twins watched them until they were out of sight.

At the supper table the boys discovered the change in their father. The boys had never learnt to tell him of their interests or discoveries, or of their needs. They were surprised and a little embarrassed to find that Adam listened to them and asked questions.

“What did you think of Abra?” Adam asked. “Is she a nice little girl?”

“Oh, yes,” said Aron. “She’s good and nice. I wanted to marry her.”

“You did? What about you, Cal?”

“I guess I’ll let Aron have her.”

Adam laughed, and the boys could not recall ever having heard him laugh. “She’s a real nice girl,” said Cal. “She said to ask you where our mother’s grave is, so we can take some flowers.”

Adams mind raced. He was not good at lying. “I wish we could do that, but I have to tell you. She’s buried on the other side of the country, where she came from.”

Cal was disappointed by this answer, but he was not sure why. Adam quickly changed the subject. “Mr. Bacon made a suggestion this afternoon,” he began. “He said it would be better for you if we moved to Salinas where there would be lots of other children to play with.” The thought shocked the twins.

Cal asked, “How about here?”

“Well, we’d keep the ranch in case we want to come back,” said Adam.

Aron said, “Abra lives in Salinas.” That was enough for him.

After the boys had gone to bed Adam said, “Do they know anything?”

“I don’t know,” said Lee. “I wish there were some way you could tell them the truth.”

“That would rob them of the good thoughts about their mother, Lee.”

“But there’s another danger. What will we do if they find out the truth? A lot of people know. But that’s not the worst danger.”

“What do you mean?” asked Adam. -

“It’s the lie I’m thinking of,” said Lee. “If they ever found out you’d lied to them about this, they wouldn’t believe anything you’d ever said or done.”

“I’ll think about what to tell them,” said Adam. “Lee, if I wanted to take a trip east, would you stay with the twins until I get back? I’d like to see my brother Charles.”

“Why don’t you write and ask him to come out here?”

“That’s a good idea, Lee. I didn’t think of it. How long does it take a letter to go east?”

“I don’t know,” said Lee. “Two weeks maybe.”

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