فصل 04

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فصل 04

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An Evil Beauty

There was something wrong with Cathy Ames when she born, but nobody knew because it was invisible. She was born without kindness or a conscience. She was a pretty child, with lovely golden hair, and she became a pretty woman. She had delicate arms and legs and tiny hands and feet. She spoke softly and sweetly, especially when she wanted something. Her small heart-shaped face and her wide-apart blue eyes made her look innocent. Nobody could see the evil in her soul.

Cathy was a liar, but she did not lie like other children do. Her lies were not daydreams, when a child imagines that something real. Those lies are harmless. She lied to escape punishment, work, or responsibility. She was a good liar because she stayed close enough to the truth that one could never be sure.

Everyone in the world has hidden desires and vices that they are ashamed of. Most people control these feelings, or satisfy them secretly. Cathy knew how to recognize them in other people, and she used this information for her own gain. She was very young when she discovered that s@x is the most disturbing urge due humans have, causing feelings of jealousy, pain, and helplessness. And in those days, the subject was unmentionable and unmentioned. Cathy could use her s@xual power to control almost anyone. She never felt the blind helplessness of love herself, so she always kept her advantage. She coldly experimented on other people, and so developed her power.

Cathy was fourteen when she entered high school, and she was an excellent student. One of her teachers was a pale, serious young man name James Grew, who had had a religious education and little experience of the world. Then, one day, it was noticed that a flame leaped in him and some force shone in his eyes. James Grew became a man. He walked on his toes and sang to himself. He was never seen with Cathy and no relationship was even suspected. And then the flame went out. He was seen in church at night, on his knees. Then, James Grew was found lying in the church at the morning. He had shot himself in the head. He had left no letter and nobody knew why he had done it. The whole town was talking about it.

At dinner Cathy sat silently, smiling secretly to herself. Her mother turned to her. “You saw him every day at school, Cathy, as he seemed sad lately? Did you notice anything?” Cathy looked down at her plate and then up. “I thought he was sick,” she said. “Yes, he has looked bad. And somebody at school - I don’t remember who - said that he was in some kind trouble in Boston. I didn’t hear what kind of trouble. We all loved Mr. Grew.”

That was Cathy’s method. Soon everyone knew that James Grew had been in trouble in Boston, and nobody could imagine that Cathy had started the rumor. Even Mrs. Ames had forgotten where she heard it.

Soon after her sixteenth birthday, a change came over Cathy. One morning she did not get up for school. Her mother we into her room and found her in bed, staring at the ceiling. “Hurry up!” she said. “You’ll be late!”

“I’m not going to school,” Cathy said calmly. “I’m never going to school again.”

Her mother’s mouth fell open. “What do you mean? What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know yet,” said Cathy. “I think I’ll go away”

“You wait until your father comes home!”

Cathy turned her head very slowly and looked at her mother. Her eyes were expressionless and cold. And suddenly Mrs. Am was afraid of her daughter. She went out quietly and closed the door.

That evening, Mr. Ames, hating what he had to do, gave lecture to his daughter. He spoke of her duty to her parents. Toward the end of his speech he noticed that she was not listening. He became angry and began to threaten her. He reminded her that she was under the authority of her parents and the state, and God. He had her attention then. She stare straight into his eyes and he had to look away. He threatened to whip her if she did not obey him.

At the end his threats weakened. “I want you to promise that you’ll go to school tomorrow,” he said.

Her face was expressionless. “All right,” she said.

In the morning, she was gone. Her father put on his hat and walked quickly to the train station. The station agent was certain Cathy had taken the early morning train to Boston.

Mr. Ames brought her back and gave her the first whipping in her life. “Now will you ever do that again?” he said.

“No, oh, no! Forgive me!” Cathy said. She turned away so her father could not see that there were no tears in her eyes.

There seemed no doubt that it was what Cathy needed. Even in school she was changed. Always she had been a good student, but now she began to make plans for the future. She talked to the principal about taking the examinations for her teaching sophisticated a year early.

In the weeks that followed, she helped her mother in the kitchen and offered to help more than was needed. A childlike smile was constantly on her lips while she made her preparations, she had all the time in the world. She cleaned the basement, and all the cracks where the air came in. She fixed all the doors, so they opened and closed quietly, and put oil in the easily. She filled the lamps from a big can of lamp-oil, she kept in the basement. And it was not only at home either. She went to the factory to visit her father and he was amazed at her questions about business. “She smarter than some men I could name,’ he thought proudly, “She might be running the business one day.” He explained about the loans and the billing and the pay, and he showed her how to open the safe.

One day, when she returned home from school, her mother met her at the front door. “Cathy, I have to go out,” she said.

“You father wondered if you would go to the bank, pick up the pay for the workers, and take it to the factory.”

“I’d like it,” said Cathy.

The fire broke out at about three o’clock the next morning. The Ames’ house went up like a rocket. By the time it was noticed there was nothing left. When the volunteer firemen dug the coals, they found what remained of Mr. and Mrs. Ames. But there was neither tooth nor bone where Cathy’s room had been.

When the accountant went to the factory, he found the safe opened, and papers scattered all over the floor. A broken window showed how the thief had entered. He returned to the house with this news. “The fire wasn’t an accident!” Fear and anger spread through the crowd that had gathered.

And where was Cathy? Had she been taken away? They searched the fields and lakes for her body, but they found nothing. They questioned the wandering men who were traveling by road and by rail, but soon they stopped looking. What could they do? They couldn’t prove anything without a body.

I don’t know how Cathy Ames heard about Mr. Edwards, but it was not very difficult for a girl to find him.

Mr. Edwards was a successful businessman. He lived in a big house in a good neighborhood of Boston with his wife and two children. He was a large, powerful man in his late forties, getting a little fat, but then many successful men were. He spent as much time as he could with his family, although he had to travel a lot on business.

Mr. Edwards’s business was women. He supplied whores to small-town hotels all over New England, avoiding the cities because the police were greedier there. He preferred stupid girls because the smart ones did not stay long. They opened their own houses or married rich men. He did not want very pretty girls, either. A local young man might fall in love with a pretty whore and there would be trouble. He kept the girls in one place for two weeks, then moved them on to the next town.

Mr. Edwards was not feeling well when the girl who called herself Catherine Amesbury came to see him. If he had not been weak, he would have sent her away immediately. She was much too pretty for his business. Her voice was low, she was small, almost delicate, and her skin was lovely. She was not Mr. Edwards’s kind of girl at all. He knew this in his mind, but his body told him to let her stay.

He looked at her, puzzled, as she gave him a cat-like smile. He never mixed business and pleasure, but he wanted this one for himself. He fell into the trap. “Never, never believe anything a whore tells you.” That was his rule, but he believed every word she said. “I can’t understand why a girl like you …” he began.

Catherine lowered her eyes. “My father’s dead. He borrowed a lot of money from the bank. My mother can’t pay it back, so they’re going to take away the farm. I just want to help her.”

Mr. Edwards heard himself saying, “Well now, my dear, maybe we can find some way for you to get the money.” Mr. Edwards, as cold-blooded as any whoremaster that ever lived, fell hopelessly, miserably in love with Catherine Amesbury.

He rented a sweet little brick house for her, and then gave it to her. He had never been so unhappy. He wanted to trust her because he loved her, but he knew from experience that he could not. He tried to buy her love with presents and with money. When he was away from her, he was sick with jealousy. Was she seeing other men? His business suffered.

Catherine knew how to make him jealous. When she knew he was coming to visit, she was never there. When she would return in the late afternoon and find him waiting for her, she would explain, “I was shopping. I have to go shopping, you know.” She made it sound like a lie. She let him know that she was not quite satisfied with their s@xual relations. He became nervous and unhappy.

She needed money, so she stole it from him. She sold the jewelry he had bought her, then said she had lost it. She could not sell the house, so she mortgaged it. Mr. Edwards knew, but said nothing. He was too afraid of losing her.

One evening his key did not fit the lock. She said she would give him the key, but she never did. When he went to see her, he never knew if she was home or not.

Catherine was clever, but she made one serious mistake. One night, Mr. Edwards offered her a glass of champagne. “No, thank you,” she said. “I can’t drink it. It makes me sick.”

Mr. Edwards started thinking. “Why doesn’t she ever drink with me? I don’t know anything about her. Maybe if she has a drink, she’ll tell me about herself.”

“That’s not very friendly,” he said. “Just have one glass.”

“I can’t,” she repeated.

His voice hardened. “Drink it!”

She took the glass and poured it down and stood still. She poured another glass for herself and another. Her eyes became hard and cold, and Mr. Edwards felt afraid.

“I didn’t want to do it. Remember that,” she said softly. “You fat worm. What do you know about me? Do you think I can’t read every rotten thought you’ve ever had? Want me to tell you? You wonder where a nice girl like me learned tricks. You wanted me to talk, and I’m talking. I’ll tell you. I worked in whorehouses all over the country for four years.”

“Catherine,” he protested. “You don’t know what you’re saying!” He watched her, unable to move. She walked slowly toward him, drank the last of the champagne, delicately broke the glass on the table and pushed it hard into his cheek. As he finally ran away from the house, he could hear her laughing.

Mr. Edwards wanted to believe in Catherine’s goodness, but he could not. He had to find out the truth. He had her followed, he hired detectives, and soon he knew where she hid her money. One day, he packed his suitcase as usual and rang Catherine’s doorbell. She answered it immediately. “I’m going out,” she told him.

“No, you’re not,” he said, pushing past her into the house. He went down to the basement and returned carrying a small wooden box. He put it into his suitcase.

“That’s my money!” she cried. “What are you doing?”

“You’re coming with me on a trip,” he answered coldly. “We are going to a little town in Connecticut. You told me once you wanted to work. You’re going to work.”

“I don’t want to!” she cried. “You can’t make me. I’ll call the police!”

He smiled terribly. “Maybe you’d rather go back to your home town. They had a big fire there several years ago. Do you remember that fire?”

She could think of only one plan - she must go along with him and wait for a chance. She thought about the knife in her purse.

In the small town they got off the train at dusk, then walked down a dark street and into the country. Mr. Edwards thought he knew what he intended to do. He meant to whip her and put her in one of the rooms at the hotel, whip her and move her to another town, until she was of no use anymore. Then he would throw her out.

He grabbed the purse out of her hand and threw it over a wall. He knew about the knife. He was in love with Cathy, but he was also afraid of her. Love and fear made him cruel.

He hit her twice with the whip, but that was not enough. He used his fists again and again as she lay on the ground, but soon they too were not enough. His hand found a stone and a red wave of rage washed over him. Later, he looked down at her beaten face and listened for her heartbeat, but heard only his own. He ran away crying, leaving the whip, the suitcase, and the box of money.

Catherine was lucky to be alive. She was a long time unconscious and a long time half-conscious. She realized her arm was broken and that she must find help if she wanted to live. She dragged herself along the dark road, looking for help, turned in at a gate, and almost reached the steps before she fainted.

Adam and Charles Trask were finding it difficult to live together, as two men often do. For the first few months after their father died, they were busy investing his money. They went to Washington to visit his grave, then they did not talk about him anymore.

They followed the same routine every day. Charles got up at four-thirty every morning and worked outdoors. Adam kept the house clean and did the accounts. They talked about old times and the times when they were apart. They argued about little things and lost their tempers. There were long, ugly silences, then they were too polite to each other, then their anger flashed again.

When Adam could not stand it anymore, he would leave for some time: eight months in Boston, two years in South America. But he always returned, and the brothers fell back into their old ways. One day was the same as another, and the years passed slowly.

But Adam was still restless. One morning he asked Charles, “Why are we working so hard? You’ve bought the farm next door, and four buildings, and the hotel in town. Did you ever think that we have enough money to do anything we want to do? We could go to Europe, we could walk around Paris.”

Charles was not listening. “What’s that noise?” he said. He opened the kitchen door. A dirty bundle of rags and mud was slowly trying to crawl up the steps. There was a muddy face with cracked lips and eyes looking out of blackened and swollen eyelids. There was a deep cut in the forehead, and blood ran back into the knotted hair.

Adam kneeled beside the figure. “Come on, let’s get her in,” he said. “Here - look out for that arm. It looks broken.”

She fainted when they carried her into the house. “Put her in my bed,” said Adam. “Now I think you’d better go for the doctor. I’ll stay here with her.”

She was very badly hurt. Her arm was broken, as well as several other bones. Her jaw was cracked, and she had lost all the teeth on the left side. The bone was also cracked under the cut on her forehead. The doctor did what he could, and gave her some drugs for the pain.

“Someone tried to kill her,” he said to Adam and Charles. “Do you know her?”

“Of course not,” said Charles angrily. “And she can’t stay here!”

Now Adam was angry. “Yes, she can! This is my house too!”

The two men looked at him in surprise. “Who’s going to look after her?” asked the doctor.

“I am!” said Adam.

“I’ll have to tell the sheriff,” the doctor warned.

“Do that!” said Adam. “But she can’t talk to anyone until she’s well!”

Adam watched over Cathy day and night. She was only partly conscious from shock and drugs, but she was aware of the people around her. Very slowly, she remembered the last days. She had never been so afraid in her life.

One day, she heard three men talking in the next room.

“Adam, I want to ask her some questions.”

“Leave her alone, Sheriff. She can’t talk. Her jaw’s broken.”

“Give her a pencil and paper,” suggested another voice. “She can write the answers.”

Cathy’s mind worked quickly. “Why’s the sheriff here?” she asked herself. “Does he know about the fire?” The man called Adam wanted to protect her, but the others were not on her side. Not yet.

They came into the room. “I’m the sheriff, Miss,” said the tallest man. “I want to ask you some questions. Can you write on this paper?”

Cathy painfully nodded “yes.”

“What’s your name?” She closed her eyes and wrote, “I don’t know” in huge letters.

The sheriff gave her a fresh sheet of paper. “Here. Now, what do you remember?”

Cathy’s hand moved slowly across the page. “All black. Can’t think.” Her face became tragic. “Help me,” she wrote.

“You poor child. I’ll leave you alone now,” said the sheriff.

“He’s on my side now” she thought, “but the other man isn’t.” Charles was watching her and rubbing the dark scar on his forehead. Their eyes met.

“You’ll have one just like mine,” he said. She smiled at him and he looked away.

Adam had never been so happy. He did not know her name, but it was not important. “Call me Cathy,” she had said. He cooked for her, and soon she was recovering well.

One day, she and Charles were alone in the house. “Why don’t you like me?” she asked him.

“Because I don’t trust you,” Charles replied. “I don’t believe you lost your memory. I think you’re a devil, and I don’t want you in the house anymore.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

“If you don’t leave, I’ll talk to the sheriff,” he replied. “I heard you talking in your sleep when you took all those drugs. I know a lot about you.”

Now Cathy was frightened. What could she do? She had to find a plan.

“Adam, I’m alone and afraid,” she cried when he returned, “and your brother wants me to leave.” She smiled weakly.

“She’s so helpless!” Adam thought. He felt a rush of love.

He took her hand. “Will you marry me?”

She held his hand tightly. “Please, let me think about it,” she whispered, “and please don’t tell your brother.”

Cathy had already thought about marrying Adam. “He’s rich and he’ll protect me,” she thought. “And I can control him, but I must never lose control of myself.” She shivered as she thought of Mr. Edwards. “I’ll never do that again.”

Five days later, Adam and Cathy went into town and were married by a judge.

“I thought she was gone,” said Charles when they returned.

“We got married,” said Adam.

“What?” shouted Charles. Cathy went into the bedroom. “You’re crazy! She’s no good! She’s a whore!”

“Charles!” Adam said angrily. “Don’t talk about my wife like that!”

“Wife!” said Charles. “That’s not a wife! That’s an alley cat! I won’t live under the same roof as her!”

“You won’t have to,” replied Adam. “You can buy my half of the farm. We’re leaving.”

Charles went out and banged the door behind him. Cathy made two cups of tea and took them into the bedroom.

“Don’t worry,” said Adam. “We’re going to California.”

“I don’t want to go to California,” said Cathy.

“You’re my wife,” said Adam softly. “I want you to come with me.”

Cathy lowered her eyes. “Adam, I can’t really be your wife until I’m well.”

“I know,” he said. “I’ll wait.” He finished his tea. “My tea has a funny taste. Does yours?”

“Oh, no!” she cried. “You took the wrong cup! That one had my sleeping medicine in it!”

Adam was fast asleep when his brother came home drunk. Charles threw off his clothes, got into bed, and tried to get comfortable. When he opened his eyes, Cathy was standing by his bed.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“What do you think? Move over a little.”

“Where’s Adam?”

“He drank my sleeping medicine by mistake.”

Suddenly Charles laughed. “The poor bastard!” he said, and he threw back the blanket to receive her.

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