فصل 05

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فصل 05

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New Lives

In 1900, the year of a fresh new century, Adam Trask was a new man. All his life had been dull and gray, full of disappointment and regret, then a kind of glory lit up his mind. His spirit rose flying and released him from fear and bitter memories. All the nerves in his body came alive, colors were brighter, and every breath was sweet.

And this glory came to Adam through Cathy. I have said that Cathy was evil, but that does not matter because we all have evil hidden away inside us. But when Adam saw Cathy, he saw an image of beauty and tenderness, a sweet and holy girl, and a clean and loving wife. Nothing she said or did could change his mind. He could not see the anger in his brother’s eyes or the way he looked at Cathy.

He sold his share of the farm to Charles, took half his father’s money, and left for California with Cathy. He had read the railroad companies’ advertisements for the beauty and richness of the West, so they took the train across the continent to the Salinas Valley.

Adam wanted to put down roots and start a family, so he took his time. He bought a horse and carriage and drove happily from farm to farm, talking to the earlier settlers about soil and water, climate and crops, prices and equipment. The people of the valley listened to his plans and dreams, and they were pleased that he had come to live there.

He had only one worry, and that was for Cathy. She was not well. One morning she stayed at the hotel while Adam went out. When he returned, he found her almost dead from loss of blood. When Dr. Tilson arrived, he examined Cathy, then he asked Adam to wait downstairs.

The doctor closed the door behind him and came back to the bed. “Why did you do it?” Cathy’s mouth was a thin, tight line.

“Does your husband know you’re pregnant?” Her head moved slowly from side to side. “What did you do it with?” He looked around the room, then picked up a knitting needle. He shook it in her face. “You’re a fool! You’ve nearly killed yourself and you haven’t lost your baby.” Her eyes were as cold as glass.

He pulled a chair up beside her bed. “Why don’t you want to have the baby?” he asked softly. “You’ve got a good husband. Don’t you love him?” Her lips did not move and her eyes looked straight into his.

“My dear,” he said. “Can’t you see? You must not destroy life.” This woman puzzled him. There was something inhuman about her. “All right!” he cried. “You won’t speak - you don’t have to. But I’m going to tell you. Your baby’s safe. And I’m telling you this - you’re going to have this baby. What you did is against the law, and if you lose it, I’ll make sure that you’re punished. And I mean it.”

Cathy licked her lips with her little pointed tongue. The cold went out of her eyes and a weak sadness took its place. “I’m sorry,” she said. “You don’t understand. There’s a disease in my family, and I don’t want my baby to have it.”

Dr. Tilson’s anger disappeared. “My poor child,” he said softly. “Your baby will probably be fine and healthy. All right then, I won’t tell your husband what you did.”

Adam was waiting anxiously downstairs. “How is she? What is it?”

The doctor made his standard joke. “Your wife is sick, but she has the only good sickness there is. She’s going to have a baby.” Adam ran past him up the stairs.

Adam’s attention narrowed to the Bordoni ranch, a few miles south of King City. Rich, green fields lay on both sides of the river and reached into the foothills. There was an old mud-brick house that stood in a narrow opening in the foothills, a tiny valley fed by a precious spring of sweet water. Huge oaks shaded the valley, and the earth had a richness and a greenness foreign to this part of the country. The old house seemed to have grown out of the earth and it was lovely. Bordoni used it for a cow barn. He was a Swiss, and he built a clean new wooden house some distance away.

Adam Trask refused to buy in a hurry, and Bordoni was asking a high price, pretending not to care whether he sold or not. Bordoni knew Adam was going to buy his land long before Adam knew it.

Where Adam settled, he intended to stay and to have his unborn children stay. He drove and rode and walked over every foot of the land and picked up the soil in his hand. He inquired about the small wild plants of field and riverside and hill. In damp places he knelt down and examined the animal tracks in the mud. Mr. Bordoni watched him and poured him glasses of wine made from his own grapes.

Over and over Adam asked Cathy’s opinion of the place. “Do you like it? Would you be happy there?” He did not notice that she did not reply. He thought that she shared his enthusiasm. He spoke about it to the men who gathered in the King City Hotel. “It’s water I’m thinking about,” he said one evening. “I want to farm this land. I wonder how deep you’d have to dig to bring in a well.”

“Ask Sam Hamilton,” said a rancher. “He knows all about water. I’ll take you to see him tomorrow.”

The two men drove the horse-cart past the wooden house to the blacksmith shop. Adam saw a big man with a white beard and laughing blue eyes. He wore clean work clothes, but his hands were black.

“This is Mr. Adam Trask, from the East,” said the rancher. “He’s come here to settle.”

“I’m glad,” said Samuel.

“He’s brought you a little present,” continued the rancher.

Samuel looked quickly toward the house. “You can bring it into the shop, but don’t let the sun shine on it,” he said.

The three men sat down and passed around the bottle. “I want to ask you about water,” said Adam.

“I can find water nearly everywhere except on my own land,” replied Samuel. “I’ll come and look at it.”

The next day Adam drove out and shook hands with Bordoni, and the ranch was his.

Adam sat like a contented cat on his land. He looked at the green line of trees along the river, then over the golden fields on the other side to the rounded foothills. The gardener planted vegetables and channeled the spring to water it. The workers were building a new barn for the animals he wanted to keep. He had come to start a family and to stay, and he wanted the best of everything.

In the corner of his room there was a pile of advertisements for farm machinery, seeds, and fruit trees. He was glad now that his father had left him a rich man. When he remembered his father’s house, the farm, the town, and his brother’s face, everything was black. He shook off the memories and planned for the future.

He was also happy in the present. When he saw Cathy sitting in the sun, her baby growing inside her, he was filled with joy. If Adam was like a contented cat, Cathy was cat-like too. She knew how to wait. She did not want to be married, she did not want to be in California, and her pregnancy was an accident. She spoke when Adam spoke to her, but she was not interested in his plans. She did not intend to stay.

The Chinese cook, Lee, came near her chair under a tall oak tree. “Missy like tea?” he asked politely.

“Yes,” she replied, looking at him carefully. She could read any man’s mind, but not his. His face was lean and pleasant, and he had a broad, intelligent forehead. His long black hair was tied back with a piece of black silk. He wore narrow cotton pants, flat black shoes, and a blue Chinese jacket. Cathy looked suspiciously at Lee as he left. She was not afraid of him, but he made her uncomfortable.

Later that summer, Adam sent Lee to the Hamilton place with a note for Samuel. Adam asked him to come and talk about digging a well for him.

Samuel sat in the carriage with Lee, and his old horse followed behind them. “What’s your name?” Samuel asked.

“Lee. Got more name. Lee father’s family name. Call Lee.”

“I’ve read a lot about China. Were you born in China?”

“Born here.”

Samuel was silent for a long time. “Lee, why do you talk like that?”

Lee grinned. “Me talkee Chinese talk.”

Samuel shook his head. “You don’t have to talk like that, Lee. Maybe you have your reasons. Anyway, it’s not my business.”

Lee smiled. “I talk like that because I’m Chinese and I’m a servant. People don’t expect me to speak good English.”

“But why are you a servant?” asked Samuel.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a servant,” replied Lee. “A servant is fed, clothed, and protected, so he doesn’t worry about anything. And it’s a position of power. A good servant can control his master. He can make him afraid or make him happy.”

As they approached Adam’s house, Lee turned to Samuel. “Please don’t talk this way when other people are listening. It would confuse them.”

“All right,” said Samuel, “but isn’t it a lonely life?”

“Yes, it is,” replied Lee. “I’m thinking of moving to San Francisco. I’d like to start a bookstore. I probably won’t do it, though. I’ve gotten used to being a servant.”

Samuel and Adam rode over the land until they reached a flat place. “Do you think there’s water there?” asked Adam.

“I don’t know,” said Samuel. “I’ll see.” He held a long, thin y-shaped stick in his hands and walked forward with his arms straight in front of him. Adam watched the end of the stick. First it moved up and down just a little. Samuel walked forward, then back, then turned. Then, the stick seemed to be pulled down toward the ground. “I can get water here,” Samuel said, “and it isn’t very deep.”

“Good,” said Adam. “I want you to dig wells for me and pump the water. I want to make a garden here. Remember my name is Adam, and I’ve never had an Eden.”

“That’s a good reason,” said Samuel. “What does Eve think?”

“She’ll be pleased with anything I do,” said Adam. “Her name is Cathy. I want the water so I can make a beautiful garden for her. I want to repay her for making me so happy.”

When they returned to the house, Lee had prepared a cold supper. They waited at a table outside under an oak tree until Cathy came out. She looked at Samuel and Adam without speaking.

“You haven’t met Mr. Hamilton, dear,” said Adam.

“How do you do?” said Cathy, and shook his hand.

“I’m glad to meet you,” replied Samuel.

Samuel looked into her eyes, but they communicated nothing. There was a heavy silence at the table as they ate. Samuel made a few attempts at conversation, but finally gave up. Something was wrong, and he finished his supper quickly. “Ma’am, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll ride off home,” he said. “Thank you for your kindness.”

Adam jumped to his feet. “Please come back soon. I want you to start the wells. Cathy, this will be the most beautiful place in the world.”

“That will be nice,” said Cathy, but her face showed no emotion. Samuel shivered when he saw it. He said goodnight and quickly rode away.

After he left, Cathy said, “Adam, I didn’t want to come here. I am not going to stay here.”

“Oh, nonsense.” He laughed. “You’ll get used to it and you’ll love it. Everything will change when the baby is born. You’ll see.”

Samuel Hamilton rode back home in the moonlight. There were shadows and the sounds of night creatures all around him, and he felt a strange sadness. He thought about Adam and Cathy. “Do I envy them? No, it isn’t that. It’s Cathy, but what about her? Her eyes. I’ve seen those eyes before, but where?”

Samuel went back in his mind to when he was a small boy in Ireland. He was with his father in a big city. A crowd had gathered where a man was going to be hanged. The man looked into Samuel’s eyes. His eyes had no depth - they were not like other eyes, not like the eyes of a man. They were like a goat’s eyes.

Now Samuel knew. “I’ve seen eyes like that only twice in my life,” he thought. But then he felt guilty that he had such ugly thoughts about Cathy. “I’ll do everything I can to help with the Salinas Valley Eden,” he promised himself.

Cathy sat quietly in her chair under the oak tree waiting for her pregnancy to be over, living on a farm she did not like, with a man she did not love. Her stomach grew very big, but the rest of her body was unchanged. She spoke very little and her eyes were far away. It was as if she had gone away, leaving an empty shell in her place.

There was activity all around her. Adam was happily planning his Eden. Samuel and his sons Tom and Joe dug the first well to forty feet and lined it with expensive new metal, since Adam wanted the best. They moved to another place and started another hole. They slept in a tent beside the work and cooked over a campfire.

The Hamiltons had just finished their lunch of bread and cheese and coffee. “Somebody’s coming, coming fast,” said Joe. They could see a horseman riding at full speed toward them. When he came a little closer, they saw that it was Lee.

He was breathing heavily. “Missy Adam say come! Missy Cathy bad - come quick, Missy scream.”

Samuel rode back to the ranch with Lee. He went upstairs, tapped lightly at the bedroom door, and went in. The curtains were closed and blankets were hung over the windows. He started to pull down a blanket, but Adam stopped him.

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

Samuel pulled down the blanket and let in the golden afternoon light. “Adam,” he said firmly, “I’m going to ask you to go out of the room and stay out.” He turned the key in the lock.

“He’s upset,” he said to Cathy. “He loves you.” He had not looked closely at her until now. And he saw true hatred in her eyes, unforgiving, murderous hatred. He stared at her. “I did not come by choice except as a friend,” he said. “I don’t know your trouble and I don’t care. Maybe I can save you some pain - who knows? But if you look at me like that I’ll leave you here alone.”

She made a great effort. It made him shiver to see her face change until it became young and innocent and bravely hurt. It was like one person replacing another. She said softly, “The water broke at dawn.”

“Good,” replied Samuel. “Have you had hard labor?”

“Yes.” Suddenly her eyes were unseeing and her body went stiff. He waited for her cry, but only a series of low noises came from her throat. After a few seconds, her body relaxed and the hatred was back in her face. Then, she threw her head from side to side as the labor struck again.

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

Her head came up suddenly and her sharp teeth closed on his hand. He cried out in pain and tried to pull his hand away, but her head twisted and turned. He hit her across the cheek, but it had no effect. Automatically he did what he would have done to stop a dogfight. His left hand went to her throat and he cut off her breath. She struggled and tore at his hand before her jaws relaxed and he pulled his hand free. The flesh was torn and bleeding. He stepped back from the bed and looked at the damage. 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. “It was the pain.”

Samuel laughed shortly. “I had a dog that did that once,” he said. The hatred came briefly back into her eyes. “I’d better put something on it. Humans are more poisonous than snakes. Have you got any whiskey?”

“In the second drawer.”

He splashed whiskey on his bleeding hand and rubbed it in. He was shaking and he felt sick, and he was afraid to look back at the bed. He took a swallow of whiskey to steady himself.

Samuel told Adam afterwards, “The birth happened before I was ready. Popped out like a seed. I didn’t have the water ready to wash him.”

He pulled the door open, called Lee and demanded warm water. When he returned, he pointed to a bundle in a laundry basket. “Wash him, Lee,” he said, “and don’t let him get cold.”

Samuel turned back to the bed. “Now, dearie, I’ll get you cleaned up.” He saw something, stared, and went quickly to work. “My God, it’s another one!” Like the first birth, the second was very quick. Lee took the second baby, washed it, wrapped it, and put it in the basket.

“You have two sons,” Samuel said. “Two fine sons. They aren’t alike. Each one was born separately. I’ll show them to you.”

“No,” Cathy said coldly. “I don’t want them. Take them out of the room and send Adam in.” In a moment came the sound of tapping from the bedroom. Adam was nailing the blankets over the windows again.

For a week, Cathy rested and gathered her strength. One Saturday, she stayed in her bedroom all morning. Adam tried the door and found it locked. “I’m busy,” she called, and he went away. In the late afternoon she sent Lee to King City to buy a baby bottle, then she went back to her room as evening fell.

At seven-thirty, Adam knocked. “I’ve got you some supper, dear,” he said. The door opened as if she had been standing waiting. She was dressed in her neat traveling dress, with a jacket and big black buttons. On her head was a wide black hat. Adams mouth dropped open.

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

“Cathy, what do you mean?”

“I told you before. I’m going.”

“The babies -“

“Throw them in one of your wells.”

He cried in alarm, “Cathy, you’re sick! You can’t go - not from me.”

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

He heard the word through his confusion. Without warning, his hands reached for her shoulders and pushed her backwards. As she lost her balance, he took the key from the inside of the door, shut the door, and locked it.

He stood breathing heavily with his ear close to the door, and a sickness poisoned him. A drawer opened and a thought leaped in him - she’s going to stay.

He jumped as her voice came through the door. “Dear, I didn’t know you would feel that way. I’m sorry, Adam.” 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 gun, and it was pointed at him. He took a step toward her, and he saw it was ready to fire.

She shot him. The heavy bullet struck him in the shoulder and tore out a piece of bone, and he fell to the floor. She moved slowly toward him, cautiously, as if he were a wounded animal. He stared up into her eyes, which inspected him without interest. She threw the gun on the floor beside him and walked out of the house. He heard her steps on the dry oak leaves on the path, and then he could hear her no more. But he could hear the cry of the twins, wanting their dinner. He had forgotten to feed them.

Horace Quinn was the new deputy sheriff assigned to look after things around King City. When he heard that Adam Trask had been shot, he left for the ranch right away.

There was no sound and no movement as he rode in under the oaks. All the workers had been sent away. Adam lay in the big bed where the twins had been born. He was leaning against a big pile of pillows, and a thick, homemade bandage covered the left side of his chest and his shoulder. The skin on his face was pulled tight over his bones and his eyes were shiny with sickness.

Horace said, “Hello, Mr. Trask. Heard you got hurt. Just wanted to see how you were doing. How’d it happen?”

An eager look came over Adams face. “I was cleaning my gun and it went off. I’m not very used to guns.”

Horace looked away from Adam. “Mr. Trask, you served in the United States Army. Their weapons are rifles and guns. What happened, Mr. Trask?”

Adam’s eyes seemed to grow larger, and they were red around the edges. “It was an accident,” he whispered.

“Anybody see it? Was your wife with you when it happened?” Adam did not reply. “I’d like to talk to her.”

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

“That’s interesting,” said Horace. “Your wife had a baby - two babies - two weeks ago, and now she’s gone on a visit. And she didn’t take the babies.” Horace leaned over the bed. “Trask!” he said loudly. “This isn’t just curiosity. This is the law. Now you open your eyes and tell me what happened or 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.

“My wife went away,” he said. “Where did she go?” “I don’t know.”

“We’ll have to find her. 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.”

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

“Mr. Trask, you’re talking yourself right into the county jail. Let’s have a description. How tall was she?”

Adam’s eyes shone. “Not tall, little and delicate.”

“That’s just fine. What color hair? Eyes?”

“She was beautiful.”



“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.” And without warning Adam began to cry. His whole body shook, and his breath made little high sounds. It was hopeless crying.

Horace went into the other room, feeling miserable. He did not know what to think. He wondered if Adam Trask was crazy. And had he killed his wife?

The next morning, Horace went to the sheriff’s office in Salinas. “Well, sir,” he said, “I had to come up and get your advice.” And he told his story in great detail. The sheriff listened with his eyes closed and made no comment. “Well, there I was,” Horace continued. “I couldn’t find out what happened. I couldn’t even find out what the woman looked like. I went to see Sam Hamilton.”

The sheriff opened his eyes. “Did Sam give you a description?” he asked.

“He did, and his wife did. She went over to help at the Trask place after the birth.” Horace took out a piece of paper from his pocket and read a detailed description of Cathy. “Got any ideas?”

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

“I know.”

“There’s a woman called Faye who opened a nice, quiet place about three months ago. She sent me a note Sunday night. She’s got a new girl and she doesn’t know what to think of her. What puzzles Faye is that she looks like a runaway girl except she knows all the answers and all the tricks. I went down there and looked her over, and I can’t find a thing wrong with her. She’s old enough and nobody’s made a complaint. So what do we do about it?”

“You’re pretty sure it’s Mrs. Trask?”

The sheriff said,” Wide-apart blue eyes, yellow hair, and a scar on her forehead, and she came in Sunday afternoon.”

Adam’s tearful face was in Horace’s mind. “Sheriff, you have to get somebody else to tell him. I can’t do it.”

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

“The poor bastard,” Horace said. “He’s in love with her.”

“You listen to me, Horace. There are only three people in the world that know her and you and me. I’m going to warn her that if she ever tells I’ll run her out of the county. And Horace - before you tell anybody, even your wife, 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 so that he could not move his shoulder. Lee came out carrying the basket. He set it on the ground beside Adam and went back inside. The twins were awake, and they both looked up seriously at the wind-moved leaves of the oak tree.

Adam did not hear Samuels’s horse until it was almost in front of him. Samuel sat down quietly and waited. “I thought I’d better get back to the wells,” he said softly.

“No,” Adam said. “I don’t want any wells. I’ll pay you for what you did.”

“Let me give you some advice, Adam,” said Samuel. “Act out being alive, like a play. And after a while, a long while, it’ll be true.

“Why should I?” Adam asked.

Samuel was looking at the twins. “For them. They’re going to grow.”

Adam did not answer, and Samuel stood up. “I’ll be back,” he said. “I’ll be back again and again.”

Behind the barn, Lee held his horse while Sam got on. “There goes your bookstore, Lee,” he said.

“Oh, well,” said the Chinese, “maybe I didn’t want it much, anyway.”

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