East Of Eden Page 227

’’I can\ take it in,’’ Cal said. ’’Not now I can\ .’’

The heavy steps of the nurse sounded in the living room. She billowed through the door and she looked at Abra, elbows on the table, holding her cheeks between her palms.

The nurse said, ’’Have you got a pitcher? They get thirsty. I like to keep a pitcher of water handy. You see,’’ she explained, ’’they breathe through their mouths.’’

’’Is he awake?’’ Lee asked. ’’There\s a pitcher.’’

’’Oh, yes, he\s awake and rested. And I\ve washed his face and combed his hair. He\s a good patient. He tried to smile at me.’’

Lee stood up. ’’Come along, Cal. I want you to come too, Abra. You\ll have to come.’’

The nurse filled her pitcher at the sink and scurried ahead of them.

When they trooped into the bedroom Adam was propped high on his pillows. His white hands lay palms down on either side of him, and the sinews from knuckle to wrist were tight drawn. His face was waxen, and his sharp features were sharpened. He breathed slowly between pale lips. His blue eyes reflected back the night light focused on his head.

Lee and Cal and Abra stood at the foot of the bed, and Adam\s eyes moved slowly from one face to the other, and his lips moved just a little in greeting.

The nurse said, ’’There he is. Doesn\ he look nice? He\s my darling. He\s my sugar pie.

’’Hush!’’ said Lee.

’’I won\ have you tiring my patient.’’

’’Go out of the room,’’ said Lee.

’’I\ll have to report this to the doctor.’’

Lee whirled toward her. ’’Go out of the room and close the door. Go and write your report.’’

’’I\m not in the habit of taking orders from Chinks.’’

Cal said, ’’Go out now, and close the door.’’

She slammed the door just loud enough to register her anger. Adam blinked at the sound.

Lee said, ’’Adam!’’

The blue wide eyes looked for the voice and finally found Lee\s brown and shining eyes.

Lee said, ’’Adam, I don\ know what you can hear or understand. When you had the numbness in your hand and your eyes refused to read, I found out everything I could. But some things no one but you can know. You may, behind your eyes, be alert and keen, or you may be living in a confused gray dream. You may, like a newborn child, perceive only light and movement.

’’There\s damage in your brain, and it may be that you are a new thing in the world. Your kindness may be meanness now, and your bleak honesty fretful and conniving. No one knows these things except you. Adam! Can you hear me?’’

The blue eyes wavered, closed slowly, then opened.

Lee said, ’’Thank you, Adam. I know how hard it is. I\m going to ask you to do a much harder thing. Here is your son Caleb your only son. Look at him, Adam!’’

The pale eyes looked until they found Cal. Cal\s mouth moved dryly and made no sound.

Lee\s voice cut in, ’’I don\ know how long you will live, Adam. Maybe a long time. Maybe an hour. But your son will live. He will marry and his children will be the only remnant left of you.’’ Lee wiped his eyes with his fingers.

’’He did a thing in anger, Adam, because he thought you had rejected him. The result of his anger is that his brother and your son is dead.’’

Cal said, ’’Lee you can\ .’’

’’I have to,’’ said Lee. ’’If it kills him I have to. I have the choice,’’ and he smiled sadly and quoted, ’’ \If there\s blame, it\s my blame.\ ’’ Lee\s shoulders straightened. He said sharply, ’’Your son is marked with guilt out of himself out of himself almost more than he can bear. Don\ crush him with rejection. Don\ crush him, Adam.’’

Lee\s breath whistled in his throat. ’’Adam, give him your blessing. Don\ leave him alone with his guilt. Adam, can you hear me? Give him your blessing!’’

A terrible brightness shone in Adam\s eyes and he closed them and kept them closed. A wrinkle formed between his brows.

Lee said, ’’Help him, Adam help him. Give him his chance. Let him be free. That\s all a man has over the beasts. Free him! Bless him!’’

The whole bed seemed to shake under the concentration. Adam\s breath came quick with his effort and then, slowly, his right hand lifted lifted an inch and then fell back.

Lee\s face was haggard. He moved to the head of the bed and wiped the sick man\s damp face with the edge of the sheet. He looked down at the closed eyes. Lee whispered, ’’Thank you, Adam thank you, my friend. Can you move your lips? Make your lips form his name.’’

Adam looked up with sick weariness. His lips parted and failed and tried again. Then his lungs filled. He expelled the air and his lips combed the rushing sigh. His whispered word seemed to hang in the air:


His eyes closed and he slept.

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