Cathedral of Peace
By Dorothy Clapp Robinson
“Where were you?” Carolyn asked Carson the evening after the dance. She had had no chance to discuss the matter with him in the morning, for they had risen late and there had been a rush to get to work.
“Oh, around,” he answered, non-committally.
Turner looked up from his book. “Where were you last night? And I don’t like the way you have been acting today.”
When the boy did not answer, Denis said, “I bet I know.”
“I’ll bet you don’t, wise guy. You are not as keen as you think.”
Carolyn had been watching Turner’s face. “I am sorry you missed the dance, Carson. It was the nicest party there has been in the valley for a long time.”
“Mama danced every time,” Judy volunteered, eagerly.
“Yes, Mama danced every time,” Jerry echoed, “but Bob had a fight with Lucile. He is going over this evening to make up.”
Bob looked up quickly. “Who told you that, baby?”
Jerry ran to climb on his lap. “Denny said you would ‘cause Lucile is awful, awful angwy.”
“But he hopes you don’t,” Judy added, following her sister. “And Dell said you are in love with June. What does that mean?”
Bob buried his face in his sister’s curls. Carolyn watching, answered. “Dell was just talking, honey.”
“You twins are the worst snoopers,” Denis cried angrily. “You hear everything that doesn’t happen.”
“Denis!” his father warned.
Denis looked at his sisters. “Babies! You get your own way all the time.”
Jerry tightened her arm about Bob’s neck. “What’s being in love?” she asked again. “Is it not like I don’t like Denny?”
They all laughed. “You said it,” Denis answered.
“Then it is all right,” Judy beamed, “‘cause I asted her.”
“Asked who what?” Bob demanded in alarm.
“I ast June did she love you, and she said, ‘Maybe.’”
“Where did you see June?” Turner asked sharply. Then before they could answer, he turned to his wife, “I hope you haven’t let them cross the river.”
“I saw her to Pwymary.” Judy was surprised that they could not understand. “An’ one day she comed over here.”
“Did she come over here?”
“Uh-huh. When Daddy was fixing the fence, and we were waiting. She comed across the river on her pony.”
“What did – did she want?” Bob asked.
“I don’t know. But she didn’t like Papa.”
“Did she say so?” Denis glanced quickly at his father.
“No-o, but when she saw him she said, ‘Oh!’ cross as anything.”
During the laugh that followed, Turner turned to his second-born. “You didn’t tell us where you were last night. I listened for you, and it was nearly morning when you came in.”
Carson, in spite of his mother’s protests, had brought his boots in and was rubbing one with an oiled rag. Now he laid it aside, elaborately, and rose to his feet.
“If you must know, we went over to the Cross Line.”
Even the twins sensed that this was an occasion and ceased their chatter. The silence that followed their father’s words was ominous. Carson stood spraddle-legged facing his father.
“The Cross Line. I got a job with them.”
Turner was speechless. “Have you lost your mind? I have made arrangements for you to go to school – and even if I hadn’t, working up there would be out of the question. No child of mine shall work in such a place. They are a drunken, thieving outfit.”
“I start work there Monday. At least no one will yell at me. If he does, I’ll knock his teeth down his throat.”
Turner was standing now facing his defiant son. His hands were gripping the table, toward which he had moved. Carson’s face was white and frightened, but there was no yielding in it. Carolyn, watching in terror, wondered what Mrs. Straughn would do in such a situation. The thought followed that Mrs. Straughn would never have to face such a situation. She would avoid the factors that would make it possible.
“Carson,” Carolyn stepped before him, “come into my room and let me talk to you.”
“It is no use, Mother. we might as well have this out now.”
“You must not go there, Carson. It isn’t a decent outfit.”
He laughed shortly. “I can’t see that this outfit is so hot. A lot of hypocrites, that’s all we are – putting on a smooth surface and hating each other underneath.”
“You are not going.” Turner’s tone was flat.
“Try and stop me.”
“Carson,” the father spoke with deadly quietness, but his face was pale, “if you go to work for that outfit you stay there. Do you understand?”
“Oh, no, no, Turner.” Carolyn stepped before him. “You have no right to say such a thing.”
Without turning his eyes, Turner brushed her aside. Bob rose to stand by his brother. Carson’s face twitched.
“Okay,” he said, unsteadily. “Tomorrow is as good as Monday.” Turning stiffly, hE went out. After a slow glance at his father, Bob followed.
“Turner, stop him! You must go after him. You must bring him back.”
But Turner just stood staring at the closed door. He lifted one hand, looked at it, replaced it on the table; he lifted the other, looked at it, replaced it.
“Comfort him,” something said to Carolyn, “he needs it.”
“No.” She set her lips stubbornly. Let it hurt. He was always hurting others. It could not be possible for this to hurt him as it was hurting her, deep down where there were no tears. She turned and fled after her boys. In the yard she looked about. A long twilight was settling over the valley. There was no sign of Carson nor Bob. They were gone. Carson was gone. Perhaps Bob would bring him back. Even as she thought it, she knew he would not. Her boy was gone – out of her home forever.