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The settlement of new land followed a pattern. First the brave and naïve male settlers arrived. When things began to smooth out, the bankers and lawyers came. Soon churches and houses of prostitution developed; both tried to ease the despair of the male settlers.
The narrator then talks about the houses of prostitution. He notes that the madams of these houses were celebrated people. There were two long-standing houses; one was run by Jenny, who was known for her fun and laughter, and the other was run by a woman the men called "the Nigger," who specialized in the more mournful emotions. When the new madam, Faye, came from Sacramento, the two established madams were upset at the increased competition. Then they realized that Faye had her own line of specialty, which would mean she would not compete with them at all. Faye’s house offered a family feeling, as if the men were coming to visit their grandmother and sex was just a simple incident of the visit, quickly forgiven. Since Faye was a nice and moral woman, she became an accepted citizen of the town.
Cathy, who introduced herself to Faye as Kate, puzzled the madam. The young woman acted shy and told Faye she could not tell exactly why she was there because "the happiness of someone very near and dear to me is involved." Faye understood and left it at that. She realized when Kate started working that Kate was not new to the business. She was a good prostitute and helped the other women with their rooms and their errands. She became indispensable to Faye. After one year had passed, Faye started to think of Kate as a daughter and did not want her to work as a prostitute any longer.
From the first time she met the sheriff, Kate knew that he understood her and would not bother her, for he made it clear that he simply wanted peace in his county. He later told her that he knew that she had left two babies behind and that his only demand was that she never contact them. He also advised her to do more to disguise who she was. When he was leaving, he told her he had a son and that he was never going to let him come to Faye’s establishment, as if he feared he might be attracted to Kate.
One day Faye and Kate were in Faye’s room talking. When Kate left the room to get something, Faye bit down on a nut and hurt her tooth. After Kate returned, she efficiently picked out the nutshell from Faye’s aching tooth and then packed the tooth in medicine. She then gave Faye some Pinkham’s juice, a soothing drink that Faye likes and drinks often.
The chapter begins with a general description of how towns in the west developed. Once the settlers, bankers, and lawyers had arrived and settled in, houses of prostitution soon followed. The narrator then describes the three houses of prostitution in the Salinas Valley, giving emphasis to Faye’s place.
Through Steinbeck’s careful description of Faye and the relationship she develops with Kate, the reader senses that something bad will happen to her. The incident of the tooth shows the closeness of the relationship. It also gives Steinbeck the opportunity to introduce Pinkham’s medicinal juice, which will become important later in the plot.
Steinbeck also describes the relationship between Kate and the sheriff. He tells her that he knows she has deserted two babies; but he promises not to hassle her if she never attempts to go and see the children. Kate feels she has the sheriff in the position that she wants him, for his main interests are to be low keyed and to keep peace in the county.