Kate begins to execute her plans, with characteristic slowness and patience. She spreads around the news of Faye’s will to everyone in the house, then blames the cook for letting this secret out. Eventually he believes that he is to blame, and no one traces the rumor back to Kate. Then Kate goes to see the doctor because of kidney trouble. She goes early in the morning after the doctor has been up all night. He carelessly leaves the door to his medicine room open, and Kate steals a few bottles from it. She then suggests to Faye that, to save money, the house should preserve and can their own vegetables. Faye agrees. One afternoon Kate puts a small drop from one of the medicine bottles she stole into Faye’s nightly tonic. Faye feels an uncomfortable fluttering in her heart, but it passes. Kate makes a great show of worry, and insists Faye get some rest.
Kate begins to unfold her plan in earnest. Her plan is masterful, detailed, and elaborate. Her virtuosic control of everyone and everything around her is a testament to her frightening power—maneuvers like this make Kate appear invincible. Is evil too great a force to be resisted? This passage has the effect of drawing out and rendering our own paranoia with respect to the sheer force and seductive allure of acting “bad” and being evil. Though this is ultimately a novel about the triumph of good over evil, Steinbeck goes to great lengths to show that evil is a worthy and dangerous adversary.
That night at supper Kate fixes Faye a meal of canned string bean salad. She mixes two drops from one of her bottles into Faye’s string beans. Then she takes a swig of a different bottle and swallows it down before going to Faye’s room. Soon after eating they both feel sick. Kate begins to wretch and vomit and Faye has similar spasms. They call the doctor, who sees the green beans on their plates and demands to know f they have been home-canned. The girls confirm that they have been, and the doctor becomes irate and tells them to throw all the cans away. A couple of days later he is sitting with Kate, and explains to her that the green beans were tainted with botulism. He tells Kate she will make it—her youth and health have protected her against the worst parts of the disease. But Faye is dying; she will not recover.
Note how hard Kate tries to appear innocent: she eve drugs herself so that she may appear to have some of the same symptoms as Faye. Though her medicine is not lethal, she nevertheless demonstrates a notable disregard for her own health and safety in order to take down Faye. We recognize that Kate does not care about herself so much as she cares about destroying others, and it’s her hell-bent desire for destruction that makes her so powerful.
Kate goes in to see Faye, calling her mother, and stroking her check. She then puts some liquid from a small eyedropper into Faye’s mouth. Faye’s breathing slows until it stops. Kate goes out into the back and digs a small hole. She puts the glass bottles into the hole, stamps them into pieces with her feet, and covers them with dirt. In the days following Faye’s death, Kate has to be “tied down to keep from hurting herself” She forgets completely about the will, and doesn’t remember until one of the girls reminds her.
Kate is thorough in her deception until the end. She doesn’t even mention Faye’s will—she waits to be “reminded” by one of the girls. She has managed to pull off this entire endeavor while only leaving behind a few small crushed bottles. Once again, it seems as though Catherine might be invincible.