Chapter no 26

East of Eden

On the train back to King City from his trip to Salinas, Adam Trask was in a cloud of vague forms and sounds and colors. He was not conscious of any thought at all.


believe there are

techniques of the human mind whereby, in its dark deep, problems are examined, rejected or accepted. Such activities sometimes concern facets a man does not know he has. How often one goes to sleep troubled and full of pain, not knowing what causes the travail, and in the morning

a whole new

direction and a clearness is there, maybe the result of the black reasoning. And again there are mornings when

ecstasy bubbles in the blood, and the stomach and chest are tight and electric with joy, and nothing in the thoughts to justify it or cause it.

Samuel’s funeral and the talk with Kate should have made Adam sad and bitter, but they did not. Out of the gray throbbing an ecstasy arose. He felt young and free and filled with a hungry gaiety. He got off the train in King City, and, instead of going directly to the livery stable to claim his horse and buggy, he walked to Will Hamilton’s new garage.

Will was sitting in his glass-walled

office from

which he could watch the activity of his mechanics without hearing the clamor of their work. Will’s stomach was beginning to fill out richly.

He was studying an advertisement

for cigars

shipped direct and often from Cuba. He thought he was mourning for his dead father, but he was not. He did have some little worry about Tom, who had gone directly from the funeral to San Francisco. He felt that it was more dignified to lose oneself in business, as he intended to do, than in alcohol, as Tom was probably doing.

He looked up when

Adam came into the office and waved his hand to one of the big leather chairs he had installed to lull his customers past the size of the bills they were going to have to pay.

Adam sat down. “I don’t know whether I offered my condolences,” he said.

“It’s a sad time,” said Will. “You were at the funeral?”

“Yes,” said Adam. “I don’t know whether you

know how I felt about your father. He gave me things I will never forget.”

“He was respected,” said Will. “There were over two hundred


at the

cemetery—over two


“Such a man doesn’t

really die,” Adam said, and he was discovering it himself. “I can’t think of him dead. He seems maybe more alive to me than before.”

“That’s true,” said Will,

and it was not true to him. To Will, Samuel was dead.

“I think of things he

said,” Adam went on. “When he said them I didn’t listen very closely, but now they come back, and I can see his face when he said them.” “That’s true,” said Will.

“I was just thinking the same

thing. Are you going back to your place?”

“Yes, I am. But I

thought I would come in and talk to you about buying an automobile.”

A subtle change came over Will, a kind of silent

alertness. “I would have said you’d be the last man in the valley to get a car,” he observed

and watched

through half-closed eyes for Adam’s reaction.

Adam laughed. “I guess I deserved that,” he said. “Maybe

your father is

responsible for a change in me.”

“How do you mean?”

“I don’t know as I could explain it. Anyway, let’s talk about a car.”

“I’ll give you the

straight dope on it,” said Will. “The truth of the matter is I’m having one hell of a time getting enough cars to fill my orders. Why, I’ve got a list of people who want them.”

“Is that so? Well, maybe

I’ll just have to put my name on the list.”

“I’d be glad to do that,

Mr. Trask, and—” He paused. “You’ve been so close to the

family that—well, if there should be a cancellation I’d be glad to move you up on the list.”

“That’s kind of you,” said Adam.

“How would you like to arrange it?”

“How do you mean?” “Well, I can arrange it so you pay only so much a month.”

“Isn’t it more expensive that way?”

“Well, there’s interest

and carrying charge. Some people find it convenient.” “I think I’ll pay cash,”

said Adam. “There’d be no point in putting it off.”

Will chuckled.


very many people feel that way,” he said. “And there’s going to come a time when I won’t be able to sell for cash without losing money.”

“I’d never thought of

that,” said Adam. “You will put me on the list though?” Will leaned toward him. “Mr. Trask, I’m going to put

you on the top of the list. The first car that comes in, you’re going to have.”

“Thank you.”

“I’ll be glad to do it for you,” said Will.

Adam asked, “How is your mother holding up?” Will leaned back in his chair and an affectionate smile came on his face.

“She’s a remarkable woman,” he said. “She’s like a rock. I think back on all the hard times we had, and we had plenty of them. My father wasn’t very practical. He was always off in the clouds or buried in a book. I think my mother held us together and kept the Hamiltons out of the poorhouse.”

“She’s a fine woman,” Adam said.

“Not only fine. She’s

strong. She stands on her two feet. She’s a tower of strength. Did you come back to Olive’s house after the funeral?”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well over a hundred people did. And my mother

fried all that chicken and saw that everybody had enough.” “She didn’t!”

“Yes, she did. And when you think—it was her own husband.”

“A remarkable woman,” Adam repeated Will’s phrase. “She’s practical. She

knew they had to be fed and she fed them.”

“I guess she’ll be all

right, but it must be a great loss to her.”

“She’ll be all right,”

Will said. “And she’ll outlive us all, little tiny thing that she is.”

On his drive back to the ranch Adam found that he was noticing things he had not seen for years. He saw the

wildflowers in the heavy grass, and he saw the red cows against the hillsides, moving up the easy ascending paths and eating as they went. When he came to his own land Adam felt a quick pleasure so sharp that he began to examine it. And suddenly he found himself saying aloud in rhythm with his horse’s trotting feet, “I’m free, I’m free. I don’t have to worry any more. I’m free.

She’s gone. She’s out of me. Oh, Christ Almighty, I’m free!”

He reached out and stripped the fur from the silver-gray sage beside the road, and when his fingers were sticky with the sap he

smelled the sharp penetrating odor on his fingers, breathed it deep into his lungs. He was glad to be going home. He wanted to see how the twins had grown in the two days he had been gone—he wanted to see the twins.

“I’m free, she’s gone,” he chanted aloud.

Lee came out of the house to meet Adam, and he stood at the horse’s head while Adam climbed down from the buggy.

“How are the boys?” Adam asked. “They’re fine. I made

them some bows and arrows and they went hunting rabbits in the river bottom. I’m not

keeping the pan hot though.” “Everything all right

here?” Lee looked at

him sharply, was about to

exclaim, changed his mind. “How was the funeral?” “Lots of people,” Adam

said. “He had lots of friends. I can’t get it through my head that he’s gone.”

“My people bury them

with drums and scatter papers to confuse the devils and put roast pigs instead of flowers on the grave. We’re a

practical people and always a little hungry. But our devils aren’t very bright. We can outthink them. That’s some progress.”

“I think Samuel would have liked that kind of funeral,” said Adam. “It

would have interested him.” He noticed that Lee was staring at him. “Put the horse away, Lee, and then come in and make some tea. I want to talk to you.”

Adam went into the

house and took off his black clothes. He could smell the sweet and now sickish odor of rum about himself. He removed all of his clothes and sponged his skin with yellow soap until the odor was gone

from his pores. He put on a clean blue shirt and overalls washed until they were soft and pale blue and lighter blue at the knees where the wear came. He shaved slowly and combed his hair while the rattle of Lee at the stove sounded from the kitchen.

Then he went to the living room. Lee had set out one cup and a bowl of sugar on the table beside his big chair.

Adam looked around at the flowered curtains washed so long that the blossoms were pale. He saw the worn rugs on the floor and the brown path on the linoleum in the hall. And it was all new to him.

When Lee came in with

the teapot Adam said, “Bring yourself a cup, Lee. And if you’ve got any of that drink of yours, I could use a little. I got drunk last night.”

Lee said, “You drunk? I can hardly believe it.” “Well, I was. And I want to talk about it. I saw you looking at me.”

“Did you?” asked Lee,

and he went to the kitchen to bring his cup and glasses and his stone bottle of ng-ka-py.

He said when he came back, “The only times I’ve tasted it for years have been

with you and Mr. Hamilton.” “Is that the same one we named the twins with?” “Yes, it is.” Lee poured

the scalding green tea. He

grimaced when Adam put two spoonfuls of sugar in his cup.

Adam stirred his tea and watched the sugar crystals whirl and disappear into liquid. He said, “I went down to see her.”

“I thought you might,”

said Lee. “As a matter of fact I don’t see how a human man could have waited so long.” “Maybe I wasn’t a

human man.”

“I thought of that too. How was she?”

Adam said slowly, “I can’t understand it. I can’t believe there is such a creature in the world.” “The trouble with you

Occidentals is that you don’t

have devils to explain things with. Did you get drunk afterward?”

“No, before and during. I needed it for courage, I guess.”

“You look all right now.”

“I am all right,” said

Adam. “That’s what I want to talk to you about.” He paused and said ruefully, “This time last year I would have run to Sam Hamilton to talk.” “Maybe both of us have

got a piece of him,” said Lee. “Maybe

that’s what

immortality is.”

“I seemed to come out of a sleep,” said Adam. “In

some strange way my eyes have cleared. A weight is off me.”

“You even use words that

sound like Mr.

Hamilton,” said Lee. “I’ll build a theory for my immortal relatives.” Adam drank his cup of black liquor and licked his lips. “I’m free,” he said. “I

have to tell it to someone. I can live with my boys. I might even see a woman. Do you know what I’m saying?” “Yes, I know. And I can

see it in your eyes and in the way your body stands. A man can’t lie about a thing like

that. You’ll like the boys, I think.”

“Well, at least I’m going

to give myself a chance. Will you give me another drink and some more tea?”

Lee poured the tea and picked up his cup.

“I don’t know why you don’t scald your mouth, drinking it that hot.”

Lee was smiling

inwardly. Adam, looking at him, realized that Lee was not a young man any more. The skin on his cheeks was stretched tight, and its surface shone as though it were glazed. And there was a red irritated rim around his eyes.

Lee studied the shell-thin cup in his hand and his was a memory smile. “Maybe

if you’re free, you can free me.”

“What do you mean, Lee?”

“Could you let me go?” “Why, of course you can go. Aren’t you happy here?” “I don’t think I’ve ever known what you people call happiness.

We think of

contentment as the desirable thing, and maybe that’s negative.”

Adam said, “Call it that then. Aren’t you contented here?”

Lee said, “I don’t think

any man is contented when there are things undone he wishes to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Well, one thing it’s too late for. I wanted to have a wife and sons of my own. Maybe I wanted to hand down the nonsense that passes for wisdom in a

parent, to force it on my own helpless children.”

“You’re not too old.” “Oh,


guess I’m

physically able to father a child. That’s not what I’m thinking. I’m too closely married to a quiet reading

lamp. You know, Mr. Trask, once I had a wife. I made her up just as you did, only mine had no life outside my mind. She was good company in my little room. I would talk and she would listen, and then she would talk, would tell me all the happenings of a woman’s afternoon. She was very pretty

and she made

coquettish little jokes. But now I don’t know whether I would listen to her. And I wouldn’t want to make her sad or lonely. So there’s my first plan gone.”

“What was the other?” “I

talked to Mr.

Hamilton about that. I want to open

a bookstore in

Chinatown in San Francisco. I would live in the back, and my days would be full of discussions and arguments. I would like to have in stock some of those dragon-carved blocks of ink from the dynasty of Sung. The boxes are worm-bored, and that ink is made from fir smoke and a glue that comes only from wild asses’ skin. When you paint with that ink it may physically be black but it

suggests to your eye and persuades your seeing that it is all the colors in the world. Maybe a painter would come by and we could argue about method and haggle about price.”

Adam said, “Are you making this up?”

“No. If you are well and

if you are free, I would like to have my little bookshop at last. I would like to die there.”

Adam sat silently for a while, stirring sugar into his lukewarm tea. Then he said, “Funny. I found myself

wishing you were a slave so I could refuse you. Of course you can go if you want to. I’ll even lend you money for your bookstore.”

“Oh, I have the money. I’ve had it a long time.” “I never thought of your

going,” Adam said. “I took you

for granted.”


straightened his shoulders. “Could you wait a little while?”

“What for?”

“I want you to help me

get acquainted with my boys. I want to put this place in shape, or maybe sell it or rent it. I’ll want to know how much money I have left and what I can do with it.”

“You wouldn’t lay a trap for me?” Lee asked. “My

wish isn’t as strong as it once was. I’m afraid I could be talked out of it or, what would be worse, I could be held back just by being needed. Please try not to need

me. That’s the worst bait of all to a lonely man.”

Adam said, “A lonely man. I must have been far down in myself not to have thought of that.”

“Mr. Hamilton knew,”

said Lee. He raised his head and his fat lids let only two sparks from his eyes show through. “We’re controlled, we Chinese,” he said. “We show no emotion. I loved Mr. Hamilton. I would like to go to Salinas tomorrow if you will permit it.”

“Do anything you want,” said Adam. “God knows you’ve done enough for me.” “I want to scatter devil papers,” Lee said. “I want to put a little roast pig on the

grave of my father.”

Adam got up quickly

and knocked over his cup and went outside and left Lee sitting there.

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