Chapter no 3

East of Eden

Adam Trask was born on a

farm on the outskirts of a little town which was not far

from a big



Connecticut. He was an only son, and he was born six months after his father was mustered into a Connecticut regiment in 1862. Adam’s mother ran the farm, bore Adam, and still had time to

embrace a primitive theosophy. She felt that her husband would surely be killed by the wild and barbarous rebels, and she prepared herself to get in touch with him in what she called the beyond. He came home six weeks after Adam was born. His right leg was off at the knee. He stumped in on a crude wooden leg he himself had carved out of beechwood. And already it was splitting. He had in his pocket and placed on the parlor table the lead bullet they had given him to bite while they cut off his frayed leg.

Adam’s father Cyrus was something of a devil- had always been wild-drove

a two-wheeled cart too fast, and managed to make his wooden leg seem jaunty and desirable. He had enjoyed his military career, what there was of it. Being wild by nature, he had liked his brief period of training and the drinking and gambling and whoring that went with it.

Then he marched south with a group of replacements, and he enjoyed that too-seeing the country and stealing chickens and chasing rebel girls up into the haystacks. The gray, despairing weariness of protracted maneuvers and combat did not touch him. The first time he saw the enemy was at eight o’clock one spring morning, and at eight-thirty he was hit in the right leg by a heavy slug that mashed and splintered the bones beyond repair. Even then he was lucky, for the rebels retreated and the field


moved up

immediately. Cyrus Trask did have his five minutes of horror while they cut the shreds away and sawed the bone off square and burned the




toothmarks in the bullet proved that. And there was considerable pain while the wound healed under the unusually septic conditions in the hospitals of that day. But

Cyrus had


and swagger. While he was

carving his beechwood leg and hobbling about on a crutch,


contracted a

particularly virulent dose of the clap from a Negro girl who whistled at him from under a pile of lumber and charged him ten cents. When he had his new leg, and painfully knew his condition, he hobbled about for days, looking for the girl. He told

his bunkmates what he was going to do when he found her. He planned to cut off her ears and her nose with his pocketknife and

get his money back. Carving on his wooden leg, he showed his friends how he would cut her. “When I finish her she’ll be a funny-looking bitch,” he said. “I’ll make her so a drunk Indian won’t take out after her.” His light of love must have sensed his intentions, for he never found her. By the time Cyrus was released from the hospital and the army, his gonorrhea was dried up. When he got home to Connecticut there remained only enough of it for his wife. Mrs. Trask was a pale, inside-herself woman. No heat of sun ever reddened her cheeks, and no open laughter raised the corners of her mouth. She used religion as a therapy for the ills of the world and of herself, and she changed the religion to fit the ill. When she found that the theosophy she had developed for communication with a dead husband was

not necessary, she cast about for

some new unhappiness. Her search was quickly rewarded


the infection Cyrus brought home from the war. And as soon as she was aware

that a condition existed, she devised a new theology. Her



communication became a god of vengeance- to her the most satisfactory deity she had devised so far-

and, as it turned out, the last. It was quite easy for her to attribute her condition to certain

dreams she had experienced while her husband was away. But the disease was not punishment enough for her nocturnal philandering. Her new god was an expert in punishment. He demanded of her a sacrifice. She searched her





egotistical humility and

almost happily arrived at the sacrifice-herself. It took her two weeks to write her last letter with revisions and corrected spelling. In it she confessed to crimes she could not possibly have committed and admitted

faults far

beyond her capacity. And then, dressed in a secretly made shroud, she went out on a moonlight night


drowned herself in a pond so shallow that she had to get down on her knees in the mud and hold her head under water. This required great will power. As the warm unconsciousness finally crept over her, she was thinking with some irritation of how her white lawn shroud would have mud down the front when they pulled her out in the morning. And it did. Cyrus Trask mourned

for his wife with a keg of whisky and three old army friends who had dropped in on their way home to Maine. Baby Adam cried a good deal at the beginning of the wake, for the

mourners, not knowing about babies, had neglected to feed him. Cyrus soon solved the problem. He dipped a rag in whisky and gave it to the baby to suck, and after three or four

dippings young Adam went

to sleep. Several times during the mourning period he awakened and complained

and got the dipped rag again and went to sleep. The baby was drunk for two days and a half. Whatever may have happened in his developing brain, it proved beneficial to his metabolism: from that two and a half days he gained an iron health. And when at the end of three days his father finally went out and bought a goat, Adam drank the milk greedily,

vomited, drank more, and was on his way. His father did not find the reaction alarming, since he was doing the same thing. Within a month Cyrus Trask’s choice fell on the seventeen-year-old daughter of a neighboring farmer. The courtship was quick and realistic. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind about his intentions.

They were

honorable and reasonable. Her


abetted the courtship.


had two

younger daughters, and Alice, the eldest, was seventeen.

This was her first proposal. Cyrus wanted a woman

to take care of Adam. He needed someone to keep house and cook, and a servant cost money. He was a vigorous man and needed the body of a woman, and that too cost money-unless you

were married to it. Within two weeks Cyrus had wooed, wedded, bedded, and




neighbors did not find his action hasty. It was quite normal in that day for a man to use up three or four wives in a normal lifetime.

Alice Trask had a


of admirable qualities. She was a deep scrubber and a corner-cleaner in the house. She was not very pretty, so there was no need to watch her. Her eyes were pale, her complexion sallow, and her teeth crooked, but she


extremely healthy and never complained during her pregnancy. Whether she liked children or not no one ever knew. She was not asked, and she never said anything unless she was asked. From Cyrus’s point of view this was possibly the greatest of her virtues. She never offered any opinion or statement, and when a man was talking she gave a vague impression of listening while she went about doing the housework.

The youth, inexperience,

and taciturnity of Alice Trask all turned out to be assets for Cyrus. While he continued to operate his farm as such farms were operated in the neighborhood, he entered on a new career-that of the old soldier. And that energy which had made him wild now made him thoughtful. No one now outside of the War Department knew the quality and duration of his service. His wooden leg was at once a

certificate of proof of his soldiering and a guarantee that he wouldn’t ever have to do it again. Timidly he began to tell Alice about his

campaigns, but as

his technique grew so did his battles. At the very first he knew he was lying, but it was not long before he was equally sure that every one of his stories was true. Before he had entered the service he had not been much interested in warfare; now he bought every book about war, read every report, subscribed to the New York papers, studied maps. His knowledge of geography had been shaky and his information about the fighting nonexistent; now he became an authority. He knew not only the battles, movements, campaigns, but also the units involved,


to the regiments, their colonels, and where they originated. And



he became

convinced that he had been there. All of this was a gradual development, and it took place while



growing to boyhood and his young half-brother behind him. Adam and little Charles would sit silent and respectful while their father explained how every general thought and planned and where they had made their mistakes and what they should have done. And then-he had known it at the time-he had told Grant and McClellan where they were wrong and had begged

them to take his analysis of the situation. Invariably they refused his advice and only afterward was he proved


There was one thing Cyrus did not do, and perhaps it was clever of him. He never once promoted himself to noncommissioned


Private Trask he began, and Private Trask he remained. In the total telling, it made him at once the most mobile and ubiquitous private in the history of warfare. It made it necessary for him to be in as many as four places at once. But perhaps instinctively he did not tell those stories close to each other. Alice and the boys had a complete picture of him: a private soldier, and proud of it, who not only happened to be where every spectacular and important action was taking place but who wandered freely into staff meetings and joined or dissented in the decisions of general officers. The death of Lincoln caught Cyrus in the pit of the

stomach. Always he remembered how he felt when he first heard the news. And he could never mention

it or hear of it without quick tears in his eyes. And while he never actually said it, you got the indestructible impression that Private Cyrus Trask was one of Lincoln’s closest, warmest, and most trusted friends. When Mr. Lincoln wanted to know about the army, the real army, not those prancing dummies

in gold braid, he turned to Private Trask. How Cyrus





understood without saying it was a triumph of insinuation. No one could call him a liar. And this was mainly because the lie was in his head, and any truth coming from his mouth carried the color of the


Quite early he began to write letters and then articles about the conduct of the war, and his conclusions were intelligent and convincing. Indeed, Cyrus developed an excellent military mind. His criticisms both of the war as it had been conducted and of the army organization as it persisted were irresistibly penetrating. His articles in various magazines attracted

attention. His letters to the War

Department, printed simultaneously in the newspapers, began to have a sharp effect in decisions on the army. Perhaps if the Grand Army of the Republic had not assumed political force and direction his voice might not have been heard so clearly in Washington, but the spokesman for a block of nearly a million men was not to be ignored. And such a voice in military matters Cyrus Trask became. It came about that he was consulted in matters of army organization, in officer relationships, in personnel and equipment. His expertness was apparent to everyone who heard him. He

had a genius for the military. More than that, he was one of those responsible for the organization of the G.A.R. as a cohesive and potent force in the national life. After several


offices in that organization, he took a paid secretaryship which he kept

for the rest of his life. He traveled from one end of the country to the other, attending conventions, meetings, and encampments. So much for

his public life.

His private life was also

laced through with his new profession. He was a man devoted. His house and farm he organized on a military basis. He demanded and got reports on the conduct of his private


It is

probable that Alice preferred it this way. She was not a talker. A terse report was easiest for her. She was busy with the growing boys and with keeping the house clean and the clothes washed. Also, she had to conserve her energy, though she did not mention this in any of her reports. Without warning her energy would leave her, and she would have to sit down and wait until it came back. In the night she would be drenched with perspiration. She knew perfectly well that she had what was called consumption, would have known even if she was not reminded by

a hard, exhausting cough. And she did not know how long she would live. Some people wasted on for quite a few years. There wasn’t any rule about it. Perhaps she didn’t dare to mention it to her husband. He had devised a method for dealing with sickness which resembled punishment. A stomach ache was treated with a purge so violent that it was a wonder anyone survived it. If she had

mentioned her condition, Cyrus might have started a treatment which would have

killed her off before her

consumption could have done it. Besides, as Cyrus became


military, his

wife learned the only technique through which a soldier can survive. She never made herself noticeable, never

spoke unless spoken to, performed what was expected and no more, and tried for no promotions. She became a rear rank private. It was much easier that way. Alice retired to the background until she was barely visible at all. It was the little boys who really caught it. Cyrus had decided that even though the army was not perfect, it was


the only honorable profession for a man. He mourned the fact that he could not be a permanent soldier because of his wooden leg, but he could not imagine any career for his sons except the army. He felt a man should learn soldiering from the ranks, as he had. Then he would know what it was about from experience, not from charts and textbooks. He taught them the manual of arms when they could barely walk. By the time they were in grade school, close-order drill was as natural as breathing and as hateful as hell. He kept them hard with exercises, beating out the rhythm with a stick on his

wooden leg. He made them

walk for miles, carrying knapsacks loaded with stones to make their shoulders strong. He worked constantly on their marksmanship in the woodlot behind the house.


When a child first catches adults out-when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their

judgments are not always

wise, their thinking true, their

sentences just-his world

falls into panic desolation. The gods are fallen and all safety gone. And there is one sure thing about the fall of gods: they do not fall a little; they crash and shatter or sink deeply into green muck. It is a tedious job to build them up again; they never quite shine. And the child’s world is never quite whole again. It is an aching kind of growing. Adam found his father

out. It wasn’t that his father

changed but that some new quality came to Adam. He had always hated the discipline, as every normal animal does, but it was just and true and inevitable as measles, not to be denied or cursed, only to be hated. And then-it was very fast, almost a click in the brain-Adam

knew that, for him at least, his father’s methods had no reference to anything in the world but his father. The techniques and training were not designed for the boys at all but only to make Cyrus a great man. And the same click in the brain told Adam that his father was not a great man, that he was, indeed, a very strong-willed





wearing a huge busby. Who knows what causes this-a

look in the eye, a lie found out, a moment of hesitation? -then god comes crashing

down in a child’s brain.

Young Adam


always an obedient child. Something in him shrank from



contention, from the silent shrieking tensions that can rip at a house. He contributed to the quiet he wished for by offering no violence, no contention, and to do this he had to retire into secretness, since there is some violence in everyone. He covered his life with a veil of vagueness, while behind his quiet eyes a rich full life went on. This did not protect him from assault but it allowed him an immunity. His half-brother Charles, only a little over a year younger, grew up with his father’s assertiveness. Charles was a natural athlete, with instinctive

timing and



the competitor’s will to win over others, which makes for success in the world. Young Charles won all contests with Adam whether they involved


or strength, or quick intelligence, and won them so easily that quite early he lost interest and had to find his



other children. Thus it came about that a kind of affection grew up between the two boys, but


was more



association between brother and sister than between brothers. Charles fought any



challenged or slurred Adam and usually won. He protected Adam

from his father’s harshness with lies and even with blame-taking. Charles felt for his brother the affection one has for helpless things, for blind puppies and new babies. Adam looked out of his covered brain-out the long tunnels of his eyes-at the people of his world: His father, a one-legged natural force at first, installed justly to make little boys feel littler and stupid boys aware of their stupidity; and then-after god had crashed-he saw his

father as the policeman laid on by birth, the officer who might be circumvented, or fooled, but never challenged. And out of the long tunnels of his eyes Adam saw his half-brother Charles as a bright being of another species, gifted with muscle and bone, speed and alertness, quite on a different plane, to be

admired as one admires the sleek lazy danger of a black leopard, not by any chance to be compared with one’s self. And it would no more have occurred to Adam to confide in his brother-to tell him the hunger, the gray dreams, the plans and silent pleasures that lay at the back of the tunneled


to share his thoughts with a lovely tree or a pheasant in flight. Adam was glad of Charles the way a woman is glad of a fat diamond, and he depended on

his brother in the way that

same woman depends on the

diamond’s glitter and the self-security tied up in its worth; but love, affection, empathy, were beyond conception. Toward Alice Trask, Adam concealed a feeling that was akin to a warm shame. She was not his

mother-that he


because he had been told many times. Not from things said but from the tone in which other things were said, he knew that he had once had a mother and that she had done some shameful thing, such as forgetting the chickens or missing the target on the range in the woodlot.

And as a result of her fault

she was not here. Adam thought sometimes that if he could only find out what sin it was she had committed, why, he would sin it too-and not be here. Alice treated the boys equally, washed them and fed them, and left everything else to their father, who had let it

be known clearly and with

finality that training the boys physically and mentally was his exclusive province. Even praise and reprimand he would not delegate. Alice never complained, quarreled, laughed, or cried. Her mouth was trained to a line that

concealed nothing and

offered nothing too. But once when Adam was quite small

he wandered silently into the kitchen. Alice did not see him. She was darning socks and she was smiling. Adam retired secretly and walked out of the house and into the woodlot to a sheltered place behind a stump that he knew well. He settled deep between the protecting roots. Adam was as shocked as though he had come upon her naked. He breathed excitedly,


against his throat. For Alice

had been naked-she had been smiling. He wondered how she had dared such wantonness. And he ached toward her with a longing that was passionate and hot. He did not know what it was about, but all the long lack of holding, of rocking, of caressing, the hunger for breast and nipple, and the softness of a lap, and the voice-tone of love and

compassion, and the sweet feeling of anxiety-all of these were in his passion, and he did not know it because he did not know that such things existed, so how could he miss them?

Of course it occurred to him that he might be wrong, that


misbegotten shadow had fallen across his face and warped his seeing. And so he cast back to the sharp picture in his head and knew that the eyes were smiling too. Twisted light could do one or the other but not both. He stalked her then, game-wise, as he had the wood-chucks on the knoll when day after day he had lain lifeless as a young stone and watched the old wary chucks bring their children out to sun. He spied on Alice, hidden, and from unsuspected eye-corner, and it was true. Sometimes when she was alone, and knew she was alone, she permitted her mind to play in a garden, and she smiled. And it was wonderful to see how quickly she could drive the smile to earth the

way the woodchucks holed

their children.



his treasure deep in his tunnels, but he was inclined to pay for his pleasure with something. Alice began to find gifts-in her sewing basket, in her worn-out purse, under her pillow-two cinnamon pinks,

a bluebird’s tailfeather, half a stick of green sealing wax, a stolen handkerchief. At first Alice was startled, but then that passed, and when she found some

unsuspected present the garden smile flashed and disappeared the way a trout crosses a knife of sunshine in a pool. She asked no questions and made no

comment. Her coughing was very

bad at night, so loud and disturbing that Cyrus had at last to put her in another

room or he would have got no

sleep. But he did visit her

very often-hopping on his one bare foot, steadying himself with hand on wall.

The boys could hear and feel the jar of his body through the house as he hopped to and from Alice’s bed. As Adam grew he feared one thing more than any other. He feared the day he would be taken and enlisted in the army. His father never let him forget that such a time would come. He spoke of it often. It was Adam who needed the army to make a man of him. Charles was pretty near a man already. And Charles was a man, and a dangerous man, even at fifteen, and when Adam was



The affection between the two boys had grown with the years. It may be that part of Charles’ feeling


contempt, but it was a protective contempt.


happened that one evening the

boys were

playing peewee, a new game to them, in the dooryard. A small pointed stick was laid on the ground, then struck near one end with a bat. The small stick flew into the air and then was batted as far as possible.

Adam was not good at games. But by some accident of eye and timing he beat his brother at peewee. Four times he drove the peewee farther than Charles did. It was a new experience to him, and a wild flush came over him, so that he did not watch and feel out his brother’s mood as he usually did. The fifth time he drove the peewee it flew humming like a bee far out in the field. He turned happily to face Charles and suddenly he froze deep in his chest. The hatred in Charles’ face frightened him. “I guess it was just an accident,” he said lamely. “I bet I couldn’t do it again.” Charles set his peewee,

struck it, and, as it rose into the air, swung at it and

missed. Charles


slowly toward Adam, his eyes cold and noncommittal.

Adam edged away in terror. He did not dare to turn and run for his brother could outrun him. He backed slowly away, his eyes frightened and his throat dry. Charles moved close and struck him in the face with his bat. Adam covered his bleeding nose with his hands, and Charles swung his bat and hit him in the ribs, knocked the wind out of him, swung at his head and knocked him out. And as Adam lay unconscious on the ground Charles kicked him heavily in the stomach and walked away. After a while Adam




breathed shallowly because

his chest hurt. He tried to sit up and fell back at the wrench of the torn muscles over his stomach.


saw Alice looking out, and there was something in her face that he had never seen before. He did not know what it was, but it was not soft or weak, and it might be hatred. She saw that he was looking at her, dropped the curtains into place, and disappeared. When Adam finally got up from the ground and moved, bent over, into the kitchen, he found a basin of hot water standing ready for him and a clean towel beside it. He could hear his stepmother coughing in her room. Charles had one great quality. He was never sorry- ever. He never mentioned the beating, apparently never thought of it again. But Adam made very sure that he didn’t win again-at anything. He had always felt the danger in his brother, but now he understood that he must never win unless he was prepared to kill Charles. Charles was not sorry. He had very simply fulfilled himself. Charles did not tell his father about the beating, and Adam did not, and surely Alice did not, and yet he seemed to know. In the months that followed he turned a gentleness on Adam. His speech became softer toward him. He did not punish him any more. Almost nightly he lectured him, but not violently. And Adam was more afraid of the gentleness than he had been at the violence, for it seemed to him that he was being trained as a sacrifice, almost as though he


being subjected to kindness before death, the way victims intended to the

gods were cuddled and

flattered so that they might go happily to the stone and not outrage the

gods with unhappiness.

Cyrus explained softly to

Adam the nature of a soldier.

And though his knowledge came from research rather than experience, he knew and he was accurate. He told his son of the sad dignity that can belong to a soldier, how he is necessary in the light of all

the failures of man-the penalty of our


Perhaps Cyrus discovered these things in himself as he told them. It was very different


the flag-waving, shouting bellicosity of his younger days. The humilities are piled on a soldier, so Cyrus said, in

order that he may, when the time comes, be not too resentful of the final humility -a meaningless and dirty death. And Cyrus talked to Adam alone and did not

permit Charles to listen. Cyrus took Adam to walk with him one late afternoon, and the black conclusions of all of his study and his thinking came out and flowed with a kind of thick terror over his son. He said, “I’ll have you know that a soldier is the most holy of all humans because he is the most tested-most tested of

all. I’ll try to tell you. Look

now-in all of history men have been taught that killing of men is an evil thing not to be countenanced. Any man who kills must be destroyed

because this is a great sin,

maybe the worst sin we know. And then we take a soldier and put murder in his hands and we say to him,

‘Use it well, use it wisely.’ We put no checks on him. Go out and kill as many of a certain kind or classification of your brothers as you can. And we will reward you for it because it is a violation of your early training.” Adam wet his dry lips and tried to ask and failed and tried again. “Why do they have to do it?” he said. “Why

is it?”

Cyrus was deeply moved and he spoke as he had never spoken

before. “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve studied and maybe learned how

things are, but I’m not even close to why they are. And you must not expect to find that people understand what they do. So many things are done instinctively, the way a bee makes honey or a fox dips his paws in a stream to fool dogs. A fox can’t say why he does it, and what bee remembers winter or expects it to come again? When I knew you had to go I thought to leave the future open so you could dig out your own findings, and then it seemed better if I could protect you with the little I know. You’ll

go in soon now-you’ve

come to the age.” “I don’t want to,” said Adam quickly. “You’ll go in soon,” his father went on, not hearing. “And I want to tell you so you won’t be surprised. They’ll first strip off your clothes, but they’ll go deeper than that. They’ll shuck off any little dignity you have- you’ll lose what you think of as your decent right to live and to be let alone to live. They’ll make you live and eat and sleep and shit close to

other men. And when they dress you up again you’ll not be able to tell yourself from the others. You can’t even wear a scrap or pin a note on your breast to say, ‘This is me -separate from the rest.’ ” “I don’t want to do it,”

said Adam.

“After a while,” said

Cyrus, “you’ll think


thought the others do not think. You’ll know no word the others can’t say. And you’ll do things because the others do them. You’ll feel the danger in any difference whatever-a danger to the whole crowd of like-thinking, like-acting men.” “What if I don’t?” Adam demanded.

“Yes,” said

Cyrus, “sometimes


happens. Once in a while there is a man who won’t do what is demanded of him, and do you know what happens? The whole machine devotes itself coldly to the destruction of his difference. They’ll beat your spirit and your nerves, your body and your mind,

with iron rods until the dangerous difference goes out of you. And if you can’t finally give in, they’ll vomit you up and leave you stinking outside-neither


of themselves nor yet free. It’s better to fall in with them. They only do it to protect themselves.


thing so triumphantly



beautifully senseless as an army can’t allow a question to weaken it. Within itself, if you do not hold it up to other things for comparison and derision, you’ll find slowly, surely, a reason and a logic and a kind of dreadful beauty. A man who can accept it is not a worse man always, and sometimes is a much better man. Pay good heed to me for I have thought long about it. Some men there are who go down the dismal wrack of soldiering, surrender themselves, and become

faceless. But these had not much face to start with. And maybe you’re like that. But there are others who go

down, submerge

in the common slough, and then rise more themselves than they were, because-because they

have lost a littleness of vanity and have gained all the gold of the company and the regiment. If you can go down so low, you will be able to rise higher than you can conceive, and you will know a holy joy, a companionship almost like that of a heavenly company of angels. Then you will know the quality of men even if they are inarticulate.

But until you have gone way down you can never know


As they walked back toward the house Cyrus turned left and entered the woodlot among the trees, and it was dusk. Suddenly Adam said, “You see that stump there, sir? I used to hide between the roots on the far side. After you punished me I used to hide there, and sometimes I went there just because I felt bad.” “Let’s go and see the place,” his father said. Adam led him to it, and Cyrus looked down at the nestlike hole between the roots. “I knew about it long ago,” he said. “Once when you were gone a long time I thought you must have such a place, and I found it because I felt the kind of place you would need. See how the earth is tamped and the little grass is torn? And while you sat in there you stripped little pieces of bark to shreds. I knew it was the place when I came upon it.”

Adam was staring at his

father in wonder. “You never came here looking for me,” he said. “No,” Cyrus replied. “I wouldn’t do that. You can drive a human too far. I wouldn’t do that. Always you must leave a man one escape before death. Remember that! I knew, I guess, how hard I was pressing you. I didn’t want to push you over the edge.” They moved restlessly off through the trees. Cyrus said, “So many things I want

to tell you. I’ll forget most of them. I want to tell you that a soldier gives up so much to get something back. From the

day of a child’s birth he is taught by every circumstance, by every law and rule and

right, to protect his own life. He starts with that great instinct,


everything confirms it. And then he is a soldier and he must learn to violate all of this-he must learn coldly to put himself in the way of losing his own life without going mad. And if you can do that-and, mind you, some can’t-then you

will have the greatest gift of all. Look, son,” Cyrus said earnestly, “nearly all men are afraid, and they don’t even know what causes their fear -shadows,

perplexities, dangers without names or numbers, fear of a faceless death. But if you can bring yourself to face not shadows but real death, described and recognizable, by bullet or saber, arrow or lance, then you need never be afraid again, at least not the same

way you were before. Then you will be a man set apart from other men, safe where other men may cry in terror.

This is the great reward. Maybe this is the only reward. Maybe this is the final purity all ringed with filth. It’s nearly dark. I’ll

want to talk to you again tomorrow night when both of us have thought about what I’ve told you.”

But Adam said, “Why

don’t you talk to my brother? Charles will be going. He’ll be good at it, much better than I am.” “Charles won’t be

going,” Cyrus said. “There’d be no point in it.” “But he would be a

better soldier.” “Only outside on his skin,” said



inside, Charles is not afraid so he could never learn anything about courage. He does not know anything outside himself so he could never gain the things I’ve tried to explain to you. To put him in an army would be to let loose things which in Charles must be chained down, not let loose. I would not dare to let him go.” Adam complained, “You

never punished him, you let him live his life, you praised him, you did not haze him, and now you let him stay out of the army.” He stopped, frightened at what he had said, afraid of the rage or the contempt or the violence his words might let loose.

His father did not reply. He walked on out of the woodlot, and his head hung down so that his chin rested on his chest, and the rise and fall of his hip when his wooden leg struck the ground

was monotonous. The

wooden leg made a side semicircle to get ahead when its turn came. It was completely dark by now, and the golden light of the lamps shone out from the open kitchen door. Alice came to the doorway and peered out, looking for them, and then she heard the uneven footsteps approaching and went back to the kitchen. Cyrus walked to the kitchen stoop before he stopped and raised his head. “Where are you?” he asked.

“Here-right behind you

-right here.”

“You asked a question. I guess I’ll have to answer. Maybe it’s good and maybe

it’s bad to answer it. You’re not clever. You don’t know what you want. You have no proper fierceness. You let other people walk over you. Sometimes I think you’re a weakling who will never amount to a dog turd. Does that answer your question? I love you better. I always have. This may be a bad thing

to tell you, but it’s true. I love

you better. Else why would I have given myself the trouble of hurting you? Now shut your mouth and go to your

supper. I’ll talk to you

tomorrow night. My leg aches.”


There was no talk at supper. The quiet was disturbed only by the slup of soup and gnash of chewing, and his father waved his hand to try to drive the moths away from the chimney of the kerosene lamp. Adam thought his brother watched him secretly. And he caught an eye flash from Alice when he looked up suddenly. After he had finished eating Adam pushed

back his chair. “I think I’ll go for a walk,” he said. Charles stood up. “I’ll go with you.” Alice and Cyrus watched them go out the door, and then she asked one of her rare questions.

She asked nervously, “What did you do?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Will you make him go?”


“Does he know?” Cyrus stared bleakly out the open door into the darkness. “Yes, he knows.” “He won’t like it. It’s not right for him.” “It

doesn’t matter,” Cyrus said, and he repeated loudly, “It doesn’t matter,” and his tone said, “Shut your mouth. This is not your affair.” They were silent a moment, and then he said almost in a tone of apology, “It isn’t as though he were your child.”

Alice did not reply. The boys walked down

the dark rutty road. Ahead they could see a few pinched lights where the village was. “Want to go in and see if anything’s stirring at the inn?” Charles asked. “I hadn’t thought of it,”

said Adam. “Then what the hell are you walking out at night for?” “You didn’t have to come,” said Adam. Charles moved close to him. “What did he say to you this afternoon? I saw you walking together. What did

he say?” “He just talked about the

army-like always.” “Didn’t look like that to

me,” Charles said suspiciously. “I saw him leaning close, talking the way he talks to men-not telling, talking.” “He was telling,” Adam

said patiently, and he had to control his breath, for a little fear had begun to press up against his stomach. He took as deep a gulp of air as he could and held it to push back

at the fear.

“What did he tell you?”

Charles demanded again.

“About the army and

how it is to be a soldier.” “I don’t believe you,” said Charles. “I think you’re a

goddam mealy-mouthed liar. What’re you trying to get away with?”

“Nothing,” said Adam.

Charles said harshly, “Your crazy mother drowned herself. Maybe she took a look at you. That’d do it.” Adam let out his breath gently, pressing down the dismal fear. He was silent. Charles cried, “You’re trying to take him away! I don’t know how you’re going about it. What do you think you’re doing?”

“Nothing,” said Adam. Charles jumped in front of him so that Adam had to stop, his chest almost against his brother’s chest. Adam backed away, but carefully, as one backs away from a snake.

“Look at his birthday!” Charles shouted. “I took six bits and I bought him a knife




blades and a corkscrew, pearl-handled. Where’s that knife? Do you ever see him use it? Did he give it to you?

I never even saw him hone it. Have you got that knife in your pocket? What did he do with it? ‘Thanks,’ he said, like that. And that’s the last I heard of a pearl-handled

German knife that cost six bits.” Rage was in his voice, and Adam felt the creeping fear; but he knew also that he had a moment left. Too many times he had seen the destructive





anything standing in its way. Rage



and then a coldness, a possession; noncommittal eyes and a pleased smile and no voice at all, only a whisper. When that happened murder was on the way, but cool, deft murder,

and hands



precisely, delicately. Adam swallowed saliva to dampen his dry throat. He could think of nothing to say that would be heard, for once in rage his brother would not listen, would not even hear. He bulked darkly in front of Adam, shorter, wider, thicker, but still not crouched. In the starlight his lips shone with wetness, but there was no smile yet and his voice still raged.

“What did you do on his birthday? You think I didn’t see? Did you spend six bits or even four bits? You brought him a mongrel pup you picked up in the woodlot. You laughed like a fool and said it would make a good bird dog. That dog sleeps in his room. He plays with it while he’s reading. He’s got it all trained. And where’s the knife? ‘Thanks,’ he said, just Thanks.’ ” Charles spoke in a whisper, and his shoulders dropped.



one desperate jump backward and

raised his hands to guard his face. His brother moved precisely, each foot planted firmly.




delicately to get the range, and then the bitter-frozen

work-a hard blow in the stomach, and Adam’s hands dropped; then four punches to the head. Adam felt the bone and gristle of his nose crunch.

He raised his hands again and Charles drove at his heart. And all this time Adam looked at his brother as the

condemned look hopelessly and puzzled

at the executioner.

Suddenly to his own surprise Adam launched a wild, overhand, harmless swing which had neither force nor direction. Charles ducked in and under it and the helpless arm went around his neck. Adam wrapped his arms around his brother and hung close to him, sobbing. He felt the square fists whipping nausea into his stomach and still he held on.

Time was slowed to him. With his body he felt his brother move sideways to force his legs apart. And he felt the knee come up, past his knees, scraping his thighs, until it crashed against his testicles and flashing white pain ripped and echoed

through his body. His arms let go. He bent over and vomited, while the cold killing went on. Adam felt the punches on temples, cheeks, eyes. He

felt his lip split and tatter over his teeth, but his skin seemed thickened and dull, as though he were encased in heavy rubber. Dully he wondered why his legs did not buckle, why he did not fall, why unconsciousness did not come to him. The punching continued eternally. He could hear his brother panting with the quick explosive breath of a sledgehammer man, and in

the sick starlit dark he could see his brother through the tear-watered blood

that flowed from his eyes. He saw the innocent, noncommittal eyes, the small smile on wet lips. And as he saw these things-a flash of light and darkness. Charles stood over him, gulping air like a run-out dog. And then he turned and walked quickly back, toward the house, kneading his bruised knuckles as he went. Consciousness


back quick and frightening to Adam. His mind rolled in a painful mist. His body was heavy and thick with hurt. But almost instantly he forgot his hurts. He heard quick footsteps on the road. The instinctive fear and fierceness of a rat came over him. He pushed himself up on his knees and dragged himself

off the road to the ditch that kept it drained. There was a foot of water in the ditch, and the tall grass grew up from its sides. Adam crawled quietly into the water, being very careful to make no splash. The



close, slowed, moved on a little, came back. From his hiding place Adam could see only a darkness in the dark. And then a sulphur match was struck and burned a tiny blue until the wood caught, lighting his brother’s face grotesquely

from below. Charles raised the match and peered around, and Adam

could see the hatchet in his right hand.

When the match went

out the night was blacker than before. Charles moved slowly on and struck another match, and on and struck another. He searched the road for signs.

At last he gave it up. His right hand rose and he threw the

hatchet far off into the field. He walked rapidly away toward the pinched lights of the village.

For a long time Adam

lay in the cool water. He wondered how his brother felt, wondered whether now that his passion was chilling he would feel panic or sorrow or sick conscience or nothing. These things Adam felt for him. His conscience bridged him to his brother and did his pain for him the way at other times he had done his


Adam crept out of the water and stood up. His hurts were stiffening and the blood was dried in a crust on his face. He thought he would stay outside in the darkness until his father and Alice went to bed. He felt that he

could not answer any

questions, because he did not know any answers, and trying to find one was harsh to his battered

mind. Dizziness edged with blue lights came fringing his forehead, and he knew that he would be fainting soon. He shuffled slowly up the road with wide-spread legs. At the stoop he paused, looked in. The lamp hanging by its chain from the ceiling cast a yellow circle and lighted Alice and

her mending basket on the table in front of her. On the other side his father chewed a wooden pen and dipped it in an open ink bottle and made entries in his black record


Alice, glancing up, saw Adam’s bloody face. Her hand rose to her mouth and her fingers hooked over her lower teeth. Adam dragfooted up one

step and then the other and supported himself in the


Then Cyrus raised his head. He looked with a distant curiosity. The identity of the distortion came to him slowly. He stood up, puzzled and wondering. He stuck the wooden pen in the ink bottle and wiped his fingers on his pants. “Why did he do it?” Cyrus asked softly. Adam tried to answer, but his mouth was caked and dry. He licked his lips and started them bleeding again.

“I don’t know,” he said. Cyrus stumped over to him and grasped him by the arm so fiercely that he winced and tried to pull away. “Don’t lie to me! Why did he do it?

Did you have an argument?”


Cyrus wrenched at him.

“Tell me! I want to know. Tell me! You’ll have to tell me. I’ll make you tell me! Goddam it, you’re always protecting him! Don’t you think I know that? Did you think you were fooling me? Now tell me, or by God I’ll keep you standing there all night!” Adam cast about for an answer. “He doesn’t think you love him.” Cyrus released the arm and hobbled back to his chair and sat down. He rattled the pen in the ink bottle and looked blindly at his record book. “Alice,” he said, “help Adam to bed. You’ll have to

cut his shirt off, I guess. Give him a hand.” He got up again, went to the corner of the room where the coats hung on nails, and, reaching behind the garments, brought out his shotgun, broke it to verify its load, and clumped out of the door. Alice raised her hand as though she would hold him back with a rope of air. And her rope broke and her face hid her thoughts. “Go in your room,” she said. “I’ll bring some water in a basin.” Adam lay on the bed, a sheet pulled up to his waist, and Alice patted the cuts with a linen handkerchief dipped in warm water. She was silent for a long time and then she continued Adam’s sentence

as though there had never been an interval, “He doesn’t think his father loves him. But you love him-you always have.” Adam did not answer


She went on quietly, “He’s a strange boy. You have to know him-all rough

shell, all anger until you

know.” She paused to cough, leaned down and coughed, and when the spell was over her cheeks were flushed and she was exhausted. “You have to know him,” she repeated. “For a long time he has given me little presents, pretty things you wouldn’t think he’d even notice. But he doesn’t give them right out.

He hides them where he knows I’ll find them. And you can look at him for hours and he won’t ever give the slightest sign he did it. You

have to know him.” She smiled at Adam and

he closed his eyes.

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