Chapter no 35

East of Eden

Lee helped Adam and the two boys move to Salinas, which is to say he did it all, packed

the things to be taken, saw them on the train, loaded the back seat of the Ford, and, arriving in Salinas, unpacked and saw the family settled in Dessie’s little house. When he had done everything he could think of to make them comfortable, and a number of things unnecessary, and more things for the sake of delay, he waited on Adam formally one evening after the twins had gone to bed. Perhaps Adam caught his intention from Lee’s coldness and formality.

Adam said, “All right. I’ve been expecting it. Tell me.”

That broke up Lee’s memorized speech, which he

had intended to begin, “For a number of years I have served you to the best of my ability and now I feel—”

“I’ve put it off as long as

I could,” said Lee. “I have a speech all ready. Do you want to hear it?”

“Do you want to say it?” “No,” said Lee. “I don’t. And it’s a pretty good speech too.”

“When do you want to go?” Adam asked. “As soon as possible.

I’m afraid I might lose my intention if I don’t go soon. Do you want me to wait until you get someone else?” “Better not,” said Adam. “You know how slow I am. It might be some time. I might

never get around to it.” “I’ll go tomorrow then.” “It will tear the boys to

pieces,” Adam said. “I don’t know what they’ll do. Maybe you’d better sneak off and let me tell them afterward.”

“It’s my observation that children always surprise us,” said Lee.

And so it was. At breakfast the next morning Adam said, “Boys, Lee is going away.”

“Is he?” said Cal.

“There’s a basketball game tonight, costs ten cents. Can we go?”

“Yes. But did you hear

what I said?”

“Sure,” Aron said. “You said Lee’s going away.” “But he’s not coming back.”

Cal asked, “Where’s he going?”

“To San Francisco to live.”


said Aron.

“There’s a man on Main Street, right on the street, and he’s got a little stove and he cooks sausages and puts them in buns. They cost a nickel.

And you can take all the mustard you want.”

Lee stood in the kitchen door, smiling at Adam. When the twins got their

books together Lee said, “Good-by, boys.”

They shouted, “Good-by!” and tumbled out of the house.

Adam stared into his coffee cup and said in

apology, “What little brutes! I guess that’s your reward for over ten years of service.”

“I like it better that way,” Lee said. “If they

pretended sorrow they’d be liars.

It doesn’t mean

anything to them. Maybe they’ll think of me sometimes

—privately. I don’t want them to be sad. I hope I’m not so small-souled as to take satisfaction in being missed.”

He laid fifty cents on the table in front of Adam. “When they start for the basketball game tonight, give them this from me and tell them to buy the sausage buns. My farewell gift may be ptomaine, for all I know.”

Adam looked at the telescope basket Lee brought into the dining room. “Is that all your stuff, Lee?” “Everything

but my

books. They’re in boxes in the cellar. If you don’t mind I’ll send for them or come for them after I get settled.” “Why, sure. I’m going to miss you, Lee, whether you want me to or not. Are you

really going to get your bookstore?”

“That is my intention.” “You’ll let us hear from you?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have

to think about it. They say a clean cut heals soonest.

There’s nothing sadder to me than

associations held

together by nothing but the glue of postage stamps. If you can’t see or hear or touch a man, it’s best to let him go.” Adam stood up from the table. “I’ll walk to the depot with you.”

“No!” Lee said sharply.

“No. I don’t want that. Good-by, Mr. Trask. Good-by, Adam.” He went out of the

house so fast that Adam’s “Good-by” reached him at the bottom of the front steps and Adam’s “Don’t forget to write” sounded over the click of the front gate.


That night after the basketball game Cal and Aron each had five sausages on buns, and it was just as well, for Adam had forgotten to provide any supper. Walking home, the twins discussed Lee for the first time.

“I wonder why he went away?” Cal asked.

“He’s talked about going before.”

“What do you suppose he’ll do without us?” “I don’t know. I bet he

comes back,” Aron said. “How do you mean?

Father said he was going to start a bookstore. That’s funny. A Chinese bookstore.” “He’ll come back,” said Aron. “He’ll get lonesome for us. You’ll see.”

“Bet you ten cents he don’t.”

“Before when?” “Before forever.” “That’s a bet,” said Aron.

Aron was not able to collect his winnings for nearly a month, but he won six days later.

Lee came in on the ten-forty and let himself in with his own key. There was a

light in the dining room but Lee found Adam in the

kitchen, scraping at a thick black crust in the frying pan with the point of a can opener.

Lee put down his basket. “If you soak it overnight it will come right out.” “Will it? I’ve burned everything

I’ve cooked.

There’s a saucepan of beets out in the yard. Smelled so bad I couldn’t have them in the house. Burned beets are awful—“Lee!” he cried, and then.

“Is anything the matter?”

Lee took the black iron

pan from him and put it in the sink and ran water in it. “If we had a new gas stove we could make a cup of coffee in a few minutes,” he said. “I might as well build up the fire.”

“Stove won’t burn,” said Adam.

Lee lifted a lid. “Have you ever taken the ashes out?”


“Oh, go in the other room,” said Lee. “I’ll make some coffee.”

Adam waited

impatiently in the dining room but he obeyed his orders. At last Lee brought in two cups of coffee and set

them on the table. “Made it in a skillet,” he said. “Much faster.” He leaned over his telescope basket and untied the rope that held it shut. He brought out the stone bottle. “Chinese absinthe,” he said. “Ng-ka-py maybe last ten more years. I forgot to ask whether you had replaced me.”

“You’re beating around the bush,” said Adam. “I know it. And I also

know the best way would be just to tell it and get it over with.”

“You lost your money in a fan-tan game.”

“No. I wish that was it. No, I have my money. This damn

cork’s broken—I’ll

have to shove it in the bottle.” He poured the black liquor into his coffee. “I never drank it this way,” he said. “Say,

it’s good.” “Tastes like


apples,” said Adam. “Yes,

but remember

Sam Hamilton said like good rotten apples.”

Adam said, “When do

you think you’ll get around to telling me what happened to you?”

“Nothing happened to me,”

said Lee. “I


lonesome. That’s all. Isn’t that enough?”

“How about your

bookstore?” “I

don’t want a

bookstore. I think I knew it before I got on the train, but I took all this time to make sure.”

“Then there’s your last dream gone.”

“Good riddance.” Lee seemed on the verge of

hysteria. “Missy Tlask,

Chinee boy sink gung get dlunk.”

Adam was alarmed.

“What’s the matter with you anyway?”

Lee lifted the bottle to

his lips and took a deep hot drink and panted the fumes out of his burning throat. “Adam,” he said, “I am incomparably,

incredibly, overwhelmingly glad to be home. I’ve never been so goddam lonesome in my life.”

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