Chapter no 41

East of Eden

The nation slid imperceptibly toward war, frightened and at

the same time attracted. People had not felt the shaking emotion of war in nearly

sixty years. The

Spanish affair was more nearly an expedition than a war. Mr. Wilson was reelected President


November on his platform promise to keep us out of war, and at the same time he was instructed to take a firm hand, which inevitably meant war. Business picked up and prices began to rise. British purchasing

agents roved

about the country, buying food and cloth and metals and chemicals.


charge of

excitement ran through the country. People didn’t really believe in war even while they planned it. The Salinas Valley lived about as it always had.


Cal walked to school with Aron.

“You look tired,” Aron said.

“Do I?”

“I heard you come in last night. Four o’clock. What do you do so late?”

“I was walking around—

thinking. How would you like to quit school and go back to the ranch?”

“What for?”

“We could make some money for Father.” “I’m going to college. I wish


could go now.

Everybody is laughing at us. I want to get out of town.” “You act mad.”

“I’m not mad. But I didn’t lose the money. I didn’t have a crazy lettuce

idea. But people laugh at me just the same. And I don’t know


there’s enough

money for college.” “He didn’t mean to lose the money.”

“But he lost it.”

Cal said, “You’ve got

this year to finish and next before you can go to college.” “Do you think I don’t

know it?”

“If you worked hard, maybe

you could take

entrance examinations next summer and go in the fall.” Aron swung around. “I couldn’t do it.”

“I think you could. Why don’t

you talk to the

principal? And I bet the Reverend Rolf would help you.”

Aron said, “I want to get

out of this town. I don’t ever want to come back. They still call us Lettuce-heads. They laugh at us.”

“How about Abra?” “Abra will do what’s best.”

Cal asked, “Would she want you to go away?” “Abra’s going to do what I want her to do.”

Cal thought for


moment. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to try to make some money. If you knuckle down and pass examinations a year early, why, I’ll help you through college.”

“You will?” “Sure I will.”

“Why, I’ll go and see the principal right away.” He quickened his steps.

Cal called, “Aron, wait! Listen! If he says he thinks you can do it, don’t tell Father.”

“Why not?”

“I was just thinking how nice it would be if you went to him and told him you’d done it.”


don’t see what

difference it makes.” “You don’t?”

“No, I don’t,” said Aron. “It sounds silly to me.” Cal had a violent urge to shout, “I know who our

mother is! I can show her to you.” That would cut through and get inside of Aron.

Cal met Abra in the hall before the schoolbell rang. “What’s the matter with Aron?” he demanded.

“I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do,” he said. “He’s just in a cloud. I think it’s that minister.” “Does he walk home with you?”

“Sure he does. But I can see right through him. He’s wearing wings.”

“He’s still ashamed

about the lettuce.” “I know he is,” said

Abra. “I try to talk him out of it. Maybe he’s enjoying it.” “What do you mean?” “Nothing,” said Abra.

After supper that night

Cal said, “Father, would you mind if I went down to the ranch Friday afternoon?”

Adam turned in his chair. “What for?” “Just want to see. Just want to look around.” “Does Aron want to go?”

“No. I want to go alone.” “I don’t see why you shouldn’t. Lee, do you see

any reason why he shouldn’t go?”

“No,” said Lee. He studied

Cal. “Thinking seriously of

going to


“I might. If you’d let me take it over, I’d farm it, Father.”

“The lease has more

than a year to run,” Adam said.

“After that can I farm it?”

“How about school?” “I’ll be through school.” “Well, we’ll see,” said

Adam. “You might want to go to college.”

When Cal started for the front door Lee followed and walked out with him.

“Can you tell me what it’s about?” Lee asked. “I just want to look around.”

“All right, I guess I’m left out.” Lee turned to go

back into the house. Then he called,

“Cal!” The boy

stopped. “You worried, Cal?” “No.”

“I’ve got five thousand

dollars if you ever need it.” “Why would I need it?”

“I don’t know,” said Lee.


Will Hamilton liked his glass cage of an office in the garage. His business interests were much wider than the automobile agency, but he did not get another office. He loved the movement that went on outside his square glass cage. And he had put in double glass to kill the noise of the garage.

He sat in his big red

leather swivel chair, and most of the time he enjoyed his life. When people spoke of his brother Joe making so much money in advertising in

the East, Will always said he himself was a big frog in a little puddle.

“I’d be afraid to go to a

big city,” he said. “I’m just a country boy.” And he liked the

laugh that always

followed. It proved to him that his friends knew he was well off.

Cal came in to see him one

Saturday morning.

Seeing Will’s puzzled look, he said, “I’m Cal Trask.” “Oh, sure. Lord, you’re getting to be a big boy. Is your father down?”

“No. I came alone.” “Well, sit down. I don’t suppose you smoke.” “Sometimes.


Will slid a package of Murads across the desk. Cal opened the box and then closed it. “I don’t think I will right now.”

Will looked at the dark-faced boy and he liked him. He thought, This boy is sharp.

He’s nobody’s fool. “I guess you’ll be going into business pretty soon,” he said.

“Yes, sir. I thought I

might run the ranch when I get out of high school.” “There’s no money in that,” said Will. “Farmers don’t make any money. It’s

the man who buys from him

and sells. You’ll never make any money farming.” Will knew that Cal was feeling him, testing him, observing him, and he approved of that.

And Cal had made up

his mind, but first he asked, “Mr. Hamilton, you haven’t any children, have you?” “Well, no. And I’m

sorry about that. I guess I’m sorriest about that.” And then, “What makes you ask?”

Cal ignored the question. “Would you give me some advice?”

Will felt a glow of

pleasure. “If I can, I’ll be glad to. What is it you want to know?”

And then

Cal did

something Will Hamilton

approved even more. He used candor as a weapon. He said, “I want to make a lot of money. I want you to tell me how.”

Will overcame his

impulse to laugh. Naïve as the statement was, he didn’t think

Cal was naïve.

“Everybody wants that,” he said. “What do you mean by a lot of money?”

“Twenty or


thousand dollars.” “Good God!” said Will,

and he screeched his chair forward. And now he did laugh, but not in derision. Cal smiled along with Will’s laughter.

Will said, “Can you tell

me why you want to make so much?”

“Yes, sir,” said Cal, “I

can.” And Cal opened the box of Murads and took out one of

the oval


cigarettes and lighted it. “I’ll tell you why,” he said.

Will leaned his chair back in enjoyment. “My father lost a lot of money.”

“I know,” said Will. “I warned him not to try to ship lettuce across the country.” “You did? Why did

you?” “There were no

guarantees,” said Will. “A businessman has to protect himself.

If anything

happened, he was finished. And it happened. Go on.” “I want to make enough

money to give him back what he lost.”

Will gaped at him. “Why?” he asked. “I want to.”

Will said, “Are you fond of him?”

“Yes.” Will’s fleshy face

contorted and a memory swept over him like a chilling wind. He did not move slowly over the past, it was all there in one flash, all of the years, a picture, a feeling and a despair, all stopped the way a fast camera stops the world. There was the flashing Samuel, beautiful as dawn with a fancy like a swallow’s flight,


the brilliant,

brooding Tom who was dark fire, Una who rode the storms, and the lovely Mollie, Dessie of laughter, George handsome

and with a

sweetness that filled a room like the perfume of flowers, and there was Joe, the youngest, the beloved. Each one without effort brought some gift into the family.

Nearly everyone has his box of secret pain, shared with no one. Will had concealed his well, laughed loud,



virtues, and never let his jealousy go wandering. He thought of himself as slow, doltish,


uninspired. No great dream lifted him high and no despair forced self-destruction. He was always on the edge, trying to hold on to the rim of the family with what gifts he had—care,

and reason,

application. He kept the books, hired the attorneys, called the undertaker, and eventually paid the bills. The others didn’t even know they needed him. He had the ability to get money and to

keep it. He thought the Hamiltons despised him for his one ability. He had loved them doggedly, had always been at hand with his money to pull them out of their errors. He thought they were ashamed of him, and he fought

bitterly for their

recognition. All of this was in the frozen wind that blew through him.

His slightly bulging eyes were damp as he stared past Cal, and the boy asked, “What’s the matter, Mr.

Hamilton? Don’t you feel well?”

Will had sensed his

family but he had not understood them. And they had accepted him without knowing there was anything to understand. And now this boy

came along.


understood him, felt him, sensed him, recognized him. This was the son he should have had, or the brother, or the father. And the cold wind of memory changed to a warmth toward Cal which gripped him in the stomach and pushed up against his lungs.

He forced his attention

to the glass office. Cal was sitting back in his chair,


Will did not know how

long his silence had lasted. “I was

thinking,” he


lamely. He made his voice stern.

“You asked me


I’m a

businessman. I don’t give things away. I sell them.” “Yes, sir.” Cal was

watchful but he felt that Will Hamilton liked him.

Will said, “I want to

know something and I want

the truth. Will you tell me the truth?”

“I don’t know,” said Cal. “I like that. How do you know until you know the question? I like that. That’s

smart—and honest. Listen— you have a brother. Does your father like him better than you?”

“Everybody does,” said

Cal calmly. “Everybody loves Aron.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, sir. At least—yes, I do.”

“What’s the ‘at least’?” “Sometimes I think he’s stupid but I like him.” “Now how about your father?”

“I love him,” said Cal.

“And he loves your brother better.”

“I don’t know.”

“Now, you say you want

to give back the money your father lost. Why?”

Ordinarily Cal’s eyes

were squinted and cautious, but now they were so wide that they seemed to look around and through Will. Cal was as close to his own soul as it is possible to get.

“My father is good,” he

said. “I want to make it up to him because I am not good.” “If you do that, wouldn’t you be good?”

“No,” said Cal. “I think bad.”

Will had never met anyone

who spoke so

nakedly. He was near to embarrassment because of the nakedness, and he knew how safe Cal was in his stripped honesty. “Only one more,” he said, “and I won’t mind if you don’t answer it. I don’t think I would answer it. Here it is.

Suppose you should get this money and give it to your father—would it cross your mind that you were trying to buy his love?”

“Yes, sir. It would. And it would be true.” “That’s all I want to ask.

That’s all.” Will leaned forward and put his hands against his sweating, pulsing


He could not

remember when he had been so shaken. And in Cal there was a cautious leap of triumph. He knew he had won and he closed his face against showing it.

Will raised his head and

took off his glasses and wiped the moisture from them. “Let’s go outside,” he said. “Let’s go for a drive.”

Will drove a big Winton now, with a hood as long as a coffin

and a


panting mutter in its bowels.

He drove south from King City over the county road, through the gathering forces of

spring, and the

meadowlarks flew


bubbling melody from the fence wires. Pico Blanco stood up against the West with a full head of snow, and in the valley the lines of eucalyptus, which stretched across the valley to break the winds, were gleaming silver with new leaves.

When he came to the side road that led into the

home draw of the Trask place

Will pulled up on the side of the road. He had not spoken since the Winton rolled out of King City. The big motor idled with a deep whisper.

Will, looking straight ahead, said, “Cal—do you

want to be partners with me?” “Yes, sir.”

“I don’t like to take a partner without money. I could lend you the money, but there’s only trouble in that.”

“I can get money,” said Cal.

“How much?”

“Five thousand dollars.” “You—I don’t believe it.”

Cal didn’t answer.

“I believe it,” said Will.

“Borrowed?” “Yes, sir.” “What interest?” “None.”

“That’s a good trick. Where will you get it?” “I won’t tell you, sir.”

Will shook his head and laughed. He was filled with pleasure. “Maybe I’m being a fool, but I believe you—and I’m not a fool.” He gunned his motor and then let it idle again. “I want you to listen.

Do you read the papers?” “Yes, sir.”

“We’re going to be in

this war any minute now.” “That’s what it looks like.”

“Well, a lot of people

think so. Now, do you know

the present price of beans? I mean, what can you sell a hundred

sacks for in


“I’m not sure. I think

about three to three and a half cents a pound.”

“What do you mean

you’re not sure? How do you know that?”

“Well, I was thinking

about asking my father to let me run the ranch.”

“I see. But you don’t want to farm. You’re too

smart. Your father’s tenant is named Rantani. He’s a Swiss Italian, a good farmer. He’s put nearly five hundred acres

under cultivation. If we can guarantee him five cents a pound and give him a seed loan, he’ll plant beans. So will

every other farmer around here.

We could

contract five thousand acres of beans.”

Cal said, “What are we going to do with five-cent beans in a three-cent market? Oh, yes! But how can we be sure?”

Will said, “Are we partners?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yes, Will!”

“Yes, Will.”

“How soon can you get five thousand dollars?” “By next Wednesday.” “Shake!” Solemnly the stout man and the lean dark boy shook hands.

Will, still holding Cal’s hand, said, “Now we’re partners. I have a contract with the British Purchasing Agency. And I have a friend in the Quartermaster Corps. I bet we can sell all the dried

beans we can find at ten cents a pound or more.”

“When can you sell?” “I’ll sell before we sign anything. Now, would you

like to go up to the old place and talk to Rantani?”

“Yes sir,” said Cal.

Will double-clutched the Winton and the big green car lumbered into the side road

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