Chapter no 49

East of Eden

Both Lee and Cal tried to argue Adam out of going to meet the train, the Lark night train from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Cal said, “Why don’t we

let Abra go alone? He’ll want to see her first.”

“I think he won’t know anybody else is there,” said Lee. “So it doesn’t matter whether we go or not.”

“I want to see him get

off the train,” said Adam. “He’ll be changed. I want to see what change there is.”

Lee said, “He’s only been gone a couple of months. He can’t be very

changed, nor much older.” “He’ll

be changed.

Experience will do that.” “If you go we’ll all have to go,” said Cal.

“Don’t you want to see your brother?” Adam asked sternly.

“Sure, but he won’t want

to see me—not right at first.” “He will too,” said

Adam. “Don’t you underrate Aron.”

Lee threw up his hands.

“I guess we all go,” he said. “Can you imagine?” said Adam. “He’ll know so many new things. I wonder if he’ll talk different. You know, Lee, in the East a boy takes on the speech of his school. You can tell a Harvard man from a Princeton man. At least that’s what they say.” “I’ll listen,” said Lee. “I wonder what dialect they speak at Stanford. “ He smiled at Cal.

Adam didn’t think it was funny. “Did you put some fruit in his room?” he asked. “He loves fruit.”

“Pears and apples and muscat grapes,” said Lee. “Yes, he loves muscats.


remember he

loves muscats.”

Under Adam’s urging they got to the Southern Pacific Depot half an hour before the train was due.

Abra was already there. “I can’t come to dinner tomorrow, Lee,” she said.

“My father wants me home. I’ll come as soon after as I can.”

“You’re a


breathless,” said Lee. “Aren’t you?”

“I guess I am,” said Lee. “Look up the track and see if the block’s turned green.”

Train schedules are a matter of pride and of apprehension

to nearly

everyone. When, far up the track,

the block signal

snapped from red to green and the long, stabbing probe of the headlight sheered the bend and blared on the station, men looked at their watches and said, “On time.” There was pride in it,

and relief too. The split second has been growing more and more important to us. And as human activities become more and more

intermeshed and integrated, the split tenth of a second will emerge, and then a new name must be made for the split hundredth, until one day, although I don’t believe it, we’ll say, “Oh, the hell with it. What’s wrong with an hour?” But it isn’t silly, this preoccupation

with small

time units. One thing late or early can disrupt everything around it, and the disturbance runs outward in bands like the waves from a dropped stone in a quiet pool.

The Lark came rushing in as though it had no

intention of stopping. And only when the engine and

baggage cars were well past did the air brakes give their screaming

hiss and the

straining iron protest to a halt.

The train delivered quite

a crowd for Salinas, returning relatives

home for

Thanksgiving, their hands

entangled in cartons and gift-wrapped paper boxes. It was a moment or two before his

family could locate Aron. And then they saw him, and he seemed bigger than he had been.

He was wearing a flat-topped, narrow-brimmed hat, very stylish, and when he saw

them he broke into a run and

yanked off his hat, and they could see that his bright hair was clipped to a short brush of a pompadour that stood straight up. And his eyes shone so that they laughed with pleasure to see him.

Aron dropped his

suitcase and lifted Abra from the ground in a great hug. He set her down and gave Adam and Cal his two hands. He put his

arms around Lee’s

shoulders and nearly crushed him.

On the way home they

all talked at once. “Well, how

are you?”

“You look fine.”

“Abra, you’re so pretty.” “I am not. Why did you cut your hair?”

“Oh, everybody wears it that way,”

“But you have such nice hair.”

They hurried up to Main Street and one short block and around the corner on Central past Reynaud’s with stacked French bread in the window



Mrs. Reynaud waved her flour-pale hand at them and they were home.

Adam said,

“Coffee, Lee?”

“I made it before we left. It’s on the simmer.” He had the

cups laid out too.

Suddenly they were together

—Aron and Abra on the couch, Adam in his chair under the light, Lee passing coffee, and Cal braced in the doorway to the hall. And they were silent, for it was too late to say hello and too early to begin other things.

Adam did say, “I’ll want

to hear all about it. Will you get good marks?”

“Finals aren’t until next

month, Father.”

“Oh, I see. Well, you’ll

get good marks, all right. I’m sure you will.”

In spite of himself a grimace

of impatience

crossed Aron’s face. “I’ll bet you’re tired,”

said Adam. “Well, we can talk tomorrow.”

Lee said, “I’ll bet he’s not. I’ll bet he’d like to be alone.”

Adam looked at Lee and said, “Why, of course—of course. Do you think we should all go to bed?” Abra solved it for them.

“I can’t stay out long,” she said. “Aron, why don’t you

walk me home? We’ll be together tomorrow.”

On the way Aron clung to her arm. He shivered.

“There’s going to a frost,” he said.

“You’re glad to be back.”

“Yes, I am. I have a lot to talk about.”

“Good things?” “Maybe. I hope you think so.”

“You sound serious.” “It is serious.”

“When do you have to go back?”

“Not until Sunday night.”

“We’ll have lots of time.

I want to tell you some things too. We have tomorrow and Friday and Saturday and all day Sunday. Would you mind not coming in tonight?” “Why not?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

“I want to know now.” “Well, my father’s got one of his streaks.” “Against me?”

“Yes. I can’t go to

dinner with you tomorrow, but I won’t eat much at home, so you can tell Lee to save a plate for me.”

He was turning shy. She could feel it in the relaxing grip on her arm and in his silence, and she could see it in his raised face. “I shouldn’t have told you that tonight.”

“Yes, you should,” he said slowly. “Tell me the

truth. Do you still—want to be with me?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Then all right. I’ll go away

now. We’ll talk


He left her on her porch

with the feeling of a light-brushed kiss on her lips. She felt hurt that he had agreed so

easily, and she laughed sourly at herself that she could ask a thing and be hurt when she got it. She watched his tall quick

step through the

radiance of

the corner

streetlight. She thought, I must be crazy. I’ve been imagining things.


In his bedroom after he had said his good night, Aron sat on the edge of his bed and peered down at his hands cupped between his knees. He felt let down and helpless, packed like a bird’s egg in the cotton

of his


ambition for him. He had not known its strength until tonight, and he wondered

whether he would have the strength to break free of its soft, persistent force. His thoughts would not coagulate. The house seemed cold with a dampness that made him shiver. He got up and softly opened his door. There was a light under Cal’s door. He tapped and went in without waiting for a reply.

Cal sat at a new desk. He was working with tissue paper and a bolt of red ribbon, and as Aron came in he hastily covered something on his desk with a large blotter.

Aron smiled. “Presents?”

“Yes,” said Cal and left

it at that.

“Can I talk to you?” “Sure! Come on in. Talk low or Father will come in.

He hates to miss a moment.”

Aron sat down on the bed. He was silent so long

that Cal asked, “What’s the matter—you got trouble?” “No, not trouble. I just wanted to talk to you. Cal, I don’t want to go on at college.”

Cal’s head jerked

around. “You don’t? Why not?”

“I just don’t like it.” “You

haven’t told

Father, have you? He’ll be disappointed. It’s bad enough that I don’t want to go. What do you want to do?”

“I thought I’d like to take over the ranch.” “How about Abra?” “She told me a long time

ago that’s what she’d like.”

Cal studied him. “The

ranch has got a lease to run.” “Well,


was just

thinking about it.” Cal said, “There’s no money in farming.” “I don’t want much

money. Just to get along.” “That’s not good enough for me,” said Cal. “I want a

lot of money and I’m going to get it too.”


Cal felt older and surer than his brother. He felt protective toward him. “If

you’ll go on at college, why, I’ll get started and lay in a foundation. Then when you finish we can be partners. I’ll have one kind of thing and you’ll have another. That might be pretty good.”

“I don’t want to go back. Why do I have to go back?” “Because Father wants

you to.”

“That won’t make me go.”

Cal stared fiercely at his brother, at the pale hair and the

wide-set eyes, and

suddenly he knew why his father loved Aron, knew it beyond doubt. “Sleep on it,” he said quickly. “It would be better if you finish out the term at least. Don’t do anything now.”

Aron got up and moved toward the door. “Who’s the present for?” he asked.

“It’s for Father. You’ll see

it tomorrow—after dinner.”

“It’s not Christmas.” “No,” said Cal, “it’s better than Christmas.” When Aron had gone

back to his room Cal

uncovered his present. He counted the fifteen new bills once more, and they were so crisp they made a sharp, cracking



Monterey County Bank had to send to San Francisco to get them, and only did so when the reason for them was told. It was a matter of shock and disbelief to the bank that a

seventeen-year-old boy

should, first, own them, and,

second, carry them about. Bankers do not like money to be lightly handled even if the handling is sentimental. It had taken Will Hamilton’s word to make the bank believe that the money belonged to Cal, that it was honestly come by, and that he could do what he wanted to with it.

Cal wrapped the bills in tissue and tied it with red ribbon finished in a blob that was faintly recognizable as a bow. The package might have been a handkerchief. He concealed it under the shirts in his bureau and went to bed. But he could not sleep. He was excited and at the same time shy. He wished the day was over and the gift given.

He went over what he planned to say.

“This is for you.” “What is it?”

“A present.”

From then on he didn’t

know what would happen. He tossed and rolled in bed, and at dawn he got up and dressed and crept out of the house.

On Main Street he saw Old Martin sweeping the street with a stable broom.

The city council was

discussing the purchase of a mechanical

sweeper. Old

Martin hoped he would get to

drive it, but he was cynical about it. Young men got the cream

of everything.

Bacigalupi’s garbage wagon went by, and Martin looked after it spitefully. There was a good business. Those wops were getting rich.

Main Street was empty except for a few dogs sniffing at closed entrances and the sleepy activity around the San Francisco Chop House. Pet Bulene’s new taxi was parked in front, for Pet had been alerted the night before to take the Williams girls to the morning

train for

San Francisco.

Old Martin called to Cal, “Got

a cigarette, young fella?”

Cal stopped and took out

his cardboard box of Murads. “Oh,

fancy ones!”

Martin said. “I ain’t got a match either.”

Cal lighted the cigarette

for him, careful not to set fire to the grizzle around Martin’s mouth.

Martin leaned on the handle of his brush and puffed

disconsolately. “Young

fellas gets the

cream,” he said. “They won’t let me drive it.”

“What?” Cal asked. “Why, the new sweeper.

Ain’t you heard? Where you been, boy?” It was incredible to him that any reasonably informed human did not know about the sweeper. He forgot

Cal. Maybe the

Bacigalupis would give him a job.

They were


money. Three wagons and a new truck.

Cal turned down Alisal Street, went into the post office, and looked in the glass window of box 632. It was empty. He wandered back home and found Lee up and stuffing a very large turkey. “Up all night?” Lee


“No. I just went for a walk.”

“Nervous?” “Yes.”

“I don’t blame you. I

would be too. It’s hard to give people things—I guess it’s harder to be given things, though. Seems silly, doesn’t it? Want some coffee?”

“I don’t mind.”

Lee wiped his hands and poured coffee for himself and for Cal. “How do you think Aron looks?”

“All right, I guess.” “Did you get to talk to him?”

“No,” said Cal. It was easier that way. Lee would

want to know what he said. It wasn’t Aron’s day. It was Cal’s day. He had carved this day out for himself and he wanted it. He meant to have it.

Aron came in, his eyes

still misty with sleep. “What time do you plan to have dinner, Lee?”

“Oh, I don’t know— three-thirty or four.”

“Could you make it about five?”

“I guess so, if Adam says it’s all right. Why?” “Well, Abra can’t get

here before then. I’ve got a plan I want to put to my father and I want her to be here.”

“I guess that will be all right,” said Lee.

Cal got up quickly and went to his room. He sat at

his desk with the student light turned on and he churned with

uneasiness and

resentment. Without effort, Aron was taking his day away from him. It would turn out to be

Aron’s day.


suddenly, he was bitterly ashamed. He covered his eyes with his hands and he said, “It’s

just jealousy.


jealous. That’s what I am. I’m jealous. I don’t want to be jealous.” And he repeated over and over, “Jealous— jealous—jealous,” as though bringing it into the open might destroy it. And having gone this far, he proceeded with



“Why am I giving the money

to my father? Is it for his good? No. It’s for my good. Will Hamilton said it—I’m trying to buy him. There’s not one decent thing about it.

There’s not one decent thing about



sit here

wallowing in jealousy of my brother. Why not call things by their names?”

He whispered hoarsely to himself. “Why not be honest? I know why my father

loves Aron.


because he looks like her. My

father never got over her. He may not know it, but it’s true. I wonder if he does know it. That makes me jealous of her too. Why don’t I take my money and go away? They wouldn’t miss me. In a little while they’d forget I ever existed—all except Lee. And I wonder whether Lee likes me. Maybe not.” He doubled his fists against his forehead. “Does Aron have to fight himself like this? I don’t think so, but how do I know? I could ask him. He wouldn’t say.”

Cal’s mind careened in anger at himself and in pity for himself. And then a new voice came into it, saying

coolly and with contempt, “If

you’re being honest—why not say you are enjoying this beating

you’re giving

yourself? That would be the truth. Why not be just what you are and do just what you do?” Cal sat in shock from this thought. Enjoying?—of course. By whipping himself he protected himself against whipping by someone else.

His mind tightened up. Give the money, but give it lightly. Don’t depend on anything.

Don’t foresee anything. Just give it and forget it. And forget it now. Give—give.

Give the day to Aron. Why not? He jumped up and hurried out to the kitchen.

Aron was holding open

the skin of the turkey while Lee forced stuffing into the cavity. The oven cricked and snapped with growing heat. Lee said, “Let’s see, eighteen

pounds, twenty

minutes to the pound—that’s eighteen times twenty—that’s three hundred and sixty minutes, six hours even— eleven to twelve, twelve to one—” He counted on his fingers.

Cal said, “When you get through, Aron, let’s take a walk.”

“Where to?” Aron


“Just around town. I

want to ask you something.”

Cal led his brother

across the street to Berges and Garrisiere, who imported fine wines and liquors. Cal said, “I’ve got a little money, Aron. I thought you might like to buy some wine for dinner. I’ll give you the money.”

“What kind of wine?” “Let’s make a real celebration.

Let’s get

champagne—it can be your present.”

Joe Garrisiere said,

“You boys aren’t old enough.”

“For dinner? Sure we are.”

“Can’t sell it to you. I’m sorry.”

Cal said, “I know what

you can do. We can pay for it and you can send it to our father.”

“That I can do,” Joe Garrisiere said. “We’ve got some Oeil de Perdrix—” His lips pursed as though he were tasting it.

“What’s that?” Cal asked.

“Champagne—but very pretty, same color as a partridge eye—pink but a little darker than pink, and dry too. Four-fifty a bottle.” “Isn’t that high?” Aron asked.

“Sure it’s high!” Cal laughed. “Send three bottles over, Joe.” To Aron he said, “It’s your present.”


To Cal the day was endless. He wanted to leave the house and couldn’t. At eleven o’clock Adam went to the closed draft-board office to brood over the records of a new batch of boys coming up.

Aron seemed perfectly calm. He sat in the living room, looking at cartoons in

old numbers of the Review of Reviews. From the kitchen the odor of the bursting juices of roasting turkey began to fill the house.

Cal went into his room

and took out his present and laid it on his desk. He tried to write a card to put on it. “To my father from Caleb”—“To Adam Trask from Caleb Trask.” He tore the cards in tiny pieces and flushed them down the toilet.

He thought, Why give it to

him today?


tomorrow I could go to him quietly and say, This is for you, and then walk away.

That would be easier. “No,” he said aloud. “I want the others to see.” It had to be that way. But his lungs were compressed and the palms of his hands were wet with stage fright. And then he thought of the morning when his father got him out of jail. The warmth and closeness—they were the things to remember

—and his father’s trust. Why, he had even said it. “I trust you.” He felt much better then.

At about three o’clock

he heard Adam come in and there was the low sound of voices conversing in the living room. Cal joined his father and Aron.

Adam was saying, “The

times are changed. A boy must be a specialist or he will get nowhere. I guess that’s why I’m so glad you’re going to college.”

Aron said, “I’ve been thinking about that, and I wonder.”

“Well, don’t think any more. Your first choice is right. Look at me. I know a little bit about a great many things and not enough about any one of them to make a living in these times.”

Cal sat down quietly.

Adam did not notice him. His face was concentrated on his thought.

“It’s natural for a man to want his son to succeed,”

Adam went on. “And maybe I

can see better than you can.”

Lee looked in. “The kitchen scales must be way off,” he said. “The turkey’s

going to be done earlier than the chart says. I’ll bet that bird doesn’t weigh eighteen pounds.”

Adam said, “Well, you can keep it warm,” and he continued,

“Old Sam

Hamilton saw this coming. He said there couldn’t be any more universal philosophers. The weight of knowledge is too great for one mind to absorb. He saw a time when one man would know only one little fragment, but he would know it well.”

“Yes,” Lee said from the doorway, “and he deplored it. He hated it.”

“Did he now?” Adam asked.

Lee came into the room.

He held his big basting spoon in his right hand, and he cupped his left under the bowl for fear it would drip on the carpet. He came into the room and forgot and waved his spoon and drops of turkey fat fell to the floor. “Now you question it, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know whether he hated it or I hate it for him.”

“Don’t get so excited,”

said Adam. “Seems to me we can’t discuss anything any more but you take it as a

personal insult.” “Maybe the knowledge

is too great and maybe men are growing too small,” said Lee. “Maybe, kneeling down to atoms, they’re becoming atom-sized in their souls.

Maybe a specialist is only a coward, afraid to look out of his little cage. And think what any specialist misses—the whole world over his fence.” “We’re

only talking

about making a living.” “A living—or money,”

Lee said excitedly. “Money’s easy to make if it’s money you want. But with a few exceptions people don’t want money. They want luxury and

they want love and they want admiration.”

“All right. But do you have

any objection to

college? That’s what we’re talking about.”

“I’m sorry,” said Lee. “You’re right, I do seem to get too excited. No, if college is where a man can go to find his relation to his whole world, I don’t object. Is it that? Is it that, Aron?”

“I don’t know,” said Aron.

A hissing sound came from the kitchen. Lee said, “The goddam giblets are

boiling over,” and he bolted

through the door.

Adam gazed after him affectionately. “What a good man! What a good friend!”

Aron said, “I hope he lives to be a hundred.”

His father chuckled.

“How do you know he’s not a hundred now?”

Cal asked, “How is the ice plant doing, Father?” “Why, all right. Pays for

itself and makes a little profit. Why?”

“I thought of a couple of things to make it really pay.” “Not today,” said Adam quickly. “Monday, if you remember, but not today. You know,” Adam said, “I don’t

remember when I’ve felt so good. I feel—well, you might call it fulfilled. Maybe it’s only a good night’s sleep and a good trip to the bathroom.

And maybe it’s because we’re all together and at peace.” He smiled at Aron. “We didn’t know what we felt about you until you went away.”

“I was homesick,” Aron confessed. “The first few days I thought I’d die of it.”

Abra came in with a

little rush. Her cheeks were pink and she was happy. “Did you notice there’s snow on Mount Toro?” she asked. “Yes, I saw it,” Adam

said. “They say that means a good year to come. And we

could use it.”

“I just nibbled,” said

Abra. “I wanted to be hungry for here.”

Lee apologized for the dinner like an old fool. He blamed the gas oven which didn’t heat like a good wood stove. He blamed the new

breed of turkeys which lacked a something turkeys used to have. But he laughed with them when they told him he was acting like an old woman fishing for compliments.

With the plum pudding Adam

opened the

champagne, and they treated it


ceremony. A

courtliness settled over the table. They proposed toasts. Each one had his health drunk, and Adam made a little speech to Abra when he drank her health.

Her eyes were shining

and under the table Aron held her hand. The wine dulled Cal’s nervousness and he was not afraid about his present.

When Adam had

finished his plum pudding he said, “I guess we never have had

such a good


Cal reached in his jacket

pocket, took out the red-ribboned package,


pushed it over in front of his father.

“What’s this?” Adam asked.

“It’s a present.”

Adam was pleased. “Not even Christmas and we have presents. I wonder what it can be!”

“A handkerchief,” said Abra.

Adam slipped off the

grubby bow and unfolded the tissue paper. He stared down at the money.

Abra said, “What is it?” and stood up to look. Aron

leaned forward. Lee, in the doorway, tried to keep the look of worry from his face. He darted a glance at Cal and saw the light of joy and triumph in his eyes.

Very slowly Adam

moved his fingers and fanned the gold certificates. His voice seemed to come from far away. “What is it? What

—” He stopped.

Cal swallowed. “It’s—I made it—to give to you—to make up for losing the lettuce.”

Adam raised his head

slowly. “You made it? How?” “Mr.


made it—on beans.” He hurried on, “We bought futures at five cents and when the price jumped—It’s for you, fifteen thousand dollars. It’s for you.”

Adam touched the new

bills so that their edges came together, folded the tissue over them and turned the ends up. He looked helplessly at Lee. Cal caught a feeling—a feeling

of calamity, of

destruction in the air, and a weight

of sickness

overwhelmed him. He heard his father say, “You’ll have to

give it back.”

Almost as remotely his own voice said, “Give it

back? Give it back to who?” “To the people you got it from.”

“The British Purchasing Agency? They can’t take it back. They’re paying twelve and a half cents for beans all over the country.”

“Then give it to the farmers you robbed.” “Robbed?” Cal cried. “Why, we paid them two cents a pound over the

market. We didn’t rob them.” Cal felt suspended in space, and time seemed very slow.

His father took a long

time to answer. There seemed to be long spaces between his

words. “I send boys out,” he said. “I sign my name and they go out. And some will die and some will lie helpless without arms and legs. Not one will come back untorn.

Son, do you think I could take a profit on that?”

“I did it for you,”. Cal said. “I wanted you to have the money to make up your loss.”

“I don’t want the money, Cal. And the lettuce—I don’t think I did that for a profit. It was a kind of game to see if I could get the lettuce there, and I lost. I don’t want the money.”

Cal looked straight

ahead. He could feel the eyes of Lee and Aron and Abra crawling on his cheeks. He kept his eyes on his father’s lips.

“I like the idea of a present,” Adam went on. “I

thank you for the thought—” “I’ll put it away. I’ll

keep it for you,” Cal broke in. “No. I won’t want it

ever. I would have been so happy if you could have given me—well, what your brother has—pride in the thing he’s doing, gladness in his progress. Money, even clean money, doesn’t stack up with that.” His eyes widened a little and he said, “Have I made you angry, son? Don’t be angry. If you want to give

me a present—give me a good life. That would be something I could value.” Cal felt that he was choking.

His forehead

streamed with perspiration and he tasted salt on his tongue. He stood up suddenly and his chair fell over. He ran from the room, holding his breath.

Adam called after him, “Don’t be angry, son.”

They let him alone. He

sat in his room, his elbows on his desk. He thought he would cry but he did not. He tried to let weeping start but tears could not pass the hot iron in his head.

After a time his

breathing steadied and he watched his brain go to work slyly, quietly. He fought the quiet hateful brain down and it slipped aside and went about its work. He fought it more weakly, for hate was seeping all through his body, poisoning every nerve. He could feel himself losing control.

Then there came a point where the control and the fear were gone and his brain cried out in an aching triumph. His hand went to a pencil and he drew tight little spirals one after another on his blotting

pad. When Lee came in an hour

later there were

hundreds of spirals, and they had become smaller and smaller. He did not look up.

Lee closed the door

gently. “I brought you some coffee,” he said.

“I don’t want it—yes, I

do. Why, thank you, Lee. It’s kind of you to think of it.”

Lee said, “Stop it! Stop it, I tell you!”

“Stop what? What do you want me to stop?”

Lee said uneasily, “I told

you once when you asked me that it was all in yourself. I told you you could control it

—if you wanted.” “Control what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Lee said, “Can’t you

hear me? Can’t I get through to you? Cal, don’t you know what I’m saying?”

“I hear you, Lee. What are you saying?”

“He couldn’t help it,

Cal. That’s his nature. It was the only way he knew. He didn’t have any choice. But you have. Don’t you hear me? You have a choice.”

The spirals had become

so small that the pencil lines ran together and the result was a shiny black dot.

Cal said quietly, “Aren’t you making a fuss about

nothing? You must


slipping. You’d think from your tone that I’d killed somebody. Come off it, Lee. Come off it.”

It was silent in the room. After a moment Cal turned from his desk and the room was empty. A cup of coffee on the bureau top sent up a plume of vapor. Cal drank the coffee scalding as it was and went into the living room.

His father looked up apologetically at him. Cal said, “I’m sorry,

Father. I didn’t know how you felt about it.” He took the package of money from

where it lay on the mantel and put it in the inside pocket of his coat where it had been before. “I’ll see what I can do about this.” He said casually, “Where are the others?”

“Oh, Abra had to go. Aron walked with her. Lee went out.”

“I guess I’ll go for a walk,” said Cal.


The November night was well fallen. Cal opened the front door a crack and saw Lee’s shoulders and head outlined against the white wall of the French Laundry across the street. Lee was sitting on the steps, and he looked lumpy in his heavy coat.

Cal closed the door quietly

and went back

through the living room. “Champagne

makes you

thirsty,” he said. His father didn’t look up.

Cal slipped out the kitchen door and moved

through Lee’s waning kitchen garden. He climbed the high

fence, found the two-by-twelve plank that served as a bridge across the slough of

dark water, and came out between Lang’s Bakery and the

tinsmith’s shop


Castroville Street.

He walked to Stone

Street where the Catholic church is and turned left, went past the Carriaga house, the Wilson house, the Zabala house, and turned left on Central

Avenue at


Steinbeck house. Two blocks out Central he turned left past the West End School.

The poplar trees in front

of the schoolyard were nearly bare, but in the evening wind a few yellowed leaves still twisted down.

Cal’s mind was numb.

He did not even know that the

air was cold with frost slipping down from the mountains.

Three blocks

ahead he saw his brother cross under a streetlight, coming toward him. He knew it was his brother by stride and posture and because he knew it.

Cal slowed his steps, and when Aron was close he said, “Hi. I came looking for you.”

Aron said, “I’m sorry about this afternoon.” “You couldn’t help it—

forget it.” He turned and the two walked side by side. “I want you to come with me,” Cal said. “I want to show you something.”

“What is it?”

“Oh, it’s a surprise. But

it’s very interesting. You’ll be interested.”

“Well, will it take long?” “No, not very long. Not very long at all.”

They walked past Central Avenue toward

Castroville Street.


Sergeant Axel Dane

ordinarily opened the San Jose recruiting office at eight o’clock, but if he was a little late Corporal Kemp opened

it, and Kemp was not likely to complain. Axel was not an unusual case. A hitch in the

U.S. Army in the time of peace between the Spanish war and the German war had unfitted him for the cold, unordered life of a civilian. One month between hitches convinced him of that. Two hitches in the peacetime army completely unfitted him for war, and he had learned enough method to get out of it. The San Jose recruiting station proved he knew his way about. He was dallying with the youngest Ricci girl and she lived in San Jose. Kemp hadn’t the time in,

but he was learning the basic rule. Get along with the

topkick and avoid all officers when possible. He didn’t mind

the gentle riding

Sergent Dane handed out.


eight-thirty Dane

entered the office to find Corporal Kemp asleep at his desk and a tired-looking kid sat waiting. Dane glanced at the boy and then went in back of the rail and put his hand on Kemp’s shoulder.

“Darling,” he said, “the skylarks are singing and a new dawn is here.”

Kemp raised his head

from his arms, wiped his nose

on the back of his hand, and sneezed. “That’s my sweet,” the sergeant said. “Arise, we have a customer.”

Kemp squinted his

crusted eyes. “The war will wait,” he said.

Dane looked more

closely at the boy. “God! he’s beautiful. I hope they take good care of him. Corporal, you may think that he wants to bear arms against the foe, but I think he’s running away from love.”

Kemp was relieved that the sergeant wasn’t quite

sober. “You think some dame

hurt him?” He played any game his sergeant wished. “You think it’s the Foreign Legion?”

“Maybe he’s running away from himself.”

Kemp said, “I saw that picture. There’s one mean son of a bitch of a sergeant in it.” “I don’t believe it,” said Dane. “Step up, young man.

Eighteen, aren’t you?” “Yes, sir.”

Dane turned to his man. “What do you think?” “Hell!” said Kemp. “I say if they’re big enough, they’re old enough.”

The sergeant said, “Let’s say you’re eighteen. And we’ll stick to it, shall we?” “Yes, sir.”

“You just take this form

and fill it out. Now you figure out what year you were born, and you put it down right here, and you remember it.”

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