Chapter no 7

East of Eden

Adam spent his next five years doing the things an army uses to keep its men from going insane—endless

polishing of

metal and

leather, parade and drill and escort, ceremony of bugle and flag, a ballet of business for men

who aren’t doing

anything. In 1886 the big packinghouse strike broke out in Chicago and Adam’s regiment entrained, but the strike was settled before they were needed. In 1888 the Seminóles, who had never signed a peace treaty, stirred restlessly, and the cavalry entrained again; but the Seminóles retired into their

swamps and were quiet, and the dreamlike routine settled on the troops again.

Time interval is

a strange and


matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time

would seem

interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed


interest, wounded with tragedy,

crevassed with joy—that’s the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it.

Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.

Adam’s second five

years were up before he knew it. It was late in 1890, and he was

discharged with

sergeant’s stripes in the Presidio in San Francisco.

Letters between Charles and Adam had become great rarities, but Adam wrote his brother

just before his

discharge, “This time I’m coming home,” and that was the last Charles heard of him for over three years.

Adam waited out the winter, wandering up the

river to Sacramento, ranging in the valley of the San Joaquín, and when the spring came Adam had no money.

He rolled a blanket and started

slowly eastward, sometimes

walking and

sometimes with groups of

men on the rods under slow-moving freight cars. At night he jungled up with wandering

men in the camping places on the fringes of towns. He learned to beg, not for money but for food. And before he knew it he was a bindlestiff himself.

Such men are rare now,

but in the nineties there were many of them, wandering men, lonely men, who wanted it that way. Some of them ran from

responsibilities and

some felt driven out of society by injustice. They worked a little, but not for

long. They stole a little, but only food and occasionally needed garments from a wash line. They were all kinds of men—literate

men and

ignorant men, clean men and dirty men—but all of them had restlessness in common. They followed warmth and avoided great heat and great cold. As the spring advanced they tracked it eastward, and the first frost drove them west and

south. They were

brothers to the coyote which, being wild, lives close to man and his chickenyards: they

were near towns but not in them. Associations with other men were for a week or for a day and then they drifted apart.

Around the little fires where

communal stew

bubbled there was all manner of talk and only the personal was unmentionable. Adam heard of the development of the I.W.W. with its angry angels.

He listened to

philosophic discussions, to metaphysics, to esthetics, to impersonal experience. His companions for the night

might be a murderer, an unfrocked priest or one who had unfrocked himself, a professor forced from his warm berth by a dull faculty, a lone driven man running from

memory, a


archangel and a devil in training, and each contributed bits of thought to the fire as each contributed carrots and potatoes and onions and meat to the stew. He learned the technique of shaving with broken glass, of judging a house before knocking to ask for a handout. He learned to avoid or get along with hostile police and to evaluate

a woman for her warmth of heart.

Adam took pleasure in

the new life. When autumn touched the trees he had got as far as Omaha, and without question or reason or thought he hurried west and south, fled through the mountains and arrived with relief in Southern



wandered by the sea from the border north as far as San Luis Obispo, and he learned to pilfer the tide pools for abalones

and eels and

mussels and perch, to dig the

sandbars for clams, and to trap a rabbit in the dunes with a noose of fishline. And he lay in the sun-warmed sand, counting the waves.

Spring urged him east again, but more slowly than before. Summer was cool in the

mountains, and


mountain people were kind as lonesome people are kind.

Adam took a job on a widow’s outfit near Denver and shared her table and her bed humbly until the frost drove him south again. He followed the Rio Grande past Albuquerque and El Paso through

the Big Bend,

through Laredo to


He learned

Spanish words for food and pleasure, and he learned that when people are very poor they still have something to give and the impulse to give it. He developed a love for poor people he could not have conceived if he had not been poor himself. And by now he was an expert tramp, using humility

as a


principle. He was lean and sun-darkened, and he could withdraw his own personality until he made no Stir of anger or jealousy. His voice had grown soft, and he had merged many accents and dialects into his own speech, so that his speech did not seem foreign anywhere. This was the great safety of the tramp, a protective veil. He rode

the trains very

infrequently, for there was a growing

anger against

tramps, based on the angry

violence of the I.W.W. and aggravated by the fierce reprisals against them. Adam was picked up for vagrancy. The quick brutality of police and prisoners frightened him and drove him away from the gatherings of tramps. He traveled alone after that and made sure that he was shaven and clean.

When spring came again

he started north. He felt that his time of rest and peace was over. He aimed north toward Charles and the weakening memories of his childhood.

Adam moved rapidly across

interminable East

Texas, through Louisiana and

the butt ends of Mississippi and Alabama, and into the flank of Florida. He felt that he had to move quickly. The Negroes were poor enough to be kind, but they could not trust any white man no matter how poor, and the poor white men had a fear of strangers.

Near Tallahassee he was picked up by sheriff’s men, judged vagrant, and put on a road gang. That’s how the roads were built. His sentence was six months. He was released and instantly picked up again for a second six months. And now he learned how men can consider other men as beasts and that the easiest way to get along with such men was to be a beast. A

clean face, an open face, an eye raised to meet an eye— these drew attention and attention

drawn brought

punishment. Adam thought how a man doing an ugly or a brutal thing has hurt himself and must punish someone for the hurt. To be guarded at work by men with shotguns, to be shackled by the ankle at night to a chain, were simple matters of precaution, but the savage whippings for the least stir of will, for the smallest shred of dignity or resistance, these seemed to indicate that guards were afraid of prisoners, and Adam knew from his years in the

army that a man afraid is a dangerous



Adam, like anyone in the world, feared what whipping would do to his body and his spirit. He drew a curtain around himself. He removed expression from his face, light from his eyes, and silenced his speech. Later he was not so much astonished that it had happened to him but that he had been able to take it and with a minimum of pain. It was much more horrible afterward than when it was happening. It is a triumph of self-control to see a man whipped until the muscles of his back show

white and glistening through the cuts and to give no sign of pity or anger or interest. And Adam learned this.

People are felt rather

than seen after the first few moments. During his second sentence on the roads of Florida, Adam reduced his personality to a minus. He caused no stir, put out no vibration, became as nearly invisible as it is possible to be. And when the guards could not feel him, they were not afraid of him. They gave him the jobs of cleaning the camps, of handing out the slops to the prisoners, of filling the water buckets.

Adam waited until three days

before his second

release. Right after noon that day he filled the water buckets and went back to the little river for more. He filled his buckets with stones and sank them, and then he eased himself into the water and swam

a long way

downstream, rested and swam farther down. He kept moving in the water until at dusk he found a place under a bank with bushes for cover. He did not get out of the water.

Late in the night he heard the hounds go by,

covering both sides of the river. He had rubbed his hair hard with green leaves to cover human odor. He sat in the water with his nose and eyes clear. In the morning the hounds

came back,

disinterested, and the men were too tired to beat the banks properly. When they were gone Adam dug a piece of

water-logged fried

sowbelly out of his pocket and ate it.

He had schooled himself against hurry. Most men were caught bolting. It took Adam five days to cross the short

distance into Georgia. He took no chances, held back his impatience with an iron control. He was astonished at his ability.

On the edge of Valdosta, Georgia, he lay hidden until long after midnight, and he entered the town like a shadow, crept to the rear of a cheap store, forced a window slowly so that the screws of the lock were pulled from the sun-rotted wood. Then he replaced the lock but left the window open. He had to work by moonlight drifting through dirty windows. He stole a pair of cheap trousers, a white shirt, black shoes, black hat, and an oilskin raincoat, and he tried on each

article for fit. He forced himself to make sure nothing looked disturbed before he climbed out the window. He had taken nothing which was not heavily stocked. He had not even looked for the cash drawer. He lowered the window carefully and slipped from shadow to shadow in the moonlight.

He lay hidden during the day and went in search of food at night—turnips, a few ears of corn from a crib, a

few windfall apples—nothing that would be missed. He broke the newness of the shoes with rubbed sand and kneaded

the raincoat


destroy its newness. It was three days before he got the rain he needed, or in his extreme

caution felt

he needed.

The rain started late in

the afternoon. Adam huddled under his oilskin, waiting for the dark to come, and when it did he walked through the dripping night into the town of Valdosta. His black hat was pulled down over his eyes and his yellow oilskin was strapped tight against his throat. He made his way to the


and peered through a


window. The station agent, in green eyeshade and black alpaca worksleeves, leaned through the ticket window, talking to a friend. It was twenty minutes before the friend went away. Adam watched him off the platform. He took a deep breath to calm himself and went inside.

Charles received very few letters. Sometimes he did not inquire at the post office for weeks. In February of 1894 when a thick letter came from a

firm of

attorneys in

Washington the postmaster thought it might be important. He walked out to the Trask farm, found Charles cutting wood, and gave him the letter. And since he had taken so much trouble, he waited around to hear what the letter said.

Charles let him wait.

Very slowly he read all five pages, went back and read them again, moving his lips over the words. Then he folded it up and turned toward the house.

The postmaster called

after him, “Anything wrong,

Mr. Trask?”

“My father is dead,”

Charles said, and he walked into the house and closed the door.

“Took it hard,” the postmaster reported in town. “Took it real hard. Quiet man. Don’t talk much.”

In the house Charles lighted the lamp although it

was not dark yet. He laid the letter on the table, and he washed his hands before he sat down to read it again.

There hadn’t been

anyone to send him a telegram. The attorneys had found his address among his father’s papers. They were

sorry—offered their

condolences. And they were pretty excited too. When they had made Trask’s will they thought he might have a few hundred dollars to leave his sons. That is what he looked to be worth. When they inspected his bankbooks they

found that he had over ninety-three thousand dollars in the bank and ten thousand dollars

in good securities. They felt very different about Mr.

Trask then. People with that much money were rich. They would never have to worry. It was enough to start a dynasty. The lawyers congratulated Charles

and his


Adam. Under the will, they said, it was to be shared equally. After the money they listed the personal effects left by

the deceased:


ceremonial swords presented to Cyrus at various G.A.R. conventions, an olive wood gavel with a gold plate on it, a Masonic watch charm with a diamond set in the dividers, the gold caps from the teeth he had out when he got his

plates, watch (silver), gold-headed stick, and so forth.

Charles read the letter twice more and cupped his forehead in his hands. He wondered about Adam. He

wanted Adam home. Charles felt puzzled and dull. He built up the fire and

put the frying pan to heat and sliced thick pieces of salt pork into it. Then he went back to stare at the letter.

Suddenly he picked it up and put it in the drawer of the kitchen table. He decided not to think of the matter at all for a while.

Of course he thought of little else, but it was a dull circular thinking that came back to the starting point again and again: Where had he gotten it?

When two events have something in common, in their natures or in time or place, we leap happily to the

conclusion that they are similar

and from this

tendency we create magics and store them for retelling. Charles had never before had a letter delivered at the farm in his life. Some weeks later a boy ran out to the farm with a telegram.

Charles always

connected the letter and the telegram the way we group two deaths and anticipate a third. He hurried to the village

railroad station,

carrying the telegram in his


“Listen to this,” he said to the operator.

“I already read it.” “You did?”

“It comes over the wire,” said the operator. “I wrote it down.”

“Oh! Yes, sure. ‘Urgent need you telegraph me one hundred



home. Adam.’ ” “Came

collect,” the

operator said. “You owe me sixty cents.”



never heard of it.”

“Neither’d I, but it’s there.”

“Say, Carlton, how do you go about telegraphing money?”

“Well, you bring me a hundred and two dollars and sixty cents and I send a wire telling the Valdosta operator to pay Adam one hundred dollars. You owe me sixty cents too.”

“I’ll pay—say, how do I know it’s Adam? What’s to stop anybody from collecting it?”

The operator permitted himself

a smile of

worldliness. “Way we go

about it, you give me a question couldn’t nobody else know the answer. So I send both the question and the answer. Operator asks this fella the question, and if he can’t answer he don’t get the money.”

“Say, that’s pretty cute. I better think up a good one.” “You better get the

hundred dollars while Old Breen still got the window open.”

Charles was delighted

with the game. He came back with the money in his hand. “I got the question,” he said. “I hope it ain’t your

mother’s middle name. Lot of people don’t remember.” “No, nothing like that.

It’s this. ‘What did you give Father on his birthday just before you went in the army?’ ”

“It’s a good question but

it’s long as hell. Can’t you cut it down to ten words?” “Who’s paying for it?

Answer is, ‘A pup.’ ” “Wouldn’t nobody guess that,” said Carlton. “Well, it’s you paying, not me.”

“Be funny if he forgot,” said Charles. “He wouldn’t ever get home.”

Adam came walking out from the village. His shirt was dirty and the stolen clothes were wrinkled and soiled from having been slept in for a week. Between the house and

the barn he stopped and listened for his brother, and in a moment he heard him hammering at something in the big new tobacco barn. “Oh, Charles!” Adam called. The hammering stopped,

and there was silence. Adam felt as though his brother were inspecting him through the cracks in the barn. Then Charles came out quickly and hurried to Adam and shook hands.

“How are you?” “Fine,” said Adam. “Good

God, you’re thin!”

“I guess I am. And I’m years older too.”

Charles inspected him

from head to foot. “You don’t look prosperous.”

“I’m not.”

“Where’s your valise?” “I haven’t got one.” “Jesus Christ! Where’ve you been?”

“Mostly wandering around all over.” “Like a hobo?” “Like a hobo.”

After all the years and

the life that had made creased leather out of Charles’ skin and redness in his dark eyes,

Adam knew from

remembering that Charles was thinking of two things—

the questions and something else.

“Why didn’t you come home?”

“I just got to wandering. Couldn’t stop. It gets into you. That’s a real bad scar you’ve got there.”

“That’s the one I wrote

you about. Gets worse all the time. Why didn’t you write? Are you hungry?” Charles’ hands itched into his pockets and out and touched his chin and scratched his head.

“It may go away. I saw a man once—bartender—he

had one that looked like a cat. It was a birthmark. His nickname was Cat.”

“Are you hungry?”

“Sure, I guess I am.” “Plan to stay home now?”

“I—I guess so. Do you want to get to it now?” “I—I guess so,” Charles echoed him. “Our father is dead.”

“I know.”

“How the hell do you


“Station agent told me. How long ago did he die?” “ ‘Bout a month.”

“What of?” “Pneumonia.” “Buried here?”

“No. In Washington. I

got a letter and newspapers.

Carried him on a caisson with

a flag over it. The Vice-President was there and the President sent a wreath. All in

the papers. Pictures too—I’ll show you. I’ve got it all.”

Adam studied his

brother’s face until Charles looked away. “Are you mad at something?” Adam asked. “What should I be mad


“It just sounded—” “I’ve got nothing to be

mad at. Come on, I’ll get you something to eat.”

“All right. Did he linger long?”

“No. It was galloping pneumonia. Went right out.” Charles was covering up something. He wanted to tell it but he didn’t know how to go about it. He kept hiding in

words. Adam fell silent. It might be a good thing to be quiet and let Charles sniff and circle until he came out with it.

“I don’t take much stock in

messages from


beyond,” said Charles. “Still, how can you know? Some people claim they’ve had messages—old


Whitburn. She swore. You just don’t know what to think. You didn’t get a message, did you? Say, what the hell’s bit off your tongue?”

Adam said,

“Just thinking.”

And he was

thinking with amazement, Why, I’m not afraid of my brother! I used to be scared to death of him, and I’m not any more. Wonder why not?

Could it be the army? Or the chain gang? Could it be Father’s death? Maybe—but I don’t understand it. With the lack of fear, he knew he could say anything he wanted to, whereas before he had picked over his words to avoid trouble. It was a good feeling he had, almost as though he himself had been dead and resurrected.

They walked into the kitchen he remembered and didn’t remember. It seemed smaller and dingier. Adam said almost gaily, “Charles, I been listening. You want to

tell me something and you’re walking around it like a terrier around a bush. You better tell before it bites you.” Charles’ eyes sparked up with anger. He raised his head. His force was gone. He thought with desolation, I can’t lick him any more. I can’t.

Adam chuckled. “Maybe it’s wrong to feel good when

our father’s just died, but you know, Charles, I never felt better in my whole life. I never felt as good. Spill it,

Charles. Don’t let it chew on you.”

Charles asked, “Did you love our father?”

“I won’t answer you until I know what you’re getting at.”

“Did you or didn’t you?” “What’s that got to do with you?”

“Tell me.” The creative free

boldness was all through Adam’s bones and brain. “All right, I’ll tell you. No. I didn’t. Sometimes he scared me.


sometimes I admired him, but most of the time I hated him.

Now tell me why you want to know.”

Charles was looking

down at his hands. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I just can’t get it through my head. He loved you more than anything in the world.”

“I don’t believe that.” “You don’t have to. He

liked everything you brought him. He didn’t like me. He didn’t like anything I gave him. Remember the present I gave him, the pocketknife? I cut and sold a load of wood to get that knife. Well, he didn’t even take it to Washington with him. It’s right in his bureau right now. And you

gave him a pup. It didn’t cost you a thing. Well, I’ll show you a picture of that pup. It was at his funeral. A colonel was holding it—it was blind, couldn’t walk. They shot it after the funeral.”

Adam was puzzled at the fierceness of his brother’s tone. “I don’t see,” he said. “I don’t see what you’re getting at.”

“I loved him,” said

Charles. And for the first time that Adam could remember, Charles began to cry. He put his head down in his arms and cried.

Adam was about to go to him when a little of the old fear came back. No, he thought, if I touched him he

would try to kill me. He went to the open doorway and stood looking out, and he could hear his brother’s sniffling behind him.

It was not a pretty farm near the house—never had been. There was litter about it,

an unkemptness, a

rundownness, a lack of plan; no flowers, and bits of paper and scraps of wood scattered about on the ground. The house was not pretty either. It was a well-built shanty for shelter and cooking. It was a grim farm and a grim house, unloved and unloving. It was no home, no place to long for

or to come back to. Suddenly Adam

thought of


stepmother—as unloved as the farm, adequate, clean in her way, but no more wife than the farm was a home.

His brother’s sobbing

had stopped. Adam turned. Charles was looking blankly straight ahead. Adam said, “Tell me about Mother.” “She died. I wrote you.” “Tell me about her.”

“I told you. She died.

It’s so long ago. She wasn’t your mother.”

The smile Adam had once caught on her face

flashed up in his mind. Her

face was projected in front of him.

Charles’ voice came through the image and

exploded it. “Will you tell me one thing—not quick—think before you tell me, and maybe don’t answer unless it’s true, your answer.”

Charles moved his lips to form the question in

advance. “Do you think it would be possible for our father to be—dishonest?” “What do you mean?” “Isn’t that plain enough?

I said it plain. There’s only

one meaning to dishonest.” “I don’t know,” said

Adam. “I don’t know. No one ever said it. Look what he got to be. Stayed overnight in the

White House. The Vice-President came to his funeral.

Does that sound like a dishonest man? Come on, Charles,” he begged, “tell me what you’ve been wanting to tell me from the minute I got here.”

Charles wet his lips. The blood seemed to have gone out of him, and with it energy and all ferocity. His voice became a monotone. “Father made a will. Left everything equal to me and you.”

Adam laughed. “Well, we can always live on the farm. I guess we won’t


“It’s over a hundred thousand dollars,” the dull voice went on.

“You’re crazy. More

like a hundred dollars. Where would he get it?”

“It’s no mistake. His

salary with the G.A.R. was a hundred



dollars a month. He paid his own room and board. He got five cents a mile and hotel expenses when he traveled.” “Maybe he had it all the time and we never knew.” “No, he didn’t have it all

the time.”

“Well, why don’t we

write to the G.A.R. and ask?

Someone there might know.” “I wouldn’t dare,” said Charles.

“Now look! Don’t go off half-cocked. There’s such a thing as speculation. Lots of men struck it rich. He knew big men. Maybe he got in on a good thing. Think of the men who went to the gold rush in California and came back rich.”

Charles’ face was

desolate. His voice dropped so that Adam had to lean close to hear. It was as toneless as a report. “Our father went into the Union Army in June 1862. He had three months’ training here in

this state. That makes it September.

He marched

south. October twelfth he was hit in the leg and sent to the hospital. He came home in January.”

“I don’t see what you’re getting at.”

Charles’ words were thin and sallow. “He was not at Chancellorsville. He was not at

Gettysburg or


Wilderness or Richmond or Appomattox.”

“How do you know?” “His discharge. It came

down with his other papers.”

Adam sighed deeply. In his chest, like beating fists,

was a surge of joy. He shook his head almost in disbelief.

Charles said, “How did

he get away with it? How in hell did he get away with it? Nobody ever questioned it. Did you? Did I? Did my mother? Nobody did. Not even in Washington.”

Adam stood up. “What’s

in the house to eat? I’m going to warm up something.”

“I killed a chicken last night. I’ll fry it if you can wait.”

“Anything quick?” “Some salt pork and plenty of eggs.” “I’ll have that,” said Adam.

They left the question

lying there, walked mentally around it, stepped over it.

Their words ignored it but their minds never left it. They wanted to talk about it and could not. Charles fried salt pork, warmed up a skillet of beans, fried eggs.

“I plowed the pasture,” he said. “Put it in rye.” “How did it do?”

“Just fine, once I got the rocks out.” He touched his forehead. “I got this damn thing trying to pry out a stone.”

“You wrote about that,” Adam said. “Don’t know whether I told you your letters meant a lot to me.” “You never wrote much

what you were doing,” said Charles.

“I guess I didn’t want to think about it. It was pretty bad, most of it.”


read about the

campaigns in the papers. Did you go on those?”

“Yes. I didn’t want to

think about them. Still don’t.” “Did you kill Injuns?”

“Yes, we killed Injuns.” “I guess they’re real ornery.”

“I guess so.”

“You don’t have to talk

about it if you don’t want to.” “I don’t want to.”

They ate their dinner

under the kerosene lamp. “We’d get more light if I would only get around to washing that lampshade.” “I’ll do it,” said Adam. “It’s

hard to think of


“It’s going to be fine

having you back. How would you like to go to the inn after supper?”

“Well, we’ll see. Maybe I’d like just to sit awhile.” “I didn’t write about it in

a letter, but they’ve got girls at the inn. I didn’t know but you’d like to go in with me. They change every two

weeks. I didn’t know but you’d like to look them over.”


“Yes, they’re upstairs. Makes it pretty handy. And I thought you just coming home—”

“Not tonight. Maybe later. How much do they charge?”

“A dollar. Pretty nice girls mostly.” “Maybe

later,” said

Adam. “I’m surprised they let them come in.”

“I was too at first. But

they worked out a system.” “You go often?”

“Every two or three

weeks. It’s pretty lonesome here, a man living alone.” “You wrote once you

were thinking of getting married.”

“Well, I was. Guess I didn’t find the right girl.” All around the main subject the brothers beat. Now and then they would almost step into it, and

quickly pull away, back into crops and local gossip and politics and health. They knew they would come back to it sooner or later. Charles was more anxious to strike in deep than Adam was, but then Charles had had the time to think of it, and to Adam it was a new field of thinking and feeling. He would have

preferred to put it over until another day, and at the same time he knew his brother would not permit him to.

Once he said openly, “Let’s sleep on that other thing.”

“Sure, if you want to,” said Charles.

Gradually they ran out of

escape talk.


acquaintance was covered and every local event. The talk lagged and the time went on.

“Feel like turning in?” Adam asked.

“In a little while.”

They were silent, and the

night moved restlessly about the house, nudging them and urging them.

“I sure would like to’ve seen

that funeral,” said Charles.

“Must have been pretty fancy.”

“Would you care to see the

clippings from


papers? I’ve got them all in my room.”

“No. Not tonight.”

Charles squared his chair around and put his elbows on the table. “We’ll have to

figure it out,” he said nervously. “We can put it off all we want, but we goddam well got to figure what we’re going to do.”

“I know that,” said

Adam. “I guess I just wanted some time to think about it.” “Would that do any

good? I’ve had time, lots of time, and I just went in circles. I tried not to think about it, and I still went in circles. You think time is going to help?”

“I guess not. I guess not. What do you want to talk about first? I guess we might as well get into it. We’re not thinking about anything else.” “There’s the money,”

said Charles. “Over a hundred

thousand dollars—a fortune.” “What

about the money?”

“Well, where did it come from?”

“How do I know? I told you

he might have

speculated. Somebody might have put him onto a good thing there in Washington.” “Do you believe that?”


don’t believe

anything,” Adam said. “I don’t know, so what can I believe?”

“It’s a lot of money,”

said Charles. “It’s a fortune left to us. We can live the rest of our lives on it, or we can buy a hell of a lot of land and make it pay. Maybe you didn’t think about it, but we’re rich. We’re richer than anybody hereabouts.”

Adam laughed. “You say it like it was a jail sentence.”

“Where did it come from?”

“What do you care?” Adam asked. “Maybe we should just settle back and enjoy it.”

“He wasn’t at

Gettysburg. He wasn’t at any

goddam battle in the whole war. He was hit in a skirmish. Everything he told was lies.” “What are you getting

at?” said Adam.

“I think he stole the money,”

Charles said

miserably. “You asked me and that’s what I think.” “Do you know where he stole it?”


“Then why do you think he stole it?”

“He told lies about the war.”


“I mean, if he lied about the war—why, he could steal.”


“He held jobs in the G.A.R.—big jobs. He maybe could have got into the treasury, rigged the books.” Adam sighed. “Well, if that’s what you think, why don’t you write to them and

tell them? Have them go over the books. If it’s true we could give back the money.” Charles’

face was

twisted and the scar on his forehead showed dark. “The Vice-President came to his funeral. The President sent a wreath. There was a line of carriages half a mile long and hundreds of people on foot.

And do you know who the

pall bearers were?” “What are you digging at?”

“ ‘Spose we found out he’s a thief. Then it would

come out how he never was at Gettysburg or anyplace else. Then everybody would know he was a liar too, and his whole life was a goddam lie. Then even if sometimes he did tell the truth, nobody would believe it was the truth.”

Adam sat very still. His eyes were untroubled but he

was watchful. “I thought you loved him,” he said calmly.

He felt released and free. “I did. I do. That’s why I

hate this—his whole life gone

—all gone. And his grave—

they might even dig him up and throw him out.” His words were ragged with emotion. “Didn’t you love him at all?” he cried.

“I wasn’t sure until

now,” said Adam. “I was all mixed up with how I was supposed to feel. No. I did not love him.”

“Then you don’t care if

his life is spoiled and his poor body rooted up and—oh, my God almighty!”

Adam’s brain raced,

trying to find words for his feeling. “I don’t have to care.”

“No, you don’t,” Charles said bitterly. “Not if you

didn’t love him, you don’t. You can help kick him in the face.”

Adam knew that his brother

was no longer

dangerous. There was no jealousy to drive him. The whole weight of his father was on him, but it was his father and no one could take his father away from him. “How will you feel, walking

in town, after

everyone knows?” Charles demanded. “How will you face anybody?”

“I told you I don’t care. I don’t have to care because I don’t believe it.”

“You don’t believe what?”

“I don’t believe he stole any money. I believe in the war he did just what he said

he did and was just where he said he was.”

“But the proof—how about the discharge?” “You haven’t any proof

that he stole. You just made that up because you don’t know where the money came from.”

“His army papers—” “They could be wrong,” Adam said. “I believe they

are wrong. I believe in my father.”

“I don’t see how you can.”

Adam said, “Let me tell you. The proofs that God

does not exist are very strong, but in lots of people they are not as strong as the feeling that He does.”

“But you said you did

not love our father. How can you have faith in him if you didn’t love him?”

“Maybe that’s the

reason,” Adam said slowly, feeling his way. “Maybe if I had loved him I would have been jealous of him. You were. Maybe—maybe love

makes you suspicious and doubting. Is it true that when you love a woman you are never sure—never sure of her because you aren’t sure of yourself? I can see it pretty clearly. I can see how you loved him and what it did to you. I did not love him.

Maybe he loved me. He tested me and hurt me and punished me and finally he sent me out like a sacrifice, maybe to make up for something. But he did not love you, and so he had faith in you. Maybe—why, maybe it’s a kind of reverse.” Charles stared at him. “I don’t understand,” he said. “I’m trying to,” said

Adam. “It’s a new thought to

me. I feel good. I feel better maybe than I have ever felt in my whole life. I’ve got rid of something. Maybe sometime I’ll get what you have, but I haven’t got it now.”

“I don’t understand,” Charles said again.

“Can you see that I don’t think our father was a thief? I don’t believe he was a liar.” “But the papers—”

“I won’t look at the

papers. Papers are no match at all for my faith in my father.”

Charles was breathing heavily. “Then you would take the money?”

“Of course.”

“Even if he stole it?” “He did not steal it. He

couldn’t have stolen it.” “I don’t understand,” said Charles.

“You don’t? Well, it

does seem that maybe this might be the secret of the whole thing. Look, I’ve never mentioned

this—do you

remember when you beat me up just before I went away?” “Yes.”

“Do you


later? You came back with a hatchet to kill me.”

“I don’t remember very well. I must have been crazy.”

“I didn’t know then, but

I know now—you were fighting for your love.” “Love?”

“Yes,” said Adam.

“We’ll use the money well.

Maybe we’ll stay here.

Maybe we’ll go away— maybe to California. We’ll have to see what we’ll do. And of course we must set up a monument to our father—a big one.”

“I couldn’t ever go away from here,” said Charles. “Well, let’s see how it

goes, There’s no hurry. We’ll feel it out.”

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