Adam drove Lee and the boys to town in the car in order to get his mail from the post office. One of the letters was from a law firm in Connecticut, announcing Charles' death. Charles had left one hundred thousand dollars for Adam and his wife to split equally. Adam was shocked at the news.
When Adam told the boys about their uncle's death, Cal said he was going eavesdrop on his father to find out more about it when he talked to Lee. When Aaron threatened to tell on him, Cal threatened to steal their father's knife and blame it on Aaron. Fearing Cal, Aaron said no more. Cal fond great pleasure in being able to manipulate his brother so easily. He was also beginning to realize he could manipulate Adam. Lee, on the other hand, was always one step ahead of him and could never be tricked.
Aaron asked Cal why he always did mean, manipulative things, such as the rabbit incident, insulting Abra, and disobeying Adam by sneaking into the car. Cal could not answer his brother; instead, he felt bad about his meanness and longed for Aaron to love him.
Adam sent the boys to their room after dinner so he could talk to Lee in private. When Cal protested, Adam was firm, but Lee took Cal's side. He asked Adam, "Do you think the thoughts of people suddenly become important at a given age? Do you have sharper feelings or clearer thoughts now than when you were ten?" Adam recognized that Lee might be right.
Adam asked Lee to read the letter in order to get his thoughts about the inheritance. Before they talked, he showed Lee a picture of Charles. Lee noted that Charles looked like he was not used to smiling. Lee then said that Cathy was in no position to come forward and claim her money, and if she did, she would probably use it for some morally reprehensible thing. Certainly, Charles would not want this. Lee then volunteered to take the problem to his relatives to figure out the best solution. In the end, however, he thought that Adam would act according to his nature regardless of what advice he was given. When Adam told Lee not to speak to him so directly or rudely, Lee answered that he would speak in any way he liked. He added that he was ready to open his bookstore, for he was feeling old.
After Cal eavesdropped on the conversation, he returned to his room feeling sad. He prayed that God would make him more like Aaron and wished he had never heard what he had heard tonight. When Aaron came into Cal's room, he noticed his brother shivering and thought he might be catching a cold. When Aaron asked whether Charles had been rich, Cal said he was not. Changing the subject, he added that their father planned to send a huge wreath of flowers to their mother's grave. Aaron believed him and said he hoped the wreath would get there "all fresh and nice." Before going to sleep, Cal whispered another prayer: "Don't let me be mean."
The relationship between Adam and Lee is an interesting one. Lee is more like a friend or brother to Adam than a servant, as he nurtures his sons and scolds Adam into moral insight. Adam also depends upon Lee's advice. After dinner he asks Lee to read the letter from the attorney and to give his advice about the money. Lee clearly believes that Cathy is not entitled to her half, stating she would use it for some evil cause. He also says that Adam will never take his advice, but will follow his own conscience.
Steinbeck presents another side of Caleb in this chapter. Even though he eavesdrops on the conversation between Lee and Adam and learns that his mother is a prostitute, Steinbeck shows that Caleb has a conscience and struggles to bring his conduct in line with it. As a result, he rises above the characters of Charles and Cathy, showing more potential for reform.
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