East of Eden Chapter 49
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 49

Adam insists on going to pick up Aron at the train station even though Cal and Lee urge him to let Abra go alone. Unable to dissuade Adam, both Lee and Cal agree to join him. Adam is sure his son has changed, despite the fact that he has only been away a couple of months. Experience, he argues, always changes a person. They arrive at the platform and find Abra already waiting. 

Nervous minutes pass but finally a green light announces the imminent arrival of the train. Several more anxious minutes pass before Aron steps off the railcar, looking quite dapper and modern, his eyes bright with pleasure at being home. Spying Abra, he scoops her up and swings her joyfully around. He sets her down and shakes hands with Adam and Cal. He gives Lee a giant bear hug, nearly crushing the thin man in his enthusiasm. 

It does not take long to travel from the depot to their home. Lee prepared coffee before they left and passes a steaming cup to everyone gathered in the living room. Adam begins to grill Aron about college life but notices his son's quiet displeasure and chalks up his unwillingness to talk to being tired. Lee notes that Aron would probably like to be alone with Abra, who asks if Aron will walk her home. 

Aron grips Abra's arm in both a desperate and possessive way as they walk. Aron tells Abra he has some serious things to discuss with her. At the door, Abra asks him not to come inside. She says her father is once again on one of his disapproving "streaks" against their relationship and that she will see him later. Putting him off causes Aron to ask whether she still wants to be with him. Abra says that she does, giving him a light kiss, and Aron heads back home. 

Alone in his bedroom, Aron feels something like panic as he realizes the full weight of his father's expectations for him. He wonders if he will ever be able to break free of Adam's will. He notices the light is still on in Cal's room and asks to come in. He sees Cal is at his desk wrapping up something in tissue and red ribbon, the contents of which Cal quickly tries to hide. 

Cal offers little explanation for the present and Aron does not press the issue. He has more on his mind. He tells his brother that he does not want to return to college. Cal is shocked. He asks Aron what it is that he wants to do instead; Aron says that he would like to take over the ranch. Cal says there is no money in farming or ranching; Aron claims that he does not care about money, he only wants enough to "get along." That is not good enough for Cal, who wants money and lots of it. He tells his brother he is going to get it.

Cal urges his brother to stay in school, at least through the end...

(The entire section is 778 words.)