Chapters 36-37 Summary
Eliza puts Ben’s body to rest as he lies on the bed. She cuts a lock of his golden hair and remembers that Grover, Ben’s twin, had dark hair. Gant tells her that he wishes he could go back and do things over again, and then perhaps they might have gotten along together. The family agrees to spare no expense for Ben’s funeral because it is the last thing they can do for him. Eugene, who has not eaten since he got home, goes to the kitchen for some food.
Eugene and Luke walk to town and tell people of Ben’s death as they pass. All the people express their respects, stating what a fine boy Ben was. Later in the morning, the brothers go to Horse Hines’s to pick out a coffin. Hines shows them his best and says he will knock off some of the price. He shows them Ben’s body, which was brought over earlier. Hines, as undertaker, has prepared Ben for burial. Eugene notices the small things, such as the lacing where Hines sewed Ben’s lips together. He comments that Ben looks a little pale. Hines proclaims himself an artist and puts some rouge on Ben’s cheeks. Eugene becomes hysterical in his grief, laughing at Hines’s claim at being an artist.
Ironically, Ben is given more care and attention in death than he ever received in life. All the family sends flowers, and many arrive for the funeral. Eugene is horrified when he realizes that he is one of this strange clan. Ben, however, does not seem to have belonged to them. Eliza weeps nonstop, and Helen cries sporadically. Ben’s body is placed in the parlor of Dixieland until time for its burial. Horse Hines carries the casket to the cemetery, where he pronounces the final words; he almost falls into the empty grave. Eugene sees that he has been drinking.
Helen broods in her own home; her husband vows to take her away from Altamont and the pressures of the family. Helen resents all that her father expects of her. She has a home of her own and a husband to be with. Eliza sits in front of her fire. Overwhelmed, Eugene tells her that he has to get out of there. She pleads with him to stay a day or two more before returning to school. He goes out for a walk and runs into Mrs. Pert, whose wandering mind struggles to understand what Eugene tells her about Ben’s death.