the ranch. Even the clang of the pitched shoes, even the voices of the
men in the game, seemed to grow more quiet. The air in the barn was
dusky in advance of the outside day. A pigeon flew in through the open
hay door and circled and flew out again. Around the last stall came
a shepherd bitch, lean and long, with heavy, hanging dugs. Halfway
to the packing box where the puppies were she caught the dead scent of
Curley's wife, and the hair arose along her spine. She whimpered and
cringed to the packing box, and jumped in among the puppies.
Curley's wife lay with a half-covering of yellow hay. And the
meanness and the plannings and the discontent and the ache for
attention were all gone from her face. She was very pretty and simple,
and her face was sweet and young. Now her rouged cheeks and her
reddened lips made her seem alive and sleeping very lightly. The
curls, tiny little sausages, were spread on the hay behind her head,
and her lips were parted.
As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained
for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped
for much, much more than a moment.
Then gradually time awakened again and moved sluggishly on. The
horses stamped on the other side of the feeding racks and the halter
chains clinked. Outside, the men's voices became louder and clearer.
From around the end of the last stall old Candy's voice came.
"Lennie," he called. "Oh, Lennie! You in here? I been figuring some
more. Tell you what we can do, Lennie." Old Candy appeared around
the end of the last stall. "Oh, Lennie!" he called again; and then
he stopped, and his body stiffened. He rubbed his smooth wrist on
his white stubble whiskers. "I di'n't know you was here," he said to
When she didn't answer, he stepped nearer. "You oughten to sleep out
here," he said disapprovingly; and then he was beside her and- "Oh,
Jesus Christ!" He looked about helplessly, and he rubbed his beard.
And then he jumped up and went quickly out of the barn.
But the barn was alive now. The horses stamped and snorted, and they
chewed the straw of their bedding and they clashed the chains of their
halters. In a moment Candy came back, and George was with him.
George said, "What was it you wanted to see me about?"
Candy pointed at Curley's wife. George stared. "What's the matter
with her?" he asked. He stepped closer, and then he echoed Candy's
words. "Oh, Jesus Christ!" He was down on his knees beside her. He put
his hand over her heart. And finally, when he stood up, slowly and
stiffly, his face was as hard and tight as wood, and his eyes were
Candy said, "What done it?"
George looked coldly at him. "Ain't you got any idear?" he asked.
And Candy was silent. "I should of knew," George said hopelessly. "I
guess maybe way back in my head I did."
Candy asked, "What we gonna do now, George? What we gonna do now?"
George was a long time in answering. "Guess... we gotta tell
the... guys. I guess we gotta get 'im an' lock 'im up. We can't let
'im get away. Why, the poor bastard'd starve." And he tried to
reassure himself. "Maybe they'll lock 'im up an' be nice to 'im."
But Candy said excitedly, "We oughta let 'im get away. You don't
know that Curley. Curley gon'ta wanta get 'im lynched. Curley'll get
George watched Candy's lips. "Yeah," he said at last, "that's right,
Curley will. An' the other guys will." And he looked back at
Now Candy spoke his greatest fear. "You an' me can get that little
place, can't we, George? You an' me can go there an' live nice,
can't we, George? Can't we?"
Before George answered, Candy dropped his head and looked down at
the hay. He knew.
George said softly, "-I think I knowed from the very first. I
think I know'd we'd never do her. He usta like to hear about it so
much I got to thinking maybe we would."
"Then- it's all off?" Candy asked sulkily.
George didn't answer his question. George said, "I'll work my
month an' I'll take my fifty bucks an' I'll stay all night in some
lousy cat house. Or I'll set in some poolroom till ever'body goes
home. An' then I'll come back an' work another month an' I'll have
fifty bucks more."
Candy said, "He's such a nice fella. I didn' think he'd do nothing
George still stared at Curley's wife. "Lennie never done it in
meanness," he said. "All the time he done bad things, but he never
done one of 'em mean." He straightened up and looked back at Candy.
"Now listen. We gotta tell the guys. They got to bring him in, I
guess. They ain't no way out. Maybe they won't hurt 'im." He said
sharply, "I ain't gonna let 'em hurt Lennie. Now you listen. The
guys might think I was in on it. I'm gonna go in the bunkhouse. Then
in a minute you come out and tell the guys about her, and I'll come
along and make like I never seen her. Will you do that? So the guys
won't think I was in on it?"
Candy said, "Sure, George. Sure I'll do that."
"O.K. Give me a couple minutes then, and you come runnin' out an'
tell like you jus' found her. I'm going now." George turned and went
quickly out of the barn.
Old Candy watched him go. He looked helplessly back at Curley's
wife, and gradually his sorrow and his anger grew into words. "You God
damn tramp", he said viciously. "You done it, di'n't you? I s'pose
you're glad. Ever'body knowed you'd mess things up. You wasn't no
good. You ain't no good now, you lousy tart." He sniveled, and his
voice shook. "I could of hoed in the garden and washed dishes for them
guys." He paused, and then went on in a singsong. And he repeated
the old words: "If they was a circus or a baseball game... we would of
went to her... jus' said 'ta hell with work,' an' went to her. Never
ast nobody's say so. An' they'd of been a pig and chickens... an' in
the winter... the little fat stove... an' the rain comin'... an' us
jes' settin' there." His eyes blinded with tears and he turned and
went weakly out of the barn, and he rubbed his bristly whiskers with
his wrist stump.
Outside the noise of the game stopped. There was a rise of voices in
question, a drum of running feet and the men burst into the barn. Slim
and Carlson and young Whit and Curley, and Crooks keeping back out
of attention range. Candy came after them, and last of all came
George. George had put on his blue denim coat and buttoned it, and his
black hat was pulled down low over his eyes. The men raced around
the last stall. Their eyes found Curley's wife in the gloom, they
stopped and stood still and looked.
Then Slim went quietly over to her, and he felt her wrist. One
lean finger touched her cheek, and then his hand went under her
slightly twisted neck and his fingers explored her neck. When he stood
up the men crowded near and the spell was broken.
Curley came suddenly to life. "I know who done it," he cried.
"That big son-of-a-bitch done it. I know he done it. Why- ever'body
else was out there playin' horseshoes." He worked himself into a fury.
"I'm gonna get him. I'm going for my shotgun. I'll kill the big
son-of-a-bitch myself. I'll shoot 'im in the guts. Come on, you guys."
He ran furiously out of the barn. Carlson said, "I'll get my Luger,"
and he ran out too.
Slim turned quietly to George. "I guess Lennie done it, all
right," he said. "Her neck's bust. Lennie coulda did that."
George didn't answer, but he nodded slowly. His hat was so far
down on his forehead that his eyes were covered.
Slim went on, "Maybe like that time in Weed you was tellin' about."
Again George nodded.
Slim sighed. "Well, I guess we got to get him. Where you think he
might of went?"
It seemed to take George some time to free his words. "He- would
of went south," he said. "We come from north so he would of went
"I guess we gotta get 'im," Slim repeated.
George stepped close. "Couldn' we maybe bring him in an' they'll
lock him up? He's nuts, Slim. He never done this to be mean."
Slim nodded. "We might," he said. "If we could keep Curley in, we
might. But Curley's gonna want to shoot 'im. Curley's still mad
about his hand. An' s'pose they lock him up an' strap him down and put
him in a cage. That ain't no good, George."
"I know," said George, "I know."
Carlson came running in. "The bastard's stole my Luger," he shouted.
"It ain't in my bag." Curley followed him, and Curley carried a
shotgun in his good hand. Curley was cold now.
"All right, you guys," he said. "The nigger's got a shotgun. You
take it, Carlson. When you see 'um, don't give 'im no chance. Shoot
for his guts. That'll double 'im over."
Whit said excitedly, "I ain't got a gun."
Curley said, "You go in Soledad an' get a cop. Get Al Wilts, he's
deputy sheriff. Le's go now." He turned suspiciously on George.
"You're comin' with us, fella."
"Yeah," said George. "I'll come. But listen, Curley. The poor
bastard's nuts. Don't shoot 'im. He di'n't know what he was doin'."
"Don't shoot 'im?" Curley cried. "He got Carlson's Luger. 'Course
we'll shoot 'im."
George said weakly, "Maybe Carlson lost his gun."
"I seen it this morning," said Carlson. "No, it's been took."
Slim stood looking down at Curley's wife. He said, "Curley- maybe
you better stay here with your wife."
Curley's face reddened. "I'm goin'," he said. "I'm gonna shoot the
guts outa that big bastard myself, even if I only got one hand. I'm
gonna get 'im."
Slim turned to Candy. "You stay here with her then, Candy. The
rest of us better get goin'."
They moved away. George stopped a moment beside Candy and they
both looked down at the dead girl until Curley called, "You George!
You stick with us so we don't think you had nothin' to do with this."
George moved slowly after them, and his feet dragged heavily.
And when they were gone, Candy squatted down in the hay and
watched the face of Curley's wife. "Poor bastard," he said softly.
The sound of the men grew fainter. The barn was darkening
gradually and, in their stalls, the horses shifted their feet and
rattled the halter chains. Old Candy lay down in the hay and covered
The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late
afternoon. Already the sun had left the valley to go climbing up the
slopes of the Gabilan Mountains, and the hilltops were rosy in the
sun. But by the pool among the mottled sycamores, a pleasant shade had
A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope
head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to
the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent
head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak
swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.
A far rush of wind sounded and a gust drove through the tops of
the trees like a wave. The sycamore leaves turned up their silver
sides, the brown, dry leaves on the ground scudded a few feet. And row
on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool's green surface.
As quickly as it had come, the wind died, and the clearing was quiet
again. The heron stood in the shallows, motionless and waiting.
Another little water snake swam up the pool, turning its periscope
head from side to side.
Suddenly Lennie appeared out of the brush, and he came as silently
as a creeping bear moves. The heron pounded the air with its wings,
jacked itself clear of the water and flew off down river. The little
snake slid in among the reeds at the pool's side.
Lennie came quietly to the pool's edge. He knelt down and drank,
barely touching his lips to the water. When a little bird skittered
over the dry leaves behind him, his head jerked up and he strained
toward the sound with eyes and ears until he saw the bird, and then he
dropped his head and drank again.
When he was finished, he sat down on the bank, with his side to
the pool, so that he could watch the trail's entrance. He embraced his
knees and laid his chin down on his knees.
The light climbed on out of the valley, and as it went, the tops
of the mountains seemed to blaze with increasing brightness.
Lennie said softly, "I di'n't forget, you bet, God damn. Hide in the
brush an' wait for George." He pulled his hat down low over his
eyes. "George gonna give me hell," he said. "George gonna wish he
was alone an' not have me botherin' him." He turned his head and
looked at the bright mountain tops. "I can go right off there an' find
a cave," he said. And he continued sadly, "-an' never have no ketchup-
but I won't care. If George don't want me... I'll go away. I'll go
And then from out of Lennie's head there came a little fat old
woman. She wore thick bull's-eye glasses and she wore a huge gingham
apron with pockets, and she was starched and clean. She stood in front
of Lennie and put her hands on her hips, and she frowned
disapprovingly at him.
And when she spoke, it was in Lennie's voice. "I tol' you an' tol'
you," she said. "I tol' you, 'Min' George because he's such a nice
fella an' good to you.' But you don't never take no care. You do bad
And Lennie answered her, "I tried, Aunt Clara, ma'am. I tried and
tried. I couldn't help it."
"You never give a thought to George," she went on in Lennie's voice.
"He been doin' nice things for you alla time. When he got a piece of
pie you always got half or more'n half. An' if they was any ketchup,
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