Aron and Cal (the nickname he has taken for Caleb) play outside, hunting rabbits. The narrator discusses the differences between them: Aron is good-natured and handsome, while Cal is manipulative and vague. The boys discuss their mother. Cal says that he has heard rumors that their mother is in Salinas, not in heaven, as Adam has told them. Enraged, Aron attacks Cal, who realizes that he has found something that gives him power over Aron—Aron’s feelings for their mother.
At home, the boys discover that they have visitors, the Bacons, who were passing by and have been caught in a sudden downpour. Mr. Bacon suggests to Adam that he rent out his farm and move to town if he does not intend to farm the land. Adam, lost in his own stream of thought, ponders taking the boys to visit his brother, Charles, whom they have never met.
Outside, the boys play with the Bacons’ daughter, Abra, who is kind to Aron, much to Cal’s annoyance. Cal offers to give Abra the rabbit he shot that day; Aron replies that it is his rabbit, but that Abra may take it home to bury it if she likes. Abra agrees. When Aron leaves, Cal makes up lies to upset Abra. Cal says that Lee beats Aron and that Aron is going to put a snake in the box rather than the dead rabbit.
As the Bacons drive away, Abra throws the box out of their buggy, which hurts Aron’s feelings—he has put a love note inside the box for her. Cal offers to give Aron his rifle if he wants to shoot Abra, but Aron points out that Cal does not have a rifle.
That night at dinner, the normally distant Adam surprises the boys by suddenly asking them questions, showing interest in them, and treating them with kindness. Cal asks where their mother is buried, and Adam lies that she was sent back to her home in the east.
Later, Lee tells Adam not to lie to the boys, for they will discover the truth one day, and in lying, Adam risks injuring their trust. Lee then talks about his own childhood. His mother and father worked on the railroads, his pregnant mother having disguised herself as a man so she could join her husband on the voyage to the United States. After she gave birth to Lee, a mob of the other (all male) railroad workers, shocked that she was a woman, raped and killed her. But then, feeling instant remorse and revulsion at their deed, the railroad workers raised Lee as one of their own.