As it appears that war may break out in Europe, Cal convinces Aron to finish high school and begin college early. Cal even promises to help Aron pay for college. When Lee finds out about Cal’s plan, he offers to help with $5,000 he has saved over the years. Then, Cal talks to Will Hamilton about making money. Will is impressed with Cal’s openness and pragmatic business sense. Will takes Cal out to the Trask ranch and asks whether he wants a business partner. He tells Cal about a plan he has to make a great deal of money exporting beans in the wartime economy.
After the war breaks out, patriotic spirit explodes in Salinas. Cal and Will buy beans from local farmers for two-and-a-half cents a pound and sell them in England for twelve cents a pound. Cal plans to make enough money to restore the fortune Adam lost in his botched attempt at the refrigerated shipping business.
The narrator briefly discusses the onset of World War I and how it affects Salinas. Telegrams begin to arrive informing families that their sons have been killed—a reality that gradually destroys the townspeople’s myth that the war could never affect them directly.
Adam, proud of Aron’s decision to finish high school early, tells Lee that he wishes Cal had the same ambition. Lee replies that Cal may surprise Adam. Aron, busy with his studies in school and at church, hears that a local madam has begun attending church services.
The war continues, and Liza Hamilton dies. Aron passes his graduation exams but does not tell his father; Aron tells Cal that he does not think his father would even care about the exams. Lee, however, tells Aron that his father is immensely proud and that he was planning to give Aron a gold watch for graduation.
Abra starts to spend time with Lee and Adam after Aron leaves for Stanford University. She confides in Lee and asks him if it is true that Aron’s mother is a prostitute. Lee confesses that it is indeed true. He worries that Aron will find out and that he will never understand that Adam lied to him about it in order to protect him. Meanwhile, Cal tells Lee that he has made enough money to pay back his $5,000, along with an additional $15,000 on top of it. Cal plans to give the money to his father on Thanksgiving.