Adam’s next five years fly by, for they are uneventful and unmemorable. He writes to tell Charles that this time he is really coming home, but instead hitchhikes around the country and lives as a vagabond. He is arrested and jailed for vagrancy and put on a chain gang. He escapes, however, and starts to make his way back to Charles.
Adam, rather than going home, eschews material comfort of all kinds and roams the country as a vagabond. Later in the novel Adam will come into a great deal of wealth; the reader should ask whether Adam is happier as a vagabond or as a rich man.
One day Charles receives word in the mail that Cyrus is dead. His father has willed all his possessions to be split between his two sons—and Charles discovers his father had assets worth well over a hundred thousand dollars. He is disturbed by this—where did his father get this money? Soon after this he gets a telegram from Adam, asking for 100 dollars, and saying he is on his way home.
Charles, who, unlike Adam conceived of his father as a hero and a great man, is disturbed to find out that his father has secrets. His idealistic picture of Cyrus begins to break down. This unsettling realization is accompanied by correspondence from Adam—family tensions and Drama are coming to a head.
Adam finally arrives home, and his reunion with his brother is somewhat awkward. Charles is clearly hiding something. After some questioning, Adam gets Charles to reveal the fact of their father’s fortune. What’s more, Cyrus’s discharge papers from the war were sent along with other documents, and they reveal that he only fought in one skirmish before losing his leg and leaving the army. The boys, who had believed their father’s stories of his time in the war, don’t know what to say so they change the subject.
Finally Adam and Charles must contend with the reality about their father: that he lied about his time in the war, and that he likely came into a great deal of money by dishonest means. The brothers avoid the truth—it is too hard to discuss the possibility of their father’s deceit and dishonesty; they must continue behaving as if their father is a good man.
Charles asks Adam if there are any women in his life. Adam says he stayed with a Native American woman for a while on the road, and Charles can see Adam had feelings for this woman. Charles says that he has been going to the whorehouse every once in a while, and asks Adam if he’d like to go. Adam says maybe later.
The novel continues to make a point about the universality of loneliness—neither of the brothers have had a fulfilling sexual relationship in their lives. Both have different ways of coping—Adam by developing hopeless attachments and Charles by indulging in indecent behavior.
They dance around the issue of their father throughout dinner, until finally they return to it. Charles is deeply worried about the possibility that the money they have inherited from their father was stolen or otherwise ill-gotten. He demands to know why Adam does not look upset, and asks if Adam even loved Cyrus. Adam says he did not love Cyrus, but that he has faith Cyrus was not a thief. He says “papers are no match for his faith” and refuses to believe that his father is a liar. Charles does not understand, but hesitatingly agrees to keep the money. Adam suggests moving to California, but Charles says he could never leave the farm.
Adam’s comments about faith are deeply revealing: Adam recognizes that the stories we tell ourselves can either deceive us or expose us to difficult but necessary truths. Adam decides to tell himself and his brother a story about their father’s infallibility—he chooses to believe this story even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Adam suffers from being unable to see the bad in people—this part of his history gives us insight into this particular character flaw.