Answer as a Man: A Novel

Answer as a Man: A Novel

by Taylor Caldwell

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Overview


New York Times Bestseller: In early 1900s Pennsylvania, the ambitious son of Irish immigrants pursues the American Dream in the face of injustice and intolerance.

 Fourteen-year-old Jason Aloysius Garrity is now of age to work full-time in a Pennsylvania coal factory, earning four dollars a week. His family left their hardscrabble life in Ireland to create a better one in America. But their shanty-like home on a street filled with outhouses, horse manure, and the ever-present odor of noxious gas is a hell all its own. Yet Jason possesses the passion and principles that will lift him out of the abject poverty surrounding his widowed mother, fanatically religious younger brother, and manipulative crippled sister.
 
With World War I looming on the horizon, Jason begins to make his way in Belleville’s burgeoning business world. He marries beautiful, wealthy Patricia Mulligan, unaware that their union is built on a deception that will have far-reaching consequences not only in his life but in the lives of his three children.
 
Filled with unforgettable characters, this masterful retelling of the Book of Job depicts one man’s will to succeed amidst the slings and arrows of fortune.

 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504066228
Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media LLC
Publication date: 12/22/2020
Pages: 422
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author


Taylor Caldwell (1900–1985) was one of the most prolific and widely read authors of the twentieth century. Born Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell in Manchester, England, she moved with her family to Buffalo, New York, in 1907. She started writing stories when she was eight years old and completed her first novel when she was twelve. Married at age eighteen, Caldwell worked as a stenographer and court reporter to help support her family and took college courses at night, earning a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Buffalo in 1931. She adopted the pen name Taylor Caldwell because legendary editor Maxwell Perkins thought her debut novel, Dynasty of Death (1938), would be better received if readers assumed it were written by a man. In a career that spanned five decades, Caldwell published forty novels, many of which were New York Times bestsellers. Her best-known works include the historical sagas The Sound of Thunder (1957), Testimony of Two Men (1968), Captains and the Kings (1972), and Ceremony of the Innocent (1976), and the spiritually themed novels The Listener (1960) and No One Hears But Him (1966). Dear and Glorious Physician (1958), a portrayal of the life of St. Luke, and Great Lion of God (1970), about the life of St. Paul, are among the bestselling religious novels of all time. Caldwell’s last novel, Answer as a Man (1981), hit the New York Times bestseller list before its official publication date. She died at her home in Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1985.

To read more about the life and work of Taylor Caldwell, please visit www.taylorcaldwell.com.

Read an Excerpt

Answer as a Man

A Novel


By Taylor Caldwell

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1980 Taylor Caldwell Prentice
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3899-7


CHAPTER 1

Jason Aloysius Garrity was awakened rudely, as usual, by the clamor of the 5:30-A.M. bells of the little church almost next door: St. John the Baptist Church. The bells were ringing for Mass, and they awakened all the workingmen and their families in the neighborhood, whose remarks, when aroused, were less than reverent. But the bells were their only alarm to rise and pursue another depressing and somber twelve hours of toil, so the cursing was relevant. The day would be exhausting and stupefying, and they hated the prospect with dull resentment, and justification.

As did young Jason. But he had youth and hope and stamina and determination, which made him considerably different from his neighbors. However, he was depressed and gloomy, which also was usual in the dawn of a weekday. He recalled that today was his birthday. He was fourteen years old on this morning of November 11, 1900. He was now of an age to work a full day in the factories — for four dollars a week — and was permitted to leave school. The prospect was less than pleasing, but Jason was not one to bemoan anything, especially something which was desperately necessary. He faced life with composure and resolution, accepting all that it was without whining or protest; at least, not out loud. He kept his resentments and complaints to himself, out of consideration for his mother, Kate Garrity, who had miseries enough of her own. She would often say with love, "Jason is the only one in this family who is cheerful, I'm thinking, no matter what happens, God bless him."

To which his grandfather, Bernard Garrity, would reply with a grunt, "Well, then, he's young and he's got his dreams, but life will settle that, for sure." He remembered his own dreams when he had been Jason's age, and if his small cold gray eyes watered, only he knew of it, and his natural irritability would increase. His neighbors called him a "miserable old bucko," for he rarely if ever smiled and would shake his stick at the Saturday-night drunks and curse them, or bring down that stick on the shoulders of a spalpeen who was unusually noisy or impudent on the street. He was not universally loved. Nor did he love anyone, except of course the Blessed Mother, his widowed daughter-in-law, Kate, and Jason. He was famous in the neighborhood for his intolerance, violence, irascibility, skepticism, and "a tongue like knives." The priest was certain, with sadness, that he was a lost soul, for he never went to Mass, except for Christmas Eve, and made a very sketchy Easter Duty, and was not known otherwise to go to confession. But then, as Bernard would remark sourly to his daughter-in-law, "the boyeens were born in America and know nothing of that damned Famine in Ireland, and so they still have dreams." When the new young pastor called — very timidly — the occasion would conclude in loud arguments, which Bernard always won, and headshakings on the part of the pastor, who would go immediately into the church and deplore his own recent sin of explosive bad temper. He would also pray for Bernard's soul, and not without a little human vindictiveness. Had Bernard known, he would have growled deeply and loudly, his closest approach to laughter.

Bernard was seventy-two. He swept and cleaned the floors of neighborhood shops for a living, and washed their windows, and kept the little church tidy, and shoveled snow in the winter, and emptied ashes. It was a lucky week if he brought home four dollars. As he had had a stringent, starving, laborious, and very lean boyhood in Ireland, he was as healthy as new leather, and as tough and resilient. To him weakness and sloth were mortal sins, never to be forgiven by man or God, in whom he did not entirely believe.

He had no compassion for beggars, or liars, or hungry thieves, or any softness. His only compassion, well hidden, was for women, whether naughty or virtuous. He had seen their desperate courage and valor in Ireland, and he had not thought it evil when a colleen sold herself for a loaf of bread for her family, or a turnip or a bit of lamb for the pot, or to feed her child. In fact, he thought such women more noble than others, for Irish women considered sexual congress out of marriage the most mortal of all sins. They felt they had bartered their immortal souls to the Devil to keep a loved one alive during the Famine, and though they wept, they did not turn aside. If anyone deserved an improbable heaven, he would think, it was such women, and he hoped, for their sake, that there would be a recompense somewhere, even if he doubted it.

The dim gray-blue of a false dawn was invading the tiny bedroom where Jason slept on a narrow hard bed, next to the cot of his brother, John Xavier, who was thirteen years old. It was very cold in the room, for there was no heat in this small cramped house except in the kitchen, with its coal-and-wood stove, and there were no curtains at the window and no rugs on the floor, and only one small lithograph, unframed, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, hanging on the wall. The icy air still vibrated with the sound of the bells. St. John the Baptist Church might have been the most minute of churches in this nondescript meager city of Belleville, Pennsylvania, but it surely had the loudest main bell of any church, strident, admonishing, arousing, and belligerent. Even when it frequently tolled for the dead it was stern and angry. It had come from a train, and had cost three dollars, which it appeared to resent with considerable and clamorous fury. It apparently believed it had lost status, though it had been duly blessed. Jason felt it was really the voice of the young pastor, Father William Ralph Sweeney, and he sometimes amused himself by conjecturing that that voice was directed entirely against his grandfather, whom he dearly loved.

The blankets on Jason's cot were thin and patched and old, and he shivered in the early-morning cold and stretched his long young body in the area of warmth his flesh had created. It was time to get up and deliver the load of washing his mother had done the day before for distant and more affluent women. Her laundry was celebrated for its excellence, and she often made up to six dollars a week for doing it, so meticulous it was. Delicate articles were washed and ironed with genuine love, for Kate was appreciative of fine fabrics and lace. It was Jason's daily job, before and after school, to return the laundry to its owners and collect the money. He knew almost all the luxurious houses in Belleville. The ladies had their own laundresses, but they had discovered that Kate Garrity could be trusted with the most fragile of silks and voiles, and that she returned them in blooming condition. After the afternoon deliveries were made, Jason earned a dollar a week by helping out old Mr. Joseph Maggiotti — who had the corner grocery and dry-goods store — slicing sausages and selling threads and needles and pots and pans and lengths of cotton and secondhand shoes.

This job went on from four to eight every day and the whole day Saturday. Mr. Maggiotti, who was even poorer than his neighbors, was old and widowed and lived in two rooms over his shop. He could pay Jason only that one dollar a week, but often he would give him a quarter of a pound of butter, the end of a bologna sausage, a yard of cloth for an apron for Kate, a pair of black cotton stockings, a loaf of day-old bread, and sometimes a steaming pot of spaghetti with a pungent sauce, or a slice of Romano cheese, all of which were received with thanksgiving by Kate. Heathen food, old Bernard would say abrasively as he devoured it with relish.

Mr. Maggiotti was the only person on the street Bernard could tolerate, and he could sometimes be found chatting inside with Joe or sitting on a chair outside the shop more or less peacefully smoking and glaring at passersby, who found him formidable. He washed Mr. Maggiotti's windows and swept his shop for free, despite the owner's protests. He would accept a chunk of buttered Italian bread, however, and a little tobacco, with the graciousness of a bishop. Mr. Maggiotti would, with furtiveness and an eye for a reproving passing glance, give him a glass of very acid Chianti wine. They quarreled constantly, and loudly, and had an abiding affection for each other, these two old men. They also had respect. They both had nothing good to say about their young pastor, whom they considered an ignorant bucko teeming with ridiculous goodwill and earnest illusions about the innate goodness of humanity. They knew better.

"You gotta good grandson, that Jase," Mr. Maggiotti would often say.

"He'll do," Bernard would grunt.

"He no hate work," Mr. Maggiotti would protest.

"Sure, and you're right, Joe. Not like his damned brother, Jack, who says he wants to be a priest. Lazy way out. That boyeen is supposed to have two paper routes, but half the time he's at Mass or vespers, and Jason's got to deliver his papers in the morning, besides carting his mum's laundry. Then Jack's delicate and has a weak stomach, Kate says, and so Jason delivers his evening papers, too. Must be a magician, Jason, getting everything in, and on time, too. Moves like a jackrabbit. Well, then, it'll do him good. Perhaps. Work never killed a man. It's only the travail of his soul that kills him. Kills us all eventually."

Mr. Maggiotti would reply with sadness, "Si. Grief — it killed my wife. All the bambinos ... died — one year, two year. No food. Bad times. God rest her soul."

Bernard would say with unusual cheerfulness, "Thank God, we all die. That's one blessing."

Mr. Maggiotti, a buoyant soul, did not entirely agree with this, though being a polite man with manners, he would dolefully shake his head, as if in assent. He loved the infrequent sunshine in Belleville; he loved the trees and grass and flowers and the voices of children, and the rising dawns and the scent of good food and cloth, and the texture of the coarse lace he sold, and the winds of heaven and the silence of a moonlit midnight and the cheap gaudy statues in the church and the glimpse of a pretty face and the sound of the rain on his tin roof and the slow falling of the miracle of snow. And Mass. But he never betrayed these weaknesses to Bernard, for whom he had respect. A man did not argue with a valued friend, except when it came to politics, a matter on which Mr. Maggiotti was vehement. Mr. Maggiotti thought that most politicians should be quietly assassinated. Bernard thought they should be publicly hanged. It was a subtle difference, which they never resolved. But then, Mr. Maggiotti was a Sicilian, Bernard an Irishman, and they had clashing codes of honor.

On Christmas Day they both got drunk in the back room of the shop. Bernard would supply a pint of very bad cheap whiskey and Mr. Maggiotti would contribute a bottle of cherished wine and roasted chestnuts and ham and his own ravioli. The shopkeeper would sing Italian songs in a beautiful resonant voice and Bernard would sing Irish ballads and they would weep on each other's shoulders, deliciously. It was their happiest day. Kate would gently say it was a scandal, but she did not mean it. She loved Bernard as a father and was happy that he could enjoy himself. Her husband, Peter, had, as he said, left his father in her hands. She always felt that Bernard, instead, was her protector, the iron gates in her harried life. Peter had been too much of a dreamer to protect anyone. He had written poetry, none of which he could sell. He had also played the violin in taverns in Ireland, which never netted him more than a shilling or two at the best. Bernard, in comparison, was an oaken shillelagh.

A number of their neighbors were Germans who had fled Germany under Bismarck. Mr. Maggiotti thought them grim and joyless. Bernard respected them for their relentless industry, their cleanliness, their hard acceptance of life. Germans had few illusions. Germans hated sloth, and of that Bernard approved. They also had a local band, all rugged brass, which made Mr. Maggiotti wince. But Bernard considered it a furious defiance of fate, and he had always defied fate. Defiance was man's answer to chaos. And, perhaps, to God. Germans never begged Mr. Maggiotti for credit. They paid cash, or went without. Mr. Maggiotti thought credit was a pact between gentlemen. Bernard thought credit was a sign of fecklessness. "Never a lender or a borrower be," Bernard would quote from Shakespeare. "One must trust," said Mr. Maggiotti, who gave credit to some of his customers and suffered for it. "Trust," said Bernard, "is all very good, but make them put it down on paper and make them honor it."

"You hard man," said Mr. Maggiotti.

"Learned it the hard way," Bernard would reply. "Men are bastards."

"God loves all men, Bernie."

"More fool he," said Bernard.

Mr. Maggiotti would then bless himself and lower his ardent brown eyes piously. Bernard thought him a bit of a hypocrite. After all, a man did not live this long and remain an innocent fool. But Bernard forgave him. A man was entitled to his hypocrisies if it made life a little easier for him. It was like pretending wax flowers were real — if one looked and did not touch. It brightened corners, though Bernard preferred to scowl at dark, hollow, empty ones. Irishmen might become sentimental after a few drafts of whiskey, but they did not bring that sentimentality into the affairs of the world. They knew, as the Holy Bible said, that money is the answer to all things. It also said that "be surety for a stranger — you will smart for it." Bernard had given "surety for a stranger" once in his life, and sure, he had smarted for it. Credit was the invention of the Devil. And banks, which were the edifices of the Devil. What few coins Bernard could save were put into a tin tea box, under his bed. Interest? The Holy Bible was against it. Interest mocked a man and devoured his spirit. There were other ways to increase your "fortune."


Jason, on his cot, became aware of a very familiar sound: his mother was scrubbing on her washboard. Rub-ba-da-dub. She arose at five. His door was partly open. The kerosene lamp from the kitchen wavered its feeble yellow light into his room. He could smell the naphtha soap, and steam, strong and suffocating. On this morning of his fourteenth birthday he rebelled against it, though he did not know why. He looked across at the cot of his brother. John was not there. So, he had gone to Mass again to avoid delivering his morning newspapers, and that, now, was left to him, Jason. After Mass, Jack was usually in a state of static ecstasy, absorbed in the adoration of God and his hoped-for vows. Kate reverenced and honored that, with awe. Jack would often say, refusing his breakfast of prunes and oatmeal, "No, Mum. I have received our Lord, and that is enough for me." Jason suspected that he ate as heartily as possible before going to school, and Jason was right. He more than suspected his mother "stuffed" Jack with food to "keep up his strength," after others were absent. A man of God needed nourishment.

Jason heard a soprano whine of complaint. That would be Joan, his crippled sister, complaining pathetically from the bedroom she shared with her mother. There was a growl from Bernard, who was not susceptible to whiners, and then Joan whimpered. She both hated and feared her grandfather, who was not beguiled by her frail beauty. Jason loved his eleven-year-old sister and did not know why. She despised him and was open in her derision and contempt, whereas she adored her brother John, who prayed over her with a solemn face. "Moochers," Bernard would say. "They'll have their way, from the flesh and the bodies of others. Did not St. Paul say, 'He who does not work, neither shall he eat?' Kate has too soft a heart."

To Bernard, those who did not earn their bread were anathema, whether young or old, whether sick or well, whether whole or disabled. There was always work in some form or other for them to do, to the limit of their capacity. "Parasites," he said once, "lose their ability to move, to live on their own. They should be destroyed, like lice." Kate had shuddered at this and had spoken of immortal souls. "Hah," said Bernard, "the good Lord himself condemned them."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Answer as a Man by Taylor Caldwell. Copyright © 1980 Taylor Caldwell Prentice. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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