From the New York Times–bestselling author of Captains and the Kings: A self-made man sacrifices everything for his family in turn-of-the-century New York.
The son of a socialist German shopkeeper, Edward Enger has one dream: to turn his father’s modest delicatessen into an empire. With an astute head for business and talent for making money, he achieves success beyond his wildest imagination. Yet something is keeping him from enjoying his extraordinary good fortune.
Fourteen-year-old Edward believed he would love ten-year-old Margaret Proster all the days of his life . . . until she moved away. Now, she has returned and is planning to marry another man, someone very close to Edward. His need to succeed at all costs drives him to take on this latest challenge, along with more mortgages, more debt, and speculative investments on Manhattan’s burgeoning Wall Street. A man does not become powerful without making enemies, and as his family life begins to unravel, a day of reckoning is nearing. Soon Edward will have to confront a painful event from his boyhood—a secret buried deep inside that he has never told another living soul.
A man in the right place at the right time, Edward’s meteoric ascent coincides with the rise of America’s middle class as the nation transforms from an agricultural and industrial force to a financial world leader. But his success comes at a great cost in this towering novel of love and sacrifice by one of our most gifted storytellers.
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About the Author
To read more about the life and work of Taylor Caldwell, please visit www.taylorcaldwell.com.
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.
Read an Excerpt
The Sound of Thunder
By Taylor Caldwell
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1957 Reback and Reback
All rights reserved.
In a few minutes he would have to go to help his father. Far off, in the hot Sunday quiet of early evening he could hear the Vesper bells ringing, sweet and unearthly against the gold and fiery rose of the western sky. A dusty breeze sang dryly in the trees; the houses, the street, lay entranced in stupefied silence, the cobblestones gray with grime, splattered here and there with the brown of horse manure. It was so still that Edward Enger, fourteen years old, heard distinctly the distant and languid clop-clop of a horse going home, and the serene rattle of some buggy or carriage filled with a happy family replete from a picnic, a drive along the river, or a visit to relatives. He had never ridden in a buggy or, better, a carriage. But it was good, sitting this way on the curb, with no one around and only the sky and the bells for company. It was awfully good, even if a person was tired out after a long day's work. Across the narrow and cobbled streets he could see the quiet porches trailing wistaria, purple in the mauve shadows that filled the air, the Chinese prisms voiceless, the comfortable chairs cushioned and waiting, the tenantless hammocks. The upper windows of the houses opposite reflected the sky and seemed to burn with an inner fire. A dog barked, surfeited and content, out of sight, resting after the heat.
Edward thought School Road, where he lived, about the nicest street in the city of Waterford, though it was lower middle class and no home contained any luxuries such as he had seen elsewhere. On this block, only his own home, behind him on a narrow green lawn, and the Witlocks', boasted a piano. Well, it was something to have a piano! Edward lifted his head proudly. He pressed his big brown hand against his shirt pocket. Five dollars there! Four of them, tomorrow, would go for David's piano. (It was always "David's piano," when the family spoke of it, though Edward was paying on time for that glorious instrument. Four dollars a week. Fifteen more weeks. Then it would truly be "David's piano.") Edward sighed, frowned a little. He hated buying on time. So did his parents. But David had to have that piano. "I suppose he did have to have it," said Edward aloud. He had taken off his hot and aching shoes, and his large feet, brown as his hands, refreshed themselves in the cooling dust of the gutter. "He couldn't have waited until I'd paid off the whole thing. The teacher said he had to have it, for practice."
He leaned his throbbing back against the trunk of the great old elm behind him, and felt the comfort of companionship. Sylvia said it made the house dark and gloomy, and Mr. and Mrs. Enger, who loved the tree, had yet been eager to sacrifice it for the sake of Sylvia's "nerves." She hated shadows and the quiet of serene old branches. Sylvia was all quickness and impatience. But for once Edward had raised his voice, in a house where his voice was seldom permitted to be heard or heeded. ("That dolt!" Sylvia would say.) He, Edward, had said, "If you cut down that tree, David don't get more payments on his piano. Hear?" Sylvia had replied with contempt, "The word is 'doesn't,' stupid. But what can you expect of an uneducated person?"
Edward shook his head, remembering. He had wanted to remind Sylvia, thirteen years old and in first-year high, that he had had to leave school at the age of fourteen because he was needed. But a quarrel with Sylvia inevitably brought pain to his father's face, and annoyance into his mother's eyes, and cutting remarks from the other children. Edward's parents were sorry that he had had to leave school. When the decision had been made for him, he had expressed his awkwardly spoken wish to be a physicist. "What!" David had cried with mirth. "You? Why, you're no good at anything but mathematics!" David, the pianist, had not, of course, understood that mathematics was the most important requisite. But Mrs. Enger had begun to frown, and Edward had said no more. His room was crowded with old second-hand books on physics, and he read them and hid them whenever anyone entered. Maybe he was a fool, at that, thinking of being a scientist when there was so much genius in the family: David the pianist, Sylvia who produced the school plays, Gregory who would probably be a famous writer, and Ralph who would be an artist. "Yeah," said Edward aloud, rubbing his blistered feet in the dust. "Cost me a dollar last week for that box of water colors."
But still, after he had spoken in a loud, firm voice, no one had dared to suggest that the tree be cut down. "I like her," he had said. "I've got a name for her. Margaret. She looks like a Margaret." After he had warned them, no one had dared to jeer as usual.
Edward, who hated the very scent of power, and who instinctively suspected power and the users of power, had been ashamed when he had silenced his family. He had been a bully. He despised bullies. He had wanted to apologize. But an apology would bring death, he knew, for "Margaret." He had often yielded in the past and catastrophe had followed for himself or something he had loved. He looked up at the mighty tree now and smiled. "If I'd said I was sorry about Sylvia's nerves, you wouldn't be up there today, Margaret. You'd be firewood for the kitchen stove." The tree, as if in response, bent her lovely green crest, and it glittered with the sunset light, and a bird rose from it, singing. Edward listened. Now birds were something! You'd think that David, at least, the pianist who would be famous, would listen to birds, especially at dawn and at sunset. But David hated the out-of-doors. "So crude." David was fifteen. For an instant, and only for an instant, Edward addressed David in his heart: "You're daffy." Then he hurriedly turned away from the revealing truth, remembering that his father, who had actually shaken Wagner's hand in Germany, and who played the flute, had declared, with an ecstatic clapping of his little fat hands, that David was a genius, with the soul of a musician. Pa ought to know! Besides, Pa had a bad heart and loved serenity and affection in a family. Nothing disturbed him so much as quarreling and angry voices. "Seems as if it's me that's always got to keep peace, for Pa's sake," said Edward, smiling up at Margaret, who suddenly showed him a high branch covered with the golden light of the falling sun. "And Ma's temper," he added. Margaret drew her boughs together in the rising wind and stood like a goddess, crowned with fire. There was a small, sharp catch of joy in Edward's chest. He was glad that no one else on the street saw this illuminated glory. There was not a single footfall on the sidewalks. "I've just got to be alone with you, Margaret," said Edward. "If there's anybody else around, you just go far back into yourself and you don't even speak to me." There was love in his rough and youthful voice. Margaret smiled down at him, like a celestial mother. She promised him something, mysteriously, and there was a lilting, a joy, in his heart. Gosh, he was only fourteen! There was a whole life ahead. He wished he did not have to work all day Sunday. He'd like to go to Sunday school with the other kids and learn about ... About what? Why, God, he supposed.
He looked at the sunset. God was only for people who did things, who had missions. "You and me," Mr. Enger had said to Edward in his native German, "we were born to serve."
"I suppose Pa's right," Edward grunted, looking up at his beloved tree.
"Margaret" clamored in a sudden gust, distressfully. Edward could not interpret, for this was a new voice. He was pondering on the strange and urgent message to him when he heard the brisk flutter of wings and a scrabbling in the dust. A young brown hen flew determinedly on his knee, and he laughed and took her in his hands and cuddled her under his chin. "How'd you get out, Betsy?" he asked with severity. "Thought I'd penned you in good." The hen pecked feverishly at his lips and cheeks, in her frantic affection. He had bought her at Easter in the local five-and-ten; five cents. "You ain't worth even five cents," he told her lovingly as she pecked at his ear. "Not five cents, you rascal. Gee, you were cute when you were a kid, just a yellow ball of cotton batting. Never mind, you're cute now, too." He ruffled the brown feathers on her neck with his mouth and she squirmed with delight. "Why, you're just a kid, anyways. But you got to get back in your pen. Never can tell what'll happen to you out here."
Betsy pushed her head against his neck, then inside his sweat-heavy shirt. She clucked her love. He stroked her gently, eased his back against the tree. Hell of a thing, working all day Sunday, mowing lawns, cleaning out cellars, brushing out furnaces, getting ready for the winter, washing windows, cranking ice-cream freezers, scrubbing down porches, mopping over buggies and carriages, piling up manure in barns, currying horses. Seemed like everybody left their chores to be done on a Sunday while they went to church or out to dinner somewhere. But he couldn't complain; he made more on a Sunday than on weekdays, when he helped his father full time in the store. His father paid him five dollars a week, which was his own. But there was always a call on it before he could buy what he wished for himself. He could keep one dollar of his Sunday earnings. He scratched Betsy's stomach and she held up one claw to give him more room, rolling her eyes in ecstasy. "I'm going to make you a real pen, not just that crate," he told her.
The Vesper bells died into a vibrant silence, and mauve shadows in the street melted into gold. Mr. Enger, according to the laws of the state, was permitted to open his shop for public service from six to eight on Sundays. Women always forgot that bottle of milk, or some dill pickles, or a package of crackers or a loaf of bread, or there was unexpected company needing ham or cooked corned beef. "I've got to go, Betsy," said Edward, scratching the bird's wings. "Pa can't keep things going all by himself on Sunday nights."
He stood up, a tall and robust boy, wide of shoulder, straight of back, long of sturdy limb. Holding his hen, he pushed his feet into his shoes. He winced, for his feet had swollen and the blisters hurt. He tossed his dark brown hair, shaggy and damp with sweat, off his forehead, so that the new breeze could cool him. Never, in anybody's memory, had there been such a hot August like this. Everybody said so. But it had been hot last year, too, and the year before. It kept a fellow dodging under trees, out of the sun, on the way to work or school. School. He had had to leave school in June, after he had finished the ninth grade. He decided not to think of school; it hurt too bad. Well, school wasn't for his kind, so that ended it.
He turned toward his home, a tall, lean clapboarded house painted light gray with dark gray trimming, its attic window a slash of scarlet in the sunset. The narrow porch was small and cramped, but filled with neat chairs, each with a white cotton pad where a head could rest. Clipped bushes surrounded it, but no climbing vines. The house had a prim apperance, respectable and colorless. Edward loved color; there was practically no color in any room, just old browns and dark reds and navy blues and dark, polished woods. "I sure would like to see some scarlets and golds and greens somewhere," Edward said to Betsy as he started for the house. Just then David, in the parlor, began on the piece he had been endlessly practicing. Edward knew it was a part of the "Moonlight Sonata." Beethoven. His father had told him.
He stopped, Betsy held to his chest, and listened, and his gray eyes, fringed with thick black lashes, opened wide and filled with light. Why, he knew what that music sounded like! Like great white angels moving slowly down golden stairs, with golden shadows on their half-extended wings, their faces grave and majestic, their lips carved like marble, their garments flecked with radiance which shifted and fell like rain. He must have dreamt it sometime. Even Betsy was motionless, listening. "God," he whispered prayerfully, "I can just see it; they've been talking to You, haven't they?"
Then he shuddered, for David had spitefully broken into the very heart of the music with a tinny, syncopated sound, "Meet me at the fair! ... St. Louis, Louie ... Meet me at the fair!" It was the derisive laughter of devils beneath the golden stairs.
"Shut up, shut up," Edward muttered. "That's what I'm paying four dollars a week for? Why can't you play the thing through when you start it? Just because Pa isn't there? You know he hates that St. Louis thing."
The street, so calm, so silent, so without humanity, suddenly became clamorous with ugly and discordant voices, though not a creature, except the birds, tenanted it as yet. The beauty was gone, the hallowed splendor of the sunset, the quiet meditation of the trees, the warmth, the color, the shine of light against wood and brick. Edward, bending his head, went up the rear wood-planked walk to the yard. Here there was nothing except carefully cropped grass. No tree, no flower, no border. Just grass. Edward had built Betsy a little shelter against the wood garage shed with its sloping cover. He tenderly placed the protesting bird inside, checked her water and seed, ruffled her feathers. He was feeling slightly sick and was afraid that the hen felt his mood. "I'm all right," he said. "Time for birds to be asleep, hear?"
The hen whimpered through the wire netting. "Don't be afraid," he murmured. "I'm coming home soon. Half past eight. See?"
He went away, turned his back on the house, and began to trudge the four streets to his father's delicatessen. His big brown neck, his square brown chin, were drawn in, and he had pushed his hands into the pockets of his old trousers. No use feeling gloomy about that damn David. David was a genius. He, Edward, supposed geniuses must sometimes get tired of their own gifts and break loose. He forgave David almost at once. Why, hadn't Pa often told him that no one could understand a person who had a gift? They lived in a world of their own, beyond criticism, beyond the knowing of other men. There was Wagner, with the bad temper and the screams, and the way he hit other musicians over the shoulder with his cane, and the swearing and everything. Why, even the Kaiser had been afraid of him, and all the grand ladies at the court. "In Germany we understand these things, these geniuses," Mr. Enger had often told Edward dolefully. "But not in America. America has no soul."
The little sick nagging in him would not go away, though he began to whistle softly. He was not even aware that he was whistling the first few bars of the "Moonlight Sonata"; he was only, after a time, aware of a kind of mysterious comforting, as though a hidden voice had spoken. He met no one on his way to the store. He might have been moving in a landscape of narrow streets and cobbled roads and planked sidewalks and empty porches, completely drained of human life. He passed the drugstore, and, as always, he stopped a moment to admire the big green and yellow jars in the window. The sunset was mirrored in them, in exquisite detail, and the piercing silver secret of the evening star. That would be Jupiter, far down in the lake of crimson, hardly seen. Edward wished that Ralph, his brother, eight years old, could see this miniature sunset and the flickering steadfast speck of the planet. He had just the deep scarlet for it, in the paintbox Edward had bought him at his father's suggestion. A scarlet deeper than blood, more depthless than blood, more living than blood. There could be no blue in it at all; that would spoil it. There must be a way to give life and movement to paint, thought Edward. Well, little Ralph would find that out someday. His father took him to the small art gallery every Wednesday afternoon while Edward kept store alone. Ralph would come back, jumping and excited, black eyes distended, his mouth babbling incoherently. Yes, he was a genius.
Excerpted from The Sound of Thunder by Taylor Caldwell. Copyright © 1957 Reback and Reback. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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