It was quite dark now, but the fire lighted the trunks of the trees and the curving branches overhead. Lennie crawled slowly and cautiously around the fire until he was close to George. He sat back on his heels. George turned the bean cans so that another side faced the fire. He pretended to be un-aware of Lennie so close beside him.

"George," very softly. No answer. "George!"

"Whatta you want?"

"I was only foolin’, George. I don’t want no ketchup. I wouldn’t eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me."

"If it was here, you could have some."

"But I wouldn’t eat none, George. I’d leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn’t touch none of it.".

George still stared morosely at the fire. "When I think of the swell time I could have without you, I go nuts. I never get no peace."

Lennie still knelt. He looked off into the darkness across the river, "George, you want I should go away and leave you alone?"

"Yeah' How’d you eat. You ain’t got sense enough to find nothing to eat."

"Well, I could. I could go off in the hills there. Some place I’d find a cave. I’d find things, George. I don’t need no nice food with ketchup. I’d lay out in the sun and nohody’d hurt me; An’ if I foun’ a mouse, I could keep it. Nobody’d take it away from me."

George looked quickly and searchingly at him. "I been mean, ain’t I?"

"If you don’ want me I can go off in the hills an’ find a cave. I can go away any time."

"No - look! I was jus’ foolin’, Lennie. ’Cause'. I want you to stay with me. Trouble with mice is you always kill ’em." He paused. "Tell you what I’ll do, Lennie. First chance I get I'll give you a pup. Maybe you wouldn’t kill it. That’d be better than. mice. And you could pet it harder."

Lennie avoided the bait. He had sensed his advantage."If you don’t want me, you only jus’ got to say so, and I’ll go off in those hills right there - right up in those hills and live by myself. An’ I won’t get no mice stole from me."

George said, "I want you to stay with me, Lennie. Jesus Christ, somebody’d shoot you for a coyote if you was by yourself. No, you stay with me. Your Aunt Clara wouldn’t like you running off by yourself, even if she is dead."

Lennie spoke craftily, "Tell me - like you done before."

"Tell you what?"

"About the rabbits."

George snapped, "You ain’t gonna put nothing over on me."

Lennie pleads "Come on, George. Tell me. Please, George. Like you done before."

"You get a kick outta that, don’t you? Awright, I’ll tell you, and then we’ll eat our supper...."

George’s voice became deeper. He repeated his words rhythmically as though he had said them many times before. "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place. They come to a ranch an’ work up a stake and then they go inta town and blow their stake, and the first thing you know they’re poundin’ their tail on some other ranch. They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to."

Lennie was delighted. "That’s it - that’s it. Now tell how it is with us."

George went on. "With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us. We don’t have to sit in no bar room blowin’ our jack jus’ because we got no place else to go. If them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us."

Lennie broke in."But not us! An’ why? Because .... because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why." He laughed delightedly. "Go on now, George!" "You got it by heart. You can do it yourself. No, you. I forget some a’ the things. Tell about how it’s gonna be."

"O.K. Someday - we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs and -"

"An’ live off the fatta the lan’"Lennie shouted. "An’ haverabbits. Go on, George! Tell about what we’re gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is an the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that, George."

"Why’n’t you do it yourself? You know all of it."

"No.... you tell it. It ain’t the same if I tell it. Go on.... George. How I get to tend the rabbits."

"Well," said George, "we’ll have a big vegetable patch and a rabbit hutch and chickens. And when it rains in the winter, we’ll just say the hell with goin’ to work, and we’ll build up a fire in the stove and set around it an’ listen to the rain comin’ down on the roof - Nuts!" He took out his pocket knife. "I ain’t got time for no more."He drove his knife through the top of one of the bean cans, sawed out the top and passed the can to Lennie. Then he opened a second can. From his side pocket he brought out two spoons and passed one of them to Lennie.

They sat by the fire and filled their mouths with beans and chewed mightily.