Clark is a young man who makes his home at a boarding house in Boston. He receives a letter one day from his Uncle Howard in Nebraska; it informs him that his Aunt Georgiana will be arriving in the city to take care of some business matters. Uncle Howard asks Clark to pick her up at the station and to “render her whatever services might be necessary.” Not surprisingly, his uncle has written at the last minute; his aunt will be arriving the next day. The situation reawakens long-forgotten memories for Clark. He remembers the figure of his aunt, “at once pathetic and grotesque,” and in his mind he becomes again “the gangling farm boy [she] had known.”
Aunt Georgiana has come all the way from Red Willow County on a day coach and is exhausted and disheveled when she arrives in Boston. Clark notices that her familiar, misshapen figure is so stooped now that her shoulders are almost bent together; she wears “ill-fitting false teeth” and her skin is yellow from constant exposure to the elements. This worn woman had once been a teacher at the Boston Conservatory, but on a visit to relatives in a Green Mountains town at the age of thirty, she caught the attention of “the most idle and shiftless of all the village lads,” a “callow” youth nine years her junior by the name of Howard Carpenter. When she returned to Boston, Howard followed her. Ignoring the warnings of her family and friends, Georgiana eloped with her enamored suitor and left behind forever the comfortable environs of the big city. Howard had no money, so he took a homestead in Nebraska, and the couple arduously measured off their quarter section and settled there. Their lives were fraught with constant hardship and danger; their holding was fifty miles from the railroad in conditions that were utterly primitive. Georgiana has worked her fingers to the bone alongside her husband since then to eke out a living on the land. Until this trip to Boston, she has not left the prairie for thirty years.
Clark reflects that he owes to his aunt “most of the good that ever came [his] way in [his] boyhood.” During the years he had lived with the family, he watched as this indefatigable woman executed with dogged determination the daunting tasks of running a farm household and raising six children. Clark remembers that in the evenings, when the heavy work was finally done, Aunt Georgiana would help him with his studies, coaching him in Latin and introducing...
(The entire section is 1504 words.)
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