Scranton Roy is the son of a Quaker father and a reclusive poet mother. When a traveling drama troupe visits his Pennsylvania community in the nineteenth century, Scranton is smitten by a tall, slender blonde actress who wants nothing to do with him. Angry at her rejection, Scranton enlists in the U. S. Cavalry in St. Paul, Minnesota. After training, his company marches west and raids an Ojibwa village. Despite Scranton's Quaker heritage, he takes part in the indiscriminate killing and bayonets an old woman. As he pulls the bayonet from her body, he sees his own mother in her. Disgusted with his own savagery, Scranton runs away, but as he flees, he sees a dog with a baby strapped to its body. After pursuing the dog for several days, he befriends it and begins to care for the baby, whom he nurses as if he were female. Abandoning the army, Scranton builds a sod house for himself and the baby, whom he names Matilda after his mother. When Matilda Roy is old enough for school, she is attracted to her teacher, Peace McKnight, whom Scranton Roy brings into his house and marries. After Matilda's mother, Blue Prairie Woman, comes for her, Matilda Roy leaves Roy, who is saddened by the loss. However, he has a son with Peace McKnight, who is weakened from the "mottled skin sickness" and dies from a protracted labor. Roy not only puffs air into the baby's lungs but nurses his son Augustus, just as he has earlier nursed Matilda. Years later, when he is an old man, Roy takes most...
(The entire section is 2143 words.)
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