Chapter 1 Summary
Granny Blakeslee died three weeks ago. Today, Grandpa Blakeslee comes to the Tweedy house for his usual “early morning snort of whisky” and sends fourteen-year-old Will Tweedy to get his Aunt Loma and his mother. The fifty-nine-year-old grandfather has something to say and he only intends to say it once.
It is July 5, 1906. It is one day after the first Fourth of July celebration held in Cold Sassy, Georgia, since the War Between the States; it is three months after a big earthquake in San Francisco. It is a year after Tweedy’s great-grandmother “died for the second and last time” and six months after Tweedy’s best friend burned his hand on one of the firecrackers he got for Christmas and died of lockjaw ten days later.
In the three weeks since his wife died, Blakeslee “had sort of drawn inside his own skin.” Today Blakeslee stalks through the Tweedy house to get to the corn whiskey he openly stashes here because his wife would not have it in her house. Usually Blakeslee gives Tweedy and his younger, redheaded sister, Mary Toy, a penny candy stick as he passes, but today he simply tells the boy to gather the two women. After hearing the summons, twenty-year-old Loma puts on her black mourning dress and grabs her sleepy baby, Campbell Junior. At the Tweedys’, she gives the baby to Queenie, the cook, and hurries to her father.
Tweedy is surprised at how disheveled and unkempt his grandfather looks after just three weeks of living as a widower. He only has one hand, so his wife had always kept him looking neat and tidy. His daughters have offered to help, but he will not let them. Tweedy’s mother, like her own mother, is not a fancy dresser like Loma, but she does take off her apron for this impromptu meeting. She sends Tweedy out to gather eggs, but Blakeslee stops the boy, saying he wants Tweedy to hear what he has to say, too. The women wait, “puzzled and uneasy,” and their father delivers the speech he obviously rehearsed.
He tells them that he and Mattie Lou had thirty-six good years together and he will never forget her; however, she is gone, just like his hand. (His shirt is knotted just below the elbow of his left arm, as usual.) Blakeslee opens the door, as if he is preparing to escape. Though he will never forget his wife and intends no disrespect, he announces his intent to marry Miss Love Simpson. The girls are stunned. Eventually, Mary Willis respectfully reminds her...
(The entire section is 491 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Mary Willis Tweedy starts to hug her father until he glares at her. He quietly pronounces that he is lonely, hugs his daughters, and walks out the door. On the porch, he turns back to explain that he had to choose between hiring a colored woman or taking a wife, and a wife is cheaper. His last pronouncement is a warning for his daughters to be nice to Miss Love—but he glares only at Loma when he says it.
After Blakeslee leaves to go to his store, Mary Willis wails that she will be too embarrassed to “show her face” in town again. Loma is angry that her father is not grieving long enough and intends to tell Miss Love that she ought to be ashamed. Mary Willis says that would be rude, but it would certainly be a good idea if Miss Love knows how stingy their father is. Hoyt Tweedy will not be able to stand up to his father-in-law, nor will Camp Miller, Loma’s husband: “Nobody could stand up to their daddy.”
The girls are hopeful that no one will hear of this secret engagement, since their father cannot marry for at least a year; perhaps in that time he will reconsider this foolish plan. Mary Willis is usually much more mild-mannered than her sister, who is fourteen years younger. Now Mary Willis throws a small tantrum because she had wanted to ask her father for her mother’s piano and the mirror with St. Cecilia painted on it. She felt as if it were indecent to ask for them so soon—at the same time her father was asking someone to be his wife.
Tweedy is amazed at his mother’s display of passion. Everyone assumed Miss Love would eventually marry Son Black, as they have been courting for a year. Though he is smart and handsome, Black is foul-mouthed and “meaner’n a snake.” The women speculate that Miss Love probably sees herself as being too good to marry a mere farmer and remember that Miss Love was once engaged to a rich rancher who got Miss Love’s best friend pregnant and married her.
Neither woman asks Tweedy, but he has always admired the friendly Miss Love; she is a “merry person,” like his grandfather. He believes Miss Love, his grandfather’s milliner [hatmaker], could “cheer up a man whose wife was short of breath for four years, dying for ten days, and dead for three weeks.”
Mary Willis sends Tweedy away to gather eggs so the women can speak plainly. Tweedy knows what his aunt is afraid of and is certain there has been no scandalous behavior at the...
(The entire section is 499 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Will Tweedy does not understand why his mother and aunt are not happy that their father has found a young lady to marry. Though Blakeslee cannot get married for a year, he will no longer have to eat his dinners and suppers at his daughters’ houses once he is married. The women will not have to worry about their father living alone. Loma has even said she has no room for him at her house. It is not true and it is ungrateful of her, because her father gave her husband a job and provided the house in which the Millers are living. As a child, Loma was a spoiled, selfish girl, and she has not changed.
Mary Willis could not have said such a thing, since her father owns her house and her husband has worked for Blakeslee (keeping the ledgers and accounts) since he was sixteen years old. She is afraid her father will end up at her house; she is afraid of him because she was not a son and she committed heresy by marrying a Presbyterian (which got her virtually excommunicated from the Baptist church when she was seventeen).
Miss Love has been working in Blakeslee’s store for two years, so she must know she is marrying a stingy many who needs help with many things. Miss Love will not be able to maintain a garden or nurse the sick as well as his dead wife, but that is no reason for Blakeslee not to marry her. The fact that Tweedy likes Miss Love does not change his love for his grandmother. He figures that is just how his grandfather feels, so the boy does not understand why the women are so upset.
Loma leaves and his mother scolds Tweedy for not doing his chores. She has a headache and shuts herself in her cool, dark room. “In a kind of furious daze,” the boy begins weeding the garden. He vigorously pulls the weeds, pretending they are Miss Love and hoping that getting rid of them will get rid of her so they can “be a normal family again.” The worst, for him, is having spent three weeks of summer without doing anything fun because the family is in mourning.
Suddenly his father appears, red-faced and distraught, and announces that Blakeslee and Miss Love have just left for Jefferson to get married. Tweedy’s father has to comfort his wife in her distress at such a scandal and her fear that Miss Love will steal her family’s inheritance. Mary Willis rants about knowing nothing about Miss Love’s Yankee-loving, undoubtedly common family, like Campbell Miller’s family. (Loma only married him...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Grandpa Blakeslee, at fifty-nine, is “lean, strong, straight, and taller than most men.” He has all his teeth, only wears glasses to read, and is a Democrat, a Baptist, and a staunch veteran of the Confederate Army. He is more of a fighter than a farmer and is a good shot (despite missing one hand). He conducts himself like a duke or a king and no one crosses him.
Tweedy looks like his grandfather and likes him most for his “flair for practical jokes.” One day Tweedy wants to be like his father, but for now his grandfather is more fun. Tweedy regularly helps Blakeslee at the store and has done so since he was very young; however, Tweedy wants to be a farmer but has not told his grandfather about his plans.
The store is a big brick building with “mahogany counters, beveled glass mirrors, and big colored signs”for all kinds of products. Over the entrance is a big sign in fancy red letters outlined in gold: General Merchandise, Mr. E. Rucker Blakeslee, Proprietor. Blakeslee also owns the largest cotton warehouse in north Georgia and a chicken house behind the store. Hoyt Tweedy makes many of the store’s buying trips to big cities; Campbell Williams is a lazy worker for whom Blakeslee has no respect.
Miss Love Simpson is the first female Blakeslee ever hired: she is a tall, big-bosomed, plump woman who stands straight and laughs easily. Tweedy met her when he was twelve and was mesmerized by her womanliness. Miss Love speaks quite properly and was trained as a milliner in Baltimore. The company then sent her and her best friend to a large store in Texas. When she was ready to leave Texas, the company sent her to Georgia.
She lived with the Blakeslees when she first arrived and now rents a room from the Crabtrees. She keeps to herself and has no close friends in town. The only thing Cold Sassy knows about Miss Love is what another milliner told Loma. Miss Love’s father fought in the Union Army and the man she was engaged to got her best friend pregnant and married her while she was back in Baltimore working on her trousseau. Of course, until Miss Love arrived in Cold Sassy, Loma was considered to be the prettiest woman in town, so she may not be entirely unbiased in her assessment of the woman.
Tweedy is only six years younger than his aunt, but she has always bossed him around as if Tweedy were her personal slave. Miss Love is made fun of for being a Yankee and a suffragette,...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Just as Mary Willis feared, everyone in Cold Sassy now wonders whether Grandpa Blakeslee had loved his milliner, Miss Love Simpson, for a long time and is perhaps a bit relieved that his wife, Mattie Lou, is now gone so he can marry her. The two women are nothing alike except that they are “both feisty.” Granny Blakeslee never adorned herself in any way, and her grandson Will Tweedy, though he loves her, does not think she was a pretty woman. Her eyes were too far apart, she had big ears, and in the last months of her life, she had a strange growth protruding from her throat; despite that, Tweedy knows his grandfather loved Mattie Lou.
The only thing he has ever held against her is the fact that she did not give him a son. Granny never understood why Blakeslee married her after he came home from the war. Rucker Blakeslee was the most handsome man and Mattie Lou Toy was an old maid at twenty-one. On the way into church one Sunday morning, he tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to skip church and talk to him. Mattie Lou had not seen Blakeslee since fourth grade, but she knew who he was. They talked, ate dinner, and talked some more. By the end of that day, Blakeslee vowed to marry her after he came back from “peddlin’ in the mountains.” Everyone in town assumed he wanted to marry her because she came from a rich family and he wanted her father’s land. Granny knew people said these things but she was never bothered by it.
Tweedy never heard his grandparents refer to one another as anything but “Mr. Blakeslee” and “Miss Mattie Lou.” Everyone in Cold Sassy admired Miss Mattie Lou as a refined woman. Her refinement did not come from reading fine literature or speaking with perfect grammar; to Tweedy, her refinement came from not haranguing her husband for not getting electricity in their house though nearly every other white family in town had it. Granny also never complained that her husband would not pay to connect their house to the city’s new water and sewer system. Mattie Lou never complained about trimming wicks and cleaning lamp chimneys, hauling water in pails and emptying slop jars.
Despite these refusals, no one can ever say that Blakeslee did not love his wife. When she had a stroke in June, he was so distraught that he did not go to work and could not speak. Mama prayed and Queenie sang a keening song from her father’s native Nigeria; Tweedy and his father worked at the store...
(The entire section is 490 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Everyone in town knew about Granny Blakeslee’s stroke, but by afternoon, Tweedy and his father had not heard how Mattie Lou was doing. Hoyt Tweedy sent his son from the store to find out; Tweedy arrived to a quiet house full of people gathered to wait for news about his grandmother’s condition. Grandpa Blakeslee had not allowed anyone in to see his wife, not even their daughters; however, the sisters allowed Tweedy into the room.
Granny was sitting propped up by pillows and seemed dead, though Tweedy looked hard and saw that she was still breathing. Tweedy saw Blakeslee tenderly holding his wife’s hand before he began to weep in a way Tweedy had never before seen. Because his grandfather would have hated being seen that way, Tweedy quietly left and ate some of the food the neighbors brought before returning to the sick room. He heard a touching exchange between his grandparents before Blakeslee saw him. Tweedy suggested his grandfather go eat something; just as Blakeslee began to argue, Granny said she had hardly seen her grandson. Though her words were slurred, her husband did what she asked and left.
Immediately Granny fell asleep. Blakeslee returned in a few minutes with a rose. He bit off the thorns and waited for his wife to “rouse a little” before handing it to her. Blakeslee talked to her about seeing her that morning at the church for the first time in many years. He remembered how her “eyes were all feisty” and the preacher was so long-winded that they got to talk for a long time. Blakeslee’s eyes twinkled as he talked to her; she finally whispered a question. She asks him if he remembers the brush arbor. Blakeslee held her hand tightly and tears began to roll down his cheeks. Tweedy remembered that his grandparents spent the first summer together under a thick brush arbor. Blakeslee just told Mattie Lou to get better because he does not want to live without her.
Granny’s eyes closed and she began breathing loud and deep, unlike anything Tweedy had ever heard. Blakeslee told the boy to get on his knees, as it was time to pray. Blakeslee talked to God as if they were lifelong friends. He wailed to God that he has sinned and then asked Him not to take Mattie Lou as a punishment for his sins. He asked God to help both him and Tweedy to accept death as part of life “in exchange for livin’ and workin’, and havin’ folks like Miss Mattie Lou to love. And be loved by.” He ended his...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Mrs. Avery, a neighbor, told the family not to be too hopeful about Granny Blakeslee’s recovery, as she has seen many sick people get miraculously well just before they die. The family did not listen to her, and for the next week, Granny’s health improved significantly.
Then one evening, Tweedy was sitting by Granny’s bed when she grabbed his arm and, terrified, told him she saw two coats fighting in the corner and a hideous woman, first sitting in her husband’s chair and then climbing the wall. The boy was frightened, but no one else was there to help him. Soon Granny drifted into a “perspiring sleep.” Tweedy fanned her in an effort to cool her off until she woke again with a look of terror on her face. She asked the boy if he saw the men in the cemetery with shovels who were coming to get her. Afraid the men were going to steal her, Granny grabbed Tweedy so forcefully that it seemed to him as if she was pulling him into her grave with her.
Tweedy was scared. As he hollered for his grandfather, Granny suddenly loosened her hold and then, with a kind of wonder, seemed to listen to someone before pointing to something he could not see. She smiled politely and said whenever they were ready for her, she would be ready for them. When Tweedy asked her what she saw, Granny told him the room was full of beautiful angels. Tweedy told her he could not see them, so Mattie Lou told him to get Mr. Blakeslee, for she was certain he could see them.
Blakeslee arrived, but the angels had gone and his wife sagged, exhausted, into her pillows and picked at her sheets. (Mrs. Avery also said that everyone who is near death picks at their covers.) Granny told her husband all about the angels and “got all excited again” before he told her to forget the angels as she was just imagining them. He pulled her close and rocked her gently, as he would a child, and told her she can go to sleep now.
She “drifted quickly into a deep snoring stupor,” and the next day no one could wake her for long. The last time Blakeslee was able to rouse her, she said she knew something was very wrong with her. Blakeslee smoothed her damp hair from her forehead; he gently assured her she was getting better and he would never leave her. But that night, the angels returned for her as she asked them to, and she left him. Anyone who saw Blakeslee’s face when Mattie Lou died would never have accused him...
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
After Blakeslee elopes with Miss Love, people are certain that, though he never looked at Miss Love as anything but his milliner, she “had designs on him” as soon as Mattie Lou had her stroke. On the day Granny died, Miss Love went to the Blakeslees’ house and cleaned everything in preparation for the funeral; on the day of the funeral, she washed dishes all day and long into the night—all by lamplight and with water she hauled from the well. When she finally left, Blakeslee said she did too much, but Miss Love reminded him that during her first winter in Cold Sassy when she had the flu, Miss Mattie Lou came and bathed her every morning, as if she were her own mother. Miss Love was now happy to do whatever she could to help. At the time, these things seemed kindhearted and sacrificial; after the elopement, people see this as a blatant attempt to ensnare Blakeslee.
The morning after the funeral, Tweedy arrives at his grandparents’ house at daybreak and finds his grandfather in Granny’s rose garden cutting rosebuds, a difficult task with only one hand. The scent of Granny’s garden makes the boy’s heart break, but he helps Blakeslee cut every one of the blooms. Anyone who saw Blakeslee that morning would never wonder how he felt about his wife, “before she died or after.” Blakeslee weaves each stem into burlap sacks; he is making Mattie Lou a literal bed of roses.
She is buried in a fine, ready-made casket he bought many years ago. Some people will later say that the elaborate coffin was Blakeslee’s atonement for lusting after Miss Love or not giving Mattie Lou a bathroom or electricity. Despite everything he finds out later, Tweedy believes his grandfather loved Granny.
He once heard Granny tell Blakeslee that “a nice funeral is a sort of thank-you.” Tweedy and Blakeslee work for hours on the project, a thank-you gift to his dead wife. Neighbors gather for the funeral; Blakeslee shares one last private moment with his wife, laying her head on a pillow of roses. Tweedy and his grandfather load the rose blankets into the wagon and go to the grave site and line Granny’s grave with the blankets of roses. As the last blanket is nailed in place, Blakeslee gets tearful and Tweedy gets choked up. Suddenly death seems real; his grandfather comforts him, saying death becomes less awful, though he does not know how he will stand going back home every night to a house without her....
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Nothing about Granny’s sickness, death, or funeral seems real to Tweedy until they arrive back at the Blakeslees’ house, and his grandfather solemnly adds Mattie Lou Toy’s name to the list of deaths in the Toy family Bible. The Cold Sassy Weekly writes that Granny’s passing was “one of the saddest deaths that has ever grieved the people of Jackson County because Mrs. Blakeslee was so beloved by so many.” Though Blakeslee goes back to work the next day (a scandalous act, according to many), Blakeslee no longer jokes or laughs and will not talk about Granny, quickly cutting off any condolences. After dinner at Loma’s, Blakeslee goes to the cemetery until very late and then paces his wife’s gardens for hours late at night.
People talk to Loma and Mary Willis instead, recounting how Mattie Lou’s ancestors came here from North Carolina and settled under some big sassafras trees while they built their homes. That is how the town came to be named Cold Sassy, a derivative of “that cold sassyfras grove.” They also talk about how hard Granny worked.
Aunt Carrie is Tweedy’s adopted aunt because she attached herself to Mattie Lou after losing her riches and her husband in the war. On the day of the funeral, she determines that Mary Toy’s red hair is unsuitable for such an occasion and promptly dyes it black. During the service, Tweedy’s sister begins to sweat. As black rivulets run down her face, the preacher loses his concentration; as black streaks run down her arms, Mary Toy begins to wail because it looks like blood. Though Mary Willis washes the dye out immediately following the funeral, her daughter’s red hair is now purple. Mary Toy looks in the mirror and mourns for her herself for days. Mary Willis is also in mourning for herself as well as her mother, as she will now be unable to go to New York City with her husband on a buying trip they have been planning since February.
Tweedy does not mind being in mourning at first, though he misses all the special things his grandmother did for and with him. Though Blakeslee sold all of his wife’s land and got rich, he made very few improvements to the old farmhouse they lived in. (Hoyt Tweedy, on the other hand, has installed two bathrooms and a picket fence.)
One day Tweedy goes to the Blakeslees' house. It is a disastrous and disgusting mess. Blakeslee has refused Mary Willis’s help, saying it is not her job. Though he...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Because they are in mourning, Tweedy’s family misses most of the Fourth of July parade. Back in February, Grandpa Blakeslee thought of having this Southern Independence Day as a kind of joke on the United States of America. He, along with everyone else in Cold Sassy, still carries a serious grudge against the Union; Tweedy understands that, given his grandfather’s experience.
When he was fourteen, Blakeslee joined the Southern Army with his father and served for the entire war in the same unit. He enlisted as a drummer boy; however, during one battle when his company was in retreat, he picked up a gun and he was no longer a drummer. One night, Blakeslee and his father were so hungry that his father “roasted a rat and parched some acorns” and were happy to have it. That night, Blakeslee vowed that if he ever got home, he would never again eat anything he did not like; so he was a finicky eater for the rest of his life. Grandpa Blakeslee always blamed the loss of his left arm on a “damnyankee” who shot it off; Granny told Tweedy he actually lost it in a sawmill accident after the war. She never contradicts his story, though, because it helps him to have someone to cuss at when it hurts on cold winter nights.
This year, 1906, is the first and last year Cold Sassy, Georgia, celebrates the Fourth of July. Here teachers spend two months at the beginning of the year teaching all of the world’s history so they can spend the rest of the year teaching about the “war of the Sixties and how the Union ground its heel in our faces after it knocked” them down. The school year generally ends just as the Yankee carpetbaggers invaded the South. The Declaration of Independence and the Revolution are mentioned, of course, but not much.
In this town, no one under the age of forty has ever waved an American flag; even in 1914, there is only one American flag in Cold Sassy. It flies in front of the drugstore, which also serves as a post office, so Dr. Clark is required to fly it. On July 4, 1906, he lowers it to half-mast. Just as Blakeslee planned, every store in town closes and everyone in town, white and Negro, line Main Street waving their Confederate flags. Bands, floats carrying disabled veterans and the town’s two suffragettes (Miss Love and Aunt Carrie), and a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg are all part of the parade. Because they are in mourning, Blakeslee does not lead the reenactment and Tweedy...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
The day Blakeslee elopes, Tweedy hopes his official mourning is over; if his grandfather can go get married, surely he can go fishing rather than weed the garden as he was asked. Tweedy goes to several friends’ houses looking for a fishing buddy; none of them is available so he goes with his dog, T.R. (short for Theodore Roosevelt). He does not carry a fishing pole out of respect for Granny, but he has line, sinkers, and bait stuffed into his overall pockets.
He passes the railroad depot and the last of the old sassafras trees called Cold Sassy, nearly a hundred feet tall. He is going to Blind Tillie Creek to fish under the trestle. To get there, he must go through Mill Town. On his way, the train goes by and the engineer waves heartily at him. Cold Sassy is proud of its railroad and its cotton mill, but Tweedy receives nothing but cold stares as he walks. “Mill Town is watching Town Boy pass.” Mill Town children have “cooties and the itch” and eat their biscuits and syrup at school, making all the town kids feel guilty about going home for a big hot meal. The Mill Town boys enjoy picking fights (as do the town boys), and Tweedy had “a healthy disrespect” for all Mill Town kids until he met Lightfoot, a “quiet and sweet and smart” girl.
Tweedy met her one day after school. He was being punished for shooting spit wads; she was there to get extra help from the teacher. Tweedy learned Lightfoot came here from the Blue Ridge Mountains with her father after her mother died of tuberculosis. They came here so her father could work and she could get a good education and “amount to something.”
Tweedy is relieved at getting through Mill Town without getting in a fight. It is hot, but he knows he has several hours before the southbound train will cross the trestle, his signal that he should head home. He cuts a pole and gets comfortable before he starts fishing and thinking about how mad he is. He is mad at his mother for “making him stay in mourning,” at both her and aunt Loma for “fussing about Grandpa marrying” (when it is clear to Tweedy that Blakeslee needs a housekeeper), and at the newlyweds for caring so little about how their actions will affect the entire family. Finally, Tweedy is mad at his father because he feels guilty for fishing instead of weeding the garden.
While he is proud that his father is not lazy like his father's father was, Tweedy wishes his father knew...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Will Tweedy and his dog take a few steps onto the Blind Tillie Trestle, but then T.R. whines and crawls back to solid ground, begging the boy to come back, too. Tweedy laughs at the dog, the dog tries to get the boy to come play with him, and then Tweedy starts across the trestle. He is barefoot and the rails are hot but not enough to burn; he walks, arms spread out, like a tightrope walker. Soon he passes the sand barrel, which is there in case anyone gets caught on the trestle and has to jump to safety.
When Tweedy is two thirds of the way across, he stops and sits down on one of the cross ties. He considers leaving a penny on the tracks for the train to flatten but decides against it. From his vantage point on the trestle, the boy thinks the farmhouse he sees looks like a toy. He enjoys the cool breeze and lies facedown on the cross ties so he can look at the water below; there he sees a stick and a water moccasin floating below him. Tweedy drops a cinder, hitting T.R. on the rump; the dog barks in protest until he is interrupted by a turtle climbing up the creek bank.
As Tweedy reflects that all of this is far better than being in mourning, he sees T.R. raise his head to listen. Thinking it could not be a train, Tweedy puts his ear to the rails and hears it for himself. As he scrambles to his feet, confident he can make it in time, his fishing pole gets wedged between the rail and the cross tie. He knows he cannot leave it there in case it derails the train, so he struggles to free it. By the time he gets it loose, though, the train is too close; he cannot get off the trestle before the train moves onto it. He hears a scream from somewhere before seeing that the engineer sees him and is madly blowing his whistle and trying to stop the train.
He thinks about jumping into the sand barrel, but it is too far; he cannot jump into the creek because the water is too shallow. All he can think of is to fall, so he drops to the cross ties and flattens himself as much as he can, arms stretched over his head. He feels as if he is “swallowed up in fire and thunder,” and he does some “fancy praying.” Though he is “buried alive in noise” and the heat and cinders sting his neck and feet, Tweedy is thankful to be alive. The train seems miles long, but finally Tweedy sees the sunshine above him. He feels limp and dizzy and sounds are all muted; he begins to shake and cry. In a moment, T.R. licks his face and a...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
The girl on the trestle is Lightfoot McLendon. When she gets to him, they are both crying and the dog is licking both their faces. She tries to help him and walk to safety, but they both nearly fall off the trestle and Tweedy says he cannot make it. Tweedy looks up to see all the passengers hopping off the stopped train.
The children both manage to crawl on all fours off the trestle. When they finally reach land, everyone cheers. The engineer grabs Tweedy and hugs him as if he were his own son; it is the same engineer who had waved to him in town earlier. The dog, however, is still on the trestle and too frightened to walk to safety on his own. Tweedy asks if someone will help T.R off the trestle, but suddenly the engineer says they have to leave because there is another train coming. The conductor hustles everyone back onto the train and will not let Lightfoot rescue the dog as she requests.
Suddenly a big black man (Loomis, husband of Queenie, the Tweedys’ cook) runs out of the woods and says he will rescue the dog. He rushes onto the trestle as if it were no different from running on any train tracks. T.R. recognizes Loomis and starts crawling on his belly toward him. Many on the train are mesmerized by the spectacle; as T.R. is swept up onto the black man’s shoulders, Tweedy and Lightfoot are swept up into the caboose. Just as the train lurches forward, Loomis and T.R. are also handed into the caboose. T.R. licks the boy's face as Tweedy and the other passengers cheer for Loomis.
Some of the passengers do not make it onto the train in time, but the bigger concern is that the second train is quickly gaining on the slowly moving one. The other train is just crossing the trestle and the gap between the two trains is closing, but the other train brakes as the first train gains speed, so a crisis is averted. The second train stops to pick up the stranded passengers before making its way to Cold Sassy.
Loomis gives the shivering boy the coat Queenie made for him and is so proud of, heedless of Tweedy’s oily hair and clothes. He is just proud to be able to help and says the Tweedy family is sure going to be happy tonight. Tweedy knows he is going to be in serious trouble, and suddenly Lightfoot begins to cry. She had been picking blackberries when she saw Tweedy on the trestle and dropped her pail; it was nearly full. Tweedy realizes the fruit was probably for their dinner and offers to meet her...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Eight years have passed and July 5, 1906, seems hazy to Will Tweedy. He remembers worrying about not thanking Lightfoot or telling her goodbye.
The people of Cold Sassy wonder why Tweedy is being proclaimed a hero by the people on the train until the engineer announces that the boy was run over by a train on the trestle and is here to tell about it. Though he likes being the center of such attention, Tweedy is still shaking, about to vomit and cry, and would rather just be home. Loomis tries to push through the crowd and get the boy home; Mr. Beach takes Tweedy home in his buggy. It is not very far, but Tweedy is not certain he can walk even a short distance and does not want Loomis to have to carry him “like a sick calf.”
Beach tells Mary Willis what happened. Tweedy’s mother, trying not to cry, leads him to a sofa and covers him before wiping the dirt and grime from his face. His father roars through the door and stands next to the couch; Tweedy can see the man’s knees shaking but is afraid to look up at him. When he does, he sees that his father is crying, which makes Tweedy start crying, too. His father kneels and grabs his son’s hand like he will never let go; Tweedy sits up and wraps his arms around his father. They stay like this for a long time, until Tweedy’s shaking stops; still his father does not speak.
Hoyt Tweedy milks the cow, which is his son’s chore, and no one is in the mood to eat. At “about first dark,” Cold Sassy arrives. The ladies bring cakes and pies—as if someone had died—and want to hear all the details. Aunt Loma comes, but all she wants is a chance to be mad at her father and “That Woman.” Mary Willis does not want to think about anything but her son tonight and uses her good china to serve her guests.
Some of Tweedy’s friends arrive, and he can tell they are both proud and jealous of him. By the front door, several ladies gossip about Blakeslee and his new wife having supper at a grand hotel, something he never even thought of doing for Mattie Lou. Someone says Loma “threw a pure fit” at the store today, and someone else says Blakeslee and his new bride went for a wedding picture to Mr. Hale’s photo shop because Miss Love wanted one—but Hale refused.
Tweedy hears someone else contemplating that it must not have been his time to die. Though he is glad to be talked about, Tweedy suddenly imagines being ground into nothing...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Though his grandfather does not come to see him, the Methodist preacher visits Tweedy and reminds him that John Wesley was saved from a fire as a boy and later started the Methodist church. Tweedy has obviously been spared from death and the Lord may have plans for him, too, such as preaching the gospel. Cousin Hopewell Stump and his wife, Agnes, recount the story of a little girl, Beulah Samples. She was in a tornado in which hailstones as “big as teacups” and weighing as much as a pound fell before the bridge she was sheltering under was blown from right above her. She survived without any harm, and when she was seventeen, she was called by God to go to China as a missionary. Two months after she got there, the girl died of smallpox, though the people who knew her are certain she “saved some Chinamen first.”
Later, everyone begins telling “hit-by-the-train stories.” Several years ago, Cold Sassy’s first steam fire engine got hit by a train when it was crossing the tracks in response to a hotel fire. The vehicle was smashed, both horses were killed, and a young man was killed when the fire hook stabbed him in the head and “spilled his brains out.” Tweedy starts thinking about someone finding one of his severed feet at the edge of Blind Tillie Creek and is distraught. One of the men sees that Tweedy is distressed and tells a funny story about a brood sow getting picked up on the train’s cowcatcher and everyone laughing about the sow getting a free ride into town.
Toddy Hughes is a stringer (local reporter) for the Atlanta Constitution Tri-Weekly; he arrives and says he wants to write a story about Tweedy’s ordeal. Tweedy is excited, as no one in his family has ever been written about in the Atlanta paper, but his mother says tomorrow would be a better time. Tweedy fears Hughes will not come back, but the reporter promises he will.
Mr. Tuttle, a representative from the train line, arrives and treats Tweedy as if he is his “favorite young friend.” After he assures himself that Tweedy is fine, he tells the story of a train derailment that happened when a bull yearling was standing on the tracks around a curve. Dr. Slaughter arrives next and quickly examines the boy, warning Mary Willis not to give Tweedy anything but liquids tonight.
Suddenly there is a commotion at the front door, and Tweedy hears his grandfather’s booming voice from the veranda. He says that if he...
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Tweedy finds out later that his grandfather and Miss Love came to his house the night of his train experience because someone told Blakeslee about the incident, but that night he acts as if he really is arriving at a party in honor of his wedding, as if it were a common occurrence for a man to marry “a new young wife before his old one is cold in the grave.” Mary Willis turns white and Aunt Loma flounces out of the room. All the men in the room stand, as they should when a lady enters, but no one is sure what to do then. Even Miss Love looks rather flustered at being the center of attention, but Blakeslee is excited as he has not been since Mattie Lou got sick. He immediately announces what everyone already knows, that he and Miss Love are now husband and wife. He calls his daughters to come kiss Miss Love; the two women see that they have no real choice and do as he asks, though none of the three women speaks.
Hoyt Tweedy tells Blakeslee about the train incident, and Blakeslee ushers his grandson quickly out of the silent, uncomfortable room and into the kitchen. Here, alone with his grandfather, Tweedy eats some pie and talks about the train incident. After Blakeslee takes a private swig of corn whiskey, he listens to the boy talk about Lightfoot, T.R., and Loomis. Suddenly Tweedy is no longer hungry, but his grandfather is not shocked by any of it; all he says is that “gittin’ ran over by a train must a-been some experience!” Tweedy asks whether Blakeslee believes he is alive tonight because it was God’s will. Blakeslee says Tweedy can believe that if he also believes it was God’s will for him to be on the trestle. It is not fair to give God the credit when someone miraculously does not die or to blame God when someone does die. Tweedy wonders why Jesus said to ask and He will give, but sometimes nothing is given. Blakeslee just knows that people pray for food and still go hungry, his wife is lying in the cemetery, and he has no son to whom he will be able to leave his store.
When Blakeslee returns to the living room, the uncomfortable guests are glad to have someone else on whom to focus their attention. Before he and his new wife leave, Blakeslee asks for everyone to join him for a short prayer, which no one can refuse. Blakeslee prays blessings on Mattie Lou’s memory, and everyone gasps. Then he asks God to bless his new wife and help her need him as much as he needs her. Everyone is moved,...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
The night after his train incident, Tweedy has a nightmare. Lightfoot is standing in the middle of Blind Tillie Trestle and calls to him. As she tells him not to be “skeerdy,” she drops her blouse and skirt. Tweedy is mesmerized and then horrified as he watches the train come from behind her and Lightfoot “explodes into a thousand pieces.”
Tweedy has another nightmare that night. He is on the trestle again; a train is behind him, but he is running faster than the train. Suddenly Loma is in front of him, demanding that he call her “Aunt Loma.” He refuses and she gets bigger and bigger, blocking his way. Tweedy is caught between the train and Loma when he remembers Loma’s twelfth birthday. At that time, the two of them were like brother and sister, though Tweedy was six years younger. When Tweedy refused to call her “Aunt Loma,” she destroyed his lead soldiers. His mother believed Loma’s story that he broke his own soldiers and Tweedy got a whipping. From then on, he had to call Loma by her title (in Cold Sassy, aunt is pronounced “aint”) and he has never forgiven her for what she did.
She is harder to love than Mr. Angus Tuttle, who caused Tweedy to get numerous whippings. There are several other people Tweedy finds it hard to love. Hosie Roach is a mill boy at Tweedy’s school. Most of the mill children attend high school for only two or three years before they drop out to go to work, but Roach is twenty-one years old and still in high school. Though he is smart enough to graduate, Roach can attend school only for several months at a time because he works at the mill. He and Tweedy fight every week at school, but Tweedy still likes him better than Loma.
Grandpa Tweedy, Hoyt Tweedy’s father, is as lazy a man as Tweedy has ever met. He does not do anything but sit on the porch and swat flies, expecting his son to give him money. What starts Tweedy hating his grandfather is that he told the boy it was a sin to fish on Sunday. Then he saw his grandfather place gunpowder in some stove wood because people were stealing from his woodpile. The next morning, they heard a loud noise and discovered a young boy’s hand was blown off and the oven was destroyed. All Tweedy’s grandfather said is that it is likely those people will not be stealing any more of his wood.
Tweedy is angry that Loma showed absolutely no concern for him when he arrived home from the accident and...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Tweedy does not remember his promise to meet Lightfoot and help her pick berries the morning after the train incident. It is true that he was busy, but he knows he should have remembered. He talks to the reporter for the Atlanta paper and then visitors arrive. Son Black, an oily, surly kind of man who had been courting Miss Love, drives by looking for Blakeslee. After the reporter leaves, Tweedy remembers he wanted to tell the reporter about Lightfoot and Loomis helping to save him, but, shamefully, Tweedy is secretly glad he did not have to reveal any kind of interest in a mill girl.
Aunt Loma spends most of the morning at the Tweedy house, grumbling that she will “get even” with Miss Love even if it takes her entire life. Though everyone had been pleasant and polite the night before, no one goes to call on or deliver a wedding gift to Blakeslee and his new bride. Tweedy offers to take dinner to the newlyweds, but his mother says they do not owe Miss Love anything at all and forbids him to go to his grandfather’s as he used to do.
A few days later, Blakeslee comes to the Tweedy’s for his morning ration of corn whiskey and then tells Tweedy to go to his house and help Miss Love with the housework. She is furiously cleaning (with the implication that her predecessor was slovenly) and needs help, but Mary Willis is adamant that she needs Tweedy to pick vegetables, and she cannot help because she and Queenie need to can those vegetables. It is the first time she has stood up to her father. Even worse, Blakeslee asks her to come clear out Mattie Lou’s things to make room for Miss Love’s things. It is insulting, but she is afraid she might have been too bold and sends Tweedy to the house after he picks some vegetables.
When he arrives, Miss Love is playing and singing raucous dance-hall tunes on the piano. He is mesmerized by the sight but finally gets her attention. Miss Love is surprised to see him but puts him to work. Tweedy notices that his grandfather’s bed is not made up, something his grandmother would never have allowed. He also notices that Miss Love has added her marriage to Blakeslee in Granny’s family Bible and wonders what his mother will say when she sees it.
Blakeslee comes home for dinner and is not upset when Miss Love tells him she has not had time to cook and will fix him a nice supper. When he asks her to trim his hair, she convinces him (with Tweedy’s help)...
(The entire section is 507 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Grandpa Blakeslee cannot quit admiring himself in the mirror, and Miss Love is so excited she hugs him. The gesture clearly surprises Blakeslee, but he is pleased. After he puts on a clean shirt (something he does only twice a week, and today is not his usual day to change), Blakeslee thanks her, something which he rarely ever does. Tweedy says if his grandfather walks into the store “kind of sideways,” no one will even recognize him.
After Blakeslee walks jauntily back to work, Miss Love looks carefully at Tweedy and says he looks a lot like his grandfather, something his grandmother had always told him. The boy looks at himself in the mirror and sees the resemblance. Miss Love asks him to bring some empty boxes to the guest room so she can take all of the things, such as old quilts, which Mattie Lou stored there. Though all of Granny’s other things are still in the bedroom, these items need to go so Miss Love will have space for her own things, as this is going to be her bedroom.
In her room, Tweedy sees several posters advocating women’s rights and wonders whether she is sleeping separately from her husband as some kind of statement against male oppression. Immediately he wants to tell his mother, but he figures she would spend all her time worrying about what Miss Love really wants from Blakeslee. If Mary Willis was not worrying about that, she would probably be fretting that others would discover the unusual sleeping arrangement and start gossiping crudely about it.
Tweedy has observed animals and thinks he knows what should go on between a married couple in a bedroom, so he surmises that Blakeslee and Miss Love do not intend to have any children. As he unloads things from the dresser, Tweedy discovers some neatly pressed baby clothes and wonders why his grandmother kept them. For a moment he is sad that his grandfather and Miss Love will not have a son, but then he is glad because he is Blakeslee’s substitute son, and neither Mary Willis nor Loma would want another sibling.
As Tweedy helps Miss Love put back all the rugs and curtains he had put out for airing, the boy realizes that she intends to arrange everything differently than the way her predecessor had. Though everything looks nice, it no longer seems familiar. The only picture she wants to keep is one of three horses’ heads because she loves to ride. Everything else will go to Tweedy’s house so Mattie Lou’s...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Tweedy stammers an apology for his question and Miss Love says nothing for a while; then she talks. She has always wanted a family as she has no living relatives besides a drunken father she pretends never existed. Miss Love understands why people are upset with her, but she does not know how to apologize. Though she does not like being gossiped about or disliked, she also hates that she has embarrassed the family. Blakeslee told her not to feed it and the talk will die down. Because Tweedy cares enough to ask, she tells him how she came to marry Blakeslee.
Last week after the parade, she was finishing a hat at the store when Blakeslee bluntly asked if she would marry him; it would be in name only, as he needs a housekeeper and has always liked having her at the store. She must find Blakeslee tolerable, as she has not quit. It would be a business arrangement: Miss Love would cook and clean in exchange for the deed to his house. She teased and said he must add the furniture; after thinking for a moment, Blakeslee agreed.
Miss Love was stunned when she realized he was serious and told him she needed to pray, since she nearly married someone two years ago and believed God told her then that she would not marry. Being a housekeeper was different, but it was still a proposition that “blasphemed holy matrimony.” Blakeslee enhanced his offer by promising her two hundred dollars when he dies, making it clear that his store and land would go to his daughters.
When she reminded him that his wife had been dead only three weeks, he said she “is as dead as she’ll ever be” (the same thing he told his daughters). He did not want to burden his daughters; Miss Love and one other woman are the only people he can bear to have around him all the time. He assured Miss Love that she could continue attending church, though he would not attend. He was tired of living by everyone else’s rules, from now on doing only as he pleased. Though Miss Love had stopped praying for a husband, she had been praying for a home of her own. This seemed like the answer.
Miss Love asks Tweedy whether he thinks his family will accept her. “He doesn’t know how to say what she wouldn’t want to hear,” so he asks why she never married. She says reading King Arthur made her look for a hero, a knight on a white horse, which she has never found. She is content to have a man she can respect and a family she is proud of, and Tweedy...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
The man outside with the saddle does not look like the cowboys Tweedy has seen in pictures: he is clean; is not wearing spurs, chaps, or a bandanna around his neck; and is not carrying a lasso. Despite his expensive black suit, he is a cowboy because he is wearing boots; a big, white felt hat; and a holster with a pistol on his hip. (Cold Sassy men wear their holsters across their chests, under their shirts.) The ornate saddle he carries is as impressive as the tall man. The stranger pauses and squints hard at Tweedy's grandfather’s house but keeps walking.
Tweedy goes quickly to the porch to get a closer look and calls Miss Love to come look, as well. Miss Love immediately turns white and is distressed, telling Tweedy not to let the man into the house, trying to collect herself and look more presentable. Without even looking at the boy, the man walks up the steps and barges into the house. After placing the saddle on the floor, he moves down the hall to Miss Love. She is numb and does not move as the man drops his hat on her bed, kisses her hands, and then kisses her on the mouth “like he is starved and she is something to eat.”
The kiss is nothing like Tweedy has ever imagined or has seen, as the man keeps kissing Miss Love—and she is clearly kissing him back. Tweedy does not know what to do, but he cannot walk away. Suddenly he sees a nosy neighbor, Miss Effie Belle, coming up the front steps with a cake; she is still in her house slippers, so Tweedy knows she saw the stranger walk into his grandfather’s house and is here only to snoop.
He runs to greet her, hoping Miss Love will hear and collect herself. When it is clear that Miss Love is not coming, Miss Belle takes her cake and storms home; Tweedy is not sure what woman saw. Suddenly Miss Love wakes from her trance and “the fireworks start.” She tells Clayton McAllister to get out of her house, but he just laughs and looks around before telling her he came to rescue her from “this hick town.”
Tweedy tries to leave but Miss Love will not let him or her reputation will be ruined. McAllister is mad when Miss Love tells him emphatically that she is staying here, though he is asking her to marry him. She reminds him he did that before and then eloped with her best friend. The saddle is for her but she does not want it. He apologizes for thinking she was not good enough for him, but now he wants only her. She is thankful not to be...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Tweedy finds out later that old Mr. Boop is the one who ran to the store to tell Blakeslee about the stranger. Boop comes into the store and asks for Blakeslee; he does not even recognize Blakeslee when he sees him, now that his beard is gone and his mustache is trimmed. Boop explains about the slick stranger coming to town and getting a shave and a bath before asking where Miss Love Simpson lives and carrying a fancy saddle to Blakeslee’s house. He thinks Blakeslee should know that a “tool-leather saddle orny-mented with Mexican silver is headin’ up North Main” to his house. Blakeslee does not respond as Boop thought he would; he was hoping to see some kind of a fight.
Perhaps Blakeslee is not in the fighting mood. He shakes Clayton McAllister’s hand as if he were a welcome guest in his home. After Blakeslee asks Miss Love to fix them drinks, the two men introduce themselves. When Miss Love finally returns to the parlor with their drinks, she has changed her dress and looks “real fresh and pretty.” Tweedy thinks his grandfather is the friendliest host he has ever seen. The men conduct a civilized conversation, but all Tweedy can think about is the kiss he saw. Then the boy thinks about the Southern Presbyterian principle of predestination, the idea that things will be what they are and there is nothing that can be done to change them. (It has never made sense to Tweedy to pray for something, since God has already decided whether He is going to do it or not.) He wishes Miss Love had never left Baltimore so she would not have gotten a nasty breakup letter from McAllister and Granny would not have had to die so Miss Love could have a house. It is confusing to the boy, and he agrees with the Bible that “the Lord does work in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.”
Blakeslee tells stories and they all laugh, though Miss Love’s laughter is uneasy. McAllister refuses his host’s offer to stay for dinner, insists on leaving the saddle, and leaves on friendly terms, which gives Tweedy “the creeps.” As soon as McAllister leaves, Miss Love explains that she was once engaged to McAllister and this saddle was his engagement gift to her; she also tells him why McAllister came to Cold Sassy. Tweedy, trying to be helpful, assures Blakeslee that Miss Love “sure told him off,” but Miss Love cries and berates herself for being a fool.
Tweedy tactfully says that Miss Bell was here earlier, and Miss...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Miss Love is stunned at Blakeslee’s offer of an annulment, but after several moments of silence, she announces that she would not marry Clayton McAllister even if she were not already married. Now she is afraid that Blakeslee was trying to say that he wanted an annulment and starts to cry, but he assures her that he wants no such thing. The matter is now ended. They ponder the saddle, and Miss Love wants Blakeslee to send it back to McAllister, but he is afraid Miss Effie Belle’s neck might break with all the back-and-forth that might cause. He tells Miss Love she will just have to hang it up somewhere.
Then he remembers a letter he got from Cousin Jake before Mattie Lou died. He raises thoroughbred racehorses and, because he was broke, offered to give Blakeslee a three-year-old if Blakeslee would come get it, which would save him the cost of feeding it. If Miss Love wants it and thinks she can train it, with Tweedy’s help, he will send Tweedy for the horse.
Miss Love is thrilled at the idea and Blakeslee tells his grandson to hitch up the wagon Monday morning and go get the horse, perhaps with one of his friends. Tweedy is now the excited one and adds to the plan by asking if he can borrow Grandpa Tweedy’s covered wagon and go camping with his friends in the mountains before collecting the horse from Cousin Jake on the way home. His grandfather agrees, as long as Mr. Tweedy can spare the wagon and the trip is not a long one. Hoyt Tweedy will be going on a buying trip to New York in a few weeks, and Tweedy will need to be home so his mother will not have to stay in the house alone, though Blakeslee wishes she would go with her husband, as Mattie Lou would have wanted. Blakeslee was given two free boat tickets for the trip and he says it is a shame to waste one of them.
Miss Love quietly leaves the room, but Tweedy does not notice as he plans his camping trip in the mountains. Before he and his grandfather leave, Tweedy wants Miss Love to know that he will not tell about her kissing McAllister, but he settles for calling out a good-bye.
On the way into town, his grandfather tells him to be careful when he brings the horse back with him. Blakeslee hopes Miss Love can ride as well as she says she can; but Tweedy does not doubt that a woman who can tell off a man like McAllister can do anything. He assumes Miss Love is worrying about whether her nosy neighbor saw her kissing the cowboy...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
At dinner that night, Hoyt Tweedy tells his wife that her father wants Tweedy to go pick up a racehorse from Cousin Jake and thinks Tweedy should go on a camping trip for a few days first. Mary Willis is concerned about what people will think about such a thing while they are in mourning; he assures her it will be a good thing for the boy to do after his near-death train experience. In turn, Tweedy tries to convince her to go to New York on the buying trip.
Mary Willis is appalled that Miss Love has shamed the family by accepting a silver saddle from a man who has a “reputation so bad it rides in front of him.” Tweedy tries to explain that the man was merely bringing Miss Love what is hers, but Tweedy soon diverts the conversation because he does not know what he should and should not be saying about today’s events. While Hoyt Tweedy is happy at his father-in-law’s improved appearance, Mary Willis is not happy about the changes, claiming this will only draw more attention to the unlikely pairing. Tweedy does not understand his mother’s bitterness; his father explains that she is mad at her mother for dying. Mary Willis always looked to her mother’s approval for her guidance, and now she “has lost holt of the reins.” She does not know that Miss Love is a nice lady and Blakeslee needs her.
Later, Tweedy stumbles through his assurance to Miss Love that he does not intend to reveal her secret. That night, Tweedy dreams of kissing Miss Love like McAllister did, and then he wonders what it would be like to kiss Lightfoot McLendon that way. The next morning, just as the Tweedys are leaving for church, Miss Effie Belle comes to the door and tells them they should hear this from her rather than a stranger: she saw Miss Love and the stranger passionately kissing.
As soon as she leaves, Tweedy gets in trouble for not coming home immediately to tell them. Mary Willis stays home from church, naturally, horrified at the shame this will bring to the family and proclaiming, “That woman ain’t fit to be a servant in Pa’s house, much less married to him.” Miss Belle spreads the word to everyone in the churchyard who will listen, and everyone judges Miss Love for marrying Blakeslee just to “move up in the world.”
It is an awful day. Miss Love appears in church wearing a black dress, as if in mourning, and plays the piano as usual. The congregation responds by refusing to sing. By the second...
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Tweedy and his friend Pink ride in the mail buggy driven by Mr. Lias, followed by Tweedy’s dog, as they ride out of Cold Sassy and toward Grandpa Tweedy’s house. On the way, all Tweedy can think about is his friend Bluford Jackson. He and Tweedy had been planning a camping trip the day they were throwing firecrackers, the same day Bluford got the burn that gave him lockjaw and eventually killed him. It should have been Bluford on this trip rather than Pink. Tweedy also thinks of Lightfoot McLendon, ashamed at not trying to contact her since the train incident.
Lias asks how the town has accepted Blakeslee's getting remarried, for Lias has been thinking about how his own first wife ruined his life. As soon as he married Sal, he knew it was a mistake. She was a backwards, lazy woman; one night he followed her to a sharecropper’s house and learned she had been having an affair with the man for years. Lias was ready to kill them both until he realized they were “warn’t worth killin’, neither of ’em.” Sal got bitten by a cottonmouth snake at a church picnic and died. His second wife is three inches taller and six years older, but she loves him. This makes Tweedy think about his grandfather and the gossip about Miss Love kissing the cowboy. He hopes Blakeslee will not send her away before Tweedy gets back to Cold Sassy.
Great-grandpa Tweedy was an industrious and successful man, but his son is “just fresh out of hope” like so many other farmers in Georgia. As they arrive at his grandfather’s, Tweedy brags that one day he is going to farm this land, as there is always something new to worry about or be excited about. Lias calls him a fool for wanting to take on all the hazards of farming, but Tweedy is not discouraged and plans to go to college and farm in better ways. Tweedy thinks the farm makes his grandfather seem like “white trash,” which he is not; he owns this land but has to deal with high taxes and freight rates in addition to his worn-out land. The boy is embarrassed of the farm as well as of his ragged, scraggly grandfather.
When Tweedy tells his grandfather why he is here, the old man hollers that Tweedy would be better off spending his time studying his catechism and the Bible. Tweedy asks respectfully again to borrow the team (which Hoyt Tweedy bought for his father) and wagon; during dinner, his grandfather says it makes him nervous to be without his wagon, which also serves as...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
Tweedy takes four friends with him to camp in the mountains: Pink, Lee Roy, Smiley, and Dunson McCall. One of the boys makes fun of Miss Love as they are driving out of town, and Tweedy tells all of the boys to quit talking about what is not their business or they can stay home. After that, Tweedy forgets about Blakeslee and his new wife, and the boys have a grand time.
They travel thirty miles the first day, eating all the food their mothers had packed in baskets for them. The next day, they stop and set up their camp, supplied with plenty of staples but hoping to eat the wild game or fish they catch. That night, two big black bears break into the grub box and have a fine meal; Tweedy is just glad he grabbed the mules before they escaped the danger. Now the fun becomes misery, and the boys are forced to eat only what they find or kill. Soon it begins raining and the boys, huddled in the back of the covered wagon, are cold and hungry. Things get even worse for them when someone ruins the shotgun shells by leaving them out in the rain.
Tweedy tries to lighten the mood by telling stories, but his friends have heard them all before (including how his second Grandmother Tweedy popped out of her coffin the first time she was pronounced dead) and are in no mood to humor him. The boys decide to cut their trip short. That night, Tweedy dreams about his friend Bluford Jackson, and the next morning, the boys leave for Cousin Jack’s house. When they arrive, Cousin Rachel feeds the boys a huge meal, and they eat every morsel. Miss Love’s new horse is a “tall, prancy black gelding,” and the boys feel quite fancy as they drive her home.
During the ride back, the boys suddenly begin to talk disrespectfully about Mattie Lou and Miss Love, goading their friend; finally Tweedy says Miss Love sleeps in another room and married Blakeslee only to be his housekeeper. Because he is afraid of revealing anything more, he changes the subject and tells a crude (and false) story about his Aunt Loma nursing a pig to stimulate milk for her son. The story grows so complex that even Tweedy begins to believe his own tale. The boys all promise not to tell anything Tweedy has told them, but Tweedy is still nervous.
The boys swim and eat, and then Tweedy tells a story about Aunt Loma, about her having a flat chest and wearing a rubber bust on her wedding day. He does not tell them about how disastrously his aunt’s marriage...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
As the boys arrive home from their camping trip, Tweedy sternly warns them not to tell anyone his stories about Aunt Loma and, trying to sound casual, adds that they should not tell anyone about Miss Love sleeping in a separate bedroom, either. If they do, Tweedy will “catch heck” and he will make up an awful story about them. They promise. Tweedy believes them as they unhitch the mules, as they show off the new horse at his house, and even as they take the horse to Miss Love, who promptly names it Mr. Beautiful because she admires it so. He believes it until he sits down to dinner that night and has a bad feeling that everything he told the boys is probably being repeated at dinner tables all over town.
He is unconcerned about the made-up stories he told on Loma, for no one will believe them, and he will gladly endure a whipping to see her face when she hears them. Tweedy is sick about is his betrayal of Miss Love. Dinner is hardly over when the first overly concerned (nosy) neighbor comes to scold Tweedy for his awful tales. She privately tells the stories (which someone else told her) to Mary Willis, and Tweedy’s mother agrees that he has gone too far. She sends Tweedy upstairs while she tells her husband what she heard; he is furious and gives Tweedy the expected whipping, scolding him for making jokes at the expense of a woman’s body.
At Sunday dinner, Aunt Loma tells the family that Miss Effie Belle played the piano for the Methodists today, as Miss Love was not in attendance. A committee of ladies visited her last week and told her married ladies needed to behave better than she has been behaving; she took it calmly, as if it did not matter, but Loma is confident that Miss Love had a fit after they left. Both Hoyt Tweedy and Loma’s husband try to keep Loma quiet, but she keeps talking. Miss Love’s tirade at the store this past week has made her the center of all gossip, though Blakeslee says it is unfair to be gossiping about what is no one else’s business, and Hoyt Tweedy agrees.
As Tweedy gets the wagon ready for the trip back, Blakeslee finally expresses his disappointment at Tweedy for making Loma the center of gossip again. The boy is relieved that he mentions only Loma and readily agrees with his grandfather. Blakeslee tells Tweedy that he and Miss Love had a church service at their house this morning and his preaching upset Miss Love; he disagrees with most teachings in the Bible....
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
Sunday night, Tweedy is tired after walking back from Grandpa Tweedy’s and from his camping trip, but his mother is furious that her father and Miss Love were singing blasphemous songs loud enough for the neighbors to hear. She calls Miss Love "common," but Tweedy defends her by saying she and grandfather had a church service before they started playing and singing dance hall tunes. Mary Willis tells her son about the commotion at the store this week between Miss Love and Pink’s mother, Mrs. Predmore, hoping he will discontinue his loyalty to a woman she so despises.
Miss Love was wearing a red dress in public when the family was in mourning (though when she wore a black dress to church last week, everyone criticized her for it) and, in passing, said she was not going to take her husband’s name. She preferred to be called Miss Simpson, just as she always has, and she asked Blakeslee if he thought that was okay. Though he was surprised, he just shrugged his shoulders, laughed, and called her Miss Love. Miss Love begins working, and a storm begins brewing under the surface, which everyone begins to see by the way she is throwing things around.
When Miss Love left the room, Predmore spoke her mind to Blakeslee, thinking he would appreciate the advice, but he saw it as another joke. Later, Tweedy finds out that Miss Love was mad at her entire life right then: her drunken father, her faithless fiancé, and being gossiped about in town as “a Yankee outsider.” Miss Love may have managed to contain her anger if Predmore had not flatly told Blakeslee that marrying Miss Love as he did was not decent. Suddenly Blakeslee quit smiling and insists she quit talking about Mattie Lou and quit preaching to him and Miss Love.
Miss Love calmly but firmly announced that she and Blakeslee were married in name only, and she had no intention of usurping his wife’s name or her bed. She was simply there to be his housekeeper. Blakeslee was furious and told Miss Love to shut up because it was no one’s business but theirs, but she did not stop. Miss Love told Predmore to spread that around town, but she was to be sure to “keep the facts straight.” When another woman started to condemn her, saying Miss Love was “really still an old maid,” Miss Love told them Blakeslee deeded his house to her. Blakeslee was angry, the women were outraged and called her greedy, and the men did their best not to pay attention to...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Tweedy agrees with his mother that Miss Love should not “pick a fuss in public.” It is not ladylike and it embarrasses the entire family. Tweedy wonders if he could have prevented the outburst by spreading the information about the true state of her marriage right after Miss Love confided in him; if he had, Blakeslee’s daughters might not have felt as if Miss Love was a threat to their inheritance. If so, he had certainly let Miss Love down by not talking.
Miss Love has declared war on Cold Sassy, and Tweedy finds himself right in the middle; he wants to be her friend and really likes her, but he is not happy taking sides against his mother and the rest of the family. Hoyt Tweedy is right: “the family will just have to let bygones be bygones, and be nice no matter what.” That night Miss Love declares war on her husband’s family as well. Aunt Loma takes the opening shots.
Aunt Loma, Uncle Camp, and Camp Junior pay a civilized call on her father and his new wife, but Blakeslee is at the store working on an order (something he never did when Mattie Lou was alive). Miss Love plays with the baby for a while, but there is little conversation. Loma asks her what is wrong with the horse she just got, assuming it is diseased or damaged since it was free. Miss Love does not answer.
Loma is shocked at how much things have changed since her mother died, and she says so when Miss Love returns to the parlor. She tells her to make sure Mattie Lou’s nice things do not fade in the sun, but Miss Love has no intention of closing the blinds, fading or no fading.
Loma wants to see her mother’s room; nothing has been changed or moved since Mattie Lou died. Loma sees the wedding beads her father gave her mother on their wedding day and asks for them. Miss Love said Loma should ask Blakeslee as it is not her necklace to give, but Loma grabs the necklace, saying she does not need to ask.
Miss Love’s room is lovely, and Loma hates that because her mother had always wanted to do something nice with that room. Loma sees a silver stirrup poking out from under the bed, and Miss Love quickly leads them out of the room.
The more Loma thinks about all of her mother’s things being used by this usurper, the madder she gets. Finally Loma tells Miss Love that she has “some nerve” moving things around as she has, and her husband agrees with her. Miss Love says he has no right to speak to...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
The next morning, Tweedy is with Miss Love and already has decided what excuse he will make if she starts to “pick a fuss” with him as she has with everyone else lately. He does not have to use it because Miss Love is “just as nice as you please.”
When he makes a comment about Queenie liking to drink her lemonade from a Mason jar, Miss Love explains that is because white people do not want black people to use the same eating utensils they do. Tweedy is appalled, as this is just the custom in Cold Sassy and Miss Love, being almost a Yankee woman, does not understand. Before he can change the subject, Miss Love continues, but Tweedy insists Queenie prefers to eat out of a pie tin as it holds more than a plate. He is angry that she is a Yankee.
Although it is hot, there is a sudden chill in the air as they gather some treats for the horse; Tweedy is not mollified but goes with her to the barn. Miss Love thinks her horse is beautiful, enthralled by his every move. She believes he might be the fastest horse in town, maybe even the state; Tweedy swells with pride at being the one who brought her the horse. Her former fiancé, McAllister, taught her about training horses, but she is still just making friends with her horse.
Tweedy finally asks the question that has been bothering him: does his grandfather know about McAllister kissing her? Blakeslee knows because she told him the same night it happened, afraid someone else might tell him first. She offered to leave, but he told her the cowboy was on the train back to Texas and the matter was closed.
Although she does not talk about anything else that Tweedy wonders about, he no longer has to worry about Miss Love thinking he told his grandfather about the kissing. He draws her some fresh water and offers her a cool drink (a gesture Aunt Loma would call "gallant"); she thanks him for the water and for being her friend.
Miss Love hesitates as if she is trying to think of something to say before asking Tweedy if he thinks his mother will go on the buying trip to New York City. Just as he told his grandfather the day before, he says Mary Willis is not going to go, despite all her planning, because of Granny’s death.
Miss Love says it would sure be a good thing for her to get away and asks if Tweedy thinks she might change her mind. He tells her he is “certain sure.” Because Miss Love lived in Baltimore, Tweedy assumes she...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
Tweedy decides to visit Aunt Loma to apologize for the stories he told about her; he is not sorry but will enjoy hearing her “fuss and fume.” She likes to tell people what a bad boy he is, and just because she has not yet scolded him for the stories does not mean she has not heard them. Lately Loma has spent a good portion of her energy berating Miss Love.
Today Loma is “the maddest white woman” he has ever seen. The first thing she says to Tweedy is that she is so mad she could die, but it is her husband she is mad at, not him. She shows Tweedy the mantelpiece in the parlor, which is gleaming with a new coat of white enamel paint; it looks nice to him until she shows him that Campbell painted around everything sitting on the mantel. The paint is already dry, and she wants to leave it there as a constant reminder to her husband of “how dumb he is.” She cannot bear thinking she is married to “somebody that stupid.”
Tweedy suggests that her husband does things like this on purpose because she is rather bossy and he does not like being pushed around by his wife. Tweedy claims that if she were to treat a colored cook the way she treats Uncle Camp, the cook would promptly quit, so he is proud of his uncle for standing up to Loma’s henpecking. Tweedy hates how belittling Loma is to her husband, and he hates how Uncle Camp just takes everything she gives him without a fight.
Tweedy apologizes for the stories he told on her. She tries to scold him but is so pleased with all the attention she has been getting that she mostly just giggles. She decides Tweedy must become a playwright so he can write outlandish plays for her to act in. Tweedy is pleased but wishes Loma did not always have to be so bossy. He reminds her that he is going to be a farmer after attending agricultural college; she quickly dismisses his ambitions in life and insists he should immediately write down the stories he told about her. He refuses to be bullied.
Suddenly they are laughing at the rubber bust story. Before Tweedy leaves, Loma gives him a journal in which she had intended to write her own poems and plays; since she has no time for writing, she wants him to have it. She commands him to write something each day, just as her college professors told her to do. The clean, white pages suddenly call to him like the Blind Tillie Trestle did, and he begins keeping a journal.
That is why he can remember now,...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
At the dinner table that night, Mary Willis changes her mind and is ecstatic at the idea of going to New York City, gossip or not. Her husband is thrilled also. Mary Willis wants to ask Miss Love to make her a new black hat for the trip.
Mary Willis hardly sleeps, thinking of everything she must get done before she leaves. Blakeslee comes by for his morning shot of corn whiskey and announces that since Mary Willis will not go to New York with her husband, he will go on the buying trip and take Miss Love, who is certain she can help buy some fashionable things for the store. Mary Willis does not say one word; she just stares at him for a moment and then goes upstairs.
Tweedy tries to explain, but Blakeslee keeps talking about Miss Love’s unhappiness with all the gossiping about them. She cried and begged him, and he has decided. Blakeslee walks off before Tweedy can tell him that now Mary Willis will be the one who is crying, so Tweedy decides to go talk to Miss Love.
He blurts his news as soon as he sees her. She is stunned at first; then disappointment hardens her face as she insists that Mary Willis must go on the trip. She assumes this is what Blakeslee decided, but when she learns that he does not even know Mary Willis wanted to go, she changes tactics.
Miss Love explains that this was all Blakeslee’s idea (a direct contradiction of what he told Tweedy). Tweedy assumes she is being truthful when she says she thinks Mary Willis should go, but when Tweedy leaves, she starts sewing a new traveling dress.
Mary Willis plays the martyr and insists that Miss Love should go. Loma is furious and comes to console her sister, certain this is all a plot by Miss Love to get pregnant. If Loma had not gone into the store and reamed Blakeslee in front of everyone, Mary Willis might have taken the trip.
Tweedy’s anger has been festering. When his grandfather scolds him for telling everyone else but him about his plans to farm instead of run the store, Tweedy gets madder still. He has not told his grandfather because he is afraid Blakeslee will no longer see him as a son, but Blakeslee dismisses his dreams, calling him young and foolish; he assumes Tweedy will change his mind as soon as he grows up.
Everyone thinks Miss Love stole Mary Willis’s trip, so Blakeslee exacts his revenge by inviting everyone to church at his house Sunday morning. Cold Sassy is not amused by...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 33 Summary
Blakeslee asks Loomis to preach at his home church service. The Flournoys attend (probably because they like to sing and could not bear the torturous way Miss Effie Belle plays the piano).
The town is appalled at the apostasy of a Negro preaching, but Loomis is an accomplished public speaker. Every year, the Negro church makes money by putting on a show for white folks. After some singing, Loomis preaches, the Negros sing some spirituals, and then several men engage in a debate. But that is much different than preaching a Sunday sermon in a white person’s parlor.
The Flournoys later tell everyone that Loomis scolded the Blakeslees for this and urged them to go back to real church. Tweedy would much rather have been at his grandfather’s church, but he and his mother are not listening to the service anyway. Hoyt Tweedy stayed home this morning—and he was not sick. He also skipped a Presbytery meeting, something he never does.
This week Hoyt Tweedy was clearly upset and even made a mystery trip to Atlanta. He came home one day and said a pretty little girl was in the store asking for Tweedy; she wanted him to know that she and her aunt would be taking her father home to the mountains to be buried. She must have been Lightfoot McLendon.
At lunch that day, Hoyt Tweedy was dismayed that there were so few leftovers and instructed Queenie to make more food; as a result, everyone in town will know that Hoyt Tweedy can afford more food than his family needs. (Hoyt Tweedy likes seeming well off and rather modern. Although he does not care as much as his wife about what people think, he always makes sure they think well of him.)
Hoyt Tweedy was up and dressed for church but then declared he was not going. He is the church treasurer and clerk of the session, so his declaration was stunning news. He settled on the porch swing with his Bible. Both Tweedy and his mother believe Hoyt Tweedy planned to attend Blakeslee’s home church.
After the service, everyone asks about him, but Mary Willis does not even know what to tell them. Suddenly everyone is looking at a spectacle: Hoyt Tweedy has driven up in a “big shiny red Cadillac car.” His wife and son are both dumbstruck, and everyone at church is proud that something so good has finally happened for Mary Willis.
They go for a drive. On the way home, they pass Blakeslee's old farmhouse; Hoyt Tweedy honks and they...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 34 Summary
When the Tweedy family get home from their after-church drive, Hoyt Tweedy takes Queenie for a drive around the block, and Tweedy attempts to clear out the barn so it can be used as a garage. He does not get very far, however, since people keep coming by to see the car. The boy’s friends are particularly impressed and want to know what every knob is for and ask questions about everything imaginable. Some visitors are jealous, but that is the price to pay for having the first car in Cold Sassy.
Jealousies calm the next week when Hoyt Tweedy and his son have practiced driving enough to take passengers for rides. Aunt Loma and her family are first, then Aunt Carrie. Tweedy is allowed, by himself, to drive his friend Pink around the block.
Miss Effie Belle is happy to go for a ride but will not let Mr. Bubba go (he is one hundred and two, and she is probably afraid he would wet his pants from all the excitement). Although Hoyt Tweedy offers Blakeslee a ride, the older man refuses even to sit in the car, calling it a “fool, dangerous contraption.”
When Blakeslee says he is certain Miss Love would like a ride, Hoyt Tweedy says Mary Willis is expecting him back so he does not have time. It is a blatant snub; Tweedy feels embarrassed for Miss Love’s sake, but he is proud of his father’s loyalty to Mary Willis.
The next morning, Tweedy drives Blakeslee and Miss Love (and a mountain of suitcases) to the depot. They will take a train to Savannah and then board a ship for New York City.
Before he returns home, he retrieves the Toy family Bible as his mother asked; she got her father’s permission to come get it, but she thought it would be best to wait until the Blakeslees were gone. Tweedy just hopes it is a long time before his mother opens it and sees “how Miss Love has written herself into the family.”
All the stores in Cold Sassy close on Wednesday afternoons, so the Tweedys drive to Cousin Temp’s to bring Mary Toy home. The drive is pleasant, but the thunderclouds make them nervous because the roads will be too muddy to drive if it rains. The clouds hold off and they suffer only one tire puncture before the family is home safely.
They spend the evening talking and catching up on each other’s lives. Finally Mary Toy quietly asks her mother what she is supposed to call Miss Love now. In a hard voice, Mary Willis says to keep calling her Miss Love, as she...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 35 Summary
All Cold Sassy can think or talk about is the Tweedys’ new car until Miss Love’s postcards from New York begin to arrive. She sends one to every woman and schoolgirl in town, telling each one what she is buying especially for them in New York.
The women are flattered and impressed, waiting anxiously for Miss Love to return and their items to be shipped to Georgia. Mary Willis is getting a new black coat and Mary Toy is getting a surprise; Mary Willis and Loma grudgingly admire the tactic, but Hoyt Tweedy thinks it is a stroke of marketing genius.
Tweedy is disappointed when his postcard says nothing about a gift, just thanks him for taking care of their house and horse. In truth, Tweedy is doing as little as possible to take care of things at his grandfather’s. Nearly all his free time is spent driving, washing, or admiring the Cadillac.
Tweedy is driving to make a delivery when he sees Lightfoot McLendon walking the railroad tracks toward Mill Town. She no longer looks like a young, healthy girl; she is walking “shoulders slumped, head down, hair pulled back, tight and plain.” She is gaunt and wears a black mourning dress. Tweedy stops the car and asks her to come see him; when she sees that it is him, she smiles and seems to come back to life.
He wishes he could give her the vegetables he is delivering as reparation for the blueberries she lost because of him, but she is too proud and he gives her a ride in the car instead. It is too noisy for them to hear each other while riding, so he stops the car near the Toy plot in the cemetery so they can talk.
They are both somber, thinking of their lost loved ones. She admires his ability to fight, but Tweedy tells her it is mostly just for fun and to ensure his reputation. The only real fights he has are against Hosie Roach, whom he hates. Lightfoot works with Roach at the mill and she says he is “real smart” and will probably amount to something one day.
They talk and explore the cemetery. Lightfoot wishes she could have given her father a beautiful headstone and then begins crying. Tweedy does not know what to say or do, so he waits for her to talk.
Lightfoot could have stayed near her family in the hills, but she wanted to come back here so she could go back to school. On the train ride home, however, her aunt told her she could only keep her if she went to work full time in the mill. No matter how much...
(The entire section is 505 words.)
Chapter 36 Summary
As Miss Alice Ann raves, Tweedy is dumbfounded. Lightfoot disappears. Tweedy cranks up the Cadillac and Miss Ann disappears too—probably to spread the news in town.
Tweedy feels sick. Although he is “scareder and more ashamed” than he has ever been, he wants to remember how he “lost his senses” while kissing Lightfoot. He hates thinking about how people will talk about him, not understanding that he was just trying to comfort Lightfoot. Now he knows how Miss Love feels and decides to tell his mother before she hears it from someone else.
Although this saves his pride, it does not diminish his punishment. In addition to a whipping, he is banned from driving the car for two months. Tweedy finally has to go to the store to work and everyone sympathizes with him, assuming he was “led astray” by a wanton mill girl. Aunt Loma even wants him to write a story about it. He is ashamed that he does not defend Lightfoot’s reputation and that she undoubtedly thinks he does not respect her.
The Blakeslees return after two weeks, and Mary Willis decides to invite them to dinner that night. She also invites Aunt Carrie and Aunt Loma’s family. It will be a festive occasion, almost as if nothing bad ever happened. Tweedy figures if his mother will let Miss Love into her house, she might also let her into the family.
Hoyt Tweedy drives to the train depot to pick up Miss Love and the suitcases and Marry Willis asks Tweedy to set out the Toy Bible. He notices that his mother has nearly worn through the page trying to erase the line recording Blakeslee’s marriage to Miss Love.
Surprisingly, Blakeslee agrees to ride in the Cadillac. While in New York, he drove all kinds of cars and now loves them. They are a “dang marvel” to him. He has never given many gifts, but now he enjoys giving his family the gifts he and Miss Love bought.
Tweedy’s gift is a linen duster and driving cap with goggle, just like his father has. Everyone enjoys the meal except Mary Willis, who is silent as she tries to determine why the couple, at Miss Love’s insistence, brought everyone such lavish gifts. She concludes that it stems from guilt about finally consummating their marriage.
Mary Willis will not let Miss Love help clear the dishes, making it clear that she is company rather than family. Blakeslee talks about all the things they did while in New York, including theater, a musical...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapter 37 Summary
Grandpa Blakeslee demands that Queenie share her coconut cake recipe with Miss Love, but Mary Willis icily says that it is Mattie Lou’s recipe; if Miss Love wants it, she can find it in an old brown shoebox in the pantry—if she has not thrown out the box. Tweedy can see that Miss Love does not remember any brown shoe box.
Blakeslee is now smoking a cigar rather than chewing plug tobacco because Miss Love thinks it is more modern, plus he does not have to spit. Tweedy can see that something has changed between Blakeslee and his bride, and Mary Willis notices it, too.
Blakeslee insists that Tweedy drive them home, and Hoyt Tweedy reluctantly agrees (without saying anything about the punishment). As soon as Tweedy parks the car, Miss Love insists Blakeslee tell his grandson what he has done. Blakeslee can barely contain himself as he produces an advertisement and shows Tweedy the automobile he bought. It is a black Pierce, and Tweedy is stunned. Even more, Blakeslee is now an official automobile dealer for both Cadillac and Pierce. It will either make the Blakeslees rich or break them.
Blakeslee and Tweedy suspect it will be a miracle if they can sell more than one or two cars to people in Cold Sassy; however, Miss Love has a plan that Blakeslee thinks might work. He and Hoyt Tweedy will park their cars in front of the store, which will attract people from all over to come to see them. They naturally will do their shopping in the store, but what they will go home talking about is the automobiles; soon they will buy them. Miss Love will display driving clothes in the store window and the store will stock car accessories.
Tweedy is sure his father will not like strangers climbing on and touching his Cadillac, honking the horn and using up the battery. His grandfather has never loved machinery, so perhaps he will not mind.
Miss Love’s plan is to “make people want what they don’t know they want.” The couple wants Will to join them in this marketing plan. Tweedy will pick up the car when it arrives and park it in front of the store, and he will teach them to drive. Then, when people want to take a ride, there will be plenty of people who can take them. Suddenly Miss Love decides they should also give free driving lessons, reasoning that once a man actually drives a car, he will want one.
Tweedy is not to tell anyone of their plans, but all Tweedy can think about is his...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 38 Summary
Grandpa Blakeslee has big plans for selling his automobiles, but Tweedy is sure most of them come from Miss Love. She even seems to have determined who will buy which vehicle, and Tweedy wonders how she manages to lead his strong-willed, business-savvy grandfather any way she wants.
He finds out how one night when she asks Blakeslee to build a new outhouse closer to the house. He flatly refuses, saying it will stink. But she tells him that she has read about some chemicals that will eliminate the problem. Now Blakeslee shouts that he has worries enough about the automobile he bought without having to worry about an indoor bathroom, which is the next thing she will probably want.
Miss Love’s “dander goes up like a flag” and she reminds him that all she asked for was to move the privy closer to the house. Suddenly he grins at her, and Tweedy knows that soon the Blakeslees will have an indoor bathroom—and perhaps even electricity and a telephone.
Tweedy’s next fear is that Miss Love will bear Blakeslee a son. With a son of his own, his grandfather would no longer pay attention to Tweedy as “Grandpa never could dote on two people at once.”
Miss Love brings in a cake, and Tweedy senses that his grandfather has forgotten all about the outhouse but that Miss Love has not. She will keep hinting, week after week, and one day she will get what she wants. Tweedy fears his mother is “in for a lot of headaches.”
The memories of kissing Lightfoot McLendon have finally worn off, and Tweedy knows she will never let him kiss her again. When school starts, however, not really believing her aunt will keep her from school, he is determined to let her know that he still respects her.
Lightfoot does not come and Tweedy deigns to talk to Hose Roach, casually asking him if Lightfoot has gone back to the mountains. Roach tells him she is working in the mill, and Tweedy politely asks how she is. This immediately rankles Roach as he does not think it is Tweedy’s business to know how the mill girl is doing, and the two boys begin to fight.
Blakeslee learns of Tweedy’s driving restrictions, but he is certain Hoyt Tweedy will not mind if the boy drives Blakeslee’s Pierce. As long as he does not know, he cannot say no. Finally the telegram comes: the Pierce will arrive on Saturday. Everyone will be in town and Miss Love makes a banner to announce the arrival of a...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
Chapter 39 Summary
A huge crowd has gathered at the train depot, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Blakeslee’s surprise—everyone is there except for Blakeslee and Miss Love. Tweedy looks anxiously for them and finally sees his disgruntled grandfather. He is alone and he is not wearing his new suit.
He privately tells Tweedy that he thought the clothes were too fancy, and Miss Love was up all night worrying that the town would assume she talked Blakeslee into buying the car. Blakeslee greets everyone with a smile, but he is not happy. Miss Love plans to walk to the store with the crowd, and Tweedy suspects that is a good choice. The town would talk if it saw her “perched high and mighty” in a shiny new car.
The train arrives, and Blakeslee finally tells Hoyt Tweedy the surprise; he is thrilled until Blakeslee says Tweedy is going to drive it. When the automobile is finally revealed, Tweedy and his father examine it to be sure it works the same as the Cadillac.
Blakeslee suddenly stands up on the back seat and announces that he will be selling them to everyone soon. The crowd cheers, but Hoyt Tweedy is puzzled. Soon both vehicles are on their way to the store.
No one cares that Miss Love is not there, but certainly people notice. The store is busy, but the only one interested in buying a car is the mill owner. After riding in both automobiles, he decides he would rather have a different car.
Early the next morning, Tweedy takes Blakeslee and Miss Love for a driving lesson. After Tweedy explains everything about how to start and drive the car, he tells Blakeslee to turn the ignition key and go crank the shaft. When he is not looking, Miss Love reaches up and turns the key so the car does not start, of course. She does this several times, and she and Tweedy can barely contain their laughter as Blakeslee grows increasingly frustrated. He finally catches her and soon they are on the road.
All is well until they are going down a hill too fast. Blakeslee does not remember how to use the brakes, and they wind up in a ditch. Everyone is unhurt, but one tire is punctured. After that, Blakeslee refuses to drive again, saying “a artermobile ain’t nothin’ but a dang roller coaster.”
Miss Love, on the other hand, seems to be a good driver. She and Tweedy go out driving many times, and finally she feels confident enough to drive to the store. Unfortunately, just as they approach town,...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 40 Summary
By the end of the week, Blakeslee decides the cars can no longer sit in front of the store, as few can refrain from fiddling with the controls or jumping on the seats. But every time he gets an audience, he promotes the marvel of traveling by car. Tweedy and his father do their part by giving driving lessons.
Miss Love causes a stir when she wears her duster and veil and sits in the store window as a mannequin. It is “a sight to behold.” The tactic works, and both cars and dust veils are sold.
In September, Tweedy drives the Blakeslees to the county fair. They have a good time, and on the way home Blakeslee rides in the back seat with his wife. Something in their relationship is changing.
Before it gets too cold, Miss Love wants to take an overnight trip with the Tweedys, but both men cannot be gone from the store on a Saturday. They cannot leave early on Sunday because Hoyt Tweedy is obligated to attend church. Tweedy is allowed to go, and Miss Effie Belle does not wave when Blakeslee reaches over from the back seat and honks at her early Sunday morning.
Later Tweedy realizes this trip is a kind of honeymoon for his grandfather and Miss Love, although it is unlikely any of them knew it at the time. If Blakeslee were not so old, Tweedy would “swear he was sweet on Miss Love, and vice versa.”
They have their usual problems with punctures and engine overheating, but it is another car that causes the accident. After they eat their picnic and laze in the sun a bit, the trio leaves to get back before first dark. Almost as soon as they are on the road, a two-passenger Ford pulls in front of them. They all wave and enjoy the company of another vehicle until they begin swallowing the dust created by the Ford.
They pull over for a bit, but they see the Ford again as they come around a curve. It is “lying on its side like a dead horse,” and Tweedy has to swerve to miss it. He drives down through a creek and then back up onto the road past the overturned vehicle.
The couple is fine but the Pierce has a hole in its radiator. Miss Love thinks that when the water in the radiator gets hot, perhaps a cup of grits might plug up the hole. They buy some grits from an old Negro woman.
As Tweedy walks back to the car, he sees his grandfather and Miss Love kissing just like Miss Love kissed McAllister. For the first time, he feels as if Granny has been betrayed....
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Chapter 41 Summary
Tweedy decides against putting grits in the radiator and manages to nurse the automobile into Cushie Springs. A mechanic will come tomorrow to repair the car, and Tweedy’s parents know he will be home tomorrow.
The Jamisons graciously invite the three travelers to spend the night at their farmhouse, a prospect that makes Blakeslee happy but Miss Love nervous. Mrs. Jamison gives them a double bed in a bedroom and a cot in a connecting sewing room. Despite Blakeslee’s begging, he does not get his way: he and Tweedy share the bed and Miss Love takes the cot. Tweedy’s head is right next to the wall separating the two rooms, and he can hear every sound in Miss Love’s room.
Tweedy wakes abruptly when he hears his grandfather sneak into Miss Love’s room. Tweedy hears them teasing, and it is clear that Blakeslee wants Miss Love to be more than his housekeeper. Soon, however, Tweedy hears Miss Love crying and assuring Blakeslee that if he knew the truth he would not want to be with her. Over the next few hours, Tweedy hears both Blakeslee and Miss Love make confessions.
Blakeslee’s confession is that he has loved Miss Love since the first moment he saw her. He and Mattie Lou had been living more like siblings than husband and wife because another child would have killed her, and when Miss Love arrived he had to ask God to keep him from acting on his feelings for her.
That is the great sin he asked God not to exact revenge on his wife for, yet all the time she was dying he was thinking he could marry Miss Love if she did. Blakeslee asked Miss Love to marry him so quickly because he did not want her to marry anyone else. Miss Love is shocked at the revelation.
Miss Love confesses that she promised God she would never be a wife after she told McAllister her secret and he refused to have her because of it. Her drunken father accused his wife of being with another man and therefore did not think twelve-year-old Love was his daughter. In a drunken rage, he raped his own daughter to make a point to his wife.
Miss Love’s mother tried to rescue her but passed out before she knew all that happened to her daughter. Afterwards, Miss Love’s mother told her that she could choose either to be bitter about her father or to forgive him and live a normal life. Miss Love realized then that her mother did not know the worst but never told her the truth.
Blakeslee’s love is...
(The entire section is 510 words.)
Chapter 42 Summary
Since what Tweedy calls “That Night,” Miss Love does a lot of riding and speaks very little. Although Blakeslee still jokes and tells stories at the store, he looks older and more unkempt, and his “mean streak” shows more clearly.
Blakeslee gets sick, coughing and believing it is a recurrence of a lung disease he had during the war. He claims it is quite contagious and refuses to let anyone but Miss Love near him. Everyone is worried, but Miss Love tells Mary Willis that although Blakeslee coughs and groans a lot, he eats well. Miss Love finds it puzzling, but Tweedy is pretty sure his grandfather has taken his own advice. He told Tweedy once, “When you don’t know which way to turn, son, try something. Don’t just do nothing.”
Tweedy suspects his grandfather loves Miss Love as much as ever and has decided to stay home with her until she relents. Soon Miss Love trains her horse to pull the buggy and thinks it would be good for Blakeslee to get some fresh air. The pair bundles up and goes for a drive every day. At first they look as if they do not even know each other; before long they are laughing and talking, and Blakeslee seems quite his usual self.
Aunt Loma is directing the school Christmas play and revels in her task. While she does not force Tweedy to be in it, she calls on him to do anything she needs, and Tweedy is sick of being bossed around by her. When she asks Tweedy to catch a live mouse as a prop, he decides to sabotage her play. He and his friends catch nineteen barn rats and put them in a cage, which they strategically position.
The new school building is packed, and just when the lights go dim before Act III of the program, Tweedy and Pink take their positions. As soon as the live mouse is dropped, the boys also release all the rats. Pandemonium ensues.
Loma is stunned and appalled that her show has been ruined. The Blakeslees laugh uproariously, and Tweedy’s parents know exactly who pulled this prank. He gets “whipped good” and has to apologize to Loma.
For the first time ever, Tweedy is filled with remorse when he sees what his childish prank did to Loma. She obviously was crying, but she smiles and tells Tweedy she always has treated him badly. Then in a quiet rage, she tells Tweedy to leave and never come back as she never wants to see him again. She claims she will hate Tweedy until the day she dies and then slaps him hard. Tweedy is...
(The entire section is 504 words.)
Chapter 43 Summary
Uncle Camp escapes from his wife when she is in Athens visiting her college roommate. She does not want to go, but he tells her that if she does not leave, he will not fix the faucet in the bathtub because she is always standing over him and “watchin’ him fail.” Campbell goes to work at the store as always.
Later, Hoyt Tweedy will say that Campbell actually applied himself at his work in the store that Saturday and seemed almost happy for once. Campbell and Hoyt Tweedy leave the store at the same time for dinner, and Campbell asks his brother-in-law if he would stop by his house before going back to the store to check his work on the faucet.
Grudgingly, Tweedy and his father stop by Campbell’s house on the way back to the store. Hoyt Tweedy calls out and Campbell answers. The shot rings out just as Hoyt Tweedy steps into the dining room.
Neighbors claim to have heard a scream; it must have been Tweedy’s or his father’s. All Tweedy remembers is the smell of gunpowder and the sight of his Uncle Camp all wrapped up in a blue-checked oilcloth from the store. Before he put a gun to his mouth, Campbell tried to ensure that there would be as little cleanup as possible so Loma would not be so mad at him.
An ashen-faced Hoyt Tweedy sends his son for Mr. Birdsong and the hearse. They arrive at the back door since a crowd has gathered in front of the house, although Hoyt Tweedy has closed the kitchen doors to keep everyone from seeing the spectacle. Birdsong take the body back to his house.
Everyone has heard the news, including Mary Willis and Blakeslee, and Tweedy goes back to Loma’s house to clean up any remaining mess. As he picks up Campbell’s tools next to the bathtub, he finds a letter Campbell left for Loma and cannot keep himself from reading it.
Campbell tells Loma that he has loved her ever since he first saw her, and she is just as pretty now as she was then. It is not her fault that he “ain’t good for nuthin,” and getting out of bed every morning is just too much for him anymore. He made sure she would not have to find his body, and he fixed the faucet. He leaves his gold pocket watch to his son and hopes Blakeslee can find a good worker for the store now. He hopes God will forgive him so he can see Loma in heaven and wants to be buried in Cold Sassy so she can visit him.
Tweedy hears the water dripping in the bathtub and changes the washer....
(The entire section is 503 words.)
Chapter 44 Summary
The Tweedys, along with nearly everyone else in town, gather to meet Aunt Loma at the depot; most are there to show their sympathy for Campbell’s taking his own life and going to Hell, without hope of forgiveness or a reunion with his wife and son in Heaven. Cold Sassy assumes the burial will be quick and private, but Blakeslee brings Campbell home to lie in state.
As the casket arrives, the neighbors already have gathered at Loma’s house and are shocked that Campbell’s body is being treated like a regular corpse, as if he had not committed suicide.
Blakeslee takes charge and prepares the closed casket and room for viewing since the rest of the family is upstairs with Loma, who is still in shock. Although he dislikes funerals, Blakeslee dislikes hypocrites even more, and he is determined not to let the folks who are all judging Campbell decide how he will be buried.
Miss Love has taken charge of the kitchen. Tweedy helps her, and they both think people will pay their respects even to a man who died a scandalous death because Blakeslee wills it so. Tweedy wonders if Blakeslee blames himself for Campbell’s death, but both he and Miss Love know that Blakeslee will not let himself even think such thoughts. Tweedy knows he could have treated his uncle better.
After Miss Love joins him, Blakeslee calls people into the parlor to pay their respects. Hesitant at first, they begin to file in, and soon everyone is crying, knowing they could have treated “that poor boy” better.
As soon as things are moving smoothly, Blakeslee goes upstairs to get Loma. She is pacing like a sleepwalker and does not appear to know where she is or what she is doing. Even when her father tells her that Campbell is home and people are there to pay their respects, Loma continues pacing and does not respond.
Blakeslee sends everyone out of the room; Tweedy is the last to leave and hears Loma crying with her face on Blakeslee’s chest. She admits she was always mean to her husband and asks if she and her son can “come home.” Tweedy does not hear the answer because he has to shut the door, but he knows such an arrangement is unlikely to work as “both could hold a grudge like it was a lifework.”
The preacher’s sermon at the funeral of the last person to commit suicide in Cold Sassy consisted of one sentence: “God won’t forgive this awful thing he did.” Campbell’s family...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
Chapter 45 Summary
Although there is room in their house and Miss Love makes the offer, Blakeslee tells Loma he is too old to help raise a child. Tweedy does not understand why Loma cannot live in her own house; his mother explains that a pretty twenty-one-year-old woman should not live alone. Tweedy knows Blakeslee will quickly rent out her house and use the money to pay for Loma’s upkeep.
Loma is thrilled to live with the Tweedys because now she has Queenie to be her maid, too. Soon things settle down and life is much easier for Loma but not for Tweedy. He is kept so busy that he never gets to do the things he would like to do.
Loma mostly stays in Tweedy’s former room and writes poems and plays until she gets restless and asks her father if she can work at the store. Blakeslee is short of help and the store is busy, but he does not respond.
Miss Love seems happier. Tweedy grumbles to her about the proposed name change for the town; she assures him that Blakeslee will never let that happen. Her birthday is on Valentine’s Day, and she buys herself an indoor bathroom and a sink and faucet in the kitchen. Blakeslee buys her a gramophone and some lively music to play on it. The town thinks he spoils her since he gave Mattie Lou so little.
Miss Love teaches Blakeslee and Tweedy to dance, and Tweedy wonders what it would be like to dance with Lightfoot McLendon. Tweedy knows that Blakeslee is courting his wife, and he is anxious to see how their relationship develops.
Blakeslee wants to hire Hosie Roach to work at the store, despite Tweedy’s efforts to dissuade him. Tweedy is certain Roach will be taking his own place at the store, not Campbell’s. Although Roach is not a better worker, he will be able to give Blakeslee more hours because Tweedy has chores and homework to do.
Blakeslee tells Roach he has to get rid of his head lice, if he has them, and get a haircut before he can start working. The next day Roach is at work early; his head is shaved and he has cleaned up the best he can. Blakeslee and Hoyt Tweedy are impressed with the boy, and Hoyt Tweedy asks his son to give Roach one of his old caps. Even then, Mary Willis wonders if Cold Sassy will accept a mill boy waiting on them at the store.
Miss Love suggests she should teach Loma how to be a hat-maker, and soon the two of them are set up in the store and Loma is ready to make Easter hats. Blakeslee is quite proud of...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 46 Summary
On his fifteenth birthday, Tweedy shaves for the first time. During recess, his friends give him fifteen licks and then rub dirt on his face after school. Tweedy figures his friends are jealous because he is the first among them to shave.
On his way to the store after school, someone calls to him from behind a bush. It is Lightfoot McLendon, and she asks him if he can talk for a minute.
Tweedy ducks behind the bush with her and is pleased to see that Lightfoot looks much better than when he saw her last. He does not quite know what to say to her, so he asks her, several times, how she has been. She has heard he drives his grandfather’s car and that prompts Tweedy to stumble through an apology about what happened in the Cadillac that day in the cemetery.
He tells her he never meant to kiss her, and Lightfoot stops him before he says anything more, telling him “that’s over and done with.” In fact, that is one reason she is here to see him, as she knew he would be feeling bad. Although Lightfoot regrets the scolding her got because of her, she is thankful he wanted to comfort her. And although it might be wrong to admit it, she will never forget the time she spent with him that day.
When Tweedy asks why she waited so long to tell him this, Lightfoot says she wants him to know before something happens, but she changes the subject before finishing the thought. She has been studying on her own from Hosie Roach’s books and intends to keep learning. She smiles and hands Tweedy a big buckeye to remember her by and for luck; she no longer needs it and wants him to have it.
Tweedy senses that Lightfoot is here to say goodbye to him; she wants to “make some things right” between them before she is no longer free to do so. She tells him goodbye and says she is going to get married. Lightfoot wants him to hear it directly from her: she is going to marry Hosie Roach. They could never even consider marriage before Roach got a job at the store, and the couple will always be grateful to Blakeslee for the opportunity. She has to go but wants Tweedy to remember her. After she kisses him quickly on the cheek, her eyes full of tears, she disappears.
The next day, Blakeslee gives Roach a fifty-cent raise and lets him leave work early to go get the license; he even lets Roach use the mule to make the trip. All of this “nearly kills” Tweedy. He has never felt more alone and hopes...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Chapter 47 Summary
As Blakeslee is locking up on Friday night, a man puts a revolver to Blakeslee’s head and demands that he reopen the store to do a little more business. There are two robbers. Although they have dirty white scarves over their faces, Blakeslee recognizes them immediately as the men who came into the store this morning posing as cotton buyers.
There is no money in the cash register and Blakeslee claims he is cash-poor because the store is not doing very well. The men do not believe him and tie him to a chair out of sight of the store window.
Next they demand the combination to the safe. Blakeslee refuses to give it, insisting that there is no money in it; but eventually he is forced to open it and it is as he said. Inside is his will, a letter, and some legal deeds and papers; but there is no money. The robbers angrily demand to know where the money is, waving the revolver in his face.
The next morning Blakeslee tells the story as he lay on his side in his bed, trying to protect his broken ribs. Tweedy can barely look at his injured grandfather; he has an ugly bump on his forehead, two black eyes, a swollen and broken nose (for the fourth time in his life), and a bandaged gash above his left eye. His right knee is badly twisted, his ribs are bound, and he is bruised all over.
Blakeslee continues his story. He dumped the nail keg (keg and all) on their heads, but when he dumped it, out spilled all the money and silver coins he had hidden there. The silver coins, probably a hundred-fifty dollars worth, were rolling all over the floor, and the two rather drunk and greedy robbers crawled around on their hands and knees chasing those coins. All Blakeslee had to do was wait for his opportunity to thump them on the back of the neck.
When the men came to, he was sitting on the counter with their own gun pointed at them. Blakeslee goaded the men and said one of them must call the police to report their attempted robbery. When it became clear they had never used a telephone before, he taunted them for being ignorant, which angered the still-drunk men.
No one answered the telephone, which emboldened the men. They were not afraid that Blakeslee could shoot the gun with any accuracy (which, of course, he could), and Blakeslee had to prove it by showing them his prowess with a gun. All was well until he ran out of bullets. Then both men attacked Blakeslee, one wrenching his knee and the...
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Chapter 48 Summary
The switchboard operator got back to the phone in time to hear the fight and sent the police and doctor to Blakeslee’s store. He was bloody and battered when they arrived, and they could not reach Miss Love because she did not have a telephone. Instead they called Hoyt Tweedy.
Miss Love was getting worried when she suddenly heard Mr. Birdsong’s hearse (which doubles as an ambulance) pull into her yard. She did not know whether her husband was dead or alive, and Tweedy will never forget the worry he saw on her face when Blakeslee was carried into the house. Blakeslee just smiled weakly at her and told her he got outsmarted.
The next night, Saturday night, Blakeslee wants to know if the robbers have been caught yet. He is tired of being sore and is now “madder’n heck” at the scoundrels. He also is angry at himself for not checking to see how many bullets were in the revolver—which he would have done if he were not so busy trying to show off his superior shooting skills. If the robbers had fought fairly, with their fists, Blakeslee knows he could have beaten them both. Both his body and his pride are hurt, for the only other fight he had ever lost was the War Between the States.
Mary Willis offers to help. Blakeslee does not mind if she sits in the corner as long as she does not cry or “mother-hen” him. Rather than prompting tears, this angers Mary Willis and she snaps back at him just like Loma would have. Mary Willis stays, and Miss Love seems glad to have her there.
Tweedy visits Sunday afternoon, but he discovers Miss Love and Blakeslee relaxing in Blakeslee’s bed. He stays outside the door and listens. The couple is clearly at peace with God and each other. Blakeslee asks her if she misses going to church; she says that although she likes his sermons better, she misses gathering with others to worship God. Blakeslee says he was called on to preach at a church once but only because he called himself an itinerant preacher and “peddler of fine merchandise.”
Blakeslee addresses Tweedy’s question about why Jesus says to ask and it will be given, but it is not always given. Blakeslee believes this is a guarantee of spiritual healing rather than physical healing. Jesus promises to erase fears and help people endure their hardships, not take them away.
Although others might see this as sacrilege, Miss Love thinks it is a beautiful way of thinking. Even Tweedy...
(The entire section is 506 words.)
Chapter 49 Summary
The doctor scolds Blakeslee for not breathing deeply enough, even though it hurts, and pronounces that Blakeslee has pneumonia. Blakeslee is a strong man, so he will “pull th’ew all right.”
Miss Love is afraid she has not taken good enough care of her husband, but the doctor assures her that pneumonia just “comes on with a bang and has to run its course.” No one will know the outcome until the crisis hits. Blakeslee’s fever is already high and going to get worse, so the doctor tells Miss Love to get Mary Willis and Loma here to help nurse their father. Hoyt Tweedy insists that Tweedy stay there too since the Blakeslees do not have a phone.
Blakeslee raves in his fever. He thinks Mattie Lou is still alive and does not remember that he is married to Miss Love. Miss Love is distraught and says she is going to leave Cold Sassy if he dies. In his delirium, Blakeslee talks about the War and confesses to some things he obviously feels guilty about doing. The women send for the doctor, but he is delivering a baby and cannot come yet.
In an attempt to calm Blakeslee down so he can sleep, Miss Love plays hymns on the piano; as she slows down her playing, her husband finally calms down, as well. The next morning, Blakeslee’s fever is still raging, and he calls for Miss Love to tell her to please make sure Mattie Lou gets some rest after nursing him all night.
Miss Love feels sick and has to leave the room. Tweedy finds her and she confesses her fear that the doctor is right and Blakeslee will not recover. She is adamant that he must not die and has something she must tell him but cannot do so with Mattie Lou hovering everywhere in the sickroom.
Suddenly she starts laughing and finally tells Tweedy so he can see the humor as well. Miss Love thought she was pregnant but decided to wait until Blakeslee’s birthday to tell him so she could be sure. Now she can never tell him, in front of Mattie Lou, that he fathered her child. Blakeslee has already forgotten about marrying her and would not believe her. And yet the prospect of a son might give him something worth fighting for, so Tweedy suggests they do something drastic to reduce the fever.
Suddenly Mary Willis shouts that Blakeslee’s fever has broken and he is sleeping; now Miss Love is afraid she has missed her chance. Tweedy waits with Miss Love until Blakeslee wakes, but when Miss Love starts to tell him about the...
(The entire section is 478 words.)
Chapter 50 Summary
Miss Love finally emerges from the bedroom, looking like stone, and tells Tweedy he should go tell his family and they will call the doctor. Tweedy does not have to say a word and Hoyt Tweedy knows. He sends his son up to put on a suit out of respect and then the family drives to the store.
Blakeslee told Hoyt Tweedy a month ago that if anything ever happened to him, Hoyt Tweedy is to retrieve the sealed letter from the safe before his body is cold and not to let anyone move it until the letter has been read to the family.
Miss Love has made her husband look as natural as possible, and both Tweedy and his father have trouble holding back their emotions, but Hoyt Tweedy reads Blakeslee’s letter. He reminds them that he gave right and proper funerals to Mattie Lou and Campbell, but he wants something different for himself. He wants the simplest burial and wants Miss Love to find a way to be happy after he is gone. He reminds them that the first three letters of the word funeral spell "fun."
In a week or so, he wants them to host a festive celebration for the town where people can tell funny stories about him. Anyone who does not comply with his wishes is written out of his will, which is not to be read until after the party.
The funeral is uncomfortable for the mourners, and Tweedy is inspired to read the verses about asking and it will be given; he then timidly explains his grandfather’s view of them.
Tweedy worries what his mother will do when she learns about the baby. Next Sunday Miss Love goes back to the Methodist church, and she wears a bright red dress to the party. Mary Willis had made public her father’s wishes, and everyone enjoys the celebration.
In addition to a few small requests, the will leaves the farmhouse and furniture to Miss Love; Mary Willis and Loma each get their houses and a thousand dollars. The rest is divided among the three women—unless there is another child. Then everything will be divided four ways. He leaves Tweedy money for college as long as he works at the store for ten years afterwards.
Tweedy is angry that Blakeslee tries to control him from the grave and means to determine his own future. Miss Love tells the family about the baby and decides to stay in Cold Sassy where her child will be near family.
A month after Blakeslee dies, Cold Sassy votes to change its name to Progressive City, and the Cold Sassy tree...
(The entire section is 500 words.)