Study Guide

Cold Sassy Tree

by Olive Ann Burns

Cold Sassy Tree Summary

Chapter Summaries

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 father that Simpson is young enough to be his daughter. Mary Willis is worried about what people will say. Blakeslee is only worried about not being a burden to his family. Loma cries and says her mother has only been gone three weeks. Blakeslee thunders back at her, saying, “She’s dead as she’ll ever be, ain’t she?”

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 store or they all would have heard of it by now. Neither Miss Love nor his grandfather is “that kind.” Despite that, Tweedy finds it hard to imagine the younger woman needs something from an old man when she already has a suitor her own age who wants to marry her.

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...

(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 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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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 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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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 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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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.

...

(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...

(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....

(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...

(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....

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(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...

(The entire section is 500 words.)

Lori Steinbach, Ed. Scott Locklear