Charlie arrives unexpectedly, as a result of the letter that Lyddie sent him. He tells Lyddie that he has come for Rachel, their little sister. Charlie is working at the mill near their old farm, but the family that took him in treats him more like a son than an employee. Lyddie agrees that Rachel needs a “proper ma,” but she regrets that her family will not be together. She is also upset about the farm being sold.
After Charlie leaves, Lyddie finds a letter from Luke Stevens. He explains why they bought the farm, and asks her to marry him. It is not a prospect that excites her. She feels offended, as if he is trying to buy her as well as the farm.
Lyddie feels empty after Rachel leaves.
My heart is heavy, she thought. It's not just a saying. It is what is-heavy, a great stone lodged in my breast, pressing down my whole being. How can I even stand straight and look out upon the world? I am doubled over into myself and, for all the weight, find only emptiness. (Ch. 19)
Even after everyone was separated, Lyddie still held onto the dream of bringing her family back together someday. She feels like all she has left in her life is work. The purpose of the money was to buy the farm, and now it is just money.
Lyddie finally goes to one of Diana’s meetings. She is worried about Diana because she thinks she is sick. It turns out that the petition that the girls have been asking Lyddie to sign has already failed. Diana tells Lyddie she is pregnant with a married doctor’s baby, and will have to soon leave the factory.
At the factory, Mr. Marsden tries to avoid Lyddie. She is teaching Brigid how to read Oliver Twist. Brigid is becoming very proficient, and Lyddie and Brigid are teaching a host of new girls how to run their machines. One day, Lyddie catches Mr. Marsden trying to assault Brigid.
At the sound of her hoarse cry, the overseer whirled about. She crammed the fire bucket down over his shiny pate, his bulging eyes, his rosebud mouth fixed in a perfect little O. The stagnant water sloshed over his shoulders and ran down his trousers. (Ch. 20)
Because of Lyddie’s intervention, she loses her job. Mr. Marsden claims that she is the one who is immoral. Lyddie writes a letter to Mrs. Marsden, and tells Brigid to give it to her if he gives her any trouble. Lyddie feels that the bear has won.
It had stolen her home, her family, her work, her good name. She had thought she was so strong, so tough, and she had just stood there like a day-old lamb and let it gobble her down. (Ch. 22)
Lyddie goes to visit Diana. She is doing well, because she found a new employer who would take a woman with a baby. Lyddie returns to Cutler’s Tavern, where she rents a room and pays full price. She returns to talk to Luke Stevens, who apologizes for the letter. She tells him she wants to go to college in Ohio.