Chapter 2 Summary

Everyone sits down to a special "comp'ny supper" prepared by Jenny and Nancy when the long day's work is finally done. At first, the talk at the table centers around family affairs but before long, the focus of conversation turns to the nation's troubles. With deep concern, Matthew Creighton asks, "Will Kaintuck go secesh, Wilse?" and the visitor answers straightforwardly, "Maybe, Uncle Matt, maybe it will."

Wilse Graham then inquires how southern Illinois will feel about it if Kentucky does side with the South. He points out that the people of that area are "closer by a lot to the folks in Missouri and Kaintuck than [they] are to the bigwigs up in Chicago and northern Illinois." Matt agrees that as much as eighty percent of the people thereabouts "count Missouri or Kaintuck or Tennessee as somehow bein' their own," but he also laments the division in the country, insisting, "We're a union." Wilse gets angry then, railing about the affluent North's arrogance as it starves its less prosperous neighbor's industry with high tariffs because of jealousy that the South has finally found a way of life that benefits it. He asserts that the South only wants "the right to live as it sees fit to live without interference," and is prepared to fight "fer years if need be" to preserve this right. He goes on to predict that England will surely come to the aid of the Confederacy as well, if only to protect her much-needed source of cotton.

Ellen timidly interjects to bring up the question of slavery, and the plight of the "downtrodden people" in the South. Wilse at first tries to evade the question, but when John presses him to answer, he concedes that while he cannot justify the ownership of one man of another, slavery has been a fact of life "from the beginnin' of history." He notes that even the men who wrote the Constitution recognized the "peculiar institution," and pointedly demands to know what sort of welcome and assistance black men from...

(The entire section is 786 words.)