Chapters 11-13 Summary
Eliza is ever observant of real estate deals and the security that owning property gives, and she learns that a large boarding house is for sale. Oliver no longer cares or tries to have any say about Eliza’s dealings; he tells the real estate agent to make the deed out in Eliza’s name. Eliza and Eugene move into the boarding house, which is named “Dixieland,” while Gant and Helen remain in the former home. They lead separate lives, but Eugene often finds his way back to his father’s house because he is ignored throughout the day while his mother deals with the boarders. At dinnertime, Eliza will call Helen and tell her to send Eugene home. Helen mocks her tone, which makes Eugene laugh hysterically. Eliza has difficulty keeping servants because she constantly berates them for “slackness.” She sends Eugene down to “Niggertown” to hire new ones, but the people there are reluctant because Eliza’s reputation is well-known. Eugene goes to the community Sunday school, intrigued by the mystery of religion.
Helen objects to Eliza’s allowing prostitutes to rent rooms at Dixieland; she says the boarding house is fast becoming no better than a “chippy house.” However, Helen has made secret friends with the prostitute because she admires the wild lifestyle. She encourages her many beaus to bring her whiskey, which she drinks more and more. One of the summer regulars, Mrs. Selborne, has earned a reputation for adultery in her hometown. She fascinates Eugene, who objects to all the men who come to see her. His older brother Steve returns to Altamont and immediately becomes Mrs. Selborne’s lover. When she learns that he has been talking freely about her around town, she cuts him off despite his veiled threats that he will reveal her character.
Eugene’s older sister Daisy is married to Joe Gambell and gives birth to the first Gant grandchild. Eliza, who is in the Deep South at the time, feels resentful that her holiday is interrupted.
Gant is afflicted with rheumatism and travels to Hot Springs for treatment. When he returns, his hands are permanently crippled. He praises Helen, who went with him, for getting him through the experience. Eliza begins to travel throughout the South during the winter months. She takes Eugene with her; he is enthralled by the cultures different from that of Altamont. Eliza sends him out to sell The Saturday Evening Post as well as pass out cards advertising the Dixieland, telling him that he must drum up some business if they are going to survive. Eugene, who is now twelve years old, feels that his experiences in the South have changed him forever.