Chapters 14-15 Summary
In the spring, the people of Altamont turn their attention to their various businesses. Ben Gant, who delivers The Saturday Evening Post, talks with the other boys about who gets their customers to pay and who does not, and then they start on their deliveries. The various doctors meet at the diner and discuss their patients. Many have diseases or conditions that are drastic and inoperable. Loss of a patient through death is not uncommon. Gant awakens to the sounds of his chickens in the yard. Judge Webster Tayloe watches his mulatto son with approval. Eliza starts the day, awakened by some strange sound. The Dixieland is full of travelers. Altamont is a popular vacation spot, especially for those seeking relief from tuberculosis. Some boarding houses take no one but the tubercular, while others refuse to have them, fearful of contagion. The delivery boys finish their routes and slowly return home, some making detours along the way.
Eugene feels his surroundings intensely. He sees the mountains as his masters. He considers himself to be part of all nature. Torn between Eliza’s inwardness and Gant’s outwardness, Eugene feels that he is a victim of chance. Each accident of life became part of the sum of his life. But his sights are ever reaching beyond the rim of the mountains to the world beyond.
Eliza is doing well financially. Having overcome many health difficulties that limited how much time and energy she could put into the Dixieland, Eliza now has the wherewithal to develop all her properties. With the rent and other income from her boarding house as well as the value of her myriad properties, Eliza (with Gant) is worth about a hundred thousand dollars, with an annual income between eight thousand and ten thousand dollars. She had unwisely invested in a utopian community, on which she lost twelve hundred dollars; Gant and Ben will not let her live this down.
One of the boarders at Dixieland is a man named Simon who lives with his two “keepers.” His keepers say Simon is a multimillionaire, and Eugene readily believes it. Eugene is growing up rapidly. He was allowed to finally cut off his long hair when he was twelve, and he is not taller than his mother. He no longer hangs out with his childhood friends; he claims they bore him. He tries to join in games with other boys, but he is not athletic. He cannot submit himself to the discipline that the athletic life requires.