Patience and Sarah by Alma Routsong

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Patience and Sarah Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Patience White lives with her brother Edward, his wife, Martha, and their children. As Patience and Martha sit inhospitably doing some winter chores, Sarah Dowling delivers firewood to their home. Intrigued with this young woman, Patience invites her to dinner, later telling Sarah that she will go homesteading with her.

On the Sabbath, Patience skips a religious meeting to make plans with Sarah. Sarah confesses her feelings of love for Patience, and they kiss. Later, Sarah tells her sister Rachel that she has “found her mate” in Patience, so Rachel cannot go homesteading with her. This angers Rachel greatly.

The next day, Patience can barely suppress her happiness. Her mood changes, however, when Edward tells her that Pa Dowling had come to their house demanding that Patience be kept off his land. Meanwhile, Pa tells Sarah that Rachel has told him everything. For ten days, whenever Sarah tries to head for Patience’s house, Pa beats her.

After Rachel tells Sarah to lie so that Pa will let her see Patience, Sarah and Pa go together to ask Patience if she wants to go away with Sarah. Patience says that she cannot. Back home, Sarah announces that she will leave as soon as possible. Being supportive, Ma tells Sarah that Patience was probably frightened. After cutting her hair so that she can “look like a boy,” Sarah becomes Sam. In April, she leaves home with a few possessions in a bedroll; she stops by Patience’s house, but Patience is not there.

Sarah/Sam heads north, doing chores in exchange for room and board as she travels. Everyone tries to detain her, thinking she is a runaway apprentice, until she meets Parson Daniel Peel in his wagon and he hires her to help with his bookselling. Traveling with Parson, Sarah/Sam learns to read and learns about the world. When she expresses her pleasure in his company, Parson makes advances, saying men have always loved one another; Sam replies that she is really Sarah. He begins treating her like a woman. As summer is ending, Parson heads to New York and Sarah starts for home.

Sarah wants to go directly to Patience but instead goes to her family. When Rachel speaks of Patience, Sarah pretends to have feelings for Parson. The next morning, as Sarah is at work bringing in corn, Patience comes to welcome her home.

On Sunday afternoon, Sarah goes to Patience’s house, and Patience takes Sarah to bed for kisses. From then on, they are apart Monday through Saturday and together on Sunday afternoons. One Sunday, Patience shows Sarah that they can do more than kiss. Later, Patience again mentions homesteading. With Sarah reluctant, Patience compromises, insisting that Sarah see her every day for lessons. The first time, Sarah brings her mother, and the three enjoy playing cards.

The next day, during a storm, Sarah does not arrive at Patience’s house, so Patience goes to her. After lessons, despite being urged to stay the night, Patience returns home. Every day after that, Sarah goes to her lessons with one of her sisters.

One Sunday, Martha finds Patience and Sarah kissing. They prepare to meet Edward, who decides to pray over the matter. Patience tells Sarah that he will probably ask her to leave, but it will not happen until Sarah is ready.

Martha points out to Patience the biblical passage of Saint Paul forbidding such behavior; the passage equally rebukes those who judge. Martha describes how she has thought life would be the three of them together and leaves. When Edward returns, he announces that his solution is that Patience must leave; he will buy her portion of the house and provide for her. She tells Sarah when she arrives with Ma Dowling, and, with Ma’s support, Sarah agrees to go with Patience.

In March, Edward takes the women by sleigh to the coastal trader; to them, it feels like their wedding day. Edward arranges for their passage by...

(The entire section is 1,020 words.)