Chapter 3 Summary

Scripps decides to leave Mancelona; he believes the place has never given him anything. He worked all his life and then lost all his savings. He is headed for Chicago to find a job. He plans on buying land in the Loop, which was beginning to become a major shopping and manufacturing district of the city. He will buy land at a low price and hang on to it.

Slowly, Scripps walks bareheaded down to the train tracks. He sees what he thinks is a dead bird, picks it up, and cuddles it inside his shirt to warm it; it begins to peck at his chest. The wind is blowing straight from Lake Superior, blowing snow before it. The train approaches, and Scripps steps away from the track to let it pass. He thinks of a saying that he attributes to William Shakespeare (in reality it was Plato): “Might makes right.” He imagines himself as the engineer of the mighty locomotive, with his hand on the throttle. This thought leads him to a quotation from an anarchist concerning being “throttled” by the powers that be. Scripps’s father used to take him to the cemetery monument where those anarchists were buried. Scripps had wanted to ride down the logging chutes. His father had been a great composer, to his mind, and his mother was from northern Italy.

Scripps looks at the cars as the train passes—they are all Pullmans. Though the train had slowed down on going through the crossing but was still too fast for Scripps to hitch a ride. He wonders who are in the cars and what they are going to do once they reach their destination. The last car passes, and Scripps watches the red light at the stern disappear into the darkness. As the bird inside his shirt flutters, Scripps starts walking down the tracks once again. He wants to get to Chicago that night, if possible, so he can start work in the morning. Scripps can feel the bird getting stronger.

On second thought, Scripps might not need to go as far as Chicago. It does not matter if the critic Henry Mencken called Chicago the Literary Capital of America, he thinks. He might go to Grand Rapids, where he might start a furniture business. His mother once pointed out a sign in electric lights and told him they were like her native Florence, and some day Scripps’s music will be played there. He had watched the sign for hours as his mother slept outside the hotel. It had said: “Let Hartman Feather Your Nest.” Eventually, a policeman told them they would have to move along. He decides for sure to stop at Grand Rapids, telling the bird what a beautiful gilded cage he will make for it. As Scripps walks through the snow on the train track, he hears the sound of a far-off Indian war whoop.