Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 322
In Part I, a man named Stephen Council plows his land after the autumn harvest, working hard and late into the evening. A stranger approaches, asking for a place to stay for the night for himself and his family. Council accommodates, though he claims he and his wife don't have...
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In Part I, a man named Stephen Council plows his land after the autumn harvest, working hard and late into the evening. A stranger approaches, asking for a place to stay for the night for himself and his family. Council accommodates, though he claims he and his wife don't have much, and they feed the exhausted little family and tend to them as best they can. The stranger and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Haskins, feel that perhaps the world isn't as sad and desolate as they thought, as a result of the Councils' kindnesses.
In Part II, Council takes Haskins to meet Jim Butler, a man who owns several properties and might be willing to let one run-down place go for cheap rent. Once Council talks Butler down to good terms, he introduces Haskins as an interested party, and he even tells Haskins that he and Mrs. Council will help them to get the farm up and running. Haskins is shocked by Council and his wife's continued kindness and the difference it has made in his own wife and children.
In Part III, the Haskins family works like dogs, for years, without complaining, because they believe that they are working to build a better life for themselves and a home and farm they can be proud of.
In Part IV, Butler comes to see the place as Haskins has reached the end of his rental term. Because of all the improvements-that Haskins has paid for out of his own pocket- Butler raises the rent. Haskins can either pay double the rent he has been paying (on property that he, himself, has improved so dramatically) or he can purchase the farm for thousands more than he was led to believe three years earlier. He is about to kill Butler, holding a pitchfork to the man's neck, when he spots his young daughter and backs away. He begrudgingly agrees to buy the property.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 491
Tim Haskins, with wife and children, have been driven from their farm by bad luck and a scourge of grasshoppers. On their way to an undetermined destination, they reach Stephen Council’s farm and ask to rest there before continuing their journey. Council and his wife not only give them food and a place to rest but also, after hearing Haskins’s story, persuade him to consider settling on a nearby vacated farm.
The farm is owned by Jim Butler, who acquired it along with several other farms through legal but ethically questionable mortgage foreclosures. Council, apparently unaware of Butler’s methods of land speculation, assumes Butler is an honorable businessperson who will give Haskins a good deal. He introduces them, and they soon agree that Haskins can rent the place. Because it is quite dilapidated, Butler sets the rent and the selling price quite low, commensurate with the farm’s poor condition (and to some extent clearly within Haskins’s ability to pay). Though Haskins can barely afford to make such a commitment, he agrees to rent for three years with an option to either renew the lease or buy the farm at the end of the three-year period.
For three years, Haskins, with his wife and children, works the farm. Council and some of the other farmers in the area lend him tools and seed, and with backbreaking toil, the Haskins family brings about a metamorphosis in the place. They make all kinds of improvements: new fencing, a garden, a pigpen, a new well, and kitchen renovations. Along with the physical improvements, Haskins also manages to produce a fine crop of wheat. Things are going so well that he believes he can afford to purchase the farm.
Butler comes to see Haskins at the farm and is impressed and pleased with the many improvements. When Haskins says he thinks he can afford to buy the farm, Butler tells him that the purchase price is now twice the amount he cited when Haskins first rented the property. He justifies the huge increase by pointing to the improvements.
Haskins is stunned. He argues that the price increase is unreasonable because all the improvements were made at his expense, in terms of both money and labor. However, Butler is unmoved because he knows that if Haskins will not purchase or rent the property, someone else will. Either way, he will profit handily.
Haskins is enraged by the unfairness and injustice of the predicament and grabs up a pitchfork with the intention of killing Butler. He declares that no one else will be robbed by the unscrupulous thief and liar. However, before he can commit the act, he catches sight of his baby daughter toddling across the yard and realizes what he stands to lose in killing Butler. Resigned, he agrees to buy the farm and orders Butler off his land, threatening to kill him if he ever sets foot on it again.