The Virginian

by Owen Wister

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Chapters 10–12 Summary

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Chapter 10: Where Fancy Was Bred

The Virginian arrives at the Goose Egg ranch in good time for the barbecue, and is welcomed with good whiskey. Many delicacies are cooking, and a whole steer is being roasted outside. The cowboys, led by a man named Honey Wiggin, are talking about the new schoolmarm, Molly Wood, who has excited great interest among the local men since her arrival. Trampas, however, takes the conversation too far, coupling Molly’s name with that of a man named Lin MacLean. The Virginian calls him a liar and forces him to back down, to the general approval of the company, most of whom now seem somewhat ashamed of having mentioned Molly’s name so freely.

Molly arrives and joins the festivities. She notices the Virginian, and recognizes him as the man who saved her from the stagecoach, but avoids him and pretends she does not recognize him. When a waltz begins to play, however, the Virginian approaches Molly and asks her to dance, knowing that few men in Bear Creek have mastered the waltz. She objects that she has never been presented to him, and the Virginian promptly calls upon Mr. Taylor, her neighbor in Bear Creek, to perform this task. However, Molly still elects to dance with old Uncle Hughey rather than the Virginian. She continues to dance with Taylor, and with other married men, and studiously ignores all the bachelors in the room, including the Virginian and Lin MacLean, the man whose name Trampas coupled with hers.

Chapter 11: “You’re Goin‘ to Love Me Before We Get Through”

The barbecue is over. Upon returning home, Mr. and Mrs. Westfall discover that their children are missing, and two strange children are in bed in their house. They identify one of them as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. However, when he reaches the Taylors’ house, Westfall finds that the Taylors have also discovered an unidentified child and are already on their way back to the Goose Egg ranch. It turns out that Lin MacLean and the Virginian have mixed up all the children’s clothes as a joke and that many parents have taken home the wrong children. The parents converge on the ranch, and they are all able to find their own offspring again. The parents, mothers in particular, are crying out for vengeance against McLean, to whom they attach sole blame for the prank.

The Virginian, however, faces the angry parents and takes responsibility for switching the children’s clothes. He does so without apparent shame, and after a few rebukes from the mothers, his confidence and honesty prove disarming, and he escapes unscathed. He rides to Molly Wood’s house and invites her to come out riding with him. She remonstrates with him for playing such a foolish trick on the parents of Bear Creek, but he replies that it was just as childish of her to avoid him and pretend not to know him at the barbecue, after he had rescued her from the stage coach. Molly says that she doesn’t think she likes him, and the Virginian retorts that this does not matter: “You’re going to love me before we get through.”

Molly still refuses to go out riding, but she softens in her manner toward the Virginian and, at his request, gives him a flower. She thinks of him after he has gone and dreams of him that night, as the Virginian does of her.

Chapter 12: Quality and Equality

Molly writes to her family and friends back in Vermont about “the tale of the changed babies,” which alarms her mother, giving...

(This entire section contains 926 words.)

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her the impression that her daughter has been keeping uncouth company. Molly’s next letter, however, is a relief, since it contains little except a request for books and an account of how much Molly enjoys riding. The books are duly sent, and about a week before Christmas, a consignment of literature including Shakespeare, Tennyson, Browning, Longfellow, Scott, Thackeray, George Eliot, Hawthorne, Emerson, and Jane Austen reaches Bear Creek. Molly lends some of these books to the Virginian, who makes a slow start with George Eliot and an unnamed detective story but is moved almost to tears by a Russian novel. He is also sufficiently impressed by Shakespeare to acquire his own copy.

The Virginian tells Molly that he loves her. Although she is moved, she replies that she is not the sort of wife he wants. The two of them begin to engage in verbal sparring matches. When Molly asserts that “All men are born equal” (and that this includes women), the Virginian points out that the children Molly teaches are not equal, since by her own admission they all exhibit different levels of ability. He asserts that there is no such thing as equality and that some people will always do better than others. He then adds that it is possible for people to better themselves and that he is the type of person who can do so, saying, “I am the kind that moves up. I am goin’ to be your best scholar.”

Molly is worried that the Virginian is going to spoil the friendly relations they have and the rides they enjoy together with his declarations of love. She asks him not to change anything between them, but the Virginian responds that such stasis is as impossible as fruit staying green forever. Molly ends by saying that if he cannot help talking of love, she will at least listen, but she makes no other promise than this.

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