The Virginian

by Owen Wister

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Chapters 25–27 Summary

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Chapter 25: Progress of the Lost Dog

The Virginian is only making a flying visit to Bear Creek, though he says that he will return for a proper talk with Molly before long. The next commission he receives from the judge is to collect two horses borrowed from him by a rancher named Balaam and return them to Sunk Creek. It is Shorty who delivers the letter containing these instructions to the Virginian, having accepted the task for ready cash even though he no longer works at Sunk Creek. He gives the letter to the Virginian while the two of them are in sight of Balaam, and Balaam quizzes him about where he works now. Shorty refuses to say, but his battered appearance indicates that he is in need of money. He has nothing of any value except his horse, Pedro.

Balaam invites Shorty to share his dinner and is reluctantly compelled to include the Virginian in the invitation, since he must stay at Balaam’s ranch until the judge’s horses are found. Over dinner, Balaam runs down Pedro as a tame horse fit only for women and children and who is probably lame, but Shorty stoutly defends his horse. Balaam offers him thirty dollars for Pedro, and they eventually settle on a price of forty dollars, together with a Mexican blanket and a pair of spurs. However, Shorty is resolved to buy Pedro back again as soon as he can make enough money. In the early dawn, when he is alone with the horse, he hugs Pedro, who is “dearer to his heart than anybody in the world.”

Chapter 26: Balaam and Pedro

Balaam decides to go to Sunk Creek with the Virginian and Judge Henry’s two horses. They travel slowly, with five horses: the two borrowed from the judge; a pack horse; the Virginian’s mount, Monte; and Pedro, ridden by Balaam. Balaam treats Pedro cruelly, and the Virginian offers to buy him, but Balaam refuses and continues to beat the horse brutally, despite the Virginian’s mild deprecation.

When Balaam has beaten Pedro so savagely as to break his stick, he demands to ride the Virginian’s horse. The Virginian curtly refuses, and Balaam continues his violence against Pedro, leading the Virginian to beat Balaam savagely in turn. After this beating, it appears that Balaam may be dead, and the Virginian remarks that if this is the case, he is glad of it. If not, however, he says he will do nothing further. It turns out that Balaam is not dead, and the Virginian impersonally attends to his wounds. They ride on together, with Balaam on another horse. After a time, the two men become “strangely reconciled” and fall into conversation.

When they camp, however, Pedro bolts. Balaam fires in front of the horse as he runs through a river, to frighten him, but his aim is poor, and he shoots Pedro in the leg. At the same time, he realizes why the horse bolted: the camp has been attacked by Indians, who have captured the Virginian and the other horses. Balaam balks at the prospect of proceeding to Sunk Creek and explaining to Judge Henry what has happened to his foreman and his horses, all the while with the marks of the Virginian’s beating clearly still upon him. He writes to the judge and returns to his own ranch, where he finds Shorty waiting for him, hoping to buy back Pedro. Balaam tells him that his horse was shot by the Indians who captured the Virginian.

Chapter 27: Grandmother Stark

Molly is packing to leave Bear Creek, having decided that...

(This entire section contains 873 words.)

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she cannot agree to marry the Virginian and will never see him again. Her friend Mrs. Taylor admonishes her, angrily telling Molly that she has made the wrong decision in the face of the Virginian’s obvious sincerity. Molly is angry as well and attempts to relieve her pent-up frustration by going out for a ride. However, she soon sees the Virginian’s horse, Monte, beside a spring and assumes that the Virginian must be drinking there while the horse waits for him. When she sees the Virginian, he is lying by the spring, apparently dead. She examines the body and sees that the Virginian is still bleeding and alive, though severely wounded and unconscious. She forces some brandy from her flask between his lips, and he begins to revive.

The Virginian speaks slowly and vaguely about how he was attacked, but weakness soon overcomes him. Molly manages to get him into his saddle and take him back to her cabin, where she tells the Taylors of his plight and nurses him while Mr. Taylor goes for the doctor. All this time, the Virginian is talking deliriously of Trampas and Steve, leading Mrs. Taylor to relate to Molly how the Virginian defended her honor when Trampas spoke disrespectfully of her at the barbecue. As Molly slowly nurses the Virginian back to health, reading and talking to him as soon as he is able to understand, she comes to realize how much he means to her. This moves her to revoke her decision to leave both Bear Creek and the Virginian, and finally to succumb to her feelings for him.

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Chapters 28–30 Summary