The Virginian

by Owen Wister

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Chapters 28–30 Summary

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Chapter 28: No Dream to Wake From

Molly leaves the Virginian alone for a while to rest. He lies still, scarcely able to believe what has happened, looking around the room and taking in his surroundings to reassure himself that he is not dreaming. Seeing a picture of Molly’s grandmother, he wants to kiss it and finds he is able to stand up in order to do so. He promises the woman in the picture that he will make Molly happy. When Molly returns, she helps him back to his chair, and he kisses her. The atmosphere appears dreamlike to both of them for the rest of the day.

Chapter 29: Word to Bennington

The Virginian convalesces and slowly grows stronger. Soon, he is able to take walks with Molly, which he says is not altogether a good thing, since it means he will soon be well enough to work again and will have to return to Sunk Creek. Before he does so, he insists that he must write to Molly’s mother to tell her that he and Molly are going to be married. Molly is nervous about presenting the Virginian to her friends and family in Bennington but reluctantly says that she will write to break the news to her mother. The Virginian agrees but maintains that he will write as well, and the two of them write their letters simultaneously, on either side of the same table. Molly also writes to her great-aunt, whom she expects to be more supportive. The narrator remarks that her letter to her mother took hours to write, while a much better missive to her great-aunt took minutes.

On the day the Virginian returns to work, he and Molly announce their news to the Taylors, though it appears to be no surprise to them, or to the rest of Bear Creek, where the residents are fond of gossip. Meanwhile, in Bennington, Molly’s mother is both surprised and distressed by the news. She imagines the Virginian as a wild and savage character, a most unsuitable husband for Molly. Her other daughter, Sarah, confirms this view and exacerbates her anxiety. The letter she receives from the Virginian himself does nothing to allay her fears.

In his letter to Mrs. Wood, the Virginian has written that Molly saved his life after he was attacked by the Indians. There follows an account of how carefully she nursed him and then an acknowledgment that the news of their engagement will not be welcome to Molly’s mother, since he is a man of humble birth and little education. The Virginian then gives a brief account of his family, background, and career before assuring her of his steadfast love for Molly. The tone of the letter is direct, and while modest, the Virginian does not indulge in any excuses or evasions.

Although this letter makes little impression on Molly’s mother, it does move her old great-aunt, to whom her mother shows it (though she has also, of course, heard directly from Molly). In the following days, Molly receives various letters from family members about her plans to marry the Virginian, all of them discouraging except the letter from her great-aunt, who thoroughly approves.

Chapter 30: A Stable on the Flat

The narrator, who has not been personally present in the story for the preceding chapters, now returns to the narrative. He has received a letter from the Virginian, asking him to join in a journey through the Tetons. There is no time to reply, and the narrator is far from confident that he will be able to meet the Virginian....

(This entire section contains 869 words.)

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However, he arrives at the designated meeting place, where the Virginian welcomes him, though his traveling companions are suspicious of an unannounced addition to their party and question the narrator’s motives.

The reason for their disquiet soon becomes apparent. Two cattle rustlers have been captured and are doomed to hang the next day. The men are keeping them in a stable before executing them. The narrator half expects to see Trampas and Shorty, both of whom are likely suspects, but in fact he sees Steve, the Virginian’s old friend who greeted them on his first visit to Medicine Bow. The other man, who is called Ed, is unknown to him. Steve talks to his captors fairly easily, but his manner to the Virginian is curt and harsh. It transpires that Trampas and Shorty were among the cattle thieves the men were pursuing, but they both escaped. Although this leaves matters unfinished, they are glad that Shorty has escaped along with Trampas, since his folly and inexperience will probably lead to the capture of both men before long.

Steve eats a hearty breakfast, but the other prisoner, Ed, eats nothing. When one of the men urges him at least to drink some coffee to warm himself, the narrator comments that these words make him feel as though he is the one to be executed, as his body turns cold along with the prisoner’s. On the Virginian’s word, the men start riding away, and the narrator watches them leave, listening until their horses’ hooves grow distant and there is no sound except the falling rain.


Chapters 25–27 Summary


Chapters 31–33 Summary