Book IV. The Pioneer Woman's Story
TWO YEARS AFTER I left Lincoln, I completed my academic course at Harvard.
Before I entered the Law School I went home for the summer vacation. On the
night of my arrival, Mrs. Harling and Frances and Sally came over to greet me.
Everything seemed just as it used to be. My grandparents looked very little older.
Frances Harling was married now, and she and her husband managed the
Harling interests in Black Hawk. When we gathered in grandmother's parlour, I
could hardly believe that I had been away at all. One subject, however, we
avoided all evening.
When I was walking home with Frances, after we had left Mrs. Harling at her
gate, she said simply, `You know, of course, about poor Antonia.'
Poor Antonia! Everyone would be saying that now, I thought bitterly. I replied that
grandmother had written me how Antonia went away to marry Larry Donovan at
some place where he was working; that he had deserted her, and that there was
now a baby. This was all I knew.
`He never married her,' Frances said. `I haven't seen her since she came back.
She lives at home, on the farm, and almost never comes to town. She brought
the baby in to show it to mama once. I'm afraid she's settled down to be
Ambrosch's drudge for good.'
I tried to shut Antonia out of my mind. I was bitterly disappointed in her. I could
not forgive her for becoming an object of pity, while Lena Lingard, for whom
people had always foretold trouble, was now the leading dressmaker of Lincoln,
much respected in Black Hawk. Lena gave her heart away when she felt like it,
but she kept her head for her business and had got on in the world.
Just then it was the fashion to speak indulgently of Lena and severely of Tiny
Soderball, who had quietly gone West to try her fortune the year before. A Black
Hawk boy, just back from Seattle, brought the news that Tiny had not gone to the
coast on a venture, as she had allowed people to think, but with very definite
plans. One of the roving promoters that used to stop at Mrs. Gardener's hotel
owned idle property along the waterfront in Seattle, and he had offered to set
Tiny up in business in one of his empty buildings. She was now conducting a
sailors' lodging-house. This, everyone said, would be the end of Tiny. Even if she
had begun by running a decent place, she couldn't keep it up; all sailors'
boarding-houses were alike.
When I thought about it, I discovered that I had never known Tiny as well as I
knew the other girls. I remembered her tripping briskly about the dining-room on
her high heels, carrying a big trayful of dishes, glancing rather pertly at the
spruce travelling men, and contemptuously at the scrubby ones-- who were so
afraid of her that they didn't dare to ask for two kinds of pie. Now it occurred to
me that perhaps the sailors, too, might be afraid of Tiny. How astonished we
should have been, as we sat talking about her on Frances Harling's front porch, if
we could have known what her future was really to be! Of all the girls and boys