Summary of Chapter III
Niel had thought to read in the Forresters’ cottonwood grove that summer, but he is irritated by Ivy Peters’s sudden appearances there. Ivy often stops at the kitchen door to speak to Mrs. Forrester when she is not dressed for visitors, or he walks through the Captain’s spot when he is sitting there, as if no one were there. Once, Niel sees Ivy speaking to Mrs. Forrester at her gate in the way a man tries to impress a woman.
Niel goes to the Captain in his rose garden and remarks on Ivy’s rudeness. The Captain says quietly, “He ain’t overly polite”(p. 126) in a way that makes Niel understand how deep the hurt is and the Captain’s helpless condition to do anything about it. Niel sits with him and talks over the old railroad days.
One summer night as Niel meets Mrs. Forrester on a walk, Ivy emerges from a shadow by the house and starts talking to her, giving orders for the following day. He would like her to make his lunch and his workers to use the barn. Niel asks her why she lets him talk that way to her. He offers to beat Ivy and teach him a lesson. She is anxious as she defends Ivy and says they need the money and besides, Ivy has invested money for her. Niel begs her to let him invest her money next time. She says, “You’re not clever that way,—it’s one of the things I love you for” (p. 131). She reveals that she wants Ivy to make a lot of money for her, even if he is unscrupulous, so that in two or three more years she can return to California. She still has the will to live. She tells him she spent a vacation in Colorado and danced every night. She is struggling “to get out of this hole” (p. 132).
Commentary on Chapter III
It is painful to Niel to see the Forresters being run over and disrespected by Ivy Peters. The Captain, a tower of strength in his youth, cannot defend his own home from intruders or keep himself from being insulted. Mrs. Forrester has become a drudge, working hard with no relief or company. She is aging, and yet, she tells Niel her plan of escape. She puts up with Ivy because he is investing money for her. When the Captain dies “in two or three years” she will go back to California. She explains that on a recent vacation to Colorado, arranged for her by Ivy, she “could dance all night and not feel tired” (p. 132).
Niel is upset she is investing with Ivy who is stealing land from the Indians in Wyoming. Niel says that he would try to make as much money for her in a less unscrupulous way, but Marian has classed Captain Forrester, the Judge, and Niel as too honest to save her from her terrible fate. She trusts Ivy precisely because he is dishonest and can help her. She says: “I feel such a power to live in me” and grips Niel’s wrist (p. 131). He is frightened for her for two reasons. One is her desperation: “When women began to talk about still feeling young, didn’t it mean that something had broken?” (p. 133). The second reason is that Dr. Dennison said Captain Forrester could live for a dozen more years.