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Cold Sassy Tree

Olive Anne Burns

Chapters 36–41

Chapters 32–35

Chapters 36–41, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary: Chapter 36

Will relishes his memories of kissing Lightfoot, but Hoyt is furious when he hears about the kiss and gives Will a harsh whipping. Hoyt also forbids Will to drive the Cadillac for two months. Loma encourages Will to write about the incident. Rucker and Miss Love return from New York and Mary Willis invites them to dinner. While Rucker and Miss Love were in the city, Mary Willis retrieved the Toy family Bible, which chronicles the marriages and deaths of Mattie Lou’s family and erased Miss Love’s name from it. She orders Will to hide the Bible before Rucker and Miss Love arrive for dinner. Rucker and Miss Love bring gifts for everyone, including driving goggles for Will. The family is surprised to hear that while Rucker was in New York, he decided that he liked automobiles. Rucker tells them that they went dancing in New York City and attended the theater. Aunt Carrie senses the mood of disapproval and says people should do what they like. Silently, Will agrees.

Summary: Chapters 37

Over dinner, it becomes clear that Rucker and Miss Love became close in New York. Rucker says he wants Will to drive him and Miss Love home after dinner. Although Hoyt has forbidden Will to drive, he grudgingly allows the trip. During the drive, Rucker and Miss Love tell Will a secret: they have bought a Pierce sedan, and they intend to sell cars from the general store. To drum up business, they plan on parking their car in front of the store and having Will give driving lessons. Rucker tells Will to keep the plan a secret.

Summary: Chapter 38

Miss Love makes up lists of which people might buy which cars, and Will notices her skill at getting the normally stubborn Rucker to do what she wants. Lightfoot stops coming to school, but Will slowly becomes friendly with Hosie Roach, his former enemy. Miss Love begins advertising a big surprise coming to the store. She buys knickknacks for the store to give out and promises free gifts and entertainment for anybody who shows up at the train station on the day the surprise arrives.

Summary: Chapter 39

A crowd gathers at the station to see the big surprise, a car. Will drives the new car to the store and a huge crowd follows him all the way. Miss Love does not attend the event, saying she is tired of the gossip that the people of Cold Sassy are always spreading about her. Rucker seems disappointed that she is not there. Though the next day is Sunday, Will gets up before dawn to begin teaching Rucker and Miss Love how to drive. Will and Miss Love play a trick on Rucker by turning the ignition key off just before Rucker tries to crank the engine. At last Rucker gets the engine started and they take off. When they go down a hill, Rucker forgets to hit the brake, and they end up in a ditch. Miss Love seems to have a knack for driving, but when a bee goes down the front of her dress, she crashes the car into a sycamore tree and refuses to drive ever again. The Pierce and the Cadillac attract a huge amount of attention outside the store.

Summary: Chapter 40

Will notices that Rucker and Miss Love are treating each other affectionately and wonders if anything happened between them in New York. He drives them to the county fair, where they sell their first car, and they take a long Sunday drive during which Will feels for the first time as if he is intruding on their privacy. While swerving to avoid an overturned car, Will crashes the Pierce into a small creek bed and damages the radiator. He goes for help, and on the way back, sees Rucker and Miss Love kissing.

Summary: Chapter 41

I’m sayin’ I been a-waitin’ to hold you in my arms ever since the day we got married.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Will, Rucker, and Miss Love are too far away from Cold Sassy to get back to town until the car’s radiator has been fixed. They spend the night with a local family, where they have one room with a large bed and a small room with two cots. Will and his grandfather share the large bed, but that night, Will hears his grandfather go into Miss Love’s room. Will overhears Rucker telling Miss Love that he loves her and wants their marriage to be real. He begins to kiss her. When she stops him, Rucker tells her despondently that he has loved her ever since the first day he saw her. He says he often felt terribly guilty for desiring Miss Love even as Mattie Lou was dying. Rucker also tells Miss Love that he stopped having sex with Mattie Lou after the doctor told him she would die if she had another child.

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