While outside washing Pinky, Robert overhears a conversation between Mrs. Peck and Aunt Carrie regarding the Widow Bascom. Aunt Carrie is upset because of rumors going around the town that the Widow Bascom has slept with her hired hand, Ira Long. She tells Mrs. Peck that Aunt Matty's husband, Hume, had heard the two of them giggling in the dark one night as he passed by in his wagon. To Aunt Carrie's surprise, Mrs. Peck replies, "Good for them." She reminds Aunt Carrie that Vernal Bascom has been dead for two or three years and that it is hard to manage a farm alone. Aunt Carrie then says that when Hume heard the laughing, he wanted to go straight to the churchyard and wake Vernal up. Mrs. Peck gets a good laugh out of that and decides that if Iris Bascom and Ira Long want to giggle in the dark, they have her blessing.

Hearing all of this, Robert is reminded of the times that he had run into Mrs. Bascom. The first time was been just after Vernal Bascom's death. He and Jacob Henry had been running through Mrs. Bascom's strawberry patch when all of a sudden she ran out of the house and hit them with her broom. Robert still has the scar to prove it.

Robert's second run-in with Mrs. Bascom was just two days ago. Robert had been walking by her house, on the road this time, and she came out of the house and greeted him. After exchanging pleasantries, Mrs. Bascom asked Robert to help her move some flowerpots and not having anything better to do, Robert agreed. When the work was done, Mrs. Bascom brought out a tray of cookies and a glass of cool buttermilk. While they were enjoying the treats, Ira Long came in. Mr. Long remembered the story of Robert and Mr. Tanner's cow and complimented Robert on a fine piece of work. Robert then told them that the cows were named Bib and Bob, with the Bob being after him, and that they were such fine cows that Mr. Tanner was going to bring them to the Rutland fair. Mrs. Bascom and Mr. Long had been very impressed by this, and then Ira had asked if Robert had ever been to the fair. Robert responded that he had not, but that he was raising a pig and wanted to bring Pinky. Shortly afterward Robert went home and thought no further of it.

Robert's revelry is broken when his father comes over and gives him a surprise. He tells Robert that the Tanners have asked if they could take Robert to the Rutland Fair with them to work their cows in the ring at the show. At first, Robert is in complete disbelief, but as Haven explains how Mrs. Bascom mentioned to Mrs. Tanner how much Robert wanted to go, he slowly gets over the shock. Haven tells the boy that there is a lot of work to do before the show and that there will be no spending money, but Robert is so excited that he barely hears it. Robert runs into the house and tells his mother and Aunt Carrie the good news. Momma is happy, and Aunt Carrie is a little suspicious at first but later promises to give Robert ten cents to spend at the fair on whatever he wanted.

That night Robert sleeps in the corn cratch with Pinky and tells the pig all about great things they are going to do together in Rutland. Just before going to bed, he tells Pinky, "Having a big hired man like Ira around the house may be sinful. But I say the Widow Bascom is some improved."


In her friendly argument with Aunt Carrie over the Widow Bascom, Lucy Peck's character is finally given more depth and color. From her reactions to Mrs. Bascom's exploits, she shows that she is a good Shaker but also tends to display some of Haven's individualistic traits. Though what Mrs. Bascom is doing is clearly a sin, Mrs. Peck is non-judgmental and even expresses her approval for the widow's assertive lifestyle. This shocks the more conservative Aunt Carrie, who is shocked and disgusted by the debauchery going on, "right under our noses."