Lonsome Dove : NovelSumary:part2:chp66-74
Elmira is cold, wet, hungry, and sick in the wagon as she, Luke, and Big Zwey approach the Republican River. Zwey seems not to know that Luke is pressuring Ellie for sex—offering to pay and staying behind when Zwey goes to hunt. Ellie wants to tell Zwey but worries that Luke might kill her protector. Luke switches from persuasion to force, hitting Ellie and shoving her off the wagon. He threatens to hurt Zwey and tries to rape her, but she points the buffalo gun at him till he rides off. When Luke does not return by dusk, Ellie must explain the situation to Zwey, who decides that he had better kill Luke. Luke returns and shoots at them but misses and leaves again.
Two days later, Luke returns and says nothing. The next morning, Ellie wakes to Luke molesting her. Zwey grabs Luke and smashes his head against a wheel, hurting him so badly that Ellie must sew his ear back on. Luke rides in the wagon, feverish, for days, plotting to kill Zwey.
Analysis, Chapters 65–66
These chapters continue the slow-motion chase, Elmira fleeing and July pursuing, both suffering as they travel and doubting themselves as they move on. July in particular suffers a crisis of doubt, having failed as a husband, a stepfather, a friend, and a sheriff. Readers should keep in mind that July is very young, not much older than the teenaged hands Call hired, to have gone through so much loss and failure.
Big Zwey, on the other hand, is like a rock. Nothing troubles him much, and what does trouble him, he deals with decisively.
As the herd moves across the plains, Po Campo worries about drought. He has become something of an oracle to the men. Gus asks him how many times he will marry, to which he replies that Gus will not marry again: “the sky is your wife.” The blue pigs are particularly fond of Po and rarely leave him.
Near Kansas, Call recognizes an Indian called Bacon Rind who once gave Call food. His group is now poor and underfed; Call gives them a lamed steer. The herd covers about fifteen miles a day as the prairies begin to roll. Lorie still hides in the tent, but she is sleeping better, resting for hours in Gus’s arms, and gaining some weight. Lorie loves to sleep because it blots out thought. Gus reflects on how Jake’s accidental gunshot in Fort Smith set in motion all the events of the drive and wonders when the ripple effects will end. Five have died so far, to his knowledge—Jake should have faced his hanging.
As they approach Nebraska, Lorie begins to worry that she will lose Gus to Clara. Trembling, she offers him sex to keep him. But he declines, telling her to take time to heal.
A strange cloud approaches; soon, the crew sees that it is a swarm of grasshoppers. Covered in insects, the men try to hold the terrified horses. Deets is struck by the mystery of the swarm as the horses buck and the cattle panic. For hours, they plod along; finally, the swarm passes. Newt finds himself with about fifty head, apart from the herd. Five Indians ride to him and surround him, pointing to the cattle and curious about his gear. They guide him west, toward the herd, laughing because he cannot find the way himself. Yet he is grateful, and Call gives them three head.
Dish wants to check on Lorie and Gus. Gus is fine, Call says—get back to work.
Analysis, Chapter 67
This chapter is full of foreshadowing and consideration of how careful decisions and random actions shape the future. Jake’s stray shot, Clara’s marriage to a horse trader, the reversal of Bacon Find’s fortunes, Lorie’s decision to sleep away from the safety of the crew—people cannot foresee what a moment of action or inaction will lead to. Readers, on the other hand, are free to predict. Will Jake ever face hanging? Will Lorie lose Gus to Clara? Where did the locusts come from, and where are they going?
The farther they ride, the more Jake wishes he had not left Dallas with the Suggs brothers. The brothers hear of the arrest of Hutto and Jim and consider breaking them out of the Fort Worth jail, but they decide they would rather see them hang. Their talk is all of killing. Dan hates cowboys in particular and wants to waylay a small herd, kill the hands, and sell the cattle. Ed would rather rob banks. Jake asks them about Blue Duck, but they warn him to leave the outlaw alone. Blue Duck once stole Frog’s horse—that tells Jake everything he needs to know about the outlaw.
They stop at a store on the Red River and see settlers coming through. Jake spots a striking girl, a beauty with long, black hair, on the seat of a settlers’ wagon. He tells the Suggses that he wants to elope with her. He walks toward the girl, who pointedly looks away. As she tells Jake, with a contemptuous smile, that her name is Lou, he is shoved from the back and falls into the dirt, busting his lip. An angry old man has whacked him with a shotgun; he yells that the girl is his wife. The man prepares to strike Jake again, and Jake shoots and kills him. Jake is surprised—he did not realize that he had drawn his gun. Settlers pour out of the store and stare at the body. In Jake’s mind, this shooting is another accident, like the one in Fort Smith. He tells Lou that he had to shoot the man; Lou merely smiles disdainfully. Jake is torn. If he crosses the Red into the Oklahoma Territory, he will become an outlaw. If he stays in Texas, he will face trial. All he wants is an easy life gambling in a saloon, yet everything keeps going wrong for him.
As he rides on with the brothers, Jake gets drunk and stays that way, hoping to find and take refuge with the Hat Creek outfit. When they reach Kansas, the brothers decide to “regulate” a sod farmer. For forty dollars in gold, they will keep the herds off his fields. The man does not speak English, but his son understands enough to hand over the two gold pieces they own. The family watches in terror as Frog Lips drives their milk cows onto the sod roof of their home, collapsing it.
Analysis, Chapter 68
Jake’s missteps continue, impelled as always by his belief that he was born for money, luxury, and beautiful women. He maintains a mental distinction between himself and the nefarious Suggs brothers, yet his behavior is becoming more and more like theirs. When the brothers terrorize and extort the settlers, Jake behaves like anything but a Ranger. Drinking to hide from his conscience, he chooses to protect himself rather than the family. Readers know that, had Jake tried to stop the theft, he likely would have died. But readers also know that someone like Gus would have put his life at risk in that situation.
July does not find Elmira in Dodge City, a wild town of saloons and brothels, not like Fort Smith. He buys a better horse and sends a letter to Peach, informing her of the deaths of Joe and Roscoe and suggesting that Fort Smith find another sheriff. The postal clerk remembers Ellie from her sporting days in Dodge and suggests that July look up Jennie, Ellie’s friend. Dee is the clerk’s nephew and is probably up north in Ogallala . . . or somewhere.
July drinks too much of the saloon’s whiskey, out of a sense of obligation, as he waits on Jennie to finish with a client. He buys her a drink and asks her about Ellie. Jennie sees his sadness and kindly explains that Ellie is the kind who cannot stay in one place. She points out a gambler who might know where Dee is, but she advises July to forget about Ellie and get on with his life. She offers sex to cheer him up, and he goes with her but vomits and nearly passes out on the stairs.
When he recovers that night, July politely thanks Jennie for the information. He now realizes that he married a whore. July asks Jennie whether she wants to quit sporting, but Jennie says that she enjoys the men she meets. July leaves Dodge.
Analysis, Chapter 69
July’s sadness increases as he seeks Ellie and finds instead one person after another who advise him to give up on her. Jennie is the best judge of Ellie’s character of all the people July has encountered so far, yet he ignores her advice, too. The shock of realizing the lies that Elmira had told him—of understanding that she cared nothing for him or for her son—might turn July aside to seek a new beginning to his life. Instead, he gives up his career in Fort Smith and continues the pursuit.
Newt’s horse, Mouse, is gored by a cow while Ben is riding him. Dish takes Mouse away and dispatches him so that Newt will not have to do it. Alone, Newt grieves this fresh loss. On his way back to the herd, he sees Gus waving to him. He glimpses Lorie in her tent, looking as beautiful as ever. Gus expresses sympathy over Mouse’s death, and Lorie comes out of the tent and smiles at him. She asks about Po, laughs over the grasshopper treats—Newt sees that she is coming to love Gus. Lorie is in fact still worried about Clara; she plans to ask Gus to marry her.
When Newt returns to the herd, Dish interrogates him about Lorie. Newt understand Dish’s feelings and does not brag about seeing Lorie. The herd approaches the Arkansas River, and Call and Deets ride ahead to assess the crossing. Deets misses Texas and the Rio Grande. He mentions having seen, while scouting, tracks that he thinks belong to Jake’s pacer and those of four other riders. Call hopes that Jake is headed for Dodge City, not for the herd.
Analysis, Chapter 70
This chapter provides a brief rest before the dramatic final chapters of Part II. Readers see signs of Lorie’s recovery in her love for Gus, of Dish’s friendship with Newt, and of Newt’s maturation in his sympathetic treatment of Dish. But despite the lull in the difficult events that have marked the novel, the tracks Deets see foreshadow a confrontation.
Jake and the Suggses are a day out of Dodge. Jake looks forward to a bath and a whore and hopes to lose the nefarious brothers in the city. He feels that he was born for wealth and pretty women and is just one good break away from having them. But that day Dan sees a small herd of horses with three cowboys. It is Wilbarger and two hands, bringing fresh mounts to the remuda. Dan recognizes Wilbarger, who once employed him. Dan hates Wilbarger and decides to take the horses to sell in Abilene. Dreading what is about to happen, Jake tries to hang back, but Frog’s cold stare drags him along. They rest by a spring, waiting for dark. Jake tries to talk the brothers out of this plan; horse theft is a hanging crime. They tell him to join them or die. Ed astutely points out that Dan does not really want the horses. He wants to kill Wilbarger.
When dark comes, Dan leaves Ed holding the horses and tells Jake that his reputation from his Ranger days means that he should do the shooting. Jake becomes confused during the attack, but soon both of Wilbarger’s hands are dead, and Frog is badly wounded. Ed dispatches Frog, and the brothers take his valuables. They take the horses and leave Wilbarger, also badly wounded, to die.
As these events unfold, Jake tells himself that he is not involved, that he did not kill anyone, and that he will shake loose from the Suggses. As they flee the scene, they come across two settlers, whom they rob and kill. They stop to make coffee in the settlers’ camp and consider hanging the bodies simply because there is a good tree present—a rare thing on the plains. Then, after hanging the bodies, Dan burns them as well. Even his brothers are afraid of Dan now that he has decided he is beyond the law.
Deets and Call find Wilbarger’s black stallion loose and bloody on the bank of the Arkansas. Call knows that if the capable Wilbarger is dead, trouble is ahead. Deets follows the trail and then returns to report that Wilbarger is about ten miles away and is dying. He would like to see Gus if it is not too much trouble. When Gus explains the situation to Lorie, he stresses that the attackers were horse thieves, not Indians, and says he must go—this is the man who kindly gave her his tent. Lorie begins to shake, so Gus posts Dish to watch over her from a distance. Call, Deets, Gus, and Newt ride to Wilbarger, who has been shot in the lung and hip and knows that he is dying. He thinks the attackers were the Suggs brothers and admits that it is “humbling” to have been killed by such inferior men. The sight of Hell Bitch cheers him; he asks them to keep his horse for their trouble.
Newt is moved by Wilbarger’s humor and stoicism. They sit silently with him for two hours. Then he shakes hands with them and gives Gus his books of Milton and Virgil. Call orders Pea Eye and Newt to start digging the grave so that they can leave at dawn to track the thieves. Gus asks where Wilbarger wants them to deliver the horses. He jokes that he is now out of the business, so they should sell the horses and send the money to his brother John in New York. He asks them to bury the two dead hands as well and inquires about Lorie’s health. About an hour later, Wilbarger dies. Gus complains that there is no way to mark the grave, so Deets places a buffalo skull on it. They give Newt Wilbarger’s rifle, but he is too distressed to feel glad to have it. Gus comforts Newt, saying that there are always bones under the feet of the living, but since they are the bones of “fellow creatures,” it is all right.
Dish settles the herd and checks on Lorena, his heart pounding. He takes food, but she refuses to eat till Gus returns. Dish guards the tent all night, and Lorie sees his shyness. In the morning, Po Campo sends her sweet plums to comfort her. When it is clear that Gus will be gone another night, Dish does his best to reassure Lorie, thinking as he does so how lovely she is.
As they track the Suggses, Deets sees that Jake—or at least his horse—is with them. Gus suggests that the brothers killed Jake and took his horse, but Deets can tell from the tracks that Jake, whose posture in the saddle is distinctive, was riding. Call hopes Deets is wrong but says that Jake’s lazy ways allow him to drift into trouble.
They stop to bury the abused bodies of the murdered settlers. Call suspects that Jake is outnumbered and fearful; yet he thinks that Jake should have tried to prevent these atrocities nevertheless. Deets, who had ridden ahead, comes back. He has found the men’s camp. Pea Eye and Newt stay with the horses while Deets, Call, and Gus reconnoiter. They see Jake, the corpse of a wagon driver, and the drunken Suggs brothers, who have posted no guard and are shooting at buzzards and arguing about whether to ride on or wait for the cool of night.
Jake is getting drunk, hoping that the Suggs will leave him behind, but they probably know that he has Sally’s money and want it. He hears a shot and sees that Ed is winged—they’re cornered. Jake is a little hurt when Deets disarms him. Call tells Dan to take off his boots, but Dan protests that they are horse traders. No, Call says, Wilbarger’s horses say otherwise. Dan claims that they bought these horses, but Gus calls him a liar and a murderer. No one from Lonesome Dove will look at Jake. Dan shakes with rage as Call tells Deets to tie Jake up. Jake says there is no need for that, he can explain, he was planning to leave the brothers—but Deets ties him anyway as Gus comments that the time to have left was before six men died. Ed turns pale as Call rides off to locate a good hanging tree. Jake pleads—he killed the old man in self-defense. Surely they do not want to hang a friend! Pea remarks that he has done many things he did not want to do. Jake blames Dan for the murders, but Gus says that Jake is still a horse thief. Gus is sorry about it, but Jake must hang.
Newt feels numb as he offers to lead his childhood hero’s horse to the tree. As Deets prepares the nooses, Jake lapses into confusion. He is glad that Call and Gus outwitted the murderous Suggses, but—he thinks of Maggie. He should have married her. His fear passes, and he simply feels tired and done with.
Dan, on the other hand, is enraged that a black man is tying his noose. Gus tells him to be grateful because Deets ties efficient nooses—they get the job done quickly. Gus tells Jake that he rescued Lorie, but Jake cannot recall Lorie now. In the end, Jake is glad that it is his friends, not his enemies, who will hang him. He should never have left these people. Newt cries as Jake gives him his horse and tells the men to share the money, smiling at the thought that they have no idea what a fortune he is carrying. Jake spurs his horse forward and dies. “He died fine,” Gus says.
The men bury Ed, Roy, and Jake but leave Dan hanging. They place a sign so that other lawmen will know the outlaws were caught. Then they break up the wagon to make a marker for Jake’s grave. As they ride back to the herd, Newt falls asleep in the saddle, and Pea rides by him to keep him from falling.
Analysis, Chapters 71–74
The last chapters of Part II wrap up some of the novel’s interweaving story lines dramatically. The action is fast and tragic; many deaths happen in quick succession. What is interesting to note is the way various men face their deaths. Wilbarger is a model of stoic manhood; even in his suffering, he inquires after Lorie and makes arrangements for his dead crew. Jake surprises his former friends, readers, and perhaps even himself, finally accepting responsibility for his actions and making a good death. The Suggses die badly, as befits their natures. These deaths affect Newt deeply; in a short time, the young man has seen many men die. Part II ends with him sleeping in his saddle, tended by the older men who have become his mentors and friends.