My Ántonia By Willa Cather Book I: The Shimerdas: Chapters XVII-XVIII

'If I lose that horse, Mr. Burden,' Ántonia exclaimed, 'I never stay here till Ambrosch come home! I go drown myself in the pond before morning.'

When Ambrosch came back from Mr. Bushy's, we learned that he had given Marek's wages to the priest at Black Hawk, for Masses for their father's soul. Grandmother thought Ántonia needed shoes more than Mr. Shimerda needed prayers, but grandfather said tolerantly, 'If he can spare six dollars, pinched as he is, it shows he believes what he professes.'

It was grandfather who brought about a reconciliation with the Shimerdas. One morning he told us that the small grain was coming on so well, he thought he would begin to cut his wheat on the first of July. He would need more men, and if it were agreeable to everyone he would engage Ambrosch for the reaping and threshing, as the Shimerdas had no small grain of their own.

'I think, Emmaline,' he concluded, 'I will ask Ántonia to come over and help you in the kitchen. She will be glad to earn something, and it will be a good time to end misunderstandings. I may as well ride over this morning and make arrangements. Do you want to go with me, Jim?' His tone told me that he had already decided for me.

After breakfast we set off together. When Mrs. Shimerda saw us coming, she ran from her door down into the draw behind the stable, as if she did not want to meet us. Grandfather smiled to himself while he tied his horse, and we followed her.

Behind the barn we came upon a funny sight. The cow had evidently been grazing somewhere in the draw. Mrs. Shimerda had run to the animal, pulled up the lariat pin, and, when we came upon her, she was trying to hide the cow in an old cave in the bank. As the hole was narrow and dark, the cow held back, and the old woman was slapping and pushing at her hind quarters, trying to spank her into the drawside.

Grandfather ignored her singular occupation and greeted her politely. 'Good morning, Mrs. Shimerda. Can you tell me where I will find Ambrosch? Which field?'

'He with the sod corn.' She pointed toward the north, still standing in front of the cow as if she hoped to conceal it.

'His sod corn will be good for fodder this winter,' said grandfather encouragingly. 'And where is Ántonia?'

'She go with.' Mrs. Shimerda kept wiggling her bare feet about nervously in the dust.

'Very well. I will ride up there. I want them to come over and help me cut my oats and wheat next month. I will pay them wages. Good morning. By the way, Mrs. Shimerda,' he said as he turned up the path, 'I think we may as well call it square about the cow.'

She started and clutched the rope tighter. Seeing that she did not understand, grandfather turned back. 'You need not pay me anything more; no more money. The cow is yours.'

'Pay no more, keep cow?' she asked in a bewildered tone, her narrow eyes snapping at us in the sunlight.

'Exactly. Pay no more, keep cow.' He nodded.

Mrs. Shimerda dropped the rope, ran after us, and, crouching down beside grandfather, she took his hand and kissed it. I doubt if he had ever been so much embarrassed before. I was a little startled, too. Somehow, that seemed to bring the Old World very close.

We rode away laughing, and grandfather said: 'I expect she thought we had come to take the cow away for certain, Jim. I wonder if she wouldn't have scratched a little if we'd laid hold of that lariat rope!'

Our neighbours seemed glad to make peace with us. The next Sunday Mrs. Shimerda came over and brought Jake a pair of socks she had knitted. She presented them with an air of great magnanimity, saying, 'Now you not come any more for knock my Ambrosch down?'

Jake laughed sheepishly. 'I don't want to have no trouble with Ambrosch. If he'll let me alone, I'll let him alone.'

'If he slap you, we ain't got no pig for pay the fine,' she said insinuatingly.

Jake was not at all disconcerted. 'Have the last word ma'm,' he said cheerfully. 'It's a lady's privilege.'

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As a child, Antonia faced many difficulties. Which of the following was not one of them?




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