My Antonia Book 2, Chapter 14 and 15
Jim studies more after his commencement to prepare for college. His grandparents are dubious about his going off to college, but Mrs. Harling assures them that Jim is ready for it. He works hard all summer long. He has one holiday, and Antonia invites him to spend it with her, Lena, Tiny, and Anna. They go to the river for a picnic.
Jim wanders around the river banks, reveling in the beauty and the stillness of the country. He sees Antonia sitting by herself, crying. She tells him that the flowers on the river bank remind her of Bohemia, for her family used to have a yard full of the same flowers. Antonia is homesick for her country and her father. Jim tells her of the theory he had had about her father's spirit; Mr. Shimerda's spirit somehow was with him when he was alone in the house on that winter day, on its way back home to Bohemia. Relieved by Jim's theory, Antonia recalls the story that her father had married her mother out of the kindness and goodness of his heart; he did not have to marry her, but he did. Watching Antonia reminisce about her father and her country, Jim is suddenly reminded of how very much Antonia looks like the little girl who visited the Burden household with her father back in the country. Antonia says, "I ain't never forgot my own country." Book 2, Chapter 14, pg. 151.
Antonia and Jim join the others. They all talk about their families' farms, having to work for their younger siblings' clothing and toys, their grandparents, and the hard lives of their mothers. Before they leave, they see a spetacular sight: the figure of a plough against the red horizon. Jim and the hired girls stare, mesmerized by the sight of the plough against the sunset. Jim calls the plough "heroic." The hired girls especially identify with the plough; they all had to help their families with the farms: herding cattle, growing crops, and threshing wheat. The image of the plough signifies the end of the pioneer era and the end of their adolescence.
The Cutters go to Omaha for a few days, leaving Antonia in charge of the house. An anxious Antonia goes to see the Burdens the day after the Cutters leave. Mrs. Burden asks her what has happened to make her so distracted and upset. Antonia tells them that Wick Cutter had left explicit instructions for her to stay in the house by herself and guard the Cutters' silver and money. She also felt perturbed by the way Cutter kept looking at her. Mrs. Burden agrees with Antonia that she should feel apprehensive about Cutter, and suggests that Jim sleep in the Cutters' instead of Antonia. Jim is hesitant about the switch, but he agrees, because he cannot stand to see Antonia looking so troubled. The third night Jim sleeps at the Cutters', he hears a man (Cutter) enter the house and come into the bedroom. Cutter touches Jim, thinking he is Antonia, and Jim suddenly jumps up. Cutter then attacks him, beating his face up and screaming at him. Jim finally escapes Cutter's strong grasp by pulling on Cutter's thumb and runs all the way home. His grandmother finds him in their parlor. Helping him to his room, she tries to make him feel more comfortable, but she starts crying when she sees the bruises on Jim's body. Jim begs his grandmother not to let Antonia and his grandfather see him in this state. He does not want to see Antonia, who is sobbing, because he feels he hates her. He hates her for exposing him to Cutter's evil ways.
Mr. Burden goes to depot and learns that Cutter had returned to Black Hawk on the night express and had gone to Denver in the morning, looking beat-up. Antonia and Jim's grandmother go to the Cutters' to retrieve Antonia's things, but the house is locked up. They manage to get in the house by breaking a window. Her room is in a shocking state of disarray; her clothes are flung all over the room and everything in the room is trampled and broken. While they are at the Cutters', an angered Mrs. Cutter comes home, ringing the doorbell repeatedly. Because Cutter had installed a new lock and had purposely not given her the new key, she could not get in. Mrs. Burden lets her in, but does not allow her to see Antonia. She then proceeds to tell Mrs. Cutter of last night's events. Mrs. Cutter in turn tells her story: on their way home from Omaha, Cutter had given her a ticket for the Kansas City train, not the Black Hawk one. He had deliberately planned for his wife to be out of the way, so that he would have time to rape Antonia. Mrs. Cutter vows that her husband will pay for what he did to her.