Chapter II: The Miraculous Staircase
After a three-day journey, the Caseys arrive at the Casey ranch in Hondo Valley
. Lily likes the house very much because it is much more luxurious than what she has been used to so far. Due to the fact that the ranch is located in a rather desert-like landscape in New Mexico, mirages are a very common phenomenon. Lily - being eager for knowledge - wants to know reasons why mirages exist and her father explains it to her. At this point, her hunger for knowledge awakens. For her, this is a "Eureka"-moment: something that used to be incomprehensible before is now perfectly understandable. This feeling has a long-lasting effect on her future and is in turn one of the first moments where the reader can clearly imagine Lily's future as a teacher.
Since Lily’s father is not able to manage the ranch, it us up to eleven-year-old
Lily to employ and watch the “hands”. Instead of helping her, Adam works on pseudo-literary projects like a biography about Billy the Kid, whom he had once met and for whom he has great sympathies.
, Lily’s brother leaves to go to boarding school. Her parents promise her that she will go to a girl’s school in Santa Fe – the Sisters of Loretto Academy of Our Lady of the Light
At the age of 13
, Lily finally attends school. It is clear that she prefers learning over the hard work at the farm. Hence, she is a very good student and earns two awards. During the schoolyear, Mother Albertina
wishes to talk to the 13-year-old, tough girl. She explains to Lily that a woman does not necessarily have to marry – she can also decide to become a nurse, a secretary, a teacher or a nun. According to Mother Albertina, Lily has great ambitions to become a teacher and she suggests that Lily should invest in such a career.
During the next months, Lily thinks about her Purpose2
and then decides to become a teacher. But one day, she is called to the principals office. Mother Albertina has bad news for Lily: since her father is not able to pay the school fees3
, Lily has to leave the school. The 13-year-old girl is disappointed. When Lily arrives at home, he explains that he bought four Great Danes4
with the money that was intended for her school's tuition. He explains that her brother Buster is still allowed to go to school because he is a boy - being a girl, Lily wouldn't really need the knowledge gained at school since she would marry and bear children sooner or later anyways. In addition, he needs her to help him with the ranch.
Having arrived at the Casey ranch, Lily is shocked at the bad condition of the ranch. The leaseholder, Zachary Clemens
, his wife
and daughter live there in order to help Lily’s father. Lily likes Clemens’ daughter Dorothy
who is just like Lily: She does not shy away from hard work.
One day, Dorothy finds the extremely expensive dogs because of which Lily cannot go to school dead. Adam Casey asks Pucket
, their neighbour, about the incident - he admits to having shot them. Bein enraged, Adam wants to shoot his neighbour right away, but his daughter and Dorothy prevent him from doing so. Lily's father wants revenge, but Lily solves the situation by obtaining "half-broke horses" - that are a lot less worth than the dogs - from Pucket.
One of the horses is a mare that seems special to Lily. She receives the horse as a present from her father and calls it “Patches”
. With Patches, Lily wins a few smaller horse races.
It is quite difficult for Lily when her brother returns home having finished eighth grade. Lily, who has worked on the ranch longer and harder than her brother is denied a proper education.
Although his parents want him to go to High School, he is convinced of having gained enough knowledge to run the ranch.
In addition, Lily’s brother and Dorothy fall in love. Mrs. Casey is not very happy about that. Lily, however, thinks that Dorothy and her brother match perfectly since he is rather passive whereas Dorothy is more energetic.
When the First World War starts
, there is a labour shortage5
, since a lot of men were recruited by the military. Lily receives a letter from Mother Albertina, who suggests taking an exam that will allow her to work as a teacher although she is only fifteen years old. Yet, her parents disapprove of this idea. Both are acting selfishly, her mother by reminding Lily that she would not find a suitable husband if she would become a teacher, and her father by wanting Lily to stay and work at the ranch. But Lily convinces her father, saying that Buster and Dorothy would marry and that they could then help him with the ranch. Furthermore, she convinces him with her quest to find her true Purpose and in the end, Adam Casey agrees.
Lily passes the test and gets a job at Red Lake, Arizona
, 500 miles away from Hondo Valley. Armed with an expensive revolver, Lily and her horse Patches head for Arizona.
This chapter is essential for the development of Lily´s future and character as well since now, she is truly independent and knows the purpose of her life.
2Wort von besonderer Bedeutung; Lily’s Vater rät ihr, einen Sinn im Leben zu finden, für den es sich ggf. auch zu sterben lohnt
3Im Buch wird von “tuition” gesprochen.
4Hunderasse: Dänische Dogge
5Mangel an Arbeitskräften