Chapter III: Promises
On her way to Arizona, Lily gets to know Priscilla Loosefoot
. Priscilla suggests travelling together, but during the night, she tries to rob Lily. Thus, Lily decides to travel alone, and 28 days later, she arrives in Red Lake
. Mr. MacIntosh
, the school principal, explains to Lily that there is a teacher shortage since nearly all men are in the army and because of that, the women work in factories. But he also makes clear to Lily that she can only teach until a more qualified teacher applies for the job.
Lily really likes her job and her students and their parents accept her. But only six months after she started teaching in Red Lake, Mr. MacIntosh finds a qualified teacher and Lily has to move on. During the next three years, Lily moves from town to town, working as a teacher for some time. No matter how hard and unsettled this life is, she enjoys it.
In 1919, after the end of the war
, there are enough qualified teachers to fill the vacancies and Lily is dismissed by Mr. MacIntosh. Lily is very disappointed because she loves to teach, but Mr. MacIntosh only advises her to marry.
She decides to return to the KC Ranch
. On her way back home, she sees a biplane and thinks about how much she would have liked to explain its technology to her students.
At home, Lily notices that the ranch is in a surprisingly good condition. While she was in Arizona, Dorothy and her brother had married. They run the ranch very well, and Lily assumes that Dorothy had taken over her former place in the business. Lily does not have any sense of belonging to the hard work and the conditions of the ranch anymore. Hence, she starts to think about her future and remembers the bipplane and the cars she used to see in Arizona. She realizes that in a few years, horses will not be needed anymore. Lily’s father argues against the technical progress and, talking to her father, Lily decides to leave the ranch. Four weeks later
, she takes the train to head to Chicago
Thrilled by the city live, she moves into a room in a boardinghouse for women and tries to find a job as a governess or a tutor. But since she didn't even finish eighth grade, she does not really succeed. Thus, she decides to apply for a job as a servant and quickly finds one. Yet, she is not used to keeping her head down and shows off with her rather good education, and thus, she is quickly dismissed by Mim
, her employer.
Having found a new job as a servant shortly afterwards, Lily now keeps her head down. In order to finally reach her goal - becoming a qualified teacher - she visits evening classes to obtain her high school diploma. Lily thrives in Chicago and quickly becomes best friends with her roommate Minnie Hannagan
. While she has to be meek at work, she can talk honestly to Minnie. It is her, who gets Lily a red lipstick for her 21st
birthday – the first lipstick Lily has ever owned and a symbol of freedom.
Yet, things don't last long and terrible events worsen Lily's stay at Chicago. Minnie has an accident at work and dies: the young woman got her long hair stuck in the bottling machine and was being pulled down into the device by it. Thus, Lily decides to cut her hair short.
A little later, she gets to know Ted Conover
, a former boxer who is now working as a door-to-door-salesman. They do a lot of things together and since Lily is very lonely because of Minnie’s death and she likes Ted’s agility, they marry six weeks later. The couple live on only little money and save a lot on their joint bank account. They plan their future together and decide to only get children after Lily has finished High School. At the age of 26
, Lily achieves her goal: she finishes High School.
Quickly, however, she finds out that her husband is not the man he pretended to be. When she is hit by a car, the driver insists on taking Lily to a hospital. He wants her to call her husband after the examination and when she does so, she finds out that Ted is already married to a woman named Margaret
She also finds out that Ted withdrew almost all the money from their joint bank account. Beside herself with rage, she goes to see Ted at his workplace. After a fierce argument, Lily shatters the frosted glass pane of the door and leaves.
Chicago did not hold what Lily saw in it - the promise of a new better life, working as a teacher, fulfilling her dreams of being independent and happy. Hence, she returns to the ranch
. Proving that her husband had already been married, she is able to annul the marriage.
Lily wants to sell her engagement ring believing that it is valuable, but the jeweller tells her that the ring is fake. She then throws it in the lake, and with it everything she had experienced in Chicago. It is symbolic for the new stage of life.
She applies for a place at the Teacher’s College in Flagstaff, Arizona
. Waiting for the conditional letter of acceptance, she earns money for her first year at university.
At the age of 27, in 1928
, she leaves Chicago. She is devastated because her time in Chicago was nothing like she expected it to be and although she had seemed to having found her personal happiness with Minnie and Ted, she is crushed by the events that led to Lily feeling alone more than ever. She has the strong urge of being needed again and that is why returns to the ranch where she knows she will be of use.