Chapter IV: The Red Silk Shirt
Lily notices that while there is a lot of technical progress in the cities, the ranch has not really changed. Her brother and Dorothy have children now and her parents have become fragile, but apart from that, nothing has changed. Helen lives in L.A. now and wants to become an actress but is not very successful in that quest. Thus, she is working as a salesperson.
Lily's mother - although old and fragile - turns out to be rather ambivalent about Lily's wish to go to college. Whereas Daisy used to think that education was not essential for women or girls since they would marry anyways, she know urges Lily to go to college since Lily had already missed her chance to become a wife. Hence, it is okay to engage in another way to find her true Purpose.
Lily starts going to college and loves it: she is eager to learn and very much unlike her fellow students who are not very serious about learning.
After her first semester, when she begins to become desperate about how to pay her tuition, the University Director Grady Gammage
proposes that she become a teacher for the inhabitants of Red Lake, even though she has not even finished college yet. Again, she travels five hundred miles to Red Lake
, again on her horse Patches.
The town has changed a lot since Lily’s last visit: there are more farmers, retail is expanding, a lot of garages have been built and Lily quickly settles in. She is about to pick up her first pay check when the two deputies are trying to embarass her. They ask her to ride a half-broke horse, expecting her to immediately fall off. Lily, however, totally controls the horse and thus earns the respect of the two deputies, one of whom is named Orville Stubbs
, but usually goes by the nickname of “Rooster”
. From now on, Lily is considered an expert for difficult children and horses.
She becomes friends with Rooster, who is the owner of the “wild mustang” called Red Devil. With Red Devil, she takes part in horse races and spends time with Rooster and his friends playing poker and smoking cigarettes. He falls in love with Lily but she rejects him. A little later, he asks her to teach him how to read and write.
Lily uses the prize money from the horse races to buy a red silk blouse, which turns into her very own trademark6
. During one of the races, Lily is thrown from the saddle due to the fact that the sound of a car had scared her horse. Anyways, she finishes the race. The judge Jim Smith
, who is introduced to Lily by Rooster, admires her for having finished the race in spite of the accident. When Lily learns that Smith is the owner of the new repair shop in Red Lake, she is interested in learning to drive a car, and Jim promises her to teach her how to drive.
In his Model T Ford, Lily quickly gets the hang of driving that she adores. Quickly, she finds out that she likes cars even more than horses.
She spends a lot of time with Jim and soon recognizes that he is trying to court her. She likes him because of his dependability and his family history that reminds her a little of her own. Yet, she can't befriend the thought of marrying again, especially since Jim is 20 years older, a Mormon and widower. Their friendship remains platonic.
At that time, she receives a letter from her sister, Helen. In this letter, Helen explains to Lily that she is pregnant by a certain “Mr. Wonderful”
, who promised her a life as an actress. Definitely not wanting either the cild or Helen, he urges her to abort the baby. When Helen refused to do so, he left her. Helen is desperate and Lily offers her to come and live with her in Red Lake.
Picking her up at the train station, Lily is shocked by Helen’s mental and physical condition. She has lost weight and her eyes are swollen from crying.
The following days, Lily tries to pair her off with Orville Stubbs and Jack Smith, but it does not work out. Thus, she decides to attend the Catholic church regularly since she hopes to find a husband for her sister there. During a service, Helen faints and the priest realizes that she is pregnant – and unmarried.
Since Helen's pregnancy is now public knowledge, and her and Lily are condemned by society. Two weeks after Helen’s pregnancy has become public, the school principal Mr. MacIntosh comes to talk to Lily. He forces her to choose between Helen living with her or teaching in Red Lake. Although Helen pretended to go for a walk, she overhears the conversation.
Lily tries to convince her sister to move back to her parents. She could give birth to the child there and Buster and Dorothy could raise it. But Helen refuses because she is afraid of her mother’s reaction. Lily tells Helen about all the difficult times in her life and encourages her.
The next morning, Lily - feeling refreshed and confident now - decides to have a picnic with her sister. When she leaves the house in order to borrow Jim Smith’s car, she suddenly feels uneasy and oppressed, foreshadowing the event that was bound to happen. Running back to the school, she finds her sister has hanged herself.
Since suicide is the worst sin, Helen cannot be burried in the Catholic cemetry. This is why Jim Smith, Orville Stubbs and Lily bury Helen on a hill in Lily’s red silk shirt.