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On the trip back to Learning, the exhausted Robert sleeps the entire way. Arriving at home, Robert is greeted by Mr. Peck. He immediately tells his Pa that Pinky has won a blue ribbon. Mr. Tanner adds that Robert should also
have won a ribbon for being the best-behaved boy. He compliments him for working the calves so well and tells Mr. Peck that he was offered five hundred dollars for Bib and Bob, which he did not accept.
Mrs. Peck and Aunt Carrie come running out to greet Robert. The boy gives his mother a big hug and decides not to tell his aunt how he spent the dime, for “ten cents for a used piece of saddle soap was a dear price.” He is soon sent off to bed, for he will have chores to do early in the morning. Robert thanks his parents for letting him go to the fair and tells his father he is beholden to him for doing his chores in his absence. He also reminds Mr. Peck that he owes him for three bags of sorghum. Pa says, “I expect payment after your pig has a first litter.”
Before going to bed, the family sits at the kitchen table and eats blackberry pie. Robert tells everything he can remember about what he has seen and done at the Rutland Fair. He even stands up and shouts his name like the announcer had done and marches around in a circle three times, pretending to show off Bob and Bib. Robert, however, leaves out the part about his getting sick and throwing up on the judge’s shoe; he knows the news would just upset his mother and Aunt Carrie. Finally, Mrs. Peck has to chase the boy upstairs to bed.
Morning comes quickly, and a tired Robert struggles to get out of bed and do his chores. As the boy is working, Pa comes into the barn carrying a dead hen and says a weasel has killed her. He takes Robert into the tackroom and shows him a burlap bag containing the culprit. Robert reminds him that Ira Long, Mrs. Bascom’s hired man, has a young terrier. Mr. Peck tells Robert that after breakfast he should go and tell Brother Long “that we got a weasel to try his dog on and he’s welcome to it.”
When Robert goes to Mrs. Bascom’s and tells Ira about the weasel, he immediately brings his dog, Hussy, to the Pecks to let her fight the weasel. Papa explains to Robert that a dog needs to be “weaseled”, so the dog will always hate the creatures, track them down, and kill them, protecting the hen house. When Robert carries Hussy into the tackroom, the weasel senses the dog’s presence and begins to shake the burlap bag and hiss. Robert is sent to go and get a large apple barrel to use for the weaseling. When he returns, Ira puts Hussy into the barrel. Then Mr. Peck puts the weasel in the barrel and tells Robert to quickly put on the lid. Immediately, there is scratching and biting heard inside the barrel. Robert hates the sounds of the battle between dog and weasel and feels ashamed to be a part of the cruel fight.
Soon the barrel is quiet, and Mr. Peck tells Robert to lift
off the lid just a bit. The boy hears Hussy’s horrible cry; it is a sound that
Robert will always remember and one he never wants to hear again. Although the
weasel is dead, torn into small pieces, Hussy is barely alive herself. One of
her ears has been torn off, and her front paws are chewed to pieces. When Ira
lifts her out of the barrel, she rips open his hand. Robert begs him to kill the
dog to put her out of her misery. Mr. Peck agrees, goes and gets his gun, and
shoots her. All three of them silently look at the pathetic little body of Ira’s
pet. Mr. Peck is shaken by the whole incident and says, “I swear by the Book of
Shake an all that’s holy, I will never again weasel a dog, even if I lose every
chicken I own.” Robert takes Hussy and buries her near an apple tree, saying a
prayer over the dog’s body. He then says that Hussy had “more spunk . . . than
a lot of menfolk got brains.”
This short chapter, although violent, is very touching and serves as a sharp contrast to the pride and excitement of the previous chapter. On the morning after Robert returns from the Rutland Fair, Mr. Peck discovers a weasel in the hen house and manages to capture it in a burlap sack. He sends Robert over to see Ira Long, who has a young terrier that needs to be trained. Ira brings Hussy to the Pecks to “weasel” her so she will learn to hate the creatures and protect the hens from them. In order to teach the dog about weasels, both creatures are locked into an apple barrel to fight it out.
Although the weasel is torn to pieces, Hussy is also horribly injured, losing an ear and having two front paws destroyed. Her death cry is almost more than Robert or Mr. Peck can bear, and they realize that the dog must be killed to put her out of her misery. Mr. Peck goes and gets his gun and shoots Hussy. He then promises he will never again participate in weaseling a dog. Robert feels the same way and knows he will never forget the horrible whimper of the dying pet. As he buries Hussy near an apple tree, Robert tells her that she had more spunk than men had brains.
This chapter obviously shows a softer side of Haven Peck. Previously, he has been shown only as a practical, hardworking man and stern father. Here he is very touched by the cruelty of the weaseling of Hussy and promises on the Book of Shaker never to participate in such a violent act again. Like his father, Robert is also very affected by the death of Hussy; but it serves for him as a preparation for the death of Pinky, which will be even harder on the boy.
Once again this chapter centers on death, which is a foreshadowing of the later deaths of Pinky and Peck. By contrast, Robert is still growing and learning.
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