By Hesse Karen
By Hesse Karen
Karen Hesse was born August 29, 1952 in Baltimore, Maryland. Upon graduating from high school, she began studying theater at Towson State College though she ultimately ended up getting her undergraduate degree in English, Psychology, and Anthropology from the University of Maryland. Following graduation, she took a job in publishing and began writing poetry, as well as children’s books. Her first novel, Wish on a Unicorn, was published in 1991, and it started the ball rolling on Hesse’s literary career; she has published more than twenty children’s books as of 2012, many of them having historical references.
One of Hesse’s most well-known and critically acclaimed novels is Out of the Dust (1997) which follows the life of a teenage girl who is living in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. The story is written from the point of view of Billie Jo, a fourteen/fifteen-year-old girl as though she is writing in her journal; the entries occur in the form of free-verse poetry. Hesse hopes that in writing about young people overcoming adversity, she will inspire the younger generation to always strive forward. Out of the Dust earned Hesse the Newberry Award in 1998, the Scott O’Dell Award, and several “book of the year” awards.
Billie Jo is a fourteen-year-old girl living in Oklahoma in the 1930s, and her life is full of happiness and hope, aside from the dust storms that billow up around her. She is an only child, but Ma is expecting soon, and Billie Jo is excited to have a sibling soon. Billie Jo’s main love in life is the piano, which she learned from her mother, though Ma wishes that Billie Jo would find something more useful to do with her life. Because of the dust storms, everything in Billie Jo’s home is covered in a layer of dust, and all the crops in the area are dying, as are some of the animals. Billie Jo dreams of a future without the dust and wonders what it would be like to get away.
One day there is a horrific accident which leaves Ma severely burned all over her body and leaves Billie Jo’s precious piano hands badly blistered and scarred. In a tragic turn of events, Ma dies while giving birth to a baby boy and soon after the baby dies, as well. Billie Jo’s life spins out of control after the accident; she is in tremendous pain when she tries to play the piano and she feels her father pulling further and further away from her. Billie Jo feels like she must escape her life and find something better, but when she takes her chance she realizes that all she truly needs is to have her father back and make the most of their situation. Slowly Billie Jo and her father pull the pieces of their life back together as the dust storms settle around them.
There is no shortness of hardship for Billie Jo’s family, nor all of the other people who lived in the dust bowl region. Ma had several miscarriages and stillbirths, the dust started pouring in, Daddy lost his crops because of the storms, Billie Jo and Ma were badly burned by the accident with the fire, Ma died, and baby Franklin followed soon after, and Billie Jo and Daddy grew further apart. In addition to these things that affected Billie Jo’s family, the other families in the area were sinking further into poverty due to the devastation of the dust storms.
Billie Jo has an incredible amount of love for her mother and for her unborn baby brother, though she does not seem to realize exactly how much until after they were gone. When Ma and Franklin die, both Billie Jo and Daddy lose themselves a bit and have the desire to run away. Billie Jo notes that sometimes when a person loses someone they love they no longer have the will to go on as she suspected was the case with Haydon P. Nye and his wife. It is not until both Billie Jo and Daddy go their own ways that they realize how much they still love and need one another.
The loss of the characters in this novel is tremendous. Not only have the people in Billie Jo’s town and the surrounding areas lost their crops, which are their livelihood, but Billie Jo’s family suffered personal loss, as well. When the accident occurred that badly burned Billie Jo and Ma, Billie Jo lost her ability to play piano for a time, which was her true joy in life. To make matters worse, the injuries from the accident killed Ma and baby Franklin. After the loss of half of their family, Billie Jo and Daddy even lost one another for a time while they grieved for the happiness they had lost.
Tragedy goes hand in hand with loss. Tragedy is not a new concept for Billie Jo’s family as her mother lost several children to miscarriage or stillbirth before she became pregnant with baby Franklin. Because of her experience with tragedy and loss Ma was able to make the best of distressing situations; when the dust came she managed to remain calm and hopeful and even donated what she could to help others who were worse off. Ma’s death is truly the biggest tragedy for Billie Jo and Daddy because she was the glue that held the family together.
Billie Jo transforms from a girl into a young woman throughout the course of this novel. Before the accident, Billie Jo is a dreamer; she thinks about being a famous pianist, is upset when her mother does not show the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for her accomplishments, and she wishes she could be anywhere but surrounded by dust. After the accident and after Billie Jo attempts to run away from her problems she realizes that the place she needs to be is home with Daddy, who deserves her forgiveness.
Music is a hugely significant part of Billie Jo’s life; she is a skilled pianist and hopes to make a living doing what she loves someday. Ma is also a pianist and Billie Jo admires her talents, though Ma wishes that Billie Jo would find something more practical to do with her time. After Ma dies and Billie Jo’s hands are injured she has a hard time even sitting at a piano; her physical pain and emotion pain together are too much for her to bear. It is not until Billie Jo moves on from her grief that she rediscovers her love for music and is more determined than ever to make the most of her talents.
The idea of leaving is something that occupies Billie Jo’s thoughts for much of the novel. She desperately wants to get away from the dust like her friend Livie, and many of her neighbors did, and she thinks that playing the piano is her ticket out. After Ma dies both Billie Jo and Daddy are overcome with the feeling of wanting to leave; Daddy starts taking night classes for a reason to get out of the house and Billie Jo actually hops a train with the intention of never coming back. It is not until she actually gets to leave that Billie Jo realizes that home is where she genuinely wants to be.
The destruction that is caused by the dust storms in the South is debilitating. In an area where agriculture is the prime source of income, the loss of crops is devastating. When a storm would blow through the crops would die, animals would get sick, entire structures would be hidden under piles of dust, and dust would coat everything inside of the homes. Not only were people’s homes and farms destroyed but their lives were as well; dust pneumonia was a leading cause of death during that time.
Hopes and dreams are the driving force behind Billie Jo’s ambition. She is constantly told how masterly a pianist she is, and she begins to think that she could travel all over the country playing and be able to support herself and her family. The day that Billie Jo burns her hands is the day that her hopes and dreams begin to diminish. When Billie Jo realizes that her hands do not work the way they once did she feels like she no longer has a promising future, or an escape.
The generosity shown by the townspeople during the storms is astounding. There are several instances where a storm would blow through, and the people who were caught in it would be invited into the homes of perfect strangers to wait it out and have some food. Ma would even donate food and clothing to neighboring families who were struggling when her own family was struggling too.
Billie Jo is the “writer” of the story as each chapter is comprised of several of her journal entries written in the form of free verse poetry. At the start of the entries, Billie Jo is fourteen-years-old, and by the end she has turned fifteen. She is a talented pianist who is doted on by her school music teacher who encourages her to play in shows. Billie Jo is intelligent, creative, and generous (which she surely gets from her mother). Throughout the course of the novel Billie Jo is forced to mature, ultimately becoming a compassionate and kind young woman.
Daddy is a farmer who refuses to give up on that life even when the dust storms repeatedly ruin his crops. Daddy loves Ma terribly much, and Billie Jo sometimes finds herself noticing the way Daddy looks at Ma and wishing someone would look at her that way someday. After Ma’s death Daddy shuts off from the world and from his daughter for a time out of loneliness and grief. Eventually Daddy finds a new love in his night school teacher, Louise, and repairs his relationship with Billie Jo.
Ma is a kind and generous woman who is strict with her daughter though still encouraging. Ma is a talented pianist and Billie Jo thinks that no one plays as beautifully as her mother does; Daddy seems to agree because he cannot take his eyes off her when she plays. It is not until after Ma’s death that Billie Jo begins to think about who her mother actually was. Billie Jo believes that her mother probably had dreams of being a famous pianist one day, just like her, but decided to be the wife of a farmer instead because she loved Daddy so much.
Mad Dog is a “pretty boy with a pretty voice” who Billie Jo attends school with. At first Billie Jo does not seem to be too fond of Mad Dog; she sees him as a bit of a rival because they are both musically gifted though in different areas. After a while, Billie Jo begins to respect Mad Dog for his talent and also because he does not treat her strangely after her accident like everyone else does. Mad Dog becomes a singer on the radio from Amarillo, though he still comes home to visit Billie Jo each week.
Arley Wanderdale is the music teacher at Billie Jo’s school. Arley is intensely passionate about and supportive of Billie Jo’s talents and offers her many musical opportunities. After Billie Jo’s accident, she has no faith in her ability to play anymore, but Arley encourages her to keep moving forward and to keep practicing because he knows her gift is not gone forever. He is a champion of the talents of all of his students, but especially Billie Jo and Mad Dog whom he brings to Amarillo.
Miss Freeland is Billie Jo’s teacher at school, and she truly cares about each and every one of her students. Miss Freeland encourages her students to chase their dreams and to give their all in everything that they do; this philosophy helped Miss Freeland’s students to score highest in Oklahoma on their state exams two years running. Miss Freeland keeps school fun by singing and bringing in baked goods, and she is exceedingly generous with her time.
Aunt Ellis is Billie’s Jo aunt (Daddy’s sister) who lives in Lubbock, Texas. She first arrives at Billie Jo’s house to pick up Franklin after Ma dies, but Franklin dies as well before she arrives. After Ma’s death, Aunt Ellis sends a little to Billie Jo asking her to come live in Lubbock with her, which Billie Jo does consider for a time. Aunt Ellis is a tern woman who Billie Jo finds to be no comparison to Ma.
Mr. Hardly is the owner of the store in town and Billie Jo finds him to be rather unfriendly. Mr. Hardly is known as a cheat as he often overcharges his already poor customers for their items. One day he gives Billie Jo back too much change and Ma makes her return it; when he does not give her any small reward for her honesty she decides that he is not a particularly amiable man. Mr. Hardly has a son named Calb who often hangs out at his story and converses with the delivery man.
Louise is the new love interest in Daddy’s life after Ma’s passing. Louise is Daddy’s teacher when he begins to take night classes, and Billie Jo finds her to be a kind woman who is a fabulous cook. Louise admits to Billie Jo that she must have been lonely for a long time only she did not realize it until she met Daddy. Billie Jo likes Louise because she listens without judging or interfering, she is always honest, and she never tries to take over Ma’s role in the family.
Haydon P. Nye is an older gentleman who lives in Billie Jo’s town. Billie Jo did not know him exceptionally well, but she does know that he has heard her play piano before and he enjoyed her music. She read in his obituary that he was one of the first white settlers in her area and was responsible for setting up farming there. Billie Jo wonders if his loved ones will sow wheat on Haydon’s grave in tribute.
When Billie Jo leaves Daddy’s house in search of a better life elsewhere she hops on a train. A filthy man gets on the train after Billie Jo and asks her to share her food with him, which she does. He tells Billie Jo about his family and shows her a photo of them, and she tells him about her family and the accident. Billie Jo falls asleep and when she wakes she finds that the man is gone is so the rest of her food, but he has left her with the photo of his family.
The Williams family consists of a father, a pregnant mother, a grandmother, and a couple of children. The family stopped at the schoolhouse during a particularly bad time for dust storms because the father did not want to continue traveling in such bad conditions while the mother was so closet to giving birth. Miss Freeland allowed the family to stay at the schoolhouse as long as they needed and she and the children helped to feed and clothe them. In return, Mr. Williams helped out around the schoolhouse, and he and his family participated in lessons.
Fonda Nye was the wife of Haydon P. Nye. Shortly after Haydon’s death, Fonda died, as well. Her official cause of death was deemed to be dust pneumonia, but Billie Jo had a different theory about what killed her; she thought Fonda Nye died because she had simply lost the will to go on in the absence of her husband. Billie Jo understands this because both she and Daddy had changed in the aftermath of Ma’s death.
Joe De La Flor is a farmer and rancher who lives near Billie Jo and her family. When the dust comes through and kills everyone’s crops and livestock Joe is hit just as bad as anyone. He has a large amount of cattle, but he is unable to feed them all, so the county agent comes through and kills the cattle which are in the worst shape to put them out of their misery. Joe feeds the rest of his cattle thistle to try to keep them alive until the dust storms are over.
Doc Rice is the doctor who comes to care for Ma when she is burned and to help her deliver Baby Franklin. Unfortunately, Ma does not make it through the birth of her child and the baby dies soon too. Later on Billie Jo convinces Daddy to see Doc Rice for the spots that he has on his face, which it turns out are cancerous. Doc Rice tries to remove as much of the cancer as he can and he also tells Billie Jo that if she wants to regain use of her hands all she has to do is keep using them.
“Beginning”: Billie Jo is born in Oklahoma in 1920. Billie Jo is now fourteen-years-old and she enjoys playing the piano and eating apples. Billie Jo does not have any siblings at the moment, but her mother is pregnant at the time Billie Jo is writing this. In the past Billie Jo’s mother had been pregnant several times but none of the babies made it. Billie Jo’s father is hoping that the baby will be a boy because he wanted a boy when Billie Jo was born. Other than her parents, the only family that Billie Jo has is Aunt Ellis and Great-Uncle Floyd.
“Rabbit Battles”: Two men named Mr. Noble and Mr. Romney have been having a competition to see who can kill the most rabbits. They are killing the rabbits because the rabbits have been feeding off of the crops, but also because they can provide other families with the rabbit meat for food. Billie Jo does not like that the men keep killing the rabbits because she feels like the rabbits need to get there food from somewhere. She also thinks that the men should not get so competitive with one another because it causes them to fight. She takes solace in the fact that the rabbit meat goes to help hungry families.
“Losing Livie”: Billie Jo’s best friend is named Livie. They have been friends since they were in first grade, and her family is moving to California to get away from the dust that has been swirling all around them. Before Livie leaves, she gives Billie Jo a photo that was taken of Billie Jo eating an apple while playing the piano.
“Me and Mad Dog”: Billie’s Jo’s music teacher, Arley Wanderdale, asked if she would play a piano solo at a school concert. He tells her that she was his first choice when he was choosing someone to do the solo, but Billie Jo thinks that Mad Dog Craddock was probably the first choice. Billie Jo says that Mad Dog is a pretty boy with a pretty voice.
“Permission to Play”: Before Billie Jo can perform the piano solo she has to get permission from her mother; this is easier said than done because Billie Jo’s mother finds her love of the piano to be frivolous and she disapproves despite having taught Billie Jo herself. Billie Jo catches her mother at the right time and gets permission to play.
“On Stage”: Billie Jo’s loves the feeling that she gets when she is on stage playing the piano in front of a crowd of people.
“Birthday for FDR”: Arley Wanderdale wants Billie Jo to play piano at the ball for President Roosevelt’s birthday. The proceeds from the ball will benefit charity and Billie Jo is determined to someday play at the White House.
“Not Too Much to Ask”: Billie Jo’s family is not doing well these days because their crops are suffering, but most families are not doing well. Billie Jo’s mother still manages to find some food and clothing that can be donated to people who need them more than they do.
“Mr. Hardly’s Money Handling”: Ma sends Billie Jo to Mr. Hardly’s store to buy supplies so she can bake a cake for Daddy’s birthday. On the way to the store, Billie Jo thinks of buying sheet music with the money but knows she should not. Mr. Hardly is not a terribly friendly man and has been known to cheat his customers, though he is in hard times now too after his store became damaged. When Billie Jo gets home Ma sees that Mr. Hardly gave her four cents too much, so she sends Billie Jo to return the money, which she thinks of buying sheet music with again. Mr. Hardly does not reward Billie Jo for returning the money, though she knows Ma would be upset if she accepted a reward anyway.
“Rules of Dining”: Ma makes everyone keeps their plates and cups flipped upside down, and their silverware covered with napkins until it is time to eat so the dust does not get to them. Daddy jokes about the dust adding to the food, but Ma does not think it is funny. Livie has written to Billie Jo saying her family is having trouble finding work and her brother has left home. Billie worries about her family running out of food someday.
“Breaking Drought”: It has finally rained after seventy days of dust and wind.
“Dazzled”: Billie Jo notices that Ma is different people depending on where she is; in the kitchen she is a mother, in the fields she is a wife, and at the piano she is a musician. Daddy looks at Ma in awe when she plays, and Billie Jo wants someone to look at her that way someday. Billie Jo thinks Ma’s playing is special while her own is crazy, though Arley seems to like it.
“Debts”: Daddy is trying to get a government loan for the farm, with the hope that it will rain soon. Ma has her doubts about the rain, but she says that it is Daddy’s nature as a farmer that makes him believe it will rain because it is springtime.
“Foul as Maggoty Stew”: Arley wants Billie Jo to play in a show called “Sunny of Sunnyside” but Ma will not allow Billie Jo to take time off school for her piano playing. Billie Jo thinks that maybe Ma is jealous of her, or maybe she worries that Billie Jo will find success with it. Billie Jo listens to her mother and forfeits her chance to play in the show, but she is resentful.
“State Tests”: Billie Jo’s school scored the highest in the state on their tests and Billie Jo scored the highest in her grade. When she tells Ma, Ma tells her that she knew she could do it, but Billie Jo wishes she would be more excited and more proud.
“Fields of Flashing Light”: Billie Jo wakes when she can feel a dust storm brewing. She looks outside and sees the dust rolling in then notices that her parents have woken too. Daddy heads outside and Billie Jo puts rugs and rags around the doors and windows to keep the dust out. When it cools off outside, dusty flakes fall and everything calms. When Daddy comes back in, he is blowing mud from his nose and coughing it up from his lungs.
“Tested by Dust”: Billie Jo is taking a test at school one day when a storm blows through, covering everything with dust. She thinks that she and her classmates should get extra points for dealing with the dust.
“Banks”: Billie Jo is told by Ma that someday they will get back the money they lost when the banks closed, which is a good thing because they will need a doctor when Ma is ready to have the baby.
“Beat Wheat”: Billie Jo has heard that there will not be enough seed to plant wheat next year because the crops are all drying up. In order to stay positive in such dire circumstances, Billie Jo plays her piano. On her way to the store one day, Billie Jo sees starving cattle and realizes that the drought truly is causing an uncertain future.
“Give up on Wheat”: Ma thinks that Daddy should give up on growing wheat, but Daddy wants to figure out a way because growing wheat is what he knows how to do. Ma suggest growing something that may fare better in their present environment, but Daddy insists that he can make the wheat work; he points out that Ma’s apple trees use more water than the wheat anyway which makes her mad.
“What I Don’t Know”: Arley is going to be in the play Madame Butterfly, which Billie Jo has not heard of. Mad Dog wonders why Billie Jo has no heard of it because “everyone” has. Billie Jo is upset that Mad Dog knows things that she does not and thinks there must be a lot of things in the world that she has yet to learn.
“Apple Blossoms”: In the front yard of Billie Jo’s house are her mother’s two apple trees. Ma waters them without fail, despite the drought. Billie Jo loves the apple trees, especially the smell of them and the blossoms that fall from them when the weather gets warmer. The two apple trees have been in Billie Jo’s yard since before she was born.
“World War”: Daddy fought during World War I and he remembers that red poppies would grow on the sites where soldiers died, regardless of how much the land was destroyed. Billie Jo wishes that red poppies would grow around her house, despite the dust that destroyed their land.
“Apples”: The blossoms on the apple trees have now started turning into apples, but they are not yet ripe. Soon the apples will be delicious, and that will be just after the baby comes. With the apples, they can make treats like pudding, sauces, and cakes. Billie Jo loves apples, and the smell they leave on her breath.
“Dust and Rain”: A storm blow through that coats everything with red dust and makes the sky dark. There is rain that comes after the dust but it is not rain that helps, it only washes everything away including the crops. Billie Jo wonders if maybe they would be better off without any rain. Many of the unripe apples are gone, but Billie Jo hopes more will grow back soon.
“Harvest”: The farmers who have been growing wheat are ready to harvest whatever has not been killed by the dust storms. There is some money being brought in but in most cases less than half of what their crop should yield. Billie Jo begins to worry how much her father will get from his wheat crop.
“On the Road with Arley”: Arley Wanderdale wants Billie Jo to go on road with his band and play her rag tunes on the piano. Ma is skeptical about allowing it, but since Billie Jo will be bringing in money she allows it, as long as Billie Jo still does her chores. Arley tells Ma that he would have invited her to play as well if she was not pregnant. Ma tells Arley to make sure his wife Vera watches over Billie Jo. The songs that Billie Jo plays on the road are songs that have the word “baby” in them, in honor or Ma. Billie Jo loves playing and being on the road, away from the dust storms. She has so much fun traveling around that she does not even care about the money.
“Hope in a Drizzle”: The rain begins to drizzle down, and Ma is particularly excited about it. She stands out in the rain for a while, and Billie Jo watches her from the house. Billie Joe thinks that her mother looks spectacular with the raindrops sliding over her face.
“Dionne Quintuplets”: In Canada, the Dionne Quintuplets are born and they are instant celebrities. Ma is hugely pregnant at this point, and Billie Jo tries to imagine what it would be like to have five babies in the house. The idea of having five babies makes Ma cry.
“Wild Boy of the Road”: One day a young boy shows up looking for food at Billie Jo’s house and he works with Daddy to earn his keep. Before he sets off on his way Ma gives him a bath and a haircut, as well. Billie Jo’s thinks of Livie’s brother who ran away from home when she sees the boy and wonders how many other boys are running away to California to make lives for themselves. Billie Jo hopes that someday she can move to California, as well.
“The Accident”: One day when Ma is in the kitchen cooking she mistakes a bucket of kerosene for water and the kitchen catches on fire. She leaves to get Daddy and Billie Jo goes to get the bucket from inside. Billie Jo is throwing the flaming kerosene outside just as Ma is coming back in and Ma catches on fire. Billie Jo tries to put the fire out, and both she and Ma are burned badly in the process.
“Burns”: Billie Jo’s burns do not hurt her right away. The doctor comes and removes her burned skin and sticks some needles in the underlying skin to test it. It is not until the doctor put antiseptic on her wounds that they begin to hurt.
“Nightmare”: Billie Jo has a nightmare about the dust coming through and coating everything, including her piano, which does not sound right when she plays it and shatters when she hits it out of frustration. Daddy sends Billie Jo to get water because Ma has given birth, and the baby is in flames. She goes to the neighbors’ house and finds a piano which plays beautifully and she carries it back to her house only to find her hands covered in pus and blisters. When she wakes she realizes her hands certainly are blistered.
“A Tent of Pain”: If Billie Jo did not know it was her, she would not have recognized her mother because of the damage from the burns. Daddy has had to make a tent out of the sheets so that they would not touch Ma’s skin and has been feeding her water by dripping it from a washcloth into her mouth. Every time the baby moves Ma cries out in pain; Billie Jo feels her pain through her cries.
“Drinking”: Daddy is so upset about Ma that he takes the emergency money they have saved up and goes out drinking. Billie Jo is left to care for Ma, but she has a hard time squeezing the washcloth over Ma’s mouth because her own hands are burned so badly.
“Devoured”: The doctor is at Billie Jo’s house and he sends her to get some water. Outside she sees grasshoppers eating everything, including the apple trees. Billie Jo climbs the trees to swat them away, tearing up her burned hands in the process, but her efforts are fruitless because there are no apples left. She vows not to tell Ma about the trees, though when she gets inside she finds that she would never have the chance because Ma died giving birth to Billie Jo’s baby brother.
“Blame”: Aunt Ellis comes to take the baby, but he is dead before she arrives. She leaves and the other women in town plan a funeral for Ma and the baby that Billie Jo names Franklin. While the women work to clean Billie Jo’s house she hears them blaming her for Ma’s death; they never mention how Daddy left the kerosene inside or that he went on a drinking binge after she died.
“Birthday”: Billie Jo sees Daddy staring at the land and she wonders if he is thinking about Ma or about his lost wheat. As she passes the graves of Ma and Franklin on her way into town she tries not to look at them; instead she looks at her hands, which used to play beautiful music but are now useless lumps. In town, Billie Jo sits outside Arley’s house and listens to the music he plays.
“Roots”: The President tells people to plant trees, thinking that the trees will keep the wind from kicking up dust. Billie Jo knows better because trees do not survive well in the sort of soil that they have. Billie Jo wonders what her future holds because she knows that Daddy will not leave his land behind.
“The Empty Spaces”: Billie Jo notices that things are awkward between her and Daddy since Ma died and she does not know how to make them better. She hides her hands when Daddy is around because he gets upset when he sees the burns.
“The Hole”: Daddy is digging a hole for a pond which he will use with the windmill; this is something that Ma had suggested before and he had shot down. The people in town think that Daddy has gone crazy and Billie Jo thinks they are right. She finds that she cannot forgive Daddy for leaving that bucket full of kerosene next to the stove.
“Kilauea”: A volcano called Kilauea erupts in Hawaii and when Billie Jo hears about the damage she thinks that it sounds a lot like one of the dust storms that she sees.
“Boxes”: There are boxes which contain some of the things from Billie Jo’s childhood. She had planned to go through them with Ma to get rid of some stuff but now that Ma is dead, and Billie Jo’s hands hurt she cannot bring herself to do it.
“Night Bloomer”: A neighbor named Mrs. Brown has a plant that only blooms its flower at night. Billie Jo goes to see it, and marvels at the fact that the plant knew that the wind and dust would kill it, so it bloomed in the dark. When morning came the flower died, and it saddened Billie Jo to watch.
“The Path of Our Sorrow”: In school Billie Jo learns how the drought happened. The farmers produced more wheat to export to Europe during the war; after the war Europe produced their own wheat and American farmers had to keep up production just to make money at home. Because of the increased production, more land was needed, sod was depleted, and everything dried up over time.
“Hard Work”: Daddy gets a job with the power company because his crops are not yielding enough to make a profit. Billie Jo wishes she could still play piano both for joy and to bring in money, but her hands are currently useless and also she has a hard time being around the piano since Ma died.
“Almost Rain”: There is hope for rain when the clouds arrive, and the familiar but rare scent fills the air, but it is a false alarm as only enough falls to dampen the sidewalk in town.
“Those Hands”: Billie Jo remembers that the basketball coach used to tell her that she should play because she has expert hands and the height, but now her hands are nothing like they once were. Daddy does not even tell her to make full use of her hands anymore. Despite everyone else’s doubt of Billie Jo’s future, including her own, Arley thinks that someday she will be able to play piano again.
“Real Snow”: It finally snows and it is a significant enough amount of snow that it coats the ground and creates moisture. Billie Jo thinks that its pure whiteness will make everyone happy, including Daddy.
“Dance Revue”: There is going to be a dance revue starring Vera Wanderdale, and Billie Jo has agreed to try playing piano for it, at Arley’s request. She has to rehearse with Mad Dog because he will be singing in the revue and she appreciates that he does not treat her differently because of her injuries. He does not even look at her hands, though everyone else does.
“Mad Dog’s Tale”: At the revue Mad Dog gets a lot of attention from girls and most of them pester him to tell how he got the name Mad Dog. He tells them that when he was a small child he used to bite anything he could get his mouth on, which earned him his nickname. Billie Jo wonders what his real name might be, so she asks Daddy, but he says he does not know; Billie Jo thinks that if Ma were still alive she would know the answer.
“Art Exhibit”: The courthouse is holding an art exhibit, which will help out the library, and Billie Jo enjoys seeing the artwork, so she visits three times. When the show is over, Billie Jo is disappointed because she has a thirst to see more beautiful things.
“State Tests Again”: Once again Billie Jo’s school does better on the state exams than every other school in Oklahoma. She remembers that last time Ma said “I knew you could” and Billie Jo wished that she would say more. Now Billie Jo would do anything to hear those four words from her mother’s mouth.
“Christmas Dinner without the Cranberry Sauce”: At school, there is a Christmas dinner for all the students and their mothers; Billie Jo’s teacher is the mother for all the girls whose mothers cannot be there. At home Billie Jo’s dinner does not come out quite as well and she is disappointed that she never learned to make her mother’s cranberry sauce because Daddy loves it.
“Driving the Cows”: Joe De La Flor is a rancher who has more cows than he is able to feed so a county agent comes and shoots one. Soon Joe will have to harvest thistle to feed the rest of the cows to keep them alive.
“First Rain”: The dust is so bad that it blows around when Billie Jo moves in her bed, and she has to keep a wet cloth around her mouth to breathe clean air. That night the rain starts and in the morning Billie Jo walks to school so she can stay in the rain as long as possible. All of the farmers are happy because their crops may grow now.
“Haydon P. Nye”: Haydon P. Nye has died; Billie Jo did not quite know him, but she recalls that he enjoyed hearing her play piano. She read his obituary and it tells how he was one of the first settlers in their area. She thinks maybe the townspeople will sow wheat on top of Haydon’s grave.
“Scrubbing up the Dust”: Billie Jo feels that she must clean the house because she knows that is what Ma would do. Daddy does not seem to be bothered by the mess, but because he does not talk to Billie Jo much these days she would not know if he was. As she is cleaning she thinks that maybe she should rest her hands, and her mind, but she pushes forward knowing that is what Ma would want her to do.
“Outlined by Dust”: Billie Jo sees that Daddy has been watching her a lot; she thinks that he is looking for traces of Ma in her appearance and movements. Billie Jo notices him too; she hears him singing when he works and sees the resemblance she bears to him. She thinks that it must be hard for Daddy without Ma because he loved her so much. Billie Jo wishes she resembled Ma because it would ease her mind when she looked in the mirror, but all she sees is her resemblance to Daddy.
“The President’s Ball”: Billie Jo and Daddy had a fantastic time at the President’s Ball. She remembers that the year prior she played the piano there and Ma was still with them; so much had changed since then. The ball gives Billie Jo hope because a lot of money was raised, she had a marvellous time, and Daddy even laughed a couple times.
“Lunch”: One day at school the children are able to have a real feast because there has been excess government food sent to them. Billie Jo helps to serve with the other older kids and is glad to see the younger kids with smiles on their faces and full bellies.
“Guests”: When Billie Jo gets to school one morning she sees that a family has moved in there for the time being. The mother is very pregnant, and the father is worried about her being out in the dust, so Miss Freeland has agreed to let them stay in the schoolhouse.
“Family School”: The school kids bring food, toys, and clothing for the family that is staying at the school; Billie Jo brings the nighties that Franklin never got a chance to wear. To father does work around the school as payment for giving his family a place to stay. When the weather is bad, the family stays inside and participates in lessons with the students.
“Birth”: Billie Jo is asked to keep the kids outside of the school the day the baby is being born. She hopes that the baby will survive the birth, and it does, but Billie Jo has mixed feelings about the situation and needs time alone to sort them out. Eventually she goes in to see the baby girl and is happy to see her in Franklin’s nighty.
“Time to Go”: It is only a couple more weeks before the family is ready to leave the schoolhouse and Billie Jo is sad to see them go, especially the baby. As they drive down the road in their truck, Billie Jo chases them and calls for them to stop, but they do not; they don’t even look back at her.
“Something Sweet from Moonshine”: There were men making moonshine and the sheriff caught them. He disposed of all their supplies except their sugar. The sheriff gave the sugar to Miss Freeland because he wants her to bake something delicious for the kids to make their dusty milk taste better.
“Dreams”: Billie Jo has been practicing playing the piano all the time because she is entering a contest and she is determined to win; not because of the monetary prize but because she wants people to see her as special again so she can build her confidence.
“The Competition”: There is a packed crowd at the competition and Billie Jo’s performance starts out a little rough, though she soon becomes immersed in her song. When she is done playing she receives a standing ovation and is thrilled with the validation, though she is in a lot of pain and can barely hold her third place prize.
“The Piano Player”: Billie Jo is asked to play in a show at her school, but she tells Arley no because she is in a lot of pain and does not want anyone to know. Arley tells her she will be OK if she practices, so she agrees but when she sits down at her mother’s piano she does not touch the keys; she wants to practice in her mind and save her hands for the actual performance, so people do not see her weakness.
“No Good”: Billie Jo has played in the school show and she fears that she played “like a cripple”. She thinks that there is little chance Arley will want her to play anymore because she is broken.
“Snow”: The snow has come! Billie Jo fears that it may just be dust, so she makes a snowball to test it out and finds that it is real.
“Night School”: Daddy wants to take classes at night, so he is prepared for another career option if he is not able to farm anymore. Billie Jo thinks that it is possible Daddy just wants to go somewhere he can meet women; after all he is a decent looking man. Billie Jo is glad she does not need to cook dinner on the nights Daddy will be gone because the heat hurts her hands. One night when Daddy leaves Billie Jo sits at Ma’s piano, but she does not play.
“Dust Pneumonia” – Pete Guymon is responsible for delivery food to Mr. Hardly’s store; when he makes his deliveries he always makes conversation with Mr. Hardly’s son Calb. When Pete dies of dust pneumonia a new guy delivers to Mr. Hardly’s store. Billie Jo notices that the new guy never talks to Calb like Pete did.
“Dust Storm”: One night Billie Jo goes to see a show at the Palace and when she leaves she is caught in a dust storm. She keeps one foot on the road, and one on the shoulder to find her way and refuses offers to wait out the storm in people’s homes. Billie Jo knows that if she does not make it home that night Daddy will come look for her and put his own life at risk. The dust leaves Billie Jo with cuts and scrapes, but she finally makes it home, only to find that Daddy has gone out looking for her. Her neighbors say that a couple of boys were found badly injured or dead, and she worries that Daddy will die out there. When he finally makes it home he looks awful. Billie Jo attempts to make them some food, but it is pointless with the dust. Billie Jo decides to flip the dishes over and head to bed.
“Broken Promise”: There was rain in the forecast, but it did not reach Billie Jo’s area.
“Motherless”: Billie Jo desperately wants to leave Oklahoma. She thinks that if Ma were still around to talk to her and comfort her in these times of need she would not want to run away so badly.
“Following in his Steps”: Fonda Nye, Haydon’s wife, dies of dust pneumonia but Billie Jo thinks that she actually died because she missed Haydon so much. Billie Jo felt like she wanted to die when Ma did but has realized that life gets better; now she just genuinely wants to get away from all the dust.
“Heartsick”: Billie Jo has a crush on Mad Dog, but she does not want to tell him because she thinks he would never want her when he could have any girl. Billie Jo wishes she could talk to Ma because she does not feel comfortable talking to Daddy about her feelings.
“Skin”: There are some spots on Daddy’s face that are similar to spots his father used to have, though it is not specified what they are.
“Regrets”: Billie Jo does not go to Arley’s house anymore; actually she does not actually associate with Arley, Vera, or Mad Dog at all outside of school. One day Mad Dog starts walking Billie Jo home from school, and she wonders if he likes her because he acts different around her than other girls. She thinks that maybe she should stay away from him.
“Fire on the Rails”: Fire is something that can occur easily in Billie Jo’s environment because everything is so dry and she is scared of the possibility. When things like the school or railroad cars catch on fire no one talks to Billie Jo about it because they know about her experience with fire, but she hears about the fires when they happen anyway.
“The Mail Train”: The mail train gets stuck in the dust, but Billie Jo still gets her letter from Aunt Ellis anyway. Aunt Ellis wants Billie Jo to come and live with her in Texas, but Billie Jo does not want to, no matter how awful she wants to get away from the dust. Daddy thinks that she should wait it out and see what happens.
“Migrants”: The migrant workers are heading out because there is no work, but they say they will be back. Billie Jo does not think they will be back because everyone says that California is the place to be.
“Blankets of Black”: There are blue skies for a couple of days, so Billie Jo and Daddy decide to go to a woman’s funeral in a neighboring town. On the way, the sky suddenly turns black, and Daddy, and Billie Jo make it into a nearby house just before the dust storm begins. It is the worst storm some of them have ever seen, and when it is over Billie Jo and Daddy decide to head home rather than to the funeral. At home their barns are covered with dunes, the animals are dying, and the front door of the house was pushed open by the storm, so there is dust covering everything inside.
“The Visit”: Mad Dog comes to see Billie Jo to tell her that he is moving to Texas where he has been offered a job singing on the radio. He says that he loves the land, but he must follow his heart and his opportunities. When Mad Dog walks away from Billie Jo’s house, the dust swirls up around him.
“Freak Show”: James Kingsbury is the photographer who took photos of the Dionne quintuplets when they were born. The photographer is taking photos of the oddest damage from the dust storms that he can find, including that which is on Billie Jo’s land. She worries that she, Daddy, and the other townspeople will be seen as a freak show, just like the quintuplets became.
“Help from Uncle Sam”: The government is giving money to the farmers to help them purchase seed for their crops and feed for their animals. Daddy signs on for the aid but only after the government lady tells him he does not have to worry about paying the money back because he does not know when he would be able to do that. Billie Jo continues to consider Aunt Ellis’ offer.
“Let Down”: Arley asks Billie Jo to play at the graduation but when she tries to she is unable. Arley has nothing to say to her, and Miss Freeland is brought to tears. Billie Jo feels like she failed everyone and she hopes that soon Daddy will get a doctor to look at the spots on his face so she can have her hands looked at too. Daddy tells Billie Jo he is not going to the doctor, and she worries that both of them are going to become dust.
“Hope”: Snow begins to fall and it turns to a drizzling rain that soaks the ground. Soon the harder rain begins to fall, and it does not stop. Daddy is so excited he dances in the rain and starts cleaning off his tractor because he thinks he may need it still.
“The Rain’s Gift”: The rain brings new grass, which the cows happily graze in. The neighboring farmers are all ecstatic with the change in the weather.
“Hope Smothered”: The nice weather leaves just as quickly as it came and soon a dust storm covers everything once again. The lady who works for the government, Mrs. Love, is offering jobs to the men around town and Billie Jo wishes that she was a man so she could get one of the jobs.
“Sunday Afternoon at the Amarillo Hotel”: Everyone gathers at the hardware store on the day that Mad Dog is going to sing on the radio. Mad Dog sounds beautiful, and everyone claps when he is done except for Billie Jo. She is deep in thought and jealous that Mad Dog honestly seems to be in charge of his own life.
“Baby”: When an abandoned baby is found on the steps of the church Billie Jo asks Daddy if they can adopt it; he tells her that it would not be fair because they have nothing to offer the baby. Daddy suggests that Billie Jo give the box of Franklin’s clothes to the new baby. When Billie Jo gets home from dropping the box of clothing off she sits down at the piano and tries to write a song for all of the babies.
“Old Bones”: There are dinosaur bones found in the state of Oklahoma and Billie Jo cannot help imagining what her life would be like if dinosaurs were still around; she gets a chuckle thinking about them roaming like cattle. While Daddy is standing by Ma’s and Franklin’s graves, he thinks about Billie Jo’s desire to leave and tells her that it is time for them to let the dead be.
“The Dream”: Billie Jo has a dream one night that her piano takes on the characteristics of her mother, in the sense that she can talk to it, and it comforts her.
“Midnight Truth”: At night Billie Jo thinks about how much her mother’s death affects her while Daddy seems like he does not care anymore. She thinks that Daddy is read to die and that maybe the pond he is digging is a grave for himself. Billie Jo feels remarkably alone and vows to leave Daddy before he leaves her.
“Out of the Dust”: Billie Jo gathers the little bit of food and money that she can find and leaves her father’s house in the middle of the night. She hops on a train that is heading west and leaves the dust behind her.
“Gone West”: It has been two whole days that Billie Jo has been riding the train she is freezing cold though she has a fever. Sometimes she sees migrant workers watching the train and once she sees a girl looking at her.
“Something Lost, Something Gained”: A filthy man gets on the train in the same car as Billie Jo and asks her for some food. He tells her about his family, which he left behind because he was unable to care for them, and she tells him about her life, as well. Billie Jo falls asleep, and when she wakes the man is gone and so is her food, though he left her the photo of his family. Billie Jo gets off the train at the next stop and calls Mr. Hardly to deliver a message to her father that she will be coming home.
“Homeward Bound”: Leaving Daddy’s house was not what Billie Jo thought it would be; it was lonely and it only made her and Daddy further apart than ever before.
“Met”: When Billie Jo sees Daddy she tells him about everything that has been going through her head. She tells him that she is capable of growing but only if he will nurture and help her. She also tells Daddy that she wants him to see a doctor about the spots that are on his face and he agrees. Billie Jo finds that she is finally forgiving both her father and herself.
“Cut it Deep”: When Daddy finally goes to the doctor he finds out that he has cancer and the doctor wishes that he had visited sooner; the doctor cuts away all of the cancer that he can. Billie Jo wonders what she can do to make her hands better, and the doctor only advises her to use them. Later, Billie Jo and Daddy go through some boxes of things that Ma had kept and cannot bring themselves to get rid of much because it reminds them so much of her. Daddy tells Billie Jo that he thought of running away a few times as well, but he is not as outgoing as Billie Jo; she thinks that they are a lot alike.
“The Other Woman”: Louise is Daddy’s new friend and she is good for him; she stuck by him when Billie Jo was gone, and she gets him to do household chores. Billie Jo likes Louise, but she is scared that Louise may take Daddy’s attention away from her just when they are getting close again. Daddy admits that he never wanted Billie Jo to move to Texas, and they laugh about Aunt Ellis for a little while.
“Not Everywhere”: While Billie Jo likes Louise and is getting used to having her around, she will not allow Louise to visit the place where Ma and Franklin are buried because that is private.
“My Life, or What I Told Louise After the Tenth Time She Came to Dinner”: Billie Jo talks to Louise about her hands and how Ma used to play beautiful music. She also tells her that when she ran away it was to find something but all she truly needed was to be home. She also mentions that though her hands are not so pleasant to look at someday they will be fine again. Billie Jo likes that Louise listens but does not offer her opinions.
“November Dust”: The dust is not entirely gone, it still blows around from time to time, but the wheat has been growing and the apple trees have survived. Mad Dog has gotten a job working for a radio station in Amarillo, but he comes back to visit Billie Jo each week when he is in town. Billie Jo feels like life is a vast improvement from what it was a year ago.
“Thanksgiving List”: With Thanksgiving coming up, Billie Jo thinks about the things that she is thankful for in her life. This list includes Daddy, his smile, her home, dampness in the ground, having food that is not covered in dust, and having hope for the future.
“Music”: Billie Jo is finally starting to genuinely appreciate and love music again and she realizes that it is a part of her, and it keeps her feeling alive. She thinks about how she wanted to get away from the dust so badly at one point, but unquestionably the dust made Billie Jo the person that she is, and that person is someone who she likes.
“Teamwork”: After dinner one night, Billie Jo and Louise take a walk together and Billie Jo learns more about her Daddy’s friend. Louise teaches at the night school Daddy attended, and she has never been married before. Louise says that she must have been lonely though she never realized it until Daddy came into her life. Later on Daddy takes Louise to see Ma’s grave so he can talk to Ma about Louise and their intentions.
“Finding a Way”: Daddy is excited to start planting new and different crops now that the dust storms have let up. Meanwhile, Billie Jo has begun playing more to stretch her skin out, so her hands do not hurt so badly. Billie Jo realizes that when people talk about hard times they are usually talking about being poor or having to live with the dust but those are not real hard times; real hard times are the times when one loses hope. Louise becomes an official part of the family when she and Daddy get married and she tends to Ma’s apples just as Ma would. Billie Jo continues to play the piano because it is what she loves.
The night that Burn Sanderson tells Travis about the plague of hydrophobia Travis has trouble sleeping, but when he wakes in the morning he has forgotten about the plague and is ready to take care of the hogs. The hogs are all out on the range, and Travis needs to catch them, mark them, and castrate them one by one. The hogs are wild and must fend for themselves. Therefore, they will eat other animals if they need to, or they will attack and eat people if they can. Mama is nervous that Travis is going to be around the hogs, but Travis tells her that he will have Old Yeller with him so he will be fine, though she still worries. Travis is not worried about the job because he and Papa had developed a method that worked pretty well and he hopes to stick with it as well as he can with Old Yeller; he needs Old Yeller to distract the hogs and chase them to the place where Travis needs them to be. Travis picks an old oak tree as the place where he will mark the hogs, and he climbs up it. Old Yeller’s job is to chase the hogs over to the tree, so Travis can rope them one at a time and hoist them up to him. Travis marks the hogs on their ear with the marking that was assigned to his family; the markings help all of the settlers to know which hogs belong to which families. The squealing of the pigs and the blood that drips from them after the castration angers the other pigs so when Travis is done he has to remain in the tree for another hour waiting for them to disperse.
When Travis marks the hogs, he keeps a piece each one’s ear, so he can be sure that he has marked all of them. He thinks that he has marked them all but then Bud Searcy comes by and says there are hogs wandering around in bat cave country that Travis missed. Travis knows where the caves are though he has never been there and decides to head out with Old Yeller in the morning. The next morning, Travis and Old Yeller follow the hogs from the watering hole to the prickly-pear flats, where they are feeding, and Travis sees that there are five little pigs to mark. Travis wants Old Yeller to get the pigs over to the mesquite tree, but the pigs hide under a dirt bank instead. Travis must improvise so he uses the dirt bank above the cave as he would use a tree and lies on it to rope the pigs below him. He gets one pig, but when he goes for a second one the bank breaks under his weight, and he falls onto a group of angry hogs. Travis gets up and tries to run, but the hogs are too quick for him, and he is slashed in the back of the calf by a tusk. Travis is overcome with pain and knows he cannot move fast enough to get away. Suddenly Old Yeller jumps in between Travis and the angry hogs and he is tossed around and injured while ensuring that Travis has time to get to safety. Travis gets far enough away that he can wrap his leg and then he comes back to find Old Yeller. The hogs have left, and Old Yeller is hiding under a slab of rock, badly injured. When Travis finally coaxes the dog out of hiding, he becomes teary-eyed at Old Yeller’s condition; he has dozens of open wounds, and his belly is torn so badly that his intestines are showing. Travis puts Old Yeller back beneath the rock and blocks off the opening with a piece of wood to keep Old Yeller from trying to follow him home and to keep the dog safe until he can bring Mama back to try to help the dog. Travis limps away, and Old Yeller howls after him.
Travis is incredibly weak by the time that he gets home, and he is trembling with fever. Mama tends to Travis’ wound with turpentine and wraps it in new bandages. When Travis tells Mama they need to go get Old Yeller, Mama tells Travis that he cannot move anywhere on his leg for a week, but Travis will not stay home; he gets Jumper the mule ready to go and by the time he is ready to set out Mama has come outside ready to go and wearing her bonnet. Mama does not want Travis to have to hold onto Old Yeller on the way home so she rigs a sort of sled out of cowhide for Jumper to drag the dog on. When they reach bat country, there are buzzards swarming and Travis fears that Old Yeller may be dead. Suddenly the buzzards seem to be spooked by something and Travis hears Old Yeller’s weak barking sounds. Travis gets to the dog and sees his eye shining crazily but then when the dog recognizes his owner he calms down. Travis and Mama examine Old Yeller’s wounds without allowing a very scared Little Arliss to see that he is hurt; Mama sends him off to catch a lizard to distract him. Mama uses a hair from Jumper’s tail to sew up Old Yeller’s stomach and they place him gently on the cowhide, wrapped in clean rags. On the way home, Mama tells Little Arliss to hold onto Old Yeller on the cowhide, pretending that he is sick and needs to be cared for. The dog whimpers in pain on the way home and Travis’ leg swells but eventually they all make it. Travis is happy to have brought Old Yeller home alive and is amazed that the dog is in good enough spirits to lick Little Arliss’ face.
It is a few weeks that Travis and Old Yeller are laid up, and both of them are in incredible pain and suffering from fevers. Mama mixes up several antidotes for Travis and tries to feed him and Old Yeller whenever they will eat. Mama ends up taking over all of the chores with Travis laid-up and Little Arliss is not much help to her because he is so young and gets bored easily. Bud Searcy comes by one day with Lisbeth and a puppy. Lisbeth asks Travis how he is feeling and, wanting to sound tough, Travis tells her that he is doing alright. Lisbeth tells Travis she has a surprise for him, and she presents him with a speckled puppy. Travis seems to hurt Lisbeth’s feelings when he tells her that the puppy will be perfect for Little Arliss, because she leaves him alone afterward. Travis feels bad he just believes he already has a dog and once Old Yeller is better they will not want to wait around for a puppy to keep up with them; the puppy would be better for Little Arliss because it would entertain him. Lisbeth gives the puppy to Little Arliss, and Travis sees her look in at him as she and Bud Searcy are leaving. Bud Searcy then tells Mama that since her husband is gone and Travis cannot help with chores he will leave Lisbeth to help out. Mama wonders if the little girl will be of much help, but Bud Searcy assures her that Lisbeth is very tough and willing to help out. As he leaves he tells Lisbeth to behave herself.
Travis and Mama both believe that Lisbeth is too little to help out much around the house, but she proves the two of them wrong. Lisbeth works hard at her chores without being asked and is always looking for more ways to help out. Lisbeth and Little Arliss both help Mama to gather corn and though gathering corn is not usually a job that Travis likes to do he finds that he wishes he could be outside helping them. Travis feels as though his pride is bruised when this little girl can come in and do all of his chores for him, but he takes some solace in knowing that she cannot mark the hogs or kill animals for meat. One day, Spot does not show up for her milking and when she returns in the morning Travis calls to Mama that she is back; Mama goes out to see Spot, but quickly yells and runs back into the house. Spot had turned on Mama and tried to attack her so Mama wonders if she ate a poisonous pea-vine and went crazy, but Travis thinks that she probably has hydrophobia. Everyone watches Spot carefully over the next few days while she walks around in circles and ignores her calf. The bull called Roany wanders into the yard also, acting just as strangely as Spot though seemingly weaker. Old Yeller knows the family is danger when he sees the bull, and he growls because the bull is heading toward Little Arliss and Lisbeth. Travis calls for Mama to get his gun, but Mama runs after the children instead. The bull tries to run for Mama but falls over, giving Travis the opportunity to shoot him.
Travis and Mama know that they must bring the dead roan bull somewhere to burn the body because being so close to the house it may contaminate the drinking water. However, they find that Jumper cannot drag the carcass, so they must gather wood to burn the body where it lies. The fire is huge but still takes two and a half days to completely burn the body; when wolves smell the meat they are drawn to the area but stay away from the fire and from Old Yeller, who is acting as a guard. Travis remembers that Bud Searcy’s brother contracted hydrophobia, and he wishes that Papa would return home soon. Mama tells Travis that he must kill Spot as well, and they will have to burn the heifer’s body to be sure that the other cows are not infected. Travis follows Spot until she is in a place where it will be safe to burn her body without the danger of lighting the woods on fire, and he kills her. Travis’ leg is in pain when he returns to Mama tells him to rest, and she and Lisbeth go out to gather wood and burn Spot’s carcass. Travis tells the reader that had he known what was going to happen next he would have tried harder to keep them at home that day. Travis falls asleep and when he wakes he see Little Arliss playing with the puppy though Mama and Lisbeth have still not returned; he realizes that it probably took a long time to gather wood. Travis knows that Papa should be coming home soon, and he wonders if Papa will be bringing him a horse. He mostly wants Papa to come home because of the hydrophobic plague.
As darkness begins to set in, Travis gets worried about Mama and Lisbeth, but he realizes that the task at hand may have taken a while and he cannot think of anything that would be a danger to them. Travis brings Little Arliss and the puppy inside, and they eat a couple bowls of cornmeal and milk together. When Travis is putting Little Arliss to bed, he hears dogs fighting outside and hears Mama yell for him to make a light and come outside with his gun. Travis makes a light out of bear grass and heads outside with his gun where he is horrified to see Old Yeller fighting with a large wolf which Mama says is mad. Travis does not want to fire at the wolf right away because he fears hitting Old Yeller, but when the wolf gets on top of the dog Travis gets his chance, and he shoots. The wolf is dead, and Old Yeller licks Travis’ hand; the two of them collapse onto the ground together, and Mama sits with them. Mama tells Travis that they stopped for water at Birdsong Creek and the wolf almost got her, but she hit it in the head with a stick and then Old Yeller kept it distracted while Mama and Lisbeth got away on Jumper. Mama tells Travis that they got lucky, but Old Yeller is not so lucky; Travis realizes that Mama is telling him that Old Yeller is probably going to be mad now, and he needs to be killed. Mama offers to do the job for Travis, but once he realizes that she is right, he reluctantly and sadly calls Old Yeller to him and then shoots him in the head.
Travis is so sad about Old Yeller that he cannot eat, sleep, or cry and feels empty inside. Travis spends a lot of time thinking about how Old Yeller helped his family and Mama tries to talk with Travis about it to make him feel better, but it does not work. Lisbeth reminds Travis that the puppy is part of Old Yeller, but Travis only thinks that the puppy has not helped to keep his family alive like Old Yeller did; he feels bad for shooting his dog when he did not even do anything to deserve it. Soon the rain comes, and the hydrophobic plague is washed away from the land. Papa comes home in the morning, thinner than he was when he left but happy to have money and a horse for Travis. Travis appreciates the horse, but Papa can tell something is wrong with him. Papa gets the story from Mama, and after dinner, he walks down to the creek with Travis and tells him that he knows about Old Yeller. He tells Travis that he did exactly the right thing, just as a grown man would do, and he is proud of him. Papa tells Travis to think about the good parts of each situation because if he dwells on the bad then all of life will be bad. Travis understands what his father is saying, but he is still sad. A week later, Travis hears Mama yelling at the puppy for stealing cornbread, Little Arliss crying because Mama hit the puppy, and Papa laughing at the whole situation; Travis feels a little better. When Travis returns from riding his horse he sees Little Arliss playing naked in the water with the puppy and Travis starts laughing uncontrollably. He decides that he will bring Little Arliss and the puppy squirrel hunting because if the puppy is going to act like Old Yeller he may as well be of use.
Vin is in her room, piles of paper all around her on the floor. She continues to sort through the pages, rearranging them as she rereads different parts. She even starts to take notes of some quotes that she wants to remember. OreSeur watches her, commenting that she should use the desk instead of the floor. Elend walks in, and he is amazed that she is researching. He is also impressed with her penmanship, based on the pretty letters in her notes. Elend takes Vin with him to meet the messenger that has come from his father’s army. Vin is shocked to find that this messenger is also the man that was following her, the watcher. The messenger’s name is Zane, and he acts like an ambassador. Later, Vin and OreSeur wait outside for Zane. The two Mistborn spar, jumping from one rooftop to another. Zane says that Vin is different from the rest. She shouldn’t allow herself to be used by them. Vin doesn’t know what he means. When Zane leaves, Vin is sure she wants to spar with him more.
Zane comes back to his camp, or his father’s camp. He has a guard summon is father to the strategy tent. While waiting, he gives one of the soldiers strategic positions of the forces in Luthadel. Straff comes in and Zane tells him about the day’s activities, including what was said between Zane and Elend. They talk over a cup of tea. Straff, being a tineye, burns tin and smells poison in the tea he’s drinking. He knows Zane is always trying to poison him. He defiantly drinks the tea anyway and dismisses Zane. After, Straff summons one of his mistresses, a woman named Amaranta, who prepares a concoction of medicines in a special tea for Straff. He drinks the new tea, hoping he’ll live again this time.
Sazed has traveled six weeks worth of distance in six days, using his metalminds from time to time. Whenever a metalmind runs out, he leaves it on the ground, trying to lessen the amount of weight he has to carry. He notices several pillars of smoke ahead, sure sign that there is an army or camp of some kind. He is surprised to see that the army camp is made up of koloss, a dark blue kind of monster barbarian, once controlled by the Lord Ruler. Sazed is found by a koloss patrol. They force him to come down from the tree he was hiding in and follow them into the camp. Sazed is surprised once again to see that the man controlling these koloss is Jastes Lekal, a one-time friend of Elend Venture. Jastes says that he plans to conquer Luthadel as his own. He ends up letting Sazed go, under the condition that Sazed tell Elend about what he has seen. Sazed leaves, feeling even more urgency about getting to Luthadel.
Elends meets with his advisors–Ham, Breeze, Dockson, and Vin. Tindwyl is there, too. They try to talk Elend out of this plan he has to go into his father’s camp and trick him into fighting Cett. They don’t think Elend can con someone like that, but Elend is insistent that he can manipulate his father any time he wants. Plus, Elend argues, he’ll have Vin with him, in case Straff tries to take his own son hostage. Vin, listening in to the conversation, discovers through bronze that Breeze is soothing Elend to make him more confident. After the meeting, Tindwyl chastises Elend for not acting more like a king. Kings cannot doubt themselves. They must always feel that they are the right man for the job and convince others of the same through sheer confidence. The discussion is interrupted when Elend gets word that Cett’s daughter has arrived in Luthadel, looking for Breeze.
Cetts daughter, Allrianne, has left her father’s camp and come to Luthadel to see Breeze, whom she affectionately calls Breezy. Breeze is completely embarrassed by this, but the rest of the group gets a good laugh at his expense. Allrianne says she hated staying in her father’s camp; she needs comforts only a city can bring, like fresh water and a bed. After Allrianne leaves to freshen up, the group decides it may be beneficial to keep her. It may prevent her father from attacking too soon.
Vin, hides, suspended in the mists, just above Keep Venture. She spies on Ham as he walks across a courtyard. As she follows him, as a predetermined time, OreSeur jumps from behind some boxes and howls, scaring Ham. Ham reacts by flaring pewter. This confirms to Vin that he is not the kandra imposter. Vin admits to Ham that she is out of atium, meaning she’ll die the next time she fights a Mistborn with atium. She wonders is there is a secret to killing someone with atium. Ham doesn’t think so, although there have been some theories about how to do so. It may be possible, for example, to surprise them somehow. After that, Vin has a heart-to-heart with OreSeur. They talk about the way kandra are often treated, beaten by their own masters. They spot someone approaching the keep’s walls. It turns out to be Sazed, who has returned with, as he puts it, “problems and troubles.
Sazed is telling the group in the kitchens late at night, what he saw in the Koloss camp. They are not happy to know that a third army is on its way to Luthadel. Sazed does not know how Lekal is controlling the creatures, but the group does know that 20,000 koloss could beat an army of at least four times that many humans, meaning there is nothing stopping them from reaching and taking Luthadel. Finally, Sazed also share his fear regarding the mist killing people. He thinks something was released when the Lord Ruler was killed, although he never personally saw the mist kill anyone. Cett’s daughter comes walking in, half disheveled, asking what’s going on. They dismiss her and the group breaks apart, everyone either going to bed or to some corner to thin. Vin takes OreSeur outside to patrol. Back in his room, Sazed meets Tindwyl, an old friend of his. She criticizes him for returning and having strange theories about the mist.
Vin is outside, thinking about the beating she hears to the north, just like the writer of the log book, the supposed Hero of Ages. Zane finds her, and again he tries to convince her to leave Elend and Luthadel, claiming that she is being used by them and that she can do much better on her own, free to do as she pleases. Vin insists that she is very happy doing what she is doing and that no one is forcing her to do anything.
Vin is woken by a quiet bark of warning from OreSeur. She reacts by jumping out of bed, reaching for a dagger, and downing a vile of metals. She does all this before she realizes that the person that was “sneaking up on her” is actually Tindwyl the Terriswoman. Tindwyl obligates her to go shopping with herself and Allrianne, something Vin knows she will detest. They take a carriage to the market, the three women and OreSeur, who everything still assumes is just an ordinary wolfhound, along with Spook, who is forced to go to carry the girls’ bags. Vin manages to find a dress that she likes, and Tindwyl arranges for the dress to be made special for a Mistborn. Meanwhile, a someone has identifies Vin and a large crowd has gathered outside the storefront. Vin reluctantly goes outside to talk to them. They obviously worship her, calling her the Heir to the Survivor–Kelsier. She tries to say something that will inspire hope, but she feels that she is really just lying to them. Meanwhile, Elend is at the wall when Straff’s men attack. The guards and archers on the wall are in a total panic, and they barely kill a few of the invading wave before it retreats to the Venture camp. This was a test, just to try out Luthadel’s defenses, it is explained to Elend. Straff is sending a message, just before Elend is supposed to go out to the camp and talk to his father.
Vin opens the box sent from the dress maker, happy to find that the new dress is very well designed for a Mistborn, allowing her to move and fight freely. It even has secret hiding places for her daggers and some vials of metal. OreSeur does not think going is a good idea, since Vin and Elend would be alone in Straff’s army camp. Vin knows she must go anyway. Elend and Vin ride into the camp. Over the meal, Elend tries to manipulate Straff, but the man seems to catch on too quickly. Then he sends Vin out of the tent, so they can talk alone, father and son.
Straff and Elend talk inside, and things don’t seem to be going very well for Elend. Straff says he’ll just have Elend killed and demand Luthadel to open the gates to him. Elend says that if he is killed, Vin will kill Straff. Vin is outside, listening. She begins to manipulate Straff’s emotions, making him feel afraid. Finally, she smoothes away everything–every emotion he has, leaving him feeling empty and dead inside. The trick works, and Elend and Vin get out of the camp safe. Meanwhile, Zane has a little chat with Vin outside the tent, telling her that she is nothing but a knife to Elend. After they are gone, Straff commands Zane to kill Vin. Back in Luthadel, Elend learns that the assembly has voted to remove him as king.
The group meets together to see what they’re going to do about the assembly’s vote. They try to figure out if the assembly already has someone else in mind to put on the thrown, or if they simple want to send a warning to Elend because he has been ignoring them of late. The discussion leads to an argument between Breeze and Ham, as always, and Vin gets a taste of kandra humor when OreSeur whispers that he could always eat one of them and solve the argument. Later, Elend gets another lesson from Tindwyl about how a proper kind should act.
At night, Vin and OreSeur have a talk. OreSeur doesn’t think it’s healthy for Vin to keep herself awake for long periods of time, burning pewter to stay strong. He also doesn’t like the way Vin treats Zane, who should be her enemy. In the middle of the conversation, Vin realizes that she’s figured out what the Deepness is.
Sazed is in his room, studying and transcribing the rubbings he found. He knows that these few pages of transcribed text could keep him busy for months or even years. Vin enters through his window and wants to talk to him about the deepness. Sazed talks about if the deepness is even real or if it’s just a made-up story, some propaganda spun by the Lord Ruler. Vin says she thinks it’s real and tells Sazed that she thinks it’s actually the mist itself. The log book and the rubbings don’t say the mist actually killed people but that people died because of the mist. That could be because a permenant mist that covered the ground would kill crops and live stalk, leaving people to die of starvation. Vin also tells Sazed about the mist spirit that has been following her.
The assembly gathers, and Elend gets an opportunity to explain what he has done with his father. He uses twenty minutes to tell of the situation with the two armies and how his meeting with Straff went. He tells them that he used Vin’s power to threaten Straff, a move that may protect the city for some time yet. Meanwhile, Vin tries to pay attention to Elend’s meeting. She sees Zane in the crowd, and he smiles at her. They then have nominations for who should run for king. Elend and Lord Penrod are nominated, and, lastly, Cett is nominated. The man reveals himself to be in the crowd.
Vin sits in her room, studying the stacks of papers she has there. OreSeur is there with her, and they talk about the religious beliefs of the kandra. They practically worship the Contract above all else, the agreement they have with their human masters. Meanwhile, Elend discovers that some of the wells in Luthadel are being poisoned by someone, probably one of the armies outside. Vin talks to Dockson, and in the conversation, she determines that he can’t be the spy. She and OreSeur turn their attentions toward a new option: Demoux, a captain of the guard.
Elend works to find a way to convince the assembly to name him king again, while Vin wants to tell him her theory about Demoux. Tindwyle gets upset with Sazed when she finds out that he helped write part of the laws Elend put into place a year ago. Vin leaves the group and finds Zane, who immediately attacks her. She thinks he wants to spar, like before, but the fight becomes aggressive and Vin must fight him to survive. Zane tells her that he was ordered to kill her and that this attack was a warning. There are also many refugees coming from the koloss army, on their way to seek refuge in Luthadel. After giving his two warnings, Zane leaves.
Vin tries on another custom-made dress. Tindwyl tells her that Elend has nearly learned as much as he can from her; he’ll now have to learn to be a good leader through experience. Elend prepares his armored escort and carriage to go and see Cett. Breeze decides not to go, since he and Cett have history, which would only make the situation worse. When Elend and Vin actually enter the keep Cett is staying in and talk to the man, they discover just how sincere he is. He doesn’t want his daughter back, trusting that Elend will take good care of her. Cett wants Elend to step down from the election for king, and in return he won’t have Elend killed when he is made king. They also talk about the fact that no atium was found in all of Luthadel. Finally, Cett dismisses the two.
Sazed wanders through warehouse full of refugees from the koloss attacks, trying to help and health where he can. Tindwyl comes in and talks to him. She wants to see what he’s found–the rubbings he’s been transcribing. Meanwhile, Breeze has been listening in on the conversation, soothing both people in a way that would make them more friendly to each other. He walks among the refugees, trying to sooth away bad emotions and make them feel better. Elend and Ham come in, and Elend wants to make sure all the people have the clothes they need. Later, Breeze goes into the keep and has a secret meeting with Clubs. Though they always seem to hate each other, they drink together and talk; they’ve struck up a strange companionship. Allrianne walks in and tries to steal Breeze away. Vin, watching from outside, discovers that Allrianne is a rioter, since she was rioting Breeze’s emotions. She and OreSeur then go to find Demoux, still certain that he is the kandra spy. They find him in a little meeting of the church of the Survivor. He can’t be a spy, Vin decides. Then who is?
Sazed and Tindwyl sit together in the study, pouring over the rubbings, searching their metalminds for any references to the deepness or Hero of Ages. It’s morning, meaning they’ve been at it all night long. Tindwyl knows the course of actions Sazed takes is different from what the keepers want, but she is willing to stay with him and study these things further. Meanwhile, Elend and Ham walk along the wall. Ham comments that Elend looks more kingly than ever. As they walk, Elend announces that he has an idea to help Luthadel’s situation.
Vin, Elend, and the rest of the crew arrive early for the day of the election for king. Before the voting begins, Vin, trying to figure out what Elend has up his sleeve, discovers that he has joined the church of the Savior, in an effort to curry votes from the skaa members of the assembly. Suddenly, a groups of allomancers attack Elend and Cett. Vin manages to fight off the men, getting badly hurt in the process. After the fighting, the vote is moved to a more secure location, and the assembly members each announce their vote. Surprisingly, Penrod, a nobleman from the assembly is chosen the new king. Elend hands over his crown and leaves.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.