Between the Flowers

Between the Flowers: A Novel

Harriette Simpson Arnow
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 426
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  • Book Info
    Between the Flowers
    Book Description:

    Between the Flowersis Harriette Simpson Arnow's second novel. Written in the late 1930s, but unpublished until 1997, this early work shows the development of social and cultural themes that would continue in Arnow's later work: the appeal of wandering and of modern life, the countervailing desire to stay within a traditional community, and the difficulties of communication between men and women in such a community.Between the Flowersgoes far beyond categories of "local color," literary regionalism, or the agrarian novel, to the heart of human relationships in a modernized world. Arnow, who went on to writeHunter's Horn(1949) andThe Dollmaker(1952)-her two most famous works-has continually been overlooked by critics as a regional writer. Ironically, it is her stinging realism that is seen as evidence of her realism, evidence that she is of the Cumberland-an area somehow more "regional" than others.Beginning with an edition of critical essays on her work in 1991 and a complete original edition ofHunter's Hornin 1997, the Michigan State University Press is pleased to continue its effort to make available the timeless insight of Arnow's work with the posthumous publication ofBetween the Flowers.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-380-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Acknowledgments
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. vii-x)
    Frederic J. Svoboda

    Harriette Simpson Arnow received acclaim for her five novels and four histories published from the 1930s through the 1970s, but one worthy novel written early in her career she abandoned to a drawer.Between the Flowerswas written after successful publication ofMountain Pathin 1936, but the author found herself frustrated in her attempts to revise the work to suit the demands of a publisher sometimes ignorant of the mountain life she portrayed so accurately.

    Hearkening back to a way of life so different from today’s—even in rural Kentucky where the book is set—the themes of the...

  4. 1
    (pp. 1-14)

    MRS. CROUCH stood on the porch under the weather-beaten sign, Costello’s Valley, Ky. U.S. Post Office, and looked up the steep stretch of narrow hill road where August heat waves trembled above the sheep-skull rocks and uneven chunks of blue-white limestone. The sun glare hurt her eyes, and she rested them with a slow glance over Costello’s Valley—the sloping sides of wooded hills leading down to a gently moving creek bordered with willows and sycamores, the wooden bridge across the creek, and the great beech trees that grew on the bit of levelland on either side of the road....

  5. 2
    (pp. 15-32)

    THE CART bounced at a smart pace up the rough hill roads while Mrs. Crouch clutched at the seat with one hand and fanned herself with a hymn book in the other. Now and then she glanced at her flowers, and often at Marsh, but each time found him straight mouthed and hard eyed. He commented on nothing, though his deep gray eyes, swinging slowly from this to that, missed nothing by the road; a clump of purple ironweed in some grassy space, the white and pale lavender of the wild asters scattered here and there among the trees, clusters...

  6. 3
    (pp. 33-48)

    THE FIRST week of September came. Marsh as he hauled nitroglycerin to the wells in the high back hills found signs of fall in the blood red leaves of black gum bush, and a few slender fingers of flowering goldenrod. The hazelnuts were ripening, and he would sometimes hear the falling thud of a worm-bitten hickory nut.

    He would listen intently, and then drive on; his thoughts not on the nut that fell but of the winter that seemed gathered in the sound. And as always there was the wonder of where he would be. His work by the Little...

  7. 4
    (pp. 49-62)

    THAT YEAR more than one in the Little South Fork Country marveled at the beauty of the fall. The early frosts were light and the days clear and still, roofed by high bottomless skies, cloudless and intensely blue. Sometimes with only Tilly for company Delph went on long hunts down the pine ridges after wild grapes and chestnuts. Mostly she would come home empty handed, a few chestnuts in her sweater pockets or grape stain on her fingers. She would stand silent under Fronie’s tearful lamentations, and never answer her aunt’s eternal, “What ails you anyhow, Delph?” and never defend...

  8. 5
    (pp. 63-72)

    THE COLD snap that Juber said had come only to ripen the corn was past. It was November, a time of leafless trees and languid yellow light falling lazily onto the hills that lay as if asleep under a faint blue veil of smoke. The sun seemed slyly dying day by day, the flaming dawns of early fall were gone, and in their place came the sunrise, pale blue and gold; sad it seemed to Delph. The sunsets, too, were dull and dead, endless banks of clouds above the rows of marching hills.

    There were long days of slow cold...

  9. 6
    (pp. 73-90)

    JUDE’S FEET rang loud and hollow on the frozen road, and Marsh as he topped the hill saw the post office, wished he had not hurried so. John would most likely be there instead of home. At least he would have to stop and see; for it was Thursday afternoon, and he had finished his last well. He hitched Jude to the low limb of a sycamore near the creek, and paused and stroked the horse’s shoulders, slowly with hard, heavy strokes. Jude turned and looked at him, and he asked softly, “What if he’s in there, an’ I ask...

  10. 7
    (pp. 91-108)

    TUESDAY, THE day that Marsh had set for the runaway, dawned gray and cold under low skies. A biting wind shrieked across the pasture, made a moaning by the house corners, and now and then flung scattering showers of fine ice-like snow. Mid morning found Delph watching Juber in the garden, as he gathered a bushel basket of frozen seven top turnip greens. Downstairs, Fronie rocked the baby and declared that Juber was either addled or head over heels in love with the postmistress, to go picking and carrying greens in all this weather.

    Delph waited, and when Juber had...

  11. 8
    (pp. 109-118)

    THE WEST wind shifted more south than north, so that by morning there was damp heavy snow, and by noon time rain. The rain continued, a warm rain that made Dorie’s fields of rye green as April, and in the damp air the tobacco was soft and springy to the touch, fine for stripping. Marsh stood hour after hour, stripping and grading with Perce Higginbottom, a red-faced, leather-necked giant of a farmer from Cedar Stump over the Cumberland. Sometimes Dorie or Katy came to help; now and then Delph stood around and watched, for she knew nothing of tobacco and...

  12. 9
    (pp. 119-133)

    DORIE REFLECTIVELY scratched her head with a knitting needle, and stared at her stockinged feet propped on a stick of wood in the bake oven, while she considered the problem at hand. She turned and looked over her shoulder at Katy who sat by the kitchen table. “I don’t think you’d better write up th’ weddin’,” she said. “Delph’s Uncle John might get hold a th’ paper. How’d he like it, me same as braggin’ through th’ paper I’d helped in Delph’s runaway?”

    Katy gave the answer she gave to all opinions of her mother with which she disagreed, a...

  13. 10
    (pp. 134-143)

    MARSH DID not cry as Katy cried, or turn to stone like Delph; he cursed sometimes; cursed Dorie’s mules with clenched teeth in low toned oil man’s curses. The mules flipped their ears and rolled their eyes, but never tried to run away from him as they sometimes did with Angus. One day not long after Poke Easy’s return to the university, Angus watched Marsh as he brought the mules in from watering and said, half enviously, “You’re a natural born hand with stock.”

    Marsh pushed his hat back and stared hard at nothing. “Looks like stock’s about all I...

  14. 11
    (pp. 144-152)

    ONE AFTERNOON in mid January Katy slipped away from school at afternoon recess, and ran to the bottom of Depot Street in Burdine. There, she saw and flagged a strange truck, but one with a Fincastle County license that would most likely go by Fairchild Place. “It’s Friday,” she shrieked above the screeching brakes to the startled driver, “an’ I want to hurry home an’ read th’Westover Bugle.”

    When she was settled and the truck was groaning down and around the steep hairpin curve above the post office, she smiled at the driver, a lanky, black-haired Scotch-Irish hill man,...

  15. 12
    (pp. 153-164)

    IT WAS Sunday again, afternoon, and Marsh rowed Delph over the Cumberland to their new home, ready now. Delph had been gay and full of talk as they ran down the river hill, with her eyes laughing like the eyes of a woman going to a dance, but now in the boat she was silent with Caesar in her lap and her arms about her drawn up knees. Marsh looked at her, and wished as he had wished many times for a smooth quick tongue not given to halting and stumbling, to be able to tell her that this was...

  16. 13
    (pp. 165-179)

    DURING THE wildest days of February when snow whirled on sharp biting winds, Marsh’s blue jumper could be seen moving over the barren upland fields, bowed many times under great burdens; stones or loads of cedar brush, or the grass sacks filled with earth that he carried and threw into the yawning red clay gulches to hold the land. Seasoned farmers marveled at the work he did; no man in the country had ever taken the time and trouble to build a great lime kiln such as he built in order to have quick-lime for white wash and sprays.


  17. 14
    (pp. 180-193)

    THE ROBIN’S eggs hatched and grew into birds that lived and learned to fly. Marsh saw them at their lessons a time or so, and then forgot them as he forgot many things in the hard press of work that came with summer.

    Delph did the milking and barnwork now, went about in the foggy, dewy mornings with her dress tucked above her knees, slopping the hogs, feeding and counting her chickens, milking and driving the cows up to the hill pasture for the day. Finished with the morning outside chores, she did her housework, washed dishes, churned, carried buckets...

  18. 15
    (pp. 194-204)

    MARSH AWOKE to the misty in-between-time of neither night nor day. He lay a moment and heard fog drip from the eaves, and felt the morning air, cool through the window, and heavy with the smell of plowed earth. He remembered, and lifted suddenly on one elbow and looked at Delph’s pillow. It was smooth and neat with a curiously empty look in the gray light.

    He got up and dressed quickly, and carrying his shoes in his hand went to the kitchen. The clock ticked loudly there, and the house seemed dead and empty, like the shanties he had...

  19. 16
    (pp. 205-219)

    MARSH WIPED his face and neck with a soggy blue bandanna, and once more turned from his work of gathering melons to look at the southwest where the sky no longer lay white and shimmering, but was gray and cool to the eyes. He thought it had darkened a little in the last hour, but still it was nothing against all that dry white blue.

    He heaved a watermelon to his shoulder, cradled another in his other arm and started to the wagon, sinking ankle deep in the dry sandy soil. He watched his sinking feet, felt the hot dry...

  20. 17
    (pp. 220-241)

    IT WAS four o’clock on a black January morning, intensely cold and still. Marsh crunched over the frozen path to the barnyard, and wished as he had wished many times through the winter that he had not told Roan he would trap with him on the Big Rockcastle. The barn door latch stuck to his fingers, tighter than on other mornings. He looked overhead and the stars were bright as midnight, for dawn was yet a long while away. He heard ice creak in the river, and was still a moment with listening. There was something foreboding in such hard...

  21. 18
    (pp. 242-259)

    NEXT MORNING it was raining again, a slow cold drizzle that sheathed the fence wires in ice, and beaded the twigs of the trees. Marsh as he walked across his upland pastures from Higginbottom’s where he had spent the bit of night that was left after coming away from Delph, felt rather than saw the icy rain. Though it was long past his usual breakfast time, the murky dawn seemed more the ending of night than a beginning of day.

    He walked slowly with his legs feeling curiously light, and his head, too; and his eyes felt strange as if...

  22. 19
    (pp. 260-274)

    MARCH CAME with mighty trumpeting winds, a great blowsy, strong-armed woman who scoured the earth with rain and wind and sun. The sycamore limbs grew gray again, and on the hill pasture the grass and unfolding clover leaves were green and lush and tender. Clouds raced all day long in a high blue windy sky, and at night the wind sang and whistled through the little cedar trees on the river hill.

    Marsh, batching now at home, would listen to the wind and smile, think of Delph, able to be up and about, and of Burr-Head, getting bigger and so...

  23. 20
    (pp. 275-291)

    THE DAYS passed and the lug leaves of the tobacco showed signs of ripening and the flyings gleamed yellow white above the field. Marsh’s corn was laid by, the hay crop in, and except for the tobacco the hardest part of his summer’s work was done; and from the look of things his work would not be wasted.

    He felt free and light hearted in spite of having a wife who seemed more housekeeper than wife. He wished as he had wished many times that he had someone to share his gaiety. Dorie loved him like a son, Lizzie Higginbottom...

  24. 21
    (pp. 292-311)

    THE WINTER that year was cold and snowy with a skim of ice on the river and frost on the window panes, a time of long gray twilights and slow dawns. Marsh was busy as always, cutting firewood, mending fence, getting out stone and building an enormous cellar for Delph, and tending his mules and hogs and cattle. Prices had continued low; it was cheaper to keep a hog and feed it corn than try to sell either the hog or the corn. When men asked him how he was making out, his answer was apt to be the same...

  25. 22
    (pp. 312-330)

    SOMETIMES AT Lewis’s store or on the courthouse steps or in the little saloon at the end of Maple Street just around the corner from the Baptist Church, men would pay Marsh Gregory the highest compliment they ever paid to a stranger; one they never gave to Mr. Elliot or the strange preachers and teachers and doctors they now and then had. In addition to agreeing that he was tough as a hickory switch in the spring, they also said sometimes that somewhere behind him there was good blood, and that some of his generations must have been a fine...

  26. 23
    (pp. 331-346)

    THE MEMORY of Christmas Eve at school and the song he sang was for a time sharp in Burr-Head’s mind, painted in clear bright colors like the pictures of God and Moses on the cards he received at Salem Sunday School. Then the picture was gone, crowded out and smothered away by the myriad events of his life on the farm. It seemed sometimes that he stood on a high hill, high as the knoll in the pasture by Solomon’s pen, and from that hill he could look back and see his babyhood days. Many times when Delph spoke to...

  27. 24
    (pp. 347-362)

    MARSH LEANED on a briar hook and struggled with his foolish mind. He liked clean fence rows, but a wild rose in June was a pretty thing and smelled almost as good as fresh red clover hay. Still, he frowned at the wild rose, flaunting its pale pink petals against the gray limestone of the wide rock fence.

    He remembered last spring. He had cleared his fence rows on a showery day in June, and then as now the troublesome wild rose had taken a good ten minutes of his time. He had decided to wait until the thing stopped...

  28. 25
    (pp. 363-377)

    “THE CORN is laid by. The winter wheat is cut. The trees in our orchards promise heaviest yield in years. Cedar Stump School opened last week with Ezrie Cutler back as teacher. Canning and pickling are the order of the day.”

    Delph sat by the kitchen table, and wrote among the jars of cooling jam and little pickled gherkins. She looked at the prickly gherkins, and thought that in winter Marsh liked nothing so well as a plate of beans and cornbread with pickled gherkins. She felt something sliding by her nose, and heedless of whether it be sweat or...

  29. 26
    (pp. 378-397)

    SOMETIMES WHEN Marsh lay in a seeming stupor, Delph would be conscious of his searching eyes as she went away. Often, when the nurse was resting and Dorie or Emma tended him, she would bring him a young ear of corn or a bough of half ripened apples or a cluster of tobacco flowers. She never attempted to talk with him, but tried to show him in that wordless way how things were doing. He would look at the thing she brought, smile faintly with his eyes, but say no word and never try to lift his hand for reaching....

  30. 27
    (pp. 398-409)

    THE FALL that year was a farmer’s fall. October brought high-skied, windless days when the valley lay filled with yellow dusty light that seemed less air and sunshine than some special manifestation of that particular fall. For Marsh each day was something more than hours of a life, but was like a stay in some well earned paradise where his life and all the life on his land was fine, beyond his dreams. He had never known a vacation, a time when he was neither working nor looking for work, but since Dr. Andy and all the neighbors as well...

  31. 28
    (pp. 410-426)

    BURR-HEAD awakened him, bright eyed and eager for the trip to Hawthorne Town. Marsh quieted him with a sh-sh-sh-ing for he knew that Delph would never awaken so early; the morning was still more black than blue. But Burr-Head bounced and jiggled on the bed, until Marsh got up and tiptoed shoeless to the kitchen and built a fire.

    He dressed Burr-Head, and though it was hardly light enough for walking, he and the child went to the barn to feed the mules and wait until Delph should waken. They stood in the barn hall and listened to the crunching...

  32. Back Matter
    (pp. 427-427)