the man, cajole the wheat from him at a scalper’s price, loadnit on the sleds, and beat the next blizzard home by seconds,nthus saving De Smet, if not from actual starvation, at leastnfrom severe privation. The book ends in May as the Ingallsnopen the Christmas barrel that has just arrived on the train,nand with a lovely and moving paean to spring.nThe last two volumes—Little Town on the Prairie andnThese Happy Golden Years — are social books, whosenthemes (apart from her courting by Almanzo) are Laura’snaccommodation to town life, which she learns to enjoy andnappreciate, and her acceptance of the duty to become anschoolteacher in order to earn the money needed to sendnMary to the college for the blind in Vinton, Iowa. (That hernown sacrifice is related to Pa’s is understood by Laura: “Henmust stay in a settled country for the sake of them all, just asnshe must teach school . . . though she did so hate to be shutninto a schoolroom.”) It may be that in Mrs. Wilder’snaccount of the social activities in a small frontier town innAmerica in the late 19th century, even more than in hernmoving and brilliantly evocative description of the relativelynunspoiled nature surrounding it, a sense of loss showsnthrough. In the De Smet of the 1880’s, people did not sitnaround at home watching Little House on the Prairie. Theynheld sociables, founded a literary society that gathered at thenschoolhouse on Friday nights for spelling bees and othernsuch entertainments, attended religious revivals (the Congregationalnminister in De Smet was a cousin of John Brownnof Ossawatomie), had New England suppers, put on theirnown minstrel shows in blackface, kept up with Easternnfashions by trading name cards and writing in each other’snautograph albums, went for cutter rides in winter and buggynones in summer. Of course, they also paid some attention tonthe opposite sex.nMrs. Wilder’s treatment of her husband’s pursuit is one ofnthe loveliest and most delicate of its kind in literature. Lauranwas 18 when she married Almanzo Wilder, and they hadnbeen going together for three years. He had made hernfather’s acquaintance almost immediately after the Ingalls’narrival at Silver Lake, and seems to have had his heart set onnthe second-eldest daughter from the beginning. Laura’s firstnsight of Almanzo was from the edge of the slough, when shenhad had eyes only for his horses. In town, she had seen himnon occasion (always admiring the handsome matched team),nbut without any apparent interest in their owner. WhennAlmanzo and Cap risked their lives to bring the seedwheat,nLaura had thought “all day” of them struggling across thensnow-drifted prairie. A year later, when Almanzo asks to seenher home after a revival meeting, she finds it “an odd thingnfor him to do, for he was a grown-up.” She is conscious,nthough, of the cigar odor in his coat, which appeals to her asnbeing “more dashing” than the comfortable smell of Pa’snpipe and reminds her of his daring trip with Cap Gariand.nWhen she is boarding miserably at her first school, a dozennmiles from De Smet and in circumstances that can only bendescribed as representing the “other frontier,” Almanzoncomes for her every Friday afternoon to drive her home, andnevery Sunday to return her to the school superintendent’snshanty. His stated reason for doing this is that his horses arenbetter suited to make the trip than Pa’s team; and Laura,nnagged by her conscience, finally tells him that, if he expectsn24/CHRONICLESnnnher to continue to ride with him after school is out, he oughtnto leave her at Brewster’s over the weekends.nBut the virtuoso chapters are those describing the finalnmonths of Almanzo’s courtship, when he drove out to thenIngalls’ claim every Sunday in a new buggy hitched to a pairnof green-broke horses. Laura is the only person in town,nman or woman, who will ride with him behind those horses,nand Almanzo allows’ her to take the reins herself. In thesenwonderful chapters, all the physical excitement of this mostndemure and restrained romance is expressed by the wildnpower of the half-tamed animals, rearing and plunging andnrunning away across the swelling prairie blooming withnmasses of wild roses. When Almanzo lays his arm casuallynalong the seat-back behind Laura’s shoulders, she leansnforward and rattles the whip-socket to startle the horses intona tearing run. Later, driving the single horse, “Laura’s armsntook the force of Barnum’s pull; his strength flowed up thenlines with the thrill she had felt before. Oh, Barnum! shenbegged silently; please don’t pull so hard, I want so much tondrive you.” That is the evening on which Barnum finallynwalks. It is also the night when Almanzo says quickly tonLaura, “‘I was wondering if you would like an engagementnring.'”nRemarkable among Mrs. Wilder’s many and considerablenliterary abilities is her competence in handling that notoriousnproblem known in the writing trade as “point-of-view.”nHere, the technique she employs is substantially that of thengreat fictionists of the Modernist school: the refusal tonprovide the reader with information or material that thencentral intelligence could not itself grasp as well as, morensubtly, think to take notice of or to mention. For this reason,na great deal of the background material that a reader wouldnordinarily expect to be provided with in a memoir or annautobiography — in particular one intended for children —nis left out by Mrs. Wilder. It would not, for instance, occurnto a child of four to tell the hovering bystander or listenernwhich side of the family Grandpa and Grandma and AuntnDocia and Aunt Ruby belong to, and so we are left to infernthe relationship from the text of Little House in the BignWoods. Similarly, in Little House on the Prairie, point-ofviewnprevents Mrs. Wilder from explaining what a “sadiron”nis or how it got its name, since the child Laura,nwatching her mother iron laundry in the middle of thengrassy wilderness, knows herself and doesn’t think tonexplain. And though we learn that “Ma had been verynfashionable before she married Pa,” we are left in ignorancenof her history and of Pa’s before they married and raised anfamily, even though these questions cry out to be answered.nMrs. Wilder isn’t telling, though, because she knows exactlynwhat she is doing, where to begin, and — always — where tonstop.nPoint-of-view in Mrs. Wilder’s case, because she isnwriting nonfiction rather than novels, is intimately connectednwith the role of the writer’s imagination, first innreconstructing her early life and then in presenting it to thenreader. Since it is impossible that she could have recollectednthe past, after a period of sixty years and more, as clearly,ncompletely, and evocatively as she wrote it, obviously shenmust have had recourse to a powerful imagination in ordernto compensate for the deficiencies of memory. In regard tonthis problem, the discrepancies between what she did writen