Rob wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of thunder and rain outside.
He hears voices from downstairs: the voice of his mother and his Aunt Carrie, and another woman's voice.
Getting out of bed and going to the top of the stairs to see what's going on, Rob recognizes the woman as Mrs. Hillman, from up the road.
She is telling Rob's mother that "Sebring" is gone, that she heard him leaving in the middle of the night, and that he had a shovel with him, to "rile her grave" (8.5).
She also mentions a Letty Phelps, who is some relation to Papa.
Apparently Letty worked for Mr. and Mrs. Hillman years ago, and she and Mr. Hillman had a little rendezvous in the barn… hmmm, sounds romantic, doesn't it? "
And then the trouble," Mrs. Hillman says, "the borning and the dying" (8.7).
Rob is on his way back to bed when he hears Papa call him from downstairs, telling him to hitch up the ox to the wagon.
Oooh, what's happening?Rob gets dressed and runs outside. He's a little nervous, trying to figure out what's going on, but he manages to get Solomon hitched to the wagon.
Papa comes out, carrying a shotgun and a lantern. He puts Rob into the wagon and they head off into the night.
Papa tells Rob that they're heading to the churchyard; he says they're going to keep Mr. Hillman from digging up a grave.
When they get to the graveyard, they can hear the sound of a shovel hitting wood.
Getting out of the wagon, they find Sebring Hillman hard at work in a grave.
Papa tells him they've come to take him home.
Hillman notices Papa's rifle, but Papa tells him it's "for varmits […] not for neighbors" (8.32).
Hillman tells Papa that he's not planning to disturb Letty's coffin, and Papa helps him locate a smaller coffin that's in the same grave.
Hillman holds the little coffin tightly, saying he claims the little child inside it as his own. He reveals that Letty drowned the child, then hung herself, and at the time, he never admitted that he was the child's father.
In case you missed it, this is all a little scandalous.Rob, Papa, and Mr. Hillman get back into the wagon and go back to Rob's house, where Mama gives the men coffee and dries Rob off with a flour sack.
Mr. Hillman and his wife head home in their wagon, taking the baby's coffin with them.