That autumn, Ántonia tells Jim that Peter is worried about the growing interest on his mortgage debt to his creditor, Wick Cutter. He manages to pay some of it, but then Pavel is badly injured while lifting timber.
Cutter's exploitation of immigrants Peter and Pavel mirrors Krajiek's exploitation of the Shimerdas.
Mr. Shimerda, Ántonia, and Jim stay at Pavel's bedside. Aware that he is dying, Pavel confesses to Ántonia, Jim, and Mr. Shimerda that when he and Peter were younger, they were groomsmen at a wedding in Russia. After the wedding, the wedding party left the bride's village in sledges and traveled through the snow to the groom's village. On the way the sledges were attacked by wolves. Terrified, Pavel pushed the groom and his bride off the sledge to lighten the load and escape the wolves. Peter and Pavel were chased from their village because of their shameful actions. Eventually they came to America, but bad luck followed them and they had to change jobs and move to different cities several times before they decided to try farming.
Pavel and Peter's difficulty making their way in America shows the hardships of the immigrant experience. Pavel's story also shows how the past can haunt you, despite every effort you make to create a new life. In other words, the past is something that you carry with you and can't escape, whether your memories are happy or terrible, or a mix of both.
Pavel dies soon after. Peter sells everything and takes a job as a cook in a railway construction camp far away from Black Hawk. Before he leaves, he eats all the melons he has grown on his farm. Ántonia and Jim vow never to disclose Peter and Pavel's secret. Mr. Shimerda is depressed without Peter.
Peter's eating of the melons represents the pride he has taken in his work. Eating the melons also served as a way to mourn Pavel, who is buried in the prairie. Keeping Pavel's secret shows his allegiance to Pavel, and to immigrants in general.