The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky


Stephen Crane

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The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky Summary

A train heads west from San Antonio across the Texas plains to the small frontier town of Yellow Sky. Traveling in one of the train’s Pullman passenger cars is Jack Potter, the marshal of Yellow Sky, along with his bride, whom he recently married in San Antonio. Both Potter and the bride are happy but nervous about their new status as a married couple. The bride is wearing a cashmere and velvet dress, and she worries that such pretty clothing is unbecoming of a rather common woman who is used to domestic duties such as cooking. Potter is also uncomfortable in his new black clothes, which contrast sharply with his weathered hands and modest status as a small-town lawman.

Despite the couple’s anxieties, they enjoy traveling in the luxurious Pullman passenger car, and Potter in particular calls attention to the car’s velvet, silver, glass, and burnished wood fittings. He also marvels at the train’s ability to traverse across the vast Texas expanse in such a short amount of time. The train so enraptures Potter and the bride that they do not know that the black porter who is attending to them is mocking their provincial behavior as they gawk at their surroundings. Even as they enjoy the train ride, Potter worries that the townspeople in Yellow Sky might take offense to his decision to get married in San Antonio without first informing them about his plans. He is therefore eager to arrive in Yellow Sky quietly and without any welcoming fanfare, so that he and his bride can slip unnoticed to their new home and reveal their marriage later.

Meanwhile, at Yellow Sky’s Weary Gentleman saloon, three Texans—a drummer and two Mexican sheepherders—sit at the bar. The barkeeper tends to the patrons while the rest of the town rests quietly as evening sets in. The drummer regales the other patrons with stories until he is interrupted by a young man who enters the saloon to exclaim that Scratchy Wilson—the town desperado and the last remaining member of the local outlaw gang—is drunkenly prowling the streets with two loaded guns. Upon hearing this news, the bar patrons grow silent and fearful, and the barkeeper swiftly bars the saloon’s door and windows. The drummer asks who Scratchy Wilson is and why he inspires such fear. The patrons explain that Scratchy might shoot someone, and the only man who can stop him is Marshal Jack Potter, Wilson’s long-time nemesis, who is away in San Antonio. The barkeeper tells the drummer that although Wilson is perfectly pleasant when sober, when drunk he poses a mortal threat to anyone who crosses his path because he is a “perfect wonder” with a gun.

As the men hole up in the barricaded saloon, Scratchy Wilson walks down Yellow Sky’s main street. He wears a maroon flannel shirt and decorated boots, all made in New York. Fueled by too much whiskey, Wilson whoops and hollers into the night while brandishing his two revolvers, but the sleepy town responds to his belligerence with silence. He bangs on the Weary Gentleman’s door and demands more drink, but he is unable to break in. Furious, Wilson decides that only his old nemesis, Jack Potter, will give him the fight he craves, so he heads to Potter’s house.

When Wilson arrives at Potter’s house, he is dismayed to find that his rival is not home. As Wilson hollers drunkenly, the marshal and his new bride walk towards Potter’s house. When they arrive, they are surprised to find Scratchy Wilson waiting there. Wilson accuses Potter of trying to sneak up on him. He draws his guns on Potter and demands a shootout, but Potter tells the outlaw that he is unarmed. Wilson refuses to believe that Potter is unarmed, but Potter tells the outlaw that if he wants a shootout, he will have to shoot first. Still flustered, Wilson asks Potter why he is not carrying a gun. Potter informs Wilson that he is unarmed because he just returned from San Antonio with his new bride. When he introduces Wilson to the bride, Wilson is dumbfounded. Unable to process the fact that his long-time nemesis is now married, a deflated Wilson puts his revolvers back into their holsters and slinks away, his boots leaving funnel-shaped prints in the soft sand.