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After their marriage, Johnny and Katie accept a job in which they have to take care of a public school. They love the job and spend their nights at the school working and playing games. Katie is the responsible one, always making certain that everything is done correctly; then Katie discovers that she is pregnant. During her labor, Johnny feels so helpless and upset that he drinks the whole night through. While he is drinking, the water pipes in the school burst and flood the basement. Johnny is fired from his job because of his negligence towards his responsibilities.
After a long and painful delivery, Katie finally gives birth to a daughter. She is upset that her husband is not with her. When Johnny finally shows up in the morning, she is unable to stay angry at him for long, for she is too excited about her daughter, whom they name Francie. Johnny does not tell his wife that he has been fired from his job.
Katie's mother comes to see her daughter and new granddaughter. During her visit, she shares her philosophies with Katie. Mary makes Katie promise that her children will be taught to read and write. Additionally, she encourages Katie to develop her children's imaginations. Finally, she tells her daughter the importance of owning land. In order to save money to buy property, she suggests that Katie install a tin bank on the wall; then she tells her that she must put some money in the bank everyday, without fail. Katie never forgets these lessons.
Sissy comes to stay and look after the baby. She promises to buy a Bible and book of Shakespeare's works as a Christening present for Francie. In reality, she takes the Shakespearean book from a library and the Bible from an old run down hotel, where she was spending the night with her current lover.
The beginning of Katie and Johnny's married life is idyllic in its simplicity. They find happiness and contentment in each other's company and in their work at the school. Katie's unexpected pregnancy is, however, upsetting to Johnny, for he has become fully dependent on his responsible wife. When she goes into labor, he feels totally helpless and drowns himself in drink. During the night, the pipes at the school burst and flood the basement. Johnny is fired for being negligent; he is so ashamed that he cannot at first tell Katie about it. There will be many more times he shows a lack of responsibility during his marriage.
Although Katie is three years younger than Johnny, she is much stronger and more mature. She is the one who handles the responsibility, while Johnny fumbles through every task, looking to his wife for support. Fortunately, Katie has the strong backing of her family. When Francie is born, her mother and sister come to help. Even though she is simple and uneducated, Mary gives her daughter good advice about raising her children; she also insists that Katie save some money everyday in order to eventually buy some land. Sissy is responsible for starting Francie's library, giving her a Bible and a book of Shakespearean works. It is obvious that Sissy deeply loves children; she pours out her love on Katie's baby daughter even though she is sad over not having any children of her own.
After Johnny loses his job at the school, he is too weak to immediately tell his wife what has happened. He also does not have the inner strength to search for another steady job; instead, he works part-time as a waiter and a singer.