(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mr. and Mrs. Owen enjoy a simple life, close to the land, in the fertile Jarvis valley, hidden by hills from the village of Llareggub. They live in a one-story house built in the green fields, and there they maintain a garden and some cows.

As the story opens, Mr. Owen is working in his garden, pulling up weeds, while his wife observes in the tea leaves of her cup a dark stranger. She then peers into her crystal ball and sees a man with a black hat walking into Jarvis valley. She calls out to her husband to inform him of her discovery. Mr. Owen simply smiles and continues with his weeding.

The Reverend Mr. Davies, the doddering rector of Llareggub, meanwhile loses his way among the hills outside his village. Whenever he tries to hide from the strong wind, he becomes frightened by the darkness of the dense foliage and hills. He finally reaches the rim of a hill and sees the Owens’s little house and garden in the valley below: “To Mr. Davies it seemed as though the house had been carried out of a village by a large bird and placed in the very middle of the tumultuous universe.”

Mr. Owen, meanwhile, smiles at his wife’s faith in the powers of darkness and returns to his work. Cutting earthworms in half to help them spread their life over the garden, he says, “Multiply, multiply.” Throughout the story, Mr. Owen is consistently related to the earth, weeds, worms, and other fundamental elements of nature and fertility.


(The entire section is 577 words.)