A small boy growing up in a factory town in England enjoys hearing his father describe what the place was like before it became industrialized. The boy is fascinated to learn that most of the older houses were once covered by grapevines, on which small, dark grapes grew. That his father, when he was eight, worked in a grapevine-covered farmhouse half the day while going to school only part-time is especially appealing. The boy imagines such a life as ideal, but his father reveals that he hated working there, although he will not explain why. The romantic aspects of such a life, however, obscure any possible deficiencies for the boy: “How marvellous it must have been . . . to have stables and a pigeon-cote in the yard instead of only a water-barrel and a slat fence where people beat their mats. What days they must have been—he simply couldn’t believe his father hadn’t liked them.”
The boy waits eagerly for three months before he can go to the farmhouse to see and taste the ripened grapes. When he arrives, an old woman with “a long face like a parsnip that had a few suspended hairy roots hanging from the chin” grabs him and accuses him of coming to steal apples. When he says he is after grapes, she denies ever having any and threatens to have him arrested. The boy breaks away and runs home. He never tells his father about going to the farmhouse or asks him again why he had been unhappy working there. He continues, however, to believe in the story of the grapevine.