In 1986, Bob writes about his great-grandfather, Oscar Hopkins. Bob reveals his mother’s complacent sense of propriety over Hopkins, her grandfather.
In 1856, Theophilus Hopkins, a preacher for the Plymouth Brethren, does not acknowledge the festive trappings of Christmas. He is furious when a servant makes a Christmas pudding for his fifteen-year-old son Oscar to taste. Although Theophilus tells Oscar the pudding is from Satan, Oscar knows his father is wrong because the dessert is delicious. Angry because his father strikes him, Oscar calls on God to test his father’s belief. When God seems to reply, Oscar devises other ways of reading the signs of the Lord. Eventually, he sorrowfully reads the signs as directing him to become the protege of the impoverished Anglican minister Hugh Stratton.
Later, Stratton sends Oscar to Oriel College, Oxford University, to read for the Anglican ministry. At Oxford, Ian Wardley-Fish befriends Oscar and introduces him to the racetrack and gambling. Oscar wins his first bet and devises an elaborate betting system, sending some money to the Strattons, keeping a meagre amount for himself, and donating the rest to the Church.
In New South Wales, Australia, on her ninth birthday, Lucinda Leplastrier takes her new doll to the creek. She plucks the gold hair from the doll and replaces it with black horsehair, imagining the doll as a native of unmapped land, much to the anger and angst of her parents, Abel and Elizabeth.
Lucinda’s father is killed by a horse in 1852, and Lucinda’s mother dies when Lucinda is seventeen. At eighteen, she comes into her considerable inheritance. She is forced to leave the subdivided farm for the city, determined to experience the working world. As a child, Lucinda experienced the wonder of the explosion of a glass ornament called a Prince Rupert’s Drop. She is now drawn to the glassworks for sale at Darling Harbour.
In 1859, in order to purchase the glassworks, Lucinda seeks assistance from Dennis Hasset, a vicar with a fascination with glass, and Jimmy d’Abbs, an accountant. Hasset instructs her in the properties of glass; d’Abbs handles the finances. Though Hasset and Lucinda are not lovers, people begin to talk about them, as well as about Lucinda’s frequent visits to d’Abbs’s house to gamble.
In England, Oscar becomes a school teacher at a Notting Hill boys’ school. He sees betting as a vile monster that...
(The entire section is 1003 words.)