Chapter 1 Summary
During the 1930s, at the height of the Great Depression in America, George Pemberton returns to Western North Carolina after spending three months in Boston settling his father’s estate. Pemberton steps off the train at the town of Waynesville, where he is met by a young pregnant woman, Rachel Harmon, and her father Abe, who hides a Bowie knife beneath his shabby coat. Also waiting for Pemberton are Wilkie and Buchanan, his two partners in a logging business, the Boston Lumber Company.
Pemberton is not traveling alone. While in Boston he met and became engaged to a woman from Colorado named Serena, who has accompanied him back to North Carolina. Pemberton introduces his new wife to his business partners, who are impressed by her height, beauty, practical clothing, and the fact that she offers to shake their hand. Although Serena has come to live at the lumber camp, neither Buchanan’s wife nor Wilkie’s has made more than a single visit to the area.
Pemberton asks his partners about the state of the camp. Buchanan replies that there have been few problems aside from talk of a mountain lion. He says that although the big cats are hardly common in the areas, locals claim that a single, jet-black lion still roams the countryside. Unafraid of the talk, Serena comments that the panther would make excellent prey for her husband’s hunting.
Abe Harmon approaches the party and says that he has business with Pemberton. Serena calmly tells Abe that his daughter is lucky to be bearing Pemberton’s child but that she will receive no assistance from them. Furious, Abe comes at Pemberton with his knife. Harmon lunges with his knife, but Pemberton dodges the blow and plunges his own hunting knife into the old man’s chest. Harmon collapses and dies instantly.
Serena picks up the bowie knife and gives it to Rachel Harmon. She tells Rachel to sell the knife because it will be all she will ever receive from the...
(The entire section is 555 words.)