Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

Anna Frith used to love fall—the wood stacked near the door, the bales of hay gathered in the yard, the rumble of apples in the cellar bins. But this year, the wood and hay are scant, and the apples are marred with brown spots. A cart of apples has arrived at the rectory, and Anna slices one of the few good ones to take to the rector, who sits as he always does in his dim room. Three years before, the villagers had joked at how young the rector was, but now his face has grown haggard. Anna asks if he would like her to read to him, assuring him that his late wife Mrs. Mompellion taught her the skill. But the rector winces at the sound of his wife’s name, and tells Anna that he does not wish her to read today.

Anna leaves the rector and takes a few spotted apples out to his horse, Anteros. The stable is not very clean, and the great horse has not been much exercised since there is no one besides the rector who is either strong or skilled enough to handle him. Anteros takes the first apple, and when Anna reaches for a second, Anteros lifts his head and sprays apple juice while boxing the air. Anna goes back into the house, and she can hear the rector in his room above, pacing the floor. She retrieves his plate from outside the door—none of his food has been touched. She plans the next day to press all the apples for she cannot see anything go to waste. Besides, she can no longer stand the smell of rotting apples.

On the way home to her cottage, Anna often walks through the orchard, for there she imagines that she hears the voices of children and she can think of Sam Frith. He had asked her to marry him when she was just fifteen, and there was no reason to say no. Her father was a drunkard and her stepmother regarded her only as a pair of hands to do work about the house. Sam was a miner who owned his own mine and cottage. He had no children from his first wife, who had already passed away, and Anna quickly became pregnant and birthed two sons. She spent three...

(The entire section is 812 words.)