A quiet tragedy in an English village 100 years ago, told from the points of view of six young girls. Ary, youngest daughter of an invalid mother and a laborer, is quick, bright, and full of life: at 11, she has taught a deaf boy, believed to be ""daft,"" to read. A young curate and his sister hope to save Ary from going into ""service"" by helping her become a teacher, but the rigid class system, the prejudices of the vicar's wife, and Ary's jealous older sister together conspire to thwart not only Ary's promise but her very life. This prequel to A Summer Ghost (1987) vividly evokes the daily life and the constraints imposed on young people in Britain in the 1880's: a young governess whose wealthy father recently went bankrupt (more realistically presented than in popular romances); a student teacher; Ary's sister, condemned to life as a drudge. Stroke by careful stroke, the picture is painted against a ground of the changing seasons with their attendant flowers, a reminder of how close to the earth these people were. An unusual love story to reward readers attracted by the lovely rural springtime scene on its jacket.