1916. The book begins: The knocking at the side door and the thumping overhead blended in a travesty on the anvil chorus, the staccato tapping of somebody's knuckles rising flute-like above the hammering of Joel's cane. To some temperaments the double summons would have proved confusing, but Persis Dale dropped her sewing and moved briskly to the door, addressing the ceiling as she went. Twon't hurt you to wait. The stout woman on the steps entered heavily and fell into a chair that creaked an inarticulate protest. Persis' quick ear caught the signal of distress.