As if the ever-present threat of German bombing and invasion weren’t enough, several women of Great Paxford are suddenly thrust into situations more immediately dangerous to their lives or livelihoods as summer nears its end.
Already short-handed on the farm with Stan back in the army, Steph suffers a further loss when her laborers abscond in the night, presumably to another farmer who can pay more. Faced with eviction if the government deems the farm inefficient, and left with just herself, Stan, Jr., and the blind Isabel to harvest an entire field of corn, Steph compounds her dilemma when she cruelly dismisses Isabel because she can’t maintain an impossible pace.
Alone in the field as Stan escorts Isabel home, Steph collapses from exhaustion and dehydration. Miriam discovers the prostrate farmer when she comes to see why Steph is late in delivering eggs to the butcher shop, and she and Stan carry her into the house. Dr. Campbell prescribes a long rest, a recommendation that Steph is too weak to resist.
Until she found Steph, Miriam had been in a buoyant mood. She and Bryn had received an unfamiliar visitor earlier in the day bearing news about David. The woman had come to offer condolences and also thanks, for David had bravely saved her son and four other men from their sinking ship, although they all mistakenly believed David himself to have perished in doing so.
In spite of his selfless courage, David shrinks from being labelled a hero. When he complains to Laura about the attention, she advises him to take pride in himself and accept the praise graciously. He offers his own counsel in return: Tom’s feelings for Laura stretch beyond mere friendship. Her eyes opened to Tom’s affection, Laura later seizes an opportunity and kisses him.
Another new relationship has been steadily progressing, as Teresa and Nick spend more and more time together. He walks her to work every day and soon advances things even further. He requests an audience with Teresa at the late hour of 10:00 at night, then proposes. With the impending cloud of war encouraging rushed timelines and rash decisions, Teresa says yes.
Pat is less fortunate in her budding affair, and even unhappier in her marriage. First, Bob receives a large advance for his book, leading him to ban Pat from working at the exchange – they don’t need the money anymore. The success emboldens him in his dominance of Pat, while his continuing recovery allows him more control over her as he becomes more mobile and self-sufficient.
Pat’s relationship with Marek is then dealt a worse blow when news arrives that the Czechs will be redeploying soon. Marek gives a tearful Pat a necklace of St. Vitus, the patron saint of his home, and she vows to continue loving him in his absence.
The war also separates Joyce from a loved one. Her estranged son has come to visit her in an attempt to salvage their relationship, which soured when she remarried and he immigrated to Canada. But he now has a five month-old daughter and is off to battle – both strong impetuses for renewing his bond with his mother. The two reconcile, then join the rest of the town, led by Sarah and Claire, as they band together to harvest Steph’s field while she rests. When Steph wakes from a long sleep, she finds all of the corn picked and threshed – the farm is saved.
Yet in rescuing Steph, Sarah nearly loses her life. As she leaves her vigil over the sleeping farmer, she hears a noise in the henhouse. Venturing into the shadowy outbuilding, she is greeted by the nose of a gun. At the other end of the pistol is a bedraggled man in a rumpled military uniform, grasping in his other hand some stolen eggs.
Sarah carefully introduces herself and the man asks her to bring him to the vicarage. After she offers him the kindness of a warm meal, he relaxes a little and explains that he is a deserter. He can no longer live with the constant fear that he will die on the next mission.
Alison has also been living in constant fear – that the problems with paratrooper training exercises will be found to originate in the Barden factory and its dealings with the shady Lyons brothers. Troubling implications aside, Frances may be saved from any consequences, as she is considering a sale of the factory in order to rid herself of any connection to Noah, her husband’s illegitimate child. (She is entirely innocent of the possible wrongdoing in her factory, anyway.)
Her desire to forget Noah is made impossible when the boy’s home in Liverpool is bombed and Sarah convinces Frances to house him until a new residence is found. Alison’s own hopes – that there is no fishy business at the factory – are stifled when she spies the Lyons threatening and bribing the foreman. Finally convinced she must inform Frances, she arrives too late. The government is investigating the business, and the factory is shut down.