• The book opens with Cosimo and his family sitting down to the last meal Cosimo will eat on the ground for the rest of his life.
• The meal to which they are sitting is made of snails that the boys try to lure out of a barrel by means of a trail of honey and grass.
• It is Cosimo who refuses to eat, while Biagio eats filled with guilt, for taking part in the digestion of perfectly nice snails.
• Cosimo's refusal to eat inspires his father, determined to raise his eldest son to be worthy of the title of Baron, to demand he leave the table.
• Cosimo marches from the table, still dressed in his formal dinner coat, boots, wig and rapier, to the holm oak in the back yard.
• The second chapter finds Cosimo still in the holm oak the morning following that fateful evening...
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