The Earth Falls to the Apple.


Ursula’s mother ordered a live peacock from the city. So dear a price was paid for its transport that she almost wept when the bird arrived, limp and hardly breathing. She watched as cook killed it, baked it, and used a fine brush to paint in the faded color on its rattier feathers before sticking them back into its body. The result looked lavish, if a little lopsided. Ursula’s mother let out her breath. She placed it in the center of the table, where it got cold and tatty because she wouldn’t let anyone carve it. The table was heaped with other fine and costly foods. There was mutton in aspic and all manner of savory pastries, and pheasant soaked in almond milk, and cheese baked with pears. Everything that could be candied had been candied. Late-winter flowers were strewn on every flat surface of the hall. Garlands twisted around the ceiling beams, trailed down the columns at either side of the table. A group of musicians played a volta, while young girls scattered petals at the feet of the entering guests.