In Mason City, Ginny, Ty, Rose, and Pete meet with their new lawyer, Jean Cartier. Ginny thinks of Mr. Cartier as a skilled attorney—next to him, Ken La Salle is incompetent. Rose tells Cartier about Larry’s drunk driving. Cartier tells the family that the best way to win the lawsuit is to be “perfect.” Larry can only reclaim his property if his daughters mismanage the farm—so as long as they do a good job, Larry won’t have any basis for suing.
It’s appropriate that Ginny and Rose have to go out of the community to find a suitable lawyer, as everybody else in their hometown hates them. Cartier intuitively understands the importance of perception: they have to keep up appearances in order to prove that they’ve honored their agreement with Larry.
Back on the farm, Ginny takes Cartier’s advice to heart. She tries her best to make a good appearance. The weeks pass quickly: Ginny is so devoted to the upkeep of her land and home that she barely notices the days going by. However, in August, Pete has an argument with Harold. He yells at Harold and points a gun at him. Then, he drives away, very drunk, and ends up driving his truck into the nearby Columbus quarry. There, Pete drowns. Nobody knows whether it was an accident or a suicide.
Ginny already has a lot of practice with keeping up appearances: she knows how to hide her true feelings and put on a happy face. And yet Smiley implies that Ginny can’t keep up the charade much longer: sooner or later, her inner turmoil will burst out. Pete’s argument with Harold (which, at this point in the novel, we don’t understand at all) and ensuing death represent the “gathering storm.”