In the public archives, the photographs from 1915 appear muddied, and everyone in them looks lost and serious. Despite people’s somber attitudes toward Word War I, there was a lighthearted social climate during this time. Robert appears in a photo of a parade in honor of departing soldiers. At this time, eighteen-year-old Robert was old enough go to war but was vaguely skeptical of doing so. Findley then describes the image of Robert on the black mare from the prologue intruding into the frame of this photograph (and into the reader’s mind), his uniform on fire as he rides toward the camera.
In the spring of 1915, Canada had been involved in World War I for less than a year, and people on the home front were still trying to uphold a sense of normalcy in their everyday lives. The surreal, disturbing image of Robert intruding into this otherwise peaceful memory on an ominous black horse shows the futility of trying to ignore (or forget) the gruesome reality of the war.
The narration shifts to a series of the Ross’s family photos. The snapshots feature Robert, his parents Thomas and Mrs. Ross, and his siblings Peggy, Stuart, and Rowena. The Rosses were a wealthy family who upheld a charitable public image and excluded Rowena (who was wheelchair-bound with hydrocephalus) from most photographs. She is featured in one photo, holding a white rabbit in her lap. Robert, who was a popular athlete and scholar, loved his sister and saw himself as her “guardian.”
Robert’s protection of Rowena shows that he has always been motivated by a sense of duty and empathy. His wholesome, privileged upbringing before the war is entirely different to the infamous reputation he has in the present day, suggesting that his time at war caused him to undergo an extreme loss of innocence.
The narrative then switches to a transcript of a present-day interview with Marian Turner, a nurse from World War I who remembers treating Robert after he was arrested and hospitalized. She muses on how young and handsome Robert was, and alludes to the horrible circumstances of his death by fire and “the story of the horses.” She warns the interviewer to be careful in searching out Robert’s story, warning that it is ordinary people (rather than extraordinary figures) who made twentieth-century society “monstrous, complacent, and mad.”
Robert’s actions after the scene in the prologue continue to be alluded to, but not explained. Miss Turner does not blame Robert for whatever led him to be arrested and hospitalized. Instead, she blames society for going to war in the first place; were it not for the collective actions of ordinary people, Robert would not have been put in the position to commit extraordinary acts.