Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The narrative begins in mid-sentence in the reverie of Jaffa Codling, who walks in the English countryside and remarks on the beautiful light, which reminds him of a euphonic name. He enters his garden and sees three children playing, then goes into his house. Upstairs he hears his wife Mildred speaking affectionately to a man. When he looks into his room, he sees his wife caressing a man in a rocking chair. The artificial scene troubles Codling. Why is his wife kissing another man? Why does he himself feel so disembodied?
As the maid brings something to the couple in the room, Codling tries to communicate with her, but she stares through him. When Codling goes outside, the gardener walks through him. Gradually, he realizes that he is a spirit cut loose from his body. As a writer, he realizes he has often tried to plumb the depths of evil in his writing and has felt cut loose from his true self at these moments. Suddenly he feels happy and declares himself a new Adam in an old Eden.
At this moment his three children, Adam, Eve, and Gabriel, come into his view and pester the gardener with questions. Gabriel has a toy sword that the gardener thinks is dangerous as it can cut a lock of Eve’s hair. Codling grows more confused. He throws a flowerpot at the gardener that flies right through him and breaks on the ground. As Codling watches his children play, it becomes clear that the youngest child, Gabriel, can see Codling and the spirit of a fish, which the other children cannot see. After the children run off, Codling is left alone with his dreams until Mildred comes into the garden to call him to dinner. His odd manner frightens her.
He goes into the house and picks up a book with his name, “Gilbert Cannister,” in it. Suddenly Jaffa Codling and Gilbert Cannister are fused, soul and body. When Gilbert goes with Mildred to see his sleeping children, he is surprised to see only two, not three, and exclaims, “only two.” Mildred then confesses that she is pregnant. Gilbert now realizes that he has met the spirit of his third child, Gabriel, in his own spirit form of Jaffa Codling and tells his wife of this unusual happenstance, declaring that the new baby will be named Gabriel.