(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

When Toby Scott meets Mary Glover at a party, he is immediately impressed by her long hair and old-fashioned gingham dress. Afraid that he might not see her again, he asks her to dinner immediately. Mary tells the eager bachelor that she has a daughter, but Toby does not know if this means that she is married or is simply unwilling to date.

Samantha Glover, Mary’s daughter, is a somber five-year-old who dresses like her mother, in floor-length dresses. The impression that Mary and Samantha make together is that of stoic pioneers riding a wagon train across the prairie.

Samantha accompanies her mother when Toby asks her out. On a trip to the Baltimore zoo, Samantha sits between Toby and Mary as they look at animals. Mary never volunteers any information about her first marriage or Samantha’s father. When Toby inquires, Mary refuses to answer any questions, revealing only that she ran away after two years of marriage. Her previous life remains mysterious.

Toby’s feelings for Mary and Samantha deepen. When Mary mentions that she has child-care problems, Toby volunteers to watch Samantha himself. Mary works in an art gallery with fixed hours, while Toby can easily adjust his own schedule. Despite Toby’s offer to watch Samantha, Mary keeps paying her teenage baby-sitter. Toby fears losing Mary because his graduate student life lacks warm human relations.

After knowing each other only five months, Toby and Mary are married. Toby’s parents object to his brief courtship and the fact that Toby is acquiring a ready-made daughter. Although Toby questions his ability to love his own biological children—were he ever to have them—he finds that he can easily warm to loving Samantha.

Toby envies the resolve with which Mary carried Samantha from her presumably troubled first marriage. She took no clothing, jewelry, or personal belongings of any kind. As if fleeing from a burning building, Mary simply snatched away the only thing that really mattered: Samantha. Toby wonders about the strength of the relationships that he is forming with Mary and Samantha. For some reason, Mary is reluctant to enter compassionately into their marital union. Overly concerned with Toby’s privacy, she never even enters his office—the spare bedroom. She even places a...

(The entire section is 942 words.)