(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Felix Kennaston tells his neighbor, Richard Harrowby, about his dreams. In writing his novels, Kennaston creates a world much different from the ordinary world of the Virginia countryside, and his dreams contain similar elements of the romantic and the marvelous. To Harrowby, the whole thing seems indecent, for Harrowby is a conventional, unimaginative gentleman farmer who makes his money in soaps and beauty aids.

Kennaston is writing a novel called The Audit at Storisende, and in his dreams he identifies himself with a character named Horvendile, who is looking for that elusive and highly improbable creature, the ideal woman. In Ettarre, his heroine, Kennaston feels he finds her. Much of his plot centers on a broken round medallion bearing mysterious symbols, a medallion he calls the sigil of Scoteia.

One afternoon, Kennaston, walking in his garden, stoops to pick up a little piece of shining metal, apparently a broken half of a small disc, and casually drops it into his pocket. Later, while looking over some books in his library, he thinks of the little piece of metal in his pocket. He brings it out and puts it where the light of the lamp falls upon it. At once, he seems to be talking with Ettarre, who explains that he picked up half the broken sigil of Scoteia and that it brings him back to her imagined world of romance and dream. As he reaches out to touch her, she disappears, and Kennaston finds himself sitting again in his library.

Kennaston’s novel is published as The Men Who Loved Allison, a title that his publisher assures him will bring better sales. When several readers, shocked by what they call indecency in the novel, write indignant letters to the newspapers, the book becomes a best seller. Mrs. Kennaston, who makes it a point never to read her husband’s books, enjoys his success. She treats Kennaston with polite boredom.

Strange things happen to Kennaston. One day at a luncheon, a famous man takes him aside and asks him whether he breeds white pigeons. This question puzzles Kennaston, as does the little mirror the man holds in his hand. Another time, he sees an ugly old woman who tells him that there is no price of admission to her world, but that one pays upon leaving. Several times he talks to Ettarre in his...

(The entire section is 940 words.)