Dinner was over, and the ladies of Lob’s house party returned to the drawing-room after leaving the gentlemen to their cigars and wine. Matey, the butler, had stolen jewelry from one of the guests. The women called him in to tell him they knew he was the thief. When Matey returned the jewelry, the women stated that they would not report him if he told them why they were guests at the house. Matey either could not or would not give them a direct answer. In the course of the conversation it was learned that their host was mysteriously ageless and that Lob was another name for the legendary Puck. Matey admitted that Lob always asked a different party of guests to his house for Midsummer Week. He warned the women not to venture outside the garden on this Midsummer Eve. When he left them with the warning not to go into the wood, the women were puzzled because there was no wood within miles of the house.
Host Lob entered thoughtfully. He was followed by old Mr. Coade, who was collecting notes for a projected work on the Feudal System, and Mr. Purdie, an intellectual young barrister. Coade and Purdie suggested that the group take a walk to discover a mysterious wood. Lob said slyly that the villagers believed that a wood appeared in a different part of the neighborhood each Midsummer Eve. He pretended skepticism to sharpen the curiosity of his guests, who went to prepare for the adventure.
Among Lob’s guests was Lady Caroline Laney, unmarried and of disdainful poise, and Joanna Trout, single and in love with love. Joanna and Mr. Purdie were caught kissing in the living room by Mabel Purdie, who saw them from the garden. She came in. Joanna, surprised, asked Mabel what she was doing in the garden. Mabel answered that she was looking for her lost love. Her calm candor caught Jack Purdie and Joanna completely off guard. Jack admitted his love for Joanna. Mabel left the lovers grieving that fate had not brought them together earlier. Alice Dearth entered. Cattishly, Joanna revealed that Mrs. Dearth had at one time been an artist’s model. Dearth, an artist now broken by drink, entered. Alice Dearth had grown to despise him for his sottishness. Dearth regretted not having a child; Alice Dearth regretted not having married a former suitor.
When the party reassembled, Lob revealed that to go into the forest gave one another chance, something nearly everyone in the group was seeking. Dearth drew aside the curtain to reveal a forest in the place of the garden. He entered the wood and disappeared. Mabel Purdie followed him. Next went Jack Purdie and Joanna,...
(The entire section is 1056 words.)