Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1056
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, followed by Alice Dearth, Lady Caroline, and old Mr. Coade. Lob enticed Matey to the edge of the wood and pushed him into it.
In the moonlight of Midsummer Eve, in the fanciful realm of the second chance, Matey and Lady Caroline discovered that they were vulgar husband and wife. Joanna was in search of her husband. When Mr. Coade, now a woodlander, appeared dancing and blowing a whistle, Joanna said that she was Mrs. Purdie; she suspected her husband of being in the forest with another woman. They saw Purdie in the company of Mabel, whom he chased among the trees. In the forest, Mabel and Joanna had changed places. Purdie and Mabel mourned that they had met too late.
In another part of the forest, Will Dearth and his young daughter Margaret raced to the spot where the artist’s easel was set up, for Dearth was painting a moonlit landscape. Margaret was worried over her excess of happiness; she expressed her fear that her father would be taken from her. The pair agreed that artists, especially, needed daughters and that fame was not everything.
Alice, a vagrant searching for scraps to eat, passed the happy pair. She told them that she was the Honorable Mrs. Finch-Fallowe, the wife of the suitor that she had recalled in Lob’s house, and...
(The entire section contains 1056 words.)
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