Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 453
This short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne focuses on five old friends: Dr. Heidegger, the host, and four other elderly people he invites to his house for the purpose of conducting an experiment. These guests are Mr Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, Mr Gascoigne, and the Widow Wycherly. All are extremely old and withered, and all the male guests had once loved the widow.
Dr. Heidegger asks his old friends if they will take part in an experiment. He shows them a dried rose, "ancient" as if it were about to turn into dust, and says it was given to him by his fiancee, Sylvia Ward, fifty-five years ago. He asks his friends if they think the rose will ever bloom again.
Of course, the friends say this is impossible, but Heidegger takes out a vase of water and throws the rose into it. Immediately, the rose begins to bloom again. Heidegger explains that this is no trick—he has found the Fountain of Youth in southern Florida.
The old friends are still skeptical. The Colonel asks what effect the water may have on humans, and the doctor says he may judge for himself. Filling four champagne glasses, he offers them to his friends, saying that he himself does not wish to participate in the experiment.
The friends' skepticism disappears as they take a drink. Immediately, they appear slightly less aged. They clamor for more, and Heidegger begs them to have patience, saying that as they have grown old so slowly, they should be content to grow young again over the course of half an hour. However, he offers them another glass, and another, and the guests all delight in the slow return of their youth.
Eventually, they are...
(The entire section contains 453 words.)
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