(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the course of a summer at the lake, Irmgard, a rather spoiled child of an upper-middle-class Canadian family, loses some of the innocence and charm of early childhood. In doing so she becomes, regrettably, more like her smug parents and her rather unpleasant cousin Bradley.

Like most children, Irmgard is a secret observer of adult life. Her parents have parties that sometimes drag on into the next day. The most curious leftover guest at a recent wedding party was a drunken woman named Mrs. Bloodworth, who spent a noisy night practicing the Charleston and possibly getting incorporated into the little girl’s dream as a witch—that is, the witch that in the dream captured Jorinda and reached out to turn Jorindel into a bird.

The child is a bit confused in her folklore because in the Grimms’ fairy tale, it is Jorinda, the girl, who is turned into a bird, while Jorindel, the boy, stands paralyzed as a stone. When her cousin Bradley, who visits all during August, goes back to Boston, he is said to have “fallen out of summer like a stone.” At the beginning of the story, it is Bradley whom she identifies with the Jorindel of her dream. By the end of the story, however, she has decided that it was probably her local friend Freddy who was spirited away by the wicked witch of the forest.

Freddy is a poor French Canadian orphan who works on his uncle’s farm for food and shelter. He was reared in an orphanage until age seven, when...

(The entire section is 565 words.)