(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As Jennie is playing in the dirt of the front yard of her home, she sees a man ride up the street, dismount, and come into the yard. Jennie sees this man once or twice each week, when he comes to visit her mother, Josephine. Most of the black women who live in the houses on Liberty Street receive such visitors. Jennie’s mother has told her that this white man, Mister Herder, is her father, even though he does not live with them.

On this day, however, Herder is carrying a carpetbag of his clothes, and in the house he promises that he will never return to his wife. He explains that it is only when he is with Jennie and her mother that he feels what it is to be at home. Before long, her mother is calling him Maynard, and Jennie feels convinced that he is her father.

Each day afterward, Jennie sees a mysterious white woman pass by in a carriage, peering at the house with a hard and angry expression on her face. One day the woman’s driver delivers a letter to Jennie’s mother, and the woman shouts that Maynard has one wife, and Josephine is something different. That night, when Herder reads the letter, he angrily vows that he will give up his life before anyone can make him leave Jennie and her mother and go back to his wife. Josephine knows the power of racists, and she makes Jennie promise that when she is grown she will go to the North.

On the Fourth of July, Herder wins the city shooting match, with six excellent shots. As...

(The entire section is 412 words.)