(Short Stories for Students)

Part I
‘‘Pomegranate Seed’’ opens as Charlotte Ashby enters the vestibule to her New York home and pauses before entering the house. She has paused to remember the course of her brief marriage to Kenneth Ashby, and to consider the mysterious events that have clouded their recent months together. Kenneth Ashby, a lawyer, is a widower whose marriage to Charlotte has apparently healed the grief he felt at the death of his first wife, Elsie Ashby. Charlotte has moved into the house Kenneth had shared with Elsie, and come to feel at home there. Kenneth has even moved the portrait of Elsie that had hung in his library up to the nursery of his two children, in order that Charlotte might feel herself to be the mistress of the house. When they returned from their honeymoon, however, Kenneth found waiting for him a mysterious letter in a gray envelope. Charlotte never learned the contents of the letter, addressed to Kenneth in a woman’s handwriting, but from its effects on her husband— withdrawal, sadness, and perhaps a touch of fear— suspects it is from a former lover. Several similar letters have arrived for him since the honeymoon, each one deepening Kenneth’s withdrawal and Charlotte’s suspicion. Charlotte enters the house at last and finds that yet another letter is waiting for her husband.

Part II
Troubled by the most recent letter’s arrival, Charlotte decides to spy on Kenneth when he comes home. Positioning herself behind the door to the entry hall, Charlotte watches as Kenneth opens the letter, reads it with an expression of great sadness and, to her dismay, kisses the paper on which his mysterious correspondent has sent the unknown message. Charlotte comes out of her hiding place and accuses Kenneth...

(The entire section is 718 words.)