(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Change is the only stimulus,” insists Dr. Wolfgang Bohrmann on retiring from a career of teaching at Nevilles College in Adams, Colorado. Instead of resigning himself to spending the remainder of his allotted years in quiet retirement, Dr. Bohrmann embarks on a variety of engrossing pursuits, not the least of which is having a new house built for himself, a “house of tomorrow—cantilevered, half-glass—six miles out on the prairies.” From his position on one of the house’s many decks, the enthusiastic professor emeritus can command an expansive view of the Rocky Mountains and the ever-changing panorama of cloud and sky: “there dark rain, here blinding sunshine, yonder a sulphurous dust storm, haze on the summit of one peak, a pillow of cloud concealing a second, hyaline light on the glacier of a third.”

From his aerielike perch, Dr. Bohrmann inhales the invigorating air of freedom; loosed from his career bonds, he is free to explore the numerous hobbies that intrigue his curious mind. A man of wide-ranging interests, he occupies his time studying Japanese, learning the art of engraving, exploring the mysteries of mycology, and growing Persian melons. Having carved his own private space within a landscape that he loves, Dr. Bohrmann is not prepared for the sudden arrival of a young easterner, Henry Medley, who informs the old gentleman of his intention to pay him a prolonged visit so that the two may get to know each other personally after having corresponded for some years. Dr. Bohrmann, astonished at the prospect of having a houseguest (“not through any want of hospitality but because it was a matter that had never arisen”), nevertheless rallies to the occasion and has his housekeeper, Mrs. Pritchard, prepare the spare room for his visitor.

The ubiquitous Mrs. Pritchard, “shaped like a pear” and having “a blue mustache under a fleshy and ferocious bill,” harbors a deep suspicion that the...

(The entire section is 794 words.)