(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The bright blossoms of the rose and the rhododendron remind Jane of the summer when she was ten years old. During the previous spring Jane’s father ran off with a young woman, leaving her and her mother in an antique-filled city apartment in Boston. One evening during a thunderstorm, her mother decides to move to North Carolina and open an antique store. Thus the two find themselves in a small southern town, where Jane first experiences falling in love with a place, a house, and a family.

To fill Margot’s shop in their small house requires scouring the surrounding countryside for pieces to sell. Sometimes, Margot wants to do this alone and encourages Jane to explore the town. On one of these trips, Jane notices an odd-shaped house surrounded by lawns covered with tangled, blossoming flowers. She also sees a woman walking very stiffly. With her small, shapeless body and beautiful white hair, the woman is very different from her own mother, who bleaches her hair and wears gaudy clothes. The second time she investigates she meets Harriet Farr, the child of the family, who invites her in to eat cake. The inside of the house, with its books and nineteenth century paintings, seems marvelous to Jane.

The two girls become fast friends, reading, exploring, and talking about books, sex, and life together. Margot is making friends also, so when Jane begins spending more time at the Farrs’ home talking with Mrs. Farr, Margot does not appear to care.

Jane is fascinated with the Farrs’ lifestyle. Unlike Jane’s mother, Mrs. Farr cares about books and flowers. Mr. Farr, a lawyer, reads literature and acts in a courtly manner. The Farr home has many spaces where the two friends can be alone. Unlike her own world, the household seems calm, ideal. Although her mother has met Harriet and likes her, Jane senses that the parents would clash, so she does not introduce them. When her mother tells her some gossip about Mr. Farr having been in love...

(The entire section is 805 words.)