The primary conflict in this posthumously published short novel, as suggested by the title, is between the virginal and therefore unlived life of the young protagonist Yvette and the sensual and therefore vital world of the gipsy. This tension is heightened by the stifling nature of Yvette’s rectory home. Presided over by the domineering, toadlike grandmother, intolerably crowded by the presence of the repressed and always angry Aunt Cissie and the pinched and stingy Uncle Fred, the rectory is a squalid place that threatens to engulf the rector’s two daughters when they return home from school. To make the place even more cold and inhospitable, it seems haunted by the ghost of the rector’s wife, who left him for a penniless young man when the girls were only seven and nine. Although she exists in the rector’s mind as the “pure white snowflower” of a young bride, for the family, she exists only as “She-who-was-Cynthia,” a “foul nettle of lust” who would contaminate all with whom she comes in contact.
The house is filled not only with the rector’s perennial grief and anger for the loss of his wife but also with the grandmother’s hatred for Lucille and Yvette, who remind her of their mother and who challenge her position as the center of attention. Aunt Cissie’s hatred also dominates the house because she has sacrificed her life and her sex to care for her mother. The narrator of the story seems primarily sympathetic with the plight of Yvette: He continually describes the house as ugly and sordid and the grandmother as some “awful idol of old flesh.” Yvette is described as a creature mesmerized and suffocated by the stifling atmosphere of the rectory.
Yvette, who has already told her sister that she would like to fall violently in love, is thus emotionally and physically ready for the appearance of the gipsy, a handsome man, somewhat more than thirty years old, who lives with his wife and children in a wagon nearby. In contrast to the middle-aged rectory and the childish banality of her friends, the gipsy has...
(The entire section is 842 words.)