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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 204

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The story's protagonist is one Mr. Ryder, a light-skinned African American man who had once been enslaved. Since his emancipation, he has moved north and joined a group called the Blue Vein Society, whose goal is to elevate the situation of those people of mixed race who fit in with neither whites nor blacks.

Mr. Ryder plans to give a ball in honor of a young widow named Mrs. Molly Dixon, who is lighter and more educated than he, and to whom he plans to propose at the ball. He is certain that she will accede to his proposal, and he looks forward to their life together as one that will both unite him with a woman he loves and admires, as well as one that will bring him closer to the "absorption" by whites, which he so desires.

On the day of the ball, however, a small, old, "very black" woman named Liza Jane arrives to ask Mr. Ryder's help in locating her husband from long ago. She is sure he lives, and she has been faithful to him all this time. As it turns out, Mr. Ryder is the "Sam" she's been searching for, and she is "the wife of his youth."