An ironic diversion has its moments of indulgence as well as sere examination and views the sometimes mixed activities of a summer colony of missionaries- in Japan- through the eyes of Paul Thatcher, an ""uncommitted observer"" and prospective history teacher. With the exception of Thatcher, and the Kirbys, a dissolute and quarrelsome couple escaping the fleshpots of Shanghai, the community consists entirely of evangelicals to whom the Kirbys are an aggravating rebuke. Their marriage is not the only unsteady one; the Marlowes, Ellen and Gilbert, lose each other as Gilbert engages in a constant penance for the lusts he denies, and Ellen turns to Thatcher. An afternoon of adultery and apocalypse ends the interlude here; Ellen submits to Thatcher, and Kate Kirby is caught up in a sin and salvation seance which returns her to Sam, and more pleasurable proclivities.... Irreverential as this may seem, the reproof here is directed towards excess, and executed with grace. Amusing.