The mother of three children, about to be hospitalized, decides to send them to stay with Jean Dobis, an old friend, living somewheres in the country (rural England) with a husband and a small baby. As she tells their father, Gerald, Jean is placid, slapdash and cheerful. Jean, however, is none of these things; her placidity, or rather vagueness, is only to conceal a real discomfort in life- an inadequacy which a straying husband, sleeping with the woman next door, has aggravated. Her ""slapdash"" household is actually a grubby one, and in time the children get fleas. And she is a very lonely woman, retreating more and more into a fantasy world. By day she imagines, and at night she dreams, that the children's mother will die and that Gerald will want to marry her. She also begins to confuse the oldest boy, David, with his father, conspiratorially encourages his absences from school, and finally touches off the inevitable sexual overture which prompts him to run away.... A small story, this is written with warm care, a true ear, and a real sensitivity for all that is askew and awry in this ""matchbox house"". While not important, it is quietly insistent and often touching.