'He had never married and had never been with one woman for long; he had always remained a collector of first times.' Edward Landauer, a brilliant scientist in his forties, meets a beautiful young woman. She is the love of his life and, when the two marry, he is the happiest man in the world. But Ruth's beauty and youth cannot stop him growing older. After the birth of their long-awaited son, the 'happiness, delicate like filigree' turns into something new, and Edward no longer recognises his great romance nor the woman who induced it.