Bill Forrester, with Douglas at his side, orders lime-vanilla ice at the soda fountain. His unusual request catches the attention of ninety-five-year-old Helen Loomis who invites him to visit her house tomorrow. Bill complies, and he and Helen start a friendly conversation about the appearances people keep up for each other, that soon diverges into Loomis acting as a “Time Machine” similar to Colonel Freeleigh to transport Bill into the pyramids of Egypt. Bill comments on how comfortable he feels talking to her, and Helen replies by reminding him that she’s only an old woman. While lounging in his chair, Bill attempts to envision her as being young again; he succeeds for a moment in seeing “the swan,” which he unintentionally says out loud, strangely disquieting Helen.
Bill continues to visit Helen every day for two and a half weeks, but only on the last day does he tell her what motivated him to visit her in the first place: a photograph taken of her when she was twenty. He had seen the picture in the newspaper for the town ball and intended to go to the ball to seek the beautiful girl it showed, until someone told him that the picture had been taken a long time ago and had been used by the newspaper every year since then to advertise the ball. Helen replies with an overview of a young man she once knew in her youth who was handsome but wild and reckless; he left her, but when she saw Bill at the fountain that day, she was strongly reminded of him — almost as if he were a reincarnation of her former companion.
Some time later, Bill finds Helen writing a letter addressed to him. Helen explains to him that she will be dead in a few days, and that the letter she is writing will come to him then. When Bill attempts to protest about the lack of time they have had together, Helen says that she believes that they will meet again sometime later — possibly in reincarnated forms. She tells him to marry and live happily, but says that he has to die before the age of fifty in order to ensure that when they are reincarnated, they will be of the correct ages and be able to meet and fall in love with each other.
Two days later, Bill receives the letter. Inside it is a note reading, “A dish of lime-vanilla ice.”