Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Amy, Lady Monchensey, is reluctant to have the lights turned on. She has to sit in the house from October until June, for in winter the sun rarely warms the cold earth of northern England. Since all she can do is measure time, she hardly wants to make night come too soon.
The whole family, except her three sons, gathers to celebrate her birthday, and the sons are expected that evening. The conversation while they wait out the time is tasteless. Gerald and Charles, Amy’s brothers-in-law, feel that the younger generation does not accept its responsibilities. Ivy and Violet, her younger sisters, agree that youth is becoming decadent. When they ask Mary her opinion, as a representative of the new generation, Amy’s ward is nettled. Nearing thirty, she was always poor and remains unmarried; she thinks she belongs to no generation.
Amy lives only to keep Wishwood, the family estate, together. Since her husband’s death, she has been head of the house. She knows her family, settled in its ways, is getting older; soon death will come as a surprise for them all. Only Agatha, her older sister, seems to find a meaning in death. Harry, the oldest son, was gone eight years. Amy hopes he can drop back into the old routine at the family home, but Agatha is doubtful. The past is over; the future can be built only on the present. When Harry comes back he cannot take up life where he left off, because he would be a new Harry.
The others begin...
(The entire section is 1113 words.)
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