Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Henry Hutton, a prosperous English landowner, flirts with Miss Janet Spence, an unmarried woman in her late thirties. After toying with her affections, Hutton hurriedly departs to take home his young Cockney mistress, Doris, and then to return to his wife, who is an almost complete invalid. Mr. and Mrs. Hutton have reached an impasse in their marriage: He is terminally bored with the relationship, while she approaches life with the querulous disapproval of the chronically ill. In an effort to change the routine, and to provide some secret spice to daily events, Hutton invites Miss Spence to dine with them.
Although Mrs. Hutton begins the meal in fine spirits, saying “I do really feel rather better today,” she unwisely eats a plate of stewed currants that the doctor has forbidden. Soon after, Hutton brings his wife her medicine, and Mrs. Hutton, now feeling ill, retires to her bed. After Miss Spence leaves, Hutton tells his wife that he is going to see a neighbor about a war memorial but actually slips away with Doris, his mistress. He returns home to find that his wife has died during his absence.
After his wife’s death, Hutton vows that he will control his lusts and desires, including his foolish affair with Doris. Within a week, however, he and Doris are again together. In an impetuous moment, he proposes marriage to Doris—a marriage that must be kept secret for a “decent interval.”
During a visit to Miss Spence,...
(The entire section is 390 words.)
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