Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Louisa Ellis’s fiancé, Joe Dagget, has returned to marry her after spending fourteen years in Australia, where he had gone to make his fortune, so he could support her. Louisa, however, has become used to her simple single life and does not know what to do with this large male who seems always to be disturbing the order of her life. Louisa’s meticulous ways are revealed as she takes care of her spotless house, her canary, and her old dog, Caesar, who, because he had bitten someone long ago, has been chained up approximately as long as Joe has been away. Then Joe arrives to court Louisa, a month before they are to be married. Joe tracks in dust and knocks things over, causing Louisa much discomfort. Both are relieved when the visit is over, he is outdoors again, and she can sweep up the dust and set the room to rights.
The narrator, omniscient but focused mainly on Louisa’s reflections and experiences, traces the course of the relationship between Louisa and Joe. Louisa, when young, had considered herself to be in love with Joe, although it is clear that Louisa was never a passionate person. In his absence, she has inherited her mother’s house and her brother’s dog and learned to enjoy a narrow, peaceful single life. Now she is reluctant to give this life up for the very different life Joe would offer. He has a big house with his mother in it, a domineering, shrewd matron who would look down on Louisa’s finicky housekeeping and her old-maid...
(The entire section is 546 words.)
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‘‘A New England Nun’’ opens with Louisa Ellis sewing peacefully in her sitting room. It is late afternoon and the light is waning. We see Louisa going about her daily activities calmly and meticulously; she gathers currants for her tea, prepares a meal, feeds her dog, tidies up her house carefully, and waits for Joe Dagget to visit. Joe and Louisa have been engaged for fifteen years, during fourteen of which Joe has been away seeking his fortune in Australia. Louisa has been waiting patiently for his return, never complaining but growing more and more set in her rather narrow, solitary ways as the years have passed.
During his visit, both he and Louisa are described as ill-at-ease. Joe sits "bolt-upright," fidgets with some books that are on the table, and knocks over Louisa's sewing basket when he gets up to leave. He colors when Louisa mentions Lily Dyer, a woman who is helping out Joe's mother. Louisa becomes uneasy when Joe handles her books, and when he sets them down with a different one on top she puts them back as they were before he picked them up. Once he leaves, she closely examines the carpet and sweeps up the dirt he has tracked in.
Despite their awkwardness with each other, Louisa continues to sew her wedding clothes while Joe dutifully continues his visits. One evening about a week before the wedding date, Louisa goes for a walk. As she is sitting on a wall and looking at the moon shining through a large tree, she...
(The entire section is 389 words.)