*New York City
*New York City. Setting for the entire story. Delia has married well into the Ralston family and enjoys all the wealth and privileges the name Ralston affords—especially within Manhattan’s post Gramercy Park neighborhood. As Delia wakes up each morning, she looks out toward the city, appreciating what surrounds her, and then slowly considers that what surrounds her is actually the banality of the everyday life of the well to do. Although she has some regrets, feeling trapped in Ralston wealth and privileges, she is happy to be spared the fate that has befallen her unmarried cousin, Charlotte Lovell, who had a baby out of wedlock that she gave up to an orphanage.
During the period in which this story is set, the 1850’s, New York high society had no tolerance for any digression from what were perceived to be a woman’s virtues. Thus, Delia and Charlotte must keep Charlotte’s dark secret, and this Charlotte can best do by remaining unmarried. As a consequence, the unmarried Charlotte becomes a stereotype of an old maid and lives deprived of the good life to which she otherwise would be entitled. However, Charlotte recognizes the consequences of her transgression and accepts her fate.