Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
In the days of the Napoleonic wars, two sisters, Phoebe and Susan Throssel, lived in a little house in Quality Street, the main thoroughfare of a provincial English village. Both were single, both were pretty. One day they entertained a needlework party in their charming blue and white parlor. One of the ladies present repeated a rumor that a gentleman of the village had enlisted to go to the wars. All wondered who the gentleman could be.
Phoebe told her sister that Valentine Brown, a dashing doctor who had come to the village two years before, had walked with her in the street, and had said that he wanted to tell her something important. The retiring Phoebe had asked Brown to come to the house to tell her. Both sisters assumed that Brown was coming to propose marriage to Phoebe, a likely conclusion since a venture in which Brown had invested their savings had failed and he would naturally feel responsible for their welfare. In anticipation of his proposal, Susan gave Phoebe a wedding dress which she had made for her own marriage, a wedding which had never materialized.
But to Phoebe’s disappointment and humiliation, Brown said nothing of marriage. Instead, he told them that he was the man who had enlisted. He declared his friendship for both sisters and his liking for the little blue and white parlor, but he gave no indication of love for Phoebe, who had given her heart to him. Ironically, Phoebe revealed her disappointment by telling Brown...
(The entire section is 1008 words.)
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