On a rainy July day, Mr. Princey gathers together his family, which he abhors, because his daughter, Millicent, has done something so stupid as to threaten his way of life. Mr. Princey’s pleasures are simple: He loves his house; likes to walk through the village, where his prestige is acknowledged; and enjoys reminiscing about the lost pleasures of his childhood.
As he addresses his family, he mercilessly lashes at Millicent for her as yet unnamed error. If caught, he explains, she will be hanged or committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. He also insults George, his son, when he asks the young man whether his abortive career as a medical student has enabled him to tell whether Millicent’s crime can be disguised as an accident. George says that it cannot. Millicent has hit the victim several times with a croquet mallet.
Calming his wife with direct abuse and his daughter with threats of asylums and hanging, Princey asks Millicent to describe the afternoon’s events. Millicent, it turns out, had been packing up the croquet set in the stable on that wet afternoon when the young neighboring curate, Withers, on his way for a walk to Bass Hill, cut through the property and stopped to talk, sheltering himself in the stable away from the heavy rain. Millicent had long loved this young man (George interjects that the local pub has been laughing at her infatuation for the past several years), and so, when Withers said that he was now in a position to be married, she assumed that he was about to propose to her. She was wrong. Apologetically, he gave her the name of another girl with whom he would be married and turned his back to leave, at which point Millicent struck him several times with a croquet mallet. Then she returned to the house, trusting her family to shelter her. In this, she was correct.
They are still discussing the death of Withers when Captain Smollett,...
(The entire section is 780 words.)