Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
On a blustery April afternoon in 1880, Colonel Abel Pargiter sits at the window of his club looking out over Piccadilly. Everyone in the street seems to have somewhere to go, some end in view. The colonel feels that there is nothing for him. At home, in their shabbily genteel house on Abercorn Terrace, his wife is dying of cancer; he has a family of three sons and four daughters to provide for, he is retired, and he is not rich. He decides to visit his mistress, Mira, who lives in a side street near Westminster Abbey. When he arrives, dusk is already falling; it fills the dingy rooms with the secret, furtive atmosphere of lust.
In the same dusk, in the house on Abercorn Terrace, Milly and Delia Pargiter are boiling water for tea. Their younger sister Rose is wearing a green-smudged pinafore, and Milly tries to be severe with her in a grown-up fashion. Twelve-year-old, red-haired Martin comes home from school. When the colonel arrives and asks for Eleanor, his oldest daughter, Milly reminds him that it is Eleanor’s day for social service. Eleanor soon appears, dropping her books on the table. During their mother’s illness she has become the family’s mainstay, the keeper of accounts, the soother of hurts, and the arbiter of quarrels. Delia goes to sit with their mother. She resents Mrs. Pargiter’s illness and the ties of sickness and home; in her imagination, she sees herself on the platform at a political meeting with Charles Stewart Parnell, the...
(The entire section is 1452 words.)
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