The enquiry about Emily made by an unspecified person, possibly a teacher or a friend, prompts the mother to think about her daughter. The question about her daughter, with whom she is deeply attached, stirs up the past memories associated with Emily. The memories reflect her guilt-ridden conscience and her appreciation for Emily’s talent.
The questioner must have noticed Emily’s exceptional talent as well as her character traits that differed much from the other girls of her age. The person wants to know more about Emily so that he or she could help her. The person tells the mother,
“I wish you would manage the time to come in and talk with me about your daughter. I'm sure you can help me understand her. She’s a youngster who needs help and whom I'm deeply interested in helping.”
The intentions of the unnamed person appear sincere to the mother. She is overwhelmed with the possibility of a bright and happy future for her daughter.
The mother is constantly racked by the guilt of poor parenting. She feels she has failed to provide Emily with proper education and care. She had been a bright child and had deserved much better treatment and parenting.
The lack of love and care during her childhood, her poor health, and her silent sufferings had left deep scars in Emily’s mind. She rarely smiles and enjoys like her brothers and sisters. There’s some uncommon somberness and seriousness about her.
Nevertheless, Emily is a gifted girl. She has got an ability to perform pantomimes to the effect that the audience would “not want to let her go.” Her hidden talent gets recognized at school and makes her popular.
“She began to be asked to perform at other high schools, even colleges, than at city and statewide affairs.”
Now, when the enquirer, with the intention to help Emily, comes to the mother, she is overwhelmed. She is hopeful that the person might really give Emily what she herself had not been able to provide her with. She turns optimistic and emotional, and so, begins thinking about her daughter.