(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On the verge of a mental breakdown, Nelly Nugent decides to escape London by vacationing at a small seaside resort some twenty miles from the village where her family lived when she was a child. She fancies that this new place, full of mystery and romance, will lead to some kind of personal “redemption.” The dismal reality of the dingy hotel and its provincial inhabitants sets the stage, however, for a series of bitter disappointments that drive her into an even deeper depression.

Nelly’s hotel room is both tiny and shabby; instead of looking out on a sweeping ocean expanse, she can see only a sliver of the shoreline. Matters worsen when Nelly’s before-dinner drink with her hosts proves awkward; her refusal to have a drink at the local pub with another guest sends the man into a rage, and her solitary candlelight dinner is disturbed by a large crowd of unruly children. After beginning her journey wanting to escape London, Nelly now counts the days until she can escape her vacation site.

When Nelly walks along the seashore the next morning, the peaceful scene revives her until she is recognized by a vacationer as a former television announcer. This encounter forces Nelly into another unpleasant reverie as she recalls that she gave up a promising career to marry a man with a “black heart.” Predictably, the marriage ended in divorce and a bitter custody battle for the children, who are now grown and no longer integral parts of...

(The entire section is 554 words.)