(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mrs. Ruth Allen is contemplating the disappointments of her married life. She has always longed for children and imagined raising them according to her upper-middle-class English lifestyle. However, for reasons not divulged in the story, she has remained childless.

In contrast, her housekeeper, Mrs. Lacey, complains about her own brood of three children, who appear to fall short of her expectations. However, the reader learns that she has rather neglected her children when they were little. While her children went hungry and asked for food from the villagers, Mrs. Lacey sat drinking beer in the local working-class pub, shooing them away when they approached her there. Mrs. Allen imagines both raising her own children differently and how much she would enjoy a relaxed drink in the pub frequented by Mrs. Lacey rather than her Sunday sherries consumed in the more formal atmosphere of the pub patronized by people of her social class.

With Mrs. Allen living a lonely life waiting for her husband, Humphrey, to come home after working long days in London and Mrs. Lacey going on about the troubles caused by her almost grownup children, the lives of the two women seem rather opposite. Mrs. Lacey is jealous of her employer’s money, and Mrs. Allen tries hard not to resent Mrs. Lacey for what she feels are the blessings of her normal, carefree life. Looking at Mrs. Lacey’s aged body, which bears the marks of a rough life, she wonders if her husband,...

(The entire section is 485 words.)