Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 490
Fay Langdon, the narrator, in her late sixties as she tells the story. A rather ordinary woman, she is intelligent and still pretty, though conscious of aging. She becomes nervous and lonely in the late afternoon, and she fights melancholy. Born Fay Dodworth, she believed in the stories of Hollywood musicals and sang romantic songs on the radio. She yearned for happiness and gave up her work for marriage, then spent much of her life waiting for her husband, Owen—and later her lover, Charlie—to come to her. She was unhappy in love, missing intimacy with Owen and stability with Charlie. She was fascinated by Charlie’s wife, Julia, though she never really liked her, and later feared that Julia would discover the adultery. In later life, she attempts to break out of her rut by doing charitable work and seems to be beyond yearning.
Julia Morton, formerly Margaret Julia Wilberforce, the wife of Charlie Morton. She has just died, at almost eighty years of age. She was tall, slim, and hard, with heavy eyelids over pale blue eyes. She was sardonic, heartless, restless, and dangerous. She used coarse language but was not sensual. She worked as an aristocratic nightclub comedienne and later dressed in an out of date elegance. After Charlie’s death, she became an irritable and demanding recluse. She believed in the right of women to behave capriciously. She became a sterile old lady, and Fay notes that she lost all charitable feelings. Secretly, her true love was her brother Gerald, and she spent her last five years with him in Spain.
Charlie Morton, Julia’s husband, who died a decade ago. Bulky, vague, and charming, the lawyer had warm brown eyes and a cheerful expression. He managed Julia’s life without complaining and became Fay’s lover.
Owen Langdon, Fay’s husband. Handsome and attractive, and spoiled by his mother, he was the youngest pilot at the Battle of Britain. He was Charlie Morton’s junior law partner and was ambitious and involved in shady deals. He was only occasionally tender but probably was faithful to Fay; he was “emotionally inarticulate.” He died in a car accident in the south of France at the age of fifty-two.
Maureen Luckham, a devoted flunky to Julia who lived in Julia’s apartment with her. She was not likable or attractive. She participated in church activities and knitted shapeless sweaters. When she married, she deserted Julia.
Gerald Wilberforce, Julia’s unfortunate brother, a car salesman. He inherited the family money and moved to Spain with his lover.
Millie Savage, a singer from Fay’s radio days. She was happily married, then widowed. She is a sane and loyal friend to Fay.
Alan Carter, Fay’s physician who became her friend, though Fay hoped for more. He is eccentric, blunt, and absolutely unromantic.