Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1142
Bianca Dallison had begun the chain of events by asking her writer husband to find a model for her painting “The Shadow.” Through a friendly artist, Hilary had located a girl from the country who suited his wife. The girl, Ivy Barton, was very attractive, and after she had finished posing for Bianca, the Dallisons tried to help her find work. They had also found her a place to live with the Dallisons’ seamstress, Mrs. Hughs.
Ivy Barton, through no fault of her own, began to create trouble in the Hughs household when Mr. Hughs became enamored of her and Mrs. Hughs became extremely jealous. One day, Mrs. Hughs told Cecilia Dallison her troubles at home. Cecilia told Mrs. Hughs’s story to the rest of the family. The Dallisons, all very much interested in social problems, wished to help the girl and the Hughs family; but the situation was a delicate one. Their interest was heightened by the comment of Mr. Stone that in the lower classes each of them had a counterpart, a shadow, and that everyone was bound together by the bonds of fraternity in the brotherhood of man. Mr. Stone was writing a book on that very subject.
Hilary Dallison found that the girl’s work as a model was not regular and that she was finding it necessary to pose in the nude. He found her steady employment as a copyist for his father-in-law, Mr. Stone, who in his old age had embarked upon his strange philosophical work on the brotherhood of man. Bianca Dallison did not like the idea, for Mr. Stone lived with her and her husband. She began to be extremely jealous of the little model, although it had been years since she and her husband had lived as man and wife.
In spite of his wife’s jealousy, it was Hilary who first investigated the trouble at the Hughs’s home. He found only Mr. Hughs there. The visit only made the situation worse, for Hughs became convinced that Hilary was having an affair with Ivy. Hughs began to loiter about the Dallison house and to follow the model home when she finished her work with Mr. Stone. When Cecilia also learned that Hughs was beating his wife, the family decided that the situation was dangerous for the model and for Hilary. Cecilia tried to convince Hilary that the girl should be sent away and that he should stop trying to help Mr. and Mrs. Hughs. He only smiled at her suggestions.
Sometime later, Hilary followed Hughs when he saw him trailing Ivy home. Hilary was somewhat dismayed to discover that Hughs followed only to prevent the girl from meeting anyone else, including Hilary. Nevertheless, Hilary met the girl in a park after she had shaken her follower. Ivy let Hilary notice that her clothing was very shabby; feeling sorry for her, he took her into a shop and purchased a complete outfit for her. His deed won her complete devotion; she was in love with Hilary Dallison.
After leaving Ivy at the store where they had purchased her outfit, Hilary went to spend the evening at his club; he knew that his wife would not mind his absence from her. When he got home, however, he found her in his room. They kissed and for a moment forgot they had agreed not to live as man and wife. Then the moment passed, and Bianca fled to her room. Needing someone to talk to, Hilary went down to Mr. Stone’s room and had a cup of cocoa.
The daughter of Stephen and Cecilia Dallison, Thyme, also tried to help the Hughs family. Her interest was the Hughs’s tiny baby. She also noted that Ivy had new clothes and guessed that her uncle had bought them for the girl. The word quickly ran through the family, and Stephen, trying to make Hilary see how the others looked at the situation, told him that Bianca was bound to be jealous, even though they did not live as man and wife. Hilary felt that the celibacy she imposed on him had taken away any grounds for jealousy she might have.
That same afternoon, Hughs went to the Dallison home and tried to tell Bianca about her husband’s affair with Ivy. Although she refused to listen, the incident roused her emotions and suspicions. At least, her pride was hurt. That evening, Hilary and Bianca tried to talk over the matter, but all they succeeded in doing was hurting each other. Bianca refused to believe that her husband was innocent of any intentions toward the model and had simply bought the girl some clothing because he felt sorry for her.
With his sister-in-law’s help, Hilary found another room for Ivy. Hoping to solve the problem of Bianca’s jealousy, he also told her not to come to his house to copy for Mr. Stone. When Hughs returned home that night and learned that Ivy had left his house, he beat his wife and wounded her with a bayonet. As a result, he was put into prison for several weeks. During the time he was in prison, the Hughs’s baby died; Mrs. Hughs had been too upset to nurse him.
At the same time, old Mr. Stone became very ill and unhappy. He missed the company of the model as well as the copying she had done for him. In an effort to help her father, Bianca sought out Ivy and had her return to be with the old man part of every day. Because of his child’s death and the girl’s return to work at Hilary’s house, it seemed as if the problem would still be unsolved when Hughs returned from prison.
To avoid a repetition of the whole distasteful situation, Hilary resolved to go to Europe. Although Ivy was in love with him and wished to go along, he made up his mind that he would go alone. His wife, because of her conscience, resolved to help the girl in Hilary’s absence. When she went to the girl’s room, however, she found her belongings packed. It dawned on her that in spite of his resolve her husband was taking the model with him. Bianca left the house in a fury just as her husband arrived. Her jealousy and anger, however, were wasted; after she left, when Ivy kissed him, Hilary realized that he could never live for long with a girl from the lower classes. Flinging all the money he had with him on the bed, he left alone. He took a room in London and then sent a letter to Bianca through his brother Stephen. He told her of his decision to stop seeing Ivy and his further decision not to return to an unsatisfying marriage.
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