Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 465
The narrator is in Sarajevo with her professor. He's trying to decide whether he wants to be with her, his student, or with his wife of 24 years. She says:
I was dependent upon him for my academic future. He said I had a good mind but not a first-class mind and somehow I didn't take it as an insult. I had a feeling first-class minds weren't all that good in bed.
She's convinced that she loves him. Throughout the story, she's thinking of the things about him that make her enjoy being with him. However, he's rude and unsure about their relationship. She pits herself against his wife mentally and is sure that he'll choose to be with her. They talk about loving each other. He asks:
"How much do you love me?"
"Inordinately! I love you with inordinate affection. It was a joke between us. Ind Aff!
"Inordinate affection is a sin," he'd told me. "According to the Wesleyans. John Wesley himself worried about it to such a degree he ended up abbreviating it in his diaries, Ind Aff. He maintained that what he felt for young Sophy, the eighteen-year old in his congregation, was not Ind Aff, which bears the spirit away from God towards the flesh; he insisted that what he felt was a pure and spiritual, if passionate, concern for her soul."
As the story develops, she realizes that she's not in love with him. She feels affection for him but doesn't want to spend the rest of her life with him. He's old compared to her, and she realizes she could be with someone younger who is more suited to her. In the middle of a meal, she gets up, gathers her things, and leaves. She says, of the whole affair:
It was a silly thing to do, in the first place, to confuse mere passing academic ambition with love: to try and outdo my sister Clare. (Professor Piper was spiteful, as it happened, and did his best to have my thesis refused, but I went to appeal, which he never thought I'd dare, and won. I had a first-class mind after all.) A silly sad episode, which I regret. As silly and sad as Princep, poor young man, with his feverish mind...
Throughout their time in Sarajevo, she's thinking of the man who shot Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. That is the incident that people say started World War II. Ultimately, she thinks that he might have come to the same conclusion that she did if he'd only waited longer. She thinks:
If he'd just hung on a bit, there in Sarajevo, that June day, he might have come to his senses. People do, sometimes quite quickly.
So she goes home without Professor Piper and isn't with him anymore.