(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story begins as John Turnbull Angus pines for his reluctant, would-be fiancé, Laura Hope, outside the confectioner’s shop where she works. Angus enters the shop and begins his familiar banter about marriage and the particular bliss that Miss Hope would presumably enjoy as his bride. She attempts to discourage the ardor of her young suitor by telling him the history of her past admirers.

Laura’s father, she tells Angus, was the owner of an inn in Ludbury, outside London, and she often served tables there. Two of her customers, one a dwarf, the other a man with an appalling and disfiguring squint, sought her hand in marriage. Trying not to hurt their feelings and declining to tell them that the real reason she could not marry them was that they were “impossibly ugly,” she told them instead that she could not possibly marry anyone who had not “made his way in the world.” This white lie, however, merely encouraged further competition between the two, as both of them left to seek their fortunes and win her love.

After leaving her father’s inn, Laura discovered that one of the two, Isidore Smythe, had become a success. Smythe had made a fortune with his Silent Service, providing household robots that performed various custodial chores in the home. The other suitor, Welkin, had disappeared mysteriously, but Laura had the strange experience of hearing his laughter without seeing his physical form. She now lives in fear that one or...

(The entire section is 574 words.)