"The Marry Month of May" Summary

The Marry Month of May” is a comic short story about the effects of the mischievous month of May on the wealthy Coulson household.

  • Inspired by the warm, fragrant spring air, old Mr. Coulson is about to propose to his housekeeper but is prevented by his daughter, Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson.
  • Miss Coulson orders the iceman to store ice all over the house in an effort to counter May’s effects on her father, but Mrs. Widdup shuts off the air vents.
  • Mr. Coulson resumes proposing to Mrs. Widdup, who explains that his daughter has run away with the iceman.

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The story begins with four paragraphs in which the author addresses the reader directly, to give a warning about the destabilizing effects of the month of May. In May, he says, people do not behave sensibly, acting more like animals than rational beings. They suddenly fall in love with all kinds of inappropriate partners, as “Cupid shoots blindfolded.”

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After this preamble, the rest of the story deals with Mr. Coulson and his household. Mr. Coulson is a rich old man, with a fortune of half a million dollars, who lives in New York City, near Gramercy Park. One day in May, Mr. Coulson is sitting in his invalid’s chair, suffering from gout in one foot, when a breeze brings an intoxicating mixture of scents into the room from the window boxes of flowers just outside. These, along with the other mingled smells of New York City in the spring, stimulate Mr. Coulson to press the bell on the table beside him and summon his housekeeper, Mrs. Widdup. Having taken his medicine, he takes Mrs. Widdup’s hand and begins to talk about the joys of spring and the emotional effect this season has on people.

Just as it seems he is on the point of proposing marriage to Mr. Widdup, Mr. Coulson is interrupted by his daughter, Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson, a “bony, durable, tall, high-nosed, frigid, well-bred” woman of thirty-five. Mrs. Widdup leaves the room hurriedly, and Miss Coulson pointedly asks her father when the housekeeper is due to start her vacation. Mr. Coulson says that Mrs. Widdup is due to go away in a week.

Miss Coulson’s own lack of interest in love and relationships appears to be unaffected by the spring weather or the scent of the flowers. Nonetheless, she is keenly aware of the effect the month of May has on other people and has heard stories of old gentlemen like her father losing their heads and marrying their housekeepers, a circumstance she thinks is absurd and humiliating.

The next morning, when the iceman comes to deliver ice (which was ordered by households in blocks and usually kept in the basement of the house before refrigerators became common), Miss Coulson places a very large order with him. She instructs him to deliver a thousand pounds of ice to the Coulson house every day for the next four days and says that she will show him where it is to be stored.

A few hours later, at noon, Mr. Coulson complains to his manservant, Higgins, that the house is terribly cold. Higgins closes the window, but it still feels like winter to Mr. Coulson. Later that day, Mrs. Widdup comes to see Mr....

(The entire section contains 760 words.)

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