(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Miss Cynthie has just arrived in New York City from Waxhaw, the author’s frequent prototype of the rural South. She has come to visit her grandson, Dave Tappen, whom she raised after his mother’s death. Dave has apparently done well for himself since coming to the city, as evidenced by his sending money to his family back home in Waxhaw. It is clear from the beginning of the story, however, that Miss Cynthie does not know in what type of employment her grandson is engaged. Miss Cynthie, as she insists on being called, is seventy years old, yet she is very spry and quick-witted, in contrast to what might be assumed from her bumpkinish appearance and outlandish baggage.

In the opening scene, Miss Cynthie engages in a good-natured banter with the redcap who offers to assist her with her luggage. During her climb from the train depot up to the street level, Miss Cynthie turns the topic of conversation to her grandson, who is to meet her at the station. She shares with the man her hopes for her grandson’s success, but she is clearly apprehensive about the type of work in which he is engaged.

When Dave Tappen arrives to pick up his grandmother, he is immediately recognized by the redcap as someone with a wide-ranging reputation, although the redcap does not reveal why Dave is so well known. The redcap’s subsequent chuckle at Miss Cynthie’s hopes for her grandson’s accomplishment—a preacher, a doctor, or an undertaker, at least—heightens the suspicion that Dave is engaged in some activity of which Miss Cynthie would not...

(The entire section is 635 words.)