“Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself” begins with the protagonist, Miss Wilhelmina Ogilvy, watching the disbanding of her World War I Red Cross Allied Ambulance Unit at the busy port of Calais in France. The vehicles, only recently back from the front lines, and suddenly expendable, are being unceremoniously hauled onto a freighter bound for England—the same freighter that will transport Miss Ogilvy from her glorious war experiences back to her narrow life in Surrey, England, with her sisters, Sarah and Fanny Ogilvy.
On the train home from Dover, Miss Ogilvy reflects on her troubled youth and her strong need to serve, more actively than most women, in the Great War. She was, it appears, an odd little girl, in a world that valued conformity. As a child, she had a marked predilection for boyish pursuits. As an adolescent, her physical prowess became an embarrassment to her; muscles and muslin did not mix. Even so, as an eligible young woman, she was courted, much to her mother’s surprise, by three different men. She could not, however, generate an enthusiasm for any of them. She felt only fellowship with men, and her nature made it impossible for her to take part in the feminine life going on around her. When she moved aside, socially, for her younger sisters—who were avid for matrimony but, ironically, destined to a life of irritable spinsterhood—she became even more isolated.
Then Miss Ogilvy’s father died, and she, who as a child had wished ardently to be called William, not Wilhelmina, found herself in the role of paterfamilias. In quick succession, her mother died and then her aunt. Although the aunt left a small fortune, Miss Ogilvy was too worn out from struggling with her unusual nature and her unsympathetic sisters to do anything more adventurous than to buy a small estate in Surrey and settle there. At fifty-five, her energies waning, shy and essentially friendless, she had become content simply to tend her own garden....
(The entire section is 800 words.)