“Miss Tempy’s Watchers” is one of a number of Jewett’s subtle and moving tales of the lives of older women who must deal with loss and hardship. Just before they drift off into a short sleep, as Sarah Ann Binson and Mrs. Crowe watch together in Tempy’s house, Mrs. Crowe reflects that Tempy—Temperence Dent—always made the best of everything. For example, she made excellent quince preserves by taking care of a thorny old tree with such attention and good cheer that she seemed to “kind of expect” it into blooming. Sarah replies, “She was just the same with folks.” This is a story about blooming—about how, with the deceased Tempy’s help, Sarah begins to replace her, and so helps Mrs. Crowe to begin to bloom into a more generous person.
Tempy’s spirit hovers over a scene she has created by asking her two friends to watch together in her house. The women reflect repeatedly upon how they seem to feel Tempy’s living presence as they converse through the night, and the narrator adds touches that contribute to the reader believing that Tempy is spiritually present even apart from her friends’ memories and talk. Left alone together for the long night, the women find themselves confiding private thoughts and fears.
Mrs. Crowe, especially, has much to confess. Tempy’s death has made her feel more than ever the pain of her stinginess. Because she is rich and socially powerful, Mrs. Crowe’s small contributions to the...
(The entire section is 596 words.)