The narrator, a novelist who goes with a group of friends for a weekend to Newmarch, a country resort outside London. He is not named in the novel. Naturally inquisitive and an astute observer of human nature, he notices changes in several of his friends for which he can find no immediate explanation: Grace Brissenden seems younger than when they last met, Guy Brissenden older, Gilbert Long more lively, and May Server more withdrawn and worn. He becomes determined to observe everyone carefully, looking for clues that will explain why these character changes have taken place. Over the course of the weekend, he formulates an elaborate theory that the power of love is the source for rejuvenation in some and deterioration in others. He is especially interested in confirming his notion that May and Gilbert are lovers, and he enlists the aid of Grace Brissenden and Ford Obert to help gather evidence in support of his idea. He is devastated when, at the end of the weekend, Grace disabuses him of his notions and pokes holes in his carefully constructed theory about these people’s relationships.
Grace Brissenden, a woman of middle age who has been married to a younger man for some time. In the view of the narrator, her marriage seems to have made her younger. Throughout the weekend, she schemes with the narrator to determine if Gilbert Long and May Server are lovers. Eventually, however, she turns on her coconspirator and accuses him of being needlessly inquisitive. She finally...
(The entire section is 635 words.)