An unnamed, bare-legged young woman, who later turns out to be Emma, is driving rapidly south, alone, on an Irish road. She pulls into a “Do Not Park” space in order to make a long-distance call from a hotel. She has a brief conversation with an unnamed man, who is later called Robinson. He cautions her not to drive too fast in the treacherous light because they have the whole night before them, and he inquires about the Major, Emma’s husband.
Robinson, having hung up rather abruptly, returns smiling slightly to the two guests in his living room: a pretty, middle-aged, deaf woman named Queenie Cavey, and her brother, Justin Cavey, who, because of the war in Europe, is spending his vacation visiting his sister in their native town. Tonight for the first time they have taken up Robinson’s invitation to call at Bellevue any evening. Queenie sits by the window drinking tea and enjoying the view of the distant beeches of the old feudal domain while Justin discourses on the war, life, identity, and love, and Robinson keeps glancing at the clock. Robinson is a factory manager who arrived in town only three years ago and does not socialize with the townspeople. The local ladies, having discovered that he is a married man living apart from his wife and that he frequently disappears for the weekend, whisper that Bellevue is a Bluebeard’s castle. Suddenly Justin asks: “What’s love like?” Robinson utters a short, temporizing, and unnaturally loud laugh that reaches Queenie.
Justin is angered, and Robinson apologizes; to change the subject, he asks if Queenie is fond of children. “You mean why did she not marry? There was some fellow once . . . ” Justin answers. Robinson takes photos of his two sons over to Queenie, who says that it is a wonder that he has no little girl. He returns for a third photo, passes his hand “as though sadly expunging something, backwards and forwards across the glass.” He does not know how to tell Queenie that the child is dead.
(The entire section is 821 words.)