Cameron Gee, a modestly successful literary figure, has been married for several years. For the last three or four years, he and his wife have found it impossible to live together for any length of time, so his wife has taken to spending long holidays in a warmer country, where she carries on discreet love affairs. Gee makes no objections, however, and they seem satisfied with their arrangement. They have a strong attachment to each other but simply cannot live together happily. Busy with his literary work, the husband is helped by Miss Wrexall, an efficient and adoring female secretary, and his home is run by her mother and sister. The long absences of his wife seem irrelevant to Gee, both personally and professionally.
The story focuses on an occasion when the wife is home for a short time; she considers Gee’s domestic and professional arrangements and finds them disturbing. She suggests that the secretary is making things too easy for her husband and that his work is suffering as a result of the complaisant way in which the secretary and her family make his life too comfortable. She has no wish to participate in the family, however, and finds the tepid, nonsexual nature of the arrangements between the master and his secretary depressing. When she accuses her husband of abusing the loyalty and adoration of his employee, Miss Wrexall becomes alarmed and protests that the arrangements are both acceptable and innocent, and that she is assured by Gee that he, too, finds their unfeeling relation to his liking. Gee’s smug acceptance of the situation at the end of the story seems to suggest that his wife may be right to despise him, and that Miss Wrexall is not telling the full truth. Unmoved by his wife’s criticism, Gee has no plan to change the way he lives, or the kind of service that he has come to expect from his servants—especially from his young secretary.