Louisa Ellis, a young woman betrothed for fifteen years, receives her intended, Joe Dagget, when he returns. However, during their long engagement, something has changed.
Will Louisa's honor force her to accept this massive upheaval in her quiet, maiden life, or can the broken engagement end happily for everyone?
This story includes examples of the following tropes:
- Abilene Paradox: Louisa, thinking about how marriage will change her quiet life, decides she would rather not marry, but she has no intention of breaking the engagement after Joe has waited fifteen years to marry her. She overhears Joe talking with Lily Dyer. Joe mentions some unexplained event which let slip his feelings for Lily, but, given that he's engaged to Louisa, he tells her nothing can come of it. Now aware of this, Louisa calmly tells Joe, without letting him know about the eavesdropping, that she's a little reluctant to change her way of life.
- Amicable Exes: Ultimately, Louisa and Joe decide mutually not to marry each other, but they part amicably, and Joe tells Louisa to inform him if she wants him to help her in some way down the road.
- Foreshadowing: Louisa's lack of romantic affection towards her returning fiance and her quiet irritation with Joe messing up her orderly house hints that they will ultimately not marry.
- Love Triangle: Louisa and Joe have been engaged for fifteen years, but Joe has accidentally fallen in love with Lily Dyer, another young woman from the town who helps his aging mother. Unlike with most cases, Joe and Lily don't intend to do anything about their attraction because of the engagement.
- Textile Work Is Feminine: Louisa enjoys sewing, to the point that she had sometimes ripped open a seam just to sew it again. The narrator also tells the reader early on that she had never misplaced a needle, because they were like pieces of herself. Naturally, she realizes things will have to change once she gets married.
- Unable to Support a Wife: Joe and Louisa's engagement has lasted so long only because Joe insisted on going to make his fortune before he took her in marriage. It took him a decade and a half.