- Woodcock, John
- Date of entry: Jan-11-1999
The wealthy 49-year-old Paul Dorrance, concerned about his health, summons his doctor and a cancer specialist for an examination. They pronounce him healthy, though in need of a rest from work, and Paul begins to ponder a life of renewed vigor, perhaps in marriage with a younger woman who would bear him children. Then he discovers on the floor a piece of paper containing the diagnosis of cancer.
He believes the doctors have deceived him, and his elation turns to self-pity and gloom. In that mood he decides to propose to Eleanor, his mistress of fifteen years whom he had previously decided not to marry, for companionship in the difficult time ahead. He proposes to her the same day as the consultation, without telling her of the diagnosis (even though she knows he saw the doctors).
She accepts his proposal, and she is not deterred when he reveals the harsh prognosis. Several years later Eleanor dies of a heart attack, and Paul soon discovers that on the fatal day of the consultation she . . . had done a certain thing [which readers will want to discover for themselves] that trumps Paul's egotism and manipulativeness in the relationship.
The Collected Short Stories of Edith Wharton, vol. 2
R. W. B. Lewis