Henry Earlforward runs a crowded, dusty bookstore. He meets his neighbor, Mrs. Violet Arb, when they haggle over the price of a cookbook. She refuses to buy the book as she finds every price too high. Henry is a miser and admires her steadfastness. They eventually marry.

Henry is outraged at the cost of the wedding breakfast and grows increasingly annoyed as his new wife insists on spending even more money to celebrate. Sensing a threat to his savings, Henry grows more miserly than ever, refusing to light the stove and eating almost nothing. Violet insists that the maid, Elsie, cook steaks and omelets for them. When her husband refuses to eat them, Violet refuses too.

Henry finally becomes ill. Dr. Raste urges him to go into the hospital, but Henry fears losing his autonomy and his life. He only consents after much arguing. When the doctor arrives to pick him up, however, Violet is much more ill than her husband. She is taken to the hospital, while Henry resolutely refuses to go.

To Dr. Raste, the family is ridiculous and annoying. They are business he must put up with. Henry still holds his purse-strings tight and Elsie is forced to steal money from him to send for news of Violet. Violet dies after an operation for the removal of fibroids from her uterus. She was too undernourished to handle the intervention.

Henry still refuses to change his ways and even leaves his bed to check on his books. He discovers Elsie’s theft. Neighbors find his body on the floor of his office. Elsie and her lover Joe go to work for Dr. Raste.


Bennett is critical of the hard-hearted Dr. Raste. But his patients are not much more sympathetic. The two destroy their health in order to destroy one another.


First published: 1923


Academy of Chicago

Place Published