Tsiporah says she's having trouble commenting. I'm going to turn off the word verification. I'll have to turn it back on if I get comment spam but maybe the bots will take a while to find me.
Anyway, so Tsiporah thought "The Lady's Maid's Bell" had an abrupt ending and she wasn't sure what happened. I emailed this to her:
Yes, "The Lady's Maid's Bell" did have an abrupt ending. I didn't get it right away. I made R and F read it, and my sister, sister-in-law and mother, so we could all discuss what happened.
I asked R why Mrs. Brympton didn't want to ring the bell to call Hartley and he had to explain that to me - whenever she rang that bell, Emma Saxon answered. Much as she liked Emma, she really didn't want to see her ghost. That's why all the other maids had left, of course.
Emma wanted Hartley to warn Mr. Ranford not to come to the house, but she couldn't explain to Hartley what she wanted.
My sister had to explain this part to me:
At the end, Mr. Ranford had come through the garden to visit Mrs. Brympton secretly at night. Were they having a physical affair? Don't know - Hartley was surprised to see that Mrs. Brympton was still clothed b/c she thought she'd gone to bed. Looks like if it was an actual affair she'd have had some of her clothes off! Brympton had smelled a rat and only pretended to leave, and had doubled back to the house to catch his wife with Ranford. Emma stopped him at the door of the dressing room to give Ranford time to split. She must have cared about Ranford b/c he cared about Mrs. Brympton. Unfortunately, it was all too much for poor Mrs. Brympton's heart.
Ranford limped at the funeral b/c he hurt his foot or ankle jumping out the window. Brympton knew but he couldn't prove it.
So it's kind of a thriller in a dark, subdued way.
One thing that "The Lady's Maid's Bell" and "To Build a Fire" have in common is a driving plot that pulls you along. You know something is going to happen. They both set up an atmosphere - in TLMB it's the gloomy house and the dripping woods, in "Fire" it's the extreme cold.
Here's another Wharton story but it's very different.
It's about some women who are trying to be cultured; they're trying too hard and they don't have a clue, and the free spirit among them tries to rescue them but they're too dull to see it. It's pretty funny, and it's one of my favorites.