Power struggle for those in the upper classes: Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley vie for engagement to Mr. Slade. The eventual Mrs. Slade tries to remove Mrs. Ansley from the picture with a false letter inviting the latter to a night rendezvous. While the plan backfires for Mrs. Slade because her eventual husband actually meets with Mrs. Ansley, Mrs. Slade still marries her beau, but it seems the soon-to-be Mrs. Ansley actually bears Mr. Slade's daughter, Barbara.
Betrayal and deception: The two chief characters use subterfuge and machination in order to improve their engagement prospects as youths.
Grudges: And in their middle age, Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley introduce decades-old surprises, unexpected in characters so similar in proximity, age, and class.