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" is a short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...
written by Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....
in 1891. The story is also present in a compilation of 50 Great Short Stories
by Milton Crane
The narrator tells the story of Brooksmith, a butler
A butler is a domestic worker in a large household. In great houses, the household is sometimes divided into departments with the butler in charge of the dining room, wine cellar, and pantry. Some also have charge of the entire parlour floor, and housekeepers caring for the entire house and its...
he had once known. Brooksmith was responsible for the preservation of the atmosphere in a retired diplomat's salon
A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to...
where various conversations took place. With the diplomat's death, Brooksmith loses his vocation, which to him was a almost a calling. Brooksmith, lonely and dispirited, works a few odd jobs but falls into poverty and illness. At the end of the story, the narrator reveals that Brooksmith had disappeared, and implies that he may have committed suicide.