“Tea” by Saki Summary: Short Story Plot Synopsis

“Tea” is a short story by Saki (H. H. Munro) from his 1919 collection The Toys of Peace. It can be read in the Paperback Amazon sample of The Toys of Peace and Other Papers. (Pg. 18) It’s about a single man who’s feeling pressured to settle down and get married. Here’s a summary of “Tea”.

“Tea” Summary

James Cushat-Prinkly is thirty-four and unmarried. He’s been attracted to several women but hasn’t taken the initiative to pursue any of them. His female relatives and matronly friends are eager for him to settle down, and he feels the pressure.

His Uncle Jules has recently died and left him a comfortable legacy, so it’s the perfect time to find a wife. His female relatives and matronly friends have chosen Joan Sebastable as a suitable candidate. So far, they’ve been maneuvering to bring the pair together, but the final step will have to be taken by James.

Now, James walks toward the Sebastable residence without much enthusiasm. His mind drifts to a possible honeymoon in Minorca, and whether there are any Minorca fowls on the island.

Tea by Saki SummaryPlot Synopsis
“Tea” Summary

The sounding of a clock tells James it’s half past four—tea time. He’s loath to arrive at tea time amid the array of dishes, cups and other accoutrements. What’s worse, he’ll have to endure the banal tea-related questions. Joan will have a pleasant tinkling in her voice as she asks about his tea preferences. He’s experienced it many times and dislikes everything about it.

Wanting to arrive after tea time, he realizes he could stop off at the residence of Rhoda Ellam, a distant cousin of his. She makes hats and seems happy despite not having a lot.

Rhoda welcomes him into a multi-purpose room where she’s having a picnic meal. She tells James to start while she gets more, and some tea. There’s no more talk of food. They have a relaxed and amusing conversation. James enjoys the lack of perfunctory questions and the food.

Rhoda hopes he’s come to buy hats for his sisters to celebrate his inheritance. James hasn’t come to buy hat, but he doesn’t reveal his real reason for stopping in, either. The pleasant conversation they’ve had has given him an idea, though, and he tells her what it it.

Forty minutes later, James is at home announcing to his family that he’s engaged. They congratulate him and claim they saw it coming. When he reveals he has asked Rhoda Ellam, they’re surprised but they adjust quickly.

In September, after the honeymoon in Minorca, James enters his drawing room where Rhoda is seated behind the tea service. There’s a pleasant tinkling in her voice as she asks about his tea preferences.

I hope this summary of “Tea” by Saki has been helpful.