A Poor Rule (Henry)

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A Poor Rule
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A group of men in a small town compete for the affections of Ileen Hinkle, a young woman who values honesty and frankness. One man's flattery is exposed, and Ileen leaves for Boston to pursue her dreams.

In the town of Paloma, there is a restaurant called the Parisian Restaurant, owned by Old Man Hinkle. His daughter, Ileen Hinkle, works as the cashier. She is a beautiful girl who values honesty and dislikes flattery.

Ileen Hinkle — daughter of the house; fruit-stand blonde with wide-set eyes; values frankness and honesty; aspiring singer.

Three men, Bryan Jacks, Bud Cunningham, and the narrator, are regular visitors to the restaurant and have developed feelings for Ileen. They all try to impress her by being honest and straightforward.

Bryan Jacks — telegrapher and station-and-express agent; small man with brick-colored hair and cranberry eyes; knowledgeable, well-traveled.
Bud Cunningham — cowboy; wears a sombrero, chaps, and a handkerchief tied at the back of his neck; strong-willed, caring.

One day, Ileen's father suggests a test to see who is the most honest. Each man is asked to give their opinion on Ileen's singing voice. Bud and Jacks are honest and admit that she doesn't have a great voice.

"Thank you, Mr. Jacks. If you only knew how I appreciate any one's being candid and not a flatterer! I get so tired of people telling me I'm pretty."

However, when it is Vesey's turn, he showers Ileen with exaggerated compliments and praises her voice.

C. Vincent Vesey — young lawyer; wears a Prince Albert coat, light striped trousers, broad-brimmed soft black hat, and a narrow white muslin bow tie; flamboyant, eloquent.

Despite this, Ileen appreciates the honesty of Bud and Jacks.

"I'd so much rather hear you say that than to hear you talk about my eyes and hair. I'm glad you believe me when I say I don't like flattery."

Later, Ileen decides to leave Paloma to attend a conservatory in Boston to improve her singing. The men are left wondering whether it is better to lie or tell the truth to a woman.