The play ‘The Dear Departed’ presents an interesting situation that has tragically become common place in the world of today. The scene of the play is set in the sittingroom of a small house in a lower middle-class district of a provincial town. The setting of the play reveals that the tea-table has been laid. Mrs Slater, a plump and active lady is in mourning and she is getting ready to receive some guests. She beckons to her daughter Victoria, who is ten year old, and instructs her to change into something sober. It is revealed that Victoria’s grandfather has passed away and the Slater family is getting ready to receive Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Ben. Victoria expresses surprise at this news because her aunt and uncle had not paid them a visit for years. Mrs Slater reveals that they were coming over to talk about grandfather’s affairs, on hearing of his death. In the meanwhile Mr Slater enters. He is a heavy man who stoops he is also in mourning dress.
Henry Slater is skeptical whether Elizabeth will come, for the last time when Mrs Slater and Elizabeth had quarrelled, she had vowed never to pay a visit again to their house. Mrs Slater gives Henry new slippers of her father. She also plans to take away the new bureau of the grandfather and shift it to their room, before Elizabeth and Ben arrive. Both the husband and wife, lock the front door and shift the bureau down and put their old chest of drawers there. Victoria wants to know why they were stealing grandfather’s things but her mother tells her to remain quiet. Grandpa’s new clock is also taken away. Meanwhile there is loud knocking at the door and the Slaters take plenty of time to look normal. Mrs Jordan and Ben pretend to be emotional at the death of Mr Abel Merryweather. Both the ladies compare their mourning dresses, criticising the other’s outfit. Mrs Jordan is surprised to discover that no doctor had been summoned to check on her father. Mrs Slater insists in a stubborn manner that she had been keen on Mr Pringle and if he was out of station, they couldn’t be offensive and call someone else. Mrs Slater reveals that her father had been happy in the morning and he had apparently gone to pay the premium of his insurance policy.
He was generally going to “Ring-O-Bells’ frequently and the night before he had come drunk and had gone to bed without having dinner. Mrs Jordan and Ben prefer to have tea before going and looking up father. All four of them start discussing about the obituary and the kind of announcement in the newspapers to be inserted. Mrs Jordan wants a long poem but Mrs Slater protests by saying that it will cost a lot. Meanwhile Mrs Jordan reveals that her father had willed his gold watch to her son Jimmy. Mrs Slater feels very offended and refuses to believe it. Victoria says that grandfather had not gone in the morning to pay his premium but had instead gone over to ‘The Ring of Bells,’ the public house, managed by John Shorrock’s widow. Everyone starts blaming the old man for not paying his premium. Victoria is instructed to go over to grandpa’s room to get the receipt of the premium. Mrs Jordan is surprised to note a new bureau and she wishes to know the details, because she doubts Mrs Slater’s version. Victoria enters, looking dazed. She gives the shocking news that Grandpa was stirring and moving. After some time Mr Abel Merryweather enters and is surprised to see his other daughter and son-in-law, Mr and Mrs Jordan. He reveals that he was well and just had a slight headache he notices Henry wearing his new slippers and takes them. Abels wishes to know, why all were in mourning dresses. Mrs Jordan makes up some story to pacify him. Abel Merryweather enjoys tea and has a generous slice of the apple-pie. He grumbles and scolds Mrs Slater for taking away his bureau. Mrs Jordan gets agitated and accuses her sister of robbing her father. The husbands also join their wives in hurling accusations at each other Abel discovers about his death. He addresses his daughters directly and declares that he was going to change his will and all the money will go to the one, in whose house he dies. Both the daughters fight with each other to keep their father.
Abel is amused and watches all the fun. At last he makes his announcement which shocks everyone. On Monday, he would go to the lawyer and alter his will, then he would go to the insurance office and pay his premium. After that he would go to the church and get married to Mrs Shorrock. Everyone is shocked. Abel reveals that he had at last found someone who was happy to keep him. He exits with an invitation of his marriage. He also thanks Mrs Slater for shifting the Bureau down-stairs for now it will be easy to cart it away to “Ring-O-Bells.’