The story begins with Mrs Hopewell's analysis of Mrs Freeman's limited facial expressions, but therein she reveals also the limits of her own thinking. Her thoughts of the Freemans are laced with some scorn, but she humors them because they are "good country people" and of use to her. Mrs Hopewell's daughter Hulga, who had lost her leg in a shooting accident, is openly rude to Mrs Freeman, but the good countrywoman was never troubled even by "a direct attack, a positive leer, blatant ugliness to her face." The author, however, does not attempt to present any rosy picture of country people. Mrs Freeman is shown to poke her very sharp nose into everything, with "a special fondness for the details of secret infections, hidden deformities, assaults upon children." Her children, Glynese and Carramae, whom Hulga secretly refers to as Glycerin and Caramel, have all the worst qualities of the girls of their age in the town, but the story is not primarily about the Freemans.
The story line follows the thread of one particular 'good' country man's attitude to these city folk. The irony of his point of view is revealed in full only at the very end of the story.