The Story of an Hour
Louise Mallard hears of her husband Brently Mallard's untimely death in a railroad accident. After an initial outpouring of grief, she retires to her room and moves from exhaustion to exaltation as she realizes that Brently's death will leave her with a lifetime of independence and free choice. However, when she goes downstairs, she finds that her husband has come home, his death having been misreported, and she dies from the subsequent shock.
Beyond the Bayou
The slave La Folle lives alone in a cabin on a plantation and has never crossed the bayou into the outer world because she is so afraid of the unknown. When the master's son Chéri accidentally injures himself while hunting, she recognizes that she must cross the bayou to seek help. Her terror at doing so nearly drives her mad, but when she reawakens after fainting upon delivery of Chéri, she calmly crosses the bayou and rejoices in the possibilities of her new world.
The elderly Ma'ame Pélagie lives with her much younger sister Pauline in a cabin next to the ruins of the once glorious mansion of Côte Joyeuse, and she dreams with her sister of rebuilding the house. When their niece La Petite arrives, Pauline becomes much happier, so when La Petite explains that Côte Joyeuse's presence is a burden upon her, Pélagie promises Pauline that La Petite will stay. Pélagie then privately says farewell to her memories and dreams of the mansion's antebellum years and allows her brother Léandre, La Petite's father, to tear down the ruins and construct a brick house. La Petite stays, and Pauline is reinvigorated with life. Pélagie, however, grows older because she has lost the past, where her soul abided.
The plantation owner Armand Aubigny falls in love with the orphan Désirée in spite of her unknown family, but as their son grows, Armand realizes that the baby has black as well as white ancestry. Blaming Désirée's genealogy, he ceases to love her. When Désirée makes this discovery and asks him about it, he rejects her, and although her adopted mother tells her to come home to where she is still loved, she takes her baby and disappears into the bayou. Armand then burns all relics of their marriage. He belatedly finds out from a letter written by his mother that Armand, not Désirée, is the parent with the mixed-race heritage.
A Respectable Woman
Although Gouvernail is a reticent, undemanding guest at the plantation, Mrs. Baroda is perturbed by her liking for him and by the apparent inconsistency between her husband's fondness and praise of him and his apparently average character. One night, she speaks with Gouvernail, and as he finally shows something of his brilliance, she realizes that she desires him. However, because she is a respectable woman, she leaves the plantation to visit her aunt in the city until he leaves, and she does not allow her husband, whom she loves, to invite Gouvernail for a second time until she is certain that she knows what to do.
While Nathalie is encouraging the advances of the rich, if unattractive, Brantain, Harvy enters and kisses her passionately before noting Brantain's presence. Brantain is mortified and excuses himself to Nathalie's displeasure, but she later explains to him that she and Harvy regard each other as siblings and simply enjoy a platonic intimacy. At her marriage to Brantain, Nathalie feels triumphant because Brantain has urged her not to destroy her friendly relationship with Harvy--and thus asks Harvy to kiss her as often as he desires. Unfortunately, Harvy decides that kissing women is too dangerous, and she resignedly tells herself that she will still have Brantain's money even if she cannot have everything.
A Pair of Silk Stockings
Little Mrs. Sommers happens to acquire fifteen dollars, which is for her a great deal of money, and she initially plans to invest her money before deciding to spend it on some better quality clothes for her children. When she goes to shop, however, she is tempted by a luxurious pair of silk stockings of the sort that she has not worn since her wealthier days prior to her marriage. Her purchase of the stockings leads her to pay for stylish boots, gloves, expensive magazines, a meal at a fancy restaurant, and a ticket for a play. Afterward, she rides home on a cable car, but part of her wishes that the cable car will never stop and return her to her impoverished existence.
As four Confederate soldiers sit near a campfire waiting for battle orders one autumn, two of the men question a third man, Edmond, about his locket, and they jokingly agree that it must be a charm since he has not been injured in over a year of fighting. The locket was a parting gift from Edmond's beloved Octavie. After a heated battle the next day, a priest discovers the locket around a young man's throat and subsequently returns it to Octavie. The next spring, Octavie and Edmond's father Judge Pillier go on a morning coach ride to enjoy the beauty of the season. Judge Pillier asks Octavie to remove her veil, and she obeys, although she resents the implication that she should not also mourn. When they return to the Pillier residence, however, Edmond returns home, to her delight, and Edmond explains that he thought he had lost the locket but that the fourth, silent man at the campfire must have stolen it.