"The Offshore Pirate"
The story opens with the beautiful Ardita reclining on the deck of a yacht. She lives with her uncle, and is spoiled and rude. Her uncle wants her to meet the Morelands and abandon her intention to marry a particular philanderer, but she refuses. The uncle leaves the ship, and Ardita continues reading. She hears music, and a rowing boat crewed by seven men approaches the yacht. They are a fugitive band, ‘Curtis Carlyle and his Six Black Buddies’ who had committed an armed hold up. Ardita is bewildered by their leader’s confidence as the men take over the yacht. The leader, Curtis Carlyle, offers to spare her provided she keeps quiet for forty-eight hours.
Ardita sees Carlyle as a romantic figure and is interested in him, as she is rarely interested in others. She implores Carlyle – “Lie to me by moonlight.”
Ardita becomes serious when Carlyle tells her he loves her. Carlyle hands Ardita a bracelet, saying it was part of the group’s haul. He says he took it from a woman with red hair – indicating her philandering lover’s former partner, Mimi. They kiss as the yacht is boarded; not by the authorities but by Colonel Moreland.
Carlyle reveals that he is, in fact, Toby Moreland, and that the elaborate hoax was conjured by him out to win her over. His elaborate plan, supported by Colonel Moreland and Mr. Farnham, succeeds as Ardita asks him to continue lying to her for the rest of their lives.
"The Ice Palace"
It is a Southern summer afternoon where Sally Carrol lazily greets her friend Clark, and agrees to go for a swim with him and some friends. They are surprised that she is going to marry a Northern boy, Harry Bellamy. Bellamy comes to visit Sally Carrol, and they discuss her visiting him in the North in January. She is concerned about the cold as she is a “summer child."
The train journey is cold and uncomfortable for Sally Carrol. Harry and his family welcome her. Sally Carrol notices the contrast of the Bellamy library and the one at her home. Sally Carrol is confused, and does not feel at home.
After they have an argument, Sally Carrol suggests she and Harry get married immediately to avoid quarrels, but Harry advises that they stick to their planned date.
Sally Carrol and Harry visit the ice palace, and she feels oppressed and tense. Sally Carrol falls into a hole in the ice, and she is terrified and afraid she will die. She then sees the ghost of Margery Lee and is comforted by her presence. She is rescued and begs to go home.
The concluding sequence shows Sally Carrol back in the golden, dusty South.
"Bernice Bobs Her Hair"
Bernice is visiting her cousin Marjorie. Marjorie is very different from Bernice, having relied on her family's wealth for social status rather than learning to be charming and friendly on her own. Marjorie blames Bernice’s "Indian blood" for the reason she is so socially backward. Unfortunately, Bernice overhears the conversation.
Bernice reveals that she overheard Marjorie, and tries to bluff that she will leave. Marjorie is unmoved by Bernice’s sanctimonious approach. Marjorie and Bernice calm a little, and Marjorie agrees to coach Bernice in the social necessities. The crux of her popularity is the continuous threat that she will bob her hair, and the curiosity this creates about her. The social experiment works, and Bernice’s self-confidence increases along with her popularity. Warren McIntyre, who formerly loved Marjorie, begins to court Bernice. Bitter, Marjorie calls Bernice's bluff regarding the haircut, and Bernice takes the challenge. But the haircut is very unattractive.
After Bernice’s unsuccessful haircut, Warren returns his attentions to Marjorie. Bernice realizes that Marjorie has duped her and takes her revenge, cutting off Marjorie’s hair as she leaves town.
Jim Powell, the "jelly bean," is born into middle-class society but his father died in a drunken brawl and Powell became a grocery delivery boy. At a dance, Powell meets Nancy, who is above his social class, and falls in love.
Nancy asks for Powell’s help to remove gum from her shoe. Powell rescues Nancy from a major gambling debt through his skill in throwing dice, and Nancy drunkenly proclaims that she loves him.
However, after Powell decides to make himself a gentleman in order to be worthy of her affections, Nancy marries another beau, so he reverts back to his old type, haunting pool halls.
Gordon Sterrett, a returned soldier down on his luck, visits an old college friend, Philip Dean, at the Biltmore Hotel. They discuss Sterrett’s former girlfriend, Edith Bradin, and the fact that she is in town. Sterrett asks Dean for money. Dean is distant and judgmental.
Dean is planning to go to the Yale Gamma Psi dance, and to divert the conversation from the vulgar subject of money, invites Sterrett to breakfast with him. Sterrett agrees, in the hope that he can persuade Dean to lend him the money.
The narrative then turns to Carrol Key and Gus Rose, demobilized enlisted men from the lower class. Key and Rose follow an angry mob that is forming, then decide to track down Key’s brother, a waiter at the Yale dance, to try to get some alcohol.
Sterrett appears, apologizing that he could not raise the money Jewel wanted. Edith reaches the paper offices and sees her brother Harry with his colleague Bartholomew. The mob reaches the paper offices, which are leftist, and a small riot begins. Henry’s leg is broken in the chaos, and Carrol falls from the window.
Sterrett and Dean meet up in the restaurant. Sterrett is with Jewel and Dean goes over to remonstrate with him. Jewel leads Sterrett away. Himmel and Dean threaten a waiter and Himmel throws food until he is ejected from Childs’.
Sterrett awakes to find he is married to Jewel and shoots himself.
"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz"
Percy Washington impresses his friend Unger with tales of his father's wealth, and invites him to their family estate for the summer.
Washington and Unger travel to Washington’s home. It is an enormous, lavish private compound, kept secret in the mountains. Unger learns that other visitors to the home have been killed, and that passing airmen are shot down and held captive. Percy tells the family history: his grandfather found a massive diamond the size of a mountain, but if it were made public it would be immediately devalued. Instead, the grandfather founded the estate, keeping in bondage the descendants of the African Americans he had enslaved by telling them the South had won the war.
Unger falls in love with Percy's sister, Kismine. They agree to get married, and to escape the family compound. During their escape, the compound is destroyed by jets, summoned by an escaped airman captive. Unger survives with Kismine and her sister Jasmine. They are now penniless, but the sheltered girls romanticize the idea of working for a living.
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
The Button baby is born in hospital in 1860. He is born as a seventy-year old man. In this fantasy, Benjamin is born old and will age backwards through his life. In Benjamin's childhood, he is first rejected by his father for not being a typical baby, and only gets along with his elderly grandfather.
In Benjamin's young adulthood, he looks like his father's brother. He marries a young woman who desires a more mature husband, and speculations begin about Benjamin's origins. He gets younger-looking every year and begins to lose interest in his wife. As the story progresses, Benjamin is continually thwarted in attempts to engage in life stages appropriate to either his chronological or apparent age. In the end, he dies as a baby.
"The Rich Boy"
Hunter is a privileged and wealthy young man, who falls in love with a wealthy and proper girl, Paula. They have an extended affair, but Hunter takes Paula for granted and loses her. He has another affair with Dolly, a flapper, and loses her as well.
Dolly and Paula both marry other men, and Hunter is left single in his thirties. Hunter devotes his time to advising others in their relationships. Hunter sees Paula again, and observes that she loves her new husband as she never loved him. Paula dies in childbirth, and Hunter first mourns, and then drinks champagne with a new girl.
Dexter Green first meets Judy Jones as a child, and when they meet again in young adulthood he is immediately smitten. But Judy is popular and beautiful, and she has many beaus. After an intense, brief period in which Green is the primary man in her heart, Judy moves on to other men. Devoted, Green hangs around.
He eventually becomes engaged to another girl, Irene, but he is not fully enthusiastic about the match. When Judy reappears and is jealous of his engagement, he breaks it off. They have another brief period of happiness together until, once again, Judy's attentions are drawn elsewhere.
Seven years later, Green is talking to a business acquaintance when Judy’s name comes up. She is unhappily married and her beauty is gone. Green feels as though his memory of her has been ruined.
Joel Coles is invited to the Calmans' for a Sunday drink. He realizes he is falling for Stella after he embarrasses himself at their party and she is so kind to him. Miles Calman has had an affair with a woman named Eva Goebel and is in therapy as a result.
Calman reveals the hypocrisy of his relationship with Stella: he feels that the issues of his affair with Eva Goebel are dealt with, and yet he says if Stella were unfaithful, he would divorce her.
Stella asks Coles to accompany her while Calman is away. Coles meets Stella at the theater. When Miles is reported dead, Coles offers to contact a friend to comfort Stella, but she says her friend was Eva Goebel. Stella wants him to stay. Coles sees this as a way of keeping Calman alive to her.
The story opens with Charlie Wales questioning the barman at the Ritz as to the fortunes and whereabouts of his former drinking friends. Wales explains he is in business in Prague and that he has returned to see his little girl.
Wales then encounters his sister-in-law, whose response to him is lukewarm as she attempts to hide her distrust. He boasts of his success in Prague to his brother-in-law, Lincoln. Wales reminisces over his experiences of Paris, when he and his wife were young and irresponsible. Honoria says that she wants to live with her father: Wales is overjoyed by her request.
But Marion is unwilling to let Wales have his daughter. She clearly blames Wales for her sister’s death. Wales leaves the house and reflects on Helen’s death. Wales takes gifts to the Peters’ house and they agree that he and Honoria can leave in a few days. But when old drinking buddies show up, drunk and in search of Wales, Marion is horrified. The arrangement is canceled, and Wales loses the chance to have his daughter back.
Jacob Booth meets a beautiful young girl of the lower class, Jenny, and gets her started in the movie business. As he watches Jenny grow up, he is entranced by her beauty and innocence. But he waits for her to become a woman before trying to make her his.
When he visits her in Hollywood, she is already slipping out of his grasp. He proposes to her twice, and he is refused - she has become a woman, and although she cares for Jacob she is in love with another young man of the film industry. Jacob can only experience Jenny in her prime the way everyone else does: on the silver screen.
"The Lost Decade"
Orrison Brown is asked by his employer to take Trimble to lunch and show him around town. Trimble says that he has missed most of the last decade, but he is vague about where he has been. Unwilling to directly pry into Trimble's business, Orrison attempts to find out where Trimble spent the last decade. Eventually, he learns that Trimble was in town after all, but he was drunk, for the whole decade. Now that he is finally sober, he is attempting to experience life fully once again. They part ways and Orrison is made more aware of his senses and the world around him.