Mrs. Hart is a young, pregnant wife who employs a maid, Mrs. Anderson, to help her run the household. Mrs. Anderson was hired when Mrs. Hart was feeling particularly overwhelmed, and now that she has begun working, Mrs. Hart cannot bring herself to fire her, though Mrs. Anderson is not a particularly industrious or pleasant employee. Nonetheless, Mrs. Hart enjoys glamorizing the fact that she has a housekeeper in correspondence to her friends from home.
Mrs. Anderson always makes Mrs. Hart a cup of tea in the morning, and as they converse, Mrs. Hart realizes that she must always fulfill a quota of compliments to Mrs. Anderson daily to please the older woman. The maid is annoyed that she must clean up after Mrs. Hart’s party from the previous night, although these responsibilities are a part of her job. However, Mrs. Hart is peeved by hints that Mrs. Anderson drops regarding the infidelity and other such bad habits of many husbands. Mrs. Hart feels that she does not need to share these concerns, feeling confident about her own husband, Bill.
Mrs. Anderson mentions that she discussed Bill with another woman in the community, Mrs. Martin, who also expressed doubts about him. Mrs. Hart is alarmed that her neighbors gossip about the respectability of her family.
Mrs. Anderson vents to Mrs. Hart about her own marital problems; her husband is an abusive drunk. Then, she mentions that Mrs. Martin suggested that she move in with them. Alarmed and realizing that she does not have the willpower to say no, she can only listen helplessly as Mrs. Anderson continues to push this idea.
This story also features a suburban setting. Like Mrs. Tylor (from "Of Course"), Mrs. Hart, the protagonist, finds herself trapped by the niceties of her small and insular village. Mrs. Anderson, whose presence is overbearing and unpleasant, wants to move in with Mrs. Hart and her husband, who are expecting a baby. Understandably, Mrs. Hart does not want this intrusion in her young family. However, she cannot reject Mrs. Anderson's passive-aggressive request to move in with her family. Mrs. Anderson's position as a major source of gossip among the community makes this impossible, as she knows Mrs. Anderson would retaliate by spreading malicious rumors about Mr. Hart's fidelity. As a result, Mrs. Hart is essentially forced to accept Mrs. Anderson's suggestion.
Even as she resigns herself to this fact, Mrs. Hart wonders how she can twist the situation to make it sound glamorous so that she can be the envy of her city friends. She envisions writing letters to her friends, "the girls in New York, reading her letters together and envying her" (191). Mrs. Hart knows that she will succumb to conformity and allow Mrs. Anderson to move in with her family, under the threat that Mrs. Anderson will make Mrs. Hart a community outcast otherwise. Indeed, Mrs. Anderson seems to have planned the whole conversation.
Mrs. Anderson is the antagonist, instigating the main conflict, which has a central component in Mrs. Hart’s experience of the conversation in her head. If Mrs. Hart were able to disregard gossip and Mrs. Anderson's passive-aggressive behavior, she would have no conflict in the request; she would be able to reject Mrs. Anderson's request. Jackson emphasizes the constricting conformity of living in a small town, which renders Mrs. Hart unable to disregard the prospect of being the object of further malicious gossip. Because Mrs. Hart subscribes to this conformity, she must act against her true desires and allow Mrs. Anderson to move in with her family. Of course, Mrs. Hart could resolve this conflict by refusing to conform, but she does not.