The events of the play unfold over the course of one week at Constance Tuckerman's boarding house on the Gulf Coast. A few of her regular guests are enjoying post-dinner cocktails. Rose Griggs is trying to get her husband, General Benjamin Griggs, to admire her dress, which she has put on for a party. Young Frederick Ellis and his grandmother Mrs. Mary Ellis are reading the galleys for a novel that Frederick is about to publish. His mother Carrie Ellis and Edward ("Ned") Crossman are the other guests in the lounge, as the play opens. Frederick is engaged to be married to Sophie Tuckerman, who was adopted by Constance and brought to America from France when she was 13. She works with Leon to help Constance run the boarding house. Constance is overwrought with anxiety over the impending arrival of Nina and Nicholas Denery, who will spend the weekend at her house. Nicholas was the love of her life, before he left to become an artist in New York.