The story involves Asbury, a writer from New York who returns home to his mother's farm in the South after being diagnosed with a serious illness. He is out of money, unsuccessful and believes he is dying. His mother finds a local doctor who draws some of Asbury's blood to examine. In bed Asbury thinks about various experiences, including one the prior year when he interacted with the African-American farm hands and, in a show of rebellion against his mother, smoked with them in the dairy barn. However, the hands refused to drink some of the milk as Asbury did. Asbury requests that his mother bring a priest to him against her wishes. She eventually complies but the priest is elderly, hard of hearing, and not the intellectual that Asbury hoped for. Asbury then requests to see the African-American farm hands and gives them cigarettes. The farm hands lie to him and tell him he looks well. Asbury finds this interaction disappointing. Later, Asbury is informed that he has undulant fever, probably from drinking raw milk. The illness will not kill him but will continually recur and cause him pain. Asbury is disappointed that he will not die a tragic death.