A private party is being held at Antoine’s, a New Orleans restaurant that has been a landmark since 1840. The purpose of the party, hosted by wealthy businessman Orson Foxworth, is to introduce his niece Ruth, who is visiting for the Mardi Gras season, to a circle of his friends. Ruth soon notes tensions between Odile St. Amant, her husband Léonce, and her sister Caresse. Odile is suffering from a nervous disorder, and her husband is openly flirting with Caresse. Foxworth, who has been in Central America for some years on business, is renewing his affection for Amélie Lalande and seriously considering marriage. During dinner, Ruth begins a friendship with Russell Aldridge. Following dinner, the party adjourns to the Blue Room for dancing, but Odile is forced to leave early by symptoms of what is later diagnosed as Parkinson’s disease.
The next day, Doctor Perrault tells Odile she will become completely helpless and dependent yet might live for many years. Despondent, Odile meets with Sabin Duplessis, an old friend with whom she once was in love. When he had been mistakenly declared killed in action during World War II, Odile had become attracted to St. Amant and subsequently married him. However, Sabin still loves Odile, and when she asks him for a war souvenir, a German pistol, he gives it to her.
While Odile and Sabin are rediscovering their love for each other, Caresse and Léonce are about to begin an affair. However, an automobile...
(The entire section is 560 words.)