Nancy is a black woman who has been filling in as cook in the Compson household during the illness of their live-in servant Dilsey. She has an unreliable husband, and she has taken to prostitution to supplement her income. She has been knocked down and kicked in the face by a white client from whom she demanded payment, after which she, not he, has been jailed. While in jail she has made an attempt on her own life.
At the time of the story she is visibly pregnant, and Jesus, her husband, has gone off, first vowing vengeance against the father. Afraid that he will return and menace her, Nancy begs Mrs. Compson to let her sleep at the Compsons’ house, but Mrs. Compson will not permit it; therefore, except for one evening when she sleeps in the Compson kitchen, Mr. Compson and the three children escort her home in the evening. Between the Compson house and her cabin is a ditch, which she views as the likely place for an ambush.
After Nancy’s final day with the Compsons, when Mr. Compson will no longer accompany her, she cajoles the children, all under the age of ten, to accompany her. On their arrival at the cabin, she is so terrified that she uses every ploy she knows to delay the children’s return, offering to tell them stories and make them popcorn, but her hospitality falls short of pleasing the children.
Finally Mr. Compson comes for the children and offers to take her to a relative’s house, but she will not leave. When the Compsons depart Nancy is sitting, petrified, in her house and moaning. The author does not reveal whether her fears are groundless.