As the story opens Sarah Penn asks her husband why men are digging in a nearby field. Adoniram Penn tries to avoid answering. Sarah compels her husband to reveal that the men are digging a cellar for a new barn on the very spot where Adoniram had promised to build a new house for the family.
Sarah goes back into her house, which is much smaller than the barn that already stands on the property. She learns from her son, Sam, that Adoniram is building the new, larger barn to house more livestock which he plans to buy. As they wash and dry dishes, her engaged daughter, Nanny, says that it’s ‘‘too bad’’ that her father is building a new barn when the family needs a decent house. Sarah tells Nanny that the ways of ‘‘men-folks’’ differ greatly from those of women and are beyond understanding. When Nanny goes on to wish for a parlor in which to entertain guests, her mother insists that there is nothing wrong with receiving visitors in a nice clean kitchen, and reminds her daughter that many people live in worse circumstances.
Sarah confronts her husband with her belief that their house is inadequate. She reminds Adoniram that when they were married, forty years earlier, he promised her a fine new house on the very site where the new barn is under construction. And despite her defense of her ‘‘nice clean kitchen,’’ she echoes Nanny’s wish for a parlor for the upcoming wedding. Adoniram refuses to discuss the matter with her, and Sarah declares that it is because he cannot speak without acknowledging that she is in the right.
Later, as Nanny sits in the kitchen sewing, she tells her mother she will be ashamed and embarrassed to have the wedding in their small, shabby kitchen. Her mother tries to console her with the thought that she may be able to put up...
(The entire section is 739 words.)