Framton Nuttel, the hapless protagonist of the story, experiences deep internal conflict. He's a very shy man, a nervous wreck who's been sent to the country by his doctor for some much-needed rest and recuperation. At the same time, Framton's sister doesn't want her brother to be cooped up indoors throughout his rest cure. She thinks it would be beneficial for Framton to get out and about and socialize with some people in the locality. So she helpfully provides him with a letter of introduction to the Sappleton family. By venturing forth to the Sappleton residence, Framton is attempting to overcome his chronic shyness and the symptoms of his nervous disorder.
The main external conflict in the story is between Vera and Framton. Once Vera realizes that Framton doesn't know anyone in the area, she immediately seizes the opportunity to spring a wicked prank upon him. Framton's frazzled nerves are no match for Vera's expert skill in weaving a convincing horror story. Just when Framton thinks he's successfully overcome his inner conflict, he finds himself comprehensively defeated in a much more serious external conflict with the mischievous Vera.