Isabel, Lottie, and Kezia Burnell are excited to receive a new doll's house as a gift. The sisters carefully inspect the incredible detailing in the house, such as its door which gleams with yellow varnish and its hall with a tiny hat stand and two umbrellas. The girls believe that they have never seen a thing as marvelous as their new house in their entire lives.
They carry this excitement with them to school the next morning, telling everyone all about their new doll's house. Isabel quickly appoints herself as the prime source of distributing the information, since she is oldest sister. She also gets to decide which girls may visit the house first to share in the beauty of their new house.
At recess, almost the entire class of girls crowds around Isabel. In fact, only two girls remain outside their circle: Lil and Else Kelvey. Most of the children at school are not even allowed to talk to these girls because of their socioeconomic status. Their mother is a washerwoman, and no one is sure where their father is. They dress in bits of clothing that people give to their mother, and their outfits are a source of disdain among the other girls at school.
As the days pass, eventually all of the girls at school are invited to see the Burnell's doll's house—except the Kelvey sisters. At school, some of the girls publicly ridicule them, asking Lil if she's going to be a servant and then proclaiming that their father is likely in prison.
Back at home, the Burnell sisters are called inside to greet visitors, but Kezia remains outside, alone. Eventually, the Kelvey sisters walk by, and Kezia greets them. The Kelveys are stunned but stop to talk to her. Kezia invites them to see her doll's house, but Lil gasps that Mrs. Burnell has instructed Kezia not to speak to them. Kezia replies that it doesn't matter and leads them to the house.
As the Kelveys inspect the little house, Kezia's aunt appears out of nowhere. She yells at the Kelveys to run away and never to return, shooing them like chickens out of their yard. She calls Kezia a "wicked, disobedient little girl" for inviting the Kelveys onto their property.
Out of sight of the Burnells' property, the Kelvey sisters sit together and quietly recall the details of the beautiful doll's house.