The protagonist, Mr. Nuttel, is a skittish man who has come to the country to calm his nerves. His sister has sent letters of introduction to those she knew while she spent time there. Although he feigns that visiting these acquaintances is unenjoyable, the reader gets the impression that he actually might enjoy them, for this gives him a chance to complain of his ailments. His need, then, is for attention and sympathy. It is because of this self-absorption that Nuttel is so easily fooled by the antagonist, Violet.
Violet is a young girl who has a need for entertainment, even at others' expense, and who needs to feel smart and important. She exhibits this attitude of superiority by tricking Nuttel into believing a story about the death of her aunt's husband and brothers. She ensures first that Nuttel will not suspect her lie; she questions him to find out how much knowledge he has of the people in the area. She goes on to tell an elaborate story to fool Nuttel, which is comically ironic given that her name in Latin means "truth." She proves her needs are insatiable at the end of the story when she tells yet another outlandish tale to her aunt to explain Nuttel's strange behavior, behavior that occurs simply for her own pleasure.