The ladies listen to their daughters talking as they sit on the terrace.
Mrs. Slade and Mrs. Ansley are old acquaintances vacationing in Rome with their daughters. As they sit on the terrace of a Roman restaurant, they listen to their daughters talking.
"[Let's] leave the young things to their knitting," … "Oh, look here, Babs, not actually knitting—" "Well, I mean figuratively," rejoined the first. "After all, we haven't left our poor parents much else to do.. . ."
The ladies ponder their daughters and how they are or are not similar to their mothers. They also think about the boys they are going out with, and how they behaved when they were their girls’ age. Mrs. Slade envies Mrs. Ansely’s daughter Barbara.
The girls serve as a reminder to the two older ladies. They remember the lives they have shared and the strains to their relationship, including a man they fought over. Mrs. Slade tried to prevent Mrs. Ansley from stealing her fiancé. It turns out that Mr. Slade cheated on Mrs. Slade before they were married—with Mrs. Ansley.
Mrs. Ansley gets the last laugh. Although she did not marry the man they both liked, she had an affair with him and a child with him, a child that Mrs. Slade envied.