The narrator describes Nashville in negative and mocking terms before explaining why he has come there.
I must tell you how I came to be in Nashville, and I assure you the digression brings as much tedium to me as it does to you. I was traveling elsewhere on my own business, but I had a commission from a Northern literary magazine to stop over there and establish a personal connection between the publication and one of its contributors, Azalea Adair.
The unnamed narrator has been asked to stop off in Nashville to meet a gifted woman named Azalea Adair and get her to sign a contract to write exclusively for the northern literary magazine for two cents a word. Evidently the narrator is not a full-time professional agent but probably a writer himself acting as an agent as a favor to the editor of one of the magazines to which he contributes. The narrator might be taken to be O. Henry himself.
After he meets this refined fifty-year-old lady of the Old South and understands her impoverished and exploited situation, he takes it upon himself to wire tje magazine editor and tells them that the author is holding out for eight cents a word. The editor quickly agrees.
It is only after getting the grateful woman to sign the contract that the narrator learns she is the wife of the drunken loafer who calls himself "Major" Wentworth Caswell, a man he has met in the saloon at his hotel. Azalea Adair Caswell is on the verge of starvation because the "Major" takes virtiually every cent she earns and spends it on liquor. He even manages to get the two dollars the narrator paid the faithful Uncle Caesar, formerly a black slave of Azalea's family, to drive him out to her home.
When the story ends, it is apparent that Uncle Caesar has killed Caswell to save Azalea from being robbed and brought to the brink of death by starvation. Only the narrator knows the identity of the perpetrator, and he leaves Nashville without exposing him.