Tee Bob is supposed to be at the party at his house to celebrate his engagement to Judy Major. But he wants to be with Mary Agnes more than ever before. So he leaves his family house and drives his car to what is referred to as the “quarters,” a cluster of cabins in which some of the black workers live. He pulls up to the cabin Jane shares with Mary Agnes.
Mary Agnes is inside, packing her suitcase for a trip to New Orleans. She is startled by the sound of knocking at her door. Before she opens the door, she guesses it might be Clamp, a young boy who often catches the bus to the city with her on weekends. But it is not Clamp. It is Tee Bob, who pushes his way inside. Mary Agnes is worried about his manner and leaves the door open. She notices at once that Tee Bob is very drunk.
Tee Bob walks over to Mary Agnes’s bed and sits down. He insists on talking to her. He has something important to say. As he is telling her how much he loves her, Mary Agnes continues to shake her head. She talks to him softly, as if she were speaking to a brother or a young student. She tells him there is no way they can live together. People will not allow it. They are too different from one another.
Tee Bob insists that he cannot live without her. He must have her. Mary Agnes does not give in. She returns to packing her suitcase, determined to leave the cabin before anyone sees Tee Bob and her together.
The next thing the reader knows, Tee Bob is running out of the cabin and across the field. Clamp sees Tee Bob running from Mary Agnes’s door, and he becomes frightened. He knocks on Jane’s door, but Jane does not answer. So Clamp slowly moves toward Mary Agnes’s door, which is still open. He sees her lying on the floor and believes she has been raped.
This news finally reaches Jane. She had been in the kitchen of the big house talking with a friend of the owners, Jules Raynard. They know Tee Bob has just arrived home and has gone to the library and locked himself inside. Jules tells Tee Bob’s father, Robert, what has happened. Robert tries to get Tee Bob to open the library door. When his efforts fail, Robert uses an axe to bring the door down. Inside he finds his son sitting in a chair. A letter opener has fallen to the floor next to Tee Bob. Tee Bob is dead. Before killing himself, Tee Bob wrote a letter to his mother in which he says Mary Agnes is completely innocent.
As it turns out, Mary Agnes was not raped. Tee Bob, in anger at her refusal, pushed her a little too hard. Her head knocked against the wall, and she was unconscious for a brief time. At first Mary Agnes is reluctant to tell her version of the story to the sheriff. But after she learns that Tee Bob left a letter confessing what has happened, she tells the sheriff that Tee Bob was a decent man.
Without Tee Bob’s letter, though, Mary Agnes might have been sentenced to a jail term for enticing Tee Bob and encouraging his affections for her. That would have been enough at the time to earn her a guilty verdict for causing Tee Bob’s death. After the family settles down, Jules tells Jane that long ago it might not have mattered if a white man loved a Negro. But somewhere during the years that followed, people made up artificial rules, making falling in love between the races against the rules. Jules concludes that he and Jane and all the other people in Tee Bob’s life are the ones truly guilty of Tee Bob’s death. They all pushed him until he had nowhere else to go.