After breakfast on a warm summer day in August, 1912, as brothers Jamie and Edmund Tyrone joke in the dining room, their mother, Mary, teases her husband, James Tyrone, about his real estate bargains and expresses concern about Edmund’s illness. Tyrone reassures her about Edmund’s health and compliments her on her own healthy appearance. After the young men join their parents in the living room, the lighthearted family conversation turns increasingly critical among them until Edmund repeats a humorous story told to him by their farm tenant Shaughnessy, who had managed to get the best of Harker, the Standard Oil millionaire, and the tension is broken.
With Edmund upstairs, the others discuss his illness. Mary claims it is only a cold, but Tyrone admits privately to his elder son, Jamie, that the doctor suspects tuberculosis. Jamie responds by accusing his father of not sending Edmund to a real doctor but to a quack. The conversation escalates into an argument that ends with both father and son feeling ashamed and guilty, and with Jamie revealing his suspicion that Mary has relapsed in her drug addiction. Tyrone and Jamie decide to go outside and clip the hedge. When Edmund tries to express to Mary his concern about her health, she accuses him of not trusting her and spying on her, and she declares that she is going to lie down before lunch.
Not long before lunchtime, restless with hedge clipping, Jamie joins Edmund for a clandestine drink and reprimands him for leaving his mother alone so long. When Mary enters, Jamie can tell with certainty that she has been unable to resist her need for drugs. Her excited and nervous ramblings lead first Edmund and then her husband, as he arrives inside for lunch, to the same sad conclusion. They all go into the dining room for lunch.
When they emerge from the dining room after the meal, Tyrone’s face shows weary resignation, Jamie’s cynicism, and Edmund’s illness. Mary is extremely nervous. The men prepare to go into town. Edmund has an appointment with Dr....
(The entire section is 833 words.)