Cars are driving toward Dublin, and spectators gather to watch them speed by. Occasionally, the locals cheer for the passing cars, especially the blue French cars. The French team is doing relatively well in this race; they won second and third place. The first-place winner is Belgian, though he was driving for the German team. Every time a blue car passes, the Irish spectators cheer twice as loud.
In one of these cars is a group of four excited men. One of them is the owner of the car, a French man named Charles Ségouin. He is accompanied by his Canadian cousin André Rivière, a Hungarian pianist named Villona, and a young man named Jimmy Doyle. Ségouin is pleased because the race has helped him to receive some support for the motor company he is going to start. Rivière is in good spirits because he is going to become manager of Ségouin’s company. Villona is happy because he had a wonderful lunch. Doyle, however, is more excited than actually happy.
Jimmy is twenty-six years old and is the son of a wealthy Irishman. Jimmy’s father had been an Irish Nationalist, but he moderated those views early on as he sought financial success. He became rich by opening a chain of butcher shops in and around Dublin and by taking police contracts to supply the police with his goods. He is now locally famous as being quite wealthy. Jimmy’s father sent him to England for college and then to Dublin University. Jimmy also spent a term at Cambridge, where he met Ségouin. Jimmy was not a good student, and instead spent his time socializing. Although Jimmy’s father scolds him for how much he spends, he is secretly proud of his son’s extravagance.
As the car drives along, Jimmy struggles to understand what Ségouin and Rivière, who are in the front seats, are saying. Jimmy’s excitement stems from three things: the thrill of driving quickly; the local fame that he has gained from being seen with Ségouin and his other continental companions (the Irish refer to people from mainland Europe as “continentals”; and having money. Jimmy believes that he has quite a lot of money, although he acknowledges that Ségouin would probably not be impressed. Additionally, Jimmy prides himself in knowing how much hard work goes into making money, which he is especially aware of now that he is on the verge of making a big investment in Ségouin’s company. Between Ségouin’s wealthy appearance and Jimmy’s father’s assurance that there is lots of money to be made in car manufacturing, Jimmy is confident of the investment.
When the group arrive in Dublin, Ségouin drops Jimmy and Villona off near the bank. The two men walk north to get to Jimmy’s parents’ house, where they will be staying. They need to get dressed for dinner that night with Ségouin and Rivière. At Jimmy’s house, everyone is excited about the prospect of Jimmy’s dinner with the continental Europeans. Jimmy looks quite handsome when he dresses up, which makes his father very proud. In fact, Jimmy’s father is in such good spirits that he is friendly with Villona. Villona, however, doesn’t pay attention to Jimmy’s father, as he is feeling hungry and is looking forward to eating dinner.
The dinner is delicious and confirms for Jimmy that Ségouin has excellent taste. While at dinner, they are joined by Routh, an Englishman that Ségouin knew at Cambridge. The conversation between the men is lively. Villona speaks to Routh about his love of old instruments and English songs while Rivière engages Jimmy on the quality of French mechanics. When the discussion turns to politics, things get very heated between Jimmy and Routh, so much so that Ségouin intervenes with a toast.
After dinner, they all walk in Stephen’s Green, where they come across Rivière’s American acquaintance Farley. They take a car and then a train to Farley’s yacht. When they arrive, Villona starts playing songs on the piano in the cabin while the other men dance. Farley eventually tires out, so they sit down to have a small supper, although they really just end up drinking.
Jimmy, Ségouin, Rivière, Routh, and Farley start to play cards, while Villona keeps playing the piano. They play many games, one after the next, while drinking even more. As the stakes climb, I.O.U.s begin to be handed out. Jimmy isn’t sure who’s winning, but he definitely knows that he’s losing. By now he is quite drunk, and he keeps confusing his cards and needs the other men to sort out his I.O.U.s for him. He wishes the game would end; eventually, one of the men suggests one last game.
The piano is silent, which suggests that Villona is up on deck. Jimmy feels terrible about the game and his losses, but he tries to be excited for Routh and Ségouin, both of whom are leading. At last, Routh wins, and debts get settled, revealing that Farley and Jimmy have lost the most. Beginning to feel hungover, Jimmy slumps at the table and knows that he is going to regret the game in the morning. For now, however, he is glad to sink into forgetful sleep. Suddenly, the door opens to reveal Villona, who announces the dawn.