Emily lives with her parents on the pastoral outskirts of Boston. Her father is a doctor who comes from a wealthy family. He doesn’t see many patients; instead, he spends his time reading and helping Emily with her studies. Much to her mother’s chagrin, he is quite thrifty, and his appearance often shows it. One evening, Emily is at home memorizing a lengthy poem. Her father will give her fifty cents if she can recite it all. When she’s halfway through with it, her father comes home with a hat for her from the five-and-ten store. Emily and her mother are aghast. It’s so plain, with only a thin band of flowers around the small brim. Emily complains that it’s nothing like the fancy hats that the girls at school wear. Her father scoffs and says that her mother’s gaudy style is clouding her judgment. Emily shouldn’t be guided by what other people are doing. Besides, her youth and good nature will do more for her appearance than any hat. He goes on and on and Emily wishes he could be distracted by a big book, so he wouldn't lecture her. Frustrated, Emily devises a plan to ensure that she’ll never have to wear it. The next morning, she dons the offending accessory. On her way to school, she stops at a neighbor's fenced-in pasture. She takes an apple out of her lunch bag, balances it on her head, and slowly approaches a horse. Just as expected, it gobbles up the apple, taking a huge chomp out of the hat in the process. Once at school, Emily fabricates a hysterical tale: a wild horse ran her down on the road and ruined her new hat. Her classmates sympathize with her, and her teacher writes a note explaining the situation to her parents. When she gets home, Emily shows her teacher’s note and the damaged hat to her parents. Her mother is glad to be rid of the ugly thing. Her father, who is engrossed in a book, barely looks up. He says the local government should talk to the neighbor about his uncontrolled horse. Taking advantage of his distraction, Emily asks for the money from memorizing the poem. Her father drops the coins in her hand without even asking her to recite the stanzas.