There is a street near Golden Square in London where houses, which were once owned by people of better means, are let weekly by floors or by rooms. The chimneys are crumbling, and livestock is turned out to search for its own meager sustenance.
The occupants of one place grow poorer by floor. The attic room is Noggs’ apartment. He is visited by a Mr. Crowl, but he has to go to a party given by one of his more affluent neighbors.
The Kenwigs are having a party in honor of their wedding anniversary. Despite Mrs. Kenwigs not being adept at party preparations, it does get put together. Mr. Noggs is one of the invitees because he used to be a gentleman. Everyone is excited by the arrival of Mrs. Kenwigs’ uncle, who is a person of some prestige and respect. He is a collector of water rates.
The party gets noisy when Mrs. Kenwigs frets that her children are too beautiful to live. The children, hearing this prophecy of an early death, begin to scream. The mother is consoled by the party-goers, and the children are soothed by the mother.
Mr. Lillyvick, the uncle of Mrs. Kenwigs, remembers the day when Mrs. Kenwigs’ upset her mother by announcing that she was in love with the man she is now married to. Mr. Kenwigs was considered beneath the family in status. Mr. Kenwigs doesn’t mind this being mentioned, because it shows that he married well. The uncle admits that initially he had the same objections towards Mr. Kenwigs, but after meeting him he changed his mind. Mr. Kenwigs was a decent man who was going to make something of himself, he could tell. Lillyvick's influence caused the other member of the family to alter their opinion.
Mr. Cowl interrupts the party to fetch Noggs, saying that he is wanted by two people upstairs. Noggs hurriedly goes up, taking a glass of punch with him.