Mary accompanies Charles after a trip from Mankato to help deliver pretty Widow Thurman's new China, imported all the way from France. Widow Thurman unpacks a piece of the new china to show Mary and Charles, and Mary asks what she plans to do with her old china. When the widow says that she plans to store it until she can find an interested buyer, Mary pounces on the idea that Charles exchange his labor on the china cabinet he's making for the widow for the old china to give to Caroline. Charles confesses that he needs the money more than the trade, and Mary reluctantly lets go of the idea. Later, when Charles returns to give Widow Thurman the chest he built for her, she serves him a snack on the old china, and its beauty reinforces how much he'd love to give it to his wife.
Coldhearted Mr. Sprague at the bank turns Charles down flat for an eight-dollar loan for the china, emphasizing that it is better to avoid borrowing money for frivolous reasons. Discouraged, Charles nearly gives up. When he returns for a final visit to the Widow Thurman to finish his work, Charles notices that the woodwork in her parlor badly needs redone. He offers to do it for her in exchange for her old china. She agrees, and he asks her to keep the work a secret so that he can surprise Caroline.
The following day, Charles is late getting home, and Laura tells Ma how he wasn't at the mill to help bail her out on a bet she had with Willie. Caroline is troubled when Charles later informs her that he stayed late because of all the extra work he had to do for Hanson. Caroline is further unsettled when, the very next day, a neighbor swings by and unknowingly lets on that Charles has been spending quite a bit of time at the Widow Thurman's.
Caroline runs into the wealthy Widow Thurman the next day at the mercantile, and Caroline fishes for information as to why Charles would be spending time at her home. Widow Thurman's guarded response deepens Caroline's worry, and her observation of the woman's beauty and taste doesn't help ease her fears. Caroline orders extra fine material to make a blouse to surprise Charles, and cooks his favorite dish. Later, Laura and Mary observe Charles' wagon outside Widow Thurman's house, even though their Pa said he was going to Sleepy Eye. In bed that night, Mary and Laura speculate as to why their father would tell a lie, and Laura wonders if Widow Thurman isn't a wicked woman trying to steal away someone else's husband. When Charles comes to bed, Caroline questions him being seen at the Widow Thurman's place, and her husband's cryptic response brews even more trouble for Caroline.
While mushroom hunting, Mary and Laura take advantage of their time with their father to plant some ideas in his head about the widow, implying that she has a large figure underneath that dress and that she has false teeth. That afternoon after school, Laura and Mary use the excuse that they want to fit the woman's dress as a means to get into the "widow's web," as Laura refers to it. When they run into their Pa, the meeting is awkward and strained, and Mary is convinced that her father is on the slippery slope to having an affair.
To make matters worse, Charles makes mention of the fact that he's doing some work for Widow Thurman to Harriet, who immediately sets off the gossip machine. When Ma dresses up in her new blouse with the help of her girls, Charles fails to notice it, and she's crushed. The next day, Harriet confronts Caroline in the mercantile about Charles being seen coming and going from the widow's house every single day for the past week, and Caroline storms out in fury and hurt. Caroline walks past the widow's house on her way home and catches a glimpse of Charles and the widow sitting on the porch, laughing together.
That evening, Caroline is all prepared to confront Charles about his possible infidelity. He has, however, a surprise for her in the wagon. Before Caroline can blurt out what she wants to say, Charles compels her to come out and look in the wagon. There is Mrs. Thurman's old china, and Caroline learns why he's been so secretive. Her relief over the matter is beyond the delight of the dishes. Later that night, the Ingalls family uses the new dishes at supper, and Laura's overvoice tells us that they used the dishes every night after that, as well, instead of just saving them for "special occasions."