The entire story takes place within a few hours on a Thursday evening at an unspecified (albeit somewhat cooler) time of year.

The narrator periodically calls the reader’s attention to the passage of time within the story. The clock on the mantle says it is ten minutes before 5 PM when Patrick Maloney arrives home from work. It is not quite 6 PM, presumably near closing time for the grocery store, when Mary arrives to perpetrate the hoax about purchasing vegetables to go with the meat for dinner. During the police investigation, it takes only fifteen minutes for O’Malley to return after his questioning of the grocer. A little later, Mary notices that it is so dark outside that the investigators are using flashlights and that they are becoming weary. She notes, by that same mantle clock, that it is nearly 9 PM when she begins to persuade them to drink and to eat the lamb. She points out that they must be hungry because it is long past their suppertime.

The pace of the story flows with the time and changes from natural and easygoing in the story’s opening to a point during the murder of total stillness. Then, as Mary recovers from the shock, the momentum quickens. The tempo turns to a bustle during the investigations. Mary’s thought process as she watches the investigation proceeds to a calm and relaxed glide into the inevitable dénouement.