A wax candle and a tallow candle are sitting in a large house belonging to a rich family. The wax candle brags that it is very well-made and expensive, and will be used to to give light during a grand ball which is to happen later that night. The tallow candle admits that it must be wonderful to have such a purpose, but says that it is glad to be a better quality than the rush light, which is only dipped twice when being created, unlike the tallow candle, which is dipped four times. The tallow candle argues that its placement in the kitchen is important, because the whole family gets food from there. The wax candle says that society is more important than food, and that it is the luckier for being able to shine on people socializing.
The wax candle and all the other wax candles are gathered in preparation for the ball, while the tallow candle is brought to the kitchen by the lady of the house. She then gives it to a young boy standing in the kitchen, along with a basket full of potatoes and apples. She says that since the boy's mother will be working late into the night, the candle will be very useful to her. When the lady mentions the mother being up all night, the lady's daughter interjects that she too will be up all night at the ball, dancing and wearing her red bows. The candle notices that her face shines brighter with excitement than any wax candle could.
The tallow candle is unhappy at being sent to the house of a poor widow and her children instead of being left in the kitchen, and complains at the low-quality sulfer match used to light it. The candle stares across the street at the rich house, and remembers how the rich girl's face shone earlier, and laments that he will never be able to see such a thing again.
The youngest girl in the poor family soon arrives, and excitedly tells her brother and sister that they will be having hot potatoes for dinner. Her face shines as brightly as the rich girl at the mention of the ball, to the amazement of the tallow candle.
The family eats their dinner, and the younger daughter offers a prayer of thanks to God. That night the stars shine on the rich house and the poor house with equal beauty, and the tallow candle admits that the night was quite beautiful after all.