Old Sir Gervase Piercey is the squire of Greyshott Manor. He and Lady Piercey have one son, Gervase, who has some mental and physical challenges and is known everywhere as "the softy". He is a disappointment to his parents, and in fact is bullied by them.
Gervases's refuge is the Seven Thorns Inn, an old coaching inn in the village, where he spends his time drinking too much and admiring the innkeeper's daughter Patty Hewitt. Patty knows Gervase would marry her, and has an eye towards her own advancement - if she can make up her mind to turn down handsome Roger Pearson from the village.
Perhaps the only sympathetic character among these is Margaret Osborne ("Cousin Meg"), a young widow living with her little son at Greyshott Manor. She is treated as being of no account, and is in effect the unpaid companion to Sir Gervase and Lady Piercey, making herself useful and putting up with a great deal.
When Meg's cousin Gerald (a near heir to Greyshott after Gervase) arrives on a visit, she is surprised that the once-friendly cousin of her youth keeps her at a distance. And shortly after his arrival, things go badly wrong within the family.
British publishing information
Periodical: Victorian Magazine Dec 1891 - Nov 1892