An English family are staying at an exclusive inn, the Maison Blanc, on the shores of Lake Geneva. (It is the daughter Louisa who many years later narrates this story.) They have noticed Elisabeth, a pretty girl of 18 who looks English but is said to be the niece of Madame Blanc the proprietor.
They hear Elisabeth's story, which she herself does not know, that she was an English baby left behind at birth. Louisa fears the secret will come out, while meanwhile the gentle Elisabeth is unhappy about plans being made for her.