This story tells of a poor orphaned English girl, Felicia (Felicita), who moves to Florence to live with Italian relatives. She and a handsome cousin are attracted to each other, but find themselves unable to grasp or appreciate each other's respective character and values. It even seems that Felicia's cousin Angelo is not ashamed in the role of fortune hunter, pursuing a rich English girl.
Biographical and other notes
As noted in the comments for A Winter Journey, Margaret Oliphant and her family had travelled to Florence in January 1859, seeking a warmer climate for her husband Frank, who was suffering (indeed dying) from tuberculosis. They experienced a bitterly cold winter, similar to the one described in this story, despite all attempts to warm their large cold Florentine rooms.
This story anticipates by more than ten years a theme central to many of Henry James' stories and novels: the portrayal of an innocent person (English in Oliphant, American in James) dealing with the byzantine values of worldly Europeans. Margaret Oliphant developed this theme more fully in 1884, in her novel Sir Tom.