Sir William and Lady Markham of Markham Chase have a large family, including their daughter Alice and eldest son Paul at Oxford. Paul has lately been caught up in "democratic ideas" and "communistic principles", and is a follower of a Trades Unions agitator, Spears.
Ironically while Paul devalues his heritage, the stage is being set for another heir to come forward and possibly displace him. Paul also finds himself in an unintended tangle with Spears' daughter Janet.
During a time of difficulty Paul's Oxford friend Fairfax comes forward to help the family, and falls in love with Alice. But perhaps her family consider him socially beneath themselves - and perhaps Alice will misunderstand some of what he is doing to help.
Biographical and other notes
As in many Oliphant novels there are several women who work full time, paid and unpaid, such as Janet Spears who works in a shop, and Dolly Stainforth who is the full-time unpaid "curate" of the parish.
Fyi, the Markham family in this novel is not related to the Markhams in the novel A House Divided Against Itself.
British publishing information
Periodical: MacMillan's Magazine Nov 1879 - Nov 1880