Lady William had started life as the rector's daughter in the little village of Watcham. At a young age she had been swept into marriage with a marquis, without really understanding how it happened. The novel opens twenty years later, again in Watcham, where she has lived with her daughter Mab since being widowed several years ago.
It is not necessarily welcome news when the village's most prominent family, the Swinfords, return to the Hall after an absence of many years. The autocratic Mrs Swinford had been closely involved in the circumstances of Lady William's marriage, and seems to want to involve Lady William in her affairs once again.
Other story lines center on Lady William's spirited daughter Mab, now a young woman; on Mrs Swinford's son Leo, who at thirty is anxious to be his own man; and on the rector's son Jim, who is spending too much time at the village pub.
Later in the novel it becomes urgent for Lady William to prove, for her daughter's sake, that her early marriage actually took place.
British publishing information
Periodical: Lady's Pictorial 3 Jan - 27 Jun 1891
First edition: Macmillan and Co 1894 (1893 on title page)