The narrator of this story is a British lady travelling alone (seemingly a widow) who joins up with three other travellers - Mr and Miss Kendal, a middle-aged brother and sister, and their sulky niece. The story centers on the brother and sister until near the end, when the narrator hears the niece's love tale and finds herself caught in the middle between the niece and her new friends the Kendals.
Biographical and other notes
In 1869, almost ten years before this story was published, Margaret Oliphant had visited the village of Saint-Eloi-sur-les-Dunes and had written an article about it for the November issue of Blackwood's Magazine, "Saint-Eloy-sur-les-Dunes" (here spelled with a "y"). The town bordering the dunes area is Dunkirk. Saint-Eloi had been incorporated into Dunkirk two centuries earlier, but still retained its identity as a village.
This story is essentially a travelogue - describing various scenes in detail while including an amusing but lightweight story line.