Warning: wikipedia contains spoilers
The story concerns Molly Gibson, daughter of a widowed doctor. She is treated with kindness by Squire Hamley and his family, but is discouraged from forming an attachment with either of their sons, though the younger son, Roger, becomes her friend. When Molly is in her teens, her father remarries, to Mrs Fitzpatrick, a governess, with a daughter of a similar age. Cynthia is more worldly than Molly, and has already become unofficially engaged to Mr Preston, a land agent for the local nobility. Molly is forced to act as a go-between, because Cynthia has hopes of a relationship with Roger Hamley and wants to drop Preston. Cynthia becomes engaged to Roger, while Osborne, the squire's elder son, turns out to be secretly married to a Frenchwoman. When Osborne dies, Roger becomes the squire's heir. By now, Roger has been rejected by Cynthia. He begins to recognise Molly's worth, and at the end of the book it looks likely that they will marry.