Mary falls in love with the charming widower Marcus Carden. But his first wife suddenly reappeared, and refuses to divorce. Mary's sufferings are described with a delicacy and a perception that are rare in stories of the sort. Mary's sister, the affectionate, practical, worldly Lena, is a staunch help to her, before the moment when finally the first wife dies, really this time, and, given to remorse, lets her fortune to Mary's baby, a girl born just in time after the remarriage of her parents. Some light comedy is thrown in the novel in the shape of Mary's very young sister, Bella, a bewitching and pert young damsel whom a nobleman who is always losing his glasses, falls in love with, at his own risks.