Julia Shane, a wealthy widow, a cynical, proud, stubborn woman who feels separated from both her worldly older daughter and her neurotically religious younger daughter. A Scotch Presbyterian, she scorns Irene’s piousness and her desire to be a nun, though in her will she leaves Irene free to make her own choice. In her declining years, Julia spends much of her time recalling the past and reading French novels.
Lily Shane, her older daughter, tall and lovely, with honey-colored hair. She refuses the governor despite his offer to marry her to prevent a scandal, and she later rejects Willie. Lily lives in Paris for ten years before her mother’s death, which occurs while Lily is back home on a visit. She returns to Paris, takes a lover, and finally marries a French diplomat, M. de Cyon.
Irene Shane, Julia’s frail, blond younger daughter, a pious, introverted teacher of mill hands. After her mother’s death, she becomes a Carmelite nun named Sister Monica.
The Governor, a vulgar politician twenty years older than Lily and the father of her son. After Lily’s rejection of him, he marries the plain, sturdy daughter of a manufacturer.
Hattie Tolliver, Julia’s niece, who cares for Julia during the long illness that ends in her death.
(The entire section is 459 words.)