The novel begins in the last weeks of Guy Openshaw’s life. A group of close friends and relatives, accustomed to meeting at the Openshaws’, hover about helplessly as Guy sinks deeper into his suffering and his wife tries to shield him from intrusion. He wishes to see only one of their friends, the Count, and his wife is deeply disturbed not only by his illness but also because he has little time for her although they have had a very good marriage. Consolation of a sort comes to her with the arrival of her old friend Anne Cavidge, who, having lost her faith, has just left the nunnery that she entered fifteen years previously. She moves in with the Openshaws and is a great help to Anne and Guy. Just before he dies, Guy urges Gertrude to live a full and happy life and suggests that she might marry again. He mentions the Count as a possible suitor since they both know that the Count is in love with Gertrude.
After Guy’s death, Anne and Gertrude begin to plan a life together. Anne is unsure about what to do with her life, and Gertrude is equally unsettled but has been left with some considerable wealth, which she is eager to share with Anne. The Count waits patiently and honorably, and it seems obvious that sooner or later he will ask Gertrude to marry him.
What upsets this fragile world of gradual recuperation is the innocent intrusion of a younger man, Tim Reede, who, badly in need of money, asks Gertrude for a loan and is given the job of taking care of the Openshaw vacation home in France. He goes off to do that job,...
(The entire section is 632 words.)