Jack Fergusson is a young doctor. He is introduced to the reader at the beginning of the story when he visits Mabel’s family, just as they are nearing the end of what appears to have been a family meeting. Jack talks to Mabel’s brothers but does not talk to Mabel herself. In fact, he does not even greet her. When Jack walks in on the family, Mabel busies herself by clearing the breakfast table. She does not acknowledge Jack’s arrival. She does not even greet him.
Later on, Jack reaches out to Mabel with a question about what she would do with herself. It appears that Mabel’s family has lost its fortune and all the family members are leaving to seek their fortunes elsewhere, except for Mabel. All her brothers think that Mabel should move to her sister Lucy’s place. However, Mabel is highly independent and resists the idea.
The reader observes that Mabel is a very proud and reserved woman with a mind of her own. She is determined to “hold the keys of her own situation” against all odds.
Jack and Mabel meet next at the graveyard, where Mabel has gone to tend to her mother’s grave. The graveyard lies near Jack’s house. As Jack leaves his house for the surgery, he chances to see Mabel at the graveyard. She also sees him. Jack lifts his cap and goes on down the road.
Later in the evening, Jack again spots Mabel. She is walking towards the dark deep pond that is situated below Oldmeadow. Somehow, he follows her movements. Mabel wades into the pond and disappears from sight. It suddenly dawns on him that Mabel is trying to commit suicide. He rushes over and rescues her unconscious body from the pond. He resuscitates her and takes her back to her house. When she comes to and is able to talk, she asks him many questions. In this state, the two find themselves engulfed in strange emotions. She asks him whether he loves her, and he does not know how to respond to this question. Her insistence on his love for her finally pushes him into submitting to this love. Mabel thinks that Jack loves her because he saved her from death in the pond. However, Jack had done this act out of kindness rather than love. In fact, he had never before had any romantic feelings for Mabel. Jack kind of resolves the conflicting emotions within him and submits to Mabel’s charm.
All these events take place in one day. The relationship between Mabel and Jack changes from coldness to a fiery passion within this time.