(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Rufus Barnes is a farmer and tradesman living near Segookit, Maine. He and his wife, Hannah, are good Quakers. When Hannah’s sister, Phoebe Kimber, living in Trenton, New Jersey, loses her husband, she asks Rufus to come to New Jersey to help settle her husband’s affairs. Rufus, finding himself the executor of a rather large estate, does a thorough and competent job. In gratitude for his help and in hopes that he will move his family close to her, Phoebe offers Rufus one of her properties, an old, run-down, but elegant house in Dukla, Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River from Trenton. Rufus is willing to restore the house and try to sell it, but Phoebe is eager to give the house to him. At last, Rufus agrees to take the house and move his family to Dukla. He and his wife restore the house with great taste and beauty.

Rufus and Hannah become somewhat more worldly in Dukla. Rufus goes into business, dealing in real estate, but he applies his Quaker principles to his business and helps the poor farmers make their land yield more profit so that he will not have to foreclose. Respected and prosperous, he and his wife still follow their faith and teach it carefully to their two children, Cynthia and Solon.

Solon Barnes cuts his leg with an ax. An incompetent doctor bungles the treatment, and for a time, they all fear that the boy might die. His mother prays devoutly, however, and Solon recovers, an event that keeps the family strictly loyal to their faith.

Sent to school with their cousins, Laura and Rhoda (Phoebe’s children), Cynthia and Solon begin to acquire more polish and knowledge of the world. At school, Solon meets Benecia Wallin, the daughter of a wealthy Quaker. Cynthia, Laura, Rhoda, and Benecia are all sent to a Quaker finishing school at Oakwold, but Solon chooses to remain at home and help his father in the real estate business.

Justus Wallin, Benecia’s father, is impressed by the Barnes family. He admires the way Rufus and Solon conduct their business; he is impressed with Hannah’s faith and her behavior at Quaker meetings. The families become friendly, and Justus asks Rufus and Solon to become the agents for his extensive holdings. Solon and Benecia fall in love. Justus finds a job for Solon in his Philadelphia bank and, although Solon starts at the bottom, it is clear that he has both the talent and the influence to rise quickly to the top. Solon and Benecia are married, to the delight of both families, in a Quaker ceremony.

The years pass. Solon and Benecia are happy and successful. Solon does well at the bank in Philadelphia; Benecia is a quiet, principled, and religious woman. After the death of Solon’s parents, Solon and Benecia move into the house in Dukla. Although Solon occasionally experiences metaphysical doubts, he lives in complete adherence to the moral principles of the Quakers. He becomes a bulwark of the community, an honest and forthright man who does not approve of smoking, drinking, art, music, literature, or dancing. He and Benecia bring up their five children in accordance with these strict Quaker principles.

Each of the children reacts...

(The entire section is 1290 words.)