(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Sir Claude Mulhammer, a successful middle-aged financier, invites his retired confidential clerk, Eggerson, down to London from his home in the suburbs. He asks Eggerson for the specific purpose of meeting Lady Elizabeth’s plane on her return from a trip to Switzerland and telling her that he was replaced in his position by a young man named Colby Simpkins. Sir Claude and Eggerson are apprehensive that Lady Elizabeth will be suspicious and disapproving, and Sir Claude wants to keep from her the fact that Colby is his illegitimate son until she comes to like him and accepts him in the household. Sir Claude and Eggerson hope that Lady Elizabeth might even decide that she likes him enough to want to adopt him, to take the place of a son she gave up in her youth.

Before Eggerson can leave for the airport, Lady Elizabeth returns unexpectedly and has to be introduced to Colby without any preparation. Lady Elizabeth, however, preoccupied by her spiritual life and convinced that she is the one who recommended Colby to begin with, eagerly takes him under her wing. Colby makes a favorable impression on all the members of the household, including Sir Claude’s daughter Lucasta and her fiancé B. Kaghan.

An unsuccessful musician, Colby agrees to introduce Lucasta to the pleasures of music. During a long introspective conversation in Colby’s new flat, which Sir Claude acquires for him and Lady Elizabeth enthusiastically offers to decorate, Colby and Lucasta discover a mutual liking. Lucasta, who begins to question her feelings for Kaghan, confides to Colby that she is Sir Claude’s daughter. Colby is shocked to learn that she is his half sister, a fact he is, however, unable to reveal to her. Lucasta is disappointed in Colby’s reaction, which she misunderstands, and reclaims Kaghan as her fiancé when he arrives to see Colby’s new flat.

Lady Elizabeth appears soon after, and once she nudges Lucasta and Kaghan on their way, she begins to question Colby closely...

(The entire section is 815 words.)