Portia Quayne, a confused and demanding sixteen-year-old girl who lives with her stepbrother. Through her affection for Eddie, she loses some of her childish idealism and sense of the simplicity of human affairs.
Thomas Quayne, Portia’s stepbrother, a partner in a London advertising firm. He takes his stepsister into his home, though he scarcely knows her. Because he and his wife have no children of their own, Portia is disturbing to them.
Anna Quayne, Thomas’ wife. Her friendship for Eddie arouses a confused jealousy in Portia. Anna becomes upset when she learns, by reading the girl’s diary, that Portia is unhappy in her home.
Eddie, a callow, self-assured twenty-three-year-old employee at Thomas Quayne’s office. He is both demanding and disdainful of Portia’s affection for him. He upsets her by showing fondness for Daphne Heccomb.
Mrs. Heccomb. Anna’s old governess, who takes care of Portia when the Quaynes go to Capri for an extended holiday.
Daphne Heccomb, Mrs. Heccomb’s stepdaughter, who is friendly to Portia.
Major Brutt, a retired officer. Portia runs away from home to him, offering to marry him and polish his boots. The major tactfully sends her back to her stepbrother.
St. Quentin Miller
St. Quentin Miller, an author and close friend of the Quaynes. He is Anna’s confidant, to whom she pours out her problems with respect to young Portia.
Matchett, the Quaynes’s housekeeper. A possessive person, she resents Portia’s affection for Eddie.
Miss Paullie, one of Portia’s teachers.
Lilian, an inquisitive school friend of Portia.
Cecil is a friend of the Heccomb family who is brought to Daphne and Dickie’s Saturday night party for Portia. Cecil and Portia become good friends while Portia is at Seale-on-Sea.
Major Eric “E. J.” Brutt
Major Brutt is a lonely, retired soldier. Anna, along with Thomas and Portia, runs into him after the movies, and he mistakenly calls her Miss Fellowes, her maiden name. Major Brutt remembers Anna from before her marriage when she was with her lover, Robert Pidgeon. The family invites him back to the house for a drink, and he visits them on a number of other occasions although both Anna and Thomas are snippy about him behind his back. Portia likes him a great deal, and he gives her puzzles as gifts. After Eddie rejects her and she runs away from home, Portia ends up at his hotel.
Eddie is twenty-three, charming, self-centered, a heavy drinker, and a ladies’ man. He can swing from one emotional extreme to the other in a matter of minutes. He encourages Portia to fall in love with him even though he has no intention of honestly returning her affections. Early in the novel he claims to be in love with Anna and constantly visits the house to flirt with her. Anna finds a job for Eddie in Thomas’ advertising firm because she believes him to be clever but in need of something to settle him down.
Eddie first encourages Portia’s affections when he writes a letter to her, thanking her for an insignificant courtesy and adds that he is lonely and wants to be her friend because he sees that she is lonely, too. They begin to meet secretly because they know that no one approves of the two of them being together. Portia feels that no one understands Eddie. She begins to fall in love and shares her diary with him. She invites him to the seashore while she is there but is shocked when she sees him holding hands with Daphne in the movie theater. He tells her he no longer cares for her, primarily because he is simply overwhelmed by her innocence and eagerness for love. This statement prompts her to run away to Major Brutt’s hotel room.
Daphne is Mrs. Heccomb’s stepdaughter and has a job at a library. She lives at home with her brother and Mrs. Heccomb to help with the expenses. She is popular and full of spontaneity. Portia discovers Daphne and Eddie holding hands...
(The entire section is 2,118 words.)