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Bill Mor, vaguely dissatisfied with his life, is faced with possibilities and choices which he could not have expected. The novel begins, appropriately, with Bill in verbal combat with his wife, Nan Mor, over his future and the future of their children. Mor wants to run for Parliament; Nan does not want him to do so. He wants his children to go to the university; she sees it as a waste of money. It is clear that Nan usually wins such arguments, and that Bill usually backs down and apologizes. He is determined, this time, to have his way.

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The matter is complicated by the arrival at the school of Rain Carter, an attractive young woman with a budding career as a painter. She has been commissioned to paint the portrait of the recently retired headmaster, Mr. Demoyte, a close friend and mentor of Mor. Carter and Mor, who are naturally brought together in the closed community of St. Bride’s school, fall in love.

Both of Mor’s children become aware of their father’s infatuation and disapprove of their father’s conduct. Felicity, who believes that she possesses mystical powers, and who has an ambiguous, almost surreal connection with a gypsylike figure who is always crossing the lovers’ path, sets out to break the amorous spell by improvising her own mystical ceremonies. Her brother, less interested in and committed to imaginative flights but not entirely unbelieving, spurns his father and withdraws to carry out a plan that he has made with a friend to commit a serious school prank as a last farewell to the school.

The novel becomes a battle between Mor, his family, his friends, and some acquaintances for, in a sense, possession of his life. He is willing to give up his past and his present responsibilities, even his ambition to run for office, in order to go away with Rain Carter. She is willing to take him, despite the difference in their age. Nan, who in the past has always been abruptly dismissive of his needs, now starts to think seriously about their life together. Demoyte, his old supporter, urges him to escape, but Bledyard, the school art master, who may also love Rain, brings him up sharply to his Christian and family duties.

While the battle rages, the Demoyte picture is finished, and at the...

(The entire section contains 598 words.)

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