Austin Ruthyn, a wealthy recluse and widower. He is a Swedenborgian who devotes his time to scientific and literary studies. When he dies, his will appoints several men as trustees for his estate and places his daughter Maud under the guardianship of his brother Silas.
Maud Ruthyn, a wealthy heiress. She goes to live with her uncle Silas, believing she is to vindicate her uncle’s good name. She is disturbed by her uncle’s idiosyncrasies but even more by the attentions of her coarse cousin, who wishes to marry her. She is tricked into being made a prisoner, and her cousin and uncle try to murder her to inherit her wealth. The attempt fails. Later, she marries Lord Ilbury, one of the trustees of her estate.
Silas Ruthyn, Maud’s uncle. According to rumor, he has killed a Mr. Charke, to whom he owes a large sum of money. When his attempt to marry Maud to his son fails, he and the young man attempt to murder Maud to inherit her wealth. The attempt fails, and Silas commits suicide.
Dudley Ruthyn, Maud’s cousin, a coarse, cruel man. He courts Maud but fails to win her. When he tries to murder Maud, he kills Mme de la Rougierre by mistake. After the murder, he disappears. His attempts to court Maud end following his marriage to a lower-class woman named Sarah Mangles.
Mme de la Rougierre
Mme de la Rougierre, Maud’s governess. She becomes an accomplice of Silas and Dudley in their attempted murder, only to be killed herself.
Dr. Bryerly, Austin Ruthyn’s doctor and friend. He is one of the trustees of Maud’s estate.
Lady Monica Knollys
Lady Monica Knollys, a cousin of Austin Ruthyn, who tries to warn him and Maud against Mme de la Rougierre.
Lord Ilbury, also known as Mr. Carysbrook. He is one of the trustees of Maud’s estate and marries Maud.
Milly Ruthyn, Maud’s cousin. She is a loud, good-humored girl who becomes Maud’s friend. She grows up to marry a minister.
Sir William Aylmer
Sir William Aylmer and
Mr. Penrose Cresswell
Mr. Penrose Cresswell, other trustees of Maud’s estate.
Mary Quince, Maud’s maid.
Meg Hawkes, a miller’s daughter who befriends Maud.
Tom Brice, a servant who loves Meg Hawkes and saves Maud from her uncle and cousin.