At the beginning of this book the children's father, a journalist, has gone overseas to cover the war in Manchuria. Their mother has gone to Madeira to recuperate from an illness, taking with her their younger brother, the Lamb. The children are living with an old Nurse who has set up a boardinghouse in central London. Her only remaining boarder is a scholarly Egyptologist who has filled his bedsit with ancient artifacts. During the course of the book, the children get to know the "poor learned gentleman" and befriend him and call him Jimmy.