The novel opens with young Molly Gibson, who has been raised by her widowed father. Visiting the local 'great house', Molly feels tired so she is sent to rest in the former governess's room. The woman, Clare, makes noise about her kindness to Molly, but is actually careless and thoughtless of Molly's concerns. The afternoon passes and Clare forgets about Molly and she misses her ride home after the picnic. The little girl is distressed at the idea of staying the night away from home and is relieved when her father comes to collect her.