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Lucy Trevor, now Lady Randolph, and her husband Sir Tom are very happy together - made even more so by the birth of their little boy. When Lucy's younger brother Jock comes for a long visit, he reminds her of their father's requirements that she give away half her fortune - an idea that is not appreciated by Sir Tom: "A man may have the most liberal principles about women, and yet feel a most natural indignation when his own wife shows signs of desiring to act for herself..." But even worse for the peace of the marriage is the arrival of an old "friend" from Tom's younger wilder days in Italy, the Countess Forno-Populo, with her teenage daughter in tow. It is not long before Lucy is completely left out as the Countess entertains Sir Tom for hours every evening. As Lucy feels more and more estranged from Tom, the novel becomes suspenseful, until finally a crisis is reached.

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