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When the aged Curate in Charge of Brentburn parish church loses his position of 20 years, he is too overwhelmed to act for himself - it will be up to his two daughters to determine how to support the family of five (which includes two little boys from a second marriage). The eldest sister Cecily is the practical one, who must determine how to plan and work for the family's future, even if it means being reduced to a lower social status. Cecily feels angry at a system which will do nothing for her aged father. Thus when the young new Rector appears, her anger extends to him too - at least at first. The Rector, Roger Mildmay, is drawn to Cecily - though he assures himself he is not in love. He is absorbed with his own problem - how to experience real life.