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Captain Bellendean of Bellendean has returned to Scotland to begin life on his estate. He has brought several people with him including the older Colonel Hayward. Helping with the festivities is Joyce, the village schoolteacher - an outgoing, popular girl of high intelligence. She is engaged to Andrew Halliday, the pedantic schoolmaster from the next village. Colonel Hayward is shocked when he sees Joyce - who looks like his first wife, disappeared years ago while pregnant, and never traced. He soon learns from Joyce's history that her mother is dead, and that she must be his daughter. Almost overnight Joyce leaves behind her whole life to go with her father and his second wife to his home in England.