John Gordon, a young man of good birth and education but no money, fell in love with Mary Lawrie, but before he offered himself, Mary's stepmother ordered him from the house, believing that since Mary had no fortune she must marry someone with a proper income. Determined to acquire money so that he might be accepted, Gordon went to South Africa, where in a few years he made a moderate fortune in the diamond mines. On his return to England he learned that the stepmother had died, and that Mary had been given a home with her father's warm friend William Whittlestaff.
Mary had been received with some reluctance, as Mr. Whittlestaff was an elderly bachelor whose pattern of life did not include the presence of a young girl in his staid menage. However, he soon found himself in love with her and asked her to be his wife. She confessed her love for John Gordon, but admitted that he had never spoken of his love for her and that she had not heard from him for three years.On the day after she had promised to marry her benefactor, John returned, only to learn that he was too late. Mr. Whittlestaff was reluctant to give her up as he felt that she would be safer with him, but on mature thought he accused himself of selfishness in holding her to her word when he knew that for years she had loved the younger man. Accordingly, he sought John out and told him he would release Mary from her engagement, generously offering his assistance in establishing them in their new life together.