The time of the story is the early part of the nineteenth century, and the place is, for most of the book, a sheep and cattle station in New South Wales. The owner is a former Doctor who had practiced in London, and who had driven himself to illness with his work: the only possibility for him was a new outdoor life. There are various people working on the farm, including three tame aborigines; old Samson, full of wisdom; Brookes, a younger farm-servant; and Mayne, known as Leather, who is a convict whose good behavior so far has meant that he can be trusted to work on a farm. There are also Mrs Braydon, and Nic's two sisters, Nic being the protagonist of the story. Nic, who had been left behind aged ten in an English suburban boarding school, is collected from there when he was fifteen, and brought out to Australia on the Northumbrian, an East Indiaman. After an uneventful voyage, they arrive in Sydney. The main part of the book concerns the doings of Nic and the farm workers on The Bluff, along with some upsetting interventions from the man farming a nearby sheep and cattle station.