Joseph Goodworthy controls his two younger sisters' lives. In his own eyes he lives a perfect Christian life: he has a wonderful understanding of doctrine, he goes to church regularly and holds household prayers every day. What more can his sisters possibly want? When the younger sister, Maria, is forty, he refuses her permission to marry Arthur Haldene, a visiting artist. On a snowy night eight years later, Maria returns to the house to seek reconciliation, accompanied by her daughter Hazel. The name Hazel means Reconciliation, and surely her brother, with his wonderful knowledge of Christian doctrine, cannot turn his sister away again.