The first part of the novel is set on Mackinac Island, where Anne Douglas grows up and then tries to maintain her father's home after her mother dies. When her father also dies she goes to NYC where a rich aunt promises to care for her and send her to school. While in New York Anne meets Ward Heathcote, with whom she falls in love. When she refuses to consider another man more to her aunt's liking, her aunt dismisses her. Anne takes a job as a teacher at a school in Ohio and helps Civil War wounded in West Virginia when the war breaks out.