When young Jinnie Howlett’s widowed father, a tinker man, died a pauper, she was already a reluctant inmate of a northern workhouse. But she thought herself fortunate – the alternative might have meant she ended up on the streets.
When close to her fifteenth birthday and after years of toil and drudgery, she was at last offered a position as a maid-of-all-work. Jinnie’s employers were the Shalemans and her place of work Tollet’s Ridge Farm, a bleakly isolated and run-down sheep farm way out beyond Allendale and towards the Cumbrian border. Before long, she discovered she had exchanged one kind of drudgery for another, this time for the Shaleman family.
Rose, invalid wife of Pug and mother to Bruce and Hal, demanded every hour of the day and night of her. Fortunately Bruce soon recognized that there was more to this seemingly vulnerable girl and it was he who would defend her against the taunts and harassment of the brutish Pug and Hal.
She became acquainted with Richard Baxton-Powell, who owed his life to Bruce, but when the persistent attention Richard paid her became too obtrusive, she was to understand that her growing confidence and maturity owed more to her life with the Shalemans than to any outside influence. It was then that Jinnie Howlett was suddenly thrust into womanhood, and the path to her own destiny became clear.