On her 21st birthday, when she comes into her deceased father's money, Bertha Ley announces, to the dismay of her former guardian, that she is going to marry 27-year-old Edward Craddock, her steward. Herself a member of the landed gentry, Bertha has been raised to cultivate an immoderate desire for knowledge and to understand, and enjoy, European culture of both past and present ages. In particular, during long stays on the Continent, she has learned to appreciate Italy's tremendous cultural heritage. A virtuous girl, her views on womanhood are thoroughly traditional. She has no doubts about her role in life, which will be to serve and obey her future husband.