Molly Gibson, whose mother has long ago died, is brought up by her father Dr. Gibson. At the age of 17, Molly visits and immediately befriends the Hamleys, her neighbors, especially she and the youngest son Roger Hamley, studying in Cambridge, become good friends. This is when Dr. Gibson tells his daughter of his upcoming marriage to Hyacinth Kirkpatrick, a widower who also has a daughter around Molly's age, Cynthia.
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[Roger to Molly
Do you like my sermons? Have they given you an appetite for lunch? Come... I do know what you must be feeling. You must've thought I was very hard on you. I'm not very good at expressing myself, somehow I always fall into philosophizing. But I do feel very sorry for you, and I shall often be thinking of you.