When young Jinnie Howlett’s widowed father, a tinker man, died a pauper, she was indeed fortunate to already be the inmate of a northern workhouse, for with no other relatives, she might have ended up on the streets – a fate for girls her age that was all too common in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Close to her fifteenth birthday and after years of drudgery and toil, she is at last offered a position as a maid of all work with the Shalemans at Tollet’s Ridge Farm, a bleak isolated place near the Cumbrian border. Rose, the invalid wife of Pug Shaleman and mother to Bruce and Hal demanded all her time. But Bruce realises there’s more to this seemingly vulnerable girl than the rest of the family realises, and he becomes her defender against the brutish harassment of Pug and Hal. It is onlyj when she accidentally makes the acquaintance of Richard Baxton-Powell, who owed his life to Bruce, that Jinnie realises how different and tempting life was beyond the farm – and it is only later she understands that her growing confidence and maturity owed more to her life with the Shalemans than to any other outside influence.