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George Morland, newly master of Morland Place, embarks on a grand improvement and expansion of the estate. His sister Henrietta, eager to be both good and useful, marries the scholarly rector, Mr Fortescue. And in London, their cousin Lady Venetia Fleetwood, moved by the medical horrors of the Franco-Prussian war, sets out to become a doctor.But the agricultural slump threatens Morland Place with ruin; the medical world rejects Venetia with contempt; and Mr Fortescue proves to be not what he seems. The Morlands have to come to terms with hard reality, and find their happiness in other, unexpected places.