Fred Neville, heir of the Earl of Scroope and a lieutenant of cavalry stationed in Ireland, was a self-indulgent young man, too weak to follow his own best impulses. The Earl wanted him to marry the eminently suitable Sophia Mellerby, but he had already fallen , in love with Kate O’Hara, a young girl living in the vicinity of his barracks. She and her mother had been deserted by Kate’s scapegrace father, who had served a prison term for swindling and had fled to France to escape punishment for other crimes.
Kate was sweet and, beautiful, and her distracted mother saw in Fred Neville a means of lifting her daughter from her present poverty. Trusting in Fred’s intent to marry her, Kate found that she was bearing his child. When he refused to marry her, giving the feeble excuse of a promise given his uncle that he would not marry a Catholic girl, Kate’s maddened mother pushed him over a cliff and he was killed. She was adjudged insane and confined in an asylum. Kate’s child died and she joined her dishonored father in France, where they lived on the bounty of Fred’s brother, who had succeeded to the title.
"...describes the struggle in the mind of, a young Englishman of family between the claims of tradition and of personal comfort and those of moral obligation toward the Irish girl who has become his mistress."-Sadleir