Miss Hannah Mole has for twenty years earned her living precariously as a governess or companion to a succession of difficult old women. Now, aged forty, a thin and shabby figure, she returns to Radstowe, the lovely city of her youth. Here she is, if not exactly welcomed, at least employed as housekeeper by the pompous Reverend Robert Corder, whose daughters are sorely in need of guidance. But even the dreariest situation can be transformed into an adventure by the indomitable Miss Mole. Blessed with imagination, wit and intelligence, she wins the affection of Ethel and her nervous sister Ruth. But her past holds a secret that, if brought to life, would jeopardise everything.