Another limply sentimental Dwyer-Joyce tale about a stout-brogued heroine to whom good things happen. . . eventually. This time the tribulations belong to Lalage Lister, last leaf on a family tree of dedicated surgeons in the tiny town of Agnes Parva. Grandfather has just died, however. So orphaned Lalage is burdened with debt worries about keeping the household going--for dear old housekeeper Annie, for Annie's middle-aged daughter Louisa (a pregnant nurse), and for Louisa's husband Sam, crippled with multiple sclerosis. What will she do? Well, nice Dr. Jonathan Cunningham now appears on the scene: he's just broken off his engagement to unsuitable Florella; he's been awarded the post of community surgeon;and he'd love to live in the Lister home. Soon, then, everyone is cozy and solvent at Lalage's homestead--but there are problems. Annie has a tumor and must go in hospital (worry, worry). Louisa chooses to deliver in a snowstorm (hurrah!). Then the town's coarse woman, playfully titled ""Mistress Quickly"" by Lalage, claims that she's been assaulted and raped by ""Squirrel Nutkin""--the mute gypsy boy with the dragging leg, who scampers about the woodland, into dark reaches of Gibbet Fen. (The fey lad has a way with animals; a police dog fairly swoons with love.) And, after Mistress Quickly's charge has been disproved, Lalage, Jonathan, and others set out in search of the starving lad. . . and Lalage nearly drowns at Gibbet Fen. With runny prose and stagey dialogue: a silly, enervating trifle--from soupy to Nutkin.