A deliberate first novel traces with vigor- and softhearted sentiment- the many reversals in the life of Arthur Saunders. A fire at the Flambeau Theatre (London) orphans him at eight, and he is taken to live with rigid relatives who discipline him-and pray over him- until he runs away. Schooled from then on in the gutter, he learns to scrounge- and survive; as a drayman, he works and saves, saves and works; awkwardly, ardently, he courts and marries Jessie, who helps him to achieve his dream of wealth. But as they move into a new house, it is only an empty reflection of their lives. They find the antidote in the child they adopt, and there are a few golden years- which end with Don's death in the war, and Jessie's, two weeks later. Saunders then gives up and gives away all he has; he returns to the poverty of his youth and finds in humanity at large, and service, a peaceful conclusion to a life of duress... The Victorian era, in all its dreadful exaggeration of stern morality and cruelty, has a hardy realism here betrayed by the oversimplification of conduct and character.