This is Lily Browne's story, Lily with her talent for pity, attracting to herself the weak, unsure and helpless. Her own life is scarred by the murder her mother had committed and the ensuing small mid-western town's attitude towards her. Lily has inherited her mother's prison-companion, Oleander, a Creole of no uncertain profession, and her loyalty to Oleander causes a break between Lily and Grant Sweetland, whom she had married. His career had consisted of running through fortunes, disposing of two wives, playing absentee father to his son Neal and his daughter Eileen. Neal and Eileen turn to Lily rather than to their father; and eventually ""Sweet"" dies in a drunken accident, and Lily is free again, free of his alcoholism, his self pity, his cruelty, his despairs. A story of a woman who is catalyst for the passions, torments, problems of those with whom she comes in contact -- this gives full play for Fannie Hurst's almost hysterical emotional tension, her literary pyrotechnics.