In trouble with his guardian over his democratic politics, rebellious student Stephen Parkin wanders off to see the French Revolution first-hand and ends up, after being mistaken for a royalist, physically and mentally ruined by confinement in Paris jails. Back home, he's nursed by his sister Catherine and an old schoolmaster (in the process the pair fall in love) and rejected by Catherine's eminently sensible friend Martha who chooses his stable, stuttering brother. Disillusioned by violence and the textbook radicalism of his Oxford friends, Stephen channels his idealism into pedagogy and takes a job teaching poor children. Both Stephen's social commitment, and Catherine's domesticity are tastefully accommodated in spite of the author's evident disposition toward the latter and the absence of any emotional grit in either character. A brisk pace and richness of language -- Stephen's attempt to explain himself in French, verses from his favorite poems, the formal letters written by the family -- add to this neat, well furnished historical romance.