Emily and Toby seized the chance to take their dead father's old smack My Alice and run down the Thames. As orphaned adolescents in their uncle's house, they had experienced the near-slavery which official indifference in mid-19th century England allowed to go unchecked. Their waterborne adventures and the techniques of a ship rescue during a storm are handled with a sureness of detail to be expected of the author of Sea Fever. The part Emily and Toby played in the rescue led to Emily's employment as a housemaid in Southend and Toby settled down nearby to work as a fisherman. This is Emily's story and her position as a servant points up the inequities of the time and the awakening of a national social conscience. Her employer represents the active stewardship of the rich. The daughter of the house personifies the new restlessness of women dissatisfied with leisure and stirred to action by Florence Nightingale's example. But it is in Emily's reaction to the son of the house that the deep class divisions are emphasized. Handsome, reckless and democratic before his time, Adam attracted and confused Emily. Rich in his own right, he nevertheless smuggled for thrills in his fast yacht, The Maplin Bird. To help Adam escape, Emily brought Toby under the smuggler's influence - - affection, loyalty and convictions playing hob with clear judgment. None of the temptations involved allow rigid decisions and these characters move with reality through an action/adventure/romance expertly told.