A novel of Sacramento in the 1860's where personal as well as local and civic issues disrupt family life. Agnes Delanoy, despising her husband for his failure to find wealth, loving his brother, King, who is successful, almost reaches understanding when her two younger children die in a cholera epidemic. But her growing success in business turns her again into a domineering wife. She manages a socially successful marriage for Treese, her quiet, unawakened daughter, but cannot manipulate her son, Keith, into marriage. King breaks away to marry, and Agnes in turn marries a younger man, an engineer, and to spite Keith, turns her holdings into hydraulic mining, curse of the district, and takes revenge on Steve, whom Treese has learned to love. Ultimately, her own children dissipate Agnes' power in their final defiance. Rather sedate narrative for a period piece, interlaced with history of changing scenes.