The turn of the century marked a period of struggle and poverty in the Western Maryland village where Belle Mundy came to live with her aunt and uncle. The ten year-old uneducated mountain girl refused to return to the schoolhouse when the young villagers jeered at her for being stupid. Consequently Bello directs all thoughts and energy to helping her uncle who has just lost his job as a track walker. Her efforts lead to a friendship with wild young Tom Caigle and his poverty stricken family. With rare insight, the author sketches a full length portrait of the Caigles, of Belle and her uncle in a moving story of rough times.