A seemingly endless novel of the moribund splendor of the Old South, the sluggish ancestral blood of the landed gentry, the modern ""meanness"" of the ""churren"" of their ""colored folk."" ""Past your time ain't no good,"" according to one of the charming old Brillo-heads (that's the way Pierce presents them) who still serve the Bradford dynasty of Hill Farm, located at the edge of Great Dismal Swamp in the backwoods of North Carolina, and most every character, social institution and idea in this tale of a marriage made for duty rather than love is just that. Mr. Kirby Wilson, being kin to both parties, had the honor of introducing William Bradford to his teenage bride at the county cotillion many, many years ago. Now he has returned to Hill Farm for a visit to the past, and learns for the first time from many sources of the tragic nature of their relationship and its effect on their only son Wainwright. Poor Wainwright finds refuge in the past glories of his ancestors -- the author's idea of climactic renewal in an otherwise unreconstructed South.