Anna Estcourt, aged twenty-five, coming into a small property in North Germany, philanthropically offers a home to twelve distressed ladies. This somewhat farcical scheme is worked out with considerable seriousness, and there are scenes that border on tragedy; but as a whole the book is quietly comic, full of superficial but caustic sketches of character and manners. The writer is a close observer of german country-folk, and the novel, though weak in structure, is unified by the personal charm and some of the feeling for nature already noted.
d Peter live so placidly at Susie's expense, and treat her with such a complete want of tenderness? Anna's love for her brother diminished considerably directly she began to understand Susie's life. It was such a pitiful little life of cringing, and pushing, and heroically smiling in the face of ill-treatment. No one cared for her in the very least. She had hundreds of acquaintances, who would eat her dinners and go away and poke fun at her, but not a single friend. Her husband lived on her and hardly spoke to her. Her boy at Eton, an amazing prig, looked down on her. Her little daughter never dreamed of obeying her. Anna herself was prevented by some stubborn spirit of fastidiousness, evidently not possessed by any of her contemporaries, from doing the only thing Susie had ever really wanted her to do--marrying, and getting herself out of the way. What if Susie were a vulgar little woman of no education and no family? That did not make it any the more glorious for the Estcourts to take all they could and ign
Anna never actually takes 12 distressed ladies under her wing. She stops at 3 or 4 and then the story suddenly changes course completely. The story continues with the false imprisonment of her friend and neighbor. Very unsatisfactory ending.