This bildungsroman follows the lame Rickie Elliott from the tortures of public school, to Cambridge, to a career as a struggling writer, and then to a life as schoolmaster married to the beautiful but unappealing Agnes Pembroke. On a visit to his aunt, Rickie discovers that he has a half-brother, the healthy and 'pagan' Stephen Wonham -- and the ensuing complications caused by Agnes' interference bring the story to its tragic close.
nate the little room. He was still talking, or rather jerking, and he was still lighting matches and dropping their ends upon the carpet. Now and then he would make a motion with his feet as if he were running quickly backward upstairs, and would tread on the edge of the fender, so that the fire-irons went flying and the buttered-bun dishes crashed against each other in the hearth. The other philosophers were crouched in odd shapes on the sofa and table and chairs, and one, who was a little bored, had crawled to the piano and was timidly trying the Prelude to Rhinegold with his knee upon the soft pedal. The air was heavy with good tobacco-smoke and the pleasant warmth of tea, and as Rickie became more sleepy the events of the day seemed to float one by one before his acquiescent eyes. In the morning he had read Theocritus, whom he believed to be the greatest of Greek poets; he had lunched with a merry don and had tasted Zwieback biscuits; then he had walked with people he liked, and had walked just long enoug