Aaron Sisson, union official in the coal mines of the English Midlands, is trapped in a stale marriage. He is also a talented amateur flautist, and after walking out on his wife and two children Aaron impusively decides to visit Italy to pursue his dream of becoming a professional musician. During his travels he encounters and befriends Rawdon Lilly, a Lawrence-like writer who nurses Aaron back to health when he is taken ill in post-war London. Recovering his health, Aaron travels to Florence where he moves in intellectual and artistic circles, arguing politics, leadership, and submission, and begins an affair with an aristocratic lady.
"Set it now. Set it now.--We got it through Fred Alton."
"Where is it?"
The little girls were dragging a rough, dark object out of a corner of the passage into the light of the kitchen door.
"It's a beauty!" exclaimed Millicent.
"Yes, it is," said Marjory.
"I should think so," he replied, striding over the dark bough. He went to the back kitchen to take off his coat.
"Set it now, Father. Set it now," clamoured the girls.
"You might as well. You've left your dinner so long, you might as well do it now before you have it," came a woman's plangent voice, out of the brilliant light of the middle room.
Aaron Sisson had taken off his coat and waistcoat and his cap. He stood bare-headed in his shirt and braces, contemplating the tree.
"What am I to put it in?" he queried. He picked up the tree, and held it erect by the topmost twig. He felt the cold as he stood in the yard coatless, and he twitched his shoulders.
"Isn't it a be