Tobias Campion, rector of Moreton St Jude, is delighted to welcome the widowed Lady Chase as his parishioner. Although charming and generous-spirited, she harbours a secret sorrow: her son, Hugo, is missing, presumed dead. Her late husband's nephew, Sir Marcus Bramhall, making a prolonged, unwelcome visit to Moreton Hall, speaks darkly of bringing a court case to declare him the heir. Then Miss Southey, the Bramhall family's ill-treated governess, disappears on the very day that the body of a stranger is found in a local river. When it transpires that the man might have been bringing news of the missing heir, Tobias and his loyal groom, Jem Turbeville, are forced to quit their beloved village to uncover the truth.