When Captain Merrivale dies, his daughters Martha and Penelope are left almost penniless. They find employment as teachers in the Lancashire Mill town of Tapton. Life there is very different from the country village in Leicestershire in which they grew up and the people much blunter in speech. Then Penelope is caught up in a riot which brings her into contact with the assistant engineer at Seaton's mill, Daniel Porter .He's a poor man with a flair for machinery and not at all a suitable friend for Penelope. Meanwhile Martha finds herself attracted to Ben Seaton, the youngest of the three mill-owners in Tapton and brother of one of her charges - though they're as likely to argue as chat happily. She hasn't seen herself as ever getting married, is worried people might laugh at her - and he's not good with words, so hasn't managed to make his feelings clear. Then danger threatens Ben's sister and Martha is the main person to help him - though this means putting herself in danger. This is no time for flowery speeches but for action, which suits him just fine. But how will he ever manage to marry Martha if he doesn't propose? - from the author's website.