Will Turnpike, his day's work done, lay on his back amongst the stubble of the cornstalks. He was very happy. Three large orbs hung over his upturned face: one was the sun, the other two belonged to Betsy, whose body was suspended over his whilst she tickled his ears with a strand of old man's beard. The ear of grass began to explore the hairs on his chest where buttons had burst off his shirt. Gradually, mysteriously, uncomfortably, the trousers which had fitted perfectly this morning now appeared several sizes too small. But by the time they both went home, the problem had sorted itself out. As the 19th Century draws to a close, life in the Dorset villages of Fossick Valley and Clutter Bottom continues as it has done for centuries past, determined chiefly by the changing seasons and the simple needs of its inhabitants. Events "up at the Hall" affect the lives of country folk such as Rufus and Annie Turnpike and their son, Will, far more than the grand designs of politicians in far-away London. Thus, when local squire Sir Jasper Scruple attempts to regain some measure of authority over his unfaithful wife, Charlotte, the ripples threaten to engulf the entire community. Not least affected is newly-arrived village school mistress, Jenny Button, who makes the mistake of offering succour to Charlotte's lover, Giles Longstaff, in his time of greatest need. Jenny's kindness results in her life being turned upside down, though few seem to notice as they concentrate on their own desires and ambitions. Passions run high, and dramatic and usually hilarious consequences ensue, but even at its most frenetic, the narrative remains deep-rooted in the English countryside, and the slow, alluring pulse of a lost way of life never stops beating.