The book opens shortly before Christmas, many years ago. The city of Polchester was an old rickety building on a cliff above old grass. The house was a windy, creaky, bitten rain place where three elderly women lived as tenants, including Miss Beringer, who had moved the day before. These old women are only 70 years old, but in the history of Walpole, written in 1924, they are seriously ancient, poor, oppressed, miserable creatures. If you have any doubts about the progress made by women over the past 100 years, this will convince you that in our Western societies we are much better in every way.