It is the end of harvest for a small, tight-knit community who depend on the land to survive. The poor yield should be their prime concern but one night the local manor house is set on fire, its haylofts and stables burnt out. The farmhands who ‘reap and gossip’ are immediately suspicious of three outsiders – two men and one beguiling woman. Master Kent, landowner and de facto magistrate, exacts swift retribution by sentencing both men to a week in the pillory. But the village’s harmony is threatened again with the arrival of Edmund Jordan, Kent’s cousin and the rightful owner of the land, and his no-nonsense plans for ‘Progress and Prosperity’. Faced with persecution or ruin, it isn’t long before the residents flee, leaving our narrator, Walter Thirsk, to make sense of the chaos of a disintegrating society, the turmoil of change, and the overhaul of the only reality he knows.