Fabius Verstappen, Viscount Oakham, son to a country gentleman and once a prizefighter, comes to the end of his adventuring days. Circumstances force him to settle down – but as what? Is he to be a conventional member of fashionable Society? Or perhaps he will expand his dabbling in the new world of coal and iron and steam that is so suddenly expanding.
The face of Britain is changing and Verstappen must decide whether to cling to the past or embrace what he hopes may be the future. There are risks to him and his family whichever course he takes, and he must choose whether to welcome those risks or try to flee from them.
In a country where suddenly nothing is certain, what is the course of wisdom? Is he wise?