The tale is set in 1651, at the close of the Civil War. The Royalists have been defeated at the battle of Worcester, and King Charles II and his followers are in flight. The chief characters, the Woodley’s, are a Royalist gentry family, impoverished by the war. The eldest son has been fighting for King Charles, and returns home, where he is hidden, but later captured by Parliamentary soldiers, due to the folly of two of the children and the maid, and the treachery of a manservant. His eldest sister helps him to escape; the younger children and the maid recognize and repent of their faults, while the traitor is appropriately punished. The story ends on a cheerful note nine years later. The king has returned in triumph, and the Woodley families are reunited.