Harriet Baxter is a sprightly young creature, a woman of generous means alone in Glasgow during the 1888 International Exhibition, when the city bustled with newcomers and there was something spectacular to see every day. One day, while window-shopping on Buchanan Street, Harriet spots an older woman in a black bonnet lying on the sidewalk, a younger woman kneeling beside her. Thinking at first it is a bit of open-air theater, she moves closer, only to find that the older woman is no longer breathing, her lips blue. Harriet acts quickly and pops the woman's dentures out from her throat, instantly restoring her to good health. "Have we been introduced, madam?" the older woman asks faintly. Just like that, the novel is launched in a tone of innocent, light-hearted comedy.
In gratitude, the woman invites her to tea to meet her son, Ned Gillespie, who is also the younger woman's husband ...
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