Hans Cadzand's father dies when he is an infant and he becomes the centre of his mother's life. As he grows up from a pretty child to a serious young man with deep religious convictions, she hopes she will remain the focus of his life. She sees his desire to enter holy orders as a threat to their life together and tries to keep him near her by marrying him off to the daughter of her closest friend. This plan founders on the rock of his 'vocation', but then Mevr. Cadzand engages the beautiful and experienced Ursula as housemaid. This long nouvelle is supplemented by shorter pieces from the collection Le Rouet des Brumes, brief episodes of love and death in characteristically atmospheric settings.