The North Riding of Yorkshire.
I The Affair of Bleakirk-on-Sands
The narrator is returning early from hunting when he encounters the Revd. William Teague, the former rector of Bleakirk, who two days before had escaped after spending 29 years in a lunatic asylum. Teague binds the narrator hand and foot, enabling him to confess to the murder of his own wife at the rectory. His intention is to throw himself into Quick-Boy Sand, where he had deposited the body of his wife. The returning hunt frees the narrator and follows Teague to Quick-Boy Sand, but only in time to see him disappear below the surface.
II The Constant Post-Bay
The narrator is a seller of tracts, a job he despises, and a former clergyman. He is approached by the stableboy of the Woolpack inn at Bleakirk and a girl whose father is staying with him. They ask to be married.
Ten years later the narrator returns to the Woolpack to discover a chaise occupied by two newly-weds and a driver. The woman and the driver are the girl and boy who had requested marriage at his previous visit. The driver is humiliated at the social distance which now exists between himself and the woman. Some hours later, contemplating suicide, the driver has to be accompanied past a deep chalk-pit by the narrator. Arriving back at the Woolpack, the driver takes the ‘King’s Shilling’ from the local recruiting sergeant in order to escape from his situation.