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When their father dies, Doctor Thomas Thorne and his younger brother Henry are left to fend for themselves. Thomas begins to establish a medical practice. Henry seduces Mary Scatcherd, the sister of stonemason Roger Scatcherd. When Roger finds out that Mary has become pregnant, he kills Henry in a fight.While her brother is in prison for the death, Mary gives birth to a girl. A former suitor offers to marry Mary and emigrate to America to start a new life, but not if she keeps the baby. Doctor Thorne persuades Mary to accept the offer, promising to raise his niece. He names her Mary Thorne, but, wishing neither to have her illegitimacy made public nor to have her associate with the uncouth Roger Scatcherd, he keeps her parentage secret. Mary Scatcherd tells her brother that the baby has died.