Alena Townsen wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with her childhood friend, Rob, the only son of James Hollinthwaite, a wealthy landowner. Hollinthwaite, however, has other ideas and when he forces the two to part, they run away together and join a wandering group of coppicers, naively thinking they can stay hidden for ever.
But they are discovered and Rob is sent away to school while Alena has to start work in the local bobbin mill. Life there is hard and her love for Rob severely tested with the arrival of the coppicer's son who becomes the mill's new foreman.
Torn between the two men, Alena follows her heart and chooses her true love, Rob, but they have to fight despotism and bigotry in their quest for happiness together.