Hilda Lessways is 20 and still living with her widowed mother. On the eve of her legal coming-of-age, Hilda is about to inherit the home and the rental property, so she goes to see the local solicitor, George Cannon.
Time passes: it's 1880. Edwin is still meek, Darius is even more fierce, humiliating him in front of customers. Hilda is now shorthand secretary at the new newspaper, The Five Towns Chronicle and Turnhill Guardian, set up by George Cannon.
Hilda prepares to sell both her properties. Janet turns up and takes a relieved Hilda back to her home, where she lives a happier life, socializing with their family, and, meeting Edwin, they go together to the Methodist centenary.
Edwin redeems his matured savings and buys a set of books for his new shelf. His father is unhappy about it. Hilda is asked by George to go and persuade Sarah Gailey not to give up the boarding house in London.
Edwin and Hilda are deeply in love, but Hilda cannot bear to keep her secret from him. She returns to Brighton to care for Sarah, who is ill. Edwin discovers from Janet that Hilda is married to George. But more news is yet to reach him.
The family is concerned about Darius. The doctor has advised he not work. Reluctantly, he hands over the keys to the works to Edwin, and finally cedes authority for Edwin to write the cheques and run the business.
Edwin is off to Brighton, where he finds Hilda with the bailiffs in. He helps her out, and she tells him the truth about her husband. Back home, Edwin and young George Edwin spend some time together before he goes home.
As Mr Orgreaves is recovering from influenza, young George, already ill from the same fever, arrives on the train from London without his mother, Hilda. Hilda is telegrammed to come up, and she brings Charlie Orgreave, a GP, with her.
Edwin wants to build a new printing works, but Hilda, not long from being nearly destitute, and needing her security, thinks the venture too risky. Instead she would prefer he bought the house, which they are renting, from Maggie, instead.
Edwin and Hilda are becoming more combative with other, disagreeing about his plans for the new printing works, and have an uncomfortable disagreement in front of their guests at the first musical evening.
Hilda visits Mrs. Orgreave, George's wife. George claims that he is innocent of fraud, and he has requested his wife seek out some persons who can prove this. Mr. Orgreave next door has passed away. Mr Orgreave next door has passed away.
Mrs Cannon believes she has found someone who can prove George's innocence. Meanwhile, Hilda - then Edwin - visit Janet's relatives in Devon, and a visit to Dartmoor Prison is planned - presenting danger for Hilda, and conflict for Edwin.
Auntie Hamps passes away peacefully - but the Benbows are fretting about the lack of a will. Hilda stays longer at London because young George has the flu. On her return the Clayhangers seem reconciled.
The Clayhangers spend Christmas Day with Tertius out in the country. On route, Hilda has arranged for them to look at an empty hall for sale. At Tertius's, the men discuss marriage, compromise and freedom.