Sir Buckstone Abbot's hideous Victorian country house might be salable, in which case, he might not live in poverty -- he's stuck now, taking in boarders. His daughter Jane is engaged to a man who's also engaged to a widowed princess with two grown stepsons, and is the woman Sir Buckstone hopes to sell it to.
Jane sets out to argue with a vanity publisher who charged Sir Buckstone for publishing his memoirs. There she meets Joe, one of those grown stepsons, who is leaving its employ to be a playwright, and who asks Jane to marry him at once.
Meanwhile, his brother Tubby, who's staying at that country house, has broken off his engagement with Sir Buckstone's secretary, who will then try to have him served with papers for a breach of promise suit.
And Lady Abbot's brother comes to visit. Turns out that he was a process server by occupation.
It builds from there, with romance, mystery, intrigue, stealing men's clothes so they can't go place, houseboats, and whistling like a linnet.