Sam is Samuel Pynsent Shotter, orphaned son of an English father and an American mother. Sent by his uncle, the tycoon John B Pynsent, to England to work for Lord Tilbury, proprietor of the Mammoth Publishing Company, Sam opts to travel on the tramp steamer, Araminta, cook Clarence "Hash" Todhunter.

Arriving in England in a state of "extraordinary shabbiness", Sam soon finds himself penniless, thanks to Hash, who borrows all his money to lose on a racing greyhound. He is fortunate to meet an old school friend, J Willoughby Braddock, who offers him a bed for the night at San Rafael, a house in the south London suburb of Valley Fields where Braddock is himself staying temporarily.

Sam is astounded to discover that one of the occupants of the house, Kay Derrick, is the girl whose photograph he had found pinned to the wall of a fishing hut in the wilds of Canada and with which he had fallen in love. Kay had been brought up in a country house but, being left penniless on the death of her parents, is now living with her uncle, Matthew Wrenn, owner of San Rafael and editor of Pyke's Home Companion, one of the lesser titles in the Mammoth Publishing Company's empire.

Losing no time, Sam takes the lease on the adjacent house, Mon Repos, and, presenting himself at Lord Tilbury's headquarters, soon attaches himself to the staff of Pyke's Home Companion, with the aim of attaching himself equally quickly to Matthew Wrenn's niece.

Complications quickly multiply.

Lord Tilbury has only agreed to employ Sam because he wishes to conclude a business deal with Sam's uncle, who has warned him to ensure that Sam does not form any undesirable "entanglements" with girls.

Meanwhile, a syndicate of American crooks, Soapy Molloy and his wife Dolly, together with Alexander "Chimp" Twist, is taking an excessive interest in Mon Repos, having been told by a recently-deceased criminal colleague, Edward Finglass, that he had stashed away two million dollars-worth of bearer bonds in the house, which he formerly occupied.

Lord Tilbury, looking for someone to infiltrate Mon Repos and keep an eye on Sam, employs Chimp Twist, who is masquerading as J Sheringham Adair, private detective.

Chimp quickly arouses the jealous ire of Hash Todhunter, who has fallen for Claire Lippett, the housemaid at San Rafael whose mother, Martha, formerly Willoughby Braddock's nanny, still rules his life and household, in the capacity of his housekeeper. Willoughby would like to pursue a life of adventure, if only he could dispossess himself of Mrs Lippett, but is too much the gentleman to give her the old heave ho.

Add the dog Amy, old Wrykynian Claude Winnington-Bates, estate agent Mr Cornelius, the local vicar, Rev Aubrey Jerningham, and an anonymous member of the Valley Fields police force, and the stage is set for numerous subterfuges, misunderstandings and disappointments before all is resolved.

Sam will get Kay (and the ten percent reward for restoring the bearer bonds to their rightful owner, the New Asiatic Bank), Hash will marry Claire and welcome her mother into the household, thereby liberating Willoughby Braddock to pursue a life of adventure, and Mr Cornelius will have enough material to add another chapter (or three) to his life's work, A History of Valley Fields.

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