Miss Holmes-Orr in early Johannesburg
If life in Johannesburg is unpredictable, Miss Holmes-Orr, with her genteel upbringing and her Cambridge University education, is up to the challenge. She jostles with beggars and the crowds in Market Square as she buys fruit and vegetables for her boarders.
Despite never marrying or having children of her own, she is a motherly figure to her boarders, some of whom see little of their parents. Her tolerant but kind and firm outlook brings stability to their lives. This is particularly the case later, when fathers find themselves fighting in the First World War and she waives school fees for those who cannot pay.