At the tail end of the 19th century, in merry old London, a young maid named Emma meets the heir apparent of a bourgeois family on the steps of her master's house. Her master, aging ex-governess Mrs. Stownar, was once young William Jones' tutor, and when he reluctantly comes to visit the testy old lady, he is surprised to be instantly smitten by her lovely maid. Emma, equally smitten, spends their courtship in quiet bliss, only to run smack into the impenetrable social divide between her and his upwardly-mobile family. William's father is determined to marry his eldest son into the nobility—the opportunity for which arises when Eleanor, the naive daughter of a viscount, falls for William. With such an eminently eligible lady at his disposal, no one approves of William's association with “the help,” with the possible exception of Mrs. Stownar and his best friend and rival for Emma's affection, the free-spirited Prince Hakim of India.