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Bertha, a ponderous, inarticulate servant ("Lummox") is dismissed from a boardinghouse for interfering to save Chita, a fellow worker, from the advances of sailor, and she finds work as a cook in the home of wealthy Mrs. Farley, whose son, Rollo, a poet, seduces her; learning he is engaged to a society girl, Bertha leaves, disguising her condition. After the birth of her son, she consents to his adoption by a wealthy family who promise to give him every advantage. Bertha nurses Mrs. Wallenstein, an aged woman despised by her daughter-in-law, May; rather than see her taken away to an institution, Bertha allows her to die but is accused of murder and driven from the house; she then strikes up a friendship with Willie, a slow-witted servant who works for the Bixbys, who are keeping her child. Bertha serves for many years in the home of Mrs. Ossetrich but is dismissed because of a theft committed by Chita, whom she has helped. One evening she is drawn to a piano recital, and she is at last fulfilled by the music of her son, whom she never meets.