George Adams is the polite son of a gentleman rancher from Massachusetts, and is Niel’s friend. He is the one elected to speak to Mrs. Forrester by the other boys because his family visits the Forresters.
Mrs. Beasley, the town telephone operator, overhears Marian’s call to Frank Ellinger and spreads rumors in the town. She is described as a “boiled pudding sewed up in a blue kimono” (II, Chpt. IV, p. 143).
Black Tom, the Negro servant of Judge Pommeroy, also serves at the large parties at the Forrester house.
Rheinhold and Adolph Blum
Rheinhold and Adolph Blum, the sons of the German tailor, shoot game and sell it. The Forresters do not allow hunting on their land, but Mrs. Forrester looks the other way when Adolph shoots game from their land, and then she buys it from him.
Bohemian Mary is the Forresters’ cook who is in love with Joe Pucelik and eventually marries him.
Henry Collins, Marian Forrester’s second husband, is English and very rich, though quarrelsome and stingy. They have cars and a ranch and money and can travel. Marian calls him “the kindest of husbands” (II, Chpt. IX, p. 183). Ed Elliot meets Mrs. Marian Collins dressed in furs in Buenos Ayres.
Thad Grimes, the butcher’s red-headed son, goes fishing with Niel to the grove when they are young.
A bachelor of forty when first introduced, Frank Ellinger is the secret lover of Mrs. Forrester. He later marries Constance Ogden. He is a lady’s man and an adventurer. Tall and handsome and muscular with animal energy, he has a cruel streak. Niel thinks he has an evil feel to him. Known as a good fellow, an opportunist, and a bit wild, he once had a prostitute called Nell Emerald whom he rode out with in daylight. He cares for his invalid mother until she dies, then marries a wealthy wife—Constance—to the grief and anger of Marian.
The son of the man who owns the shoe store and one of Niel’s playmates, Ed Elliott becomes a mining engineer and is the one who runs into Mrs. Forrester in Buenos Aires and delivers her last message to Neil.
Captain Daniel Forrester
Captain Daniel Forrester was a captain in the Civil War, and became afterwards a wealthy railway builder in the West and the director of a bank in Denver. He divides his time between Colorado and his house at Sweet Water. He is big and burly with a mustache and looks like Grover Cleveland. A man’s man, he is courteous in a rigid and old-fashioned way. He has a way with handling the men on the railroad by his presence alone. His first wife was an invalid, a joyless marriage. After his first wife died, he met the young Marian in California in the Sierra Mountains. He saved her life by carrying her out of the mountains on his back because her legs were broken. She became his wife and helped him entertain his aristocratic friends. After he became disabled from an accident, they stayed at Sweet Water, his idealized home, where she nursed him through two strokes. He dies there, with Niel helping out. Niel sees him as a heroic pioneer spirit.
Marian Ormsby Forrester
Niel Forrester is in love with the romantic elegance Marian Ormsby Forrester represents, though she is older than he is. The “lost lady” leads a life bordering between wild and respectable. She can get away with a lot because of her charm. Her first fiancé was murdered by the husband of a woman he was fooling around with. She ran off on an adventurous mountain climb with Fred Harney, but he fell to his death, and she married the Captain after he rescued her. She trusts his stability and loves their life of entertaining important railroad people. When the Captain has to stay at Sweet Water and be nursed, she feels trapped, and she has a number of younger lovers, including Frank Ellinger and Ivy Peters. She drinks too much, especially after her husband loses his money and position. Beautiful, charming, and gracious, she stirs men’s imaginations. She has an adventurous spirit and cannot be cooped up for too long, requiring parties, entertainment, and admiration from men. After the Captain dies, she has an affair with Ivy Peters, relying on him to sell the house and get her out of Sweet Water. Eventually, she marries a rich Englishman, Henry Collins, having regained her status and wealth.
Fred Harney is the mountain climber who takes Marian Ormsby down the face of Eagle Cliff in the Sierras. They do it secretly for a lark, but he falls to his death, and she breaks both legs and had to be carried to safety by Captain Forrester.
Niel Herbert is the main viewpoint in this story about his coming of age, with the Forresters as his role models. The nephew of Judge Pommeroy in Sweet Water, he is the son of a man he considers a failure, who keeps the county abstract books and makes farm loans. Niel is proud and wants to make something of his life, first reading for the law, then going to Boston to study architecture. He befriends the Forresters, and they are a major influence on his life. He takes a year out of school to nurse the dying Captain and tries to “save” Mrs. Forrester from going down. He becomes disillusioned with Mrs. Forrester when he finds out about her lovers.
Mr. Herbert, Niel’s father, came west from Kentucky to Sweet Water where his wife’s brother was Judge Pommeroy. She was too refined for the west and died when Niel was five. He brings the slovenly Cousin Sadie to keep house for him. The father thinks he will make money, but losing his, he invests for others, just scraping by. Niel thinks him a failure. He is handsome and agreeable, and when he moves to Denver, Niel stays with his uncle.
Ben Keezer is the handyman who helps around the Forrester house.
Ned Montgomery is the young millionaire that the 19-year-old Marian Ormsby is engaged to. He is killed by the husband of another woman. Marian is whisked off to the Sierras to avoid the murder trial and scandal.
Mrs. Ogden is a homely woman but amiable and respectable woman. She acts as though she is fascinating and uses gestures to get attention, as though she has been a spoiled rich girl all her life. Neil prefers her to her daughter.
Constance Ogden is the pretty blonde and blue-eyed daughter of the Ogdens, who goes to college. She is Niel’s age. Marian tries to get Niel and Constance together, but she ignores Niel for Frank Ellinger, Marian’s lover, whom she eventually marries.
Mr. Orville Ogden
Mr. Orville Ogden is a short and “weather-beaten” man of fifty. He is a friend of the Forresters, quiet and has a cast in one eye. He lets the women in the family have their way. Later it becomes clear he had once been enamored of Mrs. Forrester and wants to help her when she is in trouble. He decides not to.
As a cruel teenager, Ivy Peters poisons dogs and slits the eyes of a woodpecker to impress Niel’s friends. Ivy and Niel are enemies. He becomes one of the smart young businessmen, a lawyer, and gets control of the Forrester land and eventually buys it. He handles Marian’s money, becoming her lover and is rude to the invalid Captain Forrester. Niel tries to save the Forresters from his assaults but fails. Ivy has a swollen and hard red face as though stung by bees. He wears the same black heavy clothing all year and is crude and arrogant.
Cousin Sadie is a poor Herbert relation from Kentucky who keeps house for Niel and his father. She is nice but lower class and lazy, and Niel is ashamed of his home when she is there.
The Weaver twins are the grocer’s sons. They picnic with Neil at the Forrester place.