"She saw: first, a square opening, about eight inches wide, in the lowest step... finally she saw that there was a walnut shell, or half one, outside the nearest door... she went to look at the shell – but looked with the greatest astonishment. There was a baby in it."
So ten-year-old Maria, orphaned mistress of Malplaquet, discovers the secret of her deteriorating estate: on a deserted island at its far corner, in the temple long ago nicknamed Mistress Masham's Repose, live an entire community of people – "The People," as they call themselves – all only inches tall. With the help of her only friend – the absurdly erudite Professor – Maria soon learns that this settlement is no less than the kingdom of Lilliput (first seen in Gulliver's Travels) in exile. Safely hidden for centuries, the Lilliputians are at first endangered by Maria's well-meaning but clumsy attempts to make their lives easier, but their situation grows truly ominous when they are discovered by Maria's greedy guardians, who look at The People and see only a bundle of money.