This story of modern Ireland is based on the dire effects of prudery that engenders prurience, of prejudice and conformity that leads to tragedy. The Goldens are new arrivals in Kilkenny and their broader sense of living make them a target for all gossip scandal and surmise. Young Stephen's forbearance captures Larry's friendship, but the Catholic school he attends is glad to let him go when he trespasses against their restrictions. Fanatic Miss Dreeling, determined to win Stephen's father, by any means, carries her persecutions to the priests and it is through her that the Goldens are driven away. But before they go it is Miss Dreeling who brings about Stephen's death and her own madness. Told by Larry, this has a precision of narration and the story of a free soul destroyed by moral cowardice has a warmth and beauty of its own.