The outward amenities and inner resolves of two sets of parents to retain or regain, John, a young English boy are set against a Devonshire August, and the activities of the Robinsons and the Trewitts enliven the slow summer days for the regular guests of the Moor and Bells. Scott and Ann Robinson come from Connecticut with their son Tim to bring John to his parents hoping to persuade Valeric and Charles that John should stay with them through the rest of his school years. The Treweitts had left John with Valeric's sister Sybil because they had to go to Thailand, they were unable to refuse Scott and Ann's friendly hospitality when Sybil walked out on her American husband and John was practically homeless. They have known their son and his ""guardian"" family only through letters during the years and, meeting for a two week holiday, the battle is joined in a civilized fashion. Ann's is the fierce eye of love, Scott is calm and reasonable, Valeris in coolly proud, Charles is detached, while, on the boy's side, John is bewildered, hopeless, believing, that no one wants him, and Tim has no doubts that John will go home with them. Trewitts and Robinsons know small victories, worrisome defeats, but success is established after Tim runs away and is found by Valeric. All this is accompanied by the whispering speculation of the perennial boarders and the August somnolence and Dartmoor weather are constant companions to the silent warfare. A warm surface polish for familial cross purposes, this impales active, passive, and possessive love in refracted light.