Under the strict but benign leadership of asthmatic, aristocratic Dom, the circle of the knights of Lammercot passes an idyllic summer filed with boyish games and rituals centered around the medieval staff, or partisan, which is an heirloom in Dom's family. William, who has no talent for leadership, soon finds that being a loyal follower brings out the best in him, and when in Dom's absence Lammercot is invaded by tough, violent Barry, William is unable to fight his bullying dictatorship. A pessimistic moral then, pointing to the need for authority and order (perhaps by divine right, considering Dom's rule consists of noblesse oblige) and the vulnerability of anarchy to self-appointed despots. The pleasures of Lammercot before the fall strike an enticing balance between realism and fantasy, yet we find William's pleasure in subservience more disturbing than Barry's amoral savagery. Bidding for the same audience as Lord of the Flies, Watson sets up a more simplistic opposition between culture and brute strength, with social class as the dividing line. In these terms Dom will exercise far less fascination, especially for Americans.