The novel is told in Tom’s self-deprecating, gently humorous voice. His tone is nostalgic, suffused with pleasure and affection and yearning for lost youth. Trained as a restorer of paintings on stone, he has been hired to uncover a medieval mural in the church of a rural Yorkshire village. He camps out in the church, since besides having his “nerves shot to pieces” (p. 34), he is close to penniless. He wants only to be alone to get on with his job, but that simple desire turns out to be impossible. For one thing, the kind stationmaster, Mr. Ellerbeck, observing Tom’s forlorn arrival, mobilizes his own family to the task of keeping the stranger fed and plugged into village life. Tom finds himself umpiring games and teaching the boys’ Sunday school class, which in his hands means answering eager questions about “the exact nature” (p. 52) of the dangers awaiting in London. Then there is an eccentric archaeologist, Charles Moon, himself a veteran, camping out in the field beside the church, and the vicar’s sensitive wife, Alice, with whom Tom conducts a wistful flirtation. He is not alone, nor is his work simply a job to be done. The painting emerging under his hands is revealed as an extraordinary work of art. Gradually, absorbed in his task, accepted by these new people, under the spell of the long, beautiful summer, Tom finds that life has, “flooded back, tingling to my finger-tips” (p. 95).