In 1913, Adam McLaurin, 16-years-old, attends Windsor Academy. Leaving his sweetheart, Carrie Napier, he promises to return. Entering a regimented life, he suffers loneliness and harassment, but prevails. Major Thomas West, commandant, observes the boy overcoming his nemesis, Frank Turner, a belligerent classmate. Harold Sanders, an encourageable roommate guides Adam through these difficult months. Adam learns Carrie has married another man. Heart broken, Adam returns to school and has an affair with Viola Hagan, a local girl. He spends summers working in the McLaurin Store and the Council Bank. He graduates and pledges to find Carrie and win her back.