A group of young boys, including the narrator, Joe Dillon, and his brother Leo, were fond of playing Wild West games in Joe's backyard after school. They were all surprised when they heard that Joe had a calling for priesthood. The boys bonded over their shared love for adventure stories, which they secretly circulated at school. One day, the narrator, Leo Dillon, and another boy named Mahony decided to skip school and explore the city. They each saved up sixpence for their adventure and planned to meet at the Canal Bridge.
On the day of their adventure, Leo Dillon did not show up, so the narrator and Mahony continued without him. They walked along the Wharf Road, played games, and explored the city. They crossed the Liffey River on a ferryboat and watched ships being unloaded at the quays. They wandered through the streets, bought snacks, and eventually found a field to rest in.
While resting in the field, an older man approached them and struck up a conversation. He talked about his love for books and how he wished he could be young again.
He said that the happiest time of one's life was undoubtedly one's schoolboy days and that he would give anything to be young again.
The man then began to speak about girls, describing their soft hair and hands, and how they were not as innocent as they seemed. The conversation took a darker turn when the man began to talk about chastising boys, saying that a good whipping was the best way to discipline them.
He said that when boys were that kind they ought to be whipped and well whipped.
The man left the boys for a short while, and when he returned, he continued his monologue about whipping boys. The narrator became increasingly uncomfortable and decided to leave. He called out to Mahony, who came running to him, and they left the field together, relieved to be away from the strange man.