The impoverished Harlow family of New England is forced to take in summer boarders. Teenaged niece Tressie welcomes the change and promptly falls in love with a wealthy young guest named Norman Minot. Although Norman returns Tressie’s affection, he is driven away by a fortune-hunting mother who wants him to marry her daughter. Robert Kitteridge, a scheming artist friend of Norman's, takes Tressie on a sailboat outing, during which they narrowly escape death when their boat is rammed by a steamship. After being put ashore the next morning in Boston, MA, Robert takes Tressie to his studio and attempts to seduce her.