Homer Wells, an orphan, grows up in a Maine orphanage directed by kindly, avuncular Dr. Wilbur Larch. Homer is returned twice by foster parents; his first Foster Care thought he was too quiet and the second parents beat him. Dr. Larch is addicted to Diethyl ether and also secretly performs abortions for women. Conditions at the orphanage are very sparse, but the children are treated with love and respect, and they are like an extended family. Each night before they go to sleep, Dr. Larch says, "Goodnight you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England!", as both encouragement and a kind of blessing.