James is at his parents’ home in Glasgow for Easter, to his mother’s delight. While he’s there, he’s working at a professional veterinarian’s office replete with such modern tools as an x-ray machine. The vet offers him a permanent job in six months if he’d like it.
His mother certainly would, especially since she has picked up extra embroidery work to cover the loss of income caused by his father’s bad back. James doesn’t disabuse her of the idea that he’ll take the job.
For now, he returns to Yorkshire. Tristan picks him up at the train station and drives him straight to a job. One of the Bensons’ ewes is in labor. Siegfried meets James and Tristan at the farm and dispenses his customary criticism as James successfully delivers the lamb.
Tristan still works primarily in the dispensary, so James tries to convince Siegfried to give him more field work—even though Tristan is happy not having many responsibilities. Siegfried relents and tells Tristan to call on Mrs. Tompkin and her bird.
Mrs. Hall also wants Siegfried to start treating Tristan more equally. She has bought Tristan an embossed leather bag for his upcoming birthday—on Siegfried’s behalf. Siegfried is uncomfortable with the qualification letters listed after Tristan’s name, however, given that Tristan did not actually pass his exams—but only Siegfried knows that.
When Tristan grabs Mrs. Tompkin’s bird to clip its beak, it dies. Mrs. Tompkin is blind, so Tristan lies and says he wants to examine the bird at the dispensary. Mrs. Hall immediately sees, but Tristan has a plan to replace the bird with a new one—Mrs. Tompkin will never know, even though it’s a different color. Tristan has to deflect Siegfried’s attention in the meantime.
Siegfried and James are called back to the Benson farm: the Aldersons’ dog has gotten out and attacked the Benson sheep. There are no bites, but the sheep have collapsed from stress. James quickly thinks to give them calcium injections, but one still has a miscarriage, though none of the others die.
James brings the dog, Scruff, to the Aldersons, where Jenny welcomes him back. Her dad wants to shoot Scruff—he warned that if the dog got out again and caused trouble, that would be the consequence. Jenny runs away with Scruff while James argues that the dog needn’t be shot; he can be trained. He picks up Jenny and Scruff in his car and takes the dog away.
When Siegfried finds out, he orders James to return Scruff to the Aldersons to do with him as they will. You’ve caused that family enough trouble, he says.
Instead, James sets off with Scruff to teach Jenny to train him. Tristan tags along. As they drive to the Benson farm with Jenny and Scruff, Jenny talks about her sister Helen and her jilted fiancé Hugh. Hugh is in France and still writes to Helen of his love, though she doesn’t write back. Jenny also overheard Helen end things with Hugh: she said she didn’t love him in a way that led to marriage, while Hugh asked if she loved someone else. Jenny didn’t hear Helen’s answer.
At the Benson farm, Jenny apologizes for Scruff’s transgression and James gets Benson to agree to let them try to train the dog. Jenny walks Scruff through the sheep field, using treats and a stern voice to keep him from getting excited. By the time Helen appears, looking for Jenny, Scruff can go through the field without a leash and ignore the sheep.
Helen orders Jenny to go home and chastises James for doing such a thing without her or her dad’s permission. He defends Scruff, saying that animals mess up—just like humans. Everyone deserves a second chance. As Helen leaves, James tells her he has missed her. “Missed you, too,” she responds with a smile.
Benson decides to let Scruff live. Tristan has suggested that a runt lamb be paired with the sheep who miscarried, thus giving her a lamb to care for. Some good came out of it all in the end. Mr. Alderson will go along with it after some huffing and puffing, Helen assures Jenny. As the sisters leave, Jenny praises James to Helen.
At the dispensary, Siegfried has discovered Mrs. Tompkin’s dead bird. Mrs. Hall has also ferreted out a lie: she gets Siegfried to admit that he lied to Tristan about passing his exams. When Mrs. Tompkin arrives at the dispensary and explains how she couldn’t wait to have her companion back, both Siegfried and Mrs. Hall decide to stick with Tristan’s lie. They explain that the new bird is her old one, even though the old one didn’t chirp. Clipping its beak brought its voice back, they tell her.
After Mrs. Tompkins leaves, delighted, Mrs. Hall and Siegfried agree that Tristan can never learn about his exams. Furthermore, he will start to do more work outside the dispensary—and Siegfried will gift him the embossed bag.
Siegfried tries to chastise James for intervening in the Aldersons’ affairs with Scruff, but James stands up to him. You have to start trusting me, he says, and Siegfried agrees. They return home with Tristan to a tremendous feast cooked up by Mrs. Hall to welcome James back—and perhaps insure he never considers leaving.