Chapter 1 begins with Adam Quartermayne wishing for his father's return. Adam is attending school in the Abbey of St. Alban.
Adam's father, Roger, left Adam at St. Alban five months ago in order to attend minstrel school. According to the text, Roger is already a famed performer, sought after by important lords and ladies. He is always richly rewarded after his performances.
Before Adam attended St. Alban, the eleven-year-old always accompanied his father to performances. As for Adam himself, he is so proud of his father' fame that he often boasts about the latter to his school peers.
At school, Adam draws comfort from his harp, Nick (his dog), and Perkin (his closest friend). These three help him endure his father's absence. Outside of school hours, Adam often plays his harp for his friends. He sings in his Northern dialect and in French, which impresses the other boys. The masters, however, disapprove of Adam singing minstrels' songs. They often stop him and tell him to talk about the saints, instead. At other times, they pretend not to hear him.
For his part, Adam is unashamed of singing the songs his father had taught him.
As for his friend, Perkin, we are told that he is a serious young man and a year older than Adam. Perkin is the son of a plowman. The parish priest intervened during Perkin's childhood, so that he would have a brighter future. It was the priest who persuaded his brother, a monk at St. Alban, to make special efforts to get Perkin into school.
Perkin's father himself had to pay a fine to the manor lord so that Perkin could be set free to attend school at St. Alban.
Nick (Adam's dog) is a welcome addition to the group. Nick has been with Adam since his puppy days; he is a loyal and faithful friend to his young master. An old woman across the river keeps Nick during the school year. Adam pays her to care for Nick, as dogs are not allowed at school. For his part, Adam eagerly visits Nick during the holidays.
In thirteenth-century England, Adam Quartermayne is attending the Abbey of St. Alban, a school for boys run by monks. He is anxiously awaiting the return of his father, a minstrel, or traveling story-teller, who has gone to France to minstrels' school to "learn new romances to tell to the lords and ladies of England". Adam has been his father's helper on his journeys, and loves life on the road, carrying his father's viol, singing with him, and playing the harp. Three things comfort Adam at the Abbey while he waits for his father to come fetch him - "his harp, his friend Perkin, and his dog Nick".
Adam sometimes plays his harp and sings for the boys at the Abbey, but the masters disapprove, since the church prefers that any tales told should be about the saints. Adam's friend Perkins, who is the son of a plowman and very intelligent, is a loyal boy who doesn't mind getting into mischief with Adam now and again. Adam's dog Nick is "a red spaniel with long silky ears and a tail that never stop(s) wagging", who stays with a woman across the river, since no dogs are allowed at the Abbey. Adam visit Nick "every saint's day and holiday...to play with him and take him for walks over the fields".
Adam can hardly wait for his father to come back from France.