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After her husband Paul dies in 1942, Lake Forest, Illinois society woman Jessica Drummond is left alone to rear her two sons, Kim and Keith. Family friend Frank Everett advises Jess that although Paul set up a trust fund for their sons' education, her income will be reduced. As Frank is leaving, Jess's mother, Mrs. Kimball, arrives. When Jess announces that she doesn't intend to wear mourning, her mother warns her that people of their class must wear it. She, herself, has worn black since the death of Jess's father twenty-five years earlier. Jess has been left on her own for an evening when the boys are invited to a party the night before they are to leave for boarding school. Jess meets her friend, Ginna Abbott, for lunch and frets about living alone. Later they are joined by George Van Ormand, the husband of another friend, who offers to drive Jess home. When he attempts to kiss her, Jess rebuffs him, and hurriedly leaves to spend the night with Ginna. Ginna advises Jess to be herself for a change and invites her to join her and her husband Cary on a ski trip to California. On the slopes Jess meets Major Scott Landis, who quickly becomes attracted to her. Still distraught over Paul's death, however, Jess sends him away and returns home to Lake Forest. With the boys away, Jess becomes lonely, and when Frank drops in, she invites him for dinner. While they are eating, Ginna telephones to tell Jess that Scott is in town and suggests that she and Frank join them at the club. Scott, who is at the club with an old girl friend, tells Jess that he is now stationed in the area and invites her out. She meets him at his apartment and is seen by a friend of her mother. After hearing gossip about Jess, Mrs. Kimball lectures her daughter about the importance of maintaining her reputation. Jess refuses to be browbeaten, however, and invites Scott to her home for Christmas Eve. At that time, Mrs. Kimball, who dislikes Scott, calls him "a scalawag in league with the devil." Scott responds that he never wanted to get married and recommends that Jess marry Frank. Later, at a New Year's Eve party, Scott tells Jess he has been ordered overseas, and Jess decides to go to New York with him until he leaves. When she announces her trip to her sons, who have heard gossip about Jess and Scott, they run away to their grandmother. The boys accuse Jess of lying to them and of having forgotten their father. Although she explains that she was very lonely after Paul's death, their distress causes her to forgo her plans, and she says goodbye to Scott in Chicago. He then promises to return.