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Disillusioned with her 6-month-old marriage, Petulia Danner attends a San Francisco charity ball and flagrantly attempts to entice Archie Bollen, a divorced surgeon. Archie had first attracted Petulia's attention because of Oliver, a Mexican boy who hitched a ride from Tijuana with Petulia and her moody husband, David. When David suddenly insisted that Oliver return to Mexico, Petulia took the boy to a bus station, where, in trying to run away, he was hit by a car. Oliver was taken to a hospital, where Archie performed surgery. Archie and Petulia now go to an automated motel, but Petulia balks at following through on her plan and Archie sends her off in a taxi. Petulia then impulsively steals a tuba and the next morning brings it to Archie's apartment. In time, Archie's casual attitude toward her gives way to love, and he rejects any thought of reconciliation with Polo, his ex-wife; he is also unresponsive to the devotion of his mistress, May. After spending a night with Petulia in his apartment, Archie leaves her for a Sunday outing with his children. Upon returning, he finds her brutally beaten. Though Archie has her hospitalized, David's millionaire father uses his influence to have her released in her husband's custody. Archie then visits her at the Danner estate, charging David with responsibility for the beating, but David maintains that he was out of town. His father corroborates his story, and Archie is dismayed when Petulia says nothing to deny the coverup. A year later, after David and Petulia have returned from a cruise, Archie encounters her in a hospital maternity ward. Recalling their affair, he asks Petulia to go away with him; though she consents, Archie cannot bring himself to make the necessary arrangements. After he has kissed her goodby, Petulia is wheeled into the delivery room, calling his name.