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In Naples, as he is packing to sail away, Jim Warlock relates to his wife Clemency how he came to be involved in an affair that ruined their marriage and his carreer as a promising London barrister: Several months before, as Jim happily anticipates celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary, he sees his life as secure and pleasant, while his friend, John Tring, views it as smug and boring. Annoyed that Clemency is leaving immediately for Venice to help her younger sister Gorla avoid a scandal, Jim agrees to dine with Tring. At an Italian restaurant, Tring orchestrates an evening with two shop girls they meet named Doris Lea and Milly Miles. Jim enjoys himself, reluctantly, but throws Doris' address away when they part. A short time later, Jim has to judge a swimming contest and finds that Tring has arranged to have Doris there. She accepts the winner's trophy from Jim, then twists her ankle and is taken home in his car. Torn by his love for Clemency and his attraction to Doris, he succombs to the affair when she reveals that he would not be her first lover and that she will give him up "when the time comes." On their last weekend together before Clemency's return, Doris tells Jim that she would rather die than live without him. When Jim arrives home, he finds Clemency there. Their meeting is strained, and when Jim sees Doris again he trys to break with her. Because she has just lost her job, Jim agrees to meet her again, but just before their tryst he sends her a check and a sentimental note instead. He asks his secretary to deliver it, but Doris passes him on her way to meet Jim. When Jim arrives home, Milly is waiting, angry over his treatment of Doris. While they are arguing, a policeman arrives to announce that Doris has committed suicide and that Jim's note was found in her apartment. At the inquest, Jim refuses to reveal that he was not the girl's first lover and is blamed for her death, although he is not legally responsible. After he finishes his story, Clemency realizes that Jim had loved them both, but remains firm in her decision to let him leave on the next boat sailing from Naples. When Tring comes to talk to her, Clemency realizes that she still loves Jim and rushes to meet him on the boat.