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Thomas Crimmin, a staunch advocate of capital punishment, is beginning his duties as a Dublin prison warder. Regan, a senior warder, is opposed to hanging on the grounds that it solves nothing. Among the inmates are two "quare" (condemned) fellows awaiting execution for murder. After one of them commits suicide in his cell in spite of a reprieve, Crimmin visits the other man's wife, Kathleen. Mutually attracted, they drift into an affair; and Kathleen confesses that her husband killed his brother because he had found him in bed with her. Learning that the quare fellow withheld this evidence at his trial, Crimmin persuades Kathleen to tell her story to the prison governor. The appeal is denied, however, and Crimmin is forced to assist at the hanging. When Regan is retired, Crimmin knows that he will continue the old man's efforts to abolish capital punishment.