powered by AFI
In 1831, a new governor is sent to the prison colony in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales, Australia. Irishman Charles Adare accompanies the governor, who is his second cousin, and plans to make his fortune there. Soon after Charles' arrival, banker Cedric Potter introduces him to Sam Flusky, an emancipated prisoner who has become a wealthy landowner. Although Flusky's name is familiar to Charles, he cannot place it and questions Potter, who reminds him that in Australia, no one talks about the past. Flusky, who does recognize Charles, offers him a business deal. After explaining that he has bought all the land he is allowed, Flusky asks Charles to purchase a plot of land, which he will then buy from him at a profit. Charles accepts Flusky's dinner invitation, even though Potter has warned him against it. Later, the governor also asks Charles to turn down the invitation, as it could cause an awkward situation. Flusky has invited several other couples to dinner to meet Charles, but as the appointed hour approaches, only the men arrive. After all make excuses for their wives, Flusky states that his wife, Lady Henrietta, is also ill, but as the dinner begins, the beautiful, but drunken Hattie joins the men unexpectedly. When Charles sees her, he realizes that she is an old childhood friend from Ireland. Hattie is too ill to stay at the table, but when she returns to her room, she screams hysterically, claiming to see a rat. The other men believe that she is suffering from hallucinations, but Charles takes her seriously and shoots into the fireplace, after which, Hattie is calmer. Later, Flusky reminds Charles that he was the groom on Hattie's family estate, but after they were married, her family had him transported. She sold her things and followed him. Flusky admits that he invited Charles in the hope that his presence would entice society women to the house. Later, learning of Charles's involvement with Flusky, the governor insists that he renege on their deal and reveals that Flusky murdered Hattie's brother. Charles refuses to follow the governor's orders and moves into the Flusky house. He then tries to help Hattie recover. Milly, the housekeeper, watches him suspiciously and attempts to undermine his efforts. Later, Milly complains to Flusky, who tells her to leave if she is unhappy. At first Hattie is devastated by Milly's departure, but with Charles's encouragement, she stops drinking and begins to take charge of the house. One evening, while Charles and Hattie are at a ball, Milly returns to the house and plants jealous suspicions in Flusky's mind. Flusky appears at the ball and creates a disturbance. Later, when Charles suggests that Hattie return to Ireland, she responds by recalling her early love for Flusky. Her story makes it clear that she killed her brother and allowed Flusky to take the blame. Later, Flusky accuses Hattie of having an affair and orders Charles to leave. Charles, who is not a horseman, causes an injury to Flusky's favorite horse. Flusky is forced to shoot the horse and then accidentally shoots Charles. While Charles hovers between life and death, the governor threatens to send Flusky back to prison. To save him, Hattie confesses that she shot her brother, and the governor replies that if this is true, he will have to send her to Ireland to stand trial. Flusky misunderstands her motivation and believes that she wants to return to Ireland with Charles, and when Charles recovers from his injuries, he is astounded to learn of Hattie's confession. Later, Milly, who is in love with Flusky, tries to drive Hattie insane and then slips a fatal dose of sleeping potion in her wine. Hattie sees her do it and calls for Flusky, who finally realizes Milly's true nature. When the governor's men arrive at the Flusky house and ask Flusky to corroborate Hattie's statement, he refuses, having finally realized that Hattie loves him. In the morning, Flusky is brought to Sydney to be returned to prison, and Hattie begs Charles to explain that the shooting was an accident. After he does so, Flusky is released. Together, Flusky and Hattie bid farewell to Charles, who, because he loves Hattie, is returning to Ireland.