powered by AFI
Wealthy, middle-aged English squire Henry Maurier has a bitter quarrel with his querulous, invalid wife Emily, when he finds her giving a check to her no-account brother, Robert Lester. Henry tears up the check and orders Robert from the house, then turns to long-time friend and neighbor, Janet Spence, to help him patch things up with Emily. Janet, who has spent most of her life caring for her arthritic father, General Spence, agrees, but finds that Emily is bitterly cynical about Henry. Janet also talks with Emily's nurse, the man-hating Caroline Braddock, who is contemptuous of Henry's insensitivity toward Emily. Later that evening at a club, Henry meets young Doris Mead, whom he has secretly been romancing for some months, then runs into Robert, who promptly demands money to remain silent. When Henry returns home that night, family physician James Libbard informs him that Emily has died, apparently of a heart attack. Janet is shocked when Henry immediately takes a trip after Emily's death. Upon his return, Janet meets Henry at his home during a violent thunderstorm and when the power goes out, gains the courage to confess she has been in love with him for years. Embarrassed, Henry admits he has married Doris while away and Janet pretends her revelation was only a joke. Later, when Nurse Braddock, angered over Henry giving Doris a broach meant for her, tells Janet she believes Henry murdered Emily, Janet encourages her to report her suspicions to the police. Henry and Doris are called back from their honeymoon and Emily's body is exhumed for an autopsy, which confirms that she was indeed poisoned by arsenic. At the subsequent inquest, Henry's relationship with Doris before Emily's death is revealed, as is Doris' pregnancy and the fact that on the day of Emily's death, Henry purchased a weed killer laced with arsenic. In a moment of guilt and doubt, Doris attempts suicide, but is saved by Dr. Libbard, who believes Henry is innocent. Henry is bound over for trial, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. When Dr. Libbard notices Janet's increasing strain during and after the trial, and she admits to being plagued by insomnia. Just before the execution, Janet visits Henry in prison and coldly reveals that she murdered Emily hoping he would then marry her. Henry tries to have this reported to the authorities, in vain. The night of the execution, Dr. Libbard, in an attempt to force a confession from Janet, sets the clock forward an hour, and as the time of execution approaches, she breaks down and ultimately confesses in exchange for medication that allows her to sleep. Dr. Libbard telephones the authorities and stops Henry's execution in time.