Sir Robert D'Arcy, High Sheriff of Brackenshire, harbours a painful memory of what he considers his shameful surrender to the Germans in 1916. Gradually he realises nothing is known of the incident and his confidence returns, and he gains in honour and responsibility in the county.
Then, out of the blue, a man appears who threatens to reveal the incident - or to keep it hidden, at a price. D'Arcy resists this new enemy, but is handicapped by his own view of his position, his past deed, his family pride. A tragedy occurs, and the Brackenshire police investigate, but are themselves hampered by reluctance to muddy distinguished waters.
How is the ageing Chief Constable to face the problem?