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Arthur Winner, Julius Penrose, and Noah Tuttle are partners in the leading law firm in a small Massachusetts town. For some time, the marriages of both Arthur and Julius have been on shaky ground--Arthur's because his wife, Clarissa, feels that their union is merely a business merger, and Julius' because of an automobile accident that has left him impotent. After several chance meetings, Arthur enters into an adulterous affair with Julius' frustrated, alcoholic wife, Marjorie. Simultaneously, Arthur begins having trouble with his rebellious young son, Warren, who has no intention of either practicing law with his father or of marrying Helen Detweiler, Noah's wealthy ward. Instead, the young man takes up with Veronica Kovacs, the local prostitute. When he tires of her, she falsely accuses him of rape, and he flees town. Suddenly aware of his failure as both husband and father, Arthur resolves to start a new life with Clarissa; and he begins by breaking off his relationship with Marjorie. That night the heartbroken Helen commits suicide by drinking cleaning fluid. As the stunned Arthur goes through the papers of her estate, he discovers that Noah has embezzled over $60,000 from her account. Since the old man used the money to repay investors in his bankrupt trolley line and is slowly repaying it, Arthur and Julius decide to remain silent about the discovery. Young Warren learns of Helen's suicide when he returns to town to borrow money from Marjorie. Though she is willing to let him have it, she tells him that running away from a problem is only a temporary solution. Sobered by the advice, Warren decides to remain and face Veronica's charges. After he has left, Marjorie realizes that her advice to Warren also applies to herself, and she returns to Julius.