When his local Member of Parliament decides to retire, Haystoun is persuaded to stand. Although he is liked and respected by his local tenants, he finds himself unable to speak wholeheartedly and with full conviction at the hustings and is beaten by his opponent, the ambitious and fluent social climber Albert Stocks. Following an initial meeting at a dinner party, both Haystoun and Stocks fall in love with Alice Wishart, the daughter of a rich city merchant. Miss Wishart initially favours Haystoun, but gradually becomes disenchanted with his apparent lack of ability to commit to anything. During a picnic on the moors, Miss Wishart slips and falls into a lake. Haystoun, standing beside her, hesitates just long enough to allow his rival to dive in and make the rescue. Haystoun is devastated, believes himself to be a coward and avoids Miss Wishart's company, pushing her more and more into the company of Stocks. Stocks asks her to marry him and, believing that Haystoun is not interested in her, she agrees. Rumours have reached the British Government of a possible danger to the Empire via an uncharted area of the northern Indian frontier. Haystoun has explored this area before, and when he is asked by a friend to go out again to reconnoitre in a semi-official capacity, he jumps at the chance to escape his situation and to prove his courage. The night before his departure, Haystoun and Miss Wishart meet and declare their mutual love for the first time. Although there would still be time for Miss Wishart to break her engagement, the pair feel that they have been 'set apart by the fates' and they separate to follow their own individual paths.
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