Lord Claverton’s daughter’s fiancé, Charles, is protesting that, should he stay for tea in the Claverton town house, he will not be able to have any private conversation with Monica because of her father’s presence. Monica worships her father, who was a famous man in the political and financial worlds of England but who is currently, on his doctor’s orders, retired from public life. Lord Claverton is preparing for a rest cure at Badgley Court, a nursing home in the country. Lord Claverton enters. He becomes querulous over the emptiness of his future. Like most men of affairs who are compelled to give up their former activities, he realizes the hollowness of his past eminence, yet he cannot endure the prospect of a life devoid of his former important activities. Life becomes a mere waiting for death for him. He recognizes himself as a ghost and, with dramatic irony, remarks that he smiles when he thinks people are frightened of ghosts.
Hardly is this remark uttered when the first ghost from his own past arrives in the form of one Señor Gomez, from the Latin American Republic of San Marco. Almost immediately Gomez is revealed as Fred Culverwell, a friend of Lord Claverton’s Oxford days. The unbearably suave expatriate is in possession of a damaging secret. Years before, the two university students were driving at night with two young women when Claverton—then plain Dick Ferry—ran over a man and did not stop because he feared the possible scandal. Culverwell also accuses Claverton of being the cause of Culverwell’s ruin in England. By taking Culverwell up at Oxford and teaching him expensive tastes that he, a poor boy, lacked the means to gratify, Claverton forced him to resort to theft and finally to forgery, which led to a prison sentence and flight from England. In San Marco, with its peculiar political situation, he did well. Culverwell is no crude blackmailer and wants only Claverton’s friendship, something to give him reality after thirty-five...
(The entire section is 810 words.)