Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511
The action in the play centers on Ronald Winslow, who was expelled for allegedly committing theft. He returns home with a letter, which his mother Grace reads for his father Arthur. It says:
Grace (reading): "Confidential. I am commanded by My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform you that they have received a communication from the Commanding Officer of the Royal Naval College at Osborne, reporting the theft of a five-shilling postal order at the College on the 7th instant, which was afterwards cashed at the Post Office. Investigation of the circumstances of the case leaves no other conclusion possible than that the postal order was taken by your son, Cadet Ronald Arthur Winslow. My Lords deeply regret that they must therefore request you to withdraw your son from the College." It's signed by someone—I can’t quite read his name.
Later, it's discovered that the school didn't do as much investigating as they indicated they did. Even the witness at the post office wasn't sure that Ronnie was the one who sold it to her. This is one of the pieces of evidence that eventually allows the case to be overturned.
The fight goes on for so long that it drains the Winslow family's resources. Arthur has to ask his son, Dickie, to pull out of college so that the tuition money can be used to keep fighting for Ronnie's innocence.
Arthur: I’m afraid this is rather a shock for you. I’m sorry.
Dickie: What? No. No, it isn’t, really. I’ve been rather expecting it, as a matter of fact — especially since I’ve heard you are hoping to brief Sir Robert Morton. Still, I can’t say but what it isn’t a bit of a slap in the face.
Robert Morton is a high-priced and experienced lawyer who fights for the family even when it threatens his own ambitions. Eventually, he wins the case. When Arthur finds out, he also finds out that they're not getting the compensation that they would need to cover the expenditures. Arthur says:
Arthur: Please, sir—no more trouble—I beg. Let the matter rest here. (He shows the piece of paper.) This is all I have ever asked for.
His main concern was his family name and the innocence of his son. Having them restored in the court makes him happy even though it damaged the family fortunes.
Robert Morton and Catherine are on opposite sides of the political issue of feminism. By the end of the play, however, they've come to have a grudging respect for one another. The play ends with this exchange:
Catherine (with a smile): Yes, Sir Robert. One day. But not in the Gallery. Across the floor.
Sir Robert (with a faint smile ): Perhaps. Good-bye.
She's referring to gaining enough rights for women that she can face him in the House of Commons rather than just being a visitor there. He concedes that it might happen, showing his grudging respect for her and desire to see her again in the future.