Based on a novel by Rachel Field, a governess is resented by a neurotic wife as her husband and children fall in love with her.
Henriette Deluzy (Bette Davis) is the new French teacher in a girls school, but they know she was in prison. So Henriette tells them her story. On a ship to Paris Henriette meets Henry Field (Jeffrey Lynn) in 1846. Theo, Duc de Praslin (Charles Boyer) and Frances, Duchess de Praslin (Barbara O'Neil) hire Henriette as governess for their children Isabelle (June Lockhart), Louise (Virginia Weidler), Berthe (Ann E. Todd), and Reynald (Richard Nichols). Theo ignores frantic Frances and thanks Henriette for bringing peace. Frances takes out Reynald despite the protest of Henriette, and he gets sick. Theo tells Henriette to take authority for the children. Frances fears her hopes are dying with Reynald. Frances complains about Henriette to Abbe Gallard (Fritz Leiber). Henriette and Theo show Reynald the garden as Frances comes in and blames them. Reynald recovers, and Frances sends Henriette a broach. Theo takes Henriette and Louise to the theater, and the King nods to them. Frances' father Marechal Sebastiani (Montagu Love) shows Henriette a news article implying scandal. Henriette says she will leave, but Sebastiani says no. Theo complains about Frances and asks Henriette to stay, because she is loved by the others.
Theo is seen in public with Frances. Crying Isabelle tells Henriette she is afraid of being like her mother. Theo finds valet Charpentier (George Coulouris) was hired by Sebastiani but tells him to get out. Handyman Pierre (Harry Davenport) brings Henriette a gift from Theo and warns her to leave. Frances is upset that Theo did not read her letter and refuses to go to the country. Theo tells the children and Henriette he is not going either. Henriette sees that Theo's hand is wounded. On All Hallows Eve Theo visits them and asks about Henriette by the fire. Theo is happy with her and kisses her hand. Frances tells Henriette to leave her house. The children give Henriette a present. Henriette tells Theo she is leaving to protect the children from scandal. Henriette says good-bye to the children.
Eight months later Henriette owes Madame LeMaire (Helen Westley) rent, because she did not get the promised letter from Frances. Theo and the children visit Henriette, and the landlady tells Theo. Frances reads Theo two opposite letters but shows him blank paper. She screams and is murdered. Henriette is arrested. Theo suspects an intruder. Broussais (Henry Daniell) interrogates Theo and then Henriette, telling her Theo did it. Henriette says she alone is guilty. Theo can only be tried by Peers and says he did not love Henriette. In prison Henriette is visited by Henry Field. Henriette is questioned by Peers, as is dying Theo, who refuses to answer. Theo sends Pierre to tell Henriette that he took poison because he loves her. Henriette is released and tells her students the frustrated people revolted against the King in 1848. Henriette asks for refuge in America, and the girls accept her. She says they learned patience and tolerance. In the final scene Henry suggests Henriette has a good future with him.
This well acted drama explores the triangle of an aristocratic
marriage that lacks love as contrasted with a governess, whose
love wins over all but the jealous wife.