Perhaps it was strange that George Gaymer should have become a friend of Henry Fortescue at Oxford in the last years of the 19th century. Politically they were poles apart. Henry, already President of the Union, had a brilliant future before him; George was good hearted but mediocre. Above all, Henry was a homosexual; George was not. Yet George's loyal friendship stood many tests across more than forty years, and was reliable when that of Henry's own kind proved transitory or even treacherous. Absorbed in Eastern politics and Empire problems, Henry suppressed his homosexual inclinations. Regarding discretion as impossible, he chose complete self-denial, for he had no intention, as he once confided to George, of walking about on thin ice. Thus, for years after he got into Parliament, he was caution incarnate. But his failure to gain Cabinet office was so bitter a disappointment that, in search of some anodyne, he was tempted to throw discretion to the winds. As the scene changes from London to Morocco, from Hampshire to Kenya, and then to the Seychelles and Somerset, we follow the course of Henry's life through the perplexed, often apprehensive, eyes of George Gaymer. And we cannot but admire Compton Mackenzie's extraordinarily delicate handling of his theme, the skill with which he evokes the passage of eventful years and maintains suspense to the very end.
Seldom have his outstanding gifts as a novelist been displayed to such advantage.
--- From the First Edition dust jacket.