When Joseph Gibson, an oil and colourman from London, faces bankruptcy, he seizes the opportunity to take the bargain lease on Stape Hill near Poole in Dorsetshire. The deal turns out to be less a bargain than a swindle. The farm is worth nowhere near the price paid for it. The grasping owner, a retired lawyer, Arthur Blagden, had charged him more than twice the property's worth.
Gibson and his delicate daughter face ruin next Michaelmas day when the next annual rent payment is due. On the due date, there is a furious row between Gibson and Blagden at Stape Hill farm, when the latter refuses to defer the rent payment for even one minute.
When the next morning, the murdered body of Arthur Blagden is discovered on a road near Poole, suspicion immediately falls upon Gibson. When a private detective from London is mysteriously brought onto the case by an anonymous benefactor, he discovers that the case against Gibson is not quite as clear cut at it at first appeared.