The Idler (1914) - Plot Summary Poster

(II) (1914)


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  • "The Idler" is Mark Cross, a young man of good family, who in a wild fit of daredeviltry has emigrated from London to the far west. John Harding, also well-born of wealthy parents, but disinherited, and a poor clerk, is also seeking his fortune in the gold fields. One day Harding receives a letter from a firm of London solicitors informing him that his father has died and that he is now Sir John Harding, Bart. He sets out at once to make his preparations for his return to civilization and to take up the station in life that is rightfully his. But that very day he becomes involved in a quarrel with Felix Strong, the young brother of a miner named Simeon Strong, and Felix is shot accidentally during the dispute. Harding is accused of murder, but flees to England in time to escape the vengeance of a posse, headed by Simeon Strong, who is determined to avenge his brother. Years after in London, Harding, who has married the girl both he and Cross were in love with before they emigrated, comes face to face with Cross and Strong, who have become partners and have "struck it rich." In order to win Lady Harding for his own Cross allows the evil side of his nature to get the upper hand of him and plots to have Strong kill Sir John in a duel. Strong slaps Harding in the face in the foyer of the opera house in order that he may involve him in "an affair of honor" and avenge his brother's death by killing Harding. Cross in the meantime lures Lady Harding to his rooms where Sir John comes to seek her. She hides in Mark Cross's bedroom, but reveals herself at a dramatic moment when Harding, shouting "Curse you, I'll kill you," springs at Cross's throat. Her splendid nature, as shown in her denunciation of both men, one as a husband without faith in his wife and the other as the would-be destroyer of a home, overcomes them with shame. They shake hands and Mark, parting forever with Lady Harding, orders his valet to pack his things for he is off "on a long trail."


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  • In England, the wealthy but lazy Mark Cross and one of his bank clerks, John Harding, both fall in love with Helen Merryweather, but following a drunken spree, Mark marries a dancer named Inez. Learning that Inez is having an affair with Marston, a gambler, Mark leaves for America, where, in the Western goldfields, he encounters Simon and Frank Strong. John, who also has come West to seek his fortune, accidentally slays Frank, and then, hearing that he has inherited his uncle's title and lands, he flees to England and marries Helen. Discovering that Inez has been killed, Mark returns to England in the company of Simon, who wishes to avenge his brother's death. Mark is dismayed to find Helen married and lures her to his flat in an effort to compromise her, but when the angry John arrives, she upbraids them both, and they finally shake hands. Simon falls in love with Helen's sister and makes his peace with John, while Mark resumes his solitary wanderings.

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