Annie Saunders is working as a waitress in a disreputable saloon in New York. She and her brother had once been well-to-do, but when they lost their money, her brother abandoned her. Unbeknownst to Annie, her brother is now in jail for supposedly murdering his fiancée and then setting her apartment on fire to hide the evidence. Feeling guilty for how he abandoned Annie, he sits in prison and worries aloud about her fate.
Annie has succumbed to exactly the fate her brother fears. In the course of her work, she met Martin Haley, who seduced her. Annie does not know that Martin has recently swindled a businessperson in Boston and run away with the man's wife, who is currently in a New York hotel. A detective seeks out Annie at the saloon in an attempt to find Martin. Martin is arrested in front of Annie, and she begins to suspect that he has led her on. When she returns to her home, a dagger engraved with the words "Death before dishonor" reminds her of her brother's advice against premarital sex, which she ponders aloud.
In the meantime, the detective has laid a trap for both Martin and his two lovers. He invites each woman separately to the trial, and puts them in a room together, without revealing that they are there for the same purpose. When the women hear Martin's name in the course of the trial, they both sprint into the court room and are confronted with his infamous behavior toward of them. Annie is the first to act.
Annie pulls out her dagger, stabs Martin, and before anyone has a chance to react, she stabs herself. Both die within seconds. But the tragedy of Annie's downfall is not over. Her brother is lead into the court room. He asks what villain has killed his sister. He is told that she first killed the man who seduced her, then herself. Annie's brother lauds her behavior.
Annie’s brother, who has already pulled the dagger from his sister’s dead body, stabs himself with it. The novel ends with three dead bodies in the court room, and Martin Haley’s second lover being led away, driven mad by the implications of her actions and the sight of Martin’s dead body.