The substance of this novel is devoted to demonstrating that its two main characters are, in every aspect of their lives, self-deceivers. The most interesting of the two is Garald Volk, a half-caste Christian Scientist from South Africa. An orphan, at 8 years of age he developed a condition of hysterical bleeding which was immediately promoted as a stigmata by a homosexual journalist who became the boy's guardian. The two travelled about together exhibiting the wounds for a fee until Volk was 24 at which time he became a Christian Scientist and moved to the south of London where he is involved with the O'Manneys. Nick O'Manney is a worthless cockney whose most significant experience occurred as a soldier in Cyrprus when he shot his only friend by mistake. O'Manney, jobless for months until he becomes a public lavatory janitor, spends his time trying to persuade people that he is a war hero and superior to the kind of life he leads. Volk, on the other hand, is a missionary and his disgrace is the more obvious when his homosexuality becomes public and when he abandons his pregnant girl friend. In the end Volk and O'Manney go their separate way each convinced that he is better than the other. By this time however it doesn't make much difference to the reader.