n exemplification and amplification of St. Paul's dictum--better to marry than to burn-- charts the decline and fall of Hugh Alderson, 31, a curate in the Church of England who had made a private pact of eternal celibacy with his friend, Peter. Peter's decision to marry and violation of that earlier promise offends him, perhaps more than it should, and arouses him in another fashion. First there is a young, married teacher, who gives him ""the little instruction"" he needs; then a whore; then another rector's wife; and then the tarty Vera. A young girl, whom he has helped, offers to marry him to save him, but he rightly refuses. He loses his parish and the progression- from lapsed to virtually unfrocked- leaves him at the end with a whole new life to start... The age-old conflict of the life of the flesh versus the death of the soul (amplified with a little doctrinal discussion on some of the touchy issues, birth control, for instance) is pursued with few concessions. It is almost deliberately explicit.