The political dissident John Sorel is on the run from the secret police. At his home, his wife Magda and his mother hide him. The police arrive and search, but cannot find him. John says that he will escape to the border, and tells Magda to apply for a visa to leave the country. He will wait to cross the border until his wife, mother and child are safe.
Scene 2: The consul's office
Many people are waiting to obtain visas. Magda applies and joins the crowd, but the secretary cannot promise anything.
The child is ill, and John's mother sings to comfort the child. The police try to extract information from Magda on her husband's compatriots, but she refuses. A message then arrives from John urging Magda to hurry with the visa.
Scene 2: The consulate
Magda is desperate to see the consul. A magician, waiting for a visa, attempts to impress the secretary by performing magic tricks and hypnotizing the rest of the room into believing they are at a ball, but he only ends up frightening her. The secretary says that she may see him once an "important visitor" has finished his business. This visitor proves to be the chief of police. Magda's fears increase.
Magda's child and mother-in-law have died. At the consul's office, Magda learns that John is planning to risk his life and return for her. Magda thinks of suicide to try to protect John, and leaves the consulate. As the office is about to shut down for the day, John suddenly arrives, but with the police in pursuit. The police capture John, and the secretary gets on the phone to try to contact Magda.
Despondent, and with visions of her past crowding her mind, Magda turns on the gas in the oven to kill herself. Her telephone then rings, the secretary trying in vain to contact her.