Dr. Faraday, a country physician of humble beginnings, is called to Hundreds Hall, an 18th-century estate, in 1947 to attend to the maid, Betty. As a boy, he and his mother (a former maid) had been admitted to the house during the 1919 Empire Day party. Enamored with the house, he broke off an ornamental acorn from a mirror frame, causing his mother to slap him for vandalism. The Hall now belongs to Roderick Ayres, a scarred Royal Air Force veteran. The elderly Mrs Ayres also lives there with her daughter, Caroline. Upon arriving Dr Faraday observes the house has decayed over the years and that the family is in severe financial straits. During a house party where Dr Faraday is present, a couple brings their young child who is mauled by Caroline's previously gentle Labrador retriever. Dr. Faraday later meets with Roderick, who claims there is a supernatural force in the house that hates him. Dr Faraday takes this as evidence of Roderick being of unsound mind, and becomes alarmed when he learns Roderick is planning a land sale. Roderick accosts Dr Faraday about intruding into the Ayres' affairs. Roderick later sets fire to his room and is committed to an asylum. Dr Faraday resolves to stay and care for the Ayres. He becomes romantically involved with Caroline, despite her being of a higher social class..