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Tony--wealthy, spoiled, and class-conscious--returns to London from a trip abroad, buys a home, and hires Hugo Barrett, a manservant, to take care of the house. Barrett quickly and efficiently decorates and organizes the home, and Tony's dependence on him grows, though Susan, Tony's fiancée, is antagonistic toward Barrett, whom she feels is an evil influence. Barrett brings Vera to the house to serve as maid, introducing her as his sister. She soon seduces Tony, and he begins to ignore Susan. One evening Tony arrives to find Barrett and Vera making love, and when they admit that they are not brother and sister, Tony fires them. Tony's house becomes a shambles, and Susan rejects him; so when he sees Barrett in a pub, Tony quickly rehires him. Barrett increases his dominance, while Tony has fits of drunkenness and becomes so weak-willed that he loses all control of the house; Barrett becomes the master. Susan makes one last visit, and she finds Tony in a decrepit state, unaware of reality, and unable to grapple with her final statement of love.