Simon Wood’s father was a decorated officer in the British Army and was killed in action in Aden, then still a British colony. Simon idealizes his father and is fiercely protective of his mother. When the dormitory bully at Simon’s boarding school had insulted her, Simon had gone berserk and pulverized him. This experience frightened Simon, however, because it made him realize the uncontrolled anger within himself that, it is suggested, also may have been in his father.
The story opens with his mother announcing that she is to marry Joe Morton, a well-known cartoonist and satiric artist. The suddenness of the announcement and the fact that Joe, a pacifist, is so unlike Simon’s father make Simon extremely hostile. His little sister, Jane, instantly adores her new stepfather.
Simon refuses to go to the wedding and only very reluctantly goes to live during the summer vacation at Joe’s converted cottage in Gorsely, a Cheshire village. While exploring the property around the cottage, Simon discovers an old watermill, now disused but apparently in use until 1943, judging from old newspapers found in the kitchen. The mill machinery still works. Simon is the first to become aware of an eerie presence in the cottage.
Simon rescues a cat and her litter, all starving, and takes them home to nurse. This act of kindness necessarily makes him dependent on the family. He nevertheless feels excluded, in his attic bedroom, as “his”...
(The entire section is 523 words.)