The narrative is conducted on behalf of a young man named Frederick Clegg, who serves as a clerk in the Town Hall. The action takes place not far from London. Frederick’s story is a love story, but over time the reader understands that the expression of this love in the hero is not quite healthy.
Frederic is in love with a girl named Miranda Gray, a student of an art school. But Clegg is locked in himself, since childhood he has not been interested in anything but collecting butterflies. He does not have the courage to meet a girl when she comes from London for a vacation.
Once Frederic wins a large sum of money at the races. This allows him to quit, send his relatives abroad and buy a house in the rural wilderness. The idea of abducting Miranda arose accidentally. “At first I imagined that some person was attacking her, and I was saving her.” Then somehow it turned out that this person is me, only I do not hurt her, I do not do any harm. He took her to a secluded house and held her there as a captive, but in a good way, without any. “Gradually she found out what kind of thing I fell in love with.” Soon this plan was embodied in reality. In the new country house Clegg was an old spacious basement, which served as a dungeon for Miranda. Frederic tracked her down one evening, pressed a rag with chloroform to his mouth, and dragged him into the van, which was intended for transportation of equipment.
Clegg really did not plan anything bad and until the very end counted on the love stolen. He spent almost all of his money on her, setting the room in the basement the way Miranda could have liked: books about art, elegant furniture, paintings, dresses…
On the first day she recognized him. The thief from confusion began to invent a story with the customer in the person of a certain Mr. Singleton, but the clever girl took it. Clegg had to admit everything. But contrary to the expectations of the hero, Miranda did not rush to rush to his neck. She called him crazy, but she talked. Moreover, the young man did not use violence, calling the captive his guest. But Miranda did not want to put up with her fate. She was a joke – she was imprisoned, besides, she did not believe Clegg for a long time, expecting more insidious intent. She called her kidnapper Caliban (the name of the hero of Shakespeare’s play The Storm).
In the meantime, the days passed, Clegg fed his captive with delicious dishes, talked with her and waited for the reciprocal feelings to arise. They did not appear soon. But it was not love, it was pity. Clegg told a lot about himself, about his passion for butterflies, about his feelings for Miranda. The girl quickly understood his poor spiritual world. Caliban was empty inside. He did not know how to appreciate art, and all his butterflies were dead. All but one – of Miranda. And this frightened Caliban.
Miranda did not stop fighting. There were attempts to escape, there were hunger strikes. Clegg did not understand why she did not believe him. He was not going to hurt her. They agreed that in a month Clegg would let her go. He thought that during this time Miranda would fall in love with him.
But the girl was just thinking how to escape. She managed to persuade Clegg to lead her upstairs and even allow her to take a bath. There,... upstairs, she saw how her “master” lived. He showed her his butterflies. Another craze for Clegg was photography. But neither photos nor butterflies admired Miranda, she called them dead beauty. And from the tasteless furnishings of the rooms in her house she just felt sick.
Another attempt to escape did not succeed. Miranda decided to deceive the offender, pretending to be ill, but Clegg quickly discovered her. Secret note to relatives also could not pass unnoticed past Kaliban’s eyes. These games gradually took him out of himself. She could be courteous to him, and then she committed another mischief. The desire for freedom and love of life were in her blood.
Finally, the time of her imprisonment has expired. On this day, Frederick intended to make her an offer. The ring was in his pocket. Miranda went upstairs, they had supper. When it came to marriage, Clegg realized that the girl did not like him, and moreover, she mocked him. Of course, there could be no question of any release. At the moment when the girl learned the terrible truth, when all her dreams and hopes were destroyed, a car drove past the window. The girl tried to escape through the window, already broke it, but a swab with chloroform once again lulled her consciousness. Pulling the girl back to the basement, Clegg could not resist the temptation to photograph her in one linen.
A few days after that, Miranda did not talk to Clegg. Taking another attempt to escape, she decided on a more desperate act. Once again urging Frederic to let her go upstairs, the girl began to seduce Clegg. She sat down on his lap, then kissed her several times. Seeing that this does not help, Miranda threw off all her clothes. But her efforts were in vain, Clegg took them for trying to buy freedom (it was so). In addition, he confessed his male impotence.
Who knows how much they would have fought each other if Miranda had not been seriously ill on the same day. She had a strong cough, she did not eat anything and for several days did not leave her prison. Frederic considered this a new move from his prisoner. And when I realized that she did not play the play, it was too late.
In the second part of the novel we learn that Miranda kept a diary all these days. Actually, the second part contains the entries from the girl’s diary. Of these, it becomes clear to the reader what thoughts the hostage attended. Thus, the author gives us two points of view on what is happening.
In the third part Caliban returns to the narrative. This is a very small part, which describes the last days of Miranda. She died of illness. First Frederic wanted to kill himself next to her, fearing that people will know about this whole story. But then his dark side prevailed, giving birth to a real maniac. He buried Miranda in the garden near the house, cleared the basement and began to prepare for a new hunt.
“I have not yet decided definitively about Marian (another M! I heard him call her by name). Only this time there will be no more love, it will be interesting to compare them, and for that other, than I would like to do, let’s say, in more detail, and I will teach it myself how to do it, and the clothes will all fit in. Well, of course, I will immediately explain who is the master here and what is expected of her. ” This concludes the confession of Frederick Clegg.