In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds… and remembers.
A subtitle reveals that it’s now 14 years later, in Buffalo, New York. The adult Edith carries her handwritten manuscript to a large building. She runs into her friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and explains to him that she is hoping her uncle will publish her manuscript. Alan’s mother and a few society girls catch them talking; Mrs. McMichael raves about a new baronet who is in town, whom she hopes will be smitten with her daughter. Edith mentions that a baronet is someone who doesn’t work for his money but simply lives off of the land that’s cultivated by workers. Mrs. McMichael mocks her attempts at being an author and says she’d better be careful – she might end up like Jane Austen, alone. She tells her she’d much rather be Mary Shelley, who died a widow.
Edith’s uncle looks at her manuscript mentioning that it’s a ghost story. She tells him that no, the ghost is just a metaphor and it’s about the past. He tells her that it should be a love story and instead of commenting on the content, tells her that she has very neat handwriting.
At home, Edith complains to her wealthy father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), that she was being told her manuscript must have a love story. He tells her that every story tends to have love and it’s not personal – even women are privy to love. He surprises her with an expensive ballpoint pen to write with. She tells him that she instead would like to type the manuscript before sending it to New York – this way, her handwriting won’t give away that she is a female.
At her father’s office, Edith shows off the typewriter to another woman. She says it will take all day but she will type the entire thing out before sending it. A man, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) comes to meet Carter Cushing (her father). The woman rushes off to let Carter know Thomas has arrived. Edith tells Thomas that she hopes he’s not very late because Carter hates that. He tells her he’s actually very early. She tells him he hates that, too. He pauses at the desk and reads the first page of the typed manuscript. He asks her who she was transcribing it for because it’s very good.
Edith sits in on the meeting where Carter pitches a clay harvester to Carter and the other men on the board by using a miniature version to show how it would work.
Carter points out that attempts at funding have already been rejected by London, Edinburgh, and Milan… why should he invest? He then asks Thomas if he has a full-scale version of the invention working. Thomas says he’s been working at it but has no machine yet. Carter points out that the only thing he has in his arsenal is the working model, basically just ‘a toy.’ He then chastises Thomas and tells him that he has soft hands, unlike the people in the room – they had to work hard to earn their positions. Carter doesn’t have rough hands because he’s banking on his privilege to get what he wants.