A mysterious millionaire, Raffles Haw, comes to reside in Tamfield in Staffordshire. Even before he arrives, people start gossiping about him. As his house is being constructed, people wonder at the number of workers, their speed, and the complete disregard for the amount of money spent, which the unknown millionaire manifests. When he arrives, he strikes an acquaintance with the McIntyre family, which consists of Robert, his sister Laura, and their father. McIntyre senior had been a prosperous gun merchant, but had gone bankrupt and lost his sanity. Laura is engaged to the vicar Mr.Spurling's son, Hector Spurling, who is a sailor and is summoned for duty in the navy at the start of the novel.
Through the siblings (he disregards McIntyre senior as a greedy beggar) and the vicar Mr.Spurling, Raffles Haw sets about to alleviate the misery of the people of Tamfield. He saves many families and businesses with his timely financial succour. He has incredible amounts of money. It turns out that he has found a way to turn lead into solid gold. With the passage of time, he becomes disillusioned because his philanthropic activities don't benefit anyone. Instead, most people now become parasites, knowing that there is always hope for alms from the millionaire. Raffles Haw is engaged to Laura McIntyre, who keeps her engagement with Hector Spurling a secret from him. One day, in a mood of despondency, he goes to the one person he supposes to be true to him and not greedy for money, Laura McIntyre. As they are talking, Hector Spurling unexpectedly enters; his voyage had been shorter than expected. When Raffles Haw discovers the secret of the engagement, and the fact that not only Laura but her brother Robert had kept him in dark about it, he is totally heartbroken. The fallen millionaire locks himself up in his laboratory, destroys his equipment and immense fortune, and is found dead later. The physiochemical process that he used to build his immense fortune is unrecoverable.