The family patriarch Van Paemel is a farmer on baron de Wilde's estate. His mild-mannered son Désire is accidentally shot during a hunting party on the estate and remains an invalid. Eduard, the eldest son, is a member of the socialist workers' movement and involved in strike actions in the city. Against her father's wishes, his daughter Cordule starts an affair with the poacher Masco. His youngest daughter, Romanie, is forced to work as a domestic servant at the castle, where she is seduced by Maurice, the baron's son and heir, and becomes pregnant. When the youngest son Kamiel also has to leave the farm because he is drafted into the army, the lack of workers on Van Paemel's farm becomes critical. As a result, the family is evicted from their home because they cannot pay the rent. Three of the children emigrate to the USA, one becomes a nun and one dies, until only the farmer and his wife remain.