Coraline Jones and her parents move into an old Queen Anne style house that has been subdivided into three flats. The other tenants include Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, two elderly women retired from the stage, and Mr. Bobo, who is training a jumping mouse circus.
During a rainy day she discovers a locked door in the drawing room, which has been bricked up. As she goes to visit her neighbors, Mr. B relates to her a message from the mice: do not go through little door. At tea with Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, Miss Spink spies danger in Coraline's future after reading her tea leaves, and bequeaths to her a seeing stone for protection.