The author wishes to convince the reader that “only in the darkness of the grave a person is able to find rest”, because “the irrepressibility of passions” and “the inevitability of fate” “will never give him rest on earth.”
Kurval, a wealthy gentleman of about fifty, decides to marry a second time. The first wife left him to indulge in debauchery, the son followed the example of the mother, and the daughter died in infancy. Friends introduce Kurval with Mademoiselle de Florerville, a maid of thirty-six years leading an impeccable lifestyle. True, Florvil never knew her parents, and no one knows who they are. In her early youth, she had a love affair, from which the child was born, but the baby later disappeared somewhere. However, such
Florvil, who is all considered a relative of the venerable Monsieur de Saint-Pras, was tossed to him by the infant under the door, and he brought her up as a child. When Florvil passed sixteen years, M. de Saint-Pra, in order not to violate decency, sent the girl to the province to her sister, so that she looked after her. With the approval of the sister of Saint-Prá, a person of very free morals, Florvil accepted the courtship of a young officer, Senval. The fervent Senval was handsome, Florvil fell in love with him and eventually gave him the color of his youth. After a while she had a son, and she hoped that the lover would marry her. But he took the child and disappeared. The flamboyant Florville returned to Paris to Saint-Prá and confessed to him in everything. Indulgent Saint-Pras, scolding the girl, sent her to his – this time a pious – relative Madame de Lerens. But then Florvil was in danger. At the request of her friend, Madame de Lerens introduced the young St. Ange to the house so that “virtuous examples would contribute to the formation of his soul.” St. Ange fell in love with Florvil,
Madame de Lerens settled the sad consequences of the case. Florvil went to Paris to Saint-Pras. In a roadside hotel, she witnessed the murder, and on the basis of her testimony, a woman of advanced age, stabbing her car, went to the scaffold. In Paris, following Florvil’s desire, St. Pra helped her settle with the holy abode where she now lives, spending days in pious activities and prayers.
After listening to the confession Florvil, Kurval continues to insist on their marriage, because, in his opinion, Florvil is not guilty of his misfortunes.
And Florvil becomes the wife of Kurval, they are already waiting for the heir, when the prodigal son of Kurval suddenly appears from his first wife and tells the story of his misadventures.
After leaving his father, he joined the regiment and soon rose to an officer. In a provincial town, he seduced some noble maiden, and she gave birth to a child from him. By cowardice he threw the girl and fled to Italy, taking his son with him. When his son grew up, he sent him to France to improve his upbringing, where he fell in love with a charming girl. Wishing to “take by force what he was denied” by that virtuous person, his son received a blow to the chest, which became fatal for him. In desperation from the death of his son, he went to travel. On the way, he met a criminal sentenced to death and recognized his mother in it. He made an appointment with her, and the mother told him that she had been convicted on the basis of the testimony of a certain noble young man who was the only witness to her crime. To top it off, his mother revealed to him a secret: He has a sister. When she was born, the mother, wishing that the whole inheritance of the son, deceived her husband, saying that the girl died, but in fact threw it to a certain gentleman de Saint-Pra…
At these words, poor Florvil stands up and screams in horror to the son of Kurval: “Do you recognize me, Senval, you will recognize in me at once your sister, the girl seduced by you, the murderer of your son, your father’s wife and the loathsome creature that led your mother to the scaffold… “And rushing to the gun of Senval, she grabs him, shoots herself and falls, sweating with blood.
After the death of Florvil, M. de Courval is seriously ill, but his son’s concerns bring him back to life. “But both of them, after so many cruel blows of fate,” decide to retire to the monastery.