Doctor Pascal is a sixty-year-old scientist, an innovator, out of his pen goes medical works. He is engaged in healing, using his own methods and giving hope to the sick. He is interested in questions of heredity. On the example of his own family, he creates his theory of heredity, based on the data of the genealogical tree he compiled. Pascal’s mother, Felicite, is an eighty-year-old woman, enjoying her position and status in society, guarding family secrets that could blacken the glory of the Rugons. In 1851 the Rugons rescued Plassan from anarchy, contributing to the recognition of a coup d’état. Felicite sought to destroy the works of his son, exhibiting in a bad light the heredity of their kind.
Pascal lives far away from civilization, in a house with a faithful servant Martin, in love with him, and a niece student, twenty-six-year-old Clotilde. Clotilde’s brother Maxim, fifteen years ago at the age of seventeen, became the father of a child who was born by a servant, and who was destined to become a victim of degeneration of the family. Charles was mentally retarded, like his great-grandmother, Adelaide Fook, who for twenty years was in a house for the insane in Tyulet. Charles was handsome and graceful, but his face read the seal of a quick death – a consequence of degeneration. Once Pascal, Clotilde, Felicite and Maxim went to the old eighty-three-year-old uncle Makkar, an old drunkard, seemed “preserved
Pascal falls ill with an unknown disease, he dries away, leading an ascetic life, he is accustomed to suppress his passions, and now he dreams of a lover who gives him unearthly bliss. After a while, he realizes that he has a passion for Clotilde, she responds in kind. Blinded by passion, the doctor spends the last funds on generous gifts for the beloved, who actually ruin him, while the notary, hiding, upsets his condition.
Felicite, who once went to McCar, found him sleeping with a pipe on his knees, she tried to wake him, but in vain, the old robber was in a drunken intoxication, she did not interfere with his burning, which turned him into a handful of ashes. The next day in Tyoult for Charles Clotilde and Pascal witnessed the extinct life of a boy who was bleeding in front of his ancestor Adelaide. In the house of the old bandit, Clotilde and Pascal saw only a handful of ashes and a glove dropped the day before Felicite.
Meanwhile, Pascal’s affairs were completely upset, he was forced to ask money from clients who had previously owed him. Clotilde sold almost everything given to her by Pascal, leaving only a chain with pearls.
Maxim, the brother of Clotilde, began the dry spinal cord, he was chained to an armchair and asked his sister to come to take care of him. Felicite, who did not approve of the connection between her son and granddaughter, advocated that Clotilde leave sooner, breaking off ties with Pascal, or to register a marriage. Pascal was worried because of his age, he did not want to spoil Clotilde’s life with his old age. He wanted to see her mother and that she found her happiness with other people, because she felt that his strength was undermining heart disease.
Clotilde leaves and two months later in a letter informs Pascal about his pregnancy. Pascal is insanely happy and at the same time doomed to an early death, he dreams to extend at least a year’s life to see his child. He sends a telegram to Clotilde, so that she will arrive soon. Clotilde hastily assembled and left, but before she could find Pascal alive, he had an attack, and Dr. Ramon, his closest friend, could not prolong his existence. At night, Felicite, taking advantage of the reigning silence in the house, burns all the works of the scientist who kept the secrets of their heredity and could cloud the glory of the family. Clotilde manages to save only the genealogical tree on which, before his death, Pascal left the last mark about his own demise and the approximate date of his son’s birth.