Roman begins with a description of a small haberdashery in the Parisian arcade, which contains Teresa Raken and her aunt of 60 years – Mrs. Raken. They live in the same building, on the upper floors.
Before, Ms. Raken traded fancy goods in Vernon, but then, after her husband’s death, closed the case and led the hermit’s life: she took a house on the banks of the Seine, where she spent all the time with her son Camille and her niece Teresa.
Camille all childhood was a painful child, but the mother still won him at death. The consequences are still there: Camille is small, frail and frail. So he remained an ignoramus.
Teresa was brought from Algeria by Captain Degan, the brother of Mme Raken. She is 2 years younger than Camille. Her mother, a native, died, and Degan, since the girl was written in his name, gave it to her sister (Mrs. Raken) for education. Theresa is surrounded by care, grows healthy, but she is looked after just like the sick Camille. She drinks his medicines with him. All this made her too obedient and even indifferent.
Soon Teresa and Camille marry; that this will happen, they knew from childhood. Therefore, it does not bring any changes in their lives: after the first night the newlyweds spend together, Camille “is still painfully sore” …
After the wedding, he resolutely declares that he intends to settle in Paris. So the whole family settles in the Pont-Neuf
Once Camille brought Laurent, with whom he went to school as a child. It turns out that he also serves in the management of the Orleans Railway, that is, he and Camille are colleagues. Laurent’s father wanted his son to become a lawyer, however Laurent the idler walked with friends instead of classes. I tried to paint, but nothing came of it. Now he works, and from this evening he is a regular guest of the Rakens.
Laurent writes a portrait of Camille, and that is why he often in his apartment. Gradually Laurent and Theresa become lovers. Laurent has vested interests, he needs Teresa’s money. Likewise, the lovers pass by the Rakens, right in their matrimonial bedroom. Soon, they realize that Camille is only hindering them, and Laurent has the idea of killing him.
Once the three of them go to ride in a boat on the river Seine. Laurent throws Camille overboard. Camille tried to resist and even bitten Laurent by the neck, but still Laurent reaches out: Camille drowned. Everything is arranged as if the boat overturned, and Laurent, saving Teresa, did not have time to help a friend.
First, Ms. Raken is very sad about the death of her son, but soon life goes back on track, although the Thursday meetings did not stop. A year later, Teresa and Laurent decide to get married, but this idea is expressed not by themselves, but they are arranged in such a way that the idea of their marriage is pronounced for the first time by the guests and by Mrs. Raken.
But soon the newlyweds understand that together they simply can not be: they everywhere imagines Camille’s corpse. The scar on the neck of Laurent, left by the resisting Camille, does not heal and constantly worries the new husband of Theresa. Even in bed, it seems to the newlyweds that the body of the drowned man lies between them.
Laurent again takes a great interest in painting, his friend notes that it turns out very well, but the portraits are similar to each other, and Laurent understands that all of his drawings (even animal drawings!) Are like Camille’s drowned man. The relationship between Teresa and Laurent becomes unbearable… Often Laurent beats his wife.
Ms. Raken breaks paralysis, gradually she stops moving and even talking. As the niece and her husband talk, she suddenly realizes that they are the killers of her son. In her eyes – horror. Soon Teresa and Laurent are already talking about the fact that they killed Camille, not embarrassed by the presence of Ms. Raken. Once at a traditional Thursday’s party the old woman collects all her strength. She attracts the guests’ attention and draws her finger on the table with her finger: “Theresa and Laurent have…” (the killer), but she does not have time to finish the most important word, the forces leave her, and the guests think she wanted to write. “Teresa and Laurent are amazingly concerned about to me”.
Theresa is trying to repent. For days she begs for forgiveness from the old woman, but soon embarks on debauchery. Both Therese and Laurent are afraid that one of them will tell the police. Both decide to kill each other. Laurent buys a bubble of cyanide potassium, and Teresa sharpens the knife. Everyone notices the actions of the other. As a result, first Teresa, and immediately after her and Laurent drink poisoned water. “They fell on top of each other, finding consolation in death.” The lips of the young woman touched the neck of her husband, the place where the scar from Camilla’s teeth was. The corpses lay all night on the floor of the dining room, at the feet of Mme Raken, crooked, ugly, illuminated by yellowish reflections of the lamp. For almost twelve hours, until noon, Mrs. Raken, motionless and dumb, looked at them, destroying them with her heavy gaze, and could not get enough of this spectacle. “