Renée Mauperin’s father had served under the first Napoleon and battled for the liberal forces until he became a husband and father, when his new responsibilities forced him to return home. Since acquiring a family he has ceased being a scholar and political figure in order to pursue the more financially reliable career of sugar refiner. His wife, a very proper woman, wishes to see her children married well and respectably.
The two oldest of the Mauperins’ offspring are model children, so well disciplined and quiet that they fail to excite their father’s interest. Renée, however, the third child, born late in his life, has been a lively youngster from the beginning. She loves horses and action, is demonstrative in her affection, and has an artistic and spirited personality. While these qualities endear her to her father, they make her the bane of her mother’s existence. The oldest daughter has dutifully married and become the respectable Madame Davarande, but Renée, now in her late teens, has already summarily dismissed a dozen suitors of good family and fortune and shows no inclination to accept any who come seeking her hand.
Almost as great a worry to Madame Mauperin is her son, Henri, on whom she dotes. Henri Mauperin is a political economist and a lawyer; he is also a cold and calculating fellow, though his mother, in her excessive love for him, fails to realize just how selfish he is. She thinks that he has never given a thought to marriage and chides him for his lack of interest. She feels that at the age of thirty he should have settled down.
Not knowing his plans, Madame Mauperin arranges to have Henri often in the company of Naomi Bourjot, the only daughter of a very rich family known to the Mauperins for many years. The only difficulty lies in convincing Naomi’s father that Henri, who has no title, is a suitable match for his daughter. Henri himself, having realized that this is the greatest difficulty, has undertaken to gain the aid of Madame Bourjot in his suit for her daughter. His method of securing the mother’s aid is to become her lover.
On the occasion of staging an amateur theatrical production, Naomi, Renée, and Henri find themselves in one another’s company, although Naomi has had to be forced into the venture by her mother. Madame Bourjot had known that Henri wants to marry her daughter, but she has had no idea that he is really in love with the girl. Henri’s portrayal of Naomi’s lover onstage, however, reveals to Madame Bourjot the true state of his affections. Rather than lose him altogether,...
(The entire section is 1056 words.)