François Seurel’s father is head of the middle school and one of the higher elementary classes at the Sainte-Agathe village school, and his wife teaches the younger children. François lives in the school with his parents and his sister Millie and attends classes with the other pupils. He never plays much with the village boys, however, because of an infection in his hip.
When François Seurel is fifteen years old, Augustin Meaulnes enters the school. With his arrival, a new life begins for Seurel, for Meaulnes banishes his contentment with his family and his love for staying home. As his hip continues to improve, Seurel begins to spend more time with Meaulnes in the village. Even life at the school becomes livelier, for Meaulnes always draws a crowd of people around him in the evenings.
The adventure begins one Christmas Day, when Meaulnes sets out for the railroad station to meet Seurel’s grandparents, Monsieur and Madame Charpentier. When the grandparents arrive, Meaulnes has disappeared. Three days later, he casually takes his seat in the classroom where Monsieur Seurel is conducting a lesson. No one knows where he has been, and he claims when questioned that he himself does not know. Sometimes at night, in the attic room they share, Seurel awakens to find Meaulnes pacing the floor, fully clothed, eager to reenter a mysterious world he had once glimpsed briefly. Meaulnes promises to take Seurel along the next time he leaves on a journey.
At last, Meaulnes tells Seurel the story of the adventure he had when he ran off from the school. It had been a very cold December day, and Meaulnes had lost his way; with darkness falling, he found that his horse was lame. He wandered to a cottage, where he was fed, and then he stumbled on until he found a barn in which, cold and lost, he fell asleep. The next day he wandered a long distance, until that night he came to a manor where small children and old people were merrily planning a wedding feast. Tired and cold, Meaulnes crawled through a window and climbed into a bed, where he slept all night. The next day, thinking that he was one of the wedding guests, some strolling players invited him to eat with them. Then Meaulnes discovered the reason for the feast. Frantz de Galais, the son of the man who owned the manor, had gone off to fetch his fiancé for their wedding.
All that first day, Meaulnes danced and played with the other guests. The next day, he met a beautiful girl with whom he fell in love. Although she declined to see him again, she promised to wait for his return to the manor. Inquiring about the strange girl, Meaulnes learned that she was Yvonne de Galais, Frantz’s sister. Frantz returned to the manor without his bride, and he dismissed all the guests. Meaulnes joined the crowd of children and old people as they dejectedly walked and rode away from the manor. He fell asleep in a cart, and when he awoke he found himself...
(The entire section is 1195 words.)