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Gaston de Nerac, a brilliant young architect, returns to London from France to marry his cousin, Joanna Rushworth. In order to prevent Joanna's father from losing his business, Gaston borrows money from a rival suitor with the stipulation that he postpone the marriage and refrain from communication with Joanna for two years. After the suitor convinces Joanna that Gaston bartered her love for money, she marries the suitor. When Gaston learns of this, he begins a reckless, cynical life as a traveling musician known as Paragot. In the London slums, he makes the acquaintance of Asticot, a ragamuffin. They wander through France and Paragot adopts Blanquette, an itinerant singer, after her aged partner dies. Years later, when the happy threesome perform at a peasant wedding, Paragot encounters Joanna, who has learned the truth. After Joanna's husband is killed in the street, she and Paragot plan to marry, but because he is unable to adjust to societal conventions, Paragot marries Blanquette instead.