HENRI, Marquis of Corneville, who has been since childhood, owing to civil war, an exile, returns to his ancestral home on the occasion of the great annual fair which is being celebrated in the village that receives its name from his chateau. It is one of the old-fashioned Norman villages of the seventeenth century.
In the First Act, the curtain rises on an assemblage of village gossips, discussing scandal and small talk. SERPOLETTE, a cross between Fanchon and Boulotte, is the topic of conversation among the belles of Corneville. She comes in just in time to turn the tables on the others, and changes their taunts into expressions of rage. GASPARD, an old miser, wishes to marry his niece, GERMAINE, to the principal magistrate of the district, the BAILLI. This arrangement does not suit GERMAINE, nor a young fisherman named JEAN GRENICHEUX, who pretends that he has saved her life from drowning on a certain occasion. To escape from the power of old GASPARD, GERMAINE takes advantage of the privileges of the fair (a similar scene to that in the first act of "Martha"), and becomes the servant of the Marquis. Her example is followed by GRENICHEUX and SERPOLETTE.
The Second Act is taken up with the supernatural visitors who have made the Castle of Corneville so long an object of dread. HENRI determines to find out the real character of these ghostly appearances, and discovers that it is all the work of the old miser, who has concealed his treasures in the chateau. The discovery drives Gaspard crazy, especially when he hears the bells of the chateau ringing for the first time since the flight of the old Marquis.
The Third Act represents the grand fete given in honor of the return of HENRI to his ancestral home. SERPOLETTE arrives as a Marchionesss, as some papers, found in the chateau, indicate that she is the lost heiress. The miser, however, recovers his reason, and shows that GERMAINE is the true Marchioness. A love Duet between her and HENRI, and the reconciliation of all the parties, bring the romantic story to a close.
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