Plot.htm  posted August 15, 2006 

Plot Outlines Of




Copyright 1942









George du Maurier was born in Paris on March 6, 1834. His father took his family to England when his son was quite young, but soon returned to France where George was educated in science. In 1856 his father died, and his scientific career came to an end. After that he studied art in Paris and Antwerp and then went to England where he began to contribute drawings to English magazines. He succeeded John Leech on Punch and also illustrated the serializations of many famous novels of his day. His first novel was Peter Ibbetson, which was followed by his greatest success, Trilby, the publication of which began in 1894. He died in London of an inflammation of the heart on Oct. 6, 1896.


The Latin Quarter of Paris in the middle of the last century was the Mecca toward which every aspiring artist sooner or later wended his way. One fine, showery day in April, three Englishmen were enjoying the studio they had just furnished on the Place St. Anatole des Arts. One of them was a tall, athletic Yorkshireman, once a bearer of a commission in the Crimean campaign, but feeling within himself an irresistible avocation for art, had left the army for Paris and was now painting. He was called Taffy.

The second was called the Laird of Cockpen—a Scotsman of respectable parentage whose fondness for painting toreadors had taken him to Paris. The third was small and slender, graceful and well-built, and the possessor of a real talent, which could not be said for the other two. Little Billee had been brought up and educated at home; his widowed mother and sister now lived in Devonshire. He was the youngest of the three, and Taffy had an especially tender feeling for Little Billee because of his innocence and charm.

One afternoon the three Englishmen were visited by the musician Svengali and his sole intimate, Gecko, a little nonde­script who played the violin. Svengali was a tall, bony individual, of Jewish aspect, well-featured but sinister. He was shabbily dressed and dirty, spoke a fluent French with a heavy German accent, had a sharp wit and enchanted his listeners with his playing of Chopin.

Suddenly came a loud rapping at the door, and a voice of great volume uttered the British milkman's cry, "Milk below!" In walked a young girl, clad in the overcoat of a French soldier, below which showed a short, striped petticoat. She had fine features, and the men saw at a glance that she was simple, hu­morous, brave and kind, and accustomed to a genial welcome wherever she went.

She introduced herself as Trilby O’Ferrall. And they soon learned that she modeled in the Quarter and was famous for her beautiful feet. To amuse them she sang the old song "Alice Ben Bolt." Though she sang off-key they were all astonished at the quality of her voice. Svengali especially seemed impressed by the voice, and he went on to tell them of his interest in singing and his long but frustrated ambition to become a singer.

Trilby returned to the studio many times. They learned from her that her father and mother were dead, and that she was taking care of her small brother. Her father was an educated man of good family, who had slowly drunk himself to his grave—her mother, a Scotch girl who had once been a barmaid in Paris. Trilby was no innocent, yet her natural sweetness had not been altered in her knocking about the Quarter.

Whenever Svengali met Trilby at the studio, he tried to persuade her to let him train her voice. But she scoffed at him, despised his cleverness, and thought him repulsive. As Trilby became better acquainted with the Englishmen, ties of affection were more closely knit. Sometimes she cooked for them, darned socks, and took care of the studio. Sometimes they all went on excursions to the country. Svengali never lost an opportunity to talk to her—soon he was pleading his love for her, frightened her with terrible stories. If it had not been for Little Billee and Taffy, Svengali would have made her quite unhappy.

Little Billee was one of the prize students in the classes of the famous Carrel. One morning he walked into the life class at Carrel's, and found Trilby posing in the nude. Little Billee rushed out of the class quickly. Later his friends caught him on his way to the station—all he would tell them was that he had de­cided to go for a month to the Barbizon to paint landscapes. Trilby later told the Laird what had happened and shortly gave up modeling and returned to her old work as a laundress. Taffy and the Laird both knew that Little Billee was deeply in love with Trilby. And Taffy knew that Trilby loved Little Billee with all her heart, since Taffy already had asked Trilby at the picnic to marry him and had been refused.

On Christmas day they rounded up all their friends and had a great dinner and supper. The dinner started at 10 p.m. and the party lasted until the next morning. It was a momentous occasion for Little Billee, because, "for the nineteenth time" he proposed to Trilby—and this time was accepted. And for the first time in his life he got drunk.

On New Year's day Taffy and the Laird were at work in the studio when their landlady announced visitors. Downstairs were Little Billee's mother and her brother-in-law, a clergyman, the Rev. Thomas Bagot. Followed a painful interview in which Taffy and the Laird were subjected to some searching questions about Trilby. In the midst of all this, Trilby herself came in. Mrs. Bagot recognized her at once. Trilby acknowledged her consent to marry Little Billee a terrible mistake, and promised to give him up. After she had gone, Mrs. Bagot was quite overcome by her discovery of the kind of girl Trilby actually was, but very happy that her mission had been a success.

The next morning Taffy received a letter from Trilby. It was a touching farewell: she thought she had not made a mistake, told him she was leaving Paris with her little brother—she did not say where she was going. When Little Billee returned to Paris and heard what had happened, after a furious outburst, his sensitive nature gave way under the shock, and he became vio­lently ill. Months later he went back to Devonshire with his mother and sister. Trilby had not been heard from; indirectly Taffy learned that her brother had died from scarlet fever.

Five years later the paintings of William Bagot, alias Little Billee, were well, known throughout European art circles. But ever since his illness he had lost his power to love—in his heart was a small spot which was deadened to all affection. He had not married, and he had not fallen in love. At this time the capitals of Europe were in ecstasies over a new singer known as La Svengali. And Little Billee was soon in Paris again with the Laird and Taffy to attend her forthcoming concert. That evening they entered their stalls early. When the orchestra filed in, they saw that the first violinist was their old friend Gecko. Then Svengali came out to conduct the overture. Time and prosperity had wrought a wonderful alteration in the man.

As the curtains parted a woman came out in a dress of classical design in cloth of gold, her face thin and rather haggard, but tender, sweet and simple.

It was Trilby!

Words could not describe that performance. Her magical powers of evocation seemed enhanced in the simple old songs that she sang. The next day Little Billee spied Svengali at a table in the post office. On the way out Little Billee spoke to him. In response Svengali called him an ugly name and spat in his face. At that moment Taffy bounded up the steps and took a good pull at Svengali's nose and gave him a resounding smack on the face. They exchanged cards, but they saw no more of Svengali in Paris.

On their return to London, they could think of nothing but Trilby. Her London concert was awaited widi the greatest im­patience. Before the concert, a bit of sensational news came out. Svengali had been slashed with a penknife by Gecko during a rehearsal. On the night of the performance the three friends noticed that Svengali did not conduct the overture, and that the first stage box remained unoccupied. Just before Trilby's appearance, Svengali entered that box. Trilby could not sing for the substitute conductor. When she tried "Alice Ben Bolt," it was only as she had sung it in the old days. A clamor broke out. The poor girl did not seem to realize why all these people were aroused by her inability to use her voice. Svengali had played a grim joke—and his last one. As she was led from the stage, Svengali collapsed in his box, dead of heart failure.

Little Billee and Taffy took Trilby under their care at once, but it was plain to the doctors that nothing could be done to arrest her decline. Some considered her a mental case since she had no knowledge of her international fame as a singer. She spoke of Svengali as an old friend, but she said that she had only loved Little Billee. Her death was a sad occasion for everyone who had known her, but especially for Little Billee, since she died look­ing at a picture of Svengali. And just before that she had once more sung with the golden voice while staring at that portrait.

The shock was too great for Little Billee. The sight of Trilby had restored his powers of affection; her new loss was too cruel a blow. He died not long after Trilby.

Some years later, Taffy, now wedded to Little Billee's sister, came across Gecko on a trip to Paris. Gecko told him the story of how Svengali had trained Trilby's voice. He had been the mind, she had provided the instrument. After long training, he had been able to put a sort of spell on her and project his mind into hers to control that marvelous instrument. But the arduous training, the shock of the successive ordeals of singing had at last worn down her health. Her love and kindness had been the one thing that had redeemed Gecko's life. And he had tried to kill Svengali because he could not bear to see Trilby hurt during their awful rehearsals.




Peter Ibbetson


The record of a man incarcerated in an asylum for the criminally insane may have interest for the sensation-lover. But it was be­cause of Peter Ibbetson's dying request that his memoirs be published exactly as he had written them that Madge Plunket, his only living relative, did not allow the story to die a natural death. Madge Plunket recalled Peter Ibbetson, whom she had known only as a child, as the most beautiful boy she had ever seen; his qualities of mind and spirit were as great. In the manuscript left to her, Madge Plunket changed the names of persons and places and omitted some unnecessary detail; otherwise all was left as the author penned it.

Pierre Pasquier spent his early childhood in Passy, a suburb of Paris. These years were blissfully happy. His handsome parents, their friendly neighbors, his own playmates, were gay and lovable. Those sunlit years were with him all his life. The thought of them evoked memories of lilting French songs, the adorable garden where he romped, and the Mare d'Auteuil, the most beautiful silvery, secret pool in the world.

The Seraskiers were the favorite friends of the Pasquiers. Dr. Seraskier, his extremely tall and divinely beautiful Irish wife, and their sickly but plucky little daughter, Mimsey, were almost part of Pierre's family. The little boy was nicknamed Gogo, and to frail Mimsey, Gogo was a god and the love of her life. The Pasquiers and their circle were happy and beautiful and good.

Joy ended abruptly for the little boy when his happy-go-lucky father was killed experimenting with an invention which was to make their fortune. Mme. Pasquier soon followed her husband to the grave, and Pierre was alone. He passed into the protection of a cousin of his mother's, Colonel Roger Ibbetson, ,an Englishman who had loved Mme. Pasquier and lost her to Gogo's father. Mimsey nearly died of grief when Pierre left her. The boy was taken to England. His guardian insisted that the lad take his name, and Gogo Pasquier became Peter Ibbetson.

Peter was wretchedly unhappy in England. He hated his guardian, who was snobbish, pompous, vicious and, as Peter learned as he grew older, utterly immoral. He lied about supposed conquests of women and aspersed many an excellent reputation. A Mrs. Deane, a handsome and respectable young widow, was led a dance by this man who not only had not the slightest intention of marrying her, but also had hinted falsely that she was not all she ought to be.

As soon as he reached young manhood, Peter left Colonel Ib­betson to enlist for a year in Her Majesty's Household Cavalry. When his term of enlistment had expired he was apprenticed to Mr. Lintot, an architect, and studied and worked in the dull little town of Pentonville.

Peter had grown to be an extraordinarily handsome young man, nearly six feet four inches in height with a slim, strong body and a perfectly proportioned face. But his extreme shyness and sensitivity had made him friendless. He was bitterly unhappy, despising England, his work, himself. He flung himself into an appreciation of the arts but nothing could long still the pain of loneliness within him.

It was at a concert in an aristocratic house that he first saw the Duchess of Towers. From the moment that this tall, slim, beautiful, unhappy woman walked into the room Peter Ibbetson was irrevocably hers. He said no word to her and never hoped to see her again, but she haunted his every waking moment.

Peter at last was able to afford a trip to France. When he returned to Passy, the scene of his childhood joy, no one recognized him save the senile Major who had told him stories long ago. In Paris he saw his lovely Duchess of Towers drive by, and he thought he saw recognition on her face.

That night in a dream more real than reality Peter Ibbetson met and spoke with the Duchess of Towers. She taught him how to "dream true," and he returned to his childhood. When in his dream he touched his mother's skirt she faded away and he awoke. But from that night on he could project himself into another world when he wished, and return to the happy days he had loved.

Back in England he received another invitation to the house in which he had first seen the Duchess of Towers. He learned here that Mary Towers had been a Miss Seraskier—none other than his little Mimsey. At an interview with the Duchess he un­willingly identified himself as Gogo grown up. But Mary was less surprised than he—she had noticed the resemblance on first meeting. The two were astounded to find that the dream he had had the night they had met in Paris had been shared by Mary. Mary confessed to him that all her life she had remembered and loved him and that during her unhappiness (she was the wife of a drunken brute and the mother of an idiot child), the dream of her childhood love had sustained her. She, too, was able to "dream true" and had found escape that way for many years. But she forbade their meeting in further dreams since she was bound to her husband.

Peter returned to his wretched existence, haunted by thoughts of Mary but dreaming no more. It was at this point that Mrs. Deane, now Mrs. Gregory, caught sight of him walking alone, and showed him a letter that she felt he must see. The letter, to Mrs. Deane, and signed by Colonel Ibbetson, conveyed the malicious lie that Peter's mother had been his mistress and Peter was his illegitimate child. Mad with rage at the slur cast on his good and beautiful mother and the happy days so sacred to him, Peter confronted Colonel Ibbetson with the letter and, upon being taunted by the man, felled him with his stick and accidentally killed him.

Peter refused to repeat the slander that had induced him to strike Ibbetson, and was condemned to death. But that night he dreamed again. In the dream Mary told him that his sentence was to be commuted to life imprisonment, also that her husband and little son were dead, and that now, though they were separated by prison walls, they could be together by dreaming true.

What Mary told him happened. For twenty-five years Peter lived quite happily in the prison. Each night as soon as he fell asleep he and Mary were together in their beautiful childhood home. In a cipher they invented while dreaming they communicated in the everyday world. The years of joy flowed swiftly. They grew so adept at dreaming true that they were able to project themselves centuries back, and, always together, visit the people from whence they had sprung.

But one day the door was closed. Mary had died. Insane with grief, Peter attacked his keepers. They believed him mad, and he was removed to an asylum. He was ill of a brain fever and wished only to die. But he lived, and one night dreamed again. Now an old man—before, in his dreams, he was ever young—he wandered desolate by the shore of Mare d'Auteuil. An old woman waited there for him—Mary! She had returned from the beyond to bid him have hope. One day they might be together again. So he lived the rest of his life in dreaming true. Each night he returned to the scenes he had loved so well, and sometimes Mary returned to him for a little while. He was happy and knew that all would one day be well.