Short summary - Without Family - Nobody's Boy - Hector-Henri Malot (Hector Malot)

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Without Family - Nobody's Boy
Hector-Henri Malot (Hector Malot)

Part One

The main character, eight-year-old Remy, lives in a French village, alone with his mother, whom he calls Mother Barberen. Her husband, a bricklayer Barberen, lives and works in Paris. Remi doesn't remember ever coming home. One day a misfortune happens to Barberen at work, and he ends up in the hospital.

To receive compensation, Barberen sues the owner. His wife has to sell the cow, the family's breadwinner, to pay legal costs, but Barberen loses the trial and returns home. Having become a cripple, he can no longer work.

With the return of Barberen, Remy is horrified to learn that he is not his own son, but an adopted one. Once Barberen found a five-month-old baby on the street with tags cut off on his clothes. Barberen offered to take the boy to him until his parents were found. Judging by the clothes, the child was from a wealthy family and Barberen was counting on a good reward. Then the Barberen family had their own son, and Barberen's wife was able to feed two. But the son of the Barberens soon died, and the woman became attached to Remi, forgetting that he was not his own child. Now Remi becomes a burden and Barberen demands that his wife send him to an orphanage.

Barberen, succumbing to the persuasion of his wife, decides to ask the village administration for an allowance for Remy. But he meets the wandering artist Vitalis, wandering with a monkey and three dogs, making his living with circus performances. Vitalis offers to buy Remy from Barberen in order to make him his assistant. Not allowing the boy to say goodbye to the woman he loves like his own mother, Barberen sells to Remy.

Traveling with Vitalis, Remy has to suffer from hunger and cold, but the artist turns out to be a kind and wise man, and Remy loves his master with all his heart. Vitalis taught the boy to read, write, count, showed the basics of musical notation.

Vitalis and Remy come to Toulouse. During the performance, the policeman demands to put muzzles on the dogs. Having received a refusal, the guardian of order sends Vitalis to prison for two months. Now Remy becomes the owner of the troupe. Not having enough experience, the boy earns almost nothing and the artists have to starve.

One day, rehearsing with animals on the banks of the river, Remi sees a woman who swims on her on a yacht. Next to the woman is a boy, chained to a bed. The owners of the yacht liked the wandering artists, and after learning their story, the woman offers to stay with them to entertain her sick son Arthur. The woman turned out to be an Englishwoman named Mrs. Milligan. She tells Remi that her eldest son disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The husband at this time was dying, and his brother, James Milligan, took on the search for the child. But he was not interested in finding the child, since in the case of the childlessness of his brother, he inherits the title and state. But then Mrs. Milligan gave birth to her second son, who turned out to be weak and sickly. The mother's love and care saved the boy, but he is bedridden due to tuberculosis of the thigh.

While Vitalis is in prison, Remi lives on a yacht. He is imbued with love for Mrs. Milligan and Arthur, for the first time in his life he lives calmly and carefree. He is genuinely jealous of Arthur for having a loving mother. Mrs. Milligan and Arthur really want Remy to stay with them, but Remy cannot leave Vitalis. Mrs. Milligan writes a letter to Vitalis so that after his release he will come to their yacht.

No matter how they ask the Milligans to leave Remy with them, Vitalis disagrees, and Remi again begins a life full of wanderings and hardships. They spend one winter night in a woodcutter's forest hut. Two dogs go into the forest and disappear. The troupe loses two artists, and the already meager wages are falling. Soon the monkey dies from the cold. Vitalis gets the idea that this is punishment for not leaving Remy with Mrs. Milligan.

Now Vitalis and Remi come to Paris with only one dog. There Vitalis decides to send Remi to his Italian friend Garafoli, so that he will teach the boy to play the harp, and he will give music lessons and teach new dogs.

At Garafoli, Vitalis and Remi are met by an ugly boy of about ten named Mattia. Vitalis leaves Remi with him while he goes on business. While Vitalis was absent, Mattia said that he was an Italian from a poor family, Garafoli took him to his apprentices. The boys sing and play in the streets and give the proceeds to their teacher. If they do not bring enough money, Garafoli hits them and does not feed them. At this time, Garafoli's disciples arrive, and Remi sees how they are being mistreated. While whipping one of the students, Vitalis comes and threatens Garafoli with the police. But in response, he hears a threat to say one name, and Vitalis will have to blush with shame.

Vitalis picks up Remi and they wander off again. One night, exhausted from hunger and cold, Remi falls asleep. He is found barely alive by the gardener Aken and brings him to his family. He also delivers terrible news: Vitalis has died. After hearing Remi's story, Aken invites him to live with them. His wife died, and the gardener lives with four children: two boys and two girls. Younger Liza was dumb. At the age of four, due to illness, she was speechless.

To establish Vitalis's identity, the police officer, Remi and Aken contact Garafoli. Vitalis's real name was Carlo Balzani, he was one of the most famous opera singers in Europe, but due to the loss of his voice he left the theater. He sank lower and lower until he became a dog trainer. Proud of his past, Vitalis would rather die than allow his secret to be revealed.

Remi stays with Aken. He works in the garden along with family members. The gardener and his children are very attached to the boy, especially Lisa.

Two years have passed. Misfortune befalls the gardener's family - a hurricane broke the flowers that Aken was selling, and the family is left without a livelihood. Also, Aken has nothing to pay off a long-term loan, and he is imprisoned for five years in a debt prison. Children are taken to their relatives, and Remi has to take his dog and become a wandering artist again.

Part two

Arriving in Paris, Remy accidentally meets Mattia there. From him he learns that Garafoli beat one of his students to death and was sent to prison. Now Mattia also has to wander the streets. The boys decide to give concerts together. Mattia plays the violin beautifully, and the earnings are much higher. Along the way, they manage to get music lessons and improve their game. Remy dreams of buying a cow for Mother Barberen.

After earning money, the boys choose a cow and bring her to the Barberens. The adoptive mother missed Remi all this time. She informs him that Barberen is now in Paris. He met a man who is looking for Remi on behalf of his family. Remy and Mattia decide to go to Paris.

In Paris, Remy learns about the death of Barberen, but in a suicide letter to his wife, he gave the address of Remy's parents, who live in London. Remi and Mattia go to London.

At the specified address, the boys find a family named Driscoll. Family members: mother, father, four children and grandfather, show absolute indifference to the found child. Only my father speaks French. He tells Remi that he was stolen by a girl who decided to take revenge for the fact that Remi's father did not marry her. Since Mattia is fluent in English, Remi communicates with his family through him.

Mattia and Remi are sent to sleep in the barn. The boys notice that some people are entering the house, bringing things that the Driscoll family carefully hide. Mattia realizes that the Driscolls are buyers of stolen goods. When he informs Remi about this, he is horrified. The boys have a suspicion that Remi is not their son at all.

The Driscoll family is unable to feed two more, and Remi and Mattia are performing on the streets of London. Driscoll's attention is drawn to Remy's dog. He demands that his sons walk with her along the street. For several days the boys perform on their own, but one day the father allows Mattia and Remi to take the dog with him. Suddenly the dog disappears and returns with silk stockings in its teeth. Remi realizes that the Driscoll boys have taught the dog to steal. The father explains that this is a stupid joke, and it will not happen again.

To resolve his doubts, Remy writes a letter to Mother Barberen asking to describe the clothes in which he was found. Having received the answer, he asks his father, but he gives the same description of things. Remy is horrified: are the people who are absolutely indifferent to him really his family?

One day a stranger comes to Driscoll. Mattia, overhearing the conversation, informs Remi that this is James Milligan, brother of Mrs. Milligan's late husband, Arthur's uncle. He also reports that thanks to the care of his mother, Arthur recovered.

In the summer, the Driscolls set off to trade around the country, taking Mattia and Remi with them. Seizing the moment, the boys escape and return to France. There they decide to find Mrs. Milligan. During the search, the boys find themselves in the village where Lisa lives. But Lisa was not there. Relatives put the girl to live with a rich lady who floats on the river on a yacht.

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boys find Mrs. Milligan with Arthur and Lisa in Switzerland. To Remy's delight, Lisa began to speak. Fearing James Milligan, Mattia first meets Mrs. Milligan. The boys check into a hotel and a few days later Mrs. Milligan invites them to her place. Mother Barberen also appears there. She brings the clothes that Remi was found in. James Milligan is also invited there. Mrs. Milligan introduces Remy as her eldest son, who was kidnapped by Driscoll at the behest of James Milligan.

Many years later. Remi lives happily with his mother, who is still beautiful, with his wife Lisa and their little son Mattia, who is being nursed by Mother Barberen.

Remi's closest friend is Mattia, now a famous musician. He often comes to visit Remi and plays the violin, and then their old dog, as before, bypasses the audience with a cup to collect money.