In Paris, in the early 20th century, young Fred Peloux, nicknamed Ch?(C)ri, the handsome son of Charlotte Peloux, a former demimondaine, lives in the small circle of his mother's friends, all high class prostitutes past their best. He has an affair with L?(C)onie Vallon, publicly known as L?(C)a de Lonval, a waning beauty, who loves him both as a mistress and a mother. But, after six years spent together, the age difference takes its toll on their union. To please his mother, Ch?(C)ri accepts to marry young Edm?(C)e, the only of Marie-Laure, a rich courtesan's daughter, without actually caring for her. After a while, the young man tries to return to L?(C)a.