This tragic tale centers around the ill-fated love between Baptiste, a theater mime, and Claire Reine, an actress and otherwise woman-about-town who calls herself Garance. Garance, in turn, is loved by three other men: Frederick, a pretentious actor; Lacenaire, a conniving thief; and Count Eduard of Monteray.
The story is further complicated by Nathalie, an actress who is in love with Baptiste. Garance and Baptiste meet when Garance is falsely accused of stealing a man's watch. Later, Garance is forced to leave town under the protection of Count Eduard when she gets mixed up in a crime committed by Lacenaire.
In the intervening years of separation, both Garance and Baptiste become involved in loveless marriages with the Count and Nathalie, respectively. Returning to Paris, Garance finds that Baptiste has become a famous mime actor and plots to meet him. Their rendezvous is exposed and Nathalie loses Baptiste, Baptiste loses Garance, and Garance disappears.