David, a young poet, decides to leave his home in Vernoy after a quarrel with his love, Yvonne. He sets out on a journey to seek fame and honor in the world.
Along the way, he encounters a carriage stuck in a brook and helps to free it. The occupants of the carriage, a marquis and a lady named Lucie, invite David to join them. The marquis reveals that Lucie is his niece and that he intends to marry her off to the first man they meet. David agrees to marry Lucie, despite the marquis' warning that she will bring him shame and anxiety.
"You will regret it, and despise me."
David reassures Mademoiselle Lucie de Varennes of his commitment to making her happy and becoming a better person for her.
"I will live only to make you happy, and myself worthy of you."
They arrive at an inn, where the marquis insults David and challenges him to a duel. David is killed in the duel, and the marquis and Lucie continue on their way.
In another version of the story, David decides to return home to Yvonne after realizing his love for her. He gives up his dreams of being a poet and focuses on his sheep and his marriage. However, his passion for poetry is rekindled, and he begins writing again. His neglect of his sheep leads to their decline, causing tension between him and Yvonne. Eventually, David seeks the advice of a learned man who tells him to live his poetry rather than write it.
David returns to his sheep and burns his poems, symbolizing his commitment to his wife and his responsibilities. Tragically, David dies by suicide, leaving the village in shock.