René de Bourneval was a tall, young, and agreeable man, though quite melancholic and disillusioned about life. He had two brothers, the Messieurs de Courcils, whom he avoided due to a mysterious family secret. René and the narrator became close friends, and one day, the narrator asked René about his family background.
René revealed that his mother, Madame de Courcils, had been a timid and unhappy woman, constantly ill-treated by her husband and neglected by her two elder sons. She had a secret lover, Monsieur de Bourneval, who was René's real father.
When Madame de Courcils passed away, a will was discovered, in which she expressed her last wishes. She left the majority of her fortune to René, stating that he was the only one of her sons who truly loved her. She also revealed the truth about René's paternity and her affair with Monsieur de Bourneval.
I therefore leave that part of my fortune of which the law allows me to dispose, as a deposit with my dear lover Pierre-Gennes-Simon de Bourneval, to revert afterward to our dear son René.
The will caused a scandal in the family, and Monsieur de Bourneval ended up killing Monsieur de Courcils in a duel.
René decided to take his real father's name and renounce the one given to him by law. He offered half of his inheritance to his brothers, who accepted it to avoid further scandal. Monsieur de Bourneval passed away five years later, and René continued to mourn his loss. The narrator agreed with René that his mother's will was a beautiful and courageous act, and their friendship remained strong.