Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
On a tempestuous night, Pierre de la Motte leaves Paris to escape his creditors and prosecution by the law. Descended from an ancient house, he is a man whose passions often prove stronger than his conscience. Having dissipated his own fortune and that of his wife, he has engaged in various questionable schemes that have brought him at last to disgrace and made this flight necessary. Leaving Paris with his wife and two faithful servants, he hopes to find a refuge in some village of the southern provinces. The departure is so sudden that the couple have had no time to say farewell to their son Louis, who is on duty with his regiment in Germany.
Several leagues from the city, the coachman, Peter, loses his way while driving them across a wild heath. La Motte sees in the distance the lighted window of a small, ancient house. He dismounts and walks there in the hope of securing directions from the residents. A grim-visaged man opens the door at his knock, ushers him into a desolate apartment, and abruptly leaves, locking the door behind him. Over the howling of the wind, la Motte can hear rough voices close at hand and the muffled sobbing of a woman.
The door is at last unlocked, and the forbidding ruffian reappears, dragging by the hand a beautiful girl of about eighteen. The man puts a pistol to la Motte’s chest and offers him his choice between death or taking the girl with him. When the girl begs him to take pity on her, la Motte is moved by...
(The entire section is 2602 words.)
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