Monsieur Pierre de la Motte and his wife, Madame Constance de la Motte, are fleeing Paris in an attempt to escape his creditors. Pierre, Madame, and their two domestic servants, Peter and Annette, are waylaid when the path they’re on becomes too dark to follow any longer. Pierre exits the carriage and continues on foot toward a light he notices some distance away from the carriage. Upon knocking on the door of a small and ancient house, Pierre is admitted into the house by a stranger. He is given a bed and promptly locked in the room. Sometime later, the door to Pierre’s room is unlocked and a beautiful young lady, Adeline, is being dragged behind the stranger who admitted Pierre to the house. The stranger states that “if you wish to save your life, swear that you will convey this girl where I may never see her more; or rather consent to take her with you.” Upon agreement to take Adeline with him, Pierre and Adeline are conveyed to the carriage by the ruffian stranger with Madame still inside.
The family, with the addition of Adeline, proceeds into the darkened interior of a forest, hoping to elude discovery and heeding the warnings of the stranger to not come back on the land they just left. Eventually, they find refuge in a ruined abbey after their wagon wheel breaks. Initially, everyone in the group except Peter is afraid of what lays in waiting behind the abbey walls; however, closer inspection by Peter shows the only inhabitants are mice, owls, bats, and the like. Still afraid of being pursued by creditors, the family and Adeline stay close to the abbey. Peter is sent into the town of Auboine for supplies to fix their broken wagon wheel. After returning to the family, Peter confides to Pierre that while he was in town he got in a fight and was unable to procure the necessary supplies for fixing the wheel, but he did purchase some food to tide them over.
The family and the servants settle into the rooms of the abbey, making each one more inhabitable the longer they stay. After some time passes, while in town, Peter comes across a gentleman who inquires about the La Motte family. Thinking the people inquiring about the La Motte family are creditors, the family, Adeline, and the servants all go into hiding through the trap door Pierre has found in one of the bedrooms. They spend the night in the dark and terrifying rooms, where unbeknownst to everyone else, Pierre discovers a skeleton in a chest. The next day, everyone agrees to send Adeline out to check if anyone is at the abbey since she is the only one who would be unrecognizable to creditors. Upon greeting one of her woodland animal friends, a young male stranger approaches her. Soon Adeline discovers that this stranger is actually Pierre and Madame’s son, Louis. They left Paris without giving notice to his regiment, and he had come searching for his parents. Soon after, Madame confides to Louis her jealous fears that Adeline seeks to have an affair with her husband. Louis is supposed to find out the truth of where Pierre has been spending his days, but is unable to do so after losing sight of his father in the dense forest. Madame stays hostile to Adeline, believing the worst of her in relation to her supposed affair with Pierre. At the same time, Louis has fallen in love with Adeline and pines for her saying “I should esteem myself most happy, if I could be of service to you.”
Meanwhile, "Louis, by numberless little attentions, testified his growing affection for Adeline, who continued to treat them as passing civilities.
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A pioneer of the Gothic novel, Ann Radcliffes atmospheric tales of forlorn landscapes, haunted ruins and spine-tingling adventures helped the Gothic genre to achieve respectability in the late eighteenth century. This comprehensive eBook presents Radcliffes complete works, with numerous illustrations, informative introductions and the…