At the start of the novel, the Republican Commander Hulot is assaulted by Chouan forces, who convert dozens of conscripts. An aristocrat, Marie de Verneuil, is sent by Joseph Fouché to subdue and capture the royalist leader, the Marquis de Montauran, also known as "Le Gars". She is aided by a detective named Corentin. Eventually, Marie becomes smitten with her target. In defiance of Corentin and the Chouans whom she detests, she devises a plan to marry the Chouan leader. Fooled by Corentin into believing that Montauran loves her mortal enemy Madame du Gua, Marie orders Hulot to destroy the rebels. She discovers her folly too late and tries, unsuccessfully, to save her husband the day after their marriage.