Jacques Collin, a notorious master criminal known as "The White Devil," has been held for a while in a prison outside Paris. All the while he has been planning his escape and when the opportune moment arrives, his plan proves to be so carefully devised to minimise risk and danger that he makes it out without incident. No sooner is he free again before his constantly scheming brain is plotting new misdeeds. Meanwhile, a young attorney, Charles Herveau, is travelling to Paris for a client. He stops at a village inn, where Collin notices him and instinctively senses an opportunity.
Collin murders the attorney in a wood and hides the body in a ditch, then meets up with his henchman Paccard. A few days later, Collin can hardly believe his eyes when he comes face to face with a man who is the spitting image of the attorney he killed. He immediately hatches a devious scheme. In the dead attorney’s pocket was a letter from the client he was travelling for. Collin intends to use the dead attorney’s double to get his hands on some stocks, which the letter says are currently in the possession of a well-known banker, Baron de Nucingen.
Unsuspecting, the banker greets Lucien, the dead attorney’s double, and even introduces him to his daughter, an innocent and delicate young thing, and they immediately fall in love. Eight days later, Lucien returns to collect the stocks. He rushes them to Collin, who goes straight to the bank to cash them in. But, as fate would have it, Baron de Nucingen is at the very same bank and Collin is found out. Backed into a corner, he takes his own life rather than give himself up. The police next go looking for Lucien, but they arrive at the baron’s mansion too late. Lucien chose to take his own life at the peak of his happiness, and the police find only his dead body.