The Old Lighthouse

All that night, Ralph pedaled away, as much to wear himself out with a salutary weariness as to throw the gang off his track. Next morning, utterly worn out he came to a stop at an hotel at Lillebonne.

He forbade them to awake him, locked and bolted his door, and slept for twenty-four hours. When he had dressed and breakfasted, all he thought of was mounting his bicycle and returning to the Nonchalante. The struggle against love had begun.

He was very unhappy, and having never suffered, having always followed his whims, he raged against a despair to which it would have been so easy for him to put an end.

“Why not yield?” he said to himself. “I can get there in two hours. And what is there to prevent me going off again a few days later when I shall have hardened myself against the parting?”

But he could not do so. The vision of that mutilated hand was a veritable obsession and ruled his actions. It obliged him to recall those other barbarous and hateful deeds which enabled him to see this one as their natural sequel.

Josephine had done this; then Josephine had murdered; Josephine did not shrink from murderous acts and found it quite simple and natural to kill and kill again when murder helped her enterprises. From murder Ralph shrank, with a physical repulsion, a revolt of every instinct. The idea that he might be drawn, in some access of madness, to shed blood, filled him with horror. And with this horror the most tragic of realities associated indissolubly the image of the woman he loved.

He stayed away, but at the cost of what efforts! In what groans did his impotent revolt die away! Josephine stretched out her lovely arms to him and offered her mouth to his kisses. How resist the appeal of that voluptuous creature?

Moved to the lowest depths of his egotism, for the first time he became aware of the immense suffering he must have inflicted on Clarice d’Etigues. Now he could imagine her tears, the overwhelming distress of her shattered life. Shaken by remorse, he addressed to her discourses full of tenderness in which he recalled the moving hours of their love.

He did more. Knowing that the young girl received her letters direct, he dared to write to her:

Forgive me, dear Clarice. I have treated you like a scoundrel. Let us hope for a brighter future and think of me with all the indulgence of your generous heart. Once more, forgive me⁠—forgive.


“If only I were with her, how quickly I should forget all these horrible things!” he said to himself. “The essential thing is not to have innocent eyes and kissable lips but a loyal and serious spirit like that of Clarice.”

Only it was the eyes and the ambiguous smile of Josephine that he adored; and when he thought of her caresses, it was little he cared that she had a spirit which was neither loyal nor innocent.

In the meantime he set about hunting for the old lighthouse of which Madam Rousselin had spoken. Since he knew that she lived at Lillebonne he had no doubt that that lighthouse was in the neighborhood of it and that was the reason he had gone in the direction he did when he left Josephine.

He was not mistaken. He had only to make enquiries to learn, firstly, that there was an old, abandoned lighthouse in the woods which surrounded the Château de Tancarville, and secondly that the owner of that lighthouse had entrusted the keys of it to the Widow Rousselin, who, on the Tuesday of every week, went to clean it. A simple nocturnal expedition put him in possession of those keys.

It was only two days from the day on which the unknown person who possessed the casket was certainly going to meet the Widow Rousselin; and since she, a prisoner or an invalid, had not been able to put off the engagement, everything was arranged in a manner that would enable him to profit by an interview which he reckoned so important. This prospect soothed him. The problem which had been worrying him for weeks and of which the solution seemed to have become a matter of days, again took possesion of his mind.

To leave nothing to chance, on the Monday evening he paid a visit to the meeting-place, and on the Tuesday, when, an hour before the meeting he briskly traversed the woods of Tancarville success appeared to him inevitable; and he was brimming with pride and pleasure.

Part of these woods, beyond the park, stretches as far as the Seine and covers the cliffs. The roads run through it from central crossroads, and one of them leads through ravines and over steep ridges towards the rugged promontory, on which rises, half visible, the abandoned lighthouse. During the week the spot is absolutely deserted. Sometimes on a Sunday picnickers take possession of it.

If you ascend to the top of it, you get a glorious view over the Tancarville canal and the river estuary. But the bottom of it was at that time buried in brush wood. On the ground floor is a single room, of a fair size, pierced by two windows, and furnished with two chairs. It opens on the land side on an enclosure full of nettles and weeds.

As he drew near it Ralph’s pace slackened. He had a very natural impression that important events were about to happen and that they were not only thus meeting with an unknown and the definite conquest of a formidable secret, but that they were a continuation of the supreme battle in which the enemy would be definitely defeated.

And this enemy was the Countess of Cagliostro⁠—the Countess who knew as well as he the admissions torn from the Widow Rousselin, and who, incapable of accepting defeat and disposing of unlimited means of investigation, must have easily found this old lighthouse, in which the last act of the drama was about to be played.

“And not only,” said he under his breath, laughing at himself, “do I ask whether she will come to the meeting-place, but in reality I hope keenly that she will be there and that I shall see her again and that, both of us victors, we shall fall into one another’s arms.”

Through a gate in the little wall, the top of which was bristling with broken bottles, he went into the enclosure. There was no trace of anyone’s passage through the weeds; but it was possible to cross the wall in another place and to climb in through one of the windows at the side.

His heart was beating. His fists were clenched. He was ready for the struggle, if a trap had been laid for him.

“But how silly I am!” he thought. “Why a trap?”

He turned the handle of the worm-eaten door and entered.

On the instant he felt that someone was in hiding in the recess beside the door. He had no time to turn upon the assailant. Scarcely did he become aware of him, by instinct rather than by actual vision than a noose that dragged him backwards tightened round his neck and a knee came with brutal violence against the small of his back. Suffocated and jolted, he was at the mercy of his opponent and came heavily to the ground.

“A good stroke, Leonard!” he muttered. “A pretty revenge!”

He was wrong. It was not Leonard. He caught sight of his assailant’s profile and recognized Beaumagnan. Then while Beaumagnan was tying his hands, he rectified his error and admitted his surprise in the simple words:

“So⁠—so⁠—the candidate for the priesthood!”

The rope which encircled his neck had been run through a ring in the opposite wall just above one of the windows. Beaumagnan who was acting with jerky movements and apparently half mad, opened that window and half opened the shutter that opened out wards. Then, using the ring as a pulley-block, he pulled the rope and compelled Ralph to walk across the room. Ralph saw through the half-opened shutters the empty space, which, from the top of the steep slope on which the lighthouse had been built, fell among sloping boulders and great trunks of trees whose leafy tops shut out the horizon.

Beaumagnan twisted him round, set his back against the shutters, and tied him to them by the wrists and ankles. Ralph was now in this predicament: in the case of his trying to move forward, the rope round his neck, tightening through the slipknot would strangle him; if on the other hand the whim took Beaumagnan to get rid of his victim, he had only to give him a sharp push, the shutters would give way and Ralph, dangling over the abyss, would find himself being hanged.

“An excellent position for a serious conversation,” he sneered.

Moreover his mind was made up. If it was Beaumagnan’s intention to give him the choice between death and divulging the steps that he, Ralph, had been able to make towards a solution of the problem, he would speak without the slightest hesitation.

“I’m at your orders,” he said. “Ask away.”

“Be quiet!” snapped Beaumagnan, in raging accents. He stuck a pad of cotton wool over Ralph’s mouth and fastened it in place by a handerchief tied round his head.

“A single sound⁠—a single movement⁠—and with one blow of my fist I’ll knock you into the abyss!” he snarled.

He looked at him for a moment as if he were asking himself whether he had not better do it at once and be done with it.

But of a sudden he left him, crossed the room on tiptoe and stretching himself at full length on the threshold, looked through the door which was a little way open.

“Things are going badly,” thought Ralph, uncommonly anxious. “They are going all the more badly because I don’t understand at all what is really happening. How comes he to be here? Am I to suppose that he is the benefactor of the Widow Rousselin, that benefactor whom she did not wish to compromise?”

That hypothesis did not satisfy him.

“No: that isn’t it. I have fallen into a trap not because it was set for me but because I was foolishly careless. It’s plain that a beggar like Beaumagnan knows the whole Rousselin business, that he has learned of these meetings and the hour of these meetings; and then, knowing that the widow has been abducted, he watches and makes other people watch the neighborhood of Lillebonne and Tancarville. So it came about that they have discovered that I was on the spot and my goings and comings⁠—and then the trap⁠—and then⁠—”

This time Ralph’s conviction was profound, the conqueror of Beaumagnan at Paris, he had just lost the second engagement. Victorious in his turn, Beaumagnan had spread him out on a shutter like a bat nailed to a wall and was now looking out for the other person in order to seize him and tear the secret from him.

One point however remained obscure. Why this attitude of a wild beast ready to spring upon its prey? That was quite out of keeping with the probably quite peaceful meeting which was to take place between him and that unknown person. Beaumagnan had only to go out and wait for him outside and say:

“Madam Rousselin is ill and has sent me in her place. She would like to know the inscription engraved on the lid of the casket.”

“Always supposing,” thought Ralph, “that Beaumagnan hasn’t reason to expect some other person to come⁠—and that he does not distrust that person⁠ ⁠… and that he is not preparing for another attack.”

It was sufficient for such a question to present itself to Ralph for him to perceive at once the exact solution. To suppose that Beaumagnan had laid a trap for him, Ralph, was only half the truth. The ambush was a double one. Who then could Beaumagnan be looking for in this fever of exasperation if not for Josephine Balsamo?

“That’s it! That’s it!” said Ralph to himself, the facts of the matter at last clear to him. “He has guessed that she is alive. Yes, the other day in Paris when we had that tussle he must have guessed this amazing fact. And that’s another blunder I’ve made⁠ ⁠… for lack of experience. Should I have spoken like that and acted like that if Josephine Balsamo were not alive? What? I told this man I had read between the lines of his letter to Baron Godfrey, that I was present at the famous gathering at La Haie d’Etigues, and yet failed to understand what he really had in store for the Countess of Cagliostro! And was it likely that a young fellow like me, so thoroughly alive, would abandon that charming woman? Come then: if I was at the trial I was certainly at the priest’s staircase. I was certainly present at the embarkation. I certainly rescued Josephine. And we loved one another not with a love which dated from last winter, as I pretended, but with a love posterior to Josephine’s supposed death!⁠ ⁠… That is what Beaumagnan said to himself.”

Proof piled on proof. Events linked themselves together like the links of a chain. Entangled in the Rousselin affair and consequently sought for by Beaumagnan, Josephine had not failed to search the neighborhood of the lighthouse. Informed of this at once, Beaumagnan formed his ambuscade. Ralph had fallen into it; it was now the turn of Josephine!

One would have said that Fate wished to confirm immediately the ideas which had been running through Ralph’s mind. He had scarcely reached this conclusion when there came the sound of a carriage coming up the road which runs along the canal under the cliff. On the instant, Ralph recognized the quick trot of Leonard’s horses.

Beaumagnan, on his part, must have known what was happening, for he sprang up and listened.

The noise of hoofs ceased, then began again slower. The carriage was mounting the rocky lane, which winds up towards the plateau and from which runs the forest path, in which there is no room for a carriage, which ascends the steep slope to the old lighthouse.

In five minutes or less, Josephine would appear.

Every second of every one of those solemn minutes increased the agitation and frenzy of Beaumagnan. He muttered incoherent words. His mask of romantic actor grew uglier and uglier till his face became of a purely bestial hideousness. The instinct, the will to murder contorted his features; and all at once it became clear that this will, this savage instinct were inflamed against Ralph, against Josephine’s lover.

Once more his feet began to pace mechanically the tiled floor. He was walking up and down without knowing it; he was going to kill without knowing it, like a drunken man. His arms outstretched themselves. His clenched fists moved forward like two battering rams that a slow, continuous, and irresistible force would have thrust against the young man’s bosom. A few more steps, and Ralph would be dangling in the abyss. He shut his eyes. However, he was not in the slightest degree resigned and tried hard to retain a vestige of hope.

“The rope will break,” he thought, “and there will be thick grass for me to fall on. Truly it is not the fate of Monsieur Arsène Lupin d’Andresy to be hung. If, at my age, I have no chance of getting out of such a hole as this, it must be that the gods have no intention of taking a real interest in me. In that case there is nothing to regret.”

He thought of his father and of the instruction in gymnastics he had had from Theophrastus Lupin. He murmured the name of Clarice.

However, the blow did not come. Even as he felt him within striking distance, it seemed that his adversary stopped in his spring.

He opened his eyes. Beaumagnan, drawn up to his full height, was towering above him. But he did not move; his arms had fallen; and on his face, on which the thought of murder had impressed the most abominable expression, the decision seemed to be suspended.

Ralph listened and heard nothing. But perhaps Beaumagnan, whose senses had been rendered extraordinarily acute by his emotions, heard Josephine coming. As a matter of fact, he drew back a step or two and then with a rush took up his post in the recess to the right of the door.

Ralph had a good view of his face. It was hideous. He looked for all the world like a sportsman practising bringing his gun to his shoulder in order to get the stiffness out of his arms and bring it up quickly when the time came to shoot. So Beaumagnan’s hands were moving in the gestures necessary to the crime. They kept opening for the strangling, moved to a suitable distance from one another, and closed their curved fingers like talons.

Ralph was panic-stricken. His impotence was terrible; it was a veritable martyrdom.

Though he was well aware that any movement was useless, he struggled to break his bonds. If only he had been able to call out to warn her! But the gag smothered his cries and the bonds cut into his flesh.

Outside the deep silence was broken by the sound of footsteps. The gate grated on its hinges, a petticoat rustled among the tall weeds, a foot crunched the pebbles.

Beaumagnan, flattened against the wall, raised his forearms; his hands, trembling like the hands of a skeleton shaken by the wind, seemed already to be closing round a neck and to be gripping it, all alive and throbbing.

Ralph moaned behind his gag.

And then the door opened and the scene was played.

It was played exactly in the manner in which Beaumagnan had planned and Ralph pictured to himself. The figure of Josephine Balsamo stepped over the threshold and on the instant was crushed down in Beaumagnan’s rush. A feeble moan from her was drowned by a kind of furious baying which poured from the assassin’s throat.

Ralph groaned. Never had he loved Josephine so dearly as at the moment in which he saw her in her death agony. Her faults? Her crimes? What did they matter? She was the most beautiful creature in the world and all that beauty, that adorable smile, that charming body, made for all the caresses, were about to be annihilated. No help was possible. No force could avail against the irresistible strength of this brute.

What saved Josephine was the excess of Beaumagnan’s love which death alone could glut. At the last moment it was unable to complete its sinister task. At the end of his strength, racked by a despair which suddenly assumed the appearance of madness, Beaumagnan rolled on the ground tearing at his hair and banging his head on the tiles.

Ralph breathed again. Though appearances were against it and though Josephine did not move, he was sure she was not dead. As a matter of fact, slowly, coming out of the horrible nightmare, she raised herself, and after several violent fits of shuddering, at last stood upright, her usual well-balanced and calm self. She was dressed in a cloak with a cape to it and was wearing a toque from which hung a veil embroidered with large flowers. She let the cloak fall, revealing her bare shoulders, for her bodice had been torn in the struggle. As for the toque and veil, which had been badly rumpled, she threw them into a corner and her hair, freed from them, fell on each side of her forehead in heavy, even curls full of tawny lights. Her cheeks had more color in them than usual and her eyes were shining more brightly.

A long moment of silence followed. The two men gazed at her with distracted eyes, no longer as if she were an enemy, or sweetheart, or a victim, but simply as a radiant woman whose enchanting fascination charmed them. Ralph deeply moved, Beaumagnan motionless and prone, both of them admired her with the same fervor.

She raised to her lips a little metal whistle that Ralph knew well. Leonard must be on guard a little way off and would at once hurry to its call. But she changed her mind. Why call him when she remained the absolute mistress of the situation?

She went to Ralph, unknotted the handkerchief which kept the gag in its place, and said: “You did not come back, Ralph, as I thought you would. But you will come back, won’t you?”

If he had been free, he would have clasped her to him furiously. But why did she not cut through his bonds? What secret design prevented that?

He said firmly: “No. It’s all over.”

She raised herself on to the top of her toes and glued her lips to his, murmuring: “All over⁠—between us? You’re mad, Ralph!”

Beaumagnan sprang to his feet and, beside himself at the sight of this unexpected caress, advanced on her. But, as he stretched out his hand to seize her arm, she turned on him; and suddenly the coolness she had maintained up to that moment gave place to the real feelings which filled her, the feelings of execration and furious rancor with which he inspired her.

She broke out with a violence of which Ralph had not believed her capable: “Don’t touch me, you wretch! And don’t suppose that I’m afraid of you. Today you’re alone. And I saw quite clearly just now that you would never dare murder me. Your hands were trembling. My hands will not tremble, Beaumagnan, when your hour comes.”

He recoiled before her imprecations and her threats; and she went on, in a fresh access of hate: “But your hour has not yet come. You have not suffered enough. You did not suffer because you believed me dead. Your punishment now shall be to know that I am alive and that I love! Yes; understand that: I love Ralph. I loved him first in order to avenge myself on you and tell you of it later. And I love him today for no reason at all, just because he is himself and I can no longer forget him. He hardly knew it; I hardly knew it myself. But for some days, ever since he fled from me, I have felt that he is my whole life. I did not know what love was; and that is what love is: it’s this madness which burns me.”

She was a prey to delirium just as the man she was torturing. Her amorous cries seemed to hurt her as much as they hurt Beaumagnan. But to see her like that filled Ralph rather with distaste than with joy. The flame of passion and admiration and love, which had flared up in him in the hour of her peril, died down for good and all. Her beauty and charm vanished like a mirage; and on her face, which never the less had in no way changed, he saw the ugly reflection of a cruel and diseased spirit.

She continued her furious onslaught on Beaumagnan, who stood jerking with jealous fury. And it was really uncommonly disconcerting to see these two creatures, who, at the very moment at which circumstances were about to furnish them with the keyword of the enigma which had puzzled them so long, forget everything in the outburst of their passion. The great secret of past ages, the discovery of the jewels, the legendary block of granite, the casket, the inscription, the Widow Rousselin, and the person actually on the way to reveal the truth to them⁠—these were so many old wives’ tales in which neither of them no took any interest. Love, like a furious torrent, swept everything away. Hatred and passion had plunged into the eternal conflict which tears the hearts of lovers.

Once more the fingers of Beaumagnan were curved like talons and his trembling hands were outstretched to strangle her. But she raged at him, blind and beside herself, and flung in his face the insult of her love.

“I love him, Beaumagnan!” she cried. “The fire which burns you and devours me, too, is a love like your love; with it is mingled the idea of death and murder. Yes, I would rather kill him than know that he was another’s, or than know that he loves me no longer. But he does love me, Beaumagnan! He loves me! He loves me!”

An unexpected laugh burst from Beaumagnan’s convulsed lips; his fury ended in a fit of sardonic hilarity.

“He loves you, Josephine? You’re right: he loves you! He loves you as he loves all women. You’re beautiful and he desires you. Another passes and he desires her, too. And you suffer as I do the tortures of hell. Confess it!”

“The tortures of hell, yes,” she said, “the tortures of hell if I believe in his falseness. But it isn’t so; and you’re trying stupidly to⁠—”

She stopped short. Beaumagnan was chuckling with such a malicious joy that she was afraid.

In a low voice and in a tone of sudden pain she said: “A proof! Give me a single proof.⁠ ⁠… Not even a proof.⁠ ⁠… A mere indication.⁠ ⁠… Something that compels me to doubt.⁠ ⁠… And I’ll kill him like a dog!”

She drew from her bodice a small life-preserver, a ball of lead with a whalebone handle. Her eyes grew hard.

Beaumagnan answered: “What I bring you will not make you doubt; it will give you certainty.”

“Speak.⁠ ⁠… Give me a name.”

“Clarice d’Etigues,” he said.

She shrugged her shoulders and said confidently: “I know all about that; a flirtation of no importance.”

“It was important enough to him since he asked her father’s permission to marry her,” sneered Beaumagnan.

“He asked what? But it’s nonsense! It’s impossible! I got to know all about it. They met one another two or three times in the country⁠—not more.”

“Better than that, they met in the young woman’s set of rooms in the Château.”

“You lie!” she cried.

“What you must mean is that her father is lying, for these facts were confided to me by Godfrey d’Etigues the night before last,” he said in a tone of sinister triumph.

“And who did he get them from?”

“From Clarice herself.”

“But it’s absurd! A girl never admits a thing like that!”

“I tell you he got it out of her the day before yesterday.”

“But what put him on to it? They have never seen one another again,” she said.

“They write to one another.”

“A proof, Beaumagnan! Give me a proof this instant!” she cried with a sudden fury.

“Will a letter satisfy you?”

“A letter?”

“Written by him to Clarice,” said Beaumagnan.

“Written four months ago?”

“Written four days ago.”

She clutched at her bosom and paled and said between her teeth: “Have you got it?”

“Here it is.”

Ralph, who had listened to the last dozen sentences with extreme discomfort, trembled. He recognized the letter which he had sent from Lillebonne to Clarice d’Etigues.

Josephine took it from Beaumagnan and read it in a low voice, giving every syllable its full value:

Forgive me, dear Clarice. I have treated you like a scoundrel. Let us hope for a brighter future and think of me with all the indulgence of your generous heart. Once more, forgive me⁠—forgive.


She hardly had the strength to finish the reading of this letter, which denied her and wounded her vanity in the cruelest fashion. She tottered. Her eyes sought those of Ralph. He understood that Clarice was condemned to death and in his heart of hearts he knew that never again would he feel anything but hate for Josephine Balsamo.

Beaumagnan said quietly, in explanation: “Godfrey intercepted this letter and sent it to me, asking my advice. The postmark on the envelope was Lillebonne; that’s how I got on the track of both of you again.”

Josephine said nothing. Her face displayed so profound a suffering that it might have touched one. The tears which rolled slowly down her cheeks might have awakened one’s pity, if her grief had not so plainly been dominated by a bitter lust for vengeance. She was making her plans, devising the snare.

Shaking her head, she said to Ralph: “I warned you, Ralph.”

“A man who is warned is worth two,” he said in a joking tone.

“Don’t make a joke of it!” she cried with savage impatience. “You know what I told you, that you had better be careful never to let her cross the path of our love.”

“And you know what I told you,” Ralph retorted with the same irritating air. “If ever you touch a single hair of her head⁠—”

She trembled and said bitterly: “How can you laugh at my suffering like this? How can you take the part of another woman against me?⁠ ⁠… Against me!” Then she added in quieter, threatening accents: “All the worse for her.”

“Don’t worry about her,” he said. “She’s safe enough, since I’ll protect her.”

Beaumagnan watched them with a gloomy joy; their discord and all this hate that welled up in them warmed his heart. But Josephine recovered control of herself, reckoning, doubtless, that it was a waste of words to speak of a vengeance which would be hers in due time. At the moment other cares thrust this one from her mind, for, a little way off, someone blew a whistle gently.

The grief and fury vanished from her face and she said: “Did you hear that whistle, Beaumagnan? It’s one of my men who are watching the path to the lighthouse. The person for whom we are waiting must be in sight, for I suppose that that’s what you are here for, too?”

Indeed, the presence of Beaumagnan at that place at that hour needed to be accounted for. How had he known of the meeting and the meeting-place? What special information had he with regard to the Rousselin business?

She cast a glance at Ralph. He, at any rate, bound hand and foot, could not hamper her plans or take part in the final battle. But Beaumagnan appeared to trouble her; and she went towards the door as if she wished to be the first to meet the person they expected, when, at the very instant at which she was going to it, quick footsteps were heard. She stepped backwards, therefore, with a movement that thrust Beaumagnan aside and cleared the door for the entrance of Leonard. He looked sharply from one to the other of the two men, then drew Josephine aside, and whispered in her ear.

She seemed astounded and murmured: “What do you mean? What on earth do you mean?”

She turned her head that they might not see her expression; but Ralph had an impression that it was one of extreme joy.

“Don’t stir,” she said. “The owner of the casket is here. Out with your revolver, Leonard. Be ready to shoot.”

She turned on Beaumagnan, who was trying to open the door, and cried: “You must be mad! Stay where you are!”

But when he insisted she lost her temper and said: “What do you want to go out for? What are you up to? You must know this person and want to balk us and get away with the casket. Is that your game? Speak up!”

Beaumagnan did not loose the handle of the door. Josephine gripped his arm with her right hand and tried to hold him back. Perceiving that she would not succeed, she turned towards Leonard, and with her left hand pointed to Beaumagnan’s left shoulder with a gesture which bade her henchman strike and strike quietly. In about a second he had drawn a dagger from his pocket and driven it into their enemy’s left shoulder.

Beaumagnan groaned and cried: “The damned jade!” and dropped fainting to the floor.

She said calmly to Leonard: “Help me; and be quick about it.”

The two of them dragged Beaumagnan into the recess. Leonard cut off the end of the rope which was round Ralph’s neck, and the two of them bound together the wounded man’s wrists and ankles. Then she looked at his shoulder and said: “That’s nothing⁠—two or three days in bed and he’ll be all right again. Come on.”

They went back to the door.

She had performed these actions quietly, without the slightest haste and, from the expression on her face, she might have been doing the most ordinary things in the world. Every gesture was quiet and easy; she gave her orders with no vestige of excitement. But there was a note of triumph in her voice that inspired Ralph with a growing uneasiness, and he was on the point of shouting to warn the person who, in his or her turn, was walking into the trap.

But what was the use? The measures of Josephine had been taken too carefully for his cry of warning to upset them. Besides he did not quite know what to do. All kinds of absurd notions were running through his mind. And then⁠—then it was too late. A groan burst from his lips.

Clarice d’Etigues came through the door!