Detectives and Policemen

The journey was one long protestation of love. Perhaps the Countess of Cagliostro was right not to put Ralph to the test by holding out her hand for him to kiss. But in truth, though he had sworn an oath to win that charming young woman and was resolved to do so, he felt for her a respect which left him just enough courage to ply her with amorous words, and no more.

Did she hear him? For a while, yes⁠—as one listens to a child telling you prettily how fond he is of you. Then she sank into a profound thoughtful silence which disconcerted him.

At last he cried:

“Speak to me, I implore you. I speak jokingly in order to be able to tell you things that I should not dare to tell you seriously. But, at heart, I’m afraid of you; and I do not know what I am saying. Answer me, I beg you. Say just a few words that will recall me to reality.”

“Only a few words?” she said slowly.

“Yes, just a few.”

“Well, then, here they are: Doudeville Station is quite near; and the railway is waiting for you.”

He crossed his arms with an air of indignation.

“And you?” he said.


“Yes. What is going to become of you all by yourself?”

“Goodness!” she said quickly. “I shall try to get on as I’ve been getting on up to now.”

“That’s impossible. You cannot do without me any longer. You have entered upon a struggle in which my help is indispensable. Beaumagnan, Godfrey d’Etigues, the Prince of Arcola are so many ruffians who will crush you.”

“They believe me dead.”

“That’s all the more reason for letting me join forces with you. If you are dead how do you wish to act?”

“Don’t let that worry you. I shall act without their seeing me,” she said confidently.

“But how much more easily through me as your agent! No; I beg you⁠—and now I am speaking very seriously⁠—do not reject my aid. There are things which a woman cannot accomplish by herself. Owing to the mere fact that you, a woman, are seeking the same end as these men and are consequently at war with them, they have succeeded in forming the most ignoble plot against you. They brought such charges against you and supported them by proofs apparently so sound that for a moment I actually saw in you the sorceress and criminal whom Beaumagnan was overwhelming with his hatred and contempt. Do not be angry with me for that. As soon as you began to defend yourself against them, I saw my mistake. Beaumagnan and his confederates became nothing more than your hateful and cowardly executioners. You dominated them by your dignity; and today not a vestige of all their calumnies lingers in my memory. But you must accept my help. If I have ruffled your sensibilities by telling you that I love you, you will hear no more about that. All I ask for is to be allowed to devote myself to you, as one concentrates oneself to that which is most beautiful and purest.”

She yielded to his earnest pressure. They drove on through Doudeville. A little further on, on the road to Yvetot, the carriage turned into a farmyard, along the edge of which ran a row of beeches which seemed to be stunting the apple trees with which it was planted, and came to a stop.

“Here we get out,” said the Countess. “This place belongs to Mother Vasseur, an excellent woman who was once my cook. She keeps an inn a little way down the road. Sometimes when I want a rest I come and stay with her for a day or two. We will lunch here, Leonard, and be off again in an hour.”

She and Ralph turned into the high road again. She walked with the light step of a young girl. She was wearing a tightly-fitting gray frock and a mauve hat, with velvet strings, and trimmed with bunches of violets. Ralph walked a little behind her in order to feast his eyes on her.

Round the first corner they found a small white house with a thatched roof; in front of it was a small flower-garden. They stepped right into the bar which ran the length of the house.

“A man’s voice,” said Ralph doubtfully, nodding towards the door of a room on the other side of the bar.

“That’s the room in which Mother Vasseur always gives me my meals,” said the Countess. “I expect some of the villagers are in it.”

On her words the door of it opened and a woman well on in years, wearing an apron and sabots, came out of it.

At the sight of the Countess she appeared utterly flabbergasted, shut the door sharply behind her and stuttered something they could not understand.

“What’s the matter?” said Josephine Balsamo in a tone of anxiety.

Mother Vasseur dropped into a chair and murmured more clearly:

“Be off!⁠ ⁠… Bolt!⁠ ⁠… Be quick!”

“But why? Explain?” said the Countess.

The old woman got control of herself and said:

“Detectives.⁠ ⁠… They’re hunting for you.⁠ ⁠… They’ve searched your trunks.⁠ ⁠… They’re expecting the policemen from the town.⁠ ⁠… Run away, or you’re lost!”

The Countess tottered, and looking as if she were about to faint, leaned against the bar. Her eyes met Ralph’s in a supplication. It was for all the world as if she thought that she was lost and begged him to help her.

Ralph was stupefied. He stammered:

“B-b-but what d-d-do the police matter to you? It isn’t you they’re looking for!⁠ ⁠… Why on earth⁠—”

“Yes, yes! It is her!” said Mother Vasseur. “They are looking for her!⁠ ⁠… Save her!”

Without grasping the full significance of this astonishing scene, Ralph divined that here was something in the nature of a tragedy. He caught the Countess by the arm, drew her to the door, and thrust her through it.

But crossing the threshold first, she started back in affright and cried:

“The police! They have seen me!”

The two of them hastily stepped back into the house. Mother Vasseur was trembling in every limb; she muttered stupidly:

“The police⁠ ⁠… the detectives.”

“Be quiet!” snapped Ralph in a low voice, keeping quite calm. “I’ll answer for its being all right. How many detectives are there?”


“And two policemen. Then it’s no use trying force; and we’re surrounded. Where are those trunks they’ve searched?”


“Where’s the staircase to them?”

“Here,” she said, pointing to the door on the right.

“Right. You stay here; and don’t give yourself away. Once more I tell you, I’ll answer for its turning out all right.”

Again he took the Countess by the arm and drew her towards the door Mother Vasseur had pointed out. A very narrow staircase brought them to a bedroom under the sloping roof. About it were spread all the frocks and lingerie which the detectives had turned out of two trunks. As they came into it they heard the two detectives come out of the room in which they had been lunching, into the bar; and when Ralph, crossing the room on noiseless feet, peered out through the window under the eaves, he saw the two policemen dismount and tie the reins of their horses to the posts of the garden gate.

The Countess did not stir. Ralph noticed that her face, haggard with fear and anxiety, had perceptibly aged.

“Quick!” he said sharply. “You must change that frock. Put on another⁠ ⁠… a black one for choice.”

He returned to the window; and while she changed watched the detectives and the policemen talking in the garden and tried to catch what they were saying. When she had changed, and she was quick about it, he caught up the grey frock she had just taken off and slipped into it. For all his strength, he was uncommonly slender, with a lissom figure. The frock fitted him to perfection; the long skirt of the period, when he had pulled it down hard, hid his feet passably; and he appeared to be so delighted with this disguise and so easy in his mind that the young woman began to recover her confidence.

The voices of the police in the garden rose higher, and they could hear what they were saying.

“Listen,” he said.

The four men were standing at the garden gate. One of the policemen said in the rough drawling voice of the countrymen:

“Are you quite sure that she stayed here occasionally?”

“Quite sure. And the proof of it is that there are two trunks of hers which she has left in storage here. One of them has her name painted on it⁠—Madam Pellegrini. Besides, Mother Vasseur is a respectable woman, isn’t she?” said one of the detectives.

“There isn’t a more respectable woman than Mother Vasseur in this part of the country,” said the policeman.

“Well, Mother Vasseur declares that this Madam Pellegrini has been in the habit of coming from time to time to stay with her for a day or two.”

“Between two burglaries, you bet!”


“Then it would be a feather in our caps to capture this Madam Pellegrini?”

“It would indeed⁠—larceny⁠—swindling⁠—receiving stolen goods⁠—the whole bag of tricks in fact⁠—and a swarm of confederates,” said one of the detectives.

“Have they got a description of her?” asked the policeman.

“Yes and no,” replied the detective.

“Yes and no?”

“They have two portraits of her which are entirely different. One is the portrait of a young woman, the other of an old one. As to her age, it is set as between thirty and sixty.”

They laughed; then the rough voice of the country policeman went on: “But you’re on her track?”

“Again yes and no. A fortnight ago she was working at Rouen and Dieppe. There we lost track of her. We found it again on the main line and lost it again. Did she go straight on to le Havre or turn off towards Fécamp? It is impossible to say. She has completely disappeared and left us floundering,” said the detective.

“And what made you come here?”

“Just a chance. A railway porter who brought trunks here on a truck remembered that the name of Pellegrini was painted on one of them, and that it had been hidden under a label which came unstuck.”

“Have you questioned any other travelers who stay at the inn?” asked the country policeman.

“Oh, precious few people stay here.”

“What about the lady we caught sight of just now as we rode up to the inn?”

“A lady?”

“Yes, a lady. She just came out of this door and went straight in again. It rather looked as if she wanted to avoid us.”

“A lady? In this inn? It isn’t possible!”

“A lady in gray. She was too far off for us to be able to recognize her face again. But we saw her gray dress; and she is wearing a hat with flowers in it.”

“The devil she is!” cried the detective. “We must look into this!”

They said no more, but there came the ominous clumping of large police boots along the flagged path of the garden.

During this conversation Ralph and the young woman had listened without uttering a word, staring at one another. As these new facts came to his ears, Ralph’s face had grown darker and darker. She made no attempt to rebut them.

“They’re coming.⁠ ⁠… They’re coming,” she said in a hushed voice.

“Yes. They’re coming; and we must be doing, or else they’ll come upstairs and find you here,” he said calmly.

As he spoke he snatched up her hat from the toilet table, put it on his head, pulled down the brim a little and tied the strings under his chin to hide yet more of his face. Then he gave her his final instructions.

“I’m going to clear the way for you,” he said. “As soon as it is clear, you will walk quietly along the road to the farmyard where your carriage is waiting. Get into it, and see that Leonard has the reins in his hands.”

“But what about you?” she said.

“I’ll be with you in twenty minutes.”

“But suppose they arrest you?”

“They won’t arrest me, or you either,” he said confidently. “But no hurry, mind you. Don’t run down the road. Keep cool.”

He stepped to the window and leaned out of it. The four men were on the point of entering the house. He slipped over the sill and dropped into the garden, uttered a cry as if he had just caught sight of them, and dashed off at full speed.

They yelled with one voice.

“Hi! The woman in gray!⁠ ⁠… It’s her!⁠ ⁠… Halt! Or I’ll fire!”

He crossed the road in one stride, jumped into the ploughed field on the other side of it, raced across it, and sideways up a slope to a farm. Then came another slope, then some fields; then he ran into a lane which skirted another farm and had a thick, quickset hedge on both sides of it.

He stopped short. He had outdistanced his heavily-booted pursuers considerably. He was out of their sight behind that thick hedge. In a jiffy he pulled off the hat, stripped off the frock, and thrust them well down into the bottom of the overgrown ditch. Then he put on his fisherman’s cap, lit a cigarette, stuck his hands in his pockets, and went back the way he had come.

At the corner of the farm two breathless, bucketting detectives nearly ran into him.

“Hullo, fisherman! Have you met a woman⁠—a woman in gray?”

“Yes.⁠ ⁠… A woman who was running, you mean?⁠ ⁠… A regular madwoman,” said Ralph.

“That’s her!⁠ ⁠… Which way did she go?”

“She went into the farm.”


“Through the back gate.”

“How long ago?”

“Not more than a couple of minutes.”

The two men ran on. Ralph continued his descent of the slope, gave the policemen, who were struggling up it, a friendly greeting, walked briskly down to the ploughed field and across it, struck the road a little below the inn, close to the corner.

A hundred yards round it were the beeches and apple trees of the farmyard where the carriage awaited him.

Leonard was on the box, whip in hand. Josephine Balsamo, inside the carriage, held the door open.

Ralph said to Leonard: “Drive along the road to Yvetot.”

“What?” cried the Countess. “But it takes us past the inn!”

“The essential thing is that they should not guess that we came out of this place. If we go round the corner toward Yvetot, they will not know where we came from. Just a gentle trot, Leonard⁠ ⁠… about the pace of a hearse returning empty from a funeral.”

Leonard shook the reins, the horses trotted quietly round the corner along the road, past the inn. On its threshold stood Mother Vasseur. She just threw out her right hand sideways in a gesture of greeting and farewell and turned and went inside.

“That sets her mind at rest, poor old thing,” said the Countess. “Look!”

Against the skyline, up by the farm, stood the four policemen, conferring. From the liveliness of their gestures it was clear that they were not of the same opinion. They had drawn the farm blank and were debating what to do next.

“That’s all right,” said Ralph. “The carriage is the last thing they’ll connect with your flight, for they believe that you’re somewhere on the other side of that hill. In fact, they’d simply laugh if anybody told them you were in it.”

“They’re going to question Mother Vasseur pretty severely,” said the Countess.

“She’ll have to get out of it as best she can. We can’t help her,” he said with decision.

When they had passed out of sight of the policemen, he bade Leonard drive faster.

“I’m afraid the poor beasts will not go much further. How long have they been going already?” said Ralph.

“Since this morning, when we left Dieppe. I spent the night there.”

“And where are we going to?” he asked.

“The banks of the Seine.”

“Goodness! Between forty-five and fifty miles in a day, at this pace! But it’s a marvel!”

She did not say anything.

Between the two front windows of the carriage there was a strip of glass in which he could see her. She had put on a darker frock and a light toque from which a fairly thick veil hung down over her face. She pushed up the veil and took from the shelf fixed under the strip of glass a small leather bag which contained an old, gold hand-glass, and other toilet appurtenances, small, stoppered bottles, rouge, and brushes.

She took the hand-glass from it and gazed at her tired face in it for some time.

Then she poured some drops on it from a tiny crystal bottle and rubbed the wetted surface with a scrap of silk. Once more she looked at herself in the glass.

At first Ralph did not understand; he only observed the somewhat bitter and melancholy expression of a woman gazing at herself when she is not at her best.

Ten minutes, a quarter of an hour, passed in this silence and in the manifestly intense effort of that gaze in which all her thought and will were concentrated. The smile appeared first, hesitating, timid, like a ray of winter sunlight. Presently it became bolder and revealed its action by little details which presented themselves in turn to the astonished eyes of Ralph. The corner of the mouth lost its droop. The skin filled again with color. The flesh appeared to grow firm again. The cheeks and the chin recovered their pure outline; and all the grace of youth once more illumined the beautiful and tender face of Josephine Balsamo.

The miracle was accomplished.

“Miracle?” said Ralph to himself. “Not a bit of it. Or rather, to be exact, a miracle of the will. The influence of a clear and tenacious thought which refuses to accept decay, and which reestablishes discipline where disorder and surrender reign. As for the rest the mirror, the little bottle, the wonderful elixir⁠—just a comedy.”

He took the hand-glass, which she had set down beside her, and examined it. It was evidently the hand-glass described during the meeting of the conspirators at La Haie d’Etigues, that which the Countess of Cagliostro had used in the presence of the Empress Eugenie. The frame was engine-turned, the plate of silver at the back was all dented with blows.

On the handle was a count’s coronet, a date, 1783, and the list of the four enigmas.

Urged by a veritable, painful need to wound her, he said with a sneer: “Your father indeed left you a precious mirror. Thanks to its talismanic power one recovers from the most disagreeable emotions.”

“It’s a fact that I lost my head,” she said quietly. “That doesn’t happen to me often. I’ve kept it in far more serious situations than that one.”

“Oh come⁠—more serious?” he said in a tone of incredulous irony.

She did not protest; and for a long while they did not exchange another word. The horses continued to trot with the same even brisk rhythm. The great plains of Caux, always alike and always different, unfolded vast vistas set with farms and woods. The Countess had lowered her veil. Ralph felt that this woman, who had been so close to him two hours before, to whom he had so joyfully offered his devotion, was drawing slowly and slowly away from him, becoming more and more a stranger. There was no longer any contact between them. That mysterious soul was sinking back into the dark depths in which it belonged; what he had seen of it was so desperately different from what he had dreamed.

The soul of a thief⁠ ⁠… a furtive restless soul, hostile to the light of day. Was it indeed possible? How could he admit that this face of a simple, innocent girl, that those eyes, clear as the waters of a virgin spring, were a mirage and a lie?

He had sunk to such a depth of disillusionment that, as they passed through the little village of Yvetot, he thought of nothing but flight. But he lacked the energy to fly; and that redoubled his anger. The memory of Clarice d’Etigues rose in his mind; and in a kind of revengefulness, he summoned up before it the clear image of the gentle young girl whose selfless abandonment had been so noble.

But Josephine Balsamo did not loose her prey. However tarnished she might appear to him, however deformed the idol might have grown, she was there! An intoxicating fragrance emanated from her. He was touching her. With a movement he could take her hand and kiss that perfumed flesh. She was all the passion, all the desire, all the voluptuousness, all the troubling mystery of woman; and once more the memory of Clarice vanished from his mind.

“Josine⁠—Josine,” he murmured so low that she did not hear him.

Moreover, what was the use of bemoaning his love and his suffering? Would she restore to him the confidence he had lost and regain in his eyes the prestige which was hers no longer?

They were drawing near the Seine. On the top of the slope which runs down to the river at Caudebec they turned to the left, among the wooded hills which dominate the valley of Saint-Wandrille. They drove along the ruins of the celebrated abbey, followed the course of the water which bathes the foot of its walls, came in sight of the river, and took the road to Rouen.

A few minutes later the carriage stopped. They stepped out of it; and Leonard drove on again, leaving them on the outskirts of a little wood from which they looked across the river. A meadow covered with waving reeds ran between it and them.

Josephine Balsamo held out her hand:

“Goodbye, Ralph. A little further on you will find Mailleraie Station.”

“But what about you?” he asked.

“I? My abode is close at hand.”

“I don’t see it.”

“Yes, you do: that barge which you can just see between the branches.”

“I’ll take you to it.”

A narrow embankment ran across the meadow through the middle of the reeds. The Countess took her way along it, followed by Ralph.

So they came to a piece of open ground, close by the barge, which was still hidden behind a curtain of willows. No one could see them or hear them. They were alone under the expanse of blue sky. And there there passed some of those minutes of which one keeps the memory for a lifetime and which influence the whole course of one’s destiny.

“Goodbye,” said Josephine Balsamo once more.

He hesitated before this hand stretched out to him in final farewell.

“Won’t you shake hands with me?” she said.

“Yes⁠ ⁠… yes⁠ ⁠…” he murmured. “But why should we separate?”

“Because we no longer have anything to say to one another,” she said sadly.

“Nothing indeed; and yet we never have said anything,” said he.

He took her warm and supple little hand in his and said:

“What those men said?⁠ ⁠… Their accusations in the garden of that inn?⁠ ⁠… Was it true?”

He craved some explanation, lie though it might be, which should permit him to retain some doubt.

But with an air of surprise she answered: “What on earth does that matter to you?”

“What? Of course it matters to me!” he cried.

“One might really imagine that those revelations could have some effect on you,” she said looking at him with just a suspicion of mockery in her expression.

“What on earth do you mean?” he said in astonished accents.

“Goodness! It’s very simple. I mean to say that I could have understood your being shocked at the confirmation of the monstrous crimes of which Beaumagnan and the Baron d’Etigues so falsely and stupidly accused me; but there is no longer any question of them.”

“But I haven’t forgotten their accusations either,” he said.

“Their accusations against the woman whose name I gave them, against the Marquise de Belmonte. But it is not a question of crimes at all. What does all that chance revealed to you a little while ago really matter to you?”

He was taken aback by this unexpected question. She looked him straight in the face, smiling, entirely at her ease, and went on a trifle ironically:

“Doubtless the Vicomte Ralph d’Andresy has had his sensibilities ruffled? The Vicomte Ralph d’Andresy must evidently have moral principles, and the delicate sentiments of a gentleman.”

“And supposing he has?” said he. “When I experienced that disillusionment⁠—”

“Steady on!” she said sharply. “You’ve let the cat out of the bag! You’re disappointed. You ran after a beautiful dream and it all vanished, now that the woman appears to you exactly as she is. Answer frankly since we are honestly trying to get things clear. You’re disappointed, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” he said dryly.

They were silent. She gazed deep into his eyes and murmured:

“I’m a thief, am I not? That’s what you mean, isn’t it? A thief?”


She smiled and said: “And what about you?”

And as he started back she caught him firmly by the arm, tried to shake him, and cried imperiously:

“Yes, what about you, my young friend? What are you? The time has come for you to lay your cards on the table also. Who are you?”

“My name is Ralph d’Andresy.”

“Rubbish! Your name is Arsène Lupin. Your father Theophrastus Lupin, who combined the occupation of professor of boxing and gymnastics with the more lucrative profession of crook, was convicted and imprisoned in the United States, and died there. Your mother resumed her maiden name and lived as a poor relation at the house of a distant cousin, the Duke of Dreux-Soubise, One day the Duchess discovered that jewels of the greatest historical value, nothing less, in fact, than the famous necklace of Queen Marie Antoinette, had disappeared. In spite of the most exhaustive attempts to discover it no one ever knew who was the author of this theft, executed with a diabolical daring and cleverness. But I, I do know. It was you. You were six years old.”

Ralph listened, pale with anger and grinding his teeth.

He muttered. “My mother was unhappy and humiliated. I wished to set her free.”

“By thieving?”

“I was six years old,” he protested.

“Today you’re twenty; your mother is dead; you’re robust, intelligent, and overflowing with energy. How do you make a living?”

“I work!” he snapped.

“Yes: in other people’s pockets.”

She gave him no time to deny it.

“You needn’t say anything, Ralph,” she went on quickly. “I know your life down to the last details. And I could tell you things about yourself that would astonish you, things that happened this year, and things that happened years ago. For I’ve been following your career for a very long time and the things I should tell you would certainly not be a bit more pleasant hearing than the things you heard not so very long ago at the inn. Detectives? Policemen? Inquiries? Prosecutions?⁠ ⁠… You’ve been perfectly well acquainted with them, quite as well acquainted with them as I am, and you’re not twenty! Is it really worthwhile for us to reproach one another? Hardly. Since I know your life and since chance has uncovered for you a corner of mine, let us throw a veil over both. The act of theft is not a pretty one. Let us turn away our eyes and say nothing about it.”

He remained silent. A great weariness invaded him. All at once he saw existence in a gloomy and depressing light in which nothing any longer had color, nothing beauty or graciousness. He could have wept. She paused, frowning thoughtfully and rather sadly, then she said: “Well, for the last time, goodbye.”

“N-n-no.⁠ ⁠… N-n-no!” he stammered.

“But it must be goodbye, Ralph. I should only do you harm. Do not try to mingle your life with mine. You have ambition, energy, and such qualities that you can choose your path.”

She paused and said in a lower voice: “The path I follow is not a good one, Ralph.”

“Why do you follow it, Josine? That’s exactly what frightens me.”

“It’s too late to find another,” she murmured.

“Then it’s too late for me too!”

“No: you’re young. Save yourself. Fly from the fate with which you are threatened.”

“But you, Josine.⁠ ⁠… But you?”

“It’s my life,” she declared.

“A dreadful life, which simply causes you suffering,” he asserted.

“If you think so, why do you wish to share it?”

“Because I love you.”

“All the more reason to fly from me, my dear. Any love between us is damned beforehand. You would blush for me; and I should distrust you.”

“I love you,” he persisted.

“Today. But tomorrow? Obey the order I gave you on my photograph the very first night we met: ‘Do not seek to see me again.’ Now go.”

“Yes,” he said slowly. “Yes. You’re right. But it’s terrible to think that everything is at an end between us before even I have had the time to hope⁠ ⁠… and that you will forget me.”

“One does not forget a person who has saved one’s life twice.”

“No: but you will forget that I love you.”

She shook her head and said: “I shall not forget.”

Then with a thrill of emotion in her tone she went on more quickly: “Your enthusiasm, your initiative⁠ ⁠… everything that is sincere and spontaneous in you⁠ ⁠… and other qualities that I have not yet had time to discover in you⁠ ⁠… all that touches me profoundly.”

Their two hands were still clasped; their eyes still gazed into one another. Ralph was quivering with tenderness.

She sighed and said gently: “When one says goodbye forever, one is bound to return one another’s gifts. Give me back my portrait, Ralph.”

“No, no! Never!” he cried.

“Then I,” she said with a smile which intoxicated him, “I shall be more honest than you and honestly give back to you the gift you gave me.”

“But what gift?” he asked, for he could remember no gift.

“The first night⁠ ⁠… in the barn⁠ ⁠… while I was sleeping⁠ ⁠… you leaned over me; and I felt your lips.”

She bent towards him, put her arms round his neck, drew his head towards her, and their mouths met.

“Oh, Josine!” he cried, lost. “Do what you like with me. I love you.⁠ ⁠… I love!”

They walked along the bank of the Seine, the waving reeds below them. They brushed against the long narrow spears shaken by the breeze. They went towards happiness with no other thoughts in their hearts but those which make lovers, walking hand in hand, tremble.

“One word, Ralph,” she said, suddenly stopping short. “I feel that with you I shall be violent and exacting. Is there another woman in your life?”

“Not one,” he said firmly.

“A lie already!” she said bitterly.

“A lie?”

“What about Clarice d’Etigues? You used to meet her in the fields. You were seen together.”

He was a trifle ruffled, and he said sharply: “That’s an old story.⁠ ⁠… The merest flirtation.”

“You swear it?”

“I swear it.”

“All the better,” she said with a somber air. “All the better for her. And let her never come between us! If she does⁠—”

He drew her along, protesting: “I love you only, Josine! I have never loved anyone but you. My life begins today.”