VII

The Delights of Capua

The Nonchalante was a barge in no way distinguished from any other barge. It was fairly old; its paint had faded; but it was well polished and kept very clean by a bargeman of the name Delâtre and his wife. From the outside there was very little to see of the Nonchalante’s cargo, a few cases, some old baskets, and three or four casks. But if you had slipped down the ladder into the hold, you would have seen at a glance that she carried absolutely nothing whatever. The whole of the inside had been divided into three rooms of moderate size, uncommonly comfortable and exceedingly well-kept⁠—two staterooms opening into a saloon.

There Ralph and Josephine lived for a month. Monsieur and Madame Delâtre seemed to be morose; and they were certainly silent. Several times Ralph tried in vain to get into conversation with them. They acted as cook and butler. From time to time a small tug came to tow the Nonchalante up a reach of the Seine.

The whole course of the charming river in this way unrolled itself before their eyes in delightful landscapes through which they wandered, Ralph’s arm round Josephine’s waist⁠ ⁠… the Brotonne Forest, the ruins of Jumièges, Saint George’s Abbey, the hills of Bouille, Rouen, Pont-de-l’Arche.

They were weeks of intense happiness. During those delightful hours Ralph expended a wealth of gaiety and enthusiasm. The wonderful views, the beautiful Gothic churches, the sunsets and the moonlight, everything served him as pretexts for impassioned declarations of his love. Josine, more silent, smiled as in a happy dream. Every day drew her closer to her lover. If at the beginning she had acted from a mere caprice, she now found herself under the yoke of the law of love which quickened her pulses and taught her the danger and the pain of loving too much.

Of the past, of her secret life, never a word. Once however they did exchange a few sentences on this subject. As Ralph was chaffing her about what he called the miracle of her eternal youth, she said:

“A miracle? I don’t understand what people mean by a miracle. For example, the other day we drove sixty miles.⁠ ⁠… You cried out that it was a miracle. But if you’d kept your eyes a little wider open, you would have perceived that that distance was covered not by two horses but by four, for Leonard took the pair which had been drawing it out of the carriage and harnessed another pair in their places in that farmyard at Doudeville, where a relay was waiting for us.”

“You have me there!” exclaimed the young man cheerfully.

“Another example,” she went on: “No one in the world knows that your name is Lupin. But I assure you that that very night you rescued me from death, I knew you as Arsène Lupin and nothing else. A miracle? Not a bit of it. You know that everything that concerns Cagliostro interests me extremely; and when fourteen years ago I heard talk of the disappearance of the Queen’s necklace from the house of the Duchess of Dreux-Soubise, I made the most minute enquiry into the circumstances. That brought me first of all to little Ralph d’Andresy and then to the son of Theophrastus Lupin. Later I found traces of your handiwork in several jobs. I knew where I was.”

Ralph reflected thoughtfully for a good half-minute; then he said very seriously:

“At that date Josine, darling, either you were twelve years old, and it certainly is miraculous that a little girl of that age should have succeeded in an enquiry in which the rest of the world failed, or you were as old as you are today, which is even more miraculous, O daughter of Cagliostro!”

She frowned. His jesting did not seem at all to her taste. She said even more seriously than he:

“We won’t talk about that, Ralph⁠—if you don’t mind.”

“I’m sorry,” said Ralph, a little annoyed at having been discovered to be Lupin and desiring to score off her in turn. “Nothing in the world interests me more strongly than the problem of your age and the different exploits you have performed during the last hundred years. I’ve got some ideas of my own on the matter which are really worthy of consideration.”

“Keep them to yourself,” she said sharply.

“Wouldn’t you like me to tell you about them?”

She gazed at him, curious in spite of her reluctance to discuss the matter. He took advantage of her hesitation to continue in a faintly mocking tone:

“My train of reasoning rests on two axioms: the first is, as you have pointed out, there are no miracles; the second is that you are your mother’s daughter.”

She smiled and murmured: “It certainly begins well.”

“You are your mother’s daughter,” Ralph repeated. “That means that there was in the first place a Countess of Cagliostro. At the age of twenty-five or thirty, she dazzled all the Paris of the end of the Second Empire with her beauty and excited the liveliest curiosity at the Court of Napoleon III. With the aid of the young man she called her brother⁠—it doesn’t matter whether he was her brother, her friend, or her lover⁠—she had worked up the story of her relationship to Cagliostro and prepared the forged documents of which the police made use when they gave Napoleon III the information about the daughter of Josephine Beauharnais and that great thaumaturge. Expelled from France, she went to Italy, then to Germany, then disappeared⁠—to come to life again twenty-two years later in the person of her adorable daughter, her exact image, the second Countess of Cagliostro, here present. Do we agree so far?”

Josine did not answer; she gazed at him with in expressive eyes in an impassive face.

He went on: “Between the mother and the daughter the resemblance was perfect⁠—so exact that the affair began, quite naturally, all over again. Why should there be two Countesses? There will only be one, a single one, the unique and genuine Countess, she who has inherited the secrets of her father, Joseph Balsamo, the Count of Cagliostro. And when Beaumagnan sets about making his enquiry, it inevitably happens that he discover the documents which have already sent the police of Napoleon astray, and the series of portraits and miniatures which bear witness to the identity of the ever youthful woman and carries her origin back to the virgin of Luini to whom chance has given her such an astonishing resemblance.

“Moreover there is a living witness: the Prince of Arcola. The Prince of Arcola in the old days knew the Countess of Cagliostro. He conducted her to Modena. He saw her at Versailles. When he saw her a few years ago the exclamation escapes from him: ‘It is she! And not a day older than she was!’

“Thereupon you overwhelm him with a world of proofs. You repeat the actual words exchanged at Modena between him and your mother, the actual words which you read in the very minute diary which your mother kept even of her least important doings and sayings. There is the complete explanation of the affair. And it is extraordinarily simple. A mother and a daughter who are exactly like one another and whose image recalls a picture of Luini.

“There is besides the Marquise de Belmonte. But I expect that the resemblance of that lady to you is fairly vague and that the strong prepossession and deranged brain of Beaumagnan were necessary to mix the two of you up. To sum up, there is nothing dramatic about it. It is merely an amusing and admirably managed intrigue. That’s my account of the business.”

He was silent. It appeared to him that Josine had lost some of her color and that she was frowning. She must be annoyed in her turn; and it made him laugh.

“I’ve hit the right nail on the head? What?” he said cheerfully.

She shrank away from him, saying coldly: “My past is my business and my age concerns nobody but myself. You can believe exactly what you like about them.”

He caught hold of her and kissed her furiously.

“I believe that you are four hundred years old, Josephine Balsamo, and that there is nothing more delightful to kiss than a centenarian. When I think that you have perhaps known Robespierre and perhaps Louis XVI⁠—”

They did not discuss the matter again, for Ralph was so clearly aware of Josephine’s irritation at the slightest indiscreet attempt to probe her secret, that he did not dare to question her again. Besides, did he not know the exact truth?

Certainly he knew it and not a doubt remained in his mind. Nevertheless the young woman retained a mysterious prestige, which impressed him in spite of himself and rather annoyed him. He thought, seeing her withdrawn and aloof, of those Gods of Olympus who enveloped themselves in a thick mist. So round Josephine there were on every side impassable spaces in the midst of which she disappeared from his sight. Why also did she refuse to discuss the candlestick with seven branches and the enterprise of Beaumagnan? Was not that the affair which had brought them together and in a way associated them in a common task of conquest and vengeance?


At the end of the third week Leonard reappeared. Again Ralph saw the barouche with the little lean horses in it; and the Countess drove away in it.

She did not return till the evening. Leonard carried on to the barge two bundles wrapped in napkins which he slipped into a cupboard, of whose existence Ralph had been ignorant.

That night Ralph, having succeeded in opening the cupboard, examined the two bundles. They contained admirable lace and valuable vestments.

The next day there was another expedition. The result, was sixteenth-century tapestry.

On those days Ralph was exceedingly bored. Therefore at Mantes, finding himself once more alone, he hired a bicycle and for some hours rode about the country. After having lunched at an inn, he saw on the outskirts of a small country town a great mansion, the garden of which was swarming with people. He went to it. They were selling by auction some beautiful furniture and plate.

Idly he strolled round the house. The garden at the end of one of the wings was empty and against the wall was a thick shrubbery. Without considering what impulse urged him to the act, Ralph, seeing a ladder hanging against the garden wall, set it up against the house, climbed it, and slipped a leg over the sill of an open window.

There came a faint cry from inside the room; and he saw the startled face of Josephine. She recovered herself on the instant and said in a perfectly composed voice:

“Oh, it’s you, Ralph, is it? I was just admiring a collection of beautifully bound little books. Wonders! And of an extraordinary rarity!”

That was all they said. Ralph examined the books and slipped three Elzevirs into his pocket while the Countess without Ralph’s perceiving it, helped herself to some coins from a glass case.

They went down the main staircase and took their departure. In all that crowd no one took any notice of them. Three hundred yards down the road the carriage was waiting for them.

After that, at Pointoise, at Saint Germain, at Paris, where the Nonchalante, moored to the quay in front of the prefecture of police, continued to serve them as an abode, they “operated” together. Together but in such a fashion that neither could see the other’s actions. “Let us turn our eyes away and say nothing about it,” Josephine Balsamo had said. A supreme modesty which spared them the sight of a mean action.

If the reserved nature and the enigmatic soul of the Countess de Cagliostro found a perfectly natural expression in the accomplishment of these tasks, the impulsive nature of Ralph little by little gained the upper hand; and every time the operation finished in bursts of laughter. Success provoked in him veritable fits of hilarity.

“Since I’ve turned my back on the path of virtue, I may just as well take it lightly as not, and certainly not in the funereal way in which you do, Josine,” he said airily.

At every new essay he discovered in himself unexpected talents and resources of which he had never dreamt. Sometimes, in a shop, on a racecourse, at the theater, his companion heard a gentle murmur of joy and saw a watch in her lover’s hands, or a new pin in his cravat⁠—and always the same coolness, always the serenity of an innocent man whom no danger can threaten.

But that did not prevent him taking the manifold precautions demanded by Josephine. They only left the barge in the dress of barge-folk. In a neighboring street, the old barouche with a single horse harnessed to it was waiting for them. In it they changed their clothes. Josephine always hid her face under a beautiful, flowered lace veil.

All these facts and a great many others fully informed Ralph about the real life of his mistress. He had no doubt whatever that she was at the head of a well organized band of confederates, with whom she held communication by means of Leonard. But also he had no doubt that she was prosecuting her search for the Candlestick with Seven Branches and keeping a close watch on the actions of Beaumagnan and his friends.

A double life, which often awoke in Ralph a dull irritation against Josephine, as she herself had foreseen. Forgetting his own actions, he was angry with her for acting in a manner which was not in accord with the ideas which in spite of everything, he retained about that matter of honesty. A mistress who was a thief and leader of a band of thieves shocked him. Now and again there was a collision between them with regard to quite insignificant matters. Their two personalities, so definite and so powerful, came into conflict.

So, when some trifle brought them into conflict, for all that they were confronting common enemies, they learned how much a love like theirs can, at certain moments, contain of rancor, pride, and hostility.

The incident which brought to an end what Ralph called the delights of Capua was an unexpected meeting one evening with Beaumagnan, the Baron d’Etigues, and Oscar de Bennetot. They saw the three friends go into the Theater of Varieties.

“Let’s follow them,” said Ralph.

The Countess hesitated. He insisted.

“What?” he cried. “When such an opportunity presents itself, aren’t we going to profit by it?”

“What’s the use?” she asked.

“What’s the use?” he answered quickly. “But what a funny question! Are you afraid of my finding myself face to face with Beaumagnan?”

“No: but⁠—”

“Look here, Josine: you do as you like. But I’m going after them.”

Both of them went into the theater and established themselves at the back of a box. As they did so, in another box, quite close to the stage, they just had time to perceive before the attendant drew down the screen, the figures of Beaumagnan and his two acolytes.

A problem presented itself to them. Why should Beaumagnan, a churchman and apparently a man of rather ascetic habits, be found straying into a theater of the boulevards, in which they were playing a revue adorned with a very scantily dressed chorus, which could not be of the least interest to him? It was quite evident that there must be a reason of considerable importance and most probably, seeing who were with him, connected with the affair of the Candlestick, to bring him to such a place. To discover that reason was to catch up Beaumagnan in a single stride at the point he had reached in his investigations.

Ralph pointed out these facts to Josephine. She appeared to take no interest whatever in them; and her indifference made it clear to him that she had no intention whatever of taking him into partnership and that she had definitely decided that she did not desire his assistance in this mysterious affair.

“Very well,” he said to her firmly. “Where there is a lack of trust, let each go his own way and each for himself. We shall see who collars the prize.”

On the stage the girls of the chorus were dancing while the chief characters passed in front of them. The leading lady, a very pretty girl with very few clothes on, was taking the part of the spirit of a waterfall and she justified her name by the cascades of false jewels which streamed all round her. Round her forehead was a bandeau set with jewel of many colors, and her hair was lighted up with electric lamps.

During the first two acts the screen in front of the stage box remained down so that no one could see who were its occupants. But, during the interval after the second act, Ralph who had strolled round to the door of that box discovered that it was a little way open. He peeped in. The box was empty. He enquired of the attendant and learned that the three gentlemen had left the theater in the middle of the first act.

He went back to Josephine and said: “There’s nothing to be done here. They’ve cleared out.”

At that moment the curtain rose again. The leading lady once more appeared on the stage. Her hair drawn a little further back made it easier to see the bandeau which she was still wearing. He saw that it was a broad gold ribbon, in which were set large jewels en cabochon, of different colors. There were seven of them.

“Seven!” thought Ralph. “That explains why Beaumagnan came here.”

While Josephine was in the ladies’ cloakroom, he learned from one of the attendants that the leading lady of the revue, Bridget Rousselin, lived in an old house in Montmartre and came every day with a faithful old servant by the name of Valentine, to the rehearsal of the revue they were putting on next.

Next morning at eleven Ralph left the Nonchalante. He lunched in a restaurant in Montmartre, and soon after twelve, strolling down a steep, winding street, he passed in front of a small narrow house with a courtyard in front enclosed by a wall, and next door to a house divided into unfurnished flats. The curtainless windows of the top flat made it quite clear that it was vacant.

Forthwith, with his usual quickness, he formed one of those plans, which, directly it was formed, he put into execution almost mechanically. The situation of the house was uncommonly convenient for his purpose; and he was delighted to think that in a very short time he would know something which Josephine did not know and which would enable him to tease her. At the same time he made up his mind, as a loyal partner, to give her the benefit of his discoveries.

He strolled up and down with the air of a man who was waiting for someone. Of a sudden, taking advantage of the fact that the janitor of the flats was busy mopping the pavement in front of the house, he slipped behind her back into it, ran up the stairs to the top, forced the door of the empty flat, opened one of the windows which looked down on the roof of the house next door, made sure that no one could see him, and slipped out on to the roof.

It was only a few steps to a half-open dormer window. He climbed through it into a garret full of broken furniture, from which one descended to the floor below through a trap-door. He had some difficulty in raising it a little way noiselessly and looked down on to the second-floor landing. There was no ladder.

Below, on the first floor, two women were talking. Listening with all his ears he learned that Bridget Rousselin was lunching in her boudoir, and that her servant, apparently the only other person in the house, was dusting her bedroom and dressing room in the intervals of waiting on her.

Then Bridget Rousselin called out: “I’ve finished, Valentine. What a blessing it is that there’s no rehearsal today! I’m going back to bed till I have to start for the theater!”

This day at home rather upset Ralph’s plans, for he had been expecting to make a thorough search of the house at his ease during her absence at rehearsal. Nevertheless he did not lose patience; he just waited for the luck to turn.

Some minutes passed. Bridget was humming some of the music of the new revue. Then the front-door bell rang.

“That’s odd, Valentine,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting anyone today. Go and see who it is.”

The maid went downstairs. There came the sound of the opening and shutting of the front door.

She came upstairs again and said: “It’s a gentleman from the theater⁠—the manager’s secretary. He brought this letter.”

“Thanks. You showed him into the drawing room?”

“Yes.”

From the clearness with which he heard her voice Ralph gathered that Bridget had come out on to the first-floor landing. He heard her tear open the envelope.

Then she said: “That’s funny. The manager wants me to send him the bandeau I wear in the show, by his secretary. He wants to get it copied, and he’ll let me have it back at the theater tonight.”

Ralph swore under his breath: “Hang it!” he thought. “That bandeau is the chief object of my search. Is this manager also on the trail of it? And is Bridget Rousselin going to send it along to him?”

Her next words set his mind at rest.

“But I can’t do it,” she said. “I’ve already promised those stones.”

“That’s a pity,” said Valentine. “The manager will be annoyed.”

“I can’t help it. I’ve promised to sell them⁠—and for a big price too,” said the actress.

“Then what am I to say?” asked Valentine.

“I must write to him,” said Bridget.

She went into her boudoir, wrote the note, and gave it to Valentine.

“By the way, do you know this secretary?” she said carelessly. “Have you seen him at the theater?”

“No, I haven’t. He must be a new one,” said Valentine.

“Tell him to tell the manager how sorry I am, and that I’ll tell him all about it at the theater tonight.”

Valentine went downstairs again; Bridget went to the piano and did two or three voice exercises. They must have drowned the noise of the shutting of the house door, for Ralph did not hear it. The minutes passed.

He felt somewhat uncomfortable. This business seemed to him rather queer⁠—this secretary they did not know, this request for the jewels looked to him uncommonly like a trap of some sort.

Then he was reassured by the sound of footsteps on the stairs. They went to the door of the boudoir.

“Valentine,” he said to himself. “There was nothing in my fancies. The man has gone.”

But of a sudden the playing stopped short in the middle of a run. Evidently the actress jumped up so suddenly as to upset the piano stool, for it banged on the floor. She said in an uneasy voice:

“Who are you?⁠ ⁠… Oh, of course, you’re Monsieur Lenoir’s new secretary.⁠ ⁠… But what is it you want?”

A man’s voice answered: “Monsieur Lenoir gave me the strictest instructions to bring those jewels back with me; and I must insist on having them.”

“But I have written to him!” exclaimed Bridget in a yet more uneasy voice.⁠ ⁠… “My maid must have given you the letter.⁠ ⁠… Why hasn’t she come upstairs? Valentine!”

The door of the boudoir was banged violently. Ralph heard the noise of a struggle and cries of: “Help! Help!” Then silence.

The moment he had grasped the fact that Bridget Rousselin was in danger, he had tried to open wide the trap-door, noiselessly. But it stuck; and he lost precious time in forcing it up. Then he dropped onto the landing, ran down to the first floor and found three doors, all closed, to choose from.

As chance had it the one he opened was the door of the boudoir. It was empty and two or three chairs had been knocked over. An inner door led to the dressing room. That was empty too. He stepped into the bedroom whither the actress had fled.

The curtains were drawn. In the dim light he saw a man kneeling over a woman prone on the carpet, gripping her throat with both hands, and swearing abominably.

“Hell! You won’t shut your mouth, won’t you? You won’t hand over those jewels, won’t you? I’ll show you, curse you!”

Ralph flung himself upon him. He loosened his grip on the woman’s throat and rolled over. Ralph’s head banged against the fireplace with a violence that dazed him for a moment.

That was unfortunate; and in addition this murderous ruffian was heavier than he, powerfully built, with muscles of steel. It looked as if the slender and youthful Ralph had no chance whatever against him. But there was a sudden groan and the big man rolled over and lay inert, while Ralph rose lightly to his feet.

He said: “A pretty stroke, wasn’t it, old boy? I got it from the posthumous instructions of a gentleman named Theophrastus Lupin⁠—from a chapter which deals with Japanese methods. It transports you to a better world for a minute or two and renders you as harmless as a lamb.”

Without the loss of a moment he took the curtain cords and bound together the wrists of his opponent.

He had moved the curtains and was working in a fair light. He turned the man over to see his face. A sharp cry of amazement burst from his lips; and he exclaimed:

“Leonard!⁠ ⁠… Leonard, begad!”

He had never had a really good view of Josephine’s coachman. He had always seen him crouched on the box of the carriage, with his head between his shoulders, and so disguising his figure that Ralph believed him to be almost a hunchback and certainly a weakling. But there was no mistaking that bony face ending in that gray beard. It was beyond all doubting Leonard, Josephine’s factotum and right hand man.

He bound his legs together, just to make sure; and then on the carpet beside him he saw a whistle. He picked it up and was just about to stick it back in Leonard’s pocket when an idea came to him. He went to the window and peeped round the edge of the curtain. On the other side of the street, about twenty yards down it, stood the old carriage.

On the box sat a young man in livery. But inside the carriage there was surely another confederate. Ralph was sure of it; and now nothing in the world would have prevented him from carrying the matter through to the bitter end.

He turned his attention to Bridget, who was moaning faintly, picked her up, and laid her on the bed. The marks of the ruffian’s fingers were very red on her throat; but he had been in time to prevent the worst. She was only suffering from shock and terror. She half-opened her eyes.

He poured some water from the carafe into the tooth-glass, raised her, and held it to her lips. She swallowed a little, with difficulty. It seemed to relieve her; and she began to cry.

“Never mind! You’ll be all right presently,” he said gently. “Shut your eyes and relax. Don’t move till I come back. I’ll relieve you of the presence of this gentleman. I’ll take him into the next room and question him. You’re quite safe. I’m a detective; and luckily I was on his track.”

He was pretty sure that she would keep quiet and give him no trouble. Probably, in the reaction, she would fall into the profound sleep of those who have been tortured and badly frightened. He dragged Leonard into the boudoir and shut the bedroom door. Then he went downstairs.

A glance into the drawingroom showed him Valentine, as he had expected, in exactly the same condition as he had left Leonard. He decided that she was best as she was. It left him a freer hand.

“It’s all right, miss,” he said in a reassuring voice. “I’ll loose you presently. I’m a detective; and the first thing for me to do is to catch the rest of the gang.”

He went down the passage to the front door. As he had expected, it was not latched. He opened it an inch or two and looked at the door of the courtyard. Leonard had left that unlatched also.

Ralph permitted himself a somewhat sardonic smile. Then he went upstairs, opened the window of the boudoir a little way, and blew the whistle.

One of two things would happen. Either the whistle would be a warning to the confederate that things had gone wrong; and she would decamp. Or it would be a signal that the coast was clear and that she could join Leonard in the search for the jewels and any other evidence there was to be found in Bridget Rousselin’s house.

He waited with a very somber air, his eye on the door of the courtyard. He was extraordinarily disturbed, horrified indeed. It was one thing to relieve well-to-do persons of objects of luxury, of which they had no real need, and which they hadn’t the sense to keep⁠—quite another to be an accomplice in a cold blooded murder. Surely the woman he adored would never go to such lengths. As the horror of it grew clearer and clearer, his pulse quickened in a feverish anguish. Who would come through the door of the courtyard?

That door opened; on the threshold stood Josephine Balsamo!

Ralph gasped; and for the moment his eyes went blind.

Then he was filled with a bitter fury.

Josephine came quietly through the door, as carelessly as if she were merely paying a call on a friend, and walked across the courtyard. The moment Leonard whistled, the way was clear; she had only to go to him.

Ralph was furious but quite calm. He was ready to fight this second adversary as he had fought the first, and conquer her, but with very different weapons.

He took the further precaution of locking the door of the dressing room. Bridget Rousselin could not interrupt them, even if she found the strength to do so. There came the sound of a light footfall on the staircase. The door opened and Josephine entered.

Ralph had formed a very just estimate of Josephine’s power of self-control. But he did expect that the unexpected scene which met her eyes and the sudden and unexpected sight of him would shake it. Nothing of the kind.

She stopped short, gazed round the room, took in the trussed-up Leonard and Ralph’s indignant face in a glance that lasted perhaps a second and a half.

Then she pushed up her veil and said in the most casual voice: “What are you looking at me like that for, dear?”

He stared at her with all his eyes; he did not wish to lose a quiver of her eyelids, or the faintest twitch of her lips. He said slowly:

“Bridget Rousselin has been murdered.”

“Bridget Rousselin⁠—murdered?” she said under her breath.

“Yes. The actress we saw last night, the one who was wearing the bandeau of jewels. You’re not going to tell me that you don’t know who she is, for you’re here, in her house, and you had instructed Leonard to let you know directly he had done the job.”

Her self-control indeed went. With a horror-stricken face and starting eyes, she cried: “Leonard?⁠ ⁠… Leonard?⁠ ⁠… He has⁠—”

“Yes,” declared Ralph. “He’s murdered Bridget Rousselin. I caught him in the very act of throttling her.”

Her legs seemed to fail her; she sank trembling on to a chair and stammered:

“The b-blackguard.⁠ ⁠… The b-b-blackguard.⁠ ⁠… It’s impossible!”

And on a rising inflection in which with each word the note of terror grew clearer and clearer, she cried:

“He’s committed a murder?⁠ ⁠… A murder?⁠ ⁠… It’s impossible!⁠ ⁠… He swore to me that he would never kill!⁠ ⁠… He swore it!⁠ ⁠… I can’t believe it!”

Was she sincere, or was it all comedy? Had Leonard acted in a sudden access of madness, or in accordance with instructions which bade him murder if the ruse failed. Formidable questions to which Ralph could not give the answer.

She raised her head, saw the accusation in his eyes, jerked herself to her feet and with hands outstretched towards him cried: “Why are you looking at me like that, Ralph? Oh, you can’t suspect me of a horrible crime like that! You can’t!⁠ ⁠… You can’t believe that I knew of it.⁠ ⁠… That I ordered or permitted such an abominable crime!⁠ ⁠… Tell me you don’t!”

Almost brutally he caught her by the shoulder and forced her onto the chair again. Then, crossing his arms, he took two or three paces up the room and back; then, catching her again by the shoulder and glaring into her eyes, he said slowly in the accents of an inexorable accuser and even enemy:

“Listen to me, Josine. If you don’t, this very instant, make a clean breast of it and tell me the whole story of this business and all the secret machinations which complicate it, I’m going to treat you as my mortal enemy. I’m going to take you out of this house, by force if I have to, to the nearest police station and denounce you as the accomplice of Leonard in the murder of Bridget Rousselin. Then you can get out of it as best you can. Are you going to tell me, or are you not?”