Two Wills

War was declared, and at the moment chosen by Ralph, a moment at which all the circumstances were in his favor, and Josephine, taken by surprise, weakened before an onslaught of a violence and implacability she had never looked for.

It must not, however, be supposed that a woman of her stamp was going to accept defeat without a struggle. She tried to resist. She would not admit that a tender and charming lover like Ralph d’Andresy could, at a single stroke, stand forth as her master and impose on her the harsh constraint of his will. She had recourse to wheedling, then to tears and promises, to all a woman’s wiles. He showed himself inexorable.

“Will you speak!” he roared. “I’ve had enough of this obscurity. You may take a delight in it. I don’t. I like things perfectly clear.”

“What things do you want me to throw light on?” she cried, exasperated. “My life?”

“Your life is your own affair,” replied Ralph. “Keep your past dark, if you’re afraid to unfold it before my eyes. I’m perfectly well aware that you will always be an enigma to me and everyone else, and that your innocent face will never throw any light on what is going on at the bottom of your soul. But what I want to know is that side of your life which touches mine. We have a common end in view. Let me know the path you are following. If you don’t, I run the risk of getting mixed up in some abominable crime, and that’s the last thing I want.”

He hammered his right fist into his left palm.

“Get that clear, Josine! I will not murder! Rob? Yes. Burgle? Yes. But murder? No! A thousand times no!”

“I don’t wish to murder, either,” she protested.

“Perhaps not. But you let other people murder for you.”

“It’s a lie!”

“Then speak out⁠—explain.”

She wrung her hands and with a groan protested: “I can’t! I can’t!”

“Why? What prevents you from telling me all you know about this business, the things Beaumagnan revealed to you?” he urged.

“I should prefer not to let you get mixed up in this affair, not to let you oppose that man,” she said earnestly.

He burst out laughing. “You’re frightened on my account, perhaps?” he jeered. “A fine excuse! Reassure yourself, Josine. I’m not afraid of Beaumagnan. There’s another adversary I fear much more than him.”

“Who’s that?” she said quickly.


He repeated in harsher accents: “You, my dear. And that’s the reason why I’m so keen on getting the thing clear. When I shall really see you clearly, I shall no longer fear you. Have you made up your mind?”

She shook her head and said slowly: “No, I haven’t!”

Ralph burst out furiously: “That is to say, you don’t trust me. It’s a splendid affair; you wish to keep it entirely to yourself. Right. We’ll be going. You will have a clearer view of the situation outside.”

With that he caught her in his arms and swung her over his shoulder as he had done at their first meeting at the foot of the cliff and, so burdened, walked towards the door.

“Stop!” she said.

This feat of strength, accomplished with an incredible ease, finished her taming. She felt that she had better not provoke him further.

He set her down on her feet. She sank on to a chair and said: “What is it you want to know?”

“Everything. First of all the reason for your coming here and for that scoundrel’s murdering Bridget Rousselin.”

“The bandeau with the stones in it,” she said.

“But they’re worthless⁠—imitation garnets, imitation topazes, opals, beryls⁠—”

“Yes. But there are seven of them.”

“What of it? What was the object of his murdering her? It was so simple to bide your time and ransack her rooms the first chance you got,” he suggested.

“Evidently. But it looked as if other people were on the track of them.”

“Other people?”

“Yes. Early this morning, acting on my instructions, Leonard made inquiries about this Bridget Rousselin, for last night I noticed the bandeau she was wearing; and he reported that people were prowling about this house.”

“People? What people?” he said quickly.

“Emissaries of the Belmonte woman.”

“The woman who is mixed up in the business?” he asked.

“Yes. You find her everywhere.”

“Well, what of it? Was that a reason for murder?”

“He must have lost his head. And it was my fault for telling him that I must have the bandeau at any cost.”

“Well, you see what it is: We’re at the mercy of a brute who loses his head and murders senselessly, stupidly. It’s time to make an end of it, look you. I’m much more strongly inclined to believe that the people who were prowling round this house this morning were emissaries of Beaumagnan. Now you’re not of a force to measure yourself against Beaumagnan. Let me take over the management of the affair. If you want to succeed, it is through me, and through me only, that you will succeed.”

Josine weakened. Ralph asserted his superiority in a tone of such conviction that she had, so to speak, a strong physical impression of it. She saw him greater than he was and more powerful, more richly endowed than any other man she had known, equipped with a more subtle spirit, keener eyes, more diverse methods of action. She bent before this implacable will, before this immense energy that no consideration could turn from its course.

“Very well. I will tell you everything,” she said. “But why here?”

“Here⁠—and nowhere else,” said Ralph firmly, knowing well that if the Countess of Cagliostro was once really herself again, he would obtain nothing.

“Very well,” she said again, in a tone of bitter resignation. “Very well. I give in, since our love is at stake, and you seem to take it so little into account.”

Ralph experienced a sensation of profound pride. For the first time he was conscious of exercising a real ascendancy over others, and of the extraordinary power with which he imposed his decisions on them. Truly the Countess was not in complete command of her usual resources. The supposed murder of Bridget Rousselin had to a considerable degree undermined her power of resistance, and the spectacle of the trussed-up Leonard added to her nervous distress. But how swiftly he had seized his opportunity and profited by his advantage to establish by threats and terrorizing, by force and cunning, his definite victory!

Now, he was the master. He had forced Josephine Balsamo to surrender and at the same time disciplined his own love. Kisses, caresses, seductive wiles, the enchantment of passion, the obsession of desire, he no longer feared any of them, since he had gone to the very verge of a rupture.

He picked up the rug which lay in front of the fire place and rendered Leonard deaf by throwing it over him. Then he went back to Josine and sat down facing her.

“Fire away,” he said.

“Since you will have it,” she said in a tone of resignation, “we’ll go straight through with it and make an end of it as quickly as possible. I’ll spare you the details and come to the main facts straight away. It won’t take long, and it won’t be complicated. Two and twenty years ago then, during the months which preceded the Franco-Prussian war, Cardinal de Bonnechose, Archbishop of Rouen and senator, making a confirmation tour through the Caux country, was caught in a terrible storm and had to take shelter in the Château de Gueures, which was at that time inhabited by its last owner, the Chevalier des Aubes. He dined there. That night, as he was about to go to the bedroom they had got ready for him, the Chevalier des Aubes, an old man of nearly eighty, decrepit, but in full possession of his faculties, asked for a private interview with him. This was at once granted and lasted a long time. Here is a resumé of the revelations to which the cardinal listened, a resumé which he himself drew up later, of which I shall not change a single word. I know it by heart:

“ ‘Monseigneur,’ the chevalier began, ‘I shall not astonish you by saying that my early years were spent in the middle of the great revolutionary tumult. At the time of the Terror I was twelve years old. I was an orphan, and every day I accompanied my aunt des Aubes to the neighboring prison, where she distributed the little money she could spare and tended the sick. They imprisoned all kinds of unfortunates and tried and condemned them as the fancy took them. So it came about that I saw a good deal of a gentleman whose name no one knew, or why he had been arrested, or who had denounced him. The attentions I paid him and my piety won his confidence. He grew fond of me, and on the evening of the day on which he had been tried and condemned, he said to me:

“ ‘ “At dawn tomorrow, my child, the gendarmes are coming to conduct me to the scaffold, and I shall die without anyone knowing who I am. That is exactly as I wish it to be. I shall not even tell you. But circumstances render it necessary that I should entrust certain secrets to you and demand that you should listen to them as if you were grown up and later deal with them with the loyalty and coolness of a man. The mission with which I charge you is of the highest importance. I feel confident that you will be able to rise to the height of such a task and to keep, whatever happens, a secret in which the most important interests are involved.”

“ ‘Thereupon he informed me that he was a priest and, as such, the depositary of incalculable riches, in the form of precious stones of such quality that in each the highest possible value was attained in the smallest possible bulk. As they were acquired these precious stones had been hidden in the most original hiding-place in the world. In a corner of the Caux country, on common land on which everyone is at liberty to set foot, stands one of those huge blocks of stone which used to serve, and still serves, to mark the boundary of certain properties, of fields, orchards, meadows, woods, and so forth. This block of granite, with only its top above the earth and surrounded by bushes, had two or three natural holes in the top of it, filled up with earth in which grew small plants and wild flowers. Through one of these openings from which they carefully removed and replaced the lump of soil which closed it, into this open-air strongbox, they let fall these magnificent precious stones.

“ ‘The cavities in the stones had actually been filled with them, and since no other hiding-place had yet been chosen they had put the stones which had been acquired during the last few years into a sandalwood box which, a few days before his arrest, the priest had himself buried at the foot of the block of stone.

“ ‘He gave me directions for finding the place and communicated to me a formula, composed of a unique word, which, in the case of my forgetting the directions, would give me the hiding-place beyond any possibility of error.

“ ‘He then exacted a promise from me that, when peaceful times returned, that is to say, at a date which he accurately reckoned to be twenty years ahead, I should first go and make sure that everything was in its place, and that starting from that date I should be present at the high mass celebrated in the church of the village of Gueures every Easter Sunday.

“ ‘One Easter Sunday I should see a man dressed in black beside the holy water font. As soon as I should tell this man in black my name, he would take me close to the altar and point to a copper candlestick with seven branches, the candles in which were only lighted on feast-days. In response to this action of his I was to confide to him the formula which revealed the hiding-place.

“ ‘Those were the two signs by which we should recognize one another; and after exchanging them I was to lead him to the block of granite.

“ ‘I swore upon my eternal salvation to follow blindly the instructions he had given me. Next day the worthy priest mounted the scaffold.

“ ‘Although I was very young, monseigneur, when I took that oath, I have kept it religiously. On the death of my aunt des Aubes I enlisted as a drummer boy and went through all the wars of the Directoire and the Empire. On the fall of Napoleon, at the age of thirty, I was dismissed from the army, in which I had risen to the rank of colonel. My first step was to make my way to the hiding-place of the jewels. I easily found the block of granite. Then on the Easter Sunday of 1816, at Gueures church I saw on the altar the copper candlestick. That Sunday the man in black was not standing by the holy water font.

“ ‘I went to that church the next Easter Sunday and every Easter Sunday since, for in the meantime I had bought the Château de Gueures and after the manner of a scrupulous soldier I kept watch at the post assigned to me. I waited.

“ ‘I have been waiting fifty years, monseigneur. No one has come. Not only has no one come but I have never heard a word from anyone’s lips which had the slightest connection with the affair. The block of granite is in its place. Every Easter Sunday the verger lights the candles in the seven branches of the candlestick. But the man in black has never come to the meeting-place.

“ ‘What was I to do? To whom was I to address myself? Enter into communication with some ecclesiastical authority? Ask for an audience of the King of France? No. My mission was strictly defined. I had no right to interpret it in my own way.

“ ‘I remained silent. But after how many debates in my own mind! After what anguish at the thought that I might die and carry to my grave a secret of this immense importance!

“ ‘This evening, monseigneur, all my doubts and scruples have vanished. Your fortuitous coming to the château appears to me an undeniable manifestation of the Divine will. You are at once the spiritual and temporal power. As Archbishop you represent the Church. As senator you represent France. I run no risk of making a mistake in making a revelation to you of such interest both to the one and the other. Hence it is for you to make the choice, monseigneur. Take the matter in hand, make the necessary negotiations. And when you tell me into whose hands this sacred stone should be delivered, I will reveal its hiding-place!’

“Cardinal Bonnechose had listened to the story without interrupting. But at the end of it he told the chevalier frankly that he found it rather hard to credit. Thereupon the chevalier left the room and came back in a couple of minutes carrying a small sandalwood casket.

“ ’Here is the casket of which the dead priest told me,’ he said. ‘I found it buried in front of the block of granite; and I though it wiser to have it here. Take it away with you, monseigneur, and have the several hundred precious stones it contains valued. You will then be satisfied that the story I have told you is true, and that that worthy priest was right to talk about incalculable riches, since the block of granite contains⁠—so he assured me⁠—ten thousand stones as fine as these.’

“The insistence of the chevalier and this proof which he adduced, prevailed with the cardinal. He undertook to make the necessary investigations and to summon the old gentleman to him as soon as he had discovered the proper destination of the treasure.

“The interview ended with this promise. The Archbishop had the firmest intention of fulfilling it; but the events which followed delayed him. These events, as you know, were the declaration of war on Germany and the disasters which followed it. The heavy duties of his double task took up all his time. The Empire fell in ruin. France was invaded. Months passed.

“When Rouen was threatened, the cardinal, desirous of sending to England certain documents which he reckoned of great importance, decided to send with them the sandalwood casket. On the fourth of December, the eve of the entry of the Germans into Rouen, a confidential servant of the name of Jaubert drove off in a dogcart along the road to Havre, where he was to embark.

“Two days later the cardinal learned that the body of Jaubert had been found in the forest of Rouvray, in a ravine ten kilometers from Rouen. The case containing the documents was brought back to him. The horse, the dogcart, and the sandalwood casket had disappeared. Investigation made it clear that the unfortunate servant had fallen in with a squadron of German cavalry making a reconnaissance beyond Rouen and robbing and murdering the well-to-do inhabitants of that town, flying to Havre in their carriages.

“Then came another piece of bad luck. At the beginning of January the cardinal had word that the Chevalier des Aubes, brokenhearted at the defeat of his country, had not survived it. Before dying he had sent a message to the cardinal. It ran:

“ ‘The word of the formula which reveals the position of the block of granite is carved on the inside of the lid of casket.⁠ ⁠… I have buried the candlestick in my garden.’

“So nothing whatever was left. The casket had been stolen, nothing was left to prove the truth that the story of the Chevalier des Aubes contained a word of truth. No one had examined the stones. Were they real, or were they imitation? Did the sandalwood casket merely contain some stage jewels and colored pebbles?

“Little by little doubt invaded the mind of the cardinal, a doubt so tenacious that in the end he decided to keep silent about the matter. The narrative of the Chevalier des Aubes must be considered an old man’s wanderings. It would be dangerous to spread abroad such trash. Therefore he would keep silence. But⁠—”

“But?” repeated Ralph, whom such trash interested enormously.

“But, before finally making up his mind,” Josephine went on, “he wrote out this memorandum concerning his visit to the Château de Gueures and the events which followed it, and either it got mislaid, or he forgot all about it; and some years after his death it was found in one of his theological books when his library was sold by auction.”

“Who found it?” said Ralph sharply.


She had related this story, with her head a little bowed, in the rather monotonous voice of a schoolgirl reciting a lesson she has learned by heart. When now she raised her eyes, she was astonished by Ralph’s expression.

“What on earth’s the matter with you?” she said quickly, staring at him.

“I find all this immensely exciting,” he said. “Consider, Josine: step by step, by the confidential information of three old men, who have passed on the torch from one to the other, we go back rather more than a century, and there we come into touch with a legend⁠—what do I say? with a formidable secret rather⁠—which goes back to the Middle Ages. The chain is unbroken. Every link is in its place. And as the last link in this chain behold Beaumagnan. What has Beaumagnan done? Must we declare him worthy of his role, or relieve him of it? Am I to ally myself with him or tear the torch from his hand?”

Ralph’s exaltation made it quite clear to Josephine that he would not allow her to break off her narrative. She hesitated, however, for the most important words, perhaps⁠—at any rate, the most serious⁠—remained to be spoken, the words which assigned to her her role.

But he said sharply: “Go on, Josine. The path that lies before us is magnificent. We will tread it together and together we will enjoy the reward which is waiting for us at the end of it.”

This was fairly reassuring; and she went on:

“Beaumagnan is explained in one word; and that word is ‘ambition.’ From the very beginning he made his religious vocation, which is real enough, the servant of his ambition, which is boundless; and the two of them guided him into the Society of Jesus, in which he holds a post of considerable importance. The discovery of the cardinal’s memorandum made him lose his head. Immense vistas have opened before him. He succeeded in convincing some of his superiors that this treasure really exists, inflamed them with the lust for incalculable wealth, and persuaded them to put at his disposal all the influence which the Jesuits possess, to help him in this enterprise.

“Then he gathered round him a dozen country gentlemen, more or less honorable and more or less in debt, to whom he revealed only a part of the affair and whom he has trained to be a band of conspirators ready for any task. Each of them has his sphere of action, each his sphere of investigation; and he holds them by the money he lavishes on them.

“Two years of careful and minute investigation have produced results by no means negligible. First of all they have learned that the priest who was guillotined was Brother Nicolas, treasurer of Fécamp Abbey. Then, by dint of ransacking secret archives and old records, they have discovered a curious correspondence formerly carried on between all the monasteries in France; and it appears to be established that since a very remote time there was throughout the country a current of money, which was in the nature of a tithe paid by all the religious institutions, that flowed only into the monasteries of the Caux country. This seems to have constituted a common treasure, an inexhaustible reserve in view of possible attacks to be repelled, or crusades to be undertaken. A treasury council, composed of seven members, handled this wealth, but only one of them knew its hiding-place.

“The Revolution destroyed all the monasteries. But the treasure existed. Brother Nicolas was its last guardian.”

A prolonged silence followed her narrative. Ralph’s curiosity had not been disappointed; and he was deeply moved. He murmured with restrained enthusiasm:

“But how splendid it is! What a magnificent adventure! I have always been perfectly certain that the past has bequeathed to the present fabulous treasures, the search for which inevitably takes the form of solving an almost insoluble problem. How could it be otherwise? Unlike us, our ancestors had not at their disposal the strongrooms and cellars of the Bank of France. They were obliged to choose natural hiding-places in which they heaped up their gold and jewels, and the secret of which they passed on by means of some mnemonical formula which was, so to speak, the key of the lock. Let a catastrophe occur, the secret was lost, and so was the treasure so painfully accumulated.”

His excitement was increasing, and he cried joyfully: “But this treasure shall not be lost, Josine; and it is one of the most fantastic of all of them. If Brother Nicolas spoke the truth⁠—and everything goes to show that he did speak the truth⁠—if the ten thousand precious stones were dropped into this strange strongbox, one can reckon this property left by the Middle Ages,3 this result of the efforts of millions of monks, this gigantic offering of a whole Christian people during the great epoch of fanaticism, everything that is in the bowels of a boundary stone in a meadow in Normandy at something like a thousand million francs! It’s wonderful!”

Abruptly he moved to the couch on which Josephine was sitting and sat down beside her as if he wished to cut short his declaiming and demanded in imperious accents:

“And what has your role been in this adventure, Josine? What is your contribution to it? Have you any special information from Cagliostro?”

“Only a few words,” she said. “On the list of the four enigmas which he left and which is in my possession, he has written against this one and against The Fortune of The Kings of France this note: ‘Between Rouen, le Havre, and Dieppe. (So Marie-Antoinette declared.).’ ”

“Yes⁠—yes⁠—the Caux country⁠ ⁠… the estuary of the ancient river on the banks of which the Kings of France and the monks so prospered,” Ralph murmured thoughtfully. “It is undoubtedly there that they have hidden the savings of ten centuries of rule and ten centuries of religion.⁠ ⁠… The two coffers are there⁠—not far from one another naturally⁠—and it is there that I shall find them.”

Then, turning towards Josine, he added: “So you were hunting for them, too?”

“Yes, but without any precise data.”

“And another woman was looking for them as well as you?” he said, looking into the depths of her eyes. “The woman who murdered Beaumagnan’s two confederates.”

“Yes. The Marquise de Belmonte, who is, I suppose, another descendant of Cagliostro,” she said.

“And you found nothing?”

“Nothing till the day on which I met Beaumagnan.”

“Who wished to avenge the murder of his two friends, what?”


“And little by little Beaumagnan told you everything he knew?” he continued.


“Of his own accord?”

“Of his own accord.”

“That is to say, you guessed he was aiming at the same goal as you, and you took advantage of the love with which you inspired him to lead him on to confide in you?”

“Yes,” she said frankly.

“It was a big game you were playing.”

“As it turned out, I was staking my life. In making up his mind to kill me he was undoubtedly actuated by the desire to rid himself of the love which was a torture to him, since I did not respond to it. And over and above that he was terrified at having revealed these secrets to me. I had suddenly become the enemy who might reach the goal before he did. The day he saw the mistake he had made I was doomed.”

“Yet his revelations were, after all, nothing but some historical data, and vague at that,” he objected.

“That’s all they were,” she admitted.

“And the branch of the candlestick which I got out of the little pillar was the first piece of definite evidence that came to light?”

“The very first.”

“At least I suppose it was. For there is nothing to show that, after your rupture, he did not advance a step or two himself,” suggested Ralph.

“A step or two?” she exclaimed in a tone of dismay.

“Certainly, one step,” he declared. “Last night Beaumagnan went to the theater. Why, if not for the reason that Bridget Rousselin wore across her forehead a bandeau set with seven jewels. He wished to learn what it meant; and it was undoubtedly he who had her house watched this morning.”

“Admitting that it is so, there is no way of our knowing it,” she objected.

“Oh, yes; there is,” he said.

“How? Who from?” she said quickly.

“Bridget Rousselin.”

“Bridget Rousselin?” she cried.

“Certainly. We’ve got to question her.”

“Question that woman?”

“Yes, that woman.”

“Then⁠—then⁠—she’s⁠—she’s alive!”

“Well, yes; she is.”

He rose again, pivoted on his heels once or twice in a sketchy little dance that was half cancan, half jig, and said:

“I beg you, Countess of Cagliostro, not to look at me with such furious eyes. If I hadn’t given you a bit of a shock with a view to weaken your power of resistance, you would not have whispered a word of that interesting story; and where should we be now? One day or other Beaumagnan would have scooped up the thousand millions and left poor little Josephine biting her nails. So come now! A sweet smile instead of that horrid scowl.”

“You had the audacity⁠ ⁠… You dared⁠ ⁠… And all those threats⁠ ⁠… All that pressure to make me speak⁠ ⁠… It was a farce! I’ll never forgive you⁠—never!”

“Oh, yes you will,” he said in a cheerful, mocking tone. “You’ll forgive me all right⁠—when you’ve recovered from that little wound to your vanity. All this has nothing to do with our love, you know. It counts for nothing between people devoted to one another, like us. One day one scratches, next day the other⁠ ⁠… until perfect concord is attained on every point.”

“Always supposing a rupture does not take place first,” she said between her teeth.

“A rupture? A rupture merely because I’ve relieved you of a few little secrets?”

But Josephine still looked so flabbergasted that he had to laugh outright, and fairly dancing up and down, like a delighted child, he went on:

“Lord, madam is annoyed!⁠ ⁠… And just because I’ve tried one of her own little tricks on her!⁠ ⁠… Really you ought not to lose your temper about a little thing like that.⁠ ⁠… It makes me laugh.”

She was no longer paying any attention to him. She pulled the rug off Leonard, pulled the handkerchief out of his mouth, and cut through his bonds.

Leonard leaped at Ralph, like a wild beast unchained.

“Don’t touch him!” she cried.

Leonard stopped short, shaking his fist in Ralph’s face.

“Behold the myrmidon!” said Ralph, laughing again. “Jumping up like a jack-in-the-box!”

Beside himself, the man foamed at the mouth and cried: “We shall meet again, my lad⁠—we shall meet again⁠—and if it isn’t for a hundred years⁠—”

“You also reckon in centuries⁠—like your mistress,” said Ralph.

“Go,” said Josephine, pushing Leonard towards the door. “Go. You will bring back the carriage.”

They exchanged a few words quickly, in a language Ralph did not understand; and the man went.

Then she turned to Ralph and said in a bitter voice: “And now?”


“Yes. What do you intend to do?”

“My intentions are perfectly honorable⁠—angelic in fact⁠—”

“Enough of this fooling! What do you mean to do? How do you propose to act?” she said sharply.

Of a sudden serious, he said: “I promise to act very differently from you who are always full of suspicion. I shall be what you have never been, a loyal friend who would blush to injure you.”

“That is to say?”

“That is to say I’m going to put the indispensable questions to Bridget Rousselin, and to put them so that you can hear her answers. Does that suit you?”

“Yes,” she said, but in a tone that showed that she was still irritated.

“In that case, stay here. It won’t take long. There’s no time to lose.”

“No time to lose?”

“No. Listen and you’ll understand. Don’t stir.”

Thereupon, leaving open the two doors of communication so that every word could be heard clearly, he went to the bed on which Bridget was lying.

The young actress smiled at him. In spite of her fear and of the fact that she had not caught a sound of what had been going on, she had at the sight of her deliverer a sense of security and confidence very comforting.

“I shan’t tire you,” he said. “I want to ask you a few questions. Are you in condition to answer them?”


“Ah well, you have been the victim of a madman of sorts whom the police have been watching and whom they’re going to shut up. So there is no longer any danger. But I want you to clear up a point if you can.”

“What is it?”

“What is this bandeau set with jewels? Who did you get it from?” he said.

He perceived that she hesitated. However she said: “They are stones I found in an old casket.”

“A wooden casket?” he asked quickly.

“Yes⁠—all smashed and not even locked. It was hidden under a heap of straw in a loft in the little house in the country my mother lived in.”


“At Lillebonne, between Rouen and le Havre.”

“I know. And where did the casket come from?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I never asked my mother.”

“You found the stones in the box just as they are now?”

“No. They were set in large silver rings,” she said.

“And those rings?”

“I had them last night in my makeup box at the theater; and a gentleman who came behind to compliment me on my acting caught sight of them and took a fancy to them.”

“Was he alone?”

“No. He had two friends with him. It seems he is a collector; and I let him have the rings then and there and promised to take the stones to him today at three o’clock that he might restore them to their original settings. He is going to give me a good price for them.”

“Have these rings inscriptions on the inside?” he asked.

“Yes: words in old-fashioned writing. But I never bothered about them.”

Ralph considered. Then he said in a very serious voice: “I advise you to keep this business a dead secret. If you don’t, it may have very unpleasant results, not for you, but for your mother. It’s uncommonly odd that she should have rings, of no great value in themselves perhaps, but of extraordinary historical interest, hidden in her house.”

Bridget was alarmed and cried: “I’m quite ready to give them up!”

“There’s no point in that. Take care of the stones. I’m going to demand, in your name the restitution of the rings. Where does this gentleman live?”

“Rue de Vangirard.”

“What’s his name?”


“Good. And one last word of advice,” said Ralph. “Leave this house. It is too isolated. And for some time⁠—say for a month⁠—go and live with your maid at an hotel. And don’t receive strange visitors. Is it agreed?”


He left her, shutting the door behind him; and they went downstairs. Josephine waited for him in the street while he released Valentine.

When he came out, Josephine slipped her arm through his. She seemed greatly disturbed and to have forgotten her anger and desire for revenge.

“Do I rightly understand that you’re going to his house?” she said anxiously.

“Beaumagnan’s? Yes.”

“But it’s madness!”


“Go to Beaumagnan’s at a time when you know that the other two are with him?” she cried.

“Two and one are three,” he said cheerfully.

“For goodness’ sake, don’t go!”

“Why ever not? Do you suppose they’ll eat me?” he said scornfully.

“Beaumagnan will stick at nothing,” she protested.

“Is he a cannibal?”

“There’s nothing to laugh at, dear.”

“Don’t cry, my Josine.”

He felt that her fear for him was genuine, and that in a fresh access of tenderness, she was forgetting their disagreement.

“Don’t go, dear,” she repeated. “I know Beaumagnan’s flat. Those ruffians will attack you; and there’s no chance of anyone being able to help you.”

“All the better, for in that case no one will be able to help them either,” he said calmly.

“You will make a joke of it, Ralph. Nevertheless⁠—”

He squeezed her arm; and said in a reassuring tone:

“Now, listen to me, Josine. I come into a colossal affair long after everyone else and find yourself confronted by two powerful organizations, yours and Beaumagnan’s. Both of them, very naturally, refuse to welcome me, the third person to share the loot, so that either I’ve got to play a big game or remain negligible. Let me then deal with our enemy Beaumagnan as I’ve dealt with my little friend Josine. You must admit that I managed her fairly well and that I have more than one string to my bow.”

Once more he offended her. She drew her arm out of his; walked on side by side in silence.

In his heart of hearts he asked himself whether his most relentless foe was not this gentle, pretty lady, whom he so passionately loved and by whom he was loved so passionately.