Three people are sitting together in front of the fireplace in a manor house in Brie. They are the retired Colonel Delmare, a successful industrialist who “made everyone tremble”; his nineteen-year-old wife, Indiana, seated in the corner; and a handsome young man with an “insipid” face, Sir Ralph Brown. Delmare is forever alert for any sign of romantic feeling between his frail, sickly wife and this young man, but he sees none. Delmare’s dog, Ophelia, is with them. When the dog begins to demand affection, the Colonel sends it to the kennel; Indiana, pale and wan, clutches at the dog when Delmare raises his riding crop, and she begs him not to kill the dog. Delmare falters at the look on her face but then complains that she is continually red eyed and emaciated. Ralph takes the opportunity to let the dog out.
Delmare asks Indiana how she is. When she responds vaguely, he says he knows that she has told Ralph she is unwell. A steward enters to say he suspects wood thieves have been on the grounds and asks for a hunting rifle. Indiana is distressed at the idea that her husband might kill a peasant over some wood. She also observes that it is raining and that if Delmare goes out, it will make his rheumatism worse, but Delmare leaves in a foul temper.
Indiana gently reproves Ralph for having told her husband she was feeling unwell. Ralph says the Colonel is a worthy man and that Indiana has no need to be so sad and in such ill health. He realizes he is being clumsy and begs her to remember their childhood on Bourbon Island and prove him wrong by getting well again. He reminds her that she has wealth and a devoted husband, as well as his own devotion to her. The pair sit hand in hand for a time when Ralph realizes he is saying all the wrong things. Indiana is in poor health and has worn nerves; she says she feels a danger is hanging over her.
Ralph lays her on the settee. Noun, Indiana’s maid—who, like her, is Creole—enters. She is looking bedraggled, and she and Ralph attend to the prone Indiana. Noun and Indiana were brought up together and are extremely close. Indiana wakes and asks why Noun is in such a poor state, saying she is getting thin.
Noun asks if Indiana knows that her husband has set out to kill a man. She is so anxious that Ralph finds her manner strange, and he tells Noun she is frightening her mistress. A few moments later, a shot is heard, and a man, blood-stained, is carried onto the verandah.
The steward says the man was not shot but fell, startled by the gunshot; he is well-dressed and appears to have money. Delmare tells his wife it is not his fault if the man is dead, and is embarrassed by having behaved badly. Then a servant tells him he thinks the 'thief' is a young landowner who was seen speaking to Noun at a village fair earlier in the week. Delmare is immediately suspicious as to why Indiana is so interested in the fate of this man.
When Delmare enters the makeshift sick room, Indiana tells him that the man is not dead and will recover. Delmare demands to know who he is and why he is here. When Indiana says she doesn’t know, he says he will find out. He then calls back the servant who claimed to know the man’s identity. The servant says it is Monsieur de Ramière, who has recently moved to the area....
(The entire section contains 929 words.)
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