picking a few vegetables, on which he lived. He fished, he went shooting; several times the gamekeepers just missed catching him and reporting him to the authorities. This free life, the material resources of which the peasants could not well account for, had at last given him a bad name. He was vaguely spoken of as a poacher. At all events, he was lazy, for he was often found asleep in the grass at times when he ought to have been at work. The hut in which he lived, under the first trees of the forest, did not look like an honest fellow's dwelling either. If he had had business with the wolves of the old ruins of Gagny, it would not have surprised the old women. Yet the girls would, now and then, have the audacity to stand up for him; for this suspicious man was a superb fellow, tall and supple as a poplar, with a very white skin, and fair beard and hair that shone like gold in the sun. So, one fine morning, Françoise declared to her father that she loved Dominique, and that she would never consent to marry any one else.
You can imagine what a blow old Merlier received that day. He said nothing, as usual. He always looked thoughtful in the face; only his internal jollity stopped sparkling in his eyes. The two did not speak for a week. Françoise, too, was very grave. What bothered old Merlier was to make out how in the world that rascal of a