THE mist was like cotton. Wrapped in it they gathered up the mushrooms: delicate, plump, velvet, born of a shower perhaps, or a miracle that drew from the earth these cowls, these shapes of mysterious life compounded of tiny whitened folds. Above, the lofty trunks and the smell of dead leaves awoke memories of peasant fore-fathers. Through the mist lost and nostalgic cows bellowed in concert with tugboats on the river.

  In a patch free of fog, scarcely the size of the attic of a house, Frederic, with a mushroom in his hand, reflected on his situation. A long and fruitless quest had led him to the rare specimen that he now held between thumb and forefinger, not knowing where to put it, brooding over its brown hemisphere like Hamlet over a skull. In this indecisive state he was surprised by Rosine. “Not a very good spot,”, he said to her, to be polite. She pushed a few blond strands back beneath her silk scarf.