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Title: 813
Author: Leblanc, Maurice, 1864-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "813" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: "You are the visitor I was expecting"]



THE INTERNATIONAL
ADVENTURE LIBRARY

[Illustration]

THREE OWLS EDITION

813

BY MAURICE LEBLANC

Author of "Arsene Lupin," "The Blonde Lady,"
"The Hollow Needle," Etc.

_Translated by Alexander Teixeira De Mottos_

W. R. CALDWELL & CO.
NEW YORK

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION
INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN

COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY MAURICE LEBLANC

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



      TRANSLATOR'S NOTE

      A zealous reader, collating the translation of this
      book with the original, would hit upon certain
      differences. These are due to alterations made, in
      most case, by the author himself, and, in all cases,
      with his full approval.

      A. T. DE M.

      CHELSEA, England, August, 1910.



    CONTENTS
                                                    CONTENTS
    Translator's Note                                      v
    I.          THE TRAGEDY AT THE PALACE HOTEL            3
    II.         THE BLUE-EDGED LABEL                      31
    III.        M. LENORMAND OPENS HIS CAMPAIGN           55
    IV.         PRINCE SERNINE AT WORK                    75
    V.          M. LENORMAND AT WORK                     114
    VI.         M. LENORMAND SUCCUMBS                    137
    VII.        PARBURY-RIBEIRA-ALTENHEIM                162
    VIII.       THE OLIVE-GREEN FROCK-COAT               192
    IX.         "SANTÉ PALACE"                           219
    X.          LUPIN'S GREAT SCHEME                     254
    XI.         CHARLEMAGNE                              272
    XII.        THE EMPEROR'S LETTERS                    291
    XIII.       THE SEVEN SCOUNDRELS                     324
    XIV.        THE MAN IN BLACK                         352
    XV.         THE MAP OF EUROPE                        379
    XVI.        ARSÈNE LUPIN'S THREE MURDERS             405
    EPILOGUE.   THE SUICIDE                              434



813

CHAPTER I

THE TRAGEDY AT THE PALACE HOTEL


Mr. Kesselbach stopped short on the threshold of the sitting-room, took
his secretary's arm and, in an anxious voice, whispered:

"Chapman, some one has been here again."

"Surely not, sir," protested the secretary. "You have just opened the
hall-door yourself; and the key never left your pocket while we were
lunching in the restaurant."

"Chapman, some one has been here again," Mr. Kesselbach repeated. He
pointed to a traveling-bag on the mantelpiece. "Look, I can prove it.
That bag was shut. It is now open."

Chapman protested.

"Are you quite sure that you shut it, sir? Besides, the bag contains
nothing but odds and ends of no value, articles of dress. . . ."

"It contains nothing else, because I took my pocket-book out before we
went down, by way of precaution. . . . But for that. . . . No, Chapman,
I tell you, some one has been here while we were at lunch."

There was a telephone on the wall. He took down the receiver:

"Hallo! . . . I'm Mr. Kesselbach. . . . Suite 415 . . . That's right.
. . . Mademoiselle, would you please put me on to the Prefecture of
Police . . . the detective department. . . . I know the number . . . one
second . . . Ah, here it is! Number 822.48. . . . I'll hold the line."

A moment later he continued:

"Are you 822.48? I should like a word with M. Lenormand, the chief of
the detective-service. My name's Kesselbach. . . . Hullo! . . . Yes, the
chief detective knows what it's about. He has given me leave to ring him
up. . . . Oh, he's not there? . . . To whom am I speaking? . . .
Detective-sergeant Gourel? . . . You were there yesterday, were you not,
when I called on M. Lenormand? Well, the same thing that I told M.
Lenormand yesterday has occurred again to-day. . . . Some one has
entered the suite which I am occupying. And, if you come at once, you
may be able to discover some clues. . . . In an hour or two? All right;
thanks. . . . You have only to ask for suite 415. . . . Thank you
again."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rudolf Kesselbach, nicknamed alternatively the King of Diamonds and the
Lord of the Cape, possessed a fortune estimated at nearly twenty
millions sterling. For the past week, he had occupied suite 415, on the
fourth floor of the Palace Hotel, consisting of three rooms, of which
the two larger, on the right, the sitting-room and the principal
bedroom, faced the avenue; while the other, on the left, in which
Chapman, the secretary, slept, looked out on the Rue de Judée.

Adjoining this bedroom, a suite of five rooms had been reserved for Mrs.
Kesselbach, who was to leave Monte Carlo, where she was at present
staying, and join her husband the moment she heard from him.

Rudolf Kesselbach walked up and down for a few minutes with a thoughtful
air. He was a tall man, with a ruddy complexion, and still young; and
his dreamy eyes, which showed pale blue through his gold-rimmed
spectacles, gave him an expression of gentleness and shyness that
contrasted curiously with the strength of the square forehead and the
powerfully-developed jaws.

He went to the window: it was fastened. Besides, how could any one have
entered that way? The private balcony that ran round the flat broke off
on the right and was separated on the left by a stone channel from the
balconies in the Rue de Judée.

He went to his bedroom: it had no communication with the neighboring
rooms. He went to his secretary's bedroom: the door that led into the
five rooms reserved for Mrs. Kesselbach was locked and bolted.

"I can't understand it at all, Chapman. Time after time I have noticed
things here . . . funny things, as you must admit. Yesterday, my
walking-stick was moved. . . . The day before that, my papers had
certainly been touched. . . . And yet how was it possible? . . .

"It is not possible, sir!" cried Chapman, whose honest, placid features
displayed no anxiety. "You're imagining things, that's all. . . . You
have no proof, nothing but impressions, to go upon. . . . Besides, look
here: there is no way into this suite except through the entrance-lobby.
Very well. You had a special key made on the day of our arrival: and
your own man, Edwards, has the only duplicate. Do you trust him?"

"Of course I do! . . . He's been with me for ten years! . . . But
Edwards goes to lunch at the same time that we do; and that's a mistake.
He must not go down, in future, until we come back."

Chapman gave a slight shrug of the shoulders. There was no doubt about
it, the Lord of the Cape was becoming a trifle eccentric, with those
incomprehensible fears of his. What risk can you run in an hotel,
especially when you carry no valuables, no important sum of money on you
or with you?

They heard the hall-door opening. It was Edwards. Mr. Kesselbach called
him:

"Are you dressed, Edwards? Ah, that's right! . . . I am expecting no
visitors to-day, Edwards . . . or, rather, one visitor only, M. Gourel.
Meantime, remain in the lobby and keep an eye on the door. Mr. Chapman
and I have some serious work to do."

The serious work lasted for a few minutes, during which Mr. Kesselbach
went through his correspondence, read three or four letters and gave
instructions how they were to be answered. But, suddenly, Chapman,
waiting with pen poised, saw that Mr. Kesselbach was thinking of
something quite different from his correspondence. He was holding
between his fingers and attentively examining a pin, a black pin bent
like a fish-hook:

"Chapman," he said, "look what I've found on the table. This bent pin
obviously means something. It's a proof, a material piece of evidence.
You can't pretend now that no one has been in the room. For, after all,
this pin did not come here of itself."

"Certainly not," replied the secretary. "It came here through me."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, it's a pin which I used to fasten my tie to my collar. I took it
out last night, while you were reading, and I twisted it mechanically."

Mr. Kesselbach rose from his chair, with a great air of vexation, took a
few steps and stopped.

"You're laughing at me, Chapman, I feel you are . . . and you're quite
right. . . . I won't deny it, I have been rather . . . odd, since my
last journey to the Cape. It's because . . . well . . . you don't know
the new factor in my life . . . a tremendous plan . . . a huge thing
. . . I can only see it, as yet, in the haze of the future . . . but
it's taking shape for all that . . . and it will be something colossal.
. . . Ah, Chapman, you can't imagine. . . . Money I don't care a fig
for: I have money, I have too much money. . . . But this, this means a
great deal more; it means power, might, authority. If the reality comes
up to my expectations, I shall be not only Lord of the Cape, but lord of
other realms as well. . . . Rudolf Kesselbach, the son of the Augsburg
ironmonger, will be on a par with many people who till now have looked
down upon him. . . . He will even take precedence of them, Chapman; he
will, take precedence of them, mark my words . . . and, if ever I . . ."

He interrupted himself, looked at Chapman as though he regretted having
said too much and, nevertheless, carried away by his excitement,
concluded:

"You now understand the reasons of my anxiety, Chapman. . . . Here, in
this brain, is an idea that is worth a great deal . . . and this idea
is suspected perhaps . . . and I am being spied upon. . . . I'm
convinced of it. . . ."

A bell sounded.

"The telephone," said Chapman.

"Could it," muttered Kesselbach, "by any chance be . . . ?" He took down
the instrument. "Hullo! . . . Who? The Colonel? Ah, good! Yes, it's I.
. . . Any news? . . . Good! . . . Then I shall expect you. . . . You
will come with one of your men? Very well. . . . What? No, we shan't be
disturbed. . . . I will give the necessary orders. . . . It's as serious
as that, is it? . . . I tell you, my instructions will be positive.
. . . my secretary and my man shall keep the door; and no one shall be
allowed in. . . . You know the way, don't you? . . . Then don't lose a
minute."

He hung up the receiver and said:

"Chapman, there are two gentlemen coming. Edwards will show them in.
. . ."

"But M. Gourel . . . the detective-sergeant. . . . ?"

"He will come later . . . in an hour. . . . And, even then, there's no
harm in their meeting. So send Edwards down to the office at once, to
tell them. I am at home to nobody . . . except two gentlemen, the
Colonel and his friend, and M. Gourel. He must make them take down the
names."

Chapman did as he was asked. When he returned to the room, he found Mr.
Kesselbach holding in his hand an envelope, or, rather, a little
pocket-case, in black morocco leather, apparently empty. He seemed to
hesitate, as though he did not know what to do with it. Should he put
it in his pocket or lay it down elsewhere? At last he went to the
mantelpiece and threw the leather envelope into his traveling-bag:

"Let us finish the mail, Chapman. We have ten minutes left. Ah, a letter
from Mrs. Kesselbach! Why didn't you tell me of it, Chapman? Didn't you
recognize the handwriting?"

He made no attempt to conceal the emotion which he felt in touching and
contemplating that paper which his wife had held in her fingers and to
which she had added a look of her eyes, an atom of her scent, a
suggestion of her secret thoughts. He inhaled its perfume and, unsealing
it, read the letter slowly in an undertone, in fragments that reached
Chapman's ears:

      "Feeling a little tired. . . . Shall keep my room
      to-day. . . . I feel so bored. . . . When can I come
      to you? I am longing for your wire. . . ."

"You telegraphed this morning, Chapman? Then Mrs. Kesselbach will be
here to-morrow, Wednesday."

He seemed quite gay, as though the weight of his business had been
suddenly relieved and he freed from all anxiety. He rubbed his hands and
heaved a deep breath, like a strong man certain of success, like a lucky
man who possessed happiness and who was big enough to defend himself.

"There's some one ringing, Chapman, some one ringing at the hall door.
Go and see who it is."

But Edwards entered and said:

"Two gentlemen asking for you, sir. They are the ones. . . ."

"I know. Are they there, in the lobby?"

"Yes, sir."

"Close the hall-door and don't open it again except to M. Gourel, the
detective-sergeant. You go and bring the gentlemen in, Chapman, and tell
them that I would like to speak to the Colonel first, to the Colonel
alone."

Edwards and Chapman left the room, shutting the door after them. Rudolf
Kesselbach went to the window and pressed his forehead against the
glass.

Outside, just below his eyes, the carriages and motor-cars rolled along
in parallel furrows, marked by the double line of refuges. A bright
spring sun made the brass-work and the varnish gleam again. The trees
were putting forth their first green shoots; and the buds of the tall
chestnuts were beginning to unfold their new-born leaves.

"What on earth is Chapman doing?" muttered Kesselbach. "The time he
wastes in palavering! . . ."

He took a cigarette from the table, lit it and drew a few puffs. A faint
exclamation escaped him. Close before him stood a man whom he did not
know.

He started back:

"Who are you?"

The man--he was a well-dressed individual, rather smart-looking, with
dark hair, a dark moustache and hard eyes--the man gave a grin:

"Who am I? Why, the Colonel!"

"No, no. . . . The one I call the Colonel, the one who writes to me
under that . . . adopted . . . signature . . . is not you!"

"Yes, yes . . . the other was only . . . But, my dear sir, all this, you
know, is not of the smallest importance. The essential thing is that I
. . . am myself. And that, I assure you, I _am_!"

"But your name, sir? . . ."

"The Colonel . . . until further orders."

Mr. Kesselbach was seized with a growing fear. Who was this man? What
did he want with him?

He called out:

"Chapman!"

"What a funny idea, to call out! Isn't my company enough for you?"

"Chapman!" Mr. Kesselbach cried again. "Chapman! Edwards!"

"Chapman! Edwards!" echoed the stranger, in his turn. "What are you
doing? You're wanted!"

"Sir, I ask you, I order you to let me pass."

"But, my dear sir, who's preventing you?"

He politely made way. Mr. Kesselbach walked to the door, opened it and
gave a sudden jump backward. Behind the door stood another man, pistol
in hand. Kesselbach stammered:

"Edwards . . . Chap . . ."

He did not finish. In a corner of the lobby he saw his secretary and his
servant lying side by side on the floor, gagged and bound.

Mr. Kesselbach, notwithstanding his nervous and excitable nature, was
not devoid of physical courage; and the sense of a definite danger,
instead of depressing him, restored all his elasticity and vigor.
Pretending dismay and stupefaction, he moved slowly back to the
chimneypiece and leant against the wall. His hand felt for the electric
bell. He found it and pressed the button without removing his finger.

"Well?" asked the stranger.

Mr. Kesselbach made no reply and continued to press the button.

"Well? Do you expect they will come, that the whole hotel is in
commotion, because you are pressing that bell? Why, my dear sir, look
behind you and you will see that the wire is cut!"

Mr. Kesselbach turned round sharply, as though he wanted to make sure;
but, instead, with a quick movement, he seized the traveling-bag, thrust
his hand into it, grasped a revolver, aimed it at the man and pulled the
trigger.

"Whew!" said the stranger. "So you load your weapons with air and
silence?"

The cock clicked a second time and a third, but there was no report.

"Three shots more, Lord of the Cape! I shan't be satisfied till you've
lodged six bullets in my carcass. What! You give up? That's a pity . . .
you were making excellent practice!"

He took hold of a chair by the back, spun it round, sat down a-straddle
and, pointing to an arm-chair, said:

"Won't you take a seat, my dear sir, and make yourself at home? A
cigarette? Not for me, thanks: I prefer a cigar."

There was a box on the table: he selected an Upmann, light in color and
flawless in shape, lit it and, with a bow:

"Thank you! That's a perfect cigar. And now let's have a chat, shall
we?"

Rudolf Kesselbach listened to him in amazement. Who could this strange
person be? . . . Still, at the sight of his visitor sitting there so
quiet and so chatty, he became gradually reassured and began to think
that the situation might come to an end without any need to resort to
violence or brute force.

He took out a pocket-book, opened it, displayed a respectable bundle of
bank-notes and asked:

"How much?"

The other looked at him with an air of bewilderment, as though he found
a difficulty in understanding what Kesselbach meant. Then, after a
moment, he called:

"Marco!"

The man with the revolver stepped forward.

"Marco, this gentleman is good enough to offer you a few bits of paper
for your young woman. Take them, Marco."

Still aiming his revolver with his right hand, Marco put out his left,
took the notes and withdrew.

"Now that this question is settled according to your wishes," resumed
the stranger, "let us come to the object of my visit. I will be brief
and to the point. I want two things. In the first place, a little black
morocco pocket-case, shaped like an envelope, which you generally carry
on you. Secondly, a small ebony box, which was in that traveling-bag
yesterday. Let us proceed in order. The morocco case?"

"Burnt."

The stranger knit his brows. He must have had a vision of the good old
days when there were peremptory methods of making the contumacious
speak:

"Very well. We shall see about that. And the ebony box?"

"Burnt."

"Ah," he growled, "you're getting at me, my good man!" He twisted the
other's arm with a pitiless hand. "Yesterday, Rudolf Kesselbach, you
walked into the Crédit Lyonnais, on the Boulevard des Italiens, hiding a
parcel under your overcoat. You hired a safe . . . let us be exact: safe
No. 16, in recess No. 9. After signing the book and paying your
safe-rent, you went down to the basement; and, when you came up again,
you no longer had your parcel with you. Is that correct?"

"Quite."

"Then the box and the pocket-case are at the Crédit Lyonnais?"

"No."

"Give me the key of your safe."

"No."

"Marco!"

Marco ran up.

"Look sharp, Marco! The quadruple knot!"

Before he had even time to stand on the defensive, Rudolf Kesselbach was
tied up in a network of cords that cut into his flesh at the least
attempt which he made to struggle. His arms were fixed behind his back,
his body fastened to the chair and his legs tied together like the legs
of a mummy.

"Search him, Marco."

Marco searched him. Two minutes after, he handed his chief a little
flat, nickel-plated key, bearing the numbers 16 and 9.

"Capital. No morocco pocket-case?"

"No, governor."

"It is in the safe. Mr. Kesselbach, will you tell me the secret cypher
that opens the lock?"

"No."

"You refuse?"

"Yes."

"Marco!"

"Yes, governor."

"Place the barrel of your revolver against the gentleman's temple."

"It's there."

"Now put your finger to the trigger."

"Ready."

"Well, Kesselbach, old chap, do you intend to speak?"

"No."

"I'll give you ten seconds, and not one more. Marco!"

"Yes, governor."

"In ten seconds, blow out the gentleman's brains."

"Right you are, governor."

"Kesselbach, I'm counting. One, two, three, four, five, six . . ."

Rudolph Kesselbach made a sign.

"You want to speak?"

"Yes."

"You're just in time. Well, the cypher . . . the word for the lock?"

"Dolor."

"Dolor . . . Dolor . . . Mrs. Kesselbach's name is Dolores, I believe?
You dear boy! . . . Marco, go and do as I told you. . . . No mistake,
mind! I'll repeat it: meet Jérôme at the omnibus office, give him the
key, tell him the word: Dolor. Then, the two of you, go to the Crédit
Lyonnais. Jérôme is to walk in alone, sign the name-book, go down to the
basement and bring away everything in the safe. Do you quite
understand?"

"Yes, governor. But if the safe shouldn't open; if the word Dolor . . ."

"Silence, Marco. When you come out of the Crédit Lyonnais, you must
leave Jérôme, go to your own place and telephone the result of the
operation to me. Should the word Dolor by any chance fail to open the
safe, we (my friend Rudolf Kesselbach and I) will have one . . . _last_
. . . interview. Kesselbach, you're quite sure you're not mistaken?"

"Yes."

"That means that you rely upon the futility of the search. We shall see.
Be off, Marco!"

"What about you, governor?"

"I shall stay. Oh, I'm not afraid! I've never been in less danger than
at this moment. Your orders about the door were positive, Kesselbach,
were they not?"

"Yes."

"Dash it all, you seemed very eager to get that said! Can you have been
trying to gain time? If so, I should be caught in a trap like a fool.
. . ." He stopped to think, looked at his prisoner and concluded, "No
. . . it's not possible . . . we shall not be disturbed . . ."

He had not finished speaking, when the door-bell rang. He pressed his
hand violently on Rudolf Kesselbach's mouth:

"Oh, you old fox, you were expecting some one!"

The captive's eyes gleamed with hope. He could be heard chuckling under
the hand that stifled him.

The stranger shook with rage:

"Hold your tongue, or I'll strangle you! Here, Marco, gag him! Quick!
. . . That's it!"

The bell rang again. He shouted, as though he himself were Kesselbach
and as though Edwards were still there:

"Why don't you open the door, Edwards?"

Then he went softly into the lobby and, pointing to the secretary and
the manservant, whispered:

"Marco, help me shift these two into the bedroom . . . over there . . .
so that they can't be seen."

He lifted the secretary. Marco carried the servant.

"Good! Now go back to the sitting-room."

He followed him in and at once returned to the lobby and said, in a loud
tone of astonishment:

"Why, your man's not here, Mr. Kesselbach. . . . No, don't move . . .
finish your letter. . . . I'll go myself."

And he quietly opened the hall-door.

"Mr. Kesselbach?"

He found himself faced by a sort of jovial, bright-eyed giant, who stood
swinging from one foot to the other and twisting the brim of his hat
between his fingers. He answered:

"Yes, that's right. Who shall I say. . . ?"

"Mr. Kesselbach telephoned. . . . He expects me. . . ."

"Oh, it's you. . . . I'll tell him. . . . Do you mind waiting a minute?
. . . Mr. Kesselbach will speak to you."

He had the audacity to leave the visitor standing on the threshold of
the little entrance-hall, at a place from which he could see a portion
of the sitting-room through the open door, and, slowly, without so much
as turning round, he entered the room, went to his confederate by Mr.
Kesselbach's side and whispered:

"We're done! It's Gourel, the detective. . . ."

The other drew his knife. He caught him by the arm:

"No nonsense! I have an idea. But, for God's sake, Marco, understand me
and speak in your turn. Speak _as if you were Kesselbach_. . . . You
hear, Marco! You _are_ Kesselbach."

He expressed himself so coolly, so forcibly and with such authority that
Marco understood, without further explanation, that he himself was to
play the part of Kesselbach. Marco said, so as to be heard:

"You must apologize for me, my dear fellow. Tell M. Gourel I'm awfully
sorry, but I'm over head and ears in work. . . . I will see him
to-morrow morning, at nine . . . yes, at nine o'clock punctually."

"Good!" whispered the other. "Don't stir."

He went back to the lobby, found Gourel waiting, and said:

"Mr. Kesselbach begs you to excuse him. He is finishing an important
piece of work. Could you possibly come back at nine o'clock to-morrow
morning?"

There was a pause. Gourel seemed surprised, more or less bothered and
undecided. The other man's hand clutched the handle of a knife at the
bottom of his pocket. At the first suspicious movement, he was prepared
to strike.

At last, Gourel said:

"Very well. . . . At nine o'clock to-morrow. . . . But, all the same
. . . However, I shall be here at nine to-morrow. . . ."

And, putting on his hat, he disappeared down the passage of the hotel.

Marco, in the sitting-room, burst out laughing:

"That was jolly clever of you, governor! Oh, how nicely you spoofed
him!"

"Look alive, Marco, and follow him. If he leaves the hotel, let him be,
meet Jérôme at the omnibus-office as arranged . . . and telephone."

Marco went away quickly.

Then the man took a water-bottle on the chimneypiece, poured himself out
a tumblerful, which he swallowed at a draught, wetted his handkerchief,
dabbed his forehead, which was covered with perspiration, and then sat
down beside his prisoner and, with an affectation of politeness, said:

"But I must really have the honor, Mr. Kesselbach, of introducing myself
to you."

And, taking a card from his pocket, he said: "Allow me. . . . Arsène
Lupin, gentleman-burglar."

       *       *       *       *       *

The name of the famous adventurer seemed to make the best of impressions
upon Mr. Kesselbach. Lupin did not fail to observe the fact and
exclaimed:

"Aha, my dear sir, you breathe again! Arsène Lupin is a delicate,
squeamish burglar. He loathes bloodshed, he has never committed a more
serious crime than that of annexing other people's property . . . a mere
peccadillo, eh? And what you're saying to yourself is that he is not
going to burden his conscience with a useless murder. Quite so. . . .
But will your destruction be so useless as all that? Everything depends
on the answer. And I assure you that I'm not larking at present. Come
on, old chap!"

He drew up his chair beside the arm-chair, removed the prisoner's gag
and, speaking very plainly:

"Mr. Kesselbach," he said, "on the day when you arrived in Paris you
entered into relations with one Barbareux, the manager of a confidential
inquiry agency; and, as you were acting without the knowledge of your
secretary, Chapman, it was arranged that the said Barbareux, when
communicating with you by letter or telephone, should call himself 'the
Colonel.' I hasten to tell you that Barbareux is a perfectly honest man.
But I have the good fortune to number one of his clerks among my own
particular friends. That is how I discovered the motive of your
application to Barbareux and how I came to interest myself in you and to
make a search or two here, with the assistance of a set of false keys
. . . in the course of which search or two, I may as well tell you, I
did not find what I was looking for."

He lowered his voice and, with his eyes fixed on the eyes of his
prisoner, watching his expression, searching his secret thoughts, he
uttered these words:

"Mr. Kesselbach, your instructions to Barbareux were that he should find
a man hidden somewhere in the slums of Paris who bears or used to bear
the name of Pierre Leduc. The man answers to this brief description:
height, five feet nine inches; hair and complexion, fair; wears a
moustache. Special mark: the tip of the little finger of the left hand
is missing, as the result of a cut. Also, he has an almost imperceptible
scar on the right cheek. You seem to attach enormous importance to this
man's discovery, as though it might lead to some great advantage to
yourself. Who is the man?"

"I don't know."

The answer was positive, absolute. Did he know or did he not know? It
made little difference. The great thing was that he was determined not
to speak.

"Very well," said his adversary, "but you have fuller particulars about
him than those with which you furnished Barbareux."

"I have not."

"You lie, Mr. Kesselbach. Twice, in Barbareux's presence, you consulted
papers contained in the morocco case."

"I did."

"And the case?"

"Burnt."

Lupin quivered with rage. The thought of torture and of the facilities
which it used to offer was evidently passing through his mind again.

"Burnt? But the box? . . . Come, own up . . . confess that the box is at
the Crédit Lyonnais."

"Yes."

"And what's inside it?"

"The finest two hundred diamonds in my private collection."

This statement did not seem to displease the adventurer.

"Aha, the finest two hundred diamonds! But, I say, that's a fortune!
. . . Yes, that makes you smile. . . . It's a trifle to you, no doubt.
. . . And your secret is worth more than that. . . . To you, yes . . .
but to me? . . ."

He took a cigar, lit a match, which he allowed to go out again
mechanically, and sat for some time thinking, motionless.

The minutes passed.

He began to laugh:

"I dare say you're hoping that the expedition will come to nothing and
that they won't open the safe? . . . Very likely, old chap! But, in that
case, you'll have to pay me for my trouble. I did not come here to see
what sort of figure you cut in an arm-chair. . . . The diamonds, since
diamonds there appear to be . . . or else the morocco case. . . .
There's your dilemma." He looked at his watch. "Half an hour. . . . Hang
it all! . . . Fate is moving very slowly. . . . But there's nothing for
you to grin at, Mr. Kesselbach. I shall not go back empty-handed, make
no mistake about that! . . . At last!"

It was the telephone-bell. Lupin snatched at the receiver and, changing
the sound of his voice, imitated the rough accent of his prisoner:

"Yes, Rudolf Kesselbach . . . you're speaking to him. . . . Yes, please,
mademoiselle, put me on. . . . Is that you, Marco? . . . Good. . . . Did
it go off all right? . . . Excellent! . . . No hitch? . . . My best
compliments! . . . Well, what did you pick up? . . . The ebony box?
. . . Nothing else? . . . No papers? . . . Tut, tut! . . . And what's in
the box? . . . Are they fine diamonds? . . . Capital, capital! . . . One
minute, Marco, while I think. . . . You see, all this. . . . If I were
to tell you my opinion. . . . Wait, don't go away . . . hold the line.
. . ."

He turned round.

"Mr. Kesselbach, are you keen on your diamonds?"

"Yes."

"Would you buy them back of me?"

"Possibly."

"For how much? Five hundred thousand francs?"

"Five hundred thousand . . . yes."

"Only, here's the rub: how are we to make the exchange? A cheque? No,
you'd swindle me . . . or else I'd swindle you. . . . Listen. On the day
after to-morrow, go to the Crédit Lyonnais in the morning, draw out your
five hundred bank-notes of a thousand each and go for a walk in the
Bois, on the Auteuil side. . . . I shall have the diamonds in a bag:
that's handier. . . . The box shows too much. . . ."

Kesselbach gave a start:

"No, no . . . the box, too. . . . I want everything. . . ."

"Ah," cried Lupin, shouting with laughter, "you've fallen into the trap!
. . . The diamonds you don't care about . . . they can be replaced.
. . . But you cling to that box as you cling to your skin. . . . Very
well, you shall have your box . . . on the word of Arsène . . . you
shall have it to-morrow morning, by parcel post!"

He went back to the telephone:

"Marco, have you the box in front of you? . . . Is there anything
particular about it? . . . Ebony inlaid with ivory. . . . Yes, I know
the sort of thing. . . . Japanese, from the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
. . . No mark? . . . Ah, a little round label, with a blue border and a
number! . . . Yes, a shop-mark . . . no importance. And is the bottom of
the box thick? . . . Not very thick. . . . Bother! No false bottom,
then? . . . Look here, Marco: just examine the ivory inlay on the
outside . . . or, rather, no, the lid." He reveled with delight. "The
lid! That's it, Marco! Kesselbach blinked his eyes just now. . . . We're
burning! . . . Ah, Kesselbach, old chap, didn't you see me squinting at
you? You silly fellow!" And, to Marco, "Well, what do you see? . . . A
looking-glass inside the lid? . . . Does it slide? . . . Is it on
hinges? . . . No! . . . Well, then, break it. . . . Yes, yes, I tell you
to break it. . . . That glass serves no purpose there . . . it's been
added since!" He lost patience. "Mind your own business, idiot! . . . Do
as I say! . . ."

He must have heard the noise which Marco made at the other end of the
wire in breaking the glass, for he shouted, in triumph.

"Didn't I tell you, Mr. Kesselbach, that we should find something? . . .
Hullo! Have you done it? . . . Well? . . . A letter? Victory! All the
diamonds in the Cape and old man Kesselbach's secret into the bargain!"

He took down the second receiver, carefully put the two discs to his
ears and continued:

"Read it to me, Marco, read it to me slowly. . . . The envelope first.
. . . Good. . . . Now, repeat." He himself repeated, "'Copy of the
letter contained in the black morocco case.' And next? Tear the
envelope, Marco. . . . Have I your permission, Mr. Kesselbach? It's not
very good form, but, however . . . Go on, Marco, Mr. Kesselbach gives
you leave. . . . Done it? . . . Well, then, read it out."

He listened and, with a chuckle:

"The deuce! That's not quite as clear as a pikestaff! Listen. I'll
repeat: a plain sheet of paper folded in four, the folds apparently
quite fresh. . . . Good. . . . At the top of the page, on the right,
these words: 'Five feet nine, left little finger cut.' And so on. . . .
Yes, that's the description of Master Pierre Leduc. In Kesselbach's
handwriting, I suppose? . . . Good. . . . And, in the middle of the
page, this word in printed capitals: 'APOON.' Marco, my lad, leave the
paper as it is and don't touch the box or the diamonds. I shall have
done with our friend here in ten minutes and I shall be with you in
twenty. . . . Oh, by the way, did you send back the motor for me?
Capital! So long!"

He replaced the instrument, went into the lobby and into the bedroom,
made sure that the secretary and the manservant had not unloosed their
bonds and, on the other hand, that they were in no danger of being
choked by their gags. Then he returned to his chief prisoner.

He wore a determined and relentless look:

"We've finished joking, Kesselbach. If you don't speak, it will be the
worse for you. Have you made up your mind?"

"What about?"

"No nonsense, please. Tell me what you know."

"I know nothing."

"You lie. What does this word 'APOON' mean?"

"If I knew, I should not have written it down."

"Very well; but whom or what does it refer to? Where did you copy it?
Where did you get it from?"

Mr. Kesselbach made no reply. Lupin, now speaking in nervous, jerky
tones, resumed:

"Listen, Kesselbach, I have a proposal to make to you. Rich man, big man
though you may be, there is not so much difference between us. The son
of the Augsburg ironmonger and Arsène Lupin, prince of burglars, can
come to an understanding without shame on either side. I do my thieving
indoors; you do yours on the Stock Exchange. It's all much of a
muchness. So here we are, Kesselbach. Let's be partners in this
business. I have need of you, because I don't know what it's about. You
have need of me, because you will never be able to manage it alone.
Barbareux is an ass. I am Lupin. Is it a bargain?"

No answer. Lupin persisted, in a voice shaking with intensity:

"Answer, Kesselbach, is it a bargain? If so, I'll find your Pierre Leduc
for you in forty-eight hours. For he's the man you're after, eh? Isn't
that the business? Come along, answer! Who is the fellow? Why are you
looking for him? What do you know about him?"

He calmed himself suddenly, laid his hand on Kesselbach's shoulder and,
harshly:

"One word only. Yes or no?"

"No!"

He drew a magnificent gold watch from Kesselbach's fob and placed it on
the prisoner's knees. He unbuttoned Kesselbach's waistcoat, opened his
shirt, uncovered his chest and, taking a steel dagger, with a
gold-crusted handle, that lay on the table beside him, he put the point
of it against the place where the pulsations of the heart made the bare
flesh throb:

"For the last time?"

"No!"

"Mr. Kesselbach, it is eight minutes to three. If you don't answer
within eight minutes from now, you are a dead man!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, Sergeant Gourel walked into the Palace Hotel
punctually at the appointed hour. Without stopping, scorning to take the
lift, he went up the stairs. On the fourth floor he turned to the right,
followed the passage and rang at the door of 415.

Hearing no sound, he rang again. After half-a-dozen fruitless attempts,
he went to the floor office. He found a head-waiter there:

"Mr. Kesselbach did not sleep here last night. We have not seen him
since yesterday afternoon."

"But his servant? His secretary?"

"We have not seen them either."

"Then they also did not sleep in the hotel?"

"I suppose not."

"You suppose not? But you ought to be certain."

"Why? Mr. Kesselbach is not staying in the hotel; he is at home here, in
his private flat. He is not waited on by us, but by his own man; and we
know nothing of what happens inside."

"That's true. . . . That's true. . . ."

Gourel seemed greatly perplexed. He had come with positive orders, a
precise mission, within the limits of which his mind was able to exert
itself. Outside those limits he did not quite know how to act:

"If the chief were here," he muttered, "if the chief were here. . . ."

He showed his card and stated his quality. Then he said, on the
off-chance:

"So you have not seen them come in?"

"No."

"But you saw them go out?"

"No, I can't say I did."

"In that case, how do you know that they went out?"

"From a gentleman who called yesterday afternoon."

"A gentleman with a dark mustache?"

"Yes. I met him as he was going away, about three o'clock. He said: 'The
people in 415 have gone out. Mr. Kesselbach will stay at Versailles
to-night, at the Reservoirs; you can send his letters on to him there.'"

"But who was this gentleman? By what right did he speak?"

"I don't know."

Gourel felt uneasy. It all struck him as rather queer.

"Have you the key?"

"No. Mr. Kesselbach had special keys made."

"Let's go and look."

Gourel rang again furiously. Nothing happened. He was about to go when,
suddenly, he bent down and clapped his ear to the keyhole:

"Listen. . . . I seem to hear . . . Why, yes . . . it's quite distinct.
. . . I hear moans. . . ."

He gave the door a tremendous blow with his fist.

"But, sir, you have not the right . . ."

"Oh, hang the right!"

He struck the door with renewed force, but to so little purpose that he
abandoned the attempt forthwith:

"Quick, quick, a locksmith!"

One of the waiters started off at a run. Gourel, blustering and
undecided, walked to and fro. The servants from the other floors
collected in groups. People from the office, from the manager's
department arrived. Gourel cried:

"But why shouldn't we go in though the adjoining rooms? Do they
communicate with this suite?"

"Yes; but the communicating doors are always bolted on both sides."

"Then I shall telephone to the detective-office," said Gourel, to whose
mind obviously there existed no salvation without his chief.

"And to the commissary of police," observed some one.

"Yes, if you like," he replied, in the tone of a gentleman who took
little or no interest in that formality.

When he returned from the telephone, the locksmith had nearly finished
trying the keys. The last worked the lock. Gourel walked briskly in.

He at once hastened in the direction from which the moans came and hit
against the bodies of Chapman the secretary, and Edwards the manservant.
One of them, Chapman, had succeeded, by dint of patience, in loosening
his gag a little and was uttering short, stifled moans. The other seemed
asleep.

They were released. But Gourel was anxious:

"Where's Mr. Kesselbach?"

He went into the sitting-room. Mr. Kesselbach was sitting strapped to
the back of the arm-chair, near the table. His head hung on his chest.

"He has fainted," said Gourel, going up to him. "He must have exerted
himself beyond his strength."

Swiftly he cut the cords that fastened the shoulders. The body fell
forward in an inert mass. Gourel caught it in his arms and started back
with a cry of horror:

"Why, he's dead! Feel . . . his hands are ice-cold! And look at his
eyes!"

Some one ventured the opinion:

"An apoplectic stroke, no doubt . . . or else heart-failure."

"True, there's no sign of a wound . . . it's a natural death."

They laid the body on the sofa and unfastened the clothes. But red
stains at once appeared on the white shirt; and, when they pushed it
back, they saw that, near the heart, the chest bore a little scratch
through which had trickled a thin stream of blood.

And on the shirt was pinned a card. Gourel bent forward. It was Arsène
Lupin's card, bloodstained like the rest.

Then Gourel drew himself up, authoritatively and sharply:

"Murdered! . . . Arsène Lupin! . . . Leave the flat. . . . Leave the
flat, all of you! . . . No one must stay here or in the bedroom. . . .
Let the two men be removed and seen to elsewhere! . . . Leave the flat
. . . and don't touch a thing . . .

"_The chief is on his way! . . ._"



CHAPTER II

THE BLUE-EDGED LABEL


"Arsène Lupin!"

Gourel repeated these two fateful words with an absolutely petrified
air. They rang within him like a knell. Arsène Lupin! The great, the
formidable Arsène Lupin. The burglar-king, the mighty adventurer! Was it
possible?

"No, no," he muttered, "it's not possible, _because he's dead_!"

Only that was just it . . . was he really dead?

Arsène Lupin!

Standing beside the corpse, he remained dull and stunned, turning the
card over and over with a certain dread, as though he had been
challenged by a ghost. Arsène Lupin! What ought he to do? Act? Take the
field with his resources? No, no . . . better not act . . . . He was
bound to make mistakes if he entered the lists with an adversary of that
stamp. Besides, the chief was on his way!

_The chief was on his way!_ All Gourel's intellectual philosophy was
summed up in that short sentence. An able, persevering officer, full of
courage and experience and endowed with Herculean strength, he was one
of those who go ahead only when obeying directions and who do good work
only when ordered. And this lack of initiative had become still more
marked since M. Lenormand had taken the place of M. Dudouis in the
detective-service. M. Lenormand was a chief indeed! With him, one was
sure of being on the right track. So sure, even, that Gourel stopped the
moment that the chief's incentive was no longer behind him.

But the chief was on his way! Gourel took out his watch and calculated
the exact time when he would arrive. If only the commissary of police
did not get there first, if only the examining-magistrate, who was no
doubt already appointed, or the divisional surgeon, did not come to make
inopportune discoveries before the chief had time to fix the essential
points of the case in his mind!

"Well, Gourel, what are you dreaming about?"

"The chief!"

M. Lenormand was still a young man, if you took stock only of the
expression of his face and his eyes gleaming through his spectacles; but
he was almost an old man when you saw his bent back, his skin dry and
yellow as wax, his grizzled hair and beard, his whole decrepit,
hesitating, unhealthy appearance. He had spent his life laboriously in
the colonies as government commissary, in the most dangerous posts. He
had there acquired a series of fevers; an indomitable energy,
notwithstanding his physical weariness; the habit of living alone, of
talking little and acting in silence; a certain misanthropy; and,
suddenly, at the age of fifty-five, in consequence of the famous case of
the three Spaniards at Biskra, a great and well-earned notoriety.

The injustice was then repaired; and he was straightway transferred to
Bordeaux, was next appointed deputy in Paris, and lastly, on the death
of M. Dudouis, chief of the detective-service. And in each of these
posts he displayed such a curious faculty of inventiveness in his
proceedings, such resourcefulness, so many new and original qualities;
and above all, he achieved such correct results in the conduct of the
last four or five cases with which public opinion had been stirred, that
his name was quoted in the same breath with those of the most celebrated
detectives.

Gourel, for his part, had no hesitation. Himself a favourite of the
chief, who liked him for his frankness and his passive obedience, he set
the chief above them all. The chief to him was an idol, an infallible
god.

M. Lenormand seemed more tired than usual that day. He sat down wearily,
parted the tails of his frock-coat--an old frock-coat, famous for its
antiquated cut and its olive-green hue--untied his neckerchief--an
equally famous maroon-coloured neckerchief, rested his two hands on his
stick, and said:

"Speak!"

Gourel told all that he had seen, and all that he had learnt, and told
it briefly, according to the habit which the chief had taught him.

But, when he produced Lupin's card, M. Lenormand gave a start:

"Lupin!"

"Yes, Lupin. The brute's bobbed up again."

"That's all right, that's all right," said M. Lenormand, after a
moment's thought.

"That's all right, of course," said Gourel, who loved to add a word of
his own to the rare speeches of a superior whose only fault in his eyes
was an undue reticence. "That's all right, for at last you will measure
your strength with an adversary worthy of you. . . . And Lupin will meet
his master. . . . Lupin will cease to exist. . . . Lupin . . ."

"Ferret!" said M. Lenormand, cutting him short.

It was like an order given by a sportsman to his dog. And Gourel
ferreted after the manner of a good dog, a lively and intelligent
animal, working under his master's eyes. M. Lenormand pointed his stick
to a corner, to an easy chair, just as one points to a bush or a tuft of
grass, and Gourel beat up the bush or the tuft of grass with
conscientious thoroughness.

"Nothing," said the sergeant, when he finished.

"Nothing for you!" grunted M. Lenormand.

"That's what I meant to say. . . . I know that, for you, chief, there
are things that talk like human beings, real living witnesses. For all
that, here is a murder well and duly added to our score against Master
Lupin."

"The first," observed M. Lenormand.

"The first, yes. . . . But it was bound to come. You can't lead that
sort of life without, sooner or later, being driven by circumstances to
serious crime. Mr. Kesselbach must have defended himself. . . ."

"No, because he was bound."

"That's true," owned Gourel, somewhat disconcertedly, "and it's rather
curious too. . . . Why kill an adversary who has practically ceased to
exist? . . . But, no matter, if I had collared him yesterday, when we
were face to face at the hall-door . . ."

M. Lenormand had stepped out on the balcony. Then he went to Mr.
Kesselbach's bedroom, on the right, and tried the fastenings of the
windows and doors.

"The windows of both rooms were shut when I came in," said Gourel.

"Shut, or just pushed to?"

"No one has touched them since. And they are shut, chief."

A sound of voices brought them back to the sitting-room. Here they found
the divisional surgeon, engaged in examining the body, and M. Formerie,
the magistrate. M. Formerie exclaimed:

"Arsène Lupin! I am glad that at last a lucky chance has brought me into
touch with that scoundrel again! I'll show the fellow the stuff I'm made
of! . . . And this time it's a murder! . . . It's a fight between you
and me now, Master Lupin!"

M. Formerie had not forgotten the strange adventure of the Princesse de
Lamballe's diadem, nor the wonderful way in which Lupin had tricked him
a few years before.[1] The thing had remained famous in the annals of
the law-courts. People still laughed at it; and in M. Formerie it had
left a just feeling of resentment, combined with the longing for a
striking revenge.

[Footnote 1: See _Arsène Lupin_. By Edgar Jepson and Maurice Leblanc.
(Doubleday, Page & Co.).]

"The nature of the crime is self-evident," he declared, with a great air
of conviction, "and we shall have no difficulty in discovering the
motive. So all is well. . . . M. Lenormand, how do you do? . . . I am
delighted to see you. . . ."

M. Formerie was not in the least delighted. On the contrary, M.
Lenormand's presence did not please him at all, seeing that the chief
detective hardly took the trouble to disguise the contempt in which he
held him. However, the magistrate drew himself up and, in his most
solemn tones:

"So, doctor, you consider that death took place about a dozen hours ago,
perhaps more! . . . That, in fact, was my own idea. . . . We are quite
agreed. . . . And the instrument of the crime?"

"A knife with a very thin blade, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction,"
replied the surgeon. "Look, the blade has been wiped on the dead man's
own handkerchief. . . ."

"Just so . . . just so . . . you can see the mark. . . . And now let us
go and question Mr. Kesselbach's secretary and man-servant. I have no
doubt that their examination will throw some more light on the case."

Chapman, who together with Edwards, had been moved to his own room, on
the left of the sitting-room, had already recovered from his
experiences. He described in detail the events of the previous day, Mr.
Kesselbach's restlessness, the expected visit of the Colonel and,
lastly, the attack of which they had been the victims.

"Aha!" cried M. Formerie. "So there's an accomplice! And you heard his
name! . . . Marco, you say? . . . This is very important. When we've got
the accomplice, we shall be a good deal further advanced. . . ."

"Yes, but we've not got him," M. Lenormand ventured to remark.

"We shall see. . . . One thing at a time. . . . And then, Mr. Chapman,
this Marco went away immediately after M. Gourel had rung the bell?"

"Yes, we heard him go."

"And after he went, did you hear nothing else?"

"Yes . . . from time to time, but vaguel. . . . The door was shut."

"And what sort of noises did you hear?"

"Bursts of voices. The man . . ."

"Call him by his name, Arsène Lupin."

"Arsène Lupin must have telephoned."

"Capital! We will examine the person of the hotel who has charge of the
branch exchange communicating with the outside. And, afterward, did you
hear him go out, too?"

"He came in to see if we were still bound; and, a quarter of an hour
later, he went away, closing the hall-door after him."

"Yes, as soon as his crime was committed. Good. . . . Good. . . . It all
fits in. . . . And, after that?"

"After that, we heard nothing more. . . . The night passed. . . . I fell
asleep from exhaustion. . . . So did Edwards. . . . And it was not until
this morning . . ."

"Yes, I know. . . . There, it's not going badly . . . it all fits in.
. . ."

And, marking off the stages of his investigation, in a tone as though he
were enumerating so many victories over the stranger, he muttered
thoughtfully:

"The accomplice . . . the telephone . . . the time of the murder . . .
the sounds that were heard. . . . Good. . . . Very good. . . . We have
still to establish the motive of the crime. . . . In this case, as we
have Lupin to deal with, the motive is obvious. M. Lenormand, have you
noticed the least sign of anything being broken open?"

"No."

"Then the robbery must have been effected upon the person of the victim
himself. Has his pocket-book been found?"

"I left it in the pocket of his jacket," said Gourel.

They all went into the sitting-room, where M. Formerie discovered that
the pocket-book contained nothing but visiting-cards and papers
establishing the murdered man's identity.

"That's odd. Mr. Chapman, can you tell us if Mr. Kesselbach had any
money on him?"

"Yes. On the previous day--that is, on Monday, the day before
yesterday--we went to the Crédit Lyonnais, where Mr. Kesselbach hired a
safe . . ."

"A safe at the Crédit Lyonnais? Good. . . . We must look into that."

"And, before we left, Mr. Kesselbach opened an account and drew out five
or six thousand francs in bank-notes."

"Excellent . . . that tells us just what we want to know."

Chapman continued:

"There is another point, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. Mr. Kesselbach,
who for some days had been very uneasy in his mind--I have told you the
reason: a scheme to which he attached the utmost importance--Mr.
Kesselbach seemed particularly anxious about two things. There was,
first, a little ebony box, which he put away safely at the Crédit
Lyonnais; and, next, a little black morocco note-case, in which he kept
a few papers."

"And where is that?"

"Before Lupin's arrival, he put it, in my presence, into that
travelling-bag."

M. Formerie took the bag and felt about in it. The note-case was not
there. He rubbed his hands:

"Ah, everything fits in! . . . We know the culprit, the conditions and
the motive of the crime. This case won't take long. Are we quite agreed
upon everything, M. Lenormand?"

"Upon not one single thing."

There was a moment of stupefaction. The commissary of police had
arrived: and, behind him, in spite of the constables keeping the door,
a troop of journalists, and the hotel staff had forced their way in and
were standing in the entrance-lobby.

Notorious though the old fellow was for his bluntness--a bluntness which
was not without a certain discourtesy and which had already procured him
an occasional reprimand in high quarters--the abruptness of this reply
took every one aback. And M. Formerie in particular appeared utterly
nonplussed:

"Still," he said, "I can see nothing that isn't quite simple. Lupin is
the thief. . . ."

"Why did he commit the murder?" M. Lenormand flung at him.

"In order to commit the theft."

"I beg your pardon; the witnesses' story proves that the theft took
place before the murder. Mr. Kesselbach was first bound and gagged, then
robbed. Why should Lupin, who has never resorted to murder, choose this
time to kill a man whom he had rendered helpless and whom he had already
robbed?"

The examining-magistrate stroked his long, fair whiskers, with the
gesture customary to him when a question seemed incapable of solution.
He replied in a thoughtful tone:

"There are several answers to that. . . ."

"What are they?"

"It depends . . . it depends upon a number of facts as yet unknown.
. . . And, moreover, the objection applies only to the nature of the
motives. We are agreed as to the remainder."

"No."

This time, again, the denial was flat, blunt, almost impolite; so much
so that the magistrate was absolutely nonplussed, dared not even raise
a protest, and remained abashed in the presence of this strange
collaborator. At last he said:

"We all have our theories. I should like to know yours."

"I have none."

The chief detective rose and, leaning on his stick, took a few steps
through the room. All the people around him were silent. . . . And it
was rather curious, in a group in which, after all, his position was
only that of an auxiliary, a subordinate, to see this ailing, decrepit,
elderly man dominate the others by the sheer force of an authority which
they had to feel, even though they did not accept it. After a long pause
he said:

"I should like to inspect the rooms which adjoin this suite."

The manager showed him the plan of the hotel. The only way out of the
right-hand bedroom, which was Mr. Kesselbach's, was through the little
entrance-hall of the suite. But the bedroom on the left, the room
occupied by the secretary, communicated with another apartment.

"Let us inspect it," said M. Lenormand.

M. Formerie could not help shrugging his shoulders and growling:

"But the communicating door is bolted and the window locked."

"Let us inspect it," repeated M. Lenormand.

He was taken into the apartment, which was the first of the five rooms
reserved for Mrs. Kesselbach. Then, at his request, he was taken to the
rooms leading out of it. All the communicating doors were bolted on both
sides.

"Are not any of these rooms occupied?" he asked.

"No."

"Where are the keys?"

"The keys are always kept in the office."

"Then no one can have got in? . . ."

"No one, except the floor-waiter who airs and dusts the rooms."

"Send for him, please."

The man, whose name was Gustave Beudot, replied that he had closed the
windows of five rooms on the previous day in accordance with his general
instructions.

"At what time?"

"At six o'clock in the evening."

"And you noticed nothing?"

"No, sir."

"And, this morning . . . ?"

"This morning, I opened the windows at eight o'clock exactly."

"And you found nothing?"

He hesitated. He was pressed with questions and ended by admitting:

"Well, I picked up a cigarette-case near the fireplace in 420. . . . I
intended to take it to the office this evening."

"Have you it on you?"

"No, it is in my room. It is a gun-metal case. It has a space for
tobacco and cigarette-papers on one side and for matches on the other.
There are two initials in gold: an L and an M. . . ."

"What's that?"

Chapman had stepped forward. He seemed greatly surprised and,
questioning the servant:

"A gun-metal cigarette-case, you say?"

"Yes."

"With three compartments--for tobacco, cigarette-papers, and matches.
. . . Russian tobacco, wasn't it, very fine and light?"

"Yes."

"Go and fetch it. . . . I should like to see it for myself . . . to make
sure. . . ."

At a sign from the chief detective, Gustave Beudot left the room.

M. Lenormand sat down and his keen eyes examined the carpet, the
furniture and the curtains. He asked:

"This is room 420, is it not?"

"Yes."

The magistrate grinned:

"I should very much like to know what connection you establish between
this incident and the tragedy. Five locked doors separate us from the
room in which Mr. Kesselbach was murdered."

M. Lenormand did not condescend to reply.

Time passed. Gustave did not return.

"Where does he sleep?" asked the chief detective.

"On the sixth floor," answered the manager. "The room is on the Rue de
Judée side: above this, therefore. It's curious that he's not back yet."

"Would you have the kindness to send some one to see?"

The manager went himself, accompanied by Chapman. A few minutes after,
he returned alone, running, with every mark of consternation on his
face.

"Well?"

"Dead!"

"Murdered?"

"Yes."

"Oh, by thunder, how clever these scoundrels are!" roared M. Lenormand,
"Off with you, Gourel, and have the doors of the hotel locked. . . .
Watch every outlet. . . . And you, Mr. Manager, please take us to
Gustave Beudot's room."

The manager led the way. But as they left the room, M. Lenormand stooped
and picked up a tiny little round piece of paper, on which his eyes had
already fixed themselves.

It was a label surrounded with a blue border and marked with the number
813. He put it in his pocket, on chance, and joined the others. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

A small wound in the back, between the shoulder-blades. . . .

"Exactly the same wound as Mr. Kesselbach's," declared the doctor.

"Yes," said M. Lenormand, "it was the same hand that struck the blow and
the same weapon was used."

Judging by the position of the body, the man had been surprised when on
his knees before the bed, feeling under the mattress for the
cigarette-case which he had hidden there. His arm was still caught
between the mattress and the bed, but the cigarette-case was not to be
found.

"That cigarette-case must have been devilish compromising!" timidly
suggested M. Formerie, who no longer dared put forward any definite
opinion.

"Well, of course!" said the chief detective.

"At any rate, we know the initials: an L and an M. And with that,
together with what Mr. Chapman appears to know, we shall easily learn.
. . ."

M. Lenormand gave a start:

"Chapman! But where is he?"

They looked in the passage among the groups of people crowded together.
Chapman was not there.

"Mr. Chapman came with me," said the manager.

"Yes, yes, I know, but he did not come back with you."

"No, I left him with the corpse."

"You left him! . . . Alone?"

"I said to him, 'Stay here . . . don't move.'"

"And was there no one about? Did you see no one?"

"In the passage? No."

"But in the other attics? . . . Or else, look here, round that corner:
was there no one hiding there?"

M. Lenormand seemed greatly excited. He walked up and down, he opened
the doors of the rooms. And, suddenly, he set off at a run, with an
agility of which no one would have thought him capable. He rattled down
the six storeys, followed at a distance by the manager and the
examining-magistrate. At the bottom, he found Gourel in front of the
main door.

"Has no one gone out?"

"No, chief."

"What about the other door, in the Rue Orvieto?"

"I have posted Dieuzy there."

"With firm orders?"

"Yes, chief."

The huge hall of the hotel was crowded with anxious visitors, all
commenting on the more or less accurate versions that had reached them
of the crime. All the servants had been summoned by telephone and were
arriving, one by one. M. Lenormand questioned them without delay. None
of them was able to supply the least information. But a fifth-floor
chambermaid appeared. Ten minutes earlier, or thereabouts, she had
passed two gentlemen who were coming down the servants' staircase
between the fifth and the fourth floors.

"They came down very fast. The one in front was holding the other by the
hand. I was surprised to see those two gentlemen on the servants'
staircase."

"Would you know them again?"

"Not the first one. He had his head turned the other way. He was a thin,
fair man. He wore a soft black hat . . . and black clothes."

"And the other?"

"Oh, the other was an Englishman, with a big, clean-shaven face and a
check suit. He had no hat on."

The description obviously referred to Chapman.

The woman added:

"He looked . . . he looked quite funny . . . as if he was mad."

Gourel's word was not enough for M. Lenormand. One after the other, he
questioned the under-porters standing at the two doors:

"Did you know Mr. Chapman?"

"Yes, sir, he always spoke to us."

"And you have not seen him go out?"

"No, sir. He has not been out this morning."

M. Lenormand turned to the commissary of police: "How many men have you
with you, Monsieur le Commissaire?"

"Four."

"That's not sufficient. Telephone to your secretary to send you all the
men available. And please be so good as yourself to organize the closest
watch at every outlet. The state of siege, Monsieur le Commissaire.
. . ."

"But I say," protested the manager, "my customers?"

"I don't care a hang, sir, for your customers! My duty comes before
everything; and my duty is at all costs to arrest. . . ."

"So you believe . . ." the examining-magistrate ventured to interpolate.

"I don't _believe_, monsieur . . . I am sure that the perpetrator of
both the murders is still in the hotel."

"But then Chapman . . ."

"At this moment, I cannot guarantee that Chapman is still alive. In any
case, it is only a question of minutes, of seconds. . . . Gourel, take
two men and search all the rooms on the fourth floor. . . . Mr. Manager,
send one of your clerks with them. . . . As for the other floors, I
shall proceed as soon as we are reënforced. Come, Gourel, off with you,
and keep your eyes open. . . . It's big game you're hunting!"

Gourel and his men hurried away. M. Lenormand himself remained in the
hall, near the office. This time, he did not think of sitting down, as
his custom was. He walked from the main entrance to the door in the Rue
Orvieto and returned to the point from which he had started. At
intervals he gave instructions:

"Mr. Manager, see that the kitchens are watched. They may try to escape
that way. . . . Mr. Manager, instruct your young lady at the telephone
not to put any of the people in the hotel into communication with
outside subscribers. If a call comes from the outside, she can connect
the caller with the person asked for, but she must take a note of that
person's name. . . . Mr. Manager, have a list made out of all your
visitors whose name begins with an L or an M."

The tension caught the spectators by the throat, as they stood
clustered in the middle of the hall, silent and gasping for breath,
shaking with fear at the least sound, obsessed by the infernal image of
the murderer. Where was he hiding? Would he show himself? Was he not one
of themselves: this one, perhaps . . . or that one? . . .

And all eyes were turned on the gray-haired gentleman in spectacles, an
olive-green frock-coat and a maroon-colored neckerchief, who was walking
about, with his bent back, on a pair of shaky legs.

At times, one of the waiters accompanying Sergeant Gourel on his search
would come running up.

"Any news?" asked M. Lenormand.

"No, sir, we've found nothing."

The manager made two attempts to induce him to relax his orders
regarding the doors. The situation was becoming intolerable. The office
was filled with loudly-protesting visitors, who had business outside, or
who had arranged to leave Paris.

"I don't care a hang!" said M. Lenormand again.

"But I know them all."

"I congratulate you."

"You are exceeding your powers."

"I know."

"The law will decide against you."

"I'm convinced of that."

"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction himself. . . ."

"M. Formerie had better not interfere. He can mind his own business,
which is to examine the servants, as he is doing now. Besides, it has
nothing to do with the examining-magistrate, it has to do with the
police. It's my affair."

Just then a squad of police burst into the hotel. The chief detective
divided them into several sections which he sent up to the third floor.
Then, addressing the commissary of police:

"My dear commissary, I leave the task of watching the doors to you. No
weakness, I entreat you. I will take the responsibility for anything
that happens."

And, turning to the lift, he had himself conveyed to the second floor.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a difficult business and a long one, for they had to open the
doors of the sixty bedrooms, to inspect all the bathrooms, all the
recesses, all the cupboards, every nook and corner.

And it was also fruitless. An hour later, on the stroke of twelve, M.
Lenormand had just done the second floor; the other parties had not yet
finished the upper floors; and no discovery had been made.

M. Lenormand hesitated: had the murderer retreated to the attics?

He was deciding, however, to go downstairs, when he was told that Mrs.
Kesselbach had just arrived with her lady-companion. Edwards, the old
confidential man-servant, had accepted the task of informing her of Mr.
Kesselbach's death.

M. Lenormand found her in one of the drawing rooms, overcome by the
unexpected shock, dry-eyed, but with her features wrung with grief and
her body trembling all over, as though convulsed with fever. She was a
rather tall, dark woman; and her black and exceedingly beautiful eyes
were filled with gold, with little gold spots, like spangles gleaming in
the dark. Her husband had met her in Holland, where Dolores was born of
an old family of Spanish origin, the Amontis. He fell in love with her
at first sight; and for four years the harmony between them, built up
of mutual affection and devotion, had never been interrupted.

M. Lenormand introduced himself. She looked at him without replying; and
he was silent, for she did not appear, in her stupor, to understand what
he said. Then, suddenly, she began to shed copious tears and asked to be
taken to her husband.

In the hall, M. Lenormand found Gourel, who was looking for him and who
rushed at him with a hat which he held in his hand:

"I picked this up, chief. . . . There's no doubt whom it belongs to, is
there?"

It was a soft, black felt hat and resembled the description given. There
was no lining or label inside it.

"Where did you pick it up?"

"On the second-floor landing of the servants' staircase."

"Nothing on the other floors?"

"Nothing. We've searched everywhere. There is only the first floor left.
And this hat shows that the man went down so far. We're burning, chief!"

"I think so."

At the foot of the stairs M. Lenormand stopped:

"Go back to the commissary and give him my orders: he must post two men
at the foot of each of the four staircases, revolver in hand. And they
are to fire, if necessary. Understand this, Gourel: if Chapman is not
saved and if the fellow escapes, it means my resignation. I've been
wool-gathering for over two hours."

He went up the stairs. On the first floor he met two policemen leaving a
bedroom, accompanied by a servant of the hotel.

The passage was deserted. The hotel staff dared not venture into it.
Some of the permanent visitors had locked themselves in their rooms; and
the police had to knock for a long time and proclaim who they were
before they could get the doors opened.

Farther on, M. Lenormand saw another group of policemen searching the
maid's pantry and, at the end of a long passage, he saw some more men
who were approaching the turning, that is to say, that part of the
passage which contained the rooms overlooking the Rue de Judée.

And, suddenly, he heard these men shouting; and they disappeared at a
run.

He hurried after them.

The policemen had stopped in the middle of the passage. At their feet,
blocking their way, with its face on the carpet, lay a corpse.

M. Lenormand bent down and took the lifeless head in his hands:

"Chapman," he muttered. "He is dead."

He examined the body. A white knitted silk muffler was tied round the
neck. He undid it. Red stains appeared; and he saw that the muffler held
a thick wad of cotton-wool in position against the nape of the neck. The
wad was soaked with blood.

Once again there was the same little wound, clean, frank and pitiless.

M. Formerie and the commissary were at once told and came hastening up.

"No one gone out?" asked the chief detective. "No surprise?"

"No," said the commissary. "There are two men on guard at the foot of
each staircase."

"Perhaps he has gone up again?" said M. Formerie.

"No! . . . No! . . ."

"But some one must have met him. . . ."

"No. . . . This all happened quite a long time ago. The hands are cold.
. . . The murder must have been committed almost immediately after the
other . . . as soon as the two men came here by the servants'
staircase."

"But the body would have been seen! Think, fifty people must have passed
this spot during the last two hours. . . ."

"The body was not here."

"Then where was it?"

"Why, how can I tell?" snapped the chief detective. "Do as I'm doing,
look for yourself! You can't find things by talking."

He furiously patted the knob of his stick with a twitching hand; and he
stood there, with his eyes fixed on the body, silent and thoughtful. At
last he spoke:

"Monsieur le Commissaire, be so good as to have the victim taken to an
empty room. Let them fetch the doctor. Mr. Manager, would you mind
opening the doors of all the rooms on this passage for me?"

On the left were three bedrooms and two sitting-rooms, forming an empty
suite, which M. Lenormand inspected. On the right were four bedrooms.
Two were occupied respectively by a M. Reverdat and an Italian, Baron
Giacomini, who were both then out. In the third room they found an
elderly English maiden lady still in bed; and, in the fourth, an
Englishman who was placidly reading and smoking and who had not been in
the least disturbed by the noises in the passage. His name was Major
Parbury.

No amount of searching or questioning led to any result. The old maid
had heard nothing before the exclamations of the policeman: no noise of
a struggle, no cry of pain, no sound of quarreling; and Major Parbury
neither.

Moreover, there was no suspicious clue found, no trace of blood, nothing
to lead them to suppose that the unfortunate Chapman had been in one of
those rooms.

"It's queer," muttered the examining-magistrate, "it's all very queer.
. . ." And he confessed, ingenuously, "I feel more and more at sea.
. . . There is a whole series of circumstances that are partly beyond
me. What do you make of it, M. Lenormand?"

M. Lenormand was on the point of letting off one of those pointed
rejoinders in which he was wont to give vent to his chronic ill-temper,
when Gourel appeared upon the scene, all out of breath.

"Chief," he panted, "they've found this . . . downstairs . . . in the
office . . . on a chair. . . ."

It was a parcel of moderate dimensions, wrapped up in a piece of black
serge.

"Did they open it?" asked the chief.

"Yes, but when they saw what the parcel contained, they did it up again
exactly as it was . . . fastened very tight, as you can see. . . ."

"Untie it."

Gourel removed the wrapper and disclosed a black diagonal jacket and
trousers, which had evidently been packed up in a hurry, as the creases
in the cloth showed. In the middle was a towel, covered with blood,
which had been dipped in water, in order, no doubt, to destroy the marks
of the hands that had been wiped on it. Inside the napkin was a steel
dagger, with a handle encrusted with gold. This also was red with blood,
the blood of three men stabbed within the space of a few hours by an
invisible hand, amid the crowd of three hundred people moving about in
the huge hotel.

Edwards, the man-servant, at once identified the dagger as belonging to
Mr. Kesselbach. He had seen it on the table on the previous day, before
the assault committed by Lupin.

"Mr. Manager," said the chief detective, "the restriction is over.
Gourel, go and give orders to leave the doors free."

"So you think that Lupin has succeeded in getting out?" asked M.
Formerie.

"No. The perpetrator of the three murders which we have discovered is in
one of the rooms of the hotel, or, rather, he is among the visitors in
the hall or in the reception-rooms. In my opinion, he was staying in the
hotel."

"Impossible! Besides, where would he have changed his clothes? And what
clothes would he have on now?"

"I don't know, but I am stating a fact."

"And you are letting him go? Why, he'll just walk out quietly, with his
hands in his pockets!"

"The one who walks away like that, without his luggage, and who does not
return, will be the criminal. Mr. Manager, please come with me to the
office. I should like to make a close inspection of your visitors'
book."

In the office, M. Lenormand found a few letters addressed to Mr.
Kesselbach. He handed them to the examining-magistrate. There was also a
parcel that had just come by the Paris parcel-post. The paper in which
it was packed was partly torn; and M. Lenormand saw that it held a small
ebony box, engraved with the name of Rudolf Kesselbach. Feeling
curious, he opened the parcel. The box contained the fragments of a
looking-glass which had evidently been fixed to the inside of the lid.
It also contained the card of Arsène Lupin.

But one detail seemed to strike the chief detective. On the outside, at
the bottom of the box, was a little blue-edged label, similar to the
label which he had picked up in the room on the fourth floor where the
cigarette-case was found, and this label bore the same number, 813.



CHAPTER III

M. LENORMAND OPENS HIS CAMPAIGN


"Auguste, show M. Lenormand in."

The messenger went out and, a few seconds later, announced the chief of
the detective-service.

There were three men in the prime minister's private room on the Place
Beauvau: the famous Valenglay, leader of the radical party for the past
thirty years and now president of the council and minister of the
interior; the attorney-general, M. Testard; and the prefect of police,
Delaume.

The prefect of police and the attorney-general did not rise from the
chairs which they had occupied during their long conversation with the
prime minister. Valenglay, however, stood up and, pressing the chief
detective's hand, said, in the most cordial tones:

"I have no doubt, my dear Lenormand, that you know the reason why I
asked you to come."

"The Kesselbach case?"

"Yes."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Kesselbach case! Not one of us but is able to recall not only the
main details of this tragic affair, the tangled skein of which I have
set myself to unravel, but even its very smallest incidents, so greatly
did the tragedy excite us all during these recent years. Nor is there
one of us but remembers the extraordinary stir which it created both in
and outside France. And yet there was one thing that upset the public
even more than the three murders committed in such mysterious
circumstances, more than the detestable atrocity of that butchery, more
than anything else; and that was the reappearance--one might almost say
the resurrection--of Arsène Lupin.

Arsène Lupin! No one had heard speak of him for over four years, since
his incredible, his astounding adventure of the Hollow Needle,[2] since
the day when he had slunk away into the darkness before the eyes of
Holmlock Shears and Isidore Beautrelet, carrying on his back the dead
body of the woman whom he loved, and followed by his old servant,
Victoire.

[Footnote 2: See _The Hollow Needle_. By Maurice Leblanc. Translated by
Alexander Teixeira de Mattos and published by Doubleday, Page & Co.]

From that day onward he had been generally believed to be dead. This was
the version put about by the police, who, finding no trace of their
adversary, were content purely and simply to bury him.

Some, however, believing him to be saved, described him as leading a
placid, Philistine existence. According to them, he was living with his
wife and children, growing his small potatoes; whereas others maintained
that, bent down with the weight of sorrow and weary of the vanities of
this world, he had sought the seclusion of a Trappist monastery.

And here he was once more looming large in the public view and resuming
his relentless struggle against society! Arsène Lupin was Arsène Lupin
again, the fanciful, intangible, disconcerting, audacious, genial Arsène
Lupin! But, this time, a cry of horror arose. Arsène Lupin had taken
human life! And the fierceness, the cruelty, the ruthless cynicism of
the crime were so great that, then and there, the legend of the popular
hero, of the chivalrous and occasionally sentimental adventurer, made
way for a new conception of an inhuman, bloodthirsty, and ferocious
monster. The crowd now loathed and feared its former idol with more
intensity than it had once shown in admiring him for his easy grace and
his diverting good-humor.

And, forthwith, the indignation of that frightened crowd turned against
the police. Formerly, people had laughed. They forgave the beaten
commissary of police for the comical fashion in which he allowed himself
to be beaten. But the joke had lasted too long; and, in a burst of
revolt and fury, they now called the authorities to account for the
unspeakable crimes which these were powerless to prevent.

In the press, at public meetings, in the streets and even in the tribune
of the Chamber of Deputies there was such an explosion of wrath that the
government grew alarmed and strove by every possible means to allay the
public excitement.

It so happened that Valenglay, the premier, took a great interest in all
these police questions and had often amused himself by going closely
into different cases with the chief of the detective-service, whose good
qualities and independent character he valued highly. He sent for the
prefect and the attorney-general to see him in his room, talked to them
and then sent for M. Lenormand.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Yes, my dear Lenormand, it's about the Kesselbach case. But, before we
discuss it, I must call your attention to a point which more
particularly affects and, I may say, annoys Monsieur le Préfet de
Police. M. Delaume, will you explain to M. Lenormand . . . ?

"Oh, M. Lenormand knows quite well how the matter stands," said the
prefect, in a tone which showed but little good-will toward his
subordinate. "We have talked it over already and I have told him what I
thought of his improper conduct at the Palace Hotel. People are
generally indignant."

M. Lenormand rose, took a paper from his pocket and laid it on the
table.

"What is this?" asked Valenglay.

"My resignation, Monsieur le Président du Conseil."

Valenglay gave a jump:

"What! Your resignation! For a well-meaning remark which Monsieur le
Préfet thinks fit to address to you and to which, for that matter, he
attaches no importance whatever--do you, Delaume? No importance
whatever--and there you go, taking offence! You must confess, my dear
Lenormand, that you're devilish touchy! Come, put that bit of paper back
in your pocket and let's talk seriously."

The chief detective sat down again, and Valenglay, silencing the
prefect, who made no attempt to conceal his dissatisfaction, said:

"In two words, Lenormand, the thing is that Lupin's reappearance upon
the scene annoys us. The brute has defied us long enough. It used to be
funny, I confess, and I, for my part, was the first to laugh at it. But
it's no longer a question of that. It's a question of murder now. We
could stand Lupin, as long as he amused the gallery. But, when he takes
to killing people, no!"

"Then what is it that you ask, Monsieur le Président?"

"What we ask? Oh, it's quite simple! First, his arrest and then his
head!"

"I can promise you his arrest, some day or another, but not his head."

"What! If he's arrested, it means trial for murder, a verdict of guilty,
and the scaffold."

"No!"

"And why not?"

"Because Lupin has not committed murder."

"Eh? Why, you're mad, Lenormand! The corpses at the Palace Hotel are so
many inventions, I suppose! And the three murders were never committed!"

"Yes, but not by Lupin."

The chief spoke these words very steadily, with impressive calmness and
conviction. The attorney and the prefect protested.

"I presume, Lenormand," said Valenglay, "that you do not put forward
that theory without serious reasons?"

"It is not a theory."

"What proof have you?"

"There are two, to begin with, two proofs of a moral nature, which I at
once placed before Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction and which the
newspapers have laid stress upon. First and foremost, Lupin does not
kill people. Next, why should he have killed anybody, seeing that the
object which he set out to achieve, the theft, was accomplished and that
he had nothing to fear from an adversary who was gagged and bound?"

"Very well. But the facts?"

"Facts are worth nothing against reason and logic; and, moreover, the
facts also are on my side. What would be the meaning of Lupin's presence
in the room in which the cigarette-case was discovered? On the other
hand, the black clothes which were found and which evidently belonged to
the murderer are not in the least of a size to fit Lupin."

"You know him, then, do you?"

"I? No. But Edwards saw him, Gourel saw him; and the man whom they saw
is not the man whom the chambermaid saw, on the servants' staircase,
dragging Chapman by the hand."

"Then your idea . . ."

"You mean to say, the truth, M. le Président. Here it is, or, at least,
here is the truth as far as I know it. On Tuesday, the 16th of April, a
man---Lupin--broke into Mr. Kesselbach's room at about two o'clock in
the afternoon. . . ."

M. Lenormand was interrupted by a burst of laughter. It came from the
prefect of police.

"Let me tell you, M. Lenormand, that you are in rather too great a hurry
to state your precise facts. It has been shown that, at three o'clock on
that day, Mr. Kesselbach walked into the Crédit Lyonnais and went down
to the safe deposit. His signature in the register proves it."

M. Lenormand waited respectfully until his superior had finished
speaking. Then, without even troubling to reply directly to the attack,
he continued:

"At about two o'clock in the afternoon, Lupin, assisted by an
accomplice, a man named Marco, bound Mr. Kesselbach hand and foot,
robbed him of all the loose cash which he had upon him and compelled him
to reveal the cypher of his safe at the Crédit Lyonnais. As soon as the
secret was told, Marco left. He joined another accomplice, who,
profiting by a certain resemblance to Mr. Kesselbach--a resemblance
which he accentuated that day by wearing clothes similar to Mr.
Kesselbach's and putting on a pair of gold spectacles--entered the
Crédit Lyonnais, imitated Mr. Kesselbach's signature, emptied the safe
of its contents and walked off, accompanied by Marco. Marco at once
telephoned to Lupin. Lupin, as soon as he was sure that Mr. Kesselbach
had not deceived him and that the object of his expedition was attained,
went away."

Valenglay seemed to waver in his mind:

"Yes, yes . . . we'll admit that. . . . But what surprises me is that a
man like Lupin should have risked so much for such a paltry profit: a
few bank-notes and the hypothetical contents of a safe."

"Lupin was after more than that. He wanted either the morocco envelope
which was in the traveling-bag, or else the ebony box which was in the
safe. He had the ebony box, because he has sent it back empty.
Therefore, by this time, he knows, or is in a fair way for knowing, the
famous scheme which Mr. Kesselbach was planning, and which he was
discussing with his secretary a few minutes before his death."

"What was the scheme?"

"I don't exactly know. The manager of Barbareux's agency, to whom he had
opened his mind about it, has told me that Mr. Kesselbach was looking
for a man who went by the name of Pierre Leduc, a man who had lost
caste, it appears. Why and how the discovery of this person was
connected with the success of his scheme, I am unable to say."

"Very well," said Valenglay. "So much for Arsène Lupin. His part is
played. Mr. Kesselbach is bound hand and foot, robbed, but alive! . . .
What happens up to the time when he is found dead?"

"Nothing, for several hours, nothing until night. But, during the night,
some one made his way in."

"How?"

"Through room 420, one of the rooms reserved by Mr. Kesselbach. The
person in question evidently possessed a false key."

"But," exclaimed the prefect of police, "all the doors between that room
and Mr. Kesselbach's flat were bolted; and there were five of them!"

"There was always the balcony."

"The balcony!"

"Yes; the balcony runs along the whole floor, on the Rue de Judée side."

"And what about the spaces in between?"

"An active man can step across them. Our man did. I have found marks."

"But all the windows of the suite were shut; and it was ascertained,
after the crime, that they were still shut."

"All except one, the secretary's window, Chapman's, which was only
pushed to. I tried it myself."

This time the prime minister seemed a little shaken, so logical did M.
Lenormand's version seem, so precise and supported by such sound facts.
He asked, with growing interest:

"But what was the man's object in coming?"

"I don't know."

"Ah, you don't know!"

"Any more than I know his name."

"But why did he kill Mr. Kesselbach?"

"I don't know. This all remains a mystery. The utmost that we have the
right to suppose is that he did not come with the intention of killing,
but with the intention, he too, of taking the documents contained in
the morocco note-case and the ebony box; and that, finding himself by
accident in the presence of the enemy reduced to a state of
helplessness, he killed him."

Valenglay muttered:

"Yes, strictly speaking, that is possible. . . . And, according to you,
did he find the documents?"

"He did not find the box, because it was not there; but he found the
black morocco note-case. So that Lupin and . . . the other are in the
same position. Each knows as much as the other about the Kesselbach
scheme."

"That means," remarked the premier, "that they will fight."

"Exactly. And the fight has already begun. The murderer, finding a card
of Arsène Lupin's, pinned it to the corpse. All the appearances would
thus be against Arsène Lupin . . . therefore, Arsène Lupin would be the
murderer."

"True . . . true," said Valenglay. "The calculation seemed pretty
accurate."

"And the stratagem would have succeeded," continued M. Lenormand, "if in
consequence of another and a less favorable accident, the murderer had
not, either in coming or going, dropped his cigarette-case in room 420,
and if the floor-waiter, Gustave Beudot, had not picked it up. From that
moment, knowing himself to be discovered, or on the point of being
discovered . . ."

"How did he know it?"

"How? Why, through M. Formerie, the examining-magistrate, himself! The
investigation took place with open doors. It is certain that the
murderer was concealed among the people, members of the hotel staff and
journalists, who were present when Gustave Beudot was giving his
evidence; and when the magistrate sent Gustave Beudot to his attic to
fetch the cigarette-case, the man followed and struck the blow. Second
victim!"

No one protested now. The tragedy was being reconstructed before their
eyes with a realism and a probable accuracy which were equally striking.

"And the third victim?" asked Valenglay.

"He himself gave the ruffian his opportunity. When Beudot did not
return, Chapman, curious to see the cigarette-case for himself, went
upstairs with the manager of the hotel. He was surprised by the
murderer, dragged away by him, taken to one of the bedrooms and murdered
in his turn."

"But why did he allow himself to be dragged away like that and to be led
by a man whom he knew to be the murderer of Mr. Kesselbach and of
Gustave Beudot?"

"I don't know, any more than I know the room in which the crime was
committed, or the really miraculous way in which the criminal escaped."

"Something has been said about two blue labels."

"Yes, one was found on the box which Lupin sent back; and the other was
found by me and doubtless came from the morocco note-case stolen by the
murderer."

"Well?"

"I don't think that they mean anything. What does mean something is the
number 813, which Mr. Kesselbach wrote on each of them. His handwriting
has been recognized."

"And that number 813?"

"It's a mystery."

"Then?"

"I can only reply again that I don't know."

"Have you no suspicions?"

"None at all. Two of my men are occupying one of the rooms in the Palace
Hotel, on the floor where Chapman's body was found. I have had all the
people in the hotel watched by these two men. The criminal is not one of
those who have left."

"Did no one telephone while the murders were being committed?"

"Yes, some one telephoned from the outside to Major Parbury, one of the
four persons who occupied rooms on the first-floor passage."

"And this Major Parbury?"

"I am having him watched by my men. So far, nothing has been discovered
against him."

"And in which direction do you intend to seek?"

"Oh, in a very limited direction. In my opinion, the murderer must be
numbered among the friends or connections of Mr. and Mrs. Kesselbach. He
followed their scent, knew their habits, the reason of Mr. Kesselbach's
presence in Paris; and he at least suspected the importance of Mr.
Kesselbach's plans."

"Then he was not a professional criminal?"

"No, no, certainly not! The murder was committed with extraordinary
cleverness and daring, but it was due to circumstances. I repeat, we
shall have to look among the people forming the immediate circle of Mr.
and Mrs. Kesselbach. And the proof is that Mr. Kesselbach's murderer
killed Gustave Beudot for the sole reason that the waiter had the
cigarette-case in his possession; and Chapman for the sole reason that
the secretary knew of its existence. Remember Chapman's excitement: at
the mere description of the cigarette-case, Chapman received a sudden
insight into the tragedy. If he had seen the cigarette-case, we should
have been fully informed. The man, whoever he may be, was well aware of
that: and he put an end to Chapman. And we know nothing, nothing but the
initials L and M."

He reflected for a moment and said:

"There is another proof, which forms an answer to one of your questions,
Monsieur le Président: Do you believe that Chapman would have
accompanied that man along the passages and staircases of the hotel if
he did not already know him?"

The facts were accumulating. The truth or, at least, the probable truth
was gaining strength. Many of the points at issue, the most interesting,
perhaps, remained obscure. But what a light had been thrown upon the
subject! Short of the motives that inspired them, how clearly
Lenormand's hearers now perceived the sequence of acts performed on that
tragic morning!

There was a pause. Every one was thinking, seeking for arguments, for
objections. At last, Valenglay exclaimed:

"My dear Lenormand, this is all quite excellent. You have convinced me.
. . . But, taking one thing with another, we are no further than we
were."

"What do you mean?"

"What I say. The object of our meeting is not to clear up a portion of
the mystery, which, one day, I am sure, you will clear up altogether,
but to satisfy the public demand as fully as we possibly can. Now
whether the murderer is Lupin or another; whether there are two
criminals, or three, or only one: all this gives us neither the
criminal's name nor his arrest. And the public continues under the
disastrous impression that the law is powerless."

"What can I do?"

"Give the public the definite satisfaction which it demands."

"But it seems to me that this explanation ought to be enough. . . ."

"Words! The public wants deeds! One thing alone will satisfy it: an
arrest."

"Hang it all! Hang it all! We can't arrest the first person that comes
along!"

"Even that would be better than arresting nobody," said Valenglay, with
a laugh. "Come, have a good look round! Are you sure of Edwards,
Kesselbach's servant?"

"Absolutely sure. Besides . . . No, Monsieur le Président, it would be
dangerous and ridiculous; and I am sure that Mr. Attorney-General
himself . . . There are only two people whom we have the right to
arrest: the murderer--I don't know who he is--and Arsène Lupin."

"Well?"

"There is no question of arresting Arsène Lupin, or, at least, it
requires time, a whole series of measures, which I have not yet had the
leisure to contrive, because I looked upon Lupin as settled down . . .
or dead."

Valenglay stamped his foot with the impatience of a man who likes to see
his wishes realized on the spot:

"And yet . . . and yet, my dear Lenormand, something must be done . . .
if only for your own sake. You know as well as I do that you have
powerful enemies . . . and that, if I were not there . . . In short,
Lenormand, you can't be allowed to get out of it like this. What are you
doing about the accomplices? There are others besides Lupin. There is
Marco; and there's the rogue who impersonated Mr. Kesselbach in order
to visit the cellars of the Crédit Lyonnais."

"Would you be satisfied if you got him, Monsieur le Président?"

"Would I be satisfied? Heavens alive, I should think I would!"

"Well, give me seven days."

"Seven days! Why, it's not a question of days, my dear Lenormand! It's a
question of hours!"

"How many will you give me, Monsieur le Président?"

Valenglay took out his watch and chuckled:

"I will give you ten minutes, my dear Lenormand!"

The chief took out his, and emphasizing each syllable, said calmly:

"That is four minutes more than I want, Monsieur le Président."

Valenglay looked at him in amazement.

"Four minutes more than you want? What do you mean by that?"

"I mean, Monsieur le Président, that the ten minutes which you allow me
are superfluous. I want six, and not one minute more."

"Oh, but look here, Lenormand . . . if you imagine that this is the time
for joking . . ."

The chief detective went to the window and beckoned to two men who were
walking round the courtyard.

Then he returned:

"Mr. Attorney-General, would you have the kindness to sign a warrant for
the arrest of Auguste Maximin Philippe Daileron, aged forty-seven? You
might leave the profession open."

He went to the door:

"Come in, Gourel. You, too, Dieuzy."

Gourel entered, accompanied by Inspector Dieuzy.

"Have you the handcuffs, Gourel?"

"Yes, chief."

M. Lenormand went up to Valenglay:

"Monsieur le Président, everything is ready. But I entreat you most
urgently to forego this arrest. It upsets all my plans; it may render
them abortive; and, for the sake of what, after all, is a very trifling
satisfaction, it exposes us to the risk of jeopardizing the whole
business."

"M. Lenormand, let me remark that you have only eighty seconds left."

The chief suppressed a gesture of annoyance, strode across the room and,
leaning on his stick, sat down angrily, as though he had decided not to
speak. Then, suddenly making up his mind:

"Monsieur le Président, the first person who enters this room will be
the man whose arrest you asked for . . . against my wish, as I insist on
pointing out to you."

"Fifteen seconds, Lenormand!"

"Gourel . . . Dieuzy . . . the first person, do you understand? . . .
Mr. Attorney, have you signed the warrant?"

"Ten seconds, Lenormand!"

"Monsieur le Président, would you be so good as to ring the bell?"

Valenglay rang.

The messenger appeared in the doorway and waited.

Valenglay turned to the chief:

"Well, Lenormand, he's waiting for your orders. Whom is he to show in?"

"No one."

"But the rogue whose arrest you promised us? The six minutes are more
than past."

"Yes, but the rogue is here!"

"Here? I don't understand. No one has entered the room!"

"I beg your pardon."

"Oh, I say. . . . Look here, Lenormand, you're making fun of us. I tell
you again that no one has entered the room."

"There were six of us in this room, Monsieur le Président; there are
seven now. Consequently, some one has entered the room."

Valenglay started:

"Eh! But this is madness! . . . What! You mean to say . . ."

The two detectives had slipped between the messenger and the door. M.
Lenormand walked up to the messenger, clapped his hand on his shoulder
and, in a loud voice:

"In the name of the law, Auguste Maximin Philippe Daileron, chief
messenger at the Ministry of the Interior, I arrest you."

Valenglay burst out laughing.

"Oh, what a joke! What a joke! That infernal Lenormand! Of all the
first-rate notions! Well done, Lenormand! It's long since I enjoyed so
good a laugh."

M. Lenormand turned to the attorney-general:

"Mr. Attorney, you won't forget to fill in Master Daileron's profession
on the warrant, will you? Chief messenger at the Ministry of the
Interior."

"Oh, good! . . . Oh, capital! . . . Chief messenger at the Ministry of
the Interior!" spluttered Valenglay, holding his sides. "Oh, this
wonderful Lenormand gets hold of ideas that would never occur to anybody
else! The public is clamoring for an arrest. . . . Whoosh, he flings at
its head my chief messenger . . . Auguste . . . the model servant!
Well, Lenormand, my dear fellow, I knew you had a certain gift of
imagination, but I never suspected that it would go so far as this! The
impertinence of it!"

From the commencement of this scene, Auguste had not stirred a limb and
seemed to understand nothing of what was going on around him. His face,
the typical face of a good, loyal, faithful serving-man, seemed
absolutely bewildered. He looked at the gentlemen turn and turn about,
with a visible effort to catch the meaning of their words.

M. Lenormand said a few words to Gourel, who went out. Then, going up to
Auguste and speaking with great decision, he said:

"There's no way out of it. You're caught. The best thing to do, when the
game is lost, is to throw down your cards. What were you doing on
Tuesday?"

"I? Nothing. I was here."

"You lie. You were off duty. You went out for the day."

"Oh, yes . . . I remember . . . I had a friend to see me from the
country. . . . We went for a walk in the Bois."

"Your friend's name was Marco. And you went for a walk in the cellars of
the Crédit Lyonnais."

"I? What an idea! . . . Marco! . . . I don't know any one by that name."

"And these? Do you know these?" cried the chief, thrusting a pair of
gold-rimmed spectacles under his nose.

"No . . . certainly not. . . . I don't wear spectacles. . . ."

"Yes, you do; you wear them when you go to the Crédit Lyonnais and when
you pass yourself off as Mr. Kesselbach. These come from your room, the
room which you occupy, under the name of M. Jérôme, at No. 50 Rue du
Colisee."

"My room? _My_ room? I sleep here, at the office."

"But you change your clothes over there, to play your parts in Lupin's
gang."

A blow in the chest made him stagger back. Auguste reached the window at
a bound, climbed over the balcony and jumped into the courtyard.

"Dash it all!" shouted Valenglay. "The scoundrel!"

He rang the bell, ran to the window, wanted to call out. M. Lenormand,
with the greatest calm, said:

"Don't excite yourself, Monsieur le Président . . ."

"But that blackguard of an Auguste . . ."

"One second, please. . . . I foresaw this ending . . . in fact, I
allowed for it. . . . It's the best confession we could have. . . ."

Yielding in the presence of this coolness, Valenglay resumed his seat.
In a moment, Gourel entered, with his hand on the collar of Master
Auguste Maximin Philippe Daileron, _alias_ Jérôme, chief messenger at
the Ministry of the Interior.

"Bring him, Gourel!" said M. Lenormand, as who should say, "Fetch it!
Bring it!" to a good retriever carrying the game in its jaws. "Did he
come quietly?"

"He bit me a little, but I held tight," replied the sergeant, showing
his huge, sinewy hand.

"Very well, Gourel. And now take this chap off to the Dépôt in a cab.
Good-bye for the present, M. Jérôme."

Valenglay was immensely amused. He rubbed his hands and laughed. The
idea that his chief messenger was one of Lupin's accomplices struck him
as a most delightfully ludicrous thing.

"Well done, my dear Lenormand; this is wonderful! But how on earth did
you manage it?"

"Oh, in the simplest possible fashion. I knew that Mr. Kesselbach was
employing the Barbareux agency and that Lupin had called on him,
pretending to come from the agency. I hunted in that direction and
discovered that, when the indiscretion was committed to the prejudice of
Mr. Kesselbach and of Barbareux, it could only have been to the
advantage of one Jérôme, a friend of one of the clerks at the agency. If
you had not ordered me to hustle things, I should have watched the
messenger and caught Marco and then Lupin."

"You'll catch them, Lenormand, you'll catch them, I assure you. And we
shall be assisting at the most exciting spectacle in the world: the
struggle between Lupin and yourself. I shall bet on you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning the newspapers published the following letter:

      "_Open Letter to M. Lenormand, Chief of the
      Detective-service._

      "All my congratulations, dear sir and dear friend, on
      your arrest of Jérôme the messenger. It was a smart
      piece of work, well executed and worthy of you.

      "All my compliments, also, on the ingenious manner in
      which you proved to the prime minister that I was not
      Mr. Kesselbach's murderer. Your demonstration was
      clear, logical, irrefutable and, what is more,
      truthful. As you know, I do not kill people. Thank you
      for proving it on this occasion. The esteem of my
      contemporaries and of yourself, dear sir and dear
      friend, are indispensable to my happiness.

      "In return, allow me to assist you in the pursuit of
      the monstrous assassin and to give you a hand with the
      Kesselbach case, a very interesting case, believe me:
      so interesting and so worthy of my attention that I
      have determined to issue from the retirement in which
      I have been living for the past four years, between my
      books and my good dog Sherlock, to beat all my
      comrades to arms and to throw myself once more into
      the fray.

      "What unexpected turns life sometimes takes! Here am
      I, your fellow-worker! Let me assure you, dear sir and
      dear friend, that I congratulate myself upon it, and
      that I appreciate this favor of destiny at its true
      value.

                                    "ARSÈNE LUPIN.

      "P.S.--One word more, of which I feel sure that you
      will approve. As it is not right and proper that a
      gentleman who has had the glorious privilege of
      fighting under my banner should languish on the straw
      of your prisons, I feel it my duty to give you fair
      warning that, in five weeks' time, on Friday, the 31st
      of May, I shall set at liberty Master Jérôme, promoted
      by me to the rank of chief messenger at the Ministry
      of the Interior. Don't forget the date: Friday, the
      31st of May.

                                           "A. L."



CHAPTER IV

PRINCE SERNINE AT WORK


A ground-floor flat, at the corner of the Boulevard Haussmann and the
Rue de Courcelles. Here lived Prince Sernine: Prince Sernine, one of the
most brilliant members of the Russian colony in Paris, whose name was
constantly recurring in the "Arrivals and Departures" column in the
newspapers.

Eleven o'clock in the morning. The prince entered his study. He was a
man of thirty-eight or forty years of age, whose chestnut hair was
mingled with a few silver threads on the temples. He had a fresh,
healthy complexion and wore a large mustache and a pair of whiskers cut
extremely short, so as to be hardly noticeable against the fresh skin of
his cheeks.

He was smartly dressed in a tight-fitting frock-coat and a white drill
waistcoat, which showed above the opening.

"Come on!" he said, in an undertone. "I have a hard day's work before
me, I expect."

He opened a door leading into a large room where a few people sat
waiting, and said:

"Is Varnier there? Come in, Varnier."

A man looking like a small tradesman, squat, solidly built, firmly set
upon his legs, entered at the summons. The prince closed the door behind
him:

"Well, Varnier, how far are you?"

"Everything's ready for this evening, governor."

"Good. Tell me in a few words."

"It's like this. After her husband's murder, Mrs. Kesselbach, on the
strength of the prospectuses which you ordered to be sent to her,
selected as her residence the establishment known as the Retreat for
Gentlewomen, at Garches. She occupies the last of the four small houses,
at the bottom of the garden, which the management lets to ladies who
prefer to live quite apart from the other boarders, the house known as
the Pavillon de l'Impératrice."

"What servants has she?"

"Her companion, Gertrude, with whom she arrived a few hours after the
crime, and Gertrude's sister Suzanne, whom she sent for to Monte Carlo
and who acts as her maid. The two sisters are devoted to her."

"What about Edwards, the valet?"

"She did not keep him. He has gone back to his own country."

"Does she see people?"

"No. She spends her time lying on a sofa. She seems very weak and ill.
She cries a great deal. Yesterday the examining-magistrate was with her
for two hours."

"Very good. And now about the young girl."

"Mlle. Geneviève Ernemont lives across the way . . . in a lane running
toward the open country, the third house on the right in the lane. She
keeps a free school for backward children. Her grandmother, Mme.
Ernemont, lives with her."

"And, according to what you wrote to me, Geneviève Ernemont and Mrs.
Kesselbach have become acquainted?"

"Yes. The girl went to ask Mrs. Kesselbach for a subscription for her
school. They must have taken a liking to each other, for, during the
past four days, they have been walking together in the Parc de
Villeneuve, of which the garden of the Retreat is only a dependency."

"At what time do they go out?"

"From five to six. At six o'clock exactly the young lady goes back to
her school."

"So you have arranged the thing?"

"For six o'clock to-day. Everything is ready."

"Will there be no one there?"

"There is never any one in the park at that hour."

"Very well. I shall be there. You can go."

He sent him out through the door leading to the hall, and, returning to
the waiting-room, called:

"The brothers Doudeville."

Two young men entered, a little overdressed, keen-eyed and
pleasant-looking.

"Good morning, Jean. Good morning, Jacques. Any news at the Prefecture?"

"Nothing much, governor."

"Does M. Lenormand continue to have confidence in you?"

"Yes. Next to Gourel, we are his favorite inspectors. A proof is that he
has posted us in the Palace Hotel to watch the people who were living on
the first-floor passage at the time of Chapman's murder. Gourel comes
every morning, and we make the same report to him that we do to you."

"Capital. It is essential that I should be informed of all that happens
and all that is said at the Prefecture of Police. As long as Lenormand
looks upon you as his men, I am master of the situation. And have you
discovered a trail of any kind in the hotel?"

Jean Doudeville, the elder of the two, replied:

"The Englishwoman who occupied one of the bedrooms has gone."

"That doesn't interest me. I know all about her. But her neighbor, Major
Parbury?"

They seemed embarrassed. At last, one of them replied:

"Major Parbury, this morning, ordered his luggage to be taken to the
Gare du Nord, for the twelve-fifty train, and himself drove away in a
motor. We were there when the train left. The major did not come."

"And the luggage?"

"He had it fetched at the station."

"By whom?"

"By a commissionaire, so we were told."

"Then his tracks are lost?"

"Yes."

"At last!" cried the prince, joyfully.

The others looked at him in surprise.

"Why, of course," he said, "that's a clue!"

"Do you think so?"

"Evidently. The murder of Chapman can only have been committed in one of
the rooms on that passage. Mr. Kesselbach's murderer took the secretary
there, to an accomplice, killed him there, changed his clothes there;
and, once the murderer had got away, the accomplice placed the corpse in
the passage. But which accomplice? The manner of Major Parbury's
disappearance goes to show that he knows something of the business.
Quick, telephone the good news to M. Lenormand or Gourel. The Prefecture
must be informed as soon as possible. The people there and I are
marching hand in hand."

He gave them a few more injunctions, concerning their double rôle as
police-inspectors in the service of Prince Sernine, and dismissed them.

Two visitors remained in the waiting-room. He called one of them in:

"A thousand pardons, Doctor," he said. "I am quite at your orders now.
How is Pierre Leduc?"

"He's dead."

"Aha!" said Sernine. "I expected it, after your note of this morning.
But, all the same, the poor beggar has not been long. . . ."

"He was wasted to a shadow. A fainting-fit; and it was all over."

"Did he not speak?"

"No."

"Are you sure that, from the day when the two of us picked him up under
the table in that low haunt at Belleville, are you sure that nobody in
your nursing-home suspected that he was the Pierre Leduc whom the police
were looking for, the mysterious Pierre Leduc whom Mr. Kesselbach was
trying to find at all costs?"

"Nobody. He had a room to himself. Moreover, I bandaged up his left hand
so that the injury to the little finger could not be seen. As for the
scar on the cheek, it is hidden by the beard."

"And you looked after him yourself?"

"Myself. And, according to your instructions, I took the opportunity of
questioning him whenever he seemed at all clear in his head. But I could
never get more than an inarticulate stammering out of him."

The prince muttered thoughtfully:

"Dead! . . . So Pierre Leduc is dead? . . . The whole Kesselbach case
obviously turned on him, and now he disappears . . . without a
revelation, without a word about himself, about his past. . . . Ought I
to embark on this adventure, in which I am still entirely in the dark?
It's dangerous. . . . I may come to grief. . . ."

He reflected for a moment and exclaimed:

"Oh, who cares? I shall go on for all that. It's no reason, because
Pierre Leduc is dead, that I should throw up the game. On the contrary!
And the opportunity is too tempting! Pierre Leduc is dead! Long live
Pierre Leduc! . . . Go, Doctor, go home. I shall ring you up before
dinner."

The doctor went out.

"Now then, Philippe," said Sernine to his last remaining visitor, a
little gray-haired man, dressed like a waiter at a hotel, a very
tenth-rate hotel, however.

"You will remember, governor," Philippe began, "that last week, you made
me go as boots to the Hôtel des Deux-Empereurs at Versailles, to keep my
eye on a young man."

"Yes, I know. . . . Gérard Baupré. How do things stand with him?"

"He's at the end of his resources."

"Still full of gloomy ideas?"

"Yes. He wants to kill himself."

"Is he serious?"

"Quite. I found this little note in pencil among his papers."

"Ah!" said Sernine, reading the note. "He announces his suicide . . .
and for this evening too!"

"Yes, governor, he has bought the rope and screwed the hook to the
ceiling. Thereupon, acting on your instructions, I talked to him. He
told me of his distress, and I advised him to apply to you: 'Prince
Sernine is rich,' I said; 'he is generous; perhaps he will help you.'"

"All this is first-rate. So he is coming?"

"He is here."

"How do you know?"

"I followed him. He took the train to Paris, and he is walking up and
down the boulevard at this minute. He will make up his mind from one
moment to the other."

Just then the servant brought in a card. The prince glanced at it and
said to the man:

"Show M. Gérard Baupré in."

Then, turning to Philippe:

"You go into the dressing-room, here; listen and don't stir."

Left alone, the prince muttered:

"Why should I hesitate? It's fate that sends him my way. . . ."

A few minutes later a tall young man entered. He was fair and slender,
with an emaciated face and feverish eyes, and he stood on the threshold
embarrassed, hesitating, in the attitude of a beggar who would like to
put out his hand for alms and dares not.

The conversation was brief:

"Are you M. Gérard Baupré?"

"Yes . . . yes . . . that is my name."

"I have not the honor . . ."

"It's like this, sir. . . . Some one told me . . ."

"Who?"

"A hotel servant . . . who said he had been in your service. . . ."

"Please come to the point. . . ."

"Well! . . ."

The young man stopped, taken aback and frightened by the haughty
attitude adopted by the prince, who exclaimed:

"But, sir, there must be some . . ."

"Well, sir, the man told me that you were very rich . . . and very
generous. . . . And I thought that you might possibly . . ."

He broke off short, incapable of uttering the word of prayer and
humiliation.

Sernine went up to him.

"M. Gérard Baupré, did you not publish a volume of poetry called _The
Smile of Spring_?"

"Yes, yes," cried the young man, his face lighting up. "Have you read
it?"

"Yes. . . . Very pretty, your poems, very pretty. . . . Only, do you
reckon upon being able to live on what they will bring you?"

"Certainly . . . sooner or later. . . ."

"Sooner or later? Later rather than sooner, I expect! And, meantime, you
have come to ask me for the wherewithal to live?"

"For the wherewithal to buy food, sir."

Sernine put his hand on the young man's shoulder and, coldly:

"Poets do not need food, monsieur. They live on rhymes and dreams. Do as
they do. That is better than begging for bread."

The young man quivered under the insult. He turned to the door without a
word.

Sernine stopped him:

"One thing more, monsieur. Have you no resources of any kind?"

"None at all."

"And you are not reckoning on anything?"

"I have one hope left: I have written to one of my relations, imploring
him to send me something. I shall have his answer to-day. It is my last
chance."

"And, if you have no answer, you have doubtless made up your mind, this
very evening, to . . ."

"Yes, sir."

This was said quite plainly and simply.

Sernine burst out laughing:

"Bless my soul, what a queer young man you are! And full of artless
conviction, too! Come and see me again next year, will you? We will talk
about all this . . . it's so curious, so interesting . . . and, above
all, so funny! . . . Ha, ha, ha, ha!"

And, shaking with laughter, with affected bows and gestures, he showed
him the door.

"Philippe," he said, admitting the hotel-servant, "did you hear?"

"Yes, governor."

"Gérard Baupré is expecting a telegram this afternoon, a promise of
assistance. . . ."

"Yes, it's his last hope."

"He must not receive that telegram. If it comes, intercept it and tear
it up."

"Very well, governor."

"Are you alone at your hotel?"

"Yes, with the cook, who does not sleep in. The boss is away."

"Good. So we are the masters. Till this evening, at eleven. Be off."

Prince Sernine went to his room and rang for his servant:

"My hat, gloves, and stick. Is the car there?"

"Yes, sir."

He dressed, went out, and sank into a large, comfortable limousine,
which took him to the Bois de Boulogne, to the Marquis and Marquise de
Gastyne's, where he was engaged for lunch.

At half-past two he took leave of his hosts, stopped in the Avenue
Kléber, picked up two of his friends and a doctor, and at five minutes
to three arrived at the Parc des Princes.

At three o'clock he fought a sword duel with the Italian Major Spinelli,
cut his adversary's ear in the first bout, and, at a quarter to four,
took a bank at the Rue Cambon Club, from which he retired, at twenty
minutes past five, after winning forty-seven thousand francs.

And all this without hurrying, with a sort of haughty indifference, as
though the feverish activity that sent his life whizzing through a whirl
of tempestuous deeds and events were the ordinary rule of his most
peaceful days.

"Octave," he said to his chauffeur, "go to Garches."

And at ten minutes to six he alighted outside the old walls of the Parc
de Villeneuve.

       *       *       *       *       *

Although broken up nowadays and spoilt, the Villeneuve estate still
retains something of the splendor which it knew at the time when the
Empress Eugénie used to stay there. With its old trees, its lake and the
leafy horizon of the woods of Saint-Cloud, the landscape has a certain
melancholy grace.

An important part of the estate was made over to the Pasteur Institute.
A smaller portion, separated from the other by the whole extent of the
space reserved for the public, forms a property contained within the
walls which is still fairly large, and which comprises the House of
Retreat, with four isolated garden-houses standing around it.

"That is where Mrs. Kesselbach lives," said the prince to himself,
catching sight of the roofs of the house and the four garden-houses in
the distance.

He crossed the park and walked toward the lake.

Suddenly he stopped behind a clump of trees. He had seen two ladies
against the parapet of the bridge that crossed the lake:

"Varnier and his men must be somewhere near. But, by Jove, they are
keeping jolly well hidden! I can't see them anywhere. . . ."

The two ladies were now strolling across the lawns, under the tall,
venerable trees. The blue of the sky appeared between the branches,
which swayed in the peaceful breeze, and the scent of spring and of
young vegetation was wafted through the air.

On the grassy slopes that ran down to the motionless water, daisies,
violets, daffodils, lilies of the valley, all the little flowers of
April and May stood grouped, and, here and there, formed constellations
of every color. The sun was sinking on the horizon.

And, all at once, three men started from a thicket of bushes and made
for the two ladies.

They accosted them. A few words were exchanged. The ladies gave visible
signs of dread. One of the men went up to the shorter of the two and
tried to snatch the gold purse which she was carrying in her hand. They
cried out; and the three men flung themselves upon them.

"Now or never!" said the prince.

And he rushed forward. In ten seconds he had almost reached the brink of
the water. At his approach, the three men fled.

"Run away, you vagabonds," he chuckled; "run for all you are worth!
Here's the rescuer coming!"

And he set out in pursuit of them. But one of the ladies entreated him:

"Oh, sir, I beg of you . . . my friend is ill."

The shorter lady had fallen on the grass in a dead faint.

He retraced his steps and, anxiously:

"She is not wounded?" he asked. "Did those scoundrels . . ."

"No . . . no . . . it's only the fright . . . the excitement. . . .
Besides you will understand . . . the lady is Mrs. Kesselbach. . . ."

"Oh!" he said.

He produced a bottle of smelling-salts, which the younger woman at once
applied to her friend's nostrils. And he added:

"Lift the amethyst that serves as a stopper. . . . You will see a little
box containing some tabloids. Give madame one of them . . . one, no more
. . . they are very strong. . . ."

He watched the young woman helping her friend. She was fair-haired, very
simply dressed; and her face was gentle and grave, with a smile that lit
up her features even when she was not smiling.

"That is Geneviève," he thought. And he repeated with emotion,
"Geneviève . . . Geneviève. . . ."

Meanwhile, Mrs. Kesselbach gradually recovered consciousness. She was
astonished at first, seemed not to understand. Then, her memory
returning, she thanked her deliverer with a movement of the head.

He made a deep bow and said:

"Allow me to introduce myself. . . . I am Prince Sernine. . . ."

She said, in a faint voice:

"I do not know how to express my gratitude."

"By not expressing it at all, madame. You must thank chance, the chance
that turned my steps in this direction. May I offer you my arm?"

A few minutes later, Mrs. Kesselbach rang at the door of the House of
Retreat and said to the prince:

"I will ask one more service of you, monsieur. Do not speak of this
assault."

"And yet, madame, it would be the only way of finding out . . ."

"Any attempt to find out would mean an inquiry; and that would involve
more noise and fuss about me, examinations, fatigue; and I am worn out
as it is."

The prince did not insist. Bowing to her, he asked:

"Will you allow me to call and ask how you are?"

"Oh, certainly. . . ."

She kissed Geneviève and went indoors.

Meantime, night was beginning to fall. Sernine would not let Geneviève
return alone. But they had hardly entered the path, when a figure,
standing out against the shadow, hastened toward them.

"Grandmother!" cried Geneviève.

She threw herself into the arms of an old woman, who covered her with
kisses:

"Oh, my darling, my darling, what has happened? How late you are! . . .
And you are always so punctual!"

Geneviève introduced the prince:

"Prince Sernine . . . Mme. Ernemont, my grandmother. . . ."

Then she related the incident, and Mme. Ernemont repeated:

"Oh, my darling, how frightened you must have been! . . . I shall never
forget your kindness, monsieur, I assure you. . . . But how frightened
you must have been, my poor darling!"

"Come, granny, calm yourself, as I am here. . . ."

"Yes, but the fright may have done you harm. . . . One never knows the
consequences. . . . Oh, it's horrible! . . ."

They went along a hedge, through which a yard planted with trees, a few
shrubs, a playground and a white house were just visible. Behind the
house, sheltered by a clump of elder-trees arranged to form a covered
walk, was a little gate.

The old lady asked Prince Sernine to come in and led the way to a little
drawing-room or parlor. Geneviève asked leave to withdraw for a moment,
to go and see her pupils, whose supper-time it was. The prince and Mme.
Ernemont remained alone.

The old lady had a sad and a pale face, under her white hair, which
ended in two long, loose curls. She was too stout, her walk was heavy
and, notwithstanding her appearance and her dress, which was that of a
lady, she had something a little vulgar about her; but her eyes were
immensely kind.

Prince Sernine went up to her, took her head in his two hands and kissed
her on both cheeks:

"Well, old one, and how are you?"

She stood dumfounded, wild-eyed, open-mouthed. The prince kissed her
again, laughing.

She spluttered:

"You! It's you! O mother of God! . . . O mother of God! . . . Is it
possible! . . . O mother of God! . . ."

"My dear old Victoire!"

"Don't call me that," she cried, shuddering. "Victoire is dead . . .
your old servant no longer exists.[3] I belong entirely to Geneviève."
And, lowering her voice, "O mother of God! . . . I saw your name in the
papers: then it's true that you have taken to your wicked life again?"

[Footnote 3: See _Arsène Lupin_, by Edgar Jepson and Maurice Leblanc,
and _The Hollow Needle_, by Maurice Leblanc, translated by Alexander
Teixeira de Mattos.]

"As you see."

"And yet you swore to me that it was finished, that you were going away
for good, that you wanted to become an honest man."

"I tried. I have been trying for four years. . . . You can't say that I
have got myself talked about during those four years!"

"Well?"

"Well, it bores me."

She gave a sigh and asked:

"Always the same. . . . You haven't changed. . . . Oh, it's settled, you
never will change. . . . So you are in the Kesselbach case?"

"Why, of course! But for that, would I have taken the trouble to arrange
for an attack on Mrs. Kesselbach at six o'clock, so that I might have
the opportunity of delivering her from the clutches of my own men at
five minutes past? Looking upon me as her rescuer, she is obliged to
receive me. I am now in the heart of the citadel and, while protecting
the widow, can keep a lookout all round. Ah, you see, the sort of life
which I lead does not permit me to lounge about and waste my time on
little questions of politeness and such outside matters. I have to go
straight to the point, violently, brutally, dramatically. . . ."

She looked at him in dismay and gasped:

"I see . . . I see . . . it's all lies about the attack. . . . But then
. . . Geneviève . . ."

"Why, I'm killing two birds with one stone! It was as easy to rescue two
as one. Think of the time it would have taken, the efforts--useless
efforts, perhaps--to worm myself into that child's friendship! What was
I to her? What should I be now? An unknown person . . . a stranger.
Whereas now I am the rescuer. In an hour I shall be . . . the friend."

She began to tremble:

"So . . . so you did not rescue Geneviève. . . . So you are going to mix
us up in your affairs. . . ." And, suddenly, in a fit of rebellion,
seizing him by the shoulders, "No, I won't have it, do you understand?
You brought the child to me one day, saying, 'Here, I entrust her to you
. . . her father and mother are dead . . . take her under your
protection.' Well, she's under my protection now and I shall know how to
defend her against you and all your manœuvers!"

Standing straight upright, in a very determined attitude, Mme. Ernemont
seemed ready for all emergencies.

Slowly and deliberately Sernine loosened the two hands, one after the
other, that held him, and in his turn, took the old lady by the
shoulders, forced her into an arm-chair, stooped over and, in a very
calm voice, said:

"Rot!"

She began to cry and, clasping her hands together, implored him:

"I beseech you, leave us in peace. We were so happy! I thought that you
had forgotten us and I blessed Heaven every time a day had passed. Why,
yes . . . I love you just the same. But, Geneviève . . . you see,
there's nothing that I wouldn't do for that child. She has taken your
place in my heart."

"So I perceive," said he, laughing. "You would send me to the devil with
pleasure. Come, enough of this nonsense! I have no time to waste. I must
talk to Geneviève."

"You're going to talk to her?"

"Well, is that a crime?"

"And what have you to tell her?"

"A secret . . . a very grave secret . . . and a very touching one.
. . ."

The old lady took fright:

"And one that will cause her sorrow, perhaps? Oh, I fear everything, I
fear everything, where she's concerned! . . ."

"She is coming," he said.

"No, not yet."

"Yes, yes, I hear her. . . . Wipe your eyes and be sensible."

"Listen," said she, eagerly, "listen. I don't know what you are going to
say, what secret you mean to reveal to this child whom you don't know.
But I, who do know her, tell you this: Geneviève has a very plucky, very
spirited, but very sensitive nature. Be careful how you choose your
words. . . . You might wound feelings . . . the existence of which you
cannot even suspect. . . ."

"Lord bless me! And why not?"

"Because she belongs to another race than you, to a different world.
. . . I mean, a different moral world. . . . There are things which you
are forbidden to understand nowadays. Between you and her, the obstacle
is insurmountable. . . . Geneviève has the most unblemished and upright
conscience . . . and you . . ."

"And I?"

"And you are not an honest man!"

Geneviève entered, bright and charming:

"All my babies have gone to bed; I have ten minutes to spare. . . . Why,
grandmother, what's the matter? You look quite upset. . . . Is it still
that business with the . . ."

"No, mademoiselle," said Sernine, "I believe I have had the good fortune
to reassure your grandmother. Only, we were talking of you, of your
childhood; and that is a subject, it seems, which your grandmother
cannot touch upon without emotion."

"Of my childhood?" said Geneviève, reddening. "Oh, grandmother!"

"Don't scold her, mademoiselle. The conversation turned in that
direction by accident. It so happens that I have often passed through
the little village where you were brought up."

"Aspremont?"

"Yes, Aspremont, near Nice. You used to live in a new house, white all
over. . . ."

"Yes," she said, "white all over, with a touch of blue paint round the
windows. . . . I was only seven years old when I left Aspremont; but I
remember the least things of that period. And I have not forgotten the
glare of the sun on the white front of the house, nor the shade of the
eucalyptus-tree at the bottom of the garden."

"At the bottom of the garden, mademoiselle, was a field of olive-trees;
and under one of those olive-trees stood a table at which your mother
used to work on hot days. . . ."

"That's true, that's true," she said, quite excitedly, "I used to play
by her side. . . ."

"And it was there," said he, "that I saw your mother several times.
. . . I recognized her image the moment I set eyes on you . . . but it
was a brighter, happier image."

"Yes, my poor mother was not happy. My father died on the very day of my
birth, and nothing was ever able to console her. She used to cry a great
deal. I still possess a little handkerchief with which I used to dry her
tears at that time."

"A little handkerchief with a pink pattern."

"What!" she exclaimed, seized with surprise. "You know . . ."

"I was there one day when you were comforting her. . . . And you
comforted her so prettily that the scene remained impressed on my
memory."

She gave him a penetrating glance and murmured, almost to herself:

"Yes, yes. . . . I seem to . . . The expression of your eyes . . . and
then the sound of your voice. . . ."

She lowered her eyelids for a moment and reflected as if she were vainly
trying to bring back a recollection that escaped her. And she continued:

"Then you knew her?"

"I had some friends living near Aspremont and used to meet her at their
house. The last time I saw her, she seemed to me sadder still . . .
paler . . . and, when I came back again . . ."

"It was all over, was it not?" said Geneviève. "Yes, she went very
quickly . . . in a few weeks . . . and I was left alone with neighbors
who sat up with her . . . and one morning they took her away. . . . And,
on the evening of that day, some one came, while I was asleep, and
lifted me up and wrapped me in blankets. . . ."

"A man?" asked the prince.

"Yes, a man. He talked to me, quite low, very gently . . . his voice did
me good . . . and, as he carried me down the road and also in the
carriage, during the night, he rocked me in his arms and told me stories
. . . in the same voice . . . in the same voice . . ."

She broke off gradually and looked at him again, more sharply than
before and with a more obvious effort to seize the fleeting impression
that passed over her at moments. He asked:

"And then? Where did he take you?"

"I can't recollect clearly . . . it is just as though I had slept for
several days. . . . I can remember nothing before the little town of
Montégut, in the Vendée, where I spent the second half of my childhood,
with Father and Mother Izereau, a worthy couple who reared me and
brought me up and whose love and devotion I shall never forget."

"And did they die, too?"

"Yes," she said, "of an epidemic of typhoid fever in the district . . .
but I did not know that until later. . . . As soon as they fell ill, I
was carried off as on the first occasion and under the same conditions,
at night, by some one who also wrapped me up in blankets. . . . Only, I
was bigger, I struggled, I tried to call out . . . and he had to close
my mouth with a silk handkerchief."

"How old were you then?"

"Fourteen . . . it was four years ago."

"Then you were able to see what the man was like?"

"No, he hid his face better and he did not speak a single word to me.
. . . Nevertheless, I have always believed him to be the same one . . .
for I remember the same solicitude, the same attentive, careful
movements. . . ."

"And after that?"

"After that, came oblivion, sleep, as before. . . . This time, I was
ill, it appears; I was feverish. . . . And I woke in a bright, cheerful
room. A white-haired lady was bending over me and smiling. It was
grandmother . . . and the room was the one in which I now sleep
upstairs."

She had resumed her happy face, her sweet, radiant expression; and she
ended, with a smile:

"That was how she became my grandmother and how, after a few trials, the
little Aspremont girl now knows the delights of a peaceful life and
teaches grammar and arithmetic to little girls who are either naughty or
lazy . . . but who are all fond of her."

She spoke cheerfully, in a tone at once thoughtful and gay, and it was
obvious that she possessed a reasonable, well-balanced mind. Sernine
listened to her with growing surprise and without trying to conceal his
agitation:

"Have you never heard speak of that man since?" he asked.

"Never."

"And would you be glad to see him again?"

"Oh, very glad."

"Well, then, mademoiselle . . ."

Geneviève gave a start:

"You know something . . . the truth perhaps . . ."

"No . . . no . . . only . . ."

He rose and walked up and down the room. From time to time, his eyes
fell upon Geneviève; and it looked as though he were on the point of
giving a more precise answer to the question which she had put to him.
Would he speak?

Mme. Ernemont awaited with anguish the revelation of the secret upon
which the girl's future peace might depend.

He sat down beside Geneviève, appeared to hesitate, and said at last:

"No . . . no . . . just now . . . an idea occurred to me . . . a
recollection . . ."

"A recollection? . . . And . . ."

"I was mistaken. Your story contained certain details that misled me."

"Are you sure?"

He hesitated and then declared:

"Absolutely sure."

"Oh," said she, greatly disappointed. "I had half guessed . . . that
that man whom I saw twice . . . that you knew him . . . that . . ."

She did not finish her sentence, but waited for an answer to the
question which she had put to him without daring to state it completely.

He was silent. Then, insisting no further, she bent over Mme. Ernemont:

"Good night, grandmother. My children must be in bed by this time, but
they could none of them go to sleep before I had kissed them."

She held out her hand to the prince:

"Thank you once more. . . ."

"Are you going?" he asked quickly.

"Yes, if you will excuse me; grandmother will see you out."

He bowed low and kissed her hand. As she opened the door, she turned
round and smiled. Then she disappeared. The prince listened to the sound
of her footsteps diminishing in the distance and stood stock-still, his
face white with emotion.

"Well," said the old lady, "so you did not speak?"

"No. . . ."

"That secret . . ."

"Later. . . . To-day . . . oddly enough . . . I was not able to."

"Was it so difficult? Did not she herself feel that you were the
stranger who took her away twice. . . . A word would have been enough.
. . ."

"Later, later," he repeated, recovering all his assurance. "You can
understand . . . the child hardly knows me. . . . I must first gain the
right to her affection, to her love. . . . When I have given her the
life which she deserves, a wonderful life, such as one reads of in
fairy-tales, then I will speak."

The old lady tossed her head:

"I fear that you are making a great mistake. Geneviève does not want a
wonderful life. She has simple tastes."

"She has the tastes of all women; and wealth, luxury and power give joys
which not one of them despises."

"Yes, Geneviève does. And you would do much better . . ."

"We shall see. For the moment, let me go my own way. And be quite easy.
I have not the least intention, as you say, of mixing her up in any of
my manœuvers. She will hardly ever see me. . . . Only, we had to come
into contact, you know. . . . That's done. . . . Good-bye."

He left the school and walked to where his motor-car was waiting for
him. He was perfectly happy:

"She is charming . . . and so gentle, so grave! Her mother's eyes, eyes
that soften you . . . Heavens, how long ago that all is! And what a
delightful recollection! A little sad, but so delightful!" And he said,
aloud, "Certainly I shall look after her happiness! And that at once!
This very evening! That's it, this very evening she shall have a
sweetheart! Is not love the essential condition of any young girl's
happiness?"

He found his car on the high-road:

"Home," he said to Octave.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Sernine reached home, he rang up Neuilly and telephoned his
instructions to the friend whom he called the doctor. Then he dressed,
dined at the Rue Cambon Club, spent an hour at the opera and got into
his car again:

"Go to Neuilly, Octave. We are going to fetch the doctor. What's the
time?"

"Half-past ten."

"Dash it! Look sharp!"

Ten minutes later, the car stopped at the end of the Boulevard Inkerman,
outside a villa standing in its own grounds. The doctor came down at the
sound of the hooter. The prince asked:

"Is the fellow ready?"

"Packed up, strung up, sealed up."

"In good condition?"

"Excellent. If everything goes as you telephoned, the police will be
utterly at sea."

"That's what they're there for. Let's get him on board."

They carried into the motor a sort of long sack shaped like a human
being and apparently rather heavy. And the prince said:

"Go to Versailles, Octave, Rue de la Vilaine. Stop outside the Hôtel des
Deux-Empereurs."

"Why, it's a filthy hotel," observed the doctor. "I know it well; a
regular hovel."

"You needn't tell me! And it will be a hard piece of work, for me, at
least. . . . But, by Jove, I wouldn't sell this moment for a fortune!
Who dares pretend that life is monotonous?"

They reached the Hôtel des Deux-Empereurs. A muddy alley; two steps
down; and they entered a passage lit by a flickering lamp.

Sernine knocked with his fist against a little door.

A waiter appeared, Philippe, the man to whom Sernine had given orders,
that morning, concerning Gérard Baupré.

"Is he here still?" asked the prince.

"Yes."

"The rope?"

"The knot is made."

"He has not received the telegram he was hoping for?"

"I intercepted it: here it is."

Sernine took the blue paper and read it:

"Gad!" he said. "It was high time. This is to promise him a thousand
francs for to-morrow. Come, fortune is on my side. A quarter to twelve.
. . . In a quarter of an hour, the poor devil will take a leap into
eternity. Show me the way, Philippe. You stay here, Doctor."

The waiter took the candle. They climbed to the third floor, and,
walking on tip-toe, went along a low and evil-smelling corridor, lined
with garrets and ending in a wooden staircase covered with the musty
remnants of a carpet.

"Can no one hear me?" asked Sernine.

"No. The two rooms are quite detached. But you must be careful not to
make a mistake: he is in the room on the left."

"Very good. Now go downstairs. At twelve o'clock, the doctor, Octave and
you are to carry the fellow up here, to where we now stand, and wait
till I call you."

The wooden staircase had ten treads, which the prince climbed with
definite caution. At the top was a landing with two doors. It took
Sernine quite five minutes to open the one of the right without breaking
the silence with the least sound of a creaking hinge.

A light gleamed through the darkness of the room. Feeling his way, so as
not to knock against one of the chairs, he made for that light. It came
from the next room and filtered through a glazed door covered with a
tattered hanging.

The prince pulled the threadbare stuff aside. The panes were of ground
glass, but scratched in parts, so that, by applying one eye, it was easy
to see all that happened in the other room.

Sernine saw a man seated at a table facing him. It was the poet, Gérard
Baupré. He was writing by the light of a candle.

Above his head hung a rope, which was fastened to a hook fixed in the
ceiling. At the end of the rope was a slip-knot.

A faint stroke sounded from a clock in the street.

"Five minutes to twelve," thought Sernine. "Five minutes more."

The young man was still writing. After a moment, he put down his pen,
collected the ten or twelve sheets of paper which he had covered and
began to read them over.

What he read did not seem to please him, for an expression of discontent
passed across his face. He tore up his manuscript and burnt the pieces
in the flame of the candle.

Then, with a fevered hand, he wrote a few words on a clean sheet, signed
it savagely and rose from his chair.

But, seeing the rope at ten inches above his head, he sat down again
suddenly with a great shudder of alarm.

Sernine distinctly saw his pale features, his lean cheeks, against which
he pressed his clenched fists. A tear trickled slowly down his face, a
single, disconsolate tear. His eyes gazed into space, eyes terrifying in
their unutterable sadness, eyes that already seemed to behold the dread
unknown.

And it was so young a face! Cheeks still so smooth, with not a blemish,
not a wrinkle! And blue eyes, blue like an eastern sky! . . .

Midnight . . . the twelve tragic strokes of midnight, to which so many a
despairing man has hitched the last second of his existence!

At the twelfth stroke, he stood up again and, bravely this time, without
trembling, looked at the sinister rope. He even tried to give a smile, a
poor smile, the pitiful grimace of the doomed man whom death has already
seized for its own.

Swiftly he climbed the chair and took the rope in one hand.

For a moment, he stood there, motionless: not that he was hesitating or
lacking in courage. But this was the supreme moment, the one minute of
grace which a man allows himself before the fatal deed.

He gazed at the squalid room to which his evil destiny had brought him,
the hideous paper on the walls, the wretched bed.

On the table, not a book: all were sold. Not a photograph, not a letter:
he had no father, no mother, no relations. What was there to make him
cling to life?

With a sudden movement he put his head into the slip-knot and pulled at
the rope until the noose gripped his neck.

And, kicking the chair from him with both feet, he leapt into space.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten seconds, fifteen seconds passed, twenty formidable, eternal seconds.
. . .

The body gave two or three jerks. The feet had instinctively felt for a
resting-place. Then nothing moved. . . .

A few seconds more. . . . The little glazed door opened.

Sernine entered.

Without the least haste he took the sheet of paper to which the young
man had set his signature, and read:

      "Tired of living, ill, penniless, hopeless, I am
      taking my own life. Let no one be accused of my death.

                                   "GÉRARD BAUPRÉ.
      "_30 April._"

He put back the paper on the table where it could be seen, picked up the
chair and placed it under the young man's feet. He himself climbed up on
the table and, holding the body close to him, lifted it up, loosened the
slip-knot and passed the head through it.

The body sank into his arms. He let it slide along the table and,
jumping to the floor, laid it on the bed.

Then, with the same coolness, he opened the door on the passage:

"Are you there, all the three of you?" he whispered.

Some one answered from the foot of the wooden staircase near him:

"We are here. Are we to hoist up our bundle?"

"Yes, come along!"

He took the candle and showed them a light.

The three men trudged up the stairs, carrying the sack in which the
"fellow" was tied up.

"Put him here," he said, pointing to the table.

With a pocket-knife, he cut the cords round the sack. A white sheet
appeared, which he flung back. In the sheet was a corpse, the corpse of
Pierre Leduc.

"Poor Pierre Leduc!" said Sernine. "You will never know what you lost by
dying so young! I should have helped you to go far, old chap. However,
we must do without your services. . . . Now then, Philippe, get up on
the table; and you, Octave, on the chair. Lift up his head and fasten
the slip-knot."

Two minutes later, Pierre Leduc's body was swinging at the end of the
rope.

"Capital, that was quite simple! Now you can all of you go. You, Doctor,
will call back here to-morrow morning; you will hear of the suicide of a
certain Gérard Baupré: you understand, Gérard Baupré. Here is his
farewell letter. You will send for the divisional surgeon and the
commissary; you will arrange that neither of them notices that the
deceased has a cut finger or a scar on one cheek. . . ."

"That's easy."

"And you will manage so as to have the report written then and there, to
your dictation."

"That's easy."

"Lastly, avoid having the body sent to the Morgue and make them give
permission for an immediate burial."

"That's not so easy."

"Try. Have you examined the other one?"

He pointed to the young man lying lifeless on the bed.

"Yes," said the doctor. "The breathing is becoming normal. But it was a
big risk to run . . . the carotid artery might have . . ."

"Nothing venture, nothing have. . . . How soon will he recover
consciousness?"

"In a few minutes."

"Very well. Oh, by the way, don't go yet, Doctor. Wait for me
downstairs. There is more for you to do."

The prince, when he found himself alone, lit a cigarette and puffed at
it quietly, sending little blue rings of smoke floating up to the
ceiling.

A sigh roused him from his thoughts. He went to the bed. The young man
was beginning to move; and his chest rose and fell violently, like that
of a sleeper under the influence of a nightmare. He put his hands to his
throat, as though he felt a pain there; and this action suddenly made
him sit up, terrified, panting. . . .

Then he saw Sernine in front of him:

"You?" he whispered, without understanding. "You? . . ."

He gazed at him stupidly, as though he had seen a ghost.

He again touched his throat, felt round his neck. . . . And suddenly he
gave a hoarse cry; a mad terror dilated his eyes, made his hair stand on
end, shook him from head to foot like an aspen-leaf! The prince had
moved aside; and he saw the man's corpse hanging from the rope.

He flung himself back against the wall. That man, that hanged man, was
himself! He was dead and he was looking at his own dead body! Was this a
hideous dream that follows upon death? A hallucination that comes to
those who are no more and whose distracted brain still quivers with a
last flickering gleam of life? . . .

His arms struck at the air. For a moment, he seemed to be defending
himself against the squalid vision. Then, exhausted, he fainted away for
the second time.

"First-rate," said the prince, with a grin. "A sensitive, impressionable
nature. . . . At present, the brain is out of gear. . . . Come, this is
a propitious moment. . . . But, if I don't get the business done in
twenty minutes . . . he'll escape me. . . ."

He pushed open the door between the two garrets, came back to the bed,
lifted the young man and carried him to the bed in the other room. Then
he bathed his temples with cold water and made him sniff at some salts.

This time, the swoon did not last long.

Gérard timidly opened his eyes and raised them to the ceiling. The
vision was gone. But the arrangement of the furniture, the position of
the table and the fireplace, and certain other details all surprised him
. . . And then came the remembrance of his act, the pain which he felt
at his throat. . . .

He said to the prince:

"I have had a dream, have I not?"

"No."

"How do you mean, no?" And, suddenly recollecting, "Oh, that's true, I
remember. . . . I meant to kill myself . . . and I even . . ." Bending
forward anxiously, "But the rest, the vision . . ."

"What vision?"

"The man . . . the rope . . . was that a dream? . . ."

"No," said Sernine. "That also was real."

"What are you saying? What are you saying? . . . Oh, no, no! . . . I
entreat you! . . . Wake me, if I am asleep . . . or else let me die!
. . . But I am dead, am I not? And this is the nightmare of a corpse!
. . . Oh, I feel my brain going! . . . I entreat you. . . ."

Sernine placed his hand gently on the young man's head and, bending over
him:

"Listen to me . . . listen to me carefully and understand what I say.
You are alive. Your matter and your mind are as they were and live. But
Gérard Baupré is dead. You understand me, do you not? That member of
society who was known as Gérard Baupré has ceased to exist. You have
done away with that one. To-morrow, the registrar will write in his
books, opposite the name you bore, the word 'Dead,' with the date of
your decease."

"It's a lie!" stammered the terrified lad. "It's a lie! Considering that
I, Gérard Baupré, am here!"

"You are not Gérard Baupré," declared Sernine. And, pointing to the open
door, "Gérard Baupré is there, in the next room. Do you wish to see
him? He is hanging from the nail to which you hooked him. On the table
is a letter in which you certify his death with your signature. It is
all quite regular, it is all final. There is no getting away from the
irrevocable, brutal fact: Gérard Baupré has ceased to exist!"

The young man listened in despair. Growing calmer, now that facts were
assuming a less tragic significance, he began to understand:

"And then . . ." he muttered.

"And then . . . let us talk."

"Yes, yes . . . let us talk. . . ."

"A cigarette?" asked the prince. "Will you have one? Ah, I see that you
are becoming reconciled to life! So much the better: we shall understand
each other; and that quickly."

He lit the young man's cigarette and his own and, at once, in a few
words uttered in a hard voice, explained himself:

"You, the late Gérard Baupré, were weary of life, ill, penniless,
hopeless. . . . Would you like to be well, rich, and powerful?"

"I don't follow you."

"It is quite simple. Accident has placed you on my path. You are young,
good-looking, a poet; you are intelligent and--your act of despair shows
it--you have a fine sense of conduct. These are qualities which are
rarely found united in one person. I value them . . . and I take them
for my account."

"They are not for sale."

"Idiot! Who talks of buying or selling? Keep your conscience. It is too
precious a jewel for me to relieve you of it."

"Then what do you ask of me?"

"Your life!" And, pointing to the bruises on the young man's throat,
"Your life, which you have not known how to employ! Your life, which you
have bungled, wasted, destroyed and which, I propose to build up again,
in accordance with an ideal of beauty, greatness and dignity that would
make you giddy, my lad, if you saw the abyss into which my secret
thought plunges. . . ." He had taken Gérard's head between his hands and
he continued, eagerly: "You are free! No shackles! You have no longer
the weight of your name to bear! You have got rid of that number with
which society had stamped you as though branding you on the shoulder.
You are free! In this world of slaves where each man bears his label you
can either come and go unknown, invisible, as if you owned Gyges' ring
. . . or else you can choose your own label, the one you like best! Do
you understand the magnificent treasure which you represent to an artist
. . . to yourself, if you like? A virgin life, a brand-new life! Your
life is the wax which you have the right to fashion as you please,
according to the whims of your imagination and the counsels of your
reason."

The young man made a gesture expressive of weariness:

"Ah, what would you have me do with that treasure? What have I done with
it so far? Nothing!"

"Give it to me."

"What can you do with it?"

"Everything. If you are not an artist, I am; and an enthusiastic artist,
inexhaustible, indomitable, exuberant. If you have not the Promethean
fire, I have! Where you failed, I shall succeed. Give me your life."

"Words, promises!" cried the young man, whose features began to glow
with animation. "Empty dreams! I know my own worthlessness! I know my
cowardice, my despondency, my efforts that come to nothing, all my
wretchedness. To begin life anew, I should need a will which I do not
possess. . . ."

"I possess mine."

"Friends. . . ."

"You shall have them."

"Means. . . ."

"I am providing you with means . . . and such means! You will only have
to dip, as one would dip into a magic coffer."

"But who are you?" cried the young man, wildly.

"To others, Prince Sernine. . . . To you . . . what does it matter? I am
more than a prince, more than a king, more than an emperor. . . ."

"Who are you? . . . Who are you?" stammered Baupré.

"The Master . . . he who will and who can . . . he who acts. . . . There
are no bounds to my will, there is none to my power. I am richer than
the richest man alive, for his fortune is mine. . . . I am more powerful
than the mightiest, for their might is at my service!"

He took the other's head in his hands again and, looking deep into his
eyes:

"Be rich, too . . . be mighty. . . . I offer you happiness . . . and the
joy of living . . . and peace for your poet's brain . . . and fame and
glory also. . . . Do you accept?"

"Yes . . . yes . . ." whispered Gérard, dazzled and overmastered. "What
am I to do?"

"Nothing."

"But . . ."

"Nothing, I say. The whole scaffolding of my plans rests on you, but
you do not count. You have no active part to play. You are, for the
moment, but a silent actor, or not even that, but just a pawn which I
move along the board."

"What shall I do?"

"Nothing. Write poetry. You shall live as you please. You shall have
money. You shall enjoy life. I will not even bother my head about you. I
repeat, you play no part in my venture."

"And who shall I be?"

Sernine stretched out his arm and pointed to the next room:

"You shall take that man's place. _You are that man!_"

Gérard shuddered with revolt and disgust:

"Oh, no, he is dead! . . . And then . . . it is a crime! . . . No, I
want a new life, made for me, thought out for me . . . an unknown name.
. . ."

"That man, I tell you!" cried Sernine, irresistible in his energy and
authority. "You shall be that man and none other! That man, because his
destiny is magnificent, because his name is illustrious, and because he
hands down to you a thrice-venerable heritage of ancestral dignity and
pride."

"It is a crime!" moaned Baupré, faltering.

"You shall be that man!" spoke Sernine, with unparalleled vehemence.
"You shall be that man! If not, you become Baupré again; and over Baupré
I own rights of life and death. Choose."

He drew his revolver, cocked it and took aim at the young man:

"Choose," he repeated.

The expression of his face was implacable. Gérard was frightened and
sank down on his bed sobbing:

"I wish to live!"

"You wish it firmly, irrevocably?"

"Yes, a thousand times yes! After the terrible thing which I attempted,
death appals me. . . . Anything . . . anything rather than death! . . .
Anything! . . . Pain . . . hunger . . . illness . . . every torture,
every shame . . . crime itself, if need be . . . but not death!"

He shivered with fever and agony, as though the great enemy were still
prowling round him and as though he felt himself powerless to escape
from its clutches. The prince redoubled his efforts and, in a fervent
voice, holding him under him like a prey:

"I will ask nothing impossible of you, nothing wrong. . . . If there is
anything, I am responsible. . . . No, no crime . . . a little pain at
most. . . . A little of your blood must flow. But what is that, compared
with the dread of dying?"

"Pain is indifferent to me."

"Then here and now!" shouted Sernine. "Here and now! Ten seconds of pain
and that is all. . . . Ten seconds and the other's life is yours. . . ."

He had seized him round the body and forced him down on a chair; and he
now held the young man's left hand flat on the table, with his five
fingers spread out. He swiftly took a knife from his pocket, pressed the
blade against the little finger, between the first and second joints,
and commanded:

"Strike! Strike your own blow. One blow of the fist and that is all!"

He had taken Gérard's right hand and was trying to bring it down upon
the other like a hammer.

Gérard writhed and twisted, convulsed with horror. He understood:

"Never!" he stuttered. "Never!"

"Strike! One blow and it's done! One blow and you will be like that man:
no one will recognize you."

"Tell me his name. . . ."

"Strike first!"

"Never! Oh, what torture! . . . I beseech you . . . presently. . . ."

"Now. . . . I insist . . . you must . . ."

"No . . . no . . . I can't do it. . . ."

"Strike, you fool! It means fortune, fame, love. . . ."

Gérard raised his fist with a sudden movement.

"Love," he said, "yes . . . for that, yes. . . ."

"You will love and be loved," said Sernine. "Your betrothed awaits you.
I have chosen her myself. She is the purest of the pure, the fairest of
the fair. But you must win her. Strike!"

The lad's arm stiffened for the fatal blow; but the instinct of
self-preservation was too strong for him. His body was wrung with a
superhuman effort. He suddenly released himself from Sernine's hold and
fled.

He rushed like a madman to the other room. A yell of terror escaped him,
at the sight of the abominable vision, and he came back and fell on his
knees before Sernine, beside the table.

"Strike!" said the prince, again spreading out the lad's fingers and
fixing the blade of the knife.

What followed was done mechanically. With an automatic movement, with
haggard eyes and a livid face, the young man raised his fist and struck:

"Ah!" he cried, with a moan of pain.

A small piece of flesh was separated from the little finger. Blood
flowed. For the third time, Gérard fainted.

Sernine looked at him for a second or two and said, gently:

"Poor little chap! . . . There, I'll reward you for what you've done;
and a hundred times over. I always pay generously."

He went downstairs and found the doctor waiting below:

"It's done. Go upstairs, you, and make a little cut in his right cheek,
similar to Pierre Leduc's. The two scars must be exactly alike. I shall
come back for you in an hour."

"Where are you going?"

"To take the air. My heart feels anyhow."

Outside he drew a long breath and lit another cigarette:

"A good day's work," he muttered. "A little over-crowded, a little
tiring, but fruitful, really fruitful. I am Dolores Kesselbach's friend.
I am Geneviève's friend. I have manufactured a new Pierre Leduc, a very
presentable one and entirely at my disposal. Lastly, I have found
Geneviève a husband of the sort that you don't find by the dozen. Now my
task is done. I have only to gather the fruit of my efforts. It's your
turn to work, M. Lenormand. I, for my part, am ready." And he added,
thinking of the poor mutilated lad whom he had dazzled with his
promises, "Only--for there is an 'only'--I have not the slightest notion
who this Pierre Leduc was, whose place I have magnanimously awarded to
that good young man. And that's very annoying. . . . For when all is
said, there's nothing to prove to me that Pierre Leduc was not the son
of a pork-butcher! . . ."



CHAPTER V

M. LENORMAND AT WORK


On the morning of the 31st of May, all the newspapers reminded their
readers that Lupin, in a letter addressed to M. Lenormand, had announced
the escape of the messenger Jérôme for that date. And one of them summed
up the situation, as it then stood, in very able terms:

      "The horrible carnage at the Palace Hotel took place
      as far back as the 17th of April. What has been
      discovered since? Nothing.

      "There were three clues: the cigarette-case, the
      initials L and M and the parcel of clothes left behind
      in the office of the hotel. What advantage has been
      taken of these clues? None.

      "It appears that the police suspect one of the
      visitors who was staying on the first floor and who
      disappeared in a doubtful manner. Have they found him?
      Have they established his identity? No.

      "The tragedy, therefore, remains as mysterious as at
      the beginning, the gloom is impenetrable.

      "To complete the picture, we are told that dissension
      prevails between the prefect of police and his
      subordinate, M. Lenormand, and that the latter,
      finding himself less vigorously supported by the prime
      minister, virtually sent in his resignation several
      days ago. According to our information, the conduct of
      the Kesselbach case is now in the hands of the
      deputy-chief of the detective-service, M. Weber, a
      personal enemy of M. Lenormand's.

      "In short, disorder and confusion reign; and this in
      the face of Lupin, who stands for method, energy and
      steadfastness of mind.

      "What conclusion do we draw from these facts? Briefly,
      this: Lupin will release his accomplice to-day, the
      31st of May, as he foretold."

This conclusion, which was echoed in all the other newspapers, was also
the conclusion at which the general public had arrived. And we must take
it that the threat was not considered devoid of importance in high
places, for the prefect of police and, in the absence of M. Lenormand,
who was said to be unwell, the deputy-chief of the detective-service, M.
Weber, had adopted the most stringent measures, both at the Palais de
Justice and at the Santé Prison, where the prisoner was confined.

They did not dare, for sheer reasons of shame, to suspend on that
particular day the examinations conducted daily by M. Formerie; but,
from the prison to the Boulevard du Palais, a regular mobilization of
police-forces guarded the streets along the line.

To the intense astonishment of one and all, the 31st of May passed and
the threatened escape did not take place.

One thing did happen, an attempt to execute the plan, as was betrayed by
a block of tramway-cars, omnibuses and drays along the road taken by the
prison-van and the unaccountable breaking of one of the wheels of the
van itself. But the attempt assumed no more definite form.

Lupin, therefore, had met with a check. The public felt almost
disappointed and the police triumphed loudly.

On the next day, Saturday, an incredible rumour spread through the
Palais and the newspaper-offices: Jérôme the messenger had disappeared.

Was it possible? Although the special editions confirmed the news,
people refused to believe it. But, at six o'clock, a note published by
the _Dépêche du Soir_ made it official:

      "We have received the following communication signed
      by Arsène Lupin. The special stamp affixed to it, in
      accordance with the circular which Lupin recently sent
      to the press, guarantees the genuineness of the
      document:

      "'_To the Editor of the_ Dépêche du Soir.

      "SIR,

      "'Pray make my apologies to the public for not keeping
      my word yesterday. I remembered, at the last moment,
      that the 31st of May fell on a Friday! Could I set my
      friend at liberty on a Friday? I did not think it
      right to assume that responsibility.

      "'I must also apologize for not on this occasion
      explaining, with my customary frankness, how this
      little event was managed. My process is so ingenious
      and so simple that I fear lest, if I revealed it,
      every criminal should be inspired by it. How surprised
      people will be on the day when I am free to speak! "Is
      that all?" I shall be asked. That is all; but it had
      to be thought of.

         "'Permit me to be, Sir,
                    "'Your obedient servant,
                                 "'ARSÈNE LUPIN.'"

An hour later, M. Lenormand was rung up on the telephone and informed
that Valenglay, the prime minister, wished to see him at the Ministry of
the Interior.

             *       *       *       *       *

"How well you're looking, my dear Lenormand! And I who thought that you
were ill and dared not leave your room!"

"I am not ill, Monsieur le Président."

"So you were sulking in your tent! . . . But you were always a
bad-tempered fellow."

"I confess to the bad temper, Monsieur le Président, but not to the
sulking."

"But you stay at home! And Lupin takes advantage of it to release his
friends. . . ."

"How could I stop him?"

"How? Why, Lupin's trick was of the plainest. In accordance with his
usual method, he announced the date of the escape beforehand; everybody
believed in it; an apparent attempt was planned; the escape was not
made; and, on the next day, when nobody is thinking about
it--whoosh!--the bird takes flight."

"Monsieur le Président," said the chief of the detective-service,
solemnly, "Lupin disposes of such means that we are not in a position to
prevent what he has decided on. The escape was mathematically certain. I
preferred to pass the hand . . . and leave the laughter for others to
face."

Valenglay chuckled:

"It's a fact that Monsieur le Préfet de Police and M. Weber cannot be
enjoying themselves at the present moment. . . . But, when all is said,
can you explain to me, M. Lenormand . . ."

"All that we know, Monsieur le Président, is that the escape took place
from the Palais de Justice. The prisoner was brought in a prison-van and
taken to M. Formerie's room. He left M. Formerie's room, but he did not
leave the Palais de Justice. And yet nobody knows what became of him."

"It's most bewildering."

"Most bewildering."

"And has nothing else been discovered?"

"Yes. The inner corridor leading to the examining magistrates' rooms was
blocked by an absolutely unprecedented crowd of prisoners, warders,
counsel and doorkeepers; and it was discovered that all those people had
received forged notices to appear at the same hour. On the other hand,
not one of the examining-magistrates who were supposed to have summoned
them sat in his room that day; and this because of forged notices from
the public prosecutor's office, sending them to every part of Paris
. . . and of the outskirts."

"Is that all?"

"No. Two municipal guards and a prisoner were seen to cross the
courtyards. A cab was waiting for them outside and all three stepped in.

"And your supposition, Lenormand, your opinion. . . ."

"My supposition, Monsieur le Président, is that the two municipal guards
were accomplices who, profiting by the disorder in the corridor, took
the place of the three warders. And my opinion is that this escape
succeeded only through such special circumstances and so strange a
combination of facts that we must look upon the most unlikely cases of
complicity as absolutely certain. Lupin, for that matter, has
connections at the Palais that balk all our calculations. He has agents
in your ministry. He has agents at the Prefecture of Police. He has
agents around me. It is a formidable organization, a detective-service a
thousand times more clever, more daring, more varied and more supple
than that under my own orders."

"And you stand this, Lenormand?"

"No, I do not."

"Then why this slackness on your part since the beginning of the case?
What have you done against Lupin?"

"I have prepared for the struggle."

"Ah, capital! And, while you were preparing, he was acting."

"So was I."

"And do you know anything?"

"I know a great deal."

"What? Speak!"

Leaning on his stick, M. Lenormand took a little contemplative walk
across the spacious room. Then he sat down opposite Valenglay, brushed
the facings of his olive-green coat with his finger-tips, settled his
spectacles on his nose and said, plainly:

"M. le Président, I hold three trump-cards in my hand. First, I know the
name under which Arsène Lupin is hiding at this moment, the name under
which he lived on the Boulevard Haussmann, receiving his assistants
daily, reconstructing and directing his gang."

"But then why, in heaven's name, don't you arrest him?"

"I did not receive these particulars until later. The prince--let us
call him Prince Dash--has disappeared. He is abroad, on other
business."

"And, if he does not return . . ."

"The position which he occupies, the manner in which he has flung
himself into the Kesselbach case, necessitate his return and under the
same name."

"Nevertheless . . ."

"Monsieur le Président, I come to my second trump. I have at last
discovered Pierre Leduc."

"Nonsense!"

"Or rather Lupin discovered him, and before disappearing, settled him in
a little villa in the neighborhood of Paris."

"By Jove! But how did you know . . ."

"Oh, easily! Lupin has placed two of his accomplices with Pierre Leduc,
to watch him and defend him. Now these accomplices are two of my own
detectives, two brothers whom I employ in the greatest secrecy and who
will hand him over to me at the first opportunity!"

"Well done you! So that . . ."

"So that, as Pierre Leduc, we may say, is the central point of the
efforts of all those who are trying to solve the famous Kesselbach
secret, I shall, sooner or later, through Pierre Leduc, catch, first,
the author of the treble murder, because that miscreant substituted
himself for Mr. Kesselbach in the accomplishment of an immense scheme
and because Mr. Kesselbach had to find Pierre Leduc in order to be able
to accomplish that scheme; and, secondly, Arsène Lupin, because Arsène
Lupin is pursuing the same object."

"Splendid! Pierre Leduc is the bait which you are throwing to the
enemy."

"And the fish is biting, Monsieur le Président. I have just had word
that a suspicious person was seen, a short time ago, prowling round the
little villa where Pierre Leduc is living under the protection of my
officers. I shall be on the spot in four hours."

"And the third trump, Lenormand?"

"Monsieur le Président, a letter arrived yesterday, addressed to Mr.
Rudolf Kesselbach, which I intercepted. . . ."

"Intercepted, eh? You're getting on!"

"Yes, I intercepted it, opened it and kept it for myself. Here it is. It
is dated two months back. It bears the Capetown postmark and contains
these words: 'My dear Rudolf, I shall be in Paris on the 1st of June and
in just as wretched a plight as when you came to my assistance. But I
have great hopes of this Pierre Leduc affair of which I told you. What a
strange story it is! Have you found the man I mean? Where do we stand? I
am most anxious to know.' The letter is signed, 'Steinweg.' The first of
June," continued M. Lenormand, "is to-day. I have ordered one of my
inspectors to hunt me out this Steinweg. I have no doubt that he will
succeed."

"Nor I, no doubt at all," cried Valenglay, rising from his chair, "and I
make you every apology, my dear Lenormand, and my humble confession: I
was on the point of letting you slide . . . for good and all! To-morrow
I was expecting the prefect of police and M. Weber."

"I knew that, Monsieur le Président."

"Impossible!"

"But for that, should I have put myself out? You now see my plan of
campaign. On the one side, I am setting traps in which the murderer will
be caught sooner or later. Pierre Leduc or Steinweg will deliver him
into my hands. On the other side, I am on Arsène Lupin's heels. Two of
his agents are in my pay and he believes them to be his most devoted
helpers. In addition to this, he is working for me, because he is
pursuing the perpetrator of the threefold crime as I am. Only, he
imagines that he is dishing me, whereas it is I who am dishing him. So I
shall succeed, but on one condition. . . ."

"What is that?"

"That I am given free scope and allowed to act according to the needs of
the moment, without troubling about the public, who are growing
impatient, or my superiors, who are intriguing against me."

"I agree."

"In that case, Monsieur le Président, in a few days from this I shall be
the victor . . . or I shall be dead."

             *       *       *       *       *

At Saint-Cloud. A little villa situated on one of the highest points of
the upland, in an unfrequented road.

It was eleven o'clock at night. M. Lenormand left his car at Saint-Cloud
and walked cautiously along the road. A shadow appeared.

"Is that you, Gourel?"

"Yes, chief."

"Did you tell the brothers Doudeville that I was coming?"

"Yes, your room is ready, you can go to bed and sleep . . . unless they
try to carry off Pierre Leduc to-night, which would not surprise me,
considering the behavior of the fellow whom the Doudevilles saw."

They walked across the garden, softly entered the house and went up to
the first floor. The two brothers, Jean and Jacques Doudeville, were
there.

"No news of Prince Sernine?" asked Lenormand.

"No, chief."

"What about Pierre Leduc?"

"He spends the whole day lying flat on his back in his room on the
ground-floor, or else in the garden. He never comes up to see us."

"Is he better?"

"Much better. The rest has made a great change in his appearance."

"Is he wholly devoted to Lupin?"

"To Prince Sernine, rather, for he does not suspect that the two are one
and the same man. At least, I suppose so. One never knows, with him. He
does not speak at all. Oh, he's a queer fish! There's only one person
who has the gift of cheering him up, of making him talk and even laugh.
That's a young girl from Garches, to whom Prince Sernine introduced him.
Geneviève Ernemont her name is. She has been here three times already
. . . she was here to-day." He added, jestingly, "I believe there's a
little flirting going on. . . . It's like his highness Prince Sernine
and Mrs. Kesselbach. . . . It seems he's making eyes at her! . . . That
devil of a Lupin!"

M. Lenormand did not reply. But it was obvious that all these details,
to which he seemed to attach no importance, were noted in the recesses
of his memory, to be used whenever he might need to draw the logical
inferences from them. He lit a cigar, chewed it without smoking it, lit
it again and dropped it.

He asked two or three more questions and then, dressed as he was, threw
himself on his bed:

"If the least thing happens, let me be awakened. . . . If not, I shall
sleep through the night. . . . Go to your posts, all of you."

The others left the room.

An hour passed, two hours.

Suddenly, M. Lenormand felt some one touch him and Gourel said to him:

"Get up, chief; they have opened the gate."

"One man or two?"

"I only saw one . . . the moon appeared just then . . . he crouched down
against a hedge."

"And the brothers Doudeville?"

"I sent them out by the back. They will cut off his retreat when the
time comes."

Gourel took M. Lenormand's hand, led him downstairs and then into a
little dark room:

"Don't stir, chief; we are in Pierre Leduc's dressing-room. I am opening
the door of the recess in which his bed stands. . . . Don't be afraid
. . . he has taken his veronal as he does every evening . . . nothing
can wake him. Come this way. . . . It's a good hiding-place, isn't it?
. . . These are the curtains of his bed. . . . From here you can see the
window and the whole side of the room between the window and the bed."

The casement stood open and admitted a vague light, which became very
precise at times, when the moon burst through her veil of clouds. The
two men did not take their eyes from the empty window-frame, feeling
certain that the event which they were awaiting would come from that
side.

A slight, creaking noise . . .

"He is climbing the trellis," whispered Gourel.

"Is it high?"

"Six feet or so."

The creaking became more distinct.

"Go, Gourel," muttered M. Lenormand, "find the Doudevilles, bring them
back to the foot of the wall and bar the road to any one who tries to
get down this way."

Gourel went. At the same moment, a head appeared at the level of the
window. Then a leg was flung over the balcony. M. Lenormand
distinguished a slenderly-built man, below the middle height, dressed in
dark colours and without a hat.

The man turned and, leaning over the balcony, looked for a few seconds
into space, as though to make sure that no danger threatened him. Then
he stooped down and lay at full length on the floor. He appeared
motionless. But soon M. Lenormand realized that the still blacker shadow
which he formed against the surrounding darkness was coming forward,
nearer.

It reached the bed.

M. Lenormand had an impression that he could hear the man's breathing
and, at the same time, that he could just see his eyes, keen, glittering
eyes, which pierced the darkness like shafts of fire and which
themselves could see through that same darkness.

Pierre Leduc gave a deep sigh and turned over.

A fresh silence. . . .

The man had glided along the bed with imperceptible movements and his
dark outline now stood out against the whiteness of the sheets that hung
down to the floor.

M. Lenormand could have touched him by putting out his arm. This time,
he clearly distinguished the breathing, which alternated with that of
the sleeper, and he had the illusion that he also heard the sound of a
heart beating.

Suddenly, a flash of light. . . . The man had pressed the spring of an
electric lantern; and Pierre Leduc was lit full in the face, but the man
remained in the shade, so that M. Lenormand was unable to see his
features.

All that he saw was something that shone in the bright space; and he
shuddered. It was the blade of a knife; and that thin, tapering knife,
more like a stiletto than a dagger, seemed to him identical with the
weapon which he had picked up by the body of Chapman, Mr. Kesselbach's
secretary.

He put forth all his will-power to restrain himself from springing upon
the man. He wanted first to know what the man had come to do.

The hand was raised. Was he going to strike? M. Lenormand calculated the
distance in order to stop the blow. . . . But no, it was not a murderous
gesture, but one of caution. The hand would only fall if Pierre Leduc
stirred or tried to call out. And the man bent over the sleeper, as
though he were examining something.

"The right cheek," thought M. Lenormand, "the scar on the right cheek.
. . . He wants to make sure that it is really Pierre Leduc."

The man had turned a little to one side, so that only his shoulders were
visible. But his clothes, his overcoat, were so near that they brushed
against the curtains behind which M. Lenormand was hiding.

"One movement on his part," thought the chief detective, "a thrill of
alarm; and I shall collar him."

But the man, entirely absorbed in his examination, did not stir. At
last, after shifting the dagger to the hand that held the lantern, he
raised the sheet, at first hardly at all, then a little more, then more
still, until the sleeper's left arm was uncovered and the hand laid
bare. The flash of the lantern shone upon the hand. The fingers lay
outspread. The little finger was cut on the second joint.

Again Pierre Leduc made a movement. The light was immediately put out;
and, for an instant, the man remained beside the bed, motionless,
standing straight up. Would he make up his mind to strike? M. Lenormand
underwent the agony of the crime which he could so easily prevent, but
which he did not want to forestall before the very last second.

A long, a very long silence. Suddenly, he saw or rather fancied that he
saw an arm uplifted. Instinctively he moved, stretching his hand above
the sleeper. In making this gesture, he hit against the man.

A dull cry. The fellow struck out at space, defended himself at random
and fled toward the window. But M. Lenormand had leapt upon him and had
his two arms around the man's shoulders.

He at once felt him yielding and, as the weaker of the two, powerless in
Lenormand's hands, trying to avoid the struggle and to slip from between
his arms. Lenormand, exerting all his strength, held him flat against
his chest, bent him in two and stretched him on his back on the floor.

"Ah, I've got him, I've got him!" he muttered triumphantly.

And he felt a singular elation at imprisoning that terrifying criminal,
that unspeakable monster, in his irresistible grip. He felt him living
and quivering, enraged and desperate, their two lives mingled, their
breaths blended:

"Who are you?" he asked. "Who are you? . . . You'll have to speak.
. . ."

And he clasped the enemy's body with still greater force, for he had an
impression that that body was diminishing between his arms, that it was
vanishing. He gripped harder . . . and harder. . . .

And suddenly he shuddered from head to foot. He had felt, he still felt
a tiny prick in the throat. . . . In his exasperation, he gripped harder
yet: the pain increased! And he observed that the man had succeeded in
twisting one arm round, slipping his hand to his chest and holding the
dagger on end. The arm, it was true, was incapable of motion; but the
closer M. Lenormand tightened his grip, the deeper did the point of the
dagger enter the proffered flesh.

He flung back his head a little to escape the point: the point followed
the movement and the wound widened.

Then he moved no more, remembering the three crimes and all the
alarming, atrocious and prophetic things represented by that same little
steel needle which was piercing his skin and which, in its turn, was
implacably penetrating. . . .

Suddenly, he let go and gave a leap backwards. Then, at once, he tried
to resume the offensive. It was too late. The man flung his legs across
the window-sill and jumped.

"Look out, Gourel!" he cried, knowing that Gourel was there, ready to
catch the fugitive.

He leant out. A crunching of pebbles . . . a shadow between two trees,
the slam of the gate. . . . And no other sound . . . no interference.
. . .

Without giving a thought to Pierre Leduc, he called:

"Gourel! . . . Doudeville!"

No answer. The great silence of the countryside at night. . . .

In spite of himself, he continued to think of the treble murder, the
steel dagger. But no, it was impossible, the man had not had time, had
not even had the need to strike, as he had found the road clear.

M. Lenormand jumped out in his turn and, switching on his lantern,
recognized Gourel lying on the ground:

"Damn it!" he swore. "If they've killed him, they'll have to pay dearly
for it."

But Gourel was not dead, only stunned; and, a few minutes later, he came
to himself and growled:

"Only a blow of the fist, chief . . . just a blow of the fist which
caught me full in the chest. But what a fellow!"

"There were two of them then?"

"Yes, a little one, who went up, and another, who took me unawares while
I was watching."

"And the Doudevilles?"

"Haven't seen them."

One of them, Jacques, was found near the gate, bleeding from a punch in
the jaw; the other a little farther, gasping for breath from a blow full
on the chest.

"What is it? What happened?" asked M. Lenormand.

Jacques said that his brother and he had knocked up against an
individual who had crippled them before they had time to defend
themselves.

"Was he alone?"

"No; when he passed near us, he had a pal with him, shorter than
himself."

"Did you recognize the man who struck you?"

"Judging by the breadth of his shoulders, I thought he might be the
Englishman of the Palace Hotel, the one who left the hotel and whose
traces we lost."

"The major?"

"Yes, Major Parbury."

After a moment's reflection, M. Lenormand said:

"There is no doubt possible. There were two of them in the Kesselbach
case: the man with the dagger, who committed the murders, and his
accomplice, the major."

"That is what Prince Sernine thinks," muttered Jacques Doudeville.

"And to-night," continued the chief detective, "it is they again: the
same two." And he added, "So much the better. The chance of catching two
criminals is a hundred times greater than the chance of catching one."

M. Lenormand attended to his men, had them put to bed and looked to see
if the assailants had dropped anything or left any traces. He found
nothing and went back to bed again himself.

In the morning, as Gourel and the Doudevilles felt none the worse for
their injuries, he told the two brothers to scour the neighborhood and
himself set out with Gourel for Paris, in order to hurry matters on and
give his orders.

             *       *       *       *       *

He lunched in his office. At two o'clock, he heard good news. One of his
best detectives, Dieuzy, had picked up Steinweg, Rudolf Kesselbach's
correspondent, as the German was stepping out of a train from
Marseilles.

"Is Dieuzy there?"

"Yes, chief," said Gourel. "He's here with the German."

"Have them brought in to me."

At that moment, the telephone-bell rang. It was Jean Doudeville,
speaking from the post-office at Garches. The conversation did not take
long:

"Is that you, Jean? Any news?"

"Yes, chief, Major Parbury. . . ."

"Well?"

"We have found him. He has become a Spaniard and has darkened his skin.
We have just seen him. He was entering the Garches free-school. He was
received by that young lady . . . you know, the girl who knows Prince
Sernine, Geneviève Ernemont."

"Thunder!"

M. Lenormand let go the receiver, made a grab at his hat, flew into the
passage, met Dieuzy and the German, shouted to them to meet him in his
office at six o'clock, rushed down the stairs, followed by Gourel and
two inspectors whom he picked up on the way, and dived into a taxi-cab:

"Quick as you can to Garches . . . ten francs for yourself!"

He stopped the car a little before the Parc de Villeneuve, at the turn
of the lane that led to the school. Jean Doudeville was waiting for him
and at once exclaimed:

"He slipped away, ten minutes ago, by the other end of the lane."

"Alone?"

"No, with the girl."

M. Lenormand took Doudeville by the collar:

"Wretch! You let him go! But you ought to have . . . you ought to have
. . ."

"My brother is on his track."

"A lot of good that will do us! He'll stick your brother. You're no
match for him, either of you!"

He himself took the steering-wheel of the taxi, and resolutely drove
into the lane, regardless of the cart-ruts and of the bushes on each
side. They soon emerged on a parish-road, which took them to a crossway
where five roads met. M. Lenormand, without hesitation chose the one on
the left, the Saint-Cucufa Road. As a matter of fact, at the top of the
slope that runs down to the lake, they met the other Doudeville brother,
who shouted:

"They are in a carriage . . . half a mile away."

The chief did not stop. He sent the car flying down the incline, rushed
along the bends, drove round the lake and suddenly uttered an
exclamation of triumph. Right at the top of a little hill that stood in
front of them, he had seen the hood of a carriage.

Unfortunately, he had taken the wrong road and had to back the machine.
When he reached the place where the roads branched, the carriage was
still there, stationary. And, suddenly, while he was turning, he saw a
girl spring from the carriage. A man appeared on the step. The girl
stretched out her arm. Two reports rang out.

She had taken bad aim, without a doubt, for a head looked round the
other side of the hood and the man, catching sight of the motor-cab,
gave his horse a great lash with the whip and it started off at a
gallop. The next moment, a turn of the road hid the carriage from sight.

M. Lenormand finished his tacking in a few seconds, darted straight up
the incline, passed the girl without stopping and turned round boldly.
He found himself on a steep, pebbly forest road, which ran down between
dense woods and which could only be followed very slowly and with the
greatest caution. But what did he care! Twenty yards in front of him,
the carriage, a sort of two-wheeled cabriolet, was dancing over the
stones, drawn, or rather held back, by a horse which knew enough only to
go very carefully, feeling its way and taking no risks. There was
nothing to fear; escape was impossible.

And the two conveyances went shaking and jolting down-hill. At one
moment, they were so close together that M. Lenormand thought of
alighting and running with his men. But he felt the danger of putting on
the brake on so steep a slope; and he went on, pressing the enemy
closely, like a prey which one keeps within sight, within touch. . . .

"We've got him, chief, we've got him!" muttered the inspectors, excited
by the unexpected nature of the chase.

At the bottom, the way flattened out into a road that ran towards the
Seine, towards Bougival. The horse, on reaching level ground, set off at
a jog-trot, without hurrying itself and keeping to the middle of the
road.

A violent effort shook the taxi. It appeared, instead of rolling, to
proceed by bounds, like a darting fawn, and, slipping by the roadside
slope, ready to smash any obstacle, it caught up the carriage, came
level with it, passed it. . . .

An oath from M. Lenormand . . . shouts of fury. . . . The carriage was
empty!

The carriage was empty. The horse was going along peacefully, with the
reins on its back, no doubt returning to the stable of some inn in the
neighborhood, where it had been hired for the day. . . .

Suppressing his inward rage, the chief detective merely said:

"The major must have jumped out during the few seconds when we lost
sight of the carriage, at the top of the descent."

"We have only to beat the woods, chief, and we are sure . . ."

"To return empty-handed. The beggar is far away by this time. He's not
one of those who are caught twice in one day. Oh, hang it all, hang it
all!"

They went back to the young girl, whom they found in the company of
Jacques Doudeville and apparently none the worse for her adventure. M.
Lenormand introduced himself, offered to take her back home and at once
questioned her about the English major, Parbury.

She expressed astonishment:

"He is neither English nor a major; and his name is not Parbury."

"Then what is his name?"

"Juan Ribeira. He is a Spaniard sent by his government to study the
working of the French schools."

"As you please. His name and his nationality are of no importance. He is
the man we are looking for. Have you known him long?"

"A fortnight or so. He had heard about a school which I have founded at
Garches and he interested himself in my experiment to the extent of
proposing to make me an annual grant, on the one condition that he might
come from time to time to observe the progress of my pupils. I had not
the right to refuse. . . ."

"No, of course not; but you should have consulted your acquaintances. Is
not Prince Sernine a friend of yours? He is a man of good counsel."

"Oh, I have the greatest confidence in him; but he is abroad at
present."

"Did you not know his address?"

"No. And, besides, what could I have said to him? That gentleman behaved
very well. It was not until to-day . . . But I don't know if . . ."

"I beg you, mademoiselle, speak frankly. You can have confidence in me
also."

"Well, M. Ribeira came just now. He told me that he had been sent by a
French lady who was paying a short visit to Bougival, that this lady
had a little girl whose education she would like to entrust to me and
that she wished me to come and see her without delay. The thing seemed
quite natural. And, as this is a holiday and as M. Ribeira had hired a
carriage which was waiting for him at the end of the road, I made no
difficulty about accepting a seat in it."

"But what was his object, after all?"

She blushed and said:

"To carry me off, quite simply. He confessed it to me after half an
hour. . . ."

"Do you know nothing about him?"

"No."

"Does he live in Paris?"

"I suppose so."

"Has he ever written to you? Do you happen to have a few lines in his
handwriting, anything which he left behind, that may serve us as a
clue?"

"No clue at all. . . . Oh, wait a minute . . . but I don't think that
has any importance. . . ."

"Speak, speak . . . please. . . ."

"Well, two days ago, the gentleman asked permission to use my
typewriting machine; and he typed out--with difficulty, for he evidently
had no practice--a letter of which I saw the address by accident."

"What was the address?"

"He was writing to the _Journal_ and he put about twenty stamps into the
envelope."

"Yes . . . the agony-column, no doubt," said M. Lenormand.

"I have to-day's number with me, chief," said Gourel.

M. Lenormand unfolded the sheet and looked at the eighth page.
Presently, he gave a start. He had read the following sentence, printed
with the usual abbreviation:[4]

      "To any person knowing Mr. Steinweg. Advertiser wishes
      to know if he is in Paris and his address. Reply
      through this column."

[Footnote 4: Personal advertisements in the French newspapers are
charged by the line, not by the word; and consequently nearly every word
is clipped down to two, three or four letters.--_Translator's Note._]

"Steinweg!" exclaimed Gourel. "But that's the very man whom Dieuzy is
bringing to you!"

"Yes, yes," said M. Lenormand, to himself, "it's the man whose letter to
Mr. Kesselbach I intercepted, the man who put Kesselbach on the track of
Pierre Leduc. . . . So they, too, want particulars about Pierre Leduc
and his past? . . . They, too, are groping in the dark? . . ."

He rubbed his hands: Steinweg was at his disposal. In less than an hour,
Steinweg would have spoken. In less than an hour, the murky veil which
oppressed him and which made the Kesselbach case the most agonizing and
the most impenetrable that he had ever had in hand: that veil would be
torn asunder.



CHAPTER VI

M. LENORMAND SUCCUMBS


M. Lenormand was back in his room at the Prefecture of Police at six
o'clock in the evening. He at once sent for Dieuzy:

"Is your man here?"

"Yes, chief."

"How far have you got with him?"

"Not very. He won't speak a word. I told him that, by a new regulation,
foreigners were 'bliged to make a declaration at the Prefecture as to
the object and the probable length of their stay in Paris; and I brought
him here, to your secretary's office."

"I will question him."

But, at that moment, an office-messenger appeared:

"There's a lady asking to see you at once, chief."

"Have you her card?"

"Here, chief."

"Mrs. Kesselbach! Show her in."

He walked across the room to receive the young widow at the door and
begged her to take a seat. She still wore the same disconsolate look,
the same appearance of illness and that air of extreme lassitude which
revealed the distress of her life.

She held out a copy of the _Journal_ and pointed to the line in the
agony-column which mentioned Steinweg:

"Old Steinweg was a friend of my husband's," she said, "and I have no
doubt that he knows a good many things."

"Dieuzy," said M. Lenormand, "bring the person who is waiting. . . .
Your visit, madame, will not have been useless. I will only ask you,
when this person enters, not to say a word."

The door opened. A man appeared, an old man with white whiskers meeting
under his chin and a face furrowed with deep wrinkles, poorly clad and
wearing the hunted look of those wretches who roam about the world in
search of their daily pittance.

He stood on the threshold, blinking his eyelids, stared at M. Lenormand,
seemed confused by the silence that greeted him on his entrance and
turned his hat in his hands with embarrassment.

But, suddenly, he appeared stupefied, his eyes opened wide and he
stammered:

"Mrs. . . . Mrs. Kesselbach!"

He had seen the young widow. And, recovering his serenity, smiling,
losing his shyness, he went up to her and in a strong German accent:

"Oh, I am glad! . . . At last! . . . I thought I should never . . . I
was so surprised to receive no news down there . . . no telegrams. . . .
And how is our dear Rudolf Kesselbach?"

The lady staggered back, as though she had been struck in the face, and
at once fell into a chair and began to sob.

"What's the matter? . . . Why, what's the matter?" asked Steinweg.

M. Lenormand interposed:

"I see, sir, that you know nothing about certain events that have taken
place recently. Have you been long travelling?"

"Yes, three months. . . . I had been up to the Rand. Then I went back to
Capetown and wrote to Rudolf from there. But, on my way home by the East
Coast route, I accepted some work at Port Said. Rudolf has had my
letter, I suppose?"

"He is away. I will explain the reason of his absence. But, first, there
is a point on which we should be glad of some information. It has to do
with a person whom you knew and to whom you used to refer, in your
intercourse with Mr. Kesselbach, by the name of Pierre Leduc."

"Pierre Leduc! What! Who told you?"

The old man was utterly taken aback.

He spluttered out again:

"Who told you? Who disclosed to you . . . ?"

"Mr. Kesselbach."

"Never! It was a secret which I confided to him and Rudolf keeps his
secrets . . . especially this one . . ."

"Nevertheless, it is absolutely necessary that you should reply to our
questions. We are at this moment engaged on an inquiry about Pierre
Leduc which must come to a head without delay; and you alone can
enlighten us, as Mr. Kesselbach is no longer here."

"Well, then," cried Steinweg, apparently making up his mind, "what do
you want?"

"Do you know Pierre Leduc?"

"I have never seen him, but I have long been the possessor of a secret
which concerns him. Through a number of incidents which I need not
relate and thanks to a series of chances, I ended by acquiring the
certainty that the man in whose discovery I was interested was leading a
dissolute life in Paris and that he was calling himself Pierre Leduc,
which is not his real name."

"But does he know his real name himself?"

"I presume so."

"And you?"

"Yes, I know it."

"Well, tell it to us."

He hesitated; then, vehemently:

"I can't," he said. "No, I can't."

"But why not?"

"I have no right to. The whole secret lies there. When I revealed the
secret to Rudolf, he attached so much importance to it that he gave me a
large sum of money to purchase my silence and he promised me a fortune,
a real fortune, on the day when he should succeed, first, in finding
Pierre Leduc and, next, in turning the secret to account." He smiled
bitterly. "The large sum of money is already lost. I came to see how my
fortune was getting on."

"Mr. Kesselbach is dead," said the chief detective.

Steinweg gave a bound:

"Dead! Is it possible? No, it's a trap. Mrs. Kesselbach, is it true?"

She bowed her head.

He seemed crushed by this unexpected revelation; and, at the same time,
it must have been infinitely painful to him, for he began to cry:

"My poor Rudolf, I knew him when he was a little boy. . . . He used to
come and play at my house at Augsburg. . . . I was very fond of him."
And, calling Mrs. Kesselbach to witness, "And he of me, was he not, Mrs.
Kesselbach? He must have told you. . . . His old Daddy Steinweg, he used
to call me."

M. Lenormand went up to him and, in his clearest voice:

"Listen to me," he said. "Mr. Kesselbach died murdered. . . . Come, be
calm . . . exclamations are of no use. . . . He died murdered, I say,
and all the circumstances of the crime prove that the culprit knew about
the scheme in question. Was there anything in the nature of that scheme
that would enable you to guess . . . ?"

Steinweg stood dumfounded. He stammered:

"It was my fault. . . . If I had not suggested the thing to him . . ."

Mrs. Kesselbach went up to him, entreating him:

"Do you think . . . have you any idea? . . . Oh, Steinweg, I implore
you! . . ."

"I have no idea. . . . I have not reflected," he muttered. "I must have
time to reflect. . . ."

"Cast about in Mr. Kesselbach's surroundings," said M. Lenormand. "Did
nobody take part in your interviews at that time? Was there nobody in
whom he himself could have confided?"

"No."

"Think well."

Both the others, Dolores and M. Lenormand, leant toward him, anxiously
awaiting his answer.

"No," he said, "I don't see. . . ."

"Think well," repeated the chief detective. "The murderer's Christian
name and surname begin with an L and an M."

"An L," he echoed. "I don't see . . . an L . . . an M. . . ."

"Yes, the initials are in gold on the corner of a cigarette-case
belonging to the murderer."

"A cigarette-case?" asked Steinweg, making an effort of memory.

"A gun-metal case . . . and one of the compartments is divided into two
spaces, the smaller for cigarette-papers, the other for tobacco. . . ."

"Two spaces, two spaces," repeated Steinweg, whose thoughts seemed
stimulated by that detail. "Couldn't you show it to me?"

"Here it is, or rather this is an exact reproduction," said M.
Lenormand, giving him a cigarette-case.

"Eh! What!" said Steinweg, taking the case in his hands.

He looked at it with stupid eyes, examined it, turned it over in every
direction and, suddenly, gave a cry, the cry of a man struck with a
horrible idea. And he stood like that, livid, with trembling hands and
wild, staring eyes.

"Speak, come, speak!" said M. Lenormand.

"Oh," he said, as though blinded with light, "now all is explained!
. . ."

"Speak, speak!"

He walked across to the windows with a tottering step, then returned
and, rushing up to the chief detective:

"Sir, sir . . . Rudolf's murderer . . . I'll tell you. . . . Well . . ."

He stopped short.

"Well?"

There was a moment's pause. . . . Was the name of the odious criminal
about to echo through the great silence of the office, between those
walls which had heard so many accusations, so many confessions? M.
Lenormand felt as if he were on the brink of the unfathomable abyss and
as if a voice were mounting, mounting up to him. . . . A few seconds
more and he would know. . . .

"No," muttered Steinweg, "no, I can't. . . ."

"What's that you say?" cried the chief detective, furiously.

"I say that I can't."

"But you have no right to be silent. The law requires you to speak."

"To-morrow. . . . I will speak to-morrow . . . I must have time to
reflect. . . . To-morrow, I will tell you all that I know about Pierre
Leduc . . . all that I suppose about that cigarette-case. . . .
To-morrow, I promise you. . . ."

It was obvious that he possessed that sort of obstinacy against which
the most energetic efforts are of no avail. M. Lenormand yielded:

"Very well. I give you until to-morrow, but I warn you that, if you do
not speak to-morrow, I shall be obliged to go to the
examining-magistrate."

He rang and, taking Inspector Dieuzy aside, said:

"Go with him to his hotel . . . and stay there. . . . I'll send you two
men. . . . And mind you keep your eyes about you. Somebody may try to
get hold of him."

The inspector went off with Steinweg; and M. Lenormand, returning to
Mrs. Kesselbach, who had been violently affected by this scene, made his
excuses.

"Pray accept all my regrets, madame. . . . I can understand how upset
you must feel. . . ."

He questioned her as to the period at which Mr. Kesselbach renewed his
relations with old Steinweg and as to the length of time for which those
relations lasted. But she was so much worn-out that he did not insist.

"Am I to come back to-morrow?" she asked.

"No, it's not necessary. I will let you know all that Steinweg says. May
I see you down to your carriage? These three flights are rather steep.
. . ."

He opened the door and stood back to let her pass. At that moment shouts
were heard in the passage and people came running up, inspectors on
duty, office-messengers, clerks:

"Chief! Chief!"

"What's the matter?"

"Dieuzy! . . ."

"But he's just left here. . . ."

"He's been found on the staircase. . . ."

"Not dead? . . ."

"No, stunned, fainting. . . ."

"But the man . . . the man who was with him . . . old Steinweg?"

"He's disappeared. . . ."

"Damn it!"

He rushed along the passage and down the stairs, where he found Dieuzy
lying on the first-floor landing, surrounded by people who were
attending to him.

He saw Gourel coming up again:

"Oh, Gourel, have you been downstairs? Did you come across anybody?"

"No, chief. . . ."

But Dieuzy was recovering consciousness and, almost before he had opened
his eyes, mumbled:

"Here, on the landing, the little door. . . ."

"Oh, hang it, the door of Court 7!"[5] shouted the chief detective.
"Didn't I say that it was to be kept locked? . . . It was certain that,
sooner or later . . ." He seized the door-handle. "Oh, of course! The
door is bolted on the other side now!"

[Footnote 5: Since M. Lenormand left the detective service, two other
criminals have escaped by the same door, after shaking off the officers
in charge of them; the police kept both cases dark. Nevertheless, it
would be very easy, if this communication is absolutely required, to
remove the useless bolt on the other side of the door, which enables the
fugitive to cut off all pursuit and to walk away quietly through the
passage leading to Civil Court 7 and through the corridor of the Chief
President's Court.]

The door was partly glazed. He smashed a pane with the butt-end of his
revolver, drew the bolt and said to Gourel:

"Run through this way to the exit on the Place Dauphine. . . ."

He went back to Dieuzy:

"Come, Dieuzy, tell me about it. How did you come to let yourself be put
into this state?"

"A blow in the pit of the stomach, chief. . . ."

"A blow? From that old chap? . . . Why, he can hardly stand on his legs!
. . ."

"Not the old man, chief, but another, who was walking up and down the
passage while Steinweg was with you and who followed us as though he
were going out, too. . . . When we got as far as this, he asked me for a
light. . . . I looked for my matches . . . Then he caught me a punch in
the stomach. . . . I fell down, and, as I fell, I thought I saw him open
that door and drag the old man with him. . . ."

"Would you know him again?"

"Oh yes, chief . . . a powerful fellow, very dark-skinned . . . a
southerner of sorts, that's certain. . . ."

"Ribeira," snarled M. Lenormand. "Always Ribeira! . . . Ribeira, _alias_
Parbury. . . . Oh, the impudence of the scoundrel! He was afraid of what
old Steinweg might say . . . and came to fetch him away under my very
nose!" And, stamping his foot with anger, "But, dash it, how did he know
that Steinweg was here, the blackguard! It's only four hours since I was
chasing him in the Saint-Cucufa woods . . . and now he's here! . . . How
did he know? . . . One would think he lived inside my skin! . . ."

He was seized with one of those fits of dreaming in which he seemed to
hear nothing and see nothing. Mrs. Kesselbach, who passed at that
moment, bowed without his replying.

But a sound of footsteps in the corridor roused him from his lethargy.

"At last, is that you, Gourel?"

"I've found out how it was, chief," said Gourel, panting for breath.
"There were two of them. They went this way and out of the Place
Dauphine. There was a motor-car waiting for them. There were two people
inside: one was a man dressed in black, with a soft hat pulled over his
eyes . . ."

"That's he," muttered M. Lenormand, "that's the murderer, the accomplice
of Ribeira,--Parbury. And who was the other?"

"A woman, a woman without a hat, a servant-girl, it might be. . . . And
good-looking, I'm told, with red hair."

"Eh, what! You say she had red hair?"

"Yes."

M. Lenormand turned round with a bound, ran down the stairs four steps
at a time, hurried across the courtyard and came out on the Quai des
Orfèvres:

"Stop!" he shouted.

A victoria and pair was driving off. It was Mrs. Kesselbach's carriage.
The coachman heard and pulled up his horses. M. Lenormand sprang on the
step:

"I beg a thousand pardons, madame, but I cannot do without your
assistance. I will ask you to let me go with you. . . . But we must act
swiftly. . . . Gourel, where's my taxi?"

"I've sent it away, chief."

"Well then, get another, quick!" . . .

The men all ran in different directions. But ten minutes elapsed before
one of them returned with a motor-cab. M. Lenormand was boiling with
impatience. Mrs. Kesselbach, standing on the pavement, swayed from side
to side, with her smelling-salts in her hand.

At last they were seated.

"Gourel, get up beside the driver and go straight to Garches."

"To my house?" asked Dolores, astounded.

He did not reply. He leant out of the window, waved his pass, explained
who he was to the policeman regulating the traffic in the streets. At
last, when they reached the Cours-la-Reine, he sat down again and said:

"I beseech you, madame, to give me plain answers to my questions. Did
you see Mlle. Geneviève Ernemont just now, at about four o'clock?"

"Geneviève? . . . Yes. . . . I was dressing to go out."

"Did she tell you of the advertisement about Steinweg in the _Journal_?"

"She did."

"And it was that which made you come to see me?"

"Yes."

"Were you alone during Mlle. Ernemont's visit?"

"Upon my word, I can't say. . . . Why?"

"Recollect. Was one of your servants present?"

"Probably . . . as I was dressing. . . ."

"What are their names?"

"Suzanne and Gertrude."

"One of them has red hair, has she not?"

"Yes, Gertrude."

"Have you known her long?"

"Her sister has always been with me . . . and so has Gertrude, for
years. . . . She is devotion and honesty personified. . . ."

"In short, you will answer for her?"

"Oh, absolutely!"

"Very well . . . very well."

It was half-past seven and the daylight was beginning to wane when the
taxi-cab reached the House of Retreat. Without troubling about his
companion, the chief detective rushed into the porter's lodge:

"Mrs. Kesselbach's maid has just come in, has she not?"

"Whom do you mean, the maid?"

"Why, Gertrude, one of the two sisters."

"But Gertrude can't have been out, sir. We haven't seen her go out."

"Still some one has just come in."

"No, sir, we haven't opened the door to anybody since--let me see--six
o'clock this evening."

"Is there no other way out than this gate?"

"No. The walls surround the estate on every side and they are very high.
. . ."

"Mrs. Kesselbach, we will go to your house, please."

They all three went. Mrs. Kesselbach, who had no key, rang. The door was
answered by Suzanne, the other sister.

"Is Gertrude in?" asked Mrs. Kesselbach.

"Yes, ma'am, in her room."

"Send her down, please," said the chief detective.

After a moment, Gertrude came downstairs, looking very attractive and
engaging in her white embroidered apron.

She had, in point of fact, a rather pretty face, crowned with red hair.

M. Lenormand looked at her for a long time without speaking, as though
he were trying to read what lay behind those innocent eyes.

He asked her no questions. After a minute, he simply said:

"That will do, thank you. Come, Gourel."

He went out with the sergeant and, at once, as they followed the
darkling paths of the garden, said:

"That's the one!"

"Do you think so, chief? She looked so placid!"

"Much too placid. Another would have been astonished, would have wanted
to know why I sent for her. Not this one! Nothing but the concentrated
effort of a face that is determined to smile at all costs. Only, I saw a
drop of perspiration trickle from her temple along her ear."

"So that . . . ?

"So that everything becomes plain. Gertrude is in league with the two
ruffians who are conspiring round the Kesselbach case, in order either
to discover and carry out the famous scheme, or to capture the widow's
millions. No doubt, the other sister is in the plot as well. At four
o'clock, Gertrude, learning that I know of the advertisement in the
_Journal_, takes advantage of her mistress's absence, hastens to Paris,
finds Ribeira and the man in the soft hat and drags them off to the
Palais, where Ribeira annexes Master Steinweg for his own purposes."

He reflected and concluded:

"All this proves, first, the importance which they attach to Steinweg
and their fear of what he may reveal; secondly, that a regular plot is
being hatched around Mrs. Kesselbach; thirdly, that I have no time to
lose, for the plot is ripe."

"Very well," said Gourel, "but one thing remains unexplained. How was
Gertrude able to leave the garden in which we now are and to enter it
again, unknown to the porter and his wife?"

"Through a secret passage which the rogues must have contrived to make
quite recently."

"And which would end, no doubt," said Gourel, "in Mrs. Kesselbach's
house."

"Yes, perhaps," said M. Lenormand, "perhaps . . . But I have another
idea."

They followed the circuit of the wall. It was a bright night; and,
though their two forms were hardly distinguishable, they themselves
could see enough to examine the stones of the walls and to convince
themselves that no breach, however skilful, had been effected.

"A ladder, very likely?" suggested Gourel.

"No, because Gertrude is able to get out in broad daylight. A
communication of the kind I mean can evidently not end out of doors. The
entrance must be concealed by some building already in existence."

"There are only the four garden-houses," objected Gourel, "and they are
all inhabited."

"I beg your pardon: the third, the Pavillon Hortense, is not inhabited."

"Who told you so?"

"The porter. Mrs. Kesselbach hired this house, which is near her own,
for fear of the noise. Who knows but that, in so doing, she acted under
Gertrude's influence?"

He walked round the house in question. The shutters were closed. He
lifted the latch of the door, on the off-chance; the door opened.

"Ah, Gourel, I think we've struck it! Let's go in. Light your lantern.
. . . Oh, the hall. . . . the drawing-room . . . the dining-room . . .
that's no use. There must be a basement, as the kitchen is not on this
floor."

"This way, chief . . . the kitchen-stairs are here."

They went down into a rather large kitchen, crammed full of wicker-work
garden-chairs and flower-stands. Beside it was a wash-house, which also
served as a cellar, and which presented the same untidy sight of objects
piled one on the top of the other.

"What is that shiny thing down there, chief?"

Gourel stooped and picked up a brass pin with a head made of an
imitation pearl.

"The pearl is quite bright still," said M. Lenormand, "which it would
not be if it had been lying in this cellar long. Gertrude passed this
way, Gourel."

Gourel began to demolish a great stack of empty wine-casks, writing
desks and old rickety tables.

"You are wasting your time," said M. Lenormand. "If that is the way out,
how would she have time first to move all those things and then to
replace them behind her? Look, here is a shutter out of use, which has
no valid reason for being fastened to the wall by that nail. Draw it
back."

Gourel did so. Behind the shutter, the wall was hollowed out. By the
light of the lantern they saw an underground passage running downwards.

"I was right," said M. Lenormand.. "The communication is of recent date.
You see, it's a piece of work hurriedly done, and not intended to last
for any length of time. . . . No masonry. . . . Two planks placed
cross-wise at intervals, with a joist to serve as a roof; and that is
all. It will hold up as best it may: well enough, in any case, for the
object in view, that is to say . . ."

"That is to say what, chief?"

"Well, first to allow of the going backwards and forwards between
Gertrude and her accomplices . . . and then, one day, one day soon, of
the kidnapping, or rather the total, miraculous, incomprehensible
disappearance of Mrs. Kesselbach."

They proceeded cautiously, so as not to knock against certain beams
which did not look over-safe. It at once became evident that the tunnel
was much longer than the fifty yards at most that separated the house
from the boundary of the garden. It must, therefore, end at a fair
distance from the walls and beyond the road that skirted the property.

"We are not going in the direction of Villeneuve and the lake are we?"
asked Gourel.

"Not at all, the other way about," declared M. Lenormand.

The tunnel descended with a gentle slope. There was a step, then
another; and they veered toward the right. They at once knocked up
against a door which was fitted into a rubble frame, carefully cemented.
M. Lenormand pushed it and it opened.

"One second, Gourel," he said, stopping. "Let us think. . . . It might
perhaps be wiser to turn back."

"Why?"

"We must reflect that Ribeira will have foreseen the danger and presume
that he has taken his precautions, in case the underground passage
should be discovered. Now he knows that we are on his track. He knows
that we are searching the garden. He no doubt saw us enter the house.
How do I know that he is not at this moment laying a trap for us?"

"There are two of us, chief. . . ."

"And suppose there were twenty of them?"

He looked in front of him. The tunnel sloped upward again, closed by
another door, which was at five or six yards' distance.

"Let us go so far," he said. "Then we shall see."

He passed through, followed by Gourel, whom he told to leave the first
door open, and walked to the other door, resolving within himself to go
no farther. But this second door was shut; and though the lock seemed to
work, he could not succeed in opening it.

"The door is bolted," he said. "Let us make no noise and go back. The
more so as, outside, by remembering the position of the tunnel, we can
fix the line along which to look for the other outlet."

They therefore retraced their steps to the first door, when Gourel, who
was walking ahead, gave an exclamation of surprise:

"Why, it's closed! . . ."

"How is that? When I told you to leave it open!"

"I did leave it open, chief, but the door must have fallen back of its
own weight."

"Impossible! We should have heard the sound."

"Then? . . ."

"Then . . . then . . . I don't know . . ." He went up to the door.
"Let's see, . . . there's a key . . . does it turn? . . . Yes, it turns.
But there seems to be a bolt on the other side."

"Who can have fastened it?"

"They, of course! Behind our backs! . . . Perhaps they have another
tunnel that runs above this one, alongside of it . . . or else they were
waiting in that empty house. . . . In any case, we're caught in a trap.
. . ."

He grew angry with the lock, thrust his knife into the chink of the
door, tried every means and then, in a moment of weariness, said:

"There's nothing to be done!"

"What, chief, nothing to be done? In that case, we're diddled!"

"I dare say!" said M. Lenormand. . . .

They returned to the other door and came back again to the first. Both
were solid, made of hard wood, strengthened with cross-beams . . . in
short, indestructible.

"We should want a hatchet," said the chief of the detective-service, "or
at the very least, a serious implement . . . a knife even, with which we
might try to cut away the place where the bolt is most likely to be
. . . and we have nothing. . . ."

He was seized with a sudden fit of rage and flung himself upon the
obstacle, as though he hoped to do away with it. Then, powerless,
beaten, he said to Gourel:

"Listen, we'll look into this in an hour or two. . . . I am tired out.
. . . I am going to sleep. . . . Keep watch so long . . . and if they
come and attack us . . ."

"Ah, if they come, we shall be saved, chief!" cried Gourel, who would
have been relieved by a fight, however great the odds.

M. Lenormand lay down on the ground. In a minute, he was asleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he woke up, he remained for some seconds undecided, not
understanding; and he also asked himself what sort of pain it was that
was tormenting him:

"Gourel!" he called. "Come! Gourel!"

Obtaining no reply, he pressed the spring of his lantern and saw Gourel
lying beside him, sound asleep.

"What on earth can this pain be?" he thought. "Regular twitchings. . . .
Oh, why, of course, I am hungry, that's all. . . . I'm starving! What
can the time be?"

His watch marked twenty minutes past seven, but he remembered that he
had not wound it up. Gourel's watch was not going either.

Gourel had awoke under the action of the same inward pangs, which made
them think that the breakfast-hour must be long past and that they had
already slept for a part of the day.

"My legs are quite numbed," said Gourel, "and my feet feel as if they
were on ice. What a funny sensation!" He bent down to rub them and went
on: "Why, it's not on ice that my feet were, but in water. . . . Look,
chief . . . there's a regular pool near the first door. . . ."

"Soaked through," M. Lenormand replied. "We'll go back to the second
door; you can dry yourself . . ."

"But what are you doing, chief?"

"Do you think I am going to allow myself to be buried alive in this
vault? . . . Not if I know it; I haven't reached the age! . . . As the
two doors are closed, let us try to pass through the walls."

One by one he loosened the stones that stood out at the height of his
hand, in the hope of contriving another gallery that would slope upwards
to the level of the soil. But the work was long and painful, for in
this part of the tunnel, as he perceived the stones were cemented.

"Chief . . . chief," stammered Gourel, in a stifled voice. . . .

"Well?"

"You are standing with your feet in the water."

"Nonsense! . . . Why, so I am! . . . Well, it can't be helped. . . .
I'll dry them in the sun. . . ."

"But don't you see?"

"What?"

"Why, it's rising, chief, it's rising! . . ."

"What's rising?"

"The water! . . ."

M. Lenormand felt a shudder pass over his skin. He suddenly understood.
It was not a casual trickling through, as he had thought, but a
carefully-prepared flood, mechanically, irresistibly produced by some
infernal system.

"Oh, the scoundrel!" he snarled. "If ever I lay hands on him . . . !"

"Yes, yes, chief, but we must first get out of this. . . . And, as far
as I can see . . ."

Gourel seemed completely prostrated, incapable of having an idea, of
proposing a plan.

M. Lenormand knelt down on the ground and measured the rate at which the
water was rising. A quarter, or thereabouts, of the first door was
covered; and the water was half-way toward the second door.

"The progress is slow, but uninterrupted," he said "In a few hours it
will be over our heads."

"But this is terrible, chief, it's horrible!" moaned Gourel.

"Oh, look here, don't come boring me with your lamentations, do you
understand? Cry, if it amuses you, but don't let me hear you!"

"It's the hunger that weakens me, chief; my brain's going round."

"Bite your fist!"

As Gourel said, the position was terrible; and, if M. Lenormand had had
less energy, he would have abandoned the vain struggle. What was to be
done? It was no use hoping that Ribeira would have the charity to let
them out. It was no use either hoping that the brothers Doudeville would
rescue them, for the inspectors did not know of the existence of the
tunnel. So no hope remained . . . no hope but that of an impossible
miracle. . . .

"Come, come," said M. Lenormand, "this is too silly. We're not going to
kick the bucket here! Hang it all, there must be something! . . . Show
me a light, Gourel."

Flattening himself against the second door, he examined it from top to
bottom, in every corner. There was an enormous bolt on that side, just
as there probably was on the other. He unfastened the screws with the
blade of his knife; and the bolt came off in his hand.

"And what next?" asked Gourel.

"What next?" he echoed. "Well, this bolt is made of iron, pretty long
and very nearly pointed. Certainly, it's not as good as a pick-axe, but
it's better than nothing and . . ."

Without finishing his sentence, he drove the implement into the
side-wall of the tunnel, a little in front of the pillar of masonry that
supported the hinges of the door. As he expected, once he had passed the
first layer of cement and stones, he found soft earth:

"To work!" he cried.

"Certainly, chief, but would you explain . . . ?"

"It's quite simple. I want to dig round this pillar a passage, three or
four yards long, which will join the tunnel on the other side of the
door and allow us to escape."

"But it will take us hours; and meanwhile, the water is rising."

"Show me a light, Gourel."

"In twenty minutes, or half an hour at most, it will have reached our
feet."

"Show me a light, Gourel."

M. Lenormand's idea was correct and, with some little exertion, by
pulling the earth, which he first loosened with his implement, towards
him and making it fall into the tunnel, he was not long in digging a
hole large enough to slip into.

"It's my turn, chief!" said Gourel.

"Aha, you're returning to life, I see! Well, fire away! . . . You have
only to follow the shape of the pillar."

At that moment, the water was up to their ankles. Would they have time
to complete the work begun?

It became more difficult as they went on, for the earth which they
disturbed was in their way; and, lying flat on their stomachs in the
passage, they were obliged at every instant to remove the rubbish that
obstructed them.

After two hours, the work was perhaps three-quarters through, but the
water now covered their legs. Another hour and it would reach the
opening of the hole which they were digging. And that would mean the
end!

Gourel, who was exhausted by the want of food and who was too stout to
move with any freedom in that ever-narrower passage, had had to give up.
He no longer stirred, trembling with anguish at feeling that icy water
which was gradually swallowing him up.

As for M. Lenormand, he worked on with indefatigable ardor. It was a
terrible job, this ants' work performed in the stifling darkness. His
hands were bleeding. He was fainting with hunger. The insufficiency of
the air hampered his breathing; and, from time to time, Gourel's sighs
reminded him of the awful danger that threatened him at the bottom of
his hole.

But nothing could discourage him, for now he again found opposite him
those cemented stones which formed the side-wall of the gallery. It was
the most difficult part, but the end was at hand.

"It's rising," cried Gourel, in a choking voice, "it's rising!"

M. Lenormand redoubled his efforts. Suddenly the stem of the bolt which
he was using leapt out into space. The passage was dug. He had now only
to widen it, which became much easier once he was able to shoot the
materials in front of him.

Gourel, mad with terror, was howling like a dying beast. M. Lenormand
paid no attention to him. Safety was at hand.

Nevertheless, he had a few seconds of anxiety when he perceived, by the
sound of the materials falling, that this part of the tunnel was also
under water, which was natural, as the door did not form a sufficiently
tight-fitting barrier. But what did it matter! The outlet was free. One
last effort . . . he passed through.

"Come, Gourel," he cried, returning to fetch his companion.

He dragged him, half dead, by the wrists:

"Come along, booby, pull yourself together! We are saved."

"Do you really think so, chief? . . . The water's up to our chests.
. . ."

"Never mind, as long as it's not over our mouths. . . . Where's your
lantern?"

"It's not working."

"No matter." He gave an exclamation of delight. "One step . . . two
steps! . . . A staircase. . . . At last!"

They emerged from the water, that accursed water which had almost
swallowed them up; and it was a delicious sensation, a release that sent
up their spirits.

"Stop!" said M. Lenormand.

His head had knocked against something. With arms outstretched, he
pushed against the obstacle, which yielded at once. It was the flap of a
trap-door; and, when this trap-door was opened, he found himself in a
cellar into which the light of a fine night filtered through an
air-hole.

He threw back the flap and climbed the last treads.

Then a veil fell over his eyes. Arms seized upon him. He felt himself as
it were wrapped in a sheet, in a sort of sack, and then fastened with
cords.

"Now for the other one!" said a voice.

The same operation must have been performed on Gourel; and the same
voice said:

"If they call out, kill them at once. Have you your dagger?"

"Yes."

"Come along. You two, take this one . . . you two, that one. . . . No
light . . . and no noise either. . . . It would be a serious matter.
They've been searching the garden next door since this morning . . .
there are ten or fifteen of them knocking about. . . . Go back to the
house, Gertrude, and, if the least thing happens, telephone to me in
Paris."

M. Lenormand felt that he was being lifted up and carried and, a moment
after, that he was in the open air.

"Bring the cart nearer," said a voice.

M. Lenormand heard the sound of a horse and cart.

He was laid out on some boards. Gourel was hoisted up beside him. The
horse started at a trot.

The drive lasted about half an hour.

"Halt!" commanded the voice. "Lift them out. Here, driver, turn the cart
so that the tail touches the parapet of the bridge. . . . Good. . . . No
boats on the river? Sure? Then let's waste no time. . . . Oh, have you
fastened some stones to them?"

"Yes, paving-stones."

"Right away, then! Commend your soul to God, M. Lenormand, and pray for
me, Parbury-Ribeira, better known by the name of Baron Altenheim. Are
you ready? All right? Well, here's wishing you a pleasant journey, M.
Lenormand!"

M. Lenormand was placed on the parapet. Someone gave him a push. He felt
himself falling into space and he still heard the voice chuckling:

"A pleasant journey!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Ten seconds later it was Sergeant Gourel's turn.



CHAPTER VII

PARBURY-RIBEIRA-ALTENHEIM


The girls were playing in the garden, under the supervision of Mlle.
Charlotte, Geneviève's new assistant. Mme. Ernemont came out,
distributed some cakes among them and then went back to the room which
served as a drawing-room and parlor in one, sat down before a
writing-desk and began to arrange her papers and account-books.

Suddenly, she felt the presence of a stranger in the room. She turned
round in alarm:

"You!" she cried. "Where have you come from? How did you get in?"

"Hush!" said Prince Sernine. "Listen to me and do not let us waste a
minute: Geneviève?"

"Calling on Mrs. Kesselbach."

"When will she be here?"

"Not before an hour."

"Then I will let the brothers Doudeville come. I have an appointment
with them. How is Geneviève?"

"Very well."

"How often has she seen Pierre Leduc since I went away, ten days ago?"

"Three times; and she is to meet him to-day at Mrs. Kesselbach's, to
whom she introduced him, as you said she must. Only, I may as well tell
you that I don't think much of this Pierre Leduc of yours. Geneviève
would do better to find some good fellow in her own class of life. For
instance, there's the schoolmaster."

"You're mad! Geneviève marry a schoolmaster!"

"Oh, if you considered Geneviève's happiness first. . . ."

"Shut up, Victoire. You're boring me with your cackle. I have no time to
waste on sentiment. I'm playing a game of chess; and I move my men
without troubling about what they think. When I have won the game, I
will go into the question whether the knight, Pierre Leduc, and the
queen, Geneviève, have a heart or not."

She interrupted him:

"Did you hear? A whistle. . . ."

"It's the two Doudevilles. Go and bring them in; and then leave us."

As soon as the two brothers were in the room, he questioned them with
his usual precision:

"I know what the newspapers have said about the disappearance of
Lenormand and Gourel. Do you know any more?"

"No. The deputy-chief, M. Weber, has taken the case in hand. We have
been searching the garden of the House of Retreat for the past week; and
nobody is able to explain how they can have disappeared. The whole force
is in a flutter. . . . No one has ever seen the like . . . a chief of
the detective-service disappearing, without leaving a trace behind him!"

"The two maids?"

"Gertrude has gone. She is being looked for."

"Her sister Suzanne?"

"M. Weber and M. Formerie have questioned her. There is nothing against
her."

"Is that all you have to tell me?"

"Oh, no, there are other things, all the things which we did not tell
the papers."

They then described the incidents that had marked M. Lenormand's last
two days: the night visit of the two ruffians to Pierre Leduc's villa;
next day, Ribeira's attempt to kidnap Geneviève and the chase through
the Saint-Cucufa woods; old Steinweg's arrival, his examination at the
detective-office in Mrs. Kesselbach's presence, his escape from the
Palais. . . .

"And no one knows these details except yourselves?"

"Dieuzy knows about the Steinweg incident: he told us of it."

"And they still trust you at the Prefecture of Police?"

"So much so that they employ us openly. M. Weber swears by us."

"Come," said the prince, "all is not lost. If M. Lenormand has committed
an imprudence that has cost him his life, as I suppose he did, at any
rate he performed some good work first; and we have only to continue it.
The enemy has the start of us, but we will catch him up."

"It won't be an easy job, governor."

"Why not? It is only a matter of finding old Steinweg again, for the
answer to the riddle is in his hands."

"Yes, but where has Ribeira got old Steinweg tucked away?"

"At his own place, of course."

"Then we should have to know where Ribeira hangs out."

"Well, of course!"

He dismissed them and went to the House of Retreat. Motor-cars were
awaiting outside the door and two men were walking up and down, as
though mounting guard.

In the garden, near Mrs. Kesselbach's house, he saw Geneviève sitting on
a bench with Pierre Leduc and a thick-set gentleman wearing a single
eye-glass. The three were talking and none of them saw him. But several
people came out of the house: M. Formerie, M. Weber, a magistrate's
clerk, and two inspectors. Geneviève went indoors and the gentleman with
the eye-glass went up and spoke to the examining-magistrate and the
deputy-chief of the detective-service and walked away with them slowly.

Sernine came beside the bench where Pierre Leduc was sitting and
whispered:

"Don't move, Pierre Leduc; it's I."

"You! . . . you! . . ."

It was the third time that the young man saw Sernine since the awful
night at Versailles; and each time it upset him.

"Tell me . . . who is the fellow with the eye-glass?"

Pierre Leduc turned pale and jabbered. Sernine pinched his arm:

"Answer me, confound it! Who is he?"

"Baron Altenheim."

"Where does he come from?"

"He was a friend of Mr. Kesselbach's. He arrived from Austria, six days
ago, and placed himself at Mrs. Kesselbach's disposal."

The police authorities had, meanwhile, gone out of the garden; Baron
Altenheim also.

The prince rose and, turning towards the Pavillon de l'Impératrice,
continued:

"Has the baron asked you many questions?"

"Yes, a great many. He is interested in my case. He wants to help me
find my family. He appealed to my childhood memories."

"And what did you say?"

"Nothing, because I know nothing. What memories have I? You put me in
another's place and I don't even know who that other is."

"No more do I!" chuckled the prince. "And that's just what makes your
case so quaint."

"Oh, it's all very well for you to laugh . . . you're always laughing!
. . . But I'm beginning to have enough of it. . . . I'm mixed up in a
heap of nasty matters . . . to say nothing of the danger which I run in
pretending to be somebody that I am not."

"What do you mean . . . that you are not? You're quite as much a duke as
I am a prince . . . perhaps even more so. . . . Besides, if you're not a
duke, hurry up and become one, hang it all! Geneviève can't marry any
one but a duke! Look at her: isn't she worth selling your soul for?"

He did not even look at Leduc, not caring what he thought. They had
reached the house by this time; and Geneviève appeared at the foot of
the steps, comely and smiling:

"So you have returned?" she said to the prince. "Ah, that's a good
thing! I am so glad. . . . Do you want to see Dolores?"

After a moment, she showed him into Mrs. Kesselbach's room. The prince
was taken aback. Dolores was paler still and thinner than on the day
when he saw her last. Lying on a sofa, wrapped up in white stuffs, she
looked like one of those sick people who have ceased to struggle against
death. As for her, she had ceased to struggle against life, against the
fate that was overwhelming her with its blows.

Sernine gazed at her with deep pity and with an emotion which he did not
strive to conceal. She thanked him for the sympathy which he showed her.
She also spoke of Baron Altenheim, in friendly terms.

"Did you know him before?" he asked.

"Yes, by name, and through his intimacy with my husband."

"I have met an Altenheim who lives in the Rue de Rivoli. Do you think
it's the same?"

"Oh, no, this one lives in . . . As a matter of fact, I don't quite
know; he gave me his address, but I can't say that I remember it. . . ."

After a few minutes' conversation, Sernine took his leave. Geneviève was
waiting for him in the hall:

"I want to speak to you," she said eagerly, "on a serious matter. . . .
Did you see him?"

"Whom?"

"Baron Altenheim. . . . But that's not his name . . . or, at least, he
has another. . . . I recognized him . . . he does not know it."

She dragged him out of doors and walked on in great excitement.

"Calm yourself, Geneviève. . . ."

"He's the man who tried to carry me off. . . . But for that poor M.
Lenormand, I should have been done for. . . . Come, you must know, for
you know everything. . . ."

"Then his real name is . . ."

"Ribeira."

"Are you sure?"

"It was no use his changing his appearance, his accent, his manner: I
knew him at once, by the horror with which he inspires me. But I said
nothing . . . until you returned."

"You said nothing to Mrs. Kesselbach either?"

"No. She seemed so happy at meeting a friend of her husband's. But you
will speak to her about it, will you not? You will protect her. . . . I
don't know what he is preparing against her, against myself. . . . Now
that M. Lenormand is no longer there, he has nothing to fear, he does as
he pleases. Who can unmask him?"

"I can. I will be responsible for everything. But not a word to
anybody."

They had reached the porter's lodge. The gate was opened. The prince
said:

"Good-bye, Geneviève, and be quite easy in your mind. I am there."

He shut the gate, turned round and gave a slight start. Opposite him
stood the man with the eye-glass, Baron Altenheim, with his head held
well up, his broad shoulders, his powerful frame.

They looked at each other for two or three seconds, in silence. The
baron smiled.

Then the baron said:

"I was waiting for you, Lupin."

For all his self-mastery, Sernine felt a thrill pass over him. He had
come to unmask his adversary; and his adversary had unmasked him at the
first onset. And, at the same time, the adversary was accepting the
contest boldly, brazenly, as though he felt sure of victory. It was a
swaggering thing to do and gave evidence of no small amount of pluck.

The two men, violently hostile one to the other, took each other's
measure with their eyes.

"And what then?" asked Sernine.

"What then? Don't you think we have occasion for a meeting?"

"Why?"

"I want to talk to you."

"What day will suit you?"

"To-morrow. Let us lunch together at a restaurant."

"Why not at your place?"

"You don't know my address."

"Yes, I do."

With a swift movement, the prince pulled out a newspaper protruding from
Altenheim's pocket, a paper still in its addressed wrapper, and said:

"No. 29, Villa Dupont."

"Well played!" said the other. "Then we'll say, to-morrow, at my place."

"To-morrow, at your place. At what time?"

"One o'clock."

"I shall be there. Good-bye."

They were about to walk away. Altenheim stopped:

"Oh, one word more, prince. Bring a weapon with you."

"Why?"

"I keep four men-servants and you will be alone."

"I have my fists," said Sernine. "We shall be on even terms."

He turned his back on him and then, calling him back:

"Oh, one word more, baron. Engage four more servants."

"Why?"

"I have thought it over. I shall bring my whip."

       *       *       *       *       *

At one o'clock the next day, precisely, a horseman rode through the gate
of the so-called Villa Dupont, a peaceful, countrified private road,
the only entrance to which is in the Rue Pergolèse, close to the Avenue
du Bois.

It is lined with gardens and handsome private houses; and, right at the
end, it is closed by a sort of little park containing a large old house,
behind which runs the Paris circular railway. It was here, at No. 29,
that Baron Altenheim lived.

Sernine flung the reins of his horse to a groom whom he had sent on
ahead and said:

"Bring him back at half-past two."

He rang the bell. The garden-gate opened and he walked to the front-door
steps, where he was awaited by two tall men in livery who ushered him
into an immense, cold, stone hall, devoid of any ornament. The door
closed behind him with a heavy thud; and, great and indomitable as his
courage was, he nevertheless underwent an unpleasant sensation at
feeling himself alone, surrounded by enemies, in that isolated prison.

"Say Prince Sernine."

The drawing-room was near and he was shown straight in.

"Ah, there you are, my dear prince!" said the baron, coming toward him.
"Well, will you believe--Dominique, lunch in twenty minutes. Until then,
don't let us be interrupted--will you believe, my dear prince, that I
hardly expected to see you?"

"Oh, really? Why?"

"Well, your declaration of war, this morning, is so plain that an
interview becomes superfluous."

"My declaration of war?"

The baron unfolded a copy of the _Grand Journal_ and pointed to a
paragraph which ran as follows:

      "We are authoritatively informed that M. Lenormand's
      disappearance has roused Arsène Lupin into taking
      action. After a brief enquiry and following on his
      proposal to clear up the Kesselbach case, Arsène Lupin
      has decided that he will find M. Lenormand, alive or
      dead, and that he will deliver the author or authors
      of that heinous series of crimes to justice."

"This authoritative pronouncement comes from you, my dear prince, of
course?"

"Yes, it comes from me."

"Therefore, I was right: it means war."

"Yes."

Altenheim gave Sernine a chair, sat down himself and said, in a
conciliatory tone:

"Well, no, I cannot allow that. It is impossible that two men like
ourselves should fight and injure each other. We have only to come to an
explanation, to seek the means: you and I were made to understand each
other."

"I think, on the contrary, that two men like ourselves are not made to
understand each other."

The baron suppressed a movement of impatience and continued:

"Listen to me, Lupin. . . . By the way, do you mind my calling you
Lupin?"

"What shall I call you? Altenheim, Ribeira, or Parbury?"

"Oho! I see that you are even better posted than I thought! . . . Hang
it all, but you're jolly smart! . . . All the more reason why we should
agree." And, bending toward him, "Listen, Lupin, and ponder my words
well; I have weighed them carefully, every one. Look here. . . . We two
are evenly matched. . . . Does that make you smile? You are wrong: it
may be that you possess resources which I do not; but I have others of
which you know nothing. Moreover, as you are aware, I have few scruples,
some skill and a capacity for changing my personality which an expert
like yourself ought to appreciate. In short, the two adversaries are
each as good as the other. But one question remains unanswered: why are
we adversaries? We are pursuing the same object, you will say? And what
then? Do you know what will come of our rivalry? Each of us will
paralyze the efforts and destroy the work of the other; and we shall
both miss our aim! And for whose benefit? Some Lenormand or other, a
third rogue! . . . It's really too silly."

"It's really too silly, as you say," Sernine admitted. "But there is a
remedy."

"What is that?"

"For you to withdraw."

"Don't chaff. I am serious. The proposal which I am going to make is not
one to be rejected without examination. Here it is, in two words: let's
be partners!"

"I say!"

"Of course, each of us will continue free where his own affairs are
concerned. But, for the business in question, let us combine our
efforts. Does that suit you? Hand in hand and share alike."

"What do you bring?"

"I?"

"Yes, you know what I'm worth; I've delivered my proofs. In the alliance
which you are proposing, you know the figure, so to speak of my
marriage-portion. What's yours?"

"Steinweg."

"That's not much."

"It's immense. Through Steinweg, we learn the truth about Pierre Leduc.
Through Steinweg, we get to know what the famous Kesselbach plan is all
about."

Sernine burst out laughing:

"And you need me for that?"

"I don't understand."

"Come, old chap, your offer is childish. You have Steinweg in your
hands. If you wish for my collaboration, it is because you have not
succeeded in making him speak. But for that fact, you would do without
my services."

"Well, what of it?"

"I refuse."

The two men stood up to each other once more, violent and implacable.

"I refuse," said Sernine. "Lupin requires nobody, in order to act. I am
one of those who walk alone. If you were my equal, as you pretend, the
idea of a partnership would never have entered your head. The man who
has the stature of a leader commands. Union implies obedience. I do not
obey."

"You refuse? You refuse?" repeated Altenheim, turning pale under the
insult.

"All that I can do for you, old chap, is to offer you a place in my
band. You'll be a private soldier, to begin with. Under my orders, you
shall see how a general wins a battle . . . and how he pockets the
booty, by himself and for himself. Does that suit you . . . Tommy?"

Altenheim was beside himself with fury. He gnashed his teeth:

"You are making a mistake, Lupin," he mumbled, "you are making a
mistake. . . . I don't want anybody either; and this business gives me
no more difficulty than plenty of others which I have pulled off. . . .
What I said was said in order to effect our object more quickly and
without inconveniencing each other."

"You're not inconveniencing me," said Lupin, scornfully.

"Look here! If we don't combine, only one of us will succeed."

"That's good enough for me."

"And he will only succeed by passing over the other's body. Are you
prepared for that sort of duel, Lupin? A duel to the death, do you
understand? . . . The knife is a method which you despise; but suppose
you received one, Lupin, right in the throat?"

"Aha! So, when all is said, that's what you propose?"

"No, I am not very fond of shedding blood. . . . Look at my fists: I
strike . . . and my man falls. . . . I have special blows of my own.
. . . But _the other one_ kills . . . remember . . . the little wound in
the throat. . . . Ah, Lupin, beware of him, beware of that one! . . . He
is terrible, he is implacable. . . . Nothing stops him."

He spoke these words in a low voice and with such excitement that
Sernine shuddered at the hideous thought of the unknown murderer:

"Baron," he sneered, "one would think you were afraid of your
accomplice!"

"I am afraid for the others, for those who bar our road, for you,
Lupin. Accept, or you are lost. I shall act myself, if necessary. The
goal is too near . . . I have my hand on it. . . . Get out of my way,
Lupin!"

He was all energy and exasperated will. He spoke forcibly and so
brutally that he seemed ready to strike his enemy then and there.

Sernine shrugged his shoulders:

"Lord, how hungry I am!" he said, yawning. "What a time to lunch at!"

The door opened.

"Lunch is served, sir," said the butler.

"Ah, that's good hearing!"

In the doorway, Altenheim caught Sernine by the arm and, disregarding
the servant's presence:

"If you take my advice . . . accept. This is a serious moment in your
life . . . and you will do better, I swear to you, you will do better
. . . to accept. . . ."

"Caviare!" cried Sernine. "Now, that's too sweet of you. . . . You
remembered that you were entertaining a Russian prince!"

They sat down facing each other, with the baron's greyhound, a large
animal with long, silver hair, between them.

"Let me introduce Sirius, my most faithful friend."

"A fellow-countryman," said Sernine. "I shall never forget the one which
the Tsar was good enough to give me when I had the honor to save his
life."

"Ah, you had that honor . . . a terrorist conspiracy, no doubt?"

"Yes, a conspiracy got up by myself. You must know, this dog--its name,
by the way, was Sebastopol. . . ."

The lunch continued merrily. Altenheim had recovered his good humor and
the two men vied with each other in wit and politeness. Sernine told
anecdotes which the baron capped with others; and it was a succession of
stories of hunting, sport and travel, in which the oldest names in
Europe were constantly cropping up: Spanish grandees, English lords,
Hungarian magyars, Austrian archdukes.

"Ah," said Sernine, "what a fine profession is ours! It brings us into
touch with all the best people. Here, Sirius, a bit of this truffled
chicken!"

The dog did not take his eyes off him, and snapped at everything that
Sernine gave it.

"A glass of Chambertin, prince?"

"With pleasure, baron."

"I can recommend it. It comes from King Leopold's cellar."

"A present?"

"Yes, a present I made myself."

"It's delicious. . . . What a bouquet! . . . With this _pâté de foie
gras_, it's simply wonderful! . . . I must congratulate you, baron; you
have a first-rate chef."

"My chef is a woman-cook, prince. I bribed her with untold gold to leave
Levraud, the socialist deputy. I say, try this hot chocolate-ice; and
let me call your special attention to the little dry cakes that go with
it. They're an invention of genius, those cakes."

"The shape is charming, in any case," said Sernine, helping himself. "If
they taste as good as they look. . . . Here, Sirius, you're sure to like
this. Locusta herself could not have done better."

He took one of the cakes and gave it to the dog. Sirius swallowed it at
a gulp, stood motionless for two or three seconds, as though dazed,
then turned in a circle and fell to the floor dead.

Sernine started back from his chair, lest one of the footmen should fall
upon him unawares. Then he burst out laughing:

"Look here, baron, next time you want to poison one of your friends, try
to steady your voice and to keep your hands from shaking. . . .
Otherwise, people suspect you. . . . But I thought you disliked murder?"

"With the knife, yes," said Altenheim, quite unperturbed. "But I have
always had a wish to poison some one. I wanted to see what it was like."

"By Jove, old chap, you choose your subjects well! A Russian prince!"

He walked up to Altenheim and, in a confidential tone, said:

"Do you know what would have happened if you had succeeded, that is to
say, if my friends had not seen me return at three o'clock at the
latest? Well, at half-past three the prefect of police would have known
exactly all that there was to know about the so-called Baron Altenheim;
and the said baron would have been copped before the day was out and
clapped into jail."

"Pooh!" said Altenheim. "Prison one escapes from . . . whereas one does
not come back from the kingdom where I was sending you."

"True, but you would have to send me there first; and that's not so
easy."

"I only wanted a mouthful of one of those cakes."

"Are you quite sure?"

"Try."

"One thing's certain, my lad: you haven't the stuff yet which great
adventurers are made of; and I doubt if you'll ever have it,
considering the sort of traps you lay for me. A man who thinks himself
worthy of leading the life which you and I have the honor to lead must
also be fit to lead it, and, for that, must be prepared for every
eventuality: he must even be prepared not to die if some ragamuffin or
other tries to poison him. . . . An undaunted soul in an unassailable
body: that is the ideal which he must set before himself . . . and
attain. Try away, old chap. As for me, I am undaunted and unassailable.
Remember King Mithridates!"

He went back to his chair:

"Let's finish our lunch. But as I like proving the virtues to which I
lay claim, and as, on the other hand, I don't want to hurt your cook's
feelings, just pass me that plate of cakes."

He took one of them, broke it in two and held out one half to the baron:

"Eat that!"

The other gave a movement of recoil.

"Funk!" said Sernine.

And, before the wondering eyes of the baron and his satellites, he began
to eat the first and then the second half of the cake, quietly,
conscientiously, as a man eats a dainty of which he would hate to miss
the smallest morsel.

       *       *       *       *       *

They met again.

That same evening, Prince Sernine invited Baron Altenheim to dinner at
the Cabaret Vatel, with a party consisting of a poet, a musician, a
financier and two pretty actresses, members of the Théâtre Français.

The next day, they lunched together in the Bois and, at night, they met
at the Opéra.

They saw each other every day for a week. One would have thought that
they could not do without each other and that they were united by a
great friendship, built up of mutual confidence, sympathy and esteem.

They had a capital time, drinking good wine, smoking excellent cigars,
and laughing like two madmen.

In reality, they were watching each other fiercely. Mortal enemies,
separated by a merciless hatred, each feeling sure of winning and
longing for victory with an unbridled will, they waited for the
propitious moment: Altenheim to do away with Sernine; and Sernine to
hurl Altenheim into the pit which he was digging for him.

Each knew that the catastrophe could not be long delayed. One or other
of them must meet with his doom; and it was a question of hours, or, at
most, of days.

It was an exciting tragedy, and one of which a man like Sernine was
bound to relish the strange and powerful zest. To know your adversary
and to live by his side; to feel that death is waiting for you at the
least false step, at the least act of thoughtlessness: what a joy, what
a delight!

One evening, they were alone together in the garden of the Rue Cambon
Club, to which Altenheim also belonged. It was the hour before dusk, in
the month of June, at which men begin to dine before the members come in
for the evening's card-play. They were strolling round a little lawn,
along which ran a wall lined with shrubs. Beyond the shrubs was a small
door. Suddenly, while Altenheim was speaking, Sernine received the
impression that his voice became less steady, that it was almost
trembling. He watched him out of the corner of his eye. Altenheim had
his hand in the pocket of his jacket; and Sernine _saw_ that hand,
through the cloth, clutch the handle of a dagger, hesitating, wavering,
resolute and weak by turns.

O exquisite moment! Was he going to strike? Which would gain the day:
the timid instinct that dare not, or the conscious will, intense upon
the act of killing?

His chest flung out, his arms behind his back, Sernine waited, with
alternate thrills of pleasure and of pain. The baron had ceased talking;
and they now walked on in silence, side by side.

"Well, why don't you strike?" cried the prince, impatiently. He had
stopped and, turning to his companion: "Strike!" he said. "This is the
time or never. There is no one to see you. You can slip out through that
little door; the key happens to be hanging on the wall; and good-bye,
baron . . . unseen and unknown! . . . But, of course, all this was
arranged . . . you brought me here. . . . And you're hesitating! Why on
earth don't you strike?"

He looked him straight in the eyes. The other was livid, quivering with
impotent strength.

"You milksop!" Sernine sneered. "I shall never make anything of you.
Shall I tell you the truth? Well, you're afraid of me. Yes, old chap,
you never feel quite sure what may happen to you when you're face to
face with me. You want to act, whereas it's my acts, my possible acts
that govern the situation. No, it's quite clear that you're not the man
yet to put out my star!"

He had not finished speaking when he felt himself seized round the
throat and dragged backward. Some one hiding in the shrubbery, near the
little door, had caught him by the head. He saw a hand raised, armed
with a knife with a gleaming blade. The hand fell; the point of the
knife caught him right in the throat.

At the same moment Altenheim sprang upon him to finish him off; and they
rolled over into the flower-borders. It was a matter of twenty or thirty
seconds at most. Powerful and experienced wrestler as he was, Altenheim
yielded almost immediately, uttering a cry of pain. Sernine rose and ran
to the little door, which had just closed upon a dark form. It was too
late. He heard the key turn in the lock. He was unable to open it.

"Ah, you scoundrel!" he said. "The day on which I catch you will be the
day on which I shed my first blood! That I swear to God! . . ."

He went back, stooped and picked up the pieces of the knife, which had
broken as it struck him.

Altenheim was beginning to move. Sernine asked:

"Well, baron, feeling better? You didn't know that blow, eh? It's what I
call the direct blow in the solar plexus; that is to say, it snuffs out
your vital sun like a candle. It's clean, quick, painless . . . and
infallible. Whereas a blow with a dagger . . . ? Pooh! A man has only to
wear a little steel-wove gorget, as I do, and he can set the whole world
at defiance, especially your little pal in black, seeing that he always
strikes at the throat, the silly monster! . . . Here, look at his
favorite plaything . . . smashed to atoms!"

He offered him his hand:

"Come, get up, baron. You shall dine with me. And do please remember
the secret of my superiority: an undaunted soul in an unassailable
body."

He went back to the club rooms, reserved a table for two, sat down on a
sofa, and while waiting for dinner, soliloquized, under his breath:

"It's certainly an amusing game, but it's becoming dangerous. I must get
it over . . . otherwise those beggars will send me to Paradise earlier
than I want to go. The nuisance is that I can't do anything before I
find old Steinweg, for, when all is said, old Steinweg is the only
interesting factor in the whole business; and my one reason for sticking
to the baron is that I keep on hoping to pick up some clue or other.
What the devil have they done with him? Altenheim is in daily
communication with him: that is beyond a doubt; it is equally beyond a
doubt that he is doing his utmost to drag out of him what he knows about
the Kesselbach scheme. But where does he see him? Where has he got him
shut up? With friends? In his own house, at 29, Villa Dupont?"

He reflected for some time, then lit a cigarette, took three puffs at it
and threw it away. This was evidently a signal, for two young men came
and sat down beside him. He did not seem to know them, but he conversed
with them by stealth. It was the brothers Doudeville, got up that day
like men of fashion.

"What is it, governor?"

"Take six of our men, go to 29, Villa Dupont and make your way in."

"The devil! How?"

"In the name of the law. Are you not detective-inspectors? A search.
. . ."

"But we haven't the right. . . ."

"Take it."

"And the servants? If they resist?"

"There are only four of them."

"If they call out?"

"They won't call out."

"If Altenheim returns?"

"He won't return before ten o'clock. I'll see to it. That gives you two
hours and a half, which is more than you require to explore the house
from top to bottom. If you find old Steinweg, come and tell me."

Baron Altenheim came up. Sernine went to meet him:

"Let's have some dinner, shall we? That little incident in the garden
has made me feel hungry. By the way, my dear baron, I have a few bits of
advice to give you. . . ."

They sat down to table.

After dinner, Sernine suggested a game of billiards. Altenheim accepted.
When the game was over, they went to the baccarat-room. The croupier was
just shouting:

"There are fifty louis in the bank. Any bids?"

"A hundred louis," said Altenheim.

Sernine looked at his watch. Ten o'clock. The Doudevilles had not
returned. The search, therefore, had been fruitless.

"Banco," he said.

Altenheim sat down and dealt the cards:

"I give."

"No."

"Seven."

"Six. I lose," said Sernine. "Shall I double the stakes?"

"Very well," said the baron.

He dealt out the cards.

"Eight," said Sernine.

"Nine," said the baron, laying his cards down.

Sernine turned on his heels, muttering:

"That costs me three hundred louis, but I don't mind; it fixes him
here."

Ten minutes later his motor set him down in front of 29, Villa Dupont;
and he found the Doudevilles and their men collected in the hall:

"Have you hunted out the old boy?"

"No."

"Dash it! But he must be somewhere or other. Where are the four
servants?"

"Over there, in the pantry, tied up, with the cook as well."

"Good. I would as soon they did not see me. Go all you others. Jean,
stay outside and keep watch: Jacques, show me over the house."

He quickly ran through the cellar, the ground floor, the first and
second floors and the attic. He practically stopped nowhere, knowing
that he would not discover in a few minutes what his men had not been
able to discover in three hours. But he carefully noted the shape and
the arrangement of the rooms, and looked for some little detail which
would put him on the scent.

When he had finished, he returned to a bedroom which Doudeville had told
him was Altenheim's, and examined it attentively:

"This will do," he said, raising a curtain that concealed a dark closet,
full of clothes. "From here I can see the whole of the room."

"But if the baron searches the house?"

"Why should he?"

"He will know that we have been here, through his servants."

"Yes, but he will never dream that one of us is putting up here for the
night. He will think that the attempt failed, that is all, so I shall
stay."

"And how will you get out?"

"Oh, that's asking me more than I can tell you! The great thing was to
get in. Here I am, and here I stay. Go, Doudeville, and shut the doors
as you go."

He sat down on a little box at the back of the cupboard. Four rows of
hanging clothes protected him. Except in the case of a close
investigation, he was evidently quite safe.

Two hours passed. He heard the dull sound of a horse's hoofs and the
tinkling of a collar-bell. A carriage stopped, the front door slammed
and almost immediately he heard voices, exclamations, a regular outcry
that increased, probably, as each of the prisoners was released from his
gag.

"They are explaining the thing to him," he thought. "The baron must be
in a tearing rage. He now understands the reason for my conduct at the
club to-night and sees that I have dished him nicely. . . . Dished? That
depends. . . . After all, I haven't got Steinweg yet. . . . That is the
first thing that he will want to know: did they get Steinweg? To find
this out, he will go straight to the hiding-place. If he goes up, it
means that the hiding-place is upstairs. If he goes down, then it is in
the basement."

He listened. The sound of voices continued in the rooms on the ground
floor, but it did not seem as if any one were moving. Altenheim must be
cross-examining his confederates. It was half an hour before Sernine
heard steps mounting the staircase.

"Then it must be upstairs," he said to himself. "But why did they wait
so long?"

"Go to bed, all of you," said Altenheim's voice.

The baron entered his room with one of his men and shut the door:

"And I am going to bed, too, Dominique. We should be no further if we
sat arguing all night."

"My opinion is," said the other, "that he came to fetch Steinweg."

"That is my opinion, too; and that's why I'm really enjoying myself,
seeing that Steinweg isn't here."

"But where is he, after all? What have you done with him?"

"That's my secret; and you know I keep my secrets to myself. All that I
can tell you is that he is in safe keeping, and that he won't get out
before he has spoken."

"So the prince is sold?"

"Sold is the word. And he has had to fork out to attain this fine
result! Oh, I've had a good time to-night! . . . Poor prince!"

"For all that," said the other, "we shall have to get rid of him."

"Make your mind easy, old man; that won't take long. Before a week's out
you shall have a present of a pocket-book made out of Lupin-skin. But
let me go to bed now. I'm dropping with sleep."

There was a sound of the door closing. Then Sernine heard the baron push
the bolt, empty his pockets, wind up his watch and undress. He seemed in
a gay mood, whistling and singing, and even talking aloud:

"Yes, a Lupin-skin pocket-book . . . in less than a week . . . in less
than four days! . . . Otherwise he'll eat us up, the bully! . . . No
matter, he missed his shot to-night. . . . His calculation was right
enough, though . . . Steinweg was bound to be here. . . . Only, there
you are! . . ."

He got into bed and at once switched off the light.

Sernine had come forward as far as the dividing curtain, which he now
lifted slightly, and he saw the vague light of the night filtering
through the windows, leaving the bed in profound darkness.

He hesitated. Should he leap out upon the baron, take him by the throat
and obtain from him by force and threats what he had not been able to
obtain by craft? Absurd? Altenheim would never allow himself to be
intimidated.

"I say, he's snoring now," muttered Sernine. "Well, I'm off. At the
worst, I shall have wasted a night."

He did not go. He felt that it would be impossible for him to go, that
he must wait, that chance might yet serve his turn.

With infinite precautions, he took four or five coats and great-coats
from their hooks, laid them on the floor, made himself comfortable and,
with his back to the wall, went peacefully to sleep.

The baron was not an early riser. A clock outside was striking nine when
he got out of bed and rang for his servant.

He read the letters which his man brought him, splashed about in his
tub, dressed without saying a word and sat down to his table to write,
while Dominique was carefully hanging up the clothes of the previous day
in the cupboard and Sernine asking himself, with his fists ready to
strike:

"I wonder if I shall have to stave in this fellow's solar plexus?"

At ten o'clock the baron was ready:

"Leave me," said he to the servant.

"There's just this waistcoat. . . ."

"Leave me, I say. Come back when I ring . . . not before."

He shut the door himself, like a man who does not trust others, went to
a table on which a telephone was standing and took down the receiver:

"Hullo! . . . Put me on to Garches, please, mademoiselle. . . . Very
well, I'll wait till you ring me up. . . ."

He sat down to the instrument.

The telephone-bell rang.

"Hullo!" said Altenheim. "Is that Garches? . . . Yes, that's right.
. . . Give me number 38, please, mademoiselle. . . ."

A few seconds later, in a lower voice, as low and as distinct as he
could make it, he began:

"Are you 38? . . . It's I speaking; no useless words. . . . Yesterday?
. . . Yes, you missed him in the garden. . . . Another time, of course;
but the thing's becoming urgent. . . . He had the house searched last
night. . . . I'll tell you about it. . . . Found nothing, of course.
. . . What? . . . Hullo! . . . No, old Steinweg refuses to speak. . . .
Threats, promises, nothing's any good. . . . Hullo! . . . Yes, of
course, he sees that we can do nothing. . . . We know just a part of the
Kesselbach scheme and of the story of Pierre Leduc. . . . He's the only
one who has the answer to the riddle. . . . Oh, he'll speak all right;
that I'll answer for . . . this very night, too . . . If not . . . What?
. . . Well, what can we do? Anything rather than let him escape! Do you
want the prince to bag him from us? As for the prince, we shall have to
cook his goose in three days from now. . . . You have an idea? . . .
Yes, that's a good idea. . . . Oh, oh, excellent! I'll see to it. . . .
When shall we meet? Will Tuesday do? Right you are. I'll come on Tuesday
. . . at two o'clock. . . . Good-bye."

He replaced the receiver and went out.

A few hours later, while the servants were at lunch, Prince Sernine
strolled quietly out of the Villa Dupont, feeling rather faint in the
head and weak in the knees, and, while making for the nearest
restaurant, he thus summed up the situation:

"So, on Tuesday next, Altenheim and the Palace Hotel murderer have an
appointment at Garches, in a house with the telephone number 38. On
Tuesday, therefore, I shall hand over the two criminals to the police
and set M. Lenormand at liberty. In the evening, it will be old
Steinweg's turn; and I shall learn, at last, whether Pierre Leduc is the
son of a pork-butcher or not and whether he will make a suitable husband
for Geneviève. So be it!"

       *       *       *       *       *

At eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning Valenglay, the prime minister, sent
for the prefect of police and M. Weber, the deputy-chief of the
detective-service, and showed them an express letter which he had just
received:

      "MONSIEUR LE PRÉSIDENT DU CONSEIL,

      "Knowing the interest which you take in M. Lenormand,
      I am writing to inform you of certain facts which
      chance has revealed to me.

      "M. Lenormand is locked up in the cellars of the Villa
      des Glycines at Garches, near the House of Retreat.

      "The ruffians of the Palace Hotel have resolved to
      murder him at two o'clock to-day.

      "If the police require my assistance, they will find
      me at half-past one in the garden of the House of
      Retreat, or at the garden-house occupied by Mrs.
      Kesselbach, whose friend I have the honor to be.

        "I am, Monsieur le Président du Conseil,
                      "Your obedient servant,
                                 "PRINCE SERNINE."

"This is an exceedingly grave matter, my dear M. Weber," said Valenglay.
"I may add that we can have every confidence in the accuracy of Prince
Sernine's statements. I have often met him at dinner. He is a serious,
intelligent man. . . ."

"Will you allow me, Monsieur le Président," asked the deputy-chief
detective, "to show you another letter which I also received this
morning?"

"About the same case?"

"Yes."

"Let me see it."

He took the letter and read:

      "SIR,

      "This is to inform you that Prince Paul Sernine, who
      calls himself Mrs. Kesselbach's friend, is really
      Arsène Lupin.

      "One proof will be sufficient: _Paul Sernine_ is the
      anagram of _Arsène Lupin_. Not a letter more, not a
      letter less.

                                           "L. M."

And M. Weber added, while Valenglay stood amazed:

"This time, our friend Lupin has found an adversary who is a match for
him. While he denounces the other, the other betrays him to us. And the
fox is caught in the trap."

"What do you propose to do?"

"Monsieur le Président, I shall take two hundred men with me!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE OLIVE-GREEN FROCK-COAT


A quarter past twelve, in a restaurant near the Madeleine. The prince is
at lunch. Two young men sit down at the next table. He bows to them and
begins to speak to them, as to friends whom he has met by chance.

"Are you going on the expedition, eh?"

"Yes."

"How many men altogether?"

"Six, I think. Each goes down by himself. We're to meet M. Weber at a
quarter to two, near the House of Retreat."

"Very well, I shall be there."

"What?"

"Am I not leading the expedition? And isn't it my business to find M.
Lenormand, seeing that I've announced it publicly?"

"Then you believe that M. Lenormand is not dead, governor?"

"I'm sure of it."

"Do you know anything?"

"Yes, since yesterday I know for certain that Altenheim and his gang
took M. Lenormand and Gourel to the bridge at Bougival and heaved them
overboard. Gourel sank, but M. Lenormand managed to save himself. I
shall furnish all the necessary proofs when the time comes."

"But, then, if he's alive, why doesn't he show himself?"

"Because he's not free."

"Is what you said true, then? Is he in the cellars of the Villa des
Glycines?"

"I have every reason to think so."

"But how do you know? . . . What clue? . . ."

"That's my secret. I can tell you one thing: the revelation will
be--what shall I say--sensational. Have you finished?"

"Yes."

"My car is behind the Madeleine. Join me there."

At Garches, Sernine sent the motor away, and they walked to the path
that led to Geneviève's school. There he stopped:

"Listen to me, lads. This is of the highest importance. You will ring at
the House of Retreat. As inspectors, you have your right of entry, have
you not? You will then go to the Pavillon Hortense, the empty one. There
you will run down to the basement and you will find an old shutter,
which you have only to lift to see the opening of a tunnel which I
discovered lately and which forms a direct communication with the Villa
des Glycines. It was by means of this that Gertrude and Baron Altenheim
used to meet. And it was this way that M. Lenormand passed, only to end
by falling into the hands of his enemies."

"You think so, governor?"

"Yes, I think so. And now the point is this: you must go and make sure
that the tunnel is exactly in the condition in which I left it last
night; that the two doors which bar it are open; and that there is
still, in a hole near the second door, a parcel wrapped in a piece of
black cloth which I put there myself."

"Are we to undo the parcel?"

"No, that's not necessary. It's a change of clothes. Go; and don't let
yourselves be seen more than you can help. I will wait for you."

Ten minutes later, they were back:

"The two doors are open," said one of the Doudevilles.

"And the black cloth parcel?"

"In its place near the second door."

"Capital! It is twenty-five past one. Weber will be arriving with his
champions. They are to watch the villa. They will surround it as soon as
Altenheim is inside. I have arranged with Weber that I shall ring the
bell; the door will be opened; and I shall have my foot inside the
citadel. Once there, I have my plan. Come, I've an idea that we shall
see some fun."

And Sernine, after dismissing them, walked down the path to the school,
soliloquizing as he went:

"All bodes well. The battle will be fought on the ground chosen by
myself. I am bound to win. I shall get rid of my two adversaries and I
shall find myself alone engaged in the Kesselbach case . . . alone, with
two whacking trump-cards: Pierre Leduc and Steinweg. . . . Besides the
king . . . that is to say, Bibi. Only, there's one thing: what is
Altenheim up to? Obviously, he has a plan of attack of his own. On which
side does he mean to attack me? And how does it come that he has not
attacked me yet? It's rather startling. Can he have denounced me to the
police?"

He went along the little playground of the school. The pupils were at
their lessons. He knocked at the door.

"Ah, is that you?" said Mme. Ernemont, opening the door. "So you have
left Geneviève in Paris?"

"For me to do that, Geneviève would have to be in Paris," he replied.

"So she has been, seeing that you sent for her."

"What's that?" he exclaimed catching hold of her arm.

"Why, you know better than I!"

"I know nothing. . . . I know nothing. . . . Speak! . . ."

"Didn't you write to Geneviève to meet you at the Gare Saint-Lazare?"

"And did she go?"

"Why, of course. . . . You were to lunch together at the Hôtel Ritz."

"The letter. . . . Show me the letter."

She went to fetch it and gave it to him.

"But, wretched woman, couldn't you see that it was a forgery? The
handwriting is a good imitation . . . but it's a forgery. . . . Any one
can see that." He pressed his clenched hands to his temples with rage.
"That's the move I was wondering about. Oh, the dirty scoundrel! He's
attacking me through her . . . . But how does he know? No, he does not
know. . . . He's tried it on twice now . . . and it's because of
Geneviève, because he's taken a fancy to her. . . . Oh, not that! Never!
Listen, Victoire, are you sure that she doesn't love him? . . . Oh, I'm
losing my head! . . . Wait . . . wait! . . . I must think . . . this
isn't the moment. . . ."

He looked at his watch:

"Twenty-five minutes to two. . . . I have time. . . . Idiot that I am!
Time to do what? How do I know where she is?"

He walked up and down like a madman; and his old nurse seemed astounded
at seeing him so excited, with so little control of himself:

"After all," she said, "there is nothing to prove that she did not
suspect the trap at the last moment. . . ."

"Where could she be?"

"I don't know . . . perhaps at Mrs. Kesselbach's."

"That's true . . . that's true. . . . You're right," he cried, filled
with sudden hope.

And he set out at a run for the House of Retreat.

On the way, near the gate, he met the brothers Doudeville, who were
entering the porter's lodge. The lodge looked out on the road; and this
enabled them to watch the approaches to the Villa des Glycines. Without
stopping, he went straight to the Pavillon de l'Impératrice, called
Suzanne and told her to take him to Mrs. Kesselbach.

"Geneviève?" he asked.

"Geneviève?"

"Yes; hasn't she been here?"

"No, not for several days. . . ."

"But she is to come, is she not?"

"Do you think so?"

"Why, I'm certain of it. Where do you think she is? Can you remember?
. . ."

"It's no use my trying. I assure you that Geneviève and I had made no
arrangement to see each other." And, suddenly alarmed: "But you're not
anxious, are you? Has anything happened to Geneviève?"

"No, nothing."

He had already left the room. An idea had occurred to him. Suppose
Altenheim were not at the Villa des Glycines? Suppose the hour of the
meeting had been changed!

"I must see him," he said to himself. "I must, at all costs."

And he ran along with a disordered air, indifferent to everything. But,
in front of the lodge, he at once recovered his composure: he had caught
sight of the deputy-chief of the detective-service talking to the
brothers Doudeville in the garden.

Had he commanded his usual acute discernment, he would have perceived
the little start which M. Weber gave as he approached; but he saw
nothing:

"M. Weber, I believe?" he asked.

"Yes. . . . To whom have I the honor . . . ?"

"Prince Sernine."

"Ah, very good! Monsieur le Préfet de Police has told me of the great
service which you are doing us, monsieur."

"That service will not be complete until I have handed the ruffians over
to you."

"That won't take long. I believe that one of those ruffians has just
gone in; a powerful-looking man, with a swarthy complexion. . . ."

"Yes, that's Baron Altenheim. Are your men here, M. Weber?"

"Yes, concealed along the road, at two hundred yards from this."

"Well, M. Weber, it seems to me that you might collect them and bring
them to this lodge. From here we will go to the villa. As Baron
Altenheim knows me, I presume they will open the door to me and I will
go in . . . with you."

"It is an excellent plan," said M. Weber. "I shall come back at once."

He left the garden and walked down the road, in the opposite direction
to the Villa des Glycines.

Sernine quickly took one of the brothers Doudeville by the arm:

"Run after him, Jacques . . . keep him engaged . . . long enough for me
to get inside the Glycines. . . . And then delay the attack as long as
you can. . . . Invent pretexts. . . . I shall want ten minutes. . . .
Let the villa be surrounded . . . but not entered. And you, Jean, go and
post yourself in the Pavillon Hortense, at the entrance to the
underground passage. If the baron tries to go out that way, break his
head."

The Doudevilles moved away, as ordered. The prince slipped out and ran
to a tall gate, barred with iron, which was the entrance to the
Glycines.

Should he ring? . . .

There was no one in sight. With one bound, he leapt upon the gate,
placing his foot on the lock; and, hanging on to the bars, getting a
purchase with his knees and hoisting himself up with his wrists, he
managed, at the risk of falling on the sharp points of the bars, to
climb over the gate and jump down.

He found a paved courtyard, which he crossed briskly, and mounted the
steps of a pillared peristyle, on which the windows looked out. These
were all closed to the very top, with full shutters. As he stood
thinking how he should make his way into the house, the door was half
opened, with a noise of iron that reminded him of the door in the Villa
Dupont, and Altenheim appeared:

"I say, prince, is that the way you trespass on private property? I
shall be forced to call in the gendarmes, my dear fellow!"

Sernine caught him by the throat and, throwing him down on a bench:

"Geneviève? . . . Where is Geneviève? If you don't tell me what you've
done with her, you villain. . . ."

"Please observe," stammered the baron, "that you are making it
impossible for me to speak."

Sernine released his hold of him:

"To the point! . . . And look sharp! . . . Answer. . . . Geneviève?"

"There is one thing," replied the baron, "which is much more urgent,
especially where fellows like you and me are concerned, and that is to
feel one's self at home. . . ."

And he carefully closed the front door, which he barricaded with bolts.
Then, leading Sernine to the adjoining drawing-room, a room without
furniture or curtains, he said:

"Now I'm your man. What can I do for you, prince?"

"Geneviève?"

"She is in perfect health."

"Ah, so you confess . . . ?"

"Of course! I may even tell you that your imprudence in this respect
surprised me. Why didn't you take a few precautions? It was inevitable.
. . ."

"Enough! Where is she?"

"You are not very polite."

"Where is she?"

"Between four walls, free. . . ."

"Free?"

"Yes, free to go from one wall to another."

"Where? Where?"

"Come, prince, do you think I should be fool enough to tell you the
secret by which I hold you? You love the little girl . . ."

"Hold your tongue!" shouted Sernine, beside himself. "I forbid you.
. . ."

"What next? Is there anything to be ashamed of? I love her myself and I
have risked . . ."

He did not complete his sentence, frightened by the terrific anger of
Sernine, a restrained, dumb anger that distorted the prince's features.

They looked at each other for a long time, each of them seeking for the
adversary's weak point. At last, Sernine stepped forward and, speaking
very distinctly, like a man who is threatening rather than proposing a
compact:

"Listen to me," he said. "You remember the offer of partnership which
you made me? The Kesselbach business for the two of us . . . we were to
act together . . . we were to share the profits. . . . I refused. . . .
To-day, I accept. . . ."

"Too late."

"Wait! I accept more than that: I give the whole business up. . . . I
shall take no further part in it. . . . You shall have it all. . . . If
necessary, I'll help you."

"What is the condition?"

"Tell me where Geneviève is."

The baron shrugged his shoulders:

"You're driveling, Lupin. I'm sorry for you . . . at your age. . . ."

There was a fresh silence between the two enemies, a terrible silence.
Then the baron sneered:

"All the same, it's a holy joy to see you like that, sniveling and
begging. I say, it seems to me that the private soldier is giving his
general a sound beating!"

"You ass!" muttered Sernine.

"Prince, I shall send you my seconds this evening . . . if you are still
in this world."

"You ass!" repeated Sernine, with infinite contempt.

"You would rather settle the matter here and now? As you please, prince:
your last hour has struck. You can commend your soul to God. You smile!
That's a mistake. I have one immense advantage over you! I kill . . .
when it's necessary. . . ."

"You ass!" said Sernine once more. He took out his watch. "It is two
o'clock, baron. You have only a few minutes left. At five past two, ten
past at the very latest, M. Weber and half-a-dozen sturdy men, without a
scruple amongst them, will lay hands on you. . . . Don't you smile,
either. The outlet on which you're reckoning is discovered; I know it:
it is guarded. So you are thoroughly caught. It means the scaffold, old
chap."

Altenheim turned livid. He stammered:

"You did this? . . . You have had the infamy . . ."

"The house is surrounded. The assault is at hand. Speak . . . and I will
save you."

"How?"

"The men watching the outlet in the Pavillon Hortense belong to me. I
have only to give you a word for them and you are saved. Speak!"

Altenheim reflected for a few seconds and seemed to hesitate; but,
suddenly, resolutely, declared:

"This is all bluff. You would never have been simple enough to rush into
the lion's mouth."

"You're forgetting Geneviève. But for her, do you think I should be
here? Speak!"

"No."

"Very well. Let us wait," said Sernine. "A cigarette?"

"Thank you."

A few seconds passed.

"Do you hear?" asked Sernine.

"Yes . . . yes . . ." said Altenheim, rising.

Blows rang against the gate. Sernine observed:

"Not even the usual summons . . . no preliminaries. . . . Your mind is
still made up?"

"More so than ever."

"You know that, with the tools they carry, they won't take long?"

"If they were inside this room I should still refuse."

The gate yielded. They heard it creak on its hinges.

"To allow one's self to get nabbed," said Sernine, "is admissible. But
to hold out one's own hands to the handcuffs is too silly. Come, don't
be obstinate. Speak . . . and bolt!"

"And you?"

"I shall remain. What have I to be afraid of?"

"Look!"

The baron pointed to a chink between the shutters. Sernine put his eye
to it and jumped back with a start:

"Oh, you scoundrel, so you have denounced me, too! It's not ten men that
Weber's bringing, but fifty men, a hundred, two hundred. . . ."

The baron laughed open-heartedly:

"And, if there are so many of them, it's because they're after Lupin;
that's obvious! Half-a-dozen would have been enough for me."

"You informed the police?"

"Yes."

"What proof did you give?"

"Your name: _Paul Sernine_, that is to say, _Arsène Lupin_."

"And you found that out all by yourself, did you? . . . A thing which
nobody else thought of? . . . Nonsense! It was the other one. Admit
it!"

He looked out through the chink. Swarms of policemen were spreading
round the villa; and the blows were now sounding on the door. He must,
however, think of one of two things: either his escape, or else the
execution of the plan which he had contrived. But to go away, even for a
moment, meant leaving Altenheim; and who could guarantee that the baron
had not another outlet at his disposal to escape by? This thought
paralyzed Sernine. The baron free! The baron at liberty to go back to
Geneviève and torture her and make her subservient to his odious love!

Thwarted in his designs, obliged to improvise a new plan on the very
second, while subordinating everything to the danger which Geneviève was
running, Sernine passed through a moment of cruel indecision. With his
eyes fixed on the baron's eyes, he would have liked to tear his secret
from him and to go away; and he no longer even tried to convince him, so
useless did all words seem to him. And, while pursuing his own thoughts,
he asked himself what the baron's thoughts could be, what his weapons,
what his hope of safety?

The hall-door, though strongly bolted, though sheeted with iron, was
beginning to give way.

The two men stood behind that door, motionless. The sound of voices, the
sense of words reached them.

"You seem very sure of yourself," said Sernine.

"I should think so!" cried the other, suddenly tripping him to the floor
and running away.

Sernine sprang up at once, dived through a little door under the
staircase, through which Altenheim had disappeared, and ran down the
stone steps to the basement. . . .

A passage led to a large, low, almost pitch-dark room, where he found
the baron on his knees, lifting the flap of a trap-door.

"Idiot!" shouted Sernine, flinging himself upon him. "You know that you
will find my men at the end of this tunnel and that they have orders to
kill you like a dog. . . . Unless . . . unless you have an outlet that
joins on to this. . . . Ah, there, of course, I've guessed it! . . . And
you imagine . . ."

The fight was a desperate one. Altenheim, a real colossus, endowed with
exceptional muscular force, had caught his adversary round the arms and
body and was pressing him against his own chest, numbing his arms and
trying to smother him.

"Of course . . . of course," Sernine panted, with difficulty, "of course
. . . that's well thought out. . . . As long as I can't use my arms to
break some part of you, you will have the advantage . . . Only . . . can
you . . . ?"

He gave a shudder. The trap-door, which had closed again and on the flap
of which they were bearing down with all their weight, the trap-door
seemed to move beneath them. He felt the efforts that were being made to
raise it; and the baron must have felt them too, for he desperately
tried to shift the ground of the contest so that the trap-door might
open.

"It's 'the other one'!" thought Sernine, with the sort of unreasoning
terror which that mysterious being caused him. "It's the other one.
. . . If he gets through, I'm done for."

By dint of imperceptible movements, Altenheim had succeeded in shifting
his own position; and he tried to drag his adversary after him. But
Sernine clung with his legs to the baron's legs and, at the same time,
very gradually, tried to release one of his hands.

Above their heads great blows resounded, like the blows of a
battering-ram. . . .

"I have five minutes," thought Sernine. "In one minute this fellow will
have to . . ." Then, speaking aloud, "Look out, old chap. Stand tight!"

He brought his two knees together with incredible force. The baron
yelled, with a twisted thigh. Then Sernine, taking advantage of his
adversary's pain, made an effort, freed his right arm and seized him by
the throat:

"That's capital! . . . We shall be more comfortable like this. . . . No,
it's not worth while getting out your knife. . . . If you do, I'll wring
your neck like a chicken's. You see, I'm polite and considerate. . . .
I'm not pressing too hard . . . just enough to keep you from even
wanting to kick about."

While speaking he took from his pocket a very thin cord and, with one
hand, with extreme skill, fastened his wrists. For that matter, the
baron, now at his last gasp, offered not the least resistance. With a
few accurate movements, Sernine tied him up firmly:

"How well you're behaving! What a good thing! I should hardly know you.
Here, in case you were thinking of escaping, I have a roll of wire that
will finish off my little work. . . . The wrists first. . . . Now the
ankles. . . . That's it! . . . By Jove, how nice you look!"

The baron had gradually come to himself again. He spluttered:

"If you give me up, Geneviève will die."

"Really? . . . And how? . . . Explain yourself."

"She is locked up. No one knows where she is. If I'm put away, she will
die of starvation."

Sernine shuddered. He retorted:

"Yes, but you will speak."

"Never!"

"Yes, you will speak. Not now; it's too late. But to-night." He bent
down over him and, whispering in his ear, said, "Listen, Altenheim, and
understand what I say. You'll be caught presently. To-night, you'll
sleep at the Dépôt. That is fatal, irrevocable. I myself can do nothing
to prevent it now. And, to-morrow, they will take you to the Santé; and
later, you know where. . . . Well, I'm giving you one more chance of
safety. To-night, you understand, I shall come to your cell, at the
Dépôt, and you shall tell me where Geneviève is. Two hours later, if you
have told the truth, you shall be free. If not . . . it means that you
don't attach much value to your head."

The other made no reply. Sernine stood up and listened. There was a
great crash overhead. The entrance-door yielded. Footsteps beat the
flags of the hall and the floor of the drawing room. M. Weber and his
men were searching.

"Good-bye, baron. Think it over until this evening. The prison-cell is a
good counsellor."

He pushed his prisoner aside, so as to uncover the trap-door, and lifted
it. As he expected, there was no longer any one below on the steps of
the staircase.

He went down, taking care to leave the trap-door open behind him, as
though he meant to come back.

There were twenty steps, at the bottom of which began the passage
through which M. Lenormand and Gourel had come in the opposite
direction. He entered it and gave an exclamation. He thought he felt
somebody's presence there.

He lit his pocket-lantern. The passage was empty.

Then he cocked his revolver and said aloud:

"All right. . . . I'm going to fire."

No reply. Not a sound.

"It's an illusion, no doubt," he thought. "That creature is becoming an
obsession. . . . Come, if I want to pull off my stroke and win the game,
I must hurry. . . . The hole in which I hid the parcel of clothes is not
far off. I shall take the parcel . . . and the trick is done. . . . And
what a trick! One of Lupin's best! . . ."

He came to a door that stood open and at once stopped. To the right was
an excavation, the one which M. Lenormand had made to escape from the
rising water. He stooped and threw his light into the opening:

"Oh!" he said, with a start. "No, it's not possible . . . Doudeville
must have pushed the parcel farther along."

But, search and pry into the darkness as he might, the parcel was gone;
and he had no doubt but that it was once more the mysterious being who
had taken it.

"What a pity! The thing was so neatly arranged! The adventure would have
resumed its natural course, and I should have achieved my aim with
greater certainty. . . . As it is, I must push along as fast as I can.
. . . Doudeville is at the Pavillon Hortense. . . . My retreat is
insured. . . . No more nonsense. . . . I must hurry and set things
straight again, if I can. . . . And we'll attend to 'him' afterward.
. . . Oh, he'd better keep clear of my claws, that one!"

But an exclamation of stupor escaped his lips; he had come to the other
door; and this door, the last before the garden-house, was shut. He
flung himself upon it. What was the good? What could he do?

"This time," he muttered, "I'm badly done!"

And, seized with a sort of lassitude, he sat down. He had a sense of his
weakness in the face of the mysterious being. Altenheim hardly counted.
But the other, that person of darkness and silence, the other loomed up
before him, upset all his plans and exhausted him with his cunning and
infernal attacks.

He was beaten.

Weber would find him there, like an animal run to earth, at the bottom
of his cave.

"Ah, no!" he cried, springing up with a bound. "No! If there were only
myself, well and good! . . . But there is Geneviève, Geneviève, who must
be saved to-night. . . . After all, the game is not yet lost. . . . If
the other one vanished just now, it proves that there is a second outlet
somewhere near. . . . Come, come, Weber and his merry men haven't got me
yet. . . ."

He had already begun to explore the tunnel and, lantern in hand, was
examining the bricks of which the horrible walls were formed, when a
yell reached his ears, a dreadful yell that made his flesh creep with
anguish.

It came from the direction of the trap-door. And he suddenly remembered
that he had left the trap-door open, at the time when he intended to
return to the Villa des Glycines.

He hurried back and passed through the first door. His lantern went out
on the road; and he felt something, or rather somebody, brush past his
knees, somebody crawl along the wall. And, at that same moment, he had a
feeling that this being was disappearing, vanishing, he knew not which
way.

Just then his foot knocked against a step.

"This is the outlet," he thought, "the second outlet through which 'he'
passes."

Overhead, the cry sounded again, less loud, followed by moans, by a
hoarse gurgling. . . .

He ran up the stairs, came out in the basement room, and rushed to the
baron.

Altenheim lay dying, with the blood streaming from his throat! His bonds
were cut, but the wire that fastened his wrists and ankles was intact.
_His accomplice, being unable to release him, had cut his throat._

Sernine gazed upon the sight with horror. An icy perspiration covered
his whole body. He thought of Geneviève, imprisoned, helpless, abandoned
to the most awful of deaths, because the baron alone knew where she was
hidden.

He distinctly heard the policemen open the little back door in the hall.
He distinctly heard them come down the kitchen stairs.

There was nothing between him and them save one door, that of the
basement room in which he was. He bolted the door at the very moment
when the aggressors were laying hold of the handle.

The trap-door was open beside him; it meant possible safety, because
there remained the second outlet.

"No," he said to himself, "Geneviève first. Afterward, if I have time, I
will think of myself."

He knelt down and put his hand on the baron's breast. The heart was
still beating.

He stooped lower still:

"You can hear me, can't you?"

The eyelids flickered feebly.

The dying man was just breathing. Was there anything to be obtained from
this faint semblance of life?

The policemen were attacking the door, the last rampart.

Sernine whispered.

"I will save you. . . . I have infallible remedies. . . . One word only
. . . Geneviève? . . ."

It was as though this word of hope revived the man's strength. Altenheim
tried to utter articulate sounds.

"Answer," said Sernine, persisting. "Answer, and I will save you. . . .
Answer. . . . It means your life to-day . . . your liberty to-morrow.
. . . Answer! . . ."

The door shook under the blows that rained upon it.

The baron gasped out unintelligible syllables. Leaning over him,
affrighted, straining all his energy, all his will to the utmost,
Sernine panted with anguish. He no longer gave a thought to the
policemen, his inevitable capture, prison. . . . But Geneviève. . . .
Geneviève dying of hunger, whom one word from that villain could set
free! . . .

"Answer! . . . You must! . . ."

He ordered and entreated by turns. Altenheim stammered, as though
hypnotized and defeated by that indomitable imperiousness:

"Ri . . . Rivoli. . . ."

"Rue de Rivoli, is that it? You have locked her up in a house in that
street . . . eh? Which number?"

A loud din . . . followed by shouts of triumph. . . . The door was down.

"Jump on him, lads!" cried M. Weber. "Seize him . . . seize both of
them!"

And Sernine, on his knees:

"The number . . . answer. . . . If you love her, answer. . . . Why keep
silence now?"

"Twenty . . . twenty-seven," whispered the baron.

Hands were laid on Sernine. Ten revolvers were pointed at him.

He rose and faced the policemen, who fell back with instinctive dread.

"If you stir, Lupin," cried M. Weber, with his revolver leveled at him,
"I'll blow out your brains."'

"Don't shoot." said Sernine, solemnly. "It's not necessary. I
surrender."

"Humbug! This is another of your tricks!"

"No," replied Sernine, "the battle is lost. You have no right to shoot.
I am not defending myself."

He took out two revolvers and threw them on the floor.

"Humbug!" M. Weber repeated, implacably. "Aim straight at his heart,
lads! At the least movement, fire! At the least word, fire!"

There were ten men there. He placed five more in position. He pointed
their fifteen right arms at the mark. And, raging, shaking with joy and
fear, he snarled:

"At his heart! At his head! And no pity! If he stirs, if he speaks . . .
shoot him where he stands!"

Sernine smiled, impassively, with his hands in his pockets. Death was
there, waiting for him, at two inches from his chest, at two inches from
his temples. Fifteen fingers were curled round the triggers.

"Ah," chuckled M. Weber, "this is nice, this is very nice! . . . And I
think that this time we've scored . . . and it's a nasty look-out for
you, Master Lupin! . . ."

He made one of his men draw back the shutters of a large air-hole, which
admitted a sudden burst of daylight, and he turned toward Altenheim.
But, to his great amazement, the baron, whom he thought dead, opened his
eyes, glazed, awful eyes, already filled with all the signs of the
coming dissolution. He stared at M. Weber. Then he seemed to look for
somebody and, catching sight of Sernine, had a convulsion of anger. He
seemed to be waking from his torpor; and his suddenly reviving hatred
restored a part of his strength.

He raised himself on his two wrists and tried to speak.

"You know him, eh?" asked M. Weber.

"Yes."

"It's Lupin, isn't it?"

"Yes. . . . Lupin. . . ."

Sernine, still smiling, listened:

"Heavens, how I'm amusing myself!" he declared.

"Have you anything more to say?" asked M. Weber, who saw the baron's
lips making desperate attempts to move.

"Yes."

"About M. Lenormand, perhaps?"

"Yes."

"Have you shut him up? Where? Answer! . . ."

With all his heaving body, with all his tense glance, Altenheim pointed
to a cupboard in the corner of the room.

"There . . . there . . ." he said.

"Ah, we're burning!" chuckled Lupin.

M. Weber opened the cupboard. On one of the shelves was a parcel wrapped
in black cloth. He opened it and found a hat, a little box, some
clothes. . . . He gave a start. He had recognized M. Lenormand's
olive-green frock-coat.

"Oh, the villains!" he cried. "They have murdered him!"

"No," said Altenheim, shaking his head.

"Then . . . ?"

"It's he . . . he . . ."

"What do you mean by 'he'? . . . Did Lupin kill the chief?"

"No. . . ."

Altenheim was clinging to existence with fierce obstinacy, eager to
speak and to accuse. . . . The secret which he wished to reveal was at
the tip of his tongue and he was not able, did not know how to translate
it into words.

"Come," the deputy-chief insisted. "M. Lenormand is dead, surely?"

"No."

"He's alive?"

"Yes."

"I don't understand. . . . Look here, these clothes? This frock-coat?
. . ."

Altenheim turned his eyes toward Sernine. An idea struck M. Weber:

"Ah, I see! Lupin stole M. Lenormand's clothes and reckoned upon using
them to escape with. . . ."

"Yes . . . yes. . . ."

"Not bad," cried the deputy-chief. "It's quite a trick in his style. In
this room, we should have found Lupin disguised as M. Lenormand, chained
up, no doubt. It would have meant his safety; only he hadn't time.
That's it, isn't it?"

"Yes . . . yes . . ."

But, by the appearance of the dying man's eyes, M. Weber felt that there
was more, and that the secret was not exactly that. What was it, then?
What was the strange and unintelligible puzzle which Altenheim wanted to
explain before dying?

He questioned him again:

"And where is M. Lenormand himself?"

"There. . . ."

"What do you mean? Here?"

"Yes."

"But there are only ourselves here!"

"There's . . . there's . . ."

"Oh, speak!"

"There's . . . Ser . . . Sernine."

"Sernine! . . . Eh, what?"

"Sernine . . . Lenormand. . . ."

M. Weber gave a jump. A sudden light flashed across him.

"No, no, it's not possible," he muttered. "This is madness."

He gave a side-glance at his prisoner. Sernine seemed to be greatly
diverted and to be watching the scene with the air of a playgoer who is
thoroughly amused and very anxious to know how the piece is going to
end.

Altenheim, exhausted by his efforts, had fallen back at full length.
Would he die before revealing the solution of the riddle which his
strange words had propounded? M. Weber, shaken by an absurd, incredible
surmise, which he did not wish to entertain and which persisted in his
mind in spite of him, made a fresh, determined attempt:

"Explain the thing to us. . . . What's at the bottom of it? What
mystery?"

The other seemed not to hear and lay lifeless, with staring eyes.

M. Weber lay down beside him, with his body touching him, and, putting
great stress upon his words, so that each syllable should sink down to
the very depths of that brain already merged in darkness, said:

"Listen. . . . I have understood you correctly, have I not? Lupin and M.
Lenormand. . . ."

He needed an effort to continue, so monstrous did the words appear to
him. Nevertheless, the baron's dimmed eyes seemed to contemplate him
with anguish. He finished the sentence, shaking with excitement, as
though he were speaking blasphemy:

"That's it, isn't it? You're sure? The two are one and the same? . . ."

The eyes did not move. A little blood trickled from one corner of the
man's mouth. . . . He gave two or three sobs. . . . A last spasm; and
all was over . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

A long silence reigned in that basement room filled with people.

Almost all the policemen guarding Sernine had turned round and,
stupefied, not understanding or not willing to understand, they still
listened to the incredible accusation which the dying scoundrel had been
unable to put into words.

M. Weber took the little box which was in the parcel and opened it. It
contained a gray wig, a pair of spectacles, a maroon-colored neckerchief
and, in a false bottom, a pot or two of make-up and a case containing
some tiny tufts of gray hair: in short, all that was needed to complete
a perfect disguise in the character of M. Lenormand.

He went up to Sernine and, looking at him for a few seconds without
speaking, thoughtfully reconstructing all the phases of the adventure,
he muttered:

"So it's true?"

Sernine, who had retained his smiling calmness, replied:

"The suggestion is a pretty one and a bold one. But, before I answer,
tell your men to stop worrying me with those toys of theirs."

"Very well," said M. Weber, making a sign to his men. "And now answer."

"What?"

"Are you M. Lenormand?"

"Yes."

Exclamations arose. Jean Doudeville, who was there, while his brother
was watching the secret outlet, Jean Doudeville, Sernine's own
accomplice, looked at him in dismay. M. Weber stood undecided.

"That takes your breath away, eh?" said Sernine. "I admit that it's
rather droll. . . . Lord, how you used to make me laugh sometimes, when
we were working together, you and I, the chief and the deputy-chief!
. . . And the funniest thing is that you thought our worthy M. Lenormand
dead . . . as well as poor Gourel. But no, no, old chap: there's life in
the old dog yet!" He pointed to Altenheim's corpse. "There, it was that
scoundrel who pitched me into the water, in a sack, with a paving-stone
round my waist. Only, he forgot to take away my knife. And with a knife
one rips open sacks and cuts ropes. So you see, you unfortunate
Altenheim: if you had thought of that, you wouldn't be where you are!
. . . But enough said. . . . Peace to your ashes!"

M. Weber listened, not knowing what to think. At last, he made a gesture
of despair, as though he gave up the idea of forming a reasonable
opinion.

"The handcuffs," he said, suddenly alarmed.

"If it amuses you," said Sernine.

And, picking out Doudeville in the front row of his assailants, he put
out his wrists:

"There, my friend, you shall have the honour . . . and don't trouble to
exert yourself. . . . I'm playing square . . . as it's no use doing
anything else. . . ."

He said this in a tone that gave Doudeville to understand that the
struggle was finished for the moment and that there was nothing to do
but submit.

Doudeville fastened the handcuffs.

Without moving his lips or contracting a muscle of his face, Sernine
whispered:

"27, Rue de Rivoli . . . Geneviève. . . ."

M. Weber could not suppress a movement of satisfaction at the sight:

"Come along!" he said. "To the detective-office!"

"That's it, to the detective-office!" cried Sernine. "M. Lenormand will
enter Arsène Lupin in the jail-book; and Arsène Lupin will enter Prince
Sernine."

"You're too clever, Lupin."

"That's true, Weber; we shall never get on, you and I."

During the drive in the motor-car, escorted by three other cars filled
with policemen, he did not utter a word.

They did not stay long at the detective office. M. Weber, remembering
the escapes effected by Lupin, sent him up at once to the finger-print
department and then took him to the Dépôt, whence he was sent on to the
Santé Prison.

The governor had been warned by telephone and was waiting for him. The
formalities of the entry of commitment and of the searching were soon
got over; and, at seven o'clock in the evening, Prince Paul Sernine
crossed the threshold of cell 14 in the second division:

"Not half bad, your rooms," he declared, "not bad at all! . . . Electric
light, central heating, every requisite . . . capital! Mr. Governor,
I'll take this room."

He flung himself on the bed:

"Oh, Mr. Governor, I have one little favor to ask of you!"

"What is that?"

"Tell them not to bring me my chocolate before ten o'clock in the
morning. . . . I'm awfully sleepy."

He turned his face to the wall. Five minutes later he was sound asleep.



CHAPTER IX

"SANTÉ PALACE"


There was one wild burst of laughter over the whole face of the world.

True, the capture of Arsène Lupin made a big sensation; and the public
did not grudge the police the praise which they deserved for this
revenge so long hoped-for and now so fully obtained. The great
adventurer was caught. That extraordinary, genial, invisible hero was
shivering, like any ordinary criminal, between the four walls of a
prison cell, crushed in his turn by that formidable power which is
called the law and which, sooner or later, by inevitable necessity
shatters the obstacles opposed to it and destroys the work of its
adversaries.

All this was said, printed, repeated and discussed _ad nauseam_. The
prefect of police was created a commander, M. Weber an officer of the
Legion of Honor. The skill and courage of their humblest coadjutors were
extolled to the skies. Cheers were raised and pæans of victory struck
up. Articles were written and speeches made.

Very well. But one thing, nevertheless, rose above the wonderful concert
of praise, these noisy demonstrations of satisfaction; and that was an
immense, spontaneous, inextinguishable and tumultuous roar of laughter.

Arsène Lupin had been chief of the detective-service for four years!!!

He had been chief detective for four years and, really, legally, he was
chief detective still, with all the rights which the title confers,
enjoying the esteem of his chiefs, the favor of the government and the
admiration of the public.

For four years, the public peace and the defence of property had been
entrusted to Arsène Lupin. He saw that the law was carried out. He
protected the innocent and pursued the guilty.

And what services he had rendered! Never was order less disturbed, never
was crime discovered with greater certainty and rapidity. The reader
need but take back his mind to the Denizou case, the robbery at the
Crédit Lyonnais, the attack on the Orléans express, the murder of Baron
Dorf, forming a series of unforeseen and overwhelming triumphs, of
magnificent feats of prowess fit to compare with the most famous
victories of the most renowned detectives.[6]

[Footnote 6: The murder of Baron Dorf, that mysterious and disconcerting
affair, will one day be the subject of a story which will give an idea
of Arsène Lupin's astonishing qualities as a detective.]

Not so very long before, in a speech delivered at the time of the fire
at the Louvre and the capture of the incendiaries, Valenglay, the prime
minister, had said, speaking in defence of the somewhat arbitrary manner
in which M. Lenormand had acted on that occasion:

"With his great powers of discernment, his energy, his qualities of
decision and execution, his unexpected methods, his inexhaustible
resources, M. Lenormand reminds us of the only man who, if he were still
alive, could hope to hold his own against him: I mean Arsène Lupin. M.
Lenormand is an Arsène Lupin in the service of society."

And, lo and behold, M. Lenormand was none other than Arsène Lupin!

That he was a Russian prince, who cared! Lupin was an old hand at such
changes of personality as that. But chief detective! What a delicious
irony! What a whimsical humor in the conduct of that extraordinary life!

M. Lenormand! . . . Arsène Lupin! . . .

People were now able to explain to themselves the apparently miraculous
feats of intelligence which had quite recently bewildered the crowd and
baffled the police. They understood how his accomplice had been juggled
away in the middle of the Palais de Justice itself, in broad daylight
and on the appointed day. Had he himself not said:

"My process is so ingenious and so simple. . . . How surprised people
will be on the day when I am free to speak! 'Is that all?' I shall be
asked. That is all; but it had to be thought of."

It was, indeed, childishly simple: all you had to do was to be chief of
the detective-service.

Well, Lupin was chief of the detective-service; and every police-officer
obeying his orders had made himself the involuntary and unconscious
accomplice of Arsène Lupin.

What a comedy! What admirable bluff! It was the monumental and consoling
farce of these drab times of ours. Lupin in prison, Lupin irretrievably
conquered was, in spite of himself, the great conqueror. From his cell
he shone over Paris. He was more than ever the idol, more than ever the
master.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Arsène Lupin awoke next morning, in his room at the "Santé Palace,"
as he at once nicknamed it, he had a very clear vision of the enormous
sensation which would be produced by his arrest under the double name of
Sernine and Lenormand and the double title of prince and chief of the
detective-service.

He rubbed his hands and gave vent to his thoughts:

"A man can have no better companion in his loneliness than the approval
of his contemporaries. O fame! The sun of all living men! . . ."

Seen by daylight, his cell pleased him even better than at night. The
window, placed high up in the wall, afforded a glimpse of the branches
of a tree, through which peeped the blue of the sky above. The walls
were white. There was only one table and one chair, both fastened to the
floor. But everything was quite nice and clean.

"Come," he said, "a little rest-cure here will be rather charming. . . .
But let us see to our toilet. . . . Have I all I want? . . . No. . . .
In that case, ring twice for the chambermaid."

He pressed the button of an apparatus beside the door, which released a
signaling-disc in the corridor.

After a moment, bolts and bars were drawn outside, a key turned in the
lock and a warder appeared.

"Hot water, please," said Lupin.

The other looked at him with an air of mingled amazement and rage.

"Oh," said Lupin, "and a bath-towel! By Jove, there's no bath-towel!"

The man growled:

"You're getting at me, aren't you? You'd better be careful!"

He was going away, when Lupin caught him roughly by the arm:

"Here! A hundred francs if you'll post a letter for me."

He took out a hundred-franc note, which he had concealed during the
search, and offered it to him.

"Where's the letter?" said the warder, taking the money.

"Just give me a moment to write it."

He sat down at the table, scribbled a few words in pencil on a sheet of
paper, put it in an envelope and addressed the letter:

      _"To Monsieur S. B. 42,_
               _"Poste Restante,_
                         "PARIS."

The warder took the letter and walked away.

"That letter," said Lupin to himself, "will reach destination as safely
as if I delivered it myself. I shall have the reply in an hour at
latest: just the time I want to take a good look into my position."

He sat down on his chair and, in an undertone, summed up the situation
as follows:

"When all is said and done, I have two adversaries to fight at the
present moment. There is, first, society, which holds me and which I can
afford to laugh at. Secondly, there is a person unknown, who does not
hold me, but whom I am not inclined to laugh at in the very least. It is
he who told the police that I was Sernine. It was he who guessed that I
was M. Lenormand. It was he who locked the door of the underground
passage and it was he who had me clapped into prison."

Arsène Lupin reflected for a second and then continued:

"So, at long last, the struggle lies between him and me. And, to keep up
that struggle, that is to say, to discover and get to the bottom of the
Kesselbach case, here am I, a prisoner, while he is free, unknown, and
inaccessible, and holds the two trump-cards which I considered mine:
Pierre Leduc and old Steinweg. . . . In short, he is near the goal,
after finally pushing me back."

A fresh contemplative pause, followed by a fresh soliloquy:

"The position is far from brilliant. On the one side, everything; on the
other, nothing. Opposite me, a man of my own strength, or stronger,
because he has not the same scruples that hamper me. And I am without
weapons to attack him with."

He repeated the last sentence several times, in a mechanical voice, and
then stopped and, taking his forehead between his hands, sat for a long
time wrapped in thought.

"Come in, Mr. Governor," he said, seeing the door open.

"Were you expecting me?"

"Why, I wrote to you, Mr. Governor, asking you to come! I felt certain
that the warder would give you my letter. I was so certain of it that I
put your initials, S. B., and your age, forty-two, on the envelope!"

The governor's name, in point of fact, was Stanislas Borély, and he was
forty-two years of age. He was a pleasant-looking man, with a very
gentle character, who treated the prisoners with all the indulgence
possible.

He said to Lupin:

"Your opinion of my subordinate's integrity was quite correct. Here is
your money. It shall be handed to you at your release. . . . You will
now go through the searching-room again."

Lupin went with M. Borély to the little room reserved for this purpose,
undressed and, while his clothes were inspected with justifiable
suspicion, himself underwent a most fastidious examination.

He was then taken back to his cell and M. Borély said:

"I feel easier. That's done."

"And very well done, Mr. Governor. Your men perform this sort of duty
with a delicacy for which I should like to thank them by giving them a
small token of my satisfaction."

He handed a hundred-franc note to M. Borély, who jumped as though he had
been shot:

"Oh! . . . But . . . where does that come from?"

"No need to rack your brains, Mr. Governor. A man like myself, leading
the life that I do, is always prepared for any eventuality: and no
mishap, however painful--not even imprisonment--can take him unawares."

Seizing the middle finger of his left hand between the thumb and
forefinger of the right, he pulled it off smartly and presented it
calmly to M. Borély:

"Don't start like that, Mr. Governor. This is not my finger, but just a
tube, made of gold-beater's skin and cleverly colored, which fits
exactly over my middle finger and gives the illusion of a real finger."
And he added, with a laugh, "In such a way, of course, as to conceal a
third hundred-franc note. . . . What is a poor man to do? He must carry
the best purse he can . . . and must needs make use of it on occasions.
. . ."

He stopped at the sight of M. Borély's startled face:

"Please don't think, Mr. Governor, that I wish to dazzle you with my
little parlor-tricks. I only wanted to show you that you have to do with
a . . . client of a rather . . . special nature and to tell you that you
must not be surprised if I venture, now and again, to break the ordinary
rules and regulations of your establishment."

The governor had recovered himself. He said plainly:

"I prefer to think that you will conform to the rules and not compel me
to resort to harsh measures. . . ."

"Which you would regret to have to enforce: isn't that it, Mr. Governor?
That's just what I should like to spare you, by proving to you in
advance that they would not prevent me from doing as I please: from
corresponding with my friends, from defending the grave interests
confided to me outside these walls, from writing to the newspapers that
accept my inspiration, from pursuing the fulfilment of my plans and,
lastly, from preparing my escape."

"Your escape!"

Lupin began to laugh heartily:

"But think, Mr. Governor, my only excuse for being in prison is . . . to
leave it!"

The argument did not appear to satisfy M. Borély. He made an effort to
laugh in his turn:

"Forewarned is forearmed," he said.

"That's what I wanted," Lupin replied. "Take all your precautions, Mr.
Governor, neglect nothing, so that later they may have nothing to
reproach you with. On the other hand, I shall arrange things in such a
way that, whatever annoyance you may have to bear in consequence of my
escape, your career, at least, shall not suffer. That is all I had to
say to you, Mr. Governor. You can go."

And, while M. Borély walked away, greatly perturbed by his singular
charge and very anxious about the events in preparation, the prisoner
threw himself on his bed, muttering:

"What cheek, Lupin, old fellow, what cheek! Really, any one would think
that you had some idea as to how you were going to get out of this!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Santé prison is built on the star plan. In the centre of the main
portion is a round hall, upon which all the corridors converge, so that
no prisoner is able to leave his cell without being at once perceived by
the overseers posted in the glass box which occupies the middle of that
central hall.

The thing that most surprises the visitor who goes over the prison is
that, at every moment, he will meet prisoners without a guard of any
kind, who seem to move about as though they were absolutely free. In
reality, in order to go from one point to another--for instance, from
their cell to the van waiting in the yard to take them to the Palais de
Justice for the magistrate's examination--they pass along straight lines
each of which ends in a door that is opened to them by a warder. The
sole duty of the warder is to open and shut this door and to watch the
two straight lines which it commands. And thus the prisoners, while
apparently at liberty to come and go as they please, are sent from door
to door, from eye to eye, like so many parcels passed from hand to hand.

Outside, municipal guards receive the object and pack it into one of
the compartments of the "salad-basket."[7]

[Footnote 7: The French slang expression for its prison-van or "black
Maria."--_Translator's Note._]

This is the ordinary routine.

In Lupin's case it was disregarded entirely. The police were afraid of
that walk along the corridors. They were afraid of the prison-van. They
were afraid of everything.

M. Weber came in person, accompanied by twelve constables--the best he
had, picked men, armed to the teeth--fetched the formidable prisoner at
the door of his cell and took him in a cab, the driver of which was one
of his own men, with mounted municipal guards trotting on each side, in
front and behind.

"Bravo!" cried Lupin. "I am quite touched by the compliment paid me. A
guard of honor. By Jove, Weber, you have the proper hierarchical
instinct! You don't forget what is due to your immediate chief." And,
tapping him on the shoulder: "Weber, I intend to send in my resignation.
I shall name you as my successor."

"It's almost done," said Weber.

"That's good news! I was a little anxious about my escape. Now I am easy
in my mind. From the moment when Weber is chief of the detective-service
. . . !"

M. Weber did not reply to the gibe. At heart, he had a queer, complex
feeling in the presence of his adversary, a feeling made up of the fear
with which Lupin inspired him, the deference which he entertained for
Prince Sernine and the respectful admiration which he had always shown
to M. Lenormand. All this was mingled with spite, envy and satisfied
hatred.

They arrived at the Palais de Justice. At the foot of the "mouse-trap,"
a number of detectives were waiting, among whom M. Weber rejoiced to see
his best two lieutenants, the brothers Doudeville.

"Has M. Formerie come?" he asked.

"Yes, chief, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction is in his room."

M. Weber went up the stairs, followed by Lupin, who had the Doudevilles
on either side of him.

"Geneviève?" whispered the prisoner.

"Saved. . . ."

"Where is she?"

"With her grandmother."

"Mrs. Kesselbach?"

"In Paris, at the Bristol."

"Suzanne?"

"Disappeared."

"Steinweg?"

"Released."

"What has he told you?"

"Nothing. Won't make any revelations except to you."

"Why?"

"We told him he owed his release to you."

"Newspapers good this morning?"

"Excellent."

"Good. If you want to write to me, here are my instructions."

They had reached the inner corridor on the first floor and Lupin slipped
a pellet of paper into the hand of one of the brothers.

       *       *       *       *       *

M. Formerie uttered a delicious phrase when Lupin entered his room
accompanied by the deputy-chief:

"Ah, there you are! I knew we should lay hands on you some day or
other!"

"So did I, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction," said Lupin, "and I am glad
that you have been marked out by fate to do justice to the honest man
that I am."

"He's getting at me," thought M. Formerie. And, in the same ironical and
serious tone as Lupin, he retorted, "The honest man that you are, sir,
will be asked what he has to say about three hundred and forty-four
separate cases of larceny, burglary, swindling and forgery, blackmail,
receiving and so on. Three hundred and forty-four!"

"What! Is that all?" cried Lupin. "I really feel quite ashamed."

"Don't distress yourself! I shall discover more. But let us proceed in
order. Arsène Lupin, in spite of all our inquiries, we have no definite
information as to your real name."

"How odd! No more have I!"

"We are not even in a position to declare that you are the same Arsène
Lupin who was confined in the Santé a few years back, and from there
made his first escape."

"'His first escape' is good, and does you credit."

"It so happens, in fact," continued M. Formerie, "that the Arsène Lupin
card in the measuring department gives a description of Arsène Lupin
which differs at all points from your real description."

"How more and more odd!"

"Different marks, different measurements, different finger-prints. . . .
The two photographs even are quite unlike. I will therefore ask you to
satisfy us as to your exact identity."

"That's just what I was going to ask you. I have lived under so many
distinct names that I have ended by forgetting my own. I don't know
where I am."

"So I must enter a refusal to answer?"

"An inability."

"Is this a thought-out plan? Am I to expect the same silence in reply to
all my questions?"

"Very nearly."

"And why?"

Lupin struck a solemn attitude and said:

"M. le Juge d'Instruction, my life belongs to history. You have only to
turn over the annals of the past fifteen years and your curiosity will
be satisfied. So much for my part. As to the rest, it does not concern
me: it is an affair between you and the murderers at the Palace Hotel."

"Arsène Lupin, the honest man that you are will have to-day to explain
the murder of Master Altenheim."

"Hullo, this is new! Is the idea yours, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction?"

"Exactly."

"Very clever! Upon my word, M. Formerie, you're getting on!"

"The position in which you were captured leaves no doubt."

"None at all; only, I will venture to ask you this: what sort of wound
did Altenheim die of?"

"Of a wound in the throat caused by a knife."

"And where is the knife?"

"It has not been found."

"How could it not have been found, if I had been the assassin,
considering that I was captured beside the very man whom I am supposed
to have killed?"

"Who killed him, according to you?"

"The same man that killed Mr. Kesselbach, Chapman, and Beudot. The
nature of the wound is a sufficient proof."

"How did he get away?"

"Through a trap-door, which you will discover in the room where the
tragedy took place."

M. Formerie assumed an air of slyness:

"And how was it that you did not follow that useful example?"

"I tried to follow it. But the outlet was blocked by a door which I
could not open. It was during this attempt that 'the other one' came
back to the room and killed his accomplice for fear of the revelations
which he would have been sure to make. At the same time, he hid in a
cupboard, where it was subsequently found, the parcel of clothes which I
had prepared."

"What were those clothes for?"

"To disguise myself. When I went to the Glycines my plan was this: to
hand Altenheim over to the police, to suppress my own identity as Prince
Sernine and to reappear under the features. . . ."

"Of M. Lenormand, I suppose?"

"Exactly."

"No."

"What!"

M. Formerie gave a knowing smile and wagged his forefinger from left to
right and right to left:

"No," he repeated.

"What do you mean by 'no'?"

"That story about M. Lenormand. . . ."

"Well?"

"Will do for the public, my friend. But you won't make M. Formerie
swallow that Lupin and Lenormand were one and the same man." He burst
out laughing. "Lupin, chief of the detective-service! No, anything you
like, but not that! . . . There are limits. . . . I am an easy-going
fellow. . . . I'll believe anything . . . but still. . . . Come, between
ourselves, what was the reason of this fresh hoax? . . . I confess I
can't see . . ."

Lupin looked at him in astonishment. In spite of all that he knew of M.
Formerie, he could not conceive such a degree of infatuation and
blindness. There was at that moment only one person in the world who
refused to believe in Prince Sernine's double personality; and that was
M. Formerie! . . .

Lupin turned to the deputy-chief, who stood listening open-mouthed:

"My dear Weber, I fear your promotion is not so certain as I thought.
For, you see, if M. Lenormand is not myself, then he exists . . . and,
if he exists, I have no doubt that M. Formerie, with all his acumen,
will end by discovering him . . . in which case . . ."

"We shall discover him all right, M. Lupin," cried the
examining-magistrate. "I'll undertake that, and I tell you that, when
you and he are confronted, we shall see some fun." He chuckled and
drummed with his fingers on the table. "How amusing! Oh, one's never
bored when you're there, that I'll say for you! So you're M. Lenormand,
and it's you who arrested your accomplice Marco!"

"Just so! Wasn't it my duty to please the prime minister and save the
cabinet? The fact is historical."

M. Formerie held his sides:

"Oh, I shall die of laughing, I know I shall! Lord, what a joke! That
answer will travel round the world. So, according to your theory, it was
with you that I made the first enquiries at the Palace Hotel after the
murder of Mr. Kesselbach? . . ."

"Surely it was with me that you investigated the case of the stolen
coronet when I was Duc de Chamerace,"[8] retorted Lupin, in a sarcastic
voice.

[Footnote 8: See _Arsène Lupin_ by Edgar Jepson and Maurice Leblanc.]

M. Formerie gave a start. All his merriment was dispelled by that odious
recollection. Turning suddenly grave, he asked:

"So you persist in that absurd theory?"

"I must, because it is the truth. It would be easy for you to take a
steamer to Cochin-China and to find at Saigon the proofs of the death of
the real M. Lenormand, the worthy man whom I replaced and whose
death-certificate I can show you."

"Humbug!"

"Upon my word, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I don't care one way or
the other. If it annoys you that I should be M. Lenormand, don't let's
talk about it. We won't talk about myself; we won't talk about anything
at all, if you prefer. Besides, of what use can it be to you? The
Kesselbach case is such a tangled affair that I myself don't know where
I stand. There's only one man who might help you. I have not succeeded
in discovering him. And I don't think that you . . ."

"What's the man's name?"

"He's an old man, a German called Steinweg. . . . But, of course, you've
heard about him, Weber, and the way in which he was carried off in the
middle of the Palais de Justice?"

M. Formerie threw an inquiring glance at the deputy-chief. M. Weber
said:

"I undertake to bring that person to you, Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction."

"So that's done," said M. Formerie, rising from his chair. "As you see,
Lupin, this was merely a formal examination to bring the two duelists
together. Now that we have crossed swords, all that we need is the
necessary witness of our fencing-match, your counsel."

"Tut! Is it indispensable?"

"Indispensable."

"Employ counsel in view of such an unlikely trial?"

"You must."

"In that case, I'll choose Maître Quimbel."

"The president of the corporation of the bar. You are wise, you will be
well defended."

       *       *       *       *       *

The first sitting was over. M. Weber led the prisoner away.

As he went down the stairs of the "mouse-trap," between the two
Doudevilles, Lupin said, in short, imperative sentences:

"Watch Steinweg. . . . Don't let him speak to anybody. . . . Be there
to-morrow. . . . I'll give you some letters . . . one for you . . .
important."

Downstairs, he walked up to the municipal guards surrounding the
taxi-cab:

"Home, boys," he exclaimed, "and quick about it! I have an appointment
with myself for two o'clock precisely."

There were no incidents during the drive. On returning to his cell,
Lupin wrote a long letter, full of detailed instructions, to the
brothers Doudeville and, two other letters.

One was for Geneviève:

      "Geneviève, you now know who I am and you will
      understand why I concealed from you the name of him
      who twice carried you away in his arms when you were a
      little girl.

      "Geneviève, I was your mother's friend, a distant
      friend, of whose double life she knew nothing, but
      upon whom she thought that she could rely. And that is
      why, before dying, she wrote me a few lines asking me
      to watch over you.

      "Unworthy as I am of your esteem, Geneviève, I shall
      continue faithful to that trust. Do not drive me from
      your heart entirely.

                                   "ARSÈNE LUPIN."

The other letter was addressed to Dolores Kesselbach:

      "Prince Sernine was led to seek Mrs. Kesselbach's
      acquaintance by motives of self-interest alone. But a
      great longing to devote himself to her was the cause
      of his continuing it.

      "Now that Prince Sernine has become merely Arsène
      Lupin, he begs Mrs. Kesselbach not to deprive him of
      the right of protecting her, at a distance and as a
      man protects one whom he will never see again."

There were some envelopes on the table. He took up one and took up a
second; then, when he took up the third, he noticed a sheet of white
paper, the presence of which surprised him and which had words stuck
upon it, evidently cut out of a newspaper. He read:

      "You have failed in your fight with the baron. Give up
      interesting yourself in the case, and I will not
      oppose your escape.

                                           "L. M."

Once more, Lupin had that sense of repulsion and terror with which this
nameless and fabulous being always inspired him, a sense of disgust
which one feels at touching a venomous animal, a reptile:

"He again," he said. "Even here!"

That also scared him, the sudden vision which he at times received of
this hostile power, a power as great as his own and disposing of
formidable means, the extent of which he himself was unable to realize.

He at once suspected his warder. But how had it been possible to corrupt
that hard-featured, stern-eyed man?

"Well, so much the better, after all!" he cried. "I have never had to do
except with dullards. . . . In order to fight myself, I had to chuck
myself into the command of the detective-service. . . . This time, I
have some one to deal with! . . . Here's a man who puts me in his pocket
. . . by sleight of hand, one might say. . . . If I succeed, from my
prison cell, in avoiding his blows and smashing him, in seeing old
Steinweg and dragging his confession from him, in setting the Kesselbach
case on its legs and turning the whole of it into cash, in defending
Mrs. Kesselbach and winning fortune and happiness for Geneviève . . .
well, then Lupin will be Lupin still! . . ."

Eleven days passed. On the twelfth day, Lupin woke very early and
exclaimed:

"Let me see, if my calculations are correct and if the gods are on my
side, there will be some news to-day. I have had four interviews with
Formerie. The fellow must be worked up to the right point now. And the
Doudevilles, on their side, must have been busy. . . . We shall have
some fun!"

He flung out his fists to right and left, brought them back to his
chest, then flung them out again and brought them back again.

This movement, which executed thirty times in succession, was followed
by a bending of his body backwards and forwards. Next came an alternate
lifting of the legs and then an alternate swinging of the arms.

The whole performance occupied a quarter of an hour, the quarter of an
hour which he devoted every morning to Swedish exercises to keep his
muscles in condition.

Then he sat down to his table, took up some sheets of white paper, which
were arranged in numbered packets, and, folding one of them, made it
into an envelope, a work which he continued to do with a series of
successive sheets. It was the task which he had accepted and which he
forced himself to do daily, the prisoners having the right to choose the
labor which they preferred: sticking envelopes, making paper fans, metal
purses, and so on. . . .

And, in this way, while occupying his hands with an automatic exercise
and keeping his muscles supple with mechanical bendings, Lupin was able
to have his thoughts constantly fixed on his affairs. . . .

And his affairs were complicated enough, in all conscience!

There was one, for instance, which surpassed all the others in
importance, and for which he had to employ all the resources of his
genius. How was he to have a long, quiet conversation with old Steinweg?
The necessity was immediate. In a few days, Steinweg would have
recovered from his imprisonment, would receive interviews, might blab
. . . to say nothing of the inevitable interference of the enemy, 'the
other one.' And it was essential that Steinweg's secret, Pierre Leduc's
secret, should be revealed to no one but Lupin. Once published, the
secret lost all its value. . . .

The bolts grated, the key turned noisily in the lock.

"Ah, it's you, most excellent of jailers! Has the moment come for the
last toilet? The hair-cut that precedes the great final cut of all?"

"Magistrate's examination," said the man, laconically.

Lupin walked through the corridors of the prison and was received by the
municipal guards, who locked him into the prison-van.

He reached the Palais de Justice twenty minutes later. One of the
Doudevilles was waiting near the stairs. As they went up, he said to
Lupin:

"You'll be confronted to-day."

"Everything settled?"

"Yes."

"Weber?"

"Busy elsewhere."

Lupin walked into M. Formerie's room and at once recognized old
Steinweg, sitting on a chair, looking ill and wretched. A municipal
guard was standing behind him.

M. Formerie scrutinized the prisoner attentively, as though he hoped to
draw important conclusions from his contemplation of him, and said:

"You know who this gentleman is?"

"Why, Steinweg, of course! . . ."

"Yes, thanks to the active inquiries of M. Weber and of his two
officers, the brothers Doudeville, we have found Mr. Steinweg, who,
according to you, knows the ins and outs of the Kesselbach case, the
name of the murderer and all the rest of it."

"I congratulate you, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. Your examination
will go swimmingly."

"I think so. There is only one 'but': Mr. Steinweg refuses to reveal
anything, except in your presence."

"Well, I never! How odd of him! Does Arsène Lupin inspire him with so
much affection and esteem?"

"Not Arsène Lupin, but Prince Sernine, who, he says, saved his life, and
M. Lenormand, with whom, he says, he began a conversation. . . ."

"At the time when I was chief of the detective-service," Lupin broke in.
"So you consent to admit."

"Mr. Steinweg," said the magistrate, "do you recognize M. Lenormand?"

"No, but I know that Arsène Lupin and he are one."

"So you consent to speak?"

"Yes . . . but . . . we are not alone."

"How do you mean? There is only my clerk here . . . and the guard . . ."

"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, the secret which I am about to reveal
is so important that you yourself would be sorry . . ."

"Guard, go outside, please," said M. Formerie. "Come back at once, if I
call. Do you object to my clerk, Steinweg?"

"No, no . . . it might be better . . . but, however . . ."

"Then speak. For that matter, nothing that you reveal will be put down
in black on white. One word more, though: I ask you for the last time,
is it indispensable that the prisoner should be present at this
interview?"

"Quite indispensable. You will see the reason for yourself."

He drew the chair up to the magistrate's desk, Lupin remained standing,
near the clerk. And the old man, speaking in a loud voice, said:

"It is now ten years since a series of circumstances, which I need not
enter into, made me acquainted with an extraordinary story in which two
persons are concerned."

"Their names, please."

"I will give the names presently. For the moment, let me say that one of
these persons occupies an exceptional position in France, and that the
other, an Italian, or rather a Spaniard . . . yes, a Spaniard . . ."

A bound across the room, followed by two formidable blows of the fist.
. . . Lupin's two arms had darted out to right and left, as though
impelled by springs and his two fists, hard as cannon balls, caught the
magistrate and his clerk on the jaw, just below the ear.

The magistrate and the clerk collapsed over their tables, in two lumps,
without a moan.

"Well hit!" said Lupin. "That was a neat bit of work."

He went to the door and locked it softly. Then returning:

"Steinweg, have you the chloroform?"

"Are you quite sure that they have fainted?" asks the old man, trembling
with fear.

"What do you think! But it will only last for three or four minutes.
. . . And that is not long enough."

The German produced from his pocket a bottle and two pads of
cotton-wool, ready prepared.

Lupin uncorked the bottle, poured a few drops of the chloroform on the
two pads and held them to the noses of the magistrate and his clerk.

"Capital! We have ten minutes of peace and quiet before us. That will
do, but let's make haste, all the same; and not a word too much, old
man, do you hear?" He took him by the arm. "You see what I am able to
do. Here we are, alone in the very heart of the Palais de Justice,
because I wished it."

"Yes," said the old man.

"So you are going to tell me your secret?"

"Yes, I told it to Kesselbach, because he was rich and could turn it to
better account than anybody I knew; but, prisoner and absolutely
powerless though you are, I consider you a hundred times as strong as
Kesselbach with his hundred millions."

"In that case, speak; and let us take things in their proper order. The
name of the murderer?"

"That's impossible."

"How do you mean, impossible? I thought you knew it and were going to
tell me everything!"

"Everything, but not that."

"But . . ."

"Later on."

"You're mad! Why?"

"I have no proofs. Later, when you are free, we will hunt together.
Besides, what's the good? And then, really, I can't tell you."

"You're afraid of him?"

"Yes."

"Very well," said Lupin. "After all, that's not the most urgent matter.
As to the rest, you've made up your mind to speak?"

"Without reserve."

"Well, then, answer. Who is Pierre Leduc?"

"Hermann IV., Grand Duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz, Prince of Berncastel,
Count of Fistingen, Lord of Wiesbaden and other places."

Lupin felt a thrill of joy at learning that his _protégé_ was definitely
not the son of a pork-butcher!

"The devil!" he muttered. "So we have a handle to our name! . . . As far
as I remember, the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken-Veldenz is in Prussia?"

"Yes, on the Moselle. The house of Veldenz is a branch of the Palatine
house of Zweibrucken. The grand-duchy was occupied by the French after
the peace of Luneville and formed part of the department of
Mont-Tonnerre. In 1814, it was restored in favor of Hermann I., the
great grandfather of Pierre Leduc. His son, Hermann II., spent a riotous
youth, ruined himself, squandered the finances of his country and made
himself impossible to his subjects, who ended by partly burning the old
castle at Veldenz and driving their sovereign out of his dominions. The
grand-duchy was then administered and governed by three regents, in the
name of Hermann II., who, by a curious anomaly, did not abdicate, but
retained his title as reigning grand-duke. He lived, rather short of
cash, in Berlin; later, he fought in the French war, by the side of
Bismarck, of whom he was a friend. He was killed by a shell at the siege
of Paris and, in dying, entrusted Bismarck with the charge of his son
Hermann, that is, Hermann III."

"The father, therefore, of our Leduc," said Lupin.

"Yes. The chancellor took a liking to Hermann III., and used often to
employ him as a secret envoy to persons of distinction abroad. At the
fall of his patron Hermann III., left Berlin, travelled about and
returned and settled in Dresden. When Bismarck died, Hermann III., was
there. He himself died two years later. These are public facts, known to
everybody in Germany; and that is the story of the three Hermanns,
Grand-dukes of Zweibrucken-Veldenz in the nineteenth century."

"But the fourth, Hermann IV., the one in whom we are interested?"

"We will speak of him presently. Let us now pass on to unknown facts."

"Facts known to you alone," said Lupin.

"To me alone and to a few others."

"How do you mean, a few others? Hasn't the secret been kept?"

"Yes, yes, the secret has been well kept by all who know it. Have no
fear; it is very much to their interest, I assure you, not to divulge
it."

"Then how do you know it?"

"Through an old servant and private secretary of the Grand-duke Hermann,
the last of the name. This servant, who died in my arms in South Africa,
began by confiding to me that his master was secretly married and had
left a son behind him. Then he told me the great secret."

"The one which you afterwards revealed to Kesselbach."

"Yes."

"One second . . . Will you excuse me? . . ."

Lupin bent over M. Formerie, satisfied himself that all was well and the
heart beating normally, and said:

"Go on."

Steinweg resumed:

"On the evening of the day on which Bismarck died, the Grand-duke
Hermann III. and his faithful manservant--my South African friend--took
a train which brought them to Munich in time to catch the express for
Vienna. From Vienna, they went to Constantinople, then to Cairo, then to
Naples, then to Tunis, then to Spain, then to Paris, then to London, to
St. Petersburg, to Warsaw . . . and in none of these towns did they
stop. They took a cab, had their two bags put on the top, rushed through
the streets, hurried to another station or to the landing-stage, and
once more took the train or the steamer."

"In short, they were being followed and were trying to put their
pursuers off the scent," Arsène Lupin concluded.

"One evening, they left the city of Treves, dressed in workmen's caps
and linen jackets, each with a bundle slung over his shoulder at the end
of a stick. They covered on foot the twenty-two miles to Veldenz, where
the old Castle of Zweibrucken stands, or rather the ruins of the old
castle."

"No descriptions, please."

"All day long, they remained hidden in a neighboring forest. At night,
they went up to the old walls. Hermann ordered his servant to wait for
him and himself scaled the wall at a breach known as the Wolf's Gap. He
returned in an hour's time. In the following week, after more
peregrinations, he went back home to Dresden. The expedition was over."

"And what was the object of the expedition?"

"The grand-duke never breathed a word about it to his servant. But
certain particulars and the coincidence of facts that ensued enabled the
man to build up the truth, at least, in part."

"Quick, Steinweg, time is running short now: and I am eager to know."

"A fortnight after the expedition, Count von Waldemar, an officer in the
Emperor's body-guard and one of his personal friends, called on the
grand-duke, accompanied by six men. He was there all day, locked up with
the grand-duke in his study. There were repeated sounds of altercations,
of violent disputes. One phrase even was overheard by the servant, who
was passing through the garden, under the windows: 'Those papers were
handed to you; His imperial Majesty is sure of it. If you refuse to give
them to me of your own free will . . .' The rest of the sentence, the
meaning of the threat and, for that matter, the whole scene can be
easily guessed by what followed; Hermann's house was ransacked from top
to bottom."

"But that is against the law."

"It would have been against the law if the grand-duke had objected; but
he himself accompanied the count in his search."

"And what were they looking for? The chancellor's memoirs?"

"Something better than that. They were looking for a parcel of secret
documents which were known to exist, owing to indiscretions that had
been committed, and which were known for certain to have been entrusted
to the Grand-duke Hermann's keeping."

Lupin muttered, excitedly:

"Secret documents . . . and very important ones, no doubt?"

"Of the highest importance. The publication of those papers would lead
to results which it would be impossible to foresee, not only from the
point of view of home politics, but also from that of Germany's
relations with the foreign powers."

"Oh!" said Lupin, throbbing with emotion. "Oh, can it be possible? What
proof have you?"

"What proof? The evidence of the grand-duke's wife, the confidences
which she made to the servant after her husband's death."

"Yes . . . yes . . ." stammered Lupin. "We have the evidence of the
grand-duke himself."

"Better still," said Steinweg.

"What?"

"A document, a document written in his own hand, signed by him and
containing . . ."

"Containing what?"

"A list of the secret papers confided to his charge."

"Tell me, in two words. . . ."

"In two words? That can't be done. The document is a very long one,
scattered all over with annotations and remarks which are sometimes
impossible to understand. Let me mention just two titles which obviously
refer to two bundles of secret papers: _Original letters of the Crown
Prince to Bismarck_ is one. The dates show that these letters were
written during the three months of the reign of Frederick III. To
picture what the letters may contain, you have only to think of the
Emperor Frederick's illness, his quarrels with his son . . ."

"Yes, yes, I know. . . . And the other title?"

"_Photographs of the letters of Frederick III., and the Empress Victoria
to the Queen of England._"

"Do you mean to say that that's there?" asked Lupin, in a choking voice.

"Listen to the grand-duke's notes: _Text of the treaty with Great
Britain and France._ And these rather obscure words: 'Alsace-Lorraine.
. . . Colonies. . . . Limitation of naval armaments. . . ."

"It says that?" blurted Lupin. "And you call that obscure? . . . Why,
the words are dazzling with light! . . . Oh, can it be possible? . . .
And what next, what next?"

As he spoke there was a noise at the door. Some one was knocking.

"You can't come in," said Lupin. "I am busy. . . . Go on, Steinweg."

"But . . ." said the old man, in a great state of alarm.

The door was shaken violently and Lupin recognized Weber's voice. He
shouted:

"A little patience, Weber. I shall have done in five minutes."

He gripped the old man's arm and, in a tone of command:

"Be easy and go on with your story. So, according to you, the expedition
of the grand duke and his servant to Veldenz Castle had no other object
than to hide those papers?"

"There can be no question about that."

"Very well. But the grand-duke may have taken them away since."

"No, he did not leave Dresden until his death."

"But the grand-duke's enemies, the men who had everything to gain by
recovering them and destroying them: can't they have tried to find out
where the papers were?"

"They have tried."

"How do you know?"

"You can understand that I did not remain inactive and that my first
care, after receiving those revelations, was to go to Veldenz and make
inquiries for myself in the neighboring villages. Well, I learnt that,
on two separate occasions, the castle was invaded by a dozen men, who
came from Berlin furnished with credentials to the regents."

"Well?"

"Well, they found nothing, for, since that time, the castle has been
found closed to the public."

"But what prevents anybody from getting in?"

"A garrison of fifty soldiers, who keep watch day and night."

"Soldiers of the grand-duchy?"

"No, soldiers drafted from the Emperor's own body-guard."

The din in the passage increased:

"Open the door!" a voice cried. "I order you to open the door!"

"I can't. Weber, old chap; the lock has stuck. If you take my advice,
you had better cut the door all round the lock."

"Open the door!"

"And what about the fate of Europe, which we are discussing?"

He turned to the old man:

"So you were not able to enter the castle?"

"No."

"But you are persuaded that the papers in question are hidden there?"

"Look here, haven't I given you proofs enough? Aren't you convinced?"

"Yes, yes," muttered Lupin, "that's where they are hidden . . . there's
no doubt about it . . . that's where they are hidden. . . ."

He seemed to see the castle. He seemed to conjure up the mysterious
hiding-place. And the vision of an inexhaustible treasure, the dream of
chests filled with riches and precious stones could not have excited him
more than the idea of those few scraps of paper watched over by the
Kaiser's guards. What a wonderful conquest to embark upon! And how
worthy of his powers! And what a proof of perspicacity and intuition he
had once more given by throwing himself at a venture upon that unknown
track!

Outside, the men were "working" at the lock.

Lupin asked of old Steinweg:

"What did the grand-duke die of?"

"An attack of pleurisy, which carried him off in a few days. He hardly
recovered consciousness before the end; and the horrible thing appears
to have been that he was seen to make violent efforts, between his fits
of delirium, to collect his thoughts and utter connected words. From
time to time, he called his wife, looked at her in a desperate way and
vainly moved his lips."

"In a word, he spoke?" said Lupin, cutting him short, for the "working"
at the lock was beginning to make him anxious.

"No, he did not speak. But, in a comparatively lucid moment, he summoned
up the energy to make some marks on a piece of paper which his wife
gave him."

"Well, those marks . . . ?"

"They were illegible, for the most part."

"For the most part? But the others?" asked Lupin, greedily. "The
others?"

"There were, first, three perfectly distinct figures: an 8, a 1, and a
3. . . ."

"Yes, 813, I know . . . and next?"

"And next, there were some letters . . . several letters, of which all
that can be made out for certain are a group of three followed,
immediately after, by a group of two letters."

"'APO ON,' is that it?"

"Oh, so you know! . . ."

The lock was yielding; almost all the screws had been taken out. Lupin,
suddenly alarmed at the thought of being interrupted, asked:

"So that this incomplete word 'APO ON' and the number 813 are the
formulas which the grand-duke bequeathed to his wife and son to enable
them to find the secret papers?"

"Yes."

"What became of the grand-duke's wife?"

"She died soon after her husband, of grief, one might say."

"And was the child looked after by the family?"

"What family? The grand-duke had no brothers or sisters. Moreover, he
was only morganatically and secretly married. No, the child was taken
away by Hermann's old man-servant, who brought him up under the name of
Pierre Leduc. He was a bad type of boy, self-willed, capricious and
troublesome. One day, he went off and was never seen again."

"Did he know the secret of his birth?"

"Yes; and he was shown the sheet of paper on which Hermann III. had
written the letters and figures."

"And after that this revelation was made to no one but yourself?"

"That's all."

"And you confided only in Mr. Kesselbach?"

"Yes. But, out of prudence, while showing him the sheet of letters and
figures and the list of which I spoke to you, I kept both those
documents in my own possession. Events have proved that I was right."

Lupin was now clinging to the door with both hands:

"Weber," he roared, "you're very indiscreet! I shall report you! . . .
Steinweg, have you those documents?"

"Yes."

"Are they in a safe place?"

"Absolutely."

"In Paris?"

"No."

"So much the better. Don't forget that your life is in danger and that
you have people after you."

"I know. The least false step and I am done for."

"Exactly. So take your precautions, throw the enemy off the scent, go
and fetch your papers and await my instructions. The thing is cut and
dried. In a month, at latest, we will go to Veldenz Castle together."

"Suppose I'm in prison?"

"I will take you out."

"Can you?"

"The very day after I come out myself. No, I'm wrong: the same evening
. . . an hour later."

"You have the means?"

"Since the last ten minutes, an infallible means. You have nothing more
to say to me?"

"No."

"Then I'll open the door."

He pulled back the door, and bowing to M. Weber:

"My poor old Weber, I don't know what excuse to make . . ."

He did not finish his sentence. The sudden inrush of the deputy-chief
and three policeman left him no time.

M. Weber was white with rage and indignation. The sight of the two men
lying outstretched quite unsettled him.

"Dead!" he exclaimed.

"Not a bit of it, not a bit of it," chuckled Lupin, "only asleep!
Formerie was tired out . . . so I allowed him a few moments' rest."

"Enough of this humbug!" shouted M. Weber. And, turning to the
policemen, "Take him back to the Santé. And keep your eyes open, damn
it! As for this visitor . . ."

Lupin learnt nothing more as to Weber's intentions with regard to old
Steinweg. A crowd of municipal guards and police constables hustled him
down to the prison-van.

On the stairs Doudeville whispered:

"Weber had a line to warn him. It told him to mind the confrontation and
to be on his guard with Steinweg. The note was signed 'L. M.'"

But Lupin hardly bothered his head about all this. What did he care for
the murderer's hatred or old Steinweg's fate? He possessed Rudolf
Kesselbach's secret!



CHAPTER X

LUPIN'S GREAT SCHEME


Contrary to his expectations, Lupin had no sort of annoyance to undergo
in consequence of his assault on M. Formerie.

The examining-magistrate came to the Santé in person, two days later,
and told him, with some embarrassment and with an affectation of
kindness, that he did not intend to pursue the matter further.

"Nor I, either," retorted Lupin.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean that I shall send no communication to the press about this
particular matter nor do anything that might expose you to ridicule,
Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. The scandal shall not be made public, I
promise. That is what you want, is it not?"

M. Formerie blushed and, without replying, continued:

"Only, henceforth, your examinations will take place here."

"It's quite right that the law should put itself out for Lupin!" said
that gentleman.

The announcement of this decision, which interrupted his almost daily
meetings with the Doudevilles, did not disturb Lupin. He had taken his
precautions from the first day, by giving the Doudevilles all the
necessary instructions and, now that the preparations were nearly
completed, reckoned upon being able to turn old Steinweg's confidences
to the best account without delay and to obtain his liberty by one of
the most extraordinary and ingenious schemes that had ever entered his
brain.

His method of correspondence was a simple one; and he had devised it at
once. Every morning he was supplied with sheets of paper in numbered
packets. He made these into envelopes; and, every evening, the
envelopes, duly folded and gummed, were fetched away. Now Lupin,
noticing that his packet always bore the same number, had drawn the
inference that the distribution of the numbered packets was always
affected in the same order among the prisoners who had chosen that
particular kind of work. Experience showed that he was right.

It only remained for the Doudevilles to bribe one of the employees of
the private firm entrusted with the supply and dispatch of the
envelopes. This was easily done; and, thenceforward, Lupin, sure of
success, had only to wait quietly until the sign agreed upon between him
and his friends appeared upon the top sheet of the packet.

On the sixth day, he gave an exclamation of delight:

"At last!" he said.

He took a tiny bottle from a hiding-place, uncorked it, moistened the
tip of his forefinger with the liquid which it contained and passed his
finger over the third sheet in the packet.

In a moment, strokes appeared, then letters, then words and sentences.

He read:

      "All well. Steinweg free. Hiding in country. Geneviève
      Ernemont good health. Often goes Hôtel Bristol to see
      Mrs. Kesselbach, who is ill. Meets Pierre Leduc there
      every time. Answer by same means. No danger."

So communications were established with the outside. Once more, Lupin's
efforts were crowned with success. All that he had to do now was to
execute his plan and lead the press campaign which he had prepared in
the peaceful solitude of his prison.

Three days later, these few lines appeared in the _Grand Journal_:

      "Quite apart from Prince Bismarck's _Memoirs_, which,
      according to well-informed people, contain merely the
      official history of the events in which the great
      chancellor was concerned, there exists a series of
      confidential letters of no little interest.

      "These letters have been recently discovered. We hear,
      on good authority, that they will be published almost
      immediately."

My readers will remember the noise which these mysterious sentences made
throughout the civilized world, the comments in which people indulged,
the suggestions put forward and, in particular, the controversy that
followed in the German press. Who had inspired those lines? What were
the letters in question? Who had written them to the chancellor or who
had received them from him? Was it an act of posthumous revenge? Or was
it an indiscretion committed by one of Bismarck's correspondents?

A second note settled public opinion as to certain points, but, at the
same time, worked it up to a strange pitch of excitement. It ran as
follows:

      "_To the Editor of the Grand Journal_,
                                  "SANTÉ PALACE,
                           "Cell 14, Second Division.

      "SIR,

      "You inserted in your issue of Tuesday last a
      paragraph based upon a few words which I let fall, the
      other evening, in the course of a lecture, which I was
      delivering at the Santé on foreign politics. Your
      correspondent's paragraph, although accurate in all
      essential particulars, requires a slight correction.
      The letters exist, as stated, and it is impossible to
      deny their exceptional importance, seeing that, for
      ten years, they have been the object of an
      uninterrupted search on the part of the government
      interested. But nobody knows where they are hidden and
      nobody knows a single word of what they contain.

      "The public, I am convinced, will bear me no ill-will
      if I keep it waiting for some time before satisfying
      its legitimate curiosity. Apart from the fact that I
      am not in possession of all the elements necessary for
      the pursuit of the truth, my present occupation does
      not allow me to devote so much time as I could wish to
      this matter.

      "All that I can say for the moment is that the letters
      were entrusted by the dying statesman to one of his
      most faithful friends and that this friend had
      eventually to suffer the serious consequences of his
      loyalty. Constant spying, domiciliary visits, nothing
      was spared him.

      "I have given orders to two of the best agents of my
      secret police to take up this scent from the start in
      a position to get to the bottom of this exciting
      mystery.

            "I have the honor to be Sir,
                     "Your obedient servant,
                                   "ARSÈNE LUPIN."

So it was Arsène Lupin who was conducting the case! It was he who, from
his prison cell, was stage-managing the comedy or the tragedy announced
in the first note. What luck! Everybody was delighted. With an artist
like Lupin, the spectacle could not fail to be both picturesque and
startling.

Three days later the _Grand Journal_ contained the following letter from
Arsène Lupin:

      "The name of the devoted friend to whom I referred has
      been imparted to me. It was the Grand-Duke Hermann
      III., reigning (although dispossessed) sovereign of
      the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken-Veldenz and a confidant
      of Prince Bismarck, whose entire friendship he
      enjoyed.

      "A thorough search was made of his house by Count von
      W----, at the head of twelve men. The result of this
      search was purely negative, but the grand-duke was
      nevertheless proved to be in possession of the papers.

      "Where had he hidden them? This was a problem which
      probably nobody in the world would be able to solve at
      the present moment.

      "I must ask for twenty-four hours in which to solve
      it.

                                   "ARSÈNE LUPIN."

And, twenty-four hours later, the promised note appeared:

      "The famous letters are hidden in the feudal castle of
      Veldenz, the capital of the Grand-duchy of
      Zweibrucken. The castle was partly destroyed in the
      course of the nineteenth century.

      "Where exactly are they hidden? And what are the
      letters precisely? These are the two problems which I
      am now engaged in unravelling; and I shall publish the
      solution in four days' time.

                                   "ARSÈNE LUPIN."

On the day stated, men scrambled to obtain copies of the _Grand
Journal_. To the general disappointment, the promised information was
not given. The same silence followed on the next day and the day after.

What had happened?

It leaked out through an indiscretion at the Prefecture of Police. The
governor of the Santé, it appeared, had been warned that Lupin was
communicating with his accomplices by means of the packets of envelopes
which he made. Nothing had been discovered; but it was thought best, in
any case, to forbid all work to the insufferable prisoner.

To this the insufferable prisoner replied:

"As I have nothing to do now, I may as well attend to my trial. Please
let my counsel, Maître Quimbel, know."

It was true. Lupin, who, hitherto, had refused to hold any intercourse
with Maître Quimbel, now consented to see him and to prepare his
defence.

On the next day Maître Quimbel, in cheery tones, asked for Lupin to be
brought to the barristers' room. He was an elderly man, wearing a pair
of very powerful spectacles, which made his eyes seem enormous. He put
his hat on the table, spread out his brief-case and at once began to put
a series of questions which he had carefully prepared.

Lupin replied with extreme readiness and even volunteered a host of
particulars, which Maître Quimbel took down, as he spoke, on slips
pinned one to the other.

"And so you say," continued the barrister, with his head over his
papers, "that, at that time . . ."

"I say that, at that time . . ." Lupin answered.

Little by little, with a series of natural and hardly perceptible
movements, he leant elbows on the table. He gradually lowered his arms,
slipped his hand under Maître Quimbel's hat, put his finger into the
leather band and took out one of those strips of paper, folded
lengthwise, which the hatter inserts between the leather and the lining
when the hat is a trifle too large.

He unfolded the paper. It was a message from Doudeville, written in a
cipher agreed upon beforehand:

      "I am engaged as indoor servant at Maître Quimbel's.
      You can answer by the same means without fear.

      "It was L. M., the murderer, who gave away the
      envelope trick. A good thing that you foresaw this
      move!"

Hereupon followed a minute report of all the facts and comments caused
by Lupin's revelations.

Lupin took from his pocket a similar strip of paper containing his
instructions, quietly substituted it in the place of the other and drew
his hand back again. The trick was played.

And Lupin's correspondence with the _Grand Journal_ was resumed without
further delay.

      "I apologize to the public for not keeping my promise.
      The postal arrangements at the Santé Palace are
      woefully inadequate.

      "However, we are near the end. I have in hand all the
      documents that establish the truth upon an
      indisputable basis. I shall not publish them for the
      moment. Nevertheless, I will say this: among the
      letters are some that were addressed to the chancellor
      by one who, at that time, declared himself his
      disciple and his admirer and who was destined, several
      years after, to rid himself of that irksome tutor and
      to govern alone.

      "I trust that I make myself sufficiently clear."

And, on the next day:

      "The letters were written during the late Emperor's
      illness. I need hardly add more to prove their
      importance."

Four days of silence, and then this final note, which caused a stir that
has not yet been forgotten:

      "My investigation is finished. I now know everything.

      "By dint of reflection, I have guessed the secret of
      the hiding-place.

      "My friends are going to Veldenz and, in spite of
      every obstacle, will enter the castle by a way which I
      am pointing out to them.

      "The newspapers will then publish photographs of the
      letters, of which I already know the tenor; but I
      prefer to reproduce the whole text.

      "This certain, inevitable publication will take place
      in a fortnight from to-day precisely, on the 22nd of
      August next.

      "Between this and then I will keep silence . . . and
      wait."

The communications to the _Grand Journal_ did, in fact, stop for a time,
but Lupin never ceased corresponding with his friends, "_via_ the hat,"
as they said among themselves. It was so simple! There was no danger.
Who could ever suspect that Maître Quimbel's hat served Lupin as a
letter-box?

Every two or three mornings, whenever he called, in fact, the celebrated
advocate faithfully brought his client's letters: letters from Paris,
letters from the country, letters from Germany; all reduced and
condensed by Doudeville into a brief form and cipher language. And, an
hour later, Maître Quimbel solemnly walked away, carrying Lupin's
orders.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, one day, the governor of the Santé received a telephone message,
signed, "L. M.," informing him that Maître Quimbel was, in all
probability, serving Lupin as his unwitting postman and that it would be
advisable to keep an eye upon the worthy man's visits. The governor told
Maître Quimbel, who thereupon resolved to bring his junior with him.

So, once again, in spite of all Lupin's efforts, in spite of his fertile
powers of invention, in spite of the marvels of ingenuity which he
renewed after each defeat, once again Lupin found himself cut off from
communication with the outside world by the infernal genius of his
formidable adversary. And he found himself thus cut off at the most
critical moment, at the solemn minute when, from his cell, he was
playing his last trump-card against the coalesced forces that were
overwhelming him so terribly.

             *       *       *       *       *

On the 13th of August, as he sat facing the two counsels, his attention
was attracted by a newspaper in which some of Maître Quimbel's papers
were wrapped up.

He saw a heading in very large type

                            "813"

The sub-headings were:

                       "A FRESH MURDER

                  "THE EXCITEMENT IN GERMANY

       "HAS THE SECRET OF THE 'APOON' BEEN DISCOVERED?"

Lupin turned pale with anguish. Below he read the words:

      "Two sensational telegrams reach us at the moment of
      going to press.

      "The body of an old man has been found near Augsburg,
      with his throat cut with a knife. The police have
      succeeded in identifying the victim: it is Steinweg,
      the man mentioned in the Kesselbach case.

      "On the other hand, a correspondent telegraphs that
      the famous English detective, Holmlock Shears, has
      been hurriedly summoned to Cologne. He will there meet
      the Emperor; and they will both proceed to Veldenz
      Castle.

      "Holmlock Shears is said to have undertaken to
      discover the secret of the 'APOON.'

      "If he succeeds, it will mean the pitiful failure of
      the incomprehensible campaign which Arsène Lupin has
      been conducting for the past month in so strange a
      fashion."

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps public curiosity was never so much stirred as by the duel
announced to take place between Shears and Lupin, an invisible duel in
the circumstances, an anonymous duel, one might say, in which everything
would happen in the dark, in which people would be able to judge only by
the final results, and yet an impressive duel, because of all the
scandal that circled around the adventure and because of the stakes in
dispute between the two irreconcilable enemies, now once more opposed to
each other.

And it was a question not of small private interests, of insignificant
burglaries, of trumpery individual passions, but of a matter of really
world-wide importance, involving the politics of the three great western
nations and capable of disturbing the peace of the world.

People waited anxiously; and no one knew exactly what he was waiting
for. For, after all, if the detective came out victorious in the duel,
if he found the letters, who would ever know? What proof would any one
have of his triumph?

In the main, all hopes were centred on Lupin, on his well-known habit
of calling the public to witness his acts. What was he going to do? How
could he avert the frightful danger that threatened him? Was he even
aware of it?

Those were the questions which men asked themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

Between the four walls of his cell, prisoner 14 asked himself pretty
nearly the same questions; and he for his part, was not stimulated by
idle curiosity, but by real uneasiness, by constant anxiety. He felt
himself irrevocably alone, with impotent hands, an impotent will, an
impotent brain. It availed him nothing that he was able, ingenious,
fearless, heroic. The struggle was being carried on without him. His
part was now finished. He had joined all the pieces and set all the
springs of the great machine that was to produce, that was, in a manner
of speaking, automatically to manufacture his liberty; and it was
impossible for him to make a single movement to improve and supervise
his handiwork.

At the date fixed, the machine would start working. Between now and
then, a thousand adverse incidents might spring up, a thousand obstacles
arise, without his having the means to combat those incidents or remove
those obstacles.

Lupin spent the unhappiest hours of his life at that time. He doubted
himself. He wondered whether his existence would be buried for good in
the horror of a jail. Had he not made a mistake in his calculations? Was
it not childish to believe that the event that was to set him free would
happen on the appointed date?

"Madness!" he cried. "My argument is false. . . . How can I expect such
a concurrence of circumstances? There will be some little fact that
will destroy all . . . the inevitable grain of sand. . . ."

Steinweg's death and the disappearance of the documents which the old
man was to make over to him did not trouble him greatly. The documents
he could have done without in case of need; and, with the few words
which Steinweg had told him, he was able, by dint of guess-work and his
native genius, to reconstruct what the Emperor's letters contained and
to draw up the plan of battle that would lead to victory. But he thought
of Holmlock Shears, who was over there now, in the very centre of the
battlefield, and who was seeking and who would find the letters, thus
demolishing the edifice so patiently built up.

And he thought of "the other one," the implacable enemy, lurking round
the prison, hidden in the prison, perhaps, who guessed his most secret
plans even before they were hatched in the mystery of his thought.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 17th of August! . . . The 18th of August! . . . The 19th! . . . Two
more days. . . . Two centuries rather! Oh, the interminable minutes!
. . .

Lupin, usually so calm, so entirely master of himself, so ingenious at
providing matter for his own amusement, was feverish, exultant and
depressed by turns, powerless against the enemy, mistrusting everything
and everybody, morose.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 20th of August! . . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

He would have wished to act and he could not. Whatever he did, it was
impossible for him to hasten the hour of the catastrophe. This
catastrophe would take place or would not take place; but Lupin would
not know for certain until the last hour of the last day was spent to
the last minute. Then--and then alone--he would know of the definite
failure of his scheme.

"The inevitable failure," he kept on repeating to himself. "Success
depends upon circumstances far too subtle and can be obtained only by
methods far too psychological. . . . There is no doubt that I am
deceiving myself as to the value and the range of my weapons. . . . And
yet . . ."

Hope returned to him. He weighed his chances. They suddenly seemed to
him real and formidable. The fact was going to happen as he had foreseen
it happening and for the very reasons which he had expected. It was
inevitable. . . .

Yes, inevitable. Unless, indeed, Shears discovered the hiding-place.
. . .

And again he thought of Shears; and again an immense sense of
discouragement overwhelmed him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The last day. . . .

He woke late, after a night of bad dreams.

He saw nobody that day, neither the examining magistrate nor his
counsel.

The afternoon dragged along slowly and dismally, and the evening came,
the murky evening of the cells. . . . He was in a fever. His heart beat
in his chest like the clapper of a bell.

And the minutes passed, irretrievably. . . .

At nine o'clock, nothing. At ten o'clock, nothing.

With all his nerves tense as the string of a bow, he listened to the
vague prison sounds, tried to catch through those inexorable walls all
that might trickle in from the life outside.

Oh, how he would have liked to stay the march of time and to give
destiny a little more leisure!

But what was the good? Was everything not finished? . . .

"Oh," he cried, "I am going mad! If all this were only over . . . that
would be better. I can begin again, differently. . . . I shall try
something else . . . but I can't go on like this, I can't go on. . . ."

He held his head in his hands, pressing it with all his might, locking
himself within himself and concentrating his whole mind upon one
subject, as though he wished to provoke, as though he wished to create
the formidable, stupefying, inadmissible event to which he had attached
his independence and his fortune:

"It must happen," he muttered, "it must; and it must, not because I wish
it, but because it is logical. And it shall happen . . . it shall
happen. . . ."

He beat his skull with his fists; and delirious words rose to his lips.
. . .

The key grated in the lock. In his frenzy, he had not heard the sound of
footsteps in the corridor; and now, suddenly, a ray of light penetrated
into his cell and the door opened.

Three men entered.

Lupin had not a moment of surprise.

The unheard-of miracle was being worked; and this at once seemed to him
natural and normal, in perfect agreement with truth and justice.

But a rush of pride flooded his whole being. At this minute he really
received a clear sensation of his own strength and intelligence. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

"Shall I switch on the light?" asked one of the three men, in whom
Lupin recognized the governor of the prison.

"No," replied the taller of his companions, speaking in a foreign
accent. "This lantern will do."

"Shall I go?"

"Act according to your duty, sir," said the same individual.

"My instructions from the prefect of police are to comply entirely with
your wishes."

"In that case, sir, it would be preferable that you should withdraw."

M. Borély went away, leaving the door half open, and remained outside,
within call.

The visitor exchanged a few words with the one who had not yet spoken;
and Lupin vainly tried to distinguish his features in the shade. He saw
only two dark forms, clad in wide motoring-cloaks and wearing caps with
the flaps lowered.

"Are you Arsène Lupin?" asked the man, turning the light of the lantern
full on his face.

He smiled:

"Yes, I am the person known as Arsène Lupin, at present a prisoner in
the Santé, cell 14, second division."

"Was it you," continued the visitor, "who published in the _Grand
Journal_ a series of more or less fanciful notes, in which there is a
question of a so-called collection of letters . . . ?"

Lupin interrupted him.

"I beg your pardon, sir, but, before pursuing this conversation, the
object of which, between ourselves, is none too clear to me, I should be
much obliged if you would tell me to whom I have the honour of
speaking."

"Absolutely unnecessary," replied the stranger.

"Absolutely essential," declared Lupin.

"Why?"

"For reasons of politeness, sir. You know my name and I do not know
yours; this implies a disregard of good form which I cannot suffer."

The stranger lost patience:

"The mere fact that the governor of the prison brought us here shows
. . ."

"That M. Borély does not know his manners," said Lupin. "M. Borély
should have introduced us to each other. We are equals here, sir: it is
no case of a superior and an inferior, of a prisoner and a visitor who
condescends to come and see him. There are two men here; and one of
those two men has a hat on his head, which he ought not to have."

"Now look here . . ."

"Take the lesson as you please, sir," said Lupin.

The stranger came closer to him and tried to speak.

"The hat first," said Lupin, "the hat. . . ."

"You shall listen to me!"

"No."

"Yes."

"No."

Matters were becoming virulent, stupidly. The second stranger, the one
who had kept silent, placed his hand on his companion's shoulder and
said, in German:

"Leave him to me."

"Why, it was understood . . ."

"Hush . . . and go away!"

"Leaving you alone?"

"Yes."

"But the door?"

"Shut it and walk away."

"But this man . . . you know who he is. . . . Arsène Lupin. . . ."

"Go away!"

The other went out, cursing under his breath.

"Pull the door!" cried the second visitor. "Harder than that. . . .
Altogether! . . . That's right. . . ."

Then he turned, took the lantern and raised it slowly:

"Shall I tell you who I am?" he asked.

"No," replied Lupin.

"And why?"

"Because I know."

"Ah!"

"You are the visitor I was expecting."

"I?"

"Yes, Sire."



CHAPTER XI

CHARLEMAGNE


"Silence!" said the stranger, sharply. "Don't use that word."

"Then what shall I call Your . . ."

"Call me nothing."

They were both silent; and this moment of respite was not one of those
which go before the struggle of two adversaries ready for the fray. The
stranger strode to and fro with the air of a master accustomed to
command and to be obeyed. Lupin stood motionless. He had abandoned his
usual provocative attitude and his sarcastic smile. He waited, gravely
and deferentially. But, down in the depths of his being, he revelled,
eagerly, madly, in the marvellous situation in which he found himself
placed: here, in his cell, he, a prisoner; he, the adventurer; he, the
swindler, the burglar; he, Arsène Lupin . . . face to face with that
demi-god of the modern world, that formidable entity, the heir of Cæsar
and of Charlemagne.

He was intoxicated for a moment with the sense of his own power. The
tears came to his eyes when he thought of his triumph. . . .

The stranger stood still.

And at once, with the very first sentence, they came to the immediate
point:

"To-morrow is the 22nd of August. The letters are to be published
to-morrow, are they not?"

"To-night, in two hours from now, my friends are to hand in to the
_Grand Journal_, not the letters themselves, but an exact list of the
letters, with the Grand-duke Hermann's annotations."

"That list shall not be handed in."

"It shall not be."

"You will give it to me."

"It shall be placed in the hands of Your . . . in your hands."

"Likewise, all the letters?"

"Likewise, all the letters."

"Without any of them being photographed?"

"Without any of them being photographed."

The stranger spoke in a very calm voice, containing not the least accent
of entreaty nor the least inflection of authority. He neither ordered
nor requested; he stated the inevitable actions of Arsène Lupin. Things
would happen as he said. And they would happen, whatever Arsène Lupin's
demands should be, at whatever price he might value the performance of
those actions. The conditions were accepted beforehand.

"By Jove," said Lupin to himself, "that's jolly clever of him! If he
leaves it to my generosity, I am a ruined man!"

The very way in which the conversation opened, the frankness of the
words employed, the charm of voice and manner all pleased him
infinitely.

He pulled himself together, lest he should relent and abandon all the
advantages which he had conquered so fiercely.

And the stranger continued:

"Have you read the letters?"

"No."

"But some one you know has read them?"

"No."

"In that case . . ."

"I have the grand-duke's list and his notes. Moreover, I know the
hiding-place where he put all his papers."

"Why did you not take them before this?"

"I did not know the secret of the hiding-place until I came here. My
friends are on the way there now."

"The castle is guarded. It is occupied by two hundred of my most trusty
men."

"Ten thousand would not be sufficient."

After a minute's reflection, the visitor asked:

"How do you know the secret?"

"I guessed it."

"But you had other elements of information which the papers did not
publish?"

"No, none at all."

"And yet I had the castle searched for four days."

"Holmlock Shears looked in the wrong place."

"Ah!" said the stranger to himself. "It's an odd thing, an odd thing!
. . ." And, to Lupin, "You are sure that your supposition is correct?"

"It is not a supposition: it is a certainty."

"So much the better," muttered the visitor. "There will be no rest until
those papers cease to exist."

And, placing himself in front of Arsène Lupin:

"How much?"

"What?" said Lupin, taken aback.

"How much for the papers? How much do you ask to reveal the secret?"

He waited for Lupin to name a figure. He suggested one himself:

"Fifty thousand? . . . A hundred thousand?"

And, when Lupin did not reply, he said, with a little hesitation:

"More? Two hundred thousand? Very well! I agree."

Lupin smiled and, in a low voice, said:

"It is a handsome figure. But is it not likely that some sovereign, let
us say, the King of England, would give as much as a million? In all
sincerity?"

"I believe so."

"And that those letters are priceless to the Emperor, that they are
worth two million quite as easily as two hundred thousand francs . . .
three million as easily as two?"

"I think so."

"And, if necessary, the Emperor would give that three million francs?"

"Yes."

"Then it will not be difficult to come to an arrangement."

"On that basis?" cried the stranger, not without some alarm.

Lupin smiled again:

"On that basis, no. . . . I am not looking for money. I want something
else, something that is worth more to me than any number of millions."

"What is that?"

"My liberty."

"What! Your liberty. . . . But I can do nothing. . . . That concerns
your country . . . the law. . . . I have no power."

Lupin went up to him and, lowering his voice still more:

"You have every power, Sire. . . . My liberty is not such an exceptional
event that they are likely to refuse you."

"Then I should have to ask for it?"

"Yes."

"Of whom?"

"Of Valenglay, the prime minister."

"But M. Valenglay himself can do no more than I."

"He can open the doors of this prison for me."

"It would cause a public outcry."

"When I say, open . . . half-open would be enough . . . We should
counterfeit an escape. . . . The public so thoroughly expects it that it
would not so much as ask for an explanation."

"Very well . . . but M. Valenglay will never consent. . . ."

"He will consent."

"Why?"

"Because you will express the wish."

"My wishes are not commands . . . to him!"

"No . . . but an opportunity of making himself agreeable to the Emperor
by fulfilling them. And Valenglay is too shrewd a politician. . . ."

"Nonsense! Do you imagine that the French government will commit so
illegal an act for the sole pleasure of making itself agreeable to me?"

"That pleasure will not be the sole one."

"What will be the other?"

"The pleasure of serving France by accepting the proposal which will
accompany the request for my release."

"I am to make a proposal? I?"

"Yes, Sire."

"What proposal?"

"I do not know, but it seems to me that there is always a favorable
ground on which to come to an understanding . . . there are
possibilities of agreement. . . ."

The stranger looked at him, without grasping his meaning. Lupin leant
forward and, as though seeking his words, as though putting an imaginary
case, said:

"Let me suppose that two great countries are divided by some
insignificant question . . . that they have different points of view on
a matter of secondary importance . . . a colonial matter, for instance,
in which their self-esteem is at stake rather than their interest. . . .
Is it inconceivable that the ruler of one of those countries might come
of his own accord to treat this matter in a new spirit of conciliation
. . . and give the necessary instructions . . . so that . . ."

"So that I might leave Morocco to France?" said the stranger, with a
burst of laughter.

The idea which Lupin was suggesting struck him as the most comical thing
that he had ever heard; and he laughed heartily. The disparity was so
great between the object aimed at and the means proposed!

"Of course, of course!" he resumed, with a vain attempt to recover his
seriousness. "Of course, it's a very original idea: the whole of modern
politics upset so that Arsène Lupin may be free! . . . The plans of the
Empire destroyed so that Arsène Lupin may continue his exploits! . . .
Why not ask me for Alsace and Lorraine at once?"

"I did think of it, Sire," replied Lupin, calmly. The stranger's
merriment increased:

"Splendid! And you let me off?"

"This time, yes."

Lupin had crossed his arms. He, too, was amusing himself by
exaggerating the part which he was playing; and he continued, with
affected seriousness:

"A series of circumstances might one day arise which would put in my
hands the power of _demanding_ and _obtaining_ that restitution. When
that day comes, I shall certainly not fail to do so. For the moment, the
weapons at my disposal oblige me to be more modest. Peace in Morocco
will satisfy me."

"Just that?"

"Just that."

"Morocco against your liberty!"

"Nothing more . . . or, rather--for we must not lose sight entirely of
the main object of this conversation--or, rather, a little good will on
the part of one of the countries in question . . . and, in exchange, the
surrender of the letters which are in my power."

"Those letters, those letters!" muttered the stranger irritably. "After
all, perhaps they are not so valuable. . . ."

"There are some in your own hand, Sire; and you considered them valuable
enough to come to this cell. . . ."

"Well, what does it matter?"

"But there are others of which you do not know the authorship and about
which I can give you a few particulars."

"Oh, indeed!" said the stranger, rather anxiously.

Lupin hesitated.

"Speak, speak plainly," said the stranger. "Say what you have in your
mind."

In the profound silence of the cell, Lupin declared, with a certain
solemnity:

"Twenty years ago a draft treaty was prepared between Germany, Great
Britain, and France."

"That's not true! It's impossible! Who could have done such a thing?"

"The Emperor's father and the Queen of England, his grandmother, both
acting under the influence of the Empress Frederick."

"Impossible! I repeat, it is impossible!"

"The correspondence is in the hiding-place at Veldenz Castle; and I
alone know the secret of the hiding-place."

The stranger walked up and down with an agitated step. Then he stopped
short:

"Is the text of the treaty included in that correspondence?"

"Yes, Sire. It is in your father's own hand."

"And what does it say?"

"By that treaty, France and Great Britain granted and promised Germany
an immense colonial empire, the empire which she does not at present
possess and which has become a necessity to her, in these times, to
ensure her greatness."

"And what did England demand as a set-off against that empire?"

"The limitation of the German fleet."

"And France?"

"Alsace and Lorraine."

The Emperor leant against the table in silent thought. Lupin continued:

"Everything was ready. The cabinets of Paris and London had been sounded
and had consented. The thing was practically done. The great treaty of
alliance was on the point of being concluded. It would have laid the
foundations of a definite and universal peace. The death of your father
destroyed that sublime dream. But I ask Your Imperial Majesty, what
will your people think, what will the world think, when it knows that
Frederick III., one of the heroes of 1870, a German, a pure and loyal
German, respected by all, generally admired for his nobility of
character, agreed to the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine and therefore
considered that restitution just?"

He was silent for an instant leaving the problem to fix itself in its
precise terms before the Emperor's conscience, before his conscience as
a man, a son and a sovereign. Then he concluded:

"Your Imperial Majesty yourself must know whether you wish or do not
wish history to record the existence of that treaty. As for me, Sire,
you can see that my humble personality counts for very little in the
discussion."

A long pause followed upon Lupin's words. He waited, with his soul torn
with anguish. His whole destiny was at stake, in this minute which he
had conceived and, in a manner, produced with such effort and such
stubbornness, an historic minute, born of his brain, in which "his
humble personality," for all that he might say, weighed heavily upon the
fate of empires and the peace of the world.

Opposite him, in the shadow, Cæsar stood meditating.

What answer would he make? What solution would he give to the problem?

He walked across the cell for a few moments, which to Lupin seemed
interminable. Then he stopped and asked:

"Are there any other conditions?"

"Yes, Sire, but they are insignificant."

"Name them."

"I have found the son of the Grand-duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz. The
grand-duchy must be restored to him."

"Anything else?"

"He loves a young girl, who loves him in her turn. She is the fairest
and the most virtuous of her sex. He must marry her."

"Anything else?"

"That is all."

"There is nothing more?"

"Nothing. Your majesty need only have this letter delivered to the
editor of the _Grand Journal_, who will then destroy, unread, the
article which he may now receive at any moment."

Lupin held out the letter, with a heavy heart and a trembling hand. If
the Emperor took it, that would be a sign of his acceptance.

The Emperor hesitated and then, with an abrupt movement, took the
letter, put on his hat, wrapped his cloak round him and walked out
without a word.

Lupin remained for a few seconds, staggering, as though dazed. . . .

Then, suddenly, he fell into his chair, shouting with joy and pride.
. . .

       *       *       *       *       *

"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I am sorry to say good-bye to you
to-day."

"Why, M. Lupin, are you thinking of leaving us?"

"With the greatest reluctance, I assure you, Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction. Our relations have been so very pleasant and cordial! But
all good things must come to an end. My cure at the Santé Palace is
finished. Other duties call me. I have resolved to make my escape
to-night."

"Then I wish you good luck, M. Lupin."

"A thousand thanks, M. le Juge d'Instruction."

Arsène Lupin waited patiently for the hour of his escape, not without
asking himself how it would be contrived and by what means France and
Germany, uniting for the joint performance of this deserving work, would
succeed in effecting it without creating too great a scandal.

Late in the afternoon, the warder told him to go to the entrance-yard.
He hurried out and was met by the governor, who handed him ever to M.
Weber. M. Weber made him step into a motor-car in which somebody was
already seated.

Lupin had a violent fit of laughter:

"What, you, my poor old Weber! Have they let you in for this tiresome
job? Are you to be responsible for my escape? Upon my word, you are an
unlucky beggar! Oh, my poor old chap, what hard lines! First made famous
through my arrest, you are now to become immortal through my escape!"

He looked at the other man:

"Well, well, Monsieur le Préfet de Police, so you are in the business
too! That's a nasty thing for you, what? If you take my advice, you'll
stay in the background and leave the honor and glory to Weber! It's his
by right! . . . And he can stand a lot, the rascal!"

The car travelled at a fast pace, along the Seine and through Boulogne.
At Saint-Cloud, they crossed the river.

"Splendid!" cried Lupin. "We're going to Garches! You want me there, in
order to reënact the death of Altenheim. We shall go down into the
underground passage, I shall disappear and people will say that I got
through another outlet, known to myself alone! Lord, how idiotic!"

He seemed quite unhappy about it:

"Idiotic! Idiotic in the highest degree! I blush for shame! . . . And
those are the people who govern us! . . . What an age to live in! . . .
But, you poor devils, why didn't you come to me? I'd have invented a
beautiful little escape for you, something of a miraculous nature. I had
it all ready pigeon-holed in my mind! The public would have yelled with
wonder and danced with delight. Instead of which . . . However, it's
quite true that you were given rather short notice . . . but all the
same . . ."

The programme was exactly as Lupin had foreseen. They walked through the
grounds of the House of Retreat to the Pavillon Hortense. Lupin and his
two companions went down the stairs and along the underground passage.
At the end of the tunnel, the deputy-chief said:

"You are free."

"And there you are!" said Lupin. "Is that all? Well, my dear Weber,
thank you very much and sorry to have given you so much trouble.
Good-bye, Monsieur le Préfet; kind regards to the missus!"

He climbed the stairs that led to the Villa des Glycines, raised the
trap-door and sprang into the room.

A hand fell on his shoulder.

Opposite him stood his first visitor of the day before, the one who had
accompanied the Emperor. There were four men with him, two on either
side.

"Look here," said Lupin, "what's the meaning of this joke? I thought I
was free!"

"Yes, yes," growled the German, in his rough voice, "you are free . . .
free to travel with the five of us . . . if that suits you."

Lupin looked at him, for a second, with a mad longing to hit him on the
nose, just to teach him. But the five men looked devilish determined.
Their leader did not betray any exaggerated fondness for him; and it
seemed to him that the fellow would be only too pleased to resort to
extreme measures. Besides, after all, what did he care?

He chuckled:

"If it suits me? Why, it's the dream of my life!"

A powerful covered car was waiting in the paved yard outside the villa.
Two men got into the driver's seat, two others inside, with their backs
to the motor. Lupin and the stranger sat down on the front seat.

"_Vorwarts!_" cried Lupin, in German. "_Vorwarts nach Veldenz!_"

The stranger said:

"Silence! Those men must know nothing. Speak French. They don't know
French. But why speak at all?"

"Quite right," said Lupin to himself. "Why speak at all?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The car travelled all the evening and all night, without any incident.
Twice they stopped to take in petrol at some sleepy little town.

The Germans took it in turns to watch their prisoner, who did not open
his eyes until the early morning.

They stopped for breakfast at an inn on a hillside, near which stood a
sign-post. Lupin saw that they were at an equal distance from Metz and
Luxemburg. From there, they took a road that slanted north-east, in the
direction of Treves.

Lupin said to his travelling-companion:

"Am I right in believing that I have the honor of speaking to Count von
Waldemar, the Emperor's confidential friend, the one who searched
Hermann III.'s house in Dresden?"

The stranger remained silent.

"You're the sort of chap I can't stand at any price," muttered Lupin.
"I'll have some fun with you, one of these days. You're ugly, you're
fat, you're heavy; in short, I don't like you." And he added, aloud,
"You are wrong not to answer me, Monsieur le Comte. I was speaking in
your own interest: just as we were stepping in, I saw a motor come into
sight, behind us, on the horizon. Did you see it?"

"No, why?"

"Nothing."

"Still. . . ."

"No, nothing at all . . . a mere remark. . . . Besides, we are ten
minutes ahead . . . and our car is at least a forty-horse-power."

"It's a sixty," said the German, looking at him uneasily from the corner
of his eye.

"Oh, then we're all right!"

They were climbing a little slope. When they reached the top, the count
leant out of the window:

"Damn it all!" he swore.

"What's the matter?" asked Lupin.

The count turned to him and, in a threatening voice:

"Take care! If anything happens, it will be so much the worse for you."

"Oho! It seems the other's gaining on us! . . . But what are you afraid
of, my dear count? It's no doubt a traveller . . . perhaps even some
one they are sending to help us."

"I don't want any help," growled the German.

He leant out again. The car was only two or three hundred yards behind.

He said to his men, pointing to Lupin.

"Bind him. If he resists. . . ."

He drew his revolver.

"Why should I resist, O gentle Teuton?" chuckled Lupin. And he added,
while they were fastening his hands, "It is really curious to see how
people take precautions when they need not and don't when they ought to.
What the devil do you care about that motor? Accomplices of mine? What
an idea!"

Without replying, the German gave orders to the driver:

"To the right! . . . Slow down! . . . Let them pass. . . . If they slow
down also, stop!"

But, to his great surprise, the motor seemed, on the contrary, to
increase its speed. It passed in front of the car like a whirlwind, in a
cloud of dust. Standing up at the back, leaning over the hood, which was
lowered, was a man dressed in black.

He raised his arm.

Two shots rang out.

The count, who was blocking the whole of the left window, fell back into
the car.

Before even attending to him, the two men leapt upon Lupin and finished
securing him.

"Jackasses! Blockheads!" shouted Lupin, shaking with rage. "Let me go,
on the contrary! There now, we're stopping! But go after him, you silly
fools, catch him up! . . . It's the man in black, I tell you, the
murderer! . . . Oh, the idiots! . . ."

They gagged him. Then they attended to the count. The wound did not
appear to be serious and was soon dressed. But the patient, who was in a
very excited state, had an attack of fever and became delirious.

It was eight o'clock in the morning. They were in the open country, far
from any village. The men had no information as to the exact object of
the journey. Where were they to go? Whom were they to send to?

They drew up the motor beside a wood and waited. The whole day went by
in this way. It was evening before a squad of cavalry arrived,
dispatched from Treves in search of the motor-car.

Two hours later, Lupin stepped out of the car, and still escorted by his
two Germans, by the light of a lantern climbed the steps of a staircase
that led to a small room with iron-barred windows.

Here he spent the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning, an officer led him, through a courtyard filled with
soldiers, to the centre of a long row of buildings that ran round the
foot of a mound covered with monumental ruins.

He was shown into a large, hastily-furnished room. His visitor of two
days back was sitting at a writing-table, reading newspapers and
reports, which he marked with great strokes of red pencil:

"Leave us," he said to the officer.

And, going up to Lupin:

"The papers."

The tone was no longer the same. It was now the harsh and imperious tone
of the master who is at home and addressing an inferior . . . and such
an inferior! A rogue, an adventurer of the worst type, before whom he
had been obliged to humiliate himself!

"The papers," he repeated.

Lupin was not put out of countenance. He said, quite calmly:

"They are in Veldenz Castle."

"We are in the out-buildings of the castle. Those are the ruins of
Veldenz, over there."

"The papers are in the ruins."

"Let us go to them. Show me the way."

Lupin did not budge.

"Well?"

"Well, Sire, it is not as simple as you think. It takes some time to
bring into play the elements which are needed to open that
hiding-place."

"How long do you want?"

"Twenty-four hours."

An angry movement, quickly suppressed:

"Oh, there was no question of that between us!"

"Nothing was specified, neither that nor the little trip which Your
Imperial Majesty made me take in the charge of half a dozen of your
body-guard. I am to hand over the papers, that is all."

"And I am not to give you your liberty until you do hand over those
papers."

"It is a question of confidence, Sire. I should have considered myself
quite as much bound to produce the papers if I had been free on leaving
prison; and Your Imperial Majesty may be sure that I should not have
walked off with them. The only difference is that they would now be in
your possession. For we have lost a day, Sire. And a day, in this
business . . . is a day too much. . . . Only, there it is, you should
have had confidence."

The Emperor gazed with a certain amazement at that outcast, that
vagabond, who seemed vexed that any one should doubt his word.

He did not reply, but rang the bell:

"The officer on duty," he commanded.

Count von Waldemar appeared, looking very white.

"Ah, it's you, Waldemar? So you're all right again?"

"At your service, Sire."

"Take five men with you . . . the same men, as you're sure of them.
Don't leave this . . . gentleman until to-morrow morning." He looked at
his watch. "Until to-morrow morning at ten o'clock. No, I will give him
till twelve. You will go wherever he thinks fit to go, you will do
whatever he tells you to do. In short, you are at his disposal. At
twelve o'clock, I will join you. If, at the last stroke of twelve, he
has not handed me the bundle of letters, you will put him back in your
car and, without losing a second, take him straight to the Santé
Prison."

"If he tries to escape. . . ."

"Take your own course."

He went out.

Lupin helped himself to a cigar from the table and threw himself into an
easy chair:

"Good! I just love that way of going to work. It is frank and explicit."

The count had brought in his men. He said to Lupin:

"March!"

Lupin lit his cigar and did not move.

"Bind his hands," said the count.

And, when the order was executed, he repeated:

"Now then, march!"

"No."

"What do you mean by no?"

"I'm wondering."

"What about?"

"Where on earth that hiding-place can be!"

The count gave a start and Lupin chuckled:

"For the best part of the story is that I have not the remotest idea
where that famous hiding-place is nor how to set about discovering it.
What do you say to that, my dear Waldemar, eh? Funny, isn't it? . . .
Not the very remotest idea! . . ."



CHAPTER XII

THE EMPEROR'S LETTERS


The ruins of Veldenz are well known to all who visit the banks of the
Rhine and the Moselle. They comprise the remains of the old feudal
castle, built in 1377 by the Archbishop of Fistingen, an enormous
dungeon-keep, gutted by Turenne's troops, and the walls, left standing
in their entirety, of a large Renascence palace, in which the
grand-dukes of Zweibrucken lived for three centuries.

It was this palace that was sacked by Hermann II.'s rebellious subjects.
The empty windows display two hundred yawning cavities on the four
frontages. All the wainscoting, the hangings and most of the furniture
were burnt. You walk on the scorched girders of the floors; and the sky
can be seen at intervals through the ruined ceilings.

Lupin, accompanied by his escort, went over the whole building in two
hours' time:

"I am very pleased with you, my dear count. I don't think I ever came
across a guide so well posted in his subject, nor--which is rare--so
silent. And now, if you don't mind, we will go to lunch."

As a matter of fact, Lupin knew no more than at the first moment and his
perplexity did nothing but increase. To obtain his release from prison
and to strike the imagination of his visitor, he had bluffed, pretending
to know everything; and he was still seeking for the best place at
which to begin to seek.

"Things look bad," he said to himself, from time to time. "Things are
looking about as bad as they can look."

His brain, moreover, was not as clear as usual. He was obsessed by an
idea, the idea of "the other one," the murderer, the assassin, whom he
knew to be still clinging to his footsteps.

How did that mysterious personality come to be on his tracks? How had he
heard of Lupin's leaving prison and of his rush to Luxemburg and
Germany? Was it a miraculous intuition? Or was it the outcome of
definite information? But, if so, at what price, by means of what
promises or threats was he able to obtain it?

All these questions haunted Lupin's mind.

At about four o'clock, however, after a fresh walk through the ruins, in
the course of which he had examined the stones, measured the thickness
of the walls, investigated the shape and appearance of things, all to no
purpose, he asked the count:

"Is there no one left who was in the service of the last grand-duke who
lived in the castle?"

"All the servants of that time went different ways. Only one of them
continued to live in the district."

"Well?"

"He died two years ago."

"Any children?"

"He had a son, who married and who was dismissed, with his wife, for
disgraceful conduct. They left their youngest child behind, a little
girl, Isilda."

"Where does she live?"

"She lives here, at the end of these buildings. The old grandfather
used to act as a guide to visitors, in the days when the castle was
still open to the public. Little Isilda has lived in the ruins ever
since. She was allowed to remain out of pity. She is a poor innocent,
who is hardly able to talk and does not know what she says."

"Was she always like that?"

"It seems not. Her reason went gradually, when she was about ten years
old."

"In consequence of a sorrow, of a fright?"

"No, for no direct cause, I am told. The father was a drunkard and the
mother committed suicide in a fit of madness."

Lupin reflected and said:

"I should like to see her."

The count gave a rather curious smile:

"You can see her, by all means."

She happened to be in one of the rooms which had been set apart for her.
Lupin was surprised to find an attractive little creature, too thin, too
pale, but almost pretty, with her fair hair and her delicate face. Her
sea-green eyes had the vague, dreamy look of the eyes of blind people.

He put a few questions to which Isilda gave no answer and others to
which she replied with incoherent sentences, as though she understood
neither the meaning of the words addressed to her nor those which she
herself uttered.

He persisted, taking her very gently by the hand and asking her in an
affectionate tone about the time when she still had her reason, about
her grandfather, about the memories which might be called up by her life
as a child playing freely among the majestic ruins of the castle.

She stood silent, with staring eyes; impassive, any emotion which she
might have felt was not enough to rouse her slumbering intelligence.

Lupin asked for a pencil and paper and wrote down the number 813.

The count smiled again.

"Look here, what are you laughing at?" cried Lupin, irritably.

"Nothing . . . nothing. . . . I'm very much interested, that's all.
. . ."

Isilda looked at the sheet of paper, when he showed it to her, and
turned away her head, with a vacant air.

"No bite!" said the count, satirically.

Lupin wrote the letters "APOON."

Isilda paid no more attention than before.

He did not give up the experiment, but kept on writing the same letters,
each time watching the girl's face.

She did not stir, but kept her eyes fixed on the paper with an
indifference which nothing seemed to disturb. Then, all at once, she
seized the pencil, snatched the last sheet out of Lupin's hands and, as
though acting under a sudden inspiration, wrote two "L's" in the middle
of a space left open by Lupin.

He felt a thrill.

A word had been formed: "APOLLON."

Meanwhile, Isilda clung to both pencil and paper and, with clutching
fingers and a strained face, was struggling to make her hand submit to
the hesitating orders of her poor little brain.

Lupin waited, feverishly.

She rapidly wrote another word, the word "DIANE."

"Another word! . . . Another word!" shouted Lupin.

She twisted her fingers round the pencil, broke the lead, made a big "J"
with the stump and, now utterly exhausted, dropped the pencil.

"Another word! I must have another word!" said Lupin, in a tone of
command, catching her by the arm.

But he saw by her eyes, which had once more become indifferent, that
that fleeting gleam of intelligence could not shine out again.

"Let us go," he said.

He was walking away, when she ran after him and stood in his path. He
stopped:

"What is it?"

She held out the palm of her hand.

"What? Money? . . . Is she in the habit of begging?" he asked the count.

"No," said Waldemar, "and I can't understand."

Isilda took two gold coins from her pocket and chinked them together,
gleefully.

Lupin looked at them. They were French coins, quite new, bearing the
date of that year.

"Where did you get these?" asked Lupin, excitedly.

"French money! . . . Who gave it you? . . . And when? . . . Was it
to-day? Speak! . . . Answer! . . ." He shrugged his shoulders. "Fool
that I am! As though she could answer! . . . My dear count, would you
mind lending me forty marks? . . . Thanks . . . Here, Isilda, that's for
you."

She took the two coins, jingled them with the others in the palm of her
hand and then, putting out her arm, pointed to the ruins of the
Renascence palace, with a gesture that seemed to call attention more
particularly to the left wing and to the top of that wing.

Was it a mechanical movement? Or must it be looked upon as a grateful
acknowledgment for the two gold coins?

He glanced at the count. Waldemar was smiling again.

"What makes the brute keep on grinning like that?" said Lupin to
himself. "Any one would think that he was having a game with me."

He went to the palace on the off-chance, attended by his escort.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ground-floor consisted of a number of large reception-rooms, running
one into the other and containing the few pieces of furniture that had
escaped the fire.

On the first floor, on the north side, was a long gallery, out of which
twelve handsome rooms opened all exactly alike.

There was a similar gallery on the second floor, but with twenty-four
smaller rooms, also resembling one another. All these apartments were
empty, dilapidated, wretched to look at.

Above, there was nothing. The attics had been burnt down.

For an hour, Lupin walked, ran, rushed about indefatigably, with his
eyes on the look-out.

When it began to grow dusk, he hurried to one of his twelve rooms on the
first floor, as if he were selecting it for special reasons known to
himself alone. He was rather surprised to find the Emperor there,
smoking and seated in an arm-chair which he had sent for.

Taking no notice of his presence, Lupin began an inspection of the room,
according to the methods which he was accustomed to employ in such
cases, dividing the room into sections, each of which he examined in
turn.

After twenty minutes of this work, he said:

"I must beg you, Sire, to be good enough to move. There is a fireplace
here. . . ."

The Emperor tossed his head:

"Is it really necessary for me to move?"

"Yes, Sire, this fireplace . . ."

"The fireplace is just the same as the others and the room is no
different from its fellows."

Lupin looked at the Emperor without understanding. The Emperor rose and
said, with a laugh:

"I think, M. Lupin, that you have been making just a little fun of me."

"How do you mean, Sire?"

"Oh, it's hardly worth mentioning! You obtained your release on the
condition of handing me certain papers in which I am interested and you
have not the smallest notion as to where they are. I have been
thoroughly--what do you call it, in French?--_roulé_ 'done'!"

"Do you think so, Sire?"

"Why, what a man knows he doesn't have to hunt for! And you have been
hunting for ten good hours! Doesn't it strike you as a case for an
immediate return to prison?"

Lupin seemed thunderstruck:

"Did not Your Imperial Majesty fix twelve o'clock to-morrow as the last
limit?"

"Why wait?"

"Why? Well, to allow me to complete my work!"

"Your work? But it's not even begun, M. Lupin."

"There Your Imperial Majesty is mistaken."

"Prove it . . . and I will wait until to-morrow."

Lupin reflected and, speaking in a serious tone:

"Since Your Imperial Majesty requires proofs in order to have
confidence in me, I will furnish them. The twelve rooms leading out of
this gallery each bear a different name, which is inscribed in
French--obviously by a French decorative artist--over the various doors.
One of the inscriptions, less damaged by the fire than the others,
caught my eye as I was passing along the gallery. I examined the other
doors: all of them bore hardly legible traces of names caned over the
pediments. Thus I found a 'D' and an 'E' the first and last letters of
'Diane.' I found an 'A' and 'LON' which pointed to 'Apollon.' These are
the French equivalents of Diana and Apollo, both of them mythological
deities. The other inscriptions presented similar characteristics. I
discovered traces of such names as Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and
so on. This part of the problem was solved: each of the twelve rooms
bears the name of an Olympian god or goddess; and the letters APOON,
completed by Isilda, point to the Apollo Room or Salle d'Apollon. So it
is here, in the room in which we now are, that the letters are hidden. A
few minutes, perhaps, will suffice in which to discover them."

"A few minutes or a few years . . . or even longer!" said the Emperor,
laughing.

He seemed greatly amused; and the count also displayed a coarse
merriment.

Lupin asked:

"Would Your Imperial Majesty be good enough to explain?"

"M. Lupin, the exciting investigation which you have conducted to-day
and of which you are telling us the brilliant results has already been
made by me . . . yes, a fortnight ago, in the company of your friend
Holmlock Shears. Together we questioned little Isilda; together, we
employed the same method in dealing with her that you did; and together
we observed the names in the gallery and got as far as this room, the
Apollo Room."

Lupin turned livid. He spluttered:

"Oh, did Shears get . . . as far as . . . this?"

"Yes, after four days' searching. True, it did not help us, for we found
nothing. All the same, I know that the letters are not here."

Trembling with rage, wounded in his innermost pride, Lupin fired up
under the gibe, as though he had been lashed with a whip. He had never
felt humiliated to such a degree as this. In this fury, he could have
strangled the fat Waldemar, whose laughter incensed him. Containing
himself with an effort, he said:

"It took Shears four days, Sire, and me only four hours. And I should
have required even less, if I had not been thwarted in my search."

"And by whom, bless my soul? By my faithful count? I hope he did not
dare . . . !"

"No, Sire, but by the most terrible and powerful of my enemies, by that
infernal being who killed his own accomplice Altenheim."

"Is he here? Do you think so?" exclaimed the Emperor, with an agitation
which showed that he was familiar with every detail of the dramatic
story.

"He is wherever I am. He threatens me with his constant hatred. It was
he who guessed that I was M. Lenormand, the chief of the
detective-service; it was he who had me put in prison; it was he, again,
who pursued me, on the day when I came out. Yesterday, aiming at me in
the motor, he wounded Count von Waldemar."

"But how do you know, how can you be sure that he is at Veldenz?"

"Isilda has received two gold coins, two French coins!"

"And what is he here for? With what object?"

"I don't know, Sire, but he is the very spirit of evil. Your Imperial
Majesty must be on your guard: he is capable of anything and
everything."

"It is impossible! I have two hundred men in the ruins. He cannot have
entered. He would have been seen."

"Some one has seen him, beyond a doubt."

"Who?"

"Isilda."

"Let her be questioned! Waldemar, take your prisoner to where the girl
is."

Lupin showed his bound hands:

"It will be a tough battle. Can I fight like this?"

The Emperor said to the count:

"Unfasten him. . . . And keep me informed."

In this way, by a sudden effort, bringing the hateful vision of the
murder into the discussion, boldly, without evidence, Arsène Lupin
gained time and resumed the direction of the search:

"Sixteen hours still," he said to himself, "it's more than I want."

       *       *       *       *       *

He reached the premises occupied by Isilda, at the end of the old
out-buildings. These buildings served as barracks for the two hundred
soldiers guarding the ruins; and the whole of this, the left wing, was
reserved for the officers.

Isilda was not there. The count sent two of his men to look for her.
They came back. No one had seen the girl.

Nevertheless, she could not have left the precincts of the ruins. As for
the Renascence palace, it was, so to speak, invested by one-half of the
troops; and no one was able to obtain admittance.

At last, the wife of a subaltern who lived in the next house declared
that she had been sitting at her window all day and that the girl had
not been out.

"If she hadn't gone out," said Waldemar, "she would be here now: and she
is not here."

Lupin observed:

"Is there a floor above?"

"Yes, but from this room to the upper floor there is no staircase."

"Yes, there is."

He pointed to a little door opening on a dark recess. In the shadow, he
saw the first treads of a staircase as steep as a ladder.

"Please, my dear count," he said to Waldemar, who wanted to go up, "let
me have the honor."

"Why?"

"There's danger."

He ran up and at once sprang into a low and narrow loft. A cry escaped
him:

"Oh!"

"What is it?" asked the count, emerging in his turn.

"Here . . . on the floor. . . . Isilda. . . ."

He knelt down beside the girl, but, at the first glance, saw that she
was simply stunned and that she bore no trace of a wound, except a few
scratches on the wrists and hands. A handkerchief was stuffed into her
mouth by way of a gag.

"That's it," he said. "The murderer was here with her. When we came, he
struck her a blow with his fist and gagged her so that we should not
hear her moans."

"But how did he get away?"

"Through here . . . look . . . there is a passage connecting all the
attics on the first floor."

"And from there?"

"From there, he went down the stairs of one of the other dwellings."

"But he would have been seen!"

"Pooh, who knows? The creature's invisible. Never mind! Send your men to
look. Tell them to search all the attics and all the ground-floor
lodgings."

He hesitated. Should he also go in pursuit of the murderer?

But a sound brought him back to the girl's side. She had got up from the
floor and a dozen pieces of gold money had dropped from her hands. He
examined them. They were all French.

"Ah," he said, "I was right! Only, why so much gold? In reward for
what?"

Suddenly, he caught sight of a book on the floor and stooped to pick it
up. But the girl darted forward with a quicker movement, seized the book
and pressed it to her bosom with a fierce energy, as though prepared to
defend it against any attempt to take hold of it.

"That's it," he said. "The money was offered her for the book, but she
refused to part with it. Hence the scratches on the hands. The
interesting thing would be to know why the murderer wished to possess
the book. Was he able to look through it first?"

He said to Waldemar:

"My dear count, please give the order."

Waldemar made a sign to his men. Three of them threw themselves on the
girl and, after a hard tussle, in which the poor thing stamped, writhed
and screamed with rage, they took the volume from her.

"Gently, child," said Lupin, "be calm. . . . It's all in a good cause.
. . . Keep an eye on her, will you? Meanwhile, I will have a look at the
object in dispute."

It was an odd volume of Montesquieu's _Voyage au temple de Guide_, in a
binding at least a century old. But Lupin had hardly opened it before he
exclaimed:

"I say, I say, this is queer! There is a sheet of parchment stuck on
each right hand page; and those sheets are covered with a very close,
small handwriting."

He read, at the beginning:

      "_Diary of the Chevalier GILLES DE MALRÊCHE, French
      servant to His Royal Highness the Prince of
      ZWEIBRUCKENVELDENZ, begun in the Year of Our Lord
      1794._"

"What! Does it say that?" asked the count.

"What surprises you?"

"Isilda's grandfather, the old man who died two years ago, was called
Malreich, which is the German form of the same name."

"Capital! Isilda's grandfather must have been the son or the grandson of
the French servant who wrote his diary in an odd volume of Montesquieu's
works. And that is how the diary came into Isilda's hands."

He turned the pages at random:

      "_15 September, 1796._ His Royal Highness went
      hunting.

      "_20 September, 1796._ His Royal Highness went out
      riding. He was mounted on Cupidon."

"By Jove!" muttered Lupin. "So far, it's not very exciting."

He turned over a number of pages and read:

      "_12 March, 1803._ I have remitted ten crowns to
      Hermann. He is giving music-lessons in London."

Lupin gave a laugh:

"Oho! Hermann is dethroned and our respect comes down with a rush!"

"Yes," observed Waldemar, "the reigning grand-duke was driven from his
dominions by the French troops."

Lupin continued:

      "_1809. Tuesday._ Napoleon slept at Veldenz last
      night. I made His Majesty's bed and this morning I
      emptied his slops."

"Oh, did Napoleon stop at Veldenz?"

"Yes, yes, on his way back to the army, at the time of the Austrian
campaign, which ended with the battle of Wagram. It was an honor of
which the grand-duchal family were very proud afterwards."

Lupin went on reading:

      "_28 October, 1814._ His Royal Highness returned to
      his dominions.

      "_29 October, 1814._ I accompanied His Royal Highness
      to the hiding-place last night and was happy to be
      able to show him that no one had guessed its
      existence. For that matter, who would have suspected
      that a hiding-place could be contrived in . . ."

Lupin stopped, with a shout. Isilda had suddenly escaped from the men
guarding her, made a grab at him and taken to flight, carrying the book
with her.

"Oh, the little mischief! Quick, you! . . . Go round by the stairs
below. I'll run after her by the passage."

But she had slammed the door behind her and bolted it. He had to go down
and run along the buildings with the others, looking for a staircase
which would take them to the first floor.

The fourth house was the only one open. He went upstairs. But the
passage was empty and he had to knock at doors, force locks and make his
way into unoccupied rooms, while Waldemar, showing as much ardor in the
pursuit as himself, pricked the curtains and hangings with the point of
his sword.

A voice called out from the ground-floor, towards the right wing. They
rushed in that direction. It was one of the officers' wives, who
beckoned to them at the end of a passage and told them that the girl
must be in her lodging.

"How do you know?" asked Lupin.

"I wanted to go to my room. The door was shut and I could not get in."

Lupin tried and found the door locked:

"The window!" he cried. "There must be a window!"

He went outside, took the count's sword and smashed the panes. Then,
helped up by two men, he hung on to the wall, passed his arm through the
broken glass, turned the latch and stumbled into the room.

He saw Isilda huddled before the fireplace, almost in the midst of the
flames:

"The little beast!" he said. "She has thrown it into the fire!"

He pushed her back savagely, tried to take the book and burnt his hands
in the attempt. Then, with the tongs, he pulled it out of the grate and
threw the table cloth over it to stifle the blaze.

But it was too late. The pages of the old manuscript, all burnt up, were
falling into ashes.

Lupin gazed at her in silence. The count said:

"One would think that she knew what she was doing."

"No, she does not know. Only, her grandfather must have entrusted her
with that book as a sort of treasure, a treasure which no one was ever
to set eyes on, and, with her stupid instinct, she preferred to throw it
into the fire rather than part with it."

"Well then. . . ."

"Well then what?"

"You won't find the hiding-place."

"Aha, my dear count, so you did, for a moment, look upon my success as
possible? And Lupin does not strike you as quite a charlatan? Make your
mind easy, Waldemar: Lupin has more than one string to his bow. I shall
succeed."

"Before twelve o'clock to-morrow?"

"Before twelve o'clock to-night. But, for the moment, I am starving with
hunger. And, if your kindness would go so far. . . ."

He was taken to the sergeants' mess and a substantial meal prepared for
him, while the count went to make his report to the Emperor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty minutes later, Waldemar returned and they sat down and dined
together, opposite each other, silent and pensive.

"Waldemar, a good cigar would be a treat. . . . I thank you. . . . Ah,
this one crackles as a self-respecting Havana should!"

He lit his cigar and, after a minute or two:

"You can smoke, count; I don't mind in the least; in fact, I rather like
it."

An hour passed. Waldemar dozed and, from time to time, swallowed a glass
of brandy to wake himself up.

Soldiers passed in and out, waiting on them.

"Coffee," asked Lupin.

They brought him some coffee.

"What bad stuff!" he grumbled. "If that's what Cæsar drinks! . . . Give
me another cup all the same, Waldemar. We may have a long night before
us. Oh, what vile coffee!"

He lit a second cigar and did not say another word. Ten minutes passed.
He continued not to move or speak.

Suddenly, Waldemar sprang to his feet and said to Lupin, angrily:

"Hi! Stand up, there!"

Lupin was whistling a tune at the moment. He kept on whistling,
peacefully.

"Stand up, I say!"

Lupin turned round. His Imperial Majesty had just entered. Lupin rose
from his chair.

"How far are we?" asked the Emperor.

"I think, Sire, that I shall be able to satisfy Your Imperial Majesty
soon."

"What? Do you know . . ."

"The hiding-place? Very nearly, Sire. . . . A few details still escape
me . . . but everything will be cleared up, once we are on the spot: I
have no doubt of it."

"Are we to stay here?"

"No, Sire, I will beg you to go with me to the Renascence palace. But we
have plenty of time; and, if Your Imperial Majesty will permit me, I
should like first to think over two or three points."

Without waiting for the reply, he sat down, to Waldemar's great
indignation.

In a few minutes, the Emperor, who had walked away and was talking to
the count, came up to him:

"Are you ready now, M. Lupin?"

Lupin kept silence. A fresh question. His head fell on his chest.

"But he's asleep; I really believe that he's asleep!"

Waldemar, beside himself with rage, shook him violently by the shoulder.
Lupin fell from his chair, sank to the floor, gave two or three
convulsive movements and then lay quite still.

"What's the matter with him?" exclaimed the Emperor. "He's not dead, I
hope!"

He took a lamp and bent over him:

"How pale he is! A face like wax! . . . Look, Waldemar. . . . Feel his
heart. . . . He's alive, is he not?"

"Yes, Sire," said the count, after a moment, "the heart is beating quite
regularly."

"Then what is it? I don't understand. . . . What happened?"

"Shall I go and fetch the doctor?"

"Yes, run. . . ."

The doctor found Lupin in the same state, lying inert and quiet. He had
him put on a bed, subjected him to a long examination and asked what he
had had to eat.

"Do you suspect a case of poisoning, doctor?"

"No, Sire, there are no traces of poisoning. But I am thinking . . .
what's on that tray and in that cup?"

"Coffee," said the count.

"For you?"

"No, for him. I did not have any."

The doctor poured out some coffee, tasted it and said:

"I was right. He has been put to sleep with a narcotic."

"But by whom?" cried the Emperor, angrily. "Look here, Waldemar; it's
exasperating, the way things happen in this place!"

"Sire? . . ."

"Well, yes, I've had enough of it! . . . I am really beginning to
believe that the man's right and that there is some one in the castle.
. . . That French money, that narcotic. . . ."

"If any one had got into this enclosure, Sire, it would be known by this
time. . . . We've been hunting in every direction for three hours."

"Still, I didn't make the coffee, I assure you. . . . And, unless you
did. . . ."

"Oh, Sire!"

"Well, then, hunt about . . . search. . . . You have two hundred men at
your disposal; and the out-houses are not so large as all that! For,
after all, the ruffian is prowling round here, round these buildings
. . . near the kitchen . . . somewhere or other! Go and bustle about!"

The fat Waldemar bustled about all night, conscientiously, because it
was the master's order, but without conviction, because it was
impossible for a stranger to hide among ruins which were so
well-watched. And, as a matter of fact, the event proved that he was
right: the investigations were fruitless; and no one was able to
discover the mysterious hand that had prepared the narcotic drink.

Lupin spent the night lifeless on his bed. In the morning, the doctor,
who had not left his side, told a messenger of the Emperor's that he was
still asleep.

At nine o'clock, however, he made his first movement, a sort of effort
to wake up.

Later on, he stammered:

"What time is it?"

"Twenty-five to ten."

He made a fresh effort; and it was evident that, in the midst of his
torpor, his whole being was intent upon returning to life.

A clock struck ten.

He started and said:

"Let them carry me; let them carry me to the palace."

With the doctor's approval, Waldemar called his men and sent word to the
Emperor. They laid Lupin on a stretcher and set out for the palace.

"The first floor," he muttered.

They carried him up.

"At the end of the corridor," he said. "The last room on the left."

They carried him to the last room, which was the twelfth, and gave him a
chair, on which he sat down, exhausted.

The Emperor arrived: Lupin did not stir, sat looking, unconscious, with
no expression in his eyes.

Then, in a few minutes, he seemed to wake, looked round him, at the
walls, the ceilings, the people, and said:

"A narcotic, I suppose?"

"Yes," said the doctor.

"Have they found . . . the man?"

"No."

He seemed to be meditating and several times jerked his head with a
thoughtful air: but they soon saw that he was asleep.

The Emperor went up to Waldemar:

"Order your car round."

"Oh? . . . But then, Sire . . . ?"

"Well, what? I am beginning to think that he is taking us in and that
all this is merely play-acting, to gain time."

"Possibly . . . yes . . ." said Waldemar, agreeing.

"It's quite obvious! He is making the most of certain curious
coincidences, but he knows nothing; and his story about gold coins and
his narcotic are so many inventions! If we lend ourselves to his little
game any longer, he'll slip out of your fingers. Your car, Waldemar."

The count gave his orders and returned. Lupin had not woke up. The
Emperor, who was looking round the room, said to Waldemar:

"This is the Minerva room, is it not?"

"Yes, Sire."

"But then why is there an 'N' in two places?"

There were, in fact, two "N's," one over the chimneypiece, the other
over an old dilapidated clock fitted into the wall and displaying a
complicated set of works, with weights hanging lifeless at the end of
their cords.

"The two 'N's' . . ." said Waldemar.

The Emperor did not listen to the answer. Lupin had moved again, opening
his eyes and uttering indistinct syllables. He stood up, walked across
the room and fell down from sheer weakness.

Then came the struggle, the desperate struggle of his brain, his nerves,
his will against that hideous, paralyzing torpor, the struggle of a
dying man against death, the struggle of life against extinction. And
the sight was one of infinite sadness.

"He is suffering," muttered Waldemar.

"Or at least, he is pretending to suffer," declared the Emperor, "and
pretending very cleverly at that. What an actor!"

Lupin stammered:

"An injection, doctor, an injection of caffeine . . . at once. . . ."

"May I, Sire?" asked the doctor.

"Certainly. . . . Until twelve o'clock, do all that he asks. He has my
promise."

"How many minutes . . . before twelve o'clock?" asked Lupin.

"Forty," said somebody.

"Forty? . . . I shall do it. . . . I am sure to do it. . . . I've got to
do it. . . ." He took his head in his two hands. "Oh, if I had my brain,
the real brain, the brain that thinks! It would be a matter of a second!
There is only one dark spot left . . . but I cannot . . . my thoughts
escape me. . . . I can't grasp it . . . it's awful."

His shoulders shook. Was he crying?

They heard him repeating:

"813 . . . 813. . . ." And, in a lower voice, "813 . . . an '8' . . . a
'1' . . . a '3' . . . yes, of course. . . . But why? . . . That's not
enough. . . ."

The Emperor muttered:

"He impresses me. I find it difficult to believe that a man can play a
part like that. . . ."

Half-past eleven struck . . . a quarter to twelve. . . .

Lupin remained motionless, with his fists glued to his temples.

The Emperor waited, with his eyes fixed on a chronometer which Waldemar
held in his hand.

Ten minutes more . . . five minutes more . . .

"Is the car there, Waldemar? . . . Are your men ready?"

"Yes, Sire."

"Is that watch of yours a repeater, Waldemar?"

"Yes, Sire."

"At the last stroke of twelve, then. . . ."

"But . . ."

"At the last stroke of twelve, Waldemar."

There was really something tragic about the scene, that sort of grandeur
and solemnity which the hours assume at the approach of a possible
miracle, when it seems as though the voice of fate itself were about to
find utterance.

The Emperor did not conceal his anguish. This fantastic adventurer who
was called Arsène Lupin and whose amazing life he knew, this man
troubled him . . . and, although he was resolved to make an end of all
this dubious story, he could not help waiting . . . and hoping.

Two minutes more . . . one minute more . . .

Then they counted by seconds.

Lupin seemed asleep.

"Come, get ready," said the Emperor to the count.

The count went up to Lupin and placed his hand on his shoulder.

The silvery chime of the repeater quivered and struck . . . one, two,
three, four, five . . .

"Waldemar, old chap, pull the weights of the old clock."

A moment of stupefaction. It was Lupin's voice, speaking very calmly.

Waldemar, annoyed at the familiarity of the address, shrugged his
shoulders.

"Do as he says, Waldemar," said the Emperor.

"Yes, do as I say, my dear count," echoed Lupin, recovering his powers
of chaff. "You know the ropes so well . . . all you have to do is to
pull those of the clock . . . in turns . . . one, two . . . capital!
. . . That's how they used to wind it up in the old days."

The pendulum, in fact, was started; and they heard its regular ticking.

"Now the hands," said Lupin. "Set them at a little before twelve . . .
Don't move . . . Let me . . ."

He rose and walked to the face of the clock, standing two feet away, at
most, with his eyes fixed, with every nerve attentive.

The twelve strokes sounded, twelve heavy, deep strokes.

A long silence. Nothing happened. Nevertheless, the Emperor waited, as
though he were sure that something was going to happen. And Waldemar did
not move, stood with wide-open eyes.

Lupin, who had stooped over the clock-face, now drew himself up,
muttering:

"That's it . . . I have it. . . ."

He went back to his chair and commanded:

"Waldemar, set the hands at two minutes to twelve again. Oh, no, old
chap, not backwards! The way the hands go! . . . Yes, I know, it will
take rather long . . . but it can't be helped."

All the hours struck and the half hours, up to half-past eleven.

"Listen, Waldemar," said Lupin.

And he spoke seriously, without jesting, as though himself excited and
anxious:

"Listen, Waldemar. Do you see on the face of the clock a little round
dot marking the first hour? That dot is loose, isn't it? Put the
fore-finger of your left hand on it and press. Good. Do the same with
your thumb on the dot marking the third hour. Good. With your right
hand, push in the dot at the eighth hour. Good. Thank you. Go and sit
down, my dear fellow."

The minute-hand shifted, moved to the twelfth dot and the clock struck
again.

Lupin was silent and very white. The twelve strokes rang out in the
silence.

At the twelfth stroke, there was a sound as of a spring being set free.
The clock stopped dead. The pendulum ceased swinging.

And suddenly, the bronze ornament representing a ram's head, which
crowned the dial, fell forwards, uncovering a sort of little recess cut
out of the stone wall.

In this recess was a chased silver casket.

Lupin took it and carried it to the Emperor:

"Would Your Imperial Majesty be so good as to open it yourself? The
letters which you instructed me to look for are inside."

The Emperor raised the lid and seemed greatly astonished.

_The casket was empty._

The casket was empty.

It was an enormous, unforeseen sensation. After the success of the
calculation made by Lupin, after the ingenious discovery of the secret
of the clock, the Emperor, who had no doubt left as to the ultimate
success, appeared utterly confounded.

Opposite him was Lupin, pallid and wan, with drawn jaws and bloodshot
eyes, gnashing his teeth with rage and impotent hate.

He wiped the perspiration from his forehead, then snatched up the
casket, turned it over, examined it, as though he hoped to find a false
bottom. At last, for greater certainty, in a fit of fury, he crushed it,
with an irresistible grip.

That relieved him. He breathed more easily.

The Emperor said:

"Who has done this?"

"Still the same man, Sire, the one who is following the same road as I
and pursuing the same aim: Mr. Kesselbach's murderer."

"When?"

"Last night. Ah, Sire, why did you not leave me free when I came out of
prison! Had I been free, I should have come here without losing an hour.
I should have arrived before him! I should have given Isilda money
before he did! I should have read Malreich, the old French servant's
diary, before he did!"

"So you think that it was through the revelations in the diary . . . ?"

"Why, yes, Sire! He had time to read them. And, lurking I don't know
where, kept informed of all our movements by I don't know whom, he put
me to sleep last night, in order to get rid of me."

"But the palace was guarded."

"Guarded by your soldiers, Sire. Does that count with a man like him?
Besides, I have no doubt that Waldemar concentrated his search upon the
out-buildings, thus thinning the posts in the palace."

"But the sound of the clock! Those twelve strokes in the night!"

"It was mere child's play, Sire, mere child's play, to him, to prevent
the clock from striking!"

"All this seems very impossible to my mind."

"It all seems monstrous clear to mine, Sire! If it were possible to feel
in every one of your soldiers' pockets here and now, or to know how much
money they will each of them spend during the next twelve months, we
should be sure to find two or three who are, at this moment, in
possession of a few bank-notes: French bank-notes, of course."

"Oh!" protested Waldemar.

"But yes, my dear count, it is a question of price; and that makes no
difference to 'him.' If 'he' wished, I am sure that you yourself . . ."

The Emperor, wrapped up in his own thoughts, was not listening. He
walked across the room from left to right and right to left, then
beckoned to one of the officers standing in the gallery:

"My car. . . . And tell them to get ready. . . . We're starting."

He stopped, watched Lupin for a moment and, going up to the count:

"You too, Waldemar, be off . . . Straight to Paris, without a break
. . ."

Lupin pricked up his ears. He heard Waldemar reply:

"I should like to have a dozen additional guards. . . . With that devil
of a man. . . ."

"Take them. And look sharp. You must get there to-night."

Lupin stamped his foot violently on the floor:

"Well, no, Sire! No, no, no! It shan't be, I swear it shan't! No, no
never!"

"What do you mean?"

"And the letters, Sire? The stolen letters?"

"Upon my word! . . ."

"So!" cried Lupin, indignantly folding his arms. "So your Imperial
Majesty gives up the struggle? You look upon the defeat as
irretrievable? You declare yourself beaten? Well, I do not, Sire. I have
begun and I mean to finish."

The Emperor smiled at this display of mettle:

"I do not give up, but my police will set to work."

Lupin burst out laughing:

"Excuse me, Sire! It is so funny! Your police! Your Imperial Majesty's
police! Why, they're worth just about as much as any other police, that
is to say, nothing, nothing at all! No, Sire, I will not return to the
Santé! Prison I can afford to laugh at. But time enough has been wasted
as it is. I need my freedom against that man and I mean to keep it."

The Emperor shrugged his shoulders:

"You don't even know who the man is."

"I shall know, Sire. And I alone can know. And he knows that I am the
only one who can know. I am his only enemy. I am the only one whom he
attacks. It was I whom he meant to hit, the other day, when he fired his
revolver. He considered it enough to put me and me only to sleep, last
night, to be free to do as he pleased. The fight lies between him and
me. The outside world has nothing to say to it. No one can help me and
no one can help him. There are two of us; and that is all. So far,
chance has favored him. But, in the long run, it is inevitable, it is
doomed that I should gain the day."

"Why?"

"Because I am the better man."

"Suppose he kills you?"

"He will not kill me. I shall draw his claws, I shall make him perfectly
harmless. And you shall have the letters, Sire. They are yours. There is
no power on earth than can prevent me from restoring them to you."

He spoke with a violent conviction and a tone of certainty that gave to
the things which he foretold the real appearance of things already
accomplished.

The Emperor could not help undergoing a vague, inexplicable feeling in
which there was a sort of admiration combined with a good deal of that
confidence which Lupin was demanding in so masterful a manner. In
reality, he was hesitating only because of his scruples against
employing this man and making him, so to speak, his ally. And,
anxiously, not knowing what decision to take, he walked from the gallery
to the windows without saying a word.

At last, he asked:

"And who says that the letters were stolen last night?"

"The theft is dated, Sire."

"What do you say?"

"Look at the inner side of the pediment which concealed the
hiding-place. The date is written in white chalk: 'Midnight, 24 August.'
. . ."

"So it is," muttered the Emperor, nonplussed. "How was it that I did not
see?" And he added, betraying his curiosity, "Just as with those two
'N's' painted on the wall. . . . I can't understand. This is the
Minerva Room."

"This is the room in which Napoleon, the Emperor of the French slept,"
said Lupin.

"How do you know?"

"Ask Waldemar, Sire. As for myself, when I was turning over the old
servants' diary, it came upon me as a flash of light. I understood that
Shears and I had been on the wrong scent. APOON, the imperfect word
written by the Grand-duke Hermann on his death-bed, is a contraction not
of Apollon, but of Napoleon."

"That's true . . . you are right," said the Emperor. "The same letters
occur in both words and in the same order. The grand-duke evidently
meant to write 'Napoleon.' But that figure 813? . . ."

"Ah, that was the point that gave me most trouble. I always had an idea
that we must add up the three figures 8, 1 and 3; and the number 12,
thus obtained, seemed to me at once to apply to this room, which is the
twelfth leading out of the gallery. But that was not enough for me.
There must be something else, something which my enfeebled brain could
not succeed in translating into words. The sight of that clock, situated
precisely in the Napoleon Room, was a revelation to me. The number 12
evidently meant twelve o'clock. The hour of noon! The hour of midnight!
Is this not the solemn moment which a man most readily selects? But why
those three figures 8, 1 and 3, rather than any others which would have
given the same total? . . . It was then that I thought of making the
clock strike for the first time, by way of experiment. And it was while
making it strike that I saw the dots of the first, third and eighth
hour were movable and that they alone were movable. I therefore obtained
three figures, 1, 3 and 8, which, placed in a more prophetic order, gave
the number 813. Waldemar pushed the three dots, the spring was released
and Your Imperial Majesty knows the result. . . . This, Sire, is the
explanation of that mysterious word and of those three figures 8, 1, 3
which the grand-duke wrote with his dying hand and by the aid of which
he hoped that his son would one day recover the secret of Veldenz and
become the possessor of the famous letters which he had hidden there."

The Emperor listened with eager attention, more and more surprised at
the ingenuity, perspicacity, shrewdness and intelligent will which he
observed in the man.

"Waldemar," he said, when Lupin had finished.

"Sire?"

But, just as he was about to speak, shouts were heard in the gallery
outside.

Waldemar left the room and returned:

"It's the mad girl, Sire. They won't let her pass."

"Let her come in." cried Lupin, eagerly. "She must come in, Sire."

At a sign from the Emperor, Waldemar went out to fetch Isilda.

Her entrance caused a general stupefaction. Her pale face was covered
with dark blotches. Her distorted features bore signs of the keenest
suffering. She panted for breath, with her two hands clutched against
her breast.

"Oh!" cried Lupin, struck with horror.

"What is it?" asked the Emperor.

"Your doctor, Sire. There is not a moment to lose."

He went up to her:

"Speak, Isilda. . . . Have you seen anything? Have you anything to say?"

The girl had stopped; her eyes were less vacant, as though lighted up by
the pain. She uttered sounds. . . . but not a word.

"Listen," said Lupin. "Answer yes or no . . . make a movement of the
head . . . Have you seen him? Do you know where he is? . . . You know
who he is. . . . Listen! if you don't answer. . . ."

He suppressed a gesture of anger. But, suddenly, remembering the
experiment of the day before and that she seemed rather to have retained
a certain optical memory of the time when she enjoyed her full reason,
he wrote on the white wall a capital "L" and "M."

She stretched out her arm toward the letters and nodded her head as
though in assent.

"And then?" said Lupin. "What then? . . . Write something yourself."

But she gave a fearful scream and flung herself to the ground, yelling.

Then, suddenly, came silence, immobility. One last convulsive spasm. And
she moved no more.

"Dead?" asked the Emperor.

"Poisoned, Sire."

"Oh, the poor thing! . . . And by whom?"

"By 'him,' Sire. She knew him, no doubt. He must have been afraid of
what she might tell."

The doctor arrived. The Emperor pointed to the girl. Then, addressing
Waldemar:

"All your men to turn out . . . Make them go through the houses . . .
telegraph to the stations on the frontier. . . ."

He went up to Lupin:

"How long do you want to recover the letters?"

"A month, Sire . . . two months at most."

"Very well. Waldemar will wait for you here. He shall have my orders and
full powers to grant you anything you wish."

"What I should like, Sire, is my freedom."

"You are free."

Lupin watched him walk away and said, between his teeth:

"My freedom first. . . . And afterward, when I have given you back the
letters, O Majesty, one little shake of the hand! Then we shall be
quits! . . ."



CHAPTER XIII

THE SEVEN SCOUNDRELS


"Will you see this gentleman, ma'am?"

Dolores Kesselbach took the card from the footman and read:

"André Beauny. . . . No," she said, "I don't know him."

"The gentleman seems very anxious to see you, ma'am. He says that you
are expecting him."

"Oh . . . possibly. . . . Yes, bring him here."

Since the events which had upset her life and pursued her with
relentless animosity, Dolores, after staying at the Hôtel Bristol had
taken up her abode in a quiet house in the Rue des Vignes, down at
Passy. A pretty garden lay at the back of the house and was surrounded
by other leafy gardens. On days when attacks more painful than usual did
not keep her from morning till night behind the closed shutters of her
bedroom, she made her servants carry her under the trees, where she lay
stretched at full length, a victim to melancholy, incapable of fighting
against her hard fate.

Footsteps sounded on the gravel-path and the footman returned, followed
by a young man, smart in appearance and very simply dressed, in the
rather out-of-date fashion adopted by some of our painters, with a
turn-down collar and a flowing necktie of white spots on a blue ground.

The footman withdrew.

"Your name is André Beauny, I believe?" said Dolores.

"Yes, madame."

"I have not the honor . . ."

"I beg your pardon, madame. Knowing that I was a friend of Mme.
Ernemont, Geneviève's grandmother, you wrote to her, at Garches, saying
that you wished to speak to me. I have come."

Dolores rose in her seat, very excitedly:

"Oh, you are . . ."

"Yes."

She stammered:

"Really? . . . Is it you? . . . I do not recognize you."

"You don't recognize Prince Paul Sernine?"

"No . . . everything is different . . . the forehead . . . the eyes.
. . . And that is not how the . . ."

"How the newspapers represented the prisoner at the Santé?" he said,
with a smile. "And yet it is I, really."

A long silence followed, during which they remained embarrassed and ill
at ease.

At last, he asked:

"May I know the reason . . . ?"

"Did not Geneviève tell you? . . ."

"I have not seen her . . . but her grandmother seemed to think that you
required my services . . ."

"That's right . . . that's right. . . ."

"And in what way . . . ? I am so pleased . . ."

She hesitated a second and then whispered:

"I am afraid."

"Afraid?" he cried.

"Yes," she said, speaking in a low voice, "I am afraid, afraid of
everything, afraid of to-day and of to-morrow . . . and of the day after
. . . afraid of life. I have suffered so much. . . . I can bear no
more."

He looked at her with great pity in his eyes. The vague feeling that had
always drawn him to this woman took a more precise character now that
she was asking for his protection. He felt an eager need to devote
himself to her, wholly, without hope of reward.

She continued:

"I am alone now, quite alone, with servants whom I have picked up on
chance, and I am afraid. . . . I feel that people are moving about me."

"But with what object?"

"I do not know. But the enemy is hovering around and coming closer."

"Have you seen him? Have you noticed anything?"

"Yes, the other day two men passed several times in the street and
stopped in front of the house."

"Can you describe them?"

"I saw one of them better than the other. He was tall and powerful,
clean-shaven and wore a little black cloth jacket, cut quite short."

"A waiter at a café, perhaps?"

"Yes, a head-waiter. I had him followed by one of my servants. He went
down the Rue de la Pompe and entered a common-looking house. The
ground-floor is occupied by a wine-shop: it is the first house in the
street, on the left. Then, a night or two ago, I saw a shadow in the
garden from my bedroom window."

"Is that all?"

"Yes."

He thought and then made a suggestion:

"Would you allow two of my men to sleep downstairs, in one of the
ground-floor rooms?"

"Two of your men? . . ."

"Oh, you need not be afraid! They are decent men, old Charolais and his
son,[9] and they don't look in the least like what they are. . . . You
will be quite safe with them. . . . As for me . . ."

[Footnote 9: See _Arsène Lupin_, by Edgar Jepson and Maurice Leblanc.]

He hesitated. He was waiting for her to ask him to come again. As she
was silent, he said:

"As for me, it is better that I should not be seen here. . . . Yes, it
is better . . . for your sake. My men will let me know how things go on.
. . ."

He would have liked to say more and to remain and to sit down beside her
and comfort her. But he had a feeling that they had said all that they
had to say and that a single word more, on his side, would be an insult.

Then he made her a very low bow and went away.

He went up the garden, walking quickly, in his haste to be outside and
master his emotion. The footman was waiting for him at the hall-door. As
he passed out into the street, somebody rang, a young woman.

He gave a start:

"Geneviève!"

She fixed a pair of astonished eyes upon him and at once recognized him,
although bewildered by the extreme youthfulness of his appearance; and
this gave her such a shock that she staggered and had to lean against
the door for support. He had taken off his hat and was looking at her
without daring to put out his hand. Would she put out hers? He was no
longer Prince Sernine: he was Arsène Lupin. And she knew that he was
Arsène Lupin and that he had just come out of prison.

It was raining outside. She gave her umbrella to the footman and said:

"Please open it and put it somewhere to dry."

Then she walked straight in.

"My poor old chap!" said Lupin to himself, as he walked away. "What a
series of blows for a sensitive and highly-strung creature like
yourself! You must keep a watch on your heart or . . . Ah, what next?
Here are my eyes beginning to water now! That's a bad sign. M. Lupin:
you're growing old!"

He gave a tap on the shoulder to a young man who was crossing the
Chaussee de la Muette and going toward the Rue des Vignes. The young man
stopped, stared at him and said:

"I beg your pardon, monsieur, but I don't think I have the honor . . ."

"Think again, my dear M. Leduc. Or has your memory quite gone? Don't you
remember Versailles? And the little room at the Hôtel des
Trois-Empereurs?"

The young man bounded backwards:

"You!"

"Why, yes, I! Prince Sernine, or rather Lupin, since you know my real
name! Did you think that Lupin had departed this life? . . . Oh, yes, I
see, prison. . . . You were hoping . . . Get out, you baby!" He patted
him gently on the shoulder. "There, there, young fellow, don't be
frightened: you have still a few nice quiet days left to write your
poems in. The time has not yet come. Write your verses . . . poet!"

Then he gripped Leduc's arm violently and, looking him full in the face,
said:

"But the time is drawing near . . . poet! Don't forget that you belong
to me, body and soul. And prepare to play your part. It will be a hard
and magnificent part. And, as I live, I believe you're the man to play
it!"

He burst out laughing, turned on one foot and left young Leduc
astounded.

A little further, at the corner of the Rue de la Pompe, stood the
wine-shop of which Mrs. Kesselbach had spoken to him. He went in and had
a long talk with the proprietor.

Then he took a taxi and drove to the Grand Hotel, where he was staying
under the name of André Beauny, and found the brothers Doudeville
waiting for him.

Lupin, though used to that sort of pleasure, nevertheless enjoyed the
marks of admiration and devotion with which his friends overwhelmed him:

"But, governor, tell us . . . what happened? We're accustomed to all
sorts of wonders with you; but still, there are limits. . . . So you are
free? And here you are, in the heart of Paris, scarcely disguised.
. . . !"

"Have a cigar," said Lupin.

"Thank you, no."

"You're wrong, Doudeville. These are worth smoking. I have them from a
great connoisseur, who is good enough to call himself my friend."

"Oh, may one ask . . . ?"

"The Kaiser! Come, don't look so flabbergasted, the two of you! And tell
me things: I haven't seen the papers. What effect did my escape have on
the public?"

"Tremendous, governor!"

"What was the police version?"

"Your flight took place at Garches, during an attempt to reënact the
murder of Altenheim. Unfortunately, the journalists have proved that it
was impossible."

"After that?"

"After that, a general fluster. People wondering, laughing and enjoying
themselves like mad."

"Weber?"

"Weber is badly let in."

"Apart from that, no news at the detective-office? Nothing discovered
about the murderer? No clue to help us to establish Altenheim's
identity?"

"No."

"What fools they are! And to think that we pay millions a year to keep
those people. If this sort of thing goes on, I shall refuse to pay my
rates. Take a seat and a pen. I will dictate a letter which you must
hand in to the _Grand Journal_ this evening. The world has been waiting
for news of me long enough. It must be gasping with impatience. Write."

He dictated:

      "To the Editor of the _Grand Journal_:

      "SIR,

      "I must apologize to your readers for disappointing
      their legitimate impatience.

      "I have escaped from prison and I cannot possibly
      reveal how I escaped. In the same way, since my
      escape, I have discovered the famous secret and I
      cannot possibly disclose what the secret is nor how I
      discovered it.

      "All this will, some day or other, form the subject
      of a rather original story which my
      biographer-in-ordinary will publish from my notes. It
      will form a page of the history of France which our
      grandchildren will read with interest.

      "For the moment, I have more important matters to
      attend to. Disgusted at seeing into what hands the
      functions which I once exercised have fallen, tired of
      finding the Kesselbach-Altenheim case still dragging
      along, I am discharging M. Weber and resuming the post
      of honor which I occupied with such distinction and to
      the general satisfaction under the name of M.
      Lenormand.

        "I am, Sir,
                       "Your obedient servant.
                                    "ARSÈNE LUPIN,
                   "_Chief of the Detective-service_."

At eight o'clock in the evening, Arsène Lupin and Jean Doudeville walked
into Caillard's, the fashionable restaurant, Lupin in evening-clothes,
but dressed like an artist, with rather wide trousers and a rather loose
tie, and Doudeville in a frock-coat, with the serious air and appearance
of a magistrate.

They sat down in that part of the restaurant which is set back and
divided from the big room by two columns.

A head-waiter, perfectly dressed and supercilious in manner, came to
take their orders, note-book in hand. Lupin selected the dinner with the
nice thought of an accomplished epicure:

"Certainly," he said, "the prison ordinary was quite acceptable; but,
all the same, it is nice to have a carefully-ordered meal."

He ate with a good appetite and silently, contenting himself with
uttering, from time to time, a short sentence that marked his train of
thought:

"Of course, I shall manage . . . but it will be a hard job. . . . Such
an adversary! . . . What staggers me is that, after six months'
fighting, I don't even know what he wants! . . . His chief accomplice is
dead, we are near the end of the battle and yet, even now, I can't
understand his game. . . . What is the wretch after? . . . My own plan
is quite clear: to lay hands on the grand-duchy, to shove a grand-duke
of my own making on the throne, to give him Geneviève for a wife . . .
and to reign. That is what I call lucid, honest and fair. But he, the
low fellow, the ghost in the dark: what is he aiming at?"

He called:

"Waiter!"

The head-waiter came up:

"Yes, sir?"

"Cigars."

The head-waiter stalked away, returned and opened a number of boxes.

"Which do you recommend?"

"These Upmanns are very good, sir."

Lupin gave Doudeville an Upmann, took one for himself and cut it. The
head-waiter struck a match and held if for him. With a sudden movement,
Lupin caught him by the wrist:

"Not a word. . . . I know you. . . . Your real name is Dominique Lecas!"

The man, who was big and strong, tried to struggle away. He stifled a
cry of pain: Lupin had twisted his wrist.

"Your name is Dominique . . . you live in the Rue de la Pompe, on the
fourth floor, where you retired with a small fortune acquired in the
service--listen to me, you fool, will you, or I'll break every bone in
your body!--acquired in the service of Baron Altenheim, at whose house
you were butler."

The other stood motionless, his face pallid with fear. Around them, the
small room was empty. In the restaurant beside it, three gentlemen sat
smoking and two couples were chatting over their liquors.

"You see, we are quiet . . . we can talk."

"Who are you? Who are you?"

"Don't you recollect me? Why, think of that famous luncheon in the Villa
Dupont! . . . You yourself, you old flunkey, handed me the plate of
cakes . . . and such cakes!"

"Prince. . . . Prince. . . ." stammered the other.

"Yes, yes, Prince Arsène, Prince Lupin in person. . . . Aha, you breathe
again! . . . You're saying to yourself that you have nothing to fear
from Lupin, isn't that it? Well, you're wrong, old chap, you have
everything to fear." He took a card from his pocket and showed it to
him. "There, look, I belong to the police now. Can't be helped: that's
what we all come to in the end, all of us robber-kings and emperors of
crime."

"Well?" said the head-waiter, still greatly alarmed.

"Well, go to that customer over there, who's calling you, get him what
he wants and come back to me. And no nonsense, mind you: don't go trying
to get away. I have ten men outside, with orders to keep their eyes on
you. Be off."

The head-waiter obeyed. Five minutes after, he returned and, standing in
front of the table, with his back to the restaurant, as though
discussing the quality of the cigars with his customers, he said:

"Well? What is it?"

Lupin laid a number of hundred-franc notes in a row on the table:

"One note for each definite answer to my questions."

"Done!"

"Now then. How many of you were there with Baron Altenheim?"

"Seven, without counting myself."

"No more?"

"No. Once only, we picked up some workmen in Italy to make the
underground passage from the Villa des Glycines, at Garches."

"Were there two underground passages?"

"Yes, one led to the Pavillon Hortense and the other branched off from
the first and ran under Mrs. Kesselbach's house."

"What was the object?"

"To carry off Mrs. Kesselbach."

"Were the two maids, Suzanne and Gertrude, accomplices?"

"Yes."

"Where are they?"

"Abroad."

"And your seven pals, those of the Altenheim gang?"

"I have left them. They are still going on."

"Where can I find them?"

Dominique hesitated. Lupin unfolded two notes of a thousand francs each
and said:

"Your scruples do you honor, Dominique. There's nothing for it but to
swallow them like a man and answer."

Dominique replied:

"You will find them at No. 3, Route de la Revolte, Neuilly. One of them
is called the Broker."

"Capital. And now the name, the real name of Altenheim. Do you know it?"

"Yes, Ribeira."

"Dominique, Dominique, you're asking for trouble. Ribeira was only an
assumed name. I asked you the real name."

"Parbury."

"That's another assumed name."

The head-waiter hesitated. Lupin unfolded three hundred franc notes.

"Pshaw, what do I care!" said the man. "After all, he's dead, isn't he?
Quite dead."

"His name," said Lupin.

"His name? The Chevalier de Malreich."

Lupin gave a jump in his chair:

"What? What do you say? The Chevalier--say it again--the Chevalier
. . . ?"

"Raoul de Malreich."

A long pause. Lupin, with his eyes fixed before him, thought of the mad
girl at Veldenz, who had died by poison: Isilda bore the same name,
Malreich. And it was the name borne by the small French noble who came
to the court of Veldenz in the eighteenth century.

He resumed his questions:

"What country did this Malreich belong to?"

"He was of French origin, but born in Germany . . . I saw some papers
once . . . that was how I came to know his name. . . . Oh, if he had
found it out, he would have wrung my neck, I believe!"

Lupin reflected and said:

"Did he command the lot of you?"

"Yes."

"But he had an accomplice, a partner?"

"Oh hush . . . hush . . . !"

The head-waiter's face suddenly expressed the most intense alarm. Lupin
noticed the same sort of terror and repulsion which he himself felt when
he thought of the murderer.

"Who is he? Have you seen him?"

"Oh, don't let us talk of that one . . . it doesn't do to talk of him."

"Who is he, I'm asking you."

"He is the master . . . the chief. . . . Nobody knows him."

"But you've seen him, you. Answer me. Have you seen him?"

"Sometimes, in the dark . . . at night. Never by daylight. His orders
come on little scraps of paper . . . or by telephone."

"His name?"

"I don't know it. We never used to speak of him. It was unlucky."

"He dresses in black, doesn't he?"

"Yes, in black. He is short and slender . . . with fair hair. . . ."

"And he kills, doesn't he?"

"Yes, he kills . . . he kills where another might steal a bit of bread."

His voice shook. He entreated:

"Let us stop this . . . it won't do to talk of him. . . . I tell you
. . . it's unlucky."

Lupin was silent, impressed, in spite of himself, by the man's anguish.
He sat long thinking and then rose and said to the head-waiter:

"Here, here's your money; but, if you want to live in peace, you will do
well not to breathe a word of our conversation to anybody."

He left the restaurant with Doudeville and walked to the Porte
Saint-Denis without speaking, absorbed in all that he had heard. At
last, he seized his companion's arm and said:

"Listen to me, Doudeville, carefully. Go to the Gare du Nord. You will
get there in time to catch the Luxemburg express. Go to Veldenz, the
capital of the grand-duchy of Zweibrucken-Veldenz. At the town-hall, you
will easily obtain the birth-certificate of the Chevalier de Malreich
and further information about the family. You will be back on the day
after to-morrow: that will be Saturday."

"Am I to let them know at the detective-office?"

"I'll see to that. I shall telephone that you are ill. Oh, one word
more: on Saturday, meet me at twelve o'clock in a little café on the
Route de la Revolte, called the Restaurant Buffalo. Come dressed as a
workman."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day, Lupin, wearing a short smock and a cap, went down to
Neuilly and began his investigations at No. 3, Route de la Revolte. A
gateway opened into an outer yard; and here he found a huge block of
workmen's dwellings, a whole series of passages and workshops, with a
swarming population of artisans, women and brats. In a few minutes, he
had won the good-will of the portress, with whom he chatted for an hour
on the most varied topics. During this hour, he saw three men pass, one
after the other, whose manner struck him:

"That's game," he thought, "and gamy game at that! . . . They follow one
another by scent! . . . Look quite respectable, of course, but with the
eye of the hunted deer which knows that the enemy is all around and that
every tuft, every blade of grass may conceal an ambush."

That afternoon and on the Saturday morning, he pursued his inquiries and
made certain that Altenheim's seven accomplices all lived on the
premises. Four of them openly followed the trade of second-hand
clothes-dealers. Two of the others sold newspapers; and the third
described himself as a broker and was nicknamed accordingly.

They went in and out, one after the other, without appearing to know one
another. But, in the evening, Lupin discovered that they met in a sort
of coach-house situated right at the back of the last of the yards, a
place in which the Broker kept his wares piled up: old iron, broken
kitchen-ranges, rusty stove-pipes . . . and also, no doubt, the best
part of the stolen goods.

"Come," he said, "the work is shaping nicely. I asked my cousin of
Germany for a month and I believe a fortnight will be enough for my
purpose. And what I like about it is that I shall start operations with
the scoundrels who made me take a header in the Seine. My poor old
Gourel, I shall revenge you at last. And high time too!"

At twelve o'clock on Saturday, he went to the Restaurant Buffalo, a
little low-ceilinged room to which brick-layers and cab-drivers resorted
for their mid-day meal. Some one came and sat down beside him:

"It's done, governor."

"Ah, is it you, Doudeville? That's right! I'm dying to know. Have you
the particulars? The birth-certificate? Quick, tell me."

"Well, it's like this: Altenheim's father and mother died abroad."

"Never mind about them."

"They left three children."

"Three?"

"Yes. The eldest would have been thirty years old by now. His name was
Raoul de Malreich."

"That's our man, Altenheim. Next?"

"The youngest of the children was a girl, Isilda. The register has an
entry, in fresh ink, 'Deceased.'"

"Isilda. . . . Isilda," repeated Lupin. "That's just what I thought:
Isilda was Altenheim's sister. . . . I saw a look in her face which I
seemed to recognize. . . . So that was the link between them. . . . But
the other, the third child, or rather the second?"

"A son. He would be twenty-six by now."

"His name?"

"Louis de Malreich."

Lupin gave a little start:

"That's it! Louis de Malreich. . . . The initials L. M. . . . The awful
and terrifying signature! . . . The murderer's name is Louis de
Malreich. . . . He was the brother of Altenheim and the brother of
Isilda and he killed both of them for fear of what they might reveal."

Lupin sat long, silent and gloomy, under the obsession, no doubt, of the
mysterious being.

Doudeville objected:

"What had he to fear from his sister Isilda? She was mad, they told me."

"Mad, yes, but capable of remembering certain details of her childhood.
She must have recognized the brother with whom she grew up . . . and
that recollection cost her her life." And he added, "Mad! But all those
people were mad. . . . The mother was mad. . . . The father a
dipsomaniac. . . . Altenheim a regular brute beast. . . . Isilda, a poor
innocent . . . . As for the other, the murderer, he is the monster, the
crazy lunatic. . . ."

"Crazy? Do you think so, governor?"

"Yes, crazy! With flashes of genius, of devilish cunning and intuition,
but a crack-brained fool, a madman, like all that Malreich family. Only
madmen kill and especially madmen of his stamp. For, after all . . ."

He interrupted himself; and his face underwent so great a change that
Doudeville was struck by it:

"What's the matter, governor?"

"Look."

A man had entered and hung his hat--a soft, black felt hat--on a peg. He
sat down at a little table, examined the bill of fare which a waiter
brought him, gave his order and waited motionless, with his body stiff
and erect and his two arms crossed over the table-cloth.

And Lupin saw him full-face.

He had a lean, hard visage, absolutely smooth and pierced with two
sockets in the depths of which appeared a pair of steel-gray eyes. The
skin seemed stretched from bone to bone, like a sheet of parchment, so
stiff and so thick that not a hair could have penetrated through it.

And the face was dismal and dull. No expression enlivened it. No thought
seemed to abide under that ivory forehead; and the eye-lids, entirely
devoid of lashes, never flickered, which gave the eyes the fixed look
of the eyes in a statue.

Lupin beckoned to one of the waiters:

"Who is that gentleman?"

"The one eating his lunch over there?"

"Yes."

"He is a customer. He comes here two or three times a week."

"Can you tell me his name?"

"Why, yes . . . Leon Massier."

"Oh!" blurted Lupin, very excitedly. "L. M. . . . the same two letters
. . . could it be Louis de Malreich?"

He watched him eagerly. Indeed, the man's appearance agreed with Lupin's
conjectures, with what he knew of him and of his hideous mode of
existence. But what puzzled him was that look of death about him: where
he anticipated life and fire, where he would have expected to find the
torment, the disorder, the violent facial distortion of the great
accursed, he beheld sheer impassiveness.

He asked the waiter:

"What does he do?"

"I really can't say. He's a rum cove . . . He's always quite alone.
. . . He never talks to anybody . . . We here don't even know the sound
of his voice. . . . He points his finger at the dishes on the bill of
fare which he wants. . . . He has finished in twenty minutes; then he
pays and goes. . . ."

"And he comes back again?"

"Every three or four days. He's not regular."

"It's he, it cannot be any one else," said Lupin to himself. "It's
Malreich. There he is . . . breathing . . . at four steps from me. There
are the hands that kill. There is the brain that gloats upon the smell
of blood. There is the monster, the vampire! . . ."

And, yet, was it possible? Lupin had ended by looking upon Malreich as
so fantastic a being that he was disconcerted at seeing him in the
flesh, coming, going, moving. He could not explain to himself how the
man could eat bread and meat like other men, drink beer like any one
else: this man whom he had pictured as a foul beast, feeding on live
flesh and sucking the blood of his victims.

"Come away, Doudeville."

"What's the matter with you, governor? You look quite white!"

"I want air. Come out."

Outside, he drew a deep breath, wiped the perspiration from his forehead
and muttered:

"That's better. I was stifling." And, mastering himself, he added, "Now
we must play our game cautiously and not lose sight of his tracks."

"Hadn't we better separate, governor? Our man saw us together. He will
take less notice of us singly."

"Did he see us?" said Lupin, pensively. "He seems to me to see nothing,
to hear nothing and to look at nothing. What a bewildering specimen!"

And, in fact, ten minutes later, Leon Massier appeared and walked away,
without even looking to see if he was followed. He had lit a cigarette
and smoked, with one of his hands behind his back, strolling along like
a saunterer enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air and never suspecting
that his movements could possibly be watched.

He passed through the toll-gates, skirted the fortifications, went out
again through the Porte Champerret and retraced his steps along the
Route de la Revolte.

Would he enter the buildings at No. 3? Lupin eagerly hoped that he
would, for that would have been a certain proof of his complicity with
the Altenheim gang; but the man turned round and made for the Rue
Delaizement, which he followed until he passed the Velodrome Buffalo.

On the left, opposite the cycling-track, between the public tennis-court
and the booths that line the Rue Delaizement, stood a small detached
villa, surrounded by a scanty garden. Leon Massier stopped, took out his
keys, opened first the gate of the garden and then the door of the house
and disappeared.

Lupin crept forward cautiously. He at once noticed that the block in the
Route de la Revolte stretched back as far as the garden-wall. Coming
still nearer, he saw that the wall was very high and that a coach-house
rested against it at the bottom of the garden. The position of the
buildings was such as to give him the certainty that his coach-house
stood back to back with the coach-house in the inner yard of No. 3,
which served as a lumber-room for the Broker.

Leon Massier, therefore, occupied a house adjoining the place in which
the seven members of the Altenheim gang held their meetings.
Consequently, Leon Massier was, in point of fact, the supreme leader who
commanded that gang; and there was evidently a passage between the two
coach-houses through which he communicated with his followers.

"I was right," said Lupin. "Leon Massier and Louis de Malreich are one
and the same man. The situation is much simpler than it was."

"There is no doubt about that," said Doudeville, "and everything will be
settled in a few days."

"That is to say, I shall have been stabbed in the throat."

"What are you saying, governor? There's an idea!"

"Pooh, who knows? I have always had a presentiment that that monster
would bring me ill-luck."

       *       *       *       *       *

Thenceforth it became a matter of watching Malreich's life in such a way
that none of his movements went unobserved. This life was of the oddest,
if one could believe the people of the neighborhood whom Doudeville
questioned. "The bloke from the villa," as they called him, had been
living there for a few months only. He saw and received nobody. He was
not known to keep a servant of any kind. And the windows, though they
were left wide open, even at night, always remained dark and were never
lit with the glow of a lamp or candle.

Moreover, Leon Massier most often went out at the close of day and did
not come in again until very late . . . at dawn, said people who had
come upon him at sunrise.

"And does any one know what he does?" asked Lupin of his companion, when
they next met.

"No, he leads an absolutely irregular existence. He sometimes disappears
for several days together . . . or, rather, he remains indoors. When all
is said, nobody knows anything."

"Well, we shall know; and that soon."

He was wrong. After a week of continuous efforts and investigations, he
had learnt no more than before about that strange individual. The
extraordinary thing that constantly happened was this, that, suddenly,
while Lupin was following him, the man, who was ambling with short steps
along the streets, without ever turning round or ever stopping, the man
would vanish as if by a miracle. True, he sometimes went through houses
with two entrances. But, at other times, he seemed to fade away in the
midst of the crowd, like a ghost. And Lupin was left behind, petrified,
astounded, filled with rage and confusion.

He at once hurried to the Rue Delaizement and stood on guard outside the
villa. Minutes followed upon minutes, half-hour upon half-hour. A part
of the night slipped away. Then, suddenly, the mysterious man hove in
sight. What could he have been doing?

       *       *       *       *       *

"An express message for you, governor," said Doudeville, at eight
o'clock one evening, as he joined him in the Rue Delaizement.

Lupin opened the envelope. Mrs. Kesselbach implored him to come to her
aid. It appeared that two men had taken up their stand under her
windows, at night, and one of them had said:

"What luck, we've dazzled them completely this time! So it's understood;
we shall strike the blow to-night."

Mrs. Kesselbach thereupon went downstairs and discovered that the
shutter in the pantry did not fasten, or, at least, that it could be
opened from the outside.

"At last," said Lupin, "it's the enemy himself who offers to give
battle. That's a good thing! I am tired of marching up and down under
Malreich's windows."

"Is he there at this moment?"

"No, he played me one of his tricks again in Paris, just as I was about
to play him one of mine. But, first of all, listen to me, Doudeville. Go
and collect ten of our men and bring them to the Rue des Vignes. Look
here, bring Marco and Jérôme, the messenger. I have given them a holiday
since the business at the Palace Hotel: let them come this time. Daddy
Charolais and his son ought to be mounting guard by now. Make your
arrangements with them, and at half-past eleven, come and join me at the
corner of the Rue des Vignes and the Rue Raynouard. From there we will
watch the house."

Doudeville went away. Lupin waited for an hour longer, until that quiet
thoroughfare, the Rue Delaizement, was quite deserted, and then, seeing
that Leon Massier did not return, he made up his mind and went up to the
villa.

There was no one in sight. . . . He took a run and jumped on the stone
ledge that supported the railings of the garden. A few minutes later, he
was inside.

His plan was to force the door of the house and search the rooms in
order to find the Emperor's letters which Malreich had stolen from
Veldenz. But he thought a visit to the coach-house of more immediate
importance.

He was much surprised to see that it was open and, next, to find, by the
light of his electric lantern, that it was absolutely empty and that
there was no door in the back wall. He hunted about for a long time, but
met with no more success. Outside, however, he saw a ladder standing
against the coach-house and obviously serving as a means of reaching a
sort of loft contrived under the slate roof.

The loft was blocked with old packing-cases, trusses of straw and
gardener's frames, or rather it seemed to be blocked, for he very soon
discovered a gangway that took him to the wall. Here, he knocked up
against a cucumber-frame, which he tried to move. Failing to effect his
purpose, he examined the frame more closely and found, first, that it
was fixed to the wall and, secondly, that one of the panes was missing.
He passed his arm through and encountered space. He cast the bright
light of the lantern through the aperture and saw a big shed, a
coach-house larger than that of the villa and filled with old iron-work
and objects of every kind.

"That's it," said Lupin to himself. "This window has been contrived in
the Broker's lumber-room, right up at the top, and from here Louis de
Malreich sees, hears and watches his accomplices, without being seen or
heard by them. I now understand how it is that they do not know their
leader."

Having found out what he wanted, he put out his light and was on the
point of leaving, when a door opened opposite him, down below. Some one
came in and lit a lamp. He recognized the Broker. He thereupon resolved
to stay where he was, since the expedition, after all, could not be done
so long as that man was there.

The Broker took two revolvers from his pocket. He tested the triggers
and changed the cartridges, whistling a music-hall tune as he did so.

An hour elapsed in this way. Lupin was beginning to grow restless,
without, however, making up his mind to go.

More minutes passed, half an hour, an hour. . . .

At last, the man said aloud:

"Come in."

One of the scoundrels slipped into the shed; and, one after the other, a
third arrived and a fourth. . . .

"We are all here," said the Broker. "Dieudonne and Chubby will meet us
down there. Come, we've no time to lose. . . . Are you armed?"

"To the teeth."

"That's all right. It'll be hot work."

"How do you know, Broker?"

"I've seen the chief. . . . When I say that I've seen him, no . . . but
he spoke to me. . . ."

"Yes," said one of the men, "in the dark, at a street-corner, as usual.
Ah, Altenheim's ways were better than that. At least, one knew what one
was doing."

"And don't you know?" retorted the Broker. "We're breaking in at the
Kesselbach woman's."

"And what about the two watchers? The two coves whom Lupin posted
there?"

"That's their look-out: there's seven of us. They had better give us as
little trouble as possible."

"What about the Kesselbach?"

"Gag her first, then bind her and bring her here. . . . There, on that
old sofa. . . . And then wait for orders."

"Is the job well paid?"

"The Kesselbach's jewels to begin with."

"Yes, if it comes off . . . but I'm speaking of the certainty."

"Three hundred-franc notes apiece, beforehand, and twice as much again
afterwards."

"Have you the money?"

"Yes."

"That's all right. You can say what you like, but, as far as paying
goes, there's no one to equal that bloke." And, in a voice so low that
Lupin could hardly hear, "I say, Broker, if we're obliged to use the
knife, is there a reward?"

"The same as usual, two thousand."

"If it's Lupin?"

"Three thousand."

"Oh, if we could only get him!"

One after the other, they left the lumber-room. Lupin heard the Broker's
parting words:

"This is the plan of attack. We divide into three lots. A whistle; and
every one runs forward. . . ."

Lupin hurriedly left his hiding-place, went down the ladder, ran round
the house, without going in, and climbed back over the railings:

"The Broker's right; it'll be hot work. . . . Ah, it's my skin they're
after! A reward for Lupin! The rascals!"

He passed through the toll-gate and jumped into a taxi:

"Rue Raynouard."

He stopped the cab at two hundred yards from the Rue des Vignes and
walked to the corner of the two streets. To his great surprise,
Doudeville was not there.

"That's funny," said Lupin. "It's past twelve. . . . This business looks
suspicious to me."

He waited ten minutes, twenty minutes. At half-past twelve, nobody had
arrived. Further delay was dangerous. After all, if Doudeville and his
men were prevented from coming, Charolais, his son and he, Lupin,
himself were enough to repel the attack, without counting the assistance
of the servants.

He therefore went ahead. But he caught sight of two men who tried to
hide in the shadow of a corner wall.

"Hang it!" he said. "That's the vanguard of the gang, Dieudonne and
Chubby. I've allowed myself to be out-distanced, like a fool."

Here he lost more time. Should he go straight up to them, disable them
and then climb into the house through the pantry-window, which he knew
to be unlocked? That would be the most prudent course and would enable
him, moreover, to take Mrs. Kesselbach away at once and to remove her to
a place of safety.

Yes, but it also meant the failure of his plan; it meant missing this
glorious opportunity of trapping the whole gang, including Louis de
Malreich himself, without doubt.

Suddenly a whistle sounded from somewhere on the other side of the
house. Was it the rest of the gang, so soon? And was an offensive
movement to be made from the garden?

But, at the preconcerted signal, the two men climbed through the window
and disappeared from view.

Lupin scaled the balcony at a bound and jumped into the pantry. By the
sound of their footsteps, he judged that the assailants had gone into
the garden; and the sound was so distinct that he felt easy in his mind:
Charolais and his son could not fail to hear the noise.

He therefore went upstairs. Mrs. Kesselbach's bedroom was on the first
landing. He walked in without knocking.

A night-light was burning in the room; and he saw Dolores, on a sofa,
fainting. He ran up to her, lifted her and, in a voice of command,
forcing her to answer:

"Listen. . . . Charolais? His son . . . Where are they?"

She stammered:

"Why, what do you mean? . . . They're gone, of course! . . ."

"What, gone?"

"You sent me word . . . an hour ago . . . a telephone-message. . . ."

He picked up a piece of blue paper lying beside her and read:

      "Send the two watchers away at once . . . and all my
      men. . . . Tell them to meet me at the Grand Hotel.
      Have no fear."

"Thunder! And you believed it? . . . But your servants?"

"Gone."

He went up to the window. Outside, three men were coming from the other
end of the garden.

From the window in the next room, which looked out on the street, he saw
two others, on the pavement.

And he thought of Dieudonne, of Chubby, of Louis de Malreich, above all,
who must now be prowling around, invisible and formidable.

"Hang it!" he muttered. "I half believe they've done me this time!"



CHAPTER XIV

THE MAN IN BLACK


At that moment, Arsène Lupin felt the impression, the certainty, that he
had been drawn into an ambush, by means which he had not the time to
perceive, but of which he guessed the prodigious skill and address.
Everything had been calculated, everything ordained; the dismissal of
his men, the disappearance or treachery of the servants, his own
presence in Mrs. Kesselbach's house.

Clearly, the whole thing had succeeded, exactly as the enemy wished,
thanks to circumstances almost miraculously fortunate; for, after all,
he might have arrived before the false message had sent his friends
away. But then there would have been a battle between his own gang and
the Altenheim gang. And Lupin, remembering Malreich's conduct, the
murder of Altenheim, the poisoning of the mad girl at Veldenz, Lupin
asked himself whether the ambush was aimed at him alone or whether
Malreich had not contemplated the possibility of a general scuffle,
involving the killing of accomplices who had by this time become irksome
to him.

It was an intuition, rather, a fleeting idea, that just passed through
his mind. The hour was one for action. He must defend Dolores, the
abduction of whom was, in all likelihood, the first and foremost reason
of the attack.

He half-opened the casement window on the street and levelled his
revolver. A shot, rousing and alarming the neighborhood, and the
scoundrels would take to their heels.

"Well, no," he muttered, "no! It shall not be said that I shirked the
fight. The opportunity is too good. . . . And, then, who says that they
would run away! . . . There are too many of them to care about the
neighbors."

He returned to Dolores' room. There was a noise downstairs. He listened
and, finding that it came from the staircase, he locked the door.

Dolores was crying and throwing herself about the sofa.

He implored her:

"Are you strong enough? We are on the first floor. I could help you
down. We can lower the sheets from the window. . . ."

"No, no, don't leave me. . . . I am frightened. . . . I haven't the
strength . . . they will kill me. . . . Oh, protect me!"

He took her in his arms and carried her to the next room. And, bending
over her:

"Don't move; and keep calm. I swear to you that not one of those men
shall touch you, as long as I am alive."

The door of the first room was tried. Dolores, clinging to him with all
her might, cried:

"Oh, there they are! There they are! . . . They will kill you . . . you
are alone! . . ."

Eagerly, he said:

"No, I am not alone. . . . You are here. . . . You are here beside me.
. . ."

He tried to release himself. She took his head in her two hands, looked
him deep in the eyes and whispered:

"Where are you going? What are you going to do? No . . . you must not
die. . . . I won't have it . . . you must live . . . you must."

She stammered words which he did not catch and which she seemed to
stifle between her lips lest he should hear them; and, having spent all
her energy, exhausted, she fell back unconscious.

He leant over her and gazed at her for a moment. Softly, lightly, he
pressed a kiss upon her hair.

Then he went back to the first room, carefully closed the door between
the two and switched on the electric light.

"One second, my lads!" he cried. "You seem in a great hurry to get
yourselves smashed to pieces! . . . Don't you know that Lupin's here?
I'll make you dance!"

While speaking, he unfolded a screen in such a way as to hide the sofa
on which Mrs. Kesselbach had been lying; and he now spread dresses and
coverings over it. The door was on the point of giving way under the
blows of the men outside.

"Here I am! Coming! Are you ready? Now, gentlemen, one at a time! . . ."

He briskly turned the key and drew the bolt.

Shouts, threats, a roar of infuriated animals came through the open
doorway.

Yet none of them dared come forward. Before rushing at Lupin, they
hesitated, seized with alarm, with fear. . . .

This was what he had reckoned on.

Standing in the middle of the room, full in the light, with outstretched
arm, he held between his fingers a sheaf of bank-notes, which he
divided, counting them one by one, into seven equal shares. And he
calmly said:

"Three thousand francs' reward for each of you, if Lupin is sent to his
last account? That's what you were promised, isn't it? Here's double the
money!"

He laid the bundles on the table, within reach of the scoundrels.

The Broker roared:

"Humbug! He's trying to gain time. Shoot him down!"

He raised his arm. His companions held him back.

And Lupin continued:

"Of course, this need not affect your plan of campaign. You came here,
first, to kidnap Mrs. Kesselbach and, secondly, to lay hands on her
jewels. Far be it from me to interfere with your laudable intentions!"

"Look here, what are you driving at?" growled the Broker, listening in
spite of himself.

"Aha, Broker, I'm beginning to interest you, am I? . . . Come in, old
chap. . . . Come in, all of you. . . . There's a draught at the top of
those stairs . . . and such pretty fellows as you mustn't run the risk
of catching cold. . . . What, are we afraid? Why, I'm all by myself!
. . . Come, pull yourselves together, my lambs!"

They entered the room, puzzled and suspicious.

"Shut the door, Broker . . . we shall be more comfortable. Thanks, old
man. Oh, by the way, I see the notes are gone. Therefore we're agreed.
How easy it is for honest men to come to terms!"

"Well . . . and next?"

"Next? Well, as we're partners . . ."

"Partners?"

"Why, haven't you accepted my money? We're working together, old man,
and we will carry off the young woman together first and carry off the
jewels after."

The Broker grinned:

"Don't want you for that."

"Yes, you do, old man."

"Why?"

"Because you don't know where the jewels are hidden and I do."

"We'll find out."

"To-morrow. Not to-night."

"Well, let's hear. What do you want?"

"My share of the jewels."

"Why didn't you take the lot, as you know where they are?"

"Can't get at them by myself. There's a way of doing it, but I don't
know it. You're here, so I'm making use of you."

The Broker hesitated:

"Share the jewels. . . . Share the jewels. . . . A few bits of glass and
brass, most likely. . . ."

"You fool! . . . There's more than a million's worth."

The men quivered under the impression made upon them.

"Very well," said the Broker. "But suppose the Kesselbach gets away?
She's in the next room, isn't she?"

"No, she's in here."

Lupin for a moment pulled back one of the leaves of the screen,
revealing the heap of dresses and bed-clothes which he had laid out on
the sofa:

"She's here, fainting. But I shan't give her up till we've divided."

"Still . . ."

"You can take it or leave it. I don't care if I am alone. You know what
I'm good for. So please yourselves. . . ."

The men consulted with one another and the Broker said:

"Where is the hiding-place you're talking of?"

"Under the fireplace. But, when you don't know the secret, you must
first lift up the whole chimneypiece, looking-glass, marble and all in a
lump, it seems. It's no easy job."

"Pooh, we're a smart lot, we are! Just you wait and see. In five minutes
. . ."

He gave his orders and his pals at once set to work with admirable vigor
and discipline. Two of them, standing on chairs, tried to lift the
mirror. The four others attacked the fireplace itself. The Broker, on
his knees, kept his eyes on the hearth and gave the word of command:

"Cheerily, lads! . . . Altogether, if you please! . . . Look out! . . .
One, two . . . ah, there, it's moving! . . ."

Standing behind them, with his hands in his pockets, Lupin watched them
affectionately and, at the same time, revelled with all his pride, as an
artist and master, in this striking proof of his authority, of his
might, of the incredible sway which he wielded over others. How could
those scoundrels for a second accept that improbable story and lose all
sense of things, to the point of relinquishing every chance of the fight
in his favor?

He took from his pockets two great massive and formidable revolvers and,
calmly, choosing the first two men whom he would bring down and the two
who would fall next, he aimed as he might have aimed at a pair of
targets in a rifle-gallery.

Two shots together and two more. . . .

Loud yells of pain. . . . Four men came tumbling down, one after the
other, like dolls at a cockshy.

"Four from seven leaves three," said Lupin. "Shall I go on?"

His arms remained outstretched, levelled at the Broker and his two pals.

"You swine!" growled the Broker, feeling for a weapon.

"Hands up," cried Lupin, "or I fire! . . . That's it. . . . Now, you
two, take away his toys. . . . If not . . . !"

The two scoundrels, shaking with fear, caught hold of their leader and
compelled him to submit.

"Bind him! . . . Bind him, confound it! . . . What difference does it
make to you? . . . Once I'm gone, you're all free. . . . Come along,
have you finished? The wrists first . . . with your belts. . . . And the
ankles. . . . Hurry up! . . ."

The Broker, beaten and disabled, made no further resistance. While his
pals were binding him, Lupin stooped over them and dealt them two
terrific blows on the head with the butt-end of his revolver. They sank
down in a heap.

"That's a good piece of work," he said, taking breath. "Pity there are
not another fifty of them. I was just in the mood. . . . And all so
easily done . . . with a smile on one's face. . . . What do you think of
it, Broker?"

The scoundrel lay cursing. Lupin said:

"Cheer up, old man! Console yourself with the thought that you are
helping in a good action, the rescue of Mrs. Kesselbach. She will thank
you in person for your gallantry."

He went to the door of the second room and opened it:

"What's this?" he said, stopping on the threshold, taken aback,
dumfounded.

The room was empty.

He went to the window, saw a ladder leaning against the balcony, a
telescopic steel ladder, and muttered:

"Kidnapped . . . kidnapped . . . Louis de Malreich. . . . Oh, the
villain! . . ."

       *       *       *       *       *

He reflected for a minute, trying to master his anguish of mind, and
said to himself that, after all, as Mrs. Kesselbach seemed to be in no
immediate danger, there was no cause for alarm.

But he was seized with a sudden fit of rage and flew at the seven
scoundrels, gave a kick or two to those of the wounded who stirred, felt
for his bank-notes and put them back in his pocket, then gagged the
men's mouths and tied their hands with anything that he could
find--blind-cords, curtain-loops, blankets and sheets reduced to
strips--and, lastly, laid in a row on the carpet, in front of the sofa,
seven bundles of humanity, packed tight together and tied up like so
many parcels:

"Mummies on toast!" he chuckled. "A dainty dish for those who like that
sort of thing! . . . You pack of fools, how does this suit you, eh?
There you are, like corpses at the Morgue. . . . Serves you right for
attacking Lupin, Lupin the protector of the widow and orphan! . . . Are
you trembling? Quite unnecessary, my lambs! Lupin never hurt a fly yet!
. . . Only, Lupin is a decent man, he can't stand vermin; and the Lupin
knows his duty. I ask you, is life possible with a lot of scamps like
you about? Think of it: no respect for other people's lives; no respect
for property, for laws, for society; no conscience; no anything! What
are we coming to? Lord, what are we coming to?"

Without even taking the trouble to lock them in, he left the room, went
down the street and walked until he came to his taxi. He sent the driver
in search of another and brought both cabs back to Mrs. Kesselbach's
house.

A good tip, paid in advance, avoided all tedious explanations. With the
help of the two men, he carried the seven prisoners down and plumped
them anyhow, on one another's knees, into the cabs. The wounded men
yelled and moaned. He shut the doors, shouting:

"Mind your hands!"

He got up beside the driver of the front cab.

"Where to?" asked the man.

"36, Quai des Orfevers: the detective-office."

The motors throbbed, the drivers started the gear and the strange
procession went scooting down the slopes of the Trocadero.

In the streets, they passed a few vegetable-carts. Men carrying long
poles were turning out the street-lamps.

There were stars in the sky. A cool breeze was wafted through the air.

Lupin sang aloud:

The Place de la Concorde, the Louvre. . . . In the distance, the dark
bulk of Notre Dame. . . .

He turned round and half opened the door:

"Having a good time, mates? So am I, thank you. It's a grand night for a
drive and the air's delicious! . . ."

They were now bumping over the ill-paved quays. And soon they arrived at
the Palais de Justice and the door of the detective-office.

"Wait here," said Lupin to the two drivers, "and be sure you look after
your seven fares."

He crossed the outer yard and went down the passage on the right leading
to the rooms of the central office. He found the night inspectors on
duty.

"A bag, gentlemen," he said, as he entered, "a fine bag too. Is M. Weber
here? I am the new commissary of police for Auteuil."

"M. Weber is in his flat. Do you want him sent for?"

"Just one second. I'm in a hurry. I'll leave a line for him."

He sat down at a table and wrote:

      "MY DEAR WEBER,

      "I am bringing you the seven scoundrels composing
      Altenheim's gang, the men who killed Gourel (and
      plenty of others) and who killed me as well, under the
      name of M. Lenormand.

      "That only leaves their leader unaccounted for. I am
      going to effect his arrest this minute. Come and join
      me. He lives in the Rue Delaizement, at Neuilly and
      goes by the name of Leon Massier.

        "Kind regards.
                    "Yours,
                                    "ARSÈNE LUPIN,
                    "_Chief of the Detective-service_."

He sealed the letter:

"Give that to M. Weber. It's urgent. Now I want seven men to receive the
goods. I left them on the quay."

On going back to the taxis, he was met by a chief inspector:

"Ah, it's you M. Lebœuf!" he said. "I've made a fine haul. . . . The
whole of Altenheim's gang. . . . They're there in the taxi-cabs."

"Where did you find them?"

"Hard at work kidnapping Mrs. Kesselbach and robbing her house. But I'll
tell you all about it when the time comes."

The chief inspector took him aside and, with the air of surprise:

"I beg your pardon, monsieur, but I was sent for to see the commissary
of police for Auteuil. And I don't seem to . . . Whom have I the honor
of addressing?"

"Somebody who is making you a handsome present of seven hooligans of the
finest quality."

"Still, I should like to know. . . ."

"My name?"

"Yes."

"Arsène Lupin."

He nimbly tripped the chief inspector up, ran to the Rue de Rivoli,
jumped into a passing taxi-cab and drove to the Porte des Ternes.

The Route de la Revolte was close by. He went to No. 3.

       *       *       *       *       *

For all his coolness and self-command, Arsène Lupin was unable to
control his excitement. Would he find Dolores Kesselbach? Had Louis de
Malreich taken her either to his own place or to the Broker's shed?

Lupin had taken the key of the shed from the Broker, so that it was easy
for him, after ringing and walking across the different yards, to open
the door and enter the lumber-shop.

He switched on his lantern and took his bearings. A little to the right
was the free space in which he had seen the accomplices hold their last
confabulation. On the sofa mentioned by the Broker he saw a black
figure, Dolores lay wrapped in blankets and gagged.

He helped her up.

"Ah, it's you, it's you!" she stammered. "They haven't touched you!"

And, rising and pointing to the back of the shop:

"There . . . he went out that side . . . I heard him. . . . I am sure.
. . . You must go . . . please!"

"I must get you away first," he said.

"No, never mind me . . . go after him. . . . I entreat you. . . . Strike
him!"

Fear, this time, instead of dejecting her, seemed to be giving her
unwonted strength; and she repeated, with an immense longing to place
her terrible enemy in his power:

"Go after him first. . . . I can't go on living like this. . . . You
must save me from him. . . . I can't go on living. . . ."

He unfastened her bonds, laid her carefully on the sofa and said:

"You are right. . . . Besides, you have nothing to fear here. . . . Wait
for me, I shall come back."

As he was going away, she caught hold of his hand:

"But you yourself?"

"Well?"

"If that man . . ."

It was as though she dreaded for Lupin the great, final contest to which
she was exposing him and as though, at the last moment, she would have
been glad to hold him back.

He said:

"Thank you, have no fear. What have I to be afraid of? He is alone."

And, leaving her, he went to the back of the shed. As he expected, he
found a ladder standing against the wall which brought him to the level
of the little window through which he had watched the scoundrels hold
their meeting. It was the way by which Malreich had returned to his
house in the Rue Delaizement.

He, therefore, took the same road, just as he had done a few hours
earlier, climbed into the loft of the other coach-house and down into
the garden. He found himself at the back of the villa occupied by
Malreich.

Strange to say, he did not doubt, for a moment that Malreich was there.
He would meet him inevitably; the formidable battle which they were
waging against each other was nearing its end. A few minutes more and,
one way or another, all would be over.

He was amazed, on grasping the handle of a door, to find that the handle
turned and the door opened under his pressure. The villa was not even
locked.

He passed through a kitchen, a hall and up a staircase; and he walked
deliberately, without seeking to deaden the sound of his footsteps.

On the landing, he stopped. The perspiration streamed from his forehead;
and his temples throbbed under the rush of his blood. Nevertheless, he
remained calm, master of himself and conscious of his least thoughts. He
laid two revolvers on a stair:

"No weapons," he said to himself. "My hands only, just the effort of my
two hands. . . . That's quite enough. . . . That will be better. . . ."

Opposite him were three doors. He chose the middle one, turned the
handle and encountered no obstacle. He went in. There was no light in
the room, but the rays of the night entered through the wide-open window
and, amid the darkness, he saw the sheets and the white curtains of the
bed.

And somebody was standing beside it.

He savagely cast the gleam of his lantern upon that form.

Malreich!

The pallid face of Malreich, his dim eyes, his cadaverous cheek-bones,
his scraggy neck. . . .

And all this stood motionless, opposite him, at five steps' distance;
and he could not have said whether that dull face, that death-face,
expressed the least terror or even a grain of anxiety.

Lupin took a step forward . . . and a second . . . and a third. . . .

The man did not move.

Did he see? Did he understand? It was as though the man's eyes were
gazing into space and that he thought himself possessed by an
hallucination, rather than looking upon a real image.

One more step. . . .

"He will defend himself," thought Lupin, "he is bound to defend
himself."

And Lupin thrust out his arms.

The man did not make a movement. He did not retreat; his eyelids did not
blink.

The contact took place.

And it was Lupin, scared and bewildered, who lost his head. He knocked
the man back upon his bed, stretched him at full length, rolled him in
the sheets, bound him in the blankets and held him under his knee, like
a prey . . . whereas the man had not made the slightest movement of
resistance.

"Ah!" shouted Lupin, drunk with delight and satisfied hatred. "At last I
have crushed you, you odious brute! At last I am the master!"

He heard a noise outside, in the Rue Delaizement; men knocking at the
gate. He ran to the window and cried:

"Is that you, Weber? Already? Well done! You are a model servant! Break
down the gate, old chap, and come up here; delighted to see you!"

In a few minutes, he searched his prisoner's clothes, got hold of his
pocket-book, cleared the papers out of the drawers of the desk and the
davenport, flung them on the table and went through them.

He gave a shout of joy: the bundle of letters was there, the famous
bundle of letters which he had promised to restore to the Emperor.

He put back the papers in their place and went to the window:

"It's all finished, Weber! You can come in! You will find Mr.
Kesselbach's murderer in his bed, all ready tied up. . . . Good-bye,
Weber!"

And Lupin, tearing down the stairs, ran to the coach-house and went back
to Dolores Kesselbach, while Weber was breaking into the villa.

Single-handed, he had arrested Altenheim's seven companions!

And he had delivered to justice the mysterious leader of the gang, the
infamous monster, Louis de Malreich!

A young man sat writing at a table on a wide wooden balcony.

From time to time, he raised his head and cast a vague glance toward the
horizon of hills, where the trees, stripped by the autumn, were shedding
their last leaves over the red roofs of the villas and the lawns of the
gardens. Then he went on writing.

Presently he took up his paper and read aloud:

    Nos jours s'en vont à la dérive,
    Comme emportés par un courant
    Qui les pousse vers une rive
    Où l'on n'aborde qu'en mourant.[10]

[Footnote 10:  Our days go by, adrift, adrift,
               Borne along by current swift
               That urges them toward the strand
               Where not until we die, we land.]

"Not so bad," said a voice behind him. "Mme. Amable Tastu might have
written that, or Mrs. Felicia Hemans. However, we can't all be Byrons or
Lamartines!"

"You! . . . You! . . ." stammered the young man, in dismay.

"Yes, I, poet, I myself, Arsène Lupin come to see his dear friend Pierre
Leduc."

Pierre Leduc began to shake, as though shivering with fever. He asked,
in a low voice:

"Has the hour come?"

"Yes, my dear Pierre Leduc: the hour has come for you to give up, or
rather to interrupt the slack poet's life which you have been leading
for months at the feet of Geneviève Ernemont and Mrs. Kesselbach and to
perform the part which I have allotted to you in my play . . . oh, a
fine play, I assure you, thoroughly well-constructed, according to all
the canons of art, with top notes, comic relief and gnashing of teeth
galore! We have reached the fifth act; the grand finale is at hand; and
you, Pierre Leduc, are the hero. There's fame for you!"

The young man rose from his seat:

"And suppose I refuse?"

"Idiot!"

"Yes, suppose I refuse? After all, what obliges me to submit to your
will? What obliges me to accept a part which I do not know, but which I
loathe in advance and feel ashamed of?"

"Idiot!" repeated Lupin.

And forcing Pierre Leduc back into his chair, he sat down beside him
and, in the gentlest of voices:

"You quite forget, my dear young man, that you are not Pierre Leduc, but
Gérard Baupré. That you bear the beautiful name of Pierre Leduc is due
to the fact that you, Gérard Baupré, killed Pierre Leduc and robbed him
of his individuality."

The young man bounded with indignation:

"You are mad! You know as well as I do that you conceived the whole
plot. . . ."

"Yes, I know that, of course; but the law doesn't know it; and what will
the law say when I come forward with proof that the real Pierre Leduc
died a violent death and that you have taken his place?"

The young man, overwhelmed with consternation, stammered:

"No one will believe you. . . . Why should I have done that? With what
object?"

"Idiot! The object is so self-evident that Weber himself could have
perceived it. You lie when you say that you will not accept a part which
you do not know. You know your part quite well. It is the part which
Pierre Leduc would have played were he not dead."

"But Pierre Leduc, to me, to everybody, was only a name. Who was he? Who
am I?"

"What difference can that make to you?"

"I want to know. I want to know what I am doing!"

"And, if you know, will you go straight ahead?"

"Yes, if the object of which you speak is worth it."

"If it were not, do you think I would take all this trouble?"

"Who am I? Whatever my destiny, you may be sure that I shall prove
worthy of it. But I want to know. Who am I?"

Arsène Lupin took off his hat, bowed and said: "Hermann IV., Grand-duke
of Zweibrucken-Veldenz, Prince of Berncastel, Elector of Treves and lord
of all sorts of places."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three days later, Arsène Lupin took Mrs. Kesselbach away in a motor-car
in the direction of the frontier. The journey was accomplished in
silence, Lupin remembered with emotion Dolores's terrified conduct and
the words which she spoke in the house in the Rue des Vignes, when he
was about to defend her against Altenheim's accomplices. And she must
have remembered also, for she remained embarrassed and evidently
perturbed in his presence.

In the evening they reached a small castle, all covered with creepers
and flowers, roofed with an enormous slate cap and standing in a large
garden full of ancestral trees.

Here Mrs. Kesselbach found Geneviève already installed, after a visit to
the neighboring town, where she had engaged a staff of servants from
among the country-people.

"This will be your residence, madame," said Lupin. "You are at Bruggen
Castle. You will be quite safe here, while waiting the outcome of these
events. I have written to Pierre Leduc and he will be your guest from
to-morrow."

He started off again at once, drove to Veldenz and handed over to Count
von Waldemar the famous letters which he had recaptured:

"You know my conditions, my dear Waldemar," said Lupin. "The first and
most important thing is to restore the House of Zweibrucken-Veldenz and
to reinstate the Grand-duke Hermann IV., in the grand-duchy."

"I shall open negotiations with the Council of Regency to-day. According
to my information, it will not be a difficult matter. But this
Grand-duke Hermann. . . ."

"His Royal Highness is at present staying at Bruggen Castle, under the
name of Pierre Leduc. I will supply all the necessary proofs of his
identity."

That same evening, Lupin took the road back to Paris, with the intention
of actively hurrying on the trial of Malreich and the seven scoundrels.

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be wearisome to recapitulate the story of the case: the facts,
down to the smallest details, are in the memory of one and all. It was
one of those sensational events which still form a subject of
conversation and discussion among the weather-beaten laborers in the
remotest villages.

But what I wish to recall is the enormous part played by Lupin in the
conduct of the case and in the incidents appertaining to the preliminary
inquiry. As a matter of fact, it was he who managed the inquiry. From
the very start, he took the place of the authorities, ordering
police-searches, directing the measures to be taken, prescribing the
questions to be put to the prisoners, assuming the responsibility for
everything.

We can all remember the universal amazement when, morning after morning,
we read in the papers those letters, so irresistible in their masterly
logic, signed, by turns:

      "ARSÈNE LUPIN, _Examining-magistrate_."

      "ARSÈNE LUPIN, _Public Prosecutor_."

      "ARSÈNE LUPIN, _Minister of Justice_."

      "ARSÈNE LUPIN, _Copper_."

He flung himself into the business with a spirit, an ardor, a violence,
even, that was astonishing in one usually so full of light-hearted chaff
and, when all was said, so naturally disposed by temperament to display
a certain professional indulgence.

No, this time he was prompted by hatred.

He hated Louis de Malreich, that bloodthirsty scoundrel, that foul
brute, of whom he had always been afraid and who, even beaten, even in
prison, still gave him that sensation of dread and repugnance which one
feels at the sight of a reptile.

Besides, had not Malreich had the audacity to persecute Dolores?

"He has played and lost," said Lupin. "He shall pay for it with his
head."

That was what he wanted for his terrible enemy: the scaffold, the bleak,
dull morning when the blade of the guillotine slides down and kills.
. . .

It was a strange prisoner whom the examining-magistrate questioned for
months on end between the four walls of his room, a strange figure, that
bony man, with the skeleton face and the lifeless eyes!

He seemed quite out of himself. His thoughts were not there, but
elsewhere. And he cared so little about answering!

"My name is Leon Massier."

That was the one sentence to which he confined himself.

And Lupin retorted.

"You lie. Leon Massier, born at Perigueux, left fatherless at the age of
ten, died seven years ago. You took his papers. But you forgot his
death-certificate. Here it is."

And Lupin sent a copy of the document to the public prosecutor.

"I am Leon Massier," declared the prisoner, once again.

"You lie," replied Lupin. "You are Louis de Malreich, the last surviving
descendant of a small French noble who settled in Germany in the
eighteenth century. You had a brother who called himself Parbury,
Ribeira and Altenheim, by turns: you killed your brother. You had a
sister, Isilda de Malreich: you killed your sister."

"I am Leon Massier."

"You lie. You are Malreich. Here is your birth-certificate. Here are
your brother's and your sister's."

And Lupin sent the three certificates.

Apart from the question of his identity, Malreich, crushed, no doubt, by
the accumulation of proofs brought up against him, did not defend
himself. What could he say? They had forty notes written in his own
hand--a comparison of the handwritings established the fact--written in
his own hand to the gang of his accomplices, forty notes which he had
omitted to tear up after taking them back. And all these notes were
orders relating to the Kesselbach case, the capture of M. Lenormand and
Gourel, the pursuit of old Steinweg, the construction of the underground
passages at Garches and so on. What possibility was there of a denial?

One rather odd thing baffled the law officers. The seven scoundrels,
when confronted with their leader, all declared that they did not know
him, because they had never seen him. They received his instructions
either by telephone, or else in the dark, by means of those same little
notes which Malreich slipped into their hands without a word.

But, for the rest, was not the existence of the communication between
the villa in the Rue Delaizement and the Broker's shed an ample proof of
complicity? From that spot, Malreich saw and heard. From that spot, the
leader watched his men.

Discrepancies? Apparently irreconcilable facts? Lupin explained them all
away. In a celebrated article, published on the morning of the trial, he
took up the case from the start, revealed what lay beneath it,
unravelled its web, showed Malreich, unknown to all, living in the room
of his brother, the sham Major Parbury, passing unseen along the
passages of the Palace Hotel and murdering Mr. Kesselbach, murdering
Beudot the floor-waiter, murdering Chapman the secretary.

The trial lingers in the memory. It was both terrifying and gloomy:
terrifying because of the atmosphere of anguish that hung over the crowd
of onlookers and the recollection of crime and blood that obsessed
their minds: gloomy, heavy, darksome, stifling because of the tremendous
silence observed by the prisoner.

Not a protest, not a movement, not a word. A face of wax that neither
saw nor heard. An awful vision of impassive calmness! The people in
court shuddered. Their distraught imaginations conjured up a sort of
supernatural being rather than a man, a sort of genie out of the Arabian
Nights, one of those Hindu gods who symbolize all that is ferocious,
cruel, sanguinary and pernicious.

As for the other scoundrels, the people did not even look at them,
treated them as insignificant supers overshadowed by that stupendous
leader.

The most sensational evidence was that given by Mrs. Kesselbach. To the
general astonishment and to Lupin's own surprise, Dolores, who had
answered none of the magistrate's summonses and who had retired to an
unknown spot, Dolores appeared, a sorrow-stricken widow, to give damning
evidence against her husband's murderer.

She gazed at him for many seconds and then said, simply:

"That is the man who entered my house in the Rue des Vignes, who carried
me off and who locked me up in the Broker's shed. I recognize him."

"On your oath?"

"I swear it before God and man."

Two days later, Louis de Malreich, _alias_ Leon Massier was sentenced to
death. And his overpowering personality may be said to have absorbed
that of his accomplices to such an extent that they received the benefit
of extenuating circumstances.

"Louis de Malreich have you nothing to say?" asked the presiding judge.

He made no reply.

One question alone remained undecided in Lupin's eyes: why had Malreich
committed all those crimes? What did he want? What was his object?

Lupin was soon to understand; and the day was not far off when, gasping
with horror, struck, mortally smitten with despair, he would know the
awful truth.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the moment, although the thought of it constantly hovered over his
mind, he ceased to occupy himself with the Malreich case. Resolved to
get a new skin, as he put it; reassured, on the other hand, as to the
fate of Mrs. Kesselbach and Geneviève, over whose peaceful existence he
watched from afar; and, lastly, kept informed by Jean Doudeville, whom
he had sent to Veldenz, of all the negotiations that were being pursued
between the court of Berlin and the regent of Zweibrucken-Veldenz, he
employed all his time in winding up the past and preparing for the
future.

The thought of the different life which he wished to lead under the eyes
of Mrs. Kesselbach filled him with new ambitions and unexpected
sentiments, in which the image of Dolores played a part, without his
being able to tell exactly how or why.

In a few weeks, he got rid of all the proofs that could have compromised
him sooner or later, all the traces that could have led to his ruin. He
gave each of his old companions a sum of money sufficient to keep them
from want for the rest of their lives and said good-bye to them, saying
that he was going to South America.

One morning, after a night of careful thought and a deep study of the
situation, he cried:

"It's done. There's nothing to fear now. The old Lupin is dead. Make way
for the young one."

His man brought him a telegram from Germany. It contained the news for
which he had been waiting. The Council of Regency, greatly influenced by
the Court of Berlin, had referred the question to the electors; and the
electors, greatly influenced by the Council of Regency, had declared
their unshaken attachment to the old dynasty of the Veldenz. Count von
Waldemar was deputed, together with three delegates selected from the
nobility, the army and the law, to go to Bruggen Castle, carefully to
establish the identity of the Grand-duke Hermann IV. and to make all the
arrangements with His Royal Highness for his triumphal entry into the
principality of his fathers, which was to take place in the course of
the following month.

"This time, I've pulled it off," said Lupin to himself. "Mr.
Kesselbach's great scheme is being realized. All that remains for me to
do is to make Waldemar swallow Pierre Leduc; and that is child's play.
The banns between Geneviève and Pierre shall be published to-morrow. And
it shall be the grand-duke's affianced bride that will be presented to
Waldemar."

Full of glee, he started in his motor for Bruggen Castle.

He sang in the car, he whistled, he chatted to his chauffeur:

"Octave, do you know whom you have the honor of driving? The master of
the world! . . . Yes, old man, that staggers you, eh? Just so, but it's
the truth. I am the master of the world."

He rubbed his hands and went on soliloquizing:

"All the same, it was a long job. It's a year since the fight began.
True, it was the most formidable fight I ever stood to win or lose.
. . . By Jupiter, what a war of giants!" And he repeated, "But this
time, I've pulled it off! The enemies are in the water. There are no
obstacles left between the goal and me. The site is free: let us build
upon it! I have the materials at hand, I have the workmen: let us build,
Lupin! And let the palace be worthy of you!"

He stopped the car at a few hundred yards from the castle, so that his
arrival might create as little fuss as possible, and said to Octave:

"Wait here for twenty minutes, until four o'clock, and then drive in.
Take my bags to the little chalet at the end of the park. That's where I
shall sleep."

At the first turn of the road, the castle appeared in sight, standing at
the end of a dark avenue of lime trees. From the distance, he saw
Geneviève passing on the terrace.

His heart was softly stirred:

"Geneviève, Geneviève," he said, fondly. "Geneviève . . . the vow which
I made to the dying mother is being fulfilled as well. . . . Geneviève a
grand-duchess! . . . And I, in the shade, watching over her happiness
. . . and pursuing the great schemes of Arsène Lupin!"

He burst out laughing, sprang behind a cluster of trees that stood to
the left of the avenue and slipped along the thick shrubberies. In this
way, he reached the castle without the possibility of his being seen
from the windows of the drawing-room or the principal bedrooms.

He wanted to see Dolores before she saw him and pronounced her name
several times, as he had pronounced Geneviève's, but with an emotion
that surprised himself:

"Dolores. . . . Dolores. . . ."

He stole along the passages and reached the dining-room. From this room,
through a glass panel, he could see half the drawing-room.

He drew nearer.

Dolores was lying on a couch; and Pierre Leduc, on his knees before her,
was gazing at her with eyes of ecstasy. . . .



CHAPTER XV

THE MAP OF EUROPE


Pierre Leduc loved Dolores!

Lupin felt a keen, penetrating pain in the depths of his being, as
though he had been wounded in the very source of life; a pain so great
that, for the first time, he had a clear perception of what Dolores had
gradually, unknown to himself, become to him.

Pierre Leduc loved Dolores! And he was looking at her as a man looks at
the woman he loves.

Lupin felt a murderous instinct rise up within him, blindly and
furiously. That look, that look of love cast upon Dolores, maddened him.
He received an impression of the great silence that enveloped Dolores
and Pierre Leduc; and in silence, in the stillness of their attitude
there was nothing living but that look of love, that dumb and sensuous
hymn in which the eyes told all the passion, all the desire, all the
transport, all the yearning that one being can feel for another.

And he saw Mrs. Kesselbach also. Dolores' eyes were invisible under
their lowered lids, the silky eyelids with the long black lashes. But
how she seemed to feel that look of love which sought for hers! How she
quivered under that impalpable caress!

"She loves him . . . she loves him," thought Lupin, burning with
jealousy.

And, when Pierre made a movement:

"Oh, the villain! If he dares to touch her, I will kill him!"

Then, realizing the disorder of his reason and striving to combat it, he
said to himself:

"What a fool I am! What, you, Lupin, letting your self go like this!
. . . Look here, it's only natural that she should love him. . . . Yes,
of course, you expected her to show a certain emotion at your arrival
. . . a certain agitation. . . . You silly idiot, you're only a thief, a
robber . . . whereas he is a prince and young. . . ."

Pierre had not stirred further. But his lips moved and it seemed as
though Dolores were waking. Softly, slowly, she raised her lids, turned
her head a little and her eyes met the young man's eyes with the look
that offers itself and surrenders itself and is more intense than the
most intense of kisses.

What followed came suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thunder-clap. In
three bounds, Lupin rushed into the drawing-room, sprang upon the young
man, flung him to the ground and, with one hand on his rival's chest,
beside himself with anger, turning to Mrs. Kesselbach, he cried:

"But don't you know? Hasn't he told you, the cheat? . . . And you love
him, you love that! Does he look like a grand-duke? Oh, what a joke!"

He grinned and chuckled like a madman, while Dolores gazed at him in
stupefaction:

"He, a grand-duke! Hermann IV., Grand-duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz! A
reigning sovereign! Elector of Treves! But it's enough to make one die
of laughing! He! Why, his name is Baupré, Gérard Baupré, the lowest of
ragamuffins . . . a beggar, whom I picked up in the gutter! . . . A
grand-duke? But it's I who made him a grand-duke! Ha, ha, ha, what a
joke! . . . If you had seen him cut his little finger . . . he fainted
three times . . . the milksop! . . . Ah, you allow yourself to lift your
eyes to ladies . . . and to rebel against the master! . . . Wait a bit,
Grand-duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz, I'll show you!"

He took him in his arms, like a bundle, swung him to and fro for a
moment and pitched him through the open window:

"Mind the rose trees, grand-duke! There are thorns!"

When he turned round, Dolores was close to him and looking at him with
eyes which he had never seen in her before, the eyes of a woman who
hates and who is incensed with rage. Could this possibly be Dolores, the
weak, ailing Dolores?

She stammered:

"What are you doing? . . . How dare you? . . . And he. . . . Then it's
true? . . . lied to me? . . ."

"Lied to you?" cried Lupin, grasping the humiliation which she had
suffered as a woman. "Lied to you? He, a grand-duke! A puppet, that's
all, a puppet of which I pulled the string . . . an instrument which I
tuned, to play upon as I chose! Oh, the fool, the fool!"

Overcome with renewed rage, he stamped his foot and shook his fist at
the open window. And he began to walk up and down the room, flinging out
phrases in which all the pent-up violence of his secret thought burst
forth:

"The fool! Then he didn't see what I expected of him? He did not suspect
the greatness of the part he was to play? Oh, I shall have to drive it
into his noddle by force, I see! Lift up your head, you idiot! You shall
be grand-duke by the grace of Lupin! And a reigning sovereign! With a
civil list! And subjects to fleece! And a palace which Charlemagne shall
rebuild for you! And a master that shall be I, Lupin! Do you understand,
you numskull? Lift up your head, dash it! Higher than that! Look up at
the sky, remember that a Zweibrucken was hanged for cattle-lifting
before the Hohenzollerns were ever heard of. And you are a Zweibrucken,
by Jove, no less; and I am here, I, I, Lupin! And you shall be
grand-duke, I tell you! A paste-board grand-duke? Very well! But a
grand-duke all the same, quickened with my breath and glowing with my
ardor. A puppet? Very well. But a puppet that shall speak _my_ words and
make _my_ movements and perform _my_ wishes and realize _my_ dreams
. . . yes . . . my dreams."

He stood motionless, as though dazzled by the glory of his conception.
Then he went up to Dolores and, sinking his voice, with a sort of mystic
exaltation, he said:

"On my left, Alsace-Lorraine. . . . On my right, Baden, Wurtemburg,
Bavaria. . . . South Germany . . . all those disconnected, discontented
states, crushed under the heel of the Prussian Charlemagne, but restless
and ready to throw off the yoke at any moment. . . . Do you understand
all that a man like myself can do in the midst of that, all the
aspirations that he can kindle, all the hatred that he can produce, all
the angry rebellion that he can inspire?"

In a still lower voice, he repeated:

"And, on my left, Alsace-Lorraine! . . . Do you fully understand? . . .
Dreams? Not at all! It is the reality of the day after to-morrow, of
to-morrow! . . . Yes. . . . I wish it. . . . I wish it. . . . Oh, all
that I wish and all that I mean to do is unprecedented! . . . Only
think, at two steps from the Alsatian frontier! In the heart of German
territory! Close to the old Rhine! . . . A little intrigue, a little
genius will be enough to change the surface of the earth. Genius I have
. . . and to spare. . . . And I shall be the master! I shall be the man
who directs. The other, the puppet can have the title and the honors.
. . . I shall have the power! . . . I shall remain in the background. No
office: I will not be a minister, nor even a chamberlain. Nothing. I
shall be one of the servants in the palace, the gardener perhaps. . . .
Yes, the gardener. . . . Oh, what a tremendous life! To grow flowers and
alter the map of Europe!"

She looked at him greedily, dominated, swayed by the strength of that
man. And her eyes expressed an admiration which she did not seek to
conceal.

He put his hands on Dolores' shoulders and said:

"That is my dream. Great as it is, it will be surpassed by the facts:
that I swear to you. The Kaiser has already seen what I am good for. One
day, he will find me installed in front of him, face to face. I hold all
the trumps. Valenglay will act at my bidding. . . . England also. . . .
The game is played and won. . . . That is my dream. . . . There is
another one. . . ."

He stopped suddenly. Dolores did not take her eyes from him; and an
infinite emotion changed every feature of her face.

A vast joy penetrated him as he once more felt, and clearly felt, that
woman's confusion in his presence. He no longer had the sense of being
to her . . . what he was, a thief, a robber; he was a man, a man who
loved and whose love roused unspoken feelings in the depths of a
friendly soul.

Then he said no more, but he lavished upon her, unuttered, every known
word of love and admiration; and he thought of the life which he might
lead somewhere, not far from Veldenz, unknown and all-powerful. . . .

A long silence united them. Then she rose and said, softly:

"Go away, I entreat you to go. . . . Pierre shall marry Geneviève, I
promise you that, but it is better that you should go . . . that you
should not be here. . . . Go. Pierre shall marry Geneviève."

He waited for a moment. Perhaps he would rather have had more definite
words, but he dared not ask for anything. And he withdrew, dazed,
intoxicated and happy to obey, to subject his destiny to hers!

On his way to the door, he came upon a low chair, which he had to move.
But his foot knocked against something. He looked down. It was a little
pocket-mirror, in ebony, with a gold monogram.

Suddenly, he started and snatched up the mirror. The monogram consisted
of two letters interlaced, an "L" and an "M."

An "L" and an "M!"

"Louis de Malreich," he said to himself, with a shudder.

He turned to Dolores:

"Where does this mirror come from? Whose is it? It is important that I
should . . ."

She took it from him and looked at it:

"I don't know. . . . I never saw it before . . . a servant, perhaps.
. . ."

"A servant, no doubt," he said, "but it is very odd . . . it is one of
those coincidences. . . ."

At that moment, Geneviève entered by the other door, and without seeing
Lupin, who was hidden by a screen, at once exclaimed:

"Why, there's your glass, Dolores! . . . So you have found it, after
making me hunt for it all this time! . . . Where was it?" And the girl
went away saying, "Oh, well, I'm very glad it's found! . . . How upset
you were! . . . I will go and tell them at once to stop looking for it.
. . ."

Lupin had not moved. He was confused, and tried in vain to understand.
Why had Dolores not spoken the truth? Why had she not at once said whose
the mirror was?

An idea flashed across his mind; and he asked, more or less at random:

"Do you know Louis de Malreich?"

"Yes," she said, watching him, as though striving to guess the thoughts
that beset him.

He rushed toward her, in a state of intense excitement:

"You know him? Who was he? Who is he? Who is he? And why did you not
tell me? Where have you known him? Speak . . . answer. . . . I implore
you. . . ."

"No," she said.

"But you must, you must. . . . Think! Louis de Malreich! The murderer!
The monster! . . . Why did you not tell me?"

She, in turn, placed her hands on Lupin's shoulders and, in a firm
voice, declared:

"Listen, you must never ask me, because I shall never tell. . . . It is
a secret which I shall take with me to the grave. . . . Come what may,
no one will ever know, no one in the wide world, I swear it!"

He stood before her for some minutes, anxiously, with a confused brain.

He remembered Steinweg's silence and the old man's terror when Lupin
asked him to reveal the terrible secret. Dolores also knew and she also
refused to speak.

He went out without a word.

       *       *       *       *       *

The open air, the sense of space, did him good. He passed out through
the park-wall and wandered long over the country. And he soliloquized
aloud:

"What does it mean? What is happening? For months and months, fighting
hard and acting, I have been pulling the strings of all the characters
that are to help me in the execution of my plans; and, during this time,
I have completely forgotten to stoop over them and see what is going on
in their hearts and brains. I do not know Pierre Leduc, I do not know
Geneviève, I do not know Dolores. . . . And I have treated them as so
many jumping-jacks, whereas they are live persons. And to-day I am
stumbling over obstacles."

He stamped his foot and cried:

"Over obstacles that do not exist! What do I care for the psychological
state of Geneviève, of Pierre? . . . I will study that later, at
Veldenz, when I have secured their happiness. But Dolores . . . she knew
Malreich and said nothing! . . . Why? What relation united them? Was she
afraid of him? Is she afraid that he will escape from prison and come to
revenge himself for an indiscretion on her part?"

At night, he went to the chalet which he had allotted to his own use at
the end of the park and dined in a very bad temper, storming at Octave,
who waited on him and who was always either too slow or too fast:

"I'm sick of it, leave me alone. . . . You're doing everything wrong
to-day. . . . And this coffee. . . . It's not fit to drink."

He pushed back his cup half-full and, for two hours, walked about the
park, sifting the same ideas over and over again. At last, one
suggestion took definite shape within his mind:

"Malreich has escaped from prison. He is terrifying Mrs. Kesselbach. By
this time, he already knows the story of the mirror from her. . . ."

Lupin shrugged his shoulders:

"And to-night he's coming to pull my leg, I suppose! I'm talking
nonsense. The best thing I can do is to go to bed."

He went to his room, undressed and got into bed. He fell asleep at once,
with a heavy sleep disturbed by nightmares. Twice he woke and tried to
light his candle and twice fell back, as though stunned by a blow.

Nevertheless, he heard the hours strike on the village clock, or rather
he thought that he heard them strike, for he was plunged in a sort of
torpor in which he seemed to retain all his wits.

And he was haunted by dreams, dreams of anguish and terror. He plainly
heard the sound of his window opening. He plainly, through his closed
eyelids, through the thick darkness, _saw_ a form come toward the bed.

And the form bent over him.

He made the incredible effort needed to raise his eyelids and look
. . . or, at least, he imagined that he did. Was he dreaming? Was he
awake? He asked himself the question in despair.

A further sound. . . .

He took up the box of matches by his bedside:

"Let's have a light on it," he said, with a great sense of elation.

He struck a match and lit the candle.

Lupin felt the perspiration stream over his skin, from head to foot,
while his heart ceased beating, stopped with terror. _The man was
there._

Was it possible? No, no . . . and yet he _saw_. . . . Oh, the fearsome
sight! . . . The man, the monster, was there. . . .

"He shall not . . . he shall not," stammered Lupin madly.

The man, the monster was there, dressed in black, with a mask on his
face and with his felt hat pulled down over his fair hair.

"Oh, I am dreaming. . . . I am dreaming!" said Lupin, laughing. "It's a
nightmare! . . ."

Exerting all his strength and all his will-power, he tried to make a
movement, one movement, to drive away the vision.

He could not.

And, suddenly, he remembered: the coffee! The taste of it . . . similar
to the taste of the coffee which he had drunk at Veldenz!

He gave a cry, made a last effort and fell back exhausted. But, in his
delirium, he felt that the man was unfastening the top button of his
pajama-jacket and baring his neck, felt that the man was raising his
arm, saw that the hand was clutching the handle of a dagger, a little
steel dagger similar to that which had struck Kesselbach, Chapman,
Altenheim and so many others. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

A few hours later, Lupin woke up, shattered with fatigue, with a
scorched palate.

He lay for several minutes collecting his thoughts and, suddenly,
remembering, made an instinctive defensive movement, as though he were
being attacked:

"Fool that I am!" he cried, jumping out of bed. "It was a nightmare, an
hallucination. It only needs a little reflection. Had it been 'he,' had
it really been a man, in flesh and blood, who lifted his hand against me
last night, he would have cut my throat like a rabbit's. 'He' doesn't
hesitate. Let's be logical. Why should he spare me? For the sake of my
good looks? No, I have been dreaming, that's all. . . ."

He began to whistle and dressed himself, assuming the greatest calmness,
but his brain never ceased working and his eyes sought about. . . .

On the floor, on the window-ledge, not a trace. As his room was on the
ground-floor and as he slept with his window open, it was evident that
his assailant would have entered that way.

Well, he discovered nothing; and nothing either at the foot of the wall
outside, or on the gravel of the path that ran round the chalet.

"Still . . . still . . ." he repeated, between his teeth. . . .

He called Octave:

"Where did you make the coffee which you gave me last night?"

"At the castle, governor, like the rest of the things. There is no range
here."

"Did you drink any of it?"

"No."

"Did you throw away what was left in the coffee-pot?"

"Why, yes, governor. You said it was so bad. You only took a few
mouthfuls."

"Very well. Get the motor ready. We're leaving."

Lupin was not the man to remain in doubt. He wanted to have a decisive
explanation with Dolores. But, for this, he must first clear up certain
points that seemed to him obscure and see Jean Doudeville who had sent
him some rather curious information from Veldenz.

He drove, without stopping, to the grand-duchy, which he reached at two
o'clock. He had an interview with Count de Waldemar, whom he asked, upon
some pretext, to delay the journey of the delegates of the Regency to
Bruggen. Then he went in search of Doudeville, in a tavern at Veldenz.

Doudeville took him to another tavern, where he introduced him to a
shabbily-dressed little gentleman, Herr Stockli, a clerk in the
department of births, deaths and marriages. They had a long
conversation. They went out together and all three passed stealthily
through the offices of the town-hall. At seven o'clock, Lupin dined and
set out again. At ten o'clock he arrived at Bruggen Castle and asked for
Geneviève, so that she might take him to Mrs. Kesselbach's room.

He was told that Mlle. Ernemont had been summoned back to Paris by a
telegram from her grandmother.

"Ah!" he said. "Could I see Mrs. Kesselbach?"

"Mrs. Kesselbach went straight to bed after dinner. She is sure to be
asleep."

"No, I saw a light in her boudoir. She will see me."

He did not even wait for Mrs. Kesselbach to send out an answer. He
walked into the boudoir almost upon the maid's heels, dismissed her and
said to Dolores:

"I have to speak to you, madame, on an urgent matter. . . . Forgive me
. . . I confess that my behavior must seem importunate. . . . But you
will understand, I am sure. . . ."

He was greatly excited and did not seem much disposed to put off the
explanation, especially as, before entering the room, he thought he
heard a sound.

Yet Dolores was alone and lying down. And she said, in her tired voice:

"Perhaps we might . . . to-morrow. . . ."

He did not answer, suddenly struck by a smell that surprised him in that
boudoir, a smell of tobacco. And, at once, he had the intuition, the
certainty, that there was a man there, at the moment when he himself
arrived, and that perhaps the man was there still, hidden somewhere.
. . .

Pierre Leduc? No, Pierre Leduc did not smoke. Then who?

Dolores murmured:

"Be quick, please."

"Yes, yes, but first . . . would it be possible for you to tell me
. . . ?"

He interrupted himself. What was the use of asking her? If there were
really a man in hiding, would she be likely to tell?

Then he made up his mind and, trying to overcome the sort of timid
constraint that oppressed him at the sense of a strange presence, he
said, in a very low voice, so that Dolores alone should hear:

"Listen, I have learnt something . . . which I do not understand . . .
and which perplexes me greatly. You will answer me, will you not,
Dolores?"

He spoke her name with great gentleness and as though he were trying to
master her by the note of love and affection in his voice.

"What have you learnt?" she asked.

"The register of births at Veldenz contains three names which are those
of the last descendants of the family of Malreich, which settled in
Germany. . . ."

"Yes, you have told me all that. . . ."

"You remember, the first name is Raoul de Malreich, better known under
his _alias_ of Altenheim, the scoundrel, the swell hooligan, now dead
. . . murdered."

"Yes."

"Next comes Louis de Malreich, the monster, this one, the terrible
murderer who will be beheaded in a few days from now."

"Yes."

"Then, lastly, Isilda, the mad daughter. . . ."

"Yes."

"So all that is quite positive, is it not?"

"Yes."

"Well," said Lupin, leaning over her more closely than before, "I have
just made an investigation which showed to me that the second of the
three Christian names, or rather a part of the line on which it is
written, has at some time or other, been subjected to erasure. The line
is written over, in a new hand, with much fresher ink; but the writing
below is not quite effaced, so that. . . ."

"So that . . . ?" asked Mrs. Kesselbach, in a low voice.

"So that, with a good lens and particularly with the special methods
which I have at my disposal, I was able to revive some of the
obliterated syllables and, without any possibility of a mistake, in all
certainty, to reconstruct the old writing. I then found not Louis de
Malreich, but . . ."

"Oh, don't, don't! . . ."

Suddenly shattered by the strain of her prolonged effort of resistance,
she lay bent in two and, with her head in her hands, her shoulders
shaken with convulsive sobs, she wept.

Lupin looked for long seconds at this weak and listless creature, so
pitifully helpless. And he would have liked to stop, to cease the
torturing questions which he was inflicting upon her. But was it not to
save her that he was acting as he did? And, to save her, was it not
necessary that he should know the truth, however painful?

He resumed:

"Why that forgery?"

"It was my husband," she stammered, "it was my husband who did it. With
his fortune, he could do everything; and he bribed a junior clerk to
have the Christian name of the second child altered for him on the
register."

"The Christian name and the sex," said Lupin.

"Yes," she said.

"Then," he continued, "I am not mistaken: the original Christian name,
the real one, was Dolores?"

"Yes."

"But why did your husband . . . ?"

She whispered in a shame-faced manner, while the tears streamed down her
cheeks.

"Don't you understand?"

"No."

"But think," she said, shuddering, "I was the sister of Isilda, the mad
woman, the sister of Altenheim, the ruffian. My husband--or rather my
affianced husband--would not have me remain that. He loved me. I loved
him too, and I consented. He suppressed Dolores de Malreich on the
register, he bought me other papers, another personality, another
birth-certificate; and I was married in Holland under another maiden
name, as Dolores Amonti."

Lupin reflected for a moment and said, thoughtfully:

"Yes . . . yes . . . I understand. . . . But then Louis de Malreich does
not exist; and the murderer of your husband, the murderer of your
brother and sister, does not bear that name. . . . His name. . . ."

She sprang to a sitting posture and, eagerly:

"His name! Yes, that is his name . . . yes, it is his name nevertheless.
. . . Louis de Malreich. . . . L. M. . . . Remember. . . . Oh, do not
try to find out . . . it is the terrible secret. . . . Besides, what
does it matter? . . . They have the criminal. . . . He is the criminal.
. . . I tell you he is. Did he defend himself when I accused him, face
to face? Could he defend himself, under that name or any other? It is he
. . . it is he . . . He committed the murders. . . . He struck the
blows. . . . The dagger. . . . The steel dagger. . . . Oh, if I could
only tell all I know! . . . Louis de Malreich. . . . If I could only
. . ."

She fell back on the sofa in a fit of hysterical sobbing; and her hand
clutched Lupin's and he heard her stammering, amid inarticulate words:

"Protect me . . . protect me. . . . You alone, perhaps. . . . Oh, do not
forsake me. . . . I am so unhappy! . . . Oh, what torture . . . what
torture! . . . It is hell! . . ."

With his free hand, he stroked her hair and forehead with infinite
gentleness; and, under his caress, she gradually relaxed her tense
nerves and became calmer and quieter.

Then he looked at her again and long, long asked himself what there
could be behind that fair, white brow, what secret was ravaging that
mysterious soul. She also was afraid. But of whom? Against whom was she
imploring him to protect her?

Once again, he was obsessed by the image of the man in black, by that
Louis de Malreich, the sinister and incomprehensible enemy, whose
attacks he had to ward off without knowing whence they came or even if
they were taking place.

He was in prison, watched day and night. Tush! Did Lupin not know by his
own experience that there are beings for whom prison does not exist and
who throw off their chains at the given moment? And Louis de Malreich
was one of those.

Yes, there was some one in the Santé prison, in the condemned man's
cell. But it might be an accomplice or some victim of Malreich . . .
while Malreich himself prowled around Bruggen Castle, slipped in under
cover of the darkness, like an invisible spectre, made his way into the
chalet in the park and, at night, raised his dagger against Lupin asleep
and helpless.

And it was Louis de Malreich who terrorized Dolores, who drove her mad
with his threats, who held her by some dreadful secret and forced her
into silence and submission.

And Lupin imagined the enemy's plan: to throw Dolores, scared and
trembling, into Pierre Leduc's arms, to make away with him, Lupin, and
to reign in his place, over there, with the grand-duke's power and
Dolores's millions.

It was a likely supposition, a certain supposition, which fitted in with
the facts and provided a solution of all the problems.

"Of all?" thought Lupin. "Yes. . . . But then, why did he not kill me,
last night, in the chalet? He had but to wish . . . _and he did not
wish_. One movement and I was dead. He did not make that movement. Why?"

Dolores opened her eyes, saw him and smiled, with a pale smile:

"Leave me," she said:

He rose, with some hesitation. Should he go and see if the enemy was
behind the curtain or hidden behind the dresses in a cupboard?

She repeated, gently:

"Go . . . I am so sleepy. . . ."

He went away.

But, outside, he stopped behind some trees that formed a dark cluster in
front of the castle. He saw a light in Dolores' boudoir. Then the light
passed into the bedroom. In a few minutes, all was darkness.

He waited. If the enemy was there, perhaps he would come out of the
castle. . . .

An hour elapsed. . . . Two hours. . . . Not a sound. . . .

"There's nothing to be done," thought Lupin. "Either he is burrowing in
some corner of the castle . . . or else he has gone out by a door which
I cannot see from here. Unless the whole thing is the most ridiculous
supposition on my part. . . ."

He lit a cigarette and walked back to the chalet.

As he approached it, he saw, at some distance from him, a shadow that
appeared to be moving away.

He did not stir, for fear of giving the alarm.

The shadow crossed a path. By the light of the moon, he seemed to
recognize the black figure of Malreich.

He rushed forward.

The shadow fled and vanished from sight.

"Come," he said, "it shall be for to-morrow. And, this time. . . ."

Lupin went to Octave's, his chauffeur's, room, woke him and said:

"Take the motor and go to Paris. You will be there by six o'clock in the
morning. See Jacques Doudeville and tell him two things: first, to give
me news of the man under sentence of death; and secondly, as soon as the
post-offices open, to send me a telegram which I will write down for you
now. . . ."

He worded the telegram on a scrap of paper and added:

"The moment you have done that, come back, but this way, along the wall
of the park. Go now. No one must suspect your absence."

Lupin went to his own room, pressed the spring of his lantern and began
to make a minute inspection. "It's as I thought," he said presently.
"Some one came here to-night, while I was watching beneath the window.
And, if he came, I know what he came for. . . . I was certainly right:
things are getting warm. . . . The first time, I was spared. This time,
I may be sure of my little stab."

For prudence's sake, he took a blanket, chose a lonely spot in the park
and spent the night under the stars.

Octave was back by ten o'clock in the morning:

"It's all right, governor. The telegram has been sent."

"Good. And is Louis de Malreich still in prison?"

"Yes. Doudeville passed his cell at the Santé last night as the warder
was coming out. They talked together. Malreich is just the same, it
appears: silent as the grave. He is waiting."

"Waiting for what?"

"The fatal hour of course. They are saying, at headquarters, that the
execution will take place on the day after to-morrow."

"That's all right, that's all right," said Lupin. "And one thing is
quite plain: he has not escaped."

He ceased to understand or even to look for the explanation of the
riddle, so clearly did he feel that the whole truth would soon be
revealed to him. He had only to prepare his plan, for the enemy to fall
into the trap.

"Or for me to fall into it myself," he thought, laughing.

He felt very gay, very free from care; and no fight had ever looked more
promising to him.

A footman came from the castle with the telegram which he had told
Doudeville to send him and which the postman had just brought. He opened
it and put it in his pocket.

       *       *       *       *       *

A little before twelve o'clock, he met Pierre Leduc in one of the
avenues and said, off-hand:

"I am looking for you . . . things are serious. . . . You must answer me
frankly. Since you have been at the castle, have you ever seen a man
there, besides the two German servants whom I sent in?"

"No."

"Think carefully. I'm not referring to a casual visitor. I mean a man
who hides himself, a man whose presence you might have discovered or,
less than that, whose presence you might have suspected from some clue
or even by some intuition?"

"No. . . . Have you . . . ?"

"Yes. Some one is hiding here . . . some one is prowling about. . . .
Where? And who is it? And what is his object? I don't know . . . but I
shall know. I already have a suspicion. Do you, on your side, keep your
eyes open and watch. And, above all, not a word to Mrs. Kesselbach.
. . . It is no use alarming her. . . ."

He went away.

Pierre Leduc, taken aback and upset, went back to the castle. On his
way, he saw a piece of blue paper on the edge of the lawn. He picked it
up. It was a telegram, not crumpled, like a piece of paper that had been
thrown away, but carefully folded: obviously lost.

It was addressed to "Beauny," the name by which Lupin was known at
Bruggen. And it contained these words:

      "We know the whole truth. Revelations impossible by
      letter. Will take train to-night. Meet me eight
      o'clock to-morrow morning Bruggen station."

"Excellent!" said Lupin, who was watching Pierre Leduc's movements from
a neighboring coppice. "Excellent! In two minutes from now, the young
idiot will have shown Dolores the telegram and told her all my fears.
They will talk about it all day. And 'the other one' will hear, 'the
other one' will know, because he knows everything, because he lives in
Dolores' own shadow and because Dolores is like a fascinated prey in his
hands. . . . And, to-night. . . ."

He walked away humming to himself:

"To-night . . . to-night . . . we shall dance. . . . Such a waltz, my
boys! The waltz of blood, to the tune of the little nickel-plated
dagger! . . . We shall have some fun, at last! . . ."

He reached the chalet, called to Octave, went to his room, flung himself
on his bed, and said to the chauffeur:

"Sit down in that chair, Octave, and keep awake. Your master is going to
take forty winks. Watch over him, you faithful servant."

He had a good sleep.

"Like Napoleon on the morning of Austerlitz," he said, when he woke up.

It was dinner-time. He made a hearty meal and then, while he smoked a
cigarette, inspected his weapons and renewed the charges of his two
revolvers:

"Keep your powder dry and your sword sharpened, as my chum the Kaiser
says. Octave!"

Octave appeared.

"Go and have your dinner at the castle, with the servants. Tell them you
are going to Paris to-night, in the motor."

"With you, governor?"

"No, alone. And, as soon as dinner is over, make a start, ostensibly."

"But I am not to go to Paris. . . ."

"No, remain outside the park, half a mile down the road, until I come.
You will have a long wait."

He smoked another cigarette, went for a stroll, passed in front of the
castle, saw a light in Dolores' rooms and then returned to the chalet.

There he took up a book. It was _The Lives of Illustrious Men_.

"There is one missing: the most illustrious of all. But the future will
put that right; and I shall have my Plutarch some day or other."

He read the life of Cæsar and jotted down a few reflections in the
margin.

At half-past eleven, he went to his bedroom.

Through the open window, he gazed into the immense, cool night, all
astir with indistinct sounds. Memories rose to his lips, memories of
fond phrases which he had read or uttered; and he repeatedly whispered
Dolores's name, with the fervor of a stripling who hardly dares confide
to the silence the name of his beloved.

He left the window half open, pushed aside a table that blocked the way,
and put his revolvers under his pillow. Then, peacefully, without
evincing the least excitement, he got into bed, fully dressed as he was,
and blew out the candle.

_And his fear began._

It was immediate. No sooner did he feel the darkness around him than his
fear began!

"Damn it all!" he cried.

He jumped out of bed, took his weapons and threw them into the passage:

"My hands, my hands alone! Nothing comes up to the grip of my hands!"

He went to bed again. Darkness and silence, once more. And, once more,
his fear. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

The village clock struck twelve. . . .

Lupin thought of the foul monster who, outside, at a hundred yards, at
fifty yards from where he lay, was trying the sharp point of his dagger:

"Let him come, let him come?" whispered Lupin, shuddering. "Then the
ghosts will vanish. . . ."

       *       *       *       *       *

One o'clock, in the village. . . .

And minutes passed, endless minutes, minutes of fever and anguish. . . .
Beads of perspiration stood at the roots of his hair and trickled down
his forehead; and he felt as though his whole frame were bathed in a
sweat of blood. . . .

Two o'clock. . . .

And now, somewhere, quite close, a hardly perceptible sound stirred, a
sound of leaves moving . . . but different from the sound of leaves
moving in the night breeze. . . .

As Lupin had foreseen, he was at once pervaded by an immense calm. All
his adventurous being quivered with delight. The struggle was at hand,
at last!

Another sound grated under the window, more plainly this time, but still
so faint that it needed Lupin's trained ear to distinguish it.

Minutes, terrifying minutes. . . . The darkness was impenetrable. No
light of star or moon relieved it.

And, suddenly, without hearing anything, he _knew_ that the man was in
the room.

And the man walked toward the bed. He walked as a ghost walks, without
displacing the air of the room, without shaking the objects which he
touched.

But, with all his instinct, with all his nervous force, Lupin saw the
movements of the enemy and guessed the very sequence of his ideas.

He himself did not budge, but remained propped against the wall, almost
on his knees, ready to spring.

He felt that the figure was touching, feeling the bed-clothes, to find
the spot at which it must strike. Lupin heard its breath. He even
thought that he heard the beating of its heart. And he noticed with
pride that his own heart beat no louder than before . . . whereas the
heart of the other . . . oh, yes, he could hear it now, that disordered,
mad heart, knocking, like a clapper of a bell, against the cavity of the
chest!

The hand of the other rose. . . .

A second, two seconds. . . .

Was he hesitating? Was he once more going to spare his adversary?

And Lupin, in the great silence, said:

"But strike! Why don't you strike?"

A yell of rage. . . . The arm fell as though moved by a spring.

Then came a moan.

Lupin had caught the arm in mid-air at the level of the wrist. . . .
And, leaping out of bed, tremendous, irresistible, he clutched the man
by the throat and threw him.

       *       *       *       *       *

That was all. There was no struggle. There was no possibility even of a
struggle. The man lay on the floor, nailed, pinned by two steel rivets,
which were Lupin's hands. And there was not a man in the world strong
enough to release himself from that grip.

And not a word. Lupin uttered none of those phrases in which his
mocking humor usually delighted. He had no inclination to speak. The
moment was too solemn.

He felt no vain glee, no victorious exaltation. In reality, he had but
one longing, to know who was there: Louis de Malreich, the man sentenced
to death, or another? Which was it?

At the risk of strangling the man, he squeezed the throat a little more
. . . and a little more . . . and a little more still. . . .

And he felt that all the enemy's strength, all the strength that
remained to him, was leaving him. The muscles of the arm relaxed and
became lifeless. The hand opened and dropped the dagger.

Then, free to move as he pleased, with his adversary's life hanging in
the terrible clutch of his fingers, he took his pocket-lantern with one
hand, laid his finger on the spring, without pressing, and brought it
close to the man's face.

He had only to press the spring to wish to know and he would know.

For a second, he enjoyed his power. A flood of emotion upheaved him. The
vision, of his triumph dazzled him. Once again, superbly, heroically, he
was the master.

He switched on the light. The face of the monster came into view.

Lupin gave a shriek of terror.

Dolores Kesselbach!



CHAPTER XVI

ARSÈNE LUPIN'S THREE MURDERS


A cyclone passed through Lupin's brain, a hurricane in which roars of
thunder, gusts of wind, squalls of all the distraught elements were
tumultuously unchained in the chaotic night.

And great flashes of lightning shot through the darkness. And, by the
dazzling gleam of those lightning-flashes, Lupin, scared, shaken with
thrills, convulsed with horror, saw and tried to understand.

He did not move, clinging to the enemy's throat, as if his stiffened
fingers were no longer able to release their grip. Besides, although he
now _knew_, he had not, so to speak, the exact feeling that it was
Dolores. It was still the man in black, Louis de Malreich, the foul
brute of the darkness; and that brute he held and did not mean to let
go.

But the truth rushed upon the attack of his mind and of his
consciousness; and, conquered, tortured with anguish, he muttered:

"Oh, Dolores! . . . Dolores! . . ."

He at once saw the excuse: it was madness. She was mad. The sister of
Altenheim and Isilda, the daughter of the last of the Malreichs, of the
demented mother, of the drunken father, was herself mad. A strange
madwoman, mad with every appearance of sanity, but mad nevertheless,
unbalanced, brain-sick, unnatural, truly monstrous.

That he most certainly understood! It was homicidal madness. Under the
obsession of an object toward which she was drawn automatically, she
killed, thirsting for blood, unconsciously, infernally.

She killed because she wanted something, she killed in self-defence, she
killed because she had killed before. But she killed also and especially
for the sake of killing. Murder satisfied sudden and irresistible
appetites that arose in her. At certain seconds in her life, in certain
circumstances, face to face with this or that being who had suddenly
become the foe, her arm had to strike.

And she struck, drunk with rage, ferociously, frenziedly.

A strange madwoman, not answerable for her murders, and yet so lucid in
her blindness, so logical in her mental derangement, so intelligent in
her absurdity! What skill, what perseverance, what cunning contrivances,
at once abominable and admirable!

And Lupin, in a rapid view, with prodigious keenness of outlook, saw the
long array of bloodthirsty adventures and guessed the mysterious paths
which Dolores had pursued.

He saw her obsessed and possessed by her husband's scheme, a scheme
which she evidently understood only in part. He saw her, on her side,
looking for that same Pierre Leduc whom her husband was seeking, looking
for him in order to marry him and to return, as queen, to that little
realm of Veldenz from which her parents had been ignominiously driven.

And he saw her at the Palace Hotel, in the room of her brother,
Altenheim, at the time when she was supposed to be at Monte Carlo. He
saw her, for days together, spying upon her husband, creeping along the
walls, one with the darkness, undistinguishable and unseen in her
shadowy disguise.

And, one night, she found Mr. Kesselbach fastened up . . . and she
stabbed him.

And, in the morning, when on the point of being denounced by the
floor-waiter . . . she stabbed him.

And, an hour later, when on the point of being denounced by Chapman, she
dragged him to her brother's room . . . and stabbed him.

All this pitilessly, savagely, with diabolical skill.

And, with the same skill, she communicated by telephone with her two
maids, Gertrude and Suzanne, both of whom had arrived from Monte Carlo,
where one of them had enacted the part of her mistress. And Dolores,
resuming her feminine attire, discarding the fair wig that altered her
appearance beyond recognition, went down to the ground-floor, joined
Gertrude at the moment when the maid entered the hotel and pretended
herself to have just arrived, all ignorant of the tragedy that awaited
her.

An incomparable actress, she played the part of the wife whose life is
shattered. Every one pitied her. Every one wept for her. Who could have
suspected her?

And then came the war with him, Lupin, that barbarous contest, that
unparalleled contest which she waged, by turns, against M. Lenormand and
Prince Sernine, spending her days stretched on her sofa, ill and
fainting, but her nights on foot, scouring the roads indefatigable and
terrible.

And the diabolical contrivances: Gertrude and Suzanne, frightened and
subdued accomplices, both of them serving her as emissaries, disguising
themselves to represent her, perhaps, as on the day when old Steinweg
was carried off by Baron Altenheim, in the middle of the Palais de
Justice.

And the series of murders: Gourel drowned; Altenheim, her brother,
stabbed. Oh, the implacable struggle in the underground passages of the
Villa des Glycines, the invisible work performed by the monster in the
dark: how clear it all appeared to-day!

And it was she who tore off his mask as Prince Sernine, she who betrayed
him to the police, she who sent him to prison, she who thwarted all his
plans, spending her millions to win the battle.

And then events followed faster: Suzanne and Gertrude disappeared, dead,
no doubt! Steinweg, assassinated! Isilda, the sister, assassinated!

"Oh, the ignominy, the horror of it!" stammered Lupin, with a start of
revulsion and hatred.

He execrated her, the abominable creature. He would have liked to crush
her, to destroy her. And it was a stupefying sight, those two beings,
clinging to each other, lying motionless in the pale dawn that began to
mingle with the shades of the night.

"Dolores. . . . Dolores. . . ." he muttered, in despair.

He leapt back, terror-stricken, wild-eyed. What was it? What was that?
What was that hideous feeling of cold which froze his hands?

"Octave! Octave?" he shouted, forgetting that the chauffeur was not
there.

Help, he needed help, some one to reassure him and assist him. He
shivered with fright. Oh, that coldness, that coldness of death which he
had felt! Was it possible? . . . Then, during those few tragic minutes,
with his clenched fingers, he had. . . .

Violently, he forced himself to look. Dolores did not stir.

He flung himself on his knees and drew her to him.

She was dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

He remained for some seconds a prey to a sort of numbness in which his
grief seemed to be swallowed up. He no longer suffered. He no longer
felt rage nor hatred nor emotion of any kind . . . nothing but a stupid
prostration, the sensation of a man who has received a blow with a club
and who does not know if he is still alive, if he is thinking, or if he
is the sport of a nightmare.

Nevertheless, it seemed to him that an act of justice had taken place,
and it did not for a second occur to him that it was he who had taken
life. No, it was not he. It was outside him and his will. It was
destiny, inexorable destiny that had accomplished the work of equity by
slaying the noxious beast.

Outside, the birds were singing. Life was recommencing under the old
trees, which the spring was preparing to bring into bud. And Lupin,
waking from his torpor, felt gradually welling up within him an
indefinable and ridiculous compassion for the wretched woman, odious,
certainly, abject and twenty times criminal, but so young still and now
. . . dead.

And he thought of the tortures which she must have undergone in her
lucid moments, when reason returned to the unspeakable madwoman and
brought the sinister vision of her deeds.

"Protect me. . . . I am so unhappy!" she used to beg.

It was against herself that she asked to be protected, against her
wild-beast instincts, against the monster that dwelt within her and
forced her to kill, always to kill.

"Always?" Lupin asked himself.

And he remembered the night, two days since, when, standing over him,
with her dagger raised against the enemy who had been harassing her for
months, against the indefatigable enemy who had run her to earth after
each of her crimes, he remembered that, on that night, she had not
killed. And yet it would have been easy: the enemy lay lifeless and
powerless. One blow and the implacable struggle was over. No, she had
not killed, she too had given way to feelings stronger than her own
cruelty, to mysterious feelings of pity, of sympathy, of admiration for
the man who had so often mastered her.

No, she had not killed, that time. And now, by a really terrifying
vicissitude of fate, it was he who had killed her.

"I have taken life!" he thought, shuddering from head to foot. "These
hands have killed a living being; and that creature is Dolores! . . .
Dolores! . . . Dolores! . . ."

He never ceased repeating her name, her name of sorrow, and he never
ceased staring at her, a sad, lifeless thing, harmless now, a poor hunk
of flesh, with no more consciousness than a little heap of withered
leaves or a little dead bird by the roadside.

Oh! how could he do other than quiver with compassion, seeing that of
those two, face to face, he was the murderer, and she, who was no more,
the victim?

"Dolores! . . . Dolores! . . . Dolores! . . ."

       *       *       *       *       *

The daylight found Lupin seated beside the dead woman, remembering and
thinking, while his lips, from time to time, uttered the disconsolate
syllables:

"Dolores! . . . Dolores! . . ."

He had to act, however, and, in the disorder of his ideas, he did not
know how to act nor with what act to begin:

"I must close her eyes first," he said.

The eyes, all empty, filled only with death, those beautiful
gold-spangled eyes, had still the melancholy softness that gave them
their charm. Was it possible that those eyes were the eyes of a monster?
In spite of himself and in the face of the implacable reality, Lupin was
not yet able to blend into one single being those two creatures whose
images remained so distinct at the back of his brain.

He stooped swiftly, lowered the long, silky eyelids, and covered the
poor distorted face with a veil.

Then it seemed to him that Dolores was farther away and that the man in
black was really there, this time, in his dark clothes, in his
murderer's disguise.

He now ventured to touch her, to feel in her clothes. In an inside
pocket were two pocket-books. He took one of them and opened it. He
found first a letter signed by Steinweg, the old German. It contained
the following lines:

      "Should I die before being able to reveal the terrible
      secret, let it be known that the murderer of my
      friend Kesselbach is his wife, whose real name is
      Dolores de Malreich, sister to Altenheim and sister to
      Isilda.

      "The initials L. and M. relate to her. Kesselbach
      never, in their private life, called his wife Dolores,
      which is the name of sorrow, but Letitia, which
      denotes joy. L. M.--Letitia de Malreich--were the
      initials inscribed on all the presents which he used
      to give her, for instance, on the cigarette-case which
      was found at the Palace Hotel and which belonged to
      Mrs. Kesselbach. She had contracted the smoking-habit
      on her travels.

      "Letitia! She was indeed the joy of his life for four
      years, four years of lies and hypocrisy, in which she
      prepared the death of the man who loved her so well
      and who trusted her so whole-heartedly.

      "Perhaps I ought to have spoken at once. I had not the
      courage, in memory of my old friend Kesselbach, whose
      name she bore.

      "And then I was afraid. . . . On the day when I
      unmasked her, at the Palais de Justice, I read my doom
      in her eyes.

      "Will my weakness save me?"

"Him also," thought Lupin, "him also she killed! . . . Why, of course,
he knew too much! . . . The initials . . . that name, Letitia . . . the
secret habit of smoking!"

And he remembered the previous night, that smell of tobacco in her room.

He continued his inspection of the first pocket-book. There were scraps
of letters, in cipher, no doubt handed to Dolores by her accomplices, in
the course of their nocturnal meetings. There were also addresses on
bits of paper, addresses of milliners and dressmakers, but addresses
also of low haunts, of common hotels. . . . And names . . . twenty,
thirty names . . . queer names: Hector the Butcher, Armand of Grenelle,
the Sick Man . . .

But a photograph caught Lupin's eye. He looked at it. And, at once, as
though shot from a spring, dropping the pocket-book, he bolted out of
the room, out of the chalet and rushed into the park.

He had recognized the portrait of Louis de Malreich, the prisoner at the
Santé!

Not till then, not till that exact moment did he remember: the execution
was to take place next day.

And, as the man in black, as the murderer was none other than Dolores
Kesselbach, Louis de Malreich's name was really and truly Leon Massier
and he was innocent!

Innocent? But the evidence found in his house, the Emperor's letters,
all, all the things that accused him beyond hope of denial, all those
incontrovertible proofs?

Lupin stopped for a second, with his brain on fire:

"Oh," he cried, "I shall go mad, I, too! Come, though, I must act . . .
the sentence is to be executed . . . to-morrow . . . to-morrow at break
of day."

He looked at his watch:

"Ten o'clock. . . . How long will it take me to reach Paris? Well . . .
I shall be there presently . . . yes, presently, I must. . . . And this
very evening I shall take measures to prevent. . . . But what measures?
How can I prove his innocence? . . . How prevent the execution? Oh,
never mind! Once I am there, I shall find a way. My name is not Lupin
for nothing! . . . Come on! . . ."

He set off again at a run, entered the castle and called out:

"Pierre! Pierre! . . . Has any one seen M. Pierre Leduc? . . . Oh,
there you are! . . . Listen. . . ."

He took him on one side and jerked out, in imperious tones:

"Listen, Dolores is not here. . . . Yes, she was called away on urgent
business . . . she left last night in my motor. . . . I am going too.
. . . Don't interrupt, not a word! . . . A second lost means irreparable
harm. . . . You, send away all the servants, without any explanation.
Here is money. In half an hour from now, the castle must be empty. And
let no one enter it until I return. . . . Not you either, do you
understand? . . . I forbid you to enter the castle. . . . I'll explain
later . . . serious reasons. Here, take the key with you. . . . Wait for
me in the village. . . ."

And once more, he darted away.

Five minutes later, he was with Octave. He jumped into the car:

"Paris!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The journey was a real race for life or death. Lupin, thinking that
Octave was not driving fast enough, took the steering-wheel himself and
drove at a furious, break-neck speed. On the road, through the villages,
along the crowded streets of the towns they rushed at sixty miles an
hour. People whom they nearly upset roared and yelled with rage: the
meteor was far away, was out of sight.

"G--governor," stammered Octave, livid with dismay, "we shall be stuck!"

"You, perhaps, the motor, perhaps; but I shall arrive!" said Lupin.

He had a feeling as though it were not the car that was carrying him,
but he carrying the car and as though he were cleaving space by dint of
his own strength, his own will-power. Then what miracle could prevent
his arriving, seeing that his strength was inexhaustible, his will-power
unbounded?

"I shall arrive because I have got to arrive," he repeated.

And he thought of the man who would die, if he did not arrive in time to
save him, of the mysterious Louis de Malreich, so disconcerting with his
stubborn silence and his expressionless face.

And amid the roar of the road, under the trees whose branches made a
noise as of furious waves, amid the buzzing of his thoughts, Lupin, all
the same, strove to set up an hypothesis. And this hypothesis became
gradually more defined, logical, probable, certain, he said to himself,
now that he knew the hideous truth about Dolores and saw all the
resources and all the odious designs of that crazy mind:

"Yes, it was she who contrived that most terrible plot against Malreich.
What was it she wanted? To marry Pierre Leduc, whom she had bewitched,
and to become the sovereign of the little principality from which she
had been banished. The object was attainable, within reach of her hand.
There was one sole obstacle. . . . I, Lupin, who, for weeks and weeks,
persistently barred her road; I, whom she encountered after every
murder; I, whose perspicacity she dreaded; I, who would never lay down
my arms before I had discovered the culprit and found the letters stolen
from the Emperor. . . . Well, the culprit should be Louis de Malreich,
or rather, Leon Massier. Who was this Leon Massier? Did she know him
before her marriage? Had she been in love with him? It is probable; but
this, no doubt, we shall never know. One thing is certain, that she was
struck by the resemblance to Leon Massier in figure and stature which
she might attain by dressing up like him, in black clothes, and putting
on a fair wig. She must have noticed the eccentric life led by that
lonely man, his nocturnal expeditions, his manner of walking in the
streets and of throwing any who might follow him off the scent. And it
was in consequence of these observations and in anticipation of possible
eventualities that she advised Mr. Kesselbach to erase the name of
Dolores from the register of births and to replace it by the name of
Louis, so that the initials might correspond with those of Leon Massier.
. . . The moment arrived at which she must act; and thereupon she
concocted her plot and proceeded to put it into execution. Leon lived in
the Rue Delaizement. She ordered her accomplices to take up their
quarters in the street that backed on to it. And she herself told me the
address of Dominique the head-waiter, and put me on the track of the
seven scoundrels, knowing perfectly well that, once on the track, I was
bound to follow it to the end, that is to say, beyond the seven
scoundrels, till I came up with their leader, the man who watched them
and who commanded them, the man in black, Leon Massier, Louis de
Malreich. . . . As a matter of fact, I came up with the seven scoundrels
first. Then what would happen? Either I should be beaten or we should
all destroy one another, as she must have hoped, that night in the Rue
des Vignes. In either case Dolores would have been rid of me. But what
really happened was this: I captured the seven scoundrels. Dolores fled
from the Rue des Vignes. I found her in the Broker's shed. She sent me
after Leon Massier, that is to say, Louis de Malreich. I found in his
house the Emperor's letters, _which she herself had placed there_, and I
delivered him to justice and I revealed the secret communication, _which
she herself had caused to be made_, between the two coach-houses, and I
produced all the evidence _which she herself had prepared_, and I
proved, by means of documents _which she herself had forged_, that Leon
Massier had stolen the social status of Leon Massier and that his real
name was Louis de Malreich. . . . And Louis de Malreich was sentenced to
death. . . . And Dolores de Malreich, victorious at last, safe from all
suspicion once the culprit was discovered, released from her infamous
and criminal past, her husband dead, her brother dead, her sister dead,
her two maids dead, Steinweg dead, delivered by me from her accomplices,
whom I handed over to Weber all packed up, delivered, lastly, from
herself by me, who was sending the innocent man whom she had substituted
for herself to the scaffold, Dolores de Malreich, triumphant, rich with
the wealth of her millions and loved by Pierre Leduc, Dolores de
Malreich would sit upon the throne of her native grand-duchy. . . . Ah,"
cried Lupin, beside himself with excitement, "that man shall not die! I
swear it as I live: he shall not die!"

"Look out, governor," said Octave, scared, "we are near the town now.
. . . the outskirts . . . the suburbs. . . ."

"What shall I care?"

"But we shall topple over. . . . And the pavement is greasy . . . we are
skidding. . . ."

"Never mind."

"Take care. . . . Look ahead. . . ."

"What?"

"A tram-car, at the turn. . . ."

"Let it stop!"

"Do slow down, governor!"

"Never!"

"But we have no room to pass!"

"We shall get through."

"We can't get through."

"Yes, we can."

"Oh, Lord!"

A crash . . . outcries. . . . The motor had run into the tram-car,
cannoned against a fence, torn down ten yards of planking and, lastly,
smashed itself against the corner of a slope.

"Driver, are you disengaged?"

Lupin, lying flat on the grass of the slope, had hailed a taxi-cab.

He scrambled to his feet, gave a glance at his shattered car and the
people crowding round to Octave's assistance and jumped into the cab:

"Go to the Ministry of the Interior, on the Place Beauvau . . . Twenty
francs for yourself. . . ."

He settled himself in the taxi and continued:

"No, no, he shall not die! No, a thousand times no, I will not have that
on my conscience! It is bad enough to have been tricked by a woman and
to have fallen into the snare like a schoolboy. . . . That will do! No
more blunders for me! I have had that poor wretch arrested. . . . I have
had him sentenced to death. . . . I have brought him to the foot of the
scaffold . . . but he shall not mount it! . . . Anything but that! If he
mounts the scaffold, there will be nothing left for me but to put a
bullet through my head."

They were approaching the toll-house. He leant out:

"Twenty francs more, driver, if you don't stop."

And he shouted to the officials:

"Detective-service!"

They passed through.

"But don't slow down, don't slow down, hang it!" roared Lupin. "Faster!
. . . Faster still! Are you afraid of running over the old ladies? Never
mind about them! I'll pay the damage!"

In a few minutes, they were at the Ministry of the Interior. Lupin
hurried across the courtyard and ran up the main staircase. The
waiting-room was full of people. He scribbled on a sheet of paper,
"Prince Sernine," and, hustling a messenger into a corner, said:

"You know me, don't you? I'm Lupin. I procured you this berth; a snug
retreat for your old age, eh? Only, you've got to show me in at once.
There, take my name through. That's all I ask of you. The premier will
thank you, you may be sure of that . . . and so I will. . . . But, hurry
you fool! Valenglay is expecting me. . . ."

Ten seconds later, Valenglay himself put his head through the door of
his room and said:

"Show the prince in."

Lupin rushed into the room, slammed the door and, interrupting the
premier, said:

"No, no set phrases, you can't arrest me. . . . It would mean ruining
yourself and compromising the Emperor. . . . No, it's not a question of
that. Look here. Malreich is innocent. . . . I have discovered the real
criminal. . . . It's Dolores Kesselbach. She is dead. Her body is down
there. I have undeniable proofs. There is no doubt possible. It was
she. . . ."

He stopped. Valenglay seemed not to understand.

"But, look here, Monsieur le President, we must save Malreich. . . .
Only think . . . a judicial error! . . . An innocent man guillotined!
. . . Give your orders . . . say you have fresh information . . .
anything you please . . . but, quick, there is no time to lose. . . ."

Valenglay looked at him attentively, then went to a table, took up a
newspaper and handed it to him, pointing his finger at an article as he
did so.

Lupin cast his eye at the head-line and read:

      "EXECUTION OF THE MONSTER"

      "Louis de Malreich underwent the death-penalty this
      morning. . . ."

He read no more. Thunderstruck, crushed, he fell into the premier's
chair with a moan of despair. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

How long he remained like that he could not say. When he was outside
again, he remembered a great silence and then Valenglay bending over him
and sprinkling water on his forehead. He remembered, above all, the
premier's hushed voice whispering:

"Listen . . . you won't say anything about this will you? Innocent,
perhaps, I don't say not. . . . But what is the use of revelations, of a
scandal? A judicial error can have serious consequences. Is it worth
while? . . . A rehabilitation? For what purpose? He was not even
sentenced under his own name. It is the name of Malreich which is held
up to public execration . . . the name of the real criminal, as it
happens. . . . So . . ."

And, pushing Lupin gradually toward the door, he said:

"So go. . . . Go back there. . . . Get rid of the corpse. . . . And let
not a trace remain, eh? Not the slightest trace of all this business.
. . . I can rely on you, can I not?"

And Lupin went back. He went back like a machine, because he had been
told to do so and because he had no will left of his own.

       *       *       *       *       *

He waited for hours at the railway-station. Mechanically, he ate his
dinner, took a ticket and settled down in a compartment.

He slept badly. His brain was on fire between nightmares and half-waking
intervals in which he tried to make out why Malreich had not defended
himself:

"He was a madman . . . surely . . . half a madman. . . . He must have
known her formerly . . . and she poisoned his life . . . she drove him
crazy. . . . So he felt he might as well die. . . . Why defend himself?"

The explanation only half satisfied him, and he promised himself sooner
or later to clear up the riddle and to discover the exact part which
Massier had played in Dolores' life. But what did it matter for the
moment? One fact alone stood out clearly, which was Massier's madness,
and he repeated, persistently:

"He was a madman . . . Massier was undoubtedly mad. Besides, all those
Massiers . . . a family of madmen. . . ."

He raved, mixing up names in his enfeebled brain.

But, on alighting at Bruggen Station, in the cool, moist air of the
morning, his consciousness revived. Things suddenly assumed a different
aspect. And he exclaimed:

"Well, after all, it was his own look-out! He had only to protest. . . .
I accept no responsibility. . . . It was he who committed suicide. . . .
He was only a dumb actor in the play. . . . He has gone under. . . . I
am sorry. . . . But it can't be helped!"

The necessity for action stimulated him afresh. Wounded, tortured by
that crime of which he knew himself to be the author for all that he
might say, he nevertheless looked to the future:

"Those are the accidents of war," he said. "Don't let us think about it.
Nothing is lost. On the contrary! Dolores was the stumbling-block, since
Pierre Leduc loved her. Dolores is dead. Therefore Pierre Leduc belongs
to me. And he shall marry Geneviève, as I have arranged! And he shall
reign! And I shall be the master! And Europe, Europe is mine!"

He worked himself up, reassured, full of sudden confidence, and made
feverish gestures as he walked along the road, whirling an imaginary
sword, the sword of the leader whose will is law, who commands and
triumphs:

"Lupin, you shall be king! You shall be king, Arsène Lupin!"

He inquired in the village of Bruggen and heard that Pierre Leduc had
lunched yesterday at the inn. Since then, he had not been seen.

"Oh?" asked Lupin. "Didn't he sleep here?"

"No."

"But where did he go after his lunch?"

"He took the road to the castle."

Lupin walked away in some surprise. After all, he had told the young man
to lock the doors and not to return after the servants had gone.

He at once received a proof that Pierre had disobeyed him: the park
gates were open.

He went in, hunted all over the castle, called out. No reply.

Suddenly, he thought of the chalet. Who could tell? Perhaps Pierre
Leduc, worrying about the woman he loved and driven by an intuition, had
gone to look for her in that direction. And Dolores' corpse was there!

Greatly alarmed, Lupin began to run.

At first sight, there seemed to be no one in the chalet.

"Pierre! Pierre!" he cried.

Hearing no sound, he entered the front passage and the room which he had
occupied.

He stopped short, rooted to the threshold.

Above Dolores' corpse, hung Pierre Leduc, with a rope round his neck,
dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lupin impatiently pulled himself together from head to foot. He refused
to yield to a single gesture of despair. He refused to utter a single
violent word. After the cruel blows which fate had dealt him, after
Dolores' crimes and death, after Massier's execution, after all those
disturbances and catastrophes, he felt the absolute necessity of
retaining all his self-command. If not, his brain would undoubtedly give
way. . . .

"Idiot!" he said, shaking his fist at Pierre Leduc. "You great idiot,
couldn't you wait? In ten years we should have had Alsace-Lorraine
again!"

To relieve his mind, he sought for words to say, for attitudes; but his
ideas escaped him and his head seemed on the point of bursting.

"Oh, no, no!" he cried. "None of that, thank you! Lupin mad too! No, old
chap! Put a bullet through your head, if you like; and, when all is
said, I don't see any other way out. But Lupin drivelling, wheeled about
in a bath-chair . . . no! Style, old fellow, finish in style!"

He walked up and down, stamping his feet and lifting his knees very
high, as certain actors do when feigning madness. And he said:

"Swagger, my lad, swagger! The eyes of the gods are upon you! Lift up
your head! Pull in your stomach, hang it! Throw out your chest! . . .
Everything is breaking up around you. What do you care? . . . It's the
final disaster, I've played my last card, a kingdom in the gutter, I've
lost Europe, the whole world ends in smoke. . . . Well . . . and what of
it? Laugh, laugh! Be Lupin, or you're in the soup. . . . Come, laugh!
Louder than that, louder, louder! That's right! . . . Lord, how funny it
all is! Dolores, old girl, a cigarette!"

He bent down with a grin, touched the dead woman's face, tottered for a
second and fell to the ground unconscious.

       *       *       *       *       *

After lying for an hour, he came to himself and stood up. The fit of
madness was over; and, master of himself, with relaxed nerves, serious
and silent, he considered the position.

He felt that the time had come for the irrevocable decisions that
involve a whole existence. His had been utterly shattered, in a few
days, under the assault of unforeseen catastrophes, rushing up, one
after the other, at the very moment when he thought his triumph assured.
What should he do? Begin again? Build up everything again? He had not
the courage for it. What then?

The whole morning, he roamed tragically about the park and gradually
realized his position in all its slightest details. Little by little,
the thought of death enforced itself upon him with inflexible rigor.

But, whether he decided to kill himself or to live, there was first of
all a series of definite acts which he was obliged to perform. And these
acts stood out clearly in his brain, which had suddenly become quite
cool.

The mid-day Angelus rang from the church-steeple.

"To work!" he said, firmly.

He returned to the chalet in a very calm frame of mind, went to his
room, climbed on a stool, and cut the rope by which Pierre Leduc was
hanging:

"You poor devil!" he said. "You were doomed to end like that, with a
hempen tie around your neck. Alas, you were not made for greatness: I
ought to have foreseen that and not hooked my fortune to a rhymester!"

He felt in the young man's clothes and found nothing. But, remembering
Dolores' second pocket-book, he took it from the pocket where he had
left it.

He gave a start of surprise. The pocket-book contained a bundle of
letters whose appearance was familiar to him; and he at once recognized
the different writings.

"The Emperor's letters!" he muttered, slowly. "The old chancellor's
letters! The whole bundle which I myself found at Leon Massier's and
which I handed to Count von Waldemar! . . . How did it happen? . . .
Did she take them in her turn from that blockhead of a Waldemar?" And,
suddenly, slapping his forehead, "Why, no, the blockhead is myself.
These are the real letters! She kept them to blackmail the Emperor when
the time came. And the others, the ones which I handed over, are copies,
forged by herself, of course, or by an accomplice, and placed where she
knew that I should find them. . . . And I played her game for her, like
a mug! By Jove, when women begin to interfere . . . !"

There was only a piece of pasteboard left in the pocket-book, a
photograph. He looked at it. It was his own.

"Two photographs . . . Massier and I . . . the two she loved best, no
doubt . . . For she loved me. . . . A strange love, built up of
admiration for the adventurer that I am, for the man who, by himself,
put away the seven scoundrels whom she had paid to break my head! A
strange love! I felt it throbbing in her the other day, when I told her
my great dream of omnipotence. Then, really, she had the idea of
sacrificing Pierre Leduc and subjecting her dream to mine. If the
incident of the mirror had not taken place, she would have been subdued.
But she was afraid. I had my hand upon the truth. My death was necessary
for her salvation and she decided upon it." He repeated several times,
pensively, "And yet she loved me. . . . Yes, she loved me, as others
have loved me . . . others to whom I have brought ill-luck also. . . .
Alas, all those who love me die! . . . And this one died too, strangled
by my hand. . . . What is the use of living? . . . What is the use of
living?" he asked again, in a low voice. "Is it not better to join
them, all those women who have loved me . . . and who have died of their
love . . . Sonia, Raymonde, Clotilde, Destange, Miss Clarke? . . ."

He laid the two corpses beside each other, covered them with the same
sheet, sat down at a table and wrote:

      "I have triumphed over everything and I am beaten. I
      have reached the goal and I have fallen. Fate is too
      strong for me. . . . And she whom I loved is no more.
      I shall die also."

And he signed his name:

      "ARSÈNE LUPIN."

He sealed the letter and slipped it into a bottle which he flung through
the window, on the soft ground of a flower-border.

Next, he made a great pile on the floor with old newspapers, straw and
shavings, which he went to fetch in the kitchen. On the top of it he
emptied a gallon of petrol. Then he lit a candle and threw it among the
shavings.

A flame at once arose and other flames leapt forth, quick, glowing,
crackling.

"Let's clear out," said Lupin. "The chalet is built of wood, it will all
flare up like a match. And, by the time they come from the village,
break down the gates and run to this end of the park, it will be too
late. They will find ashes, the remains of two charred corpses and,
close at hand, my farewell letter in a bottle. . . . Good-bye, Lupin!
Bury me simply, good people, without superfluous state . . . a poor
man's funeral . . . No flowers, no wreaths. . . . Just a humble cross
and a plain epitaph; 'Here lies Arsène Lupin, adventurer.'"

He made for the park wall, climbed over it, and turning round, saw the
flames soaring up to the sky. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

He wandered back toward Paris on foot, bowed down by destiny, with
despair in his heart. And the peasants were amazed at the sight of this
traveller who paid with bank-notes for his fifteen-penny meals.

Three foot-pads attacked him one evening in the forest. He defended
himself with his stick and left them lying for dead. . . .

He spent a week at an inn. He did not know where to go. . . . What was
he to do? What was there for him to cling to? He was tired of life. He
did not want to live. . . .

       *       *       *       *       *

"Is that you?"

Mme. Ernemont stood in her little sitting-room in the villa at Garches,
trembling, scared and livid, staring at the apparition that faced her.

Lupin! . . . It was Lupin.

"You!" she said. "You! . . . But the papers said . . ."

He smiled sadly:

"Yes, I am dead."

"Well, then . . . well, then . . ." she said, naïvely.

"You mean that, if I am dead, I have no business here. Believe me, I
have serious reasons, Victoire."

"How you have changed!" she said, in a voice full of pity.

"A few little disappointments. . . . However, that's over. . . . Tell
me, is Geneviève in?"

She flew at him, in a sudden rage:

"You leave her alone, do you hear? Geneviève? You want to see Geneviève,
to take her back? Ah, this time I shall not let her out of my sight! She
came back tired, white as a sheet, nervous; and the color has hardly yet
returned to her cheeks. You shall leave her alone, I swear you shall."

He pressed his hand hard on the old woman's shoulder:

"I _will_--do you understand?--I _will_ speak to her."

"No."

"I mean to speak to her."

"No."

He pushed her about. She drew herself up and, crossing her arms:

"You shall pass over my dead body first, do you hear? The child's
happiness lies in this house and nowhere else. . . . With all your ideas
of money and rank, you would only make her miserable. Who is this Pierre
Leduc of yours? And that Veldenz of yours? Geneviève a grand-duchess!
You are mad. That's no life for her! . . . You see, after all, you have
thought only of yourself in this matter. It was your power, your fortune
you wanted. The child you don't care a rap about. Have you so much as
asked yourself if she loved your rascally grand-duke? Have you asked
yourself if she loved anybody? No, you just pursued your object, that is
all, at the risk of hurting Geneviève and making her unhappy for the
rest of her life. . . . Well, I won't have it! What she wants is a
simple, honest existence, led in the broad light of day; and that is
what you can't give her. Then what are you here for?"

He seemed to waver, but, nevertheless, he murmured in a low voice and
very sadly:

"It is impossible that I should never see her again, it is impossible
that I should not speak to her. . . ."

"She believes you dead."

"That is exactly what I do not want! I want her to know the truth. It is
a torture to me to think that she looks upon me as one who is no more.
Bring her to me, Victoire."

He spoke in a voice so gentle and so distressed that she was utterly
moved, and said:

"Listen. . . . First of all, I want to know. . . . It depends upon what
you intend to say to her. . . . Be frank, my boy. . . . What do you want
with Geneviève?"

He said, gravely:

"I want to say this: 'Geneviève, I promised your mother to give you
wealth, power, a fairy-like existence. And, on the day when I had
attained my aim, I would have asked you for a little place, not very far
from you. Rich and happy, you would have forgotten--yes, I am sure of
it--you would have forgotten who I am, or rather who I was.
Unfortunately, fate has been too strong for me. I bring you neither
wealth nor power. And it is I, on the contrary, who have need of you.
Geneviève, will you help me?'"

"To do what?" asked the old woman, anxiously.

"To live. . . ."

"Oh!" she said. "Has it come to that, my poor boy? . . ."

"Yes," he answered, simply, without any affectation of sorrow, "yes, it
has come to that. Three human beings are just dead, killed by me, killed
by my hands. The burden of the memory is more than I can bear. I am
alone. For the first time in my life, I need help. I have the right to
ask that help of Geneviève. And her duty is to give it to me. . . . If
not . . ."

"If not . . . ?"

"Then all is over."

The old woman was silent, pale and quivering with emotion. She once more
felt all her affection for him whom she had fed at her breast and who
still and in spite of all remained "her boy." She asked:

"What do you intend to do with her?"

"We shall go abroad. We will take you with us, if you like to come.
. . ."

"But you forget . . . you forget. . . ."

"What?"

"Your past. . . ."

"She will forget it too. She will understand that I am no longer the man
I was, that I do not wish to be."

"Then, really, what you wish is that she should share your life, the
life of Lupin?"

"The life of the man that I shall be, of the man who will work so that
she may be happy, so that she may marry according to her inclination. We
will settle down in some nook or other. We will struggle together, side
by side. And you know what I am capable of. . . ."

She repeated, slowly, with her eyes fixed on his:

"Then, really, you wish her to share Lupin's life?"

He hesitated a second, hardly a second, and declared, plainly:

"Yes, yes, I wish it, I have the right."

"You wish her to abandon all the children to whom she has devoted
herself, all this life of work which she loves and which is essential to
her happiness?"

"Yes, I wish it, it is her duty."

The old woman opened the window and said:

"In that case, call her."

Geneviève was in the garden, sitting on a bench. Four little girls were
crowding round her. Others were playing and running about.

He saw her full-face. He saw her grave, smiling eyes. She held a flower
in her hand and plucked the petals one by one and gave explanations to
the attentive and eager children. Then she asked them questions. And
each answer was rewarded with a kiss to the pupil.

Lupin looked at her long, with infinite emotion and anguish. A whole
leaven of unknown feelings fermented within him. He had a longing to
press that pretty girl to his breast, to kiss her and tell her how he
respected and loved her. He remembered the mother, who died in the
little village of Aspremont, who died of grief.

"Call her," said Victoire. "Why don't you call her?"

He sank into a chair and stammered:

"I can't. . . . I can't do it. . . . I have not the right. . . . It is
impossible. . . . Let her believe me dead. . . . That is better. . . ."

He wept, his shoulders shaking with sobs, his whole being overwhelmed
with despair, swollen with an affection that arose in him, like those
backward flowers which die on the very day of their blossoming.

The old woman knelt down beside him and, in a trembling voice, asked:

"She is your daughter, is she not?"

"Yes, she is my daughter."

"Oh, my poor boy!" she said, bursting into tears. "My poor boy! . . ."



EPILOGUE

THE SUICIDE


"To horse!" said the Emperor.

He corrected himself, on seeing the magnificent ass which they brought
him:

"To donkey, rather! Waldemar, are you sure this animal is quiet to ride
and drive?"

"I will answer for him as I would for myself, Sire," declared the count.

"In that case, I feel safe," said the Emperor, laughing. And, turning to
the officers with him, "Gentlemen, to horse!"

The market-place of the village of Capri was crowded with sight-seers,
kept back by a line of Italian carabiniers, and, in the middle, all the
donkeys of the place, which had been requisitioned to enable the Emperor
to go over that island of wonders.

"Waldemar," said the Emperor, taking the head of the cavalcade, "what do
we begin with?"

"With Tiberius's Villa, Sire."

They rode under a gateway and then followed a roughly-paved path, rising
gradually to the eastern promontory of the island.

The Emperor laughed and enjoyed himself and good-humoredly chaffed the
colossal Count von Waldemar, whose feet touched the ground on either
side of the unfortunate donkey borne down under his weight.

In three-quarters of an hour, they arrived first at Tiberius's Leap, an
enormous rock, a thousand feet high, from which the tyrant caused his
victims to be hurled into the sea. . . .

The Emperor dismounted, walked up to the hand-rail and took a glance at
the abyss. Then he went on foot to the ruins of Tiberius's Villa, where
he strolled about among the crumbling halls and passages.

He stopped for a moment.

There was a glorious view of the point of Sorrento and over the whole
island of Capri. The glowing blue of the sea outlined the beautiful
curve of the bay; and cool perfumes mingled with the scent of the
citron-trees.

"The view is finer still, Sire," said Waldemar, "from the hermit's
little chapel, at the summit."

"Let us go to it."

But the hermit himself descended by a steep path. He was an old man,
with a hesitating gait and a bent back. He carried the book in which
travellers usually write down their impressions.

He placed the book on a stone seat.

"What am I write?" asked the Emperor.

"Your name, Sire, and the date of your visit . . . and anything you
please."

The Emperor took the pen which the hermit handed him and bent down to
write.

"Take care, Sire, take care!"

Shouts of alarm . . . a great crash from the direction of the chapel.
. . . The Emperor turned round. He saw a huge rock come rolling down
upon him like a whirlwind.

At the same moment, he was seized round the body by the hermit and flung
to a distance of ten yards away.

The rock struck against the stone seat where the Emperor had been
standing a quarter of a second before and smashed the seat into
fragments. But for the hermit, the Emperor would have been killed.

He gave him his hand and said, simply:

"Thank you."

The officers flocked round him.

"It's nothing, gentlemen. . . . We have escaped with a fright . . .
though it was a fine fright, I confess. . . . All the same, but for the
intervention of this worthy man . . ."

And, going up to the hermit:

"What is your name, my friend?"

The hermit had kept his head concealed in his hood. He pushed it back an
inch or so and, in a very low voice, so as to be heard by none but the
Emperor, he said:

"The name of a man, Sire, who is very pleased that you have shaken him
by the hand."

The Emperor gave a start and stepped back. Then, at once controlling
himself:

"Gentlemen," he said to the officers, "I will ask you to go up to the
chapel. More rocks can break loose; and it would perhaps be wise to warn
the authorities of the island. You will join me later. I want to thank
this good man."

He walked away, accompanied by the hermit. When they were alone, he
said:

"You! Why?"

"I had to speak to you, Sire. If I had asked for an audience . . . would
you have granted my request? I preferred to act directly and I intended
to make myself known while Your Imperial Majesty was signing the book,
when that stupid accident . . ."

"Well?" said the Emperor.

"The letters which I gave Waldemar to hand to you, Sire, are forgeries."

The Emperor made a gesture of keen annoyance:

"Forgeries? Are you sure?"

"Absolutely sure, Sire."

"Yet that Malreich . . ."

"Malreich was not the culprit."

"Then who was?"

"I must beg Your Imperial Majesty to treat my answer as secret and
confidential. The real culprit was Mrs. Kesselbach."

"Kesselbach's own wife?"

"Yes, Sire. She is dead now. It was she who made or caused to be made
the copies which are in your possession. She kept the real letters."

"But where are they?" exclaimed the Emperor. "That is the important
thing! They must be recovered at all costs! I attach the greatest value
to those letters. . . ."

"Here they are, Sire."

The Emperor had a moment of stupefaction. He looked at Lupin, looked at
the letters, then at Lupin again and pocketed the bundle without
examining it.

Clearly, this man was puzzling him once more. Where did this scoundrel
spring from who, possessing so terrible a weapon, handed it over like
that, generously, unconditionally? It would have been so easy for him to
keep the letters and to make such use of them as he pleased! No, he had
given his promise and he was keeping his word.

And the Emperor thought of all the astounding things which that man had
done.

"The papers said that you were dead," he said.

"Yes, Sire. In reality, I am dead. And the police of my country, glad to
be rid of me, have buried the charred and unrecognizable remains of my
body."

"Then you are free?"

"As I always have been."

"And nothing attaches you to anything?"

"Nothing, Sire."

"In that case . . ."

The Emperor hesitated and then, explicitly:

"In that case, enter my service. I offer you the command of my private
police. You shall be the absolute master. You shall have full power,
even over the other police."

"No, Sire."

"Why not?"

"I am a Frenchman."

There was a pause. The Emperor was evidently pleased with the answer. He
said:

"Still, as you say that no link attaches you . . ."

"That is, one, Sire, which nothing can sever." And he added, laughing,
"I am dead as a man, but alive as a Frenchman. I am sure that Your
Imperial Majesty will understand."

The Emperor took a few steps up and down. Then he said:

"I should like to pay my debt, however. I heard that the negotiations
for the grand-duchy of Veldenz were broken off. . . ."

"Yes, Sire, Pierre Leduc was an imposter. He is dead."

"What can I do for you? You have given me back those letters. . . . You
have saved my life. . . . What can I do?"

"Nothing, Sire."

"You insist upon my remaining your debtor?"

"Yes, Sire."

The Emperor gave a last glance at that strange man who set himself up in
his presence as his equal. Then he bowed his head slightly and walked
away without another word.

"Aha, Majesty, I've caught you this time!" said Lupin, following him
with his eyes. And, philosophically, "No doubt it's a poor revenge . . .
and would rather have recovered Alsace-Lorraine. . . . But still . . ."

He interrupted himself and stamped his foot on the ground:

"You confounded Lupin! Will you never change, will you always remain
hateful and cynical to the last moment of your existence? Be serious,
hang it all! The time has come, now or never, to be serious!"

He climbed the path that leads to the chapel and stopped at the place
where the rock had broken loose. He burst out laughing:

"It was a good piece of work and His Imperial Majesty's officers did not
know what to make of it. But how could they guess that I myself loosened
that rock, that, at the last moment, I gave the decisive blow of the
pick-axe and that the aforesaid rock rolled down the path which I had
made between it and . . . an emperor whose life I was bent on saving?"

He sighed:

"Ah, Lupin, what a complex mind you have! All that trouble because you
had sworn that this particular Majesty should shake you by the hand! A
lot of good it has done you! 'An Emperor's hand five fingers has, no
more,' as Victor Hugo might have said."

He entered the chapel and, with a special key, opened the low door of a
little sacristy. On a heap of straw, lay a man, with his hands and legs
bound and a gag in his mouth.

"Well, my friend, the hermit," said Lupin, "it wasn't so very long, was
it? Twenty-four hours at the most. . . . But I have worked jolly hard on
your behalf! Just think, you have saved the Emperor's life! Yes, old
chap. You are the man who saved the Emperor's life. I have made your
fortune, that's what I've done. They'll build a cathedral for you and
put up a statue to you when you're dead and gone. Here, take your
things."

The hermit, nearly dead with hunger, staggered to his feet. Lupin
quickly put on his own clothes and said:

"Farewell, O worthy and venerable man. Forgive me for this little upset.
And pray for me. I shall need it. Eternity is opening its gate wide to
me. Farewell."

He stood for a few moments on the threshold of the chapel. It was the
solemn moment at which one hesitates, in spite of everything, before the
terrible end of all things. But his resolution was irrevocable and,
without further reflection, he darted out, ran down the slope, crossed
the level ground of Tiberius's Leap and put one leg over the hand-rail:

"Lupin, I give you three minutes for play-acting. 'What's the good?' you
will say. 'There is nobody here.' Well . . . and what about you? Can't
you act your last farce for yourself? By Jove, the performance is worth
it. . . . _Arsène Lupin_, heroic comedy in eighty scenes. . . . The
curtain rises on the death-scene . . . and the principal part is played
by Lupin in person. . . . 'Bravo, Lupin!' . . . Feel my heart, ladies
and gentlemen . . . seventy beats to the minute. . . . And a smile on my
lips. . . . 'Bravo, Lupin! Oh, the rogue, what cheek he has!' . . .
Well, jump, my lord. . . . Are you ready? It's the last adventure, old
fellow. No regrets? Regrets? What for, heavens above? My life was
splendid. Ah, Dolores, Dolores, if you had not come into it, abominable
monster that you were! . . . . . . And you, Malreich, why did you not
speak? . . . And you, Pierre Leduc. . . . Here I am! . . . My three dead
friends, I am about to join you. . . . Oh, Geneviève, my dear Geneviève!
. . . Here, have you done, you old play-actor? . . . Right you are!
Right you are! I'm coming. . . ."

He pulled his other leg over, looked down the abyss at the dark and
motionless sea and, raising his head:

"Farewell, immortal and thrice-blessed nature! _Moriturus te salutat!_
Farewell, all that is beautiful on earth! Farewell, splendor of things.
Farewell, life!"

He flung kisses to space, to the sky, to the sun. . . . Then, folding
his arms, he took the leap.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sidi-bel-Abbes. The barracks of the Foreign Legion. An adjutant sat
smoking and reading his newspaper in a small, low-ceilinged room.

Near him, close to the window opening on the yard, two great devils of
non-commissioned officers were jabbering in guttural French, mixed with
Teutonic phrases.

The door opened. Some one entered. It was a slightly-built man, of
medium height, smartly-dressed.

The adjutant rose, glared angrily at the intruder and growled:

"I say, what on earth is the orderly up to? . . . And you, sir, what do
you want?"

"Service."

This was said frankly, imperiously.

The two non-coms burst into a silly laugh. The man looked at them
askance.

"In other words, you wish to enlist in the Legion?" asked the adjutant.

"Yes, but on one condition."

"Conditions, by Jove! What conditions?"

"That I am not left mouldering here. There is a company leaving for
Morocco. I'll join that."

One of the non-coms gave a fresh chuckle and was heard to say:

"The Moors are in for a bad time. The gentleman's enlisting."

"Silence!" cried the man, "I don't stand being laughed at."

His voice sounded harsh and masterful.

The non-com, a brutal-looking giant, retorted:

"Here, recruity, you'd better be careful how you talk to me, or . . ."

"Or what?"

"You'll get something you won't like, that's all!"

The man went up to him, took him round the waist, swung him over the
ledge of the window and pitched him into the yard.

Then he said to the other:

"Go away."

The other went away.

The man at once returned to the adjutant and said:

"Lieutenant, pray be so good as to tell the major that Don Luis
Perenna, a Spanish grandee and a Frenchman at heart, wishes to take
service in the Foreign Legion. Go, my friend."

The flabbergasted adjutant did not move.

"Go, my friend, and go at once. I have no time to waste."

The adjutant rose, looked at his astounding visitor with a bewildered
eye and went out in the tamest fashion.

Then Lupin lit a cigarette and, sitting down in the adjutant's chair,
said, aloud:

"As the sea refused to have anything to say to me, or rather as I, at
the last moment, refused to have anything to say to the sea, we'll go
and see if the bullets of the Moors are more compassionate. And, in any
case, it will be a smarter finish. . . . Face the enemy, Lupin, and all
for France! . . ."

THE END



[Illustration]

THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS
GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



The original edition contained a large number of ellipses of various
lengths. All two-dot ellipses have been corrected to three dots,
five-dot ellipses have been corrected to four dots, and some three- and
four-dot ellipses have been altered, either by adding a space, removing
a space, or adjusting the length of the ellipsis based on the context.

On the title page, "Alexander Teixeira De Mottos" was changed to
"Alexander Teixeira De Mattos".

In Chapter I, "aimed it at the man and pulled trigger" was changed to
"aimed it at the man and pulled the trigger", "In Kesselbach's
handwriting, suppose?" was changed to "In Kesselbach's handwriting, I
suppose?", and missing quotation marks were added after "you can send
his letters on to him there" and before "The chief is on his way".

In Chapter II, "There is another point, Monsiuer le Juge d'Instruction"
was changed to "There is another point, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction",
a missing quotation mark was added before "it's all very queer", "Mr.
Manager instruct your young lady" was changed to "Mr. Manager, instruct
your young lady", and "Did they open it!" was changed to "Did they open
it?".

In Chapter IV, "the house known as the Pavillon de l'Imperatrice" was
changed to "the house known as the Pavillon de l'Impératrice", a
quotation mark was moved from the middle of the sentence "By a
commissionaire, so we were told" to the end, a quotation mark was added
in front of "Yes, yes. . . . I seem to", a quotation mark was removed
after "Would he speak?", "revolt and digust" was changed to "revolt and
disgust", "For the third time, Gerard fainted" was changed to "For the
third time, Gérard fainted", and "he said to his chaffeur" was changed
to "he said to his chauffeur".

In Chapter V, "In that case, Monsieur le Prèsident" was changed to "In
that case, Monsieur le Président".

In Chapter VI, a duplicate quotation mark was removed after "Not dead?",
a missing period was added after "There were two of them", "No, The
walls surround the estate" was changed to "No. The walls surround the
estate", and a quotation mark was removed after "in a stifled voice.
. . .".

In Chapter VII, a quotation mark was added after "And no one knows these
details except yourselves?", a comma was added after "he sneered", "it's
name, by the way, was Sebastopol" was changed to "its name, by the way,
was Sebastopol", "Austrain archdukes" was changed to "Austrian
archdukes", "hurl Atlenheim into the pit" was changed to "hurl Altenheim
into the pit", a duplicate quotation mark was removed before "But why
did they wait so long?", and "a suitable husband for Geneviéve" was
changed to "a suitable husband for Geneviève".

In Chapter VIII, "as to freinds whom he has met by chance" was changed
to "as to friends whom he has met by chance", "to end be falling into
the hands of his enemies" was changed to "to end by falling into the
hands of his enemies", "ten past at the very lastest" was changed to
"ten past at the very latest", "A cigarrette?" was changed to "A
cigarette?", "Today, I accept" was changed to "To-day, I accept",
"another outler at his disposal" was changed to "another outlet at his
disposal", "through which Altenheim had disappeared" was changed to
"though which Altenheim had disappeared", a quotation mark was removed
after "the stone steps to the basement. . . .", "the parcel of clothes
is not far aff" was changed to "the parcel of clothes is not far off",
"He open it and found a hat" was changed to "He opened it and found a
hat", and "Sernine's own acccomplice" was changed to "Sernine's own
accomplice".

In Chapter IX, "go on with you story" was changed to "go on with your
story", ="No,"= was changed to ="No."=, a missing quotation mark was added
before "No, soldiers drafted from the Emperor's own body-guard", and "on
which Hermann III., had written" was changed to "on which Hermann III.
had written".

In Chapter X, a comma was added after "Maître Quimbel's hat", "they will
both proceed to Vendenz Castle" was changed to "they will both proceed
to Veldenz Castle", and "Was is not childish" was changed to "Was it not
childish".

In Chapter XI, a quotation mark was removed after "what did he care?",
"No nothing at all" was changed to "No, nothing at all", "down into the
under-ground passage" was changed to "down into the underground
passage", and a single quote (') was changed to a double quote (") after
"O gentle Teuton?".

In Chapter XII, a quotation mark was removed after "They were all
French", "What it is?" was changed to "What is it?", "I know that the
latters are not here" was changed to "I know that the letters are not
here", "the French servant who wrote his dairy" was changed to "the
French servant who wrote his diary", "It's qiute obvious" was changed to
"It's quite obvious", "Bacause I am the better man" was changed to
"Because I am the better man", and a question mark was added after "Have
you seen anything".

In Chapter XIII, "How the newspapers represented the prisoner at the
Sante" was changed to "How the newspapers represented the prisoner at
the Santé", and "a little cafè on the Route de la Revolte" was changed
to "a little café on the Route de la Revolte", "on the Saturday morning,
he pursued his inquries" was changed to "on the Saturday morning, he
pursued his inquiries", "Consequently. Leon Massier was, in point of
fact" was changed to "Consequently, Leon Massier was, in point of fact",
"two hundred yards from the Rue des Vinges" was changed to "two hundred
yards from the Rue des Vignes", "Listen. . . . Charloais?" was changed
to "Listen. . . . Charolais?", and "the public tenniscourt" was changed
to "the public tennis-court".

In Chapter XIV, "a a fine bag too" was changed to "a fine bag too",
"felt for his banknotes" was changed to "felt for his bank-notes", "the
necessary proofs of his indentity" was changed to "the necessary proofs
of his identity", and "not Pierre Leduc, but Gerard Baupré" was changed
to "not Pierre Leduc, but Gérard Baupré".

In Chapter XV, quotation mark was removed after "the tears streamed down
her cheeks" and "Which was it?", "hysterical sobing" was changed to
"hysterical sobbing", and "They are saying at, headquarters, that" was
changed to "They are saying, at headquarters, that".

In Chapter XVI, "ARSENE'S LUPIN'S THREE MURDERS" was changed to "ARSÈNE
LUPIN'S THREE MURDERS", "by the dazzling gleam of those
lighning-flashes" was changed to "by the dazzling gleam of those
lightning-flashes", "a diffierent aspect" was changed to "a different
aspect", "had hailed a taxicab" was changed to "had hailed a taxi-cab",
"look for her in that dirction" was changed to "look for her in that
direction", "slipped in into a bottle" was changed to "slipped it into a
bottle", and a double quote (") was changed to a single quote (') before
"Geneviève, I promised your mother".

In the Epilogue, "What am I write?" was changed to "What am I to
write?", and a missing quotation mark was added after "as Victor Hugo
might have said".





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