Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar by Maurice Leblanc

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

youthful savings! And do you know why? To devote the money to
charity! I am giving you a straight story. She wanted it for some
poor people she was assisting--unknown to her husband. And my hard-
earned money was wormed out of me by that silly pretense! Isn't it
amusing, hein? Arsène Lupin done out of fifteen hundred francs by
the fair lady from whom he stole four millions in counterfeit
bonds! And what a vast amount of time and patience and cunning I
expended to achieve that result! It was the first time in my life
that I was played for a fool, and I frankly confess that I was
fooled that time to the queen's taste!"

VIII. THE BLACK PEARL

A violent ringing of the bell awakened the concierge of number
nine, avenue Hoche. She pulled the doorstring, grumbling:

"I thought everybody was in. It must be three o'clock!"

"Perhaps it is some one for the doctor," muttered her husband.

"Third floor, left. But the doctor won't go out at night."

"He must go to-night."

The visitor entered the vestibule, ascended to the first floor, the
second, the third, and, without stopping at the doctor's door, he
continued to the fifth floor. There, he tried two keys. One of
them fitted the lock.

"Ah! good!" he murmured, "that simplifies the business wonderfully.
But before I commence work I had better arrange for my retreat.
Let me see....have I had sufficient time to rouse the doctor
and be dismissed by him? Not yet....a few minutes more."

At the end of ten minutes, he descended the stairs, grumbling
noisily about the doctor. The concierge opened the door for him
and heard it click behind him. But the door did not lock, as the
man had quickly inserted a piece of iron in the lock in such a
manner that the bolt could not enter. Then, quietly, he entered
the house again, unknown to the concierge. In case of alarm, his
retreat was assured. Noiselessly, he ascended to the fifth floor
once more. In the antechamber, by the light of his electric
lantern, he placed his hat and overcoat on one of the chairs, took
a seat on another, and covered his heavy shows with felt slippers.

"Ouf! Here I am--and how simple it was! I wonder why more people do
not adopt the profitable and pleasant occupation of burglar. With
a little care and reflection, it becomes a most delightful
profession. Not too quiet and monotonous, of course, as it would
then become wearisome."

He unfolded a detailed plan of the apartment.

"Let me commence by locating myself. Here, I see the vestibule in
which I am sitting. On the street front, the drawing-room, the
boudoir and dinning-room. Useless to waste any time there, as it
appears that the countess has a deplorable taste....not a
bibelot of any value!...Now, let's get down to business!...
Ah! here is a corridor; it must lead to the bed chambers. At a
distance of three metres, I should come to the door of the
wardrobe-closet which connects with the chamber of the countess."
He folded his plan, extinguished his lantern, and proceeded down
the corridor, counting his distance, thus:

"One metre....two metres....three metres....Here is
the door....Mon Dieu, how easy it is! Only a small, simple bolt
now separates me from the chamber, and I know that the bolt is
located exactly one metre, forty-three centimeters, from the floor.
So that, thanks to a small incision I am about to make, I can soon
get rid of the bolt."

He drew from his pocket the necessary instruments. Then the
following idea occurred to him:

"Suppose, by chance, the door is not bolted. I will try it first."

He turned the knob, and the door opened.

"My brave Lupin, surely fortune favors you....What's to be
done now? You know the situation of the rooms; you know the place
in which the countess hides the black pearl. Therefore, in order
to secure the black pearl, you have simply to be more silent than
silence, more invisible than darkness itself."

Arsène Lupin was employed fully a half-hour in opening the second
door--a glass door that led to the countess' bedchamber. But he
accomplished it with so much skill and precaution, that even had
had the countess been awake, she would not have heard the slightest
sound. According to the plan of the rooms, that he holds, he has
merely to pass around a reclining chair and, beyond that, a small
table close to the bed. On the table, there was a box of letter-
paper, and the black pearl was concealed in that box. He stooped
and crept cautiously over the carpet, following the outlines of the
reclining-chair. When he reached the extremity of it, he stopped
in order to repress the throbbing of his heart. Although he was
not moved by any sense of fear, he found it impossible to overcome
the nervous anxiety that one usually feels in the midst of profound
silence. That circumstance astonished him, because he had passed
through many more solemn moments without the slightest trace of
emotion. No danger threatened him. Then why did his heart throb
like an alarm-bell? Was it that sleeping woman who affected him?
Was it the proximity of another pulsating heart?

He listened, and thought he could discern the rhythmical breathing
of a person asleep. It gave him confidence, like the presence of a
friend. He sought and found the armchair; then, by slow, cautious
movements, advanced toward the table, feeling ahead of him with
outstretched arm. His right had touched one of the feet of the
table. Ah! now, he had simply to rise, take the pearl, and escape.
That was fortunate, as his heart was leaping in his breast like a
wild beast, and made so much noise that he feared it would waken
the countess. By a powerful effort of the will, he subdued the
wild throbbing of his heart, and was about to rise from the floor
when his left hand encountered, lying on the floor, an object which
he recognized as a candlestick--an overturned candlestick. A moment
later, his hand encountered another object: a clock--one of those
small traveling clocks, covered with leather.

-------

Well! What had happened? He could not understand. That
candlestick, that clock; why were those articles not in their
accustomed placed? Ah! what had happened in the dread silence of
the night?

Suddenly a cry escaped him. He had touched--oh! some strange,
unutterable thing! "No! no!" he thought, "it cannot be. It is
some fantasy of my excited brain." For twenty seconds, thirty
seconds, he remained motionless, terrified, his forehead bathed
with perspiration, and his fingers still retained the sensation of
that dreadful contact.

Making a desperate effort, he ventured to extend his arm again.
Once more, his hand encountered that strange, unutterable thing.
He felt it. He must feel it and find out what it is. He found
that it was hair, human hair, and a human face; and that face was
cold, almost icy.

However frightful the circumstances may be, a man like Arsène Lupin
controls himself and commands the situation as soon as he learns
what it is. So, Arsène Lupin quickly brought his lantern into use.
A woman was lying before him, covered with blood. Her neck and
shoulders were covered with gaping wounds. He leaned over her and
made a closer examination. She was dead.

"Dead! Dead!" he repeated, with a bewildered air.

He stared at those fixed eyes, that grim mouth, that livid flesh,
and that blood--all that blood which had flowed over the carpet and
congealed there in thick, black spots. He arose and turned on the
electric lights. Then he beheld all the marks of a desperate
struggle. The bed was in a state of great disorder. One the
floor, the candlestick, and the clock, with the hands pointing to
twenty minutes after eleven; then, further away, an overturned
chair; and, everywhere, there was blood, spots of blood and pools
of blood.

"And the black pearl?" he murmured.

The box of letter-paper was in its place. He opened it, eagerly.
The jewel-case was there, but it was empty.

"Fichtre!" he muttered. "You boasted of your good fortune much too
soon, my friend Lupin. With the countess lying cold and dead, and
the black pearl vanished, the situation is anything but pleasant.
Get out of here as soon as you can, or you may get into serious
trouble."

Yet, he did not move.

"Get out of here? Yes, of course. Any person would, except Arsène
Lupin. He has something better to do. Now, to proceed in an
orderly way. At all events, you have a clear conscience. Let us
suppose that you are the commissary of police and that you are
proceeding to make an inquiry concerning this affair----Yes, but
in order to do that, I require a clearer brain. Mine is muddled
like a ragout."

He tumbled into an armchair, with his clenched hands pressed
against his burning forehead.

* * * * *

The murder of the avenue Hoche is one of those which have recently
surprised and puzzled the Parisian public, and, certainly, I should
never have mentioned the affair if the veil of mystery had not been
removed by Arsène Lupin himself. No one knew the exact truth of
the case.

Who did not know--from having met her in the Bois--the fair Léotine
Zalti, the once-famous cantatrice, wife and widow of the Count
d'Andillot; the Zalti, whose luxury dazzled all Paris some twenty
years ago; the Zalti who acquired an European reputation for the
magnificence of her diamonds and pearls? It was said that she wore
upon her shoulders the capital of several banking houses and the
gold mines of numerous Australian companies. Skilful jewelers
worked for Zelti as they had formerly wrought for kings and queens.
And who does not remember the catastrophe in which all that wealth
was swallowed up? Of all that marvelous collection, nothing
remained except the famous black pearl. The black pearl! That is
to say a fortune, if she had wished to part with it.

But she preferred to keep it, to live in a commonplace apartment
with her companion, her cook, and a man-servant, rather than sell
that inestimable jewel. There was a reason for it; a reason she
was not afraid to disclose: the black pearl was the gift of an
emperor! Almost ruined, and reduced to the most mediocre
existence, she remained faithful to the companion of her happy and
brilliant youth. The black pearl never left her possession. She
wore it during the day, and, at night, concealed it in a place
known to her alone.

All these facts, being republished in the columns of the public
press, served to stimulate curiosity; and, strange to say, but
quite obvious to those who have the key to the mystery, the arrest
of the presumed assassin only complicated the question and
prolonged the excitement. Two days later, the newspapers published
the following item:

"Information has reached us of the arrest of Victor Danègre, the
servant of the Countess d'Andillot. The evidence against him is
clear and convincing. On the silken sleeve of his liveried
waistcoat, which chief detective Dudouis found in his garret
between the mattresses of his bed, several spots of blood were
discovered. In addition, a cloth-covered button was missing from
that garment, and this button was found beneath the bed of the
victim.

"It is supposed that, after dinner, in place of going to his own
room, Danègre slipped into the wardrobe-closet, and, through the
glass door, had seen the countess hide the precious black pearl.
This is simply a theory, as yet unverified by any evidence. There
is, also, another obscure point. At seven o'clock in the morning,
Danègre went to the tobacco-shop on the Boulevard de Courcelles;
the concierge and the shop-keeper both affirm this fact. On the
other hand, the countess' companion and cook, who sleep at the end
of the hall, both declare that, when they arose at eight o'clock,
the door of the antechamber and the door of the kitchen were
locked. These two persons have been in the service of the countess
for twenty years, and are above suspicion. The question is: How
did Danègre leave the apartment? Did he have another key? These
are matters that the police will investigate."

As a matter of fact, the police investigation threw no light on the
mystery. It was learned that Victor Danègre was a dangerous
criminal, a drunkard and a debauchee. But, as they proceeded with
the investigation, the mystery deepened and new complications
arose. In the first place, a young woman, Mlle. De Sinclèves, the
cousin and sole heiress of the countess, declared that the
countess, a month before her death, had written a letter to her and
in it described the manner in which the black pearl was concealed.
The letter disappeared the day after she received it. Who had
stolen it?

Again, the concierge related how she had opened the door for a
person who had inquired for Doctor Harel. On being questioned, the
doctor testified that no one had rung his bell. Then who was that
person? And accomplice?

The theory of an accomplice was thereupon adopted by the press and
public, and also by Ganimard, the famous detective.

"Lupin is at the bottom of this affair," he said to the judge.

"Bah!" exclaimed the judge, "you have Lupin on the brain. You see
him everywhere."

"I see him everywhere, because he is everywhere."

"Say rather that you see him every time you encounter something you
cannot explain. Besides, you overlook the fact that the crime was
committed at twenty minutes past eleven in the evening, as is shown
by the clock, while the nocturnal visit, mentioned by the
concierge, occurred at three o'clock in the morning."

Officers of the law frequently form a hasty conviction as to the
guilt of a suspected person, and then distort all subsequent
discoveries to conform to their established theory. The deplorable
antecedents of Victor Danègre, habitual criminal, drunkard and
rake, influenced the judge, and despite the fact that nothing new
was discovered in corroboration of the early clues, his official
opinion remained firm and unshaken. He closed his investigation,
and, a few weeks later, the trial commenced. It proved to be slow
and tedious. The judge was listless, and the public prosecutor
presented the case in a careless manner. Under those circumstances,
Danègre's counsel had an easy task. He pointed out the defects and
inconsistencies of the case for the prosecution, and argued that the
evidence was quite insufficient to convict the accused. Who had made
the key, the indispensable key without which Danègre, on leaving the
apartment, could not have locked the door behind him? Who had ever
seen such a key, and what had become of it? Who had seen the
assassin's knife, and where is it now?

"In any event," argued the prisoner's counsel, "the prosecution
must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the prisoner
committed the murder. The prosecution must show that the
mysterious individual who entered the house at three o'clock in the
morning is not the guilty party. To be sure, the clock indicated
eleven o'clock. But what of that? I contend, that proves nothing.
The assassin could turn the hands of the clock to any hour he
pleased, and thus deceive us in regard to the exact hour of the
crime."

Victor Danègre was acquitted.

He left the prison on Friday about dusk in the evening, weak and
depressed by his six months' imprisonment. The inquisition, the
solitude, the trial, the deliberations of the jury, combined to
fill him with a nervous fear. At night, he had been afflicted with
terrible nightmares and haunted by weird visions of the scaffold.
He was a mental and physical wreck.

Under the assumed name of Anatole Dufour, he rented a small room on
the heights of Montmartre, and lived by doing odd jobs wherever he
could find them. He led a pitiful existence. Three times, he
obtained regular employment, only to be recognized and then
discharged. Sometimes, he had an idea that men were following him--
detectives, no doubt, who were seeking to trap and denounce him.
He could almost feel the strong hand of the law clutching him by
the collar.

One evening, as he was eating his dinner at a neighboring
restaurant, a man entered and took a seat at the same table. He
was a person about forty years of age, and wore a frock-coat of
doubtful cleanliness. He ordered soup, vegetables, and a bottle of
wine. After he had finished his soup, he turned his eyes on
Danègre, and gazed at him intently. Danègre winced. He was
certain that this was one of the men who had been following him for
several weeks. What did he want? Danègre tried to rise, but
failed. His limbs refused to support him. The man poured himself
a glass of wine, and then filled Danègre's glass. The man raised
his glass, and said:

"To your health, Victor Danègre."

Victor started in alarm, and stammered:

"I!....I!....no, no....I sweat to you...."

"You will swear what? That you are not yourself? The servant of
the countess?"

"What servant? My name is Dufour. Ask the proprietor."

"Yes, Anatole Dufour to the proprietor of this restaurant, but
Victor Danègre to the officers of the law."

"That's not true! Some one has lied to you."

The new-comer took a card from his pocket and handed it to Victor,
who read on it: "Grimaudan, ex-inspector of the detective force.
Private business transacted." Victor shuddered as he said:

"You are connected with the police?"

"No, not now, but I have a liking for the business and I continue
to work at it in a manner more--profitable. From time to time I
strike upon a golden opportunity--such as your case presents."

"My case?"

"Yes, yours. I assure you it is a most promising affair, provided
you are inclined to be reasonable."

"But if I am not reasonable?"

"Oh! my good fellow, you are not in a position to refuse me
anything I may ask."

"What is it....you want?" stammered Victor, fearfully.

"Well, I will inform you in a few words. I am sent by Mademoiselle
de Sinclèves, the heiress of the Countess d'Andillot."

"What for?"

"To recover the black pearl."

"Black pearl?"

"That you stole."

"But I haven't got it."

"You have it."

"If I had, then I would be the assassin."

"You are the assassin."

Danègre showed a forced smile.

"Fortunately for me, monsieur, the Assizecourt was not of your
opinion. The jury returned an unanimous verdict of acquittal. And
when a man had a clear conscience and twelve good men in his favor--
"

The ex-inspector seized him by the arm and said:

"No fine phrases, my boy. Now, listen to me and weigh my words
carefully. You will find they are worthy of your consideration.
Now, Danègre, three weeks before the murder, you abstracted the
cook's key to the servants' door, and had a duplicate key made by a
locksmith named Outard, 244 rue Oberkampf."

"It's a lie--it's a lie!" growled Victor. "No person has seen that
key. There is no such key."

"Here it is."

After a silence, Grimaudan continued:

"You killed the countess with a knife purchased by you at the Bazar
de la Republique on the same day as you ordered the duplicate key.
It has a triangular blade with a groove running from end to end."

"That is all nonsense. You are simply guessing at something you
don't know. No one ever saw the knife."

"Here it is."

Victor Danègre recoiled. The ex-inspector continued:

"There are some spots of rust upon it. Shall I tell you how they
came there?"

"Well!....you have a key and a knife. Who can prove that they
belong to me?"

"The locksmith, and the clerk from whom you bought the knife. I
have already refreshed their memories, and, when you confront them,
they cannot fail to recognize you."

His speech was dry and hard, with a tone of firmness and precision.
Danègre was trembling with fear, and yet he struggled desperately
to maintain an air of indifference.

"Is that all the evidence you have?"

"Oh! no, not at all. I have plenty more. For instance, after the
crime, you went out the same way you had entered. But, in the
centre of the wardrobe-room, being seized by some sudden fear, you
leaned against the wall for support."

"How do you know that? No one could know such a thing," argues the
desperate man.

"The police know nothing about it, of course. They never think of
lighting a candle and examining the walls. But if they had done
so, they would have found on the white plaster a faint red spot,
quite distinct, however, to trace in it the imprint of your thumb
which you had pressed against the wall while it was wet with blood.
Now, as you are well aware, under the Bertillon system, thumb-marks
are one of the principal means of identification."

Victor Danègre was livid; great drops of perspiration rolled down
his face and fell upon the table. He gazed, with a wild look, at
the strange man who had narrated the story of his crime as
faithfully as if he had been an invisible witness to it. Overcome
and powerless, Victor bowed his head. He felt that it was useless
to struggle against this marvelous man. So he said:

"How much will you give me, if I give you the pearl?"

"Nothing."

"Oh! you are joking! Or do you mean that I should give you an
article worth thousands and hundreds of thousands and get nothing
in return?"

"You will get your life. Is that nothing?"

The unfortunate man shuddered. Then Grimaudan added, in a milder
tone:

"Come, Danègre, that pearl has no value in your hands. It is quite
impossible for you to sell it; so what is the use of your keeping
it?"

"There are pawnbrokers....and, some day, I will be able to get
something for it."

"But that day may be too late."

"Why?"

"Because by that time you may be in the hands of the police, and,
with the evidence that I can furnish--the knife, the key, the thumb-
mark--what will become of you?"

Victor rested his head on his hands and reflected. He felt that he
was lost, irremediably lost, and, at the same time, a sense of
weariness and depression overcame him. He murmured, faintly:

"When must I give it to you?"

"To-night---within an hour."

"If I refuse?"

"If you refuse, I shall post this letter to the Procureur of the
Republic; in which letter Mademoiselle de Sinclèves denounces you
as the assassin."

Danègre poured out two glasses of wine which he drank in rapid
succession, then, rising, said:

"Pay the bill, and let us go. I have had enough of the cursed
affair."

Night had fallen. The two men walked down the rue Lepic and
followed the exterior boulevards in the direction of the Place de
l'Etoile. They pursued their way in silence; Victor had a stooping
carriage and a dejected face. When they reached the Parc Monceau,
he said:

"We are near the house."

"Parbleu! You only left the house once, before your arrest, and
that was to go to the tobacco-shop."

"Here it is," said Danègre, in a dull voice.

They passed along the garden wall of the countess' house, and
crossed a street on a corner of which stood the tobacco-shop. A
few steps further on, Danègre stopped; his limbs shook beneath him,
and he sank to a bench.

"Well! what now?" demanded his companion.

"It is there."

"Where? Come, now, no nonsense!"

"There--in front of us."

"Where?"

"Between two paving-stones."

"Which?"

"Look for it."

"Which stones?"

Victor made no reply.

"Ah; I see!" exclaimed Grimaudan, "you want me to pay for the
information."

"No....but....I am afraid I will starve to death."

"So! that is why you hesitate. Well, I'll not be hard on you. How
much do you want?"

"Enough to buy a steerage pass to America."

"All right."

"And a hundred francs to keep me until I get work there."

"You shall have two hundred. Now, speak."

"Count the paving-stones to the right from the sewer-hole. The
pearl is between the twelfth and thirteenth."

"In the gutter?"

"Yes, close to the sidewalk."

Grimaudan glanced around to see if anyone were looking. Some tram-
cars and pedestrians were passing. But, bah, they will not suspect
anything. He opened his pocketknife and thrust it between the
twelfth and thirteenth stones.

"And if it is not there?" he said to Victor.

"It must be there, unless someone saw me stoop down and hide it."

Could it be possible that the back pearl had been cast into the mud
and filth of the gutter to be picked up by the first comer? The
black pearl--a fortune!

"How far down?" he asked.

"About ten centimetres."

He dug up the wet earth. The point of his knife struck something.
He enlarged the hole with his finger. Then he abstracted the black
pearl from its filthy hiding-place.

"Good! Here are your two hundred francs. I will send you the
ticket for America."

On the following day, this article was published in the `Echo de
France,' and was copied by the leading newspapers throughout the
world:

"Yesterday, the famous black pearl came into the possession of
Arsène Lupin, who recovered it from the murderer of the Countess
d'Andillot. In a short time, fac-similes of that precious jewel
will be exhibited in London, St. Petersburg, Calcutta, Buenos Ayres
and New York.

"Arsène Lupin will be pleased to consider all propositions
submitted to him through his agents."

* * * * *

"And that is how crime is always punished and virtue rewarded,"
said Arsène Lupin, after he had told me the foregoing history of
the black pearl.

"And that is how you, under the assumed name of Grimaudan,
ex-inspector of detectives, were chosen by fate to deprive the
criminal of the benefit of his crime."

"Exactly. And I confess that the affair gives me infinite
satisfaction and pride. The forty minutes that I passed in the
apartment of the Countess d'Andillot, after learning of her death,
were the most thrilling and absorbing moments of my life. In those
forty minutes, involved as I was in a most dangerous plight, I
calmly studied the scene of the murder and reached the conclusion
that the crime must have been committed by one of the house
servants. I also decided that, in order to get the pearl, that
servant must be arrested, and so I left the wainscoat button; it
was necessary, also, for me to hold some convincing evidence of his
guilt, so I carried away the knife which I found upon the floor,
and the key which I found in the lock. I closed and locked the
door, and erased the finger-marks from the plaster in the wardrobe-
closet. In my opinion, that was one of those flashes--"

"Of genius," I said, interrupting.

"Of genius, if you wish. But, I flatter myself, it would not have
occurred to the average mortal. To frame, instantly, the two
elements of the problem--an arrest and an acquittal; to make use of
the formidable machinery of the law to crush and humble my victim,
and reduce him to a condition in which, when free, he would be
certain to fall into the trap I was laying for him!"

"Poor devil--"

"Poor devil, do you say? Victor Danègre, the assassin! He might
have descended to the lowest depths of vice and crime, if he had
retained the black pearl. Now, he lives! Think of that: Victor
Danègre is alive!"

"And you have the black pearl."

He took it out of one of the secret pockets of his wallet, examined
it, gazed at it tenderly, and caressed it with loving fingers, and
sighed, as he said:

"What cold Russian prince, what vain and foolish rajah may some day
possess this priceless treasure! Or, perhaps, some American
millionaire is destined to become the owner of this morsel of
exquisite beauty that once adorned the fair bosom of Leontine
Zalti, the Countess d'Andillot."

IX. SHERLOCK HOLMES ARRIVES TOO LATE

It is really remarkable, Velmont, what a close resemblance you bear
to Arsène Lupin!"

"How do you know?"

"Oh! like everyone else, from photographs, no two of which are
alike, but each of them leaves the impression of a face....
something like yours."

Horace Velmont displayed some vexation.

"Quite so, my dear Devanne. And, believe me, you are not the first
one who has noticed it."

"It is so striking," persisted Devanne, "that if you had not been
recommended to me by my cousin d'Estevan, and if you were not the
celebrated artist whose beautiful marine views I so admire, I have
no doubt I should have warned the police of your presence in
Dieppe."

This sally was greeted with an outburst of laughter. The large
dining-hall of the Château de Thibermesnil contained on this
occasion, besides Valmont, the following guests: Father Gélis, the
parish priest, and a dozen officers whose regiments were quartered
in the vicinity and who had accepted the invitation of the banker
Georges Devanne and his mother. One of the officers then remarked:

"I understand that an exact description of Arsène Lupin has been
furnished to all the police along this coast since his daring
exploit on the Paris-Havre express."

"I suppose so," said Devanne. "That was three months ago; and a
week later, I made the acquaintance of our friend Velmont at the
casino, and, since then, he has honored me with several visits--an
agreeable preamble to a more serious visit that he will pay me one
of these days--or, rather, one of these nights."

This speech evoked another round of laughter, and the guests then
passed into the ancient "Hall of the Guards," a vast room with a
high ceiling, which occupied the entire lower part of the Tour
Guillaume--William's Tower--and wherein Georges Devanne had collected
the incomparable treasures which the lords of Thibermesnil had
accumulated through many centuries. It contained ancient chests,
credences, andirons and chandeliers. The stone walls were overhung
with magnificent tapestries. The deep embrasures of the four
windows were furnished with benches, and the Gothic windows were
composed of small panes of colored glass set in a leaden frame.
Between the door and the window to the left stood an immense
bookcase of Renaissance style, on the pediment of which, in letters
of gold, was the world "Thibermesnil," and, below it, the proud
family device: "Fais ce que veulx" (Do what thou wishest). When
the guests had lighted their cigars, Devanne resumed the
conversation.

"And remember, Velmont, you have no time to lose; in fact, to-night
is the last chance you will have."

"How so?" asked the painter, who appeared to regard the affair as a
joke. Devanne was about to reply, when his mother mentioned to him
to keep silent, but the excitement of the occasion and a desire to
interest his guests urged him to speak.

"Bah!" he murmured. "I can tell it now. It won't do any harm."

The guests drew closer, and he commenced to speak with the
satisfied air of a man who has an important announcement to make.

"To-morrow afternoon at four o'clock, Sherlock Holmes, the famous
English detective, for whom such a thing as mystery does not exist;
Sherlock Holmes, the most remarkable solver of enigmas the world
has ever known, that marvelous man who would seem to be the
creation of a romantic novelist--Sherlock Holmes will be my guest!"

Immediately, Devanne was the target of numerous eager questions.
"Is Sherlock Holmes really coming?" "Is it so serious as that?"
"Is Arsène Lupin really in this neighborhood?"

"Arsène Lupin ad his bad are not far away. Besides the robbery of
the Baron Cahorn, he is credited with the thefts at Montigny,
Gruchet and Crasville."

"Has he sent you a warning, as he did to Baron Cahorn?"

"No," replied Devanne, "he can't work the same trick twice."

"What then?"

"I will show you."

He rose, and pointing to a small empty space between the two
enormous folios on one of the shelves of the bookcase, he said:

"There used to be a book there--a book of the sixteenth century
entitled `Chronique de Thibermesnil,' which contained the history
of the castle since its construction by Duke Rollo on the site of a
former feudal fortress. There were three engraved plates in the
book; one of which was a general view of the whole estate; another,
the plan of the buildings; and the third--I call your attention to
it, particularly--the third was the sketch of a subterranean
passage, on entrance to which is outside the first line of
ramparts, while the other end of the passage is here, in this very
room. Well, that book disappeared a month ago."

"The deuce!" said Velmont, "that looks bad. But it doesn't seem to
be a sufficient reason for sending for Sherlock Holmes."

"Certainly, that was not sufficient in itself, but another incident
happened that gives the disappearance of the book a special
significance. There was another cop of this book in the National
Library at Paris, and the two books differed in certain details
relating to the subterranean passage; for instance, each of them
contained drawings and annotations, not printed, but written in ink
and more or less effaced. I knew those facts, and I knew that the
exact location of the passage could be determined only by a
comparison of the two books. Now, the day after my book
disappeared, the book was called for in the National Library by a
reader who carried it away, and no one knows how the theft was
effected."

The guests uttered many exclamations of surprise.

"Certainly, the affair looks serious," said one.

"Well, the police investigated the matter, and, as usual,
discovered no clue whatever."

"They never do, when Arsène Lupin is concerned in it."

"Exactly; and so I decided to ask the assistance of Sherlock
Holmes, who replied that he was ready and anxious to enter the
lists with Arsène Lupin."

"What glory for Arsène Lupin!" said Velmont. "But if our national
thief, as they call him, has no evil designs on your castle,
Sherlock Holmes will have his trip in vain."

"There are other things that will interest him, such as the
discovery of the subterranean passage."

"But you told us that one end of the passage was outside the
ramparts and the other was in this very room!"

"Yes, but in what part of the room? The line which represents the
passage on the charts ends here, with a small circle marked with
the letters `T.G.,' which no doubt stand for `Tour Guillaume.' But
the tower is round, and who can tell the exact spot at which the
passage touches the tower?"

Devanne lighted a second cigar and poured himself a glass of
Benedictine. His guests pressed him with questions and he was
pleased to observe the interest that his remarks had created. The
he continued:

"The secret is lost. No one knows it. The legend is to the effect
that the former lords of the castle transmitted the secret from
father to son on their deathbeds, until Geoffroy, the last of the
race, was beheaded during the Revolution in his nineteenth year."

"That is over a century ago. Surely, someone has looked for it
since that time?"

"Yes, but they failed to find it. After I purchased the castle, I
made a diligent search for it, but without success. You must
remember that this tower is surrounded by water and connected with
the castle only by a bridge; consequently, the passage must be
underneath the old moat. The plan that was in the book in the
National Library showed a series of stairs with a total of forty-
eight steps, which indicates a depth of more than ten meters. You
see, the mystery lies within the walls of this room, and yet I
dislike to tear them down."

"Is there nothing to show where it is?"

"Nothing."

"Mon. Devanne, we should turn our attention to the two quotations,"
suggested Father Gélis.

"Oh!" exclaimed Mon. Devanne, laughing, "our worthy father is fond
of reading memoirs and delving into the musty archives of the
castle. Everything relating to Thibermesnil interests him greatly.
But the quotations that he mentions only serve to complicate the
mystery. He has read somewhere that two kings of France have known
the key to the puzzle."

"Two kings of France! Who were they?"

"Henry the Fourth and Louis the Sixteenth. And the legend runs
like this: On the eve of the battle of Arques, Henry the Fourth
spent the night in this castle. At eleven o'clock in the evening,
Louise de Tancarville, the prettiest woman in Normandy, was brought
into the castle through the subterranean passage by Duke Edgard,
who, at the same time, informed the king of the secret passage.
Afterward, the king confided the secret to his minister Sully, who,
in turn, relates the story in his book, "Royales Economies d'Etat,"
without making any comment upon it, but linking with it this
incomprehensible sentence: `Turn one eye on the bee that shakes,
the other eye will lead to God!'"

After a brief silence, Velmont laughed and said:

"Certainly, it doesn't throw a dazzling light upon the subject."

"No; but Father Gélis claims that Sully concealed the key to the
mystery in this strange sentence in order to keep the secret from
the secretaries to whom he dictated his memoirs."

"That is an ingenious theory," said Velmont.

"Yes, and it may be nothing more; I cannot see that it throws any
light on the mysterious riddle."

"And was it also to receive the visit of a lady that Louis the
Sixteenth caused the passage to be opened?"

"I don't know," said Mon. Devanne. All I can say is that the king
stopped here one night in 1784, and that the famous Iron Casket
found in the Louvre contained a paper bearing these words in the
king's own writing: `Thibermesnil 3-4-11.'"

Horace Velmont laughed heartily, and exclaimed:

"At last! And now that we have the magic key, where is the man who
can fit it to the invisible lock?"

"Laugh as much as you please, monsieur," said Father Gèlis, "but I
am confident the solution is contained in those two sentences, and
some day we will find a man able to interpret them."

"Sherlock Holmes is the man," said Mon. Devanne, "unless Arsène
Lupin gets ahead of him. What is your opinion, Velmont?"

Velmont arose, placed his hand on Devanne's shoulder, and declared:

"I think that the information furnished by your book and the book
of the National Library was deficient in a very important detail
which you have now supplied. I thank you for it."

"What is it?"

"The missing key. Now that I have it, I can go to work at once,"
said Velmont.

"Of course; without losing a minute," said Devanne, smiling.

"Not even a second!" replied Velmont. "To-night, before the
arrival of Sherlock Holmes, I must plunder your castle."

"You have no time to lose. Oh! by the way, I can drive you over
this evening."

"To Dieppe?"

"Yes. I am going to meet Monsieur and Madame d'Androl and a young
lady of their acquaintance who are to arrive by the midnight
train."

Then addressing the officers, Devanne added:

"Gentlemen, I shall expect to see all of you at breakfast to-
morrow."

The invitation was accepted. The company dispersed, and a few
moments later Devanne and Velmont were speeding toward Dieppe in an
automobile. Devanne dropped the artist in front of the Casino, and
proceeded to the railway station. At twelve o'clock his friends
alighted from the train. A half hour later the automobile was at
the entrance to the castle. At one o'clock, after a light supper,
they retired. The lights were extinguished, and the castle was
enveloped in the darkness and silence of the night.

* * * * *

The moon appeared through a rift in the clouds, and filled the
drawing-room with its bright white light. But only for a moment.
Then the moon again retired behind its ethereal draperies, and
darkness and silence reigned supreme. No sound could be heard,
save the monotonous ticking of the clock. It struck two, and then
continued its endless repetitions of the seconds. Then, three
o'clock.

Suddenly, something clicked, like the opening and closing of a
signal-disc that warns the passing train. A thin stream of light
flashed to every corner of the room, like an arrow that leaved
behind it a trail of light. It shot forth from the central fluting
of a column that supported the pediment of the bookcase. It rested
for a moment on the panel opposite like a glittering circle of
burnished silver, then flashed in all directions like a guilty eye
that scrutinizes every shadow. It disappeared for a short time,
bur burst forth again as a whole section of the bookcase revolved
on a picot and disclosed a large opening like a vault.

A man entered, carrying an electric lantern. He was followed by a
second man, who carried a coil of rope and various tools. The
leader inspected the room, listened a moment, and said:
A man entered, carrying an electric lantern. He was followed by a
second man, who carried a coil of rope and various tools. The
leader inspected the room, listened a moment, and said:

"Call the others."

Then eight men, stout fellows with resolute faces, entered the
room, and immediately commenced to remove the furnishings. Arsène
Lupin passed quickly from one piece of furniture to another,
examined each, and, according to its size or artistic value, he
directed his men to take it or leave it. If ordered to be taken,
it was carried to the gaping mouth of the tunnel, and ruthlessly
thrust into the bowels of the earth. Such was the fate of six
armchairs, six small Louis XV chairs, a quantity of Aubusson
tapestries, some candelabra, paintings by Fragonard and Nattier, a
bust by Houdon, and some statuettes. Sometimes, Lupin would linger
before a beautiful chest or a superb picture, and sigh:

"That is too heavy....too large....what a pity!"

In forty minutes the room was dismantled; and it had been
accomplished in such an orderly manner and with as little noise as
if the various articles had been packed and wadded for the
occasion.

Lupin said to the last man who departed by way of the tunnel:

"You need not come back. You understand, that as soon as the auto-
van is loaded, you are to proceed to the grange at Roquefort."

"But you, patron?"

"Leave me the motor-cycle."

When the mad had disappeared, Arsène Lupin pushed the section of
the bookcase back into its place, carefully effaced the traces of
the men's footsteps, raised a portiere, and entered a gallery,
which was the only means of communication between the tower and the
castle. In the center of this gallery there was a glass cabinet
which had attracted Lupin's attentions. It contained a valuable
collection of watches, snuff-boxes, rings, chatelaines and
miniatures of rare and beautiful workmanship. He forced the lock
with a small jimmy, and experienced a great pleasure in handling
those gold and silver ornaments, those exquisite and delicate works
of art.

He carried a large linen bag, specially prepared for the removal of
such knick-knacks. He filled it. Then he filled the pockets of
his coat, waistcoat and trousers. And he was just placing over his
left arm a number of pearl reticules when he heard a slight sound.
He listened. No, he was not deceived. The noise continued. Then
he remembered that, at one end of the gallery, there was a stairway
leading to an unoccupied apartment, but which was probably occupied
that night by the young lady whom Mon. Devanne had brought from
Dieppe with his other visitors.

Immediately he extinguished his lantern, and had scarcely gained
the friendly shelter of a window-embrasure, when the door at the
top of the stairway was opened and a feeble light illuminated the
gallery. He could feel--for, concealed by a curtain, he could not
see--that a woman was cautiously descending the upper steps of the
stairs. He hoped she would come no closer. Yet, she continued to
descend, and even advanced some distance into the room. Then she
uttered a faint cry. No doubt she had discovered the broken and
dismantled cabinet.

She advanced again. Now he could smell the perfume, and hear the
throbbing of her heart as she drew closer to the window where he
was concealed. She passed so close that her skirt brushed against
the window-curtain, and Lupin felt that she suspected the presence
of another, behind her, in the shadow, within reach of her hand.
He thought: "She is afraid. She will go away." But she did not
go. The candle, that she carried in her trembling hand, grew
brighter. She turned, hesitated a moment, appeared to listen, then
suddenly drew aside the curtain.

They stood face to face. Arsène was astounded. He murmured,
involuntarily:

"You--you--mademoiselle."

It was Miss Nelly. Miss Nelly! his fellow passenger on the
transatlantic steamer, who had been the subject of his dreams on
that memorable voyage, who had been a witness to his arrest, and
who, rather than betray him, had dropped into the water the kodak
in which he had concealed the bank-notes and diamonds. Miss Nelly!
that charming creature, the memory of whose face has sometimes
sheered, sometimes saddened the long hours of imprisonment.

It was such an unexpected encounter that brought them face to face
in that castle at that hour of the night, that they could not move,
nor utter a word; they were amazed, hypnotized, each at the sudden
apparition of the other. Trembling with emotion, Miss Nelly
staggered to a seat. He remained standing in front of her.

Gradually, he realized the situation and conceived the impression
he must have produced at that moment with his arms laden with
knick-knacks, and his pockets and a linen sack overflowing with
plunder. He was overcome with confusion, and he actually blushed
to find himself in the position of a thief caught in the act. To
her, henceforth, he was a thief, a man who puts his hand in
another's pocket, who steals into houses and robs people while they
sleep.

A watch fell upon the floor; then another. These were followed by
other articles which slipped from his grasp one by one. Then,
actuated by a sudden decision, he dropped the other articles into
an armchair, emptied his pockets and unpacked his sack. He felt
very uncomfortable in Nelly's presence, and stepped toward her with
the intention of speaking to her, but she shuddered, rose quickly
and fled toward the salon. The portiere closed behind her. He
followed her. She was standing trembling and amazed at the sight
of the devastated room. He said to her, at once:

"To-morrow, at three o'clock, everything will be returned. The
furniture will be brought back."

She made no reply, so he repeated:

"I promise it. To-morrow, at three o'clock. Nothing in the world
could induce me to break that promise....To-morrow, at three
o'clock."

Then followed a long silence that he dared not break, whilst the
agitation of the young girl caused him a feeling of genuine regret.
Quietly, without a word, he turned away, thinking: "I hope she will
go away. I can't endure her presence." But the young girl
suddenly spoke, and stammered:

"Listen....footsteps....I hear someone...."

He looked at her with astonishment. She seemed to be overwhelmed
by the thought of approaching peril.

"I don't hear anything," he said.

"But you must go--you must escape!"

"Why should I go?"

"Because--you must. Oh! do not remain here another minute. Go!"

She ran, quickly, to the door leading to the gallery and listened.
No, there was no one there. Perhaps the noise was outside. She
waited a moment, then returned reassured.

But Arsène Lupin had disappeared.

* * * * *

As soon as Mon. Devanne was informed of the pillage of his castle,
he said to himself: It was Velmont who did it, and Velmont is
Arsène Lupin. That theory explained everything, and there was no
other plausible explanation. And yet the idea seemed preposterous.
It was ridiculous to suppose that Velmont was anyone else than
Velmont, the famous artist, and club-fellow of his cousin
d'Estevan. So, when the captain of the gendarmes arrived to
investigate the affair, Devanne did not even think of mentioning
his absurd theory.

Throughout the forenoon there was a lively commotion at the castle.
The gendarmes, the local police, the chief of police from Dieppe,
the villagers, all circulated to and fro in the halls, examining
every nook and corner that was open to their inspection. The
approach of the maneuvering troops, the rattling fire of the
musketry, added to the picturesque character of the scene.

The preliminary search furnished no clue. Neither the doors nor
windows showed any signs of having been disturbed. Consequently,
the removal of the goods must have been effected by means of the
secret passage. Yet, there were no indications of footsteps on the
floor, nor any unusual marks upon the walls.

Their investigations revealed, however, one curious fact that
denoted the whimsical character of Arsène Lupin: the famous
Chronique of the sixteenth century had been restored to its
accustomed place in the library and, beside it, there was a similar
book, which was none other than the volume stolen from the National
Library.

At eleven o'clock the military officers arrived. Devanne welcomed
them with his usual gayety; for, no matter how much chagrin he
might suffer from the loss of his artistic treasures, his great
wealth enabled him to bear his loss philosophically. His guests,
Monsieur and Madame d'Androl and Miss Nelly, were introduced; and
it was then noticed that one of the expected guests had not
arrived. It was Horace Velmont. Would he come? His absence had
awakened the suspicions of Mon. Devanne. But at twelve o'clock he
arrived. Devanne exclaimed:

"Ah! here you are!"

"Why, am I not punctual?" asked Velmont.

"Yes, and I am surprised that you are....after such a busy night!
I suppose you know the news?"

"What news?"

"You have robbed the castle."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Velmont, smiling.

"Exactly as I predicted. But, first escort Miss Underdown to the
dining-room. Mademoiselle, allow me--"

He stopped, as he remarked the extreme agitation of the young girl.
Then, recalling the incident, he said:

"Ah! of course, you met Arsène Lupin on the steamer, before his
arrest, and you are astonished at the resemblance. Is that it?"

She did not reply. Velmont stood before her, smiling. He bowed.
She took his proffered arm. He escorted her to her place, and took
his seat opposite her. During the breakfast, the conversation
related exclusively to Arsène Lupin, the stolen goods, the secret
passage, and Sherlock Holmes. It was only at the close of the
repast, when the conversation had drifted to other subjects, that
Velmont took any part in it. Then he was, by turns, amusing and
grave, talkative and pensive. And all his remarks seemed to be
directed to the young girl. But she, quite absorbed, did not
appear to hear them.

Coffee was served on the terrace overlooking the court of honor and
the flower garden in front of the principal façade. The regimental
band played on the lawn, and scores of soldiers and peasants
wandered through the park.

Miss Nelly had not forgotten, for one moment, Lupin's solemn
promise: "To-morrow, at three o'clock, everything will be
returned."

At three o'clock! And the hands of the great clock in the right
wing of the castle now marked twenty minutes to three. In spite of
herself, her eyes wandered to the clock every minute. She also
watched Velmont, who was calmly swinging to and fro in a
comfortable rocking chair.

Ten minutes to three!....Five minutes to three!....Nelly was
impatient and anxious. Was it possible that Arsène Lupin would
carry out his promise at the appointed hour, when the castle, the
courtyard, and the park were filled with people, and at the very
moment when the officers of the law were pursuing their
investigations? And yet....Arsène Lupin had given her his solemn
promise. "It will be exactly as he said," thought she, so deeply
was she impressed with the authority, energy and assurance of that
remarkable man. To her, it no longer assumed the form of a
miracle, but, on the contrary, a natural incident that must occur
in the ordinary course of events. She blushed, and turned her
head.

Three o'clock! The great clock struck slowly:
one....two....three....Horace Velmont took out his watch, glanced
at the clock, then returned the watch to his pocket. A few seconds
passed in silence; and then the crowd in the courtyard parted to
give passage to two wagons, that had just entered the park-gate,
each drawn by two horses. They were army-wagons, such as are used
for the transportation of provisions, tents, and other necessary
military stores. They stopped in front of the main entrance, and a
commissary-sergeant leaped from one of the wagons and inquired for
Mon. Devanne. A moment later, that gentleman emerged from the
house, descended the steps, and, under the canvas covers of the
wagons, beheld his furniture, pictures and ornaments carefully
packaged and arranged.

When questioned, the sergeant produced an order that he had
received from the officer of the day. By that order, the second
company of the fourth battalion were commanded to proceed to the
crossroads of Halleux in the forest of Arques, gather up the
furniture and other articles deposited there, and deliver same to
Monsieur Georges Devanne, owner of the Thibermesnil castle, at
three o'clock. Signed: Col. Beauvel.

"At the crossroads," explained the sergeant, "we found everything
ready, lying on the grass, guarded by some passers-by. It seemed
very strange, but the order was imperative."

One of the officers examined the signature. He declared it a
forgery; but a clever imitation. The wagons were unloaded, and the
goods restored to their proper placed in the castle.

During this commotion, Nelly had remained alone at the extreme end
of the terrace, absorbed by confused and distracted thoughts.
Suddenly, she observed Velmont approaching her. She would have
avoided him, but the balustrade that surrounded the terrace cut off
her retreat. She was cornered. She could not move. A gleam of
sunshine, passing through the scant foliage of a bamboo, lighted up
her beautiful golden hair. Some one spoke to her in a low voice:

"Have I not kept my promise?"

Arsène Lupin stood close to her. No one else was near. He
repeated, in a calm, soft voice:

"Have I not kept my promise?"

He expected a word of thanks, or at least some slight movement that
would betray her interest in the fulfillment of his promise. But
she remained silent.

Her scornful attitude annoyed Arsène Lupin; and he realized the
vast distance that separated him from Miss Nelly, now that she had
learned the truth. He would gladly have justified himself in her
eyes, or at least pleaded extenuating circumstances, but he
perceived the absurdity and futility of such an attempt. Finally,
dominated by a surging flood of memories, he murmured:

"Ah! how long ago that was! You remember the long hours on the
deck of the `Provence.' Then, you carried a rose in your hand, a
white rose like the one you carry to-day. I asked you for it. You
pretended you did not hear me. After you had gone away, I found
the rose--forgotten, no doubt--and I kept it."

She made no reply. She seemed to be far away. He continued:

"In memory of those happy hours, forget what you have learned
since. Separate the past from the present. Do not regard me as
the man you saw last night, but look at me, if only for a moment,
as you did in those far-off days when I was Bernard d'Andrezy, for
a short time. Will you, please?"

She raised her eyes and looked at him as he had requested. Then,
without saying a word, she pointed to a ring he was wearing on his
forefinger. Only the ring was visible; but the setting, which was
turned toward the palm of his hand, consisted of a magnificent
ruby. Arsène Lupin blushed. The ring belonged to Georges Devanne.
He smiled bitterly, and said:

"You are right. Nothing can be changed. Arsène Lupin is now and
always will be Arsène Lupin. To you, he cannot be even so much as
a memory. Pardon me....I should have known that any attention I
may now offer you is simply an insult. Forgive me."

He stepped aside, hat in hand. Nelly passed before him. He was
inclined to detain her and beseech her forgiveness. But his
courage failed, and he contented himself by following her with his
eyes, as he had done when she descended the gangway to the pier at
New York. She mounted the steps leading to the door, and
disappeared within the house. He saw her no more.

A cloud obscured the sun. Arsène Lupin stood watching the imprints
of her tiny feet in the sand. Suddenly, he gave a start. Upon the
box which contained the bamboo, beside which Nelly had been
standing, he saw the rose, the white rose which he had desired but
dared not ask for. Forgotten, no doubt--it, also! But how--
designedly or through distraction? He seized it eagerly. Some of
its petals fell to the ground. He picked them up, one by one, like
precious relics. 64-LUPIN-Mitchell.

"Come!" he said to himself, "I have nothing more to do here. I
must think of my safety, before Sherlock Holmes arrives."

* * * * *

The park was deserted, but some gendarmes were stationed at the
park-gate. He entered a grove of pine trees, leaped over the wall,
and, as a short cut to the railroad station, followed a path across
the fields. After walking about ten minutes, he arrived at a spot
where the road grew narrower and ran between two steep banks. In
this ravine, he met a man traveling in the opposite direction. It
was a man about fifty years of age, tall, smooth-shaven, and
wearing clothes of a foreign cut. He carried a heavy cane, and a
small satchel was strapped across his shoulder. When they met, the
stranger spoke, with a slight English accent:

"Excuse me, monsieur, is this the way to the castle?"

"Yes, monsieur, straight ahead, and turn to the left when you come
to the wall. They are expecting you."

"Ah!"

"Yes, my friend Devanne told us last night that you were coming,
and I am delighted to be the first to welcome you. Sherlock Holmes
has no more ardent admirer than....myself."

There was a touch of irony in his voice that he quickly regretted,
for Sherlock Holmes scrutinized him from head to foot with such a
keen, penetrating eye that Arsène Lupin experienced the sensation
of being seized, imprisoned and registered by that look more
thoroughly and precisely than he had ever been my a camera.

"My negative is taken now," he thought, "and it will be useless to
use a disguise with that man. He would look right through it.
But, I wonder, has he recognized me?"

They bowed to each other as if about to part. But, at that moment,
they heard a sound of horses' feet, accompanied by a clinking of
steel. It was the gendarmes. The two men were obliged to draw
back against the embankment, amongst the brushes, to avoid the
horses. The gendarmes passed by, but, as they followed each other
at a considerable distance, they were several minutes in doing so.
And Lupin was thinking:

"It all depends on that question: has he recognized me? If so, he
will probably take advantage of the opportunity. It is a trying
situation."

When the last horseman had passed, Sherlock Holmes stepped forth
and brushed the dust from his clothes. Then, for a moment, he and
Arsène Lupin gazed at each other; and, if a person could have seen
them at that moment, it would have been an interesting sight, and
memorable as the first meeting of two remarkable men, so strange,
so powerfully equipped, both of superior quality, and destined by
fate, through their peculiar attributes, to hurl themselves one at
the other like two equal forces that nature opposes, one against
the other, in the realms of space.

Then the Englishman said: "Thank you, monsieur."

They parted. Lupin went toward the railway station, and Sherlock
Holmes continued on his way to the castle.

The local officers had given up the investigation after several
hours of fruitless efforts, and the people at the castle were
awaiting the arrival of the English detective with a lively
curiosity. At first sight, they were a little disappointed on
account of his commonplace appearance, which differed so greatly
from the pictures they had formed of him in their own minds. He
did not in any way resemble the romantic hero, the mysterious and
diabolical personage that the name of Sherlock Holmes had evoked in
their imaginations. However, Mon. Devanne exclaimed with much
gusto:

"Ah! monsieur, you are here! I am delighted to see you. It is a
long-deferred pleasure. Really, I scarcely regret what has
happened, since it affords me the opportunity to meet you. But,
how did you come?"

"By the train."

"But I sent my automobile to meet you at the station."

"An official reception, eh? with music and fireworks! Oh! no, not
for me. That is not the way I do business, grumbled the
Englishman.

This speech disconcerted Devanne, who replied, with a forced smile:

"Fortunately, the business has been greatly simplified since I
wrote to you."

"In what way?"

"The robbery took place last night."

"If you had not announced my intended visit, it is probably the
robbery would not have been committed last night."

"When, then?"

"To-morrow, or some other day."

"And in that case?"

"Lupin would have been trapped," said the detective.

"And my furniture?"

"Would not have been carried away."

"Ah! but my goods are here. They were brought back at three
o'clock."

"By Lupin."

"By two army-wagons."

Sherlock Holmes put on his cap and adjusted his satchel. Devanne
exclaimed, anxiously:

"But, monsieur, what are you going to do?"

"I am going home."

"Why?"

"Your goods have been returned; Arsène Lupin is far away--there is
nothing for me to do."

"Yes, there is. I need your assistance. What happened yesterday,
may happen again to-morrow, as we do not know how he entered, or
how he escaped, or why, a few hours later, he returned the goods."

"Ah! you don't know--"

The idea of a problem to be solved quickened the interest of
Sherlock Holmes.

"Very well, let us make a search--at once--and alone, if possible."

Devanne understood, and conducted the Englishman to the salon. In
a dry, crisp voice, in sentences that seemed to have been prepared
in advance, Holmes asked a number of questions about the events of
the preceding evening, and enquired also concerning the guests and
the members of the household. Then he examined the two volumes of
the "Chronique," compared the plans of the subterranean passage,
requested a repetition of the sentences discovered by Father Gélis,
and then asked:

"Was yesterday the first time you have spoken hose two sentences to
any one?"

"Yes."

"You had never communicated then to Horace Velmont?"

"No."

"Well, order the automobile. I must leave in an hour."

"In an hour?"

"Yes; within that time, Arsène Lupin solved the problem that you
placed before him."

"I....placed before him--"

"Yes, Arsène Lupin or Horace Velmont--same thing."

"I thought so. Ah! the scoundrel!"

"Now, let us see," said Holmes, "last night at ten o'clock, you
furnished Lupin with the information that he lacked, and that he
had been seeking for many weeks. During the night, he found time
to solve the problem, collect his men, and rob the castle. I shall
be quite as expeditious."

He walked from end to end of the room, in deep thought, then sat
down, crossed his long legs and closed his eyes.

Devanne waited, quite embarrassed. Thought he: "Is the man asleep?
Or is he only meditating?" However, he left the room to give some
orders, and when he returned he found the detective on his knees
scrutinizing the carpet at the foot of the stairs in the gallery.

"What is it?" he enquired.

"Look....there....spots from a candle."

"You are right--and quite fresh."

"And you will also find them at the top of the stairs, and around
the cabinet that Arsène Lupin broke into, and from which he took
the bibelots that he afterward placed in this armchair."

"What do you conclude from that?"

"Nothing. These facts would doubtless explain the cause for the
restitution, but that is a side issue that I cannot wait to
investigate. The main question is the secret passage. First, tell
me, is there a chapel some two or three hundred metres from the
castle?"

"Yes, a ruined chapel, containing the tomb of Duke Rollo."

"Tell your chauffer to wait for us near that chapel."

"My chauffer hasn't returned. If he had, they would have informed
me. Do you think the secret passage runs to the chapel? What
reason have--"

"I would ask you, monsieur," interrupted the detective, "to furnish
me with a ladder and a lantern."

"What! do you require a ladder and a lantern?"

"Certainly, or I shouldn't have asked for them."

Devanne, somewhat disconcerted by this crude logic, rang the bell.
The two articles were given with the sternness and precision of
military commands.

"Place the ladder against the bookcase, to the left of the word
Thibermesnil."

Devanne placed the ladder as directed, and the Englishman
continued:

"More to the left....to the right....There!....Now, climb up....
All the letters are in relief, aren't they?"

"Yes."

"First, turn the letter I one way or the other."

"Which one? There are two of them."

"The first one."

Devanne took hold of the letter, and exclaimed:

"Ah! yes, it turns toward the right. Who told you that?"

Sherlock Holmes did not reply to the question, but continued his
directions:

"Now, take the letter B. Move it back and forth as you would a
bolt."

Devanne did so, and, to his great surprise, it produced a clicking
sound.

"Quite right," said Holmes. "Now, we will go to the other end of
the word Thibermesnil, try the letter I, and see if it will open
like a wicket."

With a certain degree of solemnity, Devanne seized the letter. It
opened, but Devanne fell from the ladder, for the entire section of
the bookcase, lying between the first and last letters of the
words, turned on a picot and disclosed the subterranean passage.

Sherlock Holmes said, coolly:

"You are not hurt?"

"No, no," said Devanne, as he rose to his feet, "not hurt, only
bewildered. I can't understand now....those letters turn....the
secret passage opens...."

"Certainly. Doesn't that agree exactly with the formula given by
Sully? Turn one eye on the bee that shakes, the other eye will
lead to God."

"But Louis the sixteenth?" asked Devanne.

"Louis the sixteenth was a clever locksmith. I have read a book he
wrote about combination locks. It was a good idea on the part of
the owner of Thibermesnil to show His Majesty a clever bit of
mechanism. As an aid to his memory, the king wrote: 3-4-11, that
is to say, the third, fourth and eleventh letters of the word."

"Exactly. I understand that. It explains how Lupin got out of the
room, but it does not explain how he entered. And it is certain he
came from the outside."

Sherlock Holmes lighted his lantern, and stepped into the passage.

"Look! All the mechanism is exposed here, like the works of a
clock, and the reverse side of the letters can be reached. Lupin
worked the combination from this side--that is all."

"What proof is there of that?"

"Proof? Why, look at that puddle of oil. Lupin foresaw that the
wheels would require oiling."

"Did he know about the other entrance?"

"As well as I know it," said Holmes. "Follow me."

"Into that dark passage?"

"Are you afraid?"

"No, but are you sure you can find the way out?"

"With my eyes closed."

At first, they descended twelve steps, then twelve more, and,
farther on, two other flights of twelve steps each. Then they
walked through a long passageway, the brick walls of which showed
the marks of successive restorations, and, in spots, were dripping
with water. The earth, also, was very damp.

"We are passing under the pond," said Devanne, somewhat nervously.

At last, they came to a stairway of twelve steps, followed by three
others of twelve steps each, which they mounted with difficulty,
and then found themselves in a small cavity cut in the rock. They
could go no further.

"The deuce!" muttered Holmes, "nothing but bare walls. This is
provoking."

"Let us go back," said Devanne. "I have seen enough to satisfy
me."

But the Englishman raised his eye and uttered a sigh of relief.
There, he saw the same mechanism and the same word as before. He
had merely to work the three letters. He did so, and a block of
granite swung out of place. On the other side, this granite block
formed the tombstone of Duke Rollo, and the word "Thibermesnil" was
engraved on it in relief. Now, they were in the little ruined
chapel, and the detective said:

"The other eye leads to God; that means, to the chapel."

"It is marvelous!" exclaimed Devanne, amazed at the clairvoyance
and vivacity of the Englishman. "Can it be possible that those few
words were sufficient for you?"

"Bah!" declared Holmes, "they weren't even necessary. In the chart
in the book of the National Library, the drawing terminates at the
left, as you know, in a circle, and at the right, as you do not
know, in a cross. Now, that cross must refer to the chapel in
which we now stand."

Poor Devanne could not believe his ears. It was all so new, so
novel to him. He exclaimed:

"It is incredible, miraculous, and yet of a childish simplicity!
How is it that no one has ever solved the mystery?"

"Because no one has ever united the essential elements, that is to
say, the two books and the two sentences. No one, but Arsène Lupin
and myself."

"But, Father Gélis and I knew all about those things, and,
likewise--"

Holmes smiled, and said:

"Monsieur Devanne, everybody cannot solve riddles."

"I have been trying for ten years to accomplish what you did in ten
minutes."

"Bah! I am used to it."

They emerged from the chapel, and found an automobile.

"Ah! there's an auto waiting for us."

"Yes, it is mine," said Devanne.

"Yours? You said your chauffeur hadn't returned."

They approached the machine, and Mon. Devanne questioned the
chauffer:

"Edouard, who gave you orders to come here?"

"Why, it was Monsieur Velmont."

"Mon. Velmont? Did you meet him?"

"Near the railway station, and he told me to come to the chapel."

"To come to the chapel! What for?"

"To wait for you, monsieur, and your friend."

Devanne and Holmes exchanged looks, and Mon. Devanne said:

"He knew the mystery would be a simple one for you. It is a
delicate compliment."

A smile of satisfaction lighted up the detective's serious features
for a moment. The compliment pleased him. He shook his head, as
he said:

"A clever man! I knew that when I saw him."

"Have you seen him?"

"I met him a short time ago--on my way from the station."

"And you knew it was Horace Velmont--I mean, Arsène Lupin?"

"That is right. I wonder how it came--"

"No, but I supposed it was--from a certain ironical speech he made."

"And you allowed him to escape?"

"Of course I did. And yet I had everything on my side, such as
give gendarmes who passed us."

"Sacrableu!" cried Devanne. "You should have taken advantage of
the opportunity."

"Really, monsieur," said the Englishman, haughtily, "when I
encounter an adversary like Arsène Lupin, I do not take advantage
of chance opportunities, I create them."

But time pressed, and since Lupin had been so kind as to send the
automobile, they resolved to profit by it. They seated themselves
in the comfortable limousine; Edouard took his place at the wheel,
and away they went toward the railway station. Suddenly, Devanne's
eyes fell upon a small package in one of the pockets of the
carriage.

"Ah! what is that? A package! Whose is it? Why, it is for you."

"For me?"

"Yes, it is addressed: Sherlock Holmes, from Arsène Lupin."

The Englishman took the package, opened it, and found that it
contained a watch.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, with an angry gesture.

"A watch," said Devanne. "How did it come there?"

The detective did not reply.

"Oh! it is your watch! Arsène Lupin returns your watch! But, in
order to return it, he must have taken it. Ah! I see! He took
your watch! That is a good one! Sherlock Holmes' watch stolen by
Arsène Lupin! Mon Dieu! that is funny! Really....you must excuse
me....I can't help it."

He roared with laughter, unable to control himself. After which,
he said, in a tone of earnest conviction:

"A clever man, indeed!"

The Englishman never moved a muscle. On the way to Dieppe, he
never spoke a word, but fixed his gaze on the flying landscape.
His silence was terrible, unfathomable, more violent than the
wildest rage. At the railway station, he spoke calmly, but in a
voice that impressed one with the vast energy and will power of
that famous man. He said:

"Yes, he is a clever man, but some day I shall have the pleasure of
placing on his shoulder the hand I now offer to you, Monsieur
Devanne. And I believe that Arsène Lupin and Sherlock Holmes will
meet again some day. Yes, the world is too small--we will meet--we
must meet--and then--"

--The further startling and thrilling adventures of Arsène Lupin
will be found in the book entitled "Arsène Lupin versus Herlock
Sholmes."--

Book of the day: