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The Hollow Needle by Maurice Leblanc

Part 3 out of 5

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lonely hours, his light, his hope, his very life.

He respects her sufficiently not to take advantage of the girl's
devotion and not to make use of her to direct his confederates.
There is, in fact, a certain lack of decision apparent in the acts
of the gang. But he loves her also, his scruples weaken and, as
Mlle. de Saint-Veran refuses to be touched by a love that offends
her, as she relaxes her visits when they become less necessary, as
she ceases them entirely on the day when he is cured--desperate,
maddened by grief, he takes a terrible resolve. He leaves his lair,
prepares his stroke and, on Saturday the sixth of June, assisted by
his accomplices, he carries off the girl.

This is not all. The abduction must not be known. All search, all
surmises, all hope, even, must be cut short. Mlle. de Saint-Veran
must pass for dead. There is a mock murder: proofs are supplied for
the police inquiries. There is doubt about the crime, a crime, for
that matter, not unexpected, a crime foretold by the accomplices, a
crime perpetrated to revenge the chief's death. And, through this
very fact--observe the marvelous ingenuity of the conception--
through this very fact, the belief in this death is, so to speak,

It is not enough to suggest a belief; it is necessary to compel a
certainty. Lupin foresees my interference. I am sure to guess the
trickery of the chapel. I am sure to discover the crypt. And, as the
crypt will be empty, the whole scaffolding will come to the ground.


In the same way, the death of Mile, de Saint-Veran will not be
definite, unless the sea gives up her corpse.


The difficulty is tremendous. The double obstacle seems
insurmountable. Yes, to any one but Lupin, but not to Lupin.

As he had foreseen, I guess the trickery of the chapel, I discover
the crypt and I go down into the lair where Lupin has taken refuge.
His corpse is there!

Any person who had admitted the death of Lupin as possible would
have been baffled. But I had not admitted this eventuality for an
instant (first, by intuition and, secondly, by reasoning). Pretense
thereupon became useless and every scheme vain. I said to myself at
once that the block of stone disturbed by the pickaxe had been
placed there with a very curious exactness, that the least knock was
bound to make it fall and that, in falling, it must inevitably
reduce the head of the false Arsene Lupin to pulp, in such a way as
to make it utterly irrecognizable.

Another discovery: half an hour later, I hear that the body of Mlle.
de Saint-Veran has been found on the rocks at Dieppe--or rather a
body which is considered to be Mlle. de Saint-Veran's, for the
reason that the arm has a bracelet similar to one of that young
lady's bracelets. This, however, is the only mark of identity, for
the corpse is irrecognizable.

Thereupon I remember and I understand. A few days earlier, I
happened to read in a number of the Vigie de Dieppe that a young
American couple staying at Envermeu had committed suicide by taking
poison and that their bodies had disappeared on the very night of
the death. I hasten to Envermeu. The story is true, I am told,
except in so far as concerns the disappearance, because the brothers
of the victims came to claim the corpses and took them away after
the usual formalities. The name of these brothers, no doubt, was
Arsene Lupin & Co.

Consequently, the thing is proved. We know why Lupin shammed the
murder of the girl and spread the rumor of his own death. He is in
love and does not wish it known. And, to reach his ends, he shrinks
from nothing, he even undertakes that incredible theft of the two
corpses which he needs in order to impersonate himself and Mlle. de
Saint-Veran. In this way, he will be at ease. No one can disturb
him. Xo one will ever suspect the truth which he wishes to suppress.

No one? Yes--three adversaries, at the most, might conceive doubts:
Ganimard, whose arrival is hourly expected; Holmlock Shears, who is
about to cross the Channel; and I, who am on the spot. This
constitutes a threefold danger. He removes it. He kidnaps Ganimard.
He kidnaps Holmlock Shears. He has me stabbed by Bredoux.

One point alone remains obscure. Why was Lupin so fiercely bent upon
snatching the document about the Hollow Needle from me? He surely
did not imagine that, by taking it away, he could wipe out from my
memory the text of the five lines of which it consists! Then why?
Did he fear that the character of the paper itself, or some other
clue, could give me a hint?

Be that as it may, this is the truth of the Ambrumesy mystery. I
repeat that conjecture plays a certain part in the explanation which
I offer, even as it played a great part in my personal
investigation. But, if one waited for proofs and facts to fight
Lupin, one would run a great risk either of waiting forever or else
of discovering proofs and facts carefully prepared by Lupin, which
would lead in a direction immediately opposite to the object in
view. I feel confident that the facts, when they are known, will
confirm my surmise in every respect.

So Isidore Beautrelet, mastered for a moment by Arsene Lupin,
distressed by the abduction of his father and resigned to defeat,
Isidore Beautrelet, in the end, was unable to persuade himself to
keep silence. The truth was too beautiful and too curious, the
proofs which he was able to produce were too logical and too
conclusive for him to consent to misrepresent it. The whole world
was waiting for his revelations. He spoke.

On the evening of the day on which his article appeared, the
newspapers announced the kidnapping of M. Beautrelet, senior.
Isidore was informed of it by a telegram from Cherbourg, which
reached him at three o'clock.



Young Beautrelet was stunned by the violence of the blow. As a
matter of fact, although, in publishing his article, he had obeyed
one of those irresistible impulses which make a man despise every
consideration of prudence, he had never really believed in the
possibility of an abduction. His precautions had been too thorough.
The friends at Cherbourg not only had instructions to guard and
protect Beautrelet the elder: they were also to watch his comings
and goings, never to let him walk out alone and not even to hand him
a single letter without first opening it. No, there was no danger.
Lupin, wishing to gain time, was trying to intimidate his adversary.

The blow, therefore, was almost unexpected; and Isidore, because he
was powerless to act, felt the pain of the shock during the whole of
the remainder of the day. One idea alone supported him: that of
leaving Paris, going down there, seeing for himself what had
happened and resuming the offensive.

He telegraphed to Cherbourg. He was at Saint-Lazare a little before
nine. A few minutes after, he was steaming out of the station in the
Normandy express.

It was not until an hour later, when he mechanically unfolded a
newspaper which he had bought on the platform, that he became aware
of the letter by which Lupin indirectly replied to his article of
that morning:

To the Editor of the Grand Journal.

SIR: I cannot pretend but that my modest personality, which would
certainly have passed unnoticed in more heroic times, has acquired a
certain prominence in the dull and feeble period in which we live.
But there is a limit beyond which the morbid curiosity of the crowd
cannot go without becoming indecently indiscreet. If the walls that
surround our private lives be not respected, what is to safeguard
the rights of the citizen?

Will those who differ plead the higher interest of truth? An empty
pretext in so far as I am concerned, because the truth is known and
I raise no difficulty about making an official confession of the
truth in writing. Yes, Mlle. de Saint-Veran is alive. Yes, I love
her. Yes, I have the mortification not to be loved by her. Yes, the
results of the boy Beautrelet's inquiry are wonderful in their
precision and accuracy. Yes, we agree on every point. There is no
riddle left. There is no mystery. Well, then, what?

Injured to the very depths of my soul, bleeding still from cruel
wounds, I ask that my more intimate feelings and secret hopes may no
longer be delivered to the malevolence of the public. I ask for
peace, the peace which I need to conquer the affection of Mlle. de
Saint-Veran and to wipe out from her memory the thousand little
injuries which she has had to suffer at the hands of her uncle and
cousin--this has not been told--because of her position as a poor
relation. Mlle. de Saint-Veran will forget this hateful past. All
that she can desire, were it the fairest jewel in the world, were it
the most unattainable treasure, I shall lay at her feet. She will be
happy. She will love me.

But, if I am to succeed, once more, I require peace. That is why I
lay down my arms and hold out the olive-branch to my enemies--while
warning them, with every magnanimity on my part, that a refusal on
theirs might bring down upon them the gravest consequences.

One word more on the subject of Mr. Harlington. This name conceals
the identity of an excellent fellow, who is secretary to Cooley, the
American millionaire, and instructed by him to lay hands upon every
object of ancient art in Europe which it is possible to discover.
His evil star brought him into touch with my friend Etienne de
Vaudreix, ALIAS Arsene Lupin, ALIAS myself. He learnt, in this way,
that a certain M. de Gesvres was willing to part with four pictures
by Rubens, ostensibly on the condition that they were replaced by
copies and that the bargain to which he was consenting remained
unknown. My friend Vaudreix also undertook to persuade M. de Gesvres
to sell his chapel. The negotiations were conducted with entire good
faith on the side of my friend Vaudreix and with charming
ingenuousness on the side of Mr. Harlington, until the day when the
Rubenses and the carvings from the chapel were in a safe place and
Mr. Harlington in prison. There remains nothing, therefore, to be
done but to release the unfortunate American, because he was content
to play the modest part of a dupe; to brand the millionaire Cooley,
because, for fear of possible unpleasantness, he did not protest
against his secretary's arrest; and to congratulate my friend
Etienne de Vaudreix, because he is revenging the outraged morality
of the public by keeping the hundred thousand francs which he was
paid on account by that singularly unattractive person, Cooley.

Pray, pardon the length of this letter and permit me to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,


Isidore weighed the words of this communication as minutely,
perhaps, as he had studied the document concerning the Hollow
Needle. He went on the principle, the correctness of which was
easily proved, that Lupin had never taken the trouble to send one of
his amusing letters to the press without absolute necessity, without
some motive which events were sure, sooner or later, to bring to

What was the motive for this particular letter? For what hidden
reason was Lupin confessing his love and the failure of that love?
Was it there that Beautrelet had to seek, or in the explanations
regarding Mr. Harlington, or further still, between the lines,
behind all those words whose apparent meaning had perhaps no other
object than to suggest some wicked, perfidious, misleading little

For hours, the young man, confined to his compartment, remained
pensive and anxious. The letter filled him with mistrust, as though
it had been written for his benefit and were destined to lead him,
personally, into error. For the first time and because he found
himself confronted not with a direct attack, but with an ambiguous,
indefinable method of fighting, he underwent a distinct sensation of
fear. And, when he thought of his good old, easy-going father,
kidnapped through his fault, he asked himself, with a pang, whether
he was not mad to continue so unequal a contest. Was the result not
certain? Had Lupin not won the game in advance?

It was but a short moment of weakness. When he alighted from his
compartment, at six o'clock in the morning, refreshed by a few
hours' sleep, he had recovered all his confidence.

On the platform, Froberval, the dockyard clerk who had given
hospitality to M. Beautrelet, senior, was waiting for him,
accompanied by his daughter Charlotte, an imp of twelve or thirteen.

"Well?" cried Isidore.

The worthy man beginning to moan and groan, he interrupted him,
dragged him to a neighboring tavern, ordered coffee and began to put
plain questions, without permitting the other the slightest

"My father has not been carried off, has he? It was impossible."

"Impossible. Still, he has disappeared."

"Since when?"

"We don't know."


"No. Yesterday morning, at six o'clock, as I had not seen him come
down as usual, I opened his door. He was gone."

"But was he there on the day before, two days ago?"

"Yes. On the day before yesterday, he did not leave his room. He was
a little tired; and Charlotte took his lunch up to him at twelve and
his dinner at seven in the evening."

"So it was between seven o'clock in the evening, on the day before
yesterday, and six o'clock on yesterday morning that he

"Yes, during the night before last. Only--"

"Only what?"

"Well, it's like this: you can't leave the arsenal at night."

"Do you mean that he has not left it?"

"That's impossible! My friends and I have searched the whole naval

"Then he has left it!"

"Impossible, every outlet is guarded!"

Beautrelet reflected and then said:

"What next?"

"Next, I hurried to the commandant's and informed the officer in

"Did he come to your house?"

"Yes; and a gentleman from the public prosecutor's also. They
searched all through the morning; and, when I saw that they were
making no progress and that there was no hope left, I telegraphed to

"Was the bed disarranged in his room?"


"Nor the room disturbed in any way?"

"No. I found his pipe in its usual place, with his tobacco and the
book which he was reading. There was even this little photograph of
yourself in the middle of the book, marking the page."

"Let me see it."

Froberval passed him the photograph. Beautrelet gave a start of
surprise. He had recognized himself in the snapshot, standing, with
his two hands in his pockets, on a lawn from which rose trees and

Froberval added:

"It must be the last portrait of yourself which you sent him. Look,
on the back, you will see the date, 3 April, the name of the
photographer, R. de Val, and the name of the town, Lion--Lion-sur-
Mer, perhaps."

Isidore turned the photograph over and read this little note, in his
own handwriting:

"R. de Val.--3.4--Lion."

He was silent for a few minutes and resumed:

"My father hadn't shown you that snapshot yet?"

"No--and that's just what astonished me when I saw it yesterday--for
your father used so often to talk to us about you."

There was a fresh pause, greatly prolonged. Froberval muttered:

"I have business at the workshop. We might as well go in--"

He was silent. Isidore had not taken his eyes from the photograph,
was examining it from every point of view. At last, the boy asked:

"Is there such a thing as an inn called the Lion d'Or at a short
league outside the town?"

"Yes, about a league from here."

"On the Route de Valognes, is it?"

"Yes, on the Route de Valognes."

"Well, I have every reason to believe that this inn was the head-
quarters of Lupin's friends. It was from there that they entered
into communication with my father."

"What an idea! Your father spoke to nobody. He saw nobody."

"He saw nobody, but they made use of an intermediary."

"What proof have you?"

"This photograph."

"But it's your photograph!"

"It's my photograph, but it was not sent by me. I was not even aware
of its existence. It was taken, without my knowledge, in the ruins
of Ambrumesy, doubtless by the examining-magistrate's clerk, who, as
you know, was an accomplice of Arsene Lupin's."

"And then?"

"Then this photograph became the passport, the talisman, by means of
which they obtained my father's confidence."

"But who? Who was able to get into my house?"

"I don't know, but my father fell into the trap. They told him and
he believed that I was in the neighborhood, that I was asking to see
him and that I was giving him an appointment at the Golden Lion."

"But all this is nonsense! How can you assert--?"

"Very simply. They imitated my writing on the back of the photograph
and specified the meeting-place: Valognes Road, 3 kilometres 400,
Lion Inn. My father came and they seized him, that's all."

"Very well," muttered Froberval, dumbfounded, "very well. I admit
it--things happened as you say--but that does not explain how he was
able to leave during the night."

"He left in broad daylight, though he waited until dark to go to the

"But, confound it, he didn't leave his room the whole of the day
before yesterday!"

"There is one way of making sure: run down to the dockyard,
Froberval, and look for one of the men who were on guard in the
afternoon, two days ago.--Only, be quick, if you wish to find me

"Are you going?"

"Yes, I shall take the next train back."

"What!--Why, you don't know--your inquiry--"

"My inquiry is finished. I know pretty well all that I wanted to
know. I shall have left Cherbourg in an hour."

Froberval rose to go. He looked at Beautrelet with an air of
absolute bewilderment, hesitated a moment and then took his cap:

"Are you coming, Charlotte?"

"No," said Beautrelet, "I shall want a few more particulars. Leave
her with me. Besides, I want to talk to her. I knew her when she was
quite small."

Froberval went away. Beautrelet and the little girl remained alone
in the tavern smoking room. A few minutes passed, a waiter entered,
cleared away some cups and left the room again. The eyes of the
young man and the child met; and Beautrelet placed his hand very
gently on the little girl's hand. She looked at him for two or three
seconds, distractedly, as though about to choke. Then, suddenly
hiding her head between her folded arms, she burst into sobs.

He let her cry and, after a while, said:

"It was you, wasn't it, who did all the mischief, who acted as go-
between? It was you who took him the photograph? You admit it, don't
you? And, when you said that my father was in his room, two days
ago, you knew that it was not true, did you not, because you
yourself had helped him to leave it--?"

She made no reply. He asked:

"Why did you do it? They offered you money, I suppose--to buy
ribbons with a frock--?"

He uncrossed Charlotte's arms and lifted up her head. He saw a poor
little face all streaked with tears, the attractive, disquieting,
mobile face of one of those little girls who seem marked out for
temptation and weakness.

"Come," said Beautrelet, "it's over, we'll say no more about it. I
will not even ask you how it happened. Only you must tell me
everything that can be of use to me.--Did you catch anything--any
remark made by those men? How did they carry him off?"

She replied at once:

"By motor car. I heard them talking about it--"

"And what road did they take?"

"Ah, I don't know that!"

"Didn't they say anything before you--something that might help us?"

"No--wait, though: there was one who said, 'We shall have no time to
lose--the governor is to telephone to us at eight o'clock in the


"I can't say.--I've forgotten--"

"Try--try and remember. It was the name of a town, wasn't it?"

"Yes--a name--like Chateau--"




"Yes, that was it--Chateauroux--"

Beautrelet did not wait for her to complete her sentence. Already he
was on his feet and, without giving a thought to Froberval, without
even troubling about the child, who stood gazing at him in
stupefaction, he opened the door and ran to the station:

"Chateauroux, madame--a ticket for Chateauroux--"

"Over Mans and Tours?" asked the booking-clerk.

"Of course--the shortest way. Shall I be there for lunch?"

"Oh, no!"

"For dinner? Bedtime--?"

"Oh, no! For that, you would have to go over Paris. The Paris
express leaves at nine o'clock. You're too late--"

It was not too late. Beautrelet was just able to catch the train.

"Well," said Beautrelet, rubbing his hands, "I have spent only two
hours or so at Cherbourg, but they were well employed."

He did not for a moment think of accusing Charlotte of lying. Weak,
unstable, capable of the worst treacheries, those petty natures also
obey impulses of sincerity; and Beautrelet had read in her
affrighted eyes her shame for the harm which she had done and her
delight at repairing it in part. He had no doubt, therefore, that
Chateauroux was the other town to which Lupin had referred and where
his confederates were to telephone to him.

On his arrival in Paris, Beautrelet took every necessary precaution
to avoid being followed. He felt that it was a serious moment. He
was on the right road that was leading him to his father: one act of
imprudence might ruin all.

He went to the flat of one of his schoolfellows and came out, an
hour later, irrecognizable, rigged out as an Englishman of thirty,
in a brown check suit, with knickerbockers, woolen stockings and a
cap, a high-colored complexion and a red wig. He jumped on a bicycle
laden with a complete painter's outfit and rode off to the Gare

He slept that night at Issoudun. The next morning, he mounted his
machine at break of day. At seven o'clock, he walked into the
Chateauroux post-office and asked to be put on to Paris. As he had
to wait, he entered into conversation with the clerk and learnt
that, two days before, at the same hour, a man dressed for motoring
had also asked for Paris.

The proof was established. He waited no longer.

By the afternoon, he had ascertained, from undeniable evidence, that
a limousine car, following the Tours road, had passed through the
village of Buzancais and the town of Chateauroux and had stopped
beyond the town, on the verge of the forest. At ten o'clock, a hired
gig, driven by a man unknown, had stopped beside the car and then
gone off south, through the valley of the Bouzanne. There was then
another person seated beside the driver. As for the car, it had
turned in the opposite direction and gone north, toward Issoudun.

Beautrelet easily discovered the owner of the gig, who, however, had
no information to supply. He had hired out his horse and trap to a
man who brought them back himself next day.

Lastly, that same evening, Isidore found out that the motor car had
only passed through Issoudun, continuing its road toward Orleans,
that is to say, toward Paris.

From all this, it resulted, in the most absolute fashion, that M.
Beautrelet was somewhere in the neighborhood. If not, how was it
conceivable that people should travel nearly three hundred miles
across France in order to telephone from Chateauroux and next to
return, at an acute angle, by the Paris road?

This immense circuit had a more definite object: to move M.
Beautrelet to the place assigned to him.

"And this place is within reach of my hand," said Isidore to
himself, quivering with hope and expectation. "My father is waiting
for me to rescue him at ten or fifteen leagues from here. He is
close by. He is breathing the same air as I."

He set to work at once. Taking a war-office map, he divided it into
small squares, which he visited one after the other, entering the
farmhouses making the peasants talk, calling on the schoolmasters,
the mayors, the parish priests, chatting to the women. It seemed to
him that he must attain his end without delay and his dreams grew
until it was no longer his father alone whom he hoped to deliver,
but all those whom Lupin was holding captive: Raymonde de Saint-
Veran, Ganimard, Holmlock Shears, perhaps, and others, many others;
and, in reaching them, he would, at the same time, reach Lupin's
stronghold, his lair, the impenetrable retreat where he was piling
up the treasures of which he had robbed the wide world.

But, after a fortnight's useless searching, his enthusiasm ended by
slackening and he very soon lost confidence. Because success was
slow in appearing, from one day to the next, almost, he ceased to
believe in it; and, though he continued to pursue his plan of
investigations, he would have felt a real surprise if his efforts
had led to the smallest discovery.

More days still passed by, monotonous days of discouragement. He
read in the newspapers that the Comte de Gesvres and his daughter
had left Ambrumesy and gone to stay near Nice. He also learnt that
Harlington had been released, that gentleman's innocence having
become self-obvious, in accordance with the indications supplied by
Arsene Lupin.

Isidore changed his head-quarters, established himself for two days
at the Chatre, for two days at Argenton. The result was the same.

Just then, he was nearly throwing up the game. Evidently, the gig in
which his father had been carried off could only have furnished a
stage, which had been followed by another stage, furnished by some
other conveyance. And his father was far away.

He was thinking of leaving, when, one Monday morning, he saw, on the
envelope of an unstamped letter, sent on to him from Paris, a
handwriting that set him trembling with emotion. So great was his
excitement that, for some minutes, he dared not open the letter, for
fear of a disappointment. His hand shook. Was it possible? Was this
not a trap laid for him by his infernal enemy?

He tore open the envelope. It was indeed a letter from his father,
written by his father himself. The handwriting presented all the
peculiarities, all the oddities of the hand which he knew so well.

He read:

Will these lines ever reach you, my dear son? I dare not believe it.

During the whole night of my abduction, we traveled by motor car;
then, in the morning, by carriage. I could see nothing. My eyes were
bandaged. The castle in which I am confined should be somewhere in
the midlands, to judge by its construction and the vegetation in the
park. The room which I occupy is on the second floor: it is a room
with two windows, one of which is almost blocked by a screen of
climbing glycines. In the afternoon, I am allowed to walk about the
park, at certain hours, but I am kept under unrelaxing observation.

I am writing this letter, on the mere chance of its reaching you,
and fastening it to a stone. Perhaps, one day, I shall be able to
throw it over the wall and some peasant will pick it up.

But do not be distressed about me. I am treated with every

Your old father, who is very fond of you and very sad to think of
the trouble he is giving you,


Isidore at once looked at the postmarks. They read, "Cuzion, Indre."

The Indre! The department which he had been stubbornly searching for

He consulted a little pocket-guide which he always carried. Cuzion,
in the canton of Eguzon--he had been there too.

For prudence's sake, he discarded his personality as an Englishman,
which was becoming too well known in the district, disguised himself
as a workman and made for Cuzion. It was an unimportant village. He
would easily discover the sender of the letter.

For that matter, chance served him without delay:

"A letter posted on Wednesday last?" exclaimed the mayor, a
respectable tradesman in whom he confided and who placed himself at
his disposal. "Listen, I think I can give you a valuable clue: on
Saturday morning, Gaffer Charel, an old knife-grinder who visits all
the fairs in the department, met me at the end of the village and
asked, 'Monsieur le maire, does a letter without a stamp on it go
all the same?' 'Of course,' said I. 'And does it get there?'
'Certainly. Only there's double postage to pay on it, that's all the

"And where does he live?"

"He lives over there, all alone--on the slope--the hovel that comes
next after the churchyard.--Shall I go with you?"

It was a hovel standing by itself, in the middle of an orchard
surrounded by tall trees. As they entered the orchard, three magpies
flew away with a great splutter and they saw that the birds were
flying out of the very hole in which the watch-dog was fastened. And
the dog neither barked nor stirred as they approached.

Beautrelet went up in great surprise. The brute was lying on its
side, with stiff paws, dead.

They ran quickly to the cottage. The door stood open. They entered.
At the back of a low, damp room, on a wretched straw mattress, flung
on the floor itself, lay a man fully dressed.

"Gaffer Charel!" cried the mayor. "Is he dead, too?"

The old man's hands were cold, his face terribly pale, but his heart
was still beating, with a faint, slow throb, and he seemed not to be
wounded in any way.

They tried to resuscitate him and, as they failed in their efforts,
Beautrelet went to fetch a doctor. The doctor succeeded no better
than they had done. The old man did not seem to be suffering. He
looked as if he were just asleep, but with an artificial slumber, as
though he had been put to sleep by hypnotism or with the aid of a

In the middle of the night that followed, however, Isidore, who was
watching by his side, observed that the breathing became stronger
and that his whole being appeared to be throwing off the invisible
bonds that paralyzed it.

At daybreak, he woke up and resumed his normal functions: ate, drank
and moved about. But, the whole day long, he was unable to reply to
the young man's questions and his brain seemed as though still
numbed by an inexplicable torpor.

The next day, he asked Beautrelet:

"What are you doing here, eh?"

It was the first time that he had shown surprise at the presence of
a stranger beside him.

Gradually, in this way, he recovered all his faculties. He talked.
He made plans. But, when Beautrelet asked him about the events
immediately preceding his sleep, he seemed not to understand.

And Beautrelet felt that he really did not understand. He had lost
the recollection of all that had happened since the Friday before.
It was like a sudden gap in the ordinary flow of his life. He
described his morning and afternoon on the Friday, the purchases he
had made at the fair, the meals he had taken at the inn. Then--
nothing--nothing more. He believed himself to be waking on the
morrow of that day.

It was horrible for Beautrelet. The truth lay there, in those eyes
which had seen the walls of the park behind which his father was
waiting for him, in those hands which had picked up the letter, in
that muddled brain which had recorded the whereabouts of that scene,
the setting, the little corner of the world in which the play had
been enacted. And from those hands, from that brain he was unable to
extract the faintest echo of the truth so near at hand!

Oh, that impalpable and formidable obstacle, against which all his
efforts hurled themselves in vain, that obstacle built up of silence
and oblivion! How clearly it bore the mark of Arsene Lupin! He
alone, informed, no doubt, that M. Beautrelet had attempted to give
a signal, he alone could have struck with partial death the one man
whose evidence could injure him. It was not that Beautrelet felt
himself to be discovered or thought that Lupin, hearing of his
stealthy attack and knowing that a letter had reached him, was
defending himself against him personally. But what an amount of
foresight and real intelligence it displayed to suppress any
possible accusation on the part of that chance wayfarer! Nobody now
knew that within the walls of a park there lay a prisoner asking for

Nobody? Yes, Beautrelet. Gaffer Charel was unable to speak. Very
well. But, at least, one could find out which fair the old man had
visited and which was the logical road that he had taken to return
by. And, along this road, perhaps it would at last be possible to

Isidore, as it was, had been careful not to visit Gaffer Charel's
hovel except with the greatest precautions and in such a way as not
to give an alarm. He now decided not to go back to it. He made
inquiries and learnt that Friday was market-day at Fresselines, a
fair-sized town situated a few leagues off, which could be reached
either by the rather winding highroad or by a series of short cuts.

On the Friday, he chose the road and saw nothing that attracted his
attention, no high walled enclosure, no semblance of an old castle.

He lunched at an inn at Fresselines and was on the point of leaving
when he saw Gaffer Charel arrive and cross the square, wheeling his
little knife-grinding barrow before him. He at once followed him at
a good distance.

The old man made two interminable waits, during which he ground
dozens of knives. Then, at last, he went away by a quite different
road, which ran in the direction of Crozant and the market-town of

Beautrelet followed him along this road. But he had not walked five
minutes before he received the impression that he was not alone in
shadowing the old fellow. A man was walking along between them,
stopping at the same time as Charel and starting off again when he
did, without, for that matter, taking any great precautions against
being seen.

"He is being watched," thought Beautrelet. "Perhaps they want to
know if he stops in front of the walls--"

His heart beat violently. The event was at hand.

The three of them, one behind the other, climbed up and down the
steep slopes of the country and arrived at Crozant, famed for the
colossal ruins of its castle. There Charel made a halt of an hour's
duration. Next he went down to the riverside and crossed the bridge.

But then a thing happened that took Beautrelet by surprise. The
other man did not cross the river. He watched the old fellow move
away and, when he had lost sight of him, turned down a path that
took him right across the fields.

Beautrelet hesitated for a few seconds as to what course to take,
and then quietly decided. He set off in pursuit of the man.

"He has made sure," he thought, "that Gaffer Charel has gone
straight ahead. That is all he wanted to know and so he is going--
where? To the castle?"

He was within touch of the goal. He felt it by a sort of agonizing
gladness that uplifted his whole being.

The man plunged into a dark wood overhanging the river and then
appeared once more in the full light, where the path met the

When Beautrelet, in his turn, emerged from the wood, he was greatly
surprised no longer to see the man. He was seeking him with his eyes
when, suddenly, he gave a stifled cry and, with a backward spring,
made for the line of trees which he had just left. On his right, he
had seen a rampart of high walls, flanked, at regular distances, by
massive buttresses.

It was there! It was there! Those walls held his father captive! He
had found the secret place where Lupin confined his victim.

He dared not quit the shelter which the thick foliage of the wood
afforded him. Slowly, almost on all fours, he bore to the right and
in this way reached the top of a hillock that rose to the level of
the neighboring trees. The walls were taller still. Nevertheless, he
perceived the roof of the castle which they surrounded, an old Louis
XIII. roof, surmounted by very slender bell-turrets arranged corbel-
wise around a higher steeple which ran to a point.

Beautrelet did no more that day. He felt the need to reflect and to
prepare his plan of attack without leaving anything to chance. He
held Lupin safe; and it was for Beautrelet now to select the hour
and the manner of the combat.

He walked away.

Near the bridge, he met two country-girls carrying pails of milk. He

"What is the name of the castle over there, behind the trees?"

"That's the Chateau de l'Aiguille, sir."

He had put his question without attaching any importance to it. The
answer took away his breath:

"The Chateau de l'Aiguille?--Oh!--But in what department are we? The

"Certainly not. The Indre is on the other side of the river. This
side, it's the Creuse."

Isidore saw it all in a flash. The Chateau de l'Aiguille! The
department of the Creuse! L'AIGUILLE CREUSE! The Hollow Needle! The
very key to the document! Certain, decisive, absolute victory!

Without another word, he turned his back on the two girls and went
his way, tottering like a drunken man.



Beautrelet's resolve was soon taken: he would act alone. To inform
the police was too dangerous. Apart from the fact that he could only
offer presumptions, he dreaded the slowness of the police, their
inevitable indiscretions, the whole preliminary inquiry, during
which Lupin, who was sure to be warned, would have time to effect a
retreat in good order.

At eight o'clock the next morning, with his bundle under his arm, he
left the inn in which he was staying near Cuzion, made for the
nearest thicket, took off his workman's clothes, became once more
the young English painter that he had been and went to call on the
notary at Eguzon, the largest place in the immediate neighborhood.

He said that he liked the country and that he was thinking of taking
up his residence there, with his relations, if he could find a
suitable house.

The notary mentioned a number of properties. Beautrelet took note of
them and let fall that some one had spoken to him of the Chateau de
l'Aiguille, on the bank of the Creuse.

"Oh, yes, but the Chateau de l'Aiguille, which has belonged to one
of my clients for the last five years, is not for sale."

"He lives in it, then?"

"He used to live in it, or rather his mother did. But she did not
care for it; found the castle rather gloomy. So they left it last

"And is no one living there at present?"

"Yes, an Italian, to whom my client let it for the summer season:
Baron Anfredi."

"Oh, Baron Anfredi! A man still young, rather grave and solemn-

"I'm sure I can't say.--My client dealt with him direct. There was
no regular agreement, just a letter--"

"But you know the baron?"

"No, he never leaves the castle.--Sometimes, in his motor, at night,
so they say. The marketing is done by an old cook, who talks to
nobody. They are queer people--"

"Do you think your client would consent to sell his castle?"

"I don't think so. It's an historic castle, built in the purest
Louis XIII. style. My client was very fond of it; and, unless he has
changed his mind--"

"Can you give me his name and address?"

"Louis Valmeras, 34, Rue du Mont-Thabor."

Beautrelet took the train for Paris at the nearest station. On the
next day but one, after three fruitless calls, he at last found
Louis Valmeras at home. He was a man of about thirty, with a frank
and pleasing face. Beautrelet saw no need to beat about the bush,
stated who he was and described his efforts and the object of the
step which he was now taking:

"I have good reason to believe," he concluded, "that my father is
imprisoned in the Chateau de l'Aiguille, doubtless in the company of
other victims. And I have come to ask you what you know of your
tenant, Baron Anfredi."

"Not much. I met Baron Anfredi last winter at Monte Carlo. He had
heard by accident that I was the owner of the Chateau de l'Aiguille
and, as he wished to spend the summer in France, he made me an offer
for it."

"He is still a young man--"

"Yes, with very expressive eyes, fair hair--"

"And a beard?"

"Yes, ending in two points, which fall over a collar fastened at the
back, like a clergyman's. In fact, he looks a little like an English

"It's he," murmured Beautrelet, "it's he, as I have seen him: it's
his exact description."

"What! Do you think--?"

"I think, I am sure that your tenant is none other than Arsene

The story amused Louis Valmeras. He knew all the adventures of
Arsene Lupin and the varying fortunes of his struggle with
Beautrelet. He rubbed his hands:

"Ha, the Chateau de l'Aiguille will become famous!--I'm sure I don't
mind, for, as a matter of fact, now that my mother no longer lives
in it, I have always thought that I would get rid of it at the first
opportunity. After this, I shall soon find a purchaser. Only--"

"Only what?"

"I will ask you to act with the most extreme prudence and not to
inform the police until you are quite sure. Can you picture the
situation, supposing my tenant were not Arsene Lupin?"

Beautrelet set forth his plan. He would go alone at night; he would
climb the walls; he would sleep in the park--

Louis Valmeras stopped him at once:

"You will not climb walls of that height so easily. If you do, you
will be received by two huge sheep-dogs which belonged to my mother
and which I left behind at the castle."

"Pooh! A dose of poison--"

"Much obliged. But suppose you escaped them. What then? How would
you get into the castle? The doors are massive, the windows barred.
And, even then, once you were inside, who would guide you? There are
eighty rooms."

"Yes, but that room with two windows, on the second story--"

"I know it, we call it the glycine room. But how will you find it?
There are three staircases and a labyrinth of passages. I can give
you the clue and explain the way to you, but you would get lost just
the same."

"Come with me," said Beautrelet, laughing.

"I can't. I have promised to go to my mother in the South."

Beautrelet returned to the friend with whom he was staying and began
to make his preparations. But, late in the day, as he was getting
ready to go, he received a visit from Valmeras.

"Do you still want me?"


"Well, I'm coming with you. Yes, the expedition fascinates me. I
think it will be very amusing and I like being mixed up in this sort
of thing.--Besides, my help will be of use to you. Look, here's
something to start with."

He held up a big key, all covered with rust and looking very old.

"What does the key open?" asked Beautrelet.

"A little postern hidden between two buttresses and left unused
since centuries ago. I did not even think of pointing it out to my
tenant. It opens straight on the country, just at the verge of the

Beautrelet interrupted him quickly:

"They know all about that outlet. It was obviously by this way that
the man whom I followed entered the park. Come, it's fine game and
we shall win it. But, by Jupiter, we must play our cards carefully!"

Two days later, a half-famished horse dragged a gipsy caravan into
Crozant. Its driver obtained leave to stable it at the end of the
village, in an old deserted cart-shed. In addition to the driver,
who was none other than Valmeras, there were three young men, who
occupied themselves in the manufacture of wicker-work chairs:
Beautrelet and two of his Janson friends.

They stayed there for three days, waiting for a propitious, moonless
night and roaming singly round the outskirts of the park. Once
Beautrelet saw the postern. Contrived between two buttresses placed
very close together, it was almost merged, behind the screen of
brambles that concealed it, in the pattern formed by the stones of
the wall.

At last, on the fourth evening, the sky was covered with heavy black
clouds and Valmeras decided that they should go reconnoitring, at
the risk of having to return again, should circumstances prove

All four crossed the little wood. Then Beautrelet crept through the
heather, scratched his hands at the bramble-hedge and, half raising
himself, slowly, with restrained movements, put the key into the
lock. He turned it gently. Would the door open without an effort?
Was there no bolt closing it on the other side? He pushed: the door
opened, without a creak or jolt. He was in the park.

"Are you there, Beautrelet?" asked Valmeras. "Wait for me. You two
chaps, watch the door and keep our line of retreat open. At the
least alarm, whistle."

He took Beautrelet's hand and they plunged into the dense shadow of
the thickets. A clearer space was revealed to them when they reached
the edge of the central lawn. At the same moment a ray of moonlight
pierced the clouds; and they saw the castle, with its pointed
turrets arranged around the tapering spire to which, no doubt, it
owed its name. There was no light in the windows; not a sound.

Valmeras grasped his companion's arm:

"Keep still!"

"What is it?"

"The dogs, over there--look--"

There was a growl. Valmeras gave a low whistle. Two white forms
leapt forward and, in four bounds, came and crouched at their
master's feet.

"Gently--lie down--that's it--good dogs--stay there."

And he said to Beautrelet:

"And now let us push on. I feel more comfortable."

"Are you sure of the way?"

"Yes. We are near the terrace."

"And then?"

"I remember that, on the left, at a place where the river terrace
rises to the level of the ground-floor windows, there is a shutter
which closes badly and which can be opened from the outside."

They found, when they came to it, that the shutter yielded to
pressure. Valmeras removed a pane with a diamond which he carried.
He turned the window-latch. First one and then the other stepped
over the balcony. They were now in the castle, at the end of a
passage which divided the left wing into two.

"This room," said Valmeras, "opens at the end of a passage. Then
comes an immense hall, lined with statues, and at the end of the
hall a staircase which ends near the room occupied by your father."

He took a step forward.

"Are you coming, Beautrelet?"

"Yes, yes."

"But no, you're not coming--What's the matter with you?"

He seized him by the hand. It was icy cold and he perceived that the
young man was cowering on the floor.

"What's the matter with you?" he repeated.

"Nothing--it'll pass off--"

"But what is it?"

"I'm afraid--"

"You're afraid?"

"Yes," Beautrelet confessed, frankly, "it's my nerves giving way--I
generally manage to control them--but, to-day, the silence--the
excitement--And then, since I was stabbed by that magistrate's
clerk--But it will pass off--There, it's passing now--"

He succeeded in rising to his feet and Valmeras dragged him out of
the room. They groped their way along the passage, so softly that
neither could hear a sound made by the other.

A faint glimmer, however, seemed to light the hall for which they
were making. Valmeras put his head round the corner. It was a night-
light placed at the foot of the stairs, on a little table which
showed through the frail branches of a palm tree.

"Halt!" whispered Valmeras.

Near the night-light, a man stood sentry, carrying a gun.

Had he seen them? Perhaps. At least, something must have alarmed
him, for he brought the gun to his shoulder.

Beautrelet had fallen on his knees, against a tub containing a
plant, and he remained quite still, with his heart thumping against
his chest.

Meanwhile, the silence and the absence of all movement reassured the
man. He lowered his weapon. But his head was still turned in the
direction of the tub.

Terrible minutes passed: ten minutes, fifteen. A moonbeam had glided
through a window on the staircase. And, suddenly, Beautrelet became
aware that the moonbeam was shifting imperceptibly, and that, before
fifteen, before ten more minutes had elapsed, it would be shining
full in his face.

Great drops of perspiration fell from his forehead on his trembling
hands. His anguish was such that he was on the point of getting up
and running away--But, remembering that Valmeras was there, he
sought him with his eyes and was astounded to see him, or rather to
imagine him, creeping in the dark, under cover of the statues and
plants. He was already at the foot of the stairs, within a few steps
of the man.

What was he going to do? To pass in spite of all? To go upstairs
alone and release the prisoner? But could he pass?

Beautrelet no longer saw him and he had an impression that something
was about to take place, something that seemed foreboded also by the
silence, which hung heavier, more awful than before.

And, suddenly, a shadow springing upon the man, the night-light
extinguished, the sound of a struggle--Beautrelet ran up. The two
bodies had rolled over on the flagstones. He tried to stoop and see.
But he heard a hoarse moan, a sigh; and one of the adversaries rose
to his feet and seized him by the arm:

"Quick!--Come along!"

It was Valmeras.

They went up two storys and came out at the entrance to a corridor,
covered by a hanging.

"To the right," whispered Valmeras. "The fourth room on the left."

They soon found the door of the room. As they expected, the captive
was locked in. It took them half an hour, half an hour of stifled
efforts, of muffled attempts, to force open the lock. The door
yielded at last.

Beautrelet groped his way to the bed. His father was asleep.

He woke him gently:

"It's I--Isidore--and a friend--don't be afraid--get up--not a

The father dressed himself, but, as they were leaving the room, he

"I am not alone in the castle--"

"Ah? Who else? Ganimard? Shears?"

"No--at least, I have not seen them."

"Who then?"

"A young girl."

"Mlle. de Saint-Veran, no doubt."

"I don't know--I saw her several times at a distance, in the park--
and, when I lean out of my window, I can see hers. She has made
signals to me."

"Do you know which is her room?"

"Yes, in this passage, the third on the right."

"The blue room," murmured Valmeras. "It has folding doors: they
won't give us so much trouble."

One of the two leaves very soon gave way. Old Beautrelet undertook
to tell the girl.

Ten minutes later, he left the room with her and said to his son:

"You were right--Mlle. de Saint-Veran--;"

They all four went down the stairs. When they reached the bottom,
Valmeras stopped and bent over the man. Then, leading them to the

"He is not dead," he said. "He will live."

"Ah!" said Beautrelet, with a sigh of relief.

"No, fortunately, the blade of my knife bent: the blow is not fatal.
Besides, in any case, those rascals deserve no pity."

Outside, they were met by the dogs, which accompanied them to the
postern. Here, Beautrelet found his two friends and the little band
left the park. It was three o'clock in the morning.

This first victory was not enough to satisfy Beautrelet. As soon as
he had comfortably settled his father and Mlle. de Saint-Veran, he
asked them about the people who lived at the castle, and,
particularly, about the habits of Arsene Lupin. He thus learnt that
Lupin came only every three or four days, arriving at night in his
motor car and leaving again in the morning. At each of his visits,
he called separately upon his two prisoners, both of whom agreed in
praising his courtesy and his extreme civility. For the moment, he
was not at the castle.

Apart from him, they had seen no one except an old woman, who ruled
over the kitchen and the house, and two men, who kept watch over
them by turns and never spoke to them: subordinates, obviously, to
judge by their manners and appearance.

"Two accomplices, for all that," said Beautrelet, in conclusion, "or
rather three, with the old woman. It is a bag worth having. And, if
we lose no time--"

He jumped on his bicycle, rode to Eguzon, woke up the gendarmerie,
set them all going, made them sound the boot and saddle and returned
to Crozant at eight o'clock, accompanied by the sergeant and eight
gendarmes. Two of the men were posted beside the gipsy-van. Two
others took up their positions outside the postern-door. The last
four, commanded by their chief and accompanied by Beautrelet and
Valmeras, marched to the main entrance of the castle.

Too late. The door was wide open. A peasant told them that he had
seen a motor car drive out of the castle an hour before.

Indeed, the search led to no result. In all probability, the gang
had installed themselves there picnic fashion. A few clothes were
found, a little linen, some household implements; and that was all.

What astonished Beautrelet and Valmeras more was the disappearance
of the wounded man. They could not see the faintest trace of a
struggle, not even a drop of blood on the flagstones of the hall.

All said, there was no material evidence to prove the fleeting
presence of Lupin at the Chateau de l'Aiguille; and the authorities
would have been entitled to challenge the statements of Beautrelet
and his father, of Valmeras and Mlle. de Saint-Veran, had they not
ended by discovering, in a room next to that occupied by the young
girl, some half-dozen exquisite bouquets with Arsene Lupin's card
pinned to them, bouquets scorned by her, faded and forgotten--One of
them, in addition to the card, contained a letter which Raymonde had
not seen. That afternoon, when opened by the examining magistrate,
it was found to contain page upon page of prayers, entreaties,
promises, threats, despair, all the madness of a love that has
encountered nothing but contempt and repulsion.

And the letter ended:

I shall come on Tuesday evening, Raymonde. Reflect between now and
then. As for me, I will wait no longer. I am resolved on all.

Tuesday evening was the evening of the very day on which Beautrelet
had released Mlle. de Saint-Veran from her captivity.

The reader will remember the extraordinary explosion of surprise and
enthusiasm that resounded throughout the world at the news of that
unexpected issue: Mlle. de Saint-Veran free! The pretty girl whom
Lupin coveted, to secure whom he had contrived his most
Machiavellian schemes, snatched from his claws! Free also
Beautrelet's father, whom Lupin had chosen as a hostage in his
extravagant longing for the armistice demanded by the needs of his
passion! They were both free, the two prisoners! And the secret of
the Hollow Needle was known, published, flung to the four corners of
the world!

The crowd amused itself with a will. Ballads were sold and sung
about the defeated adventurer: Lupin's Little Love-Affairs!--
Arsene's Piteous Sobs!--The Lovesick Burglar! The Pickpocket's
Lament!--They were cried on the boulevards and hummed in the
artists' studios.

Raymonde, pressed with questions and pursued by interviewers,
replied with the most extreme reserve. But there was no denying the
letter, or the bouquets of flowers, or any part of the pitiful
story! Then and there, Lupin, scoffed and jeered at, toppled from
his pedestal.

And Beautrelet became the popular idol. He had foretold everything,
thrown light on everything. The evidence which Mlle. de Saint-Veran
gave before the examining magistrate confirmed, down to the smallest
detail, the hypothesis imagined by Isidore. Reality seemed to
submit, in every point, to what he had decreed beforehand. Lupin had
found his master.--

Beautrelet insisted that his father, before returning to his
mountains in Savoy, should take a few months' rest in the sunshine,
and himself escorted him and Mlle. de Saint-Veran to the outskirts
of Nice, where the Comte de Gesvres and his daughter Suzanne were
already settled for the winter. Two days later, Valmeras brought his
mother to see his new friends and they thus composed a little colony
grouped around the Villa de Gesvres and watched over day and night
by half a dozen men engaged by the comte.

Early in October, Beautrelet, once more the sixth-form pupil,
returned to Paris to resume the interrupted course of his studies
and to prepare for his examinations. And life began again, calmer,
this time, and free from incident. What could happen, for that
matter. Was the war not over?

Lupin, on his side, must have felt this very clearly, must have felt
that there was nothing left for him but to resign himself to the
accomplished fact; for, one fine day, his two other victims,
Ganimard and Holmlock Shears, made their reappearance. Their return
to the life of this planet, however, was devoid of any sort of
glamor or fascination. An itinerant rag-man picked them up on the
Quai des Orfevres, opposite the headquarters of police. Both of them
were gagged, bound and fast asleep.

After a week of complete bewilderment, they succeeded in recovering
the control of their thought and told--or rather Ganimard told, for
Shears wrapped himself in a fierce and stubborn silence--how they
had made a voyage of circumnavigation round the coast of Africa on
board the yacht Hirondelle, a voyage combining amusement with
instruction, during which they could look upon themselves as free,
save for a few hours which they spent at the bottom of the hold,
while the crew went on shore at outlandish ports.

As for their landing on the Quai des Orfevres, they remembered
nothing about it and had probably been asleep for many days before.

This liberation of the prisoners was the final confession of defeat.
By ceasing to fight, Lupin admitted it without reserve.

One incident, moreover, made it still more glaring, which was the
engagement of Louis Valmeras and Mlle. de Saint-Veran. In the
intimacy created between them by the new conditions under which they
lived, the two young people fell in love with each other. Valmeras
loved Raymonde's melancholy charm; and she, wounded by life, greedy
for protection, yielded before the strength and energy of the man
who had contributed so gallantly to her preservation.

The wedding day was awaited with a certain amount of anxiety. Would
Lupin not try to resume the offensive? Would he accept with a good
grace the irretrievable loss of the woman he loved? Twice or three
times, suspicious-looking people were seen prowling round the villa;
and Valmeras even had to defend himself one evening against a so-
called drunken man, who fired a pistol at him and sent a bullet
through his hat. But, in the end, the ceremony was performed at the
appointed hour and day and Raymonde de Saint-Veran became Mme. Louis

It was as though Fate herself had taken sides with Beautrelet and
countersigned the news of victory. This was so apparent to the crowd
that his admirers now conceived the notion of entertaining him at a
banquet to celebrate his triumph and Lupin's overthrow. It was a
great idea and aroused general enthusiasm. Three hundred tickets
were sold in less than a fortnight. Invitations were issued to the
public schools of Paris, to send two sixth-form pupils apiece. The
press sang paeans. The banquet was what it could not fail to be, an

But it was a charming and simple apotheosis, because Beautrelet was
its hero. His presence was enough to bring things back to their due
proportion. He showed himself modest, as usual, a little surprised
at the excessive cheering, a little embarrassed by the extravagant
panegyrics in which he was pronounced greater than the most
illustrious detectives--a little embarrassed, but also not a little

He said as much in a few words that pleased all his hearers and with
the shyness of a child that blushes when you look at it. He spoke of
his delight, of his pride. And really, reasonable and self-
controlled as he was, this was for him a moment of never-to-be-
forgotten exultation. He smiled to his friends, to his fellow-
Jansonians, to Valmeras, who had come specially to give him a cheer,
to M. de Gesvres, to his father.

When he had finished speaking; and while he still held his glass in
his hand, a sound of voices came from the other end of the room and
some one was gesticulating and waving a newspaper. Silence was
restored and the importunate person sat down again: but a thrill of
curiosity ran round the table, the newspaper was passed from hand to
hand and, each, time that one of the guests cast his eyes upon the
page at which it was opened, exclamations followed:

"Read it! Read it!" they cried from the opposite side.

The people were leaving their seats at the principal table. M.
Beautrelet went and took the paper and handed it to his son.

"Read it out! Read it out!" they cried, louder.

And others said:

"Listen! He's going to read it! Listen!"

Beautrelet stood facing his audience, looked in the evening paper
which his father had given him for the article that was causing all
this uproar and, suddenly, his eyes encountering a heading
underlined in blue pencil, he raised his hand to call for silence
and began in a loud voice to read a letter addressed to the editor
by M. Massiban, of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.
His voice broke and fell, little by little, as he read those
stupefying revelations, which reduced all his efforts to nothing,
upset his notions concerning the Hollow Needle and proved the vanity
of his struggle with Arsene Lupin:

On the 17th of March, 1679, there appeared a little book with the
following title: The Mystery of the Hollow Needle. The Whole Truth
now first exhibited. One hundred copies printed by myself for the
instruction of the Court.

At nine o'clock on the morning of that day, the author, a very young
man, well-dressed, whose name has remained unknown, began to leave
his book on the principal persons at court. At ten o'clock, when he
had fulfilled four of these errands, he was arrested by a captain in
the guards, who took him to the king's closet and forthwith set off
in search of the four copies distributed.

When the hundred copies were got together, counted, carefully looked
through and verified, the king himself threw them into the fire and
burnt them, all but one, which he kept for his own purposes.

Then he ordered the captain of the guards to take the author of the
book to M. de Saint-Mars, who confined his prisoner first at
Pignerol and then in the fortress of the Ile Sainte-Marguerite. This
man was obviously no other than the famous Man with the Iron Mask.

The truth would never have been known, or at least a part of the
truth, if the captain in the guards had not been present at the
interview and if, when the king's back was turned, he had not been
tempted to withdraw another of the copies from the chimney, before
the fire got to it.

Six months later, the captain was found dead on the highroad between
Gaillon and Mantes. His murderers had stripped him of all his
apparel, forgetting, however, in his right boot a jewel which was
discovered there afterward, a diamond of the first water and of
considerable value.

Among his papers was found a sheet in his handwriting, in which he
did not speak of the book snatched from the flames, but gave a
summary of the earlier chapters. It referred to a secret which was
known to the Kings of England, which was lost by them when the crown
passed from the poor fool, Henry VI., to the Duke of York, which was
revealed to Charles VII., King of France, by Joan of Arc and which,
becoming a State secret, was handed down from sovereign to sovereign
by means of a letter, sealed anew on each occasion, which was found
in the deceased monarch's death-bed with this superscription: "For
the King of France."

This secret concerned the existence and described the whereabouts of
a tremendous treasure, belonging to the kings, which increased in
dimensions from century to century.

One hundred and fourteen years later, Louis XVI., then a prisoner in
the Temple, took aside one of the officers whose duty it was to
guard the royal family, and asked:

"Monsieur, had you not an ancestor who served as a captain under my
predecessor, the Great King?"

"Yes, sire."

"Well, could you be relied upon--could you be relied upon--"

He hesitated. The officer completed the sentence:

"Not to betray your Majesty! Oh, sire!--"

"Then listen to me."

He took from his pocket a little book of which he tore out one of
the last pages. But, altering his mind:

"No, I had better copy it--"

He seized a large sheet of paper and tore it in such a way as to
leave only a small rectangular space, on which he copied five lines
of dots, letters and figures from the printed page. Then, after
burning the latter, he folded the manuscript sheet in four, sealed
it with red wax, and gave it to the officer.

"Monsieur, after my death, you must hand this to the Queen and say
to her, 'From the King, madame--for Your Majesty and for your son.'
If she does not understand--

"If she does not understand, sire--

"You must add, 'It concerns the secret, the secret of the Needle.'
The Queen will understand."

When he had finished speaking, he flung the book into the embers
glowing on the hearth.

He ascended the scaffold on the 21st of January.

It took the officer several months, in consequence of the removal of
the Queen to the Conciergerie, before he could fulfil the mission
with which he was entrusted. At last, by dint of cunning intrigues,
he succeeded, one day, in finding himself in the presence of Marie

Speaking so that she could just hear him, he said:

"Madame, from the late King, your husband, for Your Majesty and your

And he gave her the sealed letter.

She satisfied herself that the jailers could not see her, broke the
seals, appeared surprised at the sight of those undecipherable lines
and then, all at once, seemed to understand.

She smiled bitterly and the officer caught the words:

"Why so late?"

She hesitated. Where should she hide this dangerous document? At
last, she opened her book of hours and slipped the paper into a sort
of secret pocket contrived between the leather of the binding and
the parchment that covered it.

"Why so late?" she had asked.

It is, in fact, probable that this document, if it could have saved
her, came too late, for, in the month of October next, Queen Marie
Antoinette ascended the scaffold in her turn.

Now the officer, when going through his family papers, came upon his
ancestor's manuscript. From that moment, he had but one idea, which
was to devote his leisure to elucidating this strange problem. He
read all the Latin authors, studied all the chronicles of France and
those of the neighboring countries, visited the monasteries,
deciphered account-books, cartularies, treaties; and, in this way,
succeeded in discovering certain references scattered over the ages.

In Book III of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War (MS. edition,
Alexandria), it is stated that, after the defeat of Veridovix by G.
Titullius Sabinus, the chief of the Caleti was brought before Caesar
and that, for his ransom, he revealed the secret of the Needle--

The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, between Charles the Simple and
Rollo, the chief of the Norse barbarians, gives Rollo's name
followed by all his titles, among which we read that of Master of
the Secret of the Needle.

The Saxon Chronicle (Gibson's edition, page 134), speaking of
William the Conqueror, says that the staff of his banner ended in a
steel point pierced with an eye, like a needle.

In a rather ambiguous phrase in her examination, Joan of Arc admits
that she has still a great secret to tell the King of France. To
which her judges reply, "Yes, we know of what you speak; and that,
Joan, is why you shall die the death."

Philippe de Comines mentions it in connection with Louis XI., and,
later, Sully in connection with Henry IV.: "By the virtue of the
Needle!" the good king sometimes swears.

Between these two, Francis I., in a speech addressed to the notables
of the Havre, in 1520, uttered this phrase, which has been handed
down in the diary of a Honfleur burgess; "The Kings of France carry
secrets that often decide the conduct of affairs and the fate of

All these quotations, all the stories relating to the Iron Mask, the
captain of the guards and his descendant, I have found to-day in a
pamphlet written by this same descendant and published in the month
of June, 1815, just before or just after the battle of Waterloo, in
a period, therefore, of great upheavals, in which the revelations
which it contained were likely to pass unperceived.

What is the value of this pamphlet? Nothing, you will tell me, and
we must attach no credit to it. And this is the impression which I
myself would have carried away, if it had not occurred to me to open
Caesar's Commentaries at the chapter given. What was my astonishment
when I came upon the phrase quoted in the little book before me! And
it was the same thing with the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, with
the Saxon Chronicle, with the examination of Joan of Arc, in short,
with all that I have been able to verify up to the present.

Lastly, there is an even more precise fact related by the author of
the pamphlet of 1815. During the French campaign, he being then an
officer under Napoleon, his horse dropped dead, one evening, and he
rang at the door of a castle where he was received by an old knight
of St. Louis. And, in the course of conversation with the old man,
he learnt that this castle, standing on the bank of the Creuse, was
called the Chateau de l'Aiguille, that it had been built and
christened by Louis XIV., and that, by his express order, it was
adorned with turrets and with a spire which represented the Needle.
As its date it bore, it must still bear, the figure 1680.

1680! One year after the publication of the book and the
imprisonment of the Iron Mask! Everything was now explained: Louis
XIV., foreseeing that the secret might be noised abroad, had built
and named that castle so as to offer the quidnuncs a natural
explanation of the ancient mystery. The Hollow Needle! A castle with
pointed bell-turrets standing on the bank of the Creuse and
belonging to the King. People would at once think that they had the
key to the riddle and all enquiries would cease.

The calculation was just, seeing that, more than two centuries
later, M. Beautrelet fell into the trap. And this, Sir, is what I
was leading up to in writing this letter. If Lupin, under the name
of Anfredi, rented from M. Valmeras the Chateau de l'Aiguille on the
bank of the Creuse; if, admitting the success of the inevitable
investigations of M. Beautrelet, he lodged his two prisoners there,
it was because he admitted the success of the inevitable researches
made by M. Beautrelet and because, with the object of obtaining the
peace for which he had asked, he laid for M. Beautrelet precisely
what we may call the historic trap of Louis XIV.

And hence we come to this undeniable conclusion, that he, Lupin, by
his unaided lights, without possessing any other facts than those
which we possess, managed by means of the witchcraft of a really
extraordinary genius, to decipher the undecipherable document; and
that he, Lupin, the last heir of the Kings of France, knows the
royal mystery of the Hollow Needle!

Here ended the letter. But, for some minutes, from the passage that
referred to the Chateau de l'Aiguille onward, it was not
Beautrelet's but another voice that read it aloud. Realizing his
defeat, crushed under the weight of his humiliation, Isidore had
dropped the newspaper and sunk into his chair, with his face buried
in his hands.

Panting, shaken with excitement by this incredible story, the crowd
had come gradually nearer and was now pressing round.

With a thrill of anguish, they waited for the words which he would
say in reply, the objections which he would raise.

He did not stir.

Valmeras gently uncrossed his hands and raised his head.

Isidore Beautrelet was weeping.



It is four o'clock in the morning. Isidore has not returned to the
Lycee Janson. He has no intention of returning before the end of the
war of extermination which he has declared against Lupin. This much
he swore to himself under his breath, while his friends drove off
with him, all faint and bruised, in a cab.

A mad oath! An absurd and illogical war! What can he do, a single,
unarmed stripling, against that phenomenon of energy and strength?
On which side is he to attack him? He is unassailable. Where to
wound him? He is invulnerable. Where to get at him? He is

Four o'clock in the morning. Isidore has again accepted his
schoolfellow's hospitality. Standing before the chimney in his
bedroom, with his elbows flat on the mantel-shelf and his two fists
under his chin, he stares at his image in the looking-glass. He is
not crying now, he can shed no more tears, nor fling himself about
on his bed, nor give way to despair, as he has been doing for the
last two hours and more. He wants to think, to think and understand.

And he does not remove his eyes from those same eyes reflected in
the glass, as though he hoped to double his powers of thought by
contemplating his pensive image, as though he hoped to find at the
back of that mirrored Beautrelet the unsolvable solution of what he
does not find within himself.

He stands thus until six o'clock, and, little by little, the
question presents itself to his mind with the strictness of an
equation, bare and dry and cleared of all the details that
complicate and obscure it.

Yes, he has made a mistake. Yes, his reading of the document is all
wrong. The word aiguille does not point to the castle on the Creuse.
Also, the word demoiselles cannot be applied to Raymonde de Saint-
Veran and her cousin, because the text of the document dates back
for centuries.

Therefore, all must be done over again, from the beginning.


One piece of evidence alone would be incontestible: the book
published under Louis XIV. Now of those hundred copies printed by
the person who was presumed to be the Man with the Iron Mask only
two escaped the flames. One was purloined by the captain of the
guards and lost. The other was kept by Louis XIV., handed down to
Louis XV., and burnt by Louis XVI. But a copy of the essential page,
the page containing the solution of the problem, or at least a
cryptographic solution, was conveyed to Marie Antoinette, who
slipped it into the binding of her book of hours. What has become of
this paper? Is it the one which Beautrelet has held in his hands and
which Lupin recovered from him through Bredoux, the magistrate's
clerk? Or is it still in Marie Antoinette's book of hours? And the
question resolves itself into this: what has become of the Queen's
book of hours?

After taking a short rest, Beautrelet consulted his friend's father,
an old and experienced collector, who was often called upon
officially to give an expert opinion and who had quite lately been
invited to advise the director of one of our museums on the drawing
up of the catalogue.

"Marie Antoinette's book of hours?" he exclaimed. "Why, the Queen
left it to her waiting-woman, with secret instructions to forward it
to Count Fersen. After being piously preserved in the count's
family, it has been, for the last five years, in a glass case--"

"A glass case?"

"In the Musee Carnavalet, quite simply."

"When will the museum be open?"

"At twenty minutes from now, as it is every morning."

Isidore and his friend jumped out of a cab at the moment when the
doors of Madame de Sevigne's old mansion were opening.

"Hullo! M. Beautrelet!"

A dozen voices greeted his arrival. To his great surprise, he
recognized the whole crowd of reporters who were following up "the
mystery of the Hollow Needle." And one of them exclaimed:

"Funny, isn't it, that we should all have had the same idea? Take
care, Arsene Lupin may be among us!"

They entered the museum together. The director was at once informed,
placed himself entirely at their disposal, took them to the glass
case and skewed them a poor little volume, devoid of all ornament,
which certainly had nothing royal about it. Nevertheless, they were
overcome by a certain emotion at the sight of this object which the
Queen had touched in those tragic days, which her eyes, red with
tears, had looked upon--And they dared not take it and hunt through
it: it was as though they feared lest they should be guilty of a

"Come, M. Beautrelet, it's your business!"

He took the book with an anxious gesture. The description
corresponded with that given by the author of the pamphlet. Outside
was a parchment cover, dirty, stained and worn in places, and under
it, the real binding, in stiff leather. With what a thrill
Beautrelet felt for the hidden pocket! Was it a fairy tale? Or would
he find the document written by Louis XVI. and bequeathed by the
queen to her fervent admirer?

At the first page, on the upper side of the book, there was no

"Nothing," he muttered.

"Nothing," they echoed, palpitating with excitement.

But, at the last page, forcing back the book a little, he at once
saw that the parchment was not stuck to the binding. He slipped his
fingers in between--there was something--yes, he felt something--a

"Oh!" he gasped, in an accent almost of pain. "Here--is it

"Quick, quick!" they cried. "What are you waiting for?"

He drew out a sheet folded in two.

"Well, read it!--There are words in red ink--Look!--it might be
blood--pale, faded blood--Read it!--"

He read:

To you, Fersen. For my son. 16 October, 1793.


And suddenly Beautrelet gave a cry of stupefaction. Under the
queen's signature there were--there were two words, in black ink,
underlined with a flourish--two words:


All, in turns, took the sheet of paper and the same cry escaped from
the lips of all of them:

"Marie Antoinette!--Arsene Lupin!"

A great silence followed. That double signature: those two names
coupled together, discovered hidden in the book of hours; that relic
in which the poor queen's desperate appeal had slumbered for more
than a century: that horrible date of the 16th of October, 1793, the
day on which the Royal head fell: all of this was most dismally and
disconcertingly tragic.

"Arsene Lupin!" stammered one of the voices, thus emphasizing the
scare that underlay the sight of that demoniacal name at the foot of
the hallowed page.

"Yes, Arsene Lupin," repeated Beautrelet. "The Queen's friend was
unable to understand her desperate dying appeal. He lived with the
keepsake in his possession which the woman whom he loved had sent
him and he never guessed the reason of that keepsake. Lupin
discovered everything, on the other hand--and took it."

"Took what?"

"The document, of course! The document written by Louis XVI.; and it
is that which I held in my hands. The same appearance, the same
shape, the same red seals. I understand why Lupin would not leave me
a document which I could turn to account by merely examining the
paper, the seals and so on."

"And then?"

"Well, then, since the document is genuine, since I have, with my
own eyes, seen the marks of the red seals, since Marie Antoinette
herself assures me, by these few words in her hand, that the whole
story of the pamphlet, as printed by M. Massiban, is correct,
because a problem of the Hollow Needle really exists, I am now
certain to succeed."

"But how? Whether genuine or not, the document is of no use to you
if you do not manage to decipher it, because Louis XVI. destroyed
the book that gave the explanation."

"Yes, but the other copy, which King Louis XVI.'s captain of the
guards snatched from the flames, was not destroyed."

"How do you know?"

"Prove the contrary."

After uttering this defiance, Beautrelet was silent for a time and
then, slowly, with his eyes closed, as though trying to fix and sum
up his thoughts, he said:

"Possessing the secret, the captain of the guards begins by
revealing it bit by bit in the journal found by his descendant. Then
comes silence. The answer to the riddle is withheld. Why? Because
the temptation to make use of the secret creeps over him little by
little and he gives way to it. A proof? His murder. A further proof?
The magnificent jewel found upon him, which he must undoubtedly have
taken from some royal treasure the hiding-place of which, unknown to
all, would just constitute the mystery of the Hollow Needle. Lupin
conveyed as much to me; Lupin was not lying.

"Then what conclusion do you draw, Beautrelet?"

"I draw this conclusion, my friends, that it be a good thing to
advertise this story as much as possible, so that people may know,
through all the papers, that we are looking for a book entitled The
Treatise of the Needle. It may be fished out from the back shelves
of some provincial library."

The paragraph was drawn up forthwith; and Beautrelet set to work at
once, without even waiting for it to produce a result. A first scent
suggested itself: the murder was committed near Gaillon. He went
there that same day. Certainly, he did not hope to reconstruct a
crime perpetrated two hundred years ago. But, all the same, there
are crimes that leave traces in the memories, in the traditions of a
countryside. They are recorded in the local chronicles. One day,
some provincial archaeologist, some lover of old legends, some
student of the minor incidents of the life of the past makes them
the subject of an article in a newspaper or of a communication to
the academy of his departmental town.

Beautreiet saw three or four of these archaeologists. With one of
them in particular, an old notary, he examined the prison records,
the ledgers of the old bailiwicks and the parish registers. There
was no entry referring to the murder of a captain of the guards in
the seventeenth century.

He refused to be discouraged and continued his search in Paris,
where the magistrate's examination might have taken place. His
efforts came to nothing.

But the thought of another track sent him off in a fresh direction.
Was there no chance of finding out the name of that captain whose
descendant served in the armies of the Republic and was quartered in
the Temple during the imprisonment of the Royal family? By dint of
patient working, he ended by making out a list in which two names at
least presented an almost complete resemblance: M. de Larbeyrie,
under Louis XIV., and Citizen Larbrie, under the Terror.

This already was an important point. He stated it with precision in
a note which he sent to the papers, asking for any information
concerning this Larbeyrie or his descendants.

It was M. Massiban, the Massiban of the pamphlet, the member of the
Institute, who replied to him:


Allow me to call your attention to the following passage of
Voltaire, which I came upon in his manuscript of Le Siecle de Louis
XIV. (Chapter XXV: Particularites et anecdotes du regne). The
passage has been suppressed in all the printed editions:

"I have heard it said by the late M. de Caumartin, intendant of
finance, who was a friend of Chamillard the minister, that the King
one day left hurriedly in his carriage at the news that M. de
Larbeyrie had been murdered and robbed of some magnificent jewels.
He seemed greatly excited and repeated:

"'All is lost--all is lost--'

"In the following year, the son of this Larbeyrie and his daughter,
who had married the Marquis de Velines, were banished to their
estates in Provence and Brittany. We cannot doubt that there is
something peculiar in this."

I, in my turn, will add that we can doubt it all the less inasmuch
as M. de Chamillard, according to Voltaire, WAS THE LAST MINISTER

You will see for yourself, Sir, the profit that can be derived from
this passage and the evident link established between the two
adventures. As for myself, I will not venture to imagine any very
exact surmise as regards the conduct, the suspicions, and the
apprehensions of Louis XIV. in these circumstances; but, on the
other hand, seeing that M. de Larbeyrie left a son, who was probably
the grandfather of Larbrie the citizen-officer, and also a daughter,
is it not permissible to suppose that a part of the papers left by
Larbeyrie came to the daughter and that among these papers was the
famous copy which the captain of the guards saved from the flames?

I have consulted the Country-house Year-book. There is a Baron de
Velines living not far from Rennes. Could he be a descendant of the
marquis? At any rate, I wrote to him yesterday, on chance, to ask if
he had not in his possession a little old book bearing on its title-
page the word aiguille; and I am awaiting his reply.

It would give me the greatest pleasure to talk of all these matters
with you. If you can spare the time, come and see me.

I am, Sir, etc., etc.

P.S.--Of course, I shall not communicate these little discoveries to
the press. Now that you are near the goal, discretion is essential.

Beautrelet absolutely agreed. He even went further: to two
journalists who were worrying him that morning he gave the most
fanciful particulars as to his plans and his state of mind.

In the afternoon, he hurried round to see Massiban, who lived at 17,
Quai Voltaire. To his great surprise, he was told that M. Massiban
had gone out of town unexpectedly, leaving a note for him in case he
should call. Isidore opened it and read:

I have received a telegram which gives me

Book of the day: