Magick7's Moonlight Stories Index

 

 

 

 

Arsene Lupin vs. Herlock Sholmes, the Blonde Lady

Maurice Leblanc

 

 

 

CHAPTER I. THE BLONDE LADY.

CHAPTER II. THE BLUE DIAMOND.

CHAPTER III. HERLOCK SHOLMES OPENS HOSTILITIES.

CHAPTER IV. GLEAMS OF LIGHT AMONG THE SHADOWS.

CHAPTER V. THE KIDNAPPING OF SHOLMES.

CHAPTER VI. THE SECOND ARREST OF ARSENE LUPIN.

CHAPTER VII. THE ANTIQUE JEWISH LAMP.

CHAPTER VIII. SECOND PART OF THE ANTIQUE LAMP.


 

CHAPTER I. THE BLONDE LADY.

On December the eighth M. Gerbois, professor of Mathematics, saw a small mahogany secretary with many drawers in a window of a little curio shop.

“That is exactly what I want for Suzanne,” he thought. He walked in and bargained for the desk until he got it for sixty-five francs.

While he was giving his address, a fastidiously dressed young man, who was looking about the shop, noticed the secretary and asked the price.

“It is sold, sir,” replied the shopkeeper.

“Ah! To this gentleman, I guess?”

M. Gerbois bowed as the stranger said this, glad that he had obtained an article which another person had found desirable.

M. Gerbois went on his way. He had not gone far when the young man again approached him, with his hat in his hand, bowed low, saying:

“I beg your pardon, sir, for I am going to ask a question which may appear impertinent; did you buy that secretary for any special reason?”

“No, I went hoping to find a balance for a special experiment in physics.”

“Then you do not care for it particularly?”

“On the contrary, I do.”

“Because of its age?”

“No, because it is commodious and useful.”

“In that case you will consent to exchange it for a secretary as commodious, but in better condition?”

“This one is good enough. I cannot see where an exchange would be an advantage.”

“Still—” began the young man.

M. Gerbois was an impatient man and his temper an uncertain quantity, so he replied dryly:

“Sir, do not annoy me any further.”

The stranger stopped directly in front of M. Gerbois and said:

“I do not know what you paid for the secretary, but I'll double the amount—”

“No—”

“Treble.”

“Oh, don't annoy me,” cried the professor impatiently. “I'm not a merchant.”

The young man gave the angry professor a sharp look that M. Gerbois was not to forget, and then, turning, he walked away.

One hour later the mahogany secretary was delivered to the cottage where the professor lived with his daughter. He called her.

“Here is something for you, Suzanne. I hope you like it.”

Suzanne was a pretty girl, loving and happy. She threw her arms around her father's neck and kissed him with delighted appreciation.

That very evening, having placed the secretary in her room, Suzanne, assisted by her maid, cleaned the old piece of furniture, brushed the dust from the drawers, neatly arranged in it all her papers, her letter boxes, her correspondence, her collection of postal cards and a few very precious little souvenirs given her by her cousin Philippe.

The next day M. Gerbois went to the laboratory as usual. Suzanne, as was her daily custom, met him on the way home. It was a great pleasure to him.

As they met, she always threw her arms round his neck and he kissed the smooth forehead of his only child. He said:

“Well, dear, and how do you like your secretary?”

“It is a marvel. Hortense and I have polished all the brasses until they look like gold.”

“So you are pleased with it?”

“Pleased! I should say so! I don't know how I ever got along without it.”

They walked happily along the street and through the dainty garden to their home. M. Gerbois said:

“I'll take a look at it after dinner.”

“Oh, yes; that is a good idea,” said the girl gayly.

When they had finished their dinner, she ran to her room ahead of her father, but as she stepped into her room she gave one shrill cry.

M. Gerbois rushed in, asking what had happened. Suzanne stood before the empty space where the secretary was. It had completely disappeared.

Naturally the matter was turned over to the police. What surprised the commissioner was the admirable simplicity with which it was stolen.

During Suzanne's absence, and while the maid was at the market, an expressman had stopped his truck at the gate and rung twice. The neighbors, not knowing that the maid was out paid no attention to the truckman. The man did the job without being troubled by anybody.

The only clue was the incident of the preceding day.

“A young man showed great annoyance at my refusal to let him have the secretary and I had a very clear impression as we separated that he was very angry.”

This was vague. The police questioned the dealer. He did not know either of the men. As to the secretary, he had bought it at an auction sale at Chevreuse. He paid forty francs for it and sold it at a modest profit. No further facts were elicited.

But M. Gerbois was certain that he suffered a terrible loss. There must have been a fortune in some secret drawer of the secretary which was known to this man. Yes, that was the reason he tried to buy it, and failing in that he stole it.

“Oh, my poor papa, what would we do with so much money?” said Suzanne, trying to comfort her father.

“Why, with such a fortune you could have made a brilliant marriage.”

Suzanne sighed deeply. She always believed her cousin Philippe to be the only one in the world for her, but he was poor, and her father refused his consent.

Life took on a new aspect for this gay family, unhappy, regrets and somber thoughts. Two months passed in this manner, when new and graver events followed with amazing swiftness: good luck and a dreadful calamity.

February the first, at half-past five M. Gerbois just returned with an evening paper in his hand. He sat down, put on his glasses, began to read. Politics did not interest him. He turned the pages. As soon as he did so his eyes fell upon an article which drew his attention closely. It was:

“Third drawing of the lottery of the Associated Press. The number, 514, Series 23, wins one million.”

The paper fell from his hands. He became dizzy. Yes, Number 514, Series 23, this was his number!

He bought this ticket to do a friend a favor, for he had never before bought a ticket, not believing in lotteries. And now he won!

He took his memorandum from his pocket and there was the number. But where was the lottery ticket?

He jumped up, ran to his study to look in the box of envelopes where he had put the precious ticket. As he entered the study he stopped short. The box of envelopes was not there. He suddenly remembered that he had not seen it for weeks. It always rested on the end of the table where he corrected the students' lessons. Yes, he remembered it was gone for weeks.

He heard a step in the garden, and called madly to Suzanne. She ran to him. She had sensed the note of distress in his voice. He could scarcely speak.

“Suzanne, the box—the box of envelopes?”

“Which one?”

“The one from the Louvre—that I bought for you, and which always stood on the end of the table.”

“Why, don't you remember, father—you know—the day before—”

“But where? You are killing me with suspense.”

“Why, in the secretary.”

“The secretary that was stolen? Oh, God! Oh, God!”

He repeated the words over and over. Then he seized his daughter's hand, and in a most tragic voice said:

“It contained a million, my child.”

“Oh, father! Why didn't you tell me?” said the girl softly.

“Yes, a million. There was the ticket. It drew the grand prize in the lottery.”

This loss crushed him completely. They sat a long time in silence. At last Suzanne said timidly:

“But they will pay it to you, won't they?”

“Why, what proof have I?”

“Must you have proofs?”

“Assuredly.”

“And you have none?”

“Yes, I have one.”

“Ah, then—”

“It was in that box,” Gerbois said gloomily.

“The box that was in the secretary?”

“Yes, and he who stole it will get the prize.”

“But that would be abominable. Let us ask them, father; perhaps you can do something.”

“Can any one? That man is very clever. You remember the affair of your secretary?”

Suddenly the old man sprang to his feet with new energy and stamped his foot on the floor in a rage.

“No, he wouldn't get away with it. Why should he get it? As clever as he may be he cannot get the money either. If he goes to get it he will be arrested. Ah, we will see, my fine young fellow 1”

“You have an idea, father,” said Suzanne timidly, for since the robbery of the secretary the old man had been very irritable.

“Yes, to defend my rights to the very end no matter what happens. We will succeed. The million is mine.”

A few minutes later he sent the following telegram:

 

“GOVERNOR OF THE CREDIT FONCIER, Rue Capucines, Paris:

“Am rightful possessor of Number 514, Series 23, and formally forbid that payment be made to any one but myself. GERBOIS.”

 

Almost at the same moment another telegram was received at the same office:

 

“The Number 514, Series 23, is in my possession.

ARSENE LUPIN.”

 

The lottery company made a thorough investigation which resulted in the facts that the ticket was sold through a branch office at Versailles to Bessy, the commandant of artillery. Meanwhile this Bessy was killed by a fall from his horse. It was learned farther from some of his comrades to whom he confided the matter a short time before his death he had sold the ticket to a friend.

“I am that friend,” declared Gerbois.

“Prove it,” said the Governor of the Credit Foncier.

“I can easily prove that I was in close relations with the commandant for a long time. We met at a cafe on the Place d'Armes. It was there that one day when he happened to need a little ready cash I bought his ticket for twenty francs.”

“Have you any witnesses to verify that?”

“No.”

“In that case on what do you base your claim?”

“On a letter which he wrote me as a receipt.”

“What letter?”

“A letter which was pinned to the ticket.”

“Show us that.”

“But it is in the secretary with the ticket.”

“Find that, then.”

Arsene Lupin communicated with the unhappy man through a note inserted in the advertising columns of The Echo of France, which said that he would place Commandant Bessy's letter in the hands of his lawyer, M. Detinan.

This caused a general public laughter. Arsene Lupin had a lawyer! Arsene Lupin, the observer of no law was now showing his great respect to the established laws of his country!

The whole press fell upon this lawyer, M. Detinan, an influential deputy, a man of high character, a fine mind and sharp wit, rather skeptical and sarcastic.

M. Detinan never, as he said, “had the pleasure of meeting Arsene Lupin, regretted that fact greatly, but he had received instructions, and, much touched by this choice, the honor of which he highly appreciated, he intended to defend the rights of his client vigorously.” He readily showed the Commandant's letter. This proved clearly that the ticket had been sold, but did not mention the name of the purchaser. It began simply, My dear friend.

“My dear friend, that is myself,” said Lupin, in a note joined to the letter from the Commandant, “and the best proof is that I have the letter.'

Then the cloud of reporters descended upon M. Gerbois. He could only repeat:

“'My dear friend' means me, and no other. Arsene Lupin stole the letter with the ticket.”

“Just to think, gentlemen, it is my daughter's dowry that the scoundrel has robbed. Personally I don't care, but my daughter, just think! One million! Ten times a hundred thousand francs. Ah, I knew well that that secretary contained a treasure!”

They tried to tell him that the robber could not have known that the ticket was in that piece of furniture. Even if he had known it was there he could not have known that it would win the first prize. Gerbois groaned disconsolately:

“Oh, hell, he did know it! If not, why was he so anxious to get that miserable desk? Why would he risk arrest if not for that?”

“For some unknown reasons, but surely not for a scrap of paper which was worth at most only twenty francs.”

“A million—he knew it—he knows everything, this miserable crook—you don't know him—the robber, he hasn't robbed you of a million!”

Such useless monologues might have lasted much longer, but on the second day M Gerbois received a letter from Arsene Lupin marked confidential. He read it with increasing uneasiness.

 

“SIR: The public is amusing, itself at our expense. Do you not think the time has come to be serious? The situation is this: I have the ticket, without the right to the money. You have the right to receive the money, but you haven't the ticket.

 “Now, you will not consent to cede me your right, nor will I cede my ticket. What is to be done?

“I see but one solution. Let us divide it. Half a million for you, half a million for me. Is that not just? Will not this Solomon-like judgment be satisfactory?

“This solution is just, and must be acted upon without delay. This is not an offer which you have unlimited time to decide. Circumstances will compel you to accept it. I give you three days to decide. Friday morning I expect to see among the small personal notices in The Echo of France an ad addressed to M. Ars. Lup..., bearing in veiled terms your acceptance of the proposition which I make now. By this means you will get the ticket and receive the million. You to give me five hundred thousand as I will suggest later.

“In case you should refuse, I have taken measures to get the same result. Only, aside from the grave annoyance which you will suffer by your obstinacy, you will also lose twenty-five thousand francs for supplementary expenses.

“Accept, my dear sir, my most respectful sentiments.

“ARSENE LUPIN.”

 

M. Gerbois was so exasperated that he made the mistake of showing this letter to reporters and allowing it to be copied. His anger caused him to lose all common sense.

“Nothing, he will get nothing,” he cried to the reporters. “Give him half of what belongs to me? Never! Let him tear up the ticket, if he wants to.”

“Still, five hundred thousands francs is five hundred thousand francs,” suggested one reporter.

“That's not the question. It is my rights, that I will establish before the law.”

“It would be rather amusing to sue Arsene Lupin. Many attacks have been attempted but none ever succeeded.”

“No, but the Credit Foncier. They should give me my million.”

“In return for the ticket or positive proof that you bought it.”

“That proof, exists, since Arsene Lupin admits that he stole the secretary.”

“I am afraid that Arsene Lupin's word would not be considered in any court.”

“I don't care. I'll fight to a finish!”

The “gallery” clapped hands and shouted. Bets were made, some holding that Lupin would win, the others that he would lose in spite of his veiled threats. And all felt a vague apprehension, the forces being so unequal between the adversaries.

On Friday the public seized The Echo of France and quickly turned to the fifth page. Not one line addressed to M. Ars. Lup... Gerbois replied to Lupin's offer with silence. It was a declaration of war.

The same evening the papers were filled with the details of the kidnapping of Suzanne Gerbois.

The police became more active than ever before in all that related to Arsene Lupin's exploits. From the bottom to the top, every one on the force seemed to boil with rage. Lupin was the enemy who nagged, provoked, but worse yet, ignored them.

What could be done against such an enemy?

Twenty minutes to ten, according to the testimony of the maid, Suzanne left home. At five minutes after ten her father left the school, but did not see her waiting for him as was her custom. Therefore it must have happened during that short walk of twenty minutes.

Two neighbors saw her about a hundred yards from her home.

One lady had noticed a woman walking along the avenue with a young girl whose description fitted Suzanne. No other clue.

The police made a diligent search everywhere. They questioned the employees at railway stations. No one saw anything that had the appearance of kidnapping. Finally a grocer in Ville d'Avray said he had sold gasoline to some one in a closed automobile from Paris. The chauffeur sat in front, inside was a blonde lady—unusually blonde. An hour later this same car returned from Versailles. A signal light caused the chauffeur to slow down. The grocer saw the same blonde lady sitting with another lady, so heavily veiled that no one could see her face. No doubt this was Suzanne Gerbois!

The kidnapping must have been done in full daylight on a crowded street in the middle of the town.

How and where? Not a cry, not a suspicious movement!

The grocer described the automobile as a dark-blue American car. A woman named Mrs. Bob Walthouse, who kept a garage, had a reputation for renting cars in crimes like this. Friday she rented one of her autos to a blonde lady for the day and she had not seen her since.

“But the chauffeur?”

“He is a man named Ernest, whom I hired the day before on excellent references, which I had not time to verify.”

“Is he here?”

“No, he brought back the car but did not return to work.”

“Where can we find him?”

“From the people who recommended him. Here are their letters.”

The detectives found the persons easily enough, but they had not written the letters, nor did they know this Ernest.

Every clue the police followed led them into deeper shadows.

M. Gerbois had no strength left to fight. Hopeless, afraid for his daughter, filled with remorse, he gave in.

A little advertisement appeared in The Echo of France, causing considerable comment, and proving his unconditional surrender.

It was a victory for Arsene Lupin. The war had ended in four days.

Two days later Gerbois crossed the courtyard of the Credit Foncier. He was taken to the governor of that bank, and gave him ticket Number 514, Series 23. The governor started when he saw the ticket.

“Ah, you have it. It was returned to you?”

“It—it—was mislaid,” stammered the distressed father.

“But you said—it was a question—people said—” began the banker, looking at the haggard face of the man before him.

“All that was but newspaper stories—lies,” Gerbois gasped faintly, while the governor took the precious paper and scrutinized it.

“We must have still further proof,” said the banker.

“Will the Commandant's letter suffice?”

“Certainly.”

“Well, here it is.”

“Fine, fine. Now, you will leave the papers with us. We have by law fifteen days to verify. I will notify you when you are to come. From now until then I think it will be best to say nothing, to preserve absolute silence regarding the payment.”

“I assure you that is my intention.”

M. Gerbois did not talk, the governor either. But there are secrets which become public in some occult manner, and the public somehow learned that Arsene Lupin had sent the ticket which had won the grand prize to M. Gerbois. The news was received with admiration. Arsene Lupin was a real sport!

But what if the young girl should escape? If the police would succeed in seizing the hostage that Lupin kept!

“Well,” some said, “this much is gained. Arsene wins the first part of the game but the most difficult is to come. Miss Gerbois is in his hands. He will not give her up until he gets the half million. That is clear. How and when will the exchange be made? To manage this there must be a meeting and then what will stop M. Gerbois from notifying the police? That way he could keep all his money and get his daughter.”

The reporters interviewed the professor. He was very downhearted—wished to follow his instructions. He remained silent and uncommunicative under their annoying questions.

“I have nothing to say. I am resting.”

“And Mademoiselle Gerbois?”

“The search is still being carried on by the police.”

“But Arsene Lupin wrote you?”

“No.”

“Will you swear to that?”

“No.”

“Therefore it is yes. What did he write?”

“I have nothing to say.”

Then they besieged M. Detinan. The same discreet silence.

“M. Lupin is my client,” he replied gravely, “and you will understand that I am obliged to remain silent regarding the affairs of all my clients.”

Tuesday, the 12th of March, M. Gerbois received a letter from the Credit Foncier in an ordinary envelope. Thursday at one o'clock he took a train for Paris. At two o'clock the thousand banknotes of a thousand francs each were given to him.

While he was counting over these notes—two men sat in a cab waiting a few feet from the door of the bank. One had partially gray hair, an intelligent and energetic face, in strong contrast with his clothes of a laborer. It was Ganimard, the implacable enemy of Lupin. Ganimard said to Folenfant, who was with him:

“It will not be long. In five minutes we shall see our good man. Is everybody ready?”

“Absolutely.”

“How many are we?”

“Eight. Two of them are on bicycles.”

“And I. It is enough, but not too many. We must not let Gerbois escape, for if we do it is good-by and good night. He will join Lupin at the rendezvous. He will trade his half a million for his daughter, and the whole transaction will be finished.”

“But why does not the professor travel with us? If he did that he would get his daughter back and keep his million.”

“He is afraid. If he tries any tricks that the other....”

“What other?” asked Folenfant.

“Him,” with a strong emphasis.

Ganimard pronounced this word hesitatingly, as though he had come to believe that Lupin was some unearthly being, with horns, hoofs, and claws, which had struck him more than once.

“It's strange that we have to protect M. Gerbois against himself.”

“When you deal with Lupin you find the whole order of things turned inside out,” sighed Ganimard.

A few minutes passed. The older man whispered:

“Here he comes.”

M. Gerbois came out. At the end of Rue des Capucines he went through the boulevards, always keeping to the left side, walking slowly and looking at the shop windows.

“He is too quiet, our client,” muttered Ganimard. “A person with a million in his pocket is not usually so calm. Lupin,—”

“What can Lupin do?” asked Folenfant.

“Nothing, nothing at all, but Lupin is Lupin.”

The cab followed slowly, according to the orders given the driver, and M. Gerbois stopped at a newsstand, bought some newspapers, received his change, opened one paper, and, holding it out before him, began to read, walking very slowly at the same time.

Suddenly he sprang into an automobile that was standing by the sidewalk. The car started off at once, at high speed, turned the corner of the Madeleine, disappeared.

“Damn him!” shouted Ganimard.

But his anger changed suddenly. He laughed heartily, for at the corner of the boulevard Malesherbes one of the other car's tires had a blowout. M. Gerbois got out, looking very pale.

“Quick, Folenfant,” said Ganimard, “get the chauffeur! Maybe it's that guy Ernest.”

But the man proved to be a Gaston, employee of the taxicab company. Ten minutes before a man engaged him, giving him orders to wait where the papers were sold until another gentleman should arrive and get in without a word.

“What address did your passenger give?”

“None. He said that I was to go to Boulevard Malesherbes and Avenue de Messine, double pay. That is all.”

During this conversation M. Gerbois jumped into the first cab that passed, telling the driver to go to the Metro. There he took the Metro, but soon left it, sprang into another cab in which he went to the stock exchange. Then another trip in the omnibus, and a third cab at the Avenue Villiers. He gave the driver the address, 25. Rue Clapeyron.

The house, number 25, was the one next to the corner. M. Gerbois went up to the second floor. He rang. A gentleman opened the door.

“Does M. Detinan live here?” asked Gerbois, so agitated that he could hardly speak.

“I am M. Detinan, and you I am sure are M. Gerbois?”

“Yes,” replied the professor.

“I was expecting you. Please walk in.”

As M. Gerbois entered the office the clock struck three. He turned to the lawyer, saying:

“This is the time. Is he not here?”

“Not yet.”

M. Gerbois wiped his forehead, sat down heavily, looking at his watch as though he did not know the hour. Then, overcome with anxiety, he asked:

“Will he come?”

“You question me, sir, upon the very subject I am curious to know myself. I never felt such impatience. He runs a great risk in coming here. This house has been closely watched for fifteen days. The police don't trust me, not even me!”

“Nor me,” said Gerbois, “so I can not swear that the detectives who have simply hung onto me like leeches, have lost my tracks.”

“But in that case—”

“It is not my fault,” said the professor sadly. “No one can blame me. What did I promise? To obey his orders. Well, I have obeyed his orders, blindly. I received the money at the hour he fixed and I came here as he ordered. Feeling that I am responsible for my daughter's danger, I have kept my word loyally. It is now for him to keep his,” and he added anxiously: “He will bring Suzanne, won't he?”

“I hope so.”

“Have you seen him?”

“I? No. He wrote me that I was to receive you and him, that I was to send my servants out before three o'clock, that I must admit no one to my apartment between your arrival and his departure. He said that if I was not willing to accept his proposal, I was to place an advertisement in The Echo of France. But I am too glad to render you and Arsene Lupin my services, so I consented to everything.”

“Alas! how will all this end?” groaned M. Gerbois.

He took the banknotes from his pocket, spread them out on the table, two packages of them, each containing half a million. Then they both sat silent, intently listening for the slightest sound.

As the minutes passed Gerbois' anguish sharpened, and M. Detinan seemed to feel uncomfortable. He even lost his coolness, rising suddenly, saying:

“We shan't see him. To come here is suicide. Even if he has confidence in us the danger is not only here—”

M. Gerbois, completely crushed, laid both his hands on the pile of banknotes, groaning:

“Let him come, my God, let him come! Here let him take it all!”

The door opened noiselessly and a voice said:

“Half is the price, my good Gerbois.”

Gerbois raised his head. Standing on the threshold was an elegantly dressed young man whom he instantly recognized as the man who wished to buy the secretary. M. Gerbois sprang to his feet, and, advancing toward the man, cried:

“Suzanne—where is Suzanne?”

Arsene Lupin closed the door behind him slowly, and while leisurely taking off his yellow kid gloves, said to the lawyer:

“My dear Detinan, I do not know how to thank you for the kindness with which you have consented to defend my rights. I shall never forget it.”

M. Detinan murmured:

“But you did not ring—I did not hear the bell.”

“Doors and bells are things that should work without being heard. But I am here, all the same; that is the essential thing.”

“My daughter, what have you done with my daughter?” moaned the professor faintly.

“Oh, sir, how impatient you are! But be calm, for in another minute your daughter will be in your arms.”

Lupin walked back and forth a few moments and then said, in a tone such as a grand ruler assumes in distributing praise:

“Professor Gerbois, I congratulate you on the clever manner in which you came here. If your auto had not had that deplorable mishap, we would have met at the Etoile. We would have spared Master Detinan the annoyance of this visit. As Omar says, 'It was written.'”

He noticed the banknotes spread out on the table, and laughed:

“Ah, the million. Let us not lose time.”

“But,” said M. Detinan, placing himself in front of the table, “Miss Gerbois is not here yet.”

“Well?” asked Lupin quietly.

“Is not her presence necessary?”

“I understand, I understand. I do not inspire full confidence. He pockets the half a million and does not return the girl. Ah, good Detinan, I am the great unknown. Because Fate has led me to do many things—rather of special nature, they suspect my good faith—mine who am the very quintessence of honor. Besides, my dear friends, if you are afraid you have but to open your windows and call. There are at least a dozen plain clothesmen in the street.”

“Do you believe that?” asked the lawyer.

Arsene Lupin raised the curtain.

“I believe that our good friend M. Gerbois was not able to throw Ganimard off the track. What did I say? There he is, my very amiable and intimate friend, Ganimard.”

“Is it possible?” gasped the frightened father. “But I swear to you—”

“That you did not betray me. That I know, but those fellows are smart. Yes, there is Folenfant, and Greaume, and Dieuzy, all my good friends.”

M. Detinan looked at Lupin in blank surprise. What coldness, what calm in face of danger. Arsene laughed like a care-free child. The lawyer's fear vanished at the sound of his laugh. He drew away from the table on which the piles of money lay, while Lupin approached them, and, taking five notes from each pile, he handed them to the lawyer.

“This is your fee from Arsene Lupin and M. Gerbois, my dear Detinan. We owe you that much, I am sure.”

Gerbois did not notice this. His whole mind* was upon the fate of his daughter. But the lawyer said shortly:

“You owe me nothing.”

“How is that? All the trouble we have made you.”

“I am more than paid in the pleasure it has given me.”

“That means, my dear sir, that you will not accept anything from Arsene Lupin.” He sighed, and continued: “This is the price of a bad reputation.”

Then Lupin handed fifty thousand francs to M. Gerbois, saying:

“Sir, as a souvenir of our pleasant meeting, allow me to give this to you. It will be my wedding present to Mademoiselle Gerbois.”

“My daughter is not going to marry,” said the father.

“She will not marry if you refuse your consent, but she wants to. Of that I am sure.”

“What do you know about it?” asked Gerbois, feeling cold all over. What if this man was going to ask her hand!

“I know this, that young girls often have dreams which their fathers do not share. Fortunately there are good angels, one of whom is Arsene Lupin, discoverer of the little secrets locked away in hidden drawers....”

“Did you find anything else?” asked the lawyer. “I confess that I am really curious to know why that antique became the object of your desire.”

“Historical reasons only. In spite of the opinion of M. Gerbois, it contained no other treasure than the lottery ticket. I did not know this until later. I had been searching for this very secretary for a long time. This mahogany secretary, decorated with wreaths of acanthus leaves, was originally found in a little cottage which Marie Walenska inhabited at Boulogne. One of the drawers bears this inscription: Dedicated to Napoleon 1st by his faithful servant, Mancion. And below these words is engraved, by the point of a knife, To thee Marie. Later, Napoleon had a copy made for the Empress Josephine, so that the secretary so admired at Malmaison is but an imperfect copy of this one, which will always remain in my collection.”

The professor groaned:

“Ah, if I had known I would gladly have sold it to you.”

“And you would have had the very appreciable advantage of having for yourself alone the ticket, Number 514, Series 23,” replied Lupin, laughing.

“You would not have been led to kidnap my Suzanne, whom all this trouble and fear must have affected seriously.”

“But you are mistaken, M. Gerbois, your daughter was not kidnapped.”

“Not kidnapped? My daughter not kidnapped!”

“Not at all, sir. To kidnap means seizing and carrying away with violence. Now, it was with her own consent that she served as hostage.”

“Her own consent?” gasped Gerbois, amazed.

“Almost upon her own request. Why would a young girl as intelligent as she, who suffers from a secret love, hesitate to earn her dowry? I assure you it was easy to make her understand that there was no other way to overcome your obstinacy.”

M. Detinan was greatly amused, but said:

“The greatest difficulty would have been to come to an understanding with the young lady. It is impossible that she would have allowed a stranger to accost her on the street.”

“That's quite true. I do not even know the young lady. A female friend of mine was good enough to undertake the negotiations.”

“The blonde lady in the automobile?”

“Yes. From the very first interview everything went smoothly. Since then Mademoiselle Gerbois has been traveling with the blonde lady in Belgium and Holland in a most agreeable and instructive manner. She will explain the rest.”

Some one rang the bell three times, then two more separated by an instant of silence.

“It is she. My dear Detinan, will you be good enough?”

The lawyer sprang forward. Two ladies entered. One threw herself into her father's outstretched arms. The other approached Lupin. She was tall, a superb figure, rather pale face with scarlet lips, and her hair, brilliant blonde, was divided and drawn back in two loose and wavy bands, pressed in black, with no ornament collar, she appeared elegant and reserved.

Arsene Lupin said a few words to her, and then bowing, said to Suzanne:

“I beg your pardon for all the trouble I caused you, but I trust you have been treated very kindly.”

“I would have been very happy but for poor father.”

“All is for the best. Kiss him again and tell him about your cousin—”

“My cousin? I do not understand you.”

“Try... I mean your cousin Philippe, whose letters you cherished so lovingly.

Suzanne blushed and hid her face upon her father's shoulder. Lupin looked at them smiling sympathetically.

“I am paid well for doing good. Touching sight, happy father, happy child. I am able to say, 'This is your work, Lupin. These beings will bless you later. Your name will be piously transmitted to posterity.' Oh, the happiness of a family life!”

M. Gerbois made a movement, for now that his daughter was safe the reality of things dawned upon him. The arrest of this man meant half a million to him. He took an instinctive step toward the door but, as though by accident, Lupin stood in his way.

“Where are you going, professor? In my defense? A thousand thanks, but don't trouble yourself. I assure you they are worse off than I am,” and as though speaking to himself, “After all, what do they know? Perhaps that you are here, and that Mademoiselle is here, for they must have seen her come with an unknown lady. As to me? They do not know that I am here. How could I get into a house which they had searched from cellar to garret? No, in all probability they are waiting to seize me.”

“Maybe,” he resumed, “they think the unknown lady was sent by me to make the exchange, a daughter for a half million. In such case they intend to arrest her as she leaves here.”

At this instant the bell rang vigorously. With a look of command at Gerbois which froze him to his place, Lupin said, in a dry, commanding voice:

“Stop there, sir, think of your daughter! Be reasonable. As for you, Detinan, I have your word of honor.”

Gerbois stood as though nailed fast, and the lawyer did not move.

Without the slightest appearance of haste Lupin took his hat, brushed off a speck of dust, saying:

“My dear Sir, if you should ever need me—Mademoiselle, my best wishes and friendly regards to M. Philippe.”

Then Lupin took a neat gold watch from his pocket, laid it on the table, saying:

“Professor Gerbois, it is now forty-two minutes after three. At the end of three minutes you may leave this place, not one second sooner.”

“But if they try force?” Detinan could not refrain from saying, somewhat apprehensively.

“The law that you know so well—Ganimard will never dare violate the home of a citizen. We have time for a hand of bridge, but as you seem to be rather uneasy, I will not abuse your—”

He then laid the watch face up on the table, opened the door saying to the blonde lady:

“Are you ready, my dear?”

He bowed to all and preceded her, and the door closed behind them. As the door closed they heard him say, “Good afternoon Ganimard. How goes it? Remember me to Madame Ganimard, and say that one of these days I will drop in for breakfast with her. Adieu, Ganimard.”

There was another ring, more insistent and violent than before, and followed by the sound of rushing feet upon the stairs.

“Three o'clock and forty-five minutes,” whispered Gerbois. Then, after waiting a few seconds longer, he could not contain himself, and rushed out to the vestibule. The lady and Lupin had both vanished.

“Father, father!” cried Suzanne, “you must wait a few seconds more!”

“You are insane! Pay attention to that scoundrel! And my half a million!”

He opened the door and started out, but ran right into Ganimard. Ganimard shouted:

“Where is that woman? Where are she and Lupin?”

“He is in there,” said Gerbois triumphantly, pointing to the vestibule which led to the other portion of the apartment. Ganimard gave a cry of joy.

“We've got them. The house is surrounded.”

M. Detinan said: “But the back stairway?”

“Oh, that leads down into the courtyard, and there is no other means of escape except the front door. Ten men are guarding that.”

“But he did not enter by the front door, and he will not go out that way,” said the lawyer.

“Well, which way will he go? Across the sky?”

Ganimard lifted the curtains, disclosing a long hall which led quite to the kitchen. There he found that the back staircase was closed; the door locked and bolted on the inside. He called one of his men from the window, asking if any one had gone out.

“No, no one at all.”

“Then,” said Ganimard, “they are hidden somewhere in one of the rooms. It is materially impossible to escape. Ah, my little Lupin, I've got you this time! You have fooled me often but this time I got you.”

At seven o'clock that evening, surprised at not having heard from Ganimard, M. Dudouis went to the Rue Clapeyron himself. He questioned the police who were guarding the house, and then went up to the apartment belonging to M. Detinan. There he found a man, or, rather, two legs, while the body was thrust into the chimney out of sight. A stifled voice called feebly:

“Oh—he—oh—hee!”

Another voice still farther up the chimney replied in the same words. The whole scene was so comical that in spite of himself M. Dudouis laughed loudly, at the same time seizing Ganimard by the legs, drawing him out. His face was black, his garments covered with soot, and his eyes were bloodshot, Dudouis asked if he had turned chimney sweep, to which Ganimard replied disgustedly:

“I was searching for him.”

“Who?”

“Why, Arsene Lupin and his friend.”

“Do you think they hide in chimney flues.”

Ganimard scrambled to his feet, and, laying his sooty fingers upon his superior's sleeve, asked angrily:

“Where would you have them, chief? They must be somewhere. They are human beings, like you and me. They have not disappeared in a puff of smoke.”

“No, but they got away, just the same.”

“But how? The house is surrounded, and there are men upon the roof.”

“And the house next door?”

“Does not communicate with this.”

“The apartments on the other floors?”

“I know all the tenants. They have seen no one, nor heard anything.”

“Are you sure that you know them all?”

“Yes, all. And, besides, I have a man posted in each one of those apartments.”

“But we must get our hands on him somehow.”

“That is what I say, chief, just what I say. We must and we will because they are both here. They cannot have escaped, and if I don't get them to-night I will to-morrow. I will stay right here—yes, I will stay right here.”

In fact, he stood there, all that night and the next and the third night. And when three whole days and whole nights passed he had not discovered the invisible Lupin, and, moreover, he had not found the slightest clue with which he might form the basis of a theory.

CHAPTER II. THE BLUE DIAMOND.

The 27th of March, Baron d'Hautrec dozed in his easy chair in his house in Avenue Martin. This house he recently inherited from his brother. The old General, Baron d'Hautrec, formerly ambassador to Berlin, now retired, lived alone with three servants and a young woman, his nurse and secretary.

On this night the young woman was reading aloud to him. Sister Augusta, a nun from a nearby convent, prepared everything for his comfort during the night.

This night the Sister was to return to the convent early. The nun came to the nurse and said:

“My work is finished. I am going.”

“Very well, Sister Augusta.”

“The cook has leave of absence to-night. You are alone in the house with only one servant.”

“Don't worry, the Baron will be alright to-night, Sister. I sleep in the next room. I'll leave the door open.”

The Sister of Charity left. The butler came for his orders. The Baron awakened and answered himself.

“As usual, Charles. Be sure that the alarm rings in your room, and at the first call bring the doctor.”

“General, do you always feel so uneasy?” asked the young nurse.

“My heart is getting worse. Where were we in the book?”

“Why not retire, then?” she asked, stifling a yawn.

“No, no, I go to bed very late. I do not require any help.”

Twenty minutes later the old man dozed off again. Antoinette slipped noiselessly away.

About this time Charles carefully closed all the blinds of the lower floor. He slipped the bolt in the door leading to the garden, fastened the chain. He then went to his room on the third floor and was soon fast asleep.

Perhaps an hour passed, when suddenly the alarm rang. Charles sprang from his bed. The bell rang a long time, perhaps seven or eight seconds continuously.

“All right, all right,” muttered Charles, regaining his senses.

He pulled on his pants and rushed down the stairs, and, stopping at the door of the Baron's room, knocked. There was no answer, so he walked in.

“This is queer! No light! Why the hell did they put it out?” Then he began to call in a low voice:

“Miss Antoinette, are you there? What's the matter? Is the Baron worse?”

The dead silence finally impressed him. He took two steps forward and struck against something—a chair—and, as he touched it he noticed that it had fallen. Then he touched other things which were overturned, while trying to feel his way to the electric buttons. Feeling his way carefully, he finally found the electric button and turned on the light.

In the middle of the room between the table and the dressing bureau he saw the body of his master, Baron d'Hautrec.

“What—what?” he stammered, not knowing what to do. He stood motionless, staring at the body, the overturned furniture, a broken candlestick, the clock which lay on the floor, signs of a savage struggle. The handle of a stiletto lay near the body. The blade still dripped blood. On the mattress was a handkerchief wet with blood.

Charles screamed with terror, for the body gave two jerky, convulsive movements and then lay still.

He stopped closer and saw a small wound in the throat from which blood trickled slowly.

“They killed him—they killed him!” he sobbed.

He shuddered. Did not the young nurse sleep in the next room? Had she been killed, too? He pushed her door open. The room was empty.

Returning to the Baron's room, he saw that the desk was not forced open. He saw that the bunch of keys belonging to the Baron was still there, a pocketbook which was always well filled lay on the table, where the Baron always kept it. Charles took the pocketbook and inspected the different compartments. One held banknotes. He counted them. There were thirteen notes of a hundred francs each. Then something foreign to his nature took possession of him. He took these notes, hid them in his coat, ran down the stairs, unhooked the chain, drew the bolt and fled through the garden.

* * * *

Charles was an honest man. He had not as yet closed the gate when the cool air and rain on his face seemed to clear his mind. His guilt showed in its true light, and he felt a certain horror of himself. A cab passed. He hailed it, saying:

“To the nearest police station, quick. A man has been murdered.”

The driver started off. Charles turned to enter the house again but he found that the gate was blown shut and locked, he could not open it from the outside. He knew it was useless to ring for there was no one inside. So he walked back and forth along the street on the side of La Muette.

He continued his lonely walk for one hour before the police arrived. He told them about the murder the best he could, and placed the thirteen banknotes in the sergeant's hands.

After the police arrived it was necessary to find a locksmith to open the gate and then the door to the house.

The sergeant went into the room, and then turning to Charles, who was standing outside, said:

“You said that the room was in great disorder?”

Charles stepped in and looked about him. He stood as though hypnotized. The furniture was in its usual position and order. The table stood between the two windows, the chairs were upright, and the clock back on the mantelpiece. The broken candelabra was gone. Charles finally, and with staring eyes, gasped:

“The Baron, the body?”

“In fact,” said the coroner, “where is the victim?”

He then advanced to the bed, and there, covered by a sheet, lay the General, Baron d'Hautrec. His military cloak with its cross of the Legion of Honor had been thrown across his breast. The face was calm.

Charles' face went white as he said:

“Some one has been here.”

“How did he enter?”

“I don't know. Some one was here since I left. Hold on. It was there on the floor, a thin, long stiletto, and there on the mattress was a handkerchief wet with blood. There is nothing there now. They took it away and arranged everything.”

“But who?”

“The murderer.”

“We found the doors closed.”

“He must have been here all the time—”

“And he must be here still, since you have not left the sidewalk.”

The servant slowly replied:

“That's true, yes, true. I did not leave the gate. Yet—”

“Whom did you see last near the Baron?”

“Miss Antoinette, his nurse and secretary.”

“Where is she?”

“She went out, I guess. Her bed is all made up. You know, she is young and very pretty.”

“How did she get out?”

“By the door.”

“You had bolted that and put up the chain.”

“Yes, but later. She must have been already outside the house when I did that.”

“The murder was committed after she left.”

“It must have been.”

They searched the house from top to bottom, from cellar to attic, but the murderer was not there. How? Where and when?

Was it the murderer who thought it wise to return and replace everything, take away everything which might lead to him?

At seven o'clock the coroner came. At eight the chief of police, and after him other officers of the law as were required. There were also detectives, inspectors, the nephew of the dead man and relatives.

They searched everywhere, they studied the position of the body as Charles remembered it. As soon as she arrived, they questioned Sister Augusta. She knew nothing that had any bearing on the case. She was surprised that Antoinette Brehat would go out. She engaged that young lady twelve days before. Antoinette Brehat had excellent recommendations. She refused to believe the young woman voluntarily abandoned her patient to go out alone at night.

“I believe,” said Charles, “the killer carried her off.”

This was plausible, and accorded with certain appearances. The chief said:

“Carried off? That does not seem unreasonable.”

“Not only unreasonable,” said a voice, “but absolutely false!”

This was said in a harsh voice, with a rude and sneering accent. It was Ganimard.

“So, you are here, Ganimard?” said M. Dudouis. “I did not see you.”

“I have been here two hours,” growled the man of brains.

“So you still find interest in something besides the ticket 514, Series 23!”

“Bah! Who can prove that Arsene Lupin has nothing to do with this? Please, say nothing more about the ticket—until later—let's see what's here.”

Ganimard was not one of the detective whose brilliant exploits are held up as lessons for others to follow. He lacked the dazzling genius of a Dupin, a Lecoq, and Herlock Sholmes, but he had excellent qualities of sagacity, observation, and perseverance and at times, intuition.

“Now, first,” said he, “let's be very exact upon this point. All the objects the servant Charles saw overturned were in their correct place on his return to this room. Were they not?”

“Exactly,” said Charles.

“It is very clear, then, that they must have been replaced by some one very familiar with the customary place of the furniture.”

This remark struck all present with force. Ganimard continued: “Another question, you were awakened by the ringing—according to you, who rang the alarm?”

“The Baron, sure.”

“Hum. Very well, but at what moment in the struggle would he ring?”

“Why, after the struggle, as he was dying.”

“That was impossible, since you found him lying at least four yards away from the button.”

“Then he must have done it during the fight.”

“That is also impossible, since you say the ringing was regular and uninterrupted. Do you think his adversary would have given him time to ring?”

“Then it must have been when he was attacked.”

“That, too, is impossible. You told us that the time between the ringing of the bell and the time that you entered the room was about three minutes at the most. If the Baron had rung the bell before the murder, the death and the flight must have taken place in the three minutes. I repeat, that is impossible.”

“Still, some one rang,” said the coroner. “If it was not the Baron, who could it have been?”

“The murderer,” said Ganimard.

“But why? What was his object?”

“I do not know what his object was. But he knew that the bell communicated with the servant's room. Now, who could know this but some one who lived here?”

The net was drawing closer, so far as suppositions went. In a few clear, rapid, and lucid, logical sentences Ganimard presented his view of the matter.

“So, in brief, you suspect Antoinette Brehat?”

“I do not suspect her—I accuse her.”

“Of being an accomplice?”

“I accuse her of having killed General Baron d'Hautrec.”

“Oh, oh, and what are your reasons, proofs which cause you to make a formal accusation like that?”

“This lock of hair which I found in the victim's right hand, embedded in the flesh by his nails.”

Ganimard then showed the threads of hair, bright blonde shining like gold. Charles murmured:

“That is Miss Antoinette's hair, all right. And, another thing. I think the knife with which she killed him, and which was gone when I returned, belonged to her. She used it to cut paper.”

There was a long silence, as though the crime was more horrible because committed by a woman. The coroner said:

“Admitting, until more ample information, that the Baron was killed by this young woman, we must know how she left the house after the crime, to return after the departure of M. Charles, and to escape again before the arrival of the police. Have you any opinion on that subject, M. Ganimard?”

“None,” he replied curtly.

“So, then?”

Ganimard flushed a little, but finally he said:

“All that I can say is that I find the same indications here that were shown in the case of the lottery ticket—the same phenomenal disappearance. Antoinette Brehat appeared and disappeared in this house as mysteriously as did Arsene Lupin from M. Detinan's office, in company with a blonde lady.”

“And that means?”

“And that means that it is not just a remarkable coincidence. Antoinette was engaged by Sister Augusta twelve days ago, the day after the blonde lady slipped through our fingers. The lady's hair had the same brilliant shade that we see here.”

“So, according to you, Antoinette Brehat is—”

“No other than the blonde lady.”

“And that Arsene Lupin planned both affairs?”

“I believe it,” said Ganimard.

There was an outburst of laughter. It was the chief himself who so far forgot the solemnity of the occasion. He said:

“Lupin, always Lupin. Lupin is in everything. Lupin is everywhere, according to you.”

“He is where he is,” said Ganimard, peeved and angry.

“And, even so, he must have a reason for being where he is,” said M. Dudouis, “and the reasons why you think he is concerned in this case are rather obscure to me. The desk was not broken open, the pocketbook was not rifled. There is gold on the table, too.”

“Yes,” said Ganimard triumphantly. “But the famous diamond.”

“What diamond?”

“Why the red diamond. The celebrated red diamond which once belonged in the royal crown of Czar Paul, and just before the revolution it was secretly purchased by Baron d'Hautrec.”

“If this red diamond is not found everything is explained, but where shall we look for it?” said the chief, sarcastically.

“On the baron's finger,” said Charles, “the diamond never left his finger, on the left hand, the little finger.”

“You saw it this morning,” said Ganimard, approaching the victim. '.'See, the ring is empty.”

“Look on the other side toward the palm,” said Charles.

Ganimard opened the clenched hand. The setting of the ring was turned inward. It held a beautiful red diamond.

“The hell!” swore Ganimard, amazed. “It's got me!”

“I suppose you will give up the idea of Lupin now?” sneered M. Dudouis.

Ganimard thought a while before he replied:

“It is when I don't understand a crime that I suspect Arsene Lupin.”

Such were the results in the police's efforts to solve this crime. Nothing was clearly established. The comings and goings of Antoinette Brehat remained a sealed book. Who killed Baron d'Hautrec?

The curiosity, at first felt by the public, turned to exasperation at the failure of the police in capturing the criminal.

The heirs of Baron d'Hautrec benefited by this publicity. They arranged to hold an auction sale, and the house in which he was murdered was open to the public to allow the belongings to be examined before being sent to the public auction rooms.

All the furniture was modern, in very ordinary taste without any artistic value. Upon a salver covered with velvet and protected by a glass case, guarded by two policemen, sparkled the red diamond.

The diamond was magnificent, and of an incomparable purity of a unique red. “Everyone marveled over it, while at the same time they looked shudderingly around the room where the Baron was murdered.

The sale of the red diamond took place at the Drouot auction rooms. The place was crowded, and the spirited bidding on the priceless jewel excited the people to the verge of insanity.

After the bids had reached two hundred thousand the amateurs dropped out. At two hundred and fifty thousand there were but two bidders left, Herschmann, the celebrated financier, and the Countess of Crozon, the multi-millionaire American whose collection of diamonds, precious stones, and pearls were famous for their value and beauty.

“Two hundred and seventy—seventy-five—two hundred and eighty—”

Here the auctioneer paused, as these figures were reached, and looked about with keen eyes; but no one bid more, so, almost as though he felt that he was making the lady a present, he reluctantly prepared to deliver the jewel to her, but Herschmann quietly said:

“Five hundred thousand.”

There was a short silence. The crowd watched the countess closely and many observed that she grew pale, holding to her chair. In truth, she knew as did all present that this duel must end inevitably in favor of this man who paid for his caprices from a fortune of over a hundred million. She said:

“Five hundred and five thousand.”

There was another silence. All turned their eyes toward the mining king, expecting him to bid still higher but he did not. The crowd held their very breaths in suspense. Herschmann remained impassive with his eyes fixed upon a sheet of paper which he held in one hand while in the other he held the torn envelope. The auctioneer said:

“Five hundred and five thousand—once—twice—it is still time,—does no one speak? Once—twice—three times!” Then there was another short silence, and the hammer fell.

Then, as though the click of the hammer had aroused him from a spell, the financier shouted:

“Six hundred thousand!”

But it was too late. The sale had been made, and was irrevocable. Friends gathered about Herschmann asking him why he had delayed so long. He laughed nervously.

“What happened? I don't know why I did not, but I had a moment of complete forgetfulness.”

“Is such a thing possible with you?”

“Yes, a letter was handed me.”

“And that letter sufficed?”

“To trouble me for an instant, yes.”

Ganimard was there. He was present at the sale of the ring. He approached one of the messenger boys, saying:

“It was you who delivered the letter to M. Herschmann?”

“Yes.”

“From whom?”

“A lady.”

“Where is she?”

“Where is she? Why, over there, that lady with the thick veil.”

“She's leaving, I see.”

“Yes.”

Ganimard sprang forward and saw the lady go down the stairs. He ran. A crowd of people got in his way at the door and before he could get through she vanished.

Then Ganimard returned to Herschmann, told him who he was, and asked for the letter. Herschmann handed it to him. It was hurriedly written in pencil, and bore these words:

“The red diamond brings trouble. Remember Baron d'Hautrec.”

The tribulations which followed the red diamond had not ended. Six months later it gained new celebrity. The summer following, the countess was robbed of the precious stone which cost her a fortune.

* * * * *

Let us review this curious case, which so impressed us. The 10th of August, the guests of M. and Madame de Crozon were sitting in the drawing room of a superb chateau which overlooks the Bay of Somme. The countess sat at the piano and placed her jewels upon a small cabinet near the piano, and among them was the famous red diamond. At the end of an hour the count retired with his two cousins, the d'Andelles. Madame de Real, an intimate friend of the Countess de Crozon also retired, leaving the countess alone with M. Bleichen, the Austrian Consul and his wife.

They chatted for a short while, and then the countess rose to extinguish a large lamp that stood on the table, while at the same moment M. Bleichen extinguished the two piano lamps. There was one moment of complete darkness, a little confusion, and then the Consul lighted a candle for each.

They all retired, but as soon as the countess reached her room she remembered her jewels and sent her maid downstairs after them. The maid soon returned, and placed the little bag upon the chimney where it lay unopened as the countess paid no further attention to it. The next day the countess missed the ring with the red diamond.

She told her husband. Their conclusion was the same. The maid was above suspicion. No one but M. Bleichen could have taken the ring.

Night and day, detectives surrounded the chateau. Two weeks passed without the least incident. M. Bleichen announced his departure on the day following. A complaint was made against him on that same day. The commissioner came and in his official capacity ordered a search of M. Bleichen's baggage. In a small bag, the key to which never left his hands, they found a bottle of tooth powder, and in that the ring.

Madame Bleichen fainted. Her husband was arrested.

People still remember the defence of the accused. He said he could not explain the presence of the ring except through the vengeance of M. de Crozon. “The count is brutal to his wife and makes her very unhappy. I had a long interview with her and counselled her to obtain a divorce from him. He learned this and revenged himself by taking the ring, and as I was leaving slipped it into the tooth powder.”

Between the explanations they gave and those offered by the D. A., both equally possible, and equally probable, the public had but to choose. One month of talk, conjectures and investigations brought not one element of certainty.

Worried by all this talk, powerless to produce positive proof of the guilt which would have justified their accusation, M. and Madame de Crozon requested that a capable detective should be sent to unravel the tangled skein. They sent for Ganimard.

Four days the old detective searched, uprooted, looked, listened and took walks around the park. He had long conversations with the lady's maid, the employees of the neighboring places, visited the apartment occupied by the Bleichen couple, the cousins d'Andelle, and Madame de Real. Then one morning he disappeared without telling his hosts.

But one week later, they received this telegram:

“I beg you to come to-morrow, Friday, 5 o'clock P.M., to Japanese tea house, Rue Boissy d'Anglais. Ganimard.”

At exactly five Friday their automobile stopped before the placed mentioned. Without a word of explanation the old detective, who awaited them on the sidewalk, conducted them to the second floor. They found two persons already there to whom they were presented by Ganimard.

“M. Gerbois, professor at the Lycee at Versailles, who you 'remember' was robbed of half a million, and Leonce d'Hautrec, nephew and heir of the late Baron d'Hautrec.”

The four persons had scarcely been seated when there came a fifth, M. Dudouis, chief of the detective force. M. Dudouis seemed to be in anything but a good humor. He saluted and said:

“What is it now, Ganimard? They just handed me your telegram. Is it serious?”

“Very serious, Chief. Before one hour has passed this latest adventure to which I lent my aid will be completed and unveiled. It seemed to me that your presence was indispensable.”

“Why? Is it an arrest? What a dramatic scene you have prepared! Go on, Ganimard, these people are listening.”

Ganimard hesitated a few seconds and then, with the evident expectation of surprising his auditors, said grandly:

“First, I affirm that Bleichen had nothing to do with the theft of the ring.”

“Oh, oh, a simple affirmation, but a very grave one,” said the chief disdainfully.

The count said sourly:

“And is the result of your efforts bounded by this discovery?”

“No, sir. The day after the robbery just by chance three of your guests visited the town of Crecy in an automobile. While two of those persons went to visit the famous battle field, the third went hastily to the post office and mailed a small box tied and sealed, and insuring it for one hundred francs.”

“That is not very remarkable,” said M. de Crozon. “Perhaps it would seem more so, if you knew that the person instead of giving her real name sent it under the name of Rousseau and that the recipient, a M. Beloux, living in Paris, moved the night he received the box—that is to say—the ring.”

“Perhaps it was one of my cousins?” said the count.

“It was neither of them.”

“Madame de Real, then?”

“Yes,” said Ganimard, swelling out his chest.

The countess was amazed, and said:

“I hope you do not accuse my friend, Madame de Real?”

“One moment, please,” begged Ganimard without replying directly to the question, “Was not Madame de Real present at the sale of the diamond?”

“Yes, but she was on the other side of the room. We were not together—”

“Did you not engage her to buy the ring for you?”

The countess seemed to try to remember, then said:

“Why, yes; and, in fact, I think it was she who spoke of it first.”

“It is a well-established fact that it was Madame de Real who spoke to you about the ring, and that you engaged her to purchase it for you.”

“Still, sir, my friend is incapable—”

“Excuse me, Madame de Real is but a casual acquaintance and not an intimate friend as the newspapers state, and this statement drew suspicion away from her. You have known her only since the beginning of winter, Now, I will show you that all she has told you about herself, her past, and her relations, is absolutely false, and that Madame Blanche de Real did not exist before you met her, and at the present time she does not exist.”

“And what then, after that?” asked the count.

“After that?” repeated Ganimard, as though that was all that need be said.

“Why, yes, all you have said in this matter is very curious and well argued,” said the count. “But how does it apply in this case? If Madame de Real did take the ring—which is not proven at all—why did she hide it in M. Bleichen's tooth powder? Damn it! When one takes the trouble to steal the red diamond, one keeps it. What do you say to that?”

“I—nothing—but Madame de Real will answer you herself.”

“Ah, she does exist, then?” sneered the count.

“She exists without existing. In a few words, three days ago I read in a paper which I read every day, among the list of arrivals at the Hotel Beaurivage, Trouville, Mme. de Real. That night I was at Trouville and interviewed the manager. According to the description and certain other indications which I obtained I learned that this Mme. de Real was the person I sought, but she had left the place, giving her address at Paris, number 3 Rue Colisse. The day before yesterday I went to that address and learned that there was no Madame de Real but a Madame Real who lived on the second floor, and who was a diamond merchant, and that she was very often absent. Last night she returned. I went to her door and offered, under a false name, my services as an agent between her and some persons who were in a position to purchase some precious stones. To-day we have a rendezvous here.”

“What? You expect her to come here?”

“At half-past five, yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“I have irrefutable proofs that she is the Madame de Real of the chateau Crozon—but—listen. Folenfant's signal.”

A sharp whistle had sounded below. Ganimard rose quickly.

“There is no time to lose. Will M. and Madame de Crozon please go into the next room? You also, M. d'Hautrec, and M. Gerbois. The door will remain open, and at the first signal I shall ask you to enter.”

“But, if others should come for that room?” said M. Dudouis.

“No. The landlord is a friend of mine who will allow no one to come up save the blonde lady.

“The blonde lady?” asked Dudouis incredulously. “What are you saying?”

“The blonde lady, chief, the accomplice and friend of Arsene Lupin, the mysterious blonde lady, against whom I have proofs. But I wish also to gather the testimony of those whom she has robbed.”

Ganimard looked out of the window, and then turned to his chief, saying:

“She is coming. She has entered the door. There is no way of escape. Folenfant and Dieuzy are at the door; the blonde lady is ours, chief.”

Almost as he said these words a woman stood in the doorway, tall, slender, very pale and with brilliant golden hair. Ganimard was nearly suffocated by his violent emotion. He remained speechless. She was there in front of him, his prisoner. What a victory over Arsene Lupin! What a revenge! At the same time it seemed to him that this victory was too easy. His elation was mingled with apprehension.

The woman stood in the room surprised at the silence, looking about her with growing and visible uneasiness.

“She will get away, she will disappear!” thought Ganimard, frightened so that he grew paler than the woman. He placed himself between her and the door. She turned as though to leave, but he said:

“Why do you wish to leave, madame?”

“Why, sir, I do not understand what this means—let me go.”

“There is no reason why you should go madame, and many why you should remain,” said Ganimard.

“Still—”

“Useless to argue, you will not leave,” said Ganimard in his gruffest tone. This woman had cost him too many sleepless nights to be allowed to escape now. She sank into a chair pale, frightened, saying:

“What do you want?”

Ganimard had won. He had the blonde lady in his hands. Mastering his joy, he said:

“I present the friend of whom I spoke and who wishes to purchase jewels, above all diamonds. Have you procured the one I asked for?”

“No—no—I don't remember—I don't know.”

“Try, try hard. A person of your acquaintance should have given you a colored diamond, something like the famous red diamond, and you replied that you had precisely what I wanted. Do you remember?”

She kept silent, but a little bag, which she held in her hand, fell to the floor. She seized it hastily and held it against her breast. Her hands trembled perceptibly. He growled:

“Oh, come on! I see that you have no confidence in me, Madame de Real. I am going to give you an example, and show you what I have here.”

Saying this, he took a paper from his pocket, and, unfolding it, he showed her a lock of hair as bright and golden as hers.

“Here are a few hairs from the head of Antoinette Brehat, torn out by the murdered Baron d'Hautrec, and found in his dead hand. I have seen Mile. Gerbois, and she has recognized the shade of hair of the blonde lady—the same as yours, exactly the same.”

Madame Real looked at Ganimard stupidly as though she did not understand his meaning. He continued:

“And here are two perfume bottles, without labels, it is true, but still containing enough odor to identify it with the perfume used by the blonde lady during the two weeks she traveled with Mile. Gerbois. One came from the room that Madame de Real occupied at the chateau de Crozon, and the other from the room you occupied at Trouville.”

“What do you mean? Chateau de Crozon, blonde lady? I do not understand.”

Without replying Ganimard laid four pieces of letter paper on the table, saying: “One, the writing of Antoinette Brehat, the second from the lady who wrote to Baron Herschmann at the auction sale, the third from Madame de Real during, her stay at Crozon, and the fourth, your own, your name and address given by you to the porter at the Hotel Beaurivage, at Trouville. Now, compare them. They are identical.”

“You are insane, sir; you are crazy! What does all this signify?”

“It signifies,” said Ganimard, with a grand air, “that you are the blonde lady, the friend of Arsene Lupin.”

Then he opened the door. Professor Gerbois came out of the other room, into the presence of Madame de Real.

“Professor Gerbois, do you recognize this woman who kidnapped your daughter, and whom you saw at M. Detinan's office.”

“No.”

Ganimard staggered.

“Look again,” he said, “are you sure? Look again!”

“I see her. Madame is blonde as the other—pale, too, but she is not the other at all.”

“I cannot believe it. It is impossible. Monsieur d'Hautrec, do you know Antoinette Brehat?”

“I saw her at my uncle's. This is not the lady.”

“And she is not Madame de Real,” added the Count de Crozon.

This was the last blow. Ganimard was dumbfounded. His logical structure crumbled.

M. Dudouis rose, saying:

“You will excuse us, madame, I hope. A most regrettable mistake was made which I beg you to forget. But, what I cannot understand is your reserve ever since you came here.”

“Sir, I was afraid. There is more than a hundred thousand francs worth of jewels in this bag. Your friend's behavior did not reassure me.”

“But your frequent absences from home?”

“My business requires it.”

M. Dudouis made no reply. He turned to his subordinate angrily:

You have obtained your information with deplorable carelessness, Ganimard, and just now you conducted yourself in a most unseemly fashion. Report to Headquarters and explain.”

The interview was finished. The chief was about to leave when a curious thing happened. Madame Real approached the chief, saying:

“I heard you call this gentleman Ganimard. Am I mistaken?”

“No.”

“In that case this letter must be for you, sir. I received it this morning addressed to you as you can read: M. Justin Ganimard, Care of Madame Real. I thought it was a joke for I had never heard the name before, but doubtless the writer knew of our business.”

Ganimard wanted to seize this letter and destroy it, but he dared not do so before his superior. He tore open the envelope, and read these words in a husky voice:

 

“Once upon a time there was a blonde lady, a Lupin and a Ganimard. Now, bad Ganimard wanted to harm the pretty blonde lady, but the good Lupin would not allow it. So, the good Lupin, desiring the blonde lady to become an intimate friend of the Countess de Crozon, told her to adopt the name of Madame de Real, that of an honest dealer in jewels, whose hair is as golden and whose pallor is as beautiful. Good Lupin said to himself: 'If ever this bad Ganimard traces the real blonde lady how useful I shall find it to set him upon a false track following the honest dealer.' Wise precaution! And one which bore fruit. A little note sent to the paper of the bad Ganimard, an empty bottle, cleverly forgotten by the real blonde lady at the Hotel Beaurivage, the real name and address of Madame Real, written by the real blonde lady on the hotel register. The play is set. What do you say, Ganimard? I wanted to tell you the story this way, knowing that with your keen sense of humor you will be the first to laugh.

“Yours with thanks, and my best remembrance to excellent M. Dudouis.

“ARSENE LUPIN.

 

“He knows everything!” groaned Ganimard. “He knows things I have told no one. How does he know I asked you to be here, chief? How does he know that I found the first bottle. How does he know?”

Ganimard was mad with rage.

M. Dudouis said kindly:

“Never mind, Ganimard. I know you will get him yet.”

The Chief left the place with Madame Real.

Ten minutes passed. Ganimard read and reread Lupin's letter. M. and Madame de Crozon, M. d'Hautrec, and Professor Gerbois carried on an animated conversation. Finally the count said to Ganimard:

“It seems to me that we are no further than we were before.”

“Pardon me, but my search proved that the blonde woman is the heroine of Lupin's crimes. That is a long step...”

“Of no value. We are even worse off. The blonde lady kills to steal the red diamond, which she does not steal—then she steals it to give it away. Does this make sense?”

“I can do no more,” said Ganimard.

“Perhaps somebody else can.”

“What do you mean?”

The count hesitated. The countess continued:

“There is only one man besides you who would be able to fight Lupin. Make him powerless, Monsieur Ganimard. Would you mind if we were to solicit the aid of Herlock Sholmes?”

Ganimard felt like crying, but said:

“No. I don't understand why.”

“It is this way. These mysteries worry me. M. Gerbois and M. d'Hautrec feel the same way. We have decided to ask the celebrated Englishman for our own peace of mind.”

“You are right, madame,” said Ganimard loyally, while his heart sank like lead. “You are right. Old Ganimard is too weak for Arsene Lupin. Will Herlock Sholmes do better? I hope so. I admire him—still—it is not probable.”

“That he will succeed?”

“That is what I think. I think that a duel between Herlock Sholmes and Arsene Lupin is an affair settled before it is begun. The Englishman will be beaten.”

“In any case, can he count upon your aid?” said the lady.

“Surely, madame. Anything I can do to help will be done.”

“Do you know his address?”

“Yes; 21 Baker Street, London.”

That night M. and Madame de Crozon withdrew their complaint against the Consul Bleichen. A telegraph was sent to Herlock Sholmes signed by all persons involved.

CHAPTER III. HERLOCK SHOLMES OPENS HOSTILITIES.

“What will it be?” said the waiter at a restaurant.

“Whatever you want to bring us,” replied Arsene Lupin, as if food did not matter. “Anything but meat and alcohol.”

The waiter walked off with his nose in the air. I said hastily: “What, still a vegetarian?”

“More than ever,” answered Lupin.

“From taste, belief, or habit?”

“Health.”

“And you never fall from grace?”

“Oh, yes, when I dine in society—then only not to become exceedingly conspicuous,” he laughed.

We were dining near the Gate du Nord, in a little obscure restaurant where Arsene Lupin invited me. At times he telegraphed me to meet him in some corner of Paris where we could have a quiet meal. At such times he was so bright, so gay and happy that our time passed most pleasantly. He always had some unexpected adventure to tell, which I had not heard before.

That night he seemed to be gayer than usual. He laughed and chattered in a carefree manner, and with that delicate irony which was spontaneous, without bitterness. It was a pleasure to see him in this mood, and I could not resist the desire to tell him so.

“Ah, yes,” he replied. “There are days when everything is a delight to me, when life is like a treasure that I shall never exhaust. God knows that I live without ever thinking of the end.”

“Too much so, perhaps,” I said wisely.

“It is all explained by this—danger. Constant danger. To breathe danger as one breathes air—to see it about one, blowing, growling, watching, approaching and to remain calm in the midst of this tempest—that's living! There is but one sensation comparable to this, the one felt by the chauffeur in an automobile race. But the race lasts for a morning, while my race has lasted all my life.”

“What a poem,” I laughed. “You would make me believe that you have no particular reason for your present exaltation?”

“You are a psychologist,” he replied, smiling; “yes, in fact, there is a reason.”

He poured out a glass of cool water and drank it, then said: “Have you read the Temps, to-day?”

“Why, no.”

“Herlock Sholmes will cross the Channel to-day and be in Paris to-night at six o'clock.”

“The devil!” said I; “and for what?”

“A little trip offered him by the Crozons, the nephew of d'Hautrec, and Gerbois. They all met at the Gate du Nord, and there they were joined by Ganimard. At the present moment the whole six are in earnest consultation.”

No matter how great my curiosity may be I never question Arsene Lupin upon any of his private acts. Until now his name had not been associated between us with the mystery of the red diamond. So I held my patience, and he continued:

“The Temps also published an interview with my good friend Ganimard, according to which a certain blonde lady, who is my friend, killed the late Baron d'Hautrec and attempted to steal the famous red diamond from Madame de Crozon. He accuses me of being the instigator of these crimes.”

A slight shudder passed over me. Was it true? Must I believe that the habit of theft, his style of living, even the logic of the events had drawn this man into murder? I looked at him. He seemed so calm, his eyes met mine so frankly.

I looked at his hands. They were delicately modelled, an artist's hands, sensitive hands.

“Ganimard is dreaming,” I said. But he protested:

“No no, Ganimard has finesse, and a certain penetration, and sometimes he has a stroke of genius.”

“Ganimard? He?” I asked.

“Yes, and for example that interview was a masterly stroke. The first thing he does is to announce the arrival of his rival, to put me on guard and make his rival's task all the more difficult. Secondly, he mentions precisely the exact point to which he has brought the affair, so that Sholmes shall reap the benefit of his own false discoveries. That is good warfare.”

“Well, whatever you call it you have two powerful adversaries on your hands.”

“One of them does not count.”

“And the other?”

“Sholmes? Oh, I admit that he is a man. But that is just what has put me into such good humor. First, it is a question of pride. They see that it is necessary to ask the Englishman to get me, something they have not been able to do alone. Besides this, just think of the delight I must feel at the idea of a duel with Herlock Sholmes. At last I shall be forced to employ all my talents for I know a good man. He will never give up, no not one inch.”

“It is said that he is brilliant.”

“Yes, very. I do not believe there ever was or ever will be one as capable as Herlock Sholmes. I have on advantage; he will attack, I will defend. My role is easier, and besides—” He smiled slightly as he finished his phrase. “Besides, I know his methods; he does not know mine. I have a few unexpected tricks up my sleeve that will surprise him.”

As he spoke Lupin tapped the table with his fingers. As he continued he seemed to be perfectly charmed with his outlook. “Arsene Lupin against Herlock Sholmes—France against England—at last Trafalgar will be avenged. Ah, the fool, he has no idea that I will be well prepared for him. Lupin notified—”

He stopped suddenly as though he had swallowed something the wrong way, and, coughing violently, he hid his face in his napkin.

“A crumb of bread?” I asked uneasily. “Drink a little water.”

“No, it is not that,” he replied, in a stifled voice.

“What then?”

“I need air.”

“Shall I open the window?”

“No. I am going out. Quick, my overcoat, my hat. I am going to skip.”

“What's the matter?”

“Those two men who have just entered—see—the big one. In going out, walk so that he will not be able to see me.”

“Who, the man sitting behind you?”

“Yes, for reasons I will explain outside.”

“But who is it?” I persisted.

“Herlock Sholmes.”

Half-ashamed of his nervousness, he said:

“That was funny, wasn't it? Things do not stir me as a general rule, but that was so unexpected.”

“What do you fear, since no one can know you under your disguise. Even I think I am facing a new individual each time that we meet.”

“He will know me,” said Lupin. “He saw me once, but I knew that he saw me for my whole life, the very being that I am. Besides, I did not expect him. What a singular meeting—this little restaurant.”

“Very well. Let us go.”.

“No—no, I will not go.”

“What will you do, then?”

“The best thing is to act openly. I'll talk to him.”

“You don't mean it?”

“Yes, I do. I will be able to question him, and learn what he knows. I feel that his eyes are fixed upon the back of my neck, my shoulders and that he is trying—that he seeks to recall—”

As he reflected for a moment I saw a peeved smile appear at the corner of his mouth, and obeying an impulse more than the necessities of the situation he rose suddenly, turned about, and, bowing low, said in a tone of great pleasure:

“What luck! Permit me to present to you one of my friends.”

For one second the Englishman seemed to be disconcerted, then he made a move as though to throw himself upon Lupin. Lupin simply nodded his head.

“You would have been mistaken. Besides the clumsiness of your gesture—how useless!”

The Englishman looked right and left as though he expected assistance.

“Nor that,” said Lupin. “Are you sure that you have the right to lay hands on me? Come, be a sport!”

To be a sport under the circumstances was not very tempting to the Englishman. Nevertheless that was the best thing to do under the circumstances, for he half-rose and said coldly:

“Dr. Wilson, my friend and collaborator. Monsieur Arsene Lupin.”

The surprise of Dr. Wilson made me smile. His eyes bulged out and his immense mouth cut his fat face into two parts with its smooth and shining skin like that of an apple.

“My dear Dr. Wilson, you are surprised at the most natural events in the world,” remarked Herlock Sholmes with a shade of mockery in his voice.

Dr. Wilson stammered: “Why don't you arrest him?”

“Don't you see that this gentleman is between me and the door. Before I could move a finger he would be outside.”

“Don't let that hinder you,” said Lupin, and he walked around the table and sat down so that the Englishman was between him and the door.

Dr. Wilson watched Herlock Sholmes to see if it was right to admire such audacity, but the Englishman remained impenetrable. But after a moment he said:

“Garcon.”

The waiter came forward.

“Sodas, beer, and whiskey.”

Peace was signed until further orders—an armed truce, so to call it. Soon all four were seated at the same table, and we talked quietly.

Herlock Sholmes appeared to be the sort of man you see every day. About fifty years old, he looked like a clerk who passed his life keeping his books. Just an honest citizen of London. But his eyes, terrible sharp eyes, quick and penetrating!

Herlock Sholmes was a genius of intuition, observation, clairvoyance, and ingenuity. One could believe that Nature had amused herself by taking the two most extraordinary detectives that imagination has produced, the Dupin of Edgar Allan Poe, and the Lecoq of Gaboriau to build up another in her own way, more extraordinary, more unreal.

Arsene Lupin asked the famous Englishman how long he would stay in France.

“My stay will depend upon you, sir,” Sholmes replied.

“Oh,” laughed Lupin, “if it depends upon me you may leave on to-night's boat.”

“That is rather too soon, but I expect to return in about seven days.”

“You are in a hurry?”

“I have many things on hand. The robbery of the Anglo-Chinese bank, the kidnapping of Lady Eccleston... Don't you think that a week would suffice?”

“Surely, unless you came to learn about the red diamond. A week is enough for me. The solution of that double crime offers you certain advantages over me, dangerous for my safety.”

“Yes, but,” said the Englishman, “I expect to gain added advantages in a week.”

“And to arrest me on the eighth, perhaps?”

“The seventh, last call,” replied Sholmes.

Lupin appeared to reflect, nodding his head, then saying:

“Difficult, very difficult.”

“Difficult, yes, but possible, therefore certain.”

“Absolutely certain,” chimed in Dr. Wilson.

“Dr. Wilson will attest to it,” said Sholmes, smiling: “I have not all the trump-cards in my hand as yet, since it deals with matters already months old. I lack the first elements, the indications upon which I have been accustomed to conduct my inquiries.”

“Such as mud stains and cigarette ashes,” said Dr. Wilson, with importance.

“But aside from the remarkable conclusions of Mr. Ganimard, I have at my service the articles written on the subject, the observations gathered, and in consequence of these a few ideas of my own.”

“Yes, some views not suggested by analysis nor by theory,” added Dr. Wilson sapiently.

“Would it be indiscreet,” asked Arsene Lupin, in that tone of deference which he used in speaking of Sholmes, “would it be indiscreet to ask the general opinion you have formed?”

Herlock Sholmes filled his pipe slowly, lighted it, and explained himself in this way:

“I think this affair is far less complicated than it seemed at first.”

“Much less, in fact,” echoed Wilson.

“I say The Affair, for in my mind there is but one. The death of Baron d'Hautrec, the story of the ring, and the mystery of the Number 514, Series 23, are different phases of what should be called the mystery of the golden blonde. Now, in my mind, all there is to do is to discover the thread that holds these three episodes of the same story; the fact which proves the unity of the three methods. Ganimard, whose judgment is rather superficial, sees the unity in the disappearance, in the power of going and coming and being invisible. This intervention of a miracle does not satisfy me.”

“And then?

“Then, according to me,” replied Sholmes clearly, “the characteristic of three crimes is your manifest design. There is more than a plan in this, there is a necessity, a condition on which depends the success.”

“Can you not enter into some details?”

“Easily. Thus, from the beginning of your conflict with Professor Gerbois, is it not evident that the apartment of M. Detinan is the place chosen by yourself, the inevitable place where you should meet again? There was no place which seemed to you to be so safe for a public rendezvous, as one might say, with the blonde lady and M'lle Gerbois.”

“The professor's daughter,” added Dr. Wilson.

“Now, let us speak of the red diamond. Had you ever tried to appropriate it since the Baron possessed it? No. But the Baron took his brother's house. Six months later the intervention of Antoinette Brehat was the first move. The diamond escaped you then, and the auction sale was held at the Hotel Drouot. Would it be a public sale? Would the richest amateur be sure of acquiring the jewel? Not at all. At the moment when the Baron Herschmann was about to get it, a lady had a letter handed to him, a threatening letter, and it was the Countess de Crozon, who influenced and prepared by that same lady, bought the diamond. Was it to disappear soon? No, the means were lacking. So the intermediary. But Countess de Crozon went to her chateau. That was what you were waiting for. The ring disappeared.”

“To reappear in the tooth powder of the Consul Bleichen, a curious place,” laughed Lupin.

“Ah, come, now!” cried Sholmes, striking the table with his clenched fist. “It is not to me that you can tell such a fairy tale. Let the imbeciles, that they are, allow themselves to be taken in by that, but not an old fox like me.”

“Which means?”

“Which means—” Sholmes took his time in answering, as though he would add to its effect, and said finally: “The red diamond which was found in the tooth powder was false. You kept the real one.”

Arsene Lupin looked at Sholmes an instant in silence, then said simply, with his eyes fixed on those of the Englishman:

“You are a clever man, sir.”

“Clever, isn't he?” said Dr. Wilson, as if to underscore the words.

“Yes,” replied Lupin, “everything is made clear, and all assumes its real sense. Not one of the officers, not one of the journalists who were following up the matter like bloodhounds ever reached so near the truth. It is a miracle of intuition and logic.”

“Pooh!” said the Englishman, though flattered, “just elementary logic.”

“It is enough to know how to think, but that is what so few know how. But, now that the field is narrowed down and clear...” hazarded Lupin.

“Well, now I have but to discover why these three adventures are knotted around 25 Rue Clapeyron, and 34 of the Avenue Henri Martin and the walls of the Chateau de Crozon. The whole business is there. The rest is nothing but toys for children. Is not that your opinion?”

“Yes, that is my opinion.”

“In that case. Monsieur Lupin, am I wrong in repeating that in seven days my job will be finished?”

“In seven days the whole truth will be known to you.”

“And you will be arrested?”

“No.”

“No?”

“That I should be arrested requires such unreasonable circumstances, a series of hazards so stupefying—that I do not admit it possible.”

“The determination and will of an obstinate man often accomplishes things—”

“Yes; if the will and obstinacy of another man does not oppose an invincible obstacle to his design.”

“There is no invincible obstacle, M. Lupin.”

The looks which these two men exchanged were profound, calm and determined. It was the striking of two swords. It sounded clear and frank.

“All right,” said Lupin gayly, “here is a man! How the public will laugh!”

“Are you not afraid?” asked Dr. Wilson.

“A little, Dr. Wilson, and the proof,” said Lupin, rising, “is that I am going to beats it. We will say seven days, then, Mr. Sholmes?”

“Seven days. It is now Sunday. Next Sunday all will be over.”

“And I shall be under lock and key?”

“Without the least doubt.”

“That's too bad. I take such pleasure in my peaceful life. I have no annoyances, a fair business, the police can go to the seven devils! And the universal sympathy which surrounds me! And now I must leave all that. Well, it is the other side of the medal, after sunshine the rain. That's nothing to laugh about. Adieu!”

“And hurry,” said Dr. Wilson, filled with pity for an individual in whom Sholmes inspired such a fear. “Don't lose a minute.”

“Not one minute, Dr. Wilson. Only to tell you how happy I am for this meeting, and how I envy the Master his valuable assistant.”

They saluted each other, these two adversaries who felt no hatred, but who were determined to fight without mercy. Lupin took my arm and drew me outside.

“What do you say, dear boy? That was a dish worthy of the memoirs you are writing about me.”

He closed the door of the restaurant and stopped a few steps away, saying:

“Do you smoke?”

“No, do you?”

“No, I don't smoke,” he responded, but at the same time he drew a box of cigarettes from his pocket and lighted one match, which he waved back and forth several times before he threw it away. He ran lightly across the street; and joined two men who had been standing there in the shadow, and who appeared as though called by a signal. He talked a few minutes with them and then returned, saying:

“I beg your pardon. That devil Sholmes is going to give me lots of trouble. I swear to you that he will not finish Lupin. He will learn the kind of metal I am made of. So long! The ineffable Dr. Wilson is right. I haven't a minute to lose.”

He left me, walking away rapidly.

Thus ended that strange evening, the portion of which I was a spectator.

At the moment that Arsene Lupin left me Herlock Sholmes took out his watch, got up, saying:

“Twenty minutes to nine. At nine o'clock I am to meet the Count and Countess at the station.”

“All right,” said Dr. Wilson, swallowing the last of the whiskey and soda. They left the place. Sholmes whispered:

“Dr. Wilson, don't turn your head. We are followed. Act as though it did not matter in the least. Tell me, Wilson, give me your idea. Why was Lupin in that restaurant?”

Dr. Wilson did not hesitate an instant. “To eat,” he said.

“Dr. Wilson, the longer we work together the more I perceive your progress. My word! You are astonishing!”

Dr. Wilson beamed with pleasure, and Sholmes continued:

“To eat, doubtless, and, most likely, to make sure that I go to Crozon, as Ganimard said in his famous interview. So I will go, not to disappoint him. As it is essential that I gain time over him I shall not go.”

“Ah? You will go and not go,” said Wilson, his mouth open in surprise.

“You will go along this street, take one, two, three cabs. Go in such a way as to draw them after you. Then return to the station, get your valises, and from there to the Elysee Palace.”

“And at the Elysee Palace?”

“You will take a room, go to bed, sleep. Wait for my instructions.”

Dr. Wilson left. Herlock Sholmes bought a ticket and took the express to Amiens, where the Count and Countess de Crozon were waiting for him.

He saw them, saluted them, lighted his pipe, and smoked peacefully on the platform.

The train started. At the end of ten minutes he came and sat down by the lady, saying:

“Have you brought your ring, Madame?”

“Yes.”

“Please let me see it.”

He took the ring and examined it long and carefully with a magnifying glass. “It is just as I thought. It is a fused diamond.”

“A fused diamond?”

“Yes, a process which consists in submitting diamond dust to a high temperature—so great, in fact, that it fuses the dust into one stone.”

“No? My diamond is real.”

“Yours, yes, but this was substituted for yours and placed in M. Bleichen's bottle, where you found it.”

“What, false?”

“Absolutely false.”

The poor lady sat speechless, while her husband incredulously turned the red jewel in his hands.

“And how did they get it? How?” said the lady, completely upset.

“That is exactly what I am going to tell you.”

“At the chateau?”

“No, I shall leave the train at Creil, and return to Paris. It is there that the game between Arsene Lupin and myself will be played. It is better that he believes I'm away.”

“Still,” objected the lady.

“What do you care? All you want is your diamond, is it not?”

“Yes,” she replied hesitatingly. “Very well, then, be patient. I have just now made an appointment which will be much more difficult to keep. Herlock Sholmes promises to return you your diamond, and Herlock Sholmes never breaks his word.”

The train slowed down. The detective put the false diamond in his pocket and opened the door. The Count de Crozon cried:

“Stop, you are getting out the wrong side!”

“I know. Adieu.”

A trainman made vain effort and protest. The Englishman went directly to the office of the station master. Fifty minutes later he sprang into a train which brought him back to Paris a little before midnight.

He ran swiftly through the station, returned through the coffee-shop, out by another door, and into the first cab he found.

“To Rue Clapeyron!”

Feeling certain that he was not followed, he had the cab stop at the corner of the street. For a minute he examined the Detinan house and the two neighboring houses. By counting his steps he measured the approximate distance. Then he returned to the cab; saying:

“Driver, Avenue Henri-Martin.”

At the corner of Rue de la Pompe, he paid the driver and followed the sidewalk until, he reached number 134. There he began to pace off the distance as before. This house, whose dimensions he measured, belonged to the late Baron d'Hautrec. Then he measured the two adjacent houses, calculated their depth, and that of the little gardens.

“That's fine,” he muttered. “Ah, if I could only enter to make my first visit!”

It was sufficient for an idea to form in his mind for him to put it into immediate execution. But how? The iron fence was too high to scale. He drew a flashlight from his pocket, a master key, which never left him. What was his surprise when he found that one part of the gate was open! He slipped into the garden, being careful not to shut the gate. He had not taken three steps when he stopped; a light had passed one of the windows on the second floor.

The light then passed a second window, a third, but in such a way that he could see nothing but indistinct shadows along the walls of the room. Then the light descended, from the second floor to the first and wandered from room to room.

Who can be walking about at one o'clock in the morning where Baron d'Hautrec was killed?” Sholmes asked himself, greatly interested. There was but one way to find out: to go in there himself. He did not hesitate. At the moment when he crossed the narrow band of light thrown by the street lamp to reach the door the person must have seen him, for the light in the house suddenly went out.

He pushed gently against the door. It was also unlocked. Hearing no sound, he knew he risked his life by going into this darkness. Feeling carefully about, he at last found the staircase and mounted one flight. Silence, black darkness. He dared not risk the flashlight.

Reaching the second floor, he entered a room, edged his way to a window through which showed a little of the light from outside. Outside he saw a man who had doubtless gotten out by another staircase and door. Now he was running along the shrubbery which bordered the dividing walls between the residences.

“The bloody bastard will get away!” and he nearly fell down the stairs in his rush, to cut off the man. He found no one. After some seconds he could distinguish among the shrubbery a mass darker than the rest, which seemed to move.

The Englishman hesitated. Why didn't he escape while he could? Was he waiting there to watch?

“I am sure,” he thought, “it is not Lupin. Lupin would be more careful. Who is it?”

Minutes passed. Herlock did not move. The mysterious stranger did not move. The Englishman was not a man to remain inactive. He checked his revolver. With his eyes fixed, he sprang directly at the enemy.

There was a sharp click, the man had snapped his trigger. Herlock threw himself headlong into the bushes. The other had no time to turn around, the Englishman was upon him. There was a violent, desperate struggle. Sholmes felt new and irresistible strength. He overthrew his adversary, knelt upon him with full weight, and clutched the unhappy man's throat, like the clamp of a vise. As the light from his flashlight fell on the prisoner's face, he let go the man's throat:

“Wilson! For God's sake—”

“Sholmes,” whispered a hoarse voice.

They remained a long time without speaking a word, both completely overcome. The Englishman for the first time felt his brain refuse to work. There was a sound of a passing automobile. The wind shook the leaves in the trees above them. Sholmes did not move. His five fingers were still on Dr. Wilson's throat.

Suddenly Herlock Sholmes let go Wilson's throat, seized him by the shoulders and shook him in a frenzy of anger.

“What are you doing here? Answer! What? Did I tell you to go spying on me?”

“Spy on you!” gasped Dr. Wilson. “I did not know it was you.”

“Then why were you here? You were told to go to bed.”

“I did go to bed.”

“You should have slept.”

“I did sleep.”

“You should not have left the hotel.”

“Your letter?”

“My letter?”

“Yes, the one you sent to the hotel.”

“I—you are crazy.”

“I swear it—”

“Show me the letter.”

Dr. Wilson handed Sholmes a sheet of paper. By the light of his lantern he read:

 

“WATSON: Out of bed and fly to Avenue Martin. The house is empty. Enter, inspect, draw an exact plan, and return to bed.

“HOLMES.”

 

“I was measuring the rooms,” said Wilson, “when I saw a shadow in the garden. I had but one idea—”

“And that was to catch the shadow—the idea was excellent. Only let me tell you,” continued Sholmes, aiding his companion to rise and drawing him along. “If, Wilson, you ever get a letter assure yourself that the writing is my own and not a forgery.”

“So—the letter was not from you?” asked Wilson, beginning to see the light.

“No.”

“From whom?”

“Arsene Lupin.”

“But why should he have written that?”

“I don't know. It makes me uneasy. Why the devil did he take the trouble to write it? If it had been me, I could understand, but you. And I ask myself what interest—”

“I want to go back to the hotel.”

“So do I, Wilson.”

They reached the gate. Dr. Wilson, who was first, seized the handle and tried to open it. The gate was locked. He said:

“You must have fastened it when you came in.”

“No, I did not. I left the door wide open.”

“Still.”

Sholmes pulled himself together, and furious, threw himself against the gate. He swore as he always did in his anger.

“It was locked with a key,”' he finally said.

He shook the gate with all his strength, and, recognizing the futility of his efforts, let his arms fall to his sides, saying in a strained voice:

“I understand it all now. It is he. He foresaw that I would return from Creil, and he set a mouse trap in case I should begin my inquiries to-night. Besides, he was polite enough to send me a companion. All this to make me lose a day, and to prove to me that I had better mind my own business; that I could do better than to meddle in his affairs.”

“That is to say, we are prisoners.”

“You have used the exact word. Herlock Sholmes and Dr. Wilson are Arsene Lupin's prisoners. The adventure begins admirably—no, no, it can't be.”

A hand touched his shoulder.

“Look, look—a light!”

One of the windows on the second floor was lighted. They both ran, each by a staircase. They met at the same time in the lighted room. In the middle of the room burned a small candle. Beside it was a basket containing a bottle of wine, bread and cold chicken.

Sholmes exploded laughing.

“A miracle! They offer us supper. This is a fairy palace. A real fairy land. Oh, come on, Wilson, don't look so funereal. This is very funny.”

“Are you sure that it is funny?” groaned Dr. Wilson dismally.

“I am sure it is,” replied Sholmes, rather too noisy to be natural.

“Yes, and that is to say that I never saw anything so funny. It is a farce. What a master of irony! That Arsene Lupin! He pushes you about, but so gently. I would not change my place for all the gold in the world. Wilson, my old friend, you annoy me beyond measure! Am I mistaken, have you not the character to bear misfortune! What are you complaining about? You might have had a bullet in your neck, or I in mine. Be happy, my foolish friend.”

Sholmes managed to persuade Dr. Wilson to eat the leg of chicken and drink a glass of wine. When the candle burned out they lay down on the floor, with the wall as a pillow. The true, painful, and ridiculous side of the situation appeared to them. Their sleep was troubled by dreams.

In the morning Dr. Wilson awoke, chilled and stiff. A slight noise attracted his attention. He saw Herlock Sholmes on his knees, looking at grains of dust with a magnifying glass studying some chalk marks almost effaced.

Followed by Dr. Wilson, who was particularly interested in this study, he examined each room, and in two others he found the same chalk marks. He found two circles on the oaken panels marked with chalk, on a mantel an arrow and four figures on the steps of the staircase.

At last Dr. Wilson said:

“The figures are exact, are they not?”

“Exact? I don't know anything about them,” replied Sholmes, whom this discovery put in good humor. “In any case, they mean something.”

“Something very clear,” said Dr. Wilson. “They represent the number of boards in the floor.”

“Ah?”

“Yes; and as to the circles, they indicate that the panels sound empty, as you can assure yourself, and the arrow is pointed in the direction of the staircase to the next floor.”

“Ah, my good friend, how do you know all that? Your clairvoyance puts me to shame.”

“Very simple,” answered he, with natural pride. “It was I who traced those last night, following your instructions, rather, Lupin's, since he sent the letter.”

Perhaps Dr. Wilson ran a far greater danger than he had in the shrubbery. The great detective could have strangled Wilson, but overcoming his anger, he grimaced for a smile:

“Fine! Fine! Excellent work that gets us nowhere. Your admirable capacity for analysis and observation—has it been exercised otherwise, may I ask? I will surely profit by the results.”

“No, that is all I could do.”

“What a pity, after such a promising beginning. Since it is so we had better get away from here.”

“Get away? But how?”

“By the way in common use for honest people, by the door.”

“But that is closed.”

“They will open it.”

“Who?”

“Kindly call those two policemen who are walking along the avenue.”

“But—”

“But what?”

“It is very humiliating. What will they say when they find that you, Herlock Sholmes and I, Dr. Wilson, have been prisoners of Arsene Lupin?”

“What do you expect? They will laugh till their sides ache,” answered Sholmes dryly, his face contracted with vexation, “but we cannot live here forever.”

“Can't you do something else?”

“Nothing whatever.”

“But the man who brought the basket did not cross the garden. There must be another exit. Let us look for that. Let us try, and if we find it—”

“Well argued, only you forget that the police of Paris have sought this exit for six months, and that I, too, while you were asleep—I went over the house from top to bottom. Ah, my good Wilson, Arsene Lupin is a kind of game we have not been in the habit of hunting. He leaves no traces behind him. That Lupin!”

At eleven o'clock Herlock Sholmes and Dr. Wilson were set free. They were taken to the police station the nearest to the place, where the sergeant, after having questioned them severely, allowed them to go.

“I regret, gentlemen, what has happened to you. You will form a very bad opinion of France. My goodness, what a night you must have passed. Ah, that Lupin is greatly lacking in politeness.”

A cab brought them to Elysee Palace. At the desk Br. Wilson asked for the key to his room. After some search the clerk said:

“But, sir, you gave up your room.”

“I? When?”

“This morning, by letter your friend handed us.”

“What friend?”

“Why, the gentleman who brought the letter. Here's your letter, and, yes, your visiting card still attached to it.”

Dr. Wilson took the letter. It was one of his visiting cards and the writing was his.

“Good God!” he murmured, “another dirty trick,” and he asked anxiously:

“And my baggage? You gave it to him?”

“Certainly, your letter and card authorized us—”

“Well, well!” Saying that, they both walked along the Champs Elysees silently and slowly. A bright autumn sun shone, the air was mild and soft.

At Rond-Point Herlock lighted his pipe and walked on. Dr. Wilson said:

“I say, Sholmes, I can't understand you. You are calm, while he is laughing at you. He is playing with us as a cat with a mouse. Why don't you say something?”

“Wilson, I am thinking of your card.”

“So?”

“So a man at war with us has procured specimens of our writing, and he has now for use one of your visiting cards. Just think of what that means in perspicacity, method and organization.”

“And that means?”

“That means, Wilson, that to fight an enemy so well armed, so well prepared, one must be Herlock Sholmes. And, Wilson,” he added, laughing, “one does not always succeed the first time.”

At six o'clock The Echo de France, in its evening edition, published this note:

“This morning M. Thenard, Police Commissioner of the XVIth precinct, set at liberty Messieurs Herlock Sholmes and Dr. Wilson, locked in the house of the late Baron d'Hautrec, where they passed a pleasant night.

“Robbed of their valises, they have complained to the police against Arsene Lupin.

“Arsene Lupin is content to give the great Englishman a little lesson, begs him not to force so generous a person, to take graver measures.”

“Rot!” growled Sholmes, crumpling the paper. “Childishness. That is the only reproach that I make against Lupin—a little too childish. The gallery counts too much. There is a good deal of the clown in him.”

“So, Sholmes, you will continue the same way?”

“Always the same way,” replied Sholmes, with intense anger. “What would be the use of becoming angry? I am sure of having the last word!”

CHAPTER IV. GLEAMS OF LIGHT AMONG THE SHADOWS.

However well balanced the character of a man—and Sholmes was one of those on whom bad luck never seems to hold—there are still circumstances where the most intrepid man feels the need of gathering his forces before facing the chances of a fight anew.

“I am going to take it easy to-day,” said Herlock Sholmes.

“What am I to do?” asked Wilson.

“You, Wilson, will buy some clothes to replace those stolen. While you're gone, I'll rest.”

“Rest yourself, Sholmes. I will watch over you.”

Wilson said this with all the importance of a sentinel exposed to dangers. His chest swelled. His muscles drew tense. He examined the space of the little room where they had decided to stay.

“Watch, my dear Wilson. I will profit by your watchfulness to prepare a campaign worthy of our enemy. You see, Wilson, we were deceived regarding Lupin. We must start from the very beginning.”

“Before, if possible. But have we time?”

“Six days, old comrade! Five too many.” The Englishman passed the afternoon in smoking and sleeping. It was not till the next morning that he began operations.

“Wilson, I am ready now.”

“Let us go,” cried Wilson, with ardor. “I am ready. My legs feel as if millions of ants were running up and down them when I am not on the go.”

Sholmes had a three hour interview with Master Detinan. He studied the apartment in its smallest details. Then he had an interview with Suzanne Gerbois whom he had sent for by telegraph. Another with Sister Augusta at the Convent of the Visitandines. He questioned them both about the blonde woman.

At each visit Dr. Wilson waited outside, and when the visitors had gone he asked Herlock Sholmes:

“Content?”

“Very,” was the pithy answer. “I was certain that I am on the right track. Forward march!”

And they marched a good deal. They visited the two houses which adjoined the house at the Avenue Martin, and then went as far as Rue Clapeyron, and while he examined the facade of number 25 Sholmes said:

“There are secret passages between all these houses, but what I do not understand—”

For the first time Dr. Wilson began to doubt the wonderful powers of his friend. Why did he talk so much and act so little?

“Why?” said Sholmes, answering the secret thoughts of Wilson, “because with this devil Lupin one works in empty air. Instead of extracting the truth from precise facts, one must draw them from one's own brain to see afterward if the idea adapts itself well to the facts.”

“But the secret passages?”

“They exist! Even if I do find them, in what way shall I be advanced? Will that give me force for an attack?”

“Let us attack him, anyhow,” said Wilson.

He had not finished saying these words when he drew back with a cry. Something had just fallen between them at their very feet, a sack filled with sand, which might have killed one of them.

Sholmes lifted his head. Above them, on the fifth floor, some workmen were on a scaffold, and it was from there that the sack had fallen.

“We are lucky. One step more and we would have caught that on our heads. One would believe—”

He stopped, ran into the house, scaled the five flights of stairs, rang the bell, sprang into the room, scaring the valet, and rushed to the balcony. No one there.

“The workmen, where are they?”

“They have just left.”

“Which way did they go?”

“By the back stairs.”

Sholmes leaned out and saw two men dressed like masons, leaving the building. They got on bicycles and rode away. He turned to the valet and asked how long they had worked on that scaffold: only since morning. They had replaced some other workers.

Sholmes rejoined Wilson. They went to their hotel discomfited. The second day ended in a mournful silence.

The next day they spent sitting on the same seat in Avenue Henri-Martin. This annoyed Wilson, who did not see any fun in sitting there watching three houses.

“What do you expect, Sholmes? Perhaps Lupin will come out of one of those houses?”

“No.”

“Then what?”

“I hope that some trifle will happen, just a little trifle, that will serve as a point to work on.”

“And which will not happen.”

“In such case I will start the spark that will set the powder afire.”

Only one incident happened to break the monotony of that morning, a most disagreeable one.

A man was riding a highly strung horse along the bridle path, between the two levels, when it suddenly reared, and in its struggles for mastery hit the bench on which Sholmes and Wilson were sitting, hitting against the shoulder of the detective.

“Eh, ah,” he said angrily.

The man still struggled with his horse. Sholmes drew his revolver, but Wilson seized Sholmes' arm, saying:

“You're mad, Herlock. What? You were going to kill that gentleman!”

“Let me go, let me go,” cried Sholmes wildly.

The friends began to struggle. Meanwhile the man mastered the horse and rode away rapidly.

“Now shoot him!” exclaimed Wilson triumphantly, as soon as the rider was out of sight.

“Thrice blessed imbecile, don't you understand that that was Arsene Lupin?”

Sholmes trembled with rage. Wilson stammered piteously:

“What? That gentleman?”

“Yes, Lupin.”

“It's unbelievable!”

“Believable or unbelievable, there was only one means of getting proof. In bringing down his horse, I would have had an accomplice or Lupin. Do you understand now, you idiot?”

The afternoon passed in morose silence. At five o'clock, as they were walking back and forth in the Rue Clapeyron, being careful to keep away from the houses so that no other sack would fall upon them, three young workmen came singing along, holding each other's arm. They bumped Sholmes and wanted to continue without letting go of arms. Sholmes, in a bad humor, pushed them aside. There was a mix-up. Sholmes like a professional boxer launched a blow into one man's chest and another into the face of a second, and the third one ran away, followed by the other two.

“Ah,” said Sholmes, “that did me good. My nerves were on edge—and that was what I needed.”

But as he saw Wilson leaning against the wall pale and faint he said:

“Why, what's the matter, dear Wilson, you are pale.”

“I don't know what's the matter with me, but I have a pain in my arm.”

“A pain in your arm?”

“Yes—my—right arm.” He could not lift it. Herlock grabbed it, very roughly, “to find out the exact degree of pain.” The degree of pain was so sharp that he led him into a drug store where Wilson fainted. The druggist and his assistants examined Wilson and found that his arm was broken. They called a surgeon at once. While waiting, they bared his arm and applied soothing—lotions.

“Now, now, patience,” said Sholmes, who was holding the broken arm. “A little patience, dear Wilson. In a few weeks it will be well. They will pay for this, the wretches—do you hear—Lupin, you above all. Ah, I swear if ever—”

He interrupted his threats against Lupin suddenly, and in his excitement let Wilson's arm fall, which caused the unfortunate man to faint again. Sholmes did not even see this, but, striking his forehead with his palm, he cried:

“Wilson, I have an idea—is it by chance?”

Sholmes remained immovable, as though fixed by the “idea,” and he mumbled half-formed sentences.

“Yes, yes, it comes out clear now. We look far away for what is under our very noses. I knew well that all I have to do is to think. Ah, my good Wilson, I know you will be very glad—”

And leaving his old comrade there, he ran to the house number 25. Above the door at the right there was an inscription on one of the stones which read:

“Destange, Architect, 1875.”

At number 23 the same inscription. “That was as expected, but what about the house on Rue Henri-Martin, number 134?”

A cab passed, Sholmes hailed it. He was so impatient to reach the place that he stood up urging the taximan to go faster. When he reached the place he saw the same words and date sculptured in the stone at the right above the door.

And even more important was the fact that the neighboring houses bore the same inscription, Destange, Architect, 1874, a year earlier.

The reaction was so great that he sank to his seat trembling with joy. At last, a ray of light. This was the clue he was looking for.

At a public booth he called Chateau de Crozon. The countess herself answered.

“Hello, is it you, Madame?”

“Mr. Sholmes, is it not? Everything all right?”

“Very well, but quickly, hello, in what year was your chateau built? By whom, and in what year?”

“There is an inscription above the door reading, Lucien Destange, Architect, 1877.”

“Thank you, madame, and good-by.”

He left the booth murmuring: “Destange, Destange, that name is not altogether unknown to me.”

His next move was to consult the national biographical dictionary, where he found:

“Lucien Destange, born in 1840. Grand prize of Rome, officer of the Legion of Honor, author of well-known books on architecture,” etc., etc.

Sholmes returned to the drug store, where, he just remembered, he left poor Wilson. He was taken to a hospital. There he found the poor man, with fever following the shock, and half out of his head.

“Victory, victory!” Sholmes said to him. “I have one end of the string.”

“What string?”

“The one that will lead me to the end. I am now walking on solid ground.”

“Cigarette ashes?” asked Wilson.

“And many other things. Just think, Wilson, I have found the first link in the chain which leads to the different adventures of the blonde lady. Why were these three houses, where the three crimes occurred, chosen by Lupin?”

“Yes, why?” murmured Wilson faintly. “Because, Wilson, these three houses were built by the same architect. That is easy to discover, you will say. Certainly, and that is just why no one ever thought of it.”

“No one but you.”

“But me—who knows that the same architect, in combining these analogous plans, rendered these three acts possible—acts of miraculous appearance, but in reality simple and easy?”

“What luck!”

“It was time, old comrade. I had almost lost my patience. 'We are already on the fourth day.”

“Out of seven.”

“From now on—”

Sholmes was elated. He could not keep still, but walked back and forth in the narrow space, saying:

“And when I think that those scoundrels might have broken my arm, as well as yours! What do you think, Wilson?”

Sholmes continued:

“Profit by the lesson. Our mistake was that we tried to fight Lupin openly.”

“And I have the broken arm,” groaned Wilson.

“Yes, only you instead of us. But no more nonsense. In the open, watched from all sides, I am beaten; but in the dark, free from spies, I have the advantage.”

“Ganimard can help you.”

“Never! The day when I can say 'Arsene Lupin is there, and this is how you can get him,' I will go to Ganimard at once; to his own house, Rue Pergolese, or the Swiss tavern, Place du Chatelet. But until then I shall work alone.”

He approached the bed and laid his hand on Wilson's shoulder and said, affectionately:

“Now, take care of yourself, my old comrade. You will have the honor of keeping two of Lupin's men looking in vain for me to come to see you in regard to your health.”

“I thank you for this confidence,” said Wilson. “I will do my best to fill it conscientiously. But you will not return.”

“Why should I?” replied Sholmes coldly.

“True, true—and I will get well as soon as possible. I beg you to do me one last service, Herlock. Give me a drink of water?”

“Water?”

“Yes, I am thirsty, with all this fever—”

Sholmes said kindly:

“Why, certainly, right away,” and, saying this, he fumbled among the medicine bottles a moment, saw a package of tobacco on the table, lighted his pipe, and suddenly, as though he had not even heard the pitiful appeal for water, he walked hurriedly away, while his old comrade looked in vain for the water.

* * * *

“M. Destange!”

The servant looked scornfully at the individual who stood at the door of the magnificent house at the corner of the Palace Malesherbes and the Rue Montchamn. He regarded disdainfully the man wearing a long, black overcoat, gray, and not shaved. He answered the old man, saying:

“M. Destange is here and he is not. That depends. Have you a card?”

The old gentleman had no card but he had a letter of introduction. The servant took this letter to M. Destange. M. Destange ordered the servant to bring the gentleman in instantly.

The stranger was brought to a large, round room in one of the wings. The walls were lined with bookcases. The architect said:

“You are M. Stickmann?”

“Yes, sir.”

“My secretary says in his letter that he is ill, and sends you to continue the catalogue he began under my directions. And more particularly the German book. Are you accustomed to this kind of work?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Stickmann, with a strong German accent.

Arrangements were soon made, and M. Destange began to work with his new secretary without delay.

Herlock Sholmes was now on the ground floor.

To escape the watchfulness of Lupin and to get to Lucien Destange, the detective plunged into the unknown, adopted many stratagems, and gained, under the most varied names, the good graces and the confidence of many persons, and, in short, lived the most varied life for forty-eight hours.

He learned that M. Destange, in feeble health, desiring rest and repose, had retired from active business and now lived among his books which he had collected relating to architecture. Nothing held the slightest interest for him but his dusty old volumes.

His daughter, Clotilde, was looked upon as queer. Shut in like her father, but in another part of the house, she never went out.

“All this,” said Sholmes to himself, while he was writing the titles of books which M. Destange dictated, “all this is not decisive, but what a step forward! It is impossible that I shall not discover the solution for one of these problems. Is Destange associated with Arsene Lupin? Does he meet him? Does there exist anything here relating to the construction of these three houses? And will not such papers, if I can find them, furnish me the address of Lupin?”

With his intuition, an intuition unique to him, he smelled a mystery surrounding this household. Small things, which he could not have explained, made a strong impression upon him.

The second day as yet he made no important discovery. At two o'clock he saw Clotilde Destange for the first time. She had come to the library for a book. She was a woman about thirty years, brunette, with slow gestures, with that indifferent expression of those who live alone. She exchanged a few words with her father, and left without having even looked at Sholmes.

The afternoon dragged monotonously. At five o'clock Destange said he was going out. Sholmes remained alone on the circular gallery affixed to the walls of the library, about half way up. The day was fading. Sholmes was about to leave when he heard a slight noise. He felt that there was some one besides himself in the library. Long minutes followed. Suddenly a shadow emerged from the darkness quite near him on the balcony. Was it possible? How long had this person been there? How did he get there?

The man descended the steps and walked toward the great oaken closet. Hidden behind the cloth which hung over the railing of the gallery, Sholmes watched the man turn over the papers in the closet. What was he seeking?

Then all at once the door opened. Mile. Destange entered the room in haste, and saying to some one outside:

“So you have decided not to go out, father? In that case I will turn the lights on. Just a second, father.”

The man pushed the double door of the closet quickly into place, and hid himself in the embrasure of a window, drawing the heavy curtains about him. How was it that Mile. Destange did not see him, did not hear him? Very calmly she pushed the electric button and let her father pass before her. They sat down near each other. She took a book which she had brought with her and began to read. After a few minutes she asked:

“And your secretary has gone, has he not?”

“I think so, it was time for him to go.”

“Are you satisfied with him?”

She spoke as though she had not noticed the change in secretaries, that she did not know that the old one was ill and had been replaced by Stickmann.

“Oh, yes,” replied the old man, who began to nod, and he fell asleep in his chair. The young woman continued to read; for a little while, then one of the curtains was drawn aside, and the strange man slipped along the wall, toward the door, in such a manner that he had to pass behind Destange, but in front of Clotilde. Sholmes could see him distinctly. It was Arsene Lupin.

The Englishman trembled with joy. His calculations were right; and he had penetrated the very heart of this mystery.

Still Clotilde did not move, although she could not possibly fail to see him. Lupin had almost reached the door when by some accident her book fell to the floor. Her father awakened with a start. As he did so, Arsene Lupin stood before him, hat in hand, and smiling:

“Maxime Bermond!” cried Destange, with joy, “my dear Maxime, what good wind brings you here?”

“The desire to see you, as well as Mile. Destange,” was the reply, as they all shook hands. The father said:

“You have been away, then?”

“Yes, I returned yesterday.”

“And you will stay for dinner?”

“No, I dine at a restaurant with friends.”

“To-morrow, then. Clotilde, insist that he shall come tomorrow. Ah, my good Maxime, I have been thinking of you so much these last few days.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, I was arranging my old papers in that closet. I found our last account.”

“What account was that?”

“Why, that of the Avenue Henri Martin.”

“How—do you keep those old accounts? What good are they?”

The three left the library and went to a small room which joined it through a large bay window.

“Can that be Lupin?” asked Sholmes filled with a vague doubt.

Yes, evidently it was he, but it was also another man who resembled Arsene Lupin in many ways.

In evening costume, with white tie, his shirt moulding his body, he spoke lightly, and told stories over which Destange laughed with hearty appreciation, arid which brought smiles to the lips of Clotilde. Arsene Lupin redoubled his gay carelessness, and at the sound of that happy and clear voice Clotilde's face became animated. She lost the cold expression which rendered her so unsympathetic.

“They love one another,” thought Sholmes, “but what the devil can Clotilde Destange have in common with Arsene Lupin?”

Until seven o'clock he listened anxiously, profiting by every word. Then with great caution he descended and crossed the library.

Outside, Sholmes made sure that no automobile was waiting. He waited past Boulevard Malesherbes, put on his overcoat, which he had carried on his arm, and straightened up to full height. He then returned to the house and waited, his eyes fixed upon the door.

Arsene Lupin soon came out and walked toward the center of Paris. A hundred steps behind walked Sholmes.

A strange thing happened. Half way between Sholmes and Lupin others walked in the same direction, notably two big, husky fellows, in round hats, while two others, wearing caps, on the sidewalk at the right.

Perhaps it was chance, but Sholmes was astonished to see Lupin enter a tobacco store, the four men stop. They started again as soon as Lupin came out, but each separately, and each following the Chaussee d'Antin.

“Hell!” said Sholmes. “He and I are followed.”

That others shadowed Lupin spoiled the immense pleasure he felt at the idea of capturing alone the cleverest criminal that ever crossed his path. Yes, there was no mistake about it.

“I wonder if dear old Ganimard knows more than he told me?” muttered Sholmes.

He wanted to speak to one of the men, with a plan for working together. As Herlock Sholmes approached him the crowd grew so dense that he feared to lose Lupin. He tried to hasten his steps, but was checked by the crowds. He kept his eyes upon Lupin going up the steps of a Hungarian restaurant at the corner of the Rue Helder. The door was open. Sholmes from a bench on the opposite side of the street could see Lupin approach a table decorated with flowers, and where were seated three gentlemen in evening dress and two ladies in elegant attire, who received Lupin as an honored guest.

Herlock looked around for the four individuals who had followed Lupin, and spotted them among the groups who listened to the music of the Gypsies at a neighboring cafe. It seemed curious to him that they paid less attention to Lupin than to the people about them.

With a rapid movement one of them drew a cigarette from his pocket and saluted a gentleman wearing a long coat and high silk hat. The gentleman held out his cigar to let the other get a light. Sholmes got the impression that they exchanged words, more than necessary for such occasion. At last the man in the coat went up the restaurant steps and looked around the place. When he saw Lupin he advanced, talked quietly a few moments with him, and then chose a table near Lupin. He turned, Sholmes saw that it was the man on the horse.

Now he understood. Arsene Lupin was not followed; the men were part of his gang. The men were guarding his safety, his strong-arm escorts. Wherever Lupin ran into danger they were there to defend him.

Sholmes tore a page from his notebook, wrote a few words with a pencil and slipped it into an envelope. Then he said to a boy who was lying down on the grass:

“Say, boy, get a cab and take this letter to the cashier of the Swiss Tavern, Place du Chatelet. Hurry, now.”

He gave the boy five francs. He disappeared.

Half an hour passed. The crowd grew thicker. It was impossible for Sholmes to distinguish Lupin's men. Some one touched him on the shoulder and a low voice whispered in his ear:

“What is it, Sholmes?”

“Is it you, Ganimard?”

“Yes, I got your note at the Tavern. What is it?”

“He is there.”

“What are you saying?”

“There, in that restaurant, move a little this way. Do you see him?”

“No.”

“He is pouring champagne for his hosts.”

“But that is not Lupin.”

“Yes, it is.”

“I tell you... still, he may be—ah, the rascal! How he looks like himself,” murmured Ganimard. “And the others, accomplices?”

“No. Lady Cleveden, Lady Heath, and ambassadors from Spain and London.”

Ganimard started to go but Herlock Sholmes stopped him, saying:

“You are alone!”

“So is he.”

“No, he has his guard, without counting that gentleman on the inside—”

“When I put my hand on Arsene Lupin's collar and call his name, I'll have everybody in the place with me, even the waiters,” said Ganimard, boasting.

“I would prefer a few policemen.”

“See here, Sholmes, we have no choice.”

He was right. Sholmes knew it.

“Try and keep him from recognizing you as long as possible.”

And he slipped behind a newsstand, without losing sight of Lupin, who calmly sat smiling to his neighbors.

Ganimard crossed the street with his hands in his pocket, as though just strolling, but when he reached the sidewalk, with one bound he ran up the steps. A sharp whistle blew from somewhere, Ganimard bumped into the proprietor, who had suddenly planted his burly form in the doorway and pushed Ganimard back indignantly, as if he were drunk. Ganimard fell back. At the same instant the man in the coat came out. He took the Inspector's part. He and the restaurant keeper quarrelled violently, both holding onto Ganimard, one pulling him and the other pushing. In spite of all his efforts, in spite of his furious protests, the unhappy Ganimard was pushed clear down to the sidewalk.

A crowd gathered instantly. Two policemen, attracted by the noise, tried to break through the compact mass of people, but an incomprehensible resistance prevented them from freeing themselves from the shoulders that pressed against them.

At once, as though by magic, the crowd dispersed. The proprietor, comprehending his mistake, made the most humble excuses. The man in the coat was gone. The police came. Ganimard rushed to the table with the six guests—but now there were only five! He looked about him—there was no other exit than the door by which he had entered.

“The—the—person who was here at this place?” he asked. “Yes, you were six. Where is the sixth?”

“M. Destro?”

“No, Arsene Lupin.”

A waiter approached:

“That gentleman has just gone to the next floor.”

Ganimard flew after him. This floor had many private rooms, and a private door leading out to the boulevard.

“Oh, no use searching for him!” groaned Ganimard. “He is far away.”

But he was not far away, not over two hundred yards, in the Madeleine-Bastille omnibus, which was rolling peacefully along, and which passed the Place de l'Opera, and turned into the boulevard of the Capuchins. On the platform two big men in soft hats stood quietly, while on the upper tier at the top of the steps sat a little old man. This man was Herlock Sholmes, whose head drooped as though half asleep.

“If dear Wilson saw me now, how proud he would be! Bah! it was easy to foresee by the whistle what their game was. There was nothing to do but watch. Really, life becomes interesting with that devil.” At the terminus Sholmes saw Lupin pass by his bodyguards and heard him say in a low voice: “At the Etoile.”

“I'll be there. Let him go in a taxi. I will follow the two.”

The two companions went on afoot and reached the Etoile, rang the bell of a narrow house at number 40 in the Rue Chalgrin. Sholmes hid himself in a shadow to watch.

One of the two windows on the ground floor opened, a man with a round hat closed the shutters. A ray of light shone on the moulding.

About ten minutes later a man came, rang at the same door, and right after—another. Then a taxicab came from which two persons descended—Arsene Lupin and a lady in black, heavily veiled.

“The blonde lady,” said Sholmes to himself. The taxi rolled away.

A few minutes passed, he approached the house, jumped up the windowsill, and, standing on his toes, looked into the room over the moulding.

Arsene Lupin, his elbow on the fireplace, was talking excitingly. The others listened attentively, all standing. Sholmes recognized the man of the coat and the proprietor of the restaurant. The blonde sat in a low chair, her back toward the window.

“A council of war,” Sholmes thought. “The events to-night made them uneasy. Oh, if I could only nab them all at once—all together!”

One of the men walked toward the door. Sholmes sprang from the window, and hid in the shadow.

The man in the coat and the restaurateur left the house by the front door. In a few moments the windows of the second floor were lighted, some one drew the blinds and all became dark. “He and she have remained on the ground floor,” thought the detective. “The two accomplices are on the second floor.”

He waited there a good part of the night without moving, fearing lest Lupin would get away. At four o'clock, seeing two policemen at the end of the street, he joined them, explained the situation to them, and turned over the watching of the house to them.

After this he went to Ganimard's home, Rue Pergolese, and awakened him.

“I have got him again.”

“Arsene Lupin?”

“Yes.”

“If you haven't got him any better than you had him, go away.”

They went to the Rue Mesnil, and from there to the Commissioner Decointre, and then, accompanied by half a dozen men, they returned to Rue Chalgrin.

“Anything new?” Sholmes asked the two police.

“Nothing.”

Dawn. The commissioner had made all arrangements. They rang the bell. The housekeeper, frightened by the police, said she had no lodgers on the ground floor.

“How is that? No lodgers?”

“No, it is on the second floor, the Leroux's. They have furnished the ground floor for relatives from the country.”

“A gentleman and lady.”

“Yes.”

“Who came in last night with them?”

“Possibly, I was asleep—but I do not think so, for here is the key. They did not ask for it.”

The commissioner took the key and opened the door, which was the other side of the hallway. The ground floor had two rooms, empty.

“Impossible!” cried Sholmes; “I saw them, him and her.”

The commissioner sneered, saying:

“No doubt, but they are not here now.”

“Let us go upstairs. They must be there.”

“The next floor is inhabited by Leroux.”

“We will question them.”

They walked up. The commissioner rang the bell. At the second attack on the bell the door opened and an angry man stood shouting:

“Why the hell do you make such a racket?”

Then, seeing who his visitors were, the man said:

“Pardon—in the flesh—I'm not dreaming, it is M. Deccintre—and you, too, M. Ganimard? What can I do for you?”

Ganimard burst out laughing, bent double.

“Is it you, Leroux?” he stammered. “Oh, isn't this funny? Leroux accomplice of Arsene Lupin—this will kill me—and your brother. Is he here?”

“Edmond, are you awake? It is Ganimard!”

Another man, in pajamas and a night cap, appeared, who set Ganimard laughing again.

“Is it possible? No one could have imagined this. Ah, my friends, you are in a fine fix. Who would ever have believed it? Luckily, old Ganimard watches over you, and he has friends to help him, friends who have come from far.”

And, turning to Sholmes, he presented him:

“Victor Leroux, Inspector of Police, one of the best among us. Edmond Leroux, principal in the anthropometric service, and firm believer in the Bertillon system.”

CHAPTER V. THE KIDNAPPING OF SHOLMES.

Herlock Sholmes did not say a word. To accuse the two men? It was useless, without proof. No one would believe him.

His fists clenched, he determined not to betray his discomfort to Ganimard nor his rage at the deception. He saluted the Leroux brothers respectfully and retired.

In the hall he turned to a low door which led to the cellar. Here he picked up a small garnet. Once outside, he turned and above the door near the number 40 he read this inscription: “Lucien Destange, Architecte, 1877.”

The same inscription on Number 42.

“Always twin houses,” he thought. “40 and 42 communicate. How was it that I did not think of it before? I should have remained here with the policemen.”

He turned and said to the cops:

“Did not two persons leave that house after I had gone?”

“Yes, sir; a lady and a man.”

Sholmes took the arm of Ganimard, saying:

“Ganimard, you have enjoyed yourself too much to be angry at me for the trouble I have caused you to-night.”

“Oh, I don't mind at all.”

“Thank you. The best jokes have only one time for laughter. I think that it is time to finish now.”

“I think so, too.”

“To-day is the seventh day. It is absolutely necessary that I be in London in three days.”

“Oh—”

“I shall be there, Ganimard. I beg you will be ready at any time between Tuesday and Wednesday.”

“For a trip like this?”

“Exactly.”

“And which will end—”

“In the capture of Lupin.”

“Do you believe that?”

“I swear on the honor of an Englishman.”

They shook hands and Herlock Sholmes went to the nearest hotel to obtain some rest. Refreshed, confident in himself, he returned to Rue Chalgrin, slipped two Louis into the housekeeper's hand, assured that the Leroux brothers were out, discovered that the house belonged to a M. Harmingeat. Then furnished with a candle, he descended into the cellar by the small door near which he found the garnet.

At the foot of the steps he found another one.

“I was sure,” he thought; “it is here that there is a way out. I'll see if my master key will open the cellar belonging to the ground floor. Good! Ah, let me see. Here the dust has been swept away—and footprints.

A slight noise caused him to listen. He shut the door, blew out the candle, and hid himself behind some trunks. After a while, he saw one of the iron compartments pivot gently, turning with it part of the wall to which it was attached. Light of a lantern streamed through. An arm came next, then a man. He was bent over as if looking for some small object on the ground. He brushed the dust about with the ends of his fingers. He stood up several times and placed something in a small box which he held in his left hand. After this he rubbed out his footprints in the dust, and those of Lupin and the blonde lady.

He gave a hoarse cry and fell to the ground. Sholmes was on him. It took only a second; Sholmes stretched him out on the floor, and tied him hand and foot.

“Will you talk?” he asked the man. The man remained silent. Sholmes knew that to expect the man to speak was hopeless.

Sholmes searched the man's pockets. He found a bunch of keys, a handkerchief and the little box which held a dozen garnets—a poor haul.

What should he do? What to do with the prisoner? Hand him over to the police? What was the use? What advantage would that give him over Lupin? He hesitated, when on the box, this address, Leonard, jeweller, Rue de la Paix, decided his next move.

He simply abandoned the man. He pushed the iron compartment back, and, closing the cellar door, left the place. He notified M. Destange by telegraph that he could not be there until the next day. He then went to the jeweller to whom he gave the garnets, saying:

“Madame sent me here with these garnets.”

Sholmes was lucky. He struck the right note as the jeweller replied:

“Yes, the lady has just telephoned me. She will be here in a few minutes.”

It was not until five o'clock that Sholmes, posted on the sidewalk, saw a lady, wearing a thick veil, approach. Through the window he saw her lay an antique jewel set with garnets upon the counter.

She left soon, stopped at various shops, walked down the Rue de Clichy, and turned down a street the Englishman did not know. In the dusk, she entered a large apartment house, without ringing. She went to the second floor and entered Apartment 3-C. Two minutes later Herlock Sholmes tried one key after another from the bunch he had taken from the man in the cellar. One opened the door.

He saw that the place was absolutely empty, entirety uninhabited. At the end of the hall he spied a thread of light, and, having noiselessly approached, he saw through a glass the veiled lady taking off her coat and veil. She placed them on the only chair in the room, and wrapped herself in a green velvet gown.

He saw her go to the chimney, push the electric button, and half the panel to the right of the chimney slid along the wall.

As soon as the panel was opened the lady passed through, taking the lamp with her.

The system was so simple that Sholmes had no difficulty in doing as she had done.

He had to go forward in the darkness feeling his way. Soon soft things brushed across his face. This startled him at first. He lighted a match and saw that he was in a small room filled with dresses and other feminine garments. He brushed them aside and stopped at a closed door. His match burned out. He looked through the door. The blonde lady was there within reach of his hand. She turned on the electricity. Now for the first time Sholmes could see her face. He gasped. The woman before him was no other than Clotilde Destange.

Clotilde Destange, the murderess of Baron d'Hautrec! Thief of the red diamond! Clotilde Destange, the friend of Arsene Lupin! The blonde lady!

“Yes, by God!” he thought, “I am an ass. Because the friend of Lupin is blonde and Clotilde brunette, I never united the two. As if the blonde lady could remain blonde after the murder and robbery.”

Sholmes could see part of the room, an elegant boudoir, ornamented with hangings in light colors, and precious trifles such as women love to have about them. Clotilde sat quiet with her face hidden in her hands. She was weeping. Great tears ran down her pale cheeks and fell on her velvet waist. Tears continually as though inexhaustible! The slow tears of mournful and resigned despair.

A door opened and Arsene Lupin entered.

They looked at each other a long time without a word. Then Lupin knelt down, drew her head to his breast, clasped her in his arms. Tenderness mingled with pity. They did not move. A sweet silence united them; the tears ceased.

“I desire but one thing,”' he said, “to make you happy.”

“I am happy.”

“No, you weep. Your tears break my heart, Clotilde.”

She let herself be calmed by his caressing voice and she listened with hope and happiness. A smile softened her face, lovely and lovable. He said tenderly:

“Do not be sad, Clotilde. You should not be. You have no right.”

She held out her slender hands, fine and white, saying as she did so:

“As long as these hands are my hands I shall be sad, Maxime.”

“But why?”

“They have killed.”

“Hush! Don't say that. The past is dead,” and he took the poor little trembling hands in his, and kissed them passionately, as though each kiss took away some of the stain of blood. She smiled a little, and the horrible nightmare faded away. She sighed:

“Oh, you must love me, Maxime, you must, because no other woman will love you as I do. To please you, I have done, and do things you tell me to do. I do deeds against all my instincts. My conscience revolts, but I cannot resist—because what I do is useful to you, you wish me to do them—and I am ready to begin again to-morrow, always.”

He replied bitterly:

“Clotilde, why did I force myself on you? I should have remained Maxime Bermond whom you loved five years ago, not the real man that I am.”

She whispered: “I love that other man, too. I regret nothing.”

“Yes, you regret your seclusion.”

“I regret nothing when you are here,” she said passionately. “There is no crime, no sin when I see you. What does it matter? I accept everything, but you must love me.”

“I do not love you because I must but because I do,” he said.

“Are you sure of that?” she asked, looking into his eyes.

“I am as sure of that as I am of myself. In my violent and feverish existence I cannot give my time where I should.”

“Oh, is there a new danger?” she cried, “Speak!”

“Oh, nothing very grave as yet, but he is hot on our tracks.”

“Sholmes?”

“Yes, it was he who launched Ganimard at the restaurant, it was he who posted two policemen in the Rue Chalgrin last night. I have proof. Ganimard searched the house this morning, and Sholmes accompanied him, and, besides—”

“Besides?”

“Well, yes, one of our men is gone, Jeanniot.”

“The housekeeper?”

“Yes.”

“I sent him this morning to Rue Chalgrin to find the garnets which fell from my brooch.”

“Sholmes must have caught him.”

“No the garnets were taken to the jeweller.”

“Then what became of him?”

“Oh, Maxime, I am afraid.”

“There is nothing for you to fear. I admit the situation is bad. What does he know? Where does he hide? His strength is in his isolation. Nothing can betray him.”.

“What have you decided?”

“Extreme prudence, Clotilde. I have resolved to change my residence. The intervention of Sholmes has hastened matters, that is all. When a man like Sholmes is on your tracks you must feel sure that he will not reach the end. So I have prepared everything. Day after to-morrow, Wednesday, the moving will take place. At noon everything will be done. So, you see I have prepared everything. At two o'clock I can quit the place myself after having removed the last trace of our home, which is not a small matter, I assure you. From now to then—”

“From now to then?”

“We must not meet, and no one must see you. Do not go out. I do not fear for myself but for you. I fear everything when it relates to you.”

“It is impossible for him to reach me.”

“Everything is possible with him. Yesterday, when I so narrowly escaped being seen by your father, I had come to search the closet for the old registers. They are dangerous. Danger everywhere. I feel the enemy creeping in the dark but coming nearer and nearer. I feel that he is watching us. He is spreading his nets around us. That is my intuition. It never deceives me.”

“In that case, Maxime, don't think of my tears. Go. I will wait till the danger is over. Adieu, Maxime!”

She kissed Maxime with passion. She led him to the door. Sholmes heard their voices grow fainter.

He felt the need for immediate action. He did not go back the way he came, but followed them and soon found a staircase. At the instant that he was about to descend he heard voices on the floor below. He judged it safer to follow a circular hall which brought him to other stairs. At the foot of this staircase he was greatly surprised to see the furniture he knew. A door stood partly open. He entered the round library, the library where he had worked for two days.

“Ah, now I see,” he breathed, “Clotilde's boudoir communicates with the apartment of the next house, and that house has its outlet on an adjacent street, Rue Montchanin. Wonderful! I understand how Clotilde Destange can join her beloved, at the same time enjoy a reputation of a solitary. I now understand how Arsene Lupin popped out upon me so suddenly in the gallery. There must be another way between the neighboring house and the library.”

Sholmes mounted to the gallery and hid himself behind the cloth along the railing. He remained there until a servant came and turned off the electricity. An hour later the Englishman got out his electric lantern and went to the closet.

He knew it contained the old papers of the architect's plans and account books. On the second shelf was a series of plans classed according to date.

He took those of late years, examined the index page, particularly those of letter H. Having discovered the word Harmingeat accompanied by the number 63, he turned to page 63 and read:

“Harmingeat, 40 Rue Chalgrin.”

Then followed the detail of work done for this man, putting a heater in the house. And in the margin was “See book M. B.”

He found fifteen pages devoted to this M. Harmingeat, of the Rue Chalgrin. Another gave details of work done for M. Vatinel, owner of a house 25 Rue Clapeyron. Another was reserved for Baron d'Hautrec, 134 Rue Henri Martin, another at the chateau de Crozon, and the eleven others.

Sholmes copied the addresses. Then he replaced everything, opened a window, and jumped into the deserted street.

In his room at the hotel he lighted his pipe. Surrounded by clouds of smoke, he studied the conclusions he could draw from the book M. B., Maxime Bermond, alias Arsene Lupin.

At eight o'clock he sent the following to Ganimard.

“I will be at Rue Pergolese and will hand over to your care a person whose capture is important. Be home to-night and tomorrow until noon. Have about ten men with you.”

Then he took a taxicab to the Place Malesherbes, fifty steps away from Destange's house.

Sholmes said to the driver, “My boy, close your cab, make your self comfortable and wait. In about one hour and a half you will start the motor ready to go as soon as you see me, to Rue Pergolese.”

     

When he got to the door, he hesitated. Was it not wrong to follow up the blonde lady while Lupin prepared for flight? And would he not have done better to have found Lupin by the aid of his list?

“Bah, when the blonde lady is my prisoner I shall be master.” He rang the bell.

Destange was already in the library. They got to work. Sholmes was trying to invent some excuse to go up to Clotilde's room, when she entered, said good morning to her father, and sat down and began to write. From his position Sholmes could see her bending over the table. He waited a few minutes and said:

“Here is the book you asked me to give you as soon as I could put my hand upon it.”

He walked up to her before the father could object. He placed himself before her in such a way that her father could not see her face as he said: “I am M. Stickmann, the new secretary of M. Destange.”

“Ah,” said she indifferently, “has my father changed his secretary?”

“Yes, and I desire to have a few words with you.”

“Be seated, sir, till I shall have finished.”

She added a few words to the letter, signed it, sealed the envelope, pushed the papers back, called up her dressmaker on the telephone, asked her to rush a travelling dress she was making which she urgently needed, and at last turned to Sholmes:

“Now, sir, I am at liberty, but cannot our conversation take place before my father?”

“Madame, it cannot. I beg you not to raise your voice. It is preferable that M. Destange does not hear.”

“Preferable to whom?”

“You, madame.”

“I do not permit conversations that my father may not hear.”

“You will permit this one.”

Both rose to their feet, their eyes met and she said:

“Speak then.”

Remaining on his feet, he said:

“Pardon me if I make a mistake on some minor points. I guarantee the general truth of all I say.”

“No fine phrases, sir, I beg. If you have anything of importance to say, say it.”

As she said this the expression of her eyes showed Sholmes that she was on guard, but he continued:

“So be it. I will get to the point. About five years ago your father met Maxime Bermond, who presented himself as a contractor—or architect, I do not know just which. M. Destange esteemed this brilliant young man greatly, and as his own health was failing he turned over some orders to him adapted to his special talents.”

Herlock stopped for a moment and noticed the young woman's face was paler than usual. It was with perfect calm that she answered:

“I do not know anything about my father's business, I cannot see how or why it could interest me.”

“Maxime Bermond is really Arsene Lupin. You know it as well as I.”

Clotilde began to laugh, saying:

“It is impossible. Arsene Lupin, Maxime Bermond really Arsene Lupin?”

“Since you refuse to understand veiled references I know that Arsene Lupin has found in this house an assistant in his crimes. More than an assistant, a blind accomplice, one passionately devoted—”

She rose so calmly that Sholmes was struck by her mastery of her emotions. She said:

“I do not know the aim of your conversation, I wish to ignore it. I beg you, therefore, not to add another word but to leave at once.”

“I certainly did not wish to impose my presence on you forever,” replied Sholmes quietly. “Only I will not leave this house alone.”

“And who is going with you?”

“You.”

“I?”

“Yes, madame, we will leave this house together, and you will go without protest, without a word.”

Absolutely calm, as if they were holding an academic debate.

They could see M. Destange so interested in his books that he saw nothing else.

Clotilde sat down shrugging her shoulders slightly. Herlock drew out his watch.

“It is half-past ten. We leave in five minutes.”

“And if I will not go?”

“If not I will be forced to tell your father about the accomplice of Arsene Lupin, Maxime Bermond.”

“His accomplice?”

“Yes, the blonde lady.”

“And proof?”

“I will take him to Rue Chalgrin, and show him the passage between 40 and 42, the passage which you walked through the night before last.”

“And then?”

“Then I will take him to the home of M. Detinan. We will go down the servant's stairs where you escaped Ganimard. And we will search for the passage to the house next door,” with the door on the boulevard Batignolles and not on Rue Clapeyron.”

“And then?”

“Then I will take him to the Chateau de Crozon, and it will be easy for him to discover the secret entrance. He will see the passage through which the blonde lady entered the room of the countess and stole the red diamond. Two weeks later she went into Consul Bleichen's room and hid a red diamond in the bottle of powder. I cannot quite make out why she did it, perhaps jealousy, but that doesn't matter.”

“And then?”

“Then I shall take your father to 134 Avenue Henri Martin and we will learn how Baron d'Hautrec—”

“Hush, hush!” gasped the young woman suddenly, “I forbid you to say that it was I who—you accuse me!”

“I accuse you of the murder of Baron d'Hautrec.”

“No, no, that is a lie—”

“You killed Baron d'Hautrec. You entered his service as Antoinette Brehat with the intention of robbing the red diamond. You killed him.”

“Oh, sir! I beg you! Since you know so much you must know that I did not kill the Baron.”

“I did not say that you willingly killed him. He was subject to attacks of violent insanity, which only Sister Augusta could control. I learned that from herself. In her absence he must have attacked you, and in the course of the struggle, in defence of your life, you struck. Frightened and horror-stricken at the sight, you flew without taking the ring from his finger. A little later you came with one of Lupin's servants, you put the Baron in bed, you put the room in order, but not daring to take the red diamond. That is what happened. I repeat you did not murder the Baron, yet it was your hands which killed him.”

Suddenly her brow wrinkled, her long and delicate hands tightly clasped, she sat a long time in silence. At last she lowered her hands, showing her sad face, she said:

“You will tell all this to my father?”

“Yes, and I will tell him that I have witnesses. Mile. Gerbois will recognize the blonde lady without her wig. Sister Augusta will know Antoinette Brehat. Countess de Crozon will recognize Mme. de Real. That is what I will tell him.”

“You will not dare,” said she, suddenly regaining control of herself.

He took one step toward the library and she saw that he intended to do as he said. She whispered:

“One second, sir.”

Mistress of herself, she calmly asked him:

“You are Herlock Sholmes, are you not?”

“I am.”

“What do you want?”

“What do I want? I am engaged in a fight with Arsene Lupin, a battle which I must win. While waiting for the end, which cannot be delayed long, I think a hostage as precious as you would be to my advantage. You will come with me. I will turn you over to one of my friends. Soon as the end is attained, you will be set free.”

“Is that all?”

“That is all.”

She seemed to submit, though she wished to gain time. Her eyes partially closed, Sholmes looked at her, now so tranquil and indifferent.

“And.” thought the Englishman, “she doesn't realize her danger? No, she cannot. Lupin protects her. Lupin. Nothing can harm her. Lupin is all powerful, Lupin is all knowing.”

“Madame,” he said firmly, “We have spoken more than five minutes. It is time to go.”

“Will you permit me, sir, to go for my clothes?”

“If you wish. I will wait for you on the Rue Montchanin.”

“You know?” she said, with a sudden fear showing plainly.

“I know everything.”

“Very well.” She called for her things.

They brought her hat and coat. Sholmes said to her:

“You must give your father some reason why you are going out, and why you may be absent two days, perhaps.”

“That's useless, I will return soon.”

Their eyes looked defiant. Sholmes said:

“You are sure of him!”

“And God,” she answered happily.

“Everything he does is right, is it not? All that he wants comes to pass. You approve, and are ready to do anything for him.”

“I love him,” she replied, trembling with the force of her passion.

“And you believe he will save you?”

She replied with a disdainful gesture and, going to her father, said:

“I am running away with M. Stickmann. We are going to the library.”

“Will you be back for lunch?”

“Perhaps, more likely not, don't be uneasy.”

Then, turning to Sholmes, she said coldly:

“I am ready, sir.”

“Without reserve?”

“With an easy heart.

“If you attempt to escape I shall have you arrested, in prison. Remember the blonde lady is under order of arrest?”

“I swear to you that I will not try to escape from you.”

“I believe you. Come on.” They went down the steps together. The taxi was still there, ready for instant departure. He saw the driver's back, his cap drawn down over his ears and the collar of his coat turned up. He opened the door, helped Clotilde to enter, then he got in and sat down beside her.

The taxicab started forward rapidly and soon was in Avenue Hoche, and then the Avenue of the Grand Army. Herlock was absorbed in perfecting his plans.

“Ganimard is at home—I will leave the young girl in his hands—shall I tell him who she is? No, for he will arrest her at once, which would spoil everything. I will consult the list and M. B. will find himself very uncomfortable in fifteen minutes. And tonight, early to-morrow at the latest, I will go to Ganimard and deliver Arsene Lupin to his hands.”

He rubbed his hands together, happy. Giving in to an impulse that was foreign to him, he said to Clotilde:

“Excuse me if I show too much delight, but success is particularly agreeable.”

“You have every reason to be proud of such success, sir.”

“Thank you, but this is a strange street. The chauffeur did not understand.”

At this moment they were leaving Paris by the Neuilly gate. “What the devil!... Rue Pergolese is not outside of Paris.”

Sholmes lowered the glass, shouting:

“Hey you, stop. I told you to go to Rue Pergolese.”

The man appeared deaf. Sholmes shouted still louder:

“I tell you to go to Rue Pergolese.”

The man did not reply.

“Are you deaf, you bloody bugger? I order you to turn back, at once!”

The same silence. He looked at Clotilde and saw a mocking smile playing at the corners of her mouth.”

“Why are you laughing?” he growled; “this has nothing to do with my plans—and changes nothing.”

“Absolutely nothing,” she said sweetly.

A sudden flash of light struck him like a hammer blow. He looked closer at the driver. The shoulders were not as broad, and there was something about the whole person that made Sholmes certain that this man was Arsene Lupin.

“Well, Mr. Sholmes, how do you like the ride?”

“Stop, or I fire!” said Sholmes, drawing his revolver.

“Say, if you wish to hit her you'd better aim at me,” said Lupin without turning his head. Clotilde added lightly:

“Maxime, be careful, the road is wet.” She continued to smile, her eyes fixed upon the road.

“Stop, stop!” shouted Sholmes with his impotent rage, “I am capable of anything!” The barrel of the revolver touched her hair, and she murmured:

“That Maxime is very imprudent! At this speed we are sure to have an accident.”

Was Sholmes beaten at his own game? He put back the revolver and, grabbing the handle to the door, was about to jump out of the cab in spite of the danger. Clotilde said:

“Be careful. There is a car behind us.”

He looked and saw another car following them. Four men were in it.

“Well, it seems, I am well guarded.”

He crossed his arms over his chest and remained silent. They traversed the Seine and passed Suresnes, Rueil, and Chatou. He sat motionless, resigned, master of himself, without bitterness. He tried to figure how Arsene Lupin had taken the place of the chauffeur he had. Was it chance? No, he could not be an accomplice. Who notified Lupin? It must have been after he had threatened Clotilde. No one but she knew it. But since that moment Clotilde and he had been together.

Just then he remembered one thing. The telephone call—her conversation right under his own eyes—with her dressmaker. All at once he understood everything. At the demand for an interview by the new secretary she must have divined his true name and the aim. Coolly, naturally, she called Lupin pretending it was her dressmaker, a plan most likely arranged between them. It was clever—very clever.

They crossed the Seine and began to ascend the hill of St. Germain. About five hundred yards outside that town the cab slowed down. The other car came up to them and stopped. There was no one in sight.

“Mr. Sholmes,” said Lupin, “kindly change cars. This one creeps.”

“Creeps?” said Sholmes.

“Permit me to offer you this fur coat. We are going to ride fast. Some sandwiches? Yes, yes, accept them, for we don't know when we will dine.”

The four men got off the large car. Sholmes recognized one of them as the man in the overcoat. Lupin said to him:

“Take this cab back to the chauffeur from whom I hired it. He is waiting in the saloon at the right of the Rue Legendre. You will pay him a thousand francs. Ah, yes; I forgot, please give Mr. Sholmes your goggles.”

He talked a few moments with Mile. Destange, took his place in the big car and started. Sholmes sat beside him. Lupin had not exaggerated when he said that they would go fast. From the beginning they flew at a dizzy speed. The horizon rushed to meet them and disappeared the next moment as though swallowed with trees, houses, plains, forests in the rush of a torrent falling into the gulf.

Sholmes and Lupin did not exchange a word. The poplars made a noise like the breaking of great waves. Towns melted away, Mantes, Vernon, Gaillon. From one hill to another, from Bon Secours to Canteleu, Rouen, its outskirts, its port, its docks. And then Duclair, Caudebec, the country of Caux whose undulations they skimmed in their powerful flight, then Lillebonne, and Quillebeuf. And now suddenly at the side of the Seine near a little dock where lay a yacht, slender, strong, elegant.

The car stopped, having made more than one hundred and fifty miles in two hours.

A man in a neat blue marine uniform with a gold banded hat, stepped forward, saluting.

“Fine, Captain,” said Lupin loudly. “You got my telegram? The Swallow ready?”

“The Swallow is ready, sir.”

“In that case, Mr. Sholmes, we are ready.”

The Englishman looked about him, saw a group of persons at the terrace of a cafe and another group rather nearer—hesitated an instant—and then understanding that to make a break would be useless, he crossed the gang plank behind Lupin and followed him into the captain's cabin.

The cabin was large, clean, with varnished walls and polished copper.

Lupin closed the door behind them, and, turning brusquely, said:

“Now what do you know, everything?”

“Everything.”

“All? Give the particulars.”

There was no ironical politeness in Lupin's voice. It was the voice of the master commanding.

They sized each other up, enemies.

Lupin said, slightly weakened: “I have found you in my way once too often. I have enough to do without losing my time avoiding your traps. I tell you as a warning that my conduct toward you will depend upon your reply. What do you know, exactly?”

“Everything, everything.”

Arsene Lupin controlled himself with effort, and said:

“I will tell you myself. You know that under the name of Maxime Bermond I remodelled fifteen houses which were originally constructed by M. Destange.”

“Yes.”

“Of the fifteen houses you know four.”

“Yes.”

“And you have the list of the others.”

“Yes.”

“You obtained that list last night at Destanges' home?”

“Yes.”

“And you must know that I have kept one for myself for my own needs and those of my friends—you have given the others to Ganimard in order to discover my retreat.”

“No.”

“Which means?”

“It means that I act alone.”

“Then I have nothing to fear since you are in my hands?”

“You have nothing to fear as long as I am in your hands.”

“That means that you will not remain?”

“No.”

Arsene Lupin approached the Englishman again, and, laying his hand on his shoulder said very gently.

“Listen, sir, I am not in a humor for discussions. You are not in a position to checkmate me. So let us finish.”

“Very well, let us finish.”

“You will give me your word of honor not to seek to escape from this boat before she arrives in England.”

“I will give you my word of honor to seek every possible means to escape,” replied Sholmes.

“But, man! You know that I can have you chained. These men obey me blindly. A word from me and they will put a chain around your neck—”

“Chains break.”

“Throw you overboard ten miles from shore.”

“I can swim.”

“Well answered,” said Lupin, laughing, “God forgive me, I was angry. Excuse me, let us finish. Will you admit that I only want to insure my own security and my friends'?”

“Useless.”

“No, but you can not blame me for that!”

“It is your duty.”

“Well, come on, then,” and Lupin opened the door and called the captain and two sailors. These latter seized the Englishman, and after having searched him they tied his legs and fastened them to the captain's couch.

“Enough,” said Lupin. “Sir, it is because of your obstinacy that I find myself obliged to use extreme measures—”

The sailors withdrew. Lupin said to the captain:

“Captain, one of the sailors will remain near Mr. Sholmes, and you will keep him company as much as possible. Treat him with all due regards. He is our guest. What time is it?”

“Five minutes after two.”

Lupin looked at the clock which hung in the cabin.

“Five minutes after two. How long will it take you to reach Southampton?”

“Nine hours, easily.”

“Make it eleven. You must not reach port until after the departure of the packet boat which leaves Southampton at midnight and reaches Havre at eight o'clock in the morning. You understand, Captain? I warn you, it would be extremely dangerous for all of us if this gentleman should return to France by that boat. You must not reach Southampton before one o'clock.”

“It is understood.”

“So long, Master,” said Lupin mockingly. “Until...”

“Until to-morrow,” growled Sholmes.

A few minutes later Sholmes heard an automobile leaving, and then in a few minutes the steam was put on. The Swallow began to move.

About three o'clock they crossed the mouth of the Seine and were out on the open sea. At this moment, stretched out on the couch to which his feet were tied, Herlock Sholmes fell asleep.

The next morning, last day of the war between the two, The Echo of France published this bit of news:

“Yesterday a decree of expulsion was issued against Herlock Sholmes, the English Detective. At one o'clock in the morning, Herlock Sholmes was set ashore in Southampton.”

CHAPTER VI. THE SECOND ARREST OF ARSENE LUPIN.

From eight in the morning, twelve moving vans blocked Rue Crevaux, between the Avenue of the Bois de Boulogne and the Avenue Bugeaud. Felix Davey was moving from the fourth floor of Number S. M. Dubreuil, the builder who had united the fifth floor of the same house with the fifth floors of the two adjoining houses, was moving also on the same day. Just a pure coincidence. These gentlemen did not know each other.

There was one curious thing noticed by the neighbors in the block, which they discussed later. Not a single one of the twelve vans had the name of the owner painted upon it. And that not one of the moving men went to the saloon as most of them do. They worked fast; everything was finished at eleven o'clock. There was nothing but a pile of paper and rags left behind.

Felix Davey, an elegant young man dressed in the most fashionable manner, went quietly along, sat down on a bench at the corner of avenue Bois, opposite the Rue Pergolese, and read his paper, Near him was a woman who was also reading a paper. After looking around Felix Davey said to the woman without turning his head:

“Ganimard?”

“Left at nine o'clock this morning.”

“Where to?”

“The Prefecture of police.”

“Alone?”

“Alone.”

“No telegram during the night?”

“None.”

“Have they still confidence there?”

“Yes. I do little favors for Mme. Ganimard. She tells me everything her husband does. We spend mornings together.”

“Good. Until further orders you will continue to come here at the same time.”

He rose, without seeming to have noticed the woman, and went to a restaurant where he got two eggs, some vegetables and fruit. Then he returned to Rue Crevaux, saying to the janitor:

“I'll just take a look around to make sure everything is out. I will return you the keys when I come down.”

He went right into the room which was his study. There he seized the end of a gas pipe which could be moved about. He took off a cap and whistled. A return whistle could have been heard. Then he put his lips to the end of the tube and said in a clear voice:

“Nobody, Dubreuil?”

“Nobody.”

“Can I come up?”

“Yes.”

He put the cap back saying to himself:

“Progress is wonderful. It makes life charming. And so amusing.”

He turned one of the marble stones in the fireplace. It opened as a door, with its mirror and carvings. A hidden staircase, built in the very fireplace itself. It was clean with white tiles along the sides.

He mounted to the fifth floor. M. Dubreuil was waiting for him.

“All done down there?”

“It is finished.”

“Everything out?”

“Yes.”

“And the men?”

“Only three men on guard.”

“Let us go, then.”

One after the other they went by the same way to the floor where the servants slept, and came out in an attic where there were three men.

“Anything new?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“Is the street clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“In ten minutes I will leave for good. You go now, if you see the least suspicious movement in the street, let me know at once.”

“Yes, sir.”

The two men went down to the empty apartment and Lupin said, after having adjusted the marble:

“Dubreuil, I would like to see the face on him who may discover this arrangement, so necessary for our safety. Wires, tubes, invisible passages, floors which slide away, and hidden staircases. A real magic show.”

“What an advertisement for Arsene Lupin.”

“An advertisement which could very easily be spared. What a pity to leave such a place. I must begin all over again on new lines. One should never repeat himself. The deuce take Sholmes!”

“Has he returned yet?”

“How could he? From Southampton there is but one boat, the midnight. From Havre one train, the eight o'clock. He missed that midnight boat. The instructions were explicit. He could not reach France till to-night, by the way of New Haven and Dieppe.”

“If he comes?”

“He will come. Sholmes never gives up. He will be too late. We will be far away.”

“And Mile. Destange?”

“I will meet her in an hour.”

“At her home?”

“Oh, no, she will not return for several days, after such storm.... I will do nothing but take care of her. But you, Dubreuil, you must hurry. The embarking of all our cases will be slow, your presence is necessary on the pier.”

“Are you sure that we are not watched?”

“By whom? I fear only Sholmes.”

Dubreuil left. Felix Davey made a last tour of the rooms, picked up two or three torn letters, and then he took a piece of chalk and drew on the dark wall paper of the dining room a square, and in this space he wrote:

“Arsene Lupin, gentleman burglar, lived here for five years and regrets to leave.”

This seemed to give him great satisfaction. As he looked at it he whistled gaily, and then said:

“Now, that I have set the historians on the right road, let's skip. Hurry up, Herlock Sholmes, before three I will have left and your defeat will be complete. Two minutes yet, you are keeping me waiting, another minute—you do not come. Very well, you are a failure. I take my leave. Good-by castle of Arsene Lupin, I shall see you no more.”

He was on the point of leaving when he heard an alarm from the men above, an alarm which cut his lyric short—a rapid, loud ringing.

“What can it be? What unforeseen danger? Ganimard? No—”

He started for his study, intending to fly, but he first went to the window to see if there was any one in the street. No one in sight, the enemy must be in the house. He listened sharply and heard sounds below. Without further hesitation he hurried to the study, and as he stepped in he heard some one unlocking the apartment door.

“Hell!” he muttered. “I have no time. The house is most likely surrounded. The back stairs, useless, impossible. Lucky, the chimney.”

He pushed the moulding quickly, it did not move. He made a violent effort, it did not stir.

“Damn it!” he swore, “I am lost if this plays me false.”

He bore on it with all his weight, but nothing moved—nothing. By a freak of chance the machinery which moved perfectly a moment ago now was out of order.

He tore at it, he clung to it, he pushed it, but the block of marble remained immovable. Was it admissible that an inanimate obstacle barred his road? He struck the marble, he kicked it.

“What is the matter, Arsene Lupin, is there something that does not do as you wish?”

Lupin turned swiftly, and for a moment was struck dumb. Herlock Sholmes stood before him.

Herlock Sholmes! Lupin looked at him with blinking eyes. Herlock Sholmes in Paris! Herlock Sholmes whom he shipped away to England like some dangerous explosive yesterday was here to-day. And he stood there helpless facing him. Ah, for such miracle to happen was contrary to all natural laws. It was illogical, unnatural.

The Englishman said with ironic politeness:

“M. Lupin, I tell you this. From this minute I shall think no longer of the night you made me pass in the Baron d'Hautrec's house, no more of the misfortune of my friend, no more of my being carried away by force in an automobile, neither the voyage to England. This minute effaces all that. I forgot everything—I am paid—paid with interest.”

Lupin remained silent, and the Englishman continued:

“Don't you think so, too?'”

Sholmes seemed to insist as though claiming a sort of receipt in full.

After a few seconds of silence, Lupin said:

“I suppose, sir, that your present conduct is inspired by worthy motives. The fact that you have escaped from the boat is a secondary consideration. But the fact that you are here, alone, gives me reason to believe that your revenge is as complete as possible. And this house?”

“Surrounded.”

“And the two adjacent?”

“Surrounded.”

“The apartment above this?”

“The three apartments on the fifth which Mr. Dubreuil occupied are surrounded.”

“So?”

“So that you are taken. There is no hope for you.”

Lupin now felt the same sensations the Englishman felt during the wild ride in the automobile, the same concentrated fury, the same revolt, the same impotence.

“We are quits,” said Lupin, an admission which seemed to please Sholmes. Then Lupin continued, already master of himself:

“I am not mad. It becomes monotonous to always win. This time I am yours. Caught, Master, I am caught.”

And he laughed as though he had nothing on his mind. He continued: “At last—how the public will be amused! Arsene Lupin caught in the rat trap. What an end! Ah, Master, I owe you more than I can pay. Well, such is life.

He pressed his temples with his clenched fists as though to control the emotions that were overflowing in him, and he made gestures such as children make when amused beyond control. At last he approached Sholmes, saying:

“And now, what are you waiting for?”

“Waiting for?”

“Yes, Ganimard is there with his men. Why does he not come in?”

“I begged him not to do so.”

“And did he consent?”

“I accepted his services only on the condition that he would be guided by me. Besides, he believes that Felix Davey is only an accomplice of yours.”

“I repeat my question. Why did you come alone?”

“I wished to speak with you first.”

“Ah, you wished to speak with me?”

This idea seemed to please Lupin. There are circumstances when one would prefer words to acts.

“Mr. Sholmes, I regret very much that I have no chair to offer you. Would this broken old box do? Perhaps, the sill of this window. I am sure that a glass of beer would be welcome—dark or light? But do sit down, I beg of you.”

“Stop the nonsense. Let us talk.”

“I am listening.”

“I will be brief. The purpose of my stay in Paris was not your arrest. I pursued you because there was no other way I could attain my end.”

“Which is?”

“To recover the red diamond.”

“The red diamond!”

“Certainly, since the one found in the powder was not the real stone.”

“Oh, yes; I sent it by the blonde lady. I reproduced it perfectly, and as the consul was already suspected, the blonde lady, not to be suspected herself, slipped the false diamond into the consul's baggage.”

“While you, you kept the real one.”

“That is understood.”

“Well, that diamond I must have.”

“A thousand regrets, but it is impossible.”

“I have promised it to the Countess de Crozon, and I will have it.”

“How are you going to have it since it is not in my possession?”

“I will have it just because it is in your possession.”

“You think that I will give it up?”

“Yes.”

“Willingly?”

“I will buy it of you.”

Lupin had another attack of laughter, saying when he could speak: “You are a true Englishman. Why you treat this like a business deal.”

“It is business.”

“What do you offer me?”

“Mile. Destange's liberty.”

“Her liberty? Why, I did not know she was arrested.”

“I will furnish Ganimard the necessary proofs. Deprived of your protection, she will be taken.”

Lupin laughed again, saying:

“My dear sir, you offer what you do not possess. Mile. Destange is safe and fears nothing. I ask something else.”

The Englishman hesitated, visibly embarrassed, his cheeks suddenly turning red. Then brusquely he laid his hand on Lupin's shoulder, saying:

“And if I proposed—”

“My liberty?”

“No, but, I can go and convince Ganimard.”

“And leave me here?”

“Yes.”

“But, good God! what good will that do me? This machine does not work any more,” said Lupin, giving the offending moulding a shove. He stifled a cry for the block of marble moved slightly under his touch. His luck was still with him, then!

This was safety, possible escape. And in that case why submit to Sholmes' condition?

He walked back and forth, right and left, as though meditating on his reply. Then he laid his hand on the Englishman's shoulder.

“After weighing everything, Mr. Sholmes, I would prefer to do my business my way.”

“Still—”

“No, I need nobody.”

“When Ganimard gets hold of you it will be all over with you. They will never let you go.”

“Now, who knows?”

“Now, be reasonable. All the avenues of escape are guarded.”

“There is one.”

“Which?” gasped Sholmes, who began to suspect.

“The one I will choose.”

“Those are empty words. You may consider your arrest already made.”

“But it is not.”

“And then?”

“And then, I keep the red diamond.”

Sholmes took out his watch.

“It is ten minutes to three. At three I shall call Ganimard.”

“Then we have ten minutes before us to chat in. Let us profit by that, and to satisfy my curiosity, which really devours me, tell me how you got my address and name of Felix Davey?”

Watching Lupin closely—for his good humor baffled Sholmes, fearing some trick, Sholmes lent himself willingly to that explanation in which his pride was well justified:

“Your address, I got from the blonde lady.”

“Clotilde!”

“Herself. Remember that yesterday morning when I was about to take her away in the automobile, she telephoned her dressmaker.”

“She did.”

“Yes, and I understood too late that you were that dressmaker. And in the boat that night I recalled—my memory is one of the things of which I am rather vain—I fixed the two last numbers of your telephone—73. So, having a list of your retouched houses, it was easy, on my return, to find, in the telephone book, the name and address of Felix Davey.”

“Beautiful. I bow my head to your superiority. But, what I do not understand is how you managed to get the train at Havre, and how you managed to escape from The Swallow.”

“I did not escape.”

“Well, then....”

“You gave the captain orders to reach Southampton not before one o'clock in the morning. They set me ashore at midnight. So I caught the boat for Havre.”

“The captain betrayed me—that is impossible.”

“The captain did not betray you, but his watch did.”

“His watch?”

“Yes, his watch, which I set one hour ahead.”

“How?” gasped Lupin, really surprised.

“Why, the way watches are set forward. By turning the hands. You see, we were talking, seated near each other, and I was telling him some very interesting stories—well, in fact, he did not know a thing about it.”

“Bravo, bravo! But the clock which was hung on the wall?”

“Ah, the clock, that was different and more difficult. I had my legs tied fast, to be sure, but the sailor who watched me during the captain's absence gave the hands a turn for me.”

“He; oh, come! He did not.”

“Oh, he did not know the importance of his act. I told him that, cost what it might, I must get the first train for London, and he allowed himself to be convinced—”

“By the means of—”

“By the means of a little present, which the excellent man has the intention of giving to you.”

“What present?”

“Almost nothing—”

“But what?”

“Only the red diamond.”

“The red diamond!”

“Yes, the false one, the one you substituted for the real one.”

There was a sudden explosion of laughter from Lupin.

“How funny, my false diamond handed to the sailor and the watch of the captain and the clock on the wall—Oh, I shall die laughing!”

Sholmes never felt the struggle so violent between them as now. With his remarkable instinct he realized that beneath that excessive gaiety there was a concentration of thought.

Little by little Lupin approached Sholmes, and the Englishman drew back, carelessly putting his hand in his pocket at the same time.

“It is three o'clock, M. Lupin,” said Sholmes.

“Three o'clock, already. What a pity! I was having such a good time.”

“I am waiting for your answer.”

“My answer, my—but you are exacting! So this is the end of the game. My liberty is the stake?”

“Or the red diamond.

“I play the king,” said Sholmes, at the same time firing his revolver in the air.

“And I, an ace,” said Lupin, suddenly striking out and hitting Sholmes in the solar plexus, which doubled him up. With one bound Lupin was at the chimney, and the marble began to turn—but too late—the door opened.

“Surrender, Lupin, or—”

It was Ganimard, who had been posted closer than Lupin knew. Ganimard was there aiming at him. Behind Ganimard ten men, all solid, husky fellows. Ten hard and merciless men who would have killed him like a dog at the least resistance. Lupin said calmly:

“I surrender,” and he crossed his arms over his breast.

There was a general surprise. In the empty rooms Lupin's words seemed to echo over and over again. “I surrender.” Incredible words. They expected to see him disappear by some trap that a wall would open and rob them again of their prey. But he surrendered!

Ganimard advanced gravely, almost solemnly, as became so great a catch, and slowly laid his hand on Lupin's shoulder, saying:

“I arrest you, Lupin.”

“B-r-r-r!” shivered Lupin. “My good Ganimard, you give me the chills. Why so cold? Come, this is no funeral.”

“I arrest you, Lupin.”

“That is appetizing, isn't it? In the name of the law, of which he is the faithful servant, Ganimard, Inspector of. Detectives, arrests the wicked Lupin. This is a historic minute. It is the second time that such a thing has happened. Bravo, Ganimard! you will go far in your career.”

Saying this, Lupin held out his hands. Ganimard put the handcuffs on him. It was done with solemnity. The police, in spite of their usual rudeness and the bitter resentment, acted with reserve.

“My poor Lupin,” Ganimard said, “what would your noble friends of Paris say if they saw you humiliated like this?”

He then simply, by a sudden jerk, drew his hands apart, the sharp edges of the handcuffs cut into his flesh, and the chain was broken. He laughed:

“Another, comrade, another. This one is no good.”

They put two on this time, while he said:

“All right, you cannot use too many.”

Then, counting the police, he said:

“How many of you are there, my friends? Ten, twenty, thirty? That is a lot. There is nothing to do against such odds. Ah, if you had only been but fifteen!”

He certainly was a great actor playing a role with an impertinent lightness. Sholmes looked at him admiringly.

“Well, Master,” said Lupin to Sholmes, “look at your work. Thanks to you, I am going to rot in the dungeons. Admit that your conscience is uneasy, that remorse is gnawing at your heart.”

In spite of himself the Englishman shrugged his shoulders, as though to say: “It was your own fault.”

“Never, never,” cried Lupin, “give you the red diamond? Ah, no, it cost me too much. I will keep it. During my visit to London, next month perhaps, I will tell you why. Will you be in London next month? Would you prefer Vienna, St. Petersburg?”

Suddenly a ring of a telephone which had not been removed yet.

The telephone! Arsene Lupin grabbed the phone and flung it on the floor to reduce it to atoms. Ganimard caught it, unhooked the receiver and said:

“Hello, hello; number 648, 73, yes, he is here.”

Quickly Sholmes seized the telephone, placed his handkerchief over the mouth to make his voice less distinct.

He looked at Lupin. The same thought was in both minds. The blonde lady. She was calling Felix Davey.

And the Englishman said:

“Hello, hello,” and then silence. Sholmes said:

“Yes, it is I, Maxime.”

At once the comedy changed. Sholmes, mocking Lupin, did not try to hide his anxiety, and his face pale with anguish, he listened. Sholmes continued:

“Yes, finished. I was about to meet you as we agreed—where? At the place where you are. Don't you think that it is still there—”

He hesitated, seeking words. He was trying to question the young girl without committing himself. Besides, the presence of Ganimard seemed to hinder them. And Sholmes continued his merciless Hello, Hello.

“Hello, hello; don't you hear? No,—very badly—now, listen, it is better to return home—what danger? Why, he is in England. I received a telegram from Southampton.” The irony of words! Sholmes said them with pleasure. Then he added:

“Do not lose time, dear friend. I will join you there.”

Then he hung up the receiver, and turned to Ganimard.

“Ganimard, can you spare three men?”

“It is the blonde lady, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“And you know who she is?”

“Yes.”

“Great! With her and Lupin—the day is complete. Folenfant, take two men and accompany Mr. Sholmes.”

The Englishman went away, followed by the three men.

It was all over. The blonde lady was about to fall into Sholmes' hands. Thanks to the battle, Sholmes beat Lupin.

“Mr. Sholmes?”

The Englishman stopped:

“Yes, Lupin.”

Lupin seemed shaken by this blow. He was weary and somber. Still, and in spite of everything he said lightly:

“You will admit that luck is against me. Just now it hindered me from escaping by that chimney, and delivered me to you. And now the telephone makes you a present of the blonde lady. You win.”

“Which signifies?”

“That I am ready to talk business.”

Sholmes took Ganimard aside and asked, in a tone that accepts no refusal, the authorization to exchange a few words with Lupin. Then he returned to Lupin and said, in a nervous tone:

“What do you want?”

“The liberty of Mile. Destange.”

“You know the price?”

“Yes.”

“You know the price, do you accept?”

“I accept your conditions.”

“Ah,” said the Englishman. “But you refused—for yourself.”

“Then it was only myself, Mr. Sholmes, now it is a woman, a woman whom I love.”

He said this very simply. Sholmes made an imperceptible bow, and murmured:

“And the red diamond?”

“Take my cane there, in the corner. Unscrew the handle.”

Sholmes did as he was told, and he saw that the top unscrewed, leaving a hollow, and in that hollow in a ball of putty was a diamond. He examined it. It was the red diamond.

“Mile. Destange is free, Lupin.”

“Free in the future as in the present? She will have nothing further to fear from you?”

“And from no other person.”

“Whatever happens?”

“Whatever happens. I do not even know her name or address.”

“Thank you, and au revoir, for we shall meet again, shall we not, Mr. Sholmes?”

“I do not doubt it.”

A lively conversation followed between Ganimard and Sholmes which Sholmes cut short rudely:

“I regret very much, M. Ganimard, that I am not of your opinion, but I have not the time to convince you. I leave for England in an hour.”

“But the lady, the blonde lady?”

“I do not know that person.”

“But just an instant ago—”

“Take it or leave it. I am giving Lupin to you, and here is the red diamond which you will have the pleasure of giving Countess de Crozon. It seems to me that you have nothing to complain about Ganimard, really.”

“But the blonde lady.”

“Find her yourself.”

Saying that, Sholmes pulled his hat down like a man who has lost too much time already.

“A pleasant voyage, Master,” cried Lupin. My best regards to Dr. Wilson.”

He received no reply. “That is taking English leave. That worthy Englishman does not have the courtesy which distinguishes us. Think, Ganimard, how a Frenchman would have left us under the same circumstances. Under what politeness would he not have masked his triumph but, God forgive me, Ganimard, what are you doing? Ah, I declare, searching the premises, but there is nothing here, nothing at all, my poor friend, not even a paper.”

“Who knows, who knows?” grumbled Ganimard.

Lupin resigned himself to the inevitable. Held by two cops, surrounded by others. But at the end of twenty minutes he sighed.

“Oh, hurry up, Ganimard, you wouldn't find anything.”

Ganimard made a sign. Two men took Lupin by his arms. But they let go of him with a cry of pain. Lupin held long needles with which he pricked the men.

In a rage the others fell upon him, their hatred let loose. They swung and struck madly. One blow harder than the rest hit him on the temple, and he fell.

“If you harmed him you will hear from me,” shouted Ganimard.

He bent down, assured himself that Lupin was only dazed, and ordered his men to carry him by the feet and shoulders.

“Be careful, no rough stuff.”

Lupin opened his eyes and said feebly:

“You, Ganimard, you let them beat me.”

“It is your own fault, damn you! you're obstinate,” replied Ganimard. “You aren't hurt, are you?”

They were on the landing of the stairs and Lupin said, as though suffering:

“Ganimard, the elevator. They will break my bones.”

“A good idea, an excellent idea,” said Ganimard.

They took the self-service elevator. They laid Lupin on the seat carefully: Ganimard sat down beside him and said to the men: “You go down by the stairs and wait for us. Understand?”

He pushed the button, but the door was not fully closed when cries brake out from his men, for the elevator started up like a balloon from which the cable has been cut.

“Good heavens!” cried Ganimard, searching for the buttons to make the elevator go down, but he could not find them, and they shot up so rapidly that he had barely time to shout to his men to rush up to the fifth floor to watch the door.

The police ran up four steps at a time. When the elevator reached the top floor it seemed to break through the ceiling and suddenly stopped on the attic floor devoted to the servants. Two of Lupin's men who were waiting, seized Ganimard, who scarcely knew what was happening. A third man helped Lupin out. Lupin said mockingly:

“Never be so kind. Remember this, Arsene Lupin does not let anyone strike him for no reason. Adieu!”

The elevator door was closed and Ganimard was sent down to the lower floors.

Without saying one word Ganimard ran to the back stairs and up again hoping against hope to find Lupin somewhere. This was the only means by which they could reach the floor where Lupin was.

When they reached the attic, they found themselves in a long hall with small rooms on each side, all numbered. This hall led to a bend where they saw a door open. They entered and found on the other side, another long hall bordered with servants' rooms. At the extreme end was a back stairs for the use of the servants. Ganimard descended the stairs as rapidly as his years permitted, he crossed a court, and found himself in Rue Picot. Then he understood. The two houses were built end to end, and faced different streets.

He entered the janitor's lodge, and, showing his card, said:

“Four men have just passed out?”

“Yes, two servants from the fourth floor, and two friends.”

“Who lives on the fourth floor?”

“The Fauvels and their cousins, Provost. They moved away to-day. The two servants just left.”

“God!” said Ganimard, sinking weakly into a chair; “what a chance we had. The whole band lived here.”

* * * * *

Forty minutes later two gentlemen reached the Gare du Nord railway station in a cab.

One of the men, his arm in a sling, his face pale, was suffering. The other seemed in very good humor.

“Hurry up, Wilson, we must not miss the train. I'll never forget this week.”

“Nor I,” replied the poor man.

“What a match!”

“Superb!”

“A few little annoyances—”

“Very little ones.”

“But triumph all along. Lupin arrested, the red diamond regained.”

“And my arm broken.”

“For such a great cause, what is a broken arm?”

“Above all mine—”

“Yes. Do you remember, dear Wilson, it was in the drug store, when you were suffering like a hero, that I discovered the light that led me through the shadows.”

“What a fortunate chance!”

The doors were about to be closed, the guards cried:

“All aboard, all aboard!”

The station porter mounted the steps of an empty compartment and set the valises down, while Sholmes helped Wilson.

“What ails you, Wilson,” he said curtly, “will you never get in? Show a little spunk, old dear.”

“I've got spunk,” said Wilson, “and only one hand to use.”

“Well, what of it?” said Sholmes gaily. “Are you the only one that ever had a broken arm? What about the men without arms? There, you are in, all right, eh?”

Sholmes handed the porter a tip:

“Here my friend, don't take any wooden money.”

“Oh, thank you, Sholmes,” said the man with a look that caused Sholmes to drop to his seat:

“You? Arsene Lupin?”

And Wilson, lifting his uninjured arm, said:

“You are arrested, Sholmes told me so.”

Lupin crossed his arms, and said sarcastically:

“Did you think that I would let you leave France without saying good-by? That would be the height of impoliteness. What do you take me for?”

The train whistled. He continued:

“I forgive you. Have you everything you need? Tobacco, matches—yes, and evening newspapers? You will find all the details of my arrest, Master. And, now, au revoir, and delighted to have made your acquaintance—really delighted—and if you ever need me I will be but too happy—”

Then he sprang down to the platform and closed the door.

“Adieu,” he cried, waving his arm, “adieu, I will write you. I hope to hear from you. Just a card from time to time, address, Lupin, Paris. Don't register it, adieu, and good luck to you.”

CHAPTER VII. THE ANTIQUE JEWISH LAMP.

First Episode

Herlock Sholmes and Dr. Wilson were seated, legs stretched out toward a large fireplace.

Sholmes' pipe was out. He emptied the ashes from it, filled it anew, lighted it and blew clouds of smoke to the very ceiling.

Dr. Wilson watched him.

“It is certainly quiet Nothing to do.”

Sholmes remained more silent than silence itself, his smoke rings became more distinct.

Dr. Wilson rose and walked over to the window.

The street was bleak. A black sky vomited a raging rain. A cab passed, and another. Wilson wrote the license numbers in his note book—can anyone tell what may happen?—and said:

“Ah, there is the postman!”

The postman came.

“Two registered letters, sir. Will you please sign for them?”

Sholmes signed the register, accompanied the man to the door, and returned, opening one of the letters.

“You look very happy,” remarked Dr Wilson.

“This letter contains a very interesting proposition. You wanted something to do. Listen.

 

“'SIR: I write to ask the assistance of your experience. I have been the victim of a robbery. The police seem to do nothing.

“'I send you a number of newspapers to enlighten you about the affair. If you agree to help me I will place my house at your disposal.

“'Kindly telegraph me your reply.

“'BARON VICTOR D'IMBLEVALLE,

“'18 Rue Murillo.'”

 

“Well, well,” said Sholmes, “it begins well. A little trip to Paris, why not? Since the affair with Arsene Lupin, I had no occasion to return. To see Paris again!”

Sholmes opened the second letter.

A slight movement of irritation escaped him, and, after he had read the letter, he crushed it and threw it down with violence.

“What is the matter?” asked Wilson, surprised.

He took up the ball of paper, spreading it out, and read:

 

“MY DEAR MASTER: You know the admiration I have for you. You will believe me. Do not undertake the affair which will be offered to you soon. You will cause much harm; and your efforts will fail.

“To save you such a humiliation, I beg you, in the name of our friendship, to remain in London.

“My best regards to Dr. Wilson, and for you, my dear Master, the homage of your devoted

“ARSENE LUPIN.”

 

“Arsene Lupin!” said Dr. Wilson, surprised.

“He annoys me, the beast! He still mocks me. My failure! Didn't I force him to give me the red diamond?”

“He is afraid,” suggested Dr. Wilson.

“Nonsense, Arsene Lupin is not afraid. He is provoking me.”

“But how could he know that Baron d'Imblevalle will write you?”

“How do I know? You ask the stupidest questions, my dear boy.”

“I thought—I imagined—”

“That I am a fortune teller?”

“No, but you do such wonders...”

“Wonders? I no more than another. I think, I deduct, I conclude, but I do not foretell. Only fools who rely on fortunetellers.”

Dr. Wilson tried to understand why Sholmes paced back and forth very much irritated. Sholmes rang for his servant. Dr. Wilson concluded, with reason, that his friend was going to Paris.

“You are going to Paris.”

“Perhaps.”

“And you go in answer to Lupin's challenge to oblige the Baron.”

“Perhaps.”

“Herlock, I am going with you.”

“No, no, my old friend,” cried Sholmes, interrupting his restless walk, “are you not afraid?”

“What can happen to me with you there?”

“All right. We will show him that perhaps he was wrong to provoke us. Hurry, Wilson. Meet me at the station.”

“Without waiting for the newspapers the Baron is sending?”

“What for?”

“Shall I send a telegram?”

“No. Arsene Lupin will know soon enough. I don't want him to know as yet. This time, Wilson, I am going to be more careful.”

That afternoon they embarked at Dover. The crossing was pleasant. In the express from Calais to Paris Sholmes slept all the way. Dr. Wilson stood guard.

Sholmes awakened bright and fresh. The prospect of a duel with Arsene Lupin pleased him. He rubbed his hands with sweet satisfaction.

“At last,” said Dr. Wilson, “we are going to have some action,” and he rubbed his hands again.

At the station Sholmes took the coats, Wilson the valises. They left the place lightheartedly.

“Fine day, Wilson. Paris welcomes us.”

“What crowds!” grunted Wilson.

“So much the better, Wilson, we run less risk being noticed.”

“Mr. Sholmes, I believe.”

Sholmes stopped. Who the devil could have called him by name?

A woman was walking beside him, a young girl dressed very simply, and whose pretty face bore an expression of uneasy distress. She repeated:

“You are Mr. Sholmes, are you not?”

He remained silent from his habit of prudence. She repeated a third time:

“Are you not Mr. Sholmes?”

“What do you want?” he said roughly.

She stood directly in front of him, saying:

“Listen, sir, it is very serious. I know that you are going to Rue Murillo.”

“What did you say?”

“I know, Rue Murillo, Number 18. Well; you must not go there—you ought not go there I assure you that you will regret it if you do. If I say this, do not think that I have any interest in it. It is through reasons that...”

He tried to pass her, but she insisted:

“I beg of you, not to go there. If I only knew how to convince you! Look in my eyes, see, I tell the truth ”

She looked at them wildly with her beautiful eyes, where her very soul seemed to be shining. Dr. Wilson nodded his head, saying:

“You, miss, seem to be very sincere.”

“Yes, yes,” she cried imploringly; “you must have confidence—”

“I have confidence—” said Dr. Wilson, quite carried away by her distress.

“Oh, how glad I am, your friend, too, I hope so, I feel so. How fortunate, everything will come out right What a good idea I had. Listen, sir, there is a train for Calais in twenty minutes—take it. Quick, follow me, this way, and you have only time—”

She sought to draw Sholmes toward the train. He took hold of her arm and said as pleasantly as possible:

“Excuse me, miss, for not being able to do as you wish, but I never give up a case that I have undertaken.”

“I beg of you—I beg of you—ah, if you could only understand.”

He loosened her arm and walked rapidly away. Dr. Wilson said to her gently:

“Don't worry.” Dr. Wilson ran after Sholmes.

 

“HERLOCK SHOLMES—ARSENE LUPIN.”

 

These words printed in enormous letters greeted the two men at their first steps. As they went on, they saw a line of sandwich men walking one behind the other with measured steps; each striking a heavy cane upon the pavement in regular cadence. Sholmes could read the rest of the words on the placard:

 

“The Herlock Sholmes and Arsene Lupin battle. The arrival of the English Champion; The Great Detective attacks the mystery of the Rue Murillo. Read all about it in the Echo of France.”

 

Dr. Wilson nodded his head:

“Say, Herlock, we flattered ourselves that we were travelling incognito. I should not be surprised that at the Rue Murillo, there will be an official banquet with toasts and champagne.”

“When you display your wit, Dr. Wilson, you are worth two Dr. Wilsons,” growled Sholmes.

He started toward one of the men with the evident intention of reducing him and his placard to scraps. But the crowds gathered around the sandwich men, joking, laughing. Repressing his rage, Sholmes approached one of the men. He said to him:

“When did you start this thing?”

“This morning.”

“How long have you been out?”

“About an hour.”

“Were the placards ready?”

“Oh, yes, when we reached the agency this morning they were there.”

Arsene Lupin had foreseen that Sholmes would accept the fight. The very letter that Lupin wrote was a challenge. Why? What was his motive?

Herlock had a second thought. Lupin must be very sure of himself to dare him, Herlock Sholmes'.- Did he not fall into Lupin's trap to have started at once?

“Come on, Wilson,” said Sholmes, with energy. “Driver, 18 Rue Murillo.”

With clenched fists he sprang into a cab.

The Rue Murillo is a street with comfortable private homes, facing the park Monceau. One of these houses was Baron d'Imblevalle's, where he lived with his wife and children, and furnished in the most sumptuous manner.

The two Englishmen crossed the court, rang the bell, and were received by a valet who led them to a small reception room at the back of the house.

They sat down and hurriedly inspected the precious objects of art that filled the room.

“Very precious!” said Wilson, “fine taste—one could deduce from them that he who had the leisure to find these objects must be—say fifty years old—”

He did not complete his sentence. The door opened and M. d'Imblevalle entered, followed by his wife.

Despite the deductions of Wilson, they were young, elegant, and very lively in their manner and conversation. Both overwhelmed Sholmes with thanks.

“It was kind of you to come, it must have been such trouble. We are glad it happened, since it brings you here, and gives us the pleasure—”

“How charming the French are,” thought Wilson.

“But time is money,” said the Baron—“yours above all, Mr. Sholmes. Down to business. What do you think of the matter? Do you think you can win?”

“To say that I must first know what it is.”

“Don't you know?”

“No. Explain the thing from beginning, without omitting anything.”

“It was a burglary.”

“When did it take place?”

“Last Saturday night.”

“Six days ago. I am listening.”

“I must first say that my wife and I go out very little. The education of our children, a rare party, and our collection make up the round of our existence. Our evenings are passed here in this room. So, last Saturday about eleven o'clock I put out the lights, and my wife and I retired to our sleep.”

“Where is your bedroom?”

“The next room, that door there. The next morning, I rose early. Suzanne was asleep. I came into this room as quietly as possible not to disturb her. I was surprised to find the window open!”

“A servant?”

“No one enters here unless called. And, besides, I always bolt the doors. So this window was opened from the outside. The window had been cut, the second pane to the right.”

“The window faces?”

“As you see it faces a little terrace surrounded by a stone balcony. We are on the second floor. You can see the iron fence which separates us from the park Monceau. I am certain the man came from the park, climbed over the fence and onto the terrace.”

“Certain, you say.”

“Yes, we have found near the fence holes left by a ladder in the soft flower beds. The same holes at the foot of the terrace. And even the balcony shows scratches made most likely by the ladder.”

“Is not Monceau Park closed at night?”

“Closed? No, but even if it were, at number 14 a house is being built, and it would be easy to enter that way.”

“Let us get to the robbery. It was committed in this room?”

“Yes. There was here, between that antique virgin and that tabernacle in chiselled silver, a little ancient ritual lamp. It's gone.”

“Is that all?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, and what was this lamp?”

“Why, one of those copper lamps which were used long ago, composed of a stem and a receptacle where the oil was kept.”

“In general they are objects without great money value?”

“Without any value in fact, but this one contained a hiding place where we hid a magnificent ancient jewel, a piece in gold, of no known use, and this was richly set with rubies and emeralds of great value.”

“Why did you do that?”

“Well, I could scarcely tell you. Perhaps the fun of hiding something in a place like that.”

“Who knew it?”

“No one.”

“Save the thief,” said Sholmes.

“How could he know it? We found the secret mechanism by sheer accident.”

“The same accident may have showed it to some one else: a servant, a friend. Continue. Have you complained to the police?”

“Certainly. They made a thorough search I wrote you I do not see any chance for the solving of this mystery.”

Sholmes rose, went to the window, examined the blinds, the terrace, took out his magnifying glass to examine the scratches on the stone, and asked M. d'Imblevalle to take him to the garden.

When he got outside Sholmes simply sat down on a willow chair and looked at the roof of the house with dreamy eye. He suddenly rose and went to the two small boxes, put over the holes left by the ladder at the foot of the terrace to preserve the imprints. He removed the boxes, got down on his knees and measured them. It was finished.

Both men returned to the little room where Mme. d'Imblevalle awaited them. Sholmes remained silent for a short time, and then said gravely:

“Sir, I am struck by the simplicity of this robbery. To put up a ladder, cut a pane of glass, choose an object and go away—no—things do not happen so easily as that. That is elementary.”

“So! What do you think?”

“The truth is the lamp has been stolen by Arsene Lupin.”

“Arsene Lupin!” cried the Baron.

“Yes. It was done by someone without entering this house—a servant perhaps.”

“But what proves that?”

“Arsene Lupin would not have left this room with empty hands.”

“Empty hands, and the lamp?”

“That would not have hindered him from taking that snuff box set with diamonds. If he did not take them it was because he was not here.”

“But the traces were found?”

“Misleading.”

“And the scratch on the stone?”

“Fake. They were made with sandpaper.”

“And the marks left by the ends of the ladder?”

“Fake. Examine the two rectangular holes at the foot of the terrace, and the two holes near the fence. Their form is somewhat alike, but they are parallel here and not there. Measure the distance which separates each hole from the other. The width is different.”

“And you conclude?”

“I conclude that since their form is identical the four holes were made by one piece of wood cut into a suitable shape.”

“The best proof would be to find that piece of wood.”

“Here it is. I found it in the garden under that laurel bush.”

The Baron bowed his head. It was less than forty minutes since Sholmes had come, and already nothing remained of what they had believed.

“The accusation against our servants is very grave. Our servants have been with us a long time, not one would betray us!”

“If one of them did not betray you how can you explain the fact that this letter reached me the same day as yours, even by the same mail?”

Sholmes handed the Baron Lupin's letter.

Mme. d'Imblevalle seemed frightened.

“Did you tell anyone you wrote me?”

“No one,” replied the Baron, “it is an idea that suddenly came to us the other evening.

“There was no one present but our two children—Sophie and Henriette were at the table, were they not?”

Mme. d'Imblevalle reflected and affirmed their presence.

“No,” she said, after another moment of reflection, “they had joined her.”

“Her?” asked Sholmes.

“The governess, Alice Demun.”

“Does she take her meals with you?”

“No, she is served in her room.”

Wilson got an idea.

“The letter written to my friend was put in the post.”

“Naturally.”

“Who carried it?”

“Dominique, my valet for the last fifteen years,” replied the Baron. “You'd lose time suspecting him.”

“One never loses time he passes suspecting,” remarked Wilson wisely.

The initial inquiry was ended. Sholmes asked to retire.

An hour later, at dinner, he saw Sophie and Henriette, the two children, pretty little girls of six and eight years. They spoke little. Sholmes responded to the Baron and his wife so briefly that they became silent in turn. They served coffee. Sholmes swallowed his in one gulp and rose from the table before his hostess. At this instant a domestic handed him a telegram, which he opened and read:

 

“My enthusiastic admiration. The results obtained by you in so short a time are marvellous. I am amazed.

“ARSENE LUPIN.”

 

Sholmes had one moment of murderous rage, and then calming himself by a mighty effort he handed the telegram to the Baron.

“Do you believe now that the walls have eyes and ears?”

“I can't understand it,” said the bewildered Baron.

“Nor I. But what I do understand is that not one move is made here that he does not see. Not one word is said that he does not hear.”

That night Wilson slept with the easy conscience of a man who has nothing to do but to sleep. He went to sleep early, and he had beautiful dreams that he pursued Lupin alone, and was just about to arrest him with his own hands... The sensation of the dream was so clear that he awakened.

Some one was touching his bed. Seizing his revolver, he said:

“Don't move, Lupin, or I fire.”

“The devil. When you do get busy you don't lose time, comrade,” he heard Sholmes say.

“What, is it you, Sholmes? Do you need me?”

“I need you. Get up,” and he led Wilson to the window. “Look, the other side of the fence.”

“In the park?”

“Yes, do you see anything?”

“No, I don't see anything.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Ah, now I do, a shadow—two of them.”

“Yes, against the fence. See, they are moving. Come on, let's go!”

Feeling their way, holding to the banisters, they went downstairs and reached the room which led to the garden. They saw the same shadowy forms in the same place.

“Strange,” said Sholmes, “but I seem to hear a noise in the house.”

“Impossible, everyone is asleep.”

“Well, then, listen.”

At this instant, a low whistle sounded from the iron grating, and they saw a faint light coming from the house.

“The d'Imblevalles must be up. It is their room, directly under ours,” said Sholmes, in a low whisper.

“It is they whom we heard. They are watching the fence.”

There was a second soft whistle.

“I don't understand it,” said Sholmes, impatiently.

“Nor I,” said Wilson. Sholmes then opened the door cautiously, but drew his head in quickly, swearing. Wilson then looked out. Close by them a ladder was set against the terrace.

“Hell,” said Sholmes, “there is some one in the study. That is what we heard. Quick, take away the ladder.”

But before they could reach the place a form slid down the ladder. The ladder itself was taken by another man who ran swiftly to the place where his accomplices were waiting.

With one bound Sholmes and Wilson sprang forward. They reached the man as he placed the ladder against the fence. From the other side two shots rang out.

“Hurt?” said Sholmes to Wilson.

“No,” answered Wilson.

He caught the flying man by the body and tried to hold him. The robber managed to twist out and caught Wilson with one hand while with the other he plunged his knife into his body. Wilson gave one yell and fell to the ground.

“My God!” shouted Sholmes; “if they have killed him I will kill them all.”

He rushed at the ladder—but it was too late, the man had scaled the fence and hid among the trees.

“Wilson, Wilson, it is not serious, say it isn't. It is just a scratch, isn't it?”

The doors of the house were suddenly opened. The first to come out was Baron d'Imblevalle, and then the servants with candles.

“Is Dr. Wilson wounded?”

“Nothing but a scratch,” said Sholmes, trying hard to believe in his own words. Blood was pouring from the wound.

Twenty minutes later the doctor told Sholmes that luckily the point of the knife struck a fraction of an inch from the heart.

“One-quarter of an inch from the heart. Wilson always was a lucky man!”

“It was lucky,” said the doctor.

“And, with his robust constitution he will—” began Sholmes, when the doctor chimed in, saying:

“Six weeks in bed and two months rest.”

“So long?”

“Yes, and longer if complications...”

“Why the devil should there be complications?”

Reassured, Sholmes joined the Baron in the study. This time the mysterious visitor had shamelessly taken the jewelled snuff box, the opal necklace, and everything else small enough to go into the pockets of a petty burglar.

The window was still open, one of the panes neatly cut. Next day they learned the ladder belonged to the house being built.

“In short,” said d'Imblevalle, with certain irony, “it is a repetition.”

“Yes, if you accept the police theory.

“Does not this second robbery shake your belief in your hypothesis?”

“It confirms it, sir.”

“Is it credible? You know that to-night the robbery was done by some one outside, yet you persist that the lamp was stolen by some one in our home?”

“Yes, by some one who lives here.”

“How do you explain it?”

“I can not explain it, sir I state facts. I weigh them separately, and I seek the line that unites them.”

“So be it. We will call the police—”

“Not that, under no consideration,” cried the Englishman. “I will call them when I need them.”

“And the two pistol shots?”

“Don't count.”

“Your friend?”

“He is only wounded. Get the doctor to keep him in bed. I will attend to the rest.”

Two days passed without any incident. Sholmes pursued his labor with minute care for details. The audacious crime committed before his very eyes must be punished. He searched, tirelessly, the house, garden and surroundings. He talked with the servants, watched the stable, the kitchen, and, although he had learned nothing of value, he still persisted.

“I shall find it, and it is here that I shall find it. It is not like the case of the golden blonde, where I walked blindly in paths unknown to me to attain an end of which I knew nothing. This time I am on the battle field. The enemy is not only Lupin, but his accomplice who lives in this house. The smallest detail might solve this mystery.”

It was fate—chance—luck that furnished this smallest detail to him.

The afternoon of the third day, as he entered the room above the study, and which served as a play-room for the children, he found Henriette, the younger of the two sisters. She was looking for her scissors.

“You know,” she said to him, “I am going to make papers like the one you got the other evening.”

“The other evening?”

“Yes, at dinner. The paper with a band on it. I am making one for myself.”

She went skipping along. For any other person these words would only be the thoughtless reflection of a child. Sholmes paid but little attention for a moment. But suddenly he began to run after the child whose last sentence struck him curiously. He caught her at the head of the stairs and asked her: “So you, too, paste paper? How clever!” The child said proudly: “Yes, I cut out words and paste them.”

“Who taught you that pretty game?”

“Alice. I saw her do it many times. She takes the words in the newspapers and pastes them on.”

“And what does she make of them?”

“Letters that she sends.”

Herlock Sholmes went into the play-room affected by this confidence, his brain whirling.

A pile of newspapers was on the mantle. He opened them and saw that groups of words, even lines, were regularly and carefully cut out. It sufficed to read the words which preceded and followed the cut spaces to judge that the words had been cut out, by Henriette most likely. Among those papers there might be one cut by the governess. But how could he tell?

Sholmes looked at the school-books which lay on the table, and then at other books on a shelf. He gave a faint cry of joy. On this shelf, among old copy books, he found an album for children, whose pages were covered with an alphabet, more or less ornamented. In one of the pages the letter S was removed. He found the days of the week, and the word Saturday was missing. Now, the robbery took place Saturday.

Sholmes felt that little tightening of the heart which he always had when he knew he had found the key to some mystery. This presentiment of the truth, this emotion of certainty never deceived him. Feverish and confident he rapidly turned over the pages of this album. A little further along another surprise awaited him.

This page had only capital letters followed by a line of numbers. Nine of these numbers were carefully cut.

Sholmes wrote down in his note book the letters in their order, cdehnoprs—237.

“Hell,” he smiled, “at first sight that does not mean anything.”

Could he rearrange these letters to form two or three words?

Only one single solution came to his mind that corresponded with the logic of the facts.

Being given, that the pages of the album had only capital letters, it was certain that one was able to make only incomplete words, and that these words were completed by letters gotten elsewhere. Under such conditions the message was this:

 

REPOND. CH. 237.

 

The first word was clear, repond-z (answer.).

As to the second unfinished word, it formed, doubtlessly with the number 237, an address which the sender gave to the receiver. They first fixed the day for Saturday, and asked a response to the address CH. 237.

Sholmes turned over the leaves of the album but found no other missing letter. So, until some new development, he turned attention to the explanation already found.

“It is amusing, isn't it?” said the child who had returned. He replied:

“Very, but haven't you other papers that you have already cut out and that I can paste?”

“Papers? No, and, besides, Alice would be angry.”

“She would?”

“Yes, she has scolded me because I told you. She says we should never tell on any one we love.”

“You are perfectly right.”

Henriette seemed pleased with his approval. She took from a little linen bag that was pinned to her belt, a square of paper which she showed Sholmes.

“I am going to give it to you, anyhow,” and the child handed him a receipt such as cab drivers give their customers. Number 8279, the number of the cab.

“Where did you get this?”

“It fell out of her pocketbook.”

“When?”

“Sunday at mass, as she took out some change for the contribution.”

“Good. Now I am going to tell you how to keep her from scolding you. Don't tell Mademoiselle that you saw me.”

Sholmes went to the Baron and questioned him about the governess.

“Alice Demun! It is impossible.”

Without replying to the Baron, he continued:

“How is it that I haven't seen her?”

“She has been away.”

“And now?”

“As soon as she returned she wished to nurse your friend. She has all the qualities. Dr. Wilson seemed enchanted.”

“Ah,” said Sholmes, who had completely forgotten Wilson: “Did she go out Sunday morning?”

The Baron called his wife and asked her the same question. She replied:

“She went to mass with the two children.”

“Before mass?”

“Before that? No, yes... I was upset. I remember that she asked me the night before if she could go out Sunday morning to see a cousin who was in Paris for a day. Do you suspect her?”

“Certainly not, still I must see her.”

He went up to Wilson's room. A woman dressed like a nurse was bent over the sufferer giving him a drink. When she turned Sholmes recognized the girl as the one who met him at the station.

Alice Demun smiled gently without embarrassment. The Englishman wished to speak, but remained silent. Then she resumed her task under his amazed look.

He returned to the floor below, and, seeing the Baron's automobile outside, asked to be taken to Levallois, to the cab garage.

The cab driver, Dupret, who had cab 8279 on that Sunday, was not there. Sholmes sent the automobile back and waited until he came in.

The driver, Dupret, said that he remembered picking up a lady near the park Monceau, a young lady in black with a very thick veil over her face, and very nervous.

“She carried a bundle?” asked Sholmes.

“Yes, a long one.”

“Where did you take her?”

Avenue de Ternes, at the corner of the Place-Ferdinand. She remained there about ten minutes, and we returned to Park Monceau.”

“Would you remember the house?”

“Certainly. Shall I take you there?”

“Yes, right away, but first take me to 36 Quay des Orfevres.”

At the Police Station he had the good fortune to meet Ganimard.

“Ganimard, are you at liberty?”

“If it has anything to do with Lupin; no.”

“Well, it does have something to do with Lupin.”

“Then I won't budge.”

“What, you quit?”

“It is cowardly, it is anything you like to call it. I don't care. Lupin is stronger than us. It is useless.”

“Well, I don't feel so.”

“You will as others have.”

“In that case come along and enjoy the show.”

“O.K.,” said Ganimard ingenuously, “I'll go along.”

They both got into the cab. The driver stopped a little beyond the house on the opposite side of the street, in front of a little cafe with a terrace. They sat down between the laurels. The sun was sinking fast.

“Waiter,” said Sholmes, “bring me some paper and an envelope.”

He hastily wrote and sealed a note. Calling the waiter, he said:

“Take this letter to the janitor of that house. It is the man smoking at the door.”

The man came up to Ganimard. Sholmes asked him if he saw a young lady in black Sunday morning.

“In black? Yes, about nine o'clock. She went to the second floor.”

“Have you seen her often?”

“No, but lately rather often. She has been here almost every day, the last two weeks.”

“And since Sunday?”

“Once only without counting to-day.”

“What? To-day?”

“She is up there now.”

“She is there?”

“She is there and has been, for about ten minutes. Her cab is around the corner on the Place Saint-Ferdinand. I passed her just now on the stairs.”

“And who is the tenant on that floor?”

“There are two, a dressmaker, and a gentleman who rented two furnished rooms a month ago under the name of Bresson.”

“Why do you say under the name of?”

“Just an idea of mine. My wife does his work. There are no suits in his room with the same initials.”

“How does he live?”

“He is out most of the time. Sometimes he does not come in for days.”

“Did he come in the night of Saturday and Sunday?”

“The night of Saturday and Sunday? Let me see—yes, Saturday he came in and did not go out again that night.”

“What kind of a man is he?”

“I could scarcely tell you. He is so changeable. He is big, he is little, he is fat, and he is thin—brunette, blond. I do not always recognize him.”

Ganimard and Sholmes looked at each other. Ganimard said:

“It is he, it is certainly he.”

“Look, there,” whispered the janitor, “there she comes!”

Just then Mademoiselle came out of the door and crossed the street. The janitor said:

“And there is Bresson.”

“Bresson, which?”

“He is carrying a package under his arm.”

“But he pays no attention to the young girl. She is going to her cab alone.”

“I have never seen them together.”

The two detectives rose and followed. By the light of the street lamps they recognized Lupin who was walking away from the girl.

“Shall we follow the girl?” said Ganimard.

“No, no,” said the Englishman in a hurry, “I know where to find her. Don't leave me.”

At a distance they started their pursuit of Lupin. The pursuit was easy, for he did not turn. He walked with a slight limp, so slight that it required the keen eye to notice it. Ganimard said:

“He is pretending to limp. If we only had two police to spring upon our friend. We will lose him.”

But there were no policemen, and they could not count upon the least assistance.

“Let us separate,” said Sholmes. “The place is deserted.”

It was the Boulevard Victor Hugo. Each took one side of the street and kept following; keeping behind the line of trees.

They walked in this way for twenty minutes. Lupin turned suddenly and walked toward the Seine. There they saw him descend to the edge of the water. He stood there a few seconds. Then he returned, climbed the bank, and retraced his steps. They hid themselves behind the pillars of a gate. Lupin passed near them, but he no longer had the package.

As he walked away another man stepped out of the shadow of a house and slipped after him among the trees. Sholmes whispered:

“It seems that some one else is following him.”

The pursuit continued, but complicated now. Lupin took the same road back.

The janitor was locking up when Ganimard presented himself.

“You saw him?”

“Yes, I was putting out the lights on the staircase.”

“Is there any one with him?”

“No.”

“Is there any back stairs?”

“No.”

Ganimard said to Sholmes:

“The simplest way is for me to remain here, and you go and get the commissioner.”

“And if he escapes during that time?”

“How can he?” said Ganimard, sure of himself.

“One against one is unequal.”

“But I haven't the right to force his door.”

Sholmes shrugged his shoulders angrily.

“When you arrest Lupin, no one will worry you about the details. Besides, all you have to do is to ring his bell.”

They went upstairs. Ganimard rang. There was no reply; no sound, no one moved.

“Let us go in,” murmured Sholmes.

“All right.”

They did not move. They feared to move. It seemed impossible that Arsene Lupin could be behind that fragile door which one blow of the fist could knock down. They both knew that he wouldn't allow himself to be pinched so easily. No, he was not there! An almost imperceptible sound on the other side of the door seemed to breathe over the silence. They had the impression, the certainty, that in spite of everything he was there.

What was to be done? The situation was comical.

Ganimard consulted Sholmes with a glance, and then hit the door with his fist.

There was the sound of steps inside which were intended to be heard.

Ganimard hit the door again, while Sholmes struck a blow with his powerful shoulder. The door flew open and both men threw themselves forward.

They stopped short. A shot was heard in the next room. They rushed forward. Another shot and the sound of a heavy body crashing to the floor.

When they entered they saw the man stretched on his face. He gave one convulsive movement, a revolver fell from his hand.

Ganimard bent down and turned the face of the dead man. It was covered with blood trickling from two wounds, on the cheek and oh the temple.

“He is unrecognizable,” he said.

“Nevertheless, he is not Lupin,” said Sholmes.

“How do you know?” asked Ganimard. “You have not examined him.”

“Needless!” sneered the Englishman again. “Do you think Arsene Lupin would kill himself?”

“But, we recognized him outside.”

“We believed it because we wanted to.”

“Then it must be one of his men.”

“They do not kill themselves, either.”

“Well, who is he?”

They searched the body. In one pocket they found an empty pocketbook, and in another, a few gold Louis. No more.

In the baggage, two valises and one large trunk, there was nothing. On the chimney there was a bundle of newspapers.

An hour later, Ganimard and Sholmes withdrew, they knew no more about this suicide than when they entered.

Who was he? Why did he kill himself? How was he connected with the ancient lamp? Who was it that followed him?

* * * * *

Herlock Sholmes went to bed in a very bad humor. In the morning he received the following note:

“Arsene Lupin has the honor to notify you of his tragic death in the person of M. Bresson and begs you to be present at his service and burial at the expense of the State, Thursday, the 25th of June.”

CHAPTER VIII. SECOND PART OF THE ANTIQUE LAMP.

“You see,” said Sholmes, waving the telegram before Wilson's eyes, “what exasperates me most is that I feel the eye of Lupin fixed upon me continually. Not one of my most secret thoughts escape him. I am like an actor whose very steps are regulated. Do you understand, Wilson?'”

Wilson at that moment was soundly asleep. But whether he heard mattered little to Sholmes, who continued:

“Amuse yourself Lupin, my good man. You are sure to betray yourself.”

He walked back and forth in the room with heavy steps.

“And now,” he continued, “I am beginning to see my way clear. First I must learn more about Bresson. After that it is between Alice Demun and myself. I shall learn what those two separate letters, the C and the H, mean. For it all rests upon that.”

At this moment she entered, and, seeing Sholmes gesticulating wildly, said gently:

“Mr. Sholmes, I am going to scold you if you wake my patient.”

Sholmes looked at her for a moment amazed.

“Why do you look at me like that, Mr. Sholmes? You always seem to have a hidden thought—what is it?”

He approached her and said in a low voice:

“Bresson committed suicide last night.”

She repeated the words without seeming to understand. There was no change in her calmness.

“You have been told, doubtless,” he said, with irritation. “You are cleverer than I thought. But why deceive me like this?”

He took the album from the table, and, opening it to the page from which the letters were cut out, said sternly:

“Tell me in what order you arranged these letters cut out of this book.”

“In what order?”

She repeated these words as though to understand their meaning.

He continued with his English obstinacy:

“Yes; here are the letters you used. What did you say to Bresson?”

“The letters I used? What did I say?” and she suddenly began to laugh:

“Oh, yes; I understand now. I am the accomplice. There is a Bresson who stole the lamp and who killed himself, and I am the friend of that man. That's funny!”

“Whom did you see last night in the avenue des Ternes?”

“Whom? Why, my dressmaker, Mme. Langeais. Is my dressmaker and my friend M. Bresson the same?”

Sholmes doubted. One can feign terror, joy, uneasiness, but not indifference, and not such a happy and careless laugh.

“One more word. Why did you meet me at the station to induce me to return to London?”

“You are too curious, sir,” she replied, still laughing in the most natural way. “To punish you, you shall know nothing. I have to fill this prescription. I am going.”

And before he could frame an objection she was gone. “I was taken in,” said Sholmes to himself. “I got nothing from her but she knows what I know.”

“Sholmes, Sholmes,” sighed a feeble voice.

He approached the bed where Wilson lay, and bent down to hear.

“What is it, old friend?”

Wilson said in a faint whisper:

“No, Sholmes, it is not she who—not Alice Demun, impossible.”

“What are you saying? I tell you she did. It is only when I am dealing with a creature like Lupin, that I lose my head, and act like such an idiot. Now she knows that I know about the album and I bet that Lupin will know this in less than an hour. In less than an hour? In ten minutes—now. The druggist—the prescription—lies, all lies.”

He left his old comrade and ran down the street, and saw her enter a pharmacy. A few minutes later she came out with a small package in her hand. On the way back a beggar man in a whining voice asked her for charity. She stopped, took a coin from her purse and gave it to him. She continued on her way.

“She spoke to him,” said Sholmes to himself, “I am sure.”

It was an intuition strong enough to cause Sholmes to act upon it at once. Sholmes followed the beggar.

They reached, one close behind the other, Place Saint-Ferdinand. The man wandered around the Bresson house, sometimes lifting his eyes to the floor where the blinds were closed, watching those who entered the house.

At the end of an hour the beggar got on a car going toward Neuilly. Sholmes sat down behind him, beside a man who hid behind a newspaper. At the fortifications the paper was lowered and Sholmes recognized Ganimard. Ganimard whispered in his ear: “It is the man who followed Bresson last night. He's been loafing around the place for an hour.”

“Nothing new about Bresson?” asked Sholmes.

“Yes, a letter came for him this morning.”

“Then it must have been posted yesterday before the writer could have known of Bresson's death.”

“Right. It is in the hands of the Coroner. I remember what it contains. It said:

“'He will not accept anything else. He wants all. If not, he will act.'

“There is no signature,” added Ganimard, “those few words can do us little good.”

“I beg to differ, Ganimard, those few lines seem to me to be very interesting.”

“And why, may I ask?”

“For entirely personal reasons,” replied Sholmes.

The car stopped at Rue du Chateau, at the end of the line.

The man got off and went along peacefully.

Sholmes followed so closely that Ganimard grew afraid, and said:

“If he turns around we are caught.”

“He won't turn now. He is an accomplice of Arsene Lupin, and the fact that he walks with his hands in his pockets, proves that he knows he is followed.”

“But we are close enough to...”

“Not close enough. He is too sure of himself.”

“Look, look, there at the cafe are two bicycle policemen. How can he slip through our hands now?”

“The beggar does not seem to care. He himself is talking to them.”

“The sonofabitch!” swore Ganimard, “he has got nerve.”

The man had gone to the two bicycle policemen, said a few words to them and mounted a bicycle standing against the wall of the cafe. The three rode away rapidly.

The Englishman burst out angrily:

“See! Didn't I tell you? One, two, three, and away, Ganimard. He is well fixed, what with policemen in his pay! I told you that our man was too calm.”

“What then?” said Ganimard, angrily.

“Don't get mad. We will get him. We must have reinforcements.”

“Folenfant is waiting for me at the Avenue de Neuilly.”

“All right, get him and come back here to me.”

Ganimard went for Folenfant. Sholmes followed the tracks of the wheels in the dust. And he saw that these tracks led to the bank of the Seine and that the three men had turned the same as Bresson the night before. He thus reached the same place. Just opposite was a small bit of land pointing out into the river. A small boat was fastened to a stake there.

Bresson had thrown his package down here. Sholmes went to the edge, saw that the water was shallow along there, and that it would be easy to find the package—unless the three men had found it already.

“No,” he said, “they did not have time enough. Why did they come here?”

A man, fishing, was sitting in the boat. Sholmes asked him:

“Have you seen three men on bicycles?”

The fisherman shook his head. The Englishman insisted.

“But you must have, three men on bicycles. They stopped three yards from you.”

The fisherman pulled in his line, and, taking a note book from his pocket, wrote something, tore it out, handed it to the Englishman.

The great English detective shuddered with surprise. At the first glance he recognized on the paper the series of letters torn from the album.

“CDEHNOPRSEO—237.”

A murky sun fell upon the river. The man resumed fishing.

“Can it be?” thought Sholmes. The truth dawned on him. It must be he, for only he was capable of sitting so calmly. Who else knew the story of the album? She had notified him.

Suddenly the Englishman felt his revolver, his eyes were fixed upon the back of the man, just a little below the nape of the neck. One careless move and the life of that man would end miserably.

The fisherman did not move.

Sholmes clenched the gun with a ferocious desire to end it all. Death would be certain, it would end it all.

“Ah,” thought Sholmes, “if he would move... One second more, I shall fire.”

Noise of steps caused Sholmes to turn his head, and he saw Ganimard who was coming with reinforcements.

Sholmes made a spring and with one bound was in the boat which instantly began to float down the stream. The shock must have broken it away from its mooring. He fell upon Lupin and got a half-nelson on him. The two men fell to the bottom of the boat.

“Swell, swell!” cried Lupin, while he fought Sholmes. “What will this prove? You do not know what to do with me nor I with you. We will sit here like two imbeciles.”

The oars, loosened from the locks during the struggle, were now drifting out of reach. Shouts and cries along the banks. Lupin continued:

“How useless, good Lord! You have lost all sense, and at your age! You are a very, very naughty boy.”

Saying this, he succeeded in getting free from Sholmes' grasp. Lupin at once leaned over the side of the boat after the oar, saying:

“To get or not to get—that is the question. If you get your oar I shall hinder you from using it. But in life one has to act, without the slightest reason. See what fate has decided for you, my poor Lupin!”

And the boat floated down stream more rapidly. Suddenly Lupin cried out:

“Look out, Sholmes!”

Someone fired. Sholmes bent his head, the fire flashed. A little spurt of water showed where the ball fell. Lupin burst out laughing:

“God forgive him! Our friend Ganimard. Ganimard, you have no right to fire save in legitimate self-defense. So, you are going to fire. It is my dear friend Sholmes that you might kill!”

Saying this, Lupin seized Sholmes and held him up as a shield and shouted:

“Go ahead, shoot, Ganimard, right at the heart—higher, to the left, ah, missed! Try again, Ganimard, now, one, two, three, fire! Missed again!”

Saying this, Lupin aimed a long revolver, and fired.- Ganimard put his hand to his hat, a ball shot through it. Lupin shouted again:

“Now, what do you say, Ganimard?” And with one effort he threw the revolver to the shore.

Sholmes could not help smiling, admiring this man. Sholmes felt that the sensation of danger caused Lupin physical joy, and life had no other aim for this man but the search for danger.

“Admit,” said Lupin to Sholmes, “that you would not give up this boat for all the gold in Transvaal. Pleasant rocking chair? First, the prologue. After that, the last act, the capture and escape of Arsene Lupin. My dear master, I have one favor to ask you, reply by a yes or no. Will you go back to England? It is still time to mend the harm you have done. Later I will not be able. Agreed?”

“No.”

Lupin's face contracted. This obstinacy irritated him. He continued:

“I insist for your sake. I insist, I am certain that you will regret later. For the last time, yes or no?”

Lupin bent over and did something to one of the planks of the boat, which Sholmes did not see. He sat down beside the Englishman, saying:

“I think, Master, we have come here for the same thing—the object which Bresson threw in it. My friends announced your approach. I was not surprised, being notified every hour of your progress. Soon as anything happens at Rue Murillo, which may interest me, quick, a telephone, and I am notified. You understand that under these conditions....”

He stopped. The plank which lifted from its place now permitted water to flow in.

“The devil! The boat is leaking like a sieve. You are not afraid, are you?”

Sholmes shrugged his shoulders without replying. Lupin continued:

“You understand that I hold all the trump cards in my hand. Your defeat will be universally known, and no other Countess de Crozon or Baron d'Imblevalle will be tempted to solicit your aid against me. Do you not see my dear master...”

Here he stopped short, and, using his hands half closed like field glasses, he looked along the shore.

“Well, well, they have a superb boat, a real frigate of war. In less than five minutes they will catch up with us, and I shall be lost. Mr. Sholmes, help me.”

Their looks crossed. Sholmes now understood. They made no movement, either one.

The water was above their ankles. The Englishman took out his tobacco pouch, rolled a cigarette and lighted it. Lupin again spoke.

“Do you not see in this my submission to you? I fight only where victory is sure. I admit Sholmes is the one whom I fear. Now, my dear master, that is what I wished to say to you. I regret that we carry on this conversation while taking a bath.”

The water in reality had reached the seats, and the boat sank deeper and deeper in the water.

Sholmes sat quietly, with his cigarette in his lips, absorbed in the sky. Ah, this man, who, surrounded by perils, the crowds, and tracked by police, still kept his good humor! One minute more, they must sink.

“The essential thing,” said Lupin lightly, “is to know whether we shall sink before the arrival of the champions of justice. Everything depends upon that. Master, I leave my entire fortune to Herlock Sholmes. Good Lord, how fast they are coming! It is a pleasure to see them. Ah, it is you, Brigather Folenfant! And your comrade, Dieuzy, where is he? On the left side of the river. On the right, Ganimard. What fun!”

A jerking movement of the sinking boat, it slowly swung around in the current. Sholmes caught hold of one of the rowlocks:

“Master,” said Lupin, “take off your coat. No? You refuse? Well, then, I will put mine on.”

Lupin readjusted his coat and buttoned it closely, sighing:

“What an obstinate man you are. Really, it spoils your genius.”

“Lupin,” said Sholmes, speaking at last, “you talk too much, and you err in your excess of confidence. You kill me. Without knowing it you have given me, just now, the fact I was seeking. You will find out. Three days from now I will give the solution to M. d'Imblevalle.”

He did not even finish his sentence, for the boat sank down, suddenly. The boat turned over completely and floated, bottom up. Loud cries from both sides of the river. One of the men reappeared, it was Herlock Sholmes.

He was an excellent swimmer and directed his movements toward the boat in which Folenfant was rowing.

“Hold on, Sholmes. We are coming—we'll look for him later. We have him all right. Catch the rope.”

The Englishman seized the rope which was thrown to him, and just as they were hoisting him on board a voice behind him caused him to turn.

“The solution, my dear master, you shall have it. I am surprised that you have not found it yet. What good will it do you? It is then that you will lose the fight.”

Lupin managed to crawl upon the keel of the turned boat even while he was talking, and now he sat astride the keel. Arsene Lupin followed up his discourse as though he hoped to convince Sholmes.

“Understand this well, my dear master, there is nothing that you can do, nothing, absolutely nothing. You find yourself in the deplorable situation of a gentleman...”

Folenfant aimed his revolver at Lupin, saying:

“Surrender!”

“You are an ass, Folenfant. You cut me off in the middle of a sentence. I was saying—”

“Surrender, Lupin!” again shouted Folenfant.

“But God! Folenfant, one does not surrender unless one is in danger. You don't think that I am in danger.”

“For the last time, Lupin, I order you to surrender.”

“Folenfant, you will only wound me if necessary, for you are afraid to lose me. And if you should kill me, think of the remorse you would feel, unhappy man! Your peaceful old age poisoned with remorse!”

Folenfant, beside himself, fired.

Lupin wavered a second, tried to hold to the wet boat, and then sank beneath the surface.

* * * * *

Exactly three o'clock when this happened. At six, Herlock Sholmes dressed in trousers too short for him and a coat too small, borrowed from an innkeeper at Neuilly, asked for an immediate interview with the d'Imblevalles.

They found him walking nervously back and forth. He looked so comical that they could scarcely refrain from laughing. His air was pensive, his shoulders bent, and he walked like an automaton from window to door and from door to window.

He stopped short, took up a little ornament from the table, examined it mechanically, and then recommenced his walk, but after a few rounds stopped directly in front of them, saying:

“Is Mile. Demun here?”

“Yes, in the garden with the children.”

“M. d'Imblevalle, this interview will be our last, I wish Mlle. Demun to be with us.”

“Is it necessary?”

“Be patient, sir, the truth will be shown clearly.”

“So be it. Suzanne, will you—”

Mme. d'Imblevalle left the room. She returned very soon, accompanied by Alice Demun, who was a little paler than usual, but stood quietly leaning against a table without saying a word.

Sholmes did not seem to see her, and, turning brusquely to the Baron, he said:

“After several days of inquiry, sir, I repeat to you what I said at first: the lamp was stolen by someone who lives in this house.”

“And the name of the guilty one?”

“I know it.”

“And your proofs?”

“What I have are sufficient to convict—”

“It is not enough to convict. He must also restore.”

“The lamp is in my possession.”

“And the necklace of opals, and the snuff-box?”

“All that were stolen from you are in my possession.”

Sholmes loved these dramatic episodes, this dry way of announcing his victories.

The Baron and his wife seemed stupefied, and listened with silent attention.

Sholmes then began to relate all that had happened during the last three days. Of the discovery of the album, of the expedition of Bresson to the banks of the Seine and the suicide of the adventurer, the struggle with Lupin-, the sinking of the boat and the drowning of Lupin.

When he had ended his story the Baron said in a low voice:

“Tell us the name of the guilty one.”

“I accuse the person who cut the letters from the album and communicated with Lupin by means of these letters.”

“How do you know that the correspondent was Arsene Lupin?”

“From Lupin himself.”

He handed the Baron a small piece of wet wrinkled paper which was the page Lupin had torn from his notebook.

“And please take notice,” said Sholmes, with a satisfied look, “that nobody forced him to give me that paper. It was a boyish prank on his part.”

“Which proved to you—but I see nothing.”

Sholmes went over the letters again with the point of his pencil, CDEHNOPRSEO—237.

“Well, that is the same that you showed us before.”

“No. It is not like the first.”

“Why?”

“There are two letters more, an E and an O.”

“That's right. I had not observed them.”

“Now put those two letters, the C and the H, to that which remained outside the word “responds,” and you will see that the word is 'Echo.'”

“That signifies The Echo of France, Lupin's official organ, where he publishes his personals. Answer in The Echo of France, in the column of personal correspondence, number 237. That was the word that I sought. Lupin furnished it to me so gracefully. I have just returned from the office of The Echo of France.”

“And did you find anything there?”

“I have found the detailed story of the relations of Lupin and—his accomplice.”

Sholmes spread out seven papers all opened at the fourth page, and from which he took the seven following lines:

 

1—ARS. LUP. Lady impl. Protect, 540.

2—540, Await explanations. A. L.

3—A. L. under domin. enemy Lost.

4—540 write address. Will inquire.

5—A. L. Murillo.

6—540. Park three o clock. Violets.

7—237—Understood, Satur—will be Sunday morn; park.

 

“And you call that a detailed statement?” said the Baron scornfully.

“I certainly do. First a lady who signs 540 implores Lupin's protection, to which he replies asking explanations. The lady replies that she is under the domination of an enemy, Bresson, doubtless, and that she is lost unless he comes to her aid. Lupin, who is suspicious, exacts the address and proposes an inquiry. The lady hesitates four days—consult the dates—and at last, pressed by threats from Bresson, she gives the name Murillo. The next morning Lupin advertises that he will be in the park at three o'clock and begs the lady to wear a bunch of violets, as a sign that it is she. Then there was an interruption of the correspondence. Arsene. Lupin and the lady do not use the paper any more. They meet or write directly. The plan is arranged. To satisfy Bresson the lady takes the lamp. It remains to fix the day. The lady who through prudence corresponds by the aid of words cut from books, decided upon Saturday and adds 'Answer, Echo, 237.' Lupin replies that it is understood and that he will be in the park. Sunday morning the robbery was fixed.”

“It all seems to fit together, and the story is complete,” replied the Baron, after a few minutes' reflection.

Sholmes continued: “So the robbery took place. The lady went out Sunday morning, tells. Lupin what she has done, and carries the lamp to Bresson. Everything then happened just as Lupin had planned. The open window, four holes in the garden and two scratches on the stone would give the impression of a burglary. The lady was safe.”

“I can understand, but the second robbery—”

“The second was provoked by the first. The newspapers having told about the lamp, some one got the idea of repeating the whole thing and taking what the other had left. And this time it was a real robbery.”

“Lupin, I suppose.”

“No. Lupin does not act so stupidly. Lupin does not shoot people.”

“Then who was it?”

“Bresson, without any doubt, unknown to the lady who had been paying him blackmail. It was Bresson who entered here, and it was he who shot my poor friend, Wilson.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. One of Bresson's accomplices wrote him a letter yesterday before the suicide, which proves that the first attempts to adjust the restitution for the objects stolen from you had failed. Lupin demanded all. 'The first thing'—which evidently means the lamp... Besides, he had Bresson watched when Bresson went to the banks of the Seine. One of Lupin's men followed him as we did.”

“What was Bresson going to do there?”

“Notified of the progress of my inquiries—”

“Notified by whom?”

“The same lady who had full reason to fear the discovery of the lamp. So, Bresson gathered everything that could incriminate him and hid it in the river where it would be easy to get at after the danger had passed. It was on his return that, shadowed by Ganimard and myself, he lost his head and killed himself.”

“But what did the package contain?”

“The antique lamp and all the other jewels.”

“Then they are not in your possession?”

“As soon as Lupin disappeared I profited by the bath to go to the place where Bresson had hid the package, wrapped in linen and oil cloth. Here it is.”

Without a word the Baron cut the strings, took out the lamp, turned a nut at the base, and then turned the two parts in opposite directions, and there was the beautiful golden piece thickly set with rubies and emeralds.

During that long and cruel accumulation of facts one added to the other, not one muscle of Alice's face changed, not one flash of fear. What did she think? And would she speak now? She must speak, to defend herself and break the iron bands in which Sholmes had so cleverly bound her.

The young girl remained silent.

“Speak, speak,” shouted d'Imblevalle.

She said nothing.

He insisted, saying:

“One word, just one word—say it. I will believe you.”

But that word she would not speak.

The Baron walked rapidly to the end of the room and back, saying to Sholmes:

“Sir, I cannot, believe it. An impossible crime, diametrically opposed to all that I know.” He put his hand on the Englishman's shoulder, adding: “But you, yourself, sir, are you absolutely sure that you are not wrong?”

Sholmes hesitated like a man suddenly attacked, whose defense is not ready, still he smiled as he said:

“The only person whom I accuse is the one in your home who knew that the lamp held this magnificent jewel.”

“I don't want to believe that,” said the Baron quickly.

“Ask her,” said Sholmes.

The Baron went to her and looking her straight in the eyes:

“Was it you, Alice? Was it you who carried on this correspondence with Arsene Lupin?”

“It was I, sir,” she replied calmly.

“Is it possible?” said d'Imblevalle. “I can't believe it. How did you do it, unhappy girl?”

“I did what Mr. Sholmes said I did.”

“What you say is not possible,” said the Baron.

“What?” she asked.

“Because the bolt was shot just as I had left it the night before.”

She blushed, showed confusion and looked to Sholmes for help.

Sholmes was struck by her embarrassment more than the Baron. Had she then nothing to say? Did the avowal mask another lie which destroyed his accumulation of facts?

The Baron thought a moment, and then said:

“The door was fastened. I am sure I found the lock just as it was the night before. If you had entered that door as you say you did, some one from inside our room must have opened it for you. Now, there was no one there but my wife and I.”

Sholmes suddenly covered his face with both hands to hide his thought. He sat down dazed and uneasy. Everything was clear now.

Alice Demun was innocent. The truth, a blinding truth. He saw clearly now. He knew. One gesture and the irrefutable proof had been given to him.

He lifted his head after a few seconds and looked at Mme. d'Imblevalle, as naturally as he could—knowing.

She was pale. Her hands, which she was trying to hide, trembled perceptibly.

“One second more and she will betray herself,” thought Sholmes.

He placed himself between her and her husband to save her from the frightful danger which threatened and all through his fault. But he saw the Baron's face just then and shuddered to the very depths of his being, for the same shocking truth had struck him. He understood, he knew.

Alice Demun tried desperately to fight against the truth. She said:

“You are right, sir. I lied. In fact, I did not enter that way. I went through the garden, and it was with the aid of the ladder that—”

It was a supreme effort of devotion, but useless. The words false. The voice hesitated and faltered. She bowed, defeated.

The next few moments the silence was killing. Mme. d'Imblevalle silent livid, rigid with anguish. The Baron seemed to fight against the crumbling of his honor and happiness. He stammered hoarsely:

“Speak, explain.”

“I have nothing to say, my darling,” she whispered, her heart burning with pain.

“And... Alice...

“Her devotion, her love for me... everything to save me.'

“Save you from what—from whom?”

“From that man.”

“Bresson?”

“Yes. He threatened me. I met him at Betraux's. I was foolish to listen to him... nothing, nothing that you will not forgive—I wrote him two letters... letters you shall see... I bought them back... you know how. Oh, have pity on me, I have suffered so much!”

“You, Suzanne, you?”

Then, in short, broken sentences she told him all: infamy, her remorse, her despair. She told also of Alice's, devotion. The young girl sympathized with her wretchedness and despair, and had written to Lupin to save her from the claws of Bresson.

“You, Suzanne? You? How could you?” Baron d'Imblevalle repeated over and over.

The evening of that same day the steamer, City of London, plying between Calais and Dover, sailed over the calm waters. The night was clear and calm. A few fleeting clouds showed above the light sheets of fog.

Most of the passengers had gone to their cabins. A few walked about the deck or lounged in steamer chairs beneath heavy blankets.

One of the passengers, walking back and forth with measured steps along the deck, stopped near a bench where some one lay sleeping. The man stooped to examine the sleeper, and, uneasily, he said:

I thought you were asleep, Mile. Alice.”

“No, Mr. Sholmes. I am thinking.”

“Of what? Would it be impolite to ask?” I was thinking of Mme. d'Imblevalle. She must be so unhappy. Her whole life is ruined.”

No, no, her mistake was pardonable. M. d'Imblevalle will forget her single weakness in time.”

“It will be long before he forgets even if he forgives, he loves her so.”

“You loved her, too.”

“More than I can tell. It was that which gave me strength to look you in the face when I wanted to fly from your eyes.”

“Are you unhappy leaving her?”

“Oh, very unhappy. I had no one but her, and now she suffers so.”

“You will have friends,” said the Englishman terribly upset by all this business, “I promise you—I have great influence.”

“Perhaps, but Mme. d'Imblevalle will not be there.”

They said no more. Herlock Sholmes took a few more turns on the deck, and then sat down next to her.

The curtain of fog thinned and the clouds disappeared. Sholmes took his pipe from his mackintosh, filled it, and discovered he had no matches. He rose and said to a gentleman who sat a few paces away:

“Have you a light, please, sir?”

The gentleman took out a box, struck one, the flame flashed and in the light Sholmes saw Lupin.

Lupin might have supposed that his presence aboard was known to Sholmes, so well did the Englishman master his surprise. With natural ease he offered his hand to Lupin, saying:

“In good health I hope, Lupin?”

“Bravo!” said Lupin, who could appreciate such a marvelous control under the shock of such an unexpected meeting.

“And why bravo?”

“Why? You see me, a ghost, drowned in the Seine. Yet you did not show the least surprise. I repeat bravo, it was admirable!”

“It is not admirable. By the way you fell from the boat I saw plainly that you dived. The bullet never touched you.”

“And you left Paris without learning what became of me.”

“What became of you? I knew. From the moment you escaped drowning your capture was certain.”

“And yet here I am.”

“Monsieur Lupin, there are two men in the world regarding whom nothing can surprise me. Myself and you.”

Peace was signed.

So they talked like friends who esteem each other at his just value.

Lupin told Sholmes how he escaped.

“It was very simple. My friends were watching for me in a motor boat. After having remained half an hour under the over-turned boat I profited for an instant when Folenfant was seeking my corpse the shore. I climbed the keel. My friends had nothing to do but to get me into their motor boat, and fly before the very eyes of five hundred spectators, Ganimard and. Folenfant.”

“Very neat,” said the Englishman. “And now you are going to bet busy in England, I suppose?”

“Oh, just to arrange some business. But I forgot, the d'Imblevalles.”

“He knows all.

“Ah, my dear master, what did I tell you? The evil is irreparable now. Would it not have been better to have let me arrange it according to my plan? I should taken everything from Bresson and sent them to the d'Imblevalles, and two good people would have continued their peaceful life beside each other. Instead...”

“Instead, I have shuffled the cards and brought discord in the bosom of a family that you protected.”

“Yes, I was trying to protect them. Is it necessary always to rob and do harm?”

“So you do good, too?”

“When I have time, and if it amuses me. I find it exceedingly comical that this time I was the good genius and you the evil spirit.”

“Evil, evil! Tears,” said Sholmes uneasily.

“Yes, the family is broken up, and Alice Demun weeps.”

“It was impossible for her to remain there. Ganimard would have reached her, and through her Mme. d'Imblevalle.”

“You are right, master, but whose fault is it?”

Two men passed them. Sholmes said to Lupin in a decidedly new tone of voice:

“Do you know who those gentlemen are?”

“I thought one was the captain of the boat—”

“And the other?”

“I do not know.”

“Mr. Austin Gilett. He holds the same position in England as Dudouis in Paris.”

“What luck! Would you be so good as to present me? M. Dudouis is one of my best friends, and I should be happy to say he same of Mr. Austin Gilett.”

“And what if I take you at your word, sir,” said Sholmes, seizing Lupin's wrist in a grasp of steel.

“Why do you grasp my wrist so tightly, master? I am ready to follow you..”

He allowed Sholmes to drag him along while the two men walked away. Sholmes doubled his haste. His nails cut the flesh.

“Come on, come on,” he said in a low growl, in feverish haste to settle the matter at once. “Come on, faster!” But he stopped short. Alice Demun followed them.

“What are you doing, Alice? Don't you come.”

Lupin replied:

“I beg you to take notice, master, that I am holding her wrist as tightly as you are holding mine.”

“Why?”

“Why? I want you to present her also. Her role in the story of the lamp is more important than mine. Accomplice of Lupin, accomplice of Bresson. You may push your benevolent intervention to its farthest limits, generous Sholmes.”

The Englishman dropped Lupin's wrist, and Lupin did the same to Alice.

They stood facing one another a few seconds, motionless and silent. Sholmes went to his seat and sank nervelessly into it, while Lupin and Alice returned to their seats.

A long silence ensued, and Lupin said:

“Don't you see, master, that whatever we may do we will never be on the same side. You are of one side, I am the other. We may greet each other, shake hands, talk a little, but that's all.” Lupin gave way to a mocking fit of laughter.

Lupin grew suddenly grave, he bent toward the young girl saying:

“Rest assured, never would I have betrayed you. Arsene Lupin never betrays those whom he loves and admires.”

He took from his pocketbook a visiting card which he tore in two pieces and gave half to her. Then, in a respectful and really kind manner, he said:

“If Mr. Sholmes does not succeed, take this card and present it to Lady Strongborough, you can easily find her address, saying at the same time, 'Faithful remembrance.' Lady Strongborough will be devoted to you like a sister.”

“Thank you, sir I will go to her at once.”

“And now, master,” cried Lupin, in the tone of one who has done his duty, “I wish you good night. We have an hour yet, and I am going to profit by it.”

And he stretched himself out on the bench and fell asleep.

The dark lines of the coast began to show on the horizon. The passengers came up from the cabin. Mr. Austin Gilett passed, in company with two men whom Sholmes knew to be Scotland Yard inspectors.

Lupin slept peacefully upon his hard bench.