Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE HOLLOW NEEDLE - FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
BY MAURICE LEBLANC
I. The Shot
II. Isidore Beautrelet, Sixth-form Schoolboy
III. The Corpse
IV. Face to Face
V. On the Track
VI. An Historic Secret
VII. The Treatise of the Needle
VIII. From Caesar to Lupin
IX. Open, Sesame!
X. The Treasures of the Kings of France
Raymonde listened. The noise was repeated twice over, clearly enough to
be distinguished from the medley of vague sounds that formed the great
silence of the night and yet too faintly to enable her to tell whether
it was near or far, within the walls of the big country-house, or
outside, among the murky recesses of the park.
She rose softly. Her window was half open: she flung it back wide. The
moonlight lay over a peaceful landscape of lawns and thickets, against
which the straggling ruins of the old abbey stood out in tragic
outlines, truncated columns, mutilated arches, fragments of porches and
shreds of flying buttresses. A light breeze hovered over the face of
things, gliding noiselessly through the bare motionless branches of the
trees, but shaking the tiny budding leaves of the shrubs.
And, suddenly, she heard the same sound again. It was on the left and
on the floor below her, in the living rooms, therefore, that occupied
the left wing of the house. Brave and plucky though she was, the girl
felt afraid. She slipped on her dressing gown and took the matches.
A voice as low as a breath was calling to her from the next room, the
door of which had not been closed. She was feeling her way there, when
Suzanne, her cousin, came out of the room and fell into her arms:
"Raymonde--is that you? Did you hear--?"
"Yes. So you're not asleep?"
"I suppose the dog woke me--some time ago. But he's not barking now.
What time is it?"
"Listen! Surely, some one's walking in the drawing room!"
"There's no danger, your father is down there, Suzanne."
"But there is danger for him. His room is next to the boudoir."
"M. Daval is there too--"
"At the other end of the house. He could never hear."
They hesitated, not knowing what course to decide upon. Should they
call out? Cry for help? They dared not; they were frightened of the
sound of their own voices. But Suzanne, who had gone to the window,
suppressed a scream:
"Look!--A man!--Near the fountain!"
A man was walking away at a rapid pace. He carried under his arm a
fairly large load, the nature of which they were unable to distinguish:
it knocked against his leg and impeded his progress. They saw him pass
near the old chapel and turn toward a little door in the wall. The door
must have been open, for the man disappeared suddenly from view and
they failed to hear the usual grating of the hinges.
"He came from the drawing room," whispered Suzanne.
"No, the stairs and the hall would have brought him out more to the
The same idea struck them both. They leant out. Below them, a ladder
stood against the front of the house, resting on the first floor. A
glimmer lit up the stone balcony. And another man, who was also
carrying something, bestrode the baluster, slid down the ladder and ran
away by the same road as the first.
Suzanne, scared to the verge of swooning, fell on her knees, stammering:
"Let us call out--let us call for help--"
"Who would come? Your father--and if there are more of them left--and
they throw themselves upon him--?"
"Then--then--we might call the servants--Your bell rings on their
"Yes--yes--perhaps, that's better. If only they come in time!"
Raymonde felt for the electric push near her bed and pressed it with
her finger. They heard the bell ring upstairs and had an impression
that its shrill sound must also reach any one below.
They waited. The silence became terrifying and the very breeze no
longer shook the leaves of the shrubs.
"I'm frightened--frightened," said Suzanne.
And, suddenly, from the profound darkness below them, came the sound of
a struggle, a crash of furniture overturned, words, exclamations and
then, horrible and ominous, a hoarse groan, the gurgle of a man who is
Raymonde leapt toward the door. Suzanne clung desperately to her arm:
"No--no--don't leave me--I'm frightened--"
Raymonde pushed her aside and darted down the corridor, followed by
Suzanne, who staggered from wall to wall, screaming as she went.
Raymonde reached the staircase, flew down the stairs, flung herself
upon the door of the big drawing room and stopped short, rooted to the
threshold, while Suzanne sank in a heap by her side. Facing them, at
three steps' distance, stood a man, with a lantern in his hand. He
turned it upon the two girls, blinding them with the light, stared long
at their pale faces, and then, without hurrying, with the calmest
movements in the world, took his cap, picked up a scrap of paper and
two bits of straw, removed some footmarks from the carpet, went to the
balcony, turned to the girls, made them a deep bow and disappeared.
Suzanne was the first to run to the little boudoir which separated the
big drawing-room from her father's bedroom. But, at the entrance, a
hideous sight appalled her. By the slanting rays of the moon, she saw
two apparently lifeless bodies lying close to each other on the floor.
She leaned over one of them:
"Father!--Father!--Is it you? What has happened to you?" she cried,
After a moment, the Comte de Gesvres moved. In a broken voice, he said:
"Don't be afraid--I am not wounded--Daval?--Is he alive?--The
Two men-servants now arrived with candles. Raymonde flung herself down
before the other body and recognized Jean Daval, the count's private
secretary. A little stream of blood trickled from his neck. His face
already wore the pallor of death.
Then she rose, returned to the drawing room, took a gun that hung in a
trophy of arms on the wall and went out on the balcony. Not more than
fifty or sixty seconds had elapsed since the man had set his foot on
the top rung of the ladder. He could not, therefore, be very far away,
the more so as he had taken the precaution to remove the ladder, in
order to prevent the inmates of the house from using it. And soon she
saw him skirting the remains of the old cloister. She put the gun to
her shoulder, calmly took aim and fired. The man fell.
"That's done it! That's done it!" said one of the servants. "We've got
this one. I'll run down."
"No, Victor, he's getting up.... You had better go down by the
staircase and make straight for the little door in the wall. That's the
only way he can escape."
Victor hurried off, but, before he reached the park, the man fell down
again. Raymonde called the other servant:
"Albert, do you see him down there? Near the main cloister?--"
"Yes, he's crawling in the grass. He's done for--"
"Watch him from here."
"There's no way of escape for him. On the right of the ruins is the
"And, Victor, do you guard the door, on the left," she said, taking up
"But, surely, you are not going down, miss?"
"Yes, yes," she said, with a resolute accent and abrupt movements; "let
me be--I have a cartridge left--If he stirs--"
She went out. A moment later, Albert saw her going toward the ruins. He
called to her from the window:
"He's dragged himself behind the cloister. I can't see him. Be careful,
Raymonde went round the old cloisters, to cut off the man's retreat,
and Albert soon lost sight of her. After a few minutes, as he did not
see her return, he became uneasy and, keeping his eye on the ruins,
instead of going down by the stairs he made an effort to reach the
ladder. When he had succeeded, he scrambled down and ran straight to
the cloisters near which he had seen the man last. Thirty paces
farther, he found Raymonde, who was searching with Victor.
"Well?" he asked.
"There's no laying one's hands on him," replied Victor.
"The little door?"
"I've been there; here's the key."
"Oh, we've got him safe enough, the scoundrel--He'll be ours in ten
The farmer and his son, awakened by the shot, now came from the farm
buildings, which were at some distance on the right, but within the
circuit of the walls. They had met no one.
"Of course not," said Albert. "The ruffian can't have left the
ruins--We'll dig him out of some hole or other."
They organized a methodical search, beating every bush, pulling aside
the heavy masses of ivy rolled round the shafts of the columns. They
made sure that the chapel was properly locked and that none of the
panes were broken. They went round the cloisters and examined every
nook and corner. The search was fruitless.
There was but one discovery: at the place where the man had fallen
under Raymonde's gun, they picked up a chauffeur's cap, in very soft
buff leather; besides that, nothing.
* * * * *
The gendarmerie of Ouville-la-Riviere were informed at six o'clock in
the morning and at once proceeded to the spot, after sending an express
to the authorities at Dieppe with a note describing the circumstances
of the crime, the imminent capture of the chief criminal and "the
discovery of his headgear and of the dagger with which the crime had
At ten o'clock, two hired conveyances came down the gentle slope that
led to the house. One of them, an old-fashioned calash, contained the
deputy public prosecutor and the examining magistrate, accompanied by
his clerk. In the other, a humble fly, were seated two reporters,
representing the Journal de Rouen and a great Paris paper.
The old chateau came into view--once the abbey residence of the priors
of Ambrumesy, mutilated under the Revolution, both restored by the
Comte de Gesvres, who had now owned it for some twenty years. It
consists of a main building, surmounted by a pinnacled clock-tower, and
two wings, each of which is surrounded by a flight of steps with a
stone balustrade. Looking across the walls of the park and beyond the
upland supported by the high Norman cliffs, you catch a glimpse of the
blue line of the Channel between the villages of Sainte-Marguerite and
Here the Comte de Gesvres lived with his daughter Suzanne, a delicate,
fair-haired, pretty creature, and his niece Raymonde de Saint-Veran,
whom he had taken to live with him two years before, when the
simultaneous death of her father and mother left Raymonde an orphan.
Life at the chateau was peaceful and regular. A few neighbors paid an
occasional visit. In the summer, the count took the two girls almost
every day to Dieppe. He was a tall man, with a handsome, serious face
and hair that was turning gray. He was very rich, managed his fortune
himself and looked after his extensive estates with the assistance of
his secretary, Jean Daval.
Immediately upon his arrival, the examining magistrate took down the
first observations of Sergeant Quevillon of the gendarmes. The capture
of the criminal, imminent though it might be, had not yet been
effected, but every outlet of the park was held. Escape was impossible.
The little company next crossed the chapter-hall and the refectory,
both of which are on the ground floor, and went up to the first story.
They at once remarked the perfect order that prevailed in the drawing
room. Not a piece of furniture, not an ornament but appeared to occupy
its usual place; nor was there any gap among the ornaments or
furniture. On the right and left walls hung magnificent Flemish
tapestries with figures. On the panels of the wall facing the windows
were four fine canvases, in contemporary frames, representing
mythological scenes. These were the famous pictures by Rubens which had
been left to the Comte de Gesvres, together with the Flemish
tapestries, by his maternal uncle, the Marques de Bobadilla, a Spanish
M. Filleul remarked:
"If the motive of the crime was theft, this drawing room, at any rate,
was not the object of it."
"You can't tell!" said the deputy, who spoke little, but who, when he
did, invariably opposed the magistrate's views.
"Why, my dear sir, the first thought of a burglar would be to carry off
those pictures and tapestries, which are universally renowned."
"Perhaps there was no time."
"We shall see."
At that moment, the Comte de Gesvres entered, accompanied by the
doctor. The count, who did not seem to feel the effects of the attack
to which he had been subjected, welcomed the two officials. Then he
opened the door of the boudoir.
This room, which no one had been allowed to enter since the discovery
of the crime, differed from the drawing room inasmuch as it presented a
scene of the greatest disorder. Two chairs were overturned, one of the
tables smashed to pieces and several objects--a traveling-clock, a
portfolio, a box of stationery--lay on the floor. And there was blood
on some of the scattered pieces of note-paper.
The doctor turned back the sheet that covered the corpse. Jean Daval,
dressed in his usual velvet suit, with a pair of nailed boots on his
feet, lay stretched on his back, with one arm folded beneath him. His
collar and tie had been removed and his shirt opened, revealing a large
wound in the chest.
"Death must have been instantaneous," declared the doctor. "One blow of
the knife was enough."
"It was, no doubt, the knife which I saw on the drawing-room
mantelpiece, next to a leather cap?" said the examining magistrate.
"Yes," said the Comte de Gesvres, "the knife was picked up here. It
comes from the same trophy in the drawing room from which my niece,
Mlle. de Saint-Veran, snatched the gun. As for the chauffeur's cap,
that evidently belongs to the murderer."
M. Filleul examined certain further details in the room, put a few
questions to the doctor and then asked M. de Gesvres to tell him what
he had seen and heard. The count worded his story as follows:
"Jean Daval woke me up. I had been sleeping badly, for that matter,
with gleams of consciousness in which I seemed to hear noises, when,
suddenly opening my eyes, I saw Daval standing at the foot of my bed,
with his candle in his hand and fully dressed--as he is now, for he
often worked late into the night. He seemed greatly excited and said,
in a low voice: 'There's some one in the drawing room.' I heard a noise
myself. I got up and softly pushed the door leading to this boudoir. At
the same moment, the door over there, which opens into the big drawing
room, was thrown back and a man appeared who leaped at me and stunned
me with a blow on the temple. I am telling you this without any
details, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, for the simple reason that I
remember only the principal facts, and that these facts followed upon
one another with extraordinary swiftness."
"And after that?--"
"After that, I don't know--I fainted. When I came to, Daval lay
stretched by my side, mortally wounded."
"At first sight, do you suspect no one?"
"You have no enemy?"
"I know of none."
"Nor M. Daval either?"
"Daval! An enemy? He was the best creature that ever lived. M. Daval
was my secretary for twenty years and, I may say, my confidant; and I
have never seen him surrounded with anything but love and friendship."
"Still, there has been a burglary and there has been a murder: there
must be a motive for all that."
"The motive? Why, it was robbery pure and simple."
"Robbery? Have you been robbed of something, then?"
"In that case--?"
"In that case, if they have stolen nothing and if nothing is missing,
they at least took something away."
"I don't know. But my daughter and my niece will tell you, with
absolute certainty, that they saw two men in succession cross the park
and that those two men were carrying fairly heavy loads."
"The young ladies--"
"The young ladies may have been dreaming, you think? I should be
tempted to believe it, for I have been exhausting myself in inquiries
and suppositions ever since this morning. However, it is easy enough to
The two cousins were sent for to the big drawing room. Suzanne, still
quite pale and trembling, could hardly speak. Raymonde, who was more
energetic, more of a man, better looking, too, with the golden glint in
her brown eyes, described the events of the night and the part which
she had played in them.
"So I may take it, mademoiselle, that your evidence is positive?"
"Absolutely. The men who went across the park were carrying things away
"And the third man?"
"He went from here empty-handed."
"Could you describe him to us?"
"He kept on dazzling us with the light of his lantern. All that I could
say is that he is tall and heavily built."
"Is that how he appeared to you, mademoiselle?" asked the magistrate,
turning to Suzanne de Gesvres.
"Yes--or, rather, no," said Suzanne, reflecting. "I thought he was
about the middle height and slender."
M. Filleul smiled; he was accustomed to differences of opinion and
sight in witnesses to one and the same fact:
"So we have to do, on the one hand, with a man, the one in the drawing
room, who is, at the same time, tall and short, stout and thin, and, on
the other, with two men, those in the park, who are accused of removing
from that drawing room objects--which are still here!"
M. Filleul was a magistrate of the ironic school, as he himself would
say. He was also a very ambitious magistrate and one who did not object
to an audience nor to an occasion to display his tactful resource in
public, as was shown by the increasing number of persons who now
crowded into the room. The journalists had been joined by the farmer
and his son, the gardener and his wife, the indoor servants of the
chateau and the two cabmen who had driven the flies from Dieppe.
M. Filleul continued:
"There is also the question of agreeing upon the way in which the third
person disappeared. Was this the gun you fired, mademoiselle, and from
"Yes. The man reached the tombstone which is almost buried under the
brambles, to the left of the cloisters."
"But he got up again?"
"Only half. Victor ran down at once to guard the little door and I
followed him, leaving the second footman, Albert, to keep watch here."
Albert now gave his evidence and the magistrate concluded:
"So, according to you, the wounded man was not able to escape on the
left, because your fellow-servant was watching the door, nor on the
right, because you would have seen him cross the lawn. Logically,
therefore, he is, at the present moment, in the comparatively
restricted space that lies before our eyes."
"I am sure of it."
"And you, mademoiselle?"
"And I, too," said Victor.
The deputy prosecutor exclaimed, with a leer:
"The field of inquiry is quite narrow. We have only to continue the
search commenced four hours ago."
"We may be more fortunate."
M. Filleul took the leather cap from the mantel, examined it and,
beckoning to the sergeant of gendarmes, whispered:
"Sergeant, send one of your men to Dieppe at once. Tell him to go to
Maigret, the hatter, in the Rue de la Barre, and ask M. Maigret to tell
him, if possible, to whom this cap was sold."
The "field of inquiry," in the deputy's phrase, was limited to the
space contained between the house, the lawn on the right and the angle
formed by the left wall and the wall opposite the house, that is to
say, a quadrilateral of about a hundred yards each way, in which the
ruins of Ambrumesy, the famous mediaeval monastery, stood out at
They at once noticed the traces left by the fugitive in the trampled
grass. In two places, marks of blackened blood, now almost dried up,
were observed. After the turn at the end of the cloisters, there was
nothing more to be seen, as the nature of the ground, here covered with
pine-needles, did not lend itself to the imprint of a body. But, in
that case, how had the wounded man succeeded in escaping the eyes of
Raymonde, Victor and Albert? There was nothing but a few brakes, which
the servants and the gendarmes had beaten over and over again, and a
number of tombstones, under which they had explored. The examining
magistrate made the gardener, who had the key, open the chapel, a real
gem of carving, a shrine in stone which had been respected by time and
the revolutionaries, and which, with the delicate sculpture work of its
porch and its miniature population of statuettes, was always looked
upon as a marvelous specimen of the Norman-Gothic style. The chapel,
which was very simple in the interior, with no other ornament than its
marble altar, offered no hiding-place. Besides, the fugitive would have
had to obtain admission. And by what means?
The inspection brought them to the little door in the wall that served
as an entrance for the visitors to the ruins. It opened on a sunk road
running between the park wall and a copsewood containing some abandoned
quarries. M. Filleul stooped forward: the dust of the road bore marks
of anti-skid pneumatic tires. Raymonde and Victor remembered that,
after the shot, they had seemed to hear the throb of a motor-car.
The magistrate suggested:
"The man must have joined his confederates."
"Impossible!" cried Victor. "I was here while mademoiselle and Albert
still had him in view."
"Nonsense, he must be somewhere! Outside or inside: we have no choice!"
"He is here," the servants insisted, obstinately.
The magistrate shrugged his shoulders and went back to the house in a
more or less sullen mood. There was no doubt that it was an unpromising
case. A theft in which nothing had been stolen; an invisible prisoner:
what could be less satisfactory?
It was late. M. de Gesvres asked the officials and the two journalists
to stay to lunch. They ate in silence and then M. Filleul returned to
the drawing room, where he questioned the servants. But the sound of a
horse's hoofs came from the courtyard and, a moment after, the gendarme
who had been sent to Dieppe entered.
"Well, did you see the hatter?" exclaimed the magistrate, eager at last
to obtain some positive information.
"I saw M. Maigret. The cap was sold to a cab-driver."
"Yes, a driver who stopped his fly before the shop and asked to be
supplied with a yellow-leather chauffeur's cap for one of his
customers. This was the only one left. He paid for it, without
troubling about the size, and drove off. He was in a great hurry."
"What sort of fly was it?"
"And on what day did this happen?"
"On what day? Why, to-day, at eight o'clock this morning."
"This morning? What are you talking about?"
"The cap was bought this morning."
"But that's impossible, because it was found last night in the park. If
it was found there, it must have been there; and, consequently, it must
have been bought before."
"The hatter told me it was bought this morning."
There was a moment of general bewilderment. The nonplussed magistrate
strove to understand. Suddenly, he started, as though struck with a
gleam of light:
"Fetch the cabman who brought us here this morning! The man who drove
the calash! Fetch him at once!"
The sergeant of gendarmes and his subordinate ran off to the stables.
In a few minutes, the sergeant returned alone.
"Where's the cabman?"
"He asked for food in the kitchen, ate his lunch and then--"
"He went off."
"With his fly?"
"No. Pretending that he wanted to go and see a relation at Ouville, he
borrowed the groom's bicycle. Here are his hat and greatcoat."
"But did he leave bare-headed?"
"No, he took a cap from his pocket and put it on."
"Yes, a yellow leather cap, it seems."
"A yellow leather cap? Why, no, we've got it here!"
"That's true, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, but his is just like it."
The deputy sniggered:
"Very funny! Most amusing! There are two caps--One, the real one, which
constituted our only piece of evidence, has gone off on the head of the
sham flyman! The other, the false one, is in your hands. Oh, the fellow
has had us nicely!"
"Catch him! Fetch him back!" cried M. Filleul. "Two of your men on
horseback, Sergeant Quevillon, and at full speed!"
"He is far away by this time," said the deputy.
"He can be as far as he pleases, but still we must lay hold of him."
"I hope so; but I think, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that your
efforts should be concentrated here above all. Would you mind reading
this scrap of paper, which I have just found in the pocket of the coat?"
And the deputy prosecutor handed M. Filleul a piece of paper, folded in
four, containing these few words written in pencil, in a more or less
"Woe betide the young lady, if she has killed the governor!"
The incident caused a certain stir.
"A word to the wise!" muttered the deputy. "We are now forewarned."
"Monsieur le Comte," said the examining magistrate, "I beg you not to
be alarmed. Nor you either, mademoiselle. This threat is of no
importance, as the police are on the spot. We shall take every
precaution and I will answer for your safety. As for you, gentlemen. I
rely on your discretion. You have been present at this inquiry, thanks
to my excessive kindness toward the Press, and it would be making me an
He interrupted himself, as though an idea had struck him, looked at the
two young men, one after the other, and, going up to the first, asked:
"What paper do you represent, sir?"
"The Journal de Rouen."
"Have you your credentials?"
The card was in order. There was no more to be said. M. Filleul turned
to the other reporter:
"And you, sir?"
"Yes, you: what paper do you belong to?"
"Why, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I write for a number of
papers--all over the place--"
"I haven't any."
"Oh! How is that?"
"For a newspaper to give you a card, you have to be on its regular
"Well, I am only an occasional contributor, a free-lance. I send
articles to this newspaper and that. They are published or declined
according to circumstances."
"In that case, what is your name? Where are your papers?"
"My name would tell you nothing. As for papers, I have none."
"You have no paper of any kind to prove your profession!"
"I have no profession."
"But look here, sir," cried the magistrate, with a certain asperity,
"you can't expect to preserve your incognito after introducing yourself
here by a trick and surprising the secrets of the police!"
"I beg to remark, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that you asked me
nothing when I came in, and that therefore I had nothing to say.
Besides, it never struck me that your inquiry was secret, when
everybody was admitted--including even one of the criminals!"
He spoke softly, in a tone of infinite politeness. He was quite a young
man, very tall, very slender and dressed without the least attempt at
fashion, in a jacket and trousers both too small for him. He had a pink
face like a girl's, a broad forehead topped with close-cropped hair,
and a scrubby and ill-trimmed fair beard. His bright eyes gleamed with
intelligence. He seemed not in the least embarrassed and wore a
pleasant smile, free from any shade of banter.
M. Filleul looked at him with an aggressive air of distrust. The two
gendarmes came forward. The young man exclaimed, gaily:
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, you clearly suspect me of being an
accomplice. But, if that were so, would I not have slipped away at the
right moment, following the example of my fellow-criminal?"
"You might have hoped--"
"Any hope would have been absurd. A moment's reflection, Monsieur le
Juge d'Instruction, will make you agree with me that, logically
M. Filleul looked him straight in the eyes and said, sharply:
"No more jokes! Your name?"
"Sixth-form pupil at the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly."
M. Filleul opened a pair of startled eyes.
"What are you talking about? Sixth-form pupil--"
"At the Lycee Janson, Rue de la Pompe, number--"
"Oh, look here," exclaimed M. Filleul, "you're trying to take me in!
This won't do, you know; a joke can go too far!"
"I must say, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that your astonishment
surprises me. What is there to prevent my being a sixth-form pupil at
the Lycee Janson? My beard, perhaps? Set your mind at ease: my beard is
Isidore Beautrelet pulled off the few curls that adorned his chin, and
his beardless face appeared still younger and pinker, a genuine
schoolboy's face. And, with a laugh like a child's, revealing his white
"Are you convinced now?" he asked. "Do you want more proofs? Here, you
can read the address on these letters from my father: 'To Monsieur
Isidore Beautrelet, Indoor Pupil, Lycee Janson-de-Sailly.'"
Convinced or not, M. Filleul did not look as if he liked the story. He
"What are you doing here?"
"Why--I'm--I'm improving my mind."
"There are schools for that: yours, for instance."
"You forget, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that this is the
twenty-third of April and that we are in the middle of the Easter
"Well, I have every right to spend my holidays as I please."
"My father lives at the other end of the country, in Savoy, and he
himself advised me to take a little trip on the North Coast."
"With a false beard?"
"Oh, no! That's my own idea. At school, we talk a great deal about
mysterious adventures; we read detective stories, in which people
disguise themselves; we imagine any amount of terrible and intricate
cases. So I thought I would amuse myself; and I put on this false
beard. Besides, I enjoyed the advantage of being taken seriously and I
pretended to be a Paris reporter. That is how, last night, after an
uneventful period of more than a week, I had the pleasure of making the
acquaintance of my Rouen colleague; and, this morning, when he heard of
the Ambrumesy murder, he very kindly suggested that I should come with
him and that we should share the cost of a fly."
Isidore Beautrelet said all this with a frank and artless simplicity of
which it was impossible not to feel the charm. M. Filleul himself,
though maintaining a distrustful reserve, took a certain pleasure in
listening to him. He asked him, in a less peevish tone:
"And are you satisfied with your expedition?"
"Delighted! All the more as I had never been present at a case of the
sort and I find that this one is not lacking in interest."
"Nor in that mysterious intricacy which you prize so highly--"
"And which is so stimulating, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction! I know
nothing more exciting than to see all the facts coming up out of the
shadow, clustering together, so to speak, and gradually forming the
"The probable truth! You go pretty fast, young man! Do you suggest that
you have your little solution of the riddle ready?"
"Oh, no!" replied Beautrelet, with a laugh.
"Only--it seems to me that there are certain points on which it is not
impossible to form an opinion; and others, even, are so precise as to
"Oh, but this is becoming very curious and I shall get to know
something at last! For I confess, to my great confusion, that I know
"That is because you have not had time to reflect, Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction. The great thing is to reflect. Facts very seldom fail to
carry their own explanation!"
"And, according to you, the facts which we have just ascertained carry
their own explanation?"
"Don't you think so yourself? In any case, I have ascertained none
besides those which are set down in the official report."
"Good! So that, if I were to ask you which were the objects stolen from
"I should answer that I know."
"Bravo! My gentleman knows more about it than the owner himself. M. de
Gesvres has everything accounted for: M. Isidore Beautrelet has not. He
misses a bookcase in three sections and a life-size statue which nobody
ever noticed. And, if I asked you the name of the murderer?"
"I should again answer that I know it."
All present gave a start. The deputy and the journalist drew nearer. M.
de Gesvres and the two girls, impressed by Beautrelet's tranquil
assurance, listened attentively.
"You know the murderer's name?"
"And the place where he is concealed, perhaps?"
M. Filleul rubbed his hands.
"What a piece of luck! This capture will do honor to my career. And can
you make me these startling revelations now?"
"Yes, now--or rather, if you do not mind, in an hour or two, when I
shall have assisted at your inquiry to the end."
"No, no, young man, here and now, please." At that moment Raymonde de
Saint-Veran, who had not taken her eyes from Isidore Beautrelet since
the beginning of this scene, came up to M. Filleul:
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction--"
She hesitated for two or three seconds, with her eyes fixed on
Beautrelet, and then, addressing M. Filleul:
"I should like you to ask monsieur the reason why he was walking
yesterday in the sunk road which leads up to the little door."
It was an unexpected and dramatic stroke. Isidore Beautrelet appeared
"I, mademoiselle? I? You saw me yesterday?"
Raymonde remained thoughtful, with her eyes upon Beautrelet, as though
she were trying to settle her own conviction, and then said, in a
"At four o'clock in the afternoon, as I was crossing the wood, I met in
the sunk road a young man of monsieur's height, dressed like him and
wearing a beard cut in the same way--and I received a very clear
impression that he was trying to hide."
"And it was I?"
"I could not say that as an absolute certainty, for my recollection is
a little vague. Still--still, I think so--if not, it would be an
M. Filleul was perplexed. Already taken in by one of the confederates,
was he now going to let himself be tricked by this self-styled
schoolboy? Certainly, the young man's manner spoke in his favor; but
one can never tell!
"What have you to say, sir?"
"That mademoiselle is mistaken, as I can easily show you with one word.
Yesterday, at the time stated, I was at Veules."
"You will have to prove it, you will have to. In any case, the position
is not what it was. Sergeant, one of your men will keep monsieur
Isidore Beautrelet's face denoted a keen vexation.
"Will it be for long?"
"Long enough to collect the necessary information."
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I beseech you to collect it with all
possible speed and discretion."
"My father is an old man. We are very much attached to each other--and
I would not have him suffer on my account."
The more or less pathetic note in his voice made a bad impression on M.
Filleul. It suggested a scene in a melodrama. Nevertheless, he promised:
"This evening--or to-morrow at latest, I shall know what to think."
The afternoon was wearing on. The examining magistrate returned to the
ruins of the cloisters, after giving orders that no unauthorized
persons were to be admitted, and patiently, methodically, dividing the
ground into lots which were successively explored, himself directed the
search. But at the end of the day he was no farther than at the start;
and he declared, before an army of reporters who, during that time, had
invaded the chateau:
"Gentlemen, everything leads us to suppose that the wounded man is
here, within our reach; everything, that is, except the reality, the
fact. Therefore, in our humble opinion, he must have escaped and we
shall find him outside."
By way of precaution, however, he arranged, with the sergeant of
gendarmes, for a complete watch to be kept over the park and, after
making a fresh examination of the two drawing rooms, visiting the whole
of the chateau and surrounding himself with all the necessary
information, he took the road back to Dieppe, accompanied by the deputy
* * * * *
Night fell. As the boudoir was to remain locked, Jean Daval's body had
been moved to another room. Two women from the neighborhood sat up with
it, assisted by Suzanne and Raymonde. Downstairs, young Isidore
Beautrelet slept on the bench in the old oratory, under the watchful
eye of the village policeman, who had been attached to his person.
Outside, the gendarmes, the farmer and a dozen peasants had taken up
their position among the ruins and along the walls.
All was still until eleven o'clock; but, at ten minutes past eleven, a
shot echoed from the other side of the house.
"Attention!" roared the sergeant. "Two men remain here: you,
Fossier--and you, Lecanu--The others at the double!"
They all rushed forward and ran round the house on the left. A figure
was seen to make away in the dark. Then, suddenly, a second shot drew
them farther on, almost to the borders of the farm. And, all at once,
as they arrived, in a band, at the hedge which lines the orchard, a
flame burst out, to the right of the farmhouse, and other names also
rose in a thick column. It was a barn burning, stuffed to the ridge
"The scoundrels!" shouted the sergeant. "They've set fire to it. Have
at them, lads! They can't be far away!"
But the wind was turning the flames toward the main building; and it
became necessary, before all things, to ward off the danger. They all
exerted themselves with the greater ardor inasmuch as M. de Gesvres,
hurrying to the scene of the disaster, encouraged them with the promise
of a reward. By the time that they had mastered the flames, it was two
o'clock in the morning. All pursuit would have been vain.
"We'll look into it by daylight," said the sergeant. "They are sure to
have left traces: we shall find them."
"And I shall not be sorry," added M. de Gesvres, "to learn the reason
of this attack. To set fire to trusses of straw strikes me as a very
"Come with me, Monsieur le Comte: I may be able to tell you the reason."
Together they reached the ruins of the cloisters. The sergeant called
The other gendarmes were already hunting for their comrades whom they
had left standing sentry. They ended by finding them at a few paces
from the little door. The two men were lying full length on the ground,
bound and gagged, with bandages over their eyes.
"Monsieur le Comte," muttered the sergeant, while his men were being
released; "Monsieur le Comte, we have been tricked like children."
"The shots--the attack on the barn--the fire--all so much humbug to get
us down there--a diversion. During that time they were tying up our two
men and the business was done."
"Carrying off the wounded man, of course!"
"You don't mean to say you think--?"
"Think? Why, it's as plain as a pikestaff! The idea came to me ten
minutes ago--but I'm a fool not to have thought of it earlier. We
should have nabbed them all." Quevillon stamped his foot on the ground,
with a sudden attack of rage. "But where, confound it, where did they
go through? Which way did they carry him off? For, dash it all, we beat
the ground all day; and a man can't hide in a tuft of grass, especially
when he's wounded! It's witchcraft, that's what it is!--"
Nor was this the last surprise awaiting Sergeant Quevillon. At dawn,
when they entered the oratory which had been used as a cell for young
Isidore Beautrelet, they realized that young Isidore Beautrelet had
On a chair slept the village policeman, bent in two. By his side stood
a water-bottle and two tumblers. At the bottom of one of those tumblers
a few grains of white powder.
On examination, it was proved, first, that young Isidore Beautrelet had
administered a sleeping draught to the village policeman; secondly,
that he could only have escaped by a window situated at a height of
seven or eight feet in the wall; and lastly--a charming detail,
this--that he could only have reached this window by using the back of
his warder as a footstool.
ISIDORE BEAUTRELET, SIXTH-FORM SCHOOLBOY
From the Grand Journal.
DOCTOR DELATTRE KIDNAPPED A MAD PIECE OF CRIMINAL DARING
At the moment of going to press, we have received an item of news which
we dare not guarantee as authentic, because of its very improbable
character. We print it, therefore, with all reserve.
Yesterday evening, Dr. Delattre, the well-known surgeon, was present,
with his wife and daughter, at the performance of Hernani at the
Comedie Francaise. At the commencement of the third act, that is to
say, at about ten o'clock, the door of his box opened and a gentleman,
accompanied by two others, leaned over to the doctor and said to him,
in a low voice, but loud enough for Mme. Delattre to hear:
"Doctor, I have a very painful task to fulfil and I shall be very
grateful to you if you will make it as easy for me as you can."
"Who are you, sir?"
"M. Thezard, commissary of police of the first district; and my
instructions are to take you to M. Dudouis, at the prefecture."
"Not a word, doctor, I entreat you, not a movement--There is some
regrettable mistake; and that is why we must act in silence and not
attract anybody's attention. You will be back, I have no doubt, before
the end of the performance."
The doctor rose and went with the commissary. At the end of the
performance, he had not returned. Mme. Delattre, greatly alarmed, drove
to the office of the commissary of police. There she found the real M.
Thezard and discovered, to her great terror, that the individual who
had carried off her husband was an impostor.
Inquiries made so far have revealed the fact that the doctor stepped
into a motor car and that the car drove off in the direction of the
Readers will find further details of this incredible adventure in our
* * * * *
Incredible though it might be, the adventure was perfectly true.
Besides, the issue was not long delayed and the Grand Journal, while
confirming the story in its midday edition, described in a few lines
the dramatic ending with which it concluded:
THE STORY ENDS
Dr. Delattre was brought back to 78, Rue Duret, at nine o'clock this
morning, in a motor car which drove away immediately at full speed.
No. 78, Rue Duret, is the address of Dr. Delattre's clinical surgery,
at which he arrives every morning at the same hour. When we sent in our
card, the doctor, though closeted with the chief of the detective
service, was good enough to consent to receive us.
"All that I can tell you," he said, in reply to our questions, "is that
I was treated with the greatest consideration. My three companions were
the most charming people I have ever met, exquisitely well-mannered and
bright and witty talkers: a quality not to be despised, in view of the
length of the journey."
"How long did it take?"
"About four hours and as long returning."
"And what was the object of the journey?"
"I was taken to see a patient whose condition rendered an immediate
"And was the operation successful?"
"Yes, but the consequences may be dangerous. I would answer for the
patient here. Down there--under his present conditions--"
"Execrable!--A room in an inn--and the practically absolute
impossibility of being attended to."
"Then what can save him?"
"A miracle--and his constitution, which is an exceptionally strong one."
"And can you say nothing more about this strange patient?"
"No. In the first place, I have taken an oath; and, secondly, I have
received a present of ten thousand francs for my free surgery. If I do
not keep silence, this sum will be taken from me."
"You are joking! Do you believe that?"
"Indeed I do. The men all struck me as being very much in earnest."
This is the statement made to us by Dr. Delattre. And we know, on the
other hand, that the head of the detective service, in spite of all his
insisting, has not yet succeeded in extracting any more precise
particulars from him as to the operation which he performed, the
patient whom he attended or the district traversed by the car. It is
difficult, therefore, to arrive at the truth.
* * * * *
This truth, which the writer of the interview confessed himself unable
to discover, was guessed by the more or less clear-sighted minds that
perceived a connection with the facts which had occurred the day before
at the Chateau d'Ambrumesy, and which were reported, down to the
smallest detail, in all the newspapers of that day. There was evidently
a coincidence to be reckoned with in the disappearance of a wounded
burglar and the kidnapping of a famous surgeon.
The judicial inquiry, moreover, proved the correctness of the
hypothesis. By following the track of the sham flyman, who had fled on
a bicycle, they were able to show that he had reached the forest of
Arques, at some ten miles' distance, and that from there, after
throwing his bicycle into a ditch, he had gone to the village of
Saint-Nicolas, whence he had dispatched the following telegram:
A. L. N., Post-office 45, Paris.
Situation desperate. Operation urgently necessary.
Send celebrity by national road fourteen.
The evidence was undeniable. Once apprised the accomplices in Paris
hastened to make their arrangements. At ten o'clock in the evening they
sent their celebrity by National Road No. 14, which skirts the forest
of Arques and ends at Dieppe. During this time, under cover of the fire
which they themselves had caused, the gang of burglars carried off
their leader and moved him to an inn, where the operation took place on
the arrival of the surgeon, at two o'clock in the morning.
About that there was no doubt. At Pontoise, at Gournay, at Forges,
Chief-inspector Ganimard, who was sent specially from Paris, with
Inspector Folenfant, as his assistant, ascertained that a motor car had
passed in the course of the previous night. The same on the road from
Dieppe to Ambrumesy. And, though the traces of the car were lost at
about a mile and a half from the chateau, at least a number of
footmarks were seen between the little door in the park wall and the
abbey ruins. Besides, Ganimard remarked that the lock of the little
door had been forced.
So all was explained. It remained to decide which inn the doctor had
spoken of: an easy piece of work for a Ganimard, a professional ferret,
a patient old stager of the police. The number of inns is limited and
this one, given the condition of the wounded man, could only be one
quite close to Ambrumesy. Ganimard and Sergeant Quevillon set to work.
Within a circle of five hundred yards, of a thousand yards, of fifteen
hundred yards, they visited and ransacked everything that could pass
for an inn. But, against all expectation, the dying man persisted in
Ganimard became more resolved than ever. He came back to sleep at the
chateau, on the Saturday night, with the intention of making his
personal inquiry on the Sunday. On Sunday morning, he learned that,
during the night, a posse of gendarmes had seen a figure gliding along
the sunk road, outside the wall. Was it an accomplice who had come back
to investigate? Were they to suppose that the leader of the gang had
not left the cloisters or the neighborhood of the cloisters?
That night, Ganimard openly sent the squad of gendarmes to the farm and
posted himself and Folenfant outside the walls, near the little door.
A little before midnight, a person passed out of the wood, slipped
between them, went through the door and entered the park. For three
hours, they saw him wander from side to side across the ruins,
stooping, climbing up the old pillars, sometimes remaining for long
minutes without moving. Then he went back to the door and again passed
between the two inspectors.
Ganimard caught him by the collar, while Folenfant seized him round the
body. He made no resistance of any kind and, with the greatest
docility, allowed them to bind his wrists and take him to the house.
But, when they attempted to question him, he replied simply that he
owed them no account of his doings and that he would wait for the
arrival of the examining magistrate. Thereupon, they fastened him
firmly to the foot of a bed, in one of the two adjoining rooms which
At nine o'clock on Monday morning, as soon as M. Filleul had arrived,
Ganimard announced the capture which he had made. The prisoner was
brought downstairs. It was Isidore Beautrelet.
"M. Isidore Beautrelet!" exclaimed M. Filleul with an air of rapture,
holding out both his hands to the newcomer. "What a delightful
surprise! Our excellent amateur detective here! And at our disposal
too! Why, it's a windfall!--M. Chief-inspector, allow me to introduce
to you M. Isidore Beautrelet, a sixth-form pupil at the Lycee
Ganimard seemed a little nonplussed. Isidore made him a very low bow,
as though he were greeting a colleague whom he knew how to esteem at
his true value, and, turning to M. Filleul:
"It appears, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that you have received a
satisfactory account of me?"
"Perfectly satisfactory! To begin with, you were really at
Veules-les-Roses at the time when Mlle. de Saint-Veran thought she saw
you in the sunk road. I dare say we shall discover the identity of your
double. In the second place, you are in very deed Isidore Beautrelet, a
sixth-form pupil and, what is more, an excellent pupil, industrious at
your work and of exemplary behavior. As your father lives in the
country, you go out once a month to his correspondent, M. Bernod, who
is lavish in his praises of you."
"So that you are free, M. Isidore Beautrelet."
"Absolutely. Oh, I must make just one little condition, all the same.
You can understand that I can't release a gentleman who administers
sleeping-draughts, who escapes by the window and who is afterward
caught in the act of trespassing upon private property. I can't release
him without a compensation of some kind."
"I await your pleasure."
"Well, we will resume our interrupted conversation and you shall tell
me how far you have advanced with your investigations. In two days of
liberty, you must have carried them pretty far?" And, as Ganimard was
preparing to go, with an affectation of contempt for that sort of
practice, the magistrate cried, "Not at all, M. Inspector, your place
is here--I assure you that M. Isidore Beautrelet is worth listening to.
M. Isidore Beautrelet, according to my information, has made a great
reputation at the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly as an observer whom nothing
escapes; and his schoolfellows, I hear, look upon him as your
competitor and a rival of Holmlock Shears!"
"Indeed!" said Ganimard, ironically.
"Just so. One of them wrote to me, 'If Beautrelet declares that he
knows, you must believe him; and, whatever he says, you may be sure
that it is the exact expression of the truth.' M. Isidore Beautrelet,
now or never is the time to vindicate the confidence of your friends. I
beseech you, give us the exact expression of the truth."
Isidore listened with a smile and replied:
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, you are very cruel. You make fun of
poor schoolboys who amuse themselves as best they can. You are quite
right, however, and I will give you no further reason to laugh at me."
"The fact is that you know nothing, M. Isidore Beautrelet."
"Yes, I confess in all humility that I know nothing. For I do not call
it 'knowing anything' that I happen to have hit upon two or three more
precise points which, I am sure, cannot have escaped you."
"For instance, the object of the theft."
"Ah, of course, you know the object of the theft?"
"As you do, I have no doubt. In fact, it was the first thing I studied,
because the task struck me as easier."
"Why, of course. At the most, it's a question of reasoning."
"Nothing more than that?"
"And what is your reasoning?"
"It is just this, stripped of all extraneous comment: on the one hand,
THERE HAS BEEN A THEFT, because the two young ladies are agreed and
because they really saw two men running away and carrying things with
"There has been a theft."
"On the other hand, NOTHING HAS DISAPPEARED, because M. de Gesvres says
so and he is in a better position than anybody to know."
"Nothing has disappeared."
"From those two premises I arrive at this inevitable result: granted
that there has been a theft and that nothing has disappeared, it is
because the object carried off has been replaced by an exactly similar
object. Let me hasten to add that possibly my argument may not be
confirmed by the facts. But I maintain that it is the first argument
that ought to occur to us and that we are not entitled to waive it
until we have made a serious examination."
"That's true--that's true," muttered the magistrate, who was obviously
"Now," continued Isidore, "what was there in this room that could
arouse the covetousness of the burglars? Two things. The tapestry
first. It can't have been that. Old tapestry cannot be imitated: the
fraud would have been palpable at once. There remain the four Rubens
"What's that you say?"
"I say that the four Rubenses on that wall are false."
"They are false a priori, inevitably and without a doubt."
"I tell you, it's impossible."
"It is very nearly a year ago, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, since a
young man, who gave his name as Charpenais, came to the Chateau
d'Ambrumesy and asked permission to copy the Rubens pictures. M. de
Gesvres gave him permission. Every day for five months Charpenais
worked in this room from morning till dusk. The copies which he made,
canvases and frames, have taken the place of the four original pictures
bequeathed to M. de Gesvres by his uncle, the Marques de Bobadilla."
"I have no proof to give. A picture is false because it is false; and I
consider that it is not even necessary to examine these four."
M. Filleul and Ganimard exchanged glances of unconcealed astonishment.
The inspector no longer thought of withdrawing. At last, the magistrate
"We must have M. de Gesvres's opinion."
And Ganimard agreed:
"Yes, we must have his opinion."
And they sent to beg the count to come to the drawing room.
The young sixth-form pupil had won a real victory. To compel two
experts, two professionals like M. Filleul and Ganimard to take account
of his surmises implied a testimony of respect of which any other would
have been proud. But Beautrelet seemed not to feel those little
satisfactions of self-conceit and, still smiling without the least
trace of irony, he placidly waited.
M. de Gesvres entered the room.
"Monsieur le Comte," said the magistrate, "the result of our inquiry
has brought us face to face with an utterly unexpected contingency,
which we submit to you with all reserve. It is possible--I say that it
is possible--that the burglars, when breaking into the house, had it as
their object to steal your four pictures by Rubens--or, at least, to
replace them by four copies--copies which are said to have been made
last year by a painter called Charpenais. Would you be so good as to
examine the pictures and to tell us if you recognize them as genuine?"
The count appeared to suppress a movement of annoyance, looked at
Isidore Beautrelet and at M. Filleul and replied, without even
troubling to go near the pictures:
"I hoped, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that the truth might have
remained unknown. As this is not so, I have no hesitation in declaring
that the four pictures are false."
"You knew it, then?"
"From the beginning."
"Why didn't you say so?"
"The owner of a work is never in a hurry to declare that that work is
not--or, rather, is no longer genuine."
"Still, it was the only means of recovering them."
"I consider that there was another and a better."
"Which was that?"
"Not to make the secret known, not to frighten my burglars and to offer
to buy back the pictures, which they must find more or less difficult
to dispose of."
"How would you communicate with them?"
As the count did not reply, Isidore answered for him:
"By means of an advertisement in the papers. The paragraph inserted in
the agony column of the Journal, the Echo de Paris and the Matin runs,
'Am prepared to buy back the pictures.'"
The count agreed with a nod. Once again, the young man was teaching his
elders. M. Filleul showed himself a good sportsman.
"There's no doubt about it, my dear sir," he exclaimed. "I'm beginning
to think your school-fellows were not quite wrong. By Jove, what an
eye! What intuition! If this goes on, there will be nothing left for M.
Ganimard and me to do."
"Oh, none of this part was so very complicated!"
"You mean to say that the rest was more so I remember, in fact, that,
when we first met you seemed to know all about it. Let me see, a far as
I recollect, you said that you knew the name of the murderer."
"So I do."
"Well, then, who killed Jean Daval? Is the man alive? Where is he
"There is a misunderstanding between us, Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction, or, rather, you have misunderstood the facts from the
beginning The murderer and the runaway are two distinct persons."
"What's that?" exclaimed M. Filleul. "The man whom M. de Gesvres saw in
the boudoir and struggled with, the man whom the young ladies saw in
the drawing-room and whom Mlle. de Saint-Veran shot at, the man who
fell in the park and whom we are looking for: do you suggest that he is
not the man who killed Jean Daval?"
"Have you discovered the traces of a third accomplice who disappeared
before the arrival of the young ladies?"
"I have not."
"In that case, I don't understand.--Well, who is the murderer of Jean
"Jean Daval was killed by--"
Beautrelet interrupted himself, thought for a moment and continued:
"But I must first show you the road which I followed to arrive at the
certainty and the very reasons of the murder--without which my
accusation would seem monstrous to you.--And it is not--no, it is not
monstrous at all.--There is one detail which has passed unobserved and
which, nevertheless, is of the greatest importance; and that is that
Jean Daval, at the moment when he was stabbed, had all his clothes on,
including his walking boots, was dressed, in short, as a man is dressed
in the middle of the day, with a waistcoat, collar, tie and braces. Now
the crime was committed at four o'clock in the morning."
"I reflected on that strange fact," said the magistrate, "and M. de
Gesvres replied that Jean Daval spent a part of his nights in working."
"The servants say, on the contrary, that he went to bed regularly at a
very early hour. But, admitting that he was up, why did he disarrange
his bedclothes, to make believe that he had gone to bed? And, if he was
in bed, why, when he heard a noise, did he take the trouble to dress
himself from head to foot, instead of slipping on anything that came to
hand? I went to his room on the first day, while you were at lunch: his
slippers were at the foot of the bed. What prevented him from putting
them on rather than his heavy nailed boots?"
"So far, I do not see--"
"So far, in fact, you cannot see anything, except anomalies. They
appeared much more suspicious to me, however, when I learned that
Charpenais the painter, the man who copied the Rubens pictures, had
been introduced and recommended to the Comte de Gesvres by Jean Daval
"Well, from that to the conclusion that Jean Daval and Charpenais were
accomplices required but a step. I took that step at the time of our
"A little quickly, I think."
"As a matter of fact, a material proof was wanted. Now I had discovered
in Daval's room, on one of the sheets of the blotting-pad on which he
used to write, this address: 'Monsieur A.L.N., Post-office 45, Paris.'
You will find it there still, traced the reverse way on the
blotting-paper. The next day, it was discovered that the telegram sent
by the sham flyman from Saint-Nicolas bore the same address: 'A.L.N.,
Post-office 45.' The material proof existed: Jean Daval was in
correspondence with the gang which arranged the robbery of the
M. Filleul raised no objection.
"Agreed. The complicity is established. And what conclusion do you
"This, first of all, that it was not the runaway who killed Jean Daval,
because Jean Daval was his accomplice."
"And after that?"
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I will ask you to remember the first
sentence uttered by Monsieur le Comte when he recovered from fainting.
The sentence forms part of Mlle. de Gesvres' evidence and is in the
official report: 'I am not wounded.--Daval?--Is he alive?--The knife?'
And I will ask you to compare it with that part of his story, also in
the report, in which Monsieur le Comte describes the assault: 'The man
leaped at me and felled me with a blow on the temple!' How could M. de
Gesvres, who had fainted, know, on waking, that Daval had been stabbed
with a knife?"
Isidore Beautrelet did not wait for an answer to his question. It
seemed as though he were in a hurry to give the answer himself and to
avoid all comment. He continued straightway:
"Therefore it was Jean Daval who brought the three burglars to the
drawing room. While he was there with the one whom they call their
chief, a noise was heard in the boudoir. Daval opened the door.
Recognizing M. de Gesvres, he rushed at him, armed with the knife. M.
de Gesvres succeeded in snatching the knife from him, struck him with
it and himself fell, on receiving a blow from the man whom the two
girls were to see a few minutes after."
Once again, M. Filleul and the inspector exchanged glances. Ganimard
tossed his head in a disconcerted way. The magistrate said:
"Monsieur le Comte, am I to believe that this version is correct?"
M. de Gesvres made no answer.
"Come, Monsieur le Comte, your silence would us to suppose--I beg you
Replying in a very clear voice, M. de Gesvres said:
"The version is correct in every particular."
The magistrate gave a start.
"Then I cannot understand why you misled the police. Why conceal an act
which you were lawfully entitled to commit in defense of your life?"
"For twenty years," said M. de Gesvres, "Daval worked by my side. I
trusted him. If he betrayed me, as the result of some temptation or
other, I was, at least, unwilling, for the sake of the past, that his
treachery should become known."
"You were unwilling, I agree, but you had no right to be."
"I am not of your opinion, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. As long as
no innocent person was accused of the crime, I was absolutely entitled
to refrain from accusing the man who was at the same time the culprit
and the victim. He is dead. I consider death a sufficient punishment."
"But now, Monsieur le Comte, now that the truth is known, you can
"Yes. Here are two rough drafts of letters written by him to his
accomplices. I took them from his pocket-book, a few minutes after his
"And the motive of his theft?"
"Go to 18, Rue de la Barre, at Dieppe, which is the address of a
certain Mme. Verdier. It was for this woman, whom he got to know two
years ago, and to supply her constant need of money that Daval turned
So everything was cleared up. The tragedy rose out of the darkness and
gradually appeared in its true light.
"Let us go on," said M. Filluel after the count had withdrawn.
"Upon my word," said Beautrelet, gaily, "I have said almost all that I
had to say."
"But the runaway, the wounded man?"
"As to that, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, you know as much as I do.
You have followed his tracks in the grass by the cloisters--you have--"
"Yes, yes, I know. But, since then, his friends have removed him and
what I want is a clue or two as regards that inn--"
Isidore Beautrelet burst out laughing:
"The inn! The inn does not exist! It's an invention, a trick to put the
police on the wrong scent, an ingenious trick, too, for it seems to
"But Dr. Delattre declares--"
"Ah, that's just it!" cried Beautrelet, in a tone of conviction. "It is
just because Dr. Delattre declares that we mustn't believe him. Why,
Dr. Delattre refused to give any but the vaguest details concerning his
adventure! He refused to say anything that might compromise his
patient's safety!--And suddenly he calls attention to an inn!--You may
be sure that he talked about that inn because he was told to. You may
be sure that the whole story which he dished up to us was dictated to
him under the threat of terrible reprisals. The doctor has a wife. The
doctor has a daughter. He is too fond of them to disobey people of
whose formidable power he has seen proofs. And that is why he has
assisted your efforts by supplying the most precise clues."
"So precise that the inn is nowhere to be found."
"So precise that you have never ceased looking for it, in the face of
all probability, and that your eyes have been turned away from the only
spot where the man can be, the mysterious spot which he has not left,
which he has been unable to leave ever since the moment when, wounded
by Mlle. de Saint-Veran, he succeeded in dragging himself to it, like a
beast to its lair."
"But where, confound it all?--In what corner of Hades--?"
"In the ruins of the old abbey."
"But there are no ruins left!--A few bits of wall!--A few broken
"That's where he's gone to earth. Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction!"
shouted Beautrelet. "That's where you will have to look for him! It's
there and nowhere else that you will find Arsene Lupin!"
"Arsene Lupin!" yelled M. Filleul, springing to his feet.
There was a rather solemn pause, amid which the syllables of the famous
name seemed to prolong their sound. Was it possible that the vanquished
and yet invisible adversary, whom they had been hunting in vain for
several days, could really be Arsene Lupin? Arsene Lupin, caught in a
trap, arrested, meant immediate promotion, fortune, glory to any
Ganimard had not moved a limb. Isidore said to him:
"You agree with me, do you not, M. Inspector?"
"Of course I do!"
"You have not doubted either, for a moment have you, that he managed
"Not for a second! The thing bears his signature. A move of Arsene
Lupin's is as different from a move made by another man as one face is
from another. You have only to open your eyes."
"Do you think so? Do you think so?" said M. Filleul.
"Think so!" cried the young man. "Look, here's one little fact: what
are the initials under which those men correspond among themselves? 'A.
L. N.,' that is to say, the first letter of the name Arsene and the
first and last letters of the name Lupin."
"Ah," said Ganimard, "nothing escapes you! Upon my word, you're a fine
fellow and old Ganimard lays down his arms before you!"
Beautrelet flushed with pleasure and pressed the hand which the
chief-inspector held out to him. The three men had drawn near the
balcony and their eyes now took in the extent of the ruins. M. Filleul
"So he ought to be there."
"HE IS THERE," said Beautrelet, in a hollow voice. "He has been there
ever since the moment when he fell. Logically and practically, he could
not escape without being seen by Mlle. de Saint-Veran and the two
"What proof have you?"
"His accomplices have furnished the proof. On the very morning, one of
them disguised himself as a flyman and drove you here--"
"To recover the cap, which would serve to identify him."
"Very well, but also and more particularly to examine the spot, find
out and see for himself what had become of the 'governor.'"
"And did he find out?"
"I presume so, as he knew the hiding-place. And I presume that he
became aware of the desperate condition of his chief, because, under
the impulse of his alarm, he committed the imprudence to write that
threat: 'Woe betide the young lady, if she has killed the governor!'"
"But his friends were able to take him away afterward?"
"When? Your men have never left the ruins. And where could they have
moved him to? At most, a few hundred yards away, for one doesn't let a
dying man travel--and then you would have found him. No, I tell you, he
is there. His friends would never have removed him from the safest of
hiding-places. It was there that they brought the doctor, while the
gendarmes were running to the fire like children."
"But how is he living? How will he keep alive? To keep alive you need
food and drink."
"I can't say. I don't know. But he is there, I will swear it. He is
there, because he can't help being there. I am as sure of it as if I
saw as if I touched him. He is there."
With his finger outstretched toward the ruins, he traced in the air a
little circle which became smaller and smaller until it was only a
point. And that point his two companions sought desperately, both
leaning into space, both moved by the same faith in Beautrelet and
quivering with the ardent conviction which he had forced upon them.
Yes, Arsene Lupin was there. In theory and in fact, he was there:
neither of them was now able to doubt it.
And there was something impressive and tragic in knowing that the
famous adventurer was lying in some dark shelter, below the ground,
helpless, feverish and exhausted.
"And if he dies?" asked M. Filleul, in a low voice.
"If he dies," said Beautrelet, "and if his accomplices are sure of it,
then see to the safety of Mlle. de Saint-Veran. Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction, for the vengeance will be terrible."
* * * * *
A few minutes later and in spite of the entreaties of M. Filleul, who
would gladly have made further use of this fascinating auxiliary,
Isidore Beautrelet, whose holidays ended that day, went off by the
Dieppe Road. He stepped from the train in Paris at five o'clock and, at
eight o'clock, returned to the Lycee Janson together with his
Ganimard, after a minute, but utterly useless exploration of the ruins
of Ambrumesy, returned to Paris by the fast night-train. On reaching
his apartment in the Rue Pergolese, he found an express letter awaiting
* * * * *
Monsieur l'Inspecteur Principal:
Finding that I had a little time to spare at the end of the day, I have
succeeded in collecting a few additional particulars which are sure to
Arsene Lupin has been living in Paris for twelve months under the name
of Etienne de Vaudreix. It is a name which you will often come across
in the society notes or the sporting columns of the newspapers. He is a
great traveler and is absent for long periods, during which, by his own
account, he goes hunting tigers in Bengal or blue foxes in Siberia. He
is supposed to be in business of some kind, although nobody is able to
say for certain what his business is.
His present address is 38, Rue Marbeuf; and I will call your attention
to the fact that the Rue Marbeuf is close to Post-office Number 45.
Since Thursday the twenty-third of April, the day before the burglary
at Ambrumesy, there has been no news at all of Etienne de Vaudreix.
With very many thanks for the kindness which you have shown me, believe
me to be,
Monsieur l'Inspecteur Principal,
P.S.--Please on no account think that it cost me any great trouble to
obtain this information. On the very morning of the crime, while M.
Filleul was pursuing his examination before a few privileged persons, I
had the fortunate inspiration to glance at the runaway's cap, before
the sham flyman came to change it. The hatter's name was enough, as you
may imagine, to enable me to find the clue that led to the
identification of the purchaser and his address.
* * * * *
The next morning, Ganimard called at 36, Rue Marbeuf. After questioning
the concierge, he made him open the door of the ground-floor flat on
the right, a very comfortable apartment, elegantly furnished, in which,
however, he discovered nothing beyond some cinders in the fireplace.
Two friends had come, four days earlier, to burn all compromising
But, just as he was leaving, Ganimard passed the postman, who was
bringing a letter for M. de Vaudreix. That afternoon, the public
prosecutor was informed of the case and ordered the letter to be given
up. It bore an American postmark and contained the following lines, in
* * * * *
I write to confirm the answer which I gave your representative. As soon
as you have M. de Gesvres's four pictures in your possession, you can
forward them as arranged.
You may add the rest, if you are able to succeed, which I doubt.
An unexpected business requires my presence in Europe and I shall reach
Paris at the same time as this letter. You will find me at the Grand
EPHRAIM B. HARLINGTON.
* * * * *
That same day, Ganimard applied for a warrant and took Mr. E. B.
Harlington, an American citizen, to the police-station, on a charge of
receiving and conspiracy.
* * * * *
Thus, within the space of twenty-four hours, all the threads of the
plot had been unraveled, thanks to the really unforeseen clues supplied
by a schoolboy of seventeen. In twenty-four hours, what had seemed
inexplicable became simple and clear. In twenty-four hours, the scheme
devised by the accomplices to save their leader was baffled; the
capture of Arsene Lupin, wounded and dying, was no longer in doubt, his
gang was disorganized, the address of his establishment in Paris and
the name which he assumed were known and, for the first time, one of
his cleverest and most carefully elaborated feats was seen through
before he had been able to ensure its complete execution.
An immense clamor of astonishment, admiration and curiosity arose among
the public. Already, the Rouen journalist, in a very able article, had
described the first examination of the sixth-form pupil, laying stress
upon his personal charm, his simplicity of manner and his quiet
assurance. The indiscretions of Ganimard and M. Filleul, indiscretions
to which they yielded in spite of themselves, under an impulse that
proved stronger than their professional pride, suddenly enlightened the
public as to the part played by Isidore Beautrelet in recent events. He
alone had done everything. To him alone the merit of the victory was
The excitement was intense. Isidore Beautrelet awoke to find himself a
hero; and the crowd, suddenly infatuated, insisted upon the fullest
information regarding its new favorite. The reporters were there to
supply it. They rushed to the assault of the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly,
waited for the day-boarders to come out after schoolhours and picked up
all that related, however remotely, to Beautrelet. It was in this way
that they learned the reputation which he enjoyed among his
schoolfellows, who called him the rival of Holmlock Shears. Thanks to
his powers of logical reasoning, with no further data than those which
he was able to gather from the papers, he had, time after time,
proclaimed the solution of very complicated cases long before they were
cleared up by the police.
It had become a game at the Lycee Janson to put difficult questions and
intricate problems to Beautrelet; and it was astonishing to see with
what unhesitating and analytical power and by means of what ingenious
deductions he made his way through the thickest darkness. Ten days
before the arrest of Jorisse, the grocer, he showed what could be done
with the famous umbrella. In the same way, he declared from the
beginning, in the matter of the Saint-Cloud mystery, that the concierge
was the only possible murderer.
But most curious of all was the pamphlet which was found circulating
among the boys at the school, a typewritten pamphlet signed by
Beautrelet and manifolded to the number of ten copies. It was entitled,
ARSENE LUPIN AND HIS METHOD, SHOWING IN HOW FAR THE LATTER IS BASED
UPON TRADITION AND IN HOW FAR ORIGINAL. FOLLOWED BY A COMPARISON
BETWEEN ENGLISH HUMOR AND FRENCH IRONY.
It contained a profound study of each of the exploits of Arsene Lupin,
throwing the illustrious burglar's operations into extraordinary
relief, showing the very mechanism of his way of setting to work, his
special tactics, his letters to the press, his threats, the
announcement of his thefts, in short, the whole bag of tricks which he
employed to bamboozle his selected victim and throw him into such a
state of mind that the victim almost offered himself to the plot
contrived against him and that everything took place, as it were, with
his own consent.
And the work was so just, regarded as a piece of criticism, so
penetrating, so lively and marked by a wit so clever and, at the same
time, so cruel that the lawyers at once passed over to his side, that
the sympathy of the crowd was summarily transferred from Lupin to
Beautrelet and that, in the struggle engaged upon between the two, the
schoolboy's victory was loudly proclaimed in advance.
Be this as it may, both M. Filleul and the Paris public prosecutor
seemed jealously to reserve the possibility of this victory for him. On
the one hand, they failed to establish Mr. Harlington's identity or to
furnish a definite proof of his connection with Lupin's gang.
Confederate or not, he preserved an obstinate silence. Nay, more, after
examining his handwriting, it was impossible to declare that he was the
author of the intercepted letter. A Mr. Harlington, carrying a small
portmanteau and a pocket-book stuffed with bank-notes, had taken up his
abode at the Grand Hotel: that was all that could be stated with
On the other hand, at Dieppe, M. Filleul lay down on the positions
which Beautrelet had won for him. He did not move a step forward.
Around the individual whom Mlle. de Saint-Veran had taken for
Beautrelet, on the eve of the crime, the same mystery reigned as
heretofore. The same obscurity also surrounded everything connected
with the removal of the four Rubens pictures. What had become of them?
And what road had been taken by the motor car in which they were
carried off during the night?
Evidence of its passing was obtained at Luneray at Yerville, at Yvetot
and at Caudebec-en-Caux, where it must have crossed the Seine at
daybreak in the steam-ferry. But, when the matter came to be inquired
into more thoroughly, it was stated that the motor car was an uncovered
one and that it would have been impossible to pack four large pictures
into it unobserved by the ferryman.
It was very probably the same car; but then the question cropped up
again: what had become of the four Rubenses?
These were so many problems which M. Filleul unanswered. Every day, his
subordinates searched the quadrilateral of the ruins. Almost every day,
he came to direct the explorations. But between that and discovering
the refuge in which Lupin lay dying--if it were true that Beautrelet's
opinion was correct--there was a gulf fixed which the worthy magistrate
did not seem likely to cross.
And so it was natural that they should turn once more to Isidore
Beautrelet, as he alone had succeeded in dispelling shadows which, in
his absence, gathered thicker and more impenetrable than ever. Why did
he not go on with the case? Seeing how far he had carried it, he
required but an effort to succeed.
The question was put to him by a member of the staff of the Grand
Journal, who had obtained admission to the Lycee Janson by assuming the
name of Bernod, the friend of Beautrelet's father. And Isidore very
"My dear sir, there are other things besides Lupin in this world, other
things besides stories about burglars and detectives. There is, for
instance, the thing which is known as taking one's degree. Now I am
going up for my examination in July. This is May. And I don't want to
be plucked. What would my worthy parent say?"
"But what would he say if you delivered Arsene Lupin into the hands of
"Tut! There's a time for everything. In the next holidays--"
"Yes--I shall go down on Saturday the sixth of June by the first train."
"And, on the evening of that Saturday, Lupin will be taken."
"Will you give me until the Sunday?" asked Beautrelet, laughing.
"Why delay?" replied the journalist, quite seriously.
This inexplicable confidence, born of yesterday and already so strong,
was felt with regard to the young man by one and all, even though, in
reality, events had justified it only up to a certain point. No matter,
people believed in him! Nothing seemed difficult to him. They expected
from him what they were entitled to expect at most from some phenomenon
of penetration and intuition, of experience and skill. That day of the
sixth of June was made to sprawl over all the papers. On the sixth of
June, Isidore Beautrelet would take the fast train to Dieppe: and Lupin
would be arrested on the same evening.
"Unless he escapes between this and then," objected the last remaining
partisans of the adventurer.
"Impossible! Every outlet is watched."
"Unless he has succumbed to his wounds, then," said the partisans, who
would have preferred their hero's death to his capture.
And the retort was immediate:
"Nonsense! If Lupin were dead, his confederates would know it by now,
and Lupin would be revenged. Beautrelet said so!"
* * * * *
And the sixth of June came. Half a dozen journalists were looking out
for Isidore at the Gare Saint-Lazare. Two of them wanted to accompany
him on his journey. He begged them to refrain.
He started alone, therefore, in a compartment to himself. He was tired,
thanks to a series of nights devoted to study, and soon fell asleep. He
slept heavily. In his dreams, he had an impression that the train
stopped at different stations and that people got in and out. When he
awoke, within sight of Rouen, he was still alone. But, on the back of
the opposite seat, was a large sheet of paper, fastened with a pin to
the gray cloth. It bore these words:
"Every man should mind his own business. Do you mind yours.
If not, you must take the consequences."
"Capital!" he exclaimed, rubbing his hands with delight. "Things are
going badly in the adversary's camp. That threat is as stupid and
vulgar as the sham flyman's. What a style! One can see that it wasn't
composed by Lupin."
The train threaded the tunnel that precedes the old Norman city. On
reaching the station, Isidore took a few turns on the platform to
stretch his legs. He was about to re-enter his compartment, when a cry
escaped him. As he passed the bookstall, he had read, in an
absent-minded way, the following lines on the front page of a special
edition of the Journal de Rouen; and their alarming sense suddenly
burst upon him:
* * * * *
We hear by telephone from Dieppe that the Chateau d'Ambrumesy was
broken into last night by criminals, who bound and gagged Mlle. de
Gesvres and carried off Mlle. de Saint-Veran. Traces of blood have been
seen at a distance of five hundred yards from the house and a scarf has
been found close by, which is also stained with blood. There is every
reason to fear that the poor young girl has been murdered.
* * * * *
Isidore Beautrelet completed his journey to Dieppe without moving a
limb. Bent in two, with his elbows on his knees and his hands plastered
against his face, he sat thinking.
At Dieppe, he took a fly. At the door of Ambrumesy, he met the
examining magistrate, who confirmed the horrible news.
"You know nothing more?" asked Beautrelet.
"Nothing. I have only just arrived."
At that moment, the sergeant of gendarmes came up to M. Filleul and
handed him a crumpled, torn and discolored piece of paper, which he had
picked up not far from the place where the scarf was found. M. Filleul
looked at it and gave it to Beautrelet, saying:
"I don't suppose this will help us much in our investigations."
Isidore turned the paper over and over. It was covered with figures,
dots and signs and presented the exact appearance reproduced below:
[Illustration: drawing of an outline of paper with writing and drawing
on it--numbers, dots, some letters, signs and symbols, something like...
D DF square 19F+44triangle357triangle
At six o'clock in the evening, having finished all he had to do, M.
Filluel, accompanied by M. Bredoux, his clerk, stood waiting for the
carriage which was to take him back to Dieppe. He seemed restless,
nervous. Twice over, he asked:
"You haven't seen anything of young Beautrelet, I suppose?"
"No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I can't say I have."
"Where on earth can he be? I haven't set eyes on him all day!"
Suddenly, he had an idea, handed his portfolio to Bredoux, ran round
the chateau and made for the ruins. Isidore Beautrelet was lying near
the cloisters, flat on his face, with one arm folded under his head, on
the ground carpeted with pine-needles. He seemed drowsing.
"Hullo, young man, what are you doing here? Are you asleep?"
"I'm not asleep. I've been thinking."
"Ever since this morning?"
"Ever since this morning."
"It's not a question of thinking! One must see into things first, study
facts, look for clues, establish connecting links. The time for
thinking comes after, when one pieces all that together and discovers
"Yes, I know.--That's the usual way, the right one, I dare say.--Mine
is different.--I think first, I try, above all, to get the general hang
of the case, if I may so express myself. Then I imagine a reasonable
and logical hypothesis, which fits in with the general idea. And then,
and not before, I examine the facts to see if they agree with my
"That's a funny method and a terribly complicated one!"
"It's a sure method, M. Filleul, which is more than can be said of
"Come, come! Facts are facts."
"With your ordinary sort of adversary, yes. But, given an enemy endowed
with a certain amount of cunning, the facts are those which he happens
to have selected. Take the famous clues upon which you base your
inquiry: why, he was at liberty to arrange them as he liked. And you
see where that can lead you, into what mistakes and absurdities, when
you are dealing with a man like Arsene Lupin. Holmlock Shears himself
fell into the trap."
"Arsene Lupin is dead."
"No matter. His gang remains and the pupils of such a master are
M. Filleul took Isidore by the arm and, leading him away:
"Words, young man, words. Here is something of more importance. Listen
to me. Ganimard is otherwise engaged at this moment and will not be
here for a few days. On the other hand, the Comte de Gesvres has
telegraphed to Holmlock Shears, who has promised his assistance next
week. Now don't you think, young man, that it would be a feather in our
cap if we were able to say to those two celebrities, on the day of
their arrival, 'Awfully sorry, gentlemen, but we couldn't wait. The
business is done'?"
It was impossible for M. Filleul to confess helplessness with greater
candor. Beautrelet suppressed a smile and, pretending not to see
through the worthy magistrate, replied:
"I confess. Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that, if I was not present
at your inquiry just now, it was because I hoped that you would consent
to tell me the results. May I ask what you have learned?"
"Well, last night, at eleven o'clock, the three gendarmes whom Sergeant
Quevillon had left on guard at the chateau received a note from the
sergeant telling them to hasten with all speed to Ouville, where they
are stationed. They at once rode off, and when they arrived at
"They discovered that they had been tricked, that the order was a
forgery and that there was nothing for them to do but return to
"This they did, accompanied by Sergeant Quevillon. But they were away
for an hour and a half and, during this time, the crime was committed."
"In what circumstances?"
"Very simple circumstances, indeed. A ladder was removed from the farm
buildings and placed against the second story of the chateau. A pane of
glass was cut out and a window opened. Two men, carrying a dark
lantern, entered Mlle. de Gesvres's room and gagged her before she
could cry out. Then, after binding her with cords, they softly opened
the door of the room in which Mlle. de Saint-Veran was sleeping. Mlle.
de Gesvres heard a stifled moan, followed by the sound of a person
struggling. A moment later, she saw two men carrying her cousin, who
was also bound and gagged. They passed in front of her and went out
through the window. Then Mlle. de Gesvres, terrified and exhausted,
"But what about the dogs? I thought M. de Gesvres had bought two almost
wild sheep-dogs, which were let loose at night?"
"They were found dead, poisoned."
"By whom? Nobody could get near them."
"It's a mystery. The fact remains that the two men crossed the ruins
without let or hindrance and went out by the little door which we have
heard so much about. They passed through the copsewood, following the
line of the disused quarries. It was not until they were nearly half a
mile from the chateau, at the foot of the tree known as the Great Oak,
that they stopped--and executed their purpose."
"If they came with the intention of killing Mlle. de Saint-Veran, why
didn't they murder her in her room?"
"I don't know. Perhaps the incident that settled their determination
only occurred after they had left the house. Perhaps the girl succeeded
in releasing herself from her bonds. In my opinion, the scarf which was
picked up was used to fasten her wrists. In any case, the blow was
struck at the foot of the Great Oak. I have collected indisputable
"But the body?"
"The body has not been found, but there is nothing excessively
surprising in that. As a matter of fact, the trail which I followed
brought me to the church at Varengeville and the old cemetery perched
on the top of the cliff. From there it is a sheer precipice, a fall of
over three hundred feet to the rocks and the sea below. In a day or
two, a stronger tide than usual will cast up the body on the beach."
"Obviously. This is all very simple."
"Yes, it is all very simple and doesn't trouble me in the least. Lupin
is dead, his accomplices heard of it and, to revenge themselves, have
killed Mlle. de Saint-Veran. These are facts which did not even require
checking. But Lupin?"
"What about him?"
"What has become of him? In all probability, his confederates removed
his corpse at the same time that they carried away the girl; but what
proof have we? None at all. Any more than of his staying in the ruins,
or of his death, or of his life. And that is the real mystery, M.
Beautrelet. The murder of Mlle. Raymonde solves nothing. On the
contrary, it only complicates matters. What has been happening during
the past two months at the Chateau d'Ambrumesy? If we don't clear up
the riddle, young man, others will give us the go-by."
"On what day are those others coming?"
Beautrelet seemed to be making an inward calculation and then declared:
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, this is Saturday. I have to be back at
school on Monday evening. Well, if you will have the goodness to be
here at ten o'clock exactly on Monday morning, I will try to give you
the key to the riddle."
"Really, M. Beautrelet--do you think so? Are you sure?"
"I hope so, at any rate."
"And where are you going now?"
"I am going to see if the facts consent to fit in with the general
theory which I am beginning to perceive."
"And if they don't fit in?"
"Well, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction," said Beautrelet, with a laugh,
"then it will be their fault and I must look for others which, will
prove more tractable. Till Monday, then?"
A few minutes later, M. Filleul was driving toward Dieppe, while
Isidore mounted a bicycle which he had borrowed from the Comte de
Gesvres and rode off along the road to Yerville and Caudebec-en-Caux.
There was one point in particular on which the young man was anxious to
form a clear opinion, because this just appeared to him to be the
enemy's weakest point. Objects of the size of the four Rubens pictures
cannot be juggled away. They were bound to be somewhere. Granting that
it was impossible to find them for the moment, might one not discover
the road by which they had disappeared?
What Beautrelet surmised was that the four pictures had undoubtedly
been carried off in the motor car, but that, before reaching Caudebec,
they were transferred to another car, which had crossed the Seine
either above Caudebec or below it. Now the first horse-boat down the
stream was at Quillebeuf, a greatly frequented ferry and, consequently,
dangerous. Up stream, there was the ferry-boat at La Mailleraie, a
large, but lonely market-town, lying well off the main road.
By midnight, Isidore had covered the thirty-five or forty miles to La
Mailleraie and was knocking at the door of an inn by the waterside. He
slept there and, in the morning, questioned the ferrymen.
They consulted the counterfoils in the traffic-book. No motor-car had
crossed on Thursday the 23rd of April.
"A horse-drawn vehicle, then?" suggested Beautrelet. "A cart? A van?"
"No, not either."
Isidore continued his inquiries all through the morning. He was on the
point of leaving for Quillebeuf, when the waiter of the inn at which he
had spent the night said:
"I came back from my thirteen days' training on the morning of which
you are speaking and I saw a cart, but it did not go across."
"No, they unloaded it onto a flat boat, a barge of sorts, which was
moored to the wharf."
"And where did the cart come from?"
"Oh, I knew it at once. It belonged to Master Vatinel, the carter."
"And where does he live?"
Beautrelet consulted his military map. The hamlet of Louvetot lay where
the highroad between Yvetot and Caudebec was crossed by a little
winding road that ran through the woods to La Mailleraie.
Not until six o'clock in the evening did Isidore succeed in discovering
Master Vatinel, in a pothouse. Master Vatinel was one of those artful
old Normans who are always on their guard, who distrust strangers, but
who are unable to resist the lure of a gold coin or the influence of a
glass or two:
"Well, yes, sir, the men in the motor car that morning had told me to
meet them at five o'clock at the crossroads. They gave me four great,
big things, as high as that. One of them went with me and we carted the
things to the barge."
"You speak of them as if you knew them before."
"I should think I did know them! It was the sixth time they were
Isidore gave a start:
"The sixth time, you say? And since when?"
"Why every day before that one, to be sure! But it was other things
then--great blocks of stone--or else smaller, longish ones, wrapped up
in newspapers, which they carried as if they were worth I don't know
what. Oh, I mustn't touch those on any account!--But what's the matter?
You've turned quite white."
"Nothing--the heat of the room--"
Beautrelet staggered out into the air. The joy, the surprise of the
discovery made him feel giddy. He went back very quietly to
Varengeville, slept in the village, spent an hour at the mayor's
offices with the school-master and returned to the chateau. There he
found a letter awaiting him "care of M. le Comte de Gesvres." It
consisted of a single line:
"Second warning. Hold your tongue. If not--"
"Come," he muttered. "I shall have to make up my mind and take a few
precautions for my personal safety. If not, as they say--"
It was nine o'clock. He strolled about among the ruins and then lay
down near the cloisters and closed his eyes.
"Well, young man, are you satisfied with the results of your campaign?"
It was M. Filleul.
"Delighted, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction."
"By which you mean to say--?"
"By which I mean to say that I am prepared to keep my promise--in spite
of this very uninviting letter."
He showed the letter to M. Filleul.
"Pooh! Stuff and nonsense!" cried the magistrate. "I hope you won't let
that prevent you--"
"From telling you what I know? No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. I
have given my word and I shall keep it. In less than ten minutes, you
shall know--a part of the truth."
"Yes, in my opinion, Lupin's hiding-place does not constitute the whole
of the problem. Far from it. But we shall see later on."
"M. Beautrelet, nothing that you do could astonish me now. But how were
you able to discover--?"
"Oh, in a very natural way! In the letter from old man Harlington to M.
Etienne de Vaudreix, or rather to Lupin--"
"The intercepted letter?"
"Yes. There is a phrase which always puzzled me. After saying that the
pictures are to be forwarded as arranged, he goes on to say, 'You may
add THE REST, if you are able to succeed, which I doubt.'"
"Yes, I remember."
"What was this 'rest'? A work of art, a curiosity? The chateau contains
nothing of any value besides the Rubenses and the tapestries. Jewelry?
There is very little and what there is of it is not worth much. In that
case, what could it be?--On the other hand, was it conceivable that
people so prodigiously clever as Lupin should not have succeeded in
adding 'the rest,' which they themselves had evidently suggested? A
difficult undertaking, very likely; exceptional, surprising, I dare
say; but possible and therefore certain, since Lupin wished it."
"And yet he failed: nothing has disappeared."
"He did not fail: something has disappeared."
"Yes, the Rubenses--but--"
"The Rubenses and something besides--something which has been replaced
by a similar thing, as in the case of the Rubenses; something much more
uncommon, much rarer, much more valuable than the Rubenses."
"Well, what? You're killing me with this procrastination!"
While talking, the two men had crossed the ruins, turned toward the
little door and were now walking beside the chapel. Beautrelet stopped:
"Do you really want to know, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction?"
"Of course, I do."
Beautrelet was carrying a walking-stick, a strong, knotted stick.
Suddenly, with a back stroke of this stick, he smashed one of the
little statues that adorned the front of the chapel.
"Why, you're mad!" shouted M. Filleul, beside himself, rushing at the
broken pieces of the statue. "You're mad! That old saint was an
admirable bit of work--"
"An admirable bit of work!" echoed Isidore, giving a whirl which
brought down the Virgin Mary.
M. Filleul took hold of him round the body:
"Young man, I won't allow you to commit--"
A wise man of the East came toppling to the ground, followed by a
manger containing the Mother and Child. . . .
"If you stir another limb, I fire!"
The Comte de Gesvres had appeared upon the scene and was cocking his
revolver. Beautrelet burst out laughing:
"That's right, Monsieur le Comte, blaze away!--Take a shot at them, as
if you were at a fair!--Wait a bit--this chap carrying his head in his
St. John the Baptist fell, shattered to pieces.
"Oh!" shouted the count, pointing his revolver. "You young
"Sham, Monsieur le Comte!"
"What? What's that?" roared M. Filleul, wresting the Comte de Gesvres's
weapon from him.
"Sham!" repeated Beautrelet. "Paper-pulp and plaster!"
"Oh, nonsense! It can't be true!"
"Hollow plaster, I tell you! Nothing at all!"
The count stooped and picked up a sliver of a statuette.
"Look at it, Monsieur le Comte, and see for yourself: it's plaster!
Rusty, musty, mildewed plaster, made to look like old stone--but
plaster for all that, plaster casts!--That's all that remains of your
perfect masterpiece!--That's what they've done in just a few
days!-That's what the Sieur Charpenais who copied the Rubenses,
prepared a year ago." He seized M. Filleul's arm in his turn. "What do
you think of it, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction? Isn't it fine? Isn't
it grand? Isn't it gorgeous? The chapel has been removed! A whole
Gothic chapel collected stone by stone! A whole population of statues
captured and replaced by these chaps in stucco! One of the most
magnificent specimens of an incomparable artistic period confiscated!
The chapel, in short, stolen! Isn't it immense? Ah, Monsieur le Juge
d'Instruction, what a genius the man is!"
"You're allowing yourself to be carried away, M. Beautrelet."
"One can't be carried away too much, monsieur, when one has to do with
people like that. Everything above the average deserves our admiration.
And this man soars above everything. There is in his flight a wealth of
imagination, a force and power, a skill and freedom that send a thrill
"Pity he's dead," said M. Filleul, with a grin. "He'd have ended by
stealing the towers of Notre-Dame."
Isidore shrugged his shoulders:
"Don't laugh, monsieur. He upsets you, dead though he may be."
"I don't say not, I don't say not, M. Beautrelet, I confess that I feel
a certain excitement now that I am about to set eyes on him--unless,
indeed, his friends have taken away the body."
"And always admitting," observed the Comte de Gesvres, "that it was
really he who was wounded by my poor niece."
"It was he, beyond a doubt, Monsieur le Comte," declared Beautrelet;
"it was he, believe me, who fell in the ruins under the shot fired by
Mlle. de Saint-Veran; it was he whom she saw rise and who fell again
and dragged himself toward the cloisters to rise again for the last
time--this by a miracle which I will explain to you presently--to rise
again for the last time and reach this stone shelter--which was to be
And Beautrelet struck the threshold of the chapel with his stick.
"Eh? What?" cried M. Filleul, taken aback. "His tomb?--Do you think
that that impenetrable hiding-place--"
"It was here--there," he repeated.
"But we searched it."
"There is no hiding-place here," protested M. de Gesvres. "I know the
"Yes, there is, Monsieur le Comte. Go to the mayor's office at
Varengeville, where they have collected all the papers that used to be
in the old parish of Ambrumesy, and you will learn from those papers,
which belong to the eighteenth century, that there is a crypt below the
chapel. This crypt doubtless dates back to the Roman chapel, upon the
site of which the present one was built."
"But how can Lupin have known this detail?" asked M. Filleul.
"In a very simple manner: because of the works which he had to execute
to take away the chapel."
"Come, come, M. Beautrelet, you're exaggerating. He has not taken away
the whole chapel. Look, not one of the stones of this top course has
"Obviously, he cast and took away only what had a financial value: the
wrought stones, the sculptures, the statuettes, the whole treasure of
little columns and carved arches. He did not trouble about the
groundwork of the building itself. The foundations remain."
"Therefore, M. Beautrelet, Lupin was not able to make his way into the
At that moment, M. de Gesvres, who had been to call a servant, returned
with the key of the chapel. He opened the door. The three men entered.
After a short examination Beautrelet said:
"The flag-stones on the ground have been respected, as one might
expect. But it is easy to perceive that the high altar is nothing more
than a cast. Now, generally, the staircase leading to the crypt opens
in front of the high altar and passes under it."
"What do you conclude?"
"I conclude that Lupin discovered the crypt when working at the altar."
The count sent for a pickaxe and Beautrelet attacked the altar. The
plaster flew to right and left. He pushed the pieces aside as he went
"By Jove!" muttered M. Filleul, "I am eager to know--"
"So am I," said Beautrelet, whose face was pale with anguish.
He hurried his blows. And, suddenly, his pickaxe, which, until then,
had encountered no resistance, struck against a harder material and
rebounded. There was a sound of something falling in; and all that
remained of the altar went tumbling into the gap after the block of
stone which had been struck by the pickaxe. Beautrelet bent forward. A
puff of cold air rose to his face. He lit a match and moved it from
side to side over the gap:
"The staircase begins farther forward than I expected, under the
entrance-flags, almost. I can see the last steps, there, right at the
"Is it deep?"
"Three or four yards. The steps are very high--and there are some
"It is hardly likely," said M. Filleul, "that the accomplices can have
had time to remove the body from the cellar, when they were engaged in
carrying off Mlle. de Saint-Veran--during the short absence of the
gendarmes. Besides, why should they?--No, in my opinion, the body is
A servant brought them a ladder. Beautrelet let it down through the
opening and fixed it, after groping among the fallen fragments. Holding
the two uprights firmly:
"Will you go down, M. Filleul?" he asked.
The magistrate, holding a candle in his hand, ventured down the ladder.
The Comte de Gesvres followed him and Beautrelet, in his turn, placed
his foot on the first rung.
Mechanically, he counted eighteen rungs, while his eyes examined the
crypt, where the glimmer of the candle struggled against the heavy
darkness. But, at the bottom, his nostrils were assailed by one of
those foul and violent smells which linger in the memory for many a
long day. And, suddenly, a trembling hand seized him by the shoulder.
"Well, what is it?"
"B-beautrelet," stammered M. Filleul. "B-beau-trelet--"
He could not get a word out for terror.
"Come, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, compose yourself!"
"Beautrelet--he is there--"
"Yes--there was something under the big stone that broke off the
altar--I pushed the stone--and I touched--I shall never--shall never
"Where is it?"
"On this side.--Don't you notice the smell?--And then look--see."
He took the candle and held it towards a motionless form stretched upon
"Oh!" exclaimed Beautrelet, in a horror-stricken tone.
The three men bent down quickly. The corpse lay half-naked, lean,
frightful. The flesh, which had the greenish hue of soft wax, appeared
in places through the torn clothes. But the most hideous thing, the
thing that had drawn a cry of terror from the young man's lips, was the
head, the head which had just been crushed by the block of stone, the
shapeless head, a repulsive mass in which not one feature could be
Beautrelet took four strides up the ladder and fled into the daylight
and the open air.
M. Filleul found him again lying flat on the around, with his hands
glued to his face:
"I congratulate you, Beautrelet," he said. "In addition to the
discovery of the hiding-place, there are two points on which I have
been able to verify the correctness of your assertions. First of all,
the man on whom Mlle. de Saint-Veran fired was indeed Arsene Lupin, as
you said from the start. Also, he lived in Paris under the name of
Etienne de Vaudreix. His linen is marked with the initials E. V. That
ought to be sufficient proof, I think: don't you?"
Isidore did not stir.
"Monsieur le Comte has gone to have a horse put to. They're sending for
Dr. Jouet, who will make the usual examination. In my opinion, death
must have taken place a week ago, at least. The state of decomposition
of the corpse--but you don't seem to be listening--"
"What I say is based upon absolute reasons. Thus, for instance--"
M. Filleul continued his demonstrations, without, however, obtaining
any more manifest marks of attention. But M. de Gesvres's return
interrupted his monologue. The comte brought two letters. One was to
tell him that Holmlock Shears would arrive next morning.
"Capital!" cried M. Filleul, joyfully. "Inspector Ganimard will be here
too. It will be delightful."
"The other letter is for you, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction," said the
"Better and better," said M. Filleul, after reading it. "There will
certainly not be much for those two gentlemen to do. M. Beautrelet, I
hear from Dieppe that the body of a young woman was found by some
shrimpers, this morning, on the rocks."
Beautrelet gave a start:
"What's that? The body--"
"Of a young woman.--The body is horribly mutilated, they say, and it
would be impossible to establish the identity, but for a very narrow
little gold curb-bracelet on the right arm which has become encrusted
in the swollen skin. Now Mlle. de Saint-Veran used to wear a gold
curb-bracelet on her right arm. Evidently, therefore, Monsieur le
Comte, this is the body of your poor niece, which the sea must have
washed to that distance. What do you think, Beautrelet?"
"Nothing--nothing--or, rather, yes--everything is connected, as you
see--and there is no link missing in my argument. All the facts, one
after the other, however contradictory, however disconcerting they may
appear, end by supporting the supposition which I imagined from the
"I don't understand."
"You soon will. Remember, I promised you the whole truth."
"But it seems to me--"
"A little patience, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. So far, you have
had no cause to complain of me. It is a fine day. Go for a walk, lunch
at the chateau, smoke your pipe. I shall be back by four o'clock. As
for my school, well, I don't care: I shall take the night train."
They had reached the out-houses at the back of the chateau. Beautrelet
jumped on his bicycle and rode away.
At Dieppe, he stopped at the office of the local paper, the Vigie, and
examined the file for the last fortnight. Then he went on to the
market-town of Envermeu, six or seven miles farther. At Envermeu, he
talked to the mayor, the rector and the local policeman. The
church-clock struck three. His inquiry was finished.
He returned singing for joy. He pressed upon the two pedals turn by
turn, with an equal and powerful rhythm; his chest opened wide to take
in the keen air that blew from the sea. And, from time to time, he
forgot himself to the extent of uttering shouts of triumph to the sky,
when he thought of the aim which he was pursuing and of the success
that was crowning his efforts.
Ambrumesy appeared in sight. He coasted at full speed down the slope
leading to the chateau. The top rows of venerable trees that line the
road seemed to run to meet him and to vanish behind him forthwith. And,
all at once, he uttered a cry. In a sudden vision, he had seen a rope
stretched from one tree to another, across the road.
His machine gave a jolt and stopped short. Beautrelet was flung three
yards forward, with immense violence, and it seemed to him that only
chance, a miraculous chance, caused him to escape a heap of pebbles on
which, logically, he ought to have broken his head.
He lay for a few seconds stunned. Then, all covered with bruises, with
the skin flayed from his knees, he examined the spot. On the right lay
a small wood, by which his aggressor had no doubt fled. Beautrelet
untied the rope. To the tree on the left around which it was fastened a
small piece of paper was fixed with string. Beautrelet unfolded it and
"The third and last warning."
He went on to the chateau, put a few questions to the servants and
joined the examining magistrate in a room on the ground floor, at the
end of the right wing, where M. Filleul used to sit in the course of
his operations. M. Filleul was writing, with his clerk seated opposite
to him. At a sign from him, the clerk left the room; and the magistrate
"Why, what have you been doing to yourself, M. Beautrelet? Your hands
are covered with blood."
"It's nothing, it's nothing," said the young man. "Just a fall
occasioned by this rope, which was stretched in front of my bicycle. I
will only ask you to observe that the rope comes from the chateau. Not
longer than twenty minutes ago, it was being used to dry linen on,
outside the laundry."
"You don't mean to say so!"
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I am being watched here, by some one
in the very heart of the place, who can see me, who can hear me and
who, minute by minute, observes my actions and knows my intentions."
"Do you think so?"
"I am sure of it. It is for you to discover him and you will have no
difficulty in that. As for myself, I want to have finished and to give
you the promised explanations. I have made faster progress than our
adversaries expected and I am convinced that they mean to take vigorous
measures on their side. The circle is closing around me. The danger is
approaching. I feel it."
"You wait and see! For the moment, let us lose no time. And, first, a
question on a point which I want to have done with at once. Have you
spoken to anybody of that document which Sergeant Quevillon picked up
and handed you in my presence?"
"No, indeed; not to a soul. But do you attach any value--?"
"The greatest value. It's an idea of mine, an idea, I confess, which
does not rest upon a proof of any kind--for, up to the present, I have
not succeeded in deciphering the document. And therefore I am
mentioning it--so that we need not come back to it."
Beautrelet pressed his hand on M. Filleul's and whispered:
"Don't speak--there's some one listening--outside--"
The gravel creaked. Beautrelet ran to the window and leaned out:
"There's no one there--but the border has been trodden down--we can
easily identify the footprints--"
He closed the window and sat down again:
"You see, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, the enemy has even ceased to
take the most ordinary precautions--he has not time left--he too feels
that the hour is urgent. Let us be quick, therefore, and speak, since
they do not wish us to speak."
He laid the document on the table and held it in position, unfolded:
"One observation, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, to begin with. The
paper consists almost entirely of dots and figures. And in the first
three lines and the fifth--the only ones with which we have to do at
present, for the fourth seems to present an entirely different
character--not one of those figures is higher than the figure 5. There
is, therefore, a great chance that each of these figures represents one
of the five vowels, taken in alphabetical order. Let us put down the
He wrote on a separate piece of paper:
E . A . A . . E . . E . A . . A . .
A . . . E . E . . E OI . E . . E .
. OU . . E . O . . . E . . E . O . . E
AI . UI . . E . . EU . E
Then he continued:
"As you see, this does not give us much to go upon. The key is, at the
same time, very easy, because the inventor has contented himself with
replacing the vowels by figures and the consonants by dots, and very
difficult, if not impossible, because he has taken no further trouble
to complicate the problem."
"It is certainly pretty obscure."
"Let us try to throw some light upon it. The second line is divided
into two parts; and the second part appears in such a way that it
probably forms one word. If we now seek to replace the intermediary
dots by consonants, we arrive at the conclusion, after searching and
casting about, that the only consonants which are logically able to
support the vowels are also logically able to produce only one word,
the word DEMOISELLES."
"That would refer to Mlle. de Gesvres and Mlle. de Saint-Veran."
"And do you see nothing more?"
"Yes. I also note an hiatus in the middle of the last line; and, if I
apply a similar operation to the beginning of the line, I at once see
that the only consonant able to take the place of the dot between the
diphthongs FAI and UI is the letter G and that, when I have thus formed
the first five letters of the word, AIGUI, it is natural and inevitable
that, with the two next dots and the final E, I should arrive at the
"Yes, the word AIGUILLE forces itself upon us."
"Finally, for the last word, I have three vowels and three consonants.
I cast about again, I try all the letters, one after the other, and,
starting with the principle that the two first letters are necessary
consonants, I find that three words apply: F*EUVE, PREUVE and CREUSE. I
eliminate the words F*EUVE and PREUVE, as possessing no possible
relation to a needle, and I keep the word CREUSE."
"Making 'hollow needle'! By jove! I admit that your solution is
correct, because it needs must be; but how does it help us?"
"Not at all," said Beautrelet, in a thoughtful tone. "Not at all, for
the moment.--Later on, we shall see.--I have an idea that a number of
things are included in the puzzling conjunction of those two words,
AIGUILLE CREUSE. What is troubling me at present is rather the material
on which the document is written, the paper employed.--Do they still
manufacture this sort of rather coarse-grained parchment? And then this
ivory color.--And those folds--the wear of those folds--and, lastly,
look, those marks of red sealing-wax, on the back--"
At that moment Beautrelet, was interrupted by Bredoux, the magistrate's
clerk, who opened the door and announced the unexpected arrival of the
chief public prosecutor. M. Filleul rose:
"Anything new? Is Monsieur le Procureur General downstairs?"
"No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. Monsieur le Procureur General has
not left his carriage. He is only passing through Ambrumesy and begs
you to be good enough to go down to him at the gate. He only has a word
to say to you."
"That's curious," muttered M. Filleul. "However--we shall see. Excuse
me, Beautrelet, I shan't be long."
He went away. His footsteps sounded outside. Then the clerk closed the
door, turned the key and put it in his pocket.
"Hullo!" exclaimed Beautrelet, greatly surprised. "What are you locking
us in for?"
"We shall be able to talk so much better," retorted Bredoux.
Beautrelet rushed toward another door, which led to the next room. He
had understood: the accomplice was Bredoux, the clerk of the examining
magistrate himself. Bredoux grinned:
"Don't hurt your fingers, my young friend. I have the key of that door,
"There's the window!" cried Beautrelet.
"Too late," said Bredoux, planting himself in front of the casement,
revolver in hand.
Every chance of retreat was cut off. There was nothing more for Isidore
to do, nothing except to defend himself against the enemy who was
revealing himself with such brutal daring. He crossed his arms.
"Good," mumbled the clerk. "And now let us waste no time." He took out
his watch. "Our worthy M. Filleul will walk down to the gate. At the
gate, he will find nobody, of course: no more public prosecutor than my
eye. Then he will come back. That gives us about four minutes. It will
take me one minute to escape by this window, clear through the little
door by the ruins and jump on the motor cycle waiting for me. That
leaves three minutes, which is just enough."
Bredoux was a queer sort of misshapen creature, who balanced on a pair
of very long spindle-legs a huge trunk, as round as the body of a
spider and furnished with immense arms. A bony face and a low, small
stubborn forehead pointed to the man's narrow obstinacy.
Beautrelet felt a weakness in the legs and staggered. He had to sit
"Speak," he said. "What do you want?"
"The paper. I've been looking for it for three days."
"I haven't got it."
"You're lying. I saw you put it back in your pocket-book when I came
"Next, you must undertake to keep quite quiet. You're annoying us.
Leave us alone and mind your own business. Our patience is at an end."
He had come nearer, with the revolver still aimed at the young man's
head, and spoke in a hollow voice, with a powerful stress on each
syllable that he uttered. His eyes were hard, his smile cruel.
Beautrelet gave a shudder. It was the first time that he was
experiencing the sense of danger. And such danger! He felt himself in
the presence of an implacable enemy, endowed with blind and
"And next?" he asked, with less assurance in his voice.
"Next? Nothing.--You will be free.--We will forget--"
There was a pause. Then Bredoux resumed:
"There is only a minute left. You must make up your mind. Come, old
chap, don't be a fool.--We are the stronger, you know, always and
everywhere.--Quick, the paper--"
Isidore did not flinch. With a livid and terrified face, he remained
master of himself, nevertheless, and his brain remained clear amid the
breakdown of his nerves. The little black hole of the revolver was
pointing at six inches from his eyes. The finger was bent and obviously
pressing on the trigger. It only wanted a moment--
"The paper," repeated Bredoux. "If not--"
"Here it is," said Beautrelet.
He took out his pocket-book and handed it to the clerk, who seized it
"Capital! We've come to our senses. I've no doubt there's something to
be done with you.--You're troublesome, but full of common sense. I'll
talk about it to my pals. And now I'm off. Good-bye!"
He pocketed his revolver and turned back the fastening of the window.
There was a noise in the passage.
"Good-bye," he said again. "I'm only just in time."
But the idea stopped him. With a quick movement, he examined the
"Damn and blast it!" He grated through his teeth. "The paper's not
there.--You've done me--"
He leaped into the room. Two shots rang out. Isidore, in his turn, had
seized his pistol and fired.
"Missed, old chap!" shouted Bredoux. "Your hand's shaking.--You're
They caught each other round the body and came down to the floor
together. There was a violent and incessant knocking at the door.
Isidore's strength gave way and he was at once over come by his
adversary. It was the end. A hand was lifted over him, armed with a
knife, and fell. A fierce pain burst into his shoulder. He let go.
He had an impression of some one fumbling in the inside pocket of his
jacket and taking the paper from it. Then, through the lowered veil of
his eyelids, he half saw the man stepping over the window-sill.
* * * * *
The same newspapers which, on the following morning, related the last
episodes that had occurred at the Chateau d'Ambrumesy--the trickery at
the chapel, the discovery of Arsene Lupin's body and of Raymonde's body
and, lastly, the murderous attempt made upon Beautrelet by the clerk to
the examining magistrate--also announced two further pieces of news:
the disappearance of Ganimard, and the kidnapping of Holmlock Shears,
in broad daylight, in the heart of London, at the moment when he was
about to take the train for Dover.
Lupin's gang, therefore, which had been disorganized for a moment by
the extraordinary ingenuity of a seventeen-year-old schoolboy, was now
resuming the offensive and was winning all along the line from the
first. Lupin's two great adversaries, Shears and Ganimard, were put
away. Isidore Beautrelet was disabled. The police were powerless. For
the moment there was no one left capable of struggling against such
FACE TO FACE
One evening, five weeks later, I had given my man leave to go out. It
was the day before the 14th of July. The night was hot, a storm
threatened and I felt no inclination to leave the flat. I opened wide
the glass doors leading to my balcony, lit my reading lamp and sat down
in an easy-chair to look through the papers, which I had not yet seen.
It goes without saying that there was something about Arsene Lupin in
all of them. Since the attempt at murder of which poor Isidore
Beautrelet had been the victim, not a day had passed without some
mention of the Ambrumesy mystery. It had a permanent headline devoted
to it. Never had public opinion been excited to that extent, thanks to
the extraordinary series of hurried events, of unexpected and
disconcerting surprises. M. Filleul, who was certainly accepting the
secondary part allotted to him with a good faith worthy of all praise,
had let the interviewers into the secret of his young advisor's
exploits during the memorable three days, so that the public was able
to indulge in the rashest suppositions. And the public gave itself free
scope. Specialists and experts in crime, novelists and playwrights,
retired magistrates and chief-detectives, erstwhile Lecocqs and budding
Holmlock Shearses, each had his theory and expounded it in lengthy
contributions to the press. Everybody corrected and supplemented the
inquiry of the examining magistrate; and all on the word of a child, on
the word of Isidore Beautrelet, a sixth-form schoolboy at the Lycee
For really, it had to be admitted, the complete elements of the truth
were now in everybody's possession. What did the mystery consist of?
They knew the hiding-place where Arsene Lupin had taken refuge and lain
a-dying; there was no doubt about it: Dr. Delattre, who continued to
plead professional secrecy and refused to give evidence, nevertheless
confessed to his intimate friends--who lost no time in blabbing--that
he really had been taken to a crypt to attend a wounded man whom his
confederates introduced to him by the name of Arsene Lupin. And, as the
corpse of Etienne de Vaudreix was found in that same crypt and as the
said Etienne de Vaudreix was none other than Arsene Lupin--as the
official examination went to show--all this provided an additional
proof, if one were needed, of the identity of Arsene Lupin and the
wounded man. Therefore, with Lupin dead and Mlle. de Saint-Veran's body
recognized by the curb-bracelet on her wrist, the tragedy was finished.
It was not. Nobody thought that it was, because Beautrelet had said the
contrary. Nobody knew in what respect it was not finished, but, on the
word of the young man, the mystery remained complete. The evidence of
the senses did not prevail against the statement of a Beautrelet. There
was something which people did not know, and of that something they
were convinced that he was in position to supply a triumphant
It is easy, therefore, to imagine the anxiety with which, at first,
people awaited the bulletins issued by the two Dieppe doctors to whose
care the Comte de Gesvres entrusted his patient; the distress that
prevailed during the first few days, when his life was thought to be in
danger; and the enthusiasm of the morning when the newspapers announced
that there was no further cause for fear. The least details excited the
crowd. People wept at the thought of Beautrelet nursed by his old
father, who had been hurriedly summoned by telegram, and they also
admired the devotion of Mlle. Suzanne de Gesvres, who spent night after
night by the wounded lad's bedside.
Next came a swift and glad convalescence. At last, the public were
about to know! They would know what Beautrelet had promised to reveal
to M. Filleul and the decisive words which the knife of the would-be
assassin had prevented him from uttering! And they would also know
everything, outside the tragedy itself, that remained impenetrable or
inaccessible to the efforts of the police.
With Beautrelet free and cured of his wound, one could hope for some
certainty regarding Harlington, Arsene Lupin's mysterious accomplice,
who was still detained at the Sante prison. One would learn what had
become, after the crime, of Bredoux the clerk, that other accomplice,
whose daring was really terrifying.
With Beautrelet free, one could also form a precise idea concerning the
disappearance of Ganimard and the kidnapping of Shears. How was it
possible for two attempts of this kind to take place? Neither the
English detectives nor their French colleagues possessed the slightest
clue on the subject. On Whit-Sunday, Ganimard did not come home, nor on
the Monday either, nor during the five weeks that followed. In London,
on Whit-Monday, Holmlock Shears took a cab at eight o'clock in the
evening to drive to the station. He had hardly stepped in, when he
tried to alight, probably feeling a presentiment of danger. But two men
jumped into the hansom, one on either side, flung him back on the seat
and kept him there between them, or rather under them. All this
happened in sight of nine or ten witnesses, who had no time to
interfere. The cab drove off at a gallop. And, after that, nothing.
Nobody knew anything.
Perhaps, also, Beautrelet would be able to give the complete
explanation of the document, the mysterious paper to which. Bredoux,
the magistrate's clerk, attached enough importance to recover it, with
blows of the knife, from the person in whose possession it was. The
problem of the Hollow Needle it was called, by the countless solvers of
riddles who, with their eyes bent upon the figures and dots, strove to
read a meaning into them. The Hollow Needle! What a bewildering
conjunction of two simple words! What an incomprehensible question was
set by that scrap of paper, whose very origin and manufacture were
unknown! The Hollow Needle! Was it a meaningless expression, the puzzle
of a schoolboy scribbling with pen and ink on the corner of a page? Or
were they two magic words which could compel the whole great adventure
of Lupin the great adventurer to assume its true significance? Nobody
But the public soon would know. For some days, the papers had been
announcing the approaching arrival of Beautrelet. The struggle was on
the point of recommencing; and, this time, it would be implacable on
the part of the young man, who was burning to take his revenge. And, as
it happened, my attention, just then, was drawn to his name, printed in
capitals. The Grand Journal headed its front page with the following
* * * * *
WE HAVE PERSUADED
M. ISIDORE BEAUTRELET
TO GIVE US THE FIRST RIGHT OF PRINTING HIS REVELATIONS. TO-MORROW,
TUESDAY, BEFORE THE POLICE THEMSELVES ARE INFORMED, THE Grand Journal
WILL PUBLISH THE WHOLE TRUTH OF THE AMBRUMESY MYSTERY.
* * * * *
"That's interesting, eh? What do you think of it, my dear chap?"
I started from my chair. There was some one sitting beside me, some one
I did not know. I cast my eyes round for a weapon. But, as my visitor's
attitude appeared quite inoffensive, I restrained myself and went up to
He was a young man with strongly-marked features, long, fair hair and a
short, tawny beard, divided into two points. His dress suggested the
dark clothes of an English clergyman; and his whole person, for that
matter, wore an air of austerity and gravity that inspired respect.
"Who are you?" I asked. And, as he did not reply, I repeated, "Who are
you? How did you get in? What are you here for?"
He looked at me and said:
"Don't you know me?"
"Oh, that's really curious! Just search your memory--one of your
friends--a friend of a rather special kind--however--"
I caught him smartly by the arm:
"You lie! You lie! No, you're not the man you say you are--it's not
"Then why are you thinking of that man rather than another?" he asked,
with a laugh.
Oh, that laugh! That bright and clear young laugh, whose amusing irony
had so often contributed to my diversion! I shivered. Could it be?
"No, no," I protested, with a sort of terror. "It cannot be."
"It can't be I, because I'm dead, eh?" he retorted. "And because you
don't believe in ghosts." He laughed again. "Am I the sort of man who
dies? Do you think I would die like that, shot in the back by a girl?
Really, you misjudge me! As though I would ever consent to such a death
"So it is you!" I stammered, still incredulous and yet greatly excited.
"So it is you! I can't manage to recognize you."
"In that case," he said, gaily, "I am quite easy. If the only man to
whom I have shown myself in my real aspect fails to know me to-day,
then everybody who will see me henceforth as I am to-day is bound not
to know me either, when he sees me in my real aspect--if, indeed, I
have a real aspect--"
I recognized his voice, now that he was no longer changing its tone,
and I recognized his eyes also and the expression of his face and his
whole attitude and his very being, through the counterfeit appearance
in which he had shrouded it:
"Arsene Lupin!" I muttered.
"Yes, Arsene Lupin!" he cried, rising from his chair. "The one and only
Arsene Lupin, returned from the realms of darkness, since it appears
that I expired and passed away in a crypt! Arsene Lupin, alive and
kicking, in the full exercise of his will, happy and free and more than
ever resolved to enjoy that happy freedom in a world where hitherto he
has received nothing but favors and privileges!"
It was my turn to laugh:
"Well, it's certainly you, and livelier this time than on the day when
I had the pleasure of seeing you, last year--I congratulate you."
I was alluding to his last visit, the visit following on the famous
adventure of the diadem, his interrupted marriage, his flight with
Sonia Kirchnoff and the Russian girl's horrible death. On that day, I
had seen an Arsene Lupin whom I did not know, weak, down-hearted, with
eyes tired with weeping, seeking for a little sympathy and affection.
 Arsene Lupin, play in three acts and four scenes, by Maurice
Leblanc and Francis de Croisset.
"Be quiet," he said. "The past is far away."
"It was a year ago," I observed.
"It was ten years ago," he declared. "Arsene Lupin's years count for
ten times as much as another man's."
I did not insist and, changing the conversation:
"How did you get in?"
"Why, how do you think? Through the door, of course. Then, as I saw
nobody, I walked across the drawing room and out by the balcony, and
here I am."
"Yes, but the key of the door--?"
"There are no doors for me, as you know. I wanted your flat and I came
"It is at your disposal. Am I to leave you?"
"Oh, not at all! You won't be in the way. In fact, I can promise you an
"Are you expecting some one?"
"Yes. I have given him an appointment here at ten o'clock." He took out
his watch. "It is ten now. If the telegram reached him, he ought to be
The front-door bell rang.
"What did I tell you? No, don't trouble to get up: I'll go."
With whom on earth could he have made an appointment? And what sort of
scene was I about to assist at: dramatic or comic? For Lupin himself to
consider it worthy of interest, the situation must be somewhat
He returned in a moment and stood back to make way for a young man,
tall and thin and very pale in the face.
Without a word and with a certain solemnity about his movements that
made me feel ill at ease. Lupin switched on all the electric lamps, one
after the other, till the room was flooded with light. Then the two men
looked at each other, exchanged profound and penetrating glances, as
if, with all the effort of their gleaming eyes, they were trying to
pierce into each other's souls.
It was an impressive sight to see them thus, grave and silent. But who
could the newcomer be?
I was on the point of guessing the truth, through his resemblance to a
photograph which had recently appeared in the papers, when Lupin turned
"My dear chap, let me introduce M. Isidore Beautrelet." And, addressing
the young man, he continued, "I have to thank you, M. Beautrelet,
first, for being good enough, on receipt of a letter from me, to
postpone your revelations until after this interview and, secondly, for
granting me this interview with so good a grace."
"Allow me to remark that my good grace consists, above all, in obeying
your orders. The threat which you made to me in the letter in question
was the more peremptory in being aimed not at me, but at my father."
"My word," said Lupin laughing, "we must do the best we can and make
use of the means of action vouchsafed to us. I knew by experience that
your own safety was indifferent to you, seeing that you resisted the
arguments of Master Bredoux. There remained your father--your father
for whom you have a great affection--I played on that string."
"And here I am," said Beautrelet, approvingly.
I motioned them to be seated. They consented and Lupin resumed, in that
tone of imperceptible banter which is all his own:
"In any case, M. Beautrelet, if you will not accept my thanks, you will
at least not refuse my apologies."
"Apologies! Bless my soul, what for?"
"For the brutality which Master Bredoux showed you."
"I confess that the act surprised me. It was not Lupin's usual way of
behaving. A stab--"
"I assure you I had no hand in it. Bredoux is a new recruit. My
friends, during the time that they had the management of our affairs,
thought that it might be useful to win over to our cause the clerk of
the magistrate himself who was conducting the inquiry."
"Your friends were right."
"Bredoux, who was specially attached to your person, was, in fact, most
valuable to us. But, with the ardor peculiar to any neophyte who wishes
to distinguish himself, he pushed his zeal too far and thwarted my
plans by permitting himself, on his own initiative, to strike you a
"Oh, it was a little accident!"
"Not at all, not at all! And I have reprimanded him severely! I am
bound, however, to say in his favor that he was taken unawares by the
really unexpected rapidity of your investigation. If you had only left
us a few hours longer, you would have escaped that unpardonable
"And I should doubtless have enjoyed the enormous advantage of
undergoing the same fate as M. Ganimard and Mr. Holmlock Shears?"
"Exactly," said Lupin, laughing heartily. "And I should not have known
the cruel terrors which your wound caused me. I have had an atrocious
time because of it, believe me, and, at this moment, your pallor fills
me with all the stings of remorse. Can you ever forgive me?"
"The proof of confidence which you have shown me in delivering yourself
unconditionally into my hands--it would have been so easy for me to
bring a few of Ganimard's friends with me--that proof of confidence
wipes out everything."
Was he speaking seriously? I confess frankly that I was greatly
perplexed. The struggle between the two men was beginning in a manner
which I was simply unable to understand. I had been present at the
first meeting between Lupin and Holmlock Shears, in the cafe near the
Gare Montparnesse, and I could not help recalling the haughty
carriage of the two combatants, the terrific clash of their pride under
the politeness of their manners, the hard blows which they dealt each
other, their feints, their arrogance.
 Arsene Lupin versus Holmlock Shears, by Maurice Leblanc.
Here, it was quite different. Lupin, it is true, had not changed; he
exhibited the same tactics, the same crafty affability. But what a
strange adversary he had come upon! Was it even an adversary? Really,
he had neither the tone of one nor the appearance. Very calm, but with
a real calmness, not one assumed to cloak the passion of a man
endeavoring to restrain himself; very polite, but without exaggeration;
smiling, but without chaff, he presented the most perfect contrast to
Arsene Lupin, a contrast so perfect even that, to my mind, Lupin
appeared as much perplexed as myself.
No, there was no doubt about it: in the presence of that frail
stripling, with cheeks smooth as a girl's and candid and charming eyes,
Lupin was losing his ordinary self-assurance. Several times over, I
observed traces of embarrassment in him. He hesitated, did not attack
frankly, wasted time in mawkish and affected phrases.
It also looked as though he wanted something. He seemed to be seeking,
waiting. What for? Some aid?
There was a fresh ring of the bell. He himself ran and opened the door.
He returned with a letter:
"Will you allow me, gentlemen?" he asked.
He opened the letter. It contained a telegram. He read it--and became
as though transformed. His face lit up, his figure righted itself and I
saw the veins on his forehead swell. It was the athlete who once more
stood before me, the ruler, sure of himself, master of events and
master of persons. He spread the telegram on the table and, striking it
with his fist, exclaimed:
"Now, M. Beautrelet, it's you and I!"
Beautrelet adopted a listening attitude and Lupin began, in measured,
but harsh and masterful tones:
"Let us throw off the mask--what say you?--and have done with
hypocritical compliments. We are two enemies, who know exactly what to
think of each other; we act toward each other as enemies; and therefore
we ought to treat with each other as enemies."
"To treat?" echoed Beautrelet, in a voice of surprise.
"Yes, to treat. I did not use that word at random and I repeat it, in
spite of the effort, the great effort, which it costs me. This is the
first time I have employed it to an adversary. But also, I may as well
tell you at once, it is the last. Make the most of it. I shall not
leave this flat without a promise from you. If I do, it means war."
Beautrelet seemed more and more surprised. He said very prettily:
"I was not prepared for this--you speak so funnily! It's so different
from what I expected! Yes, I thought you were not a bit like that! Why
this display of anger? Why use threats? Are we enemies because
circumstances bring us into opposition? Enemies? Why?"
Lupin appeared a little out of countenance, but he snarled and, leaning
over the boy:
"Listen to me, youngster," he said. "It's not a question of picking
one's words. It's a question of a fact, a positive, indisputable fact;
and that fact is this: in all the past ten years, I have not yet
knocked up against an adversary of your capacity. With Ganimard and
Holmlock Shears I played as if they were children. With you, I am
obliged to defend myself, I will say more, to retreat. Yes, at this
moment, you and I well know that I must look upon myself as worsted in
the fight. Isidore Beautrelet has got the better of Arsene Lupin. My
plans are upset. What I tried to leave in the dark you have brought
into the full light of day. You annoy me, you stand in my way. Well,
I've had enough of it--Bredoux told you so to no purpose. I now tell
you so again; and I insist upon it, so that you may take it to heart:
I've had enough of it!"
Beautrelet nodded his head:
"Yes, but what do you want?"
"Peace! Each of us minding his own business, keeping to his own side!"
"That is to say, you free to continue your burglaries undisturbed, I
free to return to my studies."
"Your studies--anything you please--I don't care. But you must leave me
in peace--I want peace."
"How can I trouble it now?"
Lupin seized his hand violently:
"You know quite well! Don't pretend not to know. You are at this moment
in possession of a secret to which I attach the highest importance.
This secret you were free to guess, but you have no right to give it to
"Are you sure that I know it?"
"You know it, I am certain: day by day, hour by hour, I have followed
your train of thought and the progress of your investigations. At the
very moment when Bredoux struck you, you were about to tell all.
Subsequently, you delayed your revelations, out of solicitude for your
father. But they are now promised to this paper here. The article is
written. It will be set up in an hour. It will appear to-morrow."
Lupin rose, and slashing the air with his hand,
"It shall not appear!" he cried.
"It shall appear!" said Beautrelet, starting up in his turn.
At last, the two men were standing up to each other. I received the
impression of a shock, as if they had seized each other round the body.
Beautrelet seemed to burn with a sudden energy. It was as though a
spark had kindled within him a group of new emotions: pluck,
self-respect, the passion of fighting, the intoxication of danger. As
for Lupin, I read in the radiance of his glance the joy of the duellist
who at length encounters the sword of his hated rival.
"Is the article in the printer's hands?"
"Have you it there--on you?"
"No fear! I shouldn't have it by now, in that case!"
"One of the assistant editors has it, in a sealed envelope. If I am not
at the office by midnight, he will have set it up."
"Oh, the scoundrel!" muttered Lupin. "He has provided for everything!"
His anger was increasing, visibly and frightfully. Beautrelet chuckled,
jeering in his turn, carried away by his success.
"Stop that, you brat!" roared Lupin. "You're forgetting who I am--and
that, if I wished--upon my word, he's daring to laugh!"
A great silence fell between them. Then Lupin stepped forward and, in
muttered tones, with his eyes on Beautrelet's:
"You shall go straight to the Grand Journal."
"Tear up your article."
"See the editor."
"Tell him you made a mistake."
"And write him another article, in which you will give the official
version of the Ambrumesy mystery, the one which every one has accepted."
Lupin took up a steel ruler that lay on my desk and broke it in two
without an effort. His pallor was terrible to see. He wiped away the
beads of perspiration that stood on his forehead. He, who had never
known his wishes resisted, was being maddened by the obstinacy of this
child. He pressed his two hands on Beautrelet's shoulder and,
emphasizing every syllable, continued:
"You shall do as I tell you, Beautrelet. You shall say that your latest
discoveries have convinced you of my death, that there is not the least
doubt about it. You shall say so because I wish it, because it has to
be believed that I am dead. You shall say so, above all, because, if
you do not say so--"
"Because, if I do not say so--?"
"Your father will be kidnapped to-night, as Ganimard and Holmlock
Beautrelet gave a smile.
"My answer is that I am very sorry to disappoint you, but I have
promised to speak and I shall speak."
"Speak in the sense which I have told you."
"I shall speak the truth," cried Beautrelet, eagerly. "It is something
which you can't understand, the pleasure, the need, rather, of saying
the thing that is and saying it aloud. The truth is here, in this brain
which has guessed it and discovered it; and it will come out, all naked
and quivering. The article, therefore, will be printed as I wrote it.
The world shall know that Lupin is alive and shall know the reason why
he wished to be considered dead. The world shall know all." And he
added, calmly, "And my father shall not be kidnapped."
Once again, they were both silent, with their eyes still fixed upon
each other. They watched each other. Their swords were engaged up to
the hilt. And it was like the heavy silence that goes before the mortal
blow. Which of the two was to strike it?
Lupin said, between his teeth:
"Failing my instructions to the contrary, two of my friends have orders
to enter your father's room to-night, at three o'clock in the morning,
to seize him and carry him off to join Ganimard and Holmlock Shears."
A burst of shrill laughter interrupted him:
"Why, you highwayman, don't you understand," cried Beautrelet, "that I
have taken my precautions? So you think that I am innocent enough, ass
enough, to have sent my father home to his lonely little house in the
open country!" Oh, the gay, bantering laughter that lit up the boy's
face! It was a new sort of laugh on his lips, a laugh that showed the
influence of Lupin himself. And the familiar form of address which he
adopted placed him at once on his adversary's level. He continued:
"You see, Lupin, your great fault is to believe your schemes
infallible. You proclaim yourself beaten, do you? What humbug! You are
convinced that you will always win the day in the end--and you forget
that others can have their little schemes, too. Mine is a very simple
one, my friend."
It was delightful to hear him talk. He walked up and down, with his
hands in his pockets and with the easy swagger of a boy teasing a caged
beast. Really, at this moment, he was revenging, with the most terrible
revenges, all the victims of the great adventurer. And he concluded:
"Lupin, my father is not in Savoy. He is at the other end of France, in
the centre of a big town, guarded by twenty of our friends, who have
orders not to lose sight of him until our battle is over. Would you
like details? He is at Cherbourg, in the house of one of the keepers of
the arsenal. And remember that the arsenal is closed at night and that
no one is allowed to enter it by day, unless he carries an
authorization and is accompanied by a guide."
He stopped in front of Lupin and defied him, like a child making faces
at his playmate:
"What do you say to that, master?"
For some minutes, Lupin had stood motionless. Not a muscle of his face
had moved. What were his thoughts? Upon what action was he resolving?
To any one knowing the fierce violence of his pride the only possible
solution was the total, immediate, final collapse of his adversary. His
fingers twitched. For a second, I had a feeling that he was about to
throw himself upon the boy and wring his neck.
"What do you say to that, master?" Beautrelet repeated.
Lupin took up the telegram that lay on the table, held it out and said,
"Here, baby, read that."
Beautrelet became serious, suddenly, impressed by the gentleness of the
movement. He unfolded the paper and, at once, raising his eyes,
"What does it mean? I don't understand."
"At any rate, you understand the first word," said Lupin, "the first
word of the telegram--that is to say, the name of the place from which
it was sent--look--'Cherbourg.'"
"Yes--yes," stammered Beautrelet. "Yes--I understand--'Cherbourg'-and
"And then?--I should think the rest is quite plain: 'Removal of luggage
finished. Friends left with it and will wait instructions till eight
morning. All well.' Is there anything there that seems obscure? The
word 'luggage'? Pooh, you wouldn't have them write 'M. Beautrelet,
senior'! What then? The way in which the operation was performed? The
miracle by which your father was taken out of Cherbourg Arsenal, in
spite of his twenty body-guards? Pooh, it's as easy as A B C! And the
fact remains that the luggage has been dispatched. What do you say to
With all his tense being, with all his exasperated energy, Isidore
tried to preserve a good countenance. But I saw his lips quiver, his
jaw shrink, his eyes vainly strive to fix upon a point. He lisped a few
words, then was silent and, suddenly, gave way and, with his hands
before his face, burst into loud sobs:
"Oh, father! Father!"
An unexpected result, which was certainly the collapse which Lupin's
pride demanded, but also something more, something infinitely touching
and infinitely artless. Lupin gave a movement of annoyance and took up
his hat, as though this unaccustomed display of sentiment were too much
for him. But, on reaching the door, he stopped, hesitated and then
returned, slowly, step by step.
The soft sound of the sobs rose like the sad wailing of a little child
overcome with grief. The lad's shoulders marked the heart-rending
rhythm. Tears appeared through the crossed fingers. Lupin leaned
forward and, without touching Beautrelet, said, in a voice that had not
the least tone of pleasantry, nor even of the offensive pity of the
"Don't cry, youngster. This is one of those blows which a man must
expect when he rushes headlong into the fray, as you did. The worst
disasters lie in wait for him. The destiny of fighters will have it so.
We must suffer it as bravely as we can." Then, with a sort of
gentleness, he continued, "You were right, you see: we are not enemies.
I have known it for long. From the very first, I felt for you, for the
intelligent creature that you are, an involuntary sympathy--and
admiration. And that is why I wanted to say this to you--don't be
offended, whatever you do: I should be extremely sorry to offend
you--but I must say it: well, give up struggling against me. I am not
saying this out of vanity--nor because I despise you--but, you see, the
struggle is too unequal. You do not know--nobody knows all the
resources which I have at my command. Look here, this secret of the
Hollow Needle which you are trying so vainly to unravel: suppose, for a
moment, that it is a formidable, inexhaustible treasure--or else an
invisible, prodigious, fantastic refuge--or both perhaps. Think of the
superhuman power which I must derive from it! And you do not know,
either, all the resources which I have within myself--all that my will
and my imagination enable me to undertake and to undertake
successfully. Only think that my whole life--ever since I was born, I
might almost say--has tended toward the same aim, that I worked like a
convict before becoming what I am and to realize, in its perfection,
the type which I wished to create--which I have succeeded in creating.
That being so--what can you do? At that very moment when you think that
victory lies within your grasp, it will escape you--there will be
something of which you have not thought--a trifle--a grain of sand
which I shall have put in the right place, unknown to you. I entreat
you, give up--I should be obliged to hurt you; and the thought
distresses me." And, placing his hand on the boy's forehead, he
repeated, "Once more, youngster, give up. I should only hurt you. Who
knows if the trap into which you will inevitably fall has not already
opened under your footsteps?"
Beautrelet uncovered his face. He was no longer crying. Had he heard
Lupin's words? One might have doubted it, judging by his inattentive
For two or three minutes, he was silent. He seemed to weigh the
decision which he was about to take, to examine the reasons for and
against, to count up the favorable and unfavorable chances. At last, he
said to Lupin:
"If I change the sense of the article, if I confirm the version of your
death and if I undertake never to contradict the false version which I
shall have sanctioned, do you swear that my father will be free?"
"I swear it. My friends have taken your father by motor car to another
provincial town. At seven o'clock to-morrow morning, if the article in
the Grand Journal is what I want it to be, I shall telephone to them
and they will restore your father to liberty."
"Very well," said Beautrelet. "I submit to your conditions."
Quickly, as though he saw no object in prolonging the conversation
after accepting his defeat, he rose, took his hat, bowed to me, bowed
to Lupin and went out. Lupin watched him go, listened to the sound of
the door closing and muttered:
"Poor little beggar!"
* * * * *
At eight o'clock the next morning, I sent my man out to buy the Grand
Journal. It was twenty minutes before he brought me a copy, most of the
kiosks being already sold out.
I unfolded the paper with feverish hands. Beautrelet's article appeared
on the front page. I give it as it stood and as it was quoted in the
press of the whole world:
* * * * *
THE AMBRUMESY MYSTERY
I do not intend in these few sentences to set out in detail the mental
processes and the investigations that have enabled me to reconstruct
the tragedy--I should say the twofold tragedy--of Ambrumesy. In my
opinion, this sort of work and the judgments which it entails,
deductions, inductions, analyses and so on, are only interesting in a
minor degree and, in any case, are highly commonplace. No, I shall
content myself with setting forth the two leading ideas which I
followed; and, if I do that, it will be seen that, in so setting them
forth and in solving the two problems which they raise, I shall have
told the story just as it happened, in the exact order of the different
It may be said that some of these incidents are not proved and that I
leave too large a field to conjecture. That is quite true. But, in my
view, my theory is founded upon a sufficiently large number of proved
facts to be able to say that even those facts which are not proved must
follow from the strict logic of events. The stream is so often lost
under the pebbly bed: it is nevertheless the same stream that reappears
at intervals and mirrors back the blue sky.
The first riddle that confronted me, a riddle not in detail, but as a
whole, was how came it that Lupin, mortally wounded, one might say,
managed to live for five or six weeks without nursing, medicine or
food, at the bottom of a dark hole?
Let us start at the beginning. On Thursday the sixteenth of April, at
four o'clock in the morning, Arsene Lupin, surprised in the middle of
one of his most daring burglaries, runs away by the path leading to the
ruins and drops down shot. He drags himself painfully along, falls
again and picks himself up in the desperate hope of reaching the
chapel. The chapel contains a crypt, the existence of which he has
discovered by accident. If he can burrow there, he may be saved. By
dint of an effort, he approaches it, he is but a few yards away, when a
sound of footsteps approaches. Harassed and lost, he lets himself go.
The enemy arrives. It is Mlle. Raymonde de Saint-Veran.
This is the prologue or rather the first scene of the drama.
What happened between them? This is the easier to guess inasmuch as the
sequel of the adventure gives us all the necessary clues. At the girl's
feet lies a wounded man, exhausted by suffering, who will be captured
in two minutes. THIS MAN HAS BEEN WOUNDED BY HERSELF. Will she also
give him up?
If he is Jean Daval's murderer, yes, she will let destiny take its
course. But, in quick sentences, he tells her the truth about this
awful murder committed by her uncle, M. de Gesvres. She believes him.
What will she do?
Nobody can see them. The footman Victor is watching the little door.
The other, Albert, posted at the drawing-room window, has lost sight of
both of them. Will she give up the man she has wounded?
The girl is carried away by a movement of irresistible pity, which any
woman will understand. Instructed by Lupin, with a few movements she
binds up the wound with his handkerchief, to avoid the marks which the
blood would leave. Then, with the aid of the key which he gives her,
she opens the door of the chapel. He enters, supported by the girl. She
locks the door again and walks away. Albert arrives.
If the chapel had been visited at that moment or at least during the
next few minutes, before Lupin had had time to recover his strength, to
raise the flagstone and disappear by the stairs leading to the crypt,
he would have been taken. But this visit did not take place until six
hours later and then only in the most superficial way. As it is, Lupin
is saved; and saved by whom? By the girl who very nearly killed him.
Thenceforth, whether she wishes it or no, Mlle. de Saint-Veran is his
accomplice. Not only is she no longer able to give him up, but she is
obliged to continue her work, else the wounded man will perish in the
shelter in which she has helped to conceal him. Therefore she continues.
For that matter, if her feminine instinct makes the task a compulsory
one, it also makes it easy. She is full of artifice, she foresees and
forestalls everything. It is she who gives the examining magistrate a
false description of Arsene Lupin (the reader will remember the
difference of opinion on this subject between the cousins). It is she,
obviously, who, thanks to certain signs which I do not know of,
suspects an accomplice of Lupin's in the driver of the fly. She warns
him. She informs him of the urgent need of an operation. It is she, no
doubt, who substitutes one cap for the other. It is she who causes the
famous letter to be written in which she is personally threatened. How,
after that, is it possible to suspect her?
It is she, who at that moment when I was about to confide my first
impressions to the examining magistrate, pretends to have seen me, the
day before, in the copsewood, alarms M. Filleul on my score and reduces
me to silence: a dangerous move, no doubt, because it arouses my
attention and directs it against the person who assails me with an
accusation which I know to be false; but an efficacious move, because
the most important thing of all is to gain time and close my lips.
Lastly, it is she who, during forty days, feeds Lupin, brings him his
medicine (the chemist at Ouville will produce the prescriptions which
he made up for Mlle. de Saint-Veran), nurses him, dresses his wound,
watches over him AND CURES HIM.
Here we have the first of our two problems solved, at the same time
that the Ambrumesy mystery is set forth. Arsene Lupin found, close at
hand, in the chateau itself, the assistance which was indispensable to
him in order, first, not to be discovered and, secondly, to live.
He now lives. And we come to the second problem, corresponding with the
second Ambrumesy mystery, the study of which served me as a conducting
medium. Why does Lupin, alive, free, at the head of his gang,
omnipotent as before, why does Lupin make desperate efforts, efforts
with which I am constantly coming into collision, to force the idea of
his death upon the police and the public?
We must remember that Mlle. de Saint-Veran was a very pretty girl. The
photographs reproduced in the papers after her disappearance give but
an imperfect notion of her beauty. That follows which was bound to
follow. Lupin, seeing this lovely girl daily for five or six weeks,
longing for her presence when she is not there, subjected to her charm
and grace when she is there, inhaling the cool perfume of her breath
when she bends over him, Lupin becomes enamored of his nurse. Gratitude
turns to love, admiration to passion. She is his salvation, but she is
also the joy of his eyes, the dream of his lonely hours, his light, his
hope, his very life.
He respects her sufficiently not to take advantage of the girl's
devotion and not to make use of her to direct his confederates. There
is, in fact, a certain lack of decision apparent in the acts of the
gang. But he loves her also, his scruples weaken and, as Mlle. de
Saint-Veran refuses to be touched by a love that offends her, as she
relaxes her visits when they become less necessary, as she ceases them
entirely on the day when he is cured--desperate, maddened by grief, he
takes a terrible resolve. He leaves his lair, prepares his stroke and,
on Saturday the sixth of June, assisted by his accomplices, he carries
off the girl.
This is not all. The abduction must not be known. All search, all
surmises, all hope, even, must be cut short. Mlle. de Saint-Veran must
pass for dead. There is a mock murder: proofs are supplied for the
police inquiries. There is doubt about the crime, a crime, for that
matter, not unexpected, a crime foretold by the accomplices, a crime
perpetrated to revenge the chief's death. And, through this very
fact--observe the marvelous ingenuity of the conception--through this
very fact, the belief in this death is, so to speak, stimulated.
It is not enough to suggest a belief; it is necessary to compel a
certainty. Lupin foresees my interference. I am sure to guess the
trickery of the chapel. I am sure to discover the crypt. And, as the
crypt will be empty, the whole scaffolding will come to the ground.
THE CRYPT SHALL NOT BE EMPTY.
In the same way, the death of Mlle. de Saint-Veran will not be
definite, unless the sea gives up her corpse.
THE SEA SHALL GIVE UP THE CORPSE OF MLLE. DE SAINT-VERAN.
The difficulty is tremendous. The double obstacle seems insurmountable.
Yes, to any one but Lupin, but not to Lupin.
As he had foreseen, I guess the trickery of the chapel, I discover the
crypt and I go down into the lair where Lupin has taken refuge. His
corpse is there!
Any person who had admitted the death of Lupin as possible would have
been baffled. But I had not admitted this eventuality for an instant
(first, by intuition and, secondly, by reasoning). Pretense thereupon
became useless and every scheme vain. I said to myself at once that the
block of stone disturbed by the pickaxe had been placed there with a
very curious exactness, that the least knock was bound to make it fall
and that, in falling, it must inevitably reduce the head of the false
Arsene Lupin to pulp, in such a way as to make it utterly
Another discovery: half an hour later, I hear that the body of Mlle. de
Saint-Veran has been found on the rocks at Dieppe--or rather a body
which is considered to be Mlle. de Saint-Veran's, for the reason that
the arm has a bracelet similar to one of that young lady's bracelets.
This, however, is the only mark of identity, for the corpse is
Thereupon I remember and I understand. A few days earlier, I happened
to read in a number of the Vigie de Dieppe that a young American couple
staying at Envermeu had committed suicide by taking poison and that
their bodies had disappeared on the very night of the death. I hasten
to Envermeu. The story is true, I am told, except in so far as concerns
the disappearance, because the brothers of the victims came to claim
the corpses and took them away after the usual formalities. The name of
these brothers, no doubt, was Arsene Lupin & Co.
Consequently, the thing is proved. We know why Lupin shammed the murder
of the girl and spread the rumor of his own death. He is in love and
does not wish it known. And, to reach his ends, he shrinks from
nothing, he even undertakes that incredible theft of the two corpses
which he needs in order to impersonate himself and Mlle. de
Saint-Veran. In this way, he will be at ease. No one can disturb him.
No one will ever suspect the truth which he wishes to suppress.
No one? Yes--three adversaries, at the most, might conceive doubts:
Ganimard, whose arrival is hourly expected; Holmlock Shears, who is
about to cross the Channel; and I, who am on the spot. This constitutes
a threefold danger. He removes it. He kidnaps Ganimard. He kidnaps
Holmlock Shears. He has me stabbed by Bredoux.
One point alone remains obscure. Why was Lupin so fiercely bent upon
snatching the document about the Hollow Needle from me? He surely did
not imagine that, by taking it away, he could wipe out from my memory
the text of the five lines of which it consists! Then why? Did he fear
that the character of the paper itself, or some other clue, could give
me a hint?
Be that as it may, this is the truth of the Ambrumesy mystery. I repeat
that conjecture plays a certain part in the explanation which I offer,
even as it played a great part in my personal investigation. But, if
one waited for proofs and facts to fight Lupin, one would run a great
risk either of waiting forever or else of discovering proofs and facts
carefully prepared by Lupin, which would lead in a direction
immediately opposite to the object in view. I feel confident that the
facts, when they are known, will confirm my surmise in every respect.
* * * * *
So Isidore Beautrelet, mastered for a moment by Arsene Lupin,
distressed by the abduction of his father and resigned to defeat,
Isidore Beautrelet, in the end, was unable to persuade himself to keep
silence. The truth was too beautiful and too curious, the proofs which
he was able to produce were too logical and too conclusive for him to
consent to misrepresent it. The whole world was waiting for his
revelations. He spoke.
* * * * *
On the evening of the day on which his article appeared, the newspapers
announced the kidnapping of M. Beautrelet, senior. Isidore was informed
of it by a telegram from Cherbourg, which reached him at three o'clock.
ON THE TRACK
Young Beautrelet was stunned by the violence of the blow. As a matter
of fact, although, in publishing his article, he had obeyed one of
those irresistible impulses which make a man despise every
consideration of prudence, he had never really believed in the
possibility of an abduction. His precautions had been too thorough. The
friends at Cherbourg not only had instructions to guard and protect
Beautrelet the elder: they were also to watch his comings and goings,
never to let him walk out alone and not even to hand him a single
letter without first opening it. No, there was no danger. Lupin,
wishing to gain time, was trying to intimidate his adversary.
The blow, therefore, was almost unexpected; and Isidore, because he was
powerless to act, felt the pain of the shock during the whole of the
remainder of the day. One idea alone supported him: that of leaving
Paris, going down there, seeing for himself what had happened and
resuming the offensive.
He telegraphed to Cherbourg. He was at Saint-Lazare a little before
nine. A few minutes after, he was steaming out of the station in the
It was not until an hour later, when he mechanically unfolded a
newspaper which he had bought on the platform, that he became aware of
the letter by which Lupin indirectly replied to his article of that
* * * * *
To the Editor of the Grand Journal.
SIR: I cannot pretend but that my modest personality, which would
certainly have passed unnoticed in more heroic times, has acquired a
certain prominence in the dull and feeble period in which we live. But
there is a limit beyond which the morbid curiosity of the crowd cannot
go without becoming indecently indiscreet. If the walls that surround
our private lives be not respected, what is to safeguard the rights of
Will those who differ plead the higher interest of truth? An empty
pretext in so far as I am concerned, because the truth is known and I
raise no difficulty about making an official confession of the truth in
writing. Yes, Mlle. de Saint-Veran is alive. Yes, I love her. Yes, I
have the mortification not to be loved by her. Yes, the results of the
boy Beautrelet's inquiry are wonderful in their precision and accuracy.
Yes, we agree on every point. There is no riddle left. There is no
mystery. Well, then, what?
Injured to the very depths of my soul, bleeding still from cruel
wounds, I ask that my more intimate feelings and secret hopes may no
longer be delivered to the malevolence of the public. I ask for peace,
the peace which I need to conquer the affection of Mlle. de Saint-Veran
and to wipe out from her memory the thousand little injuries which she
has had to suffer at the hands of her uncle and cousin--this has not
been told--because of her position as a poor relation. Mlle. de
Saint-Veran will forget this hateful past. All that she can desire,
were it the fairest jewel in the world, were it the most unattainable
treasure, I shall lay at her feet. She will be happy. She will love me.
But, if I am to succeed, once more, I require peace. That is why I lay
down my arms and hold out the olive-branch to my enemies--while warning
them, with every magnanimity on my part, that a refusal on theirs might
bring down upon them the gravest consequences.
One word more on the subject of Mr. Harlington. This name conceals the
identity of an excellent fellow, who is secretary to Cooley, the
American millionaire, and instructed by him to lay hands upon every
object of ancient art in Europe which it is possible to discover. His
evil star brought him into touch with my friend Etienne de Vaudreix,
ALIAS Arsene Lupin, ALIAS myself. He learnt, in this way, that a
certain M. de Gesvres was willing to part with four pictures by Rubens,
ostensibly on the condition that they were replaced by copies and that
the bargain to which he was consenting remained unknown. My friend
Vaudreix also undertook to persuade M. de Gesvres to sell his chapel.
The negotiations were conducted with entire good faith on the side of
my friend Vaudreix and with charming ingenuousness on the side of Mr.
Harlington, until the day when the Rubenses and the carvings from the
chapel were in a safe place and Mr. Harlington in prison. There remains
nothing, therefore, to be done but to release the unfortunate American,
because he was content to play the modest part of a dupe; to brand the
millionaire Cooley, because, for fear of possible unpleasantness, he
did not protest against his secretary's arrest; and to congratulate my
friend Etienne de Vaudreix, because he is revenging the outraged
morality of the public by keeping the hundred thousand francs which he
was paid on account by that singularly unattractive person, Cooley.
Pray, pardon the length of this letter and permit me to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
* * * * *
Isidore weighed the words of this communication as minutely, perhaps,
as he had studied the document concerning the Hollow Needle. He went on
the principle, the correctness of which was easily proved, that Lupin
had never taken the trouble to send one of his amusing letters to the
press without absolute necessity, without some motive which events were
sure, sooner or later, to bring to light.
What was the motive for this particular letter? For what hidden reason
was Lupin confessing his love and the failure of that love? Was it
there that Beautrelet had to seek, or in the explanations regarding Mr.
Harlington, or further still, between the lines, behind all those words
whose apparent meaning had perhaps no other object than to suggest some
wicked, perfidious, misleading little idea?
For hours, the young man, confined to his compartment, remained pensive
and anxious. The letter filled him with mistrust, as though it had been
written for his benefit and were destined to lead him, personally, into
error. For the first time and because he found himself confronted not
with a direct attack, but with an ambiguous, indefinable method of
fighting, he underwent a distinct sensation of fear. And, when he
thought of his good old, easy-going father, kidnapped through his
fault, he asked himself, with a pang, whether he was not mad to
continue so unequal a contest. Was the result not certain? Had Lupin
not won the game in advance?
It was but a short moment of weakness. When he alighted from his
compartment, at six o'clock in the morning, refreshed by a few hours'
sleep, he had recovered all his confidence.
On the platform, Froberval, the dockyard clerk who had given
hospitality to M. Beautrelet, senior, was waiting for him, accompanied
by his daughter Charlotte, an imp of twelve or thirteen.
"Well?" cried Isidore.
The worthy man beginning to moan and groan, he interrupted him, dragged
him to a neighboring tavern, ordered coffee and began to put plain
questions, without permitting the other the slightest digression:
"My father has not been carried off, has he? It was impossible."
"Impossible. Still, he has disappeared."
"We don't know."
"No. Yesterday morning, at six o'clock, as I had not seen him come down
as usual, I opened his door. He was gone."
"But was he there on the day before, two days ago?"
"Yes. On the day before yesterday, he did not leave his room. He was a
little tired; and Charlotte took his lunch up to him at twelve and his
dinner at seven in the evening."
"So it was between seven o'clock in the evening, on the day before
yesterday, and six o'clock on yesterday morning that he disappeared?"
"Yes, during the night before last. Only--"
"Well, it's like this: you can't leave the arsenal at night."
"Do you mean that he has not left it?"
"That's impossible! My friends and I have searched the whole naval
"Then he has left it!"
"Impossible, every outlet is guarded!"
Beautrelet reflected and then said:
"Next, I hurried to the commandant's and informed the officer in
"Did he come to your house?"
"Yes; and a gentleman from the public prosecutor's also. They searched
all through the morning; and, when I saw that they were making no
progress and that there was no hope left, I telegraphed to you."
"Was the bed disarranged in his room?"
"Nor the room disturbed in any way?"
"No. I found his pipe in its usual place, with his tobacco and the book
which he was reading. There was even this little photograph of yourself
in the middle of the book, marking the page."
"Let me see it."
Froberval passed him the photograph. Beautrelet gave a start of
surprise. He had recognized himself in the snapshot, standing, with his
two hands in his pockets, on a lawn from which rose trees and ruins.
"It must be the last portrait of yourself which you sent him. Look, on
the back, you will see the date, 3 April, the name of the photographer,
R. de Val, and the name of the town, Lion--Lion-sur-Mer, perhaps."
Isidore turned the photograph over and read this little note, in his
"R. de Val.--3.4--Lion."
He was silent for a few minutes and resumed:
"My father hadn't shown you that snapshot yet?"
"No--and that's just what astonished me when I saw it yesterday--for
your father used so often to talk to us about you."
There was a fresh pause, greatly prolonged. Froberval muttered:
"I have business at the workshop. We might as well go in--"
He was silent. Isidore had not taken his eyes from the photograph, was
examining it from every point of view. At last, the boy asked:
"Is there such a thing as an inn called the Lion d'Or at a short league
outside the town?"
"Yes, about a league from here."
"On the Route de Valognes, is it?"
"Yes, on the Route de Valognes."
"Well, I have every reason to believe that this inn was the
head-quarters of Lupin's friends. It was from there that they entered
into communication with my father."
"What an idea! Your father spoke to nobody. He saw nobody."
"He saw nobody, but they made use of an intermediary."
"What proof have you?"
"But it's your photograph!"
"It's my photograph, but it was not sent by me. I was not even aware of
its existence. It was taken, without my knowledge, in the ruins of
Ambrumesy, doubtless by the examining-magistrate's clerk, who, as you
know, was an accomplice of Arsene Lupin's."
"Then this photograph became the passport, the talisman, by means of
which they obtained my father's confidence."
"But who? Who was able to get into my house?"
"I don't know, but my father fell into the trap. They told him and he
believed that I was in the neighborhood, that I was asking to see him
and that I was giving him an appointment at the Golden Lion."
"But all this is nonsense! How can you assert--?"
"Very simply. They imitated my writing on the back of the photograph
and specified the meeting-place: Valognes Road, 3 kilometres 400, Lion
Inn. My father came and they seized him, that's all."
"Very well," muttered Froberval, dumbfounded, "very well. I admit
it--things happened as you say--but that does not explain how he was
able to leave during the night."
"He left in broad daylight, though he waited until dark to go to the
"But, confound it, he didn't leave his room the whole of the day before
"There is one way of making sure: run down to the dockyard, Froberval,
and look for one of the men who were on guard in the afternoon, two
days ago.--Only, be quick, if you wish to find me here."
"Are you going?"
"Yes, I shall take the next train back."
"What!--Why, you don't know--your inquiry--"
"My inquiry is finished. I know pretty well all that I wanted to know.
I shall have left Cherbourg in an hour."
Froberval rose to go. He looked at Beautrelet with an air of absolute
bewilderment, hesitated a moment and then took his cap:
"Are you coming, Charlotte?"
"No," said Beautrelet, "I shall want a few more particulars. Leave her
with me. Besides, I want to talk to her. I knew her when she was quite
Froberval went away. Beautrelet and the little girl remained alone in
the tavern smoking room. A few minutes passed, a waiter entered,
cleared away some cups and left the room again. The eyes of the young
man and the child met; and Beautrelet placed his hand very gently on
the little girl's hand. She looked at him for two or three seconds,
distractedly, as though about to choke. Then, suddenly hiding her head
between her folded arms, she burst into sobs.
He let her cry and, after a while, said:
"It was you, wasn't it, who did all the mischief, who acted as
go-between? It was you who took him the photograph? You admit it, don't
you? And, when you said that my father was in his room, two days ago,
you knew that it was not true, did you not, because you yourself had
helped him to leave it--?"
She made no reply. He asked:
"Why did you do it? They offered you money, I suppose--to buy ribbons
with a frock--?"
He uncrossed Charlotte's arms and lifted up her head. He saw a poor
little face all streaked with tears, the attractive, disquieting,
mobile face of one of those little girls who seem marked out for
temptation and weakness.
"Come," said Beautrelet, "it's over, we'll say no more about it. I will
not even ask you how it happened. Only you must tell me everything that
can be of use to me.--Did you catch anything--any remark made by those
men? How did they carry him off?"
She replied at once:
"By motor car. I heard them talking about it--"
"And what road did they take?"
"Ah, I don't know that!"
"Didn't they say anything before you--something that might help us?"
"No--wait, though: there was one who said, 'We shall have no time to
lose--the governor is to telephone to us at eight o'clock in the
"I can't say.--I've forgotten--"
"Try--try and remember. It was the name of a town, wasn't it?"
"Yes--a name--like Chateau--"
"Yes, that was it--Chateauroux--"
Beautrelet did not wait for her to complete her sentence. Already he
was on his feet and, without giving a thought to Froberval, without
even troubling about the child, who stood gazing at him in
stupefaction, he opened the door and ran to the station:
"Chateauroux, madame--a ticket for Chateauroux--"
"Over Mans and Tours?" asked the booking-clerk.
"Of course--the shortest way. Shall I be there for lunch?"
"For dinner? Bedtime--?"
"Oh, no! For that, you would have to go over Paris. The Paris express
leaves at nine o'clock. You're too late--"
It was not too late. Beautrelet was just able to catch the train.
"Well," said Beautrelet, rubbing his hands, "I have spent only two
hours or so at Cherbourg, but they were well employed."
He did not for a moment think of accusing Charlotte of lying. Weak,
unstable, capable of the worst treacheries, those petty natures also
obey impulses of sincerity; and Beautrelet had read in her affrighted
eyes her shame for the harm which she had done and her delight at
repairing it in part. He had no doubt, therefore, that Chateauroux was
the other town to which Lupin had referred and where his confederates
were to telephone to him.
On his arrival in Paris, Beautrelet took every necessary precaution to
avoid being followed. He felt that it was a serious moment. He was on
the right road that was leading him to his father: one act of
imprudence might ruin all.
He went to the flat of one of his schoolfellows and came out, an hour
later, irrecognizable, rigged out as an Englishman of thirty, in a
brown check suit, with knickerbockers, woolen stockings and a cap, a
high-colored complexion and a red wig. He jumped on a bicycle laden
with a complete painter's outfit and rode off to the Gare d'Austerlitz.
He slept that night at Issoudun. The next morning, he mounted his
machine at break of day. At seven o'clock, he walked into the
Chateauroux post-office and asked to be put on to Paris. As he had to
wait, he entered into conversation with the clerk and learnt that, two
days before, at the same hour, a man dressed for motoring had also
asked for Paris.
The proof was established. He waited no longer.
By the afternoon, he had ascertained, from undeniable evidence, that a
limousine car, following the Tours road, had passed through the village
of Buzancais and the town of Chateauroux and had stopped beyond the
town, on the verge of the forest. At ten o'clock, a hired gig, driven
by a man unknown, had stopped beside the car and then gone off south,
through the valley of the Bouzanne. There was then another person
seated beside the driver. As for the car, it had turned in the opposite
direction and gone north, toward Issoudun.
Beautrelet easily discovered the owner of the gig, who, however, had no
information to supply. He had hired out his horse and trap to a man who
brought them back himself next day.
Lastly, that same evening, Isidore found out that the motor car had
only passed through Issoudun, continuing its road toward Orleans, that
is to say, toward Paris.
From all this, it resulted, in the most absolute fashion, that M.
Beautrelet was somewhere in the neighborhood. If not, how was it
conceivable that people should travel nearly three hundred miles across
France in order to telephone from Chateauroux and next to return, at an
acute angle, by the Paris road?
This immense circuit had a more definite object: to move M. Beautrelet
to the place assigned to him.
"And this place is within reach of my hand," said Isidore to himself,
quivering with hope and expectation. "My father is waiting for me to
rescue him at ten or fifteen leagues from here. He is close by. He is
breathing the same air as I."
He set to work at once. Taking a war-office map, he divided it into
small squares, which he visited one after the other, entering the
farmhouses making the peasants talk, calling on the schoolmasters, the
mayors, the parish priests, chatting to the women. It seemed to him
that he must attain his end without delay and his dreams grew until it
was no longer his father alone whom he hoped to deliver, but all those
whom Lupin was holding captive: Raymonde de Saint-Veran, Ganimard,
Holmlock Shears, perhaps, and others, many others; and, in reaching
them, he would, at the same time, reach Lupin's stronghold, his lair,
the impenetrable retreat where he was piling up the treasures of which
he had robbed the wide world.
But, after a fortnight's useless searching, his enthusiasm ended by
slackening and he very soon lost confidence. Because success was slow
in appearing, from one day to the next, almost, he ceased to believe in
it; and, though he continued to pursue his plan of investigations, he
would have felt a real surprise if his efforts had led to the smallest
More days still passed by, monotonous days of discouragement. He read
in the newspapers that the Comte de Gesvres and his daughter had left
Ambrumesy and gone to stay near Nice. He also learnt that Harlington
had been released, that gentleman's innocence having become
self-obvious, in accordance with the indications supplied by Arsene
Isidore changed his head-quarters, established himself for two days at
the Chatre, for two days at Argenton. The result was the same.
Just then, he was nearly throwing up the game. Evidently, the gig in
which his father had been carried off could only have furnished a
stage, which had been followed by another stage, furnished by some
other conveyance. And his father was far away.
He was thinking of leaving, when, one Monday morning, he saw, on the
envelope of an unstamped letter, sent on to him from Paris, a
handwriting that set him trembling with emotion. So great was his
excitement that, for some minutes, he dared not open the letter, for
fear of a disappointment. His hand shook. Was it possible? Was this not
a trap laid for him by his infernal enemy?
He tore open the envelope. It was indeed a letter from his father,
written by his father himself. The handwriting presented all the
peculiarities, all the oddities of the hand which he knew so well.
* * * * *
Will these lines ever reach you, my dear son? I dare not believe it.
During the whole night of my abduction, we traveled by motor car; then,
in the morning, by carriage. I could see nothing. My eyes were
bandaged. The castle in which I am confined should be somewhere in the
midlands, to judge by its construction and the vegetation in the park.
The room which I occupy is on the second floor: it is a room with two
windows, one of which is almost blocked by a screen of climbing
glycines. In the afternoon, I am allowed to walk about the park, at
certain hours, but I am kept under unrelaxing observation.
I am writing this letter, on the mere chance of its reaching you, and
fastening it to a stone. Perhaps, one day, I shall be able to throw it
over the wall and some peasant will pick it up.
But do not be distressed about me. I am treated with every
Your old father, who is very fond of you and very sad to think of the
trouble he is giving you,
* * * * *
Isidore at once looked at the postmarks. They read, "Cuzion, Indre."
The Indre! The department which he had been stubbornly searching for
He consulted a little pocket-guide which he always carried. Cuzion, in
the canton of Eguzon--he had been there too.
For prudence's sake, he discarded his personality as an Englishman,
which was becoming too well known in the district, disguised himself as
a workman and made for Cuzion. It was an unimportant village. He would
easily discover the sender of the letter.
For that matter, chance served him without delay:
"A letter posted on Wednesday last?" exclaimed the mayor, a respectable
tradesman in whom he confided and who placed himself at his disposal.
"Listen, I think I can give you a valuable clue: on Saturday morning,
Gaffer Charel, an old knife-grinder who visits all the fairs in the
department, met me at the end of the village and asked, 'Monsieur le
maire, does a letter without a stamp on it go all the same?' 'Of
course,' said I. 'And does it get there?' 'Certainly. Only there's
double postage to pay on it, that's all the difference.'"
"And where does he live?"
"He lives over there, all alone--on the slope--the hovel that comes
next after the churchyard.--Shall I go with you?"
It was a hovel standing by itself, in the middle of an orchard
surrounded by tall trees. As they entered the orchard, three magpies
flew away with a great splutter and they saw that the birds were flying
out of the very hole in which the watch-dog was fastened. And the dog
neither barked nor stirred as they approached.
Beautrelet went up in great surprise. The brute was lying on its side,
with stiff paws, dead.
They ran quickly to the cottage. The door stood open. They entered. At
the back of a low, damp room, on a wretched straw mattress, flung on
the floor itself, lay a man fully dressed.
"Gaffer Charel!" cried the mayor. "Is he dead, too?"
The old man's hands were cold, his face terribly pale, but his heart
was still beating, with a faint, slow throb, and he seemed not to be
wounded in any way.
They tried to resuscitate him and, as they failed in their efforts,
Beautrelet went to fetch a doctor. The doctor succeeded no better than
they had done. The old man did not seem to be suffering. He looked as
if he were just asleep, but with an artificial slumber, as though he
had been put to sleep by hypnotism or with the aid of a narcotic.
In the middle of the night that followed, however, Isidore, who was
watching by his side, observed that the breathing became stronger and
that his whole being appeared to be throwing off the invisible bonds
that paralyzed it.
At daybreak, he woke up and resumed his normal functions: ate, drank
and moved about. But, the whole day long, he was unable to reply to the
young man's questions and his brain seemed as though still numbed by an
The next day, he asked Beautrelet:
"What are you doing here, eh?"
It was the first time that he had shown surprise at the presence of a
stranger beside him.
Gradually, in this way, he recovered all his faculties. He talked. He
made plans. But, when Beautrelet asked him about the events immediately
preceding his sleep, he seemed not to understand.
And Beautrelet felt that he really did not understand. He had lost the
recollection of all that had happened since the Friday before. It was
like a sudden gap in the ordinary flow of his life. He described his
morning and afternoon on the Friday, the purchases he had made at the
fair, the meals he had taken at the inn. Then--nothing--nothing more.
He believed himself to be waking on the morrow of that day.
It was horrible for Beautrelet. The truth lay there, in those eyes
which had seen the walls of the park behind which his father was
waiting for him, in those hands which had picked up the letter, in that
muddled brain which had recorded the whereabouts of that scene, the
setting, the little corner of the world in which the play had been
enacted. And from those hands, from that brain he was unable to extract
the faintest echo of the truth so near at hand!
Oh, that impalpable and formidable obstacle, against which all his
efforts hurled themselves in vain, that obstacle built up of silence
and oblivion! How clearly it bore the mark of Arsene Lupin! He alone,
informed, no doubt, that M. Beautrelet had attempted to give a signal,
he alone could have struck with partial death the one man whose
evidence could injure him. It was not that Beautrelet felt himself to
be discovered or thought that Lupin, hearing of his stealthy attack and
knowing that a letter had reached him, was defending himself against
him personally. But what an amount of foresight and real intelligence
it displayed to suppress any possible accusation on the part of that
chance wayfarer! Nobody now knew that within the walls of a park there
lay a prisoner asking for help.
Nobody? Yes, Beautrelet. Gaffer Charel was unable to speak. Very well.
But, at least, one could find out which fair the old man had visited
and which was the logical road that he had taken to return by. And,
along this road, perhaps it would at last be possible to find--
Isidore, as it was, had been careful not to visit Gaffer Charel's hovel
except with the greatest precautions and in such a way as not to give
an alarm. He now decided not to go back to it. He made inquiries and
learnt that Friday was market-day at Fresselines, a fair-sized town
situated a few leagues off, which could be reached either by the rather
winding highroad or by a series of short cuts.
On the Friday, he chose the road and saw nothing that attracted his
attention, no high walled enclosure, no semblance of an old castle.
He lunched at an inn at Fresselines and was on the point of leaving
when he saw Gaffer Charel arrive and cross the square, wheeling his
little knife-grinding barrow before him. He at once followed him at a
The old man made two interminable waits, during which he ground dozens
of knives. Then, at last, he went away by a quite different road, which
ran in the direction of Crozant and the market-town of Eguzon.
Beautrelet followed him along this road. But he had not walked five
minutes before he received the impression that he was not alone in
shadowing the old fellow. A man was walking along between them,
stopping at the same time as Charel and starting off again when he did,
without, for that matter, taking any great precautions against being
"He is being watched," thought Beautrelet. "Perhaps they want to know
if he stops in front of the walls--"
His heart beat violently. The event was at hand.
The three of them, one behind the other, climbed up and down the steep
slopes of the country and arrived at Crozant, famed for the colossal
ruins of its castle. There Charel made a halt of an hour's duration.
Next he went down to the riverside and crossed the bridge.
But then a thing happened that took Beautrelet by surprise. The other
man did not cross the river. He watched the old fellow move away and,
when he had lost sight of him, turned down a path that took him right
across the fields.
Beautrelet hesitated for a few seconds as to what course to take, and
then quietly decided. He set off in pursuit of the man.
"He has made sure," he thought, "that Gaffer Charel has gone straight
ahead. That is all he wanted to know and so he is going--where? To the
He was within touch of the goal. He felt it by a sort of agonizing
gladness that uplifted his whole being.
The man plunged into a dark wood overhanging the river and then
appeared once more in the full light, where the path met the horizon.
When Beautrelet, in his turn, emerged from the wood, he was greatly
surprised no longer to see the man. He was seeking him with his eyes
when, suddenly, he gave a stifled cry and, with a backward spring, made
for the line of trees which he had just left. On his right, he had seen
a rampart of high walls, flanked, at regular distances, by massive
It was there! It was there! Those walls held his father captive! He had
found the secret place where Lupin confined his victim.
He dared not quit the shelter which the thick foliage of the wood
afforded him. Slowly, almost on all fours, he bore to the right and in
this way reached the top of a hillock that rose to the level of the
neighboring trees. The walls were taller still. Nevertheless, he
perceived the roof of the castle which they surrounded, an old Louis
XIII. roof, surmounted by very slender bell-turrets arranged
corbel-wise around a higher steeple which ran to a point.
Beautrelet did no more that day. He felt the need to reflect and to
prepare his plan of attack without leaving anything to chance. He held
Lupin safe; and it was for Beautrelet now to select the hour and the
manner of the combat.
He walked away.
Near the bridge, he met two country-girls carrying pails of milk. He
"What is the name of the castle over there, behind the trees?"
"That's the Chateau de l'Aiguille, sir."
He had put his question without attaching any importance to it. The
answer took away his breath:
"The Chateau de l'Aiguille?--Oh!--But in what department are we? The
"Certainly not. The Indre is on the other side of the river. This side,
it's the Creuse."
Isidore saw it all in a flash. The Chateau de l'Aiguille! The
department of the Creuse! L'AIGUILLE CREUSE! The Hollow Needle! The
very key to the document! Certain, decisive, absolute victory!
Without another word, he turned his back on the two girls and went his
way, tottering like a drunken man.
AN HISTORIC SECRET
Beautrelet's resolve was soon taken: he would act alone. To inform the
police was too dangerous. Apart from the fact that he could only offer
presumptions, he dreaded the slowness of the police, their inevitable
indiscretions, the whole preliminary inquiry, during which Lupin, who
was sure to be warned, would have time to effect a retreat in good
At eight o'clock the next morning, with his bundle under his arm, he
left the inn in which he was staying near Cuzion, made for the nearest
thicket, took off his workman's clothes, became once more the young
English painter that he had been and went to call on the notary at
Eguzon, the largest place in the immediate neighborhood.
He said that he liked the country and that he was thinking of taking up
his residence there, with his relations, if he could find a suitable
The notary mentioned a number of properties. Beautrelet took note of
them and let fall that some one had spoken to him of the Chateau de
l'Aiguille, on the bank of the Creuse.
"Oh, yes, but the Chateau de l'Aiguille, which has belonged to one of
my clients for the last five years, is not for sale."
"He lives in it, then?"
"He used to live in it, or rather his mother did. But she did not care
for it; found the castle rather gloomy. So they left it last year."
"And is no one living there at present?"
"Yes, an Italian, to whom my client let it for the summer season: Baron
"Oh, Baron Anfredi! A man still young, rather grave and
"I'm sure I can't say.--My client dealt with him direct. There was no
regular agreement, just a letter--"
"But you know the baron?"
"No, he never leaves the castle.--Sometimes, in his motor, at night, so
they say. The marketing is done by an old cook, who talks to nobody.
They are queer people--"
"Do you think your client would consent to sell his castle?"
"I don't think so. It's an historic castle, built in the purest Louis
XIII. style. My client was very fond of it; and, unless he has changed
"Can you give me his name and address?"
"Louis Valmeras, 34, Rue du Mont-Thabor."
Beautrelet took the train for Paris at the nearest station. On the next
day but one, after three fruitless calls, he at last found Louis
Valmeras at home. He was a man of about thirty, with a frank and
pleasing face. Beautrelet saw no need to beat about the bush, stated
who he was and described his efforts and the object of the step which
he was now taking:
"I have good reason to believe," he concluded, "that my father is
imprisoned in the Chateau de l'Aiguille, doubtless in the company of
other victims. And I have come to ask you what you know of your tenant,
"Not much. I met Baron Anfredi last winter at Monte Carlo. He had heard
by accident that I was the owner of the Chateau de l'Aiguille and, as
he wished to spend the summer in France, he made me an offer for it."
"He is still a young man--"
"Yes, with very expressive eyes, fair hair--"
"And a beard?"
"Yes, ending in two points, which fall over a collar fastened at the
back, like a clergyman's. In fact, he looks a little like an English
"It's he," murmured Beautrelet, "it's he, as I have seen him: it's his
"What! Do you think--?"
"I think, I am sure that your tenant is none other than Arsene Lupin."
The story amused Louis Valmeras. He knew all the adventures of Arsene
Lupin and the varying fortunes of his struggle with Beautrelet. He
rubbed his hands:
"Ha, the Chateau de l'Aiguille will become famous!--I'm sure I don't
mind, for, as a matter of fact, now that my mother no longer lives in
it, I have always thought that I would get rid of it at the first
opportunity. After this, I shall soon find a purchaser. Only--"
"I will ask you to act with the most extreme prudence and not to inform
the police until you are quite sure. Can you picture the situation,
supposing my tenant were not Arsene Lupin?"
Beautrelet set forth his plan. He would go alone at night; he would
climb the walls; he would sleep in the park-- Louis Valmeras stopped
him at once:
"You will not climb walls of that height so easily. If you do, you will
be received by two huge sheep-dogs which belonged to my mother and
which I left behind at the castle."
"Pooh! A dose of poison--"
"Much obliged. But suppose you escaped them. What then? How would you
get into the castle? The doors are massive, the windows barred. And,
even then, once you were inside, who would guide you? There are eighty
"Yes, but that room with two windows, on the second story--"
"I know it, we call it the glycine room. But how will you find it?
There are three staircases and a labyrinth of passages. I can give you
the clue and explain the way to you, but you would get lost just the
"Come with me," said Beautrelet, laughing.
"I can't. I have promised to go to my mother in the South."
Beautrelet returned to the friend with whom he was staying and began to
make his preparations. But, late in the day, as he was getting ready to
go, he received a visit from Valmeras.
"Do you still want me?"
"Well, I'm coming with you. Yes, the expedition fascinates me. I think
it will be very amusing and I like being mixed up in this sort of
thing.--Besides, my help will be of use to you. Look, here's something
to start with."
He held up a big key, all covered with rust and looking very old.
"What does the key open?" asked Beautrelet.
"A little postern hidden between two buttresses and left unused since
centuries ago. I did not even think of pointing it out to my tenant. It
opens straight on the country, just at the verge of the wood."
Beautrelet interrupted him quickly:
"They know all about that outlet. It was obviously by this way that the
man whom I followed entered the park. Come, it's fine game and we shall
win it. But, by Jupiter, we must play our cards carefully!"
* * * * *
Two days later, a half-famished horse dragged a gipsy caravan into
Crozant. Its driver obtained leave to stable it at the end of the
village, in an old deserted cart-shed. In addition to the driver, who
was none other than Valmeras, there were three young men, who occupied
themselves in the manufacture of wicker-work chairs: Beautrelet and two
of his Janson friends.
They stayed there for three days, waiting for a propitious, moonless
night and roaming singly round the outskirts of the park. Once
Beautrelet saw the postern. Contrived between two buttresses placed
very close together, it was almost merged, behind the screen of
brambles that concealed it, in the pattern formed by the stones of the
At last, on the fourth evening, the sky was covered with heavy black
clouds and Valmeras decided that they should go reconnoitring, at the
risk of having to return again, should circumstances prove unfavorable.
All four crossed the little wood. Then Beautrelet crept through the
heather, scratched his hands at the bramble-hedge and, half raising
himself, slowly, with restrained movements, put the key into the lock.
He turned it gently. Would the door open without an effort? Was there
no bolt closing it on the other side? He pushed: the door opened,
without a creak or jolt. He was in the park.
"Are you there, Beautrelet?" asked Valmeras. "Wait for me. You two
chaps, watch the door and keep our line of retreat open. At the least
He took Beautrelet's hand and they plunged into the dense shadow of the
thickets. A clearer space was revealed to them when they reached the
edge of the central lawn. At the same moment a ray of moonlight pierced
the clouds; and they saw the castle, with its pointed turrets arranged
around the tapering spire to which, no doubt, it owed its name. There
was no light in the windows; not a sound.
Valmeras grasped his companion's arm:
"What is it?"
"The dogs, over there--look--"
There was a growl. Valmeras gave a low whistle. Two white forms leapt
forward and, in four bounds, came and crouched at their master's feet.
"Gently--lie down--that's it--good dogs--stay there."
And he said to Beautrelet:
"And now let us push on. I feel more comfortable."
"Are you sure of the way?"
"Yes. We are near the terrace."
"I remember that, on the left, at a place where the river terrace rises
to the level of the ground-floor windows, there is a shutter which
closes badly and which can be opened from the outside."
They found, when they came to it, that the shutter yielded to pressure.
Valmeras removed a pane with a diamond which he carried. He turned the
window-latch. First one and then the other stepped over the balcony.
They were now in the castle, at the end of a passage which divided the
left wing into two.
"This room," said Valmeras, "opens at the end of a passage. Then comes
an immense hall, lined with statues, and at the end of the hall a
staircase which ends near the room occupied by your father."
He took a step forward.
"Are you coming, Beautrelet?"
"But no, you're not coming--What's the matter with you?"
He seized him by the hand. It was icy cold and he perceived that the
young man was cowering on the floor.
"What's the matter with you?" he repeated.
"Nothing--it'll pass off--"
"But what is it?"
"Yes," Beautrelet confessed, frankly, "it's my nerves giving way--I
generally manage to control them--but, to-day, the silence--the
excitement--And then, since I was stabbed by that magistrate's
clerk--But it will pass off--There, it's passing now--"
He succeeded in rising to his feet and Valmeras dragged him out of the
room. They groped their way along the passage, so softly that neither
could hear a sound made by the other.
A faint glimmer, however, seemed to light the hall for which they were
making. Valmeras put his head round the corner. It was a night-light
placed at the foot of the stairs, on a little table which showed
through the frail branches of a palm tree.
"Halt!" whispered Valmeras.
Near the night-light, a man stood sentry, carrying a gun.
Had he seen them? Perhaps. At least, something must have alarmed him,
for he brought the gun to his shoulder.
Beautrelet had fallen on his knees, against a tub containing a plant,
and he remained quite still, with his heart thumping against his chest.
Meanwhile, the silence and the absence of all movement reassured the
man. He lowered his weapon. But his head was still turned in the
direction of the tub.
Terrible minutes passed: ten minutes, fifteen. A moonbeam had glided
through a window on the staircase. And, suddenly, Beautrelet became
aware that the moonbeam was shifting imperceptibly, and that, before
fifteen, before ten more minutes had elapsed, it would be shining full
in his face.
Great drops of perspiration fell from his forehead on his trembling
hands. His anguish was such that he was on the point of getting up and
running away--But, remembering that Valmeras was there, he sought him
with his eyes and was astounded to see him, or rather to imagine him,
creeping in the dark, under cover of the statues and plants. He was
already at the foot of the stairs, within a few steps of the man.
What was he going to do? To pass in spite of all? To go upstairs alone
and release the prisoner? But could he pass?
Beautrelet no longer saw him and he had an impression that something
was about to take place, something that seemed foreboded also by the
silence, which hung heavier, more awful than before.
And, suddenly, a shadow springing upon the man, the night-light
extinguished, the sound of a struggle--Beautrelet ran up. The two
bodies had rolled over on the flagstones. He tried to stoop and see.
But he heard a hoarse moan, a sigh; and one of the adversaries rose to
his feet and seized him by the arm:
It was Valmeras.
They went up two storys and came out at the entrance to a corridor,
covered by a hanging.
"To the right," whispered Valmeras. "The fourth room on the left."
They soon found the door of the room. As they expected, the captive was
locked in. It took them half an hour, half an hour of stifled efforts,
of muffled attempts, to force open the lock. The door yielded at last.
Beautrelet groped his way to the bed. His father was asleep.
He woke him gently:
"It's I--Isidore--and a friend--don't be afraid--get up--not a word."
The father dressed himself, but, as they were leaving the room, he
"I am not alone in the castle--"
"Ah? Who else? Ganimard? Shears?"
"No--at least, I have not seen them."
"A young girl."
"Mlle. de Saint-Veran, no doubt."
"I don't know--I saw her several times at a distance, in the park--and,
when I lean out of my window, I can see hers. She has made signals to
"Do you know which is her room?"
"Yes, in this passage, the third on the right."
"The blue room," murmured Valmeras. "It has folding doors: they won't
give us so much trouble."
One of the two leaves very soon gave way. Old Beautrelet undertook to
tell the girl.
Ten minutes later, he left the room with her and said to his son:
"You were right--Mlle. de Saint-Veran--;"
They all four went down the stairs. When they reached the bottom,
Valmeras stopped and bent over the man. Then, leading them to the
"He is not dead," he said. "He will live."
"Ah!" said Beautrelet, with a sigh of relief.
"No, fortunately, the blade of my knife bent: the blow is not fatal.
Besides, in any case, those rascals deserve no pity."
Outside, they were met by the dogs, which accompanied them to the
postern. Here, Beautrelet found his two friends and the little band
left the park. It was three o'clock in the morning.
* * * * *
This first victory was not enough to satisfy Beautrelet. As soon as he
had comfortably settled his father and Mlle. de Saint-Veran, he asked
them about the people who lived at the castle, and, particularly, about
the habits of Arsene Lupin. He thus learnt that Lupin came only every
three or four days, arriving at night in his motor car and leaving
again in the morning. At each of his visits, he called separately upon
his two prisoners, both of whom agreed in praising his courtesy and his
extreme civility. For the moment, he was not at the castle.
Apart from him, they had seen no one except an old woman, who ruled
over the kitchen and the house, and two men, who kept watch over them
by turns and never spoke to them: subordinates, obviously, to judge by
their manners and appearance.
"Two accomplices, for all that," said Beautrelet, in conclusion, "or
rather three, with the old woman. It is a bag worth having. And, if we
lose no time--"
He jumped on his bicycle, rode to Eguzon, woke up the gendarmerie, set
them all going, made them sound the boot and saddle and returned to
Crozant at eight o'clock, accompanied by the sergeant and eight
gendarmes. Two of the men were posted beside the gipsy-van. Two others
took up their positions outside the postern-door. The last four,
commanded by their chief and accompanied by Beautrelet and Valmeras,
marched to the main entrance of the castle.
Too late. The door was wide open. A peasant told them that he had seen
a motor car drive out of the castle an hour before.
Indeed, the search led to no result. In all probability, the gang had
installed themselves there picnic fashion. A few clothes were found, a
little linen, some household implements; and that was all.
What astonished Beautrelet and Valmeras more was the disappearance of
the wounded man. They could not see the faintest trace of a struggle,
not even a drop of blood on the flagstones of the hall.
All said, there was no material evidence to prove the fleeting presence
of Lupin at the Chateau de l'Aiguille; and the authorities would have
been entitled to challenge the statements of Beautrelet and his father,
of Valmeras and Mlle. de Saint-Veran, had they not ended by
discovering, in a room next to that occupied by the young girl, some
half-dozen exquisite bouquets with Arsene Lupin's card pinned to them,
bouquets scorned by her, faded and forgotten--One of them, in addition
to the card, contained a letter which Raymonde had not seen. That
afternoon, when opened by the examining magistrate, it was found to
contain page upon page of prayers, entreaties, promises, threats,
despair, all the madness of a love that has encountered nothing but
contempt and repulsion.
And the letter ended:
I shall come on Tuesday evening, Raymonde. Reflect between now and
then. As for me, I will wait no longer. I am resolved on all.
* * * * *
Tuesday evening was the evening of the very day on which Beautrelet had
released Mlle. de Saint-Veran from her captivity.
The reader will remember the extraordinary explosion of surprise and
enthusiasm that resounded throughout the world at the news of that
unexpected issue: Mlle. de Saint-Veran free! The pretty girl whom Lupin
coveted, to secure whom he had contrived his most Machiavellian
schemes, snatched from his claws! Free also Beautrelet's father, whom
Lupin had chosen as a hostage in his extravagant longing for the
armistice demanded by the needs of his passion! They were both free,
the two prisoners! And the secret of the Hollow Needle was known,
published, flung to the four corners of the world!
The crowd amused itself with a will. Ballads were sold and sung about
the defeated adventurer: Lupin's Little Love-Affairs!--Arsene's Piteous
Sobs!--The Lovesick Burglar! The Pickpocket's Lament!--They were cried
on the boulevards and hummed in the artists' studios.
Raymonde, pressed with questions and pursued by interviewers, replied
with the most extreme reserve. But there was no denying the letter, or
the bouquets of flowers, or any part of the pitiful story! Then and
there, Lupin, scoffed and jeered at, toppled from his pedestal.
And Beautrelet became the popular idol. He had foretold everything,
thrown light on everything. The evidence which Mlle. de Saint-Veran
gave before the examining magistrate confirmed, down to the smallest
detail, the hypothesis imagined by Isidore. Reality seemed to submit,
in every point, to what he had decreed beforehand. Lupin had found his
* * * * *
Beautrelet insisted that his father, before returning to his mountains
in Savoy, should take a few months' rest in the sunshine, and himself
escorted him and Mlle. de Saint-Veran to the outskirts of Nice, where
the Comte de Gesvres and his daughter Suzanne were already settled for
the winter. Two days later, Valmeras brought his mother to see his new
friends and they thus composed a little colony grouped around the Villa
de Gesvres and watched over day and night by half a dozen men engaged
by the comte.
Early in October, Beautrelet, once more the sixth-form pupil, returned
to Paris to resume the interrupted course of his studies and to prepare
for his examinations. And life began again, calmer, this time, and free
from incident. What could happen, for that matter. Was the war not over?
Lupin, on his side, must have felt this very clearly, must have felt
that there was nothing left for him but to resign himself to the
accomplished fact; for, one fine day, his two other victims, Ganimard
and Holmlock Shears, made their reappearance. Their return to the life
of this planet, however, was devoid of any sort of glamor or
fascination. An itinerant rag-man picked them up on the Quai des
Orfevres, opposite the headquarters of police. Both of them were
gagged, bound and fast asleep.
After a week of complete bewilderment, they succeeded in recovering the
control of their thought and told--or rather Ganimard told, for Shears
wrapped himself in a fierce and stubborn silence--how they had made a
voyage of circumnavigation round the coast of Africa on board the yacht
Hirondelle, a voyage combining amusement with instruction, during which
they could look upon themselves as free, save for a few hours which
they spent at the bottom of the hold, while the crew went on shore at
As for their landing on the Quai des Orfevres, they remembered nothing
about it and had probably been asleep for many days before.
This liberation of the prisoners was the final confession of defeat. By
ceasing to fight, Lupin admitted it without reserve.
One incident, moreover, made it still more glaring, which was the
engagement of Louis Valmeras and Mlle. de Saint-Veran. In the intimacy
created between them by the new conditions under which they lived, the
two young people fell in love with each other. Valmeras loved
Raymonde's melancholy charm; and she, wounded by life, greedy for
protection, yielded before the strength and energy of the man who had
contributed so gallantly to her preservation.
The wedding day was awaited with a certain amount of anxiety. Would
Lupin not try to resume the offensive? Would he accept with a good
grace the irretrievable loss of the woman he loved? Twice or three
times, suspicious-looking people were seen prowling round the villa;
and Valmeras even had to defend himself one evening against a so-called
drunken man, who fired a pistol at him and sent a bullet through his
hat. But, in the end, the ceremony was performed at the appointed hour
and day and Raymonde de Saint-Veran became Mme. Louis Valmeras.
It was as though Fate herself had taken sides with Beautrelet and
countersigned the news of victory. This was so apparent to the crowd
that his admirers now conceived the notion of entertaining him at a
banquet to celebrate his triumph and Lupin's overthrow. It was a great
idea and aroused general enthusiasm. Three hundred tickets were sold in
less than a fortnight. Invitations were issued to the public schools of
Paris, to send two sixth-form pupils apiece. The press sang paeans. The
banquet was what it could not fail to be, an apotheosis.
But it was a charming and simple apotheosis, because Beautrelet was its
hero. His presence was enough to bring things back to their due
proportion. He showed himself modest, as usual, a little surprised at
the excessive cheering, a little embarrassed by the extravagant
panegyrics in which he was pronounced greater than the most illustrious
detectives--a little embarrassed, but also not a little touched.
He said as much in a few words that pleased all his hearers and with
the shyness of a child that blushes when you look at it. He spoke of
his delight, of his pride. And really, reasonable and self-controlled
as he was, this was for him a moment of never-to-be-forgotten
exultation. He smiled to his friends, to his fellow-Jansonians, to
Valmeras, who had come specially to give him a cheer, to M. de Gesvres,
to his father.
When he had finished speaking; and while he still held his glass in his
hand, a sound of voices came from the other end of the room and some
one was gesticulating and waving a newspaper. Silence was restored and
the importunate person sat down again: but a thrill of curiosity ran
round the table, the newspaper was passed from hand to hand and, each
time that one of the guests cast his eyes upon the page at which it was
opened, exclamations followed:
"Read it! Read it!" they cried from the opposite side.
The people were leaving their seats at the principal table. M.
Beautrelet went and took the paper and handed it to his son.
"Read it out! Read it out!" they cried, louder.
And others said:
"Listen! He's going to read it! Listen!"
Beautrelet stood facing his audience, looked in the evening paper which
his father had given him for the article that was causing all this
uproar and, suddenly, his eyes encountering a heading underlined in
blue pencil, he raised his hand to call for silence and began in a loud
voice to read a letter addressed to the editor by M. Massiban, of the
Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres. His voice broke and fell,
little by little, as he read those stupefying revelations, which
reduced all his efforts to nothing, upset his notions concerning the
Hollow Needle and proved the vanity of his struggle with Arsene Lupin:
* * * * *
On the 17th of March, 1679, there appeared a little book with the
following title: The Mystery of the Hollow Needle. The Whole Truth now
first exhibited. One hundred copies printed by myself for the
instruction of the Court.
At nine o'clock on the morning of that day, the author, a very young
man, well-dressed, whose name has remained unknown, began to leave his
book on the principal persons at court. At ten o'clock, when he had
fulfilled four of these errands, he was arrested by a captain in the
guards, who took him to the king's closet and forthwith set off in
search of the four copies distributed.
When the hundred copies were got together, counted, carefully looked
through and verified, the king himself threw them into the fire and
burnt them, all but one, which he kept for his own purposes.
Then he ordered the captain of the guards to take the author of the
book to M. de Saint-Mars, who confined his prisoner first at Pignerol
and then in the fortress of the Ile Sainte-Marguerite. This man was
obviously no other than the famous Man with the Iron Mask.
The truth would never have been known, or at least a part of the truth,
if the captain in the guards had not been present at the interview and
if, when the king's back was turned, he had not been tempted to
withdraw another of the copies from the chimney, before the fire got to
Six months later, the captain was found dead on the highroad between
Gaillon and Mantes. His murderers had stripped him of all his apparel,
forgetting, however, in his right boot a jewel which was discovered
there afterward, a diamond of the first water and of considerable value.
Among his papers was found a sheet in his handwriting, in which he did
not speak of the book snatched from the flames, but gave a summary of
the earlier chapters. It referred to a secret which was known to the
Kings of England, which was lost by them when the crown passed from the
poor fool, Henry VI., to the Duke of York, which was revealed to
Charles VII., King of France, by Joan of Arc and which, becoming a
State secret, was handed down from sovereign to sovereign by means of a
letter, sealed anew on each occasion, which was found in the deceased
monarch's death-bed with this superscription: "For the King of France."
This secret concerned the existence and described the whereabouts of a
tremendous treasure, belonging to the kings, which increased in
dimensions from century to century.
One hundred and fourteen years later, Louis XVI., then a prisoner in
the Temple, took aside one of the officers whose duty it was to guard
the royal family, and asked:
"Monsieur, had you not an ancestor who served as a captain under my
predecessor, the Great King?"
"Well, could you be relied upon--could you be relied upon--"
He hesitated. The officer completed the sentence:
"Not to betray your Majesty! Oh, sire!--"
"Then listen to me."
He took from his pocket a little book of which he tore out one of the
last pages. But, altering his mind:
"No, I had better copy it--"
He seized a large sheet of paper and tore it in such a way as to leave
only a small rectangular space, on which he copied five lines of dots,
letters and figures from the printed page. Then, after burning the
latter, he folded the manuscript sheet in four, sealed it with red wax,
and gave it to the officer.
"Monsieur, after my death, you must hand this to the Queen and say to
her, 'From the King, madame--for Your Majesty and for your son.' If she
does not understand--"
"If she does not understand, sire--"
"You must add, 'It concerns the secret, the secret of the Needle.' The
Queen will understand."
When he had finished speaking, he flung the book into the embers
glowing on the hearth.
He ascended the scaffold on the 21st of January.
It took the officer several months, in consequence of the removal of
the Queen to the Conciergerie, before he could fulfil the mission with
which he was entrusted. At last, by dint of cunning intrigues, he
succeeded, one day, in finding himself in the presence of Marie
Speaking so that she could just hear him, he said:
"Madame, from the late King, your husband, for Your Majesty and your
And he gave her the sealed letter.
She satisfied herself that the jailers could not see her, broke the
seals, appeared surprised at the sight of those undecipherable lines
and then, all at once, seemed to understand.
She smiled bitterly and the officer caught the words:
"Why so late?"
She hesitated. Where should she hide this dangerous document? At last,
she opened her book of hours and slipped the paper into a sort of
secret pocket contrived between the leather of the binding and the
parchment that covered it.
"Why so late?" she had asked.
It is, in fact, probable that this document, if it could have saved
her, came too late, for, in the month of October next, Queen Marie
Antoinette ascended the scaffold in her turn.
Now the officer, when going through his family papers, came upon his
ancestor's manuscript. From that moment, he had but one idea, which was
to devote his leisure to elucidating this strange problem. He read all
the Latin authors, studied all the chronicles of France and those of
the neighboring countries, visited the monasteries, deciphered
account-books, cartularies, treaties; and, in this way, succeeded in
discovering certain references scattered over the ages.
In Book III of Caesar's Commentaries on the Gallic War (MS. edition,
Alexandria), it is stated that, after the defeat of Veridovix by G.
Titullius Sabinus, the chief of the Caleti was brought before Caesar
and that, for his ransom, he revealed the secret of the Needle--
The Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, between Charles the Simple and
Rollo, the chief of the Norse barbarians, gives Rollo's name followed
by all his titles, among which we read that of Master of the Secret of
The Saxon Chronicle (Gibson's edition, page 134), speaking of William
the Conqueror, says that the staff of his banner ended in a steel point
pierced with an eye, like a needle.
In a rather ambiguous phrase in her examination, Joan of Arc admits
that she has still a great secret to tell the King of France. To which
her judges reply, "Yes, we know of what you speak; and that, Joan, is
why you shall die the death."
Philippe de Comines mentions it in connection with Louis XI., and,
later, Sully in connection with Henry IV.: "By the virtue of the
Needle!" the good king sometimes swears.
Between these two, Francis I., in a speech addressed to the notables of
the Havre, in 1520, uttered this phrase, which has been handed down in
the diary of a Honfleur burgess; "The Kings of France carry secrets
that often decide the conduct of affairs and the fate of towns."
All these quotations, all the stories relating to the Iron Mask, the
captain of the guards and his descendant, I have found to-day in a
pamphlet written by this same descendant and published in the month of
June, 1815, just before or just after the battle of Waterloo, in a
period, therefore, of great upheavals, in which the revelations which
it contained were likely to pass unperceived.
What is the value of this pamphlet? Nothing, you will tell me, and we
must attach no credit to it. And this is the impression which I myself
would have carried away, if it had not occurred to me to open Caesar's
Commentaries at the chapter given. What was my astonishment when I came
upon the phrase quoted in the little book before me! And it was the
same thing with the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, with the Saxon
Chronicle, with the examination of Joan of Arc, in short, with all that
I have been able to verify up to the present.
Lastly, there is an even more precise fact related by the author of the
pamphlet of 1815. During the French campaign, he being then an officer
under Napoleon, his horse dropped dead, one evening, and he rang at the
door of a castle where he was received by an old knight of St. Louis.
And, in the course of conversation with the old man, he learnt that
this castle, standing on the bank of the Creuse, was called the Chateau
de l'Aiguille, that it had been built and christened by Louis XIV., and
that, by his express order, it was adorned with turrets and with a
spire which represented the Needle. As its date it bore, it must still
bear, the figure 1680.
1680! One year after the publication of the book and the imprisonment
of the Iron Mask! Everything was now explained: Louis XIV., foreseeing
that the secret might be noised abroad, had built and named that castle
so as to offer the quidnuncs a natural explanation of the ancient
mystery. The Hollow Needle! A castle with pointed bell-turrets standing
on the bank of the Creuse and belonging to the King. People would at
once think that they had the key to the riddle and all enquiries would
The calculation was just, seeing that, more than two centuries later,
M. Beautrelet fell into the trap. And this, Sir, is what I was leading
up to in writing this letter. If Lupin, under the name of Anfredi,
rented from M. Valmeras the Chateau de l'Aiguille on the bank of the
Creuse; if, admitting the success of the inevitable investigations of
M. Beautrelet, he lodged his two prisoners there, it was because he
admitted the success of the inevitable researches made by M. Beautrelet
and because, with the object of obtaining the peace for which he had
asked, he laid for M. Beautrelet precisely what we may call the
historic trap of Louis XIV.
And hence we come to this undeniable conclusion, that he, Lupin, by his
unaided lights, without possessing any other facts than those which we
possess, managed by means of the witchcraft of a really extraordinary
genius, to decipher the undecipherable document; and that he, Lupin,
the last heir of the Kings of France, knows the royal mystery of the
* * * * *
Here ended the letter. But, for some minutes, from the passage that
referred to the Chateau de l'Aiguille onward, it was not Beautrelet's
but another voice that read it aloud. Realizing his defeat, crushed
under the weight of his humiliation, Isidore had dropped the newspaper
and sunk into his chair, with his face buried in his hands.
Panting, shaken with excitement by this incredible story, the crowd had
come gradually nearer and was now pressing round.
With a thrill of anguish, they waited for the words which he would say
in reply, the objections which he would raise.
He did not stir.
Valmeras gently uncrossed his hands and raised his head.
Isidore Beautrelet was weeping.
THE TREATISE OF THE NEEDLE
It is four o'clock in the morning. Isidore has not returned to the
Lycee Janson. He has no intention of returning before the end of the
war of extermination which he has declared against Lupin. This much he
swore to himself under his breath, while his friends drove off with
him, all faint and bruised, in a cab.
A mad oath! An absurd and illogical war! What can he do, a single,
unarmed stripling, against that phenomenon of energy and strength? On
which side is he to attack him? He is unassailable. Where to wound him?
He is invulnerable. Where to get at him? He is inaccessible.
Four o'clock in the morning. Isidore has again accepted his
schoolfellow's hospitality. Standing before the chimney in his bedroom,
with his elbows flat on the mantel-shelf and his two fists under his
chin, he stares at his image in the looking-glass. He is not crying
now, he can shed no more tears, nor fling himself about on his bed, nor
give way to despair, as he has been doing for the last two hours and
more. He wants to think, to think and understand.
And he does not remove his eyes from those same eyes reflected in the
glass, as though he hoped to double his powers of thought by
contemplating his pensive image, as though he hoped to find at the back
of that mirrored Beautrelet the unsolvable solution of what he does not
find within himself.
He stands thus until six o'clock, and, little by little, the question
presents itself to his mind with the strictness of an equation, bare
and dry and cleared of all the details that complicate and obscure it.
Yes, he has made a mistake. Yes, his reading of the document is all
wrong. The word aiguille does not point to the castle on the Creuse.
Also, the word demoiselles cannot be applied to Raymonde de Saint-Veran
and her cousin, because the text of the document dates back for
Therefore, all must be done over again, from the beginning.
One piece of evidence alone would be incontestible: the book published
under Louis XIV. Now of those hundred copies printed by the person who
was presumed to be the Man with the Iron Mask only two escaped the
flames. One was purloined by the captain of the guards and lost. The
other was kept by Louis XIV., handed down to Louis XV., and burnt by
Louis XVI. But a copy of the essential page, the page containing the
solution of the problem, or at least a cryptographic solution, was
conveyed to Marie Antoinette, who slipped it into the binding of her
book of hours. What has become of this paper? Is it the one which
Beautrelet has held in his hands and which Lupin recovered from him
through Bredoux, the magistrate's clerk? Or is it still in Marie
Antoinette's book of hours? And the question resolves itself into this:
what has become of the Queen's book of hours?
* * * * *
After taking a short rest, Beautrelet consulted his friend's father, an
old and experienced collector, who was often called upon officially to
give an expert opinion and who had quite lately been invited to advise
the director of one of our museums on the drawing up of the catalogue.
"Marie Antoinette's book of hours?" he exclaimed. "Why, the Queen left
it to her waiting-woman, with secret instructions to forward it to
Count Fersen. After being piously preserved in the count's family, it
has been, for the last five years, in a glass case--"
"A glass case?"
"In the Musee Carnavalet, quite simply."
"When will the museum be open?"
"At twenty minutes from now, as it is every morning."
* * * * *
Isidore and his friend jumped out of a cab at the moment when the doors
of Madame de Sevigne's old mansion were opening.
"Hullo! M. Beautrelet!"
A dozen voices greeted his arrival. To his great surprise, he
recognized the whole crowd of reporters who were following up "the
mystery of the Hollow Needle." And one of them exclaimed:
"Funny, isn't it, that we should all have had the same idea? Take care,
Arsene Lupin may be among us!"
They entered the museum together. The director was at once informed,
placed himself entirely at their disposal, took them to the glass case
and skewed them a poor little volume, devoid of all ornament, which
certainly had nothing royal about it. Nevertheless, they were overcome
by a certain emotion at the sight of this object which the Queen had
touched in those tragic days, which her eyes, red with tears, had
looked upon--And they dared not take it and hunt through it: it was as
though they feared lest they should be guilty of a sacrilege--
"Come, M. Beautrelet, it's your business!"
He took the book with an anxious gesture. The description corresponded
with that given by the author of the pamphlet. Outside was a parchment
cover, dirty, stained and worn in places, and under it, the real
binding, in stiff leather. With what a thrill Beautrelet felt for the
hidden pocket! Was it a fairy tale? Or would he find the document
written by Louis XVI. and bequeathed by the queen to her fervent
At the first page, on the upper side of the book, there was no
"Nothing," he muttered.
"Nothing," they echoed, palpitating with excitement.
But, at the last page, forcing back the book a little, he at once saw
that the parchment was not stuck to the binding. He slipped his fingers
in between--there was something--yes, he felt something--a paper--
"Oh!" he gasped, in an accent almost of pain. "Here--is it possible?"
"Quick, quick!" they cried. "What are you waiting for?"
He drew out a sheet folded in two.
"Well, read it!--There are words in red ink--Look!--it might be
blood--pale, faded blood--Read it!--"
* * * * *
To you, Fersen. For my son. 16 October, 1793.
* * * * *
And suddenly Beautrelet gave a cry of stupefaction. Under the queen's
signature there were--there were two words, in black ink, underlined
with a flourish--two words:
All, in turns, took the sheet of paper and the same cry escaped from
the lips of all of them:
"Marie Antoinette!--Arsene Lupin!"
A great silence followed. That double signature: those two names
coupled together, discovered hidden in the book of hours; that relic in
which the poor queen's desperate appeal had slumbered for more than a
century: that horrible date of the 16th of October, 1793, the day on
which the Royal head fell: all of this was most dismally and
"Arsene Lupin!" stammered one of the voices, thus emphasizing the scare
that underlay the sight of that demoniacal name at the foot of the
"Yes, Arsene Lupin," repeated Beautrelet. "The Queen's friend was
unable to understand her desperate dying appeal. He lived with the
keepsake in his possession which the woman whom he loved had sent him
and he never guessed the reason of that keepsake. Lupin discovered
everything, on the other hand--and took it."
"The document, of course! The document written by Louis XVI.; and it is
that which I held in my hands. The same appearance, the same shape, the
same red seals. I understand why Lupin would not leave me a document
which I could turn to account by merely examining the paper, the seals
and so on."
"Well, then, since the document is genuine, since I have, with my own
eyes, seen the marks of the red seals, since Marie Antoinette herself
assures me, by these few words in her hand, that the whole story of the
pamphlet, as printed by M. Massiban, is correct, because a problem of
the Hollow Needle really exists, I am now certain to succeed."
"But how? Whether genuine or not, the document is of no use to you if
you do not manage to decipher it, because Louis XVI. destroyed the book
that gave the explanation."
"Yes, but the other copy, which King Louis XVI.'s captain of the guards
snatched from the flames, was not destroyed."
"How do you know?"
"Prove the contrary."
After uttering this defiance, Beautrelet was silent for a time and
then, slowly, with his eyes closed, as though trying to fix and sum up
his thoughts, he said:
"Possessing the secret, the captain of the guards begins by revealing
it bit by bit in the journal found by his descendant. Then comes
silence. The answer to the riddle is withheld. Why? Because the
temptation to make use of the secret creeps over him little by little
and he gives way to it. A proof? His murder. A further proof? The
magnificent jewel found upon him, which he must undoubtedly have taken
from some royal treasure the hiding-place of which, unknown to all,
would just constitute the mystery of the Hollow Needle. Lupin conveyed
as much to me; Lupin was not lying."
"Then what conclusion do you draw, Beautrelet?"
"I draw this conclusion, my friends, that it be a good thing to
advertise this story as much as possible, so that people may know,
through all the papers, that we are looking for a book entitled The
Treatise of the Needle. It may be fished out from the back shelves of
some provincial library."
The paragraph was drawn up forthwith; and Beautrelet set to work at
once, without even waiting for it to produce a result. A first scent
suggested itself: the murder was committed near Gaillon. He went there
that same day. Certainly, he did not hope to reconstruct a crime
perpetrated two hundred years ago. But, all the same, there are crimes
that leave traces in the memories, in the traditions of a countryside.
They are recorded in the local chronicles. One day, some provincial
archaeologist, some lover of old legends, some student of the minor
incidents of the life of the past makes them the subject of an article
in a newspaper or of a communication to the academy of his departmental
Beautreiet saw three or four of these archaeologists. With one of them
in particular, an old notary, he examined the prison records, the
ledgers of the old bailiwicks and the parish registers. There was no
entry referring to the murder of a captain of the guards in the
He refused to be discouraged and continued his search in Paris, where
the magistrate's examination might have taken place. His efforts came
But the thought of another track sent him off in a fresh direction. Was
there no chance of finding out the name of that captain whose
descendant served in the armies of the Republic and was quartered in
the Temple during the imprisonment of the Royal family? By dint of
patient working, he ended by making out a list in which two names at
least presented an almost complete resemblance: M. de Larbeyrie, under
Louis XIV., and Citizen Larbrie, under the Terror.
This already was an important point. He stated it with precision in a
note which he sent to the papers, asking for any information concerning
this Larbeyrie or his descendants.
It was M. Massiban, the Massiban of the pamphlet, the member of the
Institute, who replied to him:
* * * * *
Allow me to call your attention to the following passage of Voltaire,
which I came upon in his manuscript of Le Siecle de Louis XIV. (Chapter
XXV: Particularites et anecdotes du regne). The passage has been
suppressed in all the printed editions:
"I have heard it said by the late M. de Caumartin, intendant of
finance, who was a friend of Chamillard the minister, that the King one
day left hurriedly in his carriage at the news that M. de Larbeyrie had
been murdered and robbed of some magnificent jewels. He seemed greatly
excited and repeated:
"'All is lost--all is lost--'
"In the following year, the son of this Larbeyrie and his daughter, who
had married the Marquis de Velines, were banished to their estates in
Provence and Brittany. We cannot doubt that there is something peculiar
I, in my turn, will add that we can doubt it all the less inasmuch as
M. de Chamillard, according to Voltaire, WAS THE LAST MINISTER WHO
POSSESSED THE STRANGE SECRET OF THE IRON MASK.
You will see for yourself, Sir, the profit that can be derived from
this passage and the evident link established between the two
adventures. As for myself, I will not venture to imagine any very exact
surmise as regards the conduct, the suspicions, and the apprehensions
of Louis XIV. in these circumstances; but, on the other hand, seeing
that M. de Larbeyrie left a son, who was probably the grandfather of
Larbrie the citizen-officer, and also a daughter, is it not permissible
to suppose that a part of the papers left by Larbeyrie came to the
daughter and that among these papers was the famous copy which the
captain of the guards saved from the flames?
I have consulted the Country-house Year-book. There is a Baron de
Velines living not far from Rennes. Could he be a descendant of the
marquis? At any rate, I wrote to him yesterday, on chance, to ask if he
had not in his possession a little old book bearing on its title-page
the word aiguille; and I am awaiting his reply.
It would give me the greatest pleasure to talk of all these matters
with you. If you can spare the time, come and see me.
I am, Sir, etc., etc.
P.S.--Of course, I shall not communicate these little discoveries to
the press. Now that you are near the goal, discretion is essential.
* * * * *
Beautrelet absolutely agreed. He even went further: to two journalists
who were worrying him that morning he gave the most fanciful
particulars as to his plans and his state of mind.
In the afternoon, he hurried round to see Massiban, who lived at 17,
Quai Voltaire. To his great surprise, he was told that M. Massiban had
gone out of town unexpectedly, leaving a note for him in case he should
call. Isidore opened it and read:
I have received a telegram which gives me
some hope. So I am leaving town and shall sleep
at Rennes. You might take the evening train and,
without stopping at Rennes, go on to the little
station of Velines. We would meet at the castle,
which is two miles and a half from the station.
The programme appealed to Beautrelet, and especially the idea that he
would reach the castle at almost the same time as Massiban, for he
feared some blunder on the part of that inexperienced man. He went back
to his friend and spent the rest of the day with him. In the evening,
he took the Brittany express and got out at Velines as six o'clock in
He did the two and a half miles, between bushy woods, on foot. He could
see the castle, perched on a height, from a distance: it was a hybrid
edifice, a mixture of the Renascence and Louis Philippe styles, but it
bore a stately air, nevertheless, with its four turrets and its
Isidore felt his heart beat as he approached. Was he really nearing the
end of his race? Did the castle contain the key to the mystery?
He was not without fear. It all seemed too good to be true; and he
asked himself if he was not once more acting in obedience to some
infernal plan contrived by Lupin, if Massiban was not for instance, a
tool in the hands of his enemy. He burst out laughing:
"Tut, tut, I'm becoming absurd! One would really think that Lupin was
an infallible person who foresees everything, a sort of divine
omnipotence against whom nothing can prevail! Dash it all, Lupin makes
his mistakes; Lupin, too, is at the mercy of circumstances; Lupin has
an occasional slip! And it is just because of his slip in losing the
document that I am beginning to have the advantage of him. Everything
starts from that. And his efforts, when all is said, serve only to
repair the first blunder."
And blithely, full of confidence, Beautrelet rang the bell.
"Yes, sir?" said the servant who opened the door.
"Can I see the Baron de Velines?"
And he gave the man his card.
"Monsieur le baron is not up yet, but, if monsieur will wait--"
"Has not some one else been asking for him, a gentleman with a white
beard and a slight stoop?" asked Beautrelet, who knew Massiban's
appearance from the photographs in the newspapers.
"Yes, the gentleman came about ten minutes ago; I showed him into the
drawing room. If monsieur will come this way--"
The interview between Massiban and Beautrelet was of the most cordial
character. Isidore thanked the old man for the first-rate information
which he owed to him and Massiban expressed his admiration for
Beautrelet in the warmest terms. Then they exchanged impressions on the
document, on their prospects of discovering the book; and Massiban
repeated what he had heard at Rennes regarding M. de Velines. The baron
was a man of sixty, who had been left a widower many years ago and who
led a very retired life with his daughter, Gabrielle de Villemon. This
lady had just suffered a cruel blow through the loss of her husband and
her eldest son, both of whom had died as the result of a motor-car
"Monsieur le baron begs the gentlemen to be good enough to come
The servant led the way to the first floor, to a large, bare-walled
room, very simply furnished with desks, pigeon-holes and tables covered
with papers and account-books.
The baron received them very affably and with the volubility often
displayed by people who live too much alone. They had great difficulty
in explaining the object of their visit.
"Oh, yes, I know, you wrote to me about it, M. Massiban. It has
something to do with a book about a needle, hasn't it, a book which is
supposed to have come down to me from my ancestors?"
"I may as well tell you that my ancestors and I have fallen out. They
had funny ideas in those days. I belong to my own time. I have broken
with the past."
"Yes," said Beautrelet, impatiently, "but have you no recollection of
having seen the book?--"
"Certainly, I said so in my telegram," he exclaimed, addressing M.
Massiban, who, in his annoyance, was walking up and down the room and
looking out of the tall windows. "Certainly--or, at least, my daughter
thought she had seen the title among the thousands of books that lumber
up the library, upstairs--for I don't care about reading myself--I
don't even read the papers. My daughter does, sometimes, but only when
there is nothing the matter with Georges, her remaining son! As for me,
as long as my tenants pay their rents and my leases are kept up--! You
see my account-books: I live in them, gentlemen; and I confess that I
know absolutely nothing whatever about that story of which you wrote to
me in your letter, M. Massiban--"
Isidore Beautrelet, nerve-shattered at all this talk, interrupted him
"I beg your pardon, monsieur, but the book--"
"My daughter has looked for it. She looked for it all day yesterday."
"Well, she found it; she found it a few hours ago. When you arrived--"
"And where is it?"
"Where is it? Why, she put it on that table--there it is--over there--"
Isidore gave a bound. At one end of the table, on a muddled heap of
papers, lay a little book bound in red morocco. He banged his fist down
upon it, as though he were forbidding anybody to touch it--and also a
little as though he himself dared not take it up.
"Well!" cried Massiban, greatly excited.
"I have it--here it is--we're there at last!"
"But the title--are you sure?--"
"Why, of course: look!"
"Are you convinced? Have we mastered the secret at last?"
"The front page--what does the front page say?"
"Read: The Whole Truth now first exhibited. One hundred copies printed
by myself for the instruction of the Court."
"That's it, that's it," muttered Massiban, in a hoarse voice. "It's the
copy snatched from the flames! It's the very book which Louis XIV.
They turned over the pages. The first part set forth the explanations
given by Captain de Larbeyrie in his journal.
"Get on, get on!" said Beautrelet, who was in a hurry to come to the
"Get on? What do you mean? Not at all! We know that the Man with the
Iron Mask was imprisoned because he knew and wished to divulge the
secret of the Royal house of France. But how did he know it? And why
did he wish to divulge it? Lastly, who was that strange personage? A
half-brother of Louis XIV., as Voltaire maintained, or Mattioli, the
Italian minister, as the modern critics declare? Hang it, those are
questions of the very first interest!"
"Later, later," protested Beautrelet, feverishly turning the pages, as
though he feared that the book would fly out of his hands before he had
solved the riddle.
"But--" said Massiban, who doted on historical details.
"We have plenty of time--afterward--let's see the explanation first--"
Suddenly Beautrelet stopped. The document! In the middle of a left-hand
page, his eyes saw the five mysterious lines of dots and figures! He
made sure, with a glance, that the text was identical with that which
he had studied so long; the same arrangement of the signs, the same
intervals that permitted of the isolation of the word demoiselles and
the separation of the two words aiguille and creuse.
A short note preceded it:
All the necessary indications, it appears, were reduced by King Louis
XIII. into a little table which I transcribe below.
Here followed the table of dots and figures.
Then came the explanation of the document itself. Beautrelet read, in a
* * * * *
As will be seen, this table, even after we have changed the figures
into vowels, affords no light. One might say that, in order to decipher
the puzzle, we must first know it. It is, at most, a clue given to
those who know the paths of the labyrinth.
Let us take this clue and proceed. I will guide you.
The fourth line first. The fourth line contains measurements and
indications. By complying with the indications and noting the
measurements set down, we inevitably attain our object, on condition,
be it understood, that we know where we are and whither we are going,
in a word, that we are enlightened as to the real meaning of the Hollow
Needle. This is what we may learn from the first three lines. The first
is so conceived to revenge myself on the King; I had warned him, for
* * * * *
Beautrelet stopped, nonplussed.
"What? What is it?" said Massiban.
"The words don't make sense."
"No more they do," replied Massiban. "'The first is so conceived to
revenge myself on the King--' What can that mean?"
"Damn!" yelled Beautrelet.
"Torn! Two pages! The next two pages! Look at the marks!"
He trembled, shaking with rage and disappointment. Massiban bent
"It is true--there are the ends of two pages left, like bookbinders'
guards. The marks seem pretty fresh. They've not been cut, but torn
out--torn out with violence. Look, all the pages at the end of the book
have been rumpled."
"But who can have done it? Who?" moaned Isidore, wringing his hands. "A
servant? An accomplice?"
"All the same, it may date back to a few months since," observed
"Even so--even so--some one must have hunted out and taken the
book--Tell me, monsieur," cried Beautrelet, addressing the baron, "is
there no one whom you suspect?"
"We might ask my daughter."
"Yes--yes--that's it--perhaps she will know."
M. de Velines rang for the footman. A few minutes later, Mme. de
Villemon entered. She was a young woman, with a sad and resigned face.
Beautrelet at once asked her:
"You found this volume upstairs, madame, in the library?"
"Yes, in a parcel of books that had not been uncorded."
"And you read it?"
"Yes, last night."
"When you read it, were those two pages missing? Try and remember: the
two pages following this table of figures and dots?"
"No, certainly not," she said, greatly astonished. "There was no page
missing at all."
"Still, somebody has torn--"
"But the book did not leave my room last night."
"And this morning?"
"This morning, I brought it down here myself, when M. Massiban's
arrival was announced."
"Well, I don't understand--unless--but no."
"Georges--my son--this morning--Georges was playing with the book."
She ran out headlong, accompanied by Beautrelet, Massiban and the
baron. The child was not in his room. They hunted in every direction.
At last, they found him playing behind the castle. But those three
people seemed so excited and called him so peremptorily to account that
he began to yell aloud.
Everybody ran about to right and left. The servants were questioned. It
was an indescribable tumult. And Beautrelet received the awful
impression that the truth was ebbing away from him, like water
trickling through his fingers.
He made an effort to recover himself, took Mme. de Villemon's arm, and,
followed by the baron and Massiban, led her back to the drawing room
"The book is incomplete. Very well. There are two pages torn out; but
you read them, did you not, madame?"
"You know what they contained?"
"Could you repeat it to us?"
"Certainly. I read the book with a great deal of curiosity, but those
two pages struck me in particular because the revelations were so very
"Well, then, speak madame, speak, I implore you! Those revelations are
of exceptional importance. Speak, I beg of you: minutes lost are never
recovered. The Hollow Needle--"
"Oh, it's quite simple. The Hollow Needle means--"
At that moment, a footman entered the room:
"A letter for madame."
"Oh, but the postman has passed!"
"A boy brought it."
Mme. de Villemon opened the letter, read it, and put her hand to her
heart, turning suddenly livid and terrified, ready to faint.
The paper had slipped to the floor. Beautrelet picked it up and,
without troubling to apologize, read:
Not a word! If you say a word, your son will
never wake again.
"My son--my son!" she stammered, too weak even to go to the assistance
of the threatened child.
Beautrelet reassured her:
"It is not serious--it's a joke. Come, who could be interested?"
"Unless," suggested Massiban, "it was Arsene Lupin."
Beautrelet made him a sign to hold his tongue. He knew quite well, of
course, that the enemy was there, once more, watchful and determined;
and that was just why he wanted to tear from Mme. de Villemon the
decisive words, so long awaited, and to tear them from her on the spot,
that very moment:
"I beseech you, madame, compose yourself. We are all here. There is not
the least danger."
Would she speak? He thought so, he hoped so. She stammered out a few
syllables. But the door opened again. This time, the nurse entered. She
"M. Georges--madame--M. Georges--!"
Suddenly, the mother recovered all her strength. Quicker than any of
them, and urged by an unfailing instinct, she rushed down the
staircase, across the hall and on to the terrace. There lay little
Georges, motionless, on a wicker chair.
"Well, what is it? He's asleep!--"
"He fell asleep suddenly, madame," said the nurse. "I tried to prevent
him, to carry him to his room. But he was fast asleep and his
hands--his hands were cold."
"Cold!" gasped the mother. "Yes--it's true. Oh dear, oh dear--IF HE
ONLY WAKES UP!"
Beautrelet put his hand in his trousers pocket, seized the butt of his
revolver, cocked it with his forefinger, then suddenly produced the
weapon and fired at Massiban.
Massiban, as though he were watching the boy's movements, had avoided
the shot, so to speak, in advance. But already Beautrelet had sprung
upon him, shouting to the servants:
"Help! It's Lupin!"
Massiban, under the weight of the impact, fell back into one of the
wicker chairs. In a few seconds, he rose, leaving Beautrelet stunned,
choking; and, holding the young man's revolver in his hands:
"Good!--that's all right!--don't stir--you'll be like that for two or
three minutes--no more. But, upon my word, you took your time to
recognize me! Was my make-up as old Massiban so good as all that?"
He was now standing straight up on his legs, his body squared, in a
formidable attitude, and he grinned as he looked at the three petrified
footmen and the dumbfounded baron:
"Isidore, you've missed the chance of a lifetime. If you hadn't told
them I was Lupin, they'd have jumped on me. And, with fellows like
that, what would have become of me, by Jove, with four to one against
He walked up to them:
"Come, my lads, don't be afraid--I shan't hurt you. Wouldn't you like a
sugar-stick apiece to screw your courage up? Oh, you, by the way, hand
me back my hundred-franc note, will you? Yes, yes, I know you! You're
the one I bribed just now to give the letter to your mistress. Come
hurry, you faithless servant."
He took the blue bank-note which the servant handed him and tore it
into tiny shreds:
"The price of treachery! It burns my fingers."
He took off his hat and, bowing very low before Mme. de Villemon:
"Will you forgive me, madame? The accidents of life--of mine
especially--often drive one to acts of cruelty for which I am the first
to blush. But have no fear for your son: it's a mere prick, a little
puncture in the arm which I gave him while we were questioning him. In
an hour, at the most, you won't know that it happened. Once more, all
my apologies. But I had to make sure of your silence." He bowed again,
thanked M. de Velines for his kind hospitality, took his cane, lit a
cigarette, offered one to the baron, gave a circular sweep with his hat
and, in a patronizing tone, said to Beautrelet:
And he walked away quietly, puffing the smoke of his cigarette into the
Beautrelet waited for a few minutes. Mme. de Villemon, now calmer, was
watching by her son. He went up to her, with the intention of making
one last appeal to her. Their eyes met. He said nothing. He had
understood that she would never speak now, whatever happened. There,
once more, in that mother's brain, the secret of the Hollow Needle lay
buried as deeply as in the night of the past.
Then he gave up and went away.
It was half-past ten. There was a train at eleven-fifty. He slowly
followed the avenue in the park and turned into the road that led to
"Well, what do you say to that?"
It was Massiban, or rather Lupin, who appeared out of the wood
adjoining the road.
"Was it pretty well contrived, or was it not? Is your old friend great
on the tight-rope, or is he not? I'm sure that you haven't got over it,
eh, and that you're asking yourself whether the so-called Massiban,
member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, ever existed.
But, of course, he exists. I'll even show him to you, if you're good.
But, first, let me give you back your revolver. You're looking to see
if it's loaded? Certainly, my lad. There are five charges left, one of
which would be enough to send me ad patres.--Well, so you're putting it
in your pocket? Quite right. I prefer that to what you did up there.--A
nasty little impulse, that, of yours!--Still, you're young, you
suddenly see--in a flash!--that you've once more been done by that
confounded Lupin and that he is standing there in front of you, at
three steps from you--and bang! You fire!--I'm not angry with you,
bless your little heart! To prove it, I offer you a seat in my 100 h.p.
car. Will that suit you?"
He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled.
The contrast was delicious between the venerable appearance of this
elderly Massiban and the schoolboy ways and accent which Lupin was
putting on. Beautrelet could not help laughing.
"He's laughed! He's laughed!" cried Lupin, jumping for joy. "You see,
baby, what you fall short in is the power of smiling; you're a trifle
serious for your age. You're a very likeable boy, you have a charming
candor and simplicity--but you have no sense of humor." He placed
himself in front of him. "Look here, bet you I make you cry! Do you
know how I was able to follow up all your inquiry, how I knew of the
letter Massiban wrote you and his appointment to meet you this morning
at the Chateau de Velines? Through the prattle of your friend, the one
you're staying with. You confide in that idiot and he loses no time,
but goes and tells everything to his best girl. And his best girl has
no secrets for Lupin.--What did I tell you? I've made you feel, anyhow;
your eyes are quite wet!--Friendship betrayed: that upsets you, eh?
Upon my word, you're wonderful! I could take you in my arms and hug
you! You always wear that look of astonishment which goes straight to
my heart.--I shall never forget the other evening at Gaillon, when you
consulted me.--Yes, I was the old notary!--But why don't you laugh,
youngster? As I said, you have no sense of a joke. Look here, what you
want is--what shall I call it?--imagination, imaginative impulse. Now,
I'm full of imaginative impulse."
A motor was heard panting not far off. Lupin seized Beautrelet roughly
by the arm and in a cold voice, looking him straight in the eyes:
"You're going to keep quiet now, aren't you? You can see there's
nothing to be done. Then what's the use of wasting your time and
energy? There are plenty of highway robbers in the world. Run after
them and let me be--if not!--It's settled, isn't it?"
He shook him as though to enforce his will upon him. Then he grinned:
"Fool that I am! You leave me alone? You're not one of those who let
go! Oh, I don't know what restrains me! In half a dozen turns of the
wrist, I could have you bound and gagged--and, in two hours, safe under
lock and key, for some months to come. And then I could twist my thumbs
in all security, withdraw to the peaceful retreat prepared for me by my
ancestors, the Kings of France, and enjoy the treasures which they have
been good enough to accumulate for me. But no, it is doomed that I must
go on blundering to the end. I can't help it, we all have our
weaknesses--and I have one for you. Besides, it's not done yet. From
now until you put your finger into the hollow of the Needle, a good
deal of water will flow under the bridges. Dash it all, it took me ten
days! Me! Lupin! You will want ten years, at least! There's that much
distance between us, after all!"
The motor arrived, an immense closed car. Lupin opened the door and
Beautreiet gave a cry. There was a man inside and that man was Lupin,
or rather Massiban. Suddenly understanding, he burst out laughing.
"Don't be afraid, he's sound asleep. I promised that you should see
him. Do you grasp the situation now? At midnight, I knew of your
appointment at the castle. At seven in the morning, I was there. When
Massiban passed, I had only to collect him--give him a tiny prick with
a needle--and the thing--was done. Sleep old chap, sleep away. We'll
set you down on the slope. That's it--there--capital--right in the sun,
then you won't catch cold--good! And our hat in our hand.--Spare a
copper, kind gentleman!--Oh. my dear old Massiban, so you were after
It was really a huge joke to see the two Massibans face to face, one
asleep with his head on his chest, the other seriously occupied in
paying him every sort of attention and respect:
"Pity a poor blind man! There, Massiban, here's two sous and my
visiting-card. And now, my lads, off we go at the fourth speed. Do you
hear, driver? You've got to do seventy-five miles an hour. Jump in,
Isidore. There's a full sitting of the Institute to-day, and Massiban
is to read a little paper, on I don't know what, at half-past three.
Well, he'll read them his little paper. I'll dish them up a complete
Massiban, more real than the real one, with my own ideas, on the
lacustrine inscriptions. I don't have an opportunity of lecturing at
the Institute ever day!--Faster, chauffeur: we're only doing
seventy-one and a half!--Are you afraid? Remember you're with
Lupin!--Ah, Isidore, and then people say that life is monotonous! Why,
life's an adorable thing, my boy; only one has to know--and I know--.
Wasn't it enough to make a man jump out of his skin for joy, just now,
at the castle, when you were chattering with old Velines and I, up
against the window, was tearing out the pages of the historic book? And
then, when you were questioning the Dame de Villemon about the Hollow
Needle! Would she speak? Yes, she would--no, she wouldn't--yes--no. It
gave me gooseflesh, I assure you.--If she spoke, I should have to build
up my life anew, the whole scaffolding was destroyed.--Would the
footman come in time? Yes--no--there he is.--But Beautrelet will unmask
me! Never! He's too much of a flat! Yes, though--no--there, he's done
it--no, he hasn't--yes--he's eyeing me--that's it--he's feeling for his
revolver!--Oh, the delight of it!--Isidore, you're talking too much,
you'll hurt yourself!--Let's have a snooze, shall we?--I'm dying of
Beautrelet looked at him. He seemed almost asleep already. He slept.
The motor-car, darting through space, rushed toward a horizon that was
constantly reached and as constantly retreated. There was no impression
of towns, villages, fields or forests; simply space, space devoured,
Beautrelet looked at his traveling companion, for a long time, with
eager curiosity and also with a keen wish to fathom his real character
through the mask that covered it. And he thought of the circumstances
that confined them, like that, together, in the close contact of that
motor car. But, after the excitement and disappointment of the morning,
tired in his turn, he too fell asleep.
When he woke, Lupin was reading. Beautrelet leant over to see the title
of the book. It was the Epistolae ad Lucilium of Seneca the philosopher.
FROM CAESAR TO LUPIN
Dash it all, it took me ten days! Me! Lupin!
You will want ten years, at least!--
These words, uttered by Lupin after leaving the Chateau de Velines, had
no little influence on Beautrelet's conduct.
Though very calm in the main and invariably master of himself, Lupin,
nevertheless, was subject to moments of exaltation, of a more or less
romantic expansiveness, at once theatrical and good-humored, when he
allowed certain admissions to escape him, certain imprudent speeches
which a boy like Beautrelet could easily turn to profit.
Rightly or wrongly, Beautrelet read one of these involuntary admissions
into that phrase. He was entitled to conclude that, if Lupin drew a
comparison between his own efforts and Beautrelet's in pursuit of the
truth about the Hollow Needle, it was because the two of them possessed
identical means of attaining their object, because Lupin had no
elements of success different from those possessed by his adversary.
The chances were alike. Now, with the same chances, the same elements
of success, the same means, ten days had been enough for Lupin.
What were those elements, those means, those chances? They were
reduced, when all was said, to a knowledge of the pamphlet published in
1815, a pamphlet which Lupin, no doubt, like Massiban, had found by
accident and thanks to which he had succeeded in discovering the
indispensable document in Marie Antoinette's book of hours.
Therefore, the pamphlet and the document were the only two fundamental
facts upon which Lupin had relied. With these he had built up the whole
edifice. He had had no extraneous aid. The study of the pamphlet and
the study of the document--full stop--that was all.
Well, could not Beautrelet confine himself to the same ground? What was
the use of an impossible struggle? What was the use of those vain
investigations, in which, even supposing that he avoided the pitfalls
that were multiplied under his feet, he was sure, in the end, to
achieve the poorest of results?
His decision was clear and immediate; and, in adopting it, he had the
happy instinct that he was on the right path. He began by leaving his
Janson-de-Sailly schoolfellow, without indulging in useless
recriminations, and, taking his portmanteau with him, went and
installed himself, after much hunting about, in a small hotel situated
in the very heart of Paris. This hotel he did not leave for days. At
most, he took his meals at the table d'hote. The rest of the time,
locked in his room, with the window-curtains close-drawn, he spent in
"Ten days," Arsene Lupin had said.
Beautrelet, striving to forget all that he had done and to remember
only the elements of the pamphlet and the document, aspired eagerly to
keep within the limit of those ten days. However the tenth day passed
and the eleventh and the twelfth; but, on the thirteenth day, a gleam
lit up his brain and, very soon, with the bewildering rapidity of those
ideas which develop in us like miraculous plants, the truth emerged,
blossomed, gathered strength. On the evening of the thirteenth day, he
certainly did not know the answer to the problem, but he knew, to a
certainty, one of the methods which Lupin had, beyond a doubt, employed.
It was a very simple method, hinging on this one question: Is there a
link of any sort uniting all the more or less important historic events
with which the pamphlet connects the mystery of the Hollow Needle?
The great diversity of these events made the question difficult to
answer. Still, the profound examination to which Beautrelet applied
himself ended by pointing to one essential characteristic which was
common to them all. Each one of them, without exception, had happened
within the boundaries of the old kingdom of Neustria, which correspond
very nearly with those of our present-day Normandy. All the heroes of
the fantastic adventure are Norman, or become Norman, or play their
part in the Norman country.
What a fascinating procession through the ages! What a rousing
spectacle was that of all those barons, dukes and kings, starting from
such widely opposite points to meet in this particular corner of the
world! Beautrelet turned the pages of history at haphazard: it was
Rolf, or Rou, or Rollo, first Duke of Normandy, who was master of the
secret of the Needle, according to the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte!
It was William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England,
whose bannerstaff was pierced like a needle!
It was at Rouen that the English burnt Joan of Arc, mistress of the
And right at the beginning of the adventure, who is that chief of the
Caleti who pays his ransom to Caesar with the secret of the Needle but
the chief of the men of the Caux country, which lies in the very heart
The supposition becomes more definite. The field narrows. Rouen, the
banks of the Seine, the Caux country: it really seems as though all
roads lead in that direction. Two kings of France are mentioned more
particularly, after the secret is lost by the Dukes of Normandy and
their heirs, the kings of England, and becomes the royal secret of
France; and these two are King Henry IV., who laid siege to Rouen and
won the battle of Arques, near Dieppe, and Francis I., who founded the
Havre and uttered that suggestive phrase:
"The kings of France carry secrets that often decide the fate of towns!"
Rouen, Dieppe, the Havre: the three angles of the triangle, the three
large towns that occupy the three points. In the centre, the Caux
The seventeenth century arrives. Louis XIV. burns the book in which a
person unknown reveals the truth. Captain de Larbeyrie masters a copy,
profits by the secret thus obtained, steals a certain number of jewels
and dies by the hand of highway murderers. Now at which spot is the
ambush laid? At Gaillon! At Gaillon, a little town on the road leading
from Havre, Rouen or Dieppe to Paris!
A year later, Louis XIV. buys a domain and builds the Chateau de
l'Aiguille. Where does he select his site? In the Midlands of France,
with the result that the curious are thrown off the scent and do not
hunt about in Normandy.
Rouen, Dieppe, the Havre--the Cauchois triangle--everything lies there.
On one side, the sea; on another, the Seine: on the third, the two
valleys that lead from Rouen to Dieppe.
A light flashed across Beautrelet's mind. That extent of ground, that
country of the high tablelands which run from the cliffs of the Seine
to the cliffs of the Channel almost invariably constituted the field of
operations of Arsene Lupin. For ten years, it was just this district
which he parcelled out for his purposes, as though he had his haunt in
the very centre of the region with which, the legend of the Hollow
Needle was most closely connected.
The affair of Baron Cahorn? Or the banks of the Seine, between Rouen
and the Havre.
 The Seven of Hearts, by Maurice Leblanc. II; Arsene Lupin in Prison
The Thibermenil case? At the other end of the tableland, between
Rouen and Dieppe.
 The Seven of Hearts. IX: Holmlock Shears Arrives Too Late.
The Gruchet, Montigny, Crasville burglaries? In the midst of the Caux
Where was Lupin going when he was attacked and bound hand and foot, in
his compartment by Pierre Onfrey, the Auteuil murderer? To Rouen.
 The Seven of Hearts. IV: The Mysterious Railway-passenger.
Where was Holmlock Shears, Lupin's prisoner, put on board ship? Near
 Arsene Lupin versus Holmlock Shears, by Maurice Leblanc,
Chapter V: Kidnapped.
And what was the scene of the whole of the present tragedy? Ambrumesy,
on the road between the Havre and Dieppe.
Rouen, Dieppe, the Havre: always the Cauchois triangle.
And so, a few years earlier, possessing the pamphlet and knowing the
hiding-place in which Marie Antoinette had concealed the document,
Arsene Lupin had ended by laying his hand on the famous book of hours.
Once in possession of the document, he took the field, "found" and
settled down as in a conquered country.
Beautrelet took the field.
He set out in genuine excitement, thinking of the same journey which
Lupin had taken, of the same hopes with which he must have throbbed
when he thus went in search of the tremendous secret which was to arm
him with so great a power. Would his, Beautrelet's efforts have the
same victorious results?
He left Rouen early in the morning, on foot, with his face very much
disguised and his bag at the end of a stick on his shoulder, like an
apprentice doing his round of France. He walked straight to Duclair,
where he lunched. On leaving this town, he followed the Seine and
practically did not lose sight of it again. His instinct, strengthened,
moreover, by numerous influences, always brought him back to the
sinuous banks of the stately river. When the Chateau du Malaquis was
robbed, the objects stolen from Baron Cahorn's collection were sent by
way of the Seine. The old carvings removed from the chapel at Ambrumesy
were carried to the Seine bank. He pictured the whole fleet of pinnaces
performing a regular service between Rouen and the Havre and draining
the works of art and treasures from a countryside to dispatch them
thence to the land of millionaires.
"I'm burning! I'm burning!" muttered the boy, gasping under the truth,
which came to him in a mighty series of shocks and took away his breath.
The checks encountered on the first few days, did not discourage him.
He had a firm and profound belief in the correctness of the supposition
that was guiding him. It was bold, perhaps, and extravagant; no matter:
it was worthy of the adversary pursued. The supposition was on a level
with the prodigious reality that bore the name of Lupin. With a man
like that, of what good could it be to look elsewhere than in the
domain of the enormous, the exaggerated, the superhuman?
Jumieges, the Mailleraye, Saint-Wandrille, Caudebec, Tancarville,
Quillebeuf were places filled with his memories. How often he must have
contemplated the glory of their Gothic steeples or the splendor of
their immense ruins!
But the Havre, the neighborhood of the Havre drew Isidore like a
"The kings of France carry secrets that often decide the fate of towns!"
Cryptic words which, suddenly, for Beautrelet, shone bright with
clearness! Was this not an exact statement of the reasons that
determined Francis I. to create a town on this spot and was not the
fate of the Havre-de-Grace linked with the very secret of the Needle?
"That's it, that's it," stammered Beautrelet, excitedly. "The old
Norman estuary, one of the essential points, one of the original
centres around which our French nationality was formed, is completed by
those two forces, one in full view, alive, known to all, the new port
commanding the ocean and opening on the world; the other dim and
obscure, unknown and all the more alarming, inasmuch as it is invisible
and impalpable. A whole side of the history of France and of the royal
house is explained by the Needle, even as it explains the whole story
of Arsene Lupin. The same sources of energy and power supply and renew
the fortunes of kings and of the adventurer."
Beautrelet ferreted and snuffed from village to village, from the river
to the sea, with his nose in the wind, his ears pricked, trying to
compel the inanimate things to surrender their deep meaning. Ought this
hill-slope to be questioned? Or that forest? Or the houses of this
hamlet? Or was it among the insignificant phrases spoken by that
peasant yonder that he might hope to gather the one little illuminating
One morning, he was lunching at an inn, within sight of Honfleur, the
old city of the estuary. Opposite him was sitting one of those heavy,
red-haired Norman horse-dealers who do the fairs of the district, whip
in hand and clad in a long smock-frock. After a moment, it seemed to
Beautrelet that the man was looking at him with a certain amount of
attention, as though he knew him or, at least, was trying to recognize
"Pooh," he thought, "there's some mistake: I've never seen that
merchant before, nor he me."
As a matter of fact, the man appeared to take no further interest in
him. He lit his pipe, called for coffee and brandy, smoked and drank.
When Beautrelet had finished his meal, he paid and rose to go. A group
of men entered just as he was about to leave and he had to stand for a
few seconds near the table at which the horse-dealer sat. He then heard
the man say in a low voice:
"Good-afternoon, M. Beautrelet."
Without hesitation, Isidore sat down beside the man and said:
"Yes, that is my name--but who are you? How did you know me?"
"That's not difficult--and yet I've only seen your portrait in the
papers. But you are so badly--what do you call it in French--so badly
He had a pronounced foreign accent and Beautrelet seemed to perceive,
as he looked at him, that he too wore a facial disguise that entirely
altered his features.
"Who are you?" he repeated. "Who are you?"
The stranger smiled:
"Don't you recognize me?"
"No, I never saw you before."
"Nor I you. But think. The papers print my portrait also--and pretty
often. Well, have you got it?"
It was an amusing and, at the same time, a significant meeting. The boy
at once saw the full bearing of it. After an exchange of compliments,
he said to Shears:
"I suppose that you are here--because of 'him'?"
"So--so--you think we have a chance--in this direction."
"I'm sure of it."
Beautrelet's delight at finding that Shears's opinion agreed with his
own was not unmingled with other feelings. If the Englishman attained
his object, it meant that, at the very best, the two would share the
victory; and who could tell that Shears would not attain it first?
"Have you any proofs? Any clues?"
"Don't be afraid," grinned the Englishman, who understood his
uneasiness. "I am not treading on your heels. With you, it's the
document, the pamphlet: things that do not inspire me with any great
"And with you?"
"With me, it's something different."
"Should I be indiscreet, if--?"
"Not at all. You remember the story of the coronet, the story of the
Duc de Charmerac?"
 Arsene Lupin, play in four acts, by Maurice Leblanc and
Francis de Croisset.
"You remember Victoire, Lupin's old foster-mother, the one whom my good
friend Ganimard allowed to escape in a sham prison-van?"
"I have found Victoire's traces. She lives on a farm, not far from
National Road No. 25. National Road No. 25 is the road from the Havre
to Lille. Through Victoire I shall easily get at Lupin."
"It will take long."
"No matter! I have dropped all my cases. This is the only one I care
about. Between Lupin and me, it's a fight--a fight to the death."
He spoke these words with a sort of ferocity that betrayed all his
bitterness at the humiliations which he had undergone, all his fierce
hatred of the great enemy who had tricked him so cruelly.
"Go away, now," he whispered, "we are observed. It's dangerous. But
mark my words: on the day when Lupin and I meet face to face, it will
be--it will be tragic."
Beautrelet felt quite reassured on leaving Shears: he need not fear
that the Englishman would gain on him. And here was one more proof
which this chance interview had brought him: the road from the Havre to
Lille passes through Dieppe! It is the great seaside road of the Caux
country, the coast road commanding the Channel cliffs! And it was on a
farm near this road that Victoire was installed, Victoire, that is to
say, Lupin, for one did not move without the other, the master without
the blindly devoted servant.
"I'm burning! I'm burning!" he repeated to himself. "Whenever
circumstances bring me a new element of information, it confirms my
supposition. On the one hand, I have the absolute certainty of the
banks of the Seine; on the other, the certainty of the National Road.
The two means of communication meet at the Havre, the town of Francis
I., the town of the secret. The boundaries are contracting. The Caux
country is not large; and, even so, I have only the western portion of
the Caux country to search."
He set to work with renewed stubbornness:
"Anything that Lupin has found," he kept on saying to himself, "there
is no reason for my not finding."
Certainly, Lupin had some great advantage over him, perhaps a thorough
acquaintance with the country, a precise knowledge of the local
legends, or less than that, a memory: invaluable advantages these, for
he, Beautrelet, knew nothing, was totally ignorant of the country,
which he had first visited at the time of the Ambrumesy burglary and
then only rapidly, without lingering.
But what did it matter? Though he had to devote ten years of his life
to this investigation, he would carry it to a successful issue. Lupin
was there. He could see him, he could feel him there. He expected to
come upon him at the next turn of the road, on the skirt of the next
wood, outside the next village. And, though continually disappointed,
he seemed to find in each disappointment a fresh reason for persisting.
Often, he would fling himself on the slope by the roadside and plunge
into wild examination of the copy of the document which he always
carried on him, a copy, that is to say, with vowels taking the place of
e . a . a . . e . . e . a . . a . .
a . . . e . e . . e . oi . e . . e .
. ou . . e . o . . . e . . e . o . . e
[Illustration: drawing of an outline of paper with writing and drawing
on it--numbers, dots, some letters, signs and symbols...]
ai . ui . . e . . eu . e
Often, also, according to his habit, he would lie down flat on his
stomach in the tall grass and think for hours. He had time enough. The
future belonged to him.
With wonderful patience, he tramped from the Seine to the sea, and from
the sea to the Seine, going gradually farther, retracing his steps and
never quitting the ground until, theoretically speaking, there was not
a chance left of gathering the smallest particle upon it.
He studied and explored Montivilliers and Saint-Romani and Octeville
and Gonneville and Criquetot.
At night, he knocked at the peasants' doors and asked for a lodging.
After dinner, they smoked together and chatted. He made them tell him
the stories which they told one another on the long winter nights. And
he never omitted to insinuate, slily:
"What about the Needle? The legend of the Hollow Needle? Don't you know
"Upon my word, I don't--never heard of it--"
"Just think--an old wives' tale--something that has to do with a
needle. An enchanted needle, perhaps.--I don't know--"
Nothing. No legend, no recollection. And the next morning he walked
blithely away again.
One day, he passed through the pretty village of Saint-Jouin, which
overlooks the sea, and descending among the chaos of rocks that have
slipped from cliffs, he climbed up to the tableland and went in the
direction of the dry valley of Bruneval, Cap d'Antifer and the little
creek of Belle-Plage. He was walking gaily and lightly, feeling a
little tired, perhaps, but glad to be alive, so glad, even, that he
forgot Lupin and the mystery of the Hollow Needle and Victoire and
Shears, and interested himself in the sight of nature: the blue sky,
the great emerald sea, all glittering in the sunshine.
Some straight slopes and remains of brick walls, in which he seemed to
recognize the vestiges of a Roman camp, interested him. Then his eyes
fell upon a sort of little castle, built in imitation of an ancient
fort, with cracked turrets and Gothic windows. It stood on a jagged,
rugged, rising promontory, almost detached from the cliff. A barred
gate, flanked by iron hand-rails and bristling spikes, guarded the
Beautrelet succeeded in climbing over, not without some difficulty.
Over the pointed door, which was closed with an old rusty lock, he read
FORT DE FREFOSSE
He did not attempt to enter, but, turning to the right, after going
down a little slope, he embarked upon a path that ran along a ridge of
land furnished with a wooden handrail. Right at the end was a cave of
very small dimensions, forming a sort of watch-tower at the point of
the rock in which it was hollowed out, a rock falling abruptly into the
There was just room to stand up in the middle of the cave. Multitudes
of inscriptions crossed one another on the walls. An almost square
hole, cut in the stone, opened like a dormer window on the land side,
exactly opposite Fort Frefosse, the crenellated top of which appeared
at thirty or forty yards' distance.
Beautrelet threw off his knapsack and sat down. He had had a hard and
tiring day. He fell asleep for a little. Then the cool wind that blew
inside the cave woke him up. He sat for a few minutes without moving,
absent-minded, vague-eyed. He tried to reflect, to recapture his still
torpid thoughts. And, as he recovered his consciousness, he was on the
point of rising, when he received the impression that his eyes,
suddenly fixed, suddenly wide-open, saw--
A thrill shook him from head to foot. His hands clutched convulsively
and he felt the beads of perspiration forming at the roots of his hair:
"No, no," he stammered. "It's a dream, an hallucination. Let's look:
it's not possible!"
He plunged down on his knees and stooped over. Two huge letters, each
perhaps a foot long, appeared cut in relief in the granite of the
floor. Those two letters, clumsily, but plainly carved, with their
corners rounded and their surface smoothed by the wear and tear of
centuries, were a D and an F.
D and F! Oh, bewildering miracle! D and F: just two letters of the
document! Oh, Beautrelet had no need to consult it to bring before his
mind that group of letters in the fourth line, the line of the
measurements and indications! He knew them well! They were inscribed
for all time at the back of his pupils, encrusted for good and all in
the very substance of his brain!
He rose to his feet, went down the steep road, climbed back along the
old fort, hung on to the spikes of the rail again, in order to pass,
and walked briskly toward a shepherd whose flock was grazing some way
off on a dip in the tableland:
"That cave, over there--that cave--"
His lips trembled and he tried to find the words that would not come.
The shepherd looked at him in amazement. At last, Isidore repeated:
"Yes, that cave--over there--to the right of the fort. Has it a name?"
"Yes, I should think so. All the Etretat folk like to call it the
"What?--What?--What's that you say?"
"Why, of course--it's the Chambre des Demoiselles."
Isidore felt like flying at his throat, as though all the truth lived
in that man and he hoped to get it from him at one swoop, to tear it
The Demoiselles! One of the words, one of the only three known words of
A whirlwind of madness shook Beautrelet where he stood. And it rose all
around him, blew upon him like a tempestuous squall that came from the
sea, that came from the land, that came from every direction and
whipped him with great lashes of the truth.
He understood. The document appeared to him in its real sense. The
Chambre des Demoiselles--Etretat--
"That's it," he thought, his brain filled with light, "it must be that.
But why didn't I guess earlier?"
He said to the shepherd, in a low voice:
"That will do--go away--you can go--thank you."
The man, not knowing what to think, whistled to his dog and went.
Left alone, Beautrelet returned to the fort. He had almost passed it
when, suddenly, he dropped to the ground and lay cowering against a
piece of wall. And, wringing his hands, he thought:
"I must be mad! If 'he' were to see me! Or his accomplices! I've been
moving about for an hour--!"
He did not stir another limb.
The sun went down. Little by little, the night mingled with the day,
blurring the outline of things.
Then, with little imperceptible movements, flat on his stomach,
gliding, crawling, he crept along one of the points of the promontory
to the extreme edge of the cliff.
He reached it. Stretching out his hands, he pushed aside some tufts of
grass and his head appeared over the precipice.
Opposite him, almost level with the cliff, in the open sea rose an
enormous rock, over eighty yards high, a colossal obelisk, standing
straight on its granite base, which showed at the surface of the water,
and tapering toward the summit, like the giant tooth of a monster of
the deep. White with the dirty gray white of the cliff, the awful
monolith was streaked with horizontal lines marked by flint and
displaying the slow work of the centuries, which had heaped alternate
layers of lime and pebble-stone one atop of the other.
Here and there, a fissure, a break; and, wherever these occurred, a
scrap of earth, with grass and leaves.
And all this was mighty and solid and formidable, with the look of an
indestructible thing against which the furious assault of the waves and
storms could not prevail. And it was definite and permanent and grand,
despite the grandeur of the cliffy rampart that commanded it, despite
the immensity of the space in which it stood.
Beautrelet's nails dug into the soil like the claws of an animal ready
to leap upon its prey. His eyes penetrated the wrinkled texture of the
rock, penetrated its skin, so it seemed to him, its very flesh. He
touched it, felt it, took cognizance and possession of it, absorbed and
The horizon turned crimson with all the flames of the vanished sun; and
long, red clouds, set motionless in the sky, formed glorious
landscapes, fantastic lagoons, fiery plains, forests of gold, lakes of
blood, a whole glowing and peaceful phantasmagoria.
The blue of the sky grew darker. Venus shone with a marvelous
brightness; then other stars lit up, timid as yet.
And Beautrelet suddenly closed his eyes and convulsively pressed his
folded arms to his forehead. Over there--oh, he felt as though he would
die for joy, so great was the cruel emotion that wrung his heart!--over
there, almost at the top of the Needle of Etretat, a little below the
extreme point round which the sea-mews fluttered, a thread of smoke
came filtering through a crevice, as though from an invisible chimney,
a thread of smoke rose in slow spirals in the calm air of the twilight.
The Etretat Needle was hollow!
Was it a natural phenomenon, an excavation produced by internal
cataclysms or by the imperceptible action of the rushing sea and the
soaking rain? Or was it a superhuman work executed by human beings,
Gauls, Celts, prehistoric men?
These, no doubt, were insoluble questions; and what did it matter? The
essence of the thing was contained in this fact: The Needle was hollow.
At forty or fifty yards from that imposing arch which is called the
Porte d'Aval and which shoots out from the top of the cliff, like the
colossal branch of a tree, to take root in the submerged rocks, stands
an immense limestone cone; and this cone is no more than the shell of a
pointed cap poised upon the empty waters!
A prodigious revelation! After Lupin, here was Beautrelet discovering
the key to the great riddle that had loomed over more than twenty
centuries! A key of supreme importance to whoever possessed it in the
days of old, in those distant times when hordes of barbarians rode
through and overran the old world! A magic key that opens the cyclopean
cavern to whole tribes fleeing before the enemy! A mysterious key that
guards the door of the most inviolable shelter! An enchanted key that
gives power and ensures preponderance!
Because he knows this key, Caesar is able to subdue Gaul. Because they
know it, the Normans force their sway upon the country and, from there,
later, backed by that support, conquer the neighboring island, conquer
Sicily, conquer the East, conquer the new world!
Masters of the secret, the Kings of England lord it over France, humble
her, dismember her, have themselves crowned at Paris. They lose the
secret; and the rout begins.
Masters of the secret, the Kings of France push back and overstep the
narrow limits of their dominion, gradually founding a great nation and
radiating with glory and power. They forget it or know not how to use
it; and death, exile, ruin follow.
An invisible kingdom, in mid-water and at ten fathoms from land! An
unknown fortress, taller than the towers of Notre Dame and built upon a
granite foundation larger than a public square! What strength and what
security! From Paris to the sea, by the Seine. There, the Havre, the
new town, the necessary town. And, sixteen miles thence, the Hollow
Needle, the impregnable sanctuary!
It is a sanctuary and also a stupendous hiding-place. All the treasures
of the kings, increasing from century to century, all the gold of
France, all that they extort from the people, all that they snatch from
the clergy, all the booty gathered on the battle-fields of Europe lie
heaped up in the royal cave. Old Merovingian gold sous, glittering
crown-pieces, doubloons, ducats, florins, guineas; and the precious
stones and the diamonds; and all the jewels and all the ornaments:
everything is there. Who could discover it? Who could ever learn the
impenetrable secret of the Needle? Nobody.
And Lupin becomes that sort of really disproportionate being whom we
know, that miracle incapable of explanation so long as the truth
remains in the shadow. Infinite though the resources of his genius be,
they cannot suffice for the mad struggle which he maintains against
society. He needs other, more material resources. He needs a sure place
of retreat, he needs the certainty of impunity, the peace that allows
of the execution of his plans.
Without the Hollow Needle, Lupin is incomprehensible, a myth, a
character in a novel, having no connection with reality.
Master of the secret--and of such a secret!--he becomes simply a man
like another, but gifted with the power of wielding in a superior
manner the extraordinary weapon with which destiny has endowed him.
* * * * *
So the Needle was hollow.
It remained to discover how one obtained access to it.
From the sea, obviously. There must be, on the side of the offing, some
fissure where boats could land at certain hours of the tide.
But on the side of the land?
Beautrelet lay until ten o'clock at night hanging over the precipice,
with his eyes riveted on the shadowy mass formed by the pyramid,
thinking and pondering with all the concentrated effort of his mind.
Then he went down to Etretat, selected the cheapest hotel, dined, went
up to his room and unfolded the document.
It was the merest child's play to him now to establish its exact
meaning. He at once saw that the three vowels of the word Etretat
occurred in the first line, in their proper order and at the necessary
intervals. This first line now read as follows:
e . a . a .. etretat . a ..
What words could come before Etretat? Words, no doubt, that referred to
the position of the Needle with regard to the town. Now the Needle
stood on the left, on the west--He ransacked his memory and,
recollecting that westerly winds are called vents d'aval on the coast
and that the nearest porte was known as the Porte d'Aval, he wrote down:
"En aval d'Etretat . a .."
The second line was that containing the word Demoiselles and, at once
seeing, in front of that word, the series of all the vowels that form
part of the words la chambre des, he noted the two phrases:
"En aval d'Etretat. La Chambre des Demoiselles."
The third line gave him more trouble; and it was not until some groping
that, remembering the position, near the Chambre des Demoiselles, of
the Fort de Frefosse, he ended by almost completely reconstructing the
"En aval d'Etretat. La Chambre des Demoiselles. Sous le Fort de
Frefosse. L'Aiguille creuse."
These were the four great formulas, the essential and general formulas
which you had to know. By means of them, you turned en aval, that is to
say, below or west of Etretat, entered the Chambre des Demoiselles, in
all probability passed under Fort Frefosse and thus arrived at the
How? By means of the indications and measurements that constituted the
[Illustration: drawing of an outline of paper with writing and drawing
on it--numbers, dots, some letters, signs and symbols...]
These were evidently the more special formulas to enable you to find
the outlet through which you made your way and the road that led to the
Beautrelet at once presumed--and his surmise was no more than the
logical consequence of the document--that, if there really was a direct
communication between the land and the obelisk of the Needle, the
underground passage must start from the Chambre des Demoiselles, pass
under Fort Frefosse, descend perpendicularly the three hundred feet of
cliff and, by means of a tunnel contrived under the rocks of the sea,
end at the Hollow Needle.
Which was the entrance to the underground passage? Did not the two
letters D and F, so plainly cut, point to it and admit to it, with the
aid, perhaps, of some ingenious piece of mechanism?
The whole of the next morning, Isidore strolled about Etretat and
chatted with everybody he met, in order to try and pick up useful
information. At last, in the afternoon, he went up the cliff. Disguised
as a sailor, he had made himself still younger and, in a pair of
trousers too short for him and a fishing jersey, he looked a mere
scape-grace of twelve or thirteen.
As soon as he entered the cave, he knelt down before the letters. Here
a disappointment awaited him. It was no use his striking them, pushing
them, manipulating them in every way: they refused to move. And it was
not long, in fact, before he became aware that they were really unable
to move and that, therefore, they controlled no mechanism.
And yet--and yet they must mean something! Inquiries which he had made
in the village went to show that no one had ever been able to explain
their existence and that the Abbe Cochet, in his valuable little book
on Etretat, had also tried in vain to solve this little puzzle. But
Isidore knew what the learned Norman archaeologist did not know,
namely, that the same two letters figured in the document, on the line
containing the indications. Was it a chance coincidence: Impossible.
 Les Origines d'Etretat. The Abbe Cochet seems to conclude,
in the end, that the two letters are the initials of a passer-by. The
revelations now made prove the fallacy of the theory.
An idea suddenly occurred to him, an idea so reasonable, so simple that
he did not doubt its correctness for a second. Were not that D and that
F the initials of the two most important words in the document, the
words that represented--together with the Needle--the essential
stations on the road to be followed: the Chambre des Demoiselles and
Fort Frefosse: D for Demoiselles, F for Frefosse: the connection was
too remarkable to be a mere accidental fact.
In that case, the problem stood thus: the two letters D F represent the
relation that exists between the Chambre des Demoiselles and Fort
Frefosse, the single letter D, which begins the line, represents the
Demoiselles, that is to say, the cave in which you have to begin by
taking up your position, and the single letter F, placed in the middle
of the line, represents Frefosse, that is to say, the probable entrance
to the underground passage.
Between these various signs, are two more: first, a sort of irregular
rectangle, marked with a stripe in the left bottom corner, and, next,
the figure 19, signs which obviously indicate to those inside the cave
the means of penetrating beneath the fort.
The shape of this rectangle puzzled Isidore. Was there around him, on
the walls of the cave, or at any rate within reach of his eyes, an
inscription, anything whatever, affecting a rectangular shape?
He looked for a long time and was on the point of abandoning that
particular scent when his eyes fell upon the little opening, pierced in
the rock, that acted as a window to the chamber.
Now the edges of this opening just formed a rectangle: corrugated,
uneven, clumsy, but still a rectangle; and Beautrelet at once saw that,
by placing his two feet on the D and the F carved in the stone
floor--and this explained the stroke that surmounted the two letters in
the document--he found himself at the exact height of the window!
He took up his position in this place and gazed out. The window looking
landward, as we know, he saw, first, the path that connected the cave
with the land, a path hung between two precipices; and, next, he caught
sight of the foot of the hillock on which the fort stood. To try and
see the fort, Beautrelet leaned over to the left and it was then that
he understood the meaning of the curved stripe, the comma that marked
the left bottom corner in the document: at the bottom on the left-hand
side of the window, a piece of flint projected and the end of it was
curved like a claw. It suggested a regular shooter's mark. And, when a
man applied his eye to this mark, he saw cut out, on the slope of the
mound facing him, a restricted surface of land occupied almost entirely
by an old brick wall, a remnant of the original Fort Frefosse or of the
old Roman oppidum built on this spot.
Beautrelet ran to this piece of wall, which was, perhaps, ten yards
long. It was covered with grass and plants. There was no indication of
any kind visible. And yet that figure 19?
He returned to the cave, took from his pocket a ball of string and a
tape-measure, tied the string to the flint corner, fastened a pebble at
the nineteenth metre and flung it toward the land side. The pebble at
most reached the end of the path.
"Idiot that I am!" thought Beautrelet. "Who reckoned by metres in those
days? The figure 19 means 19 fathoms or nothing!"
 The toise, or fathom, measured 1.949 metres.--Translator's Note.
Having made the calculation, he ran out the twine, made a knot and felt
about on the piece of wall for the exact and necessarily one point at
which the knot, formed at 37 metres from the window of the Demoiselles,
should touch the Frefosse wall. In a few moments, the point of contact
was established. With his free hand, he moved aside the leaves of
mullein that had grown in the interstices. A cry escaped him. The knot,
which he held pressed down with his fore-finger, was in the centre of a
little cross carved in relief on a brick. And the sign that followed on
the figure 19 in the document was a cross!
It needed all his will-power to control the excitement with which he
was overcome. Hurriedly, with convulsive fingers, he clutched the cross
and, pressing upon it, turned it as he would have turned the spokes of
a wheel. The brick heaved. He redoubled his effort; it moved no
further. Then, without turning, he pressed harder. He at once felt the
brick give way. And, suddenly, there was the click of a bolt that is
released, the sound of a lock opening and, on the right of the brick,
to the width of about a yard, the wall swung round on a pivot and
revealed the orifice of an underground passage.
Like a madman, Beautrelet seized the iron door in which the bricks were
sealed, pulled it back, violently and closed it. Astonishment, delight,
the fear of being surprised convulsed his face so as to render it
unrecognizable. He beheld the awful vision of all that had happened
there, in front of that door, during twenty centuries; of all those
people, initiated into the great secret, who had penetrated through
that issue: Celts, Gauls, Romans, Normans, Englishmen, Frenchmen,
barons, dukes, kings--and, after all of them, Arsene Lupin--and, after
Lupin, himself, Beautrelet. He felt that his brain was slipping away
from him. His eyelids fluttered. He fell fainting and rolled to the
bottom of the slope, to the very edge of the precipice.
* * * * *
His task was done, at least the task which he was able to accomplish
alone, with his unaided resources.
That evening, he wrote a long letter to the chief of the detective
service, giving a faithful account of the results of his investigations
and revealing the secret of the Hollow Needle. He asked for assistance
to complete his work and gave his address.
While waiting for the reply, he spent two consecutive nights in the
Chambre des Demoiselles. He spent them overcome with fear, his nerves
shaken with a terror which was increased by the sounds of the night. At
every moment, he thought he saw shadows approach in his direction.
People knew of his presence in the cave--they were coming--they were
His eyes, however, staring madly before them, sustained by all the
power of his will, clung to the piece of wall.
On the first night, nothing stirred; but, on the second, by the light
of the stars and a slender crescent-moon, he saw the door open and
figures emerge from the darkness: he counted two, three, four, five of
It seemed to him that those five men were carrying fairly large loads.
He followed them for a little way. They cut straight across the fields
to the Havre road; and he heard the sound of a motor car driving away.
He retraced his steps, skirting a big farm. But, at the turn of the
road that ran beside it, he had only just time to scramble up a slope
and hide behind some trees. More men passed--four, five men--all
carrying packages. And, two minutes later, another motor snorted.
This time, he had not the strength to return to his post; and he went
back to bed.
When he woke and had finished dressing, the hotel waiter brought him a
letter. He opened it. It contained Ganimard's card.
"At last!" cried Beautrelet, who, after so hard a campaign, was really
feeling the need of a comrade-in-arms.
He ran downstairs with outstretched hands. Ganimard took them, looked
at him for a moment and said:
"You're a fine fellow, my lad!"
"Pooh!" he said. "Luck has served me."
"There's no such thing as luck with 'him,'" declared the inspector, who
always spoke of Lupin in a solemn tone and without mentioning his name.
He sat down:
"So we've got him!"
"Just as we've had him twenty times over," said Beautrelet, laughing.
"Yes, but to-day--"
"To-day, of course, the case is different. We know his retreat, his
stronghold, which means, when all is said, that Lupin is Lupin. He can
escape. The Etretat Needle cannot."
"Why do you suppose that he will escape?" asked Ganimard, anxiously.
"Why do you suppose that he requires to escape?" replied Beautrelet.
"There is nothing to prove that he is in the Needle at present. Last
night, eleven of his men left it. He may be one of the eleven."
"You are right. The great thing is the Hollow Needle. For the rest, let
us hope that chance will favor us. And now, let us talk."
He resumed his serious voice, his self-important air and said:
"My dear Beautrelet, I have orders to recommend you to observe the most
absolute discretion in regard to this matter."
"Orders from whom?" asked Beautrelet, jestingly. "The prefect of
"Higher than that."
"The prime minister?"
Ganimard lowered his voice:
"Beautrelet, I was at the Elysee last night. They look upon this matter
as a state secret of the utmost gravity. There are serious reasons for
concealing the existence of this citadel--reasons of military strategy,
in particular. It might become a revictualling centre, a magazine for
new explosives, for lately-invented projectiles, for anything of that
sort: the secret arsenal of France, in fact."
"But how can they hope to keep a secret like this? In the old days, one
man alone held it: the king. To-day, already, there are a good few of
us who know it, without counting Lupin's gang."
"Still, if we gained only ten years', only five years' silence! Those
five years may be--the saving of us."
"But, in order to capture this citadel, this future arsenal, it will
have to be attacked, Lupin must be dislodged. And all this cannot be
done without noise."
"Of course, people will guess something, but they won't know. Besides,
we can but try."
"All right. What's your plan?"
"Here it is, in two words. To begin with, you are not Isidore
Beautrelet and there's no question of Arsene Lupin either. You are and
you remain a small boy of Etretat, who, while strolling about the
place, caught some fellows coming out of an underground passage. This
makes you suspect the existence of a flight of steps which cuts through
the cliff from top to bottom."
"Yes, there are several of those flights of steps along the coast. For
instance, to the right of Etretat, opposite Benouville, they showed me
the Devil's Staircase, which every bather knows. And I say nothing of
the three or four tunnels used by the fishermen."
"So you will guide me and one-half of my men. I shall enter alone, or
accompanied, that remains to be seen. This much is certain, that the
attack must be delivered that way. If Lupin is not in the Needle, we
shall fix up a trap in which he will be caught sooner or later. If he
"If he is there, he will escape from the Needle by the other side, the
side overlooking the sea."
"In that case, he will at once be arrested by the other half of my men."
"Yes, but if, as I presume, you choose a moment when the sea is at low
ebb, leaving the base of the Needle uncovered, the chase will be
public, because it will take place before all the men and women fishing
for mussels, shrimps and shell-fish who swarm on the rocks round about."
"That is why I just mean to select the time when the sea is full."
"In that case, he will make off in a boat."
"Ah, but I shall have a dozen fishing-smacks, each of which will be
commanded by one of my men, and we shall collar him--"
"If he doesn't slip through your dozen smacks, like a fish through the
"All right, then I'll sink him."
"The devil you will! Shall you have guns?"
"Why, of course! There's a torpedo-boat at the Havre at this moment. A
telegram from me will bring her to the Needle at the appointed hour."
"How proud Lupin will be! A torpedo-boat! Well, M. Ganimard, I see that
you have provided for everything. We have only to go ahead. When do we
deliver the assault?"
"No, by daylight, at the flood-tide, as the clock strikes ten in the
* * * * *
Under his show of gaiety, Beautrelet concealed a real anguish of mind.
He did not sleep until the morning, but lay pondering over the most
impracticable schemes, one after the other.
Ganimard had left him in order to go to Yport, six or seven miles from
Etretat, where, for prudence's sake, he had told his men to meet him,
and where he chartered twelve fishing smacks, with the ostensible
object of taking soundings along the coast.
At a quarter to ten, escorted by a body of twelve stalwart men, he met
Isidore at the foot of the road that goes up the cliff.
At ten o'clock exactly, they reached the skirt of wall. It was the
At ten o'clock exactly.
"Why, what's the matter with you, Beautrelet?" jeered Ganimard. "You're
quite green in the face!"
"It's as well you can't see yourself, Ganimard," the boy retorted. "One
would think your last hour had come!"
They both had to sit down and Ganimard swallowed a few mouthfuls of rum.
"It's not funk," he said, "but, by Jove, this is an exciting business!
Each time that I'm on the point of catching him, it takes me like that
in the pit of the stomach. A dram of rum?"
"And if you drop behind?"
"That will mean that I'm dead."
"B-r-r-r-r! However, we'll see. And now, open, sesame! No danger of our
being observed, I suppose?"
"No. The Needle is not so high as the cliff, and, besides, there's a
bend in the ground where we are."
Beautrelet went to the wall and pressed upon the brick. The bolt was
released and the underground passage came in sight.
By the gleam of the lanterns which they lit, they saw that it was cut
in the shape of a vault and that both the vaulting and the floor itself
were entirely covered with bricks.
They walked for a few seconds and, suddenly, a staircase appeared.
Beautrelet counted forty-five brick steps, which the slow action of
many footsteps had worn away in the middle.
"Blow!" said Ganimard, holding his head and stopping suddenly, as
though he had knocked against something.
"What is it?"
"Bother!" muttered Beautrelet, looking at it. "And not an easy one to
break down either. It's just a solid block of iron."
"We are done," said Ganimard. "There's not even a lock to it."
"Exactly. That's what gives me hope."
"A door is made to open; and, as this one has no lock, that means that
there is a secret way of opening it."
"And, as we don't know the secret--"
"I shall know it in a minute."
"By means of the document. The fourth line has no other object but to
solve each difficulty as and when it crops up. And the solution is
comparatively easy, because it's not written with a view to throwing
searchers off the scent, but to assisting them."
"Comparatively easy! I don't agree with you," cried Ganimard, who had
unfolded the document. "The number 44 and a triangle with a dot in it:
that doesn't tell us much!"
"Yes, yes, it does! Look at the door. You see it's strengthened, at
each corner, with a triangular slab of iron; and the slabs are fixed
with big nails. Take the left-hand bottom slab and work the nail in the
corner: I'll lay ten to one we've hit the mark."
"You've lost your bet," said Ganimard, after trying.
"Then the figure 44 must mean--"
In a low voice, reflecting as he spoke, Beautrelet continued:
"Let me see--Ganimard and I are both standing on the bottom step of the
staircase--there are 45. Why 45, when the figure in the document is 44?
A coincidence? No. In all this business, there is no such thing as a
coincidence, at least not an involuntary one. Ganimard, be so good as
to move one step higher up. That's it, don't leave this forty-fourth
step. And now I will work the iron nail. And the trick's done, or I'll
eat my boots!"
The heavy door turned on its hinges. A fairly spacious cavern appeared
before their eyes.
"We must be exactly under Fort Frefosse," said Beautrelet. "We have
passed through the different earthy layers by now. There will be no
more brick. We are in the heart of the solid limestone."
The room was dimly lit by a shaft of daylight that came from the other
end. Going up to it, they saw that it was a fissure in the cliff,
contrived in a projecting wall and forming a sort of observatory. In
front of them, at a distance of fifty yards, the impressive mass of the
Needle loomed from the waves. On the right, quite close, was the arched
buttress of the Porte d'Aval and, on the left, very far away, closing
the graceful curve of a large inlet, another rocky gateway, more
imposing still, was cut out of the cliff; the Manneporte, which was
so wide and tall that a three-master could have passed through it with
all sail set. Behind and everywhere, the sea.
 Magna porta.
"I don't see our little fleet," said Beautrelet.
"I know," said Ganimard. "The Porte d'Aval hides the whole of the coast
of Etretat and Yport. But look, over there, in the offing, that black
line, level with the water--"
"That's our fleet of war, Torpedo-boat No. 25. With her there, Lupin is
welcome to break loose--if he wants to study the landscape at the
bottom of the sea."
A baluster marked the entrance to the staircase, near the fissure. They
started on their way down. From time to time, a little window pierced
the wall of the cliff; and, each time, they caught sight of the Needle,
whose mass seemed to them to grow more and more colossal.
A little before reaching high-water level, the windows ceased and all
Isidore counted the steps aloud. At the three hundred and fifty-eight,
they emerged into a wider passage, which was barred by another iron
door strengthened with slabs and nails.
"We know all about this," said Beautrelet. "The document gives us 357
and a triangle dotted on the right. We have only to repeat the
The second door obeyed like the first. A long, a very long tunnel
appeared, lit up at intervals by the gleam of a lantern swung from the
vault. The walls oozed moisture and drops of water fell to the ground,
so that, to make walking easier a regular pavement of planks had been
laid from end to end.
"We are passing under the sea," said Beautrelet. "Are you coming,
Without replying, the inspector ventured into the tunnel, followed the
wooden foot-plank and stopped before a lantern, which he took down.
"The utensils may date back to the Middle Ages, but the lighting is
modern," he said. "Our friends use incandescent mantles."
He continued his way. The tunnel ended in another and a larger cave,
with, on the opposite side, the first steps of a staircase that led
"It's the ascent of the Needle beginning," said Ganimard. "This is more
But one of his men called him:
"There's another flight here, sir, on the left."
And, immediately afterward, they discovered a third, on the right.
"The deuce!" muttered the inspector. "This complicates matters. If we
go by this way, they'll make tracks by that."
"Shall we separate?" asked Beautrelet.
"No, no--that would mean weakening ourselves. It would be better for
one of us to go ahead and scout."
"I will, if you like--"
"Very well, Beautrelet, you go. I will remain with my men--then there
will be no fear of anything. There may be other roads through the cliff
than that by which we came and several roads also through the Needle.
But it is certain that, between the cliff and the Needle, there is no
communication except the tunnel. Therefore they must pass through this
cave. And so I shall stay here till you come back. Go ahead,
Beautrelet, and be prudent: at the least alarm, scoot back again."
Isidore disappeared briskly up the middle staircase. At the thirtieth
step, a door, an ordinary wooden door, stopped him. He seized the
handle turned it. The door was not locked.
He entered a room that seemed to him very low owing to its immense
size. Lit by powerful lamps and supported by squat pillars, with long
vistas showing between them, it had nearly the same dimensions as the
Needle itself. It was crammed with packing cases and miscellaneous
objects--pieces of furniture, oak settees, chests, credence-tables,
strong-boxes--a whole confused heap of the kind which one sees in the
basement of an old curiosity shop.
On his right and left, Beautrelet perceived the wells of two
staircases, the same, no doubt, that started from the cave below. He
could easily have gone down, therefore, and told Ganimard. But a new
flight of stairs led upward in front of him and he had the curiosity to
pursue his investigations alone.
Thirty more steps. A door and then a room, not quite so large as the
last, Beautrelet thought. And again, opposite him, an ascending flight
Thirty steps more. A door. A smaller room.
Beautrelet grasped the plan of the works executed inside the Needle. It
was a series or rooms placed one above the other and, therefore,
gradually decreasing in size. They all served as store-rooms.
In the fourth, there was no lamp. A little light filtered in through
clefts in the walls and Beautrelet saw the sea some thirty feet below
At that moment, he felt himself so far from Ganimard that a certain
anguish began to take hold of him and he had to master his nerves lest
he should take to his heels. No danger threatened him, however, and the
silence around him was even so great that he asked himself whether the
whole Needle had not been abandoned by Lupin and his confederates.
"I shall not go beyond the next floor," he said to himself.
Thirty stairs again and a door. This door was lighter in construction
and modern in appearance. He pushed it open gently, quite prepared for
flight. There was no one there. But the room differed from the others
in its purpose. There were hangings on the walls, rugs on the floor.
Two magnificent sideboards, laden with gold and silver plate, stood
facing each other. The little windows contrived in the deep, narrow
cleft were furnished with glass panes.
In the middle of the room was a richly-decked table, with a lace-edged
cloth, dishes of fruits and cakes, champagne in decanters and flowers,
heaps of flowers.
Three places were laid around the table.
Beautrelet walked up. On the napkins were cards with the names of the
party. He read first:
"Mme. Arsene Lupin."
He took up the third card and started back with surprise. It bore his
THE TREASURES OF THE KINGS OF FRANCE
A curtain was drawn back.
"Good morning, my dear Beautrelet, you're a little late. Lunch was
fixed for twelve. However, it's only a few minutes--but what's the
matter? Don't you know me? Have I changed so much?"
In the course of his fight with Lupin, Beautrelet had met with many
surprises and he was still prepared, at the moment of the final
catastrophe, to experience any number of further emotions; but the
shock which he received this time was utterly unexpected. It was not
astonishment, but stupefaction, terror. The man who stood before him,
the man whom the brutal force of events compelled him to look upon as
Arsene Lupin, was--Valmeras! Valmeras, the owner of the Chateau de
l'Aiguille! Valmeras, the very man to whom he had applied for
assistance against Arsene Lupin! Valmeras, his companion on the
expedition to Crozant! Valmeras, the plucky friend who had made
Raymonde's escape possible by felling one of Lupin's accomplices, or
pretending to fell him, in the dusk of the great hall! And Valmeras was
"You--you--So it's you!" he stammered.
"Why not?" exclaimed Lupin. "Did you think that you knew me for good
and all because you had seen me in the guise of a clergyman or under
the features of M. Massiban? Alas, when a man selects the position in
society which I occupy, he must needs make use of his little social
gifts! If Lupin were not able to change himself, at will, into a
minister of the Church of England or a member of the Academy of
Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, it would be a bad lookout for Lupin!
Now Lupin, the real Lupin, is here before you, Beautrelet! Take a good
look at him."
"But then--if it's you--then--Mademoiselle--"
"Yes, Beautrelet, as you say--"
He again drew back the hanging, beckoned and announced:
"Mme. Arsene Lupin."
"Ah," murmured the lad, confounded in spite of everything, "Mlle. de
"No, no," protested Lupin. "Mme. Arsene Lupin, or rather, if you
prefer, Mme. Louis Valmeras, my wedded wife, married to me in
accordance with the strictest forms of law; and all thanks to you, my
He held out his hand to him.
"All my acknowledgements--and no ill will on your side, I trust?"
Strange to say, Beautrelet felt no ill will at all, no sense of
humiliation, no bitterness. He realized so strongly the immense
superiority of his adversary that he did not blush at being beaten by
him. He pressed the offered hand.
"Luncheon is served, ma'am."
A butler had placed a tray of dishes on the table.
"You must excuse us, Beautrelet: my chef is away and we can only give
you a cold lunch."
Beautrelet felt very little inclined to eat. He sat down, however, and
was enormously interested in Lupin's attitude. How much exactly did he
know? Was he aware of the danger he was running? Was he ignorant of the
presence of Ganimard and his men?
And Lupin continued:
"Yes, thanks to you, my dear friend. Certainly, Raymonde and I loved
each other from the first. Just so, my boy--Raymonde's abduction, her
imprisonment, were mere humbug: we loved each other. But neither she
nor I, when we were free to love, would allow a casual bond at the
mercy of chance, to be formed between us. The position, therefore, was
hopeless for Lupin. Fortunately, it ceased to be so if I resumed my
identity as the Louis Valmeras that I had been from a child. It was
then that I conceived the idea, as you refused to relinquish your quest
and had found the Chateau de l'Aiguille, of profiting by your
"And my silliness."
"Pooh! Any one would have been caught as you were!"
"So you were really able to succeed because I screened you and assisted
"Of course! How could any one suspect Valmeras of being Lupin, when
Valmeras was Beautrelet's friend and after Valmeras had snatched from
Lupin's clutches the girl whom Lupin loved? And how charming it was!
Such delightful memories! The expedition to Crozant! The bouquets we
found! My pretended love letter to Raymonde! And, later, the
precautions which I, Valmeras, had to take against myself, Lupin,
before my marriage! And the night of your great banquet, Beautrelet,
when you fainted in my arms! Oh, what memories!"
There was a pause. Beautrelet watched Raymonde. She had listened to
Lupin without saying a word and looked at him with eyes in which he
read love, passion and something else besides, something which the lad
could not define, a sort of anxious embarrassment and a vague sadness.
But Lupin turned his eyes upon her and she gave him an affectionate
smile. Their hands met over the table.
"What do you say to the way I have arranged my little home,
Beautrelet?" cried Lupin. "There's a style about it, isn't there? I
don't pretend that it's as comfortable as it might be. And yet, some
have been quite satisfied with it; and not the least of mankind,
either!--Look at the list of distinguished people who have owned the
Needle in their time and who thought it an honor to leave a mark of
On the walls, one below the other, were carved the following names:
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
"Whose name will figure after ours?" he continued. "Alas, the list is
closed! From Caesar to Lupin--and there it ends. Soon the nameless mob
will come to visit the strange citadel. And to think that, but for
Lupin, all this would have remained for ever unknown to men! Ah
Beautrelet, what a feeling of pride was mine on the day when I first
set foot on this abandoned soil. To have found the lost secret and
become its master, its sole master! To inherit such an inheritance! To
live in the Needle, after all those kings!--"
He was interrupted by a gesture of his wife's. She seemed greatly
"There is a noise," she said. "Underneath us.--You can hear it."
"It's the lapping of the water," said Lupin.
"No, indeed it's not. I know the sound of the waves. This is something
"What would you have it be, darling?" said Lupin, smiling. "I invited
no one to lunch except Beautrelet." And, addressing the servant,
"Charolais, did you lock the staircase doors behind the gentleman?"
"Yes, sir, and fastened the bolts."
"Come, Raymonde, don't shake like that. Why, you're quite pale!"
He spoke a few words to her in an undertone, as also to the servant,
drew back the curtain and sent them both out of the room.
The noise below grew more distinct. It was a series of dull blows,
repeated at intervals. Beautrelet thought:
"Ganimard has lost patience and is breaking down the doors."
Lupin resumed the thread of his conversation, speaking very calmly and
as though he had really not heard:
"By Jove, the Needle was badly damaged when I succeeded in discovering
it! One could see that no one had possessed the secret for more than a
century, since Louis XVI. and the Revolution. The tunnel was
threatening to fall in. The stairs were in a shocking state. The water
was trickling in from the sea. I had to prop up and strengthen and
rebuild the whole thing."
Beautrelet could not help asking:
"When you arrived, was it empty?"
"Very nearly. The kings did not use the Needle, as I have done, as a
"As a place of refuge, then?"
"Yes, no doubt, in times of invasion and during the civil wars. But its
real destination was to be--how shall I put it?--the strong-room or the
bank of the kings of France."
The sound of blows increased, more distinctly now. Ganimard must have
broken down the first door and was attacking the second. There was a
short silence and then more blows, nearer still. It was the third door.
Through one of the windows, Beautrelet saw a number of fishing-smacks
sailing round the Needle and, not far away, floating on the waters like
a great black fish, the torpedo-boat.
"What a row!" exclaimed Lupin. "One can't hear one's self speak! Let's
go upstairs, shall we? It may interest you to look over the Needle."
They climbed to the floor above, which was protected, like the others,
by a door which Lupin locked behind him.
"My picture gallery," he said.
The walls were covered with canvases on which Beautrelet recognized the
most famous signatures. There were Raphael's Madonna of the Agnus Dei,
Andrea del Sarto's Portrait of Lucrezia Fede, Titian's Salome,
Botticelli's Madonna and Angels and numbers of Tintorettos, Carpaccios,
"What fine copies!" said Beautrelet, approvingly.
Lupin looked at him with an air of stupefaction:
"What! Copies! You must be mad! The copies are in Madrid, my dear
fellow, in Florence, Venice, Munich, Amsterdam."
"Are the original pictures, my lad, patiently collected in all the
museums of Europe, where I have replaced them, like an honest man, with
"But some day or other--"
"Some day or other, the fraud will be discovered? Well, they will find
my signature on each canvas--at the back--and they will know that it
was I who have endowed my country with the original masterpieces. After
all, I have only done what Napoleon did in Italy.--Oh, look,
Beautrelet: here are M. de Gesvres's four Rubenses!--"
The knocking continued within the hollow of the Needle without ceasing.
"I can't stand this!" said Lupin. "Let's go higher."
A fresh staircase. A fresh door.
"The tapestry-room," Lupin announced.
The tapestries were not hung on the walls, but rolled, tied up with
cord, ticketed; and, in addition, there were parcels of old fabrics
which Lupin unfolded: wonderful brocades, admirable velvets, soft,
faded silks, church vestments woven with silver and gold--
They went higher still and Beautrelet saw the room containing the
clocks and other time-pieces, the book-room--oh, the splendid bindings,
the precious, undiscoverable volumes, the unique copies stolen from the
great public libraries--the lace-room, the knicknack-room.
And each time the circumference of the room grew smaller.
And each time, now, the sound of knocking was more distant. Ganimard
was losing ground.
"This is the last room," said Lupin. "The treasury."
This one was quite different. It was round also, but very high and
conical in shape. It occupied the top of the edifice and its floor must
have been fifteen or twenty yards below the extreme point of the Needle.
On the cliff side there was no window. But on the side of the sea,
whence there were no indiscreet eyes to fear, two glazed openings
admitted plenty of light.
The ground was covered with a parqueted flooring of rare wood, forming
concentric patterns. Against the walls stood glass cases and a few
"The pearls of my collection," said Lupin. "All that you have seen so
far is for sale. Things come and things go. That's business. But here,
in this sanctuary, everything is sacred. There is nothing here but
choice, essential pieces, the best of the best, priceless things. Look
at these jewels, Beautrelet: Chaldean amulets, Egyptian necklaces,
Celtic bracelets, Arab chains. Look at these statuettes, Beautrelet, at
this Greek Venus, this Corinthian Apollo. Look at these Tanagras,
Beautrelet: all the real Tanagras are here. Outside this glass case,
there is not a single genuine Tanagra statuette in the whole wide
world. What a delicious thing to be able to say!--Beautrelet, do you
remember Thomas and his gang of church-pillagers in the South--agents
of mine, by the way? Well, here is the Ambazac reliquary, the real one,
Beautrelet! Do you remember the Louvre scandal, the tiara which was
admitted to be false, invented and manufactured by a modern artist?
Here is the tiara of Saitapharnes, the real one, Beautrelet! Look,
Beautrelet, look with all your eyes: here is the marvel of marvels, the
supreme masterpiece, the work of no mortal brain; here is Leonardo's
Gioconda, the real one! Kneel, Beautrelet, kneel; all womankind stands
before you in this picture."
There was a long silence between them. Below, the sound of blows drew
nearer. Two or three doors, no more, separated them from Ganimard. In
the offing, they saw the black back of the torpedo-boat and the
fishing-smacks cruising to and fro.
The boy asked:
"And the treasure?"
"Ah, my little man, that's what interests you most! None of those
masterpieces of human art can compete with the contemplation of the
treasure as a matter of curiosity, eh?--And the whole crowd will be
like you!--Come, you shall be satisfied."
He stamped his foot, and, in so doing, made one of the discs composing
the floor-pattern turn right over. Then, lifting it as though it were
the lid of a box, he uncovered a sort of large round bowl, dug in the
thickness of the rock. It was empty.
A little farther, he went through the same performance. Another large
bowl appeared. It was also empty.
He did this three times over again. The three other bowls were empty.
"Eh," grinned Lupin. "What a disappointment! Under Louis XL, under
Henry IV., under Richelieu, the five bowls were full. But think of
Louis XIV., the folly of Versailles, the wars, the great disasters of
the reign! And think of Louis XV., the spendthrift king, with his
Pompadour and his Du Barry! How they must have drawn on the treasure in
those days! With what thieving claws they must have scratched at the
stone. You see, there's nothing left."
"Yes, Beautrelet, there is something--the sixth hiding-place! This one
was intangible. Not one of them dared touch it. It was the very last
resource, the nest-egg, the something put by for a rainy day. Look,
He stooped and lifted up the lid. An iron box filled the bowl. Lupin
took from his pocket a key with a complicated bit and wards and opened
A dazzling sight presented itself. Every sort of precious stone
sparkled there, every color gleamed, the blue of the sapphires, the red
of the rubies, the green of the emeralds, the yellow of the topazes.
"Look, look, little Beautrelet! They have squandered all the cash, all
the gold, all the silver, all the crown pieces and all the ducats and
all the doubloons; but the chest with the jewels has remained intact.
Look at the settings. They belong to every period, to every century, to
every country. The dowries of the queens are here. Each brought her
share: Margaret of Scotland and Charlotte of Savoy; duchesses of
Austria: Eleonore, Elisabeth, Marie-Therese, Mary of England and
Catherine de Medicis; and all the arch--Marie Antoinette. Look at those
pearls, Beautrelet! And those diamonds: look at the size of the
diamonds! Not one of them but is worthy of an empress! The Pitt Diamond
is no finer!"
He rose to his feet and held up his hand as one taking an oath:
"Beautrelet, you shall tell the world that Lupin has not taken a single
one of the stones that were in the royal chest, not a single one, I
swear it on my honor! I had no right to. They are the fortune of
Below them, Ganimard was making all speed. It was easy to judge by the
reverberation of the blows that his men were attacking the last door
but one, the door that gave access to the knicknack-room.
"Let us leave the chest open," said Lupin, "and all the cavities, too,
all those little empty graves."
He went round the room, examined some of the glass cases, gazed at some
of the pictures and, as he walked, said, pensively:
"How sad it is to leave all this! What a wrench! The happiest hours of
my life have been spent here, alone, in the presence of these objects
which I loved. And my eyes will never behold them again and my hands
will never touch them again--"
His drawn face bore such an expression of lassitude upon it that
Beautrelet felt a vague sort of pity for him. Sorrow in that man must
assume larger proportions than in another, even as joy did, or pride,
or humiliation. He was now standing by the window, and, with his finger
pointing to the horizon, said:
"What is sadder still is that I must abandon that, all that! How
beautiful it is! The boundless sea--the sky.--On either side, the
cliffs of Etretat with their three natural archways: the Porte
d'Armont, the Porte d'Aval, the Manneporte--so many triumphal arches
for the master. And the master was I! I was the king of the story, the
king of fairyland, the king of the Hollow Needle! A strange and
supernatural kingdom! From Caesar to Lupin: what a destiny!" He burst
out laughing. "King of fairyland! Why not say King of Yvetot at once?
What nonsense! King of the world, yes, that's more like it! From this
topmost point of the Needle, I ruled the globe! I held it in my claws
like a prey! Lift the tiara of Saitapharnes, Beautrelet.--You see those
two telephones? The one on the right communicates with Paris: a private
line; the one on the left with London: a private line. Through London,
I am in touch with America, Asia, Australia, South Africa. In all those
continents, I have my offices, my agents, my jackals, my scouts! I
drive an international trade. I hold the great market in art and
antiquities, the world's fair! Ah, Beautrelet, there are moments when
my power turns my head! I feel intoxicated with strength and authority."
The door gave way below. They heard Ganimard and his men running about
After a moment, Lupin continued, in a low voice:
"And now it's over. A little girl crossed my path, a girl with soft
hair and wistful eyes and an honest, yes, an honest soul--and it's
over. I myself am demolishing the mighty edifice.--All the rest seems
absurd and childish to me--nothing counts but her hair--and her wistful
eyes--and her honest little soul--"
The men came up the staircase. A blow shook the door, the last door--
Lupin seized the boy sharply by the arm:
"Do you understand, Beautrelet, why I let you have things your own way
when I could have crushed you, time after time, weeks ago? Do you
understand how you succeeded in getting as far as this? Do you
understand that I had given each of my men his share of the plunder
when you met them the other night on the cliff? You do understand,
don't you? The Hollow Needle is the great adventure. As long as it
belongs to me, I remain the great adventurer. Once the Needle is
recaptured, it means that the past and I are parted and that the future
begins, a future of peace and happiness, in which I shall have no
occasion to blush when Raymonde's eyes are turned upon me, a future--"
He turned furiously toward the door:
"Stop that noise, Ganimard, will you? I haven't finished my speech!"
The blows came faster. It was like the sound of a beam that was being
hurled against the door. Beautrelet, mad with curiosity, stood in front
of Lupin and awaited events, without understanding what Lupin was doing
or contemplating. To give up the Needle was all very well; but why was
he giving up himself? What was his plan? Did he hope to escape from
Ganimard? And, on the other hand, where was Raymonde?
Lupin, meantime, was murmuring, dreamily:
"An honest man.--Arsene Lupin an honest man--no more robbery--leading
the life of everybody else.--And why not? There is no reason why I
should not meet with the same success.--But do stop that now, Ganimard!
Don't you know, you ass, that I'm uttering historic words and that
Beautrelet is taking them in for the benefit of posterity?" He laughed.
"I am wasting my time. Ganimard will never grasp the use of my historic
He took a piece of red chalk, put a pair of steps to the wall and
wrote, in large letters:
Arsene Lupin gives and bequeaths to France
all the treasures contained in the Hollow Needle,
on the sole condition that these treasures be housed
at the Musee du Louvre in rooms which shall be
known as the Arsene Lupin Rooms.
"Now," he said, "my conscience is at ease. France and I are quits."
The attackers were striking with all their might. One of the panels
burst in two. A hand was put through and fumbled for the lock.
"Thunder!" said Lupin. "That idiot of a Ganimard is capable of
effecting his purpose for once in his life."
He rushed to the lock and removed the key.
"Sold, old chap!--The door's tough.--I have plenty of time--Beautrelet,
I must say good-bye. And thank you!--For really you could have
complicated the attack--but you're so tactful!"
While speaking, he moved toward a large triptych by Van der Weyden,
representing the Wise Men of the East. He shut the right-hand panel
and, in so doing, exposed a little door concealed behind it and seized
"Good luck to your hunting, Ganimard! And kind regards at home!"
A pistol-shot resounded. Lupin jumped back: "Ah, you rascal, full in
the heart! Have you been taking lessons? You've done for the Wise Man!
Full in the heart! Smashed to smithereens, like a pipe at the fair!--"
"Lupin, surrender!" roared Ganimard, with his eyes glittering and his
revolver showing through the broken panel of the door. "Surrender, I
"Did the old guard surrender?"
"If you stir a limb, I'll blow your brains out!"
"Nonsense! You can't get me here!"
As a matter of fact, Lupin had moved away; and, though Ganimard was
able to fire straight in front of him through the breach in the door,
he could not fire, still less take aim, on the side where Lupin stood.
Lupin's position was a terrible one for all that, because the outlet on
which he was relying, the little door behind the triptych, opened right
in front of Ganimard. To try to escape meant to expose himself to the
detective's fire; and there were five bullets left in the revolver.
"By Jove," he said, laughing, "there's a slump in my shares this
afternoon! You've done a nice thing. Lupin, old fellow: you wanted a
last sensation and you've gone a bit too far. You shouldn't have talked
He flattened himself against the wall. A further portion of the panel
had given way under the men's pressure and Ganimard was less hampered
in his movements. Three yards, no more, separated the two antagonists.
But Lupin was protected by a glass case with a gilt-wood framework.
"Why don't you help, Beautrelet?" cried the old detective, gnashing his
teeth with rage. "Why don't you shoot him, instead of staring at him
Isidore, in fact, had not budged, had remained, till that moment, an
eager, but passive spectator. He would have liked to fling himself into
the contest with all his strength and to bring down the prey which he
held at his mercy. He was prevented by some inexplicable sentiment.
But Ganimard's appeal for assistance shook him. His hand closed on the
butt of his revolver:
"If I take part in it," he thought, "Lupin is lost. And I have the
right--it's my duty."
Their eyes met. Lupin's were calm, watchful, almost inquisitive, as
though, in the awful danger that threatened him, he were interested
only in the moral problem that held the young man in its clutches.
Would Isidore decide to give the finishing stroke to the defeated enemy?
The door cracked from top to bottom.
"Help, Beautrelet, we've got him!" Ganimard bellowed.
Isidore raised his revolver.
What happened was so quick that he knew of it, so to speak, only by the
result. He saw Lupin bob down and run along the wall, skimming the door
right under the weapon which Ganimard was vainly brandishing; and he
felt himself suddenly flung to the ground, picked up the next moment
and lifted by an invincible force.
Lupin held him in the air, like a living shield, behind which he hid
"Ten to one that I escape, Ganimard! Lupin, you see, has never quite
exhausted his resources--"
He had taken a couple of brisk steps backward to the triptych. Holding
Beautrelet with one hand flat against his chest, with the other he
cleared the passage and closed the little door behind them.
A steep staircase appeared before their eyes.
"Come along," said Lupin, pushing Beautrelet before him. "The land
forces are beaten--let us turn our attention to the French
fleet.--After Waterloo, Trafalgar.--You're having some fun for your
money, eh, my lad?--Oh, how good: listen to them knocking at the
triptych now!--It's too late, my children.--But hurry along,
The staircase, dug out in the wall of the Needle, dug in its very
crust, turned round and round the pyramid, encircling it like the
spiral of a tobogganslide. Each hurrying the other, they clattered down
the treads, taking two or three at a bound. Here and there, a ray of
light trickled through a fissure; and Beautrelet carried away the
vision of the fishing-smacks hovering a few dozen fathoms off, and of
the black torpedo-boat.
They went down and down, Isidore in silence, Lupin still bubbling over
"I should like to know what Ganimard is doing? Is he tumbling down the
other staircases to bar the entrance to the tunnel against me? No, he's
not such a fool as that. He must have left four men there--and four men
are sufficient--" He stopped. "Listen--they're shouting up above.
That's it, they've opened the window and are calling to their
fleet.--Why, look, the men are busy on board the smacks--they're
exchanging signals.--The torpedo-boat is moving.--Dear old
torpedo-boat! I know you, you're from the Havre.--Guns' crews to the
guns!--Hullo, there's the commander!--How are you, Duguay-Trouin?"
He put his arm through a cleft and waved his handkerchief. Then he
continued his way downstairs:
"The enemy's fleet have set all sail," he said. "We shall be boarded
before we know where we are. Heavens, what fun!"
They heard the sound of voices below them. They were just then
approaching the level of the sea and they emerged, almost at once, into
a large cave into which two lanterns were moving about in the dark.
A woman's figure appeared and threw itself on Lupin's neck:
"Quick, quick, I was so nervous about you. What have you been
doing?--But you're not alone!--"
Lupin reassured her:
"It's our friend Beautrelet.--Just think, Beautrelet had the tact--but
I'll talk about that later--there's no time now.--Charolais are you
there? That's right!--And the boat?"
"The boat's ready, sir," Charolais replied,
"Fire away," said Lupin.
In a moment, the noise of a motor crackled and Beautrelet, whose eyes
were gradually becoming used to the gloom, ended by perceiving that
they were on a sort of quay, at the edge of the water, and that a boat
was floating before them.
"A motor boat," said Lupin, completing Beautrelet's observations. "This
knocks you all of a heap, eh, Isidore, old chap?--You don't
understand.--Still, you have only to think.--As the water before your
eyes is no other than the water of the sea, which filters into this
excavation each high tide, the result is that I have a safe little
private roadstead all to myself."
"But it's closed," Beautrelet protested. "No one can get in or out."
"Yes, I can," said Lupin; "and I'm going to prove it to you."
He began by handing Raymonde in. Then he came back to fetch Beautrelet.
The lad hesitated.
"Are you afraid?" asked Lupin.
"Of being sunk by the torpedo-boat."
"Then you're considering whether it's not your duty to stay with
Ganimard, law and order, society and morality, instead of going off
with Lupin, shame, infamy and disgrace."
"Unfortunately, my boy, you have no choice. For the moment, they must
believe the two of us dead--and leave me the peace to which a
prospective honest man is entitled. Later on, when I have given you
your liberty, you can talk as much as you please--I shall have nothing
more to fear."
By the way in which Lupin clutched his arm, Beautrelet felt that all
resistance was useless. Besides, why resist? Had he not discovered and
handed over the Hollow Needle? What did he care about the rest? Had he
not the right to humor the irresistible sympathy with which, in spite
of everything, this man inspired him?
The feeling was so clear in him that he was half inclined to say to
"Look here, you're running another, a more serious danger; Holmlock
Shears is on your track."
"Come along!" said Lupin, before Isidore had made up his mind to speak.
He obeyed and let Lupin lead him to the boat, the shape of which struck
him as peculiar and its appearance quite unexpected.
Once on deck, they went down a little steep staircase, or rather a
ladder hooked on to a trap door, which closed above their heads. At the
foot of the ladder, brightly lit by a lamp, was a very small saloon,
where Raymonde was waiting for them and where the three had just room
to sit down.
Lupin took the mouthpiece of a speaking tube from a hook and gave the
"Let her go, Charolais!"
Isidore had the unpleasant sensation which one feels when going down in
a lift: the sensation of the ground vanishing beneath you, the
impression of emptiness, space. This time, it was the water retreating;
and space opened out, slowly.
"We're sinking, eh?" grinned Lupin. "Don't be afraid--we've only to
pass from the upper cave where we were to another little cave, situated
right at the bottom and half open to the sea, which can be entered at
low tide. All the shellfish-catchers know it. Ah, ten seconds' wait!
We're going through the passage and it's very narrow, just the size of
"But," asked Beautrelet, "how is it that the fishermen who enter the
lower cave don't know that it's open at the top and that it
communicates with another from which a staircase starts and runs
through the Needle? The facts are at the disposal of the first-comer."
"Wrong, Beautrelet! The top of the little public cave is closed, at low
tide, by a movable platform, painted the color of the rock, which the
sea, when it rises, shifts and carries up with it and, when it goes
down, fastens firmly over the little cave. That is why I am able to
pass at high tide. A clever notion, what? It's an idea of my own. True,
neither Caesar nor Louis XIV., nor, in short, any of my distinguished
predecessors could have had it, because they did not possess
submarines. They were satisfied with the staircase, which then ran all
the way down to the little bottom cave. I did away with the last treads
of the staircase and invented the trick of the movable ceiling: it's a
present I'm making to France--Raymonde, my love, put out the lamp
beside you--we shan't want it now--on the contrary--"
A pale light, which seemed to be of the same color as the water, met
them as they left the cave and made its way into the cabin through the
two portholes and through a thick glass skylight that projected above
the planking of the deck and allowed the passengers to inspect the
upper layers of the sea. And, suddenly, a shadow glided over their
"The attack is about to take place. The fleet is investing the Needle.
But, hollow as the Needle is, I don't see how they propose to enter it."
He took up the speaking tube:
"Don't leave the bottom, Charolais. Where are we going? Why, I told
you: to Port-Lupin. And at full speed, do you hear? We want water to
land by--there's a lady with us."
They skimmed over the rocky bed. The seaweed stood up on end like a
heavy, dark vegetation and the deep currents made it wave gracefully,
stretching and billowing like floating hair.
Another shadow, a longer one.
"That's the torpedo-boat," said Lupin. "We shall hear the roar of the
guns presently. What will Duguay-Trouin do? Bombard the Needle? Think
of what we're missing, Beautrelet, by not being present at the meeting
of Duguay-Trouin and Ganimard! The juncture of the land and naval
forces! Hi, Charolais, don't go to sleep, my man!"
They were moving very fast, for all that. The rocks had been succeeded
by sand-fields and then, almost at once, they saw more rocks, which
marked the eastern extremity of Etretat, the Porte d'Amont. Fish fled
at their approach. One of them, bolder than the rest, fastened on to a
porthole and looked at the occupants of the saloon with its great,
fixed, staring eyes.
"That's better," cried Lupin. "We're going now. What do you think of my
cockle-shell, Beautrelet? Not so bad, is she? Do you remember the story
of the Seven of Hearts, the wretched end of Lacombe, the engineer,
and how, after punishing his murderers, I presented the State with his
papers and his plans for the construction of a new submarine: one more
gift to France? Well, among the plans, I kept those of a submersible
motor boat and that is how you come to have the honor of sailing in my
 The Exploits of Arsene Lupin. By Maurice Leblanc. VI: The
Seven of Hearts.
He called to Charolais:
"Take us up, Charolais--there's no danger now--"
They shot up to the surface and the glass skylight emerged above the
They were a mile from the coast, out of sight, therefore, and
Beautrelet was now able to realize more fully at what a headlong pace
they were traveling. First Fecamp passed before them, then all the
Norman seaside places: Saint-Pierre, the Petits--Dalles, Veulettes,
Saint-Valery, Veules, Quiberville. Lupin kept on jesting and Isidore
never wearied of watching and listening to him, amazed as he was at the
man's spirits, at his gaiety, his mischievous ways, his careless chaff,
his delight in life.
He also noticed Raymonde. The young woman sat silent, nestling up
against the man she loved. She had taken his hands between her own and
kept on raising her eyes to him; and Beautrelet constantly observed
that her hands were twitching and that the wistful sadness of her eyes
increased. And, each time, it was like a dumb and sorrowful reply to
Lupin's sallies. One would have thought that his frivolous words, his
sarcastic outlook on life, caused her physical pain.
"Hush!" she whispered. "It's defying destiny to laugh--so many
misfortunes can reach us still!"
Opposite Dieppe, they had to dive lest they should be seen by the
fishing-craft. And twenty minutes later, they shot at an angle toward
the coast and the boat entered a little submarine harbor formed by a
regular gap between the rocks, drew up beside a jetty and rose gently
to the surface.
The spot, situated at sixteen miles from Dieppe and twelve from the
Treport and protected, moreover, by the two landslips of cliff, was
absolutely deserted. A fine sand carpeted the rounded slope of the tiny
"Jump on shore, Beautrelet--Raymonde, give me your hand. You,
Charolais, go back to the Needle, see what happens between Ganimard and
Duguay-Trouin and come back and tell me at the end of the day. The
thing interests me tremendously."
Beautrelet asked himself with a certain curiosity how they were going
to get out of this hemmed-in creek which was called Port-Lupin, when,
at the foot of the cliff, he saw the uprights of an iron ladder.
"Isidore," said Lupin, "if you knew your geography and your history,
you would know that we are at the bottom of the gorge of Parfonval, in
the parish of Biville. More than a century ago, on the night of the
twenty-third of August, 1803, Georges Cadoudal and six accomplices, who
had landed in France with the intention of kidnapping the first consul,
Bonaparte, scrambled up to the top by the road which I will show you.
Since then, this road has been demolished by landslips. But Louis
Valmeras, better known by the name of Arsene Lupin, had it restored at
his own expense and bought the farm of the Neuvillette, where the
conspirators spent the first night and where, retired from business and
withdrawing from the affairs of this world, he means to lead the life
of a respectable country squire with his wife and his mother by his
side. The gentleman-burglar is dead! Long live the gentleman-farmer!"
After the ladder came a sort of gully, an abrupt ravine hollowed out,
apparently, by the rains, at the end of which they laid hold of a
makeshift staircase furnished with a hand-rail. As Lupin explained,
this hand-rail had been placed where it was in the stead of the
estamperche, a long rope fastened to stakes, by which the people of the
country, in the old days, used to help themselves down when going to
After a painful climb of half an hour, they emerged on the tableland,
not far from one of those little cabins, dug out of the soil itself,
which serve as shelters for the excisemen. And, as it happened, two
minutes later, at a turn in the path, one of these custom-house
He drew himself up and saluted.
"Any news, Gomel?"
"You've met no one at all suspicious-looking?"
"My wife--who does dressmaking at the Neuvillette--"
"Yes, I know--Cesarine--my mother spoke of her. Well?"
"It seems a sailor was prowling about the village this morning."
"What sort of face had he?"
"Not a natural face--a sort of Englishman's face."
"Ah!" said Lupin, in a tone preoccupied. "And you have given Cesarine
"To keep her eyes open. Yes, governor."
"Very well. Keep a lookout for Charolais's return in two or three hours
from now. If there's anything, I shall be at the farm."
He walked on and said to Beautrelet:
"This makes me uneasy--is it Shears? Ah, if it's he, in his present
state of exasperation, I have everything to fear!"
He hesitated a moment: "I wonder if we hadn't better turn back. Yes, I
have a nasty presentiment of evil."
Gently undulating plains stretched before them as far as the eye could
see. A little to the left, a series of handsome avenues of trees led to
the farm of the Neuvillette, the buildings of which were now in view.
It was the retreat which he had prepared, the haven of rest which he
had promised Raymonde. Was he, for the sake of an absurd idea, to
renounce happiness at the very moment when it seemed within his reach?
He took Isidore by the arm and, calling his attention to Raymonde, who
was walking in front of them:
"Look at her. When she walks, her figure has a little swing at the
waist which I cannot see without quivering. But everything in her gives
me that thrill of emotion and love: her movements and her repose, her
silence and the sound of her voice. I tell you, the mere fact that I am
walking in the track of her footsteps makes me feel in the seventh
heaven. Ah, Beautrelet, will she ever forget that I was once Lupin?
Shall I ever be able to wipe out from her memory the past which she
loathes and detests?" He mastered himself and, with obstinate
assurance. "She will forget!" he declared. "She will forget, because I
have made every sacrifice for her sake. I have sacrificed the
inviolable sanctuary of the Hollow Needle, I have sacrificed my
treasures, my power, my pride--I will sacrifice everything--I don't
want to be anything more--but just a man in love--and an honest man,
because she can only love an honest man. After all, why should I not be
honest? It is no more degrading than anything else!"
The quip escaped him, so to speak, unawares. His voice remained serious
and free of all chaff. And he muttered, with restrained violence:
"Ah, Beautrelet, you see, of all the unbridled joys which I have tasted
in my adventurous life, there is not one that equals the joy with which
her look fills me when she is pleased with me. I feel quite weak then,
and I should like to cry--" Was he crying? Beautrelet had an intuition
that his eyes were wet with tears. Tears in Lupin's eyes!--Tears of
They were nearing an old gate that served as an entrance to the farm.
Lupin stopped for a moment and stammered:
"Why am I afraid?--I feel a sort of weight on my chest. Is the
adventure of the Hollow Needle not over? Has destiny not accepted the
issue which I selected?"
Raymonde turned round, looking very anxious.
"Here comes Cesarine. She's running."
The exciseman's wife was hurrying from the farm as fast as she could.
Lupin rushed up to her:
"What is it? What has happened? Speak!"
Choking, quite out of breath, Cesarine stuttered:
"A man--I saw a man this morning!
"A man--I saw a man in the sitting-room."
"The Englishman of this morning?"
"Yes--but in a different disguise."
"Did he see you?"
"No. He saw your mother. Mme. Valmeras caught him as he was just going
"He told her that he was looking for Louis Valmeras, that he was a
friend of yours."
"The madame said that her son had gone abroad--for years."
"And he went away?"
"No, he made signs through the window that overlooks the plain--as if
he were calling to some one."
Lupin seemed to hesitate. A loud cry tore the air. Raymonde moaned:
"It's your mother--I recognize--"
He flung himself upon her and, dragging her away, in a burst of fierce
"Come--let us fly--you first."
But, suddenly, he stopped, distraught, overcome:
"No, I can't do it--it's too awful. Forgive me--Raymonde--that poor
woman down there--Stay here. Beautrelet, don't leave her."
He darted along the slope that surrounds the farm, turned and followed
it, at a run, till he came to the gate that opens on the plain.
Raymonde, whom Beautrelet had been unable to hold back, arrived almost
as soon as he did; and Beautrelet, hiding behind the trees, saw, in the
lonely walk that led from the farm to the gate, three men, of whom one,
the tallest, went ahead, while the two others were holding by the arms
a woman who tried to resist and who uttered moans of pain.
The daylight was beginning to fade. Nevertheless, Beautrelet recognized
Holmlock Shears. The woman seemed of a certain age. Her livid features
were set in a frame of white hair.
They all four came up.
They reached the gate. Shears opened one of the folding leaves.
Then Lupin strode forward and stood in front of him.
The encounter appeared all the more terrible inasmuch as it was silent,
For long moments, the two enemies took each other's measure with their
eyes. An equal hatred distorted the features of both of them. Neither
Then Lupin spoke, in a voice of terrifying calmness:
"Tell your men to leave that woman alone."
It was as though both of them feared to engage in the supreme struggle,
as though both were collecting all their strength. And there were no
words wasted this time, no insults, no bantering challenges. Silence, a
Mad with anguish, Raymonde awaited the issue of the duel. Beautrelet
had caught her arms and was holding her motionless.
After a second, Lupin repeated:
"Order your men to leave that woman alone."
But he interrupted himself, realizing the silliness of the words. In
the face of that colossus of pride and will-power which called itself
Holmlock Shears, of what use were threats?
Resolved upon the worst, suddenly he put his hand to his jacket pocket.
The Englishman anticipated his movement and, leaping upon his prisoner,
thrust the barrel of his revolver within two inches of her temple:
"If you stir a limb, I fire!"
At the same time his two satellites drew their weapons and aimed them
Lupin drew himself up, stifled the rage within him and, coolly, with
his hands in his pockets and his breast exposed to the enemy, began
"Shears, for the third time, let that woman be--"
The Englishman sneered:
"I have no right to touch her, I suppose? Come, come, enough of this
humbug! Your name isn't Valmeras any more than it's Lupin: you stole
the name just as you stole the name of Charmerace. And the woman whom
you pass off as your mother is Victoire, your old accomplice, the one
who brought you up--"
 Arsene Lupin, play in four acts, by Maurice Leblanc and
Francis de Croisset.
Shears made a mistake. Carried away by his longing for revenge, he
glanced across at Raymonde, whom these revelations filled with horror.
Lupin took advantage of his imprudence. With a sudden movement, he
"Damnation!" bellowed Shears, whose arm, pierced by a bullet, fell to
his side. And, addressing his men, "Shoot, you two! Shoot him down!"
But already Lupin was upon them: and not two seconds had elapsed before
the one on the right was sprawling on the ground, with his chest
smashed, while the other, with his jaw broken, fell back against the
"Hurry up, Victoire. Tie them down. And now, Mr. Englishman, it's you
He ducked with an oath:
"Ah, you scoundrel!"
Shears had picked up his revolver with his left hand and was taking aim
A shot--a cry of distress--Raymonde had flung herself between the two
men, facing the Englishman. She staggered back, brought her hand to her
neck, drew herself up, spun round on her heels and fell at Lupin's feet.
He threw himself upon her, took her in his arms and pressed her to him.
"Dead--" he said.
There was a moment of stupefaction. Shears seemed confounded by his own
act. Victoire stammered:
"My poor boy--my poor boy--"
Beautrelet went up to the young woman and stooped to examine her. Lupin
He said it in a reflective tone, as though he did not yet understand.
But his face became hollow, suddenly transformed, ravaged by grief. And
then he was seized with a sort of madness, made senseless gestures,
wrung his hands, stamped his feet, like a child that suffers more than
it is able to bear.
"You villain!" he cried, suddenly, in an access of hatred.
And, flinging Shears back with a formidable blow, he took him by the
throat and dug his twitching fingers into his flesh.
The Englishman gasped, without even struggling.
"My boy--my boy--" said Victoire, in a voice of entreaty.
Beautrelet ran up. But Lupin had already let go and stood sobbing
beside his enemy stretched upon the ground.
O pitiful sight! Beautrelet never forgot its tragic horror, he who knew
all Lupin's love for Raymonde and all that the great adventurer had
sacrificed of his own being to bring a smile to the face of his
Night began to cover the field of battle with a shroud of darkness. The
three Englishmen lay bound and gagged in the tall grass. Distant songs
broke the vast silence of the plain. It was the farm-hands returning
from their work.
Lupin drew himself up. He listened to the monotonous voices. Then he
glanced at the happy homestead of the Neuvillette, where he had hoped
to live peacefully with Raymonde. Then he looked at her, the poor,
loving victim, whom love had killed and who, all white, was sleeping
her last, eternal sleep.
The men were coming nearer, however.
Then Lupin bent down, took the dead woman in his powerful arms, lifted
the corpse with a single effort and, bent in two, stretched it across
"Let us go, Victoire."
"Let us go, dear."
"Good-bye, Beautrelet," he said.
And, bearing his precious and awful burden followed by his old servant,
silent and fierce he turned toward the sea and plunged into the
darkness of the night.
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