the crystal stopper by maurice leblanc chapter i. the arrests the two boats fastened to the little pierthat jutted out from the garden lay rocking in its shadow. here and there lighted windowsshowed through the thick mist on the margins of the lake. the enghien casino opposite blazedwith light, though it was late in the season, the end of september. a few stars appearedthrough the clouds. a light breeze ruffled the surface of the water. arsene lupin left the summer-house where hewas smoking a cigar and, bending forward at the end of the pier:
"growler?" he asked. "masher?… are you there?" a man rose from each of the boats, and oneof them answered: "yes, governor." "get ready. i hear the car coming with gilbertand vaucheray." he crossed the garden, walked round a housein process of construction, the scaffolding of which loomed overhead, and cautiously openedthe door on the avenue de ceinture. he was not mistaken: a bright light flashed roundthe bend and a large, open motor-car drew up, whence sprang two men in great-coats,with the collars turned up, and caps. it was gilbert and vaucheray: gilbert, a youngfellow of twenty or twenty-two, with an attractive
cast of features and a supple and sinewy frame;vaucheray, older, shorter, with grizzled hair and a pale, sickly face. "well," asked lupin, "did you see him, thedeputy?" "yes, governor," said gilbert, "we saw himtake the 7.40 tram for paris, as we knew he would." "then we are free to act?" "absolutely. the villa marie-therese is oursto do as we please with." the chauffeur had kept his seat. lupin gavehim his orders: "don’t wait here. it might attract attention.be back at half-past nine exactly, in time
to load the car unless the whole businessfalls through." "why should it fall through?" observed gilbert. the motor drove away; and lupin, taking theroad to the lake with his two companions, replied: "why? because i didn’t prepare the plan; and,when i don’t do a thing myself, i am only half-confident." "nonsense, governor! i’ve been working withyou for three years now… i’m beginning to know the ropes!" "yes, my lad, you’re beginning," said lupin,"and that’s just why i’m afraid of blunders…
here, get in with me… and you, vaucheray,take the other boat… that’s it… and now push off, boys… and make as little noiseas you can." growler and masher, the two oarsmen, madestraight for the opposite bank, a little to the left of the casino. they met a boat containing a couple lockedin each other’s arms, floating at random, and another in which a number of people weresinging at the top of their voices. and that was all. lupin shifted closer to his companion andsaid, under his breath: "tell me, gilbert, did you think of this job,or was it vaucheray’s idea?"
"upon my word, i couldn’t tell you: we’veboth of us been discussing it for weeks." "the thing is, i don’t trust vaucheray: he’sa low ruffian when one gets to know him… i can’t make out why i don’t get rid of him…" "oh, governor!" "yes, yes, i mean what i say: he’s a dangerousfellow, to say nothing of the fact that he has some rather serious peccadilloes on hisconscience." he sat silent for a moment and continued: "so you’re quite sure that you saw daubrecqthe deputy?" "saw him with my own eyes, governor."
"and you know that he has an appointment inparis?" "he’s going to the theatre." "very well; but his servants have remainedbehind at the enghien villa…." "the cook has been sent away. as for the valet,leonard, who is daubrecq’s confidential man, he’ll wait for his master in paris. they can’tget back from town before one o’clock in the morning. but…" "but what?" "we must reckon with a possible freak of fancyon daubrecq’s part, a change of mind, an unexpected return, and so arrange to have everythingfinished and done with in an hour."
"and when did you get these details?" "this morning. vaucheray and i at once thoughtthat it was a favourable moment. i selected the garden of the unfinished house which wehave just left as the best place to start from; for the house is not watched at night.i sent for two mates to row the boats; and i telephoned to you. that’s the whole story." "have you the keys?" "the keys of the front-door." "is that the villa which i see from here,standing in its own grounds?" "yes, the villa marie-therese; and as thetwo others, with the gardens touching it on
either side, have been unoccupied since thisday week, we shall be able to remove what we please at our leisure; and i swear to you,governor, it’s well worth while." "the job’s much too simple," mumbled lupin."no charm about it!" they landed in a little creek whence rosea few stone steps, under cover of a mouldering roof. lupin reflected that shipping the furniturewould be easy work. but, suddenly, he said: "there are people at the villa. look… alight." "it’s a gas-jet, governor. the light’s notmoving." the growler stayed by the boats, with instructionsto keep watch, while the masher, the other rower, went to the gate on the avenue de ceinture,and lupin and his two companions crept in
the shadow to the foot of the steps. gilbert went up first. groping in the dark,he inserted first the big door-key and then the latch-key. both turned easily in theirlocks, the door opened and the three men walked in. a gas-jet was flaring in the hall. "you see, governor…" said gilbert. "yes, yes," said lupin, in a low voice, "butit seems to me that the light which i saw shining did not come from here…" "where did it come from then?"
"i can’t say… is this the drawing-room?" "no," replied gilbert, who was not afraidto speak pretty loudly, "no. by way of precaution, he keeps everything on the first floor, inhis bedroom and in the two rooms on either side of it." "and where is the staircase?" "on the right, behind the curtain." lupin moved to the curtain and was drawingthe hanging aside when, suddenly, at four steps on the left, a door opened and a headappeared, a pallid man’s head, with terrified eyes.
"help! murder!" shouted the man. and he rushed back into the room. "it’s leonard, the valet!" cried gilbert. "if he makes a fuss, i’ll out him," growledvaucheray. "you’ll jolly well do nothing of the sort,do you hear, vaucheray?" said lupin, peremptorily. and he darted off in pursuit of the servant.he first went through a dining-room, where he saw a lamp still lit, with plates and abottle around it, and he found leonard at the further end of a pantry, making vain effortsto open the window: "don’t move, sportie! no kid! ah, the brute!"
he had thrown himself flat on the floor, onseeing leonard raise his arm at him. three shots were fired in the dusk of the pantry;and then the valet came tumbling to the ground, seized by the legs by lupin, who snatchedhis weapon from him and gripped him by the throat: "get out, you dirty brute!" he growled. "hevery nearly did for me… here, vaucheray, secure this gentleman!" he threw the light of his pocket-lantern onthe servant’s face and chuckled: "he’s not a pretty gentleman either… youcan’t have a very clear conscience, leonard; besides, to play flunkey to daubrecq the deputy…!have you finished, vaucheray? i don’t want
to hang about here for ever!" "there’s no danger, governor," said gilbert. "oh, really?… so you think that shots can’tbe heard?…" "quite impossible." "no matter, we must look sharp. vaucheray,take the lamp and let’s go upstairs." he took gilbert by the arm and, as he draggedhim to the first floor: "you ass," he said, "is that the way you makeinquiries? wasn’t i right to have my doubts?" "look here, governor, i couldn’t know thathe would change his mind and come back to dinner."
"one’s got to know everything when one hasthe honour of breaking into people’s houses. you numskull! i’ll remember you and vaucheray…a nice pair of gossoons!…" the sight of the furniture on the first floorpacified lupin and he started on his inventory with the satisfied air of a collector whohas looked in to treat himself to a few works of art: "by jingo! there’s not much of it, but whatthere is is pucka! there’s nothing the matter with this representative of the people inthe question of taste. four aubusson chairs… a bureau signed ‘percier-fontaine,’ for awager… two inlays by gouttieres… a genuine fragonard and a sham nattier which any americanmillionaire will swallow for the asking: in
short, a fortune… and there are curmudgeonswho pretend that there’s nothing but faked stuff left. dash it all, why don’t they doas i do? they should look about!" gilbert and vaucheray, following lupin’s ordersand instructions, at once proceeded methodically to remove the bulkier pieces. the first boatwas filled in half an hour; and it was decided that the growler and the masher should goon ahead and begin to load the motor-car. lupin went to see them start. on returningto the house, it struck him, as he passed through the hall, that he heard a voice inthe pantry. he went there and found leonard lying flat on his stomach, quite alone, withhis hands tied behind his back: "so it’s you growling, my confidential flunkey?don’t get excited: it’s almost finished. only,
if you make too much noise, you’ll obligeus to take severer measures… do you like pears? we might give you one, you know: achoke-pear!…" as he went upstairs, he again heard the samesound and, stopping to listen, he caught these words, uttered in a hoarse, groaning voice,which came, beyond a doubt, from the pantry: "help!… murder!… help!… i shall be killed!…inform the commissary!" "the fellow’s clean off his chump!" mutteredlupin. "by jove!… to disturb the police at nine o’clock in the evening: there’s anotion for you!" he set to work again. it took longer thanhe expected, for they discovered in the cupboards all sorts of valuable knick-knacks which itwould have been very wrong to disdain and,
on the other hand, vaucheray and gilbert weregoing about their investigations with signs of laboured concentration that nonplussedhim. at long last, he lost his patience: "that will do!" he said. "we’re not goingto spoil the whole job and keep the motor waiting for the sake of the few odd bits thatremain. i’m taking the boat." they were now by the waterside and lupin wentdown the steps. gilbert held him back: "i say, governor, we want one more look roundfive minutes, no longer." "but what for, dash it all?" "well, it’s like this: we were told of anold reliquary, something stunning…"
"well?" "we can’t lay our hands on it. and i was thinking…there’s a cupboard with a big lock to it in the pantry… you see, we can’t very well…"he was already on his way to the villa. vaucheray ran back too. "i’ll give you ten minutes, not a second longer!"cried lupin. "in ten minutes, i’m off." but the ten minutes passed and he was stillwaiting. he looked at his watch: "a quarter-past nine," he said to himself."this is madness." and he also remembered that gilbert and vaucherayhad behaved rather queerly throughout the
removal of the things, keeping close togetherand apparently watching each other. what could be happening? lupin mechanically returned to the house,urged by a feeling of anxiety which he was unable to explain; and, at the same time,he listened to a dull sound which rose in the distance, from the direction of enghien,and which seemed to be coming nearer… people strolling about, no doubt… he gave a sharp whistle and then went to themain gate, to take a glance down the avenue. but, suddenly, as he was opening the gate,a shot rang out, followed by a yell of pain. he returned at a run, went round the house,leapt up the steps and rushed to the dining-room:
"blast it all, what are you doing there, youtwo?" gilbert and vaucheray, locked in a furiousembrace, were rolling on the floor, uttering cries of rage. their clothes were drippingwith blood. lupin flew at them to separate them. but already gilbert had got his adversarydown and was wrenching out of his hand something which lupin had no time to see. and vaucheray,who was losing blood through a wound in the shoulder, fainted. "who hurt him? you, gilbert?" asked lupin,furiously. "no, leonard." "leonard? why, he was tied up!"
"he undid his fastenings and got hold of hisrevolver." "the scoundrel! where is he?" lupin took the lamp and went into the pantry. the man-servant was lying on his back, withhis arms outstretched, a dagger stuck in his throat and a livid face. a red stream trickledfrom his mouth. "ah," gasped lupin, after examining him, "he’sdead!" "do you think so?… do you think so?" stammeredgilbert, in a trembling voice. "he’s dead, i tell you." "it was vaucheray… it was vaucheray whodid it…"
pale with anger, lupin caught hold of him: "it was vaucheray, was it?… and you too,you blackguard, since you were there and didn’t stop him! blood! blood! you know i won’t haveit… well, it’s a bad lookout for you, my fine fellows… you’ll have to pay the damage!and you won’t get off cheaply either… mind the guillotine!" and, shaking him violently,"what was it? why did he kill him?" "he wanted to go through his pockets and takethe key of the cupboard from him. when he stooped over him, he saw that the man unloosedhis arms. he got frightened… and he stabbed him…" "but the revolver-shot?"
"it was leonard… he had his revolver inhis hand… he just had strength to take aim before he died…" "and the key of the cupboard?" "vaucheray took it…." "did he open it?" "and did he find what he was after?" "yes." "and you wanted to take the thing from him.what sort of thing was it? the reliquary? no, it was too small for that…. then whatwas it? answer me, will you?…"
lupin gathered from gilbert’s silence andthe determined expression on his face that he would not obtain a reply. with a threateninggesture, "i’ll make you talk, my man. sure as my name’s lupin, you shall come out withit. but, for the moment, we must see about decamping. here, help me. we must get vaucherayinto the boat…" they had returned to the dining-room and gilbertwas bending over the wounded man, when lupin stopped him: "listen." they exchanged one look of alarm… some onewas speaking in the pantry … a very low, strange, very distant voice… nevertheless,as they at once made certain, there was no
one in the room, no one except the dead man,whose dark outline lay stretched upon the floor. and the voice spake anew, by turns shrill,stifled, bleating, stammering, yelling, fearsome. it uttered indistinct words, broken syllables. lupin felt the top of his head covering withperspiration. what was this incoherent voice, mysterious as a voice from beyond the grave? he had knelt down by the man-servant’s side.the voice was silent and then began again: "give us a better light," he said to gilbert. he was trembling a little, shaken with a nervousdread which he was unable to master, for there
was no doubt possible: when gilbert had removedthe shade from the lamp, lupin realized that the voice issued from the corpse itself, withouta movement of the lifeless mass, without a quiver of the bleeding mouth. "governor, i’ve got the shivers," stammeredgilbert. again the same voice, the same snuffling whisper. suddenly, lupin burst out laughing, seizedthe corpse and pulled it aside: "exactly!" he said, catching sight of an objectmade of polished metal. "exactly! that’s it!… well, upon my word, it took me long enough!" on the spot on the floor which he had uncoveredlay the receiver of a telephone, the cord
of which ran up to the apparatus fixed onthe wall, at the usual height. lupin put the receiver to his ear. the noisebegan again at once, but it was a mixed noise, made up of different calls, exclamations,confused cries, the noise produced by a number of persons questioning one another at thesame time. "are you there?… he won’t answer. it’s awful…they must have killed him. what is it?… keep up your courage. there’s help on theway… police… soldiers…" "dash it!" said lupin, dropping the receiver. the truth appeared to him in a terrifyingvision. quite at the beginning, while the things upstairs were being moved, leonard,whose bonds were not securely fastened, had
contrived to scramble to his feet, to unhookthe receiver, probably with his teeth, to drop it and to appeal for assistance to theenghien telephone-exchange. and those were the words which lupin had overheard,after the first boat started: "help!… murder!… i shall be killed!" and this was the reply of the exchange. thepolice were hurrying to the spot. and lupin remembered the sounds which he had heard fromthe garden, four or five minutes earlier, at most: "the police! take to your heels!" he shouted,darting across the dining room. "what about vaucheray?" asked gilbert.
"sorry, can’t be helped!" but vaucheray, waking from his torpor, entreatedhim as he passed: "governor, you wouldn’t leave me like this!" lupin stopped, in spite of the danger, andwas lifting the wounded man, with gilbert’s assistance, when a loud din arose outside: "too late!" he said. at that moment, blows shook the hall-doorat the back of the house. he ran to the front steps: a number of men had already turnedthe corner of the house at a rush. he might have managed to keep ahead of them, with gilbert,and reach the waterside. but what chance was
there of embarking and escaping under theenemy’s fire? he locked and bolted the door. "we are surrounded… and done for," splutteredgilbert. "hold your tongue," said lupin. "but they’ve seen us, governor. there, they’reknocking." "hold your tongue," lupin repeated. "not aword. not a movement." he himself remained unperturbed, with an utterlycalm face and the pensive attitude of one who has all the time that he needs to examinea delicate situation from every point of view. he had reached one of those minutes whichhe called the "superior moments of existence,"
those which alone give a value and a priceto life. on such occasions, however threatening the danger, he always began by counting tohimself, slowlyâ€”"one… two… three… four…. five… six"â€”until the beatingof his heart became normal and regular. then and not till then, he reflected, but withwhat intensity, with what perspicacity, with what a profound intuition of possibilities!all the factors of the problem were present in his mind. he foresaw everything. he admittedeverything. and he took his resolution in all logic and in all certainty. after thirty or forty seconds, while the menoutside were banging at the doors and picking the locks, he said to his companion:
"follow me." returning to the dining-room, he softly openedthe sash and drew the venetian blinds of a window in the side-wall. people were comingand going, rendering flight out of the question. thereupon he began to shout with all his might,in a breathless voice: "this way!… help!… i’ve got them!… thisway!" he pointed his revolver and fired two shotsinto the tree-tops. then he went back to vaucheray, bent over him and smeared his face and handswith the wounded man’s blood. lastly, turning upon gilbert, he took him violently by theshoulders and threw him to the floor. "what do you want, governor? there’s a nicething to do!"
"let me do as i please," said lupin, layingan imperative stress on every syllable. "i’ll answer for everything… i’ll answer for thetwo of you… let me do as i like with you… i’ll get you both out of prison … but ican only do that if i’m free." excited cries rose through the open window. "this way!" he shouted. "i’ve got them! help!" and, quietly, in a whisper: "just think for a moment… have you anythingto say to me?… something that can be of use to us?" gilbert was too much taken aback to understandlupin’s plan and he struggled furiously. vaucheray
showed more intelligence; moreover, he hadgiven up all hope of escape, because of his wound; and he snarled: "let the governor have his way, you ass!…as long as he gets off, isn’t that the great thing?" suddenly, lupin remembered the article whichgilbert had put in his pocket, after capturing it from vaucheray. he now tried to take itin his turn. "no, not that! not if i know it!" growledgilbert, managing to release himself. lupin floored him once more. but two men suddenlyappeared at the window; and gilbert yielded and, handing the thing to lupin, who pocketedit without looking at it, whispered:
"here you are, governor… i’ll explain. youcan be sure that…" he did not have time to finish… two policemenand others after them and soldiers who entered through every door and window came to lupin’sassistance. gilbert was at once seized and firmly bound.lupin withdrew: "i’m glad you’ve come," he said. "the beggar’sgiven me a lot of trouble. i wounded the other; but this one…" the commissary of police asked him, hurriedly: "have you seen the man-servant? have theykilled him?" "i don’t know," he answered.
"you don’t know?…" "why, i came with you from enghien, on hearingof the murder! only, while you were going round the left of the house, i went roundthe right. there was a window open. i climbed up just as these two ruffians were about tojump down. i fired at this one," pointing to vaucheray, "and seized hold of his pal." how could he have been suspected? he was coveredwith blood. he had handed over the valet’s murderers. half a score of people had witnessedthe end of the heroic combat which he had delivered. besides, the uproar was too greatfor any one to take the trouble to argue or to waste time in entertaining doubts. in theheight of the first confusion, the people
of the neighbourhood invaded the villa. oneand all lost their heads. they ran to every side, upstairs, downstairs, to the very cellar.they asked one another questions, yelled and shouted; and no one dreamt of checking lupin’sstatements, which sounded so plausible. however, the discovery of the body in thepantry restored the commissary to a sense of his responsibility. he issued orders, hadthe house cleared and placed policemen at the gate to prevent any one from passing inor out. then, without further delay, he examined the spot and began his inquiry. vaucheraygave his name; gilbert refused to give his, on the plea that he would only speak in thepresence of a lawyer. but, when he was accused of the murder, he informed against vaucheray,who defended himself by denouncing the other;
and the two of them vociferated at the sametime, with the evident wish to monopolize the commissary’s attention. when the commissaryturned to lupin, to request his evidence, he perceived that the stranger was no longerthere. without the least suspicion, he said to oneof the policemen: "go and tell that gentleman that i shouldlike to ask him a few questions." they looked about for the gentleman. someone had seen him standing on the steps, lighting a cigarette. the next news was that he hadgiven cigarettes to a group of soldiers and strolled toward the lake, saying that theywere to call him if he was wanted. they called him. no one replied.
but a soldier came running up. the gentlemanhad just got into a boat and was rowing away for all he was worth. the commissary lookedat gilbert and realized that he had been tricked: "stop him!" he shouted. "fire on him! he’san accomplice!…" he himself rushed out, followed by two policemen,while the others remained with the prisoners. on reaching the bank, he saw the gentleman,a hundred yards away, taking off his hat to him in the dusk. one of the policemen discharged his revolver,without thinking. the wind carried the sound of words acrossthe water. the gentleman was singing as he rowed:
"go, little bark,float in the dark…" but the commissary saw a skiff fastened tothe landing-stage of the adjoining property. he scrambled over the hedge separating thetwo gardens and, after ordering the soldiers to watch the banks of the lake and to seizethe fugitive if he tried to put ashore, the commissary and two of his men pulled off inpursuit of lupin. it was not a difficult matter, for they wereable to follow his movements by the intermittent light of the moon and to see that he was tryingto cross the lakes while bearing toward the rightâ€”that is to say, toward the villageof saint-gratien. moreover, the commissary soon perceived that, with the aid of his menand thanks perhaps to the comparative lightness
of his craft, he was rapidly gaining on theother. in ten minutes he had decreased the interval between them by one half. "that’s it!" he cried. "we shan’t even needthe soldiers to keep him from landing. i very much want to make the fellow’s acquaintance.he’s a cool hand and no mistake!" the funny thing was that the distance wasnow diminishing at an abnormal rate, as though the fugitive had lost heart at realizing thefutility of the struggle. the policemen redoubled their efforts. the boat shot across the waterwith the swiftness of a swallow. another hundred yards at most and they would reach the man. "halt!" cried the commissary.
the enemy, whose huddled shape they couldmake out in the boat, no longer moved. the sculls drifted with the stream. and this absenceof all motion had something alarming about it. a ruffian of that stamp might easily liein wait for his aggressors, sell his life dearly and even shoot them dead before theyhad a chance of attacking him. "surrender!" shouted the commissary. the sky, at that moment, was dark. the threemen lay flat at the bottom of their skiff, for they thought they perceived a threateninggesture. the boat, carried by its own impetus, wasapproaching the other. the commissary growled:
"we won’t let ourselves be sniped. let’s fireat him. are you ready?" and he roared, once more, "surrender… if not…!" no reply. the enemy did not budge. "surrender!… hands up!… you refuse?…so much the worse for you… i’m counting… one… two…" the policemen did not wait for the word ofcommand. they fired and, at once, bending over their oars, gave the boat so powerfulan impulse that it reached the goal in a few strokes.
the commissary watched, revolver in hand,ready for the least movement. he raised his arm: "if you stir, i’ll blow out your brains!" but the enemy did not stir for a moment; and,when the boat was bumped and the two men, letting go their oars, prepared for the formidableassault, the commissary understood the reason of this passive attitude: there was no onein the boat. the enemy had escaped by swimming, leaving in the hands of the victor a certainnumber of the stolen articles, which, heaped up and surmounted by a jacket and a bowlerhat, might be taken, at a pinch, in the semi-darkness, vaguely to represent the figure of a man.
they struck matches and examined the enemy’scast clothes. there were no initials in the hat. the jacket contained neither papers norpocketbook. nevertheless, they made a discovery which was destined to give the case no littlecelebrity and which had a terrible influence on the fate of gilbert and vaucheray: in oneof the pockets was a visiting-card which the fugitive had left behind… the card of arsenelupin. at almost the same moment, while the police,towing the captured skiff behind them, continued their empty search and while the soldiersstood drawn up on the bank, straining their eyes to try and follow the fortunes of thenaval combat, the aforesaid arsene lupin was quietly landing at the very spot which hehad left two hours earlier.
he was there met by his two other accomplices,the growler and the masher, flung them a few sentences by way of explanation, jumped intothe motor-car, among daubrecq the deputy’s armchairs and other valuables, wrapped himselfin his furs and drove, by deserted roads, to his repository at neuilly, where he leftthe chauffeur. a taxicab brought him back to paris and put him down by the church ofsaint-philippe-du-roule, not far from which, in the rue matignon, he had a flat, on theentresol-floor, of which none of his gang, excepting gilbert, knew, a flat with a privateentrance. he was glad to take off his clothes and rub himself down; for, in spite of hisstrong constitution, he felt chilled to the bone. on retiring to bed, he emptied the contentsof his pockets, as usual, on the mantelpiece.
it was not till then that he noticed, nearhis pocketbook and his keys, the object which gilbert had put into his hand at the lastmoment. and he was very much surprised. it was a decanter-stopper,a little crystal stopper, like those used for the bottles in a liqueur-stand. and thiscrystal stopper had nothing particular about it. the most that lupin observed was thatthe knob, with its many facets, was gilded right down to the indent. but, to tell thetruth, this detail did not seem to him of a nature to attract special notice. "and it was this bit of glass to which gilbertand vaucheray attached such stubborn importance!" he said to himself. "it was for this thatthey killed the valet, fought each other,
wasted their time, risked prison… trial…the scaffold!…" too tired to linger further upon this matter,exciting though it appeared to him, he replaced the stopper on the chimney-piece and got intobed. he had bad dreams. gilbert and vaucheray werekneeling on the flags of their cells, wildly stretching out their hands to him and yellingwith fright: "help!… help!" they cried. but, notwithstanding all his efforts, he wasunable to move. he himself was fastened by invisible bonds. and, trembling, obsessedby a monstrous vision, he watched the dismal preparations, the cutting of the condemnedmen’s hair and shirt-collars, the squalid
tragedy. "by jove!" he said, when he woke after a seriesof nightmares. "there’s a lot of bad omens! fortunately, we don’t err on the side of superstition.otherwise…!" and he added, "for that matter, we have a talisman which, to judge by gilbertand vaucheray’s behaviour, should be enough, with lupin’s help, to frustrate bad luck andsecure the triumph of the good cause. let’s have a look at that crystal stopper!" he sprang out of bed to take the thing andexamine it more closely. an exclamation escaped him. the crystal stopper had disappeared… chapter ii. eight from nine leaves one
notwithstanding my friendly relations withlupin and the many flattering proofs of his confidence which he has given me, there isone thing which i have never been quite able to fathom, and that is the organization ofhis gang. the existence of the gang is an undoubtedfact. certain adventures can be explained only by countless acts of devotion, invincibleefforts of energy and powerful cases of complicity, representing so many forces which all obeyone mighty will. but how is this will exerted? through what intermediaries, through whatsubordinates? that is what i do not know. lupin keeps his secret; and the secrets whichlupin chooses to keep are, so to speak, impenetrable. the only supposition which i can allow myselfto make is that this gang, which, in my opinion,
is very limited in numbers and therefore allthe more formidable, is completed and extended indefinitely by the addition of independentunits, provisional associates, picked up in every class of society and in every countryof the world, who are the executive agents of an authority with which, in many cases,they are not even acquainted. the companions, the initiates, the faithful adherentsâ€”menwho play the leading parts under the direct command of lupinâ€”move to and fro betweenthese secondary agents and the master. gilbert and vaucheray evidently belonged tothe main gang. and that is why the law showed itself so implacable in their regard. forthe first time, it held accomplices of lupin in its clutchesâ€”declared, undisputed accomplicesâ€”andthose accomplices had committed a murder.
if the murder was premeditated, if the accusationof deliberate homicide could be supported by substantial proofs, it meant the scaffold.now there was, at the very least, one self-evident proof, the cry for assistance which leonardhad sent over the telephone a few minutes before his death: "help!… murder!… i shall be killed!…" the desperate appeal had been heard by twomen, the operator on duty and one of his fellow-clerks, who swore to it positively. and it was inconsequence of this appeal that the commissary of police, who was at once informed, had proceededto the villa marie-therese, escorted by his men and a number of soldiers off duty.
lupin had a very clear notion of the dangerfrom the first. the fierce struggle in which he had engaged against society was enteringupon a new and terrible phase. his luck was turning. it was no longer a matter of attackingothers, but of defending himself and saving the heads of his two companions. a little memorandum, which i have copied fromone of the note-books in which he often jots down a summary of the situations that perplexhim, will show us the workings of his brain: "one definite fact, to begin with, is thatgilbert and vaucheray humbugged me. the enghien expedition, undertaken ostensibly with theobject of robbing the villa marie-therese, had a secret purpose. this purpose obsessedtheir minds throughout the operations; and
what they were looking for, under the furnitureand in the cupboards, was one thing and one thing alone: the crystal stopper. therefore,if i want to see clear ahead, i must first of all know what this means. it is certainthat, for some hidden reason, that mysterious piece of glass possesses an incalculable valuein their eyes. and not only in theirs, for, last night, some one was bold enough and cleverenough to enter my flat and steal the object in question from me." this theft of which he was the victim puzzledlupin curiously. two problems, both equally difficult of solution,presented themselves to his mind. first, who was the mysterious visitor? gilbert, who enjoyedhis entire confidence and acted as his private
secretary, was the only one who knew of theretreat in the rue matignon. now gilbert was in prison. was lupin to suppose that gilberthad betrayed him and put the police on his tracks? in that case, why were they contentwith taking the crystal stopper, instead of arresting him, lupin? but there was something much stranger still.admitting that they had been able to force the doors of his flatâ€”and this he was compelledto admit, though there was no mark to show itâ€”how had they succeeded in entering thebedroom? he turned the key and pushed the bolt as he did every evening, in accordancewith a habit from which he never departed. and, neverthelessâ€”the fact was undeniableâ€”thecrystal stopper had disappeared without the
lock or the bolt having been touched. and,although lupin flattered himself that he had sharp ears, even when asleep, not a soundhad waked him! he took no great pains to probe the mystery.he knew those problems too well to hope that this one could be solved other than in thecourse of events. but, feeling very much put out and exceedingly uneasy, he then and therelocked up his entresol flat in the rue matignon and swore that he would never set foot init again. and he applied himself forthwith to the questionof corresponding with vaucheray or gilbert. here a fresh disappointment awaited him. itwas so clearly understood, both at the sante prison and at the law courts, that all communicationbetween lupin and the prisoners must be absolutely
prevented, that a multitude of minute precautionswere ordered by the prefect of police and minutely observed by the lowest subordinates.tried policemen, always the same men, watched gilbert and vaucheray, day and night, andnever let them out of their sight. lupin, at this time, had not yet promotedhimself to the crowning honour of his career, the post of chief of the detective-service,[*] and, consequently, was not able to take steps at the law courts to insure the executionof his plans. after a fortnight of fruitless endeavours, he was obliged to bow. * see 813, by maurice leblanc, translatedby alexander teixeira de mattos.
he did so with a raging heart and a growingsense of anxiety. "the difficult part of a business," he oftensays, "is not the finish, but the start." where was he to start in the present circumstances?what road was he to follow? his thoughts recurred to daubrecq the deputy,the original owner of the crystal stopper, who probably knew its importance. on the otherhand, how was gilbert aware of the doings and mode of life of daubrecq the deputy? whatmeans had he employed to keep him under observation? who had told him of the place where daubrecqspent the evening of that day? these were all interesting questions to solve. daubrecq had moved to his winter quartersin paris immediately after the burglary at
the villa marie-therese and was now livingin his own house, on the left-hand side of the little square lamartine that opens outat the end of the avenue victor-hugo. first disguising himself as an old gentlemanof private means, strolling about, cane in hand, lupin spent his time in the neighbourhood,on the benches of the square and the avenue. he made a discovery on the first day. twomen, dressed as workmen, but behaving in a manner that left no doubt as to their aims,were watching the deputy’s house. when daubrecq went out, they set off in pursuit of him;and they were immediately behind him when he came home again. at night, as soon as thelights were out, they went away. lupin shadowed them in his turn. they weredetective-officers.
"hullo, hullo!" he said to himself. "thisis hardly what i expected. so the daubrecq bird is under suspicion?" but, on the fourth day, at nightfall, thetwo men were joined by six others, who conversed with them in the darkest part of the squarelamartine. and, among these new arrivals, lupin was vastly astonished to recognize,by his figure and bearing, the famous prasville, the erstwhile barrister, sportsman and explorer,now favourite at the elysee, who, for some mysterious reason, had been pitchforked intothe headquarters of police as secretary-general, with the reversion of the prefecture. and, suddenly, lupin remembered: two yearsago, prasville and daubrecq the deputy had
had a personal encounter on the place du palais-bourbon.the incident made a great stir at the time. no one knew the cause of it. prasville hadsent his seconds to daubrecq on the same day; but daubrecq refused to fight. a little while later, prasville was appointedsecretary-general. "very odd, very odd," said lupin, who remainedplunged in thought, while continuing to observe prasville’s movements. at seven o’clock prasville’s group of menmoved away a few yards, in the direction of the avenue henri-martin. the door of a smallgarden on the right of the house opened and daubrecq appeared. the two detectives followedclose behind him and, when he took the rue-taitbout
train, jumped on after him. prasville at once walked across the squareand rang the bell. the garden-gate was between the house and the porter’s lodge. the portresscame and opened it. there was a brief conversation, after which prasville and his companions wereadmitted. "a domiciliary visit," said lupin. "secretand illegal. by the strict rules of politeness, i ought to be invited. my presence is indispensable." without the least hesitation he went up tothe house, the door of which had not been closed, and, passing in front of the portress,who was casting her eyes outside, he asked, in the hurried tones of a person who is latefor an appointment:
"have the gentlemen come?" "yes, you will find them in the study." his plan was quite simple: if any one methim, he would pretend to be a tradesman. but there was no need for this subterfuge. hewas able, after crossing an empty hall, to enter a dining-room which also had no onein it, but which, through the panes of a glass partition that separated the dining-room fromthe study, afforded him a view of prasville and his five companions. prasville opened all the drawers with theaid of false keys. next, he examined all the papers, while his companions took down thebooks from the shelves, shook the pages of
each separately and felt inside the bindings. "of course, it’s a paper they’re looking for,"said lupin. "bank-notes, perhaps…" prasville exclaimed: "what rot! we shan’t find a thing!" yet he obviously did not abandon all hopeof discovering what he wanted, for he suddenly seized the four bottles in a liqueur-stand,took out the four stoppers and inspected them. "hullo!" thought lupin. "now he’s going fordecanter-stoppers! then it’s not a question of a paper? well, i give it up." prasville next lifted and examined differentobjects; and he asked:
"how often have you been here?" "six times last winter," was the reply. "and you have searched the house thoroughly?" "every one of the rooms, for days at a time,while he was visiting his constituency." "still… still…" and he added, "has heno servant at present?" "no, he is looking for one. he has his mealsout and the portress keeps the house as best she can. the woman is devoted to us…" prasville persisted in his investigationsfor nearly an hour and a half, shifting and fingering all the knick-knacks, but takingcare to put everything back exactly where
he found it. at nine o’clock, however, thetwo detectives who had followed daubrecq burst into the study: "he’s coming back!" "on foot?" "have we time?" "oh, dear, yes!" prasville and the men from the police-officewithdrew, without undue haste, after taking a last glance round the room to make surethat there was nothing to betray their visit. the position was becoming critical for lupin.he ran the risk of knocking up against daubrecq,
if he went away, or of not being able to getout, if he remained. but, on ascertaining that the dining-room windows afforded a directmeans of exit to the square, he resolved to stay. besides, the opportunity of obtaininga close view of daubrecq was too good to refuse; and, as daubrecq had been out to dinner, therewas not much chance of his entering the dining-room. lupin, therefore, waited, holding himselfready to hide behind a velvet curtain that could be drawn across the glazed partitionin case of need. he heard the sound of doors opening and shutting.some one walked into the study and switched on the light. he recognized daubrecq. the deputy was a stout, thickset, bull-neckedman, very nearly bald, with a fringe of gray
whiskers round his chin and wearing a pairof black eye-glasses under his spectacles, for his eyes were weak and strained. lupinnoticed the powerful features, the square chin, the prominent cheek-bones. the handswere brawny and covered with hair, the legs bowed; and he walked with a stoop, bearingfirst on one hip and then on the other, which gave him something of the gait of a gorilla.but the face was topped by an enormous, lined forehead, indented with hollows and dottedwith bumps. there was something bestial, something savage,something repulsive about the man’s whole personality. lupin remembered that, in thechamber of deputies, daubrecq was nicknamed "the wild man of the woods" and that he wasso labelled not only because he stood aloof
and hardly ever mixed with his fellow-members,but also because of his appearance, his behaviour, his peculiar gait and his remarkable musculardevelopment. he sat down to his desk, took a meerschaumpipe from his pocket, selected a packet of caporal among several packets of tobacco whichlay drying in a bowl, tore open the wrapper, filled his pipe and lit it. then he beganto write letters. presently he ceased his work and sat thinking,with his attention fixed on a spot on his desk. he lifted a little stamp-box and examinedit. next, he verified the position of different articles which prasville had touched and replaced;and he searched them with his eyes, felt them
with his hands, bending over them as thoughcertain signs, known to himself alone, were able to tell him what he wished to know. lastly, he grasped the knob on an electricbell-push and rang. the portress appeared a minute later. he asked: "they’ve been, haven’t they?" and, when the woman hesitated about replying,he insisted: "come, come, clemence, did you open this stampbox?" "no, sir."
"well, i fastened the lid down with a littlestrip of gummed paper. the strip has been broken." "but i assure you,…" the woman began. "why tell lies," he said, "considering thati myself instructed you to lend yourself to those visits?" "the fact is…" "the fact is that you want to keep on goodterms with both sides… very well!" he handed her a fifty-franc note and repeated, "havethey been?" "the same men as in the spring?"
"yes, all five of them… with another one,who ordered them about." "a tall, dark man?" lupin saw daubrecq’s mouth hardening; anddaubrecq continued: "is that all?" "there was one more, who came after they didand joined them… and then, just now, two more, the pair who usually keep watch outsidethe house." "did they remain in the study?" "yes, sir." "and they went away when i came back? a fewminutes before, perhaps?"
"that will do." the woman left the room. daubrecq returnedto his letter-writing. then, stretching out his arm, he made some marks on a white writing-tablet,at the end of his desk, and rested it against the desk, as though he wished to keep it insight. the marks were figures; and lupin was able to read the following subtraction-sum: "9 – 8 = 1" and daubrecq, speaking between his teeth,thoughtfully uttered the syllables: "eight from nine leaves one… there’s nota doubt about that," he added, aloud. he wrote one more letter, a very short one, and addressedthe envelope with an inscription which lupin
was able to decipher when the letter was placedbeside the writing-tablet: "to monsieur prasville, secretary-generalof the prefecture of police." then he rang the bell again: "clemence," he said, to the portress, "didyou go to school as a child?" "yes, sir, of course i did." "and were you taught arithmetic?" "why, sir…" "well, you’re not very good at subtraction." "what makes you say that?"
"because you don’t know that nine minus eightequals one. and that, you see, is a fact of the highest importance. life becomes impossibleif you are ignorant of that fundamental truth." he rose, as he spoke, and walked round theroom, with his hands behind his back, swaying upon his hips. he did so once more. then,stopping at the dining-room, he opened the door: "for that matter, there’s another way of puttingthe problem. take eight from nine; and one remains. and the one who remains is here,eh? correct! and monsieur supplies us with a striking proof, does he not?" he patted the velvet curtain in which lupinhad hurriedly wrapped himself:
"upon my word, sir, you must be stifling underthis! not to say that i might have amused myself by sticking a dagger through the curtain.remember hamlet’s madness and polonius’ death: ‘how now! a rat? dead, for a ducat, dead!’come along, mr. polonius, come out of your hole." it was one of those positions to which lupinwas not accustomed and which he loathed. to catch others in a trap and pull their legwas all very well; but it was a very different thing to have people teasing him and roaringwith laughter at his expense. yet what could he answer back? "you look a little pale, mr. polonius… hullo!why, it’s the respectable old gentleman who
has been hanging about the square for somedays! so you belong to the police too, mr. polonius? there, there, pull yourself together,i sha’n’t hurt you!… but you see, clemence, how right my calculation was. you told methat nine spies had been to the house. i counted a troop of eight, as i came along, eight ofthem in the distance, down the avenue. take eight from nine and one remains: the one whoevidently remained behind to see what he could see. ecce homo!" "well? and then?" said lupin, who felt a madcraving to fly at the fellow and reduce him to silence. "and then? nothing at all, my good man…what more do you want? the farce is over.
i will only ask you to take this little noteto master prasville, your employer. clemence, please show mr. polonius out. and, if everhe calls again, fling open the doors wide to him. pray look upon this as your home,mr. polonius. your servant, sir!…" lupin hesitated. he would have liked to talkbig and to come out with a farewell phrase, a parting speech, like an actor making a showyexit from the stage, and at least to disappear with the honours of war. but his defeat wasso pitiable that he could think of nothing better than to bang his hat on his head andstamp his feet as he followed the portress down the hall. it was a poor revenge. "you rascally beggar!" he shouted, once hewas outside the door, shaking his fist at
daubrecq’s windows. "wretch, scum of the earth,deputy, you shall pay for this!… oh, he allows himself…! oh, he has the cheek to…!well, i swear to you, my fine fellow, that, one of these days…" he was foaming with rage, all the more as,in his innermost heart, he recognized the strength of his new enemy and could not denythe masterly fashion in which he had managed this business. daubrecq’s coolness, the assurancewith which he hoaxed the police-officials, the contempt with which he lent himself totheir visits at his house and, above all, his wonderful self-possession, his easy bearingand the impertinence of his conduct in the presence of the ninth person who was spyingon him: all this denoted a man of character,
a strong man, with a well-balanced mind, lucid,bold, sure of himself and of the cards in his hand. but what were those cards? what game was heplaying? who held the stakes? and how did the players stand on either side? lupin couldnot tell. knowing nothing, he flung himself headlong into the thick of the fray, betweenadversaries desperately involved, though he himself was in total ignorance of their positions,their weapons, their resources and their secret plans. for, when all was said, he could notadmit that the object of all those efforts was to obtain possession of a crystal stopper! one thing alone pleased him: daubrecq hadnot penetrated his disguise. daubrecq believed
him to be in the employ of the police. neitherdaubrecq nor the police, therefore, suspected the intrusion of a third thief in the business.this was his one and only trump, a trump that gave him a liberty of action to which he attachedthe greatest importance. without further delay, he opened the letterwhich daubrecq had handed him for the secretary-general of police. it contained these few lines: "within reach of your hand, my dear prasville,within reach of your hand! you touched it! a little more and thetrick was done… but you’re too big a fool. and to think that theycouldn’t hit upon any one better than you to make me bite thedust. poor old france!
"good-bye, prasville. but, if i catch youin the act, it will be a bad lookout for you: my maxim is to shootat sight. "daubrecq" "within reach of your hand," repeated lupin,after reading the note. "and to think that the rogue may be writing the truth! the mostelementary hiding-places are the safest. we must look into this, all the same. and, also,we must find out why daubrecq is the object of such strict supervision and obtain a fewparticulars about the fellow generally." the information supplied to lupin by a privateinquiry-office consisted of the following details:
"alexis daubrecq, deputy of the bouches-du-rhonefor the past two years; sits among the independent members.political opinions not very clearly defined, but electoral positionexceedingly strong, because of the enormous sums which he spendsin nursing his constituency. no private income. nevertheless,has a house in paris, a villa at enghien and another at niceand loses heavily at play, though no one knows where the moneycomes from. has great influence and obtains all he wants withoutmaking up to ministers or, apparently, having either friends or connectionsin political
circles." "that’s a trade docket," said lupin to himself."what i want is a domestic docket, a police docket, which will tell me about the gentleman’sprivate life and enable me to work more easily in this darkness and to know if i’m not gettingmyself into a tangle by bothering about the daubrecq bird. and time’s getting short, hangit!" one of the residences which lupin occupiedat that period and which he used oftener than any of the others was in the rue chateaubriand,near the arc de l’etoile. he was known there by the name of michel beaumont. he had a snugflat here and was looked after by a manservant, achille, who was utterly devoted to his interestsand whose chief duty was to receive and repeat
the telephone-messages addressed to lupinby his followers. lupin, on returning home, learnt, with greatastonishment, that a woman had been waiting to see him for over an hour: "what! why, no one ever comes to see me here!is she young?" "no… i don’t think so." "you don’t think so!" "she’s wearing a lace shawl over her head,instead of a hat, and you can’t see her face… she’s more like a clerk… or a woman employedin a shop. she’s not well-dressed…" "whom did she ask for?"
"m. michel beaumont," replied the servant. "queer. and why has she called?" "all she said was that it was about the enghienbusiness… so i thought that…" "what! the enghien business! then she knowsthat i am mixed up in that business… she knows that, by applying here…" "i could not get anything out of her, buti thought, all the same, that i had better let her in." "quite right. where is she?" "in the drawing-room. i’ve put on the lights."
lupin walked briskly across the hall and openedthe door of the drawing-room: "what are you talking about?" he said, tohis man. "there’s no one here." "no one here?" said achille, running up. and the room, in fact, was empty. "well, on my word, this takes the cake!" criedthe servant. "it wasn’t twenty minutes ago that i came and had a look, to make sure.she was sitting over there. and there’s nothing wrong with my eyesight, you know." "look here, look here," said lupin, irritably."where were you while the woman was waiting?" "in the hall, governor! i never left the hallfor a second! i should have seen her go out,
blow it!" "still, she’s not here now…" "so i see," moaned the man, quite flabbergasted. "she must have got tired of waiting and goneaway. but, dash it all, i should like to know how she got out!" "how she got out?" said lupin. "it doesn’ttake a wizard to tell that." "what do you mean?" "she got out through the window. look, it’sstill ajar. we are on the ground-floor… the street is almost always deserted, in theevenings. there’s no doubt about it."
he had looked around him and satisfied himselfthat nothing had been taken away or moved. the room, for that matter, contained no knick-knackof any value, no important paper that might have explained the woman’s visit, followedby her sudden disappearance. and yet why that inexplicable flight? "has any one telephoned?" he asked. "no." "any letters?" "yes, one letter by the last post." "where is it?"
"i put it on your mantel-piece, governor,as usual." lupin’s bedroom was next to the drawing-room,but lupin had permanently bolted the door between the two. he, therefore, had to gothrough the hall again. lupin switched on the electric light and,the next moment, said: "i don’t see it…" "yes… i put it next to the flower-bowl." "there’s nothing here at all." "you must be looking in the wrong place, governor." but achille moved the bowl, lifted the clock,bent down to the grate, in vain: the letter
was not there. "oh blast it, blast it!" he muttered. "she’sdone it… she’s taken it… and then, when she had the letter, she cleared out… oh,the slut!…" lupin said: "you’re mad! there’s no way through betweenthe two rooms." "then who did take it, governor?" they were both of them silent. lupin stroveto control his anger and collect his ideas. "did you look at the envelope?" "anything particular about it?"
"yes, it looked as if it had been writtenin a hurry, or scribbled, rather." "how was the address worded?… do you remember?"asked lupin, in a voice strained with anxiety. "yes, i remembered it, because it struck meas funny…" "but speak, will you? speak!" "it said, ‘monsieur de beaumont, michel.’" lupin took his servant by the shoulders andshook him: "it said ‘de’ beaumont? are you sure? and’michel’ after ‘beaumont’?" "quite certain." "ah!" muttered lupin, with a choking throat."it was a letter from gilbert!"
he stood motionless, a little pale, with drawnfeatures. there was no doubt about it: the letter was from gilbert. it was the form ofaddress which, by lupin’s orders, gilbert had used for years in corresponding with him.gilbert had at lastâ€”after long waiting and by dint of endless artificesâ€”found a meansof getting a letter posted from his prison and had hastily written to him. and now theletter was intercepted! what did it say? what instructions had the unhappy prisoner given?what help was he praying for? what stratagem did he suggest? lupin looked round the room, which, contraryto the drawing-room, contained important papers. but none of the locks had been forced; andhe was compelled to admit that the woman had
no other object than to get hold of gilbert’sletter. constraining himself to keep his temper, heasked: "did the letter come while the woman was here?" "at the same time. the porter rang at thesame moment." "could she see the envelope?" the conclusion was evident. it remained todiscover how the visitor had been able to effect her theft. by slipping from one windowto the other, outside the flat? impossible: lupin found the window of his room shut. byopening the communicating door? impossible: lupin found it locked and barred with itstwo inner bolts.
nevertheless, a person cannot pass througha wall by a mere operation of will. to go in or out of a room requires a passage; and,as the act was accomplished in the space of a few minutes, it was necessary, in the circumstances,that the passage should be previously in existence, that it should already have been contrivedin the wall and, of course, known to the woman. this hypothesis simplified the search by concentratingit upon the door; for the wall was quite bare, without a cupboard, chimney-piece or hangingsof any kind, and unable to conceal the least outlet. lupin went back to the drawing-room and preparedto make a study of the door. but he at once gave a start. he perceived, at the first glance,that the left lower panel of the six small
panels contained within the cross-bars ofthe door no longer occupied its normal position and that the light did not fall straight uponit. on leaning forward, he saw two little tin tacks sticking out on either side andholding the panel in place, similar to a wooden board behind a picture-frame. he had onlyto shift these. the panel at once came out. achille gave a cry of amazement. but lupinobjected: "well? and what then? we are no better offthan before. here is an empty oblong, eight or nine inches wide by sixteen inches high.you’re not going to pretend that a woman can slip through an opening which would not admitthe thinnest child of ten years old!" "no, but she can have put her arm throughand drawn the bolts."
"the bottom bolt, yes," said lupin. "but thetop bolt, no: the distance is far too great. try for yourself and see." achille tried and had to give up the attempt. lupin did not reply. he stood thinking fora long time. then, suddenly, he said: "give me my hat… my coat…" he hurried off, urged by an imperative idea.and, the moment he reached the street, he sprang into a taxi: "rue matignon, quick!…" as soon as they came to the house where hehad been robbed of the crystal stopper, he
jumped out of the cab, opened his privateentrance, went upstairs, ran to the drawing-room, turned on the light and crouched at the footof the door leading to his bedroom. he had guessed right. one of the little panelswas loosened in the same manner. and, just as in his other flat in the ruechateaubriand, the opening was large enough to admit a man’s arm and shoulder, but notto allow him to draw the upper bolt. "hang!" he shouted, unable any longer to masterthe rage that had been seething within him for the last two hours. "blast! shall i neverhave finished with this confounded business?" in fact, an incredible ill-luck seemed todog his footsteps, compelling him to grope about at random, without permitting him touse the elements of success which his own
persistency or the very force of things placedwithin his grasp. gilbert gave him the crystal stopper. gilbert sent him a letter. and bothhad disappeared at that very moment. and it was not, as he had until then believed,a series of fortuitous and independent circumstances. no, it was manifestly the effect of an adversewill pursuing a definite object with prodigious ability and incredible boldness, attackinghim, lupin, in the recesses of his safest retreats and baffling him with blows so severeand so unexpected that he did not even know against whom he had to defend himself. never,in the course of his adventures, had he encountered such obstacles as now. and, little by little, deep down within himself,there grew a haunting dread of the future.
a date loomed before his eyes, the terribledate which he unconsciously assigned to the law to perform its work of vengeance, thedate upon which, in the light of a wan april morning, two men would mount the scaffold,two men who had stood by him, two comrades whom he had been unable to save from payingthe awful penalty… chapter iii. the home life of alexis daubrecq when daubrecq the deputy came in from lunchon the day after the police had searched his house he was stopped by clemence, his portress,who told him that she had found a cook who could be thoroughly relied on. the cook arrived a few minutes later and producedfirst-rate characters, signed by people with
whom it was easy to take up her references.she was a very active woman, although of a certain age, and agreed to do the work ofthe house by herself, without the help of a man-servant, this being a condition uponwhich daubrecq insisted. her last place was with a member of the chamberof deputies, comte saulevat, to whom daubrecq at once telephoned. the count’s steward gaveher a perfect character, and she was engaged. as soon as she had fetched her trunk, sheset to work and cleaned and scrubbed until it was time to cook the dinner. daubrecq dined and went out. at eleven o’clock, after the portress hadgone to bed, the cook cautiously opened the
garden-gate. a man came up. "is that you?" she asked. "yes, it’s i, lupin." she took him to her bedroom on the third floor,overlooking the garden, and at once burst into lamentations: "more of your tricks and nothing but tricks!why can’t you leave me alone, instead of sending me to do your dirty work?" "how can i help it, you dear old victoire?[*] when i want a person of respectable appearance and incorruptible morals, i think of you.you ought to be flattered."
* see the hollow needle by maurice leblanc,translated by alexander teixeira de mattos, and later volumesof the lupin series. "that’s all you care about me!" she cried."you run me into danger once more; and you think it’s funny!" "what are you risking?" "how do you mean, what am i risking? all mycharacters are false." "characters are always false." "and suppose m. daubrecq finds out? supposehe makes inquiries?"
"he has made inquiries." "eh? what’s that?" "he has telephoned to the steward of comtesaulevat, in whose service you say that you have had the honour of being." "there, you see, i’m done for!" "the count’s steward could not say enoughin your praise." "he does not know me." "but i know him. i got him his situation withcomte saulevat. so you understand…" victoire seemed to calm down a little:
"well," she said, "god’s will be done… orrather yours. and what do you expect me to do in all this?" "first, to put me up. you were my wet-nurseonce. you can very well give me half your room now. i’ll sleep in the armchair." "and next?" "next? to supply me with such food as i want." "next? to undertake, with me and under mydirection, a regular series of searches with a view…" "to what?"
"to discovering the precious object of whichi spoke to you." "what’s that?" "a crystal stopper." "a crystal stopper… saints above! a nicebusiness! and, if we don’t find your confounded stopper, what then?" lupin took her gently by the arm and, in aserious voice: "if we don’t find it, gilbert, young gilbertwhom you know and love, will stand every chance of losing his head; and so will vaucheray." "vaucheray i don’t mind… a dirty rascallike him! but gilbert…"
"have you seen the papers this evening? thingsare looking worse than ever. vaucheray, as might be expected, accuses gilbert of stabbingthe valet; and it so happens that the knife which vaucheray used belonged to gilbert.that came out this morning. whereupon gilbert, who is intelligent in his way, but easilyfrightened, blithered and launched forth into stories and lies which will end in his undoing.that’s how the matter stands. will you help me?" thenceforth, for several days, lupin mouldedhis existence upon daubrecq’s, beginning his investigations the moment the deputy leftthe house. he pursued them methodically, dividing each room into sections which he did not abandonuntil he had been through the tiniest nooks
and corners and, so to speak, exhausted everypossible device. victoire searched also. and nothing was forgotten.table-legs, chair-rungs, floor-boards, mouldings, mirror- and picture-frames, clocks, plinths,curtain-borders, telephone-holders and electric fittings: everything that an ingenious imaginationcould have selected as a hiding-place was overhauled. and they also watched the deputy’s least actions,his most unconscious movements, the expression of his face, the books which he read and theletters which he wrote. it was easy enough. he seemed to live hislife in the light of day. no door was ever shut. he received no visits. and his existenceworked with mechanical regularity. he went
to the chamber in the afternoon, to the clubin the evening. "still," said lupin, "there must be somethingthat’s not orthodox behind all this." "there’s nothing of the sort," moaned victoire."you’re wasting your time and we shall be bowled out." the presence of the detectives and their habitof walking up and down outside the windows drove her mad. she refused to admit that theywere there for any other purpose than to trap her, victoire. and, each time that she wentshopping, she was quite surprised that one of those men did not lay his hand upon hershoulder. one day she returned all upset. her basketof provisions was shaking on her arm.
"what’s the matter, my dear victoire?" saidlupin. "you’re looking green." "green? i dare say i do. so would you lookgreen…" she had to sit down and it was only aftermaking repeated efforts that she succeeded in stuttering: "a man… a man spoke to me… at the fruiterer’s." "by jingo! did he want you to run away withhim?" "no, he gave me a letter…" "then what are you complaining about? it wasa love-letter, of course!" "no. ‘it’s for your governor,’ said he. ‘mygovernor?’ i said. ‘yes,’ he said, ‘for the
gentleman who’s staying in your room.’" this time, lupin had started: "give it here," he said, snatching the letterfrom her. the envelope bore no address. but there was another, inside it, on which heread: "monsieur arsene lupin,c/o victoire." "the devil!" he said. "this is a bit thick!"he tore open the second envelope. it contained a sheet of paper with the following words,written in large capitals: "everything you are doing is useless and dangerous…give it up." victoire uttered one moan and fainted. asfor lupin, he felt himself blush up to his
eyes, as though he had been grossly insulted.he experienced all the humiliation which a duellist would undergo if he heard the mostsecret advice which he had received from his seconds repeated aloud by a mocking adversary. however, he held his tongue. victoire wentback to her work. as for him, he remained in his room all day, thinking. that night he did not sleep. and he kept saying to himself: "what is the good of thinking? i am up againstone of those problems which are not solved by any amount of thought. it is certain thati am not alone in the matter and that, between
daubrecq and the police, there is, in additionto the third thief that i am, a fourth thief who is working on his own account, who knowsme and who reads my game clearly. but who is this fourth thief? and am i mistaken, byany chance? and… oh, rot!… let’s get to sleep!…" but he could not sleep; and a good part ofthe night went in this way. at four o’clock in the morning he seemed tohear a noise in the house. he jumped up quickly and, from the top of the staircase, saw daubrecqgo down the first flight and turn toward the garden. a minute later, after opening the gate, thedeputy returned with a man whose head was
buried in an enormous fur collar and showedhim into his study. lupin had taken his precautions in view ofany such contingency. as the windows of the study and those of his bedroom, both of whichwere at the back of the house, overlooked the garden, he fastened a rope-ladder to hisbalcony, unrolled it softly and let himself down by it until it was level with the topof the study windows. these windows were closed by shutters; but,as they were bowed, there remained a semi-circular space at the top; and lupin, though he couldnot hear, was able to see all that went on inside. he then realized that the person whom he hadtaken for a man was a woman: a woman who was
still young, though her dark hair was mingledwith gray; a tall woman, elegantly but quite unobtrusively dressed, whose handsome featuresbore the expression of weariness and melancholy which long suffering gives. "where the deuce have i seen her before?"lupin asked himself. "for i certainly know that face, that look, that expression." she stood leaning against the table, listeningimpassively to daubrecq, who was also standing and who was talking very excitedly. he hadhis back turned to lupin; but lupin, leaning forward, caught sight of a glass in whichthe deputy’s image was reflected. and he was startled to see the strange look in his eyes,the air of fierce and brutal desire with which
daubrecq was staring at his visitor. it seemed to embarrass her too, for she satdown with lowered lids. then daubrecq leant over her and it appeared as though he wereready to fling his long arms, with their huge hands, around her. and, suddenly, lupin perceivedgreat tears rolling down the woman’s sad face. whether or not it was the sight of those tearsthat made daubrecq lose his head, with a brusque movement he clutched the woman and drew herto him. she repelled him, with a violence full of hatred. and, after a brief struggle,during which lupin caught a glimpse of the man’s bestial and contorted features, thetwo of them stood face to face, railing at each other like mortal enemies.
then they stopped. daubrecq sat down. therewas mischief in his face, and sarcasm as well. and he began to talk again, with sharp tapson the table, as though he were dictating terms. she no longer stirred. she sat haughtily inher chair and towered over him, absent-minded, with roaming eyes. lupin, captivated by thatpowerful and sorrowful countenance, continued to watch her; and he was vainly seeking toremember of what or of whom she reminded him, when he noticed that she had turned her headslightly and that she was imperceptibly moving her arm. and her arm strayed farther and farther andher hand crept along the table and lupin saw
that, at the end of the table, there stooda water-bottle with a gold-topped stopper. the hand reached the water-bottle, felt it,rose gently and seized the stopper. a quick movement of the head, a glance, and the stopperwas put back in its place. obviously, it was not what the woman hoped to find. "dash it!" said lupin. "she’s after the crystalstopper too! the matter is becoming more complicated daily; there’s no doubt about it." but, on renewing his observation of the visitor,he was astounded to note the sudden and unexpected expression of her countenance, a terrible,implacable, ferocious expression. and he saw that her hand was continuing its stealthyprogress round the table and that, with an
uninterrupted and crafty sliding movement,it was pushing back books and, slowly and surely, approaching a dagger whose blade gleamedamong the scattered papers. it gripped the handle. daubrecq went on talking. behind his back,the hand rose steadily, little by little; and lupin saw the woman’s desperate and furiouseyes fixed upon the spot in the neck where she intended to plant the knife: "you’re doing a very silly thing, fair lady,"thought lupin. and he already began to turn over in his mindthe best means of escaping and of taking victoire with him.
she hesitated, however, with uplifted arm.but it was only a momentary weakness. she clenched her teeth. her whole face, contractedwith hatred, became yet further convulsed. and she made the dread movement. at the same instant daubrecq crouched and,springing from his seat, turned and seized the woman’s frail wrist in mid-air. oddly enough, he addressed no reproach toher, as though the deed which she had attempted surprised him no more than any ordinary, verynatural and simple act. he shrugged his shoulders, like a man accustomed to that sort of danger,and strode up and down in silence. she had dropped the weapon and was now crying,holding her head between her hands, with sobs
that shook her whole frame. he next came up to her and said a few words,once more tapping the table as he spoke. she made a sign in the negative and, whenhe insisted, she, in her turn, stamped her foot on the floor and exclaimed, loud enoughfor lupin to hear: "never!… never!…" thereupon, without another word, daubrecqfetched the fur cloak which she had brought with her and hung it over the woman’s shoulders,while she shrouded her face in a lace wrap. and he showed her out. two minutes later, the garden-gate was lockedagain. "pity i can’t run after that strange
person," thought lupin, "and have a chat withher about the daubrecq bird. seems to me that we two could do a good stroke of businesstogether." in any case, there was one point to be clearedup: daubrecq the deputy, whose life was so orderly, so apparently respectable, was inthe habit of receiving visits at night, when his house was no longer watched by the police. he sent victoire to arrange with two membersof his gang to keep watch for several days. and he himself remained awake next night. as on the previous morning, he heard a noiseat four o’clock. as on the previous morning, the deputy let some one in.
lupin ran down his ladder and, when he cameto the free space above the shutters, saw a man crawling at daubrecq’s feet, flinginghis arms round daubrecq’s knees in frenzied despair and weeping, weeping convulsively. daubrecq, laughing, pushed him away repeatedly,but the man clung to him. he behaved almost like one out of his mind and, at last, ina genuine fit of madness, half rose to his feet, took the deputy by the throat and flunghim back in a chair. daubrecq struggled, powerless at first, while his veins swelled in his temples.but soon, with a strength far beyond the ordinary, he regained the mastery and deprived his adversaryof all power of movement. then, holding him with one hand, with the other he gave himtwo great smacks in the face.
the man got up, slowly. he was livid and couldhardly stand on his legs. he waited for a moment, as though to recover his self-possession.then, with a terrifying calmness, he drew a revolver from his pocket and levelled itat daubrecq. daubrecq did not flinch. he even smiled, witha defiant air and without displaying more excitement than if he had been aimed at witha toy pistol. the man stood for perhaps fifteen or twentyseconds, facing his enemy, with outstretched arm. then, with the same deliberate slowness,revealing a self-control which was all the more impressive because it followed upon afit of extreme excitement, he put up his revolver and, from another pocket, produced his note-case.
daubrecq took a step forward. the man opened the pocketbook. a sheaf ofbanknotes appeared in sight. daubrecq seized and counted them. they werethousand-franc notes, and there were thirty of them. the man looked on, without a movement of revolt,without a protest. he obviously understood the futility of words. daubrecq was one ofthose who do not relent. why should his visitor waste time in beseeching him or even in revenginghimself upon him by uttering vain threats and insults? he had no hope of striking thatunassailable enemy. even daubrecq’s death would not deliver him from daubrecq.
he took his hat and went away. at eleven o’clock in the morning victoire,on returning from her shopping, handed lupin a note from his accomplices. he opened it and read: "the man who came to see daubrecq last nightis langeroux the deputy, leader of the independent left. a poor man, with a large family." "come," said lupin, "daubrecq is nothing morenor less than a blackmailer; but, by jupiter, he has jolly effective ways of going to work!" events tended to confirm lupin’s supposition.three days later he saw another visitor hand
daubrecq an important sum of money. and, twodays after that, one came and left a pearl necklace behind him. the first was called dachaumont, a senatorand ex-cabinet-minister. the second was the marquis d’albufex, a bonapartist deputy, formerlychief political agent in france of prince napoleon. the scene, in each of these cases, was verysimilar to langeroux the deputy’s interview, a violent tragic scene, ending in daubrecq’svictory. "and so on and so forth," thought lupin, whenhe received these particulars. "i have been present at four visits. i shall know no moreif there are ten, or twenty, or thirty…
it is enough for me to learn the names ofthe visitors from my friends on sentry-go outside. shall i go and call on them?… whatfor? they have no reason to confide in me… on the other hand, am i to stay on here, delayedby investigations which lead to nothing and which victoire can continue just as well withoutme?" he was very much perplexed. the news of theinquiry into the case of gilbert and vaucheray was becoming worse and worse, the days wereslipping by, and not an hour passed without his asking himself, in anguish, whether allhis effortsâ€”granting that he succeededâ€”would not end in farcical results, absolutely foreignto the aim which he was pursuing. for, after all, supposing that he did fathomdaubrecq’s underhand dealings, would that
give him the means of rescuing gilbert andvaucheray? that day an incident occurred which put anend to his indecision. after lunch victoire heard snatches of a conversation which daubrecqheld with some one on the telephone. lupin gathered, from what victoire reported, thatthe deputy had an appointment with a lady for half-past eight and that he was goingto take her to a theatre: "i shall get a pit-tier box, like the onewe had six weeks ago," daubrecq had said. and he added, with a laugh, "i hope that ishall not have the burglars in during that time." there was not a doubt in lupin’s mind. daubrecqwas about to spend his evening in the same
manner in which he had spent the evening sixweeks ago, while they were breaking into his villa at enghien. to know the person whomhe was to meet and perhaps thus to discover how gilbert and vaucheray had learnt thatdaubrecq would be away from eight o’clock in the evening until one o’clock in the morning:these were matters of the utmost importance. lupin left the house in the afternoon, withvictoire’s assistance. he knew through her that daubrecq was coming home for dinner earlierthan usual. he went to his flat in the rue chateaubriand,telephoned for three of his friends, dressed and made himself up in his favourite characterof a russian prince, with fair hair and moustache and short-cut whiskers.
the accomplices arrived in a motor-car. at that moment, achille, his man, broughthim a telegram, addressed to m. michel beaumont, rue chateaubriand, which ran: "do not come to theatre this evening. dangerof your intervention spoiling everything." there was a flower-vase on the chimney-piecebeside him. lupin took it and smashed it to pieces. "that’s it, that’s it," he snarled. "theyare playing with me as i usually play with others. same behaviour. same tricks. onlythere’s this difference…"
what difference? he hardly knew. the truthwas that he too was baffled and disconcerted to the inmost recesses of his being and thathe was continuing to act only from obstinacy, from a sense of duty, so to speak, and withoutputting his ordinary good humour and high spirits into the work. "come along," he said to his accomplices. by his instructions, the chauffeur set themdown near the square lamartine, but kept the motor going. lupin foresaw that daubrecq,in order to escape the detectives watching the house, would jump into the first taxi;and he did not intend to be outdistanced. he had not allowed for daubrecq’s cleverness.
at half-past seven both leaves of the garden-gatewere flung open, a bright light flashed and a motor-cycle darted across the road, skirtedthe square, turned in front of the motor-car and shot away toward the bois at a speed sogreat that they would have been mad to go in pursuit of it. "good-bye, daisy!" said lupin, trying to jest,but really overcome with rage. he eyed his accomplices in the hope that oneof them would venture to give a mocking smile. how pleased he would have been to vent hisnerves on them! "let’s go home," he said to his companions. he gave them some dinner; then he smoked acigar and they set off again in the car and
went the round of the theatres, beginningwith those which were giving light operas and musical comedies, for which he presumedthat daubrecq and his lady would have a preference. he took a stall, inspected the lower-tierboxes and went away again. he next drove to the more serious theatres:the renaissance, the gymnase. at last, at ten o’clock in the evening, hesaw a pit-tier box at the vaudeville almost entirely protected from inspection by itstwo screens; and, on tipping the boxkeeper, was told that it contained a short, stout,elderly gentleman and a lady who was wearing a thick lace veil. the next box was free. he took it, went backto his friends to give them their instructions
and sat down near the couple. during the entr’acte, when the lights wentup, he perceived daubrecq’s profile. the lady remained at the back of the box, invisible.the two were speaking in a low voice; and, when the curtain rose again, they went onspeaking, but in such a way that lupin could not distinguish a word. ten minutes passed. some one tapped at theirdoor. it was one of the men from the box-office. "are you m. le depute daubrecq, sir?" he asked. "yes," said daubrecq, in a voice of surprise."but how do you know my name?" "there’s a gentleman asking for you on thetelephone. he told me to go to box 22."
"but who is it?" "m. le marquis d’albufex." "eh?" "what am i to say, sir?" "i’m coming… i’m coming…" daubrecq rose hurriedly from his seat andfollowed the clerk to the box-office. he was not yet out of sight when lupin sprangfrom his box, worked the lock of the next door and sat down beside the lady. she gave a stifled cry.
"hush!" he said. "i have to speak to you.it is most important." "ah!" she said, between her teeth. "arsenelupin!" he was dumbfounded. for a moment he sat quiet, open-mouthed. the woman knew him!and not only did she know him, but she had recognized him through his disguise! accustomedthough he was to the most extraordinary and unusual events, this disconcerted him. he did not even dream of protesting and stammered: "so you know?… so you know?…" he snatched at the lady’s veil and pulledit aside before she had time to defend herself: "what!" he muttered, with increased amazement."is it possible?"
it was the woman whom he had seen at daubrecq’sa few days earlier, the woman who had raised her dagger against daubrecq and who had intendedto stab him with all the strength of her hatred. it was her turn to be taken aback: "what! have you seen me before?…" "yes, the other night, at his house… i sawwhat you tried to do…" she made a movement to escape. he held herback and, speaking with great eagerness: "i must know who you are," he said. "thatwas why i had daubrecq telephoned for." she looked aghast: "do you mean to say it was not the marquisd’albufex?"
"no, it was one of my assistants." "then daubrecq will come back?…" "yes, but we have time… listen to me…we must meet again… he is your enemy… i will save you from him…" "why should you? what is your object?" "do not distrust me… it is quite certainthat our interests are identical… where can i see you? to-morrow, surely? at whattime? and where?" "well…" she looked at him with obvious hesitation,not knowing what to do, on the point of speaking
and yet full of uneasiness and doubt. he pressed her: "oh, i entreat you… answer me just one word…and at once… it would be a pity for him to find me here… i entreat you…" she answered sharply: "my name doesn’t matter… we will see eachother first and you shall explain to me… yes, we will meet… listen, to-morrow, atthree o’clock, at the corner of the boulevard…" at that exact moment, the door of the boxopened, so to speak, with a bang, and daubrecq appeared.
"rats!" lupin mumbled, under his breath, furiousat being caught before obtaining what he wanted. daubrecq gave a chuckle: "so that’s it… i thought something was up…ah, the telephone-trick: a little out of date, sir! i had not gone half-way when i turnedback." he pushed lupin to the front of the box and,sitting down beside the lady, said: "and, now my lord, who are we? a servant atthe police-office, probably? there’s a professional look about that mug of yours." he stared hard at lupin, who did not movea muscle, and tried to put a name to the face, but failed to recognize the man whom he hadcalled polonius.
lupin, without taking his eyes from daubrecqeither, reflected. he would not for anything in the world have thrown up the game at thatpoint or neglected this favourable opportunity of coming to an understanding with his mortalenemy. the woman sat in her corner, motionless, andwatched them both. "let us go outside, sir. that will make ourinterview easier." "no, my lord, here," grinned the deputy. "itwill take place here, presently, during the entr’acte. then we shall not be disturbinganybody." "but…" "save your breath, my man; you sha’n’t budge."
and he took lupin by the coat-collar, withthe obvious intention of not letting go of him before the interval. a rash move! was it likely that lupin wouldconsent to remain in such an attitude, especially before a woman, a woman to whom he had offeredhis alliance, a womanâ€”and he now thought of it for the first timeâ€”who was distinctlygood-looking and whose grave beauty attracted him. his whole pride as a man rose at thethought. however, he said nothing. he accepted theheavy weight of the hand on his shoulder and even sat bent in two, as though beaten, powerless,almost frightened. "eh, clever!" said the deputy, scoffingly."we don’t seem to be swaggering quite so much."
the stage was full of actors who were arguingand making a noise. daubrecq had loosened his grasp slightly andlupin felt that the moment had come. with the edge of his hand, he gave him a violentblow in the hollow of the arm, as he might have done with a hatchet. the pain took daubrecq off his guard. lupinnow released himself entirely and sprang at the other to clutch him by the throat. butdaubrecq had at once put himself on the defensive and stepped back and their four hands seizedone another. they gripped with superhuman energy, the wholeforce of the two adversaries concentrating in those hands. daubrecq’s were of monstroussize; and lupin, caught in that iron vise,
felt as though he were fighting not with aman, but with some terrible beast, a huge gorilla. they held each other against the door, bendinglow, like a pair of wrestlers groping and trying to lay hold of each other. their bonescreaked. whichever gave way first was bound to be caught by the throat and strangled.and all this happened amid a sudden silence, for the actors on the stage were now listeningto one of their number, who was speaking in a low voice. the woman stood back flat against the partition,looking at them in terror. had she taken sides with either of them, with a single movement,the victory would at once have been decided
in that one’s favour. but which of them shouldshe assist? what could lupin represent in her eyes? a friend? an enemy? she briskly made for the front of the box,forced back the screen and, leaning forward, seemed to give a signal. then she returnedand tried to slip to the door. lupin, as though wishing to help her, said: "why don’t you move the chair?" he was speaking of a heavy chair which hadfallen down between him and daubrecq and across which they were struggling. the woman stooped and pulled away the chair.that was what lupin was waiting for. once
rid of the obstacle, he caught daubrecq asmart kick on the shin with the tip of his patent-leather boot. the result was the sameas with the blow which he had given him on the arm. the pain caused a second’s apprehensionand distraction, of which he at once took advantage to beat down daubrecq’s outstretchedhands and to dig his ten fingers into his adversary’s throat and neck. daubrecq struggled. daubrecq tried to pullaway the hands that were throttling him; but he was beginning to choke and felt his strengthdecreasing. "aha, you old monkey!" growled lupin, forcinghim to the floor. "why don’t you shout for help? how frightened you must be of a scandal!"
at the sound of the fall there came a knockingat the partition, on the other side. "knock away, knock away," said lupin, underhis breath. "the play is on the stage. this is my business and, until i’ve mastered thisgorilla…" it did not take him long. the deputy was choking.lupin stunned him with a blow on the jaw; and all that remained for him to do was totake the woman away and make his escape with her before the alarm was given. but, when he turned round, he saw that thewoman was gone. she could not be far. darting from the box,he set off at a run, regardless of the programme-sellers and check-takers.
on reaching the entrance-lobby, he saw herthrough an open door, crossing the pavement of the chaussee d’antin. she was stepping into a motor-car when hecame up with her. the door closed behind her. he seized the handle and tried to pull atit. but a man jumped up inside and sent his fistflying into lupin’s face, with less skill but no less force than lupin had sent hisinto daubrecq’s face. stunned though he was by the blow, he neverthelesshad ample time to recognize the man, in a sudden, startled vision, and also to recognize,under his chauffeur’s disguise, the man who
was driving the car. it was the growler andthe masher, the two men in charge of the boats on the enghien night, two friends of gilbertand vaucheray: in short, two of lupin’s own accomplices. when he reached his rooms in the rue chateaubriand,lupin, after washing the blood from his face, sat for over an hour in a chair, as thoughoverwhelmed. for the first time in his life he was experiencing the pain of treachery.for the first time his comrades in the fight were turning against their chief. mechanically, to divert his thoughts, he turnedto his correspondence and tore the wrapper from an evening paper. among the late newshe found the following paragraphs:
"the villa marie-therese case" "the real identity of vaucheray, one of thealleged murderers of leonard the valet, has at lastbeen ascertained. he is a miscreant of the worst type, a hardenedcriminal who has already twice been sentenced for murder,in default, under another name. "no doubt, the police will end by also discoveringthe real name of his accomplice, gilbert. in any event,the examining-magistrate is determined to commit the prisoners fortrial as soon as possible.
"the public will have no reason to complainof the delays of the law." in between other newspapers and prospectuseslay a letter. lupin jumped when he saw it. it was addressed: "monsieur de beaumont, michel." "oh," he gasped, "a letter from gilbert!" it contained these few words: "help, governor!… i am frightened. i amfrightened…" once again, lupin spent a night alternatingbetween sleeplessness and nightmares. once again, he was tormented by atrocious and terrifyingvisions.
chapter iv. the chief of the enemies "poor boy!" murmured lupin, when his eyesfell on gilbert’s letter next morning. "how he must feel it!" on the very first day when he saw him, hehad taken a liking to that well-set-up youngster, so careless, gay and fond of life. gilbertwas devoted to him, would have accepted death at a sign from his master. and lupin alsoloved his frankness, his good humour, his simplicity, his bright, open face. "gilbert," he often used to say, "you arean honest man. do you know, if i were you, i should chuck the business and become anhonest man for good."
"after you, governor," gilbert would reply,with a laugh. "won’t you, though?" "no, governor. an honest man is a chap whoworks and grinds. it’s a taste which i may have had as a nipper; but they’ve made melose it since." "who’s they?" gilbert was silent. he was always silent whenquestioned about his early life; and all that lupin knew was that he had been an orphansince childhood and that he had lived all over the place, changing his name and takingup the queerest jobs. the whole thing was a mystery which no one had been able to fathom;and it did not look as though the police would
make much of it either. nor, on the other hand, did it look as thoughthe police would consider that mystery a reason for delaying proceedings. they would sendvaucheray’s accomplice for trialâ€”under his name of gilbert or any other nameâ€”and visithim with the same inevitable punishment. "poor boy!" repeated lupin. "they’re persecutinghim like this only because of me. they are afraid of his escaping and they are in a hurryto finish the business: the verdict first and then… the execution. "oh, the butchers!… a lad of twenty, whohas committed no murder, who is not even an accomplice in the murder…"
alas, lupin well knew that this was a thingimpossible to prove and that he must concentrate his efforts upon another point. but upon which?was he to abandon the trail of the crystal stopper? he could not make up his mind to that. hisone and only diversion from the search was to go to enghien, where the growler and themasher lived, and make sure that nothing had been seen of them since the murder at thevilla marie-therese. apart from this, he applied himself to the question of daubrecq and nothingelse. he refused even to trouble his head aboutthe problems set before him: the treachery of the growler and the masher; their connectionwith the gray-haired lady; the spying of which
he himself was the object. "steady, lupin," he said. "one only arguesfalsely in a fever. so hold your tongue. no inferences, above all things! nothing is morefoolish than to infer one fact from another before finding a certain starting-point. that’swhere you get up a tree. listen to your instinct. act according to your instinct. and as youare persuaded, outside all argument, outside all logic, one might say, that this businessturns upon that confounded stopper, go for it boldly. have at daubrecq and his bit ofcrystal!" lupin did not wait to arrive at these conclusionsbefore settling his actions accordingly. at the moment when he was stating them in hismind, three days after the scene at the vaudeville,
he was sitting, dressed like a retired tradesman,in an old overcoat, with a muffler round his neck, on a bench in the avenue victor-hugo,at some distance from the square lamartine. victoire had his instructions to pass by thatbench at the same hour every morning. "yes," he repeated to himself, "the crystalstopper: everything turns on that… once i get hold of it…" victoire arrived, with her shopping-basketon her arm. he at once noticed her extraordinary agitation and pallor: "what’s the matter?" asked lupin, walkingbeside his old nurse. she went into a big grocer’s, which was crowdedwith people, and, turning to him:
"here," she said, in a voice torn with excitement."here’s what you’ve been hunting for." and, taking something from her basket, shegave it to him. lupin stood astounded: in his hand lay thecrystal stopper. "can it be true? can it be true?" he muttered,as though the ease of the solution had thrown him off his balance. but the fact remained, visible and palpable.he recognized by its shape, by its size, by the worn gilding of its facets, recognizedbeyond any possible doubt the crystal stopper which he had seen before. he even remarkeda tiny, hardly noticeable little scratch on the stem which he remembered perfectly.
however, while the thing presented all thesame characteristics, it possessed no other that seemed out of the way. it was a crystalstopper, that was all. there was no really special mark to distinguish it from otherstoppers. there was no sign upon it, no stamp; and, being cut from a single piece, it containedno foreign object. "what then?" and lupin received a quick insight into thedepth of his mistake. what good could the possession of that crystal stopper do himso long as he was ignorant of its value? that bit of glass had no existence in itself; itcounted only through the meaning that attached to it. before taking it, the thing was tobe certain. and how could he tell that, in
taking it, in robbing daubrecq of it, he wasnot committing an act of folly? it was a question which was impossible ofsolution, but which forced itself upon him with singular directness. "no blunders!" he said to himself, as he pocketedthe stopper. "in this confounded business, blunders are fatal." he had not taken his eyes off victoire. accompaniedby a shopman, she went from counter to counter, among the throng of customers. she next stoodfor some little while at the pay-desk and passed in front of lupin. he whispered her instructions:
"meet me behind the lycee janson." she joined him in an unfrequented street: "and suppose i’m followed?" she said. "no," he declared. "i looked carefully. listento me. where did you find the stopper?" "in the drawer of the table by his bed." "but we had felt there already." "yes; and i did so again this morning. i expecthe put it there last night." "and i expect he’ll want to take it from thereagain," said lupin. "very likely."
"and suppose he finds it gone?" victoire looked frightened. "answer me," said lupin. "if he finds it gone,he’ll accuse you of taking it, won’t he?" "certainly." "then go and put it back, as fast as you can." "oh dear, oh dear!" she moaned. "i hope hewon’t have had time to find out. give it to me, quick." "here you are," said lupin. he felt in the pocket of his overcoat.
"well?" said victoire, holding out her hand. "well," he said, after a moment, "it’s gone." "what!" "yes, upon my word, it’s gone… somebody’staken it from me." he burst into a peal of laughter, a laughterwhich, this time, was free from all bitterness. victoire flew out at him: "laugh away!… putting me in such a predicament!…" "how can i help laughing? you must confessthat it’s funny. it’s no longer a tragedy that we’re acting, but a fairy-tale, as mucha fairy-tale as puss in boots or jack and
the beanstalk. i must write it when i geta few weeks to myself: the magic stopper; or, the mishaps of poor arsene." "well… who has taken it from you?" "what are you talking about?… it has flownaway… vanished from my pocket: hey presto, begone!" he gave the old servant a gentle push and,in a more serious tone: "go home, victoire, and don’t upset yourself.of course, some one saw you give me the stopper and took advantage of the crowd in the shopto pick my pocket of it. that only shows that we are watched more closely than i thoughtand by adversaries of the first rank. but,
once more, be easy. honest men always comeby their own… have you anything else to tell me?" "yes. some one came yesterday evening, whilem. daubrecq was out. i saw lights reflected upon the trees in the garden." "the portress’ bedroom?" "the portress was up." "then it was some of those detective-fellows;they are still hunting. i’ll see you later, victoire. you must let me in again." "what! you want to…"
"what do i risk? your room is on the thirdfloor. daubrecq suspects nothing." "but the others!" "the others? if it was to their interest toplay me a trick, they’d have tried before now. i’m in their way, that’s all. they’renot afraid of me. so till later, victoire, at five o’clock exactly." one further surprise awaited lupin. in theevening his old nurse told him that, having opened the drawer of the bedside table fromcuriosity, she had found the crystal stopper there again. lupin was no longer to be excited by thesemiraculous incidents. he simply said to himself:
"so it’s been brought back. and the personwho brought it back and who enters this house by some unexplained means considered, as idid, that the stopper ought not to disappear. and yet daubrecq, who knows that he is beingspied upon to his very bedroom, has once more left the stopper in a drawer, as though heattached no importance to it at all! now what is one to make of that?" though lupin did not make anything of it,nevertheless he could not escape certain arguments, certain associations of ideas that gave himthe same vague foretaste of light which one receives on approaching the outlet of a tunnel. "it is inevitable, as the case stands," hethought, "that there must soon be an encounter
between myself and the others. from that momenti shall be master of the situation." five days passed, during which lupin did notglean the slightest particular. on the sixth day daubrecq received a visit, in the smallhours, from a gentleman, laybach the deputy, who, like his colleagues, dragged himselfat his feet in despair and, when all was done, handed him twenty thousand francs. two more days; and then, one night, postedon the landing of the second floor, lupin heard the creaking of a door, the front-door,as he perceived, which led from the hall into the garden. in the darkness he distinguished,or rather divined, the presence of two persons, who climbed the stairs and stopped on thefirst floor, outside daubrecq’s bedroom.
what were they doing there? it was not possibleto enter the room, because daubrecq bolted his door every night. then what were theyhoping? manifestly, a handiwork of some kind was beingperformed, as lupin discovered from the dull sounds of rubbing against the door. then words,uttered almost beneath a whisper, reached him: "is it all right?" "yes, quite, but, all the same, we’d betterput it off till to-morrow, because…" lupin did not hear the end of the sentence.the men were already groping their way downstairs. the hall-door was closed, very gently, andthen the gate.
"it’s curious, say what one likes," thoughtlupin. "here is a house in which daubrecq carefully conceals his rascalities and ison his guard, not without good reason, against spies; and everybody walks in and out as ina booth at a fair. victoire lets me in, the portress admits the emissaries of the police:that’s well and good; but who is playing false in these people’s favour? are we to supposethat they are acting alone? but what fearlessness! and how well they know their way about!" in the afternoon, during daubrecq’s absence,he examined the door of the first-floor bedroom. and, at the first glance, he understood: oneof the lower panels had been skilfully cut out and was only held in place by invisibletacks. the people, therefore, who had done
this work were the same who had acted at histwo places, in the rue matignon and the rue chateaubriand. he also found that the work dated back toan earlier period and that, as in his case, the opening had been prepared beforehand,in anticipation of favourable circumstances or of some immediate need. the day did not seem long to lupin. knowledgewas at hand. not only would he discover the manner in which his adversaries employed thoselittle openings, which were apparently unemployable, since they did not allow a person to reachthe upper bolts, but he would learn who the ingenious and energetic adversaries were withwhom he repeatedly and inevitably found himself
confronted. one incident annoyed him. in the evening daubrecq,who had complained of feeling tired at dinner, came home at ten o’clock and, contrary tohis usual custom, pushed the bolts of the hall-door. in that case, how would the othersbe able to carry out their plan and go to daubrecq’s room? lupin waited for an hourafter daubrecq put out his light. then he went down to the deputy’s study, opened oneof the windows ajar and returned to the third floor and fixed his rope-ladder so that, incase of need, he could reach the study without passing though the house. lastly, he resumedhis post on the second-floor landing. he did not have to wait long. an hour earlierthan on the previous night some one tried
to open the hall-door. when the attempt failed,a few minutes of absolute silence followed. and lupin was beginning to think that themen had abandoned the idea, when he gave a sudden start. some one had passed, withoutthe least sound to interrupt the silence. he would not have known it, so utterly werethe thing’s steps deadened by the stair-carpet, if the baluster-rail, which he himself heldin his hand, had not shaken slightly. some one was coming upstairs. and, as the ascent continued, lupin becameaware of the uncanny feeling that he heard nothing more than before. he knew, becauseof the rail, that a thing was coming and he could count the number of steps climbed bynoting each vibration of the rail; but no
other indication gave him that dim sensationof presence which we feel in distinguishing movements which we do not see, in perceivingsounds which we do not hear. and yet a blacker darkness ought to have taken shape withinthe darkness and something ought, at least, to modify the quality of the silence. no,he might well have believed that there was no one there. and lupin, in spite of himself and againstthe evidence of his reason, ended by believing it, for the rail no longer moved and he thoughtthat he might have been the sport of an illusion. and this lasted a long time. he hesitated,not knowing what to do, not knowing what to suppose. but an odd circumstance impressedhim. a clock struck two. he recognized the
chime of daubrecq’s clock. and the chime wasthat of a clock from which one is not separated by the obstacle of a door. lupin slipped down the stairs and went tothe door. it was closed, but there was a space on the left, at the bottom, a space left bythe removal of the little panel. he listened. daubrecq, at that moment, turnedin his bed; and his breathing was resumed, evenly and a little stertorously. and lupinplainly heard the sound of rumpling garments. beyond a doubt, the thing was there, fumblingand feeling through the clothes which daubrecq had laid beside his bed. "now," thought lupin, "we shall learn something.but how the deuce did the beggar get in? has
he managed to draw the bolts and open thedoor? but, if so, why did he make the mistake of shutting it again?" not for a secondâ€”a curious anomaly in aman like lupin, an anomaly to be explained only by the uncanny feeling which the wholeadventure produced in himâ€”not for a second did he suspect the very simple truth whichwas about to be revealed to him. continuing his way down, he crouched on one of the bottomsteps of the staircase, thus placing himself between the door of the bedroom and the hall-door,on the road which daubrecq’s enemy must inevitably take in order to join his accomplices. he questioned the darkness with an unspeakableanguish. he was on the point of unmasking
that enemy of daubrecq’s, who was also hisown adversary. he would thwart his plans. and the booty captured from daubrecq he wouldcapture in his turn, while daubrecq slept and while the accomplices lurking behind thehall-door or outside the garden-gate vainly awaited their leader’s return. and that return took place. lupin knew itby the renewed vibration of the balusters. and, once more, with every sense strainedand every nerve on edge, he strove to discern the mysterious thing that was coming towardhim. he suddenly realized it when only a few yards away. he himself, hidden in a stilldarker recess, could not be seen. and what he sawâ€”in the very vaguest mannerâ€”wasapproaching stair by stair, with infinite
precautions, holding on to each separate baluster. "whom the devil have i to do with?" said lupinto himself, while his heart thumped inside his chest. the catastrophe was hastened. a careless movementon lupin’s part was observed by the stranger, who stopped short. lupin was afraid lest theother should turn back and take to flight. he sprang at the adversary and was stupefiedat encountering nothing but space and knocking against the stair-rail without seizing theform which he saw. but he at once rushed forward, crossed the best part of the hall and caughtup his antagonist just as he was reaching the door opening on the garden.
there was a cry of fright, answered by othercries on the further side of the door. "oh, hang it, what’s this?" muttered lupin,whose arms had closed, in the dark, round a little, tiny, trembling, whimpering thing. suddenly understanding, he stood for a momentmotionless and dismayed, at a loss what to do with his conquered prey. but the otherswere shouting and stamping outside the door. thereupon, dreading lest daubrecq should wakeup, he slipped the little thing under his jacket, against his chest, stopped the cryingwith his handkerchief rolled into a ball and hurried up the three flights of stairs. "here," he said to victoire, who woke witha start. "i’ve brought you the indomitable
chief of our enemies, the hercules of thegang. have you a feeding-bottle about you?" he put down in the easy-chair a child of sixor seven years of age, the tiniest little fellow in a gray jersey and a knitted woollencap, whose pale and exquisitely pretty features were streaked with the tears that streamedfrom the terrified eyes. "where did you pick that up?" asked victoire,aghast. "at the foot of the stairs, as it was comingout of daubrecq’s bedroom," replied lupin, feeling the jersey in the hope that the childhad brought a booty of some kind from that room. victoire was stirred to pity:
"poor little dear! look, he’s trying not tocry!… oh, saints above, his hands are like ice! don’t be afraid, sonnie, we sha’n’t hurtyou: the gentleman’s all right." "yes," said lupin, "the gentleman’s quiteall right, but there’s another very wicked gentleman who’ll wake up if they go on makingsuch a rumpus outside the hall-door. do you hear them, victoire?" "who is it?" "the satellites of our young hercules, theindomitable leader’s gang." "well…?" stammered victoire, utterly unnerved. "well, as i don’t want to be caught in thetrap, i shall start by clearing out. are you
coming, hercules?" he rolled the child in a blanket, so thatonly its head remained outside, gagged its mouth as gently as possible and made victoirefasten it to his shoulders: "see, hercules? we’re having a game. you neverthought you’d find gentlemen to play pick-a-back with you at three o’clock in the morning!come, whoosh, let’s fly away! you don’t get giddy, i hope?" he stepped across the window-ledge and setfoot on one of the rungs of the ladder. he was in the garden in a minute. he had never ceased hearing and now heardmore plainly still the blows that were being
struck upon the front-door. he was astoundedthat daubrecq was not awakened by so violent a din: "if i don’t put a stop to this, they’ll spoileverything," he said to himself. he stood in an angle of the house, invisiblein the darkness, and measured the distance between himself and the gate. the gate wasopen. to his right, he saw the steps, on the top of which the people were flinging themselvesabout; to his left, the building occupied by the portress. the woman had come out of her lodge and wasstanding near the people, entreating them: "oh, do be quiet, do be quiet! he’ll come!"
"capital!" said lupin. "the good woman isan accomplice of these as well. by jingo, what a pluralist!" he rushed across to her and, taking her bythe scruff of the neck, hissed: "go and tell them i’ve got the child… theycan come and fetch it at my place, rue chateaubriand." a little way off, in the avenue, stood a taxiwhich lupin presumed to be engaged by the gang. speaking authoritatively, as thoughhe were one of the accomplices, he stepped into the cab and told the man to drive himhome. "well," he said to the child, "that wasn’tmuch of a shake-up, was it?… what do you say to going to bye-bye on the gentleman’sbed?"
as his servant, achille, was asleep, lupinmade the little chap comfortable and stroked his hair for him. the child seemed numbed.his poor face was as though petrified into a stiff expression made up, at one and thesame time, of fear and the wish not to show fear, of the longing to scream and a pitifuleffort not to scream. "cry, my pet, cry," said lupin. "it’ll doyou good to cry." the child did not cry, but the voice was sogentle and so kind that he relaxed his tense muscles; and, now that his eyes were calmerand his mouth less contorted, lupin, who was examining him closely, found something thathe recognized, an undoubted resemblance. this again confirmed certain facts which hesuspected and which he had for some time been
linking in his mind. indeed, unless he wasmistaken, the position was becoming very different and he would soon assume the direction ofevents. after that… a ring at the bell followed, at once, by twoothers, sharp ones. "hullo!" said lupin to the child. "here’smummy come to fetch you. don’t move." he ran and opened the door. a woman entered, wildly: "my son!" she screamed. "my son! where ishe?" "in my room," said lupin. without asking more, thus proving that sheknew the way, she rushed to the bedroom.
"as i thought," muttered lupin. "the youngishwoman with the gray hair: daubrecq’s friend and enemy." he walked to the window and looked throughthe curtains. two men were striding up and down the opposite pavement: the growler andthe masher. "and they’re not even hiding themselves,"he said to himself. "that’s a good sign. they consider that they can’t do without me anylonger and that they’ve got to obey the governor. there remains the pretty lady with the grayhair. that will be more difficult. it’s you and i now, mummy." he found the mother and the boy clasped ineach other’s arms; and the mother, in a great
state of alarm, her eyes moist with tears,was saying: "you’re not hurt? you’re sure? oh, how frightenedyou must have been, my poor little jacques!" "a fine little fellow," said lupin. she did not reply. she was feeling the child’sjersey, as lupin had done, no doubt to see if he had succeeded in his nocturnal mission;and she questioned him in a whisper. "no, mummy," said the child. "no, really." she kissed him fondly and petted him, until,in a little while, the child, worn out with fatigue and excitement, fell asleep. she remainedleaning over him for a long time. she herself seemed very much worn out and in need of rest.
lupin did not disturb her contemplation. helooked at her anxiously, with an attention which she did not perceive, and he noticedthe wider rings round her eyes and the deeper marks of wrinkles. yet he considered her handsomerthan he had thought, with that touching beauty which habitual suffering gives to certainfaces that are more human, more sensitive than others. she wore so sad an expression that, in a burstof instinctive sympathy, he went up to her and said: "i do not know what your plans are,but, whatever they may be, you stand in need of help. you cannot succeed alone." "i am not alone."
"the two men outside? i know them. they’reno good. i beseech you, make use of me. you remember the other evening, at the theatre,in the private box? you were on the point of speaking. do not hesitate to-day." she turned her eyes on him, looked at himlong and fixedly and, as though unable to escape that opposing will, she said: "what do you know exactly? what do you knowabout me?" "there are many things that i do not know.i do not know your name. but i know…" she interrupted him with a gesture; and, resolutely,in her turn, dominating the man who was compelling her to speak:
"it doesn’t matter," she exclaimed. "whatyou know, after all, is not much and is of no importance. but what are your plans? youoffer me your help: with what view? for what work? you have flung yourself headlong intothis business; i have been unable to undertake anything without meeting you on my path: youmust be contemplating some aim… what aim?" "what aim? upon my word, it seems to me thatmy conduct…" "no, no," she said, emphatically, "no phrases!what you and i want is certainties; and, to achieve them, absolute frankness. i will setyou the example. m. daubrecq possesses a thing of unparalleled value, not in itself, butfor what it represents. that thing you know. you have twice held it in your hands. i havetwice taken it from you. well, i am entitled
to believe that, when you tried to obtainpossession of it, you meant to use the power which you attribute to it and to use it toyour own advantage…" "yes, you meant to use it to forward yourschemes, in the interest of your own affairs, in accordance with your habits as a…" "as a burglar and a swindler," said lupin,completing the sentence for her. she did not protest. he tried to read hersecret thoughts in the depths of her eyes. what did she want with him? what was she afraidof? if she mistrusted him, had he not also reasons to mistrust that woman who had twicetaken the crystal stopper from him to restore it to daubrecq? mortal enemy of daubrecq’sthough she were, up to what point did she
remain subject to that man’s will? by surrenderinghimself to her, did he not risk surrendering himself to daubrecq? and yet he had neverlooked upon graver eyes nor a more honest face. without further hesitation, he stated: "my object is simple enough. it is the releaseof my friends gilbert and vaucheray." "is that true? is that true?" she exclaimed,quivering all over and questioning him with an anxious glance. "if you knew me…" "i do know you… i know who you are. formonths, i have taken part in your life, without
your suspecting it… and yet, for certainreasons, i still doubt…" he said, in a more decisive tone: "you do not know me. if you knew me, you wouldknow that there can be no peace for me before my two companions have escaped the awful fatethat awaits them." she rushed at him, took him by the shouldersand positively distraught, said: "what? what did you say? the awful fate?…then you believe… you believe…" "i really believe," said lupin, who felt howgreatly this threat upset her, "i really believe that, if i am not in time, gilbert and vaucherayare done for." "be quiet!… be quiet!" she cried, clutchinghim fiercely. "be quiet!… you mustn’t say
that… there is no reason… it’s just youwho suppose…" "it’s not only i, it’s gilbert as well…" "what? gilbert? how do you know?" "from himself?" "from him?" "yes, from gilbert, who has no hope left butin me; from gilbert, who knows that only one man in the world can save him and who, a fewdays ago, sent me a despairing appeal from prison. here is his letter." she snatched the paper greedily and read instammering accents:
"help, governor!… i am afraid!… i am afraid!…" she dropped the letter. her hands flutteredin space. it was as though her staring eyes beheld the sinister vision which had alreadyso often terrified lupin. she gave a scream of horror, tried to rise and fainted. chapter v. the twenty-seven the child was sleeping peacefully on the bed.the mother did not move from the sofa on which lupin had laid her; but her easier breathingand the blood which was now returning to her face announced her impending recovery fromher swoon. he observed that she wore a wedding-ring.seeing a locket hanging from her bodice, he
stooped and, turning it, found a miniaturephotograph representing a man of about forty and a ladâ€”a stripling ratherâ€”in a schoolboy’suniform. he studied the fresh, young face set in curly hair: "it’s as i thought," he said. "ah, poor woman!" the hand which he took between his grew warmerby degrees. the eyes opened, then closed again. she murmured: "jacques…" "do not distress yourself… it’s all righthe’s asleep." she recovered consciousness entirely. but,as she did not speak, lupin put questions
to her, to make her feel a gradual need ofunbosoming herself. and he said, pointing to the locket: "the schoolboy is gilbert, isn’t he?" "yes," she said. "and gilbert is your son?" she gave a shiver and whispered: "yes, gilbert is my son, my eldest son." so she was the mother of gilbert, of gilbertthe prisoner at the sante, relentlessly pursued by the authorities and now awaiting his trialfor murder!
lupin continued: "and the other portrait?" "my husband." "your husband?" "yes, he died three years ago." she was now sitting up. life quivered in herveins once more, together with the horror of living and the horror of all the ghastlythings that threatened her. lupin went on to ask: "what was your husband’s name?"
she hesitated a moment and answered: "mergy." he exclaimed: "victorien mergy the deputy?" there was a long pause. lupin remembered theincident and the stir which it had caused. three years ago, mergy the deputy had blownout his brains in the lobby of the chamber, without leaving a word of explanation behindhim; and no one had ever discovered the slightest reason for that suicide. "do you know the reason?" asked lupin, completinghis thought aloud.
"yes, i know it." "gilbert, perhaps?" "no, gilbert had disappeared for some years,turned out of doors and cursed by my husband. it was a very great sorrow, but there wasanother motive." "what was that?" asked lupin. but it was not necessary for lupin to putfurther questions. madame mergy could keep silent no longer and, slowly at first, withall the anguish of that past which had to be called up, she told her story: "twenty-five years ago, when my name was clarissedarcel and my parents living, i knew three
young men at nice. their names will at oncegive you an insight into the present tragedy: they were alexis daubrecq, victorien mergyand louis prasville. the three were old acquaintances, had gone to college in the same year and servedin the same regiment. prasville, at that time, was in love with a singer at the opera-houseat nice. the two others, mergy and daubrecq, were in love with me. i shall be brief asregards all this and, for the rest, as regards the whole story, for the facts tell theirown tale. i fell in love with victorien mergy from the first. perhaps i was wrong not todeclare myself at once. but true love is always timid, hesitating and shy; and i did not announcemy choice until i felt quite certain and quite free. unfortunately, that period of waiting,so delightful for those who cherish a secret
passion, had permitted daubrecq to hope. hisanger was something horrible." clarisse mergy stopped for a few seconds andresumed, in a stifled voice: "i shall never forget it… the three of uswere in the drawing-room. oh, i can hear even now the terrible words of threat and hatredwhich he uttered! victorien was absolutely astounded. he had never seen his friend likethis, with that repugnant face, that bestial expression: yes, the expression of a wildbeast… daubrecq ground his teeth. he stamped his feet. his bloodshot eyesâ€”he did notwear spectacles in those daysâ€”rolled in their sockets; and he kept on saying, ‘i shallbe revenged … i shall be revenged… oh, you don’t know what i am capable of!… ishall wait ten years, twenty years, if necessary…
but it will come like a thunderbolt… ah,you don’t know!… to be revenged… to do harm… for harm’s sake… what joy! i wasborn to do harm… and you will both beseech my mercy on your knees, on your knees, yes,on your knees…’ at that moment, my father entered the room; and, with his assistanceand the footman’s, victorien mergy flung the loathsome creature out of doors. six weekslater, i married victorien." "and daubrecq?" asked lupin, interruptingher. "did he not try…" "no, but on our wedding-day, louis prasville,who acted as my husband’s best man in defiance of danbrecq’s opposition, went home to findthe girl he loved, the opera-singer, dead, strangled…"
"what!" said lupin, with a start. "had daubrecq…" "it was known that daubrecq had been persecutingher with his attentions for some days; but nothing more was known. it was impossibleto discover who had gone in or out during prasville’s absence. there was not a tracefound of any kind: nothing, absolutely nothing." "but prasville…" "there was no doubt of the truth in prasville’smind or ours. daubrecq had tried to run away with the girl, perhaps tried to force her,to hustle her and, in the course of the struggle, maddened, losing his head, caught her by thethroat and killed her, perhaps without knowing what he was doing. but there was no evidenceof all this; and daubrecq was not even molested."
"and what became of him next?" "for some years we heard nothing of him. weknew only that he had lost all his money gambling and that he was travelling in america. and,in spite of myself, i forgot his anger and his threats and was only too ready to believethat he had ceased to love me and no longer harboured his schemes of revenge. besides,i was so happy that i did not care to think of anything but my happiness, my love, myhusband’s political career, the health of my son antoine." "antoine?" "yes, antoine is gilbert’s real name. theunhappy boy has at least succeeded in concealing
his identity." lupin asked, with some hesitation: "at what period did… gilbert… begin?" "i cannot tell you exactly. gilbertâ€”i preferto call him that and not to pronounce his real nameâ€”gilbert, as a child, was whathe is to-day: lovable, liked by everybody, charming, but lazy and unruly. when he wasfifteen, we put him to a boarding-school in one of the suburbs, with the deliberate objectof not having him too much at home. after two years’ time he was expelled from schooland sent back to us." "why?"
"because of his conduct. the masters had discoveredthat he used to slip out at night and also that he would disappear for weeks at a time,while pretending to be at home with us." "what used he to do?" "amuse himself backing horses, spending histime in cafes and public dancing-rooms." "then he had money?" "who gave it him?" "his evil genius, the man who, secretly, unknownto his parents, enticed him away from school, the man who led him astray, who corruptedhim, who took him from us, who taught him to lie, to waste his substance and to steal."
"daubrecq?" "daubrecq." clarisse mergy put her hands together to hidethe blushes on her forehead. she continued, in her tired voice: "daubrecq had taken his revenge. on the dayafter my husband turned our unhappy child out of the house, daubrecq sent us a mostcynical letter in which he revealed the odious part which he had played and the machinationsby which he had succeeded in depraving our son. and he went on to say, ‘the reformatory,one of these days… later on, the assize-court … and then, let us hope and trust, the scaffold!’"
lupin exclaimed: "what! did daubrecq plot the present business?" "no, no, that is only an accident. the hatefulprophecy was just a wish which he expressed. but oh, how it terrified me! i was ailingat the time; my other son, my little jacques, had just been born. and every day we heardof some fresh misdeed of gilbert’sâ€”forgeries, swindlesâ€”so much so that we spread the news,in our immediate surroundings, of his departure for abroad, followed by his death. life wasa misery; and it became still more so when the political storm burst in which my husbandwas to meet his death." "a word will be enough: my husband’s namewas on the list of the twenty-seven."
"ah!" the veil was suddenly lifted from lupin’seyes and he saw, as in a flash of lightning, a whole legion of things which, until then,had been hidden in the darkness. clarisse mergy continued, in a firmer voice: "yes, his name was on it, but by mistake,by a piece of incredible ill-luck of which he was the victim. it is true that victorienmergy was a member of the committee appointed to consider the question of the two-seas canal.it is true that he voted with the members who were in favour of the company’s scheme.he was even paidâ€”yes, i tell you so plainly and i will mention the sumâ€”he was paid fifteenthousand francs. but he was paid on behalf
of another, of one of his political friends,a man in whom he had absolute confidence and of whom he was the blind, unconscious tool.he thought he was showing his friend a kindness; and it proved his own undoing. it was notuntil the day after the suicide of the chairman of the company and the disappearance of thesecretary, the day on which the affair of the canal was published in the papers, withits whole series of swindles and abominations, that my husband knew that a number of hisfellow-members had been bribed and learnt that the mysterious list, of which peoplesuddenly began to speak, mentioned his name with theirs and with the names of other deputies,leaders of parties and influential politicians. oh, what awful days those were! would thelist be published? would his name come out?
the torture of it! you remember the mad excitementin the chamber, the atmosphere of terror and denunciation that prevailed. who owned thelist? nobody could say. it was known to be in existence and that was all. two names weresacrificed to public odium. two men were swept away by the storm. and it remained unknownwhere the denunciation came from and in whose hands the incriminating documents were." "daubrecq," suggested lupin. "no, no!" cried madame mergy. "daubrecq wasnothing at that time: he had not yet appeared upon the scene. no, don’t you remember, thetruth came out suddenly through the very man who was keeping it back: germineaux, the ex-ministerof justice, a cousin of the chairman of the
canal company. as he lay dying of consumption,he wrote from his sick-bed to the prefect of police, bequeathing him that list of names,which, he said, would be found, after his death, in an iron chest in the corner of hisroom. the house was surrounded by police and the prefect took up his quarters by the sickman’s bedside. germineaux died. the chest was opened and found to be empty." "daubrecq, this time," lupin declared. "yes, daubrecq," said madame mergy, whoseexcitement was momentarily increasing. "alexis daubrecq, who, for six months, disguised beyondrecognition, had acted as germineaux’s secretary. it does not matter how he discovered thatgermineaux was the possessor of the paper
in question. the fact remains that he brokeopen the chest on the night before the death. so much was proved at the inquiry; and daubrecq’sidentity was established." "but he was not arrested?" "what would have been the use? they knew wellenough that he must have deposited the list in a place of safety. his arrest would haveinvolved a scandal, the reopening of the whole case…" "so…" "so they made terms." lupin laughed:
"that’s funny, making terms with daubrecq!" "yes, very funny," said madame mergy, bitterly."during this time he acted and without delay, shamelessly, making straight for the goal.a week after the theft, he went to the chamber of deputies, asked for my husband and bluntlydemanded thirty thousand francs of him, to be paid within twenty-four hours. if not,he threatened him with exposure and disgrace. my husband knew the man he was dealing with,knew him to be implacable and filled with relentless hatred. he lost his head and shothimself." "how absurd!" lupin could not help saying."how absurd! daubrecq possesses a list of twenty-seven names. to give up any one ofthose names he is obliged, if he would have
his accusation believed, to publish the listitselfâ€”that is to say, to part with the document, or at least a photograph of it.well, in so doing, he creates a scandal, it is true, but he deprives himself, at the sametime, of all further means of levying blackmail." "yes and no," she said. "how do you know?" "through daubrecq himself. the villain cameto see me and cynically told me of his interview with my husband and the words that had passedbetween them. well, there is more than that list, more than that famous bit of paper onwhich the secretary put down the names and the amounts paid and to which, you will remember,the chairman of the company, before dying,
affixed his signature in letters of blood.there is more than that. there are certain less positive proofs, which the people interesteddo not know of: the correspondence between the chairman and the secretary, between thechairman and his counsel, and so on. of course, the list scribbled on the bit of paper isthe only evidence that counts; it is the one incontestable proof which it would be no goodcopying or even photographing, for its genuineness can be tested most absolutely. but, all thesame, the other proofs are dangerous. they have already been enough to do away with twodeputies. and daubrecq is marvelously clever at turning this fact to account. he selectshis victim, frightens him out of his senses, points out to him the inevitable scandal;and the victim pays the required sum. or else
he kills himself, as my husband did. do youunderstand now?" "yes," said lupin. and, in the silence that followed, he drewa mental picture of daubrecq’s life. he saw him the owner of that list, using his power,gradually emerging from the shadow, lavishly squandering the money which he extorted fromhis victims, securing his election as a district-councillor and deputy, holding sway by dint of threatsand terror, unpunished, invulnerable, unattackable, feared by the government, which would rathersubmit to his orders than declare war upon him, respected by the judicial authorities:so powerful, in a word, that prasville had been appointed secretary-general of police,over the heads of all who had prior claims,
for the sole reason that he hated daubrecqwith a personal hatred. "and you saw him again?" he asked. "i saw him again. i had to. my husband wasdead, but his honour remained untouched. nobody suspected the truth. in order at least todefend the name which he left me, i accepted my first interview with daubrecq." "your first, yes, for there have been others." "many others," she said, in a strained voice,"yes, many others… at the theatre… or in the evening, at enghien… or else in paris,at night … for i was ashamed to meet that man and i did not want people to know it…but it was necessary… a duty more imperative
than any other commanded it: the duty of avengingmy husband…" she bent over lupin and, eagerly: "yes, revenge has been the motive of my conductand the sole preoccupation of my life. to avenge my husband, to avenge my ruined son,to avenge myself for all the harm that he has done me: i had no other dream, no otherobject in life. that is what i wanted: to see that man crushed, reduced to poverty,to tearsâ€”as though he still knew how to cry!â€”sobbing in the throes of despair…" "you wanted his death," said lupin, rememberingthe scene between them in daubrecq’s study. "no, not his death. i have often thought ofit, i have even raised my arm to strike him,
but what would have been the good? he musthave taken his precautions. the paper would remain. and then there is no revenge in killinga man… my hatred went further than that… it demanded his ruin, his downfall; and, toachieve that, there was but one way: to cut his claws. daubrecq, deprived of the documentthat gives him his immense power, ceases to exist. it means immediate bankruptcy and disaster…under the most wretched conditions. that is what i have sought." "but daubrecq must have been aware of yourintentions?" "certainly. and, i assure you, those werestrange meetings of ours: i watching him closely, trying to guess his secret behind his actionsand his words, and he… he…"
"and he," said lupin, finishing clarisse’sthought, "lying in wait for the prey which he desires… for the woman whom he has neverceased to love… whom he loves… and whom he covets with all his might and with allhis furious passion…" she lowered her head and said, simply: a strange duel indeed was that which broughtface to face those two beings separated by so many implacable things! how unbridled mustdaubrecq’s passion be for him to risk that perpetual threat of death and to introduceto the privacy of his house this woman whose life he had shattered! but also how absolutelysafe he must feel himself! "and your search ended… how?" asked lupin.
"my search," she replied, "long remained withoutfruit. you know the methods of investigation which you have followed and which the policehave followed on their side. well, i myself employed them, years before either of youdid, and in vain. i was beginning to despair. then, one day, when i had gone to see daubrecqin his villa at enghien, i picked up under his writing-table a letter which he had begunto write, crumpled up and thrown into the waste-paper-basket. it consisted of a fewlines in bad english; and i was able to read this: ’empty the crystal within, so as toleave a void which it is impossible to suspect.’ perhaps i should not have attached to thissentence all the importance which it deserved, if daubrecq, who was out in the garden, hadnot come running in and begun to turn out
the waste-paper-basket, with an eagernesswhich was very significant. he gave me a suspicious look: ‘there was a letter there,’ he said.i pretended not to understand. he did not insist, but his agitation did not escape me;and i continued my quest in this direction. a month later, i discovered, among the ashesin the drawing-room fireplace, the torn half of an english invoice. i gathered that a stourbridgeglass-blower, of the name of john howard, had supplied daubrecq with a crystal bottlemade after a model. the word ‘crystal’ struck me at once. i went to stourbridge, got roundthe foreman of the glass-works and learnt that the stopper of this bottle had been hollowedout inside, in accordance with the instruction in the order, so as to leave a cavity, theexistence of which would escape observation."
lupin nodded his head: "the thing tallies beyond a doubt. nevertheless,it did not seem to me, that, even under the gilt layer… and then the hiding-place wouldbe very tiny!" "tiny, but large enough," she said. "on myreturn from england, i went to the police-office to see prasville, whose friendship for mehad remained unchanged. i did not hesitate to tell him, first, the reasons which haddriven my husband to suicide and, secondly, the object of revenge which i was pursuing.when i informed him of my discoveries, he jumped for joy; and i felt that his hatredfor daubrecq was as strong as ever. i learnt from him that the list was written on a slipof exceedingly thin foreign-post-paper, which,
when rolled up into a sort of pellet, wouldeasily fit into an exceedingly limited space. neither he nor i had the least hesitation.we knew the hiding-place. we agreed to act independently of each other, while continuingto correspond in secret. i put him in touch with clemence, the portress in the squarelamartine, who was entirely devoted to me…" "but less so to prasville," said lupin, "fori can prove that she betrays him." "now perhaps, but not at the start; and thepolice searches were numerous. it was at that time, ten months ago, that gilbert came intomy life again. a mother never loses her love for her son, whatever he may do, whateverhe may have done. and then gilbert has such a way with him… well, you know him. he cried,kissed my little jacques, his brother and
i forgave him." she stopped and, weary-voiced, with her eyesfixed on the floor, continued: "would to heaven that i had not forgiven him!ah, if that hour could but return, how readily i should find the horrible courage to turnhim away! my poor child… it was i who ruined him!…" and, pensively, "i should have hadthat or any sort of courage, if he had been as i pictured him to myself and as he himselftold me that he had long been: bearing the marks of vice and dissipation, coarse, deteriorated. "but, though he was utterly changed in appearance,so much so that i could hardly recognize him, there was, from the point of view ofâ€”howshall i put it?â€”from the moral point of
view, an undoubted improvement. you had helpedhim, lifted him; and, though his mode of life was hateful to me, nevertheless he retaineda certain self-respect… a sort of underlying decency that showed itself on the surfaceonce more… he was gay, careless, happy… and he used to talk of you with such affection!" she picked her words, betraying her embarrassment,not daring, in lupin’s presence, to condemn the line of life which gilbert had selectedand yet unable to speak in favour of it. "what happened next?" asked lupin. "i saw him very often. he would come to meby stealth, or else i went to him and we would go for walks in the country. in this way,i was gradually induced to tell him our story,
of his father’s suicide and the object whichi was pursuing. he at once took fire. he too wanted to avenge his father and, by stealingthe crystal stopper, to avenge himself on daubrecq for the harm which he had done him.his first ideaâ€”from which, i am bound to tell you, he never swervedâ€”was to arrangewith you." "well, then," cried lupin, "he ought to have…!" "yes, i know… and i was of the same opinion.unfortunately, my poor gilbertâ€”you know how weak he is!â€”was under the influenceof one of his comrades." "vaucheray?" "yes, vaucheray, a saturnine spirit, fullof bitterness and envy, an ambitious, unscrupulous,
gloomy, crafty man, who had acquired a greatempire over my son. gilbert made the mistake of confiding in him and asking his advice.that was the origin of all the mischief. vaucheray convinced him and convinced me as well thatit would be better if we acted by ourselves. he studied the business, took the lead andfinally organized the enghien expedition and, under your direction, the burglary at thevilla marie-therese, which prasville and his detectives had been unable to search thoroughly,because of the active watch maintained by leonard the valet. it was a mad scheme. weought either to have trusted in your experience entirely, or else to have left you out altogether,taking the risk of fatal mistakes and dangerous hesitations. but we could not help ourselves.vaucheray ruled us. i agreed to meet daubrecq
at the theatre. during this time the thingtook place. when i came home, at twelve o’clock at night, i heard the terrible result: leonardmurdered, my son arrested. i at once received an intuition of the future. daubrecq’s appallingprophecy was being realized: it meant trial and sentence. and this through my fault, throughthe fault of me, the mother, who had driven my son toward the abyss from which nothingcould extricate him now." clarisse wrung her hands and shivered fromhead to foot. what suffering can compare with that of a mother trembling for the head ofher son? stirred with pity, lupin said: "we shall save him. of that there is not theshadow of a doubt. but, it is necessary that i should know all the details. finish yourstory, please. how did you know, on the same
night, what had happened at enghien?" she mastered herself and, with a face wrungwith fevered anguish, replied: "through two of your accomplices, or rathertwo accomplices of vaucheray, to whom they were wholly devoted and who had chosen themto row the boats." "the two men outside: the growler and themasher?" "yes. on your return from the villa, whenyou landed after being pursued on the lake by the commissary of police, you said a fewwords to them, by way of explanation, as you went to your car. mad with fright, they rushedto my place, where they had been before, and told me the hideous news. gilbert was in prison!oh, what an awful night! what was i to do?
look for you? certainly; and implore yourassistance. but where was i to find you?… it was then that the two whom you call thegrowler and the masher, driven into a corner by circumstances, decided to tell me of thepart played by vaucheray, his ambitions, his plan, which had long been ripening…" "to get rid of me, i suppose?" said lupin,with a grin. "yes. as gilbert possessed your complete confidence,vaucheray watched him and, in this way, got to know all the places which you live at.a few days more and, owning the crystal stopper, holding the list of the twenty-seven, inheritingall daubrecq’s power, he would have delivered you to the police, without compromising asingle member of your gang, which he looked
upon as thenceforth his." "the ass!" muttered lupin. "a muddler likethat!" and he added, "so the panels of the doors…" "were cut out by his instructions, in anticipationof the contest on which he was embarking against you and against daubrecq, at whose house hedid the same thing. he had under his orders a sort of acrobat, an extraordinarily thindwarf, who was able to wriggle through those apertures and who thus detected all your correspondenceand all your secrets. that is what his two friends revealed to me. i at once conceivedthe idea of saving my elder son by making use of his brother, my little jacques, whois himself so slight and so intelligent, so
plucky, as you have seen. we set out thatnight. acting on the information of my companions, i went to gilbert’s rooms and found the keysof your flat in the rue matignon, where it appeared that you were to sleep. unfortunately,i changed my mind on the way and thought much less of asking for your help than of recoveringthe crystal stopper, which, if it had been discovered at enghien, must obviously be atyour flat. i was right in my calculations. in a few minutes, my little jacques, who hadslipped into your bedroom, brought it to me. i went away quivering with hope. mistressin my turn of the talisman, keeping it to myself, without telling prasville, i had absolutepower over daubrecq. i could make him do all that i wanted; he would become the slave ofmy will and, instructed by me, would take
every step in gilbert’s favour and obtainthat he should be given the means of escape or else that he should not be sentenced. itmeant my boy’s safety." clarisse rose from her seat, with a passionatemovement of her whole being, leant over lupin and said, in a hollow voice: "there was nothing in that piece of crystal,nothing, do you understand? no paper, no hiding-place! the whole expedition to enghien was futile!the murder of leonard was useless! the arrest of my son was useless! all my efforts wereuseless!" "but why? why?" "why? because what you stole from daubrecqwas not the stopper made by his instructions,
but the stopper which was sent to john howard,the stourbridge glassworker, to serve as a model." if lupin had not been in the presence of sodeep a grief, he could not have refrained from one of those satirical outbursts withwhich the mischievous tricks of fate are wont to inspire him. as it was, he muttered betweenhis teeth: "how stupid! and still more stupid as daubrecqhad been given the warning." "no," she said. "i went to enghien on thesame day. in all that business daubrecq saw and sees nothing but an ordinary burglary,an annexation of his treasures. the fact that you took part in it put him off the scent."
"still, the disappearance of the stopper…" "to begin with, the thing can have had buta secondary importance for him, as it is only the model." "there is a scratch at the bottom of the stem;and i have made inquiries in england since." "very well; but why did the key of the cupboardfrom which it was stolen never leave the man-servant’s possession? and why, in the second place,was it found afterward in the drawer of a table in daubrecq’s house in paris?" "of course, daubrecq takes care of it andclings to it in the way in which one clings to the model of any valuable thing. and thatis why i replaced the stopper in the cupboard
before its absence was noticed. and that alsois why, on the second occasion, i made my little jacques take the stopper from yourovercoat-pocket and told the portress to put it back in the drawer." "then he suspects nothing?" "nothing. he knows that the list is beinglooked for, but he does not know that prasville and i are aware of the thing in which he hidesit." lupin had risen from his seat and was walkingup and down the room, thinking. then he stood still beside clarisse and asked: "when all is said, since the enghien incident,you have not advanced a single step?"
"not one. i have acted from day to day, ledby those two men or leading them, without any definite plan." "or, at least," he said, "without any otherplan than that of getting the list of the twenty-seven from daubrecq." "yes, but how? besides, your tactics madethings more difficult for me. it did not take us long to recognize your old servant victoirein daubrecq’s new cook and to discover, from what the portress told us, that victoire wasputting you up in her room; and i was afraid of your schemes." "it was you, was it not, who wrote to me toretire from the contest?"
"you also asked me not to go to the theatreon the vaudeville night?" "yes, the portress caught victoire listeningto daubrecq’s conversation with me on the telephone; and the masher, who was watchingthe house, saw you go out. i suspected, therefore, that you would follow daubrecq that evening." "and the woman who came here, late one afternoon…" "was myself. i felt disheartened and wantedto see you." "and you intercepted gilbert’s letter?" "yes, i recognized his writing on the envelope." "but your little jacques was not with you?"
"no, he was outside, in a motor-car, withthe masher, who lifted him up to me through the drawing-room window; and he slipped intoyour bedroom through the opening in the panel." "what was in the letter?" "as ill-luck would have it, reproaches. gilbertaccused you of forsaking him, of taking over the business on your own account. in short,it confirmed me in my distrust; and i ran away." lupin shrugged his shoulders with irritation: "what a shocking waste of time! and what afatality that we were not able to come to an understanding earlier! you and i have beenplaying at hide-and-seek, laying absurd traps
for each other, while the days were passing,precious days beyond repair." "you see, you see," she said, shivering, "youtoo are afraid of the future!" "no, i am not afraid," cried lupin. "but iam thinking of all the useful work that we could have done by this time, if we had unitedour efforts. i am thinking of all the mistakes and all the acts of imprudence which we shouldhave been saved, if we had been working together. i am thinking that your attempt to-night tosearch the clothes which daubrecq was wearing was as vain as the others and that, at thismoment, thanks to our foolish duel, thanks to the din which we raised in his house, daubrecqis warned and will be more on his guard than ever."
clarisse mergy shook her head: "no, no, i don’t think that; the noise willnot have roused him, for we postponed the attempt for twenty-four hours so that theportress might put a narcotic in his wine." and she added, slowly, "and then, you see,nothing can make daubrecq be more on his guard than he is already. his life is nothing butone mass of precautions against danger. he leaves nothing to chance… besides, has henot all the trumps in his hand?" lupin went up to her and asked: "what do you mean to convey? according toyou, is there nothing to hope for on that side? is there not a single means of attainingour end?"
"yes," she murmured, "there is one, one only…" he noticed her pallor before she had timeto hide her face between her hands again. and again a feverish shiver shook her frame. he seemed to understand the reason of herdismay; and, bending toward her, touched by her grief: "please," he said, "please answer me openlyand frankly. it’s for gilbert’s sake, is it not? though the police, fortunately, havenot been able to solve the riddle of his past, though the real name of vaucheray’s accomplicehas not leaked out, there is one man, at least, who knows it: isn’t that so? daubrecq hasrecognized your son antoine, through the alias
of gilbert, has he not?" "yes, yes…" "and he promises to save him, doesn’t he?he offers you his freedom, his release, his escape, his life: that was what he offeredyou, was it not, on the night in his study, when you tried to stab him?" "yes… yes… that was it…" "and he makes one condition, does he not?an abominable condition, such as would suggest itself to a wretch like that? i am right,am i not?" clarisse did not reply. she seemed exhaustedby her protracted struggle with a man who
was gaining ground daily and against whomit was impossible for her to fight. lupin saw in her the prey conquered in advance,delivered to the victor’s whim. clarisse mergy, the loving wife of that mergy whom daubrecqhad really murdered, the terrified mother of that gilbert whom daubrecq had led astray,clarisse mergy, to save her son from the scaffold, must, come what may and however ignominiousthe position, yield to daubrecq’s wishes. she would be the mistress, the wife, the obedientslave of daubrecq, of that monster with the appearance and the ways of a wild beast, thatunspeakable person of whom lupin could not think without revulsion and disgust. sitting down beside her, gently, with gesturesof pity, he made her lift her head and, with
his eyes on hers, said: "listen to me. i swear that i will save yourson: i swear it… your son shall not die, do you understand?… there is not a poweron earth that can allow your son’s head to be touched as long as i am alive." "i believe you… i trust your word." "do. it is the word of a man who does notknow defeat. i shall succeed. only, i entreat you to make me an irrevocable promise." "what is that?" "you must not see daubrecq again."
"i swear it." "you must put from your mind any idea, anyfear, however obscure, of an understanding between yourself and him… of any sort ofbargain…" she looked at him with an expression of absolutesecurity and reliance; and he, under her gaze, felt the joy of devotion and an ardent longingto restore that woman’s happiness, or, at least, to give her the peace and oblivionthat heal the worst wounds: "come," he said, in a cheerful tone, risingfrom his chair, "all will yet be well. we have two months, three months before us. itis more than i need… on condition, of course, that i am unhampered in my movements. and,for that, you will have to withdraw from the
contest, you know." "how do you mean?" "yes, you must disappear for a time; go andlive in the country. have you no pity for your little jacques? this sort of thing wouldend by shattering the poor little man’s nerves… and he has certainly earned his rest, haven’tyou, hercules?" the next day clarisse mergy, who was nearlybreaking down under the strain of events and who herself needed repose, lest she shouldfall seriously ill, went, with her son, to board with a friend who had a house on theskirt of the forest of saint-germain. she felt very weak, her brain was haunted by visionsand her nerves were upset by troubles which
the least excitement aggravated. she livedthere for some days in a state of physical and mental inertia, thinking of nothing andforbidden to see the papers. one afternoon, while lupin, changing his tactics,was working out a scheme for kidnapping and confining daubrecq; while the growler andthe masher, whom he had promised to forgive if he succeeded, were watching the enemy’smovements; while the newspapers were announcing the forthcoming trial for murder of arsenelupin’s two accomplices, one afternoon, at four o’clock, the telephone-bell rang suddenlyin the flat in the rue chateaubriand. lupin took down the receiver: "hullo!"
a woman’s voice, a breathless voice, said: "m. michel beaumont?" "you are speaking to him, madame. to whomhave i the honour…" "quick, monsieur, come at once; madame mergyhas taken poison." lupin did not wait to hear details. he rushedout, sprang into his motor-car and drove to saint-germain. clarisse’s friend was waiting for him at thedoor of the bedroom. "dead?" he asked. "no," she replied, "she did not take sufficient.the doctor has just gone. he says she will
get over it." "and why did she make the attempt?" "her son jacques has disappeared." "carried off?" "yes, he was playing just inside the forest.a motor-car was seen pulling up. then there were screams. clarisse tried to run, but herstrength failed and she fell to the ground, moaning, ‘it’s he… it’s that man… allis lost!’ she looked like a madwoman." "suddenly, she put a little bottle to herlips and swallowed the contents." "what happened next?"
"my husband and i carried her to her room.she was in great pain." "how did you know my address, my name?" "from herself, while the doctor was attendingto her. then i telephoned to you." "has any one else been told?" "no, nobody. i know that clarisse has hadterrible things to bear… and that she prefers not to be talked about." "can i see her?" "she is asleep just now. and the doctor hasforbidden all excitement." "is the doctor anxious about her?"
"he is afraid of a fit of fever, any nervousstrain, an attack of some kind which might cause her to make a fresh attempt on her life.and that would be…" "what is needed to avoid it?" "a week or a fortnight of absolute quiet,which is impossible as long as her little jacques…" lupin interrupted her: "you think that, if she got her son back…" "oh, certainly, there would be nothing moreto fear!" "you’re sure? you’re sure?… yes, of courseyou are!… well, when madame mergy wakes,
tell her from me that i will bring her backher son this evening, before midnight. this evening, before midnight: it’s a solemn promise." with these words, lupin hurried out of thehouse and, stepping into his car, shouted to the driver: "go to paris, square lamartine, daubrecq thedeputy’s!" chapter vi. the death-sentence lupin’s motor-car was not only an office,a writing-room furnished with books, stationery, pens and ink, but also a regular actor’s dressing-room,containing a complete make-up box, a trunk filled with every variety of wearing-apparel,another crammed with "properties"â€”umbrellas,
walking-sticks, scarves, eye-glasses and soonâ€”in short, a complete set of paraphernalia which enabled him to alter his appearancefrom top to toe in the course of a drive. the man who rang at daubrecq the deputy’sgate, at six o-clock that evening, was a stout, elderly gentleman, in a black frock-coat,a bowler hat, spectacles and whiskers. the portress took him to the front-door ofthe house and rang the bell. victoire appeared. lupin asked: "can m. daubrecq see dr. vernes?" "m. daubrecq is in his bedroom; and it israther late…" "give him my card, please."
he wrote the words, "from mme. mergy," inthe margin and added: "there, he is sure to see me." "but…" victoire began. "oh, drop your buts, old dear, do as i say,and don’t make such a fuss about it!" she was utterly taken aback and stammered: "you!… is it you?" "no, it’s louis xiv!" and, pushing her intoa corner of the hall, "listen… the moment i’m done with him, go up to your room, putyour things together anyhow and clear out." "do as i tell you. you’ll find my car waitingdown the avenue. come, stir your stumps! announce
me. i’ll wait in the study." "but it’s dark in there." "turn on the light." she switched on the electric light and leftlupin alone. "it’s here," he reflected, as he took a seat,"it’s here that the crystal stopper?byes?… unless daubrecq always keeps it by him…but no, when people have a good hiding-place, they make use of it. and this is a capitalone; for none of us… so far…" concentrating all his attention, he examinedthe objects in the room; and he remembered the note which daubrecq wrote to prasville:
"within reach of your hand, my dear prasville!…you touched it! a little more and the trick was done…" nothing seemed to have moved since that day.the same things were lying about on the desk: books, account-books, a bottle of ink, a stamp-box,pipes, tobacco, things that had been searched and probed over and over again. "the bounder!" thought lupin. "he’s organizedhis business jolly cleverly. it’s all dove-tailed like a well-made play." in his heart of hearts, though he knew exactlywhat he had come to do and how he meant to act, lupin was thoroughly aware of the dangerand uncertainty attending his visit to so
powerful an adversary. it was quite withinthe bounds of possibility that daubrecq, armed as he was, would remain master of the fieldand that the conversation would take an absolutely different turn from that which lupin anticipated. and this prospect angered him somewhat. he drew himself up, as he heard a sound offootsteps approaching. daubrecq entered. he entered without a word, made a sign tolupin, who had risen from his chair, to resume his seat and himself sat down at the writing-desk.glancing at the card which he held in his hand:
"dr. vernes?" "yes, monsieur le depute, dr. vernes, of saint-germain." "and i see that you come from mme. mergy.a patient of yours?" "a recent patient. i did not know her untili was called in to see her, the other day, in particularly tragic circumstances." "is she ill?" "mme. mergy has taken poison." daubrecq gave a start and he continued, withoutconcealing his distress: "what’s that you say? poison! is she dead?"
"no, the dose was not large enough. if nocomplications ensue, i consider that mme. mergy’s life is saved." daubrecq said nothing and sat silent, withhis head turned to lupin. "is he looking at me? are his eyes open orshut?" lupin asked himself. it worried lupin terribly not to see his adversary’seyes, those eyes hidden by the double obstacle of spectacles and black glasses: weak, bloodshoteyes, mme. mergy had told him. how could he follow the secret train of the man’s thoughtwithout seeing the expression of his face? it was almost like fighting an enemy who wieldedan invisible sword. presently, daubrecq spoke:
"so mme. mergy’s life is saved… and shehas sent you to me… i don’t quite understand… i hardly know the lady." "now for the ticklish moment," thought lupin."have at him!" and, in a genial, good-natured and rathershy tone, he said: "no, monsieur le depute, there are cases inwhich a doctor’s duty becomes very complex… very puzzling… and you may think that, intaking this step… however, to cut a long story short, while i was attending mme. mergy,she made a second attempt to poison herself… yes; the bottle, unfortunately, had been leftwithin her reach. i snatched it from her. we had a struggle. and, railing in her fever,she said to me, in broken words, ‘he’s the
man… he’s the man… daubrecq the deputy…make him give me back my son. tell him to… or else i would rather die… yes, now, to-night…i would rather die.’ that’s what she said, monsieur le depute… so i thought that iought to let you know. it is quite certain that, in the lady’s highly nervous state ofmind… of course, i don’t know the exact meaning of her words… i asked no questionsof anybody… obeyed a spontaneous impulse and came straight to you." daubrecq reflected for a little while andsaid: "it amounts to this, doctor, that you havecome to ask me if i know the whereabouts of this child whom i presume to have disappeared.is that it?"
"and, if i did happen to know, you would takehim back to his mother?" there was a longer pause. lupin asked himself: "can he by chance have swallowed the story?is the threat of that death enough? oh, nonsense it’s out of the question!… and yet… andyet… he seems to be hesitating." "will you excuse me?" asked daubrecq, drawingthe telephone, on his writing-desk, toward him. "i have an urgent message." "certainly, monsieur le depute." daubrecq called out: "hullo!… 822.19, please, 822.19."
having repeated the number, he sat withoutmoving. lupin smiled: "the headquarters of police, isn’t it? thesecretary-general’s office…" "yes, doctor… how do you know?" "oh, as a divisional surgeon, i sometimeshave to ring them up." and, within himself, lupin asked: "what the devil does all this mean? the secretary-generalis prasville… then, what?…" daubrecq put both receivers to his ears andsaid: "are you 822.19? i want to speak to m. prasville,the secretary-general … do you say he’s
not there?… yes, yes, he is: he’s alwaysin his office at this time… tell him it’s m. daubrecq… m. daubrecq the deputy… amost important communication." "perhaps i’m in the way?" lupin suggested. "not at all, doctor, not at all," said daubrecq."besides, what i have to say has a certain bearing on your errand." and, into the telephone,"hullo! m. prasville?… ah, it’s you, prasville, old cock!… why, you seem quite staggered!yes, you’re right, it’s an age since you and i met. but, after all, we’ve never been faraway in thought… and i’ve had plenty of visits from you and your henchmen… in myabsence, it’s true. hullo!… what?… oh, you’re in a hurry? i beg your pardon!… soam i, for that matter… well, to come to
the point, there’s a little service i wantto do you… wait, can’t you, you brute?… you won’t regret it… it concerns your renown…hullo!… are you listening?… well, take half-a-dozen men with you… plain-clothesdetectives, by preference: you’ll find them at the night-office… jump into a taxi, twotaxis, and come along here as fast as you can… i’ve got a rare quarry for you, oldchap. one of the upper ten… a lord, a marquis napoleon himself… in a word, arsene lupin!" lupin sprang to his feet. he was preparedfor everything but this. yet something within him stronger than astonishment, an impulseof his whole nature, made him say, with a laugh:
"oh, well done, well done!" daubrecq bowed his head, by way of thanks,and muttered: "i haven’t quite finished… a little patience,if you don’t mind." and he continued, "hullo! prasville!… no, no, old chap, i’m not humbugging…you’ll find lupin here, with me, in my study… lupin, who’s worrying me like the rest ofyou… oh, one more or less makes no difference to me! but, all the same, this one’s a bittoo pushing. and i am appealing to your sense of kindness. rid me of the fellow, do… half-a-dozenof your satellites and the two who are pacing up and down outside my house will be enough…oh, while you’re about it, go up to the third floor and rope in my cook as well… she’sthe famous victoire: you know, master lupin’s
old nurse… and, look here, one more tip,to show you how i love you: send a squad of men to the rue chateaubriand, at the cornerof the rue balzac… that’s where our national hero lives, under the name of michel beaumont…do you twig, old cockalorum? and now to business. hustle!" when daubrecq turned his head, lupin was standingup, with clenched fists. his burst of admiration had not survived the rest of the speech andthe revelations which daubrecq had made about victoire and the flat in the rue chateaubriand.the humiliation was too great; and lupin no longer bothered to play the part of the smallgeneral practitioner. he had but one idea in his head: not to give way to the tremendousfit of rage that was urging him to rush at
daubrecq like a bull. daubrecq gave the sort of little cluck which,with him, did duty for a laugh. he came waddling up, with his hands in his trouser-pockets,and said, incisively: "don’t you think that this is all for thebest? i’ve cleared the ground, relieved the situation… at least, we now know where westand. lupin versus daubrecq; and that’s all about it. besides, think of the time saved!dr. vernes, the divisional surgeon, would have taken two hours to spin his yarn! whereas,like this, master lupin will be compelled to get his little story told in thirty minutes…unless he wants to get himself collared and his accomplices nabbed. what a shock! whata bolt from the blue! thirty minutes and not
a minute more. in thirty minutes from now,you’ll have to clear out, scud away like a hare and beat a disordered retreat. ha, ha,ha, what fun! i say, polonius, you really are unlucky, each time you come up againstbibi daubrecq! for it was you who were hiding behind that curtain, wasn’t it, my ill-starredpolonius?" lupin did not stir a muscle. the one and onlysolution that would have calmed his feelings, that is to say, for him to throttle his adversarythen and there, was so absurd that he preferred to accept daubrecq’s gibes without attemptingto retort, though each of them cut him like the lash of a whip. it was the second time,in the same room and in similar circumstances, that he had to bow before that daubrecq ofmisfortune and maintain the most ridiculous
attitude in silence. and he felt convincedin his innermost being that, if he opened his mouth, it would be to spit words of angerand insult in his victor’s face. what was the good? was it not essential that he shouldkeep cool and do the things which the new situation called for? "well, m. lupin, well?" resumed the deputy."you look as if your nose were out of joint. come, console yourself and admit that onesometimes comes across a joker who’s not quite such a mug as his fellows. so you thoughtthat, because i wear spectacles and eye-glasses, i was blind? bless my soul, i don’t say thati at once suspected lupin behind polonius and polonius behind the gentleman who cameand bored me in the box at the vaudeville.
no, no! but, all the same, it worried me.i could see that, between the police and mme. mergy, there was a third bounder trying toget a finger in the pie. and, gradually, what with the words let fall by the portress, whatwith watching the movements of my cook and making inquiries about her in the proper quarter,i began to understand. then, the other night, came the lightning-flash. i heard the rowin the house, in spite of my being asleep. i managed to reconstruct the incident, tofollow up mme. mergy’s traces, first, to the rue chateaubriand and, afterward, to saint-germain…and then… what then? i put different facts together: the enghien burglary… gilbert’sarrest… the inevitable treaty of alliance between the weeping mother and the leaderof the gang… the old nurse installed as
cook… all these people entering my housethrough the doors or through the windows… and i knew what i had to do. master lupinwas sniffing at the secret. the scent of the twenty-seven attracted him. i had only towait for his visit. the hour has arrived. good-evening, master lupin." daubrecq paused. he had delivered his speechwith the evident satisfaction of a man entitled to claim the appreciation of the most captiouscritics. as lupin did not speak, he took out his watch:"i say! only twenty-three minutes! how time flies! at this rate, we sha’n’t have timeto come to an explanation." and, stepping still closer to lupin, "i’m bound to say,i’m disappointed. i thought that lupin was
a different sort of gentleman. so, the momenthe meets a more or less serious adversary, the colossus falls to pieces? poor young man!have a glass of water, to bring you round!" lupin did not utter a word, did not betraya gesture of irritation. with absolute composure, with a precision of movement that showed hisperfect self-control and the clear plan of conduct which he had adopted, he gently pusheddaubrecq aside, went to the table and, in his turn, took down the receiver of the telephone: "i want 565.34, please," he said. he waited until he was through; and then,speaking in a slow voice and picking out every syllable, he said:
"hullo!… rue chateaubriand?… is that you,achille?… yes, it’s the governor. listen to me carefully, achille… you must leavethe flat! hullo!… yes, at once. the police are coming in a few minutes. no, no, don’tlose your head… you’ve got time. only, do what i tell you. is your bag still packed?…good. and is one of the sides empty, as i told you?… good. well, go to my bedroomand stand with your face to the chimney-piece. press with your left hand on the little carvedrosette in front of the marble slab, in the middle, and with your right hand on the topof the mantel-shelf. you’ll see a sort of drawer, with two little boxes in it. be careful.one of them contains all our papers; the other, bank-notes and jewellery. put them both inthe empty compartment of the bag. take the
bag in your hand and go as fast as you can,on foot, to the corner of the avenue victor-hugo and the avenue de montespan. you’ll find thecar waiting, with victoire. i’ll join you there… what?… my clothes? my knickknacks?…never mind about all that… you be off. see you presently." lupin quietly pushed away the telephone. then,taking daubrecq by the arm, he made him sit in a chair by his side and said: "and now listen to me, daubrecq." "oho!" grinned the deputy. "calling each otherby our surnames, are we?" "yes," said lupin, "i allowed you to." and,when daubrecq released his arm with a certain
misgiving, he said, "no, don’t be afraid.we sha’n’t come to blows. neither of us has anything to gain by doing away with the other.a stab with a knife? what’s the good? no, sir! words, nothing but words. words thatstrike home, though. here are mine: they are plain and to the point. answer me in the sameway, without reflecting: that’s far better. the boy?" "i have him." "give him back." "mme. mergy will kill herself." "no, she won’t."
"i tell you she will." "and i tell you she will not." "but she’s tried to, once." "that’s just the reason why she won’t tryagain." "well, then…" lupin, after a moment, went on: "i expected that. also, i thought, on my wayhere, that you would hardly tumble to the story of dr. vernes and that i should haveto use other methods." "lupin’s methods."
"as you say. i had made up my mind to throwoff the mask. you pulled it off for me. well done you! but that doesn’t change my plans." "speak." lupin took from a pocketbook a double sheetof foolscap paper, unfolded it and handed it to daubrecq, saying: "here is an exact, detailed inventory, withconsecutive numbers, of the things removed by my friends and myself from your villa marie-thereseon the lac d’enghien. as you see, there are one hundred and thirteen items. of those onehundred and thirteen items, sixty-eight, which have a red cross against them, have been soldand sent to america. the remainder, numbering
forty-five, are in my possession… untilfurther orders. they happen to be the pick of the bunch. i offer you them in return forthe immediate surrender of the child." daubrecq could not suppress a movement ofsurprise: "oho!" he said. "you seem very much bent uponit." "infinitely," said lupin, "for i am persuadedthat a longer separation from her son will mean death to mme. mergy." "and that upsets you, does it… lothario?" lupin planted himself in front of the otherand repeated: "what! what do you mean?"
"nothing… nothing… something that crossedmy mind… clarisse mergy is a young woman still and a pretty woman at that." lupin shrugged his shoulders: "you brute!" he mumbled. "you imagine thateverybody is like yourself, heartless and pitiless. it takes your breath away, what,to think that a shark like me can waste his time playing the don quixote? and you wonderwhat dirty motive i can have? don’t try to find out: it’s beyond your powers of perception.answer me, instead: do you accept?" "so you’re serious?" asked daubrecq, who seemedbut little disturbed by lupin’s contemptuous tone.
"absolutely. the forty-five pieces are ina shed, of which i will give you the address, and they will be handed over to you, if youcall there, at nine o’clock this evening, with the child." there was no doubt about daubrecq’s reply.to him, the kidnapping of little jacques had represented only a means of working upon clarissemergy’s feelings and perhaps also a warning for her to cease the contest upon which shehad engaged. but the threat of a suicide must needs show daubrecq that he was on the wrongtrack. that being so, why refuse the favourable bargain which arsene lupin was now offeringhim? "i accept," he said.
"here’s the address of my shed: 99, rue charles-lafitte,neuilly. you have only to ring the bell." "and suppose i send prasville, the secretary-general,instead?" "if you send prasville," lupin declared, "theplace is so arranged that i shall see him coming and that i shall have time to escape,after setting fire to the trusses of hay and straw which surround and conceal your credence-tables,clocks and gothic virgins." "but your shed will be burnt down…" "i don’t mind that: the police have theireye on it already. i am leaving it in any case." "and how am i to know that this is not a trap?"
"begin by receiving the goods and don’t giveup the child till afterward. i trust you, you see." "good," said daubrecq; "you’ve foreseen everything.very well, you shall have the nipper; the fair clarisse shall live; and we will allbe happy. and now, if i may give you a word of advice, it is to pack off as fast as youcan." "not yet." "i said, not yet." "but you’re mad! prasville’s on his way!" "he can wait. i’ve not done."
"why, what more do you want? clarisse shallhave her brat. isn’t that enough for you?" "why not?" "there is another son." "gilbert." "i want you to save gilbert." "what are you saying? i save gilbert!" "you can, if you like; it only means takinga little trouble." until that moment daubrecq had remained quite calm. he now suddenly blazedout and, striking the table with his fist: "no," he cried, "not that! never! don’t reckonon me!… no, that would be too idiotic!"
he walked up and down, in a state of intenseexcitement, with that queer step of his, which swayed him from right to left on each of hislegs, like a wild beast, a heavy, clumsy bear. and, with a hoarse voice and distorted features,he shouted: "let her come here! let her come and beg forher son’s pardon! but let her come unarmed, not with criminal intentions, like last time!let her come as a supplicant, as a tamed woman, as a submissive woman, who understands andaccepts the situation… gilbert? gilbert’s sentence? the scaffold? why, that is wheremy strength lies! what! for more than twenty years have i awaited my hour; and, when thathour strikes, when fortune brings me this unhoped-for chance, when i am at last aboutto know the joy of a full revengeâ€”and such
a revenge!â€”you think that i will give itup, give up the thing which i have been pursuing for twenty years? i save gilbert? i? for nothing?for love? i, daubrecq?… no, no, you can’t have studied my features!" he laughed, with a fierce and hateful laugh.visibly, he saw before him, within reach of his hand, the prey which he had been huntingdown so long. and lupin also summoned up the vision of clarisse, as he had seen her severaldays before, fainting, already beaten, fatally conquered, because all the hostile powerswere in league against her. he contained himself and said: "listen to me."
and, when daubrecq moved away impatiently,he took him by the two shoulders, with that superhuman strength which daubrecq knew, fromhaving felt it in the box at the vaudeville, and, holding him motionless in his grip, hesaid: "one last word." "you’re wasting your breath," growled thedeputy. "one last word. listen, daubrecq: forget mme.mergy, give up all the nonsensical and imprudent acts which your pride and your passions aremaking you commit; put all that on one side and think only of your interest…" "my interest," said daubrecq, jestingly, "alwayscoincides with my pride and with what you
call my passions." "up to the present, perhaps. but not now,not now that i have taken a hand in the business. that constitutes a new factor, which you chooseto ignore. you are wrong. gilbert is my pal. gilbert is my chum. gilbert has to be savedfrom the scaffold. use your influence to that end, and i swear to you, do you hear, i swearthat we will leave you in peace. gilbert’s safety, that’s all i ask. you will have nomore battles to wage with mme. mergy, with me; there will be no more traps laid for you.you will be the master, free to act as you please. gilbert’s safety, daubrecq! if yourefuse…" "if you refuse, it will be war, relentlesswar; in other words, a certain defeat for
you." "meaning thereby…" "meaning thereby that i shall take the listof the twenty-seven from you." "rot! you think so, do you?" "what prasville and all his men, what clarissemergy, what nobody has been able to do, you think that you will do!" "i shall!" "and why? by favour of what saint will yousucceed where everybody else has failed? there must be a reason?"
"there is." "what is it?" "my name is arsene lupin." he had let go of daubrecq, but held him fora time under the dominion of his authoritative glance and will. at last, daubrecq drew himselfup, gave him a couple of sharp taps on the shoulder and, with the same calm, the sameintense obstinacy, said: "and my name’s daubrecq. my whole life hasbeen one desperate battle, one long series of catastrophes and routs in which i spentall my energies until victory came: complete, decisive, crushing, irrevocable victory. ihave against me the police, the government,
france, the world. what difference do youexpect it to make to me if i have m. arsene lupin against me into the bargain? i willgo further: the more numerous and skilful my enemies, the more cautiously i am obligedto play. and that is why, my dear sir, instead of having you arrested, as i might have doneâ€”yes,as i might have done and very easilyâ€”i let you remain at large and beg charitably toremind you that you must quit in less than three minutes." "then the answer is no?" "the answer is no." "you won’t do anything for gilbert?"
"yes, i shall continue to do what i have beendoing since his arrestâ€”that is to say, to exercise indirect influence with the ministerof justice, so that the trial may be hurried on and end in the way in which i want to seeit end." "what!" cried lupin, beside himself with indignation."it’s because of you, it’s for you…" "yes, it’s for me, daubrecq; yes, by jove!i have a trump card, the son’s head, and i am playing it. when i have procured a nicelittle death-sentence for gilbert, when the days go by and gilbert’s petition for a reprieveis rejected by my good offices, you shall see, m. lupin, that his mummy will drop allher objections to calling herself mme. alexis daubrecq and giving me an unexceptionablepledge of her good-will. that fortunate issue
is inevitable, whether you like it or not.it is foredoomed. all i can do for you is to invite you to the wedding and the breakfast.does that suit you? no? you persist in your sinister designs? well, good luck, lay yourtraps, spread your nets, rub up your weapons and grind away at the complete foreign-post-paperburglar’s handbook. you’ll need it. and now, good-night. the rules of open-handed and disinterestedhospitality demand that i should turn you out of doors. hop it!" lupin remained silent for some time. withhis eyes fixed on daubrecq, he seemed to be taking his adversary’s size, gauging his weight,estimating his physical strength, discussing, in fine, in which exact part to attack him.daubrecq clenched his fists and worked out
his plan of defence to meet the attack whenit came. half a minute passed. lupin put his hand tohis hip-pocket. daubrecq did the same and grasped the handle of his revolver. a few seconds more. coolly, lupin produceda little gold box of the kind that ladies use for holding sweets, opened it and handedit to daubrecq: "a lozenge?" "what’s that?" asked the other, in surprise. "cough-drops." "what for?"
"for the draught you’re going to feel!" and, taking advantage of the momentary flusterinto which daubrecq was thrown by his sally, he quickly took his hat and slipped away. "of course," he said, as he crossed the hall,"i am knocked into fits. but all the same, that bit of commercial-traveller’s waggerywas rather novel, in the circumstances. to expect a pill and receive a cough-drop isby way of being a sort of disappointment. it left the old chimpanzee quite flummoxed." as he closed the gate, a motor-car drove upand a man sprang out briskly, followed by several others.
lupin recognized prasville: "monsieur le secretaire-general," he muttered,"your humble servant. i have an idea that, some day, fate will bring us face to face:and i am sorry, for your sake; for you do not inspire me with any particular esteemand you have a bad time before you, on that day. meanwhile, if i were not in such a hurry,i should wait till you leave and i should follow daubrecq to find out in whose chargehe has placed the child whom he is going to hand back to me. but i am in a hurry. besides,i can’t tell that daubrecq won’t act by telephone. so let us not waste ourselves in vain efforts,but rather join victoire, achille and our precious bag."
two hours later, lupin, after taking all hismeasures, was on the lookout in his shed at neuilly and saw daubrecq turn out of an adjoiningstreet and walk along with a distrustful air. lupin himself opened the double doors: "your things are in here, monsieur le depute,"he said. "you can go round and look. there is a job-master’s yard next door: you haveonly to ask for a van and a few men. where is the child?" daubrecq first inspected the articles andthen took lupin to the avenue de neuilly, where two closely veiled old ladies stoodwaiting with little jacques. lupin carried the child to his car, wherevictoire was waiting for him.
all this was done swiftly, without uselesswords and as though the parts had been got by heart and the various movements settledin advance, like so many stage entrances and exits. at ten o’clock in the evening lupin kept hispromise and handed little jacques to his mother. but the doctor had to be hurriedly calledin, for the child, upset by all those happenings, showed great signs of excitement and terror.it was more than a fortnight before he was sufficiently recovered to bear the strainof the removal which lupin considered necessary. mme. mergy herself was only just fit to travelwhen the time came. the journey took place at night, with every possible precaution andunder lupin’s escort.
he took the mother and son to a little seasideplace in brittany and entrusted them to victoire’s care and vigilance. "at last," he reflected, when he had seenthem settled, "there is no one between the daubrecq bird and me. he can do nothing moreto mme. mergy and the kid; and she no longer runs the risk of diverting the struggle throughher intervention. by jingo, we have made blunders enough! first, i have had to disclose myselfto daubrecq. secondly, i have had to surrender my share of the enghien movables. true, ishall get those back, sooner or later; of that there is not the least doubt. but, allthe same, we are not getting on; and, in a week from now, gilbert and vaucheray willbe up for trial."
what lupin felt most in the whole businesswas daubrecq’s revelation of the whereabouts of the flat. the police had entered his placein the rue chateaubriand. the identity of lupin and michel beaumont had been recognizedand certain papers discovered; and lupin, while pursuing his aim, while, at the sametime, managing various enterprises on which he had embarked, while avoiding the searchesof the police, which were becoming more zealous and persistent than ever, had to set to workand reorganize his affairs throughout on a fresh basis. his rage with daubrecq, therefore, increasedin proportion to the worry which the deputy caused him. he had but one longing, to pockethim, as he put it, to have him at his bidding
by fair means or foul, to extract his secretfrom him. he dreamt of tortures fit to unloose the tongue of the most silent of men. theboot, the rack, red-hot pincers, nailed planks: no form of suffering, he thought, was morethan the enemy deserved; and the end to be attained justified every means. "oh," he said to himself, "oh, for a decentbench of inquisitors and a couple of bold executioners!… what a time we should have!" every afternoon the growler and the masherwatched the road which daubrecq took between the square lamartine, the chamber of deputiesand his club. their instructions were to choose the most deserted street and the most favourablemoment and, one evening, to hustle him into
a motor-car. lupin, on his side, got ready an old building,standing in the middle of a large garden, not far from paris, which presented all thenecessary conditions of safety and isolation and which he called the monkey’s cage. unfortunately, daubrecq must have suspectedsomething, for every time, so to speak, he changed his route, or took the undergroundor a tram; and the cage remained unoccupied. lupin devised another plan. he sent to marseillesfor one of his associates, an elderly retired grocer called brindebois, who happened tolive in daubrecq’s electoral district and interested himself in politics. old brindeboiswrote to daubrecq from marseilles, announcing
his visit. daubrecq gave this important constituenta hearty welcome, and a dinner was arranged for the following week. the elector suggested a little restauranton the left bank of the seine, where the food, he said, was something wonderful. daubrecqaccepted. this was what lupin wanted. the proprietorof the restaurant was one of his friends. the attempt, which was to take place on thefollowing thursday, was this time bound to succeed. meanwhile, on the monday of the same week,the trial of gilbert and vaucheray opened. the reader will rememberâ€”and the case tookplace too recently for me to recapitulate
its detailsâ€”the really incomprehensiblepartiality which the presiding judge showed in his cross-examination of gilbert. the thingwas noticed and severely criticised at the time. lupin recognized daubrecq’s hatefulinfluence. the attitude observed by the two prisonersdiffered greatly. vaucheray was gloomy, silent, hard-faced. he cynically, in curt, sneering,almost defiant phrases, admitted the crimes of which he had formerly been guilty. but,with an inconsistency which puzzled everybody except lupin, he denied any participationin the murder of leonard the valet and violently accused gilbert. his object, in thus linkinghis fate with gilbert’s, was to force lupin to take identical measures for the rescueof both his accomplices.
gilbert, on the other hand, whose frank countenanceand dreamy, melancholy eyes won every sympathy, was unable to protect himself against thetraps laid for him by the judge or to counteract vaucheray’s lies. he burst into tears, talkedtoo much, or else did not talk when he should have talked. moreover, his counsel, one ofthe leaders of the bar, was taken ill at the last momentâ€”and here again lupin saw thehand of daubrecqâ€”and he was replaced by a junior who spoke badly, muddied the wholecase, set the jury against him and failed to wipe out the impression produced by thespeeches of the advocate-general and of vaucheray’s counsel. lupin, who had the inconceivable audacityto be present on the last day of the trial,
the thursday, had no doubt as to the result.a verdict of guilty was certain in both cases. it was certain because all the efforts ofthe prosecution, thus supporting vaucheray’s tactics, had tended to link the two prisonersclosely together. it was certain, also and above all, because it concerned two of lupin’saccomplices. from the opening of the inquiry before the magistrate until the delivery ofthe verdict, all the proceedings had been directed against lupin; and this in spiteof the fact that the prosecution, for want of sufficient evidence and also in order notto scatter its efforts over too wide an area, had decided not to include lupin in the indictment.he was the adversary aimed at, the leader who must be punished in the person of hisfriends, the famous and popular scoundrel
whose fascination in the eyes of the crowdmust be destroyed for good and all. with gilbert and vaucheray executed, lupin’s halo wouldfade away and the legend would be exploded. lupin… lupin… arsene lupin: it was theone name heard throughout the four days. the advocate-general, the presiding judge, thejury, the counsel, the witnesses had no other words on their lips. every moment, lupin wasmentioned and cursed at, scoffed at, insulted and held responsible for all the crimes committed.it was as though gilbert and vaucheray figured only as supernumeraries, while the real criminalundergoing trial was he, lupin, master lupin, lupin the burglar, the leader of a gang ofthieves, the forger, the incendiary, the hardened offender, the ex-convict, lupin the murderer,lupin stained with the blood of his victim,
lupin lurking in the shade, like a coward,after sending his friends to the foot of the scaffold. "oh, the rascals know what they’re about!"he muttered. "it’s my debt which they are making my poor old gilbert pay." and the terrible tragedy went on. at seven o’clock in the evening, after a longdeliberation, the jury returned to court and the foreman read out the answers to the questionsput from the bench. the answer was "yes" to every count of the indictment, a verdict ofguilty without extenuating circumstances. the prisoners were brought in. standing up,but staggering and white-faced, they received
their sentence of death. and, amid the great, solemn silence, in whichthe anxiety of the onlookers was mingled with pity, the assize-president asked: "have you anything more to say, vaucheray?" "nothing, monsieur le president. now thatmy mate is sentenced as well as myself, i am easy… we are both on the same footing…the governor must find a way to save the two of us." "the governor?" "yes, arsene lupin."
there was a laugh among the crowd. the president asked: "and you, gilbert?" tears streamed down the poor lad’s cheeksand he stammered a few inarticulate sentences. but, when the judge repeated his question,he succeeded in mastering himself and replied, in a trembling voice: "i wish to say, monsieur le president, thati am guilty of many things, that’s true… i have done a lot of harm… but, all thesame, not this. no, i have not committed murder… i have never committed murder… and i don’twant to die… it would be too horrible…"
he swayed from side to side, supported bythe warders, and he was heard to cry, like a child calling for help: "governor… save me!… save me!… i don’twant to die!" then, in the crowd, amid the general excitement,a voice rose above the surrounding clamour: "don’t be afraid, little ‘un!… the governor’shere!" a tumult and hustling followed. the municipalguards and the policemen rushed into court and laid hold of a big, red-faced man, whowas stated by his neighbours to be the author of that outburst and who struggled hand andfoot. questioned without delay, he gave his name,philippe bonel, an undertaker’s man, and declared
that some one sitting beside him had offeredhim a hundred-franc note if he would consent, at the proper moment, to shout a few wordswhich his neighbour scribbled on a bit of paper. how could he refuse? in proof of his statements, he produced thehundred-franc note and the scrap of paper. philippe bonel was let go. meanwhile, lupin, who of course had assistedenergetically in the individual’s arrest and handed him over to the guards, left the law-courts,his heart heavy with anguish. his car was waiting for him on the quay. he flung himselfinto it, in despair, seized with so great a sorrow that he had to make an effort torestrain his tears. gilbert’s cry, his voice
wrung with affliction, his distorted features,his tottering frame: all this haunted his brain; and he felt as if he would never, fora single second, forget those impressions. he drove home to the new place which he hadselected among his different residences and which occupied a corner of the place de clichy.he expected to find the growler and the masher, with whom he was to kidnap daubrecq that evening.but he had hardly opened the door of his flat, when a cry escaped him: clarisse stood beforehim; clarisse, who had returned from brittany at the moment of the verdict. he at once gathered from her attitude andher pallor that she knew. and, at once, recovering his courage in her presence, without givingher time to speak, he exclaimed:
"yes, yes, yes… but it doesn’t matter. weforesaw that. we couldn’t prevent it. what we have to do is to stop the mischief. andto-night, you understand, to-night, the thing will be done." motionless and tragic in her sorrow, she stammered: "to-night?" "yes. i have prepared everything. in two hours,daubrecq will be in my hands. to-night, whatever means i have to employ, he shall speak." "do you mean that?" she asked, faintly, whilea ray of hope began to light up her face. "he shall speak. i shall have his secret.i shall tear the list of the twenty-seven
from him. and that list will set your sonfree." "too late," clarisse murmured. "too late? why? do you think that, in exchangefor such a document, i shall not obtain gilbert’s pretended escape?… why, gilbert will beat liberty in three days! in three days…" he was interrupted by a ring at the bell: "listen, here are our friends. trust me. rememberthat i keep my promises. i gave you back your little jacques. i shall give you back gilbert." he went to let the growler and the masherin and said: "is everything ready? is old brindebois atthe restaurant? quick, let us be off!"
"it’s no use, governor," replied the masher. "no use? what do you mean?" "there’s news." "what news? speak, man!" "daubrecq has disappeared." "eh? what’s that? daubrecq disappeared?" "yes, carried off from his house, in broaddaylight." "the devil! by whom?" "nobody knows… four men… there were pistolsfired… the police are on the spot. prasville
is directing the investigations." lupin did not move a limb. he looked at clarissemergy, who lay huddled in a chair. he himself had to bow his head. daubrecq carriedoff meant one more chance of success lost… chapter vii. the profile of napoleon soon as the prefect of police, the chief ofthe criminal-investigation department and the examining-magistrates had left daubrecq’shouse, after a preliminary and entirely fruitless inquiry, prasville resumed his personal search. he was examining the study and the tracesof the struggle which had taken place there, when the portress brought him a visiting-card,with a few words in pencil scribbled upon
it. "show the lady in," he said. "the lady has some one with her," said theportress. "oh? well, show the other person in as well." clarisse mergy entered at once and introducedthe gentleman with her, a gentleman in a black frock-coat, which was too tight for him andwhich looked as though it had not been brushed for ages. he was shy in his manner and seemedgreatly embarrassed how to dispose of his old, rusty top-hat, his gingham umbrella,his one and only glove and his body generally. "m. nicole," said clarisse, "a private teacher,who is acting as tutor to my little jacques.
m. nicole has been of the greatest help tome with his advice during the past year. he worked out the whole story of the crystalstopper. i should like him, as well as myselfâ€”if you see no objection to telling meâ€”to knowthe details of this kidnapping business, which alarms me and upsets my plans; yours too,i expect?" prasville had every confidence in clarissemergy. he knew her relentless hatred of daubrecq and appreciated the assistance which she hadrendered in the case. he therefore made no difficulties about telling her what he knew,thanks to certain clues and especially to the evidence of the portress. for that matter, the thing was exceedinglysimple. daubrecq, who had attended the trial
of gilbert and vaucheray as a witness andwho was seen in court during the speeches, returned home at six o’clock. the portressaffirmed that he came in alone and that there was nobody in the house at the time. nevertheless,a few minutes later, she heard shouts, followed by the sound of a struggle and two pistol-shots;and from her lodge she saw four masked men scuttle down the front steps, carrying daubrecqthe deputy, and hurry toward the gate. they opened the gate. at the same moment, a motor-cararrived outside the house. the four men bundled themselves into it; and the motor-car, whichhad hardly had time to stop, set off at full speed. "were there not always two policemen on duty?"asked clarisse.
"they were there," said prasville, "but ata hundred and fifty yards’ distance; and daubrecq was carried off so quickly that they wereunable to interfere, although they hastened up as fast as they could." "and did they discover nothing, find nothing?" "nothing, or hardly anything… merely this." "a little piece of ivory, which they pickedup on the ground. there was a fifth party in the car; and the portress saw him get downwhile the others were hoisting daubrecq in. as he was stepping back into the car, he droppedsomething and picked it up again at once. but the thing, whatever it was, must havebeen broken on the pavement; for this is the
bit of ivory which my men found." "but how did the four men manage to enterthe house?" asked clarisse. "by means of false keys, evidently, whilethe portress was doing her shopping, in the course of the afternoon; and they had no difficultyin secreting themselves, as daubrecq keeps no other servants. i have every reason tobelieve that they hid in the room next door, which is the dining-room, and afterward attackeddaubrecq here, in the study. the disturbance of the furniture and other articles proveshow violent the struggle was. we found a large-bore revolver, belonging to daubrecq, on the carpet.one of the bullets had smashed the glass over the mantel-piece, as you see."
clarisse turned to her companion for him toexpress an opinion. but m. nicole, with his eyes obstinately lowered, had not budged fromhis chair and sat fumbling at the rim of his hat, as though he had not yet found a properplace for it. prasville gave a smile. it was evident thathe did not look upon clarisse’s adviser as a man of first-rate intelligence: "the case is somewhat puzzling, monsieur,"he said, "is it not?" "yes… yes," m. nicole confessed, "most puzzling." "then you have no little theory of your ownupon the matter?" "well, monsieur le secretaire-general, i’mthinking that daubrecq has many enemies."
"ah, capital!" "and that several of those enemies, who areinterested in his disappearance, must have banded themselves against him." "capital, capital!" said prasville, with satiricalapproval. "capital! everything is becoming clear as daylight. it only remains for youto furnish us with a little suggestion that will enable us to turn our search in the rightdirection." "don’t you think, monsieur le secretaire-general,that this broken bit of ivory which was picked up on the ground…" "no, m. nicole, no. that bit of ivory belongsto something which we do not know and which
its owner will at once make it his businessto conceal. in order to trace the owner, we should at least be able to define the natureof the thing itself." m. nicole reflected and then began: "monsieur le secretaire-general, when napoleoni fell from power…" "oh, m. nicole, oh, a lesson in french history!" "only a sentence, monsieur le secretaire-general,just one sentence which i will ask your leave to complete. when napoleon i fell from power,the restoration placed a certain number of officers on half-pay. these officers weresuspected by the authorities and kept under observation by the police. they remained faithfulto the emperor’s memory; and they contrived
to reproduce the features of their idol onall sorts of objects of everyday use; snuff-boxes, rings, breast-pins, pen-knives and so on." "well, this bit comes from a walking-stick,or rather a sort of loaded cane, or life-preserver, the knob of which is formed of a piece ofcarved ivory. when you look at the knob in a certain way, you end by seeing that theoutline represents the profile of the little corporal. what you have in your hand, monsieurle secretaire-general, is a bit of the ivory knob at the top of a half-pay officer’s life-preserver." "yes," said prasville, examining the exhibit,"yes, i can make out a profile… but i don’t see the inference…"
"the inference is very simple. among daubrecq’svictims, among those whose names are inscribed on the famous list, is the descendant of acorsican family in napoleon’s service, which derived its wealth and title from the emperorand was afterward ruined under the restoration. it is ten to one that this descendant, whowas the leader of the bonapartist party a few years ago, was the fifth person hidingin the motor-car. need i state his name?" "the marquis d’albufex?" said prasville. "the marquis d’albufex," said m. nicole. m. nicole, who no longer seemed in the leastworried with his hat, his glove and his umbrella, rose and said to prasville:
"monsieur le secretaire-general, i might havekept my discovery to myself, and not told you of it until after the final victory, thatis, after bringing you the list of the twenty-seven. but matters are urgent. daubrecq’s disappearance,contrary to what his kidnappers expect, may hasten on the catastrophe which you wish toavert. we must therefore act with all speed. monsieur le secretaire-general, i ask foryour immediate and practical assistance." "in what way can i help you?" asked prasville,who was beginning to be impressed by his quaint visitor. "by giving me, to-morrow, those particularsabout the marquis d’albufex which it would take me personally several days to collect."
prasville seemed to hesitate and turned hishead toward mme. mergy. clarisse said: "i beg of you to accept m. nicole’s services.he is an invaluable and devoted ally. i will answer for him as i would for myself." "what particulars do you require, monsieur?"asked prasville. "everything that concerns the marquis d’albufex:the position of his family, the way in which he spends his time, his family connections,the properties which he owns in paris and in the country." prasville objected: "after all, whether it’s the marquis or another,daubrecq’s kidnapper is working on our behalf,
seeing that, by capturing the list, he disarmsdaubrecq." "and who says, monsieur le secretaire-general,that he is not working on his own behalf?" "that is not possible, as his name is on thelist." "and suppose he erases it? suppose you thenfind yourself dealing with a second blackmailer, even more grasping and more powerful thanthe first and one who, as a political adversary, is in a better position than daubrecq to maintainthe contest?" the secretary-general was struck by the argument.after a moment’s thought, he said: "come and see me in my office at four o’clocktomorrow. i will give you the particulars. what is your address, in case i should wantyou?"
"m. nicole, 25, place de clichy. i am stayingat a friend’s flat, which he has lent me during his absence." the interview was at an end. m. nicole thankedthe secretary-general, with a very low bow, and walked out, accompanied by mme. mergy: "that’s an excellent piece of work," he said,outside, rubbing his hands. "i can march into the police-office whenever i like, and setthe whole lot to work." mme. mergy, who was less hopefully inclined,said: "alas, will you be in time? what terrifiesme is the thought that the list may be destroyed." "goodness gracious me, by whom? by daubrecq?"
"no, but by the marquis, when he gets holdof it." "he hasn’t got it yet! daubrecq will resistlong enough, at any rate, for us to reach him. just think! prasville is at my orders!" "suppose he discovers who you are? the leastinquiry will prove that there is no such person as m. nicole." "but it will not prove that m. nicole is thesame person as arsene lupin. besides, make yourself easy. prasville is not only beneathcontempt as a detective: he has but one aim in life, which is to destroy his old enemy,daubrecq. to achieve that aim, all means are equally good; and he will not waste time inverifying the identity of a m. nicole who
promises him daubrecq. not to mention thati was brought by you and that, when all is said, my little gifts did dazzle him to someextent. so let us go ahead boldly." clarisse always recovered confidence in lupin’spresence. the future seemed less appalling to her; and she admitted, she forced herselfto admit, that the chances of saving gilbert were not lessened by that hideous death-sentence.but he could not prevail upon her to return to brittany. she wanted to fight by his side.she wanted to be there and share all his hopes and all his disappointments. the next day the inquiries of the police confirmedwhat prasville and lupin already knew. the marquis d’albufex had been very deeply involvedin the business of the canal, so deeply that
prince napoleon was obliged to remove himfrom the management of his political campaign in france; and he kept up his very extravagantstyle of living only by dint of constant loans and makeshifts. on the other hand, in so faras concerned the kidnapping of daubrecq, it was ascertained that, contrary to his usualcustom, the marquis had not appeared in his club between six and seven that evening andhad not dined at home. he did not come back until midnight; and then he came on foot. m. nicole’s accusation, therefore, was receivingan early proof. unfortunatelyâ€”and lupin was no more successful in his own attemptsâ€”itwas impossible to obtain the least clue as to the motor-car, the chauffeur and the fourpeople who had entered daubrecq’s house. were
they associates of the marquis, compromisedin the canal affair like himself? were they men in his pay? nobody knew. the whole search, consequently, had to beconcentrated upon the marquis and the country-seats and houses which he might possess at a certaindistance from paris, a distance which, allowing for the average speed of a motor-car and theinevitable stoppages, could be put at sixty to ninety miles. now d’albufex, having sold everything thathe ever had, possessed neither country-houses nor landed estates. they turned their attention to the marquis’relations and intimate friends. was he able
on this side to dispose of some safe retreatin which to imprison daubrecq? the result was equally fruitless. and the days passed. and what days for clarissemergy! each of them brought gilbert nearer to the terrible day of reckoning. each ofthem meant twenty-four hours less from the date which clarisse had instinctively fixedin her mind. and she said to lupin, who was racked with the same anxiety: "fifty-five days more… fifty days more…what can one do in so few days?… oh, i beg of you… i beg of you…" what could they do indeed? lupin, who wouldnot leave the task of watching the marquis
to any one but himself, practically livedwithout sleeping. but the marquis had resumed his regular life; and, doubtless suspectingsomething, did not risk going away. once alone, he went down to the duc de montmaur’s,in the daytime. the duke kept a pack of boar-hounds, with which he hunted the forest of durlaine.d’albufex maintained no relations with him outside the hunt. "it is hardly likely," said prasville, "thatthe duc de montmaur, an exceedingly wealthy man, who is interested only in his estatesand his hunting and takes no part in politics, should lend himself to the illegal detentionof daubrecq the deputy in his chateau." lupin agreed; but, as he did not wish to leaveanything to chance, the next week, seeing
d’albufex go out one morning in riding-dress,he followed him to the gare du nord and took the same train. he got out at aumale, where d’albufex founda carriage at the station which took him to the chateau de montmaur. lupin lunched quietly, hired a bicycle andcame in view of the house at the moment when the guests were going into the park, in motor-carsor mounted. the marquis d’albufex was one of the horsemen. thrice, in the course of the day, lupin sawhim cantering along. and he found him, in the evening, at the station, where d’albufexrode up, followed by a huntsman.
the proof, therefore, was conclusive; andthere was nothing suspicious on that side. why did lupin, nevertheless, resolve not tobe satisfied with appearances? and why, next day, did he send the masher to find out thingsin the neighbourhood of montmaur? it was an additional precaution, based upon no logicalreason, but agreeing with his methodical and careful manner of acting. two days later he received from the masher,among other information of less importance, a list of the house-party at montmaur andof all the servants and keepers. one name struck him, among those of the huntsmen.he at once wired: "inquire about huntsman sebastiani."
the masher’s answer was received the nextday: "sebastiani, a corsican, was recommended tothe duc de montmaur by the marquis d’albufex. he lives at two or three miles from the house,in a hunting-lodge built among the ruins of the feudal stronghold which was the cradleof the montmaur family." "that’s it," said lupin to clarisse mergy,showing her the masher’s letter. "that name, sebastiani, at once reminded me that d’albufexis of corsican descent. there was a connection…" "then what do you intend to do?" "if daubrecq is imprisoned in those ruins,i intend to enter into communication with him."
"he will distrust you." "no. lately, acting on the information ofthe police, i ended by discovering the two old ladies who carried off your little jacquesat saint-germain and who brought him, the same evening, to neuilly. they are two oldmaids, cousins of daubrecq, who makes them a small monthly allowance. i have been tocall on those demoiselles rousselot; remember the name and the address: 134 bis, rue dubac. i inspired them with confidence, promised them to find their cousin and benefactor;and the elder sister, euphrasie rousselot, gave me a letter in which she begs daubrecqto trust m. nicole entirely. so you see, i have taken every precaution. i shall leaveto-night."
"we, you mean," said clarisse. "you!" "can i go on living like this, in feverishinaction?" and she whispered, "i am no longer counting the days, the thirty-eight or fortydays that remain to us: i am counting the hours." lupin felt that her resolution was too strongfor him to try to combat it. they both started at five o’clock in the morning, by motor-car.the growler went with them. so as not to arouse suspicion, lupin chosea large town as his headquarters. at amiens, where he installed clarisse, he was only eighteenmiles from montmaur.
at eight o’clock he met the masher not farfrom the old fortress, which was known in the neighbourhood by the name of mortepierre,and he examined the locality under his guidance. on the confines of the forest, the littleriver ligier, which has dug itself a deep valley at this spot, forms a loop which isoverhung by the enormous cliff of mortepierre. "nothing to be done on this side," said lupin."the cliff is steep, over two hundred feet high, and the river hugs it all round." not far away they found a bridge that ledto the foot of a path which wound, through the oaks and pines, up to a little esplanade,where stood a massive, iron-bound gate, studded with nails and flanked on either side by alarge tower.
"is this where sebastiani the huntsman lives?"asked lupin. "yes," said the masher, "with his wife, ina lodge standing in the midst of the ruins. i also learnt that he has three tall sonsand that all the four were supposed to be away for a holiday on the day when daubrecqwas carried off." "oho!" said lupin. "the coincidence is worthremembering. it seems likely enough that the business was done by those chaps and theirfather." toward the end of the afternoon lupin availedhimself of a breach to the right of the towers to scale the curtain. from there he was ableto see the huntsman’s lodge and the few remains of the old fortress: here, a bit of wall,suggesting the mantel of a chimney; further
away, a water-tank; on this side, the archesof a chapel; on the other, a heap of fallen stones. a patrol-path edged the cliff in front; and,at one of the ends of this patrol-path, there were the remains of a formidable donjon-keeprazed almost level with the ground. lupin returned to clarisse mergy in the evening.and from that time he went backward and forward between amiens and mortepierre, leaving thegrowler and the masher permanently on the watch. and six days passed. sebastiani’s habits seemedto be subject solely to the duties of his post. he used to go up to the chateau de montmaur,walk about in the forest, note the tracks
of the game and go his rounds at night. but, on the seventh day, learning that therewas to be a meet and that a carriage had been sent to aumale station in the morning, lupintook up his post in a cluster of box and laurels which surrounded the little esplanade in frontof the gate. at two o’clock he heard the pack give tongue.they approached, accompanied by hunting-cries, and then drew farther away. he heard themagain, about the middle of the afternoon, not quite so distinctly; and that was all.but suddenly, amid the silence, the sound of galloping horses reached his ears; and,a few minutes later, he saw two riders climbing the river-path.
he recognized the marquis d’albufex and sebastiani.on reaching the esplanade, they both alighted; and a womanâ€”the huntsman’s wife, no doubtâ€”openedthe gate. sebastiani fastened the horses’ bridles to rings fixed on a post at a fewyards from lupin and ran to join the marquis. the gate closed behind them. lupin did not hesitate; and, though it wasstill broad daylight, relying upon the solitude of the place, he hoisted himself to the hollowof the breach. passing his head through cautiously, he saw the two men and sebastiani’s wife hurryingtoward the ruins of the keep. the huntsman drew aside a hanging screen ofivy and revealed the entrance to a stairway, which he went down, as did d’albufex, leavinghis wife on guard on the terrace.
there was no question of going in after them;and lupin returned to his hiding-place. he did not wait long before the gate opened again. the marquis d’albufex seemed in a great rage.he was striking the leg of his boot with his whip and mumbling angry words which lupinwas able to distinguish when the distance became less great: "ah, the hound!… i’ll make him speak…i’ll come back to-night… to-night, at ten o’clock, do you hear, sebastiani?… and weshall do what’s necessary… oh, the brute!" sebastiani unfastened the horses. d’albufexturned to the woman: "see that your sons keep a good watch… ifany one attempts to deliver him, so much the
worse for him. the trapdoor is there. cani rely upon them?" "as thoroughly as on myself, monsieur le marquis,"declared the huntsman. "they know what monsieur le marquis has done for me and what he meansto do for them. they will shrink at nothing." "let us mount and get back to the hounds,"said d’albufex. so things were going as lupin had supposed.during these runs, d’albufex, taking a line of his own, would push off to mortepierre,without anybody’s suspecting his trick. sebastiani, who was devoted to him body and soul, forreasons connected with the past into which it was not worth while to inquire, accompaniedhim; and together they went to see the captive, who was closely watched by the huntsman’swife and his three sons.
"that’s where we stand," said lupin to clarissemergy, when he joined her at a neighbouring inn. "this evening the marquis will put daubrecqto the questionâ€”a little brutally, but indispensablyâ€”as i intended to do myself." "and daubrecq will give up his secret," saidclarisse, already quite upset. "i’m afraid so." "then…" "i am hesitating between two plans," saidlupin, who seemed very calm. "either to prevent the interview…" "how?"
"by forestalling d’albufex. at nine o’clock,the growler, the masher and i climb the ramparts, burst into the fortress, attack the keep,disarm the garrison… and the thing’s done: daubrecq is ours." "unless sebastiani’s sons fling him throughthe trapdoor to which the marquis alluded…" "for that reason," said lupin, "i intend torisk that violent measure only as a last resort and in case my other plan should not be practicable." "what is the other plan?" "to witness the interview. if daubrecq doesnot speak, it will give us the time to prepare to carry him off under more favourable conditions.if he speaks, if they compel him to reveal
the place where the list of the twenty-sevenis hidden, i shall know the truth at the same time as d’albufex, and i swear to god thati shall turn it to account before he does." "yes, yes," said clarisse. "but how do youpropose to be present?" "i don’t know yet," lupin confessed. "it dependson certain particulars which the masher is to bring me and on some which i shall findout for myself." he left the inn and did not return until anhour later as night was falling. the masher joined him. "have you the little book?" asked lupin. "yes, governor. it was what i saw at the aumalenewspaper-shop. i got it for ten sous."
"give it me." the masher handed him an old, soiled, tornpamphlet, entitled, on the cover, a visit to mortepierre, 1824, with plans and illustrations. lupin at once looked for the plan of the donjon-keep. "that’s it," he said. "above the ground werethree stories, which have been razed, and below the ground, dug out of the rock, twostories, one of which was blocked up by the rubbish, while the other… there, that’swhere our friend daubrecq lies. the name is significant: the torture-chamber… poor,dear friend!… between the staircase and the torture-chamber, two doors. between thosetwo doors, a recess in which the three brothers
obviously sit, gun in hand." "so it is impossible for you to get in thatway without being seen." "impossible… unless i come from above, bythe story that has fallen in, and look for a means of entrance through the ceiling…but that is very risky…" he continued to turn the pages of the book.clarisse asked: "is there no window to the room?" "yes," he said. "from below, from the riverâ€”ihave just been thereâ€”you can see a little opening, which is also marked on the plan.but it is fifty yards up, sheer; and even then the rock overhangs the water. so thatagain is out of the question."
he glanced through a few pages of the book.the title of one chapter struck him: the lovers’ towers. he read the opening lines: "in the old days, the donjon was known tothe people of the neighbourhood as the lovers’ tower, in memoryof a fatal tragedy that marked it in the middle ages. the comtede mortepierre, having received proofs of his wife’s faithlessness,imprisoned her in the torture-chamber, where she spenttwenty years. one night, her lover, the sire de tancarville,with reckless courage, set up a ladder in the river and then clamberedup the face of
the cliff till he came to the window of theroom. after filing the bars, he succeeded in releasing the womanhe loved and bringing her down with him by means of a rope.they both reached the top of the ladder, which was watched byhis friends, when a shot was fired from the patrol-path and hitthe man in the shoulder. the two lovers were hurled intospace…." there was a pause, after he had read this,a long pause during which each of them drew a mental picture of the tragic escape. so,three or four centuries earlier, a man, risking his life, had attempted that surprising featand would have succeeded but for the vigilance
of some sentry who heard the noise. a manhad ventured! a man had dared! a man done it! lupin raised his eyes to clarisse. she waslooking at him… with such a desperate, such a beseeching look! the look of a mother whodemanded the impossible and who would have sacrificed anything to save her son. "masher," he said, "get a strong rope, butvery slender, so that i can roll it round my waist, and very long: fifty or sixty yards.you, growler, go and look for three or four ladders and fasten them end to end." "why, what are you thinking of, governor?"cried the two accomplices. "what, you mean
to… but it’s madness!" "madness? why? what another has done i cando." "but it’s a hundred chances to one that youbreak your neck." "well, you see, masher, there’s one chancethat i don’t." "but, governor…" "that’s enough, my friends. meet me in anhour on the river-bank." the preparations took long in the making.it was difficult to find the material for a fifty-foot ladder that would reach the firstledge of the cliff; and it required an endless effort and care to join the different sections.
at last, a little after nine o’clock, it wasset up in the middle of the river and held in position by a boat, the bows of which werewedged between two of the rungs, while the stern was rammed into the bank. the road through the river-valley was littleused, and nobody came to interrupt the work. the night was dark, the sky heavy with movelessclouds. lupin gave the masher and the growler theirfinal instructions and said, with a laugh: "i can’t tell you how amused i am at the thoughtof seeing daubrecq’s face when they proceed to take his scalp or slice his skin into ribbons.upon my word, it’s worth the journey." clarisse also had taken a seat in the boat.he said to her:
"until we meet again. and, above all, don’tstir. whatever happens, not a movement, not a cry." "can anything happen?" she asked. "why, remember the sire de tancarville! itwas at the very moment when he was achieving his object, with his true love in his arms,that an accident betrayed him. but be easy: i shall be all right." she made no reply. she seized his hand andgrasped it warmly between her own. he put his foot on the ladder and made surethat it did not sway too much. then he went up.
he soon reached the top rung. this was where the dangerous ascent began,a difficult ascent at the start, because of the excessive steepness, and developing, mid-way,into an absolute escalade. fortunately, here and there were little hollows,in which his feet found a resting-place, and projecting stones, to which his hands clung.but twice those stones gave way and he slipped; and twice he firmly believed that all waslost. finding a deeper hollow, he took a rest. he was worn out, felt quite ready to throwup the enterprise, asked himself if it was really worth while for him to expose himselfto such danger: "i say!" he thought. "seems to me you’re showingthe white feather, lupin, old boy. throw up
the enterprise? then daubrecq will babblehis secret, the marquis will possess himself of the list, lupin will return empty-handed,and gilbert…" the long rope which he had fastened roundhis waist caused him needless inconvenience and fatigue. he fixed one of the ends to thestrap of his trousers and let the rope uncoil all the way down the ascent, so that he coulduse it, on returning, as a hand-rail. then he once more clutched at the rough surfaceof the cliff and continued the climb, with bruised nails and bleeding fingers. at everymoment he expected the inevitable fall. and what discouraged him most was to hear themurmur of voices rising from the boat, murmur so distinct that it seemed as though he werenot increasing the distance between his companions
and himself. and he remembered the sire de tancarville,alone, he too, amid the darkness, who must have shivered at the noise of the stones whichhe loosened and sent bounding down the cliff. how the least sound reverberated through thesilence! if one of daubrecq’s guards was peering into the gloom from the lovers’ tower, itmeant a shot… and death. and he climbed… he climbed… he had climbedso long that he ended by imagining that the goal was passed. beyond a doubt, he had slantedunawares to the right or left and he would finish at the patrol-path. what a stupid upshot!and what other upshot could there be to an attempt which the swift force of events hadnot allowed him to study and prepare?
madly, he redoubled his efforts, raised himselfby a number of yards, slipped, recovered the lost ground, clutched a bunch of roots thatcame loose in his hand, slipped once more and was abandoning the game in despair when,suddenly, stiffening himself and contracting his whole frame, his muscles and his will,he stopped still: a sound of voices seemed to issue from the very rock which he was grasping. he listened. it came from the right. turninghis head, he thought that he saw a ray of light penetrating the darkness of space. bywhat effort of energy, by what imperceptible movements he succeeded in dragging himselfto the spot he was never able exactly to realize. but suddenly he found himself on the ledgeof a fairly wide opening, at least three yards
deep, which dug into the wall of the clifflike a passage, while its other end, much narrower, was closed by three bars. lupin crawled along. his head reached thebars. and he saw… chapter viii. the lovers’ tower the torture-chamber showed beneath him. itwas a large, irregular room, divided into unequal portions by the four wide, massivepillars that supported its arched roof. a smell of damp and mildew came from its wallsand from its flags moistened by the water that trickled from without. its appearanceat any time must have been gruesome. but, at that moment, with the tall figures of sebastianiand his sons, with the slanting gleams of
light that fell between the pillars, withthe vision of the captive chained down upon the truckle-bed, it assumed a sinister andbarbarous aspect. daubrecq was in the front part of the room,four or five yards down from the window at which lupin lurked. in addition to the ancientchains that had been used to fasten him to his bed and to fasten the bed to an iron hookin the wall, his wrists and ankles were girt with leather thongs; and an ingenious arrangementcaused his least movement to set in motion a bell hung to the nearest pillar. a lamp placed on a stool lit him full in theface. the marquis d’albufex was standing besidehim. lupin could see his pale features, his
grizzled moustache, his long, lean form ashe looked at his prisoner with an expression of content and of gratified hatred. a few minutes passed in profound silence.then the marquis gave an order: "light those three candles, sebastiani, sothat i can see him better." and, when the three candles were lit and hehad taken a long look at daubrecq, he stooped over him and said, almost gently: "i can’t say what will be the end of you andme. but at any rate i shall have had some deuced happy moments in this room. you havedone me so much harm, daubrecq! the tears you have made me shed! yes, real tears, realsobs of despair… the money you have robbed
me of! a fortune!… and my terror at thethought that you might give me away! you had but to utter my name to complete my ruin andbring about my disgrace!… oh, you villain!…" daubrecq did not budge. he had been deprivedof his black glasses, but still kept his spectacles, which reflected the light from the candles.he had lost a good deal of flesh; and the bones stood out above his sunken cheeks. "come along," said d’albufex. "the time hascome to act. it seems that there are rogues prowling about the neighbourhood. heaven forbidthat they are here on your account and try to release you; for that would mean your immediatedeath, as you know… is the trapdoor still in working order, sebastiani?"
sebastiani came nearer, knelt on one kneeand lifted and turned a ring, at the foot of the bed, which lupin had not noticed. oneof the flagstones moved on a pivot, disclosing a black hole. "you see," the marquis continued, "everythingis provided for; and i have all that i want at hand, including dungeons: bottomless dungeons,says the legend of the castle. so there is nothing to hope for, no help of any kind.will you speak?" daubrecq did not reply; and he went on: "this is the fourth time that i am questioningyou, daubrecq. it is the fourth time that i have troubled to ask you for the documentwhich you possess, in order that i may escape
your blackmailing proceedings. it is the fourthtime and the last. will you speak?" the same silence as before. d’albufex madea sign to sebastiani. the huntsman stepped forward, followed by two of his sons. oneof them held a stick in his hand. "go ahead," said d’albufex, after waitinga few seconds. sebastiani slackened the thongs that bounddaubrecq’s wrists and inserted and fixed the stick between the thongs. "shall i turn, monsieur le marquis?" a further silence. the marquis waited. seeingthat daubrecq did not flinch, he whispered: "can’t you speak? why expose yourself to physicalsuffering?"
"turn away, sebastiani." sebastiani made the stick turn a completecircle. the thongs stretched and tightened. daubrecq gave a groan. "you won’t speak? still, you know that i won’tgive way, that i can’t give way, that i hold you and that, if necessary, i shall tortureyou till you die of it. you won’t speak? you won’t?… sebastiani, once more." the huntsman obeyed. daubrecq gave a violentstart of pain and fell back on his bed with a rattle in his throat. "you fool!" cried the marquis, shaking withrage. "why don’t you speak? what, haven’t
you had enough of that list? surely it’s somebodyelse’s turn! come, speak… where is it? one word. one word only… and we will leave youin peace… and, to-morrow, when i have the list, you shall be free. free, do you understand?but, in heaven’s name, speak!… oh, the brute! sebastiani, one more turn." sebastiani made a fresh effort. the bonescracked. "help! help!" cried daubrecq, in a hoarsevoice, vainly struggling to release himself. and, in a spluttering whisper, "mercy… mercy." it was a dreadful sight… the faces of thethree sons were horror-struck. lupin shuddered, sick at heart, and realized that he himselfcould never have accomplished that abominable
thing. he listened for the words that werebound to come. he must learn the truth. daubrecq’s secret was about to be expressed in syllables,in words wrung from him by pain. and lupin began to think of his retreat, of the carwhich was waiting for him, of the wild rush to paris, of the victory at hand. "speak," whispered d’albufex. "speak and itwill be over." "yes… yes…" gasped daubrecq. "well…?" "later… to-morrow…" "oh, you’re mad!… what are you talking about:to-morrow?… sebastiani, another turn!"
"no, no!" yelled daubrecq. "stop!" "speak!" "well, then… the paper… i have hiddenthe paper…" but his pain was too great. he raised hishead with a last effort, uttered incoherent words, succeeded in twice saying, "marie…marie…" and fell back, exhausted and lifeless. "let go at once!" said d’albufex to sebastiani."hang it all, can we have overdone it?" but a rapid examination showed him that daubrecqhad only fainted. thereupon, he himself, worn out with the excitement, dropped on the footof the bed and, wiping the beads of perspiration from his forehead, stammered:
"oh, what a dirty business!" "perhaps that’s enough for to-day," said thehuntsman, whose rough face betrayed a certain emotion. "we might try again to-morrow orthe next day…" the marquis was silent. one of the sons handedhim a flask of brandy. he poured out half a glass and drank it down at a draught: "to-morrow?" he said. "no. here and now. onelittle effort more. at the stage which he has reached, it won’t be difficult." and,taking the huntsman aside, "did you hear what he said? what did he mean by that word, ‘marie’?he repeated it twice." "yes, twice," said the huntsman. "perhapshe entrusted the document to a person called
marie." "not he!" protested d’albufex. "he never entrustsanything to anybody. it means something different." "but what, monsieur le marquis?" "we’ll soon find out, i’ll answer for it." at that moment, daubrecq drew a long breathand stirred on his couch. d’albufex, who had now recovered all his composureand who did not take his eyes off the enemy, went up to him and said: "you see, daubrecq, it’s madness to resist…once you’re beaten, there’s nothing for it but to submit to your conqueror, instead ofallowing yourself to be tortured like an idiot…
come, be sensible." he turned to sebastiani: "tighten the rope… let him feel it a littlethat will wake him up… he’s shamming death…" sebastiani took hold of the stick again andturned until the cord touched the swollen flesh. daubrecq gave a start. "that’ll do, sebastiani," said the marquis."our friend seems favourably disposed and understands the need for coming to terms.that’s so, daubrecq, is it not? you prefer to have done with it? and you’re quite right!" the two men were leaning over the sufferer,sebastiani with his hand on the stick, d’albufex
holding the lamp so as to throw the lighton daubrecq’s face: "his lips are moving… he’s going to speak. loosen the rope a little,sebastiani: i don’t want our friend to be hurt… no, tighten it: i believe our friendis hesitating… one turn more… stop! … that’s done it! oh, my dear daubrecq, if you can’tspeak plainer than that, it’s no use! what? what did you say?" arsene lupin muttered an oath. daubrecq wasspeaking and he, lupin, could not hear a word of what he said! in vain, he pricked up hisears, suppressed the beating of his heart and the throbbing of his temples: not a soundreached him. "confound it!" he thought. "i never expectedthis. what am i to do?"
he was within an ace of covering daubrecqwith his revolver and putting a bullet into him which would cut short any explanation.but he reflected that he himself would then be none the wiser and that it was better totrust to events in the hope of making the most of them. meanwhile the confession continued beneathhim, indistinctly, interrupted by silences and mingled with moans. d’albufex clung tohis prey: "go on!… finish, can’t you?…" and he punctuated the sentences with exclamationsof approval: "good!… capital!… oh, how funny!… andno one suspected?… not even prasville?…
what an ass!… loosen a bit, sebastiani:don’t you see that our friend is out of breath?… keep calm, daubrecq… don’t tire yourself…and so, my dear fellow, you were saying…" that was the last. there was a long whisperingto which d’albufex listened without further interruption and of which arsene lupin couldnot catch the least syllable. then the marquis drew himself up and exclaimed, joyfully: "that’s it!… thank you, daubrecq. and, believeme, i shall never forget what you have just done. if ever you’re in need, you have onlyto knock at my door and there will always be a crust of bread for you in the kitchenand a glass of water from the filter. sebastiani, look after monsieur le depute as if he wereone of your sons. and, first of all, release
him from his bonds. it’s a heartless thingto truss one’s fellow-man like that, like a chicken on the spit!" "shall we give him something to drink?" suggestedthe huntsman. "yes, that’s it, give him a drink." sebastiani and his sons undid the leatherstraps, rubbed the bruised wrists, dressed them with an ointment and bandaged them. thendaubrecq swallowed a few drops of brandy. "feeling better?" said the marquis. "pooh,it’s nothing much! in a few hours, it won’t show; and you’ll be able to boast of havingbeen tortured, as in the good old days of the inquisition. you lucky dog!"
he took out his watch. "enough said! sebastiani,let your sons watch him in turns. you, take me to the station for the last train." "then are we to leave him like that, monsieurle marquis, free to move as he pleases?" "why not? you don’t imagine that we are goingto keep him here to the day of his death? no, daubrecq, sleep quietly. i shall go toyour place tomorrow afternoon; and, if the document is where you told me, a telegramshall be sent off at once and you shall be set free. you haven’t told me a lie, i suppose?" he went back to daubrecq and, stooping overhim again: "no humbug, eh? that would be very silly ofyou. i should lose a day, that’s all. whereas
you would lose all the days that remain toyou to live. but no, the hiding-place is too good. a fellow doesn’t invent a thing likethat for fun. come on, sebastiani. you shall have the telegram to-morrow." "and suppose they don’t let you into the house,monsieur le marquis?" "why shouldn’t they?" "the house in the square lamartine is occupiedby prasville’s men." "don’t worry, sebastiani. i shall get in.if they don’t open the door, there’s always the window. and, if the window won’t open,i shall arrange with one of prasville’s men. it’s a question of money, that’s all. and,thank goodness, i shan’t be short of that,
henceforth! good-night, daubrecq." he went out, accompanied by sebastiani, andthe heavy door closed after them. lupin at once effected his retreat, in accordancewith a plan which he had worked out during this scene. the plan was simple enough: to scramble, bymeans of his rope, to the bottom of the cliff, take his friends with him, jump into the motor-carand attack d’albufex and sebastiani on the deserted road that leads to aumale station.there could be no doubt about the issue of the contest. with d’albufex and sebastianiprisoners; it would be an easy matter to make one of them speak. d’albufex had shown himhow to set about it; and clarisse mergy would
be inflexible where it was a question of savingher son. he took the rope with which he had providedhimself and groped about to find a jagged piece of rock round which to pass it, so asto leave two equal lengths hanging, by which he could let himself down. but, when he foundwhat he wanted, instead of acting swiftlyâ€”for the business was urgentâ€”he stood motionless,thinking. his scheme failed to satisfy him at the last moment. "it’s absurd, what i’m proposing," he saidto himself. "absurd and illogical. how can i tell that d’albufex and sebastiani willnot escape me? how can i even tell that, once they are in my power, they will speak? no,i shall stay. there are better things to try…
much better things. it’s not those two i mustbe at, but daubrecq. he’s done for; he has not a kick left in him. if he has told themarquis his secret, there is no reason why he shouldn’t tell it to clarisse and me, whenwe employ the same methods. that’s settled! we’ll kidnap the daubrecq bird." and he continued,"besides, what do i risk? if the scheme miscarries, clarisse and i will rush off to paris and,together with prasville, organize a careful watch in the square lamartine to prevent d’albufexfrom benefiting by daubrecq’s revelations. the great thing is for prasville to be warnedof the danger. he shall be." the church-clock in a neighbouring villagestruck twelve. that gave lupin six or seven hours to put his new plan into execution.he set to work forthwith.
when moving away from the embrasure whichhad the window at the bottom of it, he had come upon a clump of small shrubs in one ofthe hollows of the cliff. he cut away a dozen of these, with his knife, and whittled themall down to the same size. then he cut off two equal lengths from his rope. these werethe uprights of the ladder. he fastened the twelve little sticks between the uprightsand thus contrived a rope-ladder about six yards long. when he returned to this post, there was onlyone of the three sons beside daubrecq’s bed in the torture-chamber. he was smoking hispipe by the lamp. daubrecq was asleep. "hang it!" thought lupin. "is the fellow goingto sit there all night? in that case, there’s
nothing for me to do but to slip off…" the idea that d’albufex was in possessionof the secret vexed him mightily. the interview at which he had assisted had left the clearimpression in his mind that the marquis was working "on his own" and that, in securingthe list, he intended not only to escape daubrecq’s activity, but also to gain daubrecq’s powerand build up his fortune anew by the identical means which daubrecq had employed. that would have meant, for lupin, a freshbattle to wage against a fresh enemy. the rapid march of events did not allow of thecontemplation of such a possibility. he must at all costs spike the marquis d’albufex’guns by warning prasville.
however, lupin remained held back by the stubbornhope of some incident that would give him the opportunity of acting. the clock struck half-past twelve. it struck one. the waiting became terrible, all the moreso as an icy mist rose from the valley and lupin felt the cold penetrate to his verymarrow. he heard the trot of a horse in the distance: "sebastiani returning from the station," hethought. but the son who was watching in the torture-chamber,having finished his packet of tobacco, opened
the door and asked his brothers if they hada pipeful for him. they made some reply; and he went out to go to the lodge. and lupin was astounded. no sooner was thedoor closed than daubrecq, who had been so sound asleep, sat up on his couch, listened,put one foot to the ground, followed by the other, and, standing up, tottering a little,but firmer on his legs than one would have expected, tried his strength. "well" said lupin, "the beggar doesn’t takelong recovering. he can very well help in his own escape. there’s just one point thatruffles me: will he allow himself to be convinced? will he consent to go with me? will he notthink that this miraculous assistance which
comes to him straight from heaven is a traplaid by the marquis?" but suddenly lupin remembered the letter whichhe had made daubrecq’s old cousins write, the letter of recommendation, so to speak,which the elder of the two sisters rousselot had signed with her christian name, euphrasie. it was in his pocket. he took it and listened.not a sound, except the faint noise of daubrecq’s footsteps on the flagstones. lupin consideredthat the moment had come. he thrust his arm through the bars and threw the letter in. daubrecq seemed thunderstruck. the letter had fluttered through the roomand lay on the floor, at three steps from
him. where did it come from? he raised hishead toward the window and tried to pierce the darkness that hid all the upper part ofthe room from his eyes. then he looked at the envelope, without yet daring to touchit, as though he dreaded a snare. then, suddenly, after a glance at the door, he stooped briskly,seized the envelope and opened it. "ah," he said, with a sigh of delight, whenhe saw the signature. he read the letter half-aloud: "rely implicitly on the bearer of this note.he has succeeded in discovering the marquis’ secret, with themoney which we gave him, and has contrived a plan of escape. everythingis prepared
for your flight. "euphrasie rousselot" he read the letter again, repeated, "euphrasie…euphrasie…" and raised his head once more. lupin whispered: "it will take me two or three hours to filethrough one of the bars. are sebastiani and his sons coming back?" "yes, they are sure to," replied daubrecq,in the same low voice, "but i expect they will leave me to myself." "but they sleep next door?"
"won’t they hear?" "no, the door is too thick." "very well. in that case, it will soon bedone. i have a rope-ladder. will you be able to climb up alone, without my assistance?" "i think so… i’ll try… it’s my wriststhat they’ve broken… oh, the brutes! i can hardly move my hands… and i have very littlestrength left. but i’ll try all the same… needs must…" he stopped, listened and, with his fingerto his mouth, whispered: "hush!"
when sebastiani and his sons entered the room,daubrecq, who had hidden the letter and lain down on his bed, pretended to wake with astart. the huntsman brought him a bottle of wine,a glass and some food: "how goes it, monsieur le depute?" he cried."well, perhaps we did squeeze a little hard… it’s very painful, that thumbscrewing. seemsthey often did it at the time of the great revolution and bonaparte… in the days ofthe chauffeurs. [*] a pretty invention! nice and clean… no bloodshed… and it didn’tlast long either! in twenty minutes, you came out with the missing word!" sebastiani burstout laughing. "by the way, monsieur le depute, my congratulations! a capital hiding-place.who would ever suspect it?… you see, what
put us off, monsieur le marquis and me, wasthat name of marie which you let out at first. you weren’t telling a lie; but there you are,you know: the word was only half-finished. we had to know the rest. say what you like,it’s amusing! just think, on your study-table! upon my word, what a joke!" * the name given to the brigands in the vendee,who tortured their victims with fire to make them confesswhere theirmoney was hidden.â€”translator’s note. the huntsman rose and walked up and down theroom, rubbing his hands: "monsieur le marquis is jolly well pleased,so pleased, in fact, that he himself is coming to-morrow evening to let you out. yes, hehas thought it over; there will be a few formalities:
you may have to sign a cheque or two, stumpup, what, and make good monsieur le marquis’ expense and trouble. but what’s that to you?a trifle! not to mention that, from now on, there will be no more chains, no more strapsround your wrists; in short, you will be treated like a king! and i’ve even been toldâ€”lookhere!â€”to allow you a good bottle of old wine and a flask of brandy." sebastiani let fly a few more jests, thentook the lamp, made a last examination of the room and said to his sons: "let’s leave him to sleep. you also, takea rest, all three of you. but sleep with one eye open. one never can tell…" they withdrew.
lupin waited a little longer and asked, ina low voice: "can i begin?" "yes, but be careful. it’s not impossiblethat they may go on a round in an hour or two." lupin set to work. he had a very powerfulfile; and the iron of the bars, rusted and gnawed away by time, was, in places, almostreduced to dust. twice lupin stopped to listen, with ears pricked up. but it was only thepatter of a rat over the rubbish in the upper story, or the flight of some night-bird; andhe continued his task, encouraged by daubrecq, who stood by the door, ready to warn him atthe least alarm.
"oof!" he said, giving a last stroke of thefile. "i’m glad that’s over, for, on my word, i’ve been a bit cramped in this cursed tunnel…to say nothing of the cold…" he bore with all his strength upon the bar,which he had sawn from below, and succeeded in forcing it down sufficiently for a man’sbody to slip between the two remaining bars. next, he had to go back to the end of theembrasure, the wider part, where he had left the rope-ladder. after fixing it to the bars,he called daubrecq: "psst!… it’s all right… are you ready?" "yes… coming… one more second, while ilisten… all right… they’re asleep… give me the ladder."
lupin lowered it and asked: "must i come down?" "no… i feel a little weak… but i shallmanage." indeed, he reached the window of the embrasurepretty quickly and crept along the passage in the wake of his rescuer. the open air,however, seemed to make him giddy. also, to give himself strength, he had drunk half thebottle of wine; and he had a fainting-fit that kept him lying on the stones of the embrasurefor half an hour. lupin, losing patience, was fastening him to one end of the rope,of which the other end was knotted round the bars and was preparing to let him down likea bale of goods, when daubrecq woke up, in
better condition: "that’s over," he said. "i feel fit now. willit take long?" "pretty long. we are a hundred and fifty yardsup." "how was it that d’albufex did not foreseethat it was possible to escape this way?" "the cliff is perpendicular." "and you were able to…" "well, your cousins insisted… and then onehas to live, you know, and they were free with their money." "the dear, good souls!" said daubrecq. "whereare they?"
"down below, in a boat." "is there a river, then?" "yes, but we won’t talk, if you don’t mind.it’s dangerous." "one word more. had you been there long whenyou threw me the letter?" "no, no. a quarter of an hour or so. i’lltell you all about it… meanwhile, we must hurry." lupin went first, after recommending daubrecqto hold tight to the rope and to come down backward. he would give him a hand at thedifficult places. it took them over forty minutes to reach theplatform of the ledge formed by the cliff;
and lupin had several times to help his companion,whose wrists, still bruised from the torture, had lost all their strength and suppleness. over and over again, he groaned: "oh, the swine, they’ve done for me!… theswine!… ah, d’albufex, i’ll make you pay dear for this!…" "ssh!" said lupin. "what’s the matter?" "a noise… up above…" standing motionless on the platform, theylistened. lupin thought of the sire de tancarville
and the sentry who had killed him with a shotfrom his harquebus. he shivered, feeling all the anguish of the silence and the darkness. "no," he said, "i was mistaken… besides,it’s absurd… they can’t hit us here." "who would hit us?" "no one… no one… it was a silly notion…" he groped about till he found the uprightsof the ladder; then he said: "there, here’s the ladder. it is fixed inthe bed of the river. a friend of mine is looking after it, as well as your cousins." he whistled:
"here i am," he said, in a low voice. "holdthe ladder fast." and, to daubrecq, "i’ll go first." daubrecq objected: "perhaps it would be better for me to go downfirst." "i am very tired. you can tie your rope roundmy waist and hold me… otherwise, there is a danger that i might…" "yes, you are right," said lupin. "come nearer." daubrecq came nearer and knelt down on therock. lupin fastened the rope to him and then, stooping over, grasped one of the uprightsin both hands to keep the ladder from shaking:
"off you go," he said. at the same moment, he felt a violent painin the shoulder: "blast it!" he said, sinking to the ground. daubrecq had stabbed him with a knife belowthe nape of the neck, a little to the right. "you blackguard! you blackguard!" he half-saw daubrecq, in the dark, riddinghimself of his rope, and heard him whisper: "you’re a bit of a fool, you know!… youbring me a letter from my rousselot cousins, in which i recognize the writing of the elder,adelaide, but which that sly puss of an adelaide, suspecting something and meaning to put meon my guard, if necessary, took care to sign
with the name of the younger sister, euphrasierousselot. you see, i tumbled to it! so, with a little reflection… you are master arsenelupin, are you not? clarisse’s protector, gilbert’s saviour… poor lupin, i fear you’rein a bad way… i don’t use the knife often; but, when i do, i use it with a vengeance." he bent over the wounded man and felt in hispockets: "give me your revolver, can’t you? you see,your friends will know at once that it is not their governor; and they will try to secureme… and, as i have not much strength left, a bullet or two… good-bye, lupin. we shallmeet in the next world, eh? book me a nice flat, with all the latest conveniences.
"good-bye, lupin. and my best thanks. forreally i don’t know what i should have done without you. by jove, d’albufex was hittingme hard! it’ll be a joke to meet the beggar again!" daubrecq had completed his preparations. hewhistled once more. a reply came from the boat. "here i am," he said. with a last effort, lupin put out his armto stop him. but his hand touched nothing but space. he tried to call out, to warn hisaccomplices: his voice choked in his throat. he felt a terrible numbness creep over hiswhole being. his temples buzzed.
suddenly, shouts below. then a shot. thenanother, followed by a triumphant chuckle. and a woman’s wail and moans. and, soon after,two more shots. lupin thought of clarisse, wounded, dead perhaps;of daubrecq, fleeing victoriously; of d’albufex; of the crystal stopper, which one or otherof the two adversaries would recover unresisted. then a sudden vision showed him the sire detancarville falling with the woman he loved. then he murmured, time after time: "clarisse… clarisse… gilbert…" a greatsilence overcame him; an infinite peace entered into him; and, without the least revolt, hereceived the impression that his exhausted body, with nothing now to hold it back, wasrolling to the very edge of the rock, toward
the abyss. chapter ix. in the darkan hotel bedroom at amiens. lupin was recovering a little consciousnessfor the first time. clarisse and the masher were seated by his bedside. both were talking; and lupin listened to them,without opening his eyes. he learned that they had feared for his life, but that alldanger was now removed. next, in the course of the conversation, he caught certain wordsthat revealed to him what had happened in the tragic night at mortepierre: daubrecq’sdescent; the dismay of the accomplices, when they saw that it was not the governor; thenthe short struggle: clarisse flinging herself
on daubrecq and receiving a wound in the shoulder;daubrecq leaping to the bank; the growler firing two revolver-shots and darting offin pursuit of him; the masher clambering up the ladder and finding the governor in a swoon: "true as i live," said the masher, "i can’tmake out even now how he did not roll over. there was a sort of hollow at that place,but it was a sloping hollow; and, half dead as he was, he must have hung on with his tenfingers. crikey, it was time i came!" lupin listened, listened in despair. he collectedhis strength to grasp and understand the words. but suddenly a terrible sentence was uttered:clarisse, weeping, spoke of the eighteen days that had elapsed, eighteen more days lostto gilbert’s safety.
eighteen days! the figure terrified lupin.he felt that all was over, that he would never be able to recover his strength and resumethe struggle and that gilbert and vaucheray were doomed… his brain slipped away fromhim. the fever returned and the delirium. and more days came and went. it was perhapsthe time of his life of which lupin speaks with the greatest horror. he retained justenough consciousness and had sufficiently lucid moments to realize the position exactly.but he was not able to coordinate his ideas, to follow a line of argument nor to instructor forbid his friends to adopt this or that line of conduct. often, when he emerged from his torpor, hefound his hand in clarisse’s and, in that
half-slumbering condition in which a feverkeeps you, he would address strange words to her, words of love and passion, imploringher and thanking her and blessing her for all the light and joy which she had broughtinto his darkness. then, growing calmer and not fully understandingwhat he had said, he tried to jest: "i have been delirious, have i not? what aheap of nonsense i must have talked!" but lupin felt by clarisse’s silence thathe could safely talk as much nonsense as ever his fever suggested to him. she did not hear.the care and attention which she lavished on the patient, her devotion, her vigilance,her alarm at the least relapse: all this was meant not for him, but for the possible saviourof gilbert. she anxiously watched the progress
of his convalescence. how soon would he befit to resume the campaign? was it not madness to linger by his side, when every day carriedaway a little hope? lupin never ceased repeating to himself, withthe inward belief that, by so doing, he could influence the course of his illness: "i will get well… i will get well…" and he lay for days on end without moving,so as not to disturb the dressing of his wound nor increase the excitement of his nervesin the smallest degree. he also strove not to think of daubrecq. butthe image of his dire adversary haunted him; and he reconstituted the various phases ofthe escape, the descent of the cliff…. one
day, struck by a terrible memory, he exclaimed: "the list! the list of the twenty-seven! daubrecqmust have it by now… or else d’albufex. it was on the table!" clarisse reassured him: "no one can have taken it," she declared."the growler was in paris that same day, with a note from me for prasville, entreating himto redouble his watch in the square lamartine, so that no one should enter, especially d’albufex…" "but daubrecq?" "he is wounded. he cannot have gone home."
"ah, well," he said, "that’s all right!…but you too were wounded…" "a mere scratch on the shoulder." lupin was easier in his mind after these revelations.nevertheless, he was pursued by stubborn notions which he was unable either to drive from hisbrain or to put into words. above all, he thought incessantly of that name of "marie"which daubrecq’s sufferings had drawn from him. what did the name refer to? was it thetitle of one of the books on the shelves, or a part of the title? would the book inquestion supply the key to the mystery? or was it the combination word of a safe? wasit a series of letters written somewhere: on a wall, on a paper, on a wooden panel,on the mount of a drawing, on an invoice?
these questions, to which he was unable tofind a reply, obsessed and exhausted him. one morning arsene lupin woke feeling a greatdeal better. the wound was closed, the temperature almost normal. the doctor, a personal friend,who came every day from paris, promised that he might get up two days later. and, on thatday, in the absence of his accomplices and of mme. mergy, all three of whom had lefttwo days before, in quest of information, he had himself moved to the open window. he felt life return to him with the sunlight,with the balmy air that announced the approach of spring. he recovered the concatenationof his ideas; and facts once more took their place in his brain in their logical sequenceand in accordance with their relations one
to the other. in the evening he received a telegram fromclarisse to say that things were going badly and that she, the growler and the masher wereall staying in paris. he was much disturbed by this wire and had a less quiet night. whatcould the news be that had given rise to clarisse’s telegram? but, the next day, she arrived in his roomlooking very pale, her eyes red with weeping, and, utterly worn out, dropped into a chair: "the appeal has been rejected," she stammered. he mastered his emotion and asked, in a voiceof surprise:
"were you relying on that?" "no, no," she said, "but, all the same…one hopes in spite of one’s self." "was it rejected yesterday?" "a week ago. the masher kept it from me; andi have not dared to read the papers lately." "there is always the commutation of sentence,"he suggested. "the commutation? do you imagine that theywill commute the sentence of arsene lupin’s accomplices?" she ejaculated the words with a violence anda bitterness which he pretended not to notice; and he said:
"vaucheray perhaps not… but they will takepity on gilbert, on his youth…" "they will do nothing of the sort." "i have seen his counsel." "you have seen his counsel! and you told him…" "i told him that i was gilbert’s mother andi asked him whether, by proclaiming my son’s identity, we could not influence the result…or at least delay it." "you would do that?" he whispered. "you wouldadmit…" "gilbert’s life comes before everything. whatdo i care about my name! what do i care about my husband’s name!"
"and your little jacques?" he objected. "haveyou the right to ruin jacques, to make him the brother of a man condemned to death?" she hung her head. and he resumed: "what did the counsel say?" "he said that an act of that sort would nothelp gilbert in the remotest degree. and, in spite of all his protests, i could seethat, as far as he was concerned, he had no illusions left and that the pardoning commissionare bound to find in favour of the execution." "the commission, i grant you; but what ofthe president of the republic?" "the president always goes by the advice ofthe commission."
"he will not do so this time." "and why not?" "because we shall bring influence to bearupon him." "by the conditional surrender of the listof the twenty-seven!" "have you it?" "no, but i shall have it." his certainty had not wavered. he made thestatement with equal calmness and faith in the infinite power of his will. she had lost some part of her confidence inhim and she shrugged her shoulders lightly:
"if d’albufex has not purloined the list,one man alone can exercise any influence; one man alone: daubrecq." she spoke these words in a low and absentvoice that made him shudder. was she still thinking, as he had often seemed to feel,of going back to daubrecq and paying him for gilbert’s life? "you have sworn an oath to me," he said. "i’mreminding you of it. it was agreed that the struggle with daubrecq should be directedby me and that there would never be a possibility of any arrangement between you and him." she retorted:
"i don’t even know where he is. if i knew,wouldn’t you know?" it was an evasive answer. but he did not insist,resolving to watch her at the opportune time; and he asked her, for he had not yet beentold all the details: "then it’s not known what became of daubrecq?" "no. of course, one of the growler’s bulletsstruck him. for, next day, we picked up, in a coppice, a handkerchief covered with blood.also, it seems that a man was seen at aumale station, looking very tired and walking withgreat difficulty. he took a ticket for paris, stepped into the first train and that is all…" "he must be seriously wounded," said lupin,"and he is nursing himself in some safe retreat.
perhaps, also, he considers it wise to lielow for a few weeks and avoid any traps on the part of the police, d’albufex, you, myselfand all his other enemies." he stopped to think and continued: "what has happened at mortepierre since daubrecq’sescape? has there been no talk in the neighbourhood?" "no, the rope was removed before daybreak,which proves that sebastiani or his sons discovered daubrecq’s flight on the same night. sebastianiwas away the whole of the next day." "yes, he will have informed the marquis. andwhere is the marquis himself?" "at home. and, from what the growler has heard,there is nothing suspicious there either." "are they certain that he has not been insidedaubrecq’s house?"
"as certain as they can be." "nor daubrecq?" "nor daubrecq." "have you seen prasville?" "prasville is away on leave. but chief-inspectorblanchon, who has charge of the case, and the detectives who are guarding the housedeclare that, in accordance with prasville’s instructions, their watch is not relaxed fora moment, even at night; that one of them, turn and turn about, is always on duty inthe study; and that no one, therefore, can have gone in."
"so, on principle," arsene lupin concluded,"the crystal stopper must still be in daubrecq’s study?" "if it was there before daubrecq’s disappearance,it should be there now." "and on the study-table." "on the study-table? why do you say that?" "because i know," said lupin, who had notforgotten sebastiani’s words. "but you don’t know the article in which thestopper is hidden?" "no. but a study-table, a writing-desk, isa limited space. one can explore it in twenty minutes. one can demolish it, if necessary,in ten."
the conversation had tired arsene lupin alittle. as he did not wish to commit the least imprudence, he said to clarisse: "listen. i will ask you to give me two orthree days more. this is monday, the 4th of march. on wednesday or thursday, at latest,i shall be up and about. and you can be sure that we shall succeed." "and, in the meantime…" "in the meantime, go back to paris. take rooms,with the growler and the masher, in the hotel franklin, near the trocadero, and keep a watchon daubrecq’s house. you are free to go in and out as you please. stimulate the zealof the detectives on duty."
"suppose daubrecq returns?" "if he returns, that will be so much the better:we shall have him." "and, if he only passes?" "in that case, the growler and the mashermust follow him." "and if they lose sight of him?" lupin did not reply. no one felt more thanhe how fatal it was to remain inactive in a hotel bedroom and how useful his presencewould have been on the battlefield! perhaps even this vague idea had already prolongedhis illness beyond the ordinary limits. he murmured:
"go now, please." there was a constraint between them whichincreased as the awful day drew nigh. in her injustice, forgetting or wishing to forgetthat it was she who had forced her son into the enghien enterprise, mme. mergy did notforget that the law was pursuing gilbert with such rigour not so much because he was a criminalas because he was an accomplice of arsene lupin’s. and then, notwithstanding all hisefforts, notwithstanding his prodigious expenditure of energy, what result had lupin achieved,when all was said? how far had his intervention benefited gilbert? after a pause, she rose and left him alone.
the next day he was feeling rather low. buton the day after, the wednesday, when his doctor wanted him to keep quiet until theend of the week, he said: "if not, what have i to fear?" "a return of the fever." "nothing worse?" "no. the wound is pretty well healed." "then i don’t care. i’ll go back with youin your car. we shall be in paris by mid-day." what decided lupin to start at once was, first,a letter in which clarisse told him that she had found daubrecq’s traces, and, also, atelegram, published in the amiens papers,
which stated that the marquis d’albufex hadbeen arrested for his complicity in the affair of the canal. daubrecq was taking his revenge. now the fact that daubrecq was taking hisrevenge proved that the marquis had not been able to prevent that revenge by seizing thedocument which was on the writing-desk in the study. it proved that chief-inspectorblanchon and the detectives had kept a good watch. it proved that the crystal stopperwas still in the square lamartine. it was still there; and this showed eitherthat daubrecq had not ventured to go home, or else that his state of health hinderedhim from doing so, or else again that he had
sufficient confidence in the hiding-placenot to trouble to put himself out. in any case, there was no doubt as to thecourse to be pursued: lupin must act and he must act smartly. he must forestall daubrecqand get hold of the crystal stopper. when they had crossed the bois de boulogneand were nearing the square lamartine, lupin took leave of the doctor and stopped the car.the growler and the masher, to whom he had wired, met him. "where’s mme. mergy?" he asked. "she has not been back since yesterday; shesent us an express message to say that she saw daubrecq leaving his cousins’ place andgetting into a cab. she knows the number of
the cab and will keep us informed." "nothing further?" "nothing further." "no other news?" "yes, the paris-midi says that d’albufex openedhis veins last night, with a piece of broken glass, in his cell at the sante. he seemsto have left a long letter behind him, confessing his fault, but accusing daubrecq of his deathand exposing the part played by daubrecq in the canal affair." "no. the same paper stated that it has reasonto believe that the pardoning commission,
after examining the record, has rejected vaucherayand gilbert’s petition and that their counsel will probably be received in audience by thepresident on friday." lupin gave a shudder. "they’re losing no time," he said. "i cansee that daubrecq, on the very first day, put the screw on the old judicial machine.one short week more… and the knife falls. my poor gilbert! if, on friday next, the paperswhich your counsel submits to the president of the republic do not contain the conditionaloffer of the list of the twenty-seven, then, my poor gilbert, you are done for!" "come, come, governor, are you losing courage?"
"i? rot! i shall have the crystal stopperin an hour. in two hours, i shall see gilbert’s counsel. and the nightmare will be over." "well done, governor! that’s like your oldself. shall we wait for you here?" "no, go back to your hotel. i’ll join youlater." they parted. lupin walked straight to thehouse and rang the bell. a detective opened the door and recognizedhim: "m. nicole, i believe?" "yes," he said. "is chief-inspector blanchonhere?" "he is."
"can i speak to him?" the man took him to the study, where chief-inspectorblanchon welcomed him with obvious pleasure. "well, chief-inspector, one would say therewas something new?" "m. nicole, my orders are to place myselfentirely at your disposal; and i may say that i am very glad to see you to-day." "why so?" "because there is something new." "something serious?" "something very serious."
"quick, speak." "daubrecq has returned." "eh, what!" exclaimed lupin, with a start."daubrecq returned? is he here?" "no, he has gone." "and did he come in here, in the study?" "this morning." "and you did not prevent him?" "what right had i?" "and you left him alone?"
"by his positive orders, yes, we left himalone." lupin felt himself turn pale. daubrecq hadcome back to fetch the crystal stopper! he was silent for some time and repeated tohimself: "he came back to fetch it… he was afraidthat it would be found and he has taken it… of course, it was inevitable… with d’albufexarrested, with d’albufex accused and accusing him, daubrecq was bound to defend himself.it’s a difficult game for him. after months and months of mystery, the public is at lastlearning that the infernal being who contrived the whole tragedy of the twenty-seven andwho ruins and kills his adversaries is he, daubrecq. what would become of him if, bya miracle, his talisman did not protect him?
he has taken it back." and, trying to make his voice sound firm,he asked: "did he stay long?" "twenty seconds, perhaps." "what! twenty seconds? no longer?" "no longer." "what time was it?" "ten o’clock." "could he have known of the marquis d’albufex’suicide by then?"
"yes. i saw the special edition of the paris-midiin his pocket." "that’s it, that’s it," said lupin. and heasked, "did m. prasville give you no special instructions in case daubrecq should return?" "no. so, in m. prasville’s absence, i telephonedto the police-office and i am waiting. the disappearance of daubrecq the deputy causeda great stir, as you know, and our presence here has a reason, in the eyes of the public,as long as that disappearance continues. but, now that daubrecq has returned, now that wehave proofs that he is neither under restraint nor dead, how can we stay in the house?" "it doesn’t matter," said lupin, absently."it doesn’t matter whether the house is guarded
or not. daubrecq has been; therefore the crystalstopper is no longer here." he had not finished the sentence, when a questionquite naturally forced itself upon his mind. if the crystal stopper was no longer there,would this not be obvious from some material sign? had the removal of that object, doubtlesscontained within another object, left no trace, no void? it was easy to ascertain. lupin had simplyto examine the writing-desk, for he knew, from sebastiani’s chaff, that this was thespot of the hiding-place. and the hiding-place could not be a complicated one, seeing thatdaubrecq had not remained in the study for more than twenty seconds, just long enough,so to speak, to walk in and walk out again.
lupin looked. and the result was immediate.his memory had so faithfully recorded the picture of the desk, with all the articleslying on it, that the absence of one of them struck him instantaneously, as though thatarticle and that alone were the characteristic sign which distinguished this particular writing-tablefrom every other table in the world. "oh," he thought, quivering with delight,"everything fits in! everything! … down to that half-word which the torture drew fromdaubrecq in the tower at mortepierre! the riddle is solved. there need be no more hesitation,no more groping in the dark. the end is in sight." and, without answering the inspector’s questions,he thought of the simplicity of the hiding-place
and remembered edgar allan poe’s wonderfulstory in which the stolen letter, so eagerly sought for, is, in a manner of speaking, displayedto all eyes. people do not suspect what does not appear to be hidden. "well, well," said lupin, as he went out,greatly excited by his discovery, "i seem doomed, in this confounded adventure, to knockup against disappointments to the finish. everything that i build crumbles to piecesat once. every victory ends in disaster." nevertheless, he did not allow himself tobe cast down. on the one hand, he now knew where daubrecq the deputy hid the crystalstopper. on the other hand, he would soon learn from clarisse mergy where daubrecq himselfwas lurking. the rest, to him, would be child’s
play. the growler and the masher were waiting forhim in the drawing-room of the hotel franklin, a small family-hotel near the trocadero. mme.mergy had not yet written to him. "oh," he said, "i can trust her! she willhang on to daubrecq until she is certain." however, toward the end of the afternoon,he began to grow impatient and anxious. he was fighting one of those battlesâ€”the last,he hopedâ€”in which the least delay might jeopardize everything. if daubrecq threw mme.mergy off the scent, how was he to be caught again? they no longer had weeks or days, butonly a few hours, a terribly limited number of hours, in which to repair any mistakesthat they might commit.
he saw the proprietor of the hotel and askedhim: "are you sure that there is no express letterfor my two friends?" "quite sure, sir." "nor for me, m. nicole?" "that’s curious," said lupin. "we were certainthat we should hear from mme. audran." audran was the name under which clarisse wasstaying at the hotel. "but the lady has been," said the proprietor. "she came some time ago and, as the gentlemenwere not there, left a letter in her room. didn’t the porter tell you?"
lupin and his friends hurried upstairs. therewas a letter on the table. "hullo!" said lupin. "it’s been opened! howis that? and why has it been cut about with scissors?" the letter contained the following lines: "daubrecq has spent the week at the hotelcentral. this morning he had his luggage taken to the gare de â€”- andtelephoned to reserve a berth in the sleeping-car â€”- forâ€”- "i do not know when the train starts. buti shall be at the station all the afternoon. come as soon asyou can, all three
of you. we will arrange to kidnap him." "what next?" said the masher. "at which station?and where’s the sleeping-car for? she has cut out just the words we wanted!" "yes," said the growler. "two snips with thescissors in each place; and the words which we most want are gone. who ever saw such athing? has mme. mergy lost her head?" lupin did not move. a rush of blood was beatingat his temples with such violence that he glued his fists to them and pressed with allhis might. his fever returned, burning and riotous, and his will, incensed to the vergeof physical suffering, concentrated itself upon that stealthy enemy, which must be controlledthen and there, if he himself did not wish
to be irretrievably beaten. he muttered, very calmly: "daubrecq has been here." "daubrecq!" "we can’t suppose that mme. mergy has beenamusing herself by cutting out those two words. daubrecq has been here. mme. mergy thoughtthat she was watching him. he was watching her instead." "doubtless through that hall-porter who didnot tell us that mme. mergy had been to the hotel, but who must have told daubrecq. hecame. he read the letter. and, by way of getting
at us, he contented himself with cutting outthe essential words." "we can find out… we can ask…" "what’s the good? what’s the use of findingout how he came, when we know that he did come?" he examined the letter for some time, turnedit over and over, then stood up and said: "come along." "where to?" "gare de lyon." "are you sure?"
"i am sure of nothing with daubrecq. but,as we have to choose, according to the contents of the letter, between the gare de l’est andthe gare de lyon, [*] i am presuming that his business, his pleasure and his healthare more likely to take daubrecq in the direction of marseilles and the riviera than to thegare de l’est." * these are the only two main-line stationsin paris with the word de in their name. the others have du,as the gare du nord or the gare du luxembourg, d’ as thegare d’orleans, or no participle at all, as the gare saint-lazareor the gare montparnasse.â€”translator’s note.
it was past seven when lupin and his companionsleft the hotel franklin. a motor-car took them across paris at full speed, but theysoon saw that clarisse mergy was not outside the station, nor in the waiting-rooms, noron any of the platforms. "still," muttered lupin, whose agitation grewas the obstacles increased, "still, if daubrecq booked a berth in a sleeping-car, it can onlyhave been in an evening train. and it is barely half-past seven!" a train was starting, the night express. theyhad time to rush along the corridor. nobody… neither mme. mergy nor daubrecq… but, as they were all three going, a porteraccosted them near the refreshment-room:
"is one of you gentlemen looking for a lady?" "yes, yes,… i am," said lupin. "quick, whatis it?" "oh, it’s you, sir! the lady told me theremight be three of you or two of you…. and i didn’t know…" "but, in heaven’s name, speak, man! what lady?" "the lady who spent the whole day on the pavement,with the luggage, waiting." "well, out with it! has she taken a train?" "yes, the train-de-luxe, at six-thirty: shemade up her mind at the last moment, she told me to say. and i was also to say that thegentleman was in the same train and that they
were going to monte carlo." "damn it!" muttered lupin. "we ought to havetaken the express just now! there’s nothing left but the evening trains, and they crawl!we’ve lost over three hours." the wait seemed interminable. they bookedtheir seats. they telephoned to the proprietor of the hotel franklin to send on their lettersto monte carlo. they dined. they read the papers. at last, at half-past nine, the trainstarted. and so, by a really tragic series of circumstances,at the most critical moment of the contest, lupin was turning his back on the battlefieldand going away, at haphazard, to seek, he knew not where, and beat, he knew not how,the most formidable and elusive enemy that
he had ever fought. and this was happening four days, five daysat most, before the inevitable execution of gilbert and vaucheray. it was a bad and painful night for lupin.the more he studied the situation the more terrible it appeared to him. on every sidehe was faced with uncertainty, darkness, confusion, helplessness. true, he knew the secret of the crystal stopper.but how was he to know that daubrecq would not change or had not already changed histactics? how was he to know that the list of the twenty-seven was still inside thatcrystal stopper or that the crystal stopper
was still inside the object where daubrecqhad first hidden it? and there was a further serious reason foralarm in the fact that clarisse mergy thought that she was shadowing and watching daubrecqat a time when, on the contrary, daubrecq was watching her, having her shadowed anddragging her, with diabolical cleverness, toward the places selected by himself, farfrom all help or hope of help. oh, daubrecq’s game was clear as daylight!did not lupin know the unhappy woman’s hesitations? did he not knowâ€”and the growler and themasher confirmed it most positivelyâ€”that clarisse looked upon the infamous bargainplanned by daubrecq in the light of a possible, an acceptable thing? in that case, how couldhe, lupin, succeed? the logic of events, so
powerfully moulded by daubrecq, led to a fatalresult: the mother must sacrifice herself and, to save her son, throw her scruples,her repugnance, her very honour, to the winds! "oh, you scoundrel!" snarled lupin, in a fitof rage. "if i get hold of you, i’ll make you dance to a pretty tune! i wouldn’t bein your shoes for a great deal, when that happens." they reached monte carlo at three o’clockin the afternoon. lupin was at once disappointed not to see clarisse on the platform at thestation. he waited. no messenger came up to him. he asked the porters and ticket-collectorsif they had noticed, among the crowd, two
travellers answering to the description ofdaubrecq and clarisse. they had not. he had, therefore, to set to work and huntthrough all the hotels and lodging-houses in the principality. oh, the time wasted! by the following evening, lupin knew, beyonda doubt, that daubrecq and clarisse were not at monte carlo, nor at monaco, nor at thecap d’ail, nor at la turbie, nor at cap martin. "where can they be then?" he wondered, tremblingwith rage. at last, on the saturday, he received, atthe poste restante, a telegram which had been readdressed from the hotel franklin and whichsaid: "he got out at cannes and is going on to sanremo, hotel palace
des ambassadeurs. "clarisse." the telegram was dated the day before. "hang it!" exclaimed lupin. "they passed throughmonte carlo. one of us ought to have remained at the station. i did think of it; but, inthe midst of all that bustle…" lupin and his friends took the first trainfor italy. they crossed the frontier at twelve o’clock.the train entered the station at san remo at twelve-forty. they at once saw an hotel-porter, with "ambassadeurs-palace"on his braided cap, who seemed to be looking
for some one among the arrivals. lupin went up to him: "are you looking for m. nicole?" "yes, m. nicole and two gentlemen." "from a lady?" "yes, mme. mergy." "is she staying at your hotel?" "no. she did not get out. she beckoned tome, described you three gentlemen and told me to say that she was going on to genoa,to the hotel continental."
"was she by herself?" lupin tipped the man, dismissed him and turnedto his friends: "this is saturday. if the execution takesplace on monday, there’s nothing to be done. but monday is not a likely day… what i haveto do is to lay hands on daubrecq to-night and to be in paris on monday, with the document.it’s our last chance. let’s take it." the growler went to the booking-office andreturned with three tickets for genoa. the engine whistled. lupin had a last hesitation: "no, really, it’s too childish! what are wedoing? we ought to be in paris, not here!…
just think!…" he was on the point of opening the door andjumping out on the permanent way. but his companions held him back. the train started.he sat down again. and they continued their mad pursuit, travellingat random, toward the unknown… and this happened two days before the inevitableexecution of gilbert and vaucheray. chapter x. extra-dry? on one of the hills that girdle nice withthe finest scenery in the world, between the vallon de saint-silvestre and the vallon dela mantega, stands a huge hotel which overlooks the town and the wonderful baie des anges.a crowd flocks to it from all parts, forming
a medley of every class and nation. on the evening of the same saturday when lupin,the growler and the masher were plunging into italy, clarisse mergy entered this hotel,asked for a bedroom facing south and selected no. 130, on the second floor, a room whichhad been vacant since that morning. the room was separated from no. 129 by twopartition-doors. as soon as she was alone, clarisse pulled back the curtain that concealedthe first door, noiselessly drew the bolt and put her ear to the second door: "he is here," she thought. "he is dressingto go to the club… as he did yesterday." when her neighbour had gone, she went intothe passage and, availing herself of a moment
when there was no one in sight, walked upto the door of no. 129. the door was locked. she waited all the evening for her neighbour’sreturn and did not go to bed until two o’clock. on sunday morning, she resumed her watch. the neighbour went out at eleven. this timehe left the key in the door. hurriedly turning the key, clarisse enteredboldly, went to the partition-door, raised the curtain, drew the bolt and found herselfin her own room. in a few minutes, she heard two chambermaidsdoing the room in no. 129. she waited until they were gone. then, feelingsure that she would not be disturbed, she once more slipped into the other room.
her excitement made her lean against a chair.after days and nights of stubborn pursuit, after alternate hopes and disappointments,she had at last succeeded in entering a room occupied by daubrecq. she could look aboutat her ease; and, if she did not discover the crystal stopper, she could at least hidein the space between the partition-doors, behind the hanging, see daubrecq, spy uponhis movements and surprise his secret. she looked around her. a travelling-bag atonce caught her attention. she managed to open it; but her search was useless. she ransacked the trays of a trunk and thecompartments of a portmanteau. she searched the wardrobe, the writing-table, the chestof drawers, the bathroom, all the tables,
all the furniture. she found nothing. she gave a start when she saw a scrap of paperon the balcony, lying as though flung there by accident: "can it be a trick of daubrecq’s?" she thought,out loud. "can that scrap of paper contain…" "no," said a voice behind her, as she puther hand on the latch. she turned and saw daubrecq. she felt neither astonishment nor alarm, noreven any embarrassment at finding herself face to face with him. she had suffered toodeeply for months to trouble about what daubrecq could think of her or say, at catching herin the act of spying.
she sat down wearily. he grinned: "no, you’re out of it, dear friend. as thechildren say, you’re not ‘burning’ at all. oh, not a bit of it! and it’s so easy! shalli help you? it’s next to you, dear friend, on that little table… and yet, by jove,there’s not much on that little table! something to read, something to write with, somethingto smoke, something to eat… and that’s all… will you have one of these candied fruits?…or perhaps you would rather wait for the more substantial meal which i have ordered?" clarisse made no reply. she did not even seemto listen to what he was saying, as though
she expected other words, more serious words,which he could not fail to utter. he cleared the table of all the things thatlay upon it and put them on the mantel-piece. then he rang the bell. a head-waiter appeared. daubrecq asked: "is the lunch which i ordered ready?" "it’s for two, isn’t it?" "and the champagne?" "extra-dry?" another waiter brought a tray and laid twocovers on the table: a cold lunch, some fruit
and a bottle of champagne in an ice-pail. then the two waiters withdrew. "sit down, dear lady. as you see, i was thinkingof you and your cover is laid." and, without seeming to observe that clarissewas not at all prepared to do honour to his invitation, he sat down, began to eat andcontinued: "yes, upon my word, i hoped that you wouldend by consenting to this little private meeting. during the past week, while you were keepingso assiduous a watch upon me, i did nothing but say to myself, ‘i wonder which she prefers:sweet champagne, dry champagne, or extra-dry?’ i was really puzzled. especially after ourdeparture from paris. i had lost your tracks,
that is to say, i feared that you had lostmine and abandoned the pursuit which was so gratifying to me. when i went for a walk,i missed your beautiful dark eyes, gleaming with hatred under your hair just touched withgray. but, this morning, i understood: the room next to mine was empty at last; and myfriend clarisse was able to take up her quarters, so to speak, by my bedside. from that momenti was reassured. i felt certain that, on coming backâ€”instead of lunching in the restaurantas usualâ€”i should find you arranging my things to your convenience and suiting yourown taste. that was why i ordered two covers: one for your humble servant, the other forhis fair friend." she was listening to him now and in the greatestterror. so daubrecq knew that he was spied
upon! for a whole week he had seen throughher and all her schemes! in a low voice, anxious-eyed, she asked: "you did it on purpose, did you not? you onlywent away to drag me with you?" "yes," he said. "do you mean to say that you don’t know?"retorted daubrecq, laughing with a little cluck of delight. she half-rose from her chair and, bendingtoward him, thought, as she thought each time, of the murder which she could commit, of themurder which she would commit. one revolver-shot and the odious brute was done for.
slowly her hand glided to the weapon concealedin her bodice. daubrecq said: "one second, dear friend… you can shootpresently; but i beg you first to read this wire which i have just received." she hesitated, not knowing what trap he waslaying for her; but he went on, as he produced a telegram: "it’s about your son." "gilbert?" she asked, greatly concerned. "yes, gilbert… here, read it."
she gave a yell of dismay. she had read: "execution on tuesday morning." and she at once flung herself on daubrecq,crying: "it’s not true!… it’s a lie… to maddenme… oh, i know you: you are capable of anything! confess! it won’t be on tuesday, will it?in two days! no, no… i tell you, we have four days yet, five days, in which to savehim… confess it, confess it!" she had no strength left, exhausted by thisfit of rebellion; and her voice uttered none but inarticulate sounds. he looked at her for a moment, then pouredhimself out a glass of champagne and drank
it down at a gulp. he took a few steps upand down the room, came back to her and said: "listen to me, darling…" the insult made her quiver with an unexpectedenergy. she drew herself up and, panting with indignation, said: "i forbid you… i forbid you to speak tome like that. i will not accept such an outrage. you wretch!…" he shrugged his shoulders and resumed: "pah, i see you’re not quite alive to theposition. that comes, of course, because you still hope for assistance in some quarter.prasville, perhaps? the excellent prasville,
whose right hand you are… my dear friend,a forlorn hope… you must know that prasville is mixed up in the canal affair! not directly:that is to say, his name is not on the list of the twenty-seven; but it is there underthe name of one of his friends, an ex-deputy called vorenglade, stanislas vorenglade, hisman of straw, apparently: a penniless individual whom i left alone and rightly. i knew nothingof all that until this morning, when, lo and behold, i received a letter informing me ofthe existence of a bundle of documents which prove the complicity of our one and only prasville!and who is my informant? vorenglade himself! vorenglade, who, tired of living in poverty,wants to extort money from prasville, at the risk of being arrested, and who will be delightedto come to terms with me. and prasville will
get the sack. oh, what a lark! i swear toyou that he will get the sack, the villain! by jove, but he’s annoyed me long enough!prasville, old boy, you’ve deserved it…" he rubbed his hands together, revelling inhis coming revenge. and he continued: "you see, my dear clarisse… there’s nothingto be done in that direction. what then? what straw will you cling to? why, i was forgetting:m. arsene lupin! mr. growler! mr. masher!… pah, you’ll admit that those gentlemen havenot shone and that all their feats of prowess have not prevented me from going my own littleway. it was bound to be. those fellows imagine that there’s no one to equal them. when theymeet an adversary like myself, one who is not to be bounced, it upsets them and theymake blunder after blunder, while still believing
that they are hoodwinking him like mad. schoolboys,that’s what they are! however, as you seem to have some illusions left about the aforesaidlupin, as you are counting on that poor devil to crush me and to work a miracle in favourof your innocent gilbert, come, let’s dispel that illusion. oh! lupin! lord above, shebelieves in lupin! she places her last hopes in lupin! lupin! just wait till i prick you,my illustrious windbag!" he took up the receiver of the telephone whichcommunicated with the hall of the hotel and said: "i’m no. 129, mademoiselle. would you kindlyask the person sitting opposite your office to come up to me?… huh!… yes, mademoiselle,the gentleman in a gray felt hat. he knows.
thank you, mademoiselle." hanging up the receiver, he turned to clarisse: "don’t be afraid. the man is discretion itself.besides, it’s the motto of his trade: ‘discretion and dispatch.’ as a retired detective, hehas done me a number of services, including that of following you while you were followingme. since our arrival in the south, he has been less busy with you; but that was becausehe was more busy elsewhere. come in, jacob." he himself opened the door, and a short, thinman, with a red moustache, entered the room. "please tell this lady, jacob, in a few briefwords, what you have done since wednesday evening, when, after letting her get intothe train-de-luxe which was taking me from
the gare de lyon to the south, you yourselfremained on the platform at the station. of course, i am not asking how you spent yourtime, except in so far as concerns the lady and the business with which i entrusted you." jacob dived into the inside-pocket of hisjacket and produced a little note-book of which he turned over the pages and read themaloud in the voice of a man reading a report: "wednesday evening, 8.15. gare de lyon. waitfor two gents, growler and masher. they come with another whom i don’t know yet, but whocan only be m. nicole. give a porter ten francs for the loan of his cap and blouse. accostthe gents and tell them, from a lady, ‘that they were gone to monte carlo.’ next, telephoneto the porter at the hotel franklin. all telegrams
sent to his boss and dispatched by said bosswill be read by said hotel-porter and, if necessary, intercepted. "thursday. monte carlo. the three gents searchthe hotels. "friday. flying visits to la turbie, the capd’ail, cap martin. m. daubrecq rings me up. thinks it wiser to send the gents to italy.make the porter of the hotel franklin send them a telegram appointing a meeting at sanremo. "saturday. san remo. station platform. givethe porter of the ambassadeurs-palace ten francs for the loan of his cap. the threegents arrive. they speak to me. explain to them that a lady traveller, mme. mergy, isgoing on to genoa, to the hotel continental.
the gents hesitate. m. nicole wants to getout. the others hold him back. the train starts. good luck, gents! an hour later, i take thetrain for france and get out at nice, to await fresh orders." jacob closed his note-book and concluded: "that’s all. to-day’s doings will be enteredthis evening." "you can enter them now, m. jacob. ’12 noon.m. daubrecq sends me to the wagon-lits co. i book two berths in the paris sleeping-car,by the 2.48 train, and send them to m. daubrecq by express messenger. then i take the 12.58train for vintimille, the frontier-station, where i spend the day on the platform watchingall the travellers who come to france. should
messrs. nicole, growler and masher take itinto their heads to leave italy and return to paris by way of nice, my instructions areto telegraph to the headquarters of police that master arsene lupin and two of his accomplicesare in train number so-and-so." while speaking, daubrecq led jacob to thedoor. he closed it after him, turned the key, pushed the bolt and, going up to clarisse,said: "and now, darling, listen to me." this time, she uttered no protest. what couldshe do against such an enemy, so powerful, so resourceful, who provided for everything,down to the minutest details, and who toyed with his adversaries in such an airy fashion?even if she had hoped till then for lupin’s
interference, how could she do so now, whenhe was wandering through italy in pursuit of a shadow? she understood at last why three telegramswhich she had sent to the hotel franklin had remained unanswered. daubrecq was there, lurkingin the dark, watching, establishing a void around her, separating her from her comradesin the fight, bringing her gradually, a beaten prisoner, within the four walls of that room. she felt her weakness. she was at the monster’smercy. she must be silent and resigned. he repeated, with an evil delight: "listen to me, darling. listen to the irrevocablewords which i am about to speak. listen to
them well. it is now 12 o’clock. the lasttrain starts at 2.48: you understand, the last train that can bring me to paris to-morrow,monday, in time to save your son. the evening-trains would arrive too late. the trains-de-luxeare full up. therefore i shall have to start at 2.48. am i to start?" "our berths are booked. will you come withme?" "you know my conditions for interfering?" "do you accept them?" "you will marry me?" oh, those horrible answers! the unhappy womangave them in a sort of awful torpor, refusing
even to understand what she was promising.let him start first, let him snatch gilbert from the engine of death whose vision hauntedher day and night… and then… and then… let what must come come… he burst out laughing: "oh, you rogue, it’s easily said!… you’reready to pledge yourself to anything, eh? the great thing is to save gilbert, isn’tit? afterward, when that noodle of a daubrecq comes with his engagement-ring, not a bitof it! nothing doing! we’ll laugh in his face!… no, no, enough of empty words. i don’t wantpromises that won’t be kept: i want facts, immediate facts."
he came and sat close beside her and stated,plainly: "this is what i propose… what must be…what shall be… i will ask, or rather i will demand, not gilbert’s pardon, to begin with,but a reprieve, a postponement of the execution, a postponement of three or four weeks. theywill invent a pretext of some sort: that’s not my affair. and, when mme. mergy has becomemme. daubrecq, then and not till then will i ask for his pardon, that is to say, thecommutation of his sentence. and make yourself quite easy: they’ll grant it." "i accept… i accept," she stammered. he laughed once more:
"yes, you accept, because that will happenin a month’s time… and meanwhile you reckon on finding some trick, an assistance of somekind or another… m. arsene lupin…" "i swear it on the head of my son." "the head of your son!… why, my poor pet,you would sell yourself to the devil to save it from falling!…" "oh, yes," she whispered, shuddering. "i wouldgladly sell my soul!" he sidled up against her and, in a low voice: "clarisse, it’s not your soul i ask for…it’s something else… for more than twenty years my life has spun around that longing.you are the only woman i have ever loved…
loathe me, hate meâ€”i don’t careâ€”but donot spurn me… am i to wait? to wait another month?… no, clarisse, i have waited toomany years already…" he ventured to touch her hand. clarisse shrankback with such disgust that he was seized with fury and cried: "oh, i swear to heaven, my beauty, the executionerwon’t stand on such ceremony when he catches hold of your son!… and you give yourselfairs! why, think, it’ll happen in forty hours! forty hours, no more, and you hesitate…and you have scruples, when your son’s life is at stake! come, come, no whimpering, nosilly sentimentality… look things in the face. by your own oath, you are my wife, youare my bride from this moment… clarisse,
clarisse, give me your lips…" half-fainting, she had hardly the strengthto put out her arm and push him away; and, with a cynicism in which all his abominablenature stood revealed, daubrecq, mingling words of cruelty and words of passion, continued: "save your son!… think of the last morning:the preparations for the scaffold, when they snip away his shirt and cut his hair… clarisse,clarisse, i will save him… be sure of it… all my life shall be yours … clarisse…" she no longer resisted. it was over. the loathsomebrute’s lips were about to touch hers; and it had to be, and nothing could prevent it.it was her duty to obey the decree of fate.
she had long known it. she understood it;and, closing her eyes, so as not to see the foul face that was slowly raised to hers,she repeated to herself: "my son… my poor son." a few seconds passed: ten, twenty perhaps.daubrecq did not move. daubrecq did not speak. and she was astounded at that great silenceand that sudden quiet. did the monster, at the last moment, feel a scruple of remorse? she raised her eyelids. the sight which she beheld struck her withstupefaction. instead of the grinning features which she expected to see, she saw a motionless,unrecognizable face, contorted by an expression
of unspeakable terror: and the eyes, invisibleunder the double impediment of the spectacles, seemed to be staring above her head, abovethe chair in which she lay prostrate. clarisse turned her face. two revolver-barrels,pointed at daubrecq, showed on the right, a little above the chair. she saw only that:those two huge, formidable revolvers, gripped in two clenched hands. she saw only that andalso daubrecq’s face, which fear was discolouring little by little, until it turned livid. and,almost at the same time, some one slipped behind daubrecq, sprang up fiercely, flungone of his arms round daubrecq’s neck, threw him to the ground with incredible violenceand applied a pad of cotton-wool to his face. a sudden smell of chloroform filled the room.
clarisse had recognized m. nicole. "come along, growler!" he cried. "come along,masher! drop your shooters: i’ve got him! he’s a limp rag… tie him up." daubrecq, in fact, was bending in two andfalling on his knees like a disjointed doll. under the action of the chloroform, the fearsomebrute sank into impotence, became harmless and grotesque. the growler and the masher rolled him in oneof the blankets of the bed and tied him up securely. "that’s it! that’s it!" shouted lupin, leapingto his feet.
and, in a sudden reaction of mad delight,he began to dance a wild jig in the middle of the room, a jig mingled with bits of can-canand the contortions of the cakewalk and the whirls of a dancing dervish and the acrobaticmovements of a clown and the lurching steps of a drunken man. and he announced, as thoughthey were the numbers in a music-hall performance: "the prisoner’s dance!… the captive’s hornpipe!…a fantasia on the corpse of a representative of the people!… the chloroform polka!…the two-step of the conquered goggles! olle! olle! the blackmailer’s fandango! hoot! hoot!the mcdaubrecq’s fling!… the turkey trot!… and the bunny hug!… and the grizzly bear!…the tyrolean dance: tra-la-liety!… allons, enfants de la partie!… zing, boum, boum!zing, boum, boum!…"
all his street-arab nature, all his instinctsof gaiety, so long suppressed by his constant anxiety and disappointment, came out and betrayedthemselves in roars of laughter, bursts of animal spirits and a picturesque need of childlikeexuberance and riot. he gave a last high kick, turned a seriesof cartwheels round the room and ended by standing with his hands on his hips and onefoot on daubrecq’s lifeless body. "an allegorical tableau!" he announced. "theangel of virtue destroying the hydra of vice!" and the humour of the scene was twice as greatbecause lupin was appearing under the aspect of m. nicole, in the clothes and figure ofthat wizened, awkward, nervous private tutor. a sad smile flickered across mme. mergy’sface, her first smile for many a long month.
but, at once returning to the reality of things,she besought him: "please, please… think of gilbert!" he ran up to her, caught her in his arms and,obeying a spontaneous impulse, so frank that she could but laugh at it, gave her a resoundingkiss on either cheek: "there, lady, that’s the kiss of a decentman! instead of daubrecq, it’s i kissing you… another word and i’ll do it again… and i’llcall you darling next… be angry with me, if you dare. oh, how happy i am!" he knelt before her on one knee. and, respectfully: "i beg your pardon, madame. the fit is over."
and, getting up again, resuming his whimsicalmanner, he continued, while clarisse wondered what he was driving at: "what’s the next article, madame? your son’spardon, perhaps? certainly! madame, i have the honour to grant you the pardon of yourson, the commutation of his sentence to penal servitude for life and, to wind up with, hisearly escape. it’s settled, eh, growler? settled, masher, what? you’ll both go with the boyto new caledonia and arrange for everything. oh, my dear daubrecq, we owe you a great debt!but i’m not forgetting you, believe me! what would you like? a last pipe? coming, coming!" he took one of the pipes from the mantel-piece,stooped over the prisoner, shifted his pad
and thrust the amber mouth-piece between histeeth: "draw, old chap, draw. lord, how funny youlook, with your plug over your nose and your cutty in your mouth. come, puff away. by jove,i forgot to fill your pipe! where’s your tobacco, your favourite maryland? … oh, here we are!…" he took from the chimney an unopened yellowpacket and tore off the government band: "his lordship’s tobacco! ladies and gentlemen,keep your eyes on me! this is a great moment. i am about to fill his lordship’s pipe: byjupiter, what an honour! observe my movements! you see, i have nothing in my hands, nothingup my sleeves!…" he turned back his cuffs and stuck out hiselbows. then he opened the packet and inserted
his thumb and fore-finger, slowly, gingerly,like a conjurer performing a sleight-of-hand trick before a puzzled audience, and, beamingall over his face, extracted from the tobacco a glittering object which he held out beforethe spectators. clarisse uttered a cry. it was the crystal stopper. she rushed at lupin and snatched it from him: "that’s it; that’s the one!" she exclaimed,feverishly. "there’s no scratch on the stem! and look at this line running down the middle,where the gilt finishes… that’s it; it unscrews!… oh, dear, my strength’s going!…" she trembledso violently that lupin took back the stopper
and unscrewed it himself. the inside of the knob was hollow; and inthe hollow space was a piece of paper rolled into a tiny pellet. "the foreign-post-paper," he whispered, himselfgreatly excited, with quivering hands. there was a long silence. all four felt asif their hearts were ready to burst from their bodies; and they were afraid of what was coming. "please, please…" stammered clarisse. lupin unfolded the paper. there was a set of names written one belowthe other, twenty-seven of them, the twenty-seven
names of the famous list: langeroux, dechaumont,vorenglade, d’albufex, victorien mergy and the rest. and, at the foot, the signature of the chairmanof the two-seas canal company, the signature written in letters of blood. lupin looked at his watch: "a quarter to one," he said. "we have twentyminutes to spare. let’s have some lunch." "but," said clarisse, who was already beginningto lose her head, "don’t forget…" he simply said: "all i know is that i’m dying of hunger."
he sat down at the table, cut himself a largeslice of cold pie and said to his accomplices: "growler? a bite? you, masher?" "i could do with a mouthful, governor." "then hurry up, lads. and a glass of champageto wash it down with: it’s the chloroform-patient’s treat. your health, daubrecq! sweet champagne?dry champagne? extra-dry?" chapter xi. the cross of lorraine the moment lupin had finished lunch, he atonce and, so to speak, without transition, recovered all his mastery and authority. thetime for joking was past; and he must no longer yield to his love of astonishing people withclaptrap and conjuring tricks. now that he
had discovered the crystal stopper in thehiding-place which he had guessed with absolute certainty, now that he possessed the listof the twenty-seven, it became a question of playing off the last game of the rubberwithout delay. it was child’s play, no doubt, and what remainedto be done presented no difficulty. nevertheless, it was essential that he should perform thesefinal actions with promptness, decision and infallible perspicacity. the smallest blunderwas irretrievable. lupin knew this; but his strangely lucid brain had allowed for everycontingency. and the movements and words which he was now about to make and utter were allfully prepared and matured: "growler, the commissionaire is waiting onthe boulevard gambetta with his barrow and
the trunk which we bought. bring him hereand have the trunk carried up. if the people of the hotel ask any questions, say it’s forthe lady in no. 130." then, addressing his other companion: "masher, go back to the station and take overthe limousine. the price is arranged: ten thousand francs. buy a chauffeur’s cap andovercoat and bring the car to the hotel." "the money, governor." lupin opened a pocketbook which had been removedfrom daubrecq’s jacket and produced a huge bundle of bank-notes. he separated ten ofthem: "here you are. our friend appears to havebeen doing well at the club. off with you,
masher!" the two men went out through clarisse’s room.lupin availed himself of a moment when clarisse mergy was not looking to stow away the pocketbookwith the greatest satisfaction: "i shall have done a fair stroke of business,"he said to himself. "when all the expenses are paid, i shall still be well to the good;and it’s not over yet." then turning to clarisse mergy, he asked: "have you a bag?" "yes, i bought one when i reached nice, withsome linen and a few necessaries; for i left paris unprepared."
"get all that ready. then go down to the office.say that you are expecting a trunk which a commissionaire is bringing from the stationcloakroom and that you will want to unpack and pack it again in your room; and tell themthat you are leaving." when alone, lupin examined daubrecq carefully,felt in all his pockets and appropriated everything that seemed to present any sort of interest. the growler was the first to return. the trunk,a large wicker hamper covered with black moleskin, was taken into clarisse’s room. assisted byclarisse and the growler, lupin moved daubrecq and put him in the trunk, in a sitting posture,but with his head bent so as to allow of the lid being fastened:
"i don’t say that it’s as comfortable as yourberth in a sleeping-car, my dear deputy," lupin observed. "but, all the same, it’s betterthan a coffin. at least, you can breathe. three little holes in each side. you havenothing to complain of!" then, unstopping a flask: "a drop more chloroform? you seem to loveit!…" he soaked the pad once more, while, by hisorders, clarisse and the growler propped up the deputy with linen, rugs and pillows, whichthey had taken the precaution to heap in the trunk. "capital!" said lupin. "that trunk is fitto go round the world. lock it and strap it."
the masher arrived, in a chauffeur’s livery: "the car’s below, governor." "good," he said. "take the trunk down betweenyou. it would be dangerous to give it to the hotel-servants." "but if any one meets us?" "well, what then, masher? aren’t you a chauffeur?you’re carrying the trunk of your employer here present, the lady in no. 130, who willalso go down, step into her motor… and wait for me two hundred yards farther on. growler,you help to hoist the trunk up. oh, first lock the partition-door!"
lupin went to the next room, closed the otherdoor, shot the bolt, walked out, locked the door behind him and went down in the lift. in the office, he said: "m. daubrecq has suddenly been called awayto monte carlo. he asked me to say that he would not be back until tuesday and that youwere to keep his room for him. his things are all there. here is the key." he walked away quietly and went after thecar, where he found clarisse lamenting: "we shall never be in paris to-morrow! it’smadness! the least breakdown…" "that’s why you and i are going to take thetrain. it’s safer…"
he put her into a cab and gave his partinginstructions to the two men: "thirty miles an hour, on the average, doyou understand? you’re to drive and rest, turn and turn about. at that rate, you oughtto be in paris between six and seven to-morrow evening. but don’t force the pace. i’m keepingdaubrecq, not because i want him for my plans, but as a hostage… and then by way of precaution…i like to feel that i can lay my hands on him during the next few days. so look afterthe dear fellow… give him a few drops of chloroform every three or four hours: it’shis one weakness… off with you, masher… and you, daubrecq, don’t get excited up there.the roof’ll bear you all right… if you feel at all sick, don’t mind… off you go, masher!"
he watched the car move into the distanceand then told the cabman to drive to a post-office, where he dispatched a telegram in these words: "m. prasville, prefecture de police, paris: "person found. will bring you document eleveno’clock to-morrow morning. urgent communication. clarisse and lupin reached the station byhalf-past two. "if only there’s room!" said clarisse, whowas alarmed at the least thing. "room? why, our berths are booked!" "by whom?"
"by jacob… by daubrecq." "why, at the office of the hotel they gaveme a letter which had come for daubrecq by express. it was the two berths which jacobhad sent him. also, i have his deputy’s pass. so we shall travel under the name of m. andmme. daubrecq and we shall receive all the attention due to our rank and station. yousee, my dear madam, that everything’s arranged." the journey, this time, seemed short to lupin.clarisse told him what she had done during the past few days. he himself explained themiracle of his sudden appearance in daubrecq’s bedroom at the moment when his adversary believedhim in italy: "a miracle, no," he said. "but still a remarkablephenomenon took place in me when i left san
remo, a sort of mysterious intuition whichprompted me first to try and jump out of the trainâ€”and the masher prevented meâ€”andnext to rush to the window, let down the glass and follow the porter of the ambassadeurs-palace,who had given me your message, with my eyes. well, at that very minute, the porter aforesaidwas rubbing his hands with an air of such satisfaction that, for no other reason, suddenly,i understood everything: i had been diddled, taken in by daubrecq, as you yourself were.heaps of llttle details flashed across my mind. my adversary’s scheme became clear tome from start to finish. another minute… and the disaster would have been beyond remedy.i had, i confess, a few moments of real despair, at the thought that i should not be able torepair all the mistakes that had been made.
it depended simply on the time-table of thetrains, which would either allow me or would not allow me to find daubrecq’s emissary onthe railway-platform at san remo. this time, at last, chance favoured me. we had hardlyalighted at the first station when a train passed, for france. when we arrived at sanremo, the man was there. i had guessed right. he no longer wore his hotel-porter’s cap andfrock-coat, but a jacket and bowler. he stepped into a second-class compartment. from thatmoment, victory was assured." "but… how…?" asked clarisse, who, in spiteof the thoughts that obsessed her, was interested in lupin’s story. "how did i find you? lord, simply by not losingsight of master jacob, while leaving him free
to move about as he pleased, knowing thathe was bound to account for his actions to daubrecq. in point of fact, this morning,after spending the night in a small hotel at nice, he met daubrecq on the promenadedes anglais. they talked for some time. i followed them. daubrecq went back to the hotel,planted jacob in one of the passages on the ground-floor, opposite the telephone-office,and went up in the lift. ten minutes later i knew the number of his room and knew thata lady had been occupying the next room, no. 130, since the day before. ‘i believe we’vedone it,’ i said to the growler and the masher. i tapped lightly at your door. no answer.and the door was locked." "well?" asked clarisse.
"well, we opened it. do you think there’sonly one key in the world that will work a lock? so i walked in. nobody in your room.but the partition-door was ajar. i slipped through it. thenceforth, a mere hanging separatedme from you, from daubrecq and from the packet of tobacco which i saw on the chimney-slab." "then you knew the hiding-place?" "a look round daubrecq’s study in paris showedme that that packet of tobacco had disappeared. besides…" "what?" "i knew, from certain confessions wrung fromdaubrecq in the lovers’ tower, that the word
marie held the key to the riddle. since theni had certainly thought of this word, but with the preconceived notion that it was speltm a r i e. well, it was really the first two syllables of another word, which i guessed,so to speak, only at the moment when i was struck by the absence of the packet of tobacco." "what word do you mean?" "maryland, maryland tobacco, the only tobaccothat daubrecq smokes." and lupin began to laugh: "wasn’t it silly? and, at the same time, wasn’tit clever of daubrecq? we looked everywhere, we ransacked everything. didn’t i unscrewthe brass sockets of the electric lights to
see if they contained a crystal stopper? buthow could i have thought, how could any one, however great his perspicacity, have thoughtof tearing off the paper band of a packet of maryland, a band put on, gummed, sealed,stamped and dated by the state, under the control of the inland revenue office? onlythink! the state the accomplice of such an act of infamy! the inland r-r-r-revenue awficelending itself to such a trick! no, a thousand times no! the regie [*] is not perfect. itmakes matches that won’t light and cigarettes filled with hay. but there’s all the differencein the world between recognizing that fact and believing the inland revenue to be inleague with daubrecq with the object of hiding the list of the twenty-seven from the legitimatecuriosity of the government and the enterprising
efforts of arsene lupin! observe that alldaubrecq had to do, in order to introduce the crystal stopper, was to bear upon theband a little, loosen it, draw it back, unfold the yellow paper, remove the tobacco and fastenit up again. observe also that all we had to do, in paris, was to take the packet inour hands and examine it, in order to discover the hiding-place. no matter! the packet itself,the plug of maryland made up and passed by the state and by the inland revenue office,was a sacred, intangible thing, a thing above suspicion! and nobody opened it. that washow that demon of a daubrecq allowed that untouched packet of tobacco to lie about formonths on his table, among his pipes and among other unopened packets of tobacco. and nopower on earth could have given any one even
the vaguest notion of looking into that harmlesslittle cube. i would have you observe, besides…" lupin went on pursuing his remarks relativeto the packet of maryland and the crystal stopper. his adversary’s ingenuity and shrewdnessinterested him all the more inasmuch as lupin had ended by getting the better of him. butto clarisse these topics mattered much less than did her anxiety as to the acts whichmust be performed to save her son; and she sat wrapped in her own thoughts and hardlylistened to him. * the department of the french excise whichholds the monopoly for the manufacture and sale of tobacco,cigars, cigarettes and matchesâ€”translator’s note.
"are you sure," she kept on repeating, "thatyou will succeed?" "absolutely sure." "but prasville is not in paris." "if he’s not there, he’s at the havre. i sawit in the paper yesterday. in any case, a telegram will bring him to paris at once." "and do you think that he has enough influence?" "to obtain the pardon of vaucheray and gilbertpersonally. no. if he had, we should have set him to work before now. but he is intelligentenough to understand the value of what we are bringing him and to act without a moment’sdelay."
"but, to be accurate, are you not deceivedas to that value?" "was daubrecq deceived? was daubrecq not ina better position than any of us to know the full power of that paper? did he not havetwenty proofs of it, each more convincing than the last? think of all that he was ableto do, for the sole reason that people knew him to possess the list. they knew it; andthat was all. he did not use the list, but he had it. and, having it, he killed yourhusband. he built up his fortune on the ruin and the disgrace of the twenty-seven. onlylast week, one of the gamest of the lot, d’albufex, cut his throat in a prison. no, take it fromme, as the price of handing over that list, we could ask for anything we pleased. andwe are asking for what? almost nothing … less
than nothing… the pardon of a child of twenty.in other words, they will take us for idiots. what! we have in our hands…" he stopped. clarisse, exhausted by so muchexcitement, sat fast asleep in front of him. they reached paris at eight o’clock in themorning. lupin found two telegrams awaiting him athis flat in the place de clichy. one was from the masher, dispatched from avignonon the previous day and stating that all was going well and that they hoped to keep theirappointment punctually that evening. the other was from prasville, dated from the havre andaddressed to clarisse: "impossible return to-morrow monday morning.come to my office
five o’clock. reckon on you absolutely." "five o’clock!" said clarisse. "how late!" "it’s a first-rate hour," declared lupin. "still, if…" "if the execution is to take place to-morrowmorning: is that what you mean to say?… don’t be afraid to speak out, for the executionwill not take place." "the newspapers…" "you haven’t read the newspapers and you arenot to read them. nothing that they can say matters in the least. one thing alone matters:our interview with prasville. besides…"
he took a little bottle from a cupboard and,putting his hand on clarisse’s shoulder, said: "lie down here, on the sofa, and take a fewdrops of this mixture." "what’s it for?" "it will make you sleep for a few hours…and forget. that’s always so much gained." "no, no," protested clarisse, "i don’t wantto. gilbert is not asleep. he is not forgetting." "drink it," said lupin, with gentle insistence.she yielded all of a sudden, from cowardice, from excessive suffering, and did as she wastold and lay on the sofa and closed her eyes. in a few minutes she was asleep. lupin rang for his servant:
"the newspapers… quick!… have you boughtthem?" "here they are, governor." lupin opened one of them and at once readthe following lines: "arsene lupin’s accomplices" "we know from a positive source that arsenelupin’s accomplices, gilbert and vaucheray, will beexecuted to-morrow, tuesday, morning. m. deibler hasinspected the scaffold. everything is ready." he raised his head with a defiant look.
"arsene lupin’s accomplices! the executionof arsene lupin’s accomplices! what a fine spectacle! and what a crowd there will beto witness it! sorry, gentlemen, but the curtain will not rise. theatre closed by order ofthe authorities. and the authorities are myself!" he struck his chest violently, with an arrogantgesture: "the authorities are myself!" at twelve o’clock lupin received a telegramwhich the masher had sent from lyons: "all well. goods will arrive without damage." at three o’clock clarisse woke. her firstwords were: "is it to be to-morrow?"
he did not answer. but she saw him look socalm and smiling that she felt herself permeated with an immense sense of peace and receivedthe impression that everything was finished, disentangled, settled according to her companion’swill. they left the house at ten minutes past four.prasville’s secretary, who had received his chief’s instructions by telephone, showedthem into the office and asked them to wait. it was a quarter to five. prasville came running in at five o’clockexactly and, at once, cried: "have you the list?" he put out his hand. clarisse, who had risenfrom her chair, did not stir.
prasville looked at her for a moment, hesitatedand sat down. he understood. in pursuing daubrecq, clarisse mergy had not acted only from hatredand the desire for revenge. another motive prompted her. the paper would not be handedover except upon conditions. "sit down, please," he said, thus showingthat he accepted the discussion. clarisse resumed her seat and, when she remainedsilent, prasville said: "speak, my friend, and speak quite frankly.i do not scruple to say that we wish to have that paper." "if it is only a wish," remarked clarisse,whom lupin had coached in her part down to the least detail, "if it is only a wish, ifear that we shall not be able to come to
an arrangement." prasville smiled: "the wish, obviously, would lead us to makecertain sacrifices." "every sacrifice," said mme. mergy, correctinghim. "every sacrifice, provided, of course, thatwe keep within the bounds of acceptable requirements." "and even if we go beyond those bounds," saidclarisse, inflexibly. prasville began to lose patience: "come, what is it all about? explain yourself." "forgive me, my friend, but i wanted aboveall to mark the great importance which you
attach to that paper and, in view of the immediatetransaction which we are about to conclude, to specifyâ€”what shall i say?â€”the valueof my share in it. that value, which has no limits, must, i repeat, be exchanged for anunlimited value." "agreed," said prasville, querulously. "i presume, therefore, that it is unnecessaryfor me to trace the whole story of the business or to enumerate, on the one hand, the disasterswhich the possession of that paper would have allowed you to avert and, on the other hand,the incalculable advantages which you will be able to derive from its possession?" prasville had to make an effort to containhimself and to answer in a tone that was civil,
or nearly so: "i admit everything. is that enough?" "i beg your pardon, but we cannot explainourselves too plainly. and there is one point that remains to be cleared up. are you ina position to treat, personally?" "i want to know not, of course, if you areempowered to settle this business here and now, but if, in dealing with me, you representthe views of those who know the business and who are qualified to settle it." "yes," declared prasville, forcibly. "so that i can have your answer within anhour after i have told you my conditions?"
"will the answer be that of the government?" clarisse bent forward and, sinking her voice: "will the answer be that of the elysee?" prasville appeared surprised. he reflectedfor a moment and then said: "it only remains for me to ask you to giveme your word of honour that, however incomprehensible my conditions may appear to you, you willnot insist on my revealing the reason. they are what they are. your answer must be yesor no." "i give you my word of honour," said prasville,formally. clarisse underwent a momentary agitation thatmade her turn paler still. then, mastering
herself, with her eyes fixed on prasville’seyes, she said: "you shall have the list of the twenty-sevenin exchange for the pardon of gilbert and vaucheray." "eh? what?" prasville leapt from his chair, looking absolutelydumbfounded: "the pardon of gilbert and vaucheray? of arsenelupin’s accomplices?" "the murderers of the villa marie-therese?the two who are due to die to-morrow?" "yes, those two," she said, in a loud voice."i ask? i demand their pardon." "but this is madness! why? why should you?"
"i must remind you, prasville, that you gaveme your word…" "yes… yes… i know… but the thing isso unexpected…" "why? for all sorts of reasons!" "what reasons?" "well… well, but… think! gilbert and vaucherayhave been sentenced to death!" "send them to penal servitude: that’s allyou have to do." "impossible! the case has created an enormoussensation. they are arsene lupin’s accomplices. the whole world knows about the verdict." "well, we cannot, no, we cannot go againstthe decrees of justice."
"you are not asked to do that. you are askedfor a commutation of punishment as an act of mercy. mercy is a legal thing." "the pardoning-commission has given its finding…" "true, but there remains the president ofthe republic." "he has refused." "he can reconsider his refusal." "impossible!" "there’s no excuse for it." "he needs no excuse. the right of mercy isabsolute. it is exercised without control,
without reason, without excuse or explanation.it is a royal prerogative; the president of the republic can wield it according to hisgood pleasure, or rather according to his conscience, in the best interests of the state." "but it is too late! everything is ready.the execution is to take place in a few hours." "one hour is long enough to obtain your answer;you have just told us so." "but this is confounded madness! there areinsuperable obstacles to your conditions. i tell you again, it’s impossible, physicallyimpossible." "no! no! a thousand times no!" "in that case, there is nothing left for usto do but to go."
she moved toward the door. m. nicole followedher. prasville bounded across the room and barred their way: "where are you going?" "well, my friend, it seems to me that ourconversation is at an end. as you appear to think, as, in fact, you are certain that thepresident of the republic will not consider the famous list of the twenty-seven to beworth…" "stay where you are," said prasville. he turned the key in the door and began topace the room, with his hands behind his back and his eyes fixed on the floor.
and lupin, who had not breathed a word duringthe whole of this scene and who had prudently contented himself with playing a colourlesspart, said to himself: "what a fuss! what a lot of affectation toarrive at the inevitable result! as though prasville, who is not a genius, but not anabsolute blockhead either, would be likely to lose the chance of revenging himself onhis mortal enemy! there, what did i say? the idea of hurling daubrecq into the bottomlesspit appeals to him. come, we’ve won the rubber." prasville was opening a small inner door whichled to the office of his private secretary. he gave an order aloud: "m. lartigue, telephone to the elysee andsay that i request the favour of an audience
for a communication of the utmost importance." he closed the door, came back to clarisseand said: "in any case, my intervention is limited tosubmitting your proposal." "once you submit it, it will be accepted." a long silence followed. clarisse’s featuresexpressed so profound a delight that prasville was struck by it and looked at her with attentivecuriosity. for what mysterious reason did clarisse wish to save gilbert and vaucheray?what was the incomprehensible link that bound her to those two men? what tragedy connectedthose three lives and, no doubt, daubrecq’s in addition?
"go ahead, old boy," thought lupin, "cudgelyour brains: you’ll never spot it! ah, if we had asked for gilbert’s pardon only, asclarisse wished, you might have twigged the secret! but vaucheray, that brute of a vaucheray,there really could not be the least bond between mme. mergy and him…. aha, by jingo, it’smy turn now!… he’s watching me … the inward soliloquy is turning upon myself… ‘i wonderwho that m. nicole can be? why has that little provincial usher devoted himself body andsoul to clarisse mergy? who is that old bore, if the truth were known? i made a mistakein not inquiring… i must look into this…. i must rip off the beggar’s mask. for, afterall, it’s not natural that a man should take so much trouble about a matter in which heis not directly interested. why should he
also wish to save gilbert and vaucheray? why?why should he?…" lupin turned his head away. "look out!… look out!… there’s a notionpassing through that red-tape-merchant’s skull: a confused notion which he can’t put intowords. hang it all, he mustn’t suspect m. lupin under m. nicole! the thing’s complicatedenough as it is, in all conscience!…" but there was a welcome interruption. prasville’ssecretary came to say that the audience would take place in an hour’s time. "very well. thank you," said prasville. "thatwill do." and, resuming the interview, with no furthercircumlocution, speaking like a man who means to put a thing through, he declared:
"i think that we shall be able to manage it.but, first of all, so that i may do what i have undertaken to do, i want more preciseinformation, fuller details. where was the paper?" "in the crystal stopper, as we thought," saidmme. mergy. "and where was the crystal stopper?" "in an object which daubrecq came and fetched,a few days ago, from the writing-desk in his study in the square lamartine, an object whichi took from him yesterday." "what sort of object?" "simply a packet of tobacco, maryland tobacco,which used to lie about on the desk."
prasville was petrified. he muttered, guilelessly: "oh, if i had only known! i’ve had my handon that packet of maryland a dozen times! how stupid of me!" "what does it matter?" said clarisse. "thegreat thing is that the discovery is made." prasville pulled a face which implied thatthe discovery would have been much pleasanter if he himself had made it. then he asked: "so you have the list?" "show it to me." and, when clarisse hesitated, he added:
"oh, please, don’t be afraid! the list belongsto you, and i will give it back to you. but you must understand that i cannot take thestep in question without making certain." clarisse consulted m. nicole with a glancewhich did not escape prasville. then she said: "here it is." he seized the scrap of paper with a certainexcitement, examined it and almost immediately "yes, yes… the secretary’s writing: i recognizeit…. and the signature of the chairman of the company: the signature in red…. besides,i have other proofs…. for instance, the torn piece which completes the left-hand topcorner of this sheet…" he opened his safe and, from a special cash-box,produced a tiny piece of paper which he put
against the top left corner: "that’s right. the torn edges fit exactly.the proof is undeniable. all that remains is to verify the make of this foreign-post-paper." clarisse was radiant with delight. no onewould have believed that the most terrible torture had racked her for weeks and weeksand that she was still bleeding and quivering from its effects. while prasville was holding the paper againsta window-pane, she said to lupin: "i insist upon having gilbert informed thisevening. he must be so awfully unhappy!" "yes," said lupin. "besides, you can go tohis lawyer and tell him."
she continued: "and then i must see gilbert to-morrow. prasvillecan think what he likes." "of course. but he must first gain his causeat the elysee." "there can’t be any difficulty, can there?" "no. you saw that he gave way at once." prasville continued his examination with theaid of a magnifying-glass and compared the sheet with the scrap of torn paper. next,he took from the cash-box some other sheets of letter-paper and examined one of theseby holding it up to the light: "that’s done," he said. "my mind is made up.forgive me, dear friend: it was a very difficult
piece of work…. i passed through variousstages. when all is said, i had my suspicions… and not without cause…" "what do you mean?" asked clarisse. "one second…. i must give an order first." he called his secretary: "please telephone at once to the elysee, makemy apologies and say that i shall not require the audience, for reasons which i will explainlater." he closed the door and returned to his desk.clarisse and lupin stood choking, looking at him in stupefaction, failing to understandthis sudden change. was he mad? was it a trick
on his part? a breach of faith? and was herefusing to keep his promise, now that he possessed the list? he held it out to clarisse: "you can have it back." "have it back?" "and return it to daubrecq." "to daubrecq?" "unless you prefer to burn it." "what do you say?"
"i say that, if i were in your place, i wouldburn it." "why do you say that? it’s ridiculous!" "on the contrary, it is very sensible." "why? i will tell you. the list of the twenty-seven,as we know for absolutely certain, was written on a sheet of letter-paper belonging to thechairman of the canal company, of which there are a few samples in this cash-box. now allthese samples have as a water-mark a little cross of lorraine which is almost invisible,but which can just be seen in the thickness of the paper when you hold it up to the light.the sheet which you have brought me does not contain that little cross of lorraine." [*]
* the cross of lorraine is a cross with twohorizontal lines or bars across the upper half of the perpendicularbeam. â€”translator’s note. lupin felt a nervous trembling shake him fromhead to foot and he dared not turn his eyes on clarisse, realizing what a terrible blowthis was to her. he heard her stammer: "then are we to suppose… that daubrecq wastaken in?" "not a bit of it!" exclaimed prasville. "itis you who have been taken in, my poor friend. daubrecq has the real list, the list whichhe stole from the dying man’s safe." "but this one…"
"this one is a forgery." "a forgery?" "an undoubted forgery. it was an admirablepiece of cunning on daubrecq’s part. dazzled by the crystal stopper which he flashed beforeyour eyes, you did nothing but look for that stopper in which he had stowed away no matterwhat, the first bit of paper that came to hand, while he quietly kept…" prasville interrupted himself. clarisse waswalking up to him with short, stiff steps, like an automaton. she said: "then what, dear friend?"
"you refuse?" "certainly, i am obliged to; i have no choice." "you refuse to take that step?" "look here, how can i do what you ask? it’snot possible, on the strength of a valueless document…" "you won’t do it?… you won’t do it?… and,to-morrow morning… in a few hours… gilbert…" she was frightfully pale, her face sunk, likethe face of one dying. her eyes opened wider and wider and her teeth chattered… lupin, fearing the useless and dangerous wordswhich she was about to utter, seized her by
the shoulders and tried to drag her away.but she thrust him back with indomitable strength, took two or three more steps, staggered, asthough on the point of falling, and, suddenly, in a burst of energy and despair, laid holdof prasville and screamed: "you shall go to the elysee!… you shallgo at once!… you must!… you must save gilbert!" "please, please, my dear friend, calm yourself…" she gave a strident laugh: "calm myself!… when, to-morrow morning,gilbert… ah, no, no, i am terrified… it’s appalling…. oh, run, you wretch, run! obtainhis pardon!… don’t you understand? gilbert…
gilbert is my son! my son! my son!" prasville gave a cry. the blade of a knifeflashed in clarisse’s hand and she raised her arm to strike herself. but the movementwas not completed. m. nicole caught her arm in its descent and, taking the knife fromclarisse, reducing her to helplessness, he said, in a voice that rang through the roomlike steel: "what you are doing is madness!… when igave you my oath that i would save him! you must… live for him… gilbert shall notdie…. how can he die, when… i gave you my oath?…" "gilbert… my son…" moaned clarisse.
he clasped her fiercely, drew her againsthimself and put his hand over her mouth: "enough! be quiet!… i entreat you to bequiet…. gilbert shall not die…" with irresistible authority, he dragged heraway like a subdued child that suddenly becomes obedient; but, at the moment of opening thedoor, he turned to prasville: "wait for me here, monsieur," he commanded,in an imperative tone. "if you care about that list of the twenty-seven, the real list,wait for me. i shall be back in an hour, in two hours, at most; and then we will talkbusiness." and abruptly, to clarisse: "and you, madame, a little courage yet. icommand you to show courage, in gilbert’s
name." he went away, through the passages, down thestairs, with a jerky step, holding clarisse under the arm, as he might have held a lay-figure,supporting her, carrying her almost. a court-yard, another court-yard, then the street. meanwhile, prasville, surprised at first,bewildered by the course of events, was gradually recovering his composure and thinking. hethought of that m. nicole, a mere supernumerary at first, who played beside clarisse the partof one of those advisers to whom we cling in the serious crises of our lives and whosuddenly, shaking off his torpor, appeared in the full light of day, resolute, masterful,mettlesome, brimming over with daring, ready
to overthrow all the obstacles that fate placedon his path. who was there that was capable of acting thus? prasville started. the question had no sooneroccurred to his mind than the answer flashed on him, with absolute certainty. all the proofsrose up, each more exact, each more convincing than the last. hurriedly he rang. hurriedly he sent for thechief detective-inspector on duty. and, feverishly: "were you in the waiting-room, chief-inspector?" "yes, monsieur le secretaire-general." "did you see a gentleman and a lady go out?"
"would you know the man again?" "then don’t lose a moment, chief-inspector.take six inspectors with you. go to the place de clichy. make inquiries about a man callednicole and watch the house. the nicole man is on his way back there." "and if he comes out, monsieur le secretaire-general?" "arrest him. here’s a warrant." he sat down to his desk and wrote a name ona form: "here you are, chief-inspector. i will letthe chief-detective know." the chief-inspector seemed staggered:
"but you spoke to me of a man called nicole,monsieur le secretaire-general." "the warrant is in the name of arsene lupin." "arsene lupin and the nicole man are one andthe same individual." chapter xii. the scaffold "i will save him, i will save him," lupinrepeated, without ceasing, in the taxicab in which he and clarisse drove away. "i swearthat i will save him." clarisse did not listen, sat as though numbed,as though possessed by some great nightmare of death, which left her ignorant of all thatwas happening outside her. and lupin set forth his plans, perhaps more to reassure himselfthan to convince clarisse. "no, no, the game
is not lost yet. there is one trump left,a huge trump, in the shape of the letters and documents which vorenglade, the ex-deputy,is offering to sell to daubrecq and of which daubrecq spoke to you yesterday at nice. ishall buy those letters and documents of stanislas vorenglade at whatever price he chooses toname. then we shall go back to the police-office and i shall say to prasville, ‘go to the elyseeat once … use the list as though it were genuine, save gilbert from death and be contentto acknowledge to-morrow, when gilbert is saved, that the list is forged. "’be off, quickly!… if you refuse, well,if you refuse, the vorenglade letters and documents shall be reproduced to-morrow, tuesday,morning in one of the leading newspapers.’
vorenglade will be arrested. and m. prasvillewill find himself in prison before night." lupin rubbed his hands: "he’ll do as he’s told!… he’ll do as he’stold!… i felt that at once, when i was with him. the thing appeared to me as a dead certainty.and i found vorenglade’s address in daubrecq’s pocket-books, so… driver, boulevard raspail!" they went to the address given. lupin sprangfrom the cab, ran up three flights of stairs. the servant said that m. vorenglade was awayand would not be back until dinner-time next evening. "and don’t you know where he is?"
"m. vorenglade is in london, sir." lupin did not utter a word on returning tothe cab. clarisse, on her side, did not even ask him any questions, so indifferent hadshe become to everything, so absolutely did she look upon her son’s death as an accomplishedfact. they drove to the place de cichy. as lupinentered the house he passed two men who were just leaving the porter’s box. he was toomuch engrossed to notice them. they were prasville’s inspectors. "no telegram?" he asked his servant. "no, governor," replied achille.
"no news of the masher and the growler?" "no, governor, none." "that’s all right," he said to clarisse, ina casual tone. "it’s only seven o’clock and we mustn’t reckon on seeing them before eightor nine. prasville will have to wait, that’s all. i will telephone to him to wait." he did so and was hanging up the receiver,when he heard a moan behind him. clarisse was standing by the table, reading an evening-paper.she put her hand to her heart, staggered and fell. "achille, achille!" cried lupin, calling hisman. "help me put her on my bed… and then
go to the cupboard and get me the medicine-bottlemarked number four, the bottle with the sleeping-draught." he forced open her teeth with the point ofa knife and compelled her to swallow half the bottle: "good," he said. "now the poor thing won’twake till to-morrow… after." he glanced through the paper, which was stillclutched in clarisse’ hand, and read the following lines: "the strictest measures have been taken tokeep order at the execution of gilbert and vaucheray, lest arsenelupin should make an attempt to rescue his accomplices fromthe last penalty. at
twelve o’clock to-night a cordon of troopswill be drawn across all the approaches to the sante prison. asalready stated, the execution will take place outside the prison-walls,in the square formed by the boulevard arago and the ruede la sante. "we have succeeded in obtaining some detailsof the attitude of the two condemned men. vaucheray observesa stolid sullenness and is awaiting the fatal event with no littlecourage: "’crikey,’ he says, ‘i can’t say i’m delighted;but i’ve got to go through it and i shall keep my end up.’and he adds, ‘death
i don’t care a hang about! what worries meis the thought that they’re going to cut my head off. ah, if thegovernor could only hit on some trick to send me straight offto the next world before i had time to say knife! a drop of prussicacid, governor, if you please!’ "gilbert’s calmness is even more impressive,especially when we remember how he broke down at the trial. heretains an unshaken confidence in the omnipotence of arsene lupin: "’the governor shouted to me before everybodynot to be afraid,
that he was there, that he answered for everything.well, i’m not afraid. i shall rely on him until the lastday, until the last minute, at the very foot of the scaffold.i know the governor! there’s no danger with him. he has promisedand he will keep his word. if my head were off, he’d come and clapit on my shoulders and firmly! arsene lupin allow his chum gilbertto die? not he! excuse my humour!’ "there is a certain touching frankness inall this enthusiasm which is not without a dignity of its own.we shall see if arsene
lupin deserves the confidence so blindly placedin him." lupin was hardly able to finish reading thearticle for the tears that dimmed his eyes: tears of affection, tears of pity, tears ofdistress. no, he did not deserve the confidence of hischum gilbert. certainly, he had performed impossibilities; but there are circumstancesin which we must perform more than impossibilities, in which we must show ourselves stronger thanfate; and, this time, fate had been stronger than he. ever since the first day and throughoutthis lamentable adventure, events had gone contrary to his anticipations, contrary tologic itself. clarisse and he, though pursuing an identical aim, had wasted weeks in fightingeach other. then, at the moment when they
were uniting their efforts, a series of ghastlydisasters had come one after the other: the kidnapping of little jacques, daubrecq’s disappearance,his imprisonment in the lovers’ tower, lupin’s wound, his enforced inactivity, followed bythe cunning manoeuvres that dragged clarisseâ€”and lupin after herâ€”to the south, to italy.and then, as a crowning catastrophe, when, after prodigies of will-power, after miraclesof perseverance, they were entitled to think that the golden fleece was won, it all cameto nothing. the list of the twenty-seven had no more value than the most insignificantscrap of paper. "the game’s up!" said lupin. "it’s an absolutedefeat. what if i do revenge myself on daubrecq, ruin him and destroy him? he is the real victor,once gilbert is going to die."
he wept anew, not with spite or rage, butwith despair. gilbert was going to die! the lad whom he called his chum, the best of hispals would be gone for ever, in a few hours. he could not save him. he was at the end ofhis tether. he did not even look round for a last expedient. what was the use? and his persuasion of his own helplessnesswas so deep, so definite that he felt no shock of any kind on receiving a telegram from themasher that said: "motor accident. essential part broken. longrepair. arrive to-morrow morning." it was a last proof to show that fate haduttered its decree. he no longer thought of
rebelling against the decision. he looked at clarisse. she was peacefullysleeping; and this total oblivion, this absence of all consciousness, seemed to him so enviablethat, suddenly yielding to a fit of cowardice, he seized the bottle, still half-filled withthe sleeping-draught, and drank it down. then he stretched himself on a couch and rangfor his man: "go to bed, achille, and don’t wake me onany pretence whatever." "then there’s nothing to be done for gilbertand vaucheray, governor?" said achille. "nothing." "are they going through it?"
"they are going through it." twenty minutes later lupin fell into a heavysleep. it was ten o’clock in the evening. the night was full of incident and noise aroundthe prison. at one o’clock in the morning the rue de la sante, the boulevard arago andall the streets abutting on the gaol were guarded by police, who allowed no one to passwithout a regular cross-examination. for that matter, it was raining in torrents;and it seemed as though the lovers of this sort of show would not be very numerous. thepublic-houses were all closed by special order. at four o’clock three companies of infantrycame and took up their positions along the pavements, while a battalion occupied theboulevard arago in case of a surprise. municipal
guards cantered up and down between the lines;a whole staff of police-magistrates, officers and functionaries, brought together for theoccasion, moved about among the troops. the guillotine was set up in silence, in themiddle of the square formed by the boulevard and the street; and the sinister sound ofhammering was heard. but, at five o’clock, the crowd gathered,notwithstanding the rain, and people began to sing. they shouted for the footlights,called for the curtain to rise, were exasperated to see that, at the distance at which thebarriers had been fixed, they could hardly distinguish the uprights of the guillotine. several carriages drove up, bringing officialpersons dressed in black. there were cheers
and hoots, whereupon a troop of mounted municipalguards scattered the groups and cleared the space to a distance of three hundred yardsfrom the square. two fresh companies of soldiers lined up. and suddenly there was a great silence. avague white light fell from the dark sky. the rain ceased abruptly. inside the prison, at the end of the passagecontaining the condemned cells, the men in black were conversing in low voices. prasvillewas talking to the public prosecutor, who expressed his fears: "no, no," declared prasville, "i assure you,it will pass without an incident of any kind."
"do your reports mention nothing at all suspicious,monsieur le secretaire-general?" "nothing. and they can’t mention anything,for the simple reason that we have lupin." "do you mean that?" "yes, we know his hiding-place. the housewhere he lives, on the place de clichy, and where he went at seven o’clock last night,is surrounded. moreover, i know the scheme which he had contrived to save his two accomplices.the scheme miscarried at the last moment. we have nothing to fear, therefore. the lawwill take its course." meanwhile, the hour had struck. they took vaucheray first; and the governorof the prison ordered the door of his cell
to be opened. vaucheray leapt out of bed andcast eyes dilated with terror upon the men who entered. "vaucheray, we have come to tell you…" "stow that, stow that," he muttered. "no words.i know all about it. get on with the business." one would have thought that he was in a hurryfor it to be over as fast as possible, so readily did he submit to the usual preparations.but he would not allow any of them to speak to him: "no words," he repeated. "what? confess tothe priest? not worth while. i have shed blood. the law sheds my blood. it’s the good oldrule. we’re quits."
nevertheless, he stopped short for a moment: "i say, is my mate going through it too?" and, when he heard that gilbert would go tothe scaffold at the same time as himself, he had two or three seconds of hesitation,glanced at the bystanders, seemed about to speak, was silent and, at last, muttered: "it’s better so…. they’ll pull us throughtogether… we’ll clink glasses together." gilbert was not asleep either, when the menentered his cell. sitting on his bed, he listened to the terriblewords, tried to stand up, began to tremble frightfully, from head to foot, like a skeletonwhen shaken, and then fell back, sobbing:
"oh, my poor mummy, poor mummy!" he stammered. they tried to question him about that mother,of whom he had never spoken; but his tears were interrupted by a sudden fit of rebellionand he cried: "i have done no murder… i won’t die. i havedone no murder…" "gilbert," they said, "show yourself a man." "yes, yes… but i have done no murder…why should i die?" his teeth chattered so loudly that words whichhe uttered became unintelligible. he let the men do their work, made his confession, heardmass and then, growing calmer and almost docile, with the voice of a little child resigningitself, murmured:
"tell my mother that i beg her forgiveness." "your mother?" "yes… put what i say in the papers… shewill understand… and then…" "what, gilbert?" "well, i want the governor to know that ihave not lost confidence." he gazed at the bystanders, one after theother, as though he entertained the mad hope that "the governor" was one of them, disguisedbeyond recognition and ready to carry him off in his arms: "yes," he said, gently and with a sort ofreligious piety, "yes, i still have confidence,
even at this moment… be sure and let himknow, won’t you?… i am positive that he will not let me die. i am certain of it…" they guessed, from the fixed look in his eyes,that he saw lupin, that he felt lupin’s shadow prowling around and seeking an inlet throughwhich to get to him. and never was anything more touching than the sight of that striplingâ€”cladin the strait-jacket, with his arms and legs bound, guarded by thousands of menâ€”whomthe executioner already held in his inexorable hand and who, nevertheless, hoped on. anguish wrung the hearts of all the beholders.their eyes were dimmed with tears: "poor little chap!" stammered some one.
prasville, touched like the rest and thinkingof clarisse, repeated, in a whisper: "poor little chap!" but the hour struck, the preparations werefinished. they set out. the two processions met in the passage. vaurheray,on seeing gilbert, snapped out: "i say, kiddie, the governor’s chucked us!" and he added a sentence which nobody, saveprasville, was able to understand: "expect he prefers to pocket the proceedsof the crystal stopper." they went down the staircases. they crossedthe prison-yards. an endless, horrible distance. and, suddenly, in the frame of the great doorway,the wan light of day, the rain, the street,
the outlines of houses, while far-off soundscame through the awful silence. they walked along the wall, to the cornerof the boulevard. a few steps farther vaucheray started back:he had seen! gilbert crept along, with lowered head, supportedby an executioner’s assistant and by the chaplain, who made him kiss the crucifix as he went. there stood the guillotine. "no, no," shouted gilbert, "i won’t… i won’t…help! help!" a last appeal, lost in space. the executioner gave a signal. vaucheray waslaid hold of, lifted, dragged along, almost
at a run. and then came this staggering thing: a shot,a shot fired from the other side, from one of the houses opposite. the assistants stopped short. the burden which they were dragging had collapsedin their arms. "what is it? what’s happened?" asked everybody. "he’s wounded…" blood spurted from vaucheray’s forehead andcovered his face. he spluttered:
"that’s done it… one in a thousand! thankyou, governor, thank you." "finish him off! carry him there!" said avoice, amid the general confusion. "but he’s dead!" "get on with it… finish him off!" tumult was at its height, in the little groupof magistrates, officials and policemen. every one was giving orders: "execute him!… the law must take its course!…we have no right to delay! it would be cowardice!… execute him!" "but the man’s dead!"
"that makes no difference!… the law mustbe obeyed!… execute him!" the chaplain protested, while two wardersand prasville kept their eyes on gilbert. in the meantime, the assistants had takenup the corpse again and were carrying it to the guillotine. "hurry up!" cried the executioner, scaredand hoarse-voiced. "hurry up! … and the other one to follow… waste no time…" he had not finished speaking, when a secondreport rang out. he spun round on his heels and fell, groaning: "it’s nothing… a wound in the shoulder…go on… the next one’s turn!"
but his assistants were running away, yellingwith terror. the space around the guillotine was cleared. and the prefect of police, rallyinghis men, drove everybody back to the prison, helter-skelter, like a disordered rabble:the magistrates, the officials, the condemned man, the chaplain, all who had passed throughthe archway two or three minutes before. in the meanwhile, a squad of policemen, detectivesand soldiers were rushing upon the house, a little old-fashioned, three-storied house,with a ground-floor occupied by two shops which happened to be empty. immediately afterthe first shot, they had seen, vaguely, at one of the windows on the second floor, aman holding a rifle in his hand and surrounded with a cloud of smoke.
revolver-shots were fired at him, but missedhim. he, standing calmly on a table, took aim a second time, fired from the shoulder;and the crack of the second report was heard. then he withdrew into the room. down below, as nobody answered the peal atthe bell, the assailants demolished the door, which gave way almost immediately. they madefor the staircase, but their onrush was at once stopped, on the first floor, by an accumulationof beds, chairs and other furniture, forming a regular barricade and so close-entangledthat it took the aggressors four or five minutes to clear themselves a passage. those four or five minutes lost were enoughto render all pursuit hopeless. when they
reached the second floor they heard a voiceshouting from above: "this way, friends! eighteen stairs more.a thousand apologies for giving you so much trouble!" they ran up those eighteen stairs and nimblyat that! but, at the top, above the third story, was the garret, which was reached bya ladder and a trapdoor. and the fugitive had taken away the ladder and bolted the trapdoor. the reader will not have forgotten the sensationcreated by this amazing action, the editions of the papers issued in quick succession,the newsboys tearing and shouting through the streets, the whole metropolis on edgewith indignation and, we may say, with anxious
curiosity. but it was at the headquarters of police thatthe excitement developed into a paroxysm. men flung themselves about on every side.messages, telegrams, telephone calls followed one upon the other. at last, at eleven o’clock in the morning,there was a meeting in the office of the prefect of police, and prasville was there. the chief-detectiveread a report of his inquiry, the results of which amounted to this: shortly beforemidnight yesterday some one had rung at the house on the boulevard arago. the portress,who slept in a small room on the ground-floor, behind one of the shops pulled the rope. aman came and tapped at her door. he said that
he had come from the police on an urgent matterconcerning to-morrow’s execution. the portress opened the door and was at once attacked,gagged and bound. ten minutes later a lady and gentleman wholived on the first floor and who had just come home were also reduced to helplessnessby the same individual and locked up, each in one of the two empty shops. the third-floortenant underwent a similar fate, but in his own flat and his own bedroom, which the manwas able to enter without being heard. the second floor was unoccupied, and the man tookup his quarters there. he was now master of the house. "and there we are!" said the prefect of police,beginning to laugh, with a certain bitterness.
"there we are! it’s as simple as shellingpeas. only, what surprises me is that he was able to get away so easily." "i will ask you to observe, monsieur le prefet,that, being absolute master of the house from one o’clock in the morning, he had until fiveo’clock to prepare his flight." "and that flight took place…?" "over the roofs. at that spot the houses inthe next street, the rue de la glaciere, are quite near and there is only one break inthe roofs, about three yards wide, with a drop of one yard in height." "well, our man had taken away the ladder leadingto the garret and used it as a foot-bridge.
after crossing to the next block of buildings,all he had to do was to look through the windows until he found an empty attic, enter one ofthe houses in the rue de la glaciere and walk out quietly with his hands in his pockets.in this way his flight, duly prepared beforehand, was effected very simply and without the leastobstacle." "but you had taken the necessary measures." "those which you ordered, monsieur le prefet.my men spent three hours last evening visiting all the houses, so as to make sure that therewas no stranger hiding there. at the moment when they were leaving the last house i hadthe street barred. our man must have slipped through during that few minutes’ interval."
"capital! capital! and there is no doubt inyour minds, of course: it’s arsene lupin?" "not a doubt. in the first place, it was alla question of his accomplices. and then… and then… no one but arsene lupin was capableof contriving such a master-stroke and carrying it out with that inconceivable boldness." "but, in that case," muttered the prefectof policeâ€”and, turning to prasville, he continuedâ€”"but, in that case, my dear prasville,the fellow of whom you spoke to me, the fellow whom you and the chief-detective have hadwatched since yesterday evening, in his flat in the place de clichy, that fellow is notarsene lupin?" "yes, he is, monsieur le prefet. there isno doubt about that either."
"then why wasn’t he arrested when he wentout last night?" "he did not go out." "i say, this is getting complicated!" "it’s quite simple, monsieur le prefet. likeall the houses in which traces of arsene lupin are to be found, the house in the place decichy has two outlets." "and you didn’t know it?" "i didn’t know it. i only discovered it thismorning, on inspecting the flat." "was there no one in the flat?" "no. the servant, a man called achille, wentaway this morning, taking with him a lady
who was staying with lupin." "what was the lady’s name?" "i don’t know," replied prasville, after animperceptible hesitation. "but you know the name under which arsenelupin passed?" "yes. m. nicole, a private tutor, master ofarts and so on. here is his card." as prasville finished speaking, an office-messengercame to tell the prefect of police that he was wanted immediately at the elysee. theprime minister was there already. "i’m coming," he said. and he added, betweenhis teeth, "it’s to decide upon gilbert’s fate."
prasville ventured: "do you think they will pardon him, monsieurle prefet?" "never! after last night’s affair, it wouldmake a most deplorable impression. gilbert must pay his debt to-morrow morning." the messenger had, at the same time, handedprasville a visiting-card. prasville now looked at it, gave a start and muttered: "well, i’m hanged! what a nerve!" "what’s the matter?" asked the prefect ofpolice. "nothing, nothing, monsieur le prefet," declaredprasville, who did not wish to share with
another the honour of seeing this businessthrough. "nothing… an unexpected visit… i hope soon to have the pleasure of tellingyou the result." and he walked away, mumbling, with an airof amazement: "well, upon my word! what a nerve the beggarhas! what a nerve!" the visiting-card which he held in his handbore these words: m. nicole, master of arts, private tutor. chapter xiii. the last battle when prasville returned to his office he sawm. nicole sitting on a bench in the waiting-room,
with his bent back, his ailing air, his ginghamumbrella, his rusty hat and his single glove: "it’s he all right," said prasville, who hadfeared for a moment that lupin might have sent another m. nicole to see him. "and thefact that he has come in person proves that he does not suspect that i have seen throughhim." and, for the third time, he said, "all the same, what a nerve!" he shut the door of his office and calledhis secretary: "m. lartigue, i am having a rather dangerousperson shown in here. the chances are that he will have to leave my office with the braceletson. as soon as he is in my room, make all the necessary arrangements: send for a dozeninspectors and have them posted in the waiting-room
and in your office. and take this as a definiteinstruction: the moment i ring, you are all to come in, revolvers in hand, and surroundthe fellow. do you quite understand?" "above all, no hesitation. a sudden entrance,in a body, revolvers in hand. send m. nicole in, please." as soon as he was alone, prasville coveredthe push of an electric bell on his desk with some papers and placed two revolvers of respectabledimensions behind a rampart of books. "and now," he said to himself, "to sit tight.if he has the list, let’s collar it. if he hasn’t, let’s collar him. and, if possible,let’s collar both. lupin and the list of the twenty-seven, on the same day, especiallyafter the scandal of this morning, would be
a scoop in a thousand." there was a knock at the door. "come in!" said prasville. and, rising from his seat: "come in, m. nicole, come in." m. nicole crept timidly into the room, satdown on the extreme edge of the chair to which prasville pointed and said: "i have come…to resume… our conversationof yesterday… please excuse the delay, monsieur." "one second," said prasville. "will you allowme?"
he stepped briskly to the outer room and,seeing his secretary: "i was forgetting, m. lartigue. have the staircasesand passages searched… in case of accomplices." he returned, settled himself comfortably,as though for a long and interesting conversation, and began: "you were saying, m. nicole?" "i was saying, monsieur le secretaire-general,that i must apologize for keeping you waiting yesterday evening. i was detained by differentmatters. first of all, mme. mergy…." "yes, you had to see mme. mergy home." "just so, and to look after her. you can understandthe poor thing’s despair… her son gilbert
so near death… and such a death!… at thattime we could only hope for a miracle… an impossible miracle. i myself was resignedto the inevitable… you know as well as i do, when fate shows itself implacable, oneends by despairing." "but i thought," observed prasville, "thatyour intention, on leaving me, was to drag daubrecq’s secret from him at all costs." "certainly. but daubrecq was not in paris." "oh?" "no. he was on his way to paris in a motor-car." "have you a motor-car, m. nicole?"
"yes, when i need it: an out-of-date concern,an old tin kettle of sorts. well, he was on his way to paris in a motor-car, or ratheron the roof of a motor-car, inside a trunk in which i packed him. but, unfortunately,the motor was unable to reach paris until after the execution. thereupon…" prasville stared at m. nicole with an airof stupefaction. if he had retained the least doubt of the individual’s real identity, thismanner of dealing with daubrecq would have removed it. by jingo! to pack a man in a trunkand pitch him on the top of a motorcar!… no one but lupin would indulge in such a freak,no one but lupin would confess it with that ingenuous coolness!
"thereupon," echoed prasville, "you decidedwhat?" "i cast about for another method." "what method?" "why, surely, monsieur le secretaire-general,you know as well as i do!" "why, weren’t you at the execution?" "i was." "in that case, you saw both vaucheray andthe executioner hit, one mortally, the other with a slight wound. and you can’t fail tosee…" "oh," exclaimed prasville, dumbfounded, "youconfess it? it was you who fired the shots,
this morning?" "come, monsieur le secretaire-general, think!what choice had i? the list of the twenty-seven which you examined was a forgery. daubrecq,who possessed the genuine one, would not arrive until a few hours after the execution. therewas therefore but one way for me to save gilbert and obtain his pardon; and that was to delaythe execution by a few hours." "obviously." "well, of course. by killing that infamousbrute, that hardened criminal, vaucheray, and wounding the executioner, i spread disorderand panic; i made gilbert’s execution physically and morally impossible; and i thus gainedthe few hours which were indispensable for
my purpose." "obviously," repeated prasville. "well, of course," repeated lupin, "it givesus allâ€”the government, the president and myselfâ€”time to reflect and to see the questionin a clearer light. what do you think of it, monsieur le secretaire-general?" prasville thought a number of things, especiallythat this nicole was giving proof, to use a vulgar phrase, of the most infernal cheek,of a cheek so great that prasville felt inclined to ask himself if he was really right in identifyingnicole with lupin and lupin with nicole. "i think, m. nicole, that a man has to bea jolly good shot to kill a person whom he
wants to kill, at a distance of a hundredyards, and to wound another person whom he only wants to wound." "i have had some little practice," said m.nicole, with modest air. "and i also think that your plan can onlybe the fruit of a long preparation." "not at all! that’s where you’re wrong! itwas absolutely spontaneous! if my servant, or rather the servant of the friend who lentme his flat in the place de clichy, had not shaken me out of my sleep, to tell me thathe had once served as a shopman in that little house on the boulevard arago, that it didnot hold many tenants and that there might be something to be done there, our poor gilbertwould have had his head cut off by now…
and mme. mergy would most likely be dead." "oh, you think so?" "i am sure of it. and that was why i jumpedat that faithful retainer’s suggestion. only, you interfered with my plans, monsieur lesecretaire-general." "i did?" "yes. you must needs go and take the three-corneredprecaution of posting twelve men at the door of my house. i had to climb five flights ofback stairs and go out through the servants’ corridor and the next house. such uselessfatigue!" "i am very sorry, m. nicole. another time…"
"it was the same thing at eight o’clock thismorning, when i was waiting for the motor which was bringing daubrecq to me in his trunk:i had to march up and down the place de clichy, so as to prevent the car from stopping outsidethe door of my place and your men from interfering in my private affairs. otherwise, once again,gilbert and clarisse mergy would have been lost." "but," said prasville, "those painful events,it seems to me, are only delayed for a day, two days, three days at most. to avert themfor good and all we should want…" "the real list, i suppose?" "exactly. and i daresay you haven’t got it."
"yes, i have." "the genuine list?" "the genuine, the undoubtedly genuine list." "with the cross of lorraine?" "with the cross of lorraine." prasville was silent. he was labouring underviolent emotion, now that the duel was commencing with that adversary of whose terrifying superiorityhe was well aware; and he shuddered at the idea that arsene lupin, the formidable arsenelupin, was there, in front of him, calm and placid, pursuing his aims with as much coolnessas though he had all the weapons in his hands
and were face to face with a disarmed enemy. not yet daring to deliver a frontal attack,feeling almost intimidated, prasville said: "so daubrecq gave it up to you?" "daubrecq gives nothing up. i took it." "by main force, therefore?" "oh, dear, no!" said m. nicole, laughing."of course, i was ready to go to all lengths; and, when that worthy daubrecq was dug outof the basket in which he had been travelling express, with an occasional dose of chloroformto keep his strength up, i had prepared things so that the fun might begin at once. oh, nouseless tortures… no vain sufferings! no…
death, simply… you press the point of along needle on the chest, where the heart is, and insert it gradually, softly and gently.that’s all but the point would have been driven by mme. mergy. you understand: a mother ispitiless, a mother whose son is about to die!… ‘speak, daubrecq, or i’ll go deeper…. youwon’t speak?… then i’ll push another quarter of an inch… and another still.’ and thepatient’s heart stops beating, the heart that feels the needle coming… and another quarterof an inch… and one more… i swear before heaven that the villain would have spoken!…we leant over him and waited for him to wake, trembling with impatience, so urgent was ourhurry… can’t you picture the scene, monsieur le secretaire-general? the scoundrel lyingon a sofa, well bound, bare-chested, making
efforts to throw off the fumes of chloroformthat dazed him. he breathes quicker… he gasps… he recovers consciousness…his lipsmove…. already, clarisse mergy whispers, ‘it’s i… it’s i, clarisse… will you answer,you wretch?’ she has put her finger on daubrecq’s chest, at the spot where the heart stirs likea little animal hidden under the skin. but she says to me, ‘his eyes… his eyes… ican’t see them under the spectacles… i want to see them… ‘and i also want to see thoseeyes which i do not know, i want to see their anguish and i want to read in them, beforei hear a word, the secret which is about to burst from the inmost recesses of the terrifiedbody. i want to see. i long to see. the action which i am about to accomplish excites mebeyond measure. it seems to me that, when
i have seen the eyes, the veil will be rentasunder. i shall know things. it is a presentiment. it is the profound intuition of the truththat keeps me on tenterhooks. the eye-glasses are gone. but the thick opaque spectaclesare there still. and i snatch them off, suddenly. and, suddenly, startled by a disconcertingvision, dazzled by the quick light that breaks in upon me and laughing, oh, but laughingfit to break my jaws, with my thumbâ€”do you understand? with my thumbâ€”hop, i force outthe left eye!" m. nicole was really laughing, as he said,fit to break his jaws. and he was no longer the timid little unctuous and obsequious provincialusher, but a well-set-up fellow, who, after reciting and mimicking the whole scene withimpressive ardour, was now laughing with a
shrill laughter the sound of which made prasville’sflesh creep: "hop! jump, marquis! out of your kennel, towzer!what’s the use of two eyes? it’s one more than you want. hop! i say, clarisse, lookat it rolling over the carpet! mind daubrecq’s eye! be careful with the grate!" m. nicole, who had risen and pretended tobe hunting after something across the room, now sat down again, took from his pocket athing shaped like a marble, rolled it in the hollow of his hand, chucked it in the air,like a ball, put it back in his fob and said, coolly: "daubrecq’s left eye."
prasville was utterly bewildered. what washis strange visitor driving at? what did all this story mean? pale with excitement, hesaid: "explain yourself." "but it’s all explained, it seems to me. andit fits in so well with things as they were, fits in with all the conjectures which i hadbeen making in spite of myself and which would inevitably have led to my solving the mystery,if that damned daubrecq had not so cleverly sent me astray! yes, think, follow the trendof my suppositions: ‘as the list is not to be discovered away from daubrecq,’ i saidto myself, ‘it cannot exist away from daubrecq. and, as it is not to be discovered in theclothes he wears, it must be hidden deeper
still, in himself, to speak plainly, in hisflesh, under his skin…" "in his eye, perhaps?" suggested prasville,by way of a joke… "in his eye? monsieur le secretaire-general,you have said the word." "i repeat, in his eye. and it is a truth thatought to have occurred to my mind logically, instead of being revealed to me by accident.and i will tell you why. daubrecq knew that clarisse had seen a letter from him instructingan english manufacturer to ’empty the crystal within, so as to leave a void which it wasunpossible to suspect.’ daubrecq was bound, in prudence, to divert any attempt at search.and it was for this reason that he had a crystal stopper made, ’emptied within,’ after a modelsupplied by himself. and it is this crystal
stopper which you and i have been after formonths; and it is this crystal stopper which i dug out of a packet of tobacco. whereasall i had to do…" "was what?" asked prasville, greatly puzzled. m. nicole burst into a fresh fit of laughter: "was simply to go for daubrecq’s eye, thateye ’emptied within so as to leave a void which it is impossible to suspect,’ the eyewhich you see before you." and m. nicole once more took the thing fromhis pocket and rapped the table with it, producing the sound of a hard body with each rap. prasville whispered, in astonishment:
"a glass eye!" "why, of course!" cried m. nicole, laughinggaily. "a glass eye! a common or garden decanter-stopper, which the rascal stuck into his eyesocketin the place of an eye which he had lostâ€”a decanter-stopper, or, if you prefer, a crystalstopper, but the real one, this time, which he faked, which he hid behind the double bulwarkof his spectacles and eye-glasses, which contained and still contains the talisman that enableddaubrecq to work as he pleased in safety." prasville lowered his head and put his handto his forehead to hide his flushed face: he was almost possessing the list of the twenty-seven.it lay before him, on the table. mastering his emotion, he said, in a casualtone:
"so it is there still?" "at least, i suppose so," declared m. nicole. "what! you suppose so?" "i have not opened the hiding-place. i thought,monsieur le secretaire-general, i would reserve that honour for you." prasville put out his hand, took the thingup and inspected it. it was a block of crystal, imitating nature to perfection, with all thedetails of the eyeball, the iris, the pupil, the cornea. he at once saw a movable part at the back,which slid in a groove. he pushed it. the
eye was hollow. there was a tiny ball of paper inside. heunfolded it, smoothed it out and, quickly, without delaying to make a preliminary examinationof the names, the hand-writing or the signatures, he raised his arms and turned the paper tothe light from the windows. "is the cross of lorraine there?" asked m.nicole. "yes, it is there," replied prasville. "thisis the genuine list." he hesitated a few seconds and remained withhis arms raised, while reflecting what he would do. then he folded up the paper again,replaced it in its little crystal sheath and put the whole thing in his pocket. m. nicole,who was looking at him, asked:
"are you convinced?" "absolutely." "then we are agreed?" "we are agreed." there was a pause, during which the two menwatched each other without appearing to. m. nicole seemed to be waiting for the conversationto be resumed. prasville, sheltered behind the piles of books on the table, sat withone hand grasping his revolver and the other touching the push of the electric bell. hefelt the whole strength of his position with a keen zest. he held the list. he held lupin:
"if he moves," he thought, "i cover him withmy revolver and i ring. if he attacks me, i shoot." and the situation appeared to him so pleasantthat he prolonged it, with the exquisite relish of an epicure. in the end, m. nicole took up the threads: "as we are agreed, monsieur le secretaire-general,i think there is nothing left for you to do but to hurry. is the execution to take placeto-morrow?" "yes, to-morrow." "in that case, i shall wait here."
"wait for what?" "the answer from the elysee." "oh, is some one to bring you an answer?" "you, monsieur le secretaire-general." prasville shook his head: "you must not count on me, m. nicole." "really?" said m. nicole, with an air of surprise."may i ask the reason?" "i have changed my mind." "that’s all. i have come to the conclusionthat, as things stand, after this last scandal,
it is impossible to try to do anything ingilbert’s favour. besides, an attempt in this direction at the elysee, under present conditions,would constitute a regular case of blackmail, to which i absolutely decline to lend myself." "you are free to do as you please, monsieur.your scruples do you honour, though they come rather late, for they did not trouble youyesterday. but, in that case, monsieur le secretaire-general, as the compact betweenus is destroyed, give me back the list of the twenty-seven." "so that i may apply to another spokesman." "what’s the good? gilbert is lost."
"not at all, not at all. on the contrary,i consider that, now that his accomplice is dead, it will be much easier to grant hima pardon which everybody will look upon as fair and humane. give me back the list." "upon my word, monsieur, you have a shortmemory and none too nice a conscience. have you forgotten your promise of yesterday?" "yesterday, i made a promise to a m. nicole." "you are not m. nicole." "indeed! then, pray, who am i?" "need i tell you?"
m. nicole made no reply, but began to laughsoftly, as though pleased at the curious turn which the conversation was taking; and prasvillefelt a vague misgiving at observing that fit of merriment. he grasped the butt-end of hisrevolver and wondered whether he ought not to ring for help. m. nicole drew his chair close to the desk,put his two elbows on the table, looked prasville straight in the face and jeered: "so, m. prasville, you know who i am and youhave the assurance to play this game with "i have that assurance," said prasville, acceptingthe sneer without flinching. "which proves that you consider me, arsenelupinâ€”we may as well use the name: yes,
arsene lupinâ€”which proves that you considerme fool enough, dolt enough to deliver myself like this, bound hand and foot into your hands." "upon my word," said prasville, airily, pattingthe waistcoat-pocket in which he had secreted the crystal ball, "i don’t quite see whatyou can do, m. nicole, now that daubrecq’s eye is here, with the list of the twenty-seveninside it." "what i can do?" echoed m. nicole, ironically. "yes! the talisman no longer protects you;and you are now no better off than any other man who might venture into the very heartof the police-office, among some dozens of stalwart fellows posted behind each of thosedoors and some hundreds of others who will
hasten up at the first signal." m. nicole shrugged his shoulders and gaveprasville a look of great commiseration: "shall i tell you what is happening, monsieurle secretaire-general? well, you too are having your head turned by all this business. nowthat you possess the list, your state of mind has suddenly sunk to that of a daubrecq ora d’albufex. there is no longer even a question, in your thoughts, of taking it to your superiors,so that this ferment of disgrace and discord may be ended. no, no; a sodden temptationhas seized upon you and intoxicated you; and, losing your head, you say to yourself, ‘itis here, in my pocket. with its aid, i am omnipotent. it means wealth, absolute, unboundedpower. why not benefit by it? why not let
gilbert and clarisse mergy die? why not lockup that idiot of a lupin? why not seize this unparalleled piece of fortune by the forelock?’" he bent toward prasville and, very softly,in a friendly and confidential tone, said: "don’t do that, my dear sir, don’t do it." "it is not to your interest, believe me." "really!" "no. or, if you absolutely insist on doingit, have the kindness first to consult the twenty-seven names on the list of which youhave just robbed me and reflect, for a moment, on the name of the third person on it."
"oh? and what is the name of that third person?" "it is the name of a friend of yours." "what friend?" "stanislas vorenglade, the ex-deputy." "and then?" said prasville, who seemed tobe losing some of his self-confidence. "then? ask yourself if an inquiry, howeversummary, would not end by discovering, behind that stanislas vorenglade, the name of onewho shared certain little profits with him." "and whose name is?" "louis prasville."
m. nicole banged the table with his fist. "enough of this humbug, monsieur! for twentyminutes, you and i have been beating about the bush. that will do. let us understandeach other. and, to begin with, drop your pistols. you can’t imagine that i am frightenedof those playthings! stand up, sir, stand up, as i am doing, and finish the business:i am in a hurry." he put his hand on prasville’s shoulder and,speaking with great deliberation, said: "if, within an hour from now, you are notback from the elysee, bringing with you a line to say that the decree of pardon hasbeen signed; if, within one hour and ten minutes, i, arsene lupin, do not walk out of this buildingsafe and sound and absolutely free, this evening
four paris newspapers will receive four lettersselected from the correspondence exchanged between stanislas vorenglade and yourself,the correspondence which stanislas vorenglade sold me this morning. here’s your hat, here’syour overcoat, here’s your stick. be off. i will wait for you." then happened this extraordinary and yet easilyunderstood thing, that prasville did not raise the slightest protest nor make the least showof fight. he received the sudden, far-reaching, utter conviction of what the personality knownas arsene lupin meant, in all its breadth and fulness. he did not so much as think ofcarping, of pretendingâ€”as he had until then believedâ€”that the letters had been destroyedby vorenglade the deputy or, at any rate,
that vorenglade would not dare to hand themover, because, in so doing, vorenglade was also working his own destruction. no, prasvilledid not speak a word. he felt himself caught in a vise of which no human strength couldforce the jaws asunder. there was nothing to do but yield. he yielded. "here, in an hour," repeated m. nicole. "in an hour," said prasville, tamely. nevertheless,in order to know exactly where he stood, he added, "the letters, of course, will be restoredto me against gilbert’s pardon?" "how do you mean, no? in that case, thereis no object in…" "they will be restored to you, intact, twomonths after the day when my friends and i
have brought about gilbert’s escape… thanksto the very slack watch which will be kept upon him, in accordance with your orders." "no, there are two further conditions: first,the immediate payment of a cheque for forty thousand francs." "forty thousand francs?" "the sum for which stanislas vorenglade soldme the letters. it is only fair…" "secondly, your resignation, within six months,of your present position." "my resignation? but why?" m. nicole made a very dignified gesture:
"because it is against public morals thatone of the highest positions in the police-service should be occupied by a man whose hands arenot absolutely clean. make them send you to parliament or appoint you a minister, a councillorof state, an ambassador, in short, any post which your success in the daubrecq case entitlesyou to demand. but not secretary-general of police; anything but that! the very thoughtof it disgusts me." prasville reflected for a moment. he wouldhave rejoiced in the sudden destruction of his adversary and he racked his brain forthe means to effect it. but he was helpless. he went to the door and called: "m. lartigue." and, sinking his voice, butnot very low, for he wished m. nicole to hear,
"m. lartigue, dismiss your men. it’s a mistake.and let no one come into my office while i am gone. this gentleman will wait for me here." he came back, took the hat, stick and overcoatwhich m. nicole handed him and went out. "well done, sir," said lupin, between histeeth, when the door was closed. "you have behaved like a sportsman and a gentleman…so did i, for that matter… perhaps with too obvious a touch of contempt… and a littletoo bluntly. but, tush, this sort of business has to be carried through with a high hand!the enemy’s got to be staggered! besides, when one’s own conscience is clear, one can’ttake up too bullying a tone with that sort of individual. lift your head, lupin. youhave been the champion of outraged morality.
be proud of your work. and now take a chair,stretch out your legs and have a rest. you’ve deserved it." when prasville returned, he found lupin soundasleep and had to tap him on the shoulder to wake him. "is it done?" asked lupin. "it’s done. the pardon will be signed presently.here is the written promise." "the forty thousand francs?" "here’s your cheque." "good. it but remains for me to thank you,monsieur."
"so the correspondence…" "the stanislas vorenglade correspondence willbe handed to you on the conditions stated. however, i am glad to be able to give you,here and now, as a sign of my gratitude, the four letters which i meant to send to thepapers this evening." "oh, so you had them on you?" said prasville. "i felt so certain, monsieur le secretaire-general,that we should end by coming to an understanding." he took from his hat a fat envelope, sealedwith five red seals, which was pinned inside the lining, and handed it to prasville, whothrust it into his pocket. then he said: "monsieur le secretaire-general, i don’t knowwhen i shall have the pleasure of seeing you
again. if you have the least communicationto make to me, one line in the agony column of the journal will be sufficient. just headit, ‘m. nicole.’ good-day to you." and he withdrew. prasville, when he was alone, felt as if hewere waking from a nightmare during which he had performed incoherent actions over whichhis conscious mind had no control. he was almost thinking of ringing and causing a stirin the passages; but, just then, there was a tap at the door and one of the office-messengerscame hurrying in. "what’s the matter?" asked prasville. "monsieur le secretaire-general, it’s monsieurle depute daubrecq asking to see you… on
a matter of the highest importance." "daubrecq!" exclaimed prasville, in bewilderment."daubrecq here! show him in." daubrecq had not waited for the order. heran up to prasville, out of breath, with his clothes in disorder, a bandage over his lefteye, no tie, no collar, looking like an escaped lunatic; and the door was not closed beforehe caught hold of prasville with his two enormous hands: "have you bought it?" "at the price of gilbert’s pardon?" "is it signed?"
daubrecq made a furious gesture: "you fool! you fool! you’ve been trapped!for hatred of me, i expect? and now you’re going to take your revenge?" "with a certain satisfaction, daubrecq. remembermy little friend, the opera-dancer, at nice… it’s your turn now to dance." "so it means prison?" "i should think so," said prasville. "besides,it doesn’t matter. you’re done for, anyhow. deprived of the list, without defence of anykind, you’re bound to fall to pieces of your own weight. and i shall be present at thebreak-up. that’s my revenge."
"and you believe that!" yelled daubrecq, furiously."you believe that they will wring my neck like a chicken’s and that i shall not knowhow to defend myself and that i have no claws left and no teeth to bite with! well, my boy,if i do come to grief, there’s always one who will fall with me and that is master prasville,the partner of stanislas vorenglade, who is going to hand me every proof in existenceagainst him, so that i may get him sent to gaol without delay. aha, i’ve got you fixed,old chap! with those letters, you’ll go as i please, hang it all, and there will be finedays yet for daubrecq the deputy! what! you’re laughing, are you? perhaps those letters don’texist?" prasville shrugged his shoulders:
"yes, they exist. but vorenglade no longerhas them in his possession." "since when?" "since this morning. vorenglade sold them,two hours ago, for the sum of forty thousand francs; and i have bought them back at thesame price." daubrecq burst into a great roar of laughter: "lord, how funny! forty thousand francs! you’vepaid forty thousand francs! to m. nicole, i suppose, who sold you the list of the twenty-seven?well, would you like me to tell you the real name of m. nicole? it’s arsene lupin!" "i know that."
"very likely. but what you don’t know, yousilly ass, is that i have come straight from stanislas vorenglade’s and that stanislasvorenglade left paris four days ago! oh, what a joke! they’ve sold you waste paper! andyour forty thousand francs! what an ass! what an ass!" he walked out of the room, screaming withlaughter and leaving prasville absolutely dumbfounded. so arsene lupin possessed no proof at all;and, when he was threatening and commanding and treating prasville with that airy insolence,it was all a farce, all bluff! "no, no, it’s impossible," thought the secretary-general."i have the sealed envelope…. it’s here….
i have only to open it." he dared not open it. he handled it, weighedit, examined it… and doubt made its way so swiftly into his mind that he was not inthe least surprised, when he did open it, to find that it contained four blank sheetsof note-paper. "well, well," he said, "i am no match forthose rascals. but all is not over yet." and, in point of fact, all was not over. iflupin had acted so daringly, it showed that the letters existed and that he relied uponbuying them from stanislas vorenglade. but, as, on the other hand, vorenglade was notin paris, prasville’s business was simply to forestall lupin’s steps with regard tovorenglade and obtain the restitution of those
dangerous letters from vorenglade at all costs.the first to arrive would be the victor. prasville once more took his hat, coat andstick, went downstairs, stepped into a taxi and drove to vorenglade’s flat. here he was told that the ex-deputy was expectedhome from london at six o’clock that evening. it was two o’clock in the afternoon. prasvilletherefore had plenty of time to prepare his plan. he arrived at the gare du nord at five o’clockand posted all around, in the waiting-rooms and in the railway-offices, the three or fourdozen detectives whom he had brought with him.
this made him feel easy. if m. nicole triedto speak to vorenglade, they would arrest lupin. and, to make assurance doubly sure,they would arrest whosoever could be suspected of being either lupin or one of lupin’s emissaries. moreover, prasville made a close inspectionof the whole station. he discovered nothing suspicious. but, at ten minutes to six, chief-inspectorblanchon, who was with him, said: "look, there’s daubrecq." daubrecq it was; and the sight of his enemyexasperated the secretary-general to such a pitch that he was on the verge of havinghim arrested. but he reflected that he had no excuse, no right, no warrant for the arrest.
besides, daubrecq’s presence proved, withstill greater force, that everything now depended on stanislas vorenglade. vorenglade possessedthe letters: who would end by having them? daubrecq? lupin? or he, prasville? lupin was not there and could not be there.daubrecq was not in a position to fight. there could be no doubt, therefore, about the result:prasville would reenter into possession of his letters and, through this very fact, wouldescape daubrecq’s threats and lupin’s threats and recover all his freedom of action againstthem. the train arrived. in accordance with orders, the stationmasterhad issued instructions that no one was to
be admitted to the platform. prasville, therefore,walked on alone, in front of a number of his men, with chief-inspector blanchon at theirhead. the train drew up. prasville almost at once saw stanislas vorengladeat the window of a first-class compartment, in the middle of the train. the ex-deputy alighted and then held out hishand to assist an old gentleman who was travelling prasville ran up to him and said, eagerly: "vorenglade… i want to speak to you…" at the same moment, daubrecq, who had managedto pass the barrier, appeared and exclaimed:
"m. vorenglade, i have had your letter. iam at your disposal." vorenglade looked at the two men, recognizedprasville, recognized daubrecq, and smiled: "oho, it seems that my return was awaitedwith some impatience! what’s it all about? certain letters, i expect?" "yes… yes…" replied the two men, fussingaround him. "you’re too late," he declared. "eh? what? what do you mean?" "i mean that the letters are sold." "sold! to whom?"
"to this gentleman," said vorenglade, pointingto his travelling-companion, "to this gentleman, who thought that the business was worth goingout of his way for and who came to amiens to meet me." the old gentleman, a very old man wrappedin furs and leaning on his stick, took off his hat and bowed. "it’s lupin," thought prasville, "it’s lupin,beyond a doubt." and he glanced toward the detectives, wasnearly calling them, but the old gentleman explained: "yes, i thought the letters were good enoughto warrant a few hours’ railway journey and
the cost of two return tickets." "two tickets?" "one for me and the other for one of my friends." "one of your friends?" "yes, he left us a few minutes ago and reachedthe front part of the train through the corridor. he was in a great hurry." prasville understood: lupin had taken theprecaution to bring an accomplice, and the accomplice was carrying off the letters. thegame was lost, to a certainty. lupin had a firm grip on his victim. there was nothingto do but submit and accept the conqueror’s
conditions. "very well, sir," said prasville. "we shallsee each other when the time comes. good-bye for the present, daubrecq: you shall hearfrom me." and, drawing vorenglade aside, "as for you, vorenglade, you are playing a dangerousgame." "dear me!" said the ex-deputy. "and why?" the two men moved away. daubrecq had not uttered a word and stoodmotionless, as though rooted to the ground. the old gentleman went up to him and whispered: "i say, daubrecq, wake up, old chap… it’sthe chloroform, i expect…"
daubrecq clenched his fists and gave a mutteredgrowl. "ah, i see you know me!" said the old gentleman."then you will remember our interview, some months ago, when i came to see you in thesquare lamartine and asked you to intercede in gilbert’s favour. i said to you that day,’lay down your arms, save gilbert and i will leave you in peace. if not, i shall take thelist of the twenty-seven from you; and then you’re done for.’ well, i have a strong suspicionthat done for is what you are. that comes of not making terms with kind m. lupin. sooneror later, you’re bound to lose your boots by it. however, let it be a lesson to you. "by the way, here’s your pocketbook whichi forgot to give you. excuse me if you find
it lightened of its contents. there were notonly a decent number of bank-notes in it, but also the receipt from the warehouse whereyou stored the enghien things which you took back from me. i thought i might as well saveyou the trouble of taking them out yourself. it ought to be done by now. no, don’t thankme: it’s not worth mentioning. good-bye, daubrecq. and, if you should want a louis or two, tobuy yourself a new decanter-stopper, drop me a line. good-bye, daubrecq." he walked away. he had not gone fifty steps when he heardthe sound of a shot. he turned round.
daubrecq had blown his brains out. "de profundis," murmured lupin, taking offhis hat. two months later, gilbert, whose sentencehad been commuted to one of penal servitude for life, made his escape from the ile dere, on the day before that on which he was to have been transported to new caledonia. it was a strange escape. its least detailsremained difficult to understand; and, like the two shots on the boulevard arago, it greatlyenhanced arsene lupin’s prestige. "taken all round," said lupin to me, one day,after telling me the different episodes of the story, "taken all around, no enterprisehas ever given me more trouble or cost me
greater exertions than that confounded adventurewhich, if you don’t mind, we will call, the crystal stopper; or, never say die. in twelvehours, between six o’clock in the morning and six o’clock in the evening, i made upfor six months of bad luck, blunders, gropings in the dark and reverses. i certainly countthose twelve hours among the finest and the most glorious of my life." "and gilbert?" i asked. "what became of him?" "he is farming his own land, way down in algeria,under his real name, his only name of antoine mergy. he is married to an englishwoman, andthey have a son whom he insisted on calling arsene. i often receive a bright, chatty,warm-hearted letter from him."
"and mme. mergy?" "she and her little jacques are living withthem." "did you see her again?" "i did not." lupin hesitated for a few moments and thensaid with a smile: "my dear fellow, i will let you into a secretthat will make me seem ridiculous in your eyes. but you know that i have always beenas sentimental as a schoolboy and as silly as a goose. well, on the evening when i wentback to clarisse mergy and told her the news of the dayâ€”part of which, for that matter,she already knewâ€”i felt two things very
thoroughly. one was that i entertained forher a much deeper feeling than i thought; the other that she, on the contrary, entertainedfor me a feeling which was not without contempt, not without a rankling grudge nor even a certainaversion." "nonsense! why?" "why? because clarisse mergy is an exceedinglyhonest woman and because i am… just arsene lupin." "oh!" "dear me, yes, an attractive bandit, a romanticand chivalrous cracksman, anything you please. for all that, in the eyes of a really honestwoman, with an upright nature and a well-balanced
mind, i am only the merest riff-raff." i saw that the wound was sharper than he waswilling to admit, and i said: "so you really loved her?" "i even believe," he said, in a jesting tone,"that i asked her to marry me. after all, i had saved her son, had i not?… so… ithought. what a rebuff!… it produced a coolness between us… since then…" "you have forgotten her?" "oh, certainly! but it required the consolationsof one italian, two americans, three russians, a german grand-duchess and a chinawoman todo it!"
"and, after that…?" "after that, so as to place an insuperablebarrier between myself and her, i got married." "nonsense! you got married, you, arsene lupin?" "married, wedded, spliced, in the most lawfulfashion. one of the greatest names in france. an only daughter. a colossal fortune… what!you don’t know the story? well, it’s worth hearing." and, straightway, lupin, who was in a confidentialvein, began to tell me the story of his marriage to angelique de sarzeau-vendome, princessede bourbon-conde, to-day sister marie-auguste, a humble nun in the visitation convent…
but, after the first few words, he stopped,as though his narrative had suddenly ceased to interest him, and he remained pensive. "what’s the matter, lupin?" "the matter? nothing." "yes, yes… there… now you’re smiling…is it daubrecq’s secret receptacle, his glass eye, that’s making you laugh?" "not at all." "nothing, i tell you… only a memory." "a pleasant memory?"
"yes!… yes, a delightful memory even. itwas at night, off the ile de re, on the fishing-smack in which clarisse and i were taking gilbertaway…. we were alone, the two of us, in the stern of the boat… and i remember … italked… i spoke words and more words… i said all that i had on my heart… and then…then came silence, a perturbing and disarming silence." "well, i swear to you that the woman whomi took in my arms that night and kissed on the lipsâ€”oh, not for long: a few secondsonly, but no matter!â€”i swear before heaven that she was something more than a gratefulmother, something more than a friend yielding to a moment of susceptibility, that she wasa woman also, a woman quivering with emotion
…" and he continued, with a bitter laugh,"who ran away next day, never to see me again." he was silent once more. then he whispered: "clarisse… clarisse… on the day when iam tired and disappointed and weary of life, i will come to you down there, in your littlearab house … in that little white house, clarisse, where you are waiting for me…"