The Hollow Needle
Part 2 out of 5
Be this as it may, both M. Filleul and the Paris public prosecutor
seemed jealously to reserve the possibility of this victory for him.
On the one hand, they failed to establish Mr. Harlington's identity
or to furnish a definite proof of his connection with Lupin's gang.
Confederate or not, he preserved an obstinate silence. Nay, more,
after examining his handwriting, it was impossible to declare that
he was the author of the intercepted letter. A Mr. Harlington,
carrying a small portmanteau and a pocket-book stuffed with bank-
notes, had taken up his abode at the Grand Hotel: that was all that
could be stated with certainty.
On the other hand, at Dieppe, M. Filleul lay down on the positions
which Beautrelet had won for him. He did not move a step forward.
Around the individual whom Mlle. de Saint-Veran had taken for
Beautrelet, on the eve of the crime, the same mystery reigned as
heretofore. The same obscurity also surrounded everything connected
with the removal of the four Rubens pictures. What had become of
them? And what road had been taken by the motor car in which they
were carried off during the night?
Evidence of its passing was obtained at Luneray at Yerville, at
Yvetot and at Caudebec-en-Caux, where it must have crossed the Seine
at daybreak in the steam-ferry. But, when the matter came to be
inquired into more thoroughly, it was stated that the motor car was
an uncovered one and that it would have been impossible to pack four
large pictures into it unobserved by the ferryman.
It was very probably the same car; but then the question cropped up
again: what had become of the four Rubenses?
These were so many problems which M. Filleul unanswered. Every day,
his subordinates searched the quadrilateral of the ruins. Almost
every day, he came to direct the explorations. But between that and
discovering the refuge in which Lupin lay dying--if it were true
that Beautrelet's opinion was correct--there was a gulf fixed which
the worthy magistrate did not seem likely to cross.
And so it was natural that they should turn once more to Isidore
Beautrelet, as he alone had succeeded in dispelling shadows which,
in his absence, gathered thicker and more impenetrable than ever.
Why did he not go on with the case? Seeing how far he had carried
it, he required but an effort to succeed.
The question was put to him by a member of the staff of the Grand
Journal, who had obtained admission to the Lycee Janson by assuming
the name of Bernod, the friend of Beautrelet's father. And Isidore
very sensibly replied:
"My dear sir, there are other things besides Lupin in this world,
other things besides stories about burglars and detectives. There
is, for instance, the thing which is known as taking one's degree.
Now I am going up for my examination in July. This is May. And I
don't want to be plucked. What would my worthy parent say?"
"But what would he say if you delivered Arsene Lupin into the hands
of the police?"
"Tut! There's a time for everything. In the next holidays--"
"Yes--I shall go down on Saturday the sixth of June by the first
"And, on the evening of that Saturday, Lupin will be taken."
"Will you give me until the Sunday?" asked Beautrelet, laughing.
"Why delay?" replied the journalist, quite seriously.
This inexplicable confidence, born of yesterday and already so
strong, was felt with regard to the young man by one and all, even
though, in reality, events had justified it only up to a certain
point. No matter, people believed in him! Nothing seemed difficult
to him. They expected from him what they were entitled to expect at
most from some phenomenon of penetration and intuition, of
experience and skill. That day of the sixth of June was made to
sprawl over all the papers. On the sixth of June, Isidore Beautrelet
would take the fast train to Dieppe: and Lupin would be arrested on
the same evening.
"Unless he escapes between this and then," objected the last
remaining partisans of the adventurer.
"Impossible! Every outlet is watched."
"Unless he has succumbed to his wounds, then," said the partisans,
who would have preferred their hero's death to his capture.
And the retort was immediate:
"Nonsense! If Lupin were dead, his confederates would know it by
now, and Lupin would be revenged. Beautrelet said so!"
And the sixth of June came. Half a dozen journalists were looking
out for Isidore at the Gare Saint-Lazare. Two of them wanted to
accompany him on his journey. He begged them to refrain.
He started alone, therefore, in a compartment to himself. He was
tired, thanks to a series of nights devoted to study, and soon fell
asleep. He slept heavily. In his dreams, he had an impression that
the train stopped at different stations and that people got in and
out. When he awoke, within sight of Rouen, he was still alone. But,
on the back of the opposite seat, was a large sheet of paper,
fastened with a pin to the gray cloth. It bore these words:
"Every man should mind his own business. Do you mind yours. If not,
you must take the consequences."
"Capital!" he exclaimed, rubbing his hands with delight. "Things are
going badly in the adversary's camp. That threat is as stupid and
vulgar as the sham flyman's. What a style! One can see that it
wasn't composed by Lupin."
The train threaded the tunnel that precedes the old Norman city. On
reaching the station, Isidore took a few turns on the platform to
stretch his legs. He was about to re-enter his compartment, when a
cry escaped him. As he passed the bookstall, he had read, in an
absent-minded way, the following lines on the front page of a
special edition of the Journal de Rouen; and their alarming sense
suddenly burst upon him:
We hear by telephone from Dieppe that the Chateau d'Ambrumesy was
broken into last night by criminals, who bound and gagged Mlle. de
Gesvres and carried off Mlle. de Saint-Veran. Traces of blood have
been seen at a distance of five hundred yards from the house and a
scarf has been found close by, which is also stained with blood.
There is every reason to fear that the poor young girl has been
Isidore Beautrelet completed his journey to Dieppe without moving a
limb. Bent in two, with his elbows on his knees and his hands
plastered against his face, he sat thinking.
At Dieppe, he took a fly. At the door of Ambrumesy, he met the
examining magistrate, who confirmed the horrible news.
"You know nothing more?" asked Beautrelet.
"Nothing. I have only just arrived."
At that moment, the sergeant of gendarmes came up to M. Filleul and
handed him a crumpled, torn and discolored piece of paper, which he
had picked up not far from the place where the scarf was found. M.
Filleul looked at it and gave it to Beautrelet, saying:
"I don't suppose this will help us much in our investigations."
Isidore turned the paper over and over. It was covered with figures,
dots and signs and presented the exact appearance reproduced below:
[Illustration: drawing of an outline of paper with writing and
drawing on it--numbers, dots, some letters, signs and symbols...]
At six o'clock in the evening, having finished all he had to do, M.
Filluel, accompanied by M. Bredoux, his clerk, stood waiting for the
carriage which was to take him back to Dieppe. He seemed restless,
nervous. Twice over, he asked:
"You haven't seen anything of young Beautrelet, I suppose?"
"No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I can't say I have."
"Where on earth can he be? I haven't set eyes on him all day!"
Suddenly, he had an idea, handed his portfolio to Bredoux, ran round
the chateau and made for the ruins. Isidore Beautrelet was lying
near the cloisters, flat on his face, with one arm folded under his
head, on the ground carpeted with pine-needles. He seemed drowsing.
"Hullo, young man, what are you doing here? Are you asleep?"
I'm not asleep. I've been thinking."
"Ever since this morning?"
"Ever since this morning."
"It's not a question of thinking! One must see into things first,
study facts, look for clues, establish connecting links. The time
for thinking comes after, when one pieces all that together and
discovers the truth."
"Yes, I know.--That's the usual way, the right one, I dare say.--
Mine is different.--I think first, I try, above all, to get the
general hang of the case, if I may so express myself. Then I imagine
a reasonable and logical hypothesis, which fits in with the general
idea. And then, and not before, I examine the facts to see if they
agree with my hypothesis."
"That's a funny method and a terribly complicated one!"
"It's a sure method, M. Filleul, which is more than can be said of
"Come, come! Facts are facts."
"With your ordinary sort of adversary, yes. But, given an enemy
endowed with a certain amount of cunning, the facts are those which
he happens to have selected. Take the famous clues upon which you
base your inquiry: why, he was at liberty to arrange them as he
liked. And you see where that can lead you, into what mistakes and
absurdities, when you are dealing with a man like Arsene Lupin.
Holmlock Shears himself fell into the trap."
"Arsene Lupin is dead."
"No matter. His gang remains and the pupils of such a master are
M. Filleul took Isidore by the arm and, leading him away:
"Words, young man, words. Here is something of more importance.
Listen to me. Ganimard is otherwise engaged at this moment and will
not be here for a few days. On the other hand, the Comte de Gesvres
has telegraphed to Holmlock Shears, who has promised his assistance
next week. Now don't you think, young man, that it would be a
feather in our cap if we were able to say to those two celebrities,
on the day of their arrival, 'Awfully sorry, gentlemen, but we
couldn't wait. The business is done'?"
It was impossible for M. Filleul to confess helplessness with
greater candor. Beautrelet suppressed a smile and, pretending not to
see through the worthy magistrate, replied:
"I confess. Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, that, if I was not
present at your inquiry just now, it was because I hoped that you
would consent to tell me the results. May I ask what you have
"Well, last night, at eleven o'clock, the three gendarmes whom
Sergeant Quevillon had left on guard at the chateau received a note
from the sergeant telling them to hasten with all speed to Ouville,
where they are stationed. They at once rode off, and when they
arrived at Ouville--"
"They discovered that they had been tricked, that the order was a
forgery and that there was nothing for them to do but return to
"This they did, accompanied by Sergeant Quevillon. But they were
away for an hour and a half and, during this time, the crime was
"In what circumstances?"
"Very simple circumstances, indeed. A ladder was removed from the
farm buildings and placed against the second story of the chateau. A
pane of glass was cut out and a window opened. Two men, carrying a
dark lantern, entered Mlle. de Gesvres's room and gagged her before
she could cry out. Then, after binding her with cords, they softly
opened the door of the room in which Mlle. de Saint-Veran was
sleeping. Mlle. de Gesvres heard a stifled moan, followed by the
sound of a person struggling. A moment later, she saw two men
carrying her cousin, who was also bound and gagged. They passed in
front of her and went out through the window. Then Mlle. de Gesvres,
terrified and exhausted, fainted."
"But what about the dogs? I thought M. de Gesvres had bought two
almost wild sheep-dogs, which were let loose at night?"
"They were found dead, poisoned."
"By whom? Nobody could get near them."
"It's a mystery. The fact remains that the two men crossed the ruins
without let or hindrance and went out by the little door which we
have heard so much about. They passed through the copsewood,
following the line of the disused quarries. It was not until they
were nearly half a mile from the chateau, at the foot of the tree
known as the Great Oak, that they stopped--and executed their
"If they came with the intention of killing Mlle. de Saint-Veran,
why didn't they murder her in her room?"
"I don't know. Perhaps the incident that settled their determination
only occurred after they had left the house. Perhaps the girl
succeeded in releasing herself from her bonds. In my opinion, the
scarf which was picked up was used to fasten her wrists. In any
case, the blow was struck at the foot of the Great Oak. I have
collected indisputable proofs--"
"But the body?"
"The body has not been found, but there is nothing excessively
surprising in that. As a matter of fact, the trail which I followed
brought me to the church at Varengeville and the old cemetery
perched on the top of the cliff. From there it is a sheer precipice,
a fall of over three hundred feet to the rocks and the sea below. In
a day or two, a stronger tide than usual will cast up the body on
"Obviously. This is all very simple."
"Yes, it is all very simple and doesn't trouble me in the least.
Lupin is dead, his accomplices heard of it and, to revenge
themselves, have killed Mlle. de Saint-Veran. These are facts which
did not even require checking. But Lupin?"
"What about him?"
"What has become of him? In all probability, his confederates
removed his corpse at the same time that they carried away the girl;
but what proof have we? None at all. Any more than of his staying in
the ruins, or of his death, or of his life. And that is the real
mystery, M. Beautrelet. The murder of Mlle. Raymonde solves nothing.
On the contrary, it only complicates matters. What has been
happening during the past two months at the Chateau d'Ambrumesy? If
we don't clear up the riddle, young man, others will give us the go-
"On what day are those others coming?"
Beautrelet seemed to be making an inward calculation and then
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, this is Saturday. I have to be back
at school on Monday evening. Well, if you will have the goodness to
be here at ten o'clock exactly on Monday morning, I will try to give
you the key to the riddle."
"Really, M. Beautrelet--do you think so? Are you sure?"
"I hope so, at any rate."
"And where are you going now?"
"I am going to see if the facts consent to fit in with the general
theory which I am beginning to perceive."
"And if they don't fit in?"
"Well, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction," said Beautrelet, with a
laugh, "then it will be their fault and I must look for others
which, will prove more tractable. Till Monday, then?"
A few minutes later, M. Filleul was driving toward Dieppe, while
Isidore mounted a bicycle which he had borrowed from the Comte de
Gesvres and rode off along the road to Yerville and Caudebec-en-
There was one point in particular on which the young man was anxious
to form a clear opinion, because this just appeared to him to be the
enemy's weakest point. Objects of the size of the four Rubens
pictures cannot be juggled away. They were bound to be somewhere.
Granting that it was impossible to find them for the moment, might
one not discover the road by which they had disappeared?
What Beautrelet surmised was that the four pictures had undoubtedly
been carried off in the motor car, but that, before reaching
Caudebec, they were transferred to another car, which had crossed
the Seine either above Caudebec or below it. Now the first horse-
boat down the stream was at Quillebeuf, a greatly frequented ferry
and, consequently, dangerous. Up stream, there was the ferry-boat at
La Mailleraie, a large, but lonely market-town, lying well off the
By midnight, Isidore had covered the thirty-five or forty miles to
La Mailleraie and was knocking at the door of an inn by the
waterside. He slept there and, in the morning, questioned the
They consulted the counterfoils in the traffic-book. No motor-car
had crossed on Thursday the 23rd of April.
"A horse-drawn vehicle, then?" suggested Beautrelet. "A cart? A
"No, not either."
Isidore continued his inquiries all through the morning. He was on
the point of leaving for Quillebeuf, when the waiter of the inn at
which he had spent the night said:
"I came back from my thirteen days' training on the morning of which
you are speaking and I saw a cart, but it did not go across."
"No, they unloaded it onto a flat boat, a barge of sorts, which was
moored to the wharf."
"And where did the cart come from?"
"Oh, I knew it at once. It belonged to Master Vatinel, the carter."
"And where does he live?"
Beautrelet consulted his military map. The hamlet of Louvetot lay
where the highroad between Yvetot and Caudebec was crossed by a
little winding road that ran through the woods to La Maiileraie.
Not until six o'clock in the evening did Isidore succeed in
discovering Master Vatinel, in a pothouse. Master Vatinel was one of
those artful old Normans who are always on their guard, who distrust
strangers, but who are unable to resist the lure of a gold coin or
the influence of a glass or two:
"Well, yes, sir, the men in the motor car that morning had told me
to meet them at five o'clock at the crossroads. They gave me four
great, big things, as high as that. One of them went with me and we
carted the things to the barge."
"You speak of them as if you knew them before."
"I should think I did know them! It was the sixth time they were
Isidore gave a start:
"The sixth time, you say? And since when?"
"Why every day before that one, to be sure! But it was other things
then--great blocks of stone--or else smaller, longish ones, wrapped
up in newspapers, which they carried as if they were worth I don't
know what. Oh, I mustn't touch those on any account!--But what's the
matter? You've turned quite white."
"Nothing--the heat of the room--"
Beautrelet staggered out into the air. The joy, the surprise of the
discovery made him feel giddy. He went back very quietly to
Varengeville, slept in the village, spent an hour at the mayor's
offices with the school-master and returned to the chateau. There he
found a letter awaiting him "care of M. le Comte de Gesvres." It
consisted of a single line:
"Second warning. Hold your tongue. If not--"
"Come," he muttered. "I shall have to make up my mind and take a few
precautions for my personal safety. If not, as they say--"
It was nine o'clock. He strolled about among the ruins and then lay
down near the cloisters and closed his eyes.
"Well, young man, are you satisfied with the results of your
It was M. Filleul.
"Delighted, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction."
"By which you mean to say--?"
"By which I mean to say that I am prepared to keep my promise--in
spite of this very uninviting letter."
He showed the letter to M. Filleul.
"Pooh! Stuff and nonsense!" cried the magistrate. "I hope you won't
let that prevent you--"
"From telling you what I know? No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. I
have given my word and I shall keep it. In less than ten minutes,
you shall know--a part of the truth."
"Yes, in my opinion, Lupin's hiding-place does not constitute the
whole of the problem. Far from it. But we shall see later on."
"M. Beautrelet, nothing that you do could astonish me now. But how
were you able to discover--?"
"Oh, in a very natural way! In the letter from old man Harlington to
M. Etienne de Vaudreix, or rather to Lupin--"
"The intercepted letter?"
"Yes. There is a phrase which always puzzled me. After saying that
the pictures are to be forwarded as arranged, he goes on to say,
'You may add THE REST, if you are able to succeed, which I doubt.'"
"Yes, I remember."
"What was this 'rest'? A work of art, a curiosity? The chateau
contains nothing of any value besides the Rubenses and the
tapestries. Jewelry? There is very little and what there is of it is
not worth much. In that case, what could it be?--On the other hand,
was it conceivable that people so prodigiously clever as Lupin
should not have succeeded in adding 'the rest,' which they
themselves had evidently suggested? A difficult undertaking, very
likely; exceptional, surprising, I dare say; but possible and
therefore certain, since Lupin wished it."
"And yet he failed: nothing has disappeared."
"He did not fail: something has disappeared."
"Yes, the Rubenses--but--"
"The Rubenses and something besides--something which has been
replaced by a similar thing, as in the case of the Rubenses;
something much more uncommon, much rarer, much more valuable than
"Well, what? You're killing me with this procrastination!"
While talking, the two men had crossed the ruins, turned toward the
little door and were now walking beside the chapel. Beautrelet
"Do you really want to know, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction?"
"Of course, I do."
Beautrelet was carrying a walking-stick, a strong, knotted stick.
Suddenly, with a back stroke of this stick, he smashed one of the
little statues that adorned the front of the chapel.
"Why, you're mad!" shouted M. Filleul, beside himself, rushing at
the broken pieces of the statue. "You're mad! That old saint was an
admirable bit of work--"
"An admirable bit of work!" echoed Isidore, giving a whirl which
brought down the Virgin Mary.
M. Filleul took hold of him round the body:
"Young man, I won't allow you to commit--"
A wise man of the East came toppling to the ground, followed by a
manger containing the Mother and Child. . . .
"If you stir another limb, I fire!"
The Comte de Gesvres had appeared upon the scene and was cocking his
revolver. Beautrelet burst out laughing:
"That's right, Monsieur le Comte, blaze away!--Take a shot at them,
as if you were at a fair!--Wait a bit--this chap carrying his head
in his hands--"
St. John the Baptist fell, shattered to pieces.
"Oh!" shouted the count, pointing his revolver. "You young vandal!--
"Sham, Monsieur le Comte!"
"What? What's that?" roared M. Filleul, wresting the Comte de
Gesvres's weapon from him.
"Sham!" repeated Beautrelet. "Paper-pulp and plaster!"
"Oh, nonsense! It can't be true!"
"Hollow plaster, I tell you! Nothing at all!"
The count stooped and picked up a sliver of a statuette.
"Look at it, Monsieur le Comte, and see for yourself: it's plaster!
Rusty, musty, mildewed plaster, made to look like old stone--but
plaster for all that, plaster casts!--That's all that remains of
your perfect masterpiece!--That's what they've done in just a few
days!-That's what the Sieur Charpenais who copied the Rubenses,
prepared a year ago." He seized M. Filleul's arm in his turn. "What
do you think of it, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction? Isn't it fine?
Isn't it grand? Isn't it gorgeous? The chapel has been removed! A
whole Gothic chapel collected stone by stone! A whole population of
statues captured and replaced by these chaps in stucco! One of the
most magnificent specimens of an incomparable artistic period
confiscated! The chapel, in short, stolen! Isn't it immense? Ah,
Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, what a genius the man is!"
"You're allowing yourself to be carried away, M. Beautrelet."
"One can't be carried away too much, monsieur, when one has to do
with people like that. Every-thing above the average deserves our
admiration. And this man soars above everything. There is in his
flight a wealth of imagination, a force and power, a skill and
freedom that send a thrill through me!"
"Pity he's dead," said M. Filleul, with a grin. "He'd have ended by
stealing the towers of Notre-Dame."
Isidore shrugged his shoulders:
"Don't laugh, monsieur. He upsets you, dead though he may be."
"I don't say not, I don't say not, M. Beautrelet, I confess that I
feel a certain excitement now that I am about to set eyes on him--
unless, indeed, his friends have taken away the body."
"And always admitting," observed the Comte de Gesvres, "that it was
really he who was wounded by my poor niece."
"It was he, beyond a doubt, Monsieur le Comte," declared Beautrelet;
"it was he, believe me, who fell in the ruins under the shot fired
by Mlle. de Saint-Veran; it was he whom she saw rise and who fell
again and dragged himself toward the cloisters to rise again for the
last time--this by a miracle which I will explain to you presently--
to rise again for the last time and reach this stone shelter--which
was to be his tomb."
And Beautrelet struck the threshold of the chapel with his stick.
"Eh? What?" cried M. Filleul, taken aback. "His tomb?--Do you think
that that impenetrable hiding-place--"
"It was here--there," he repeated.
"But we searched it."
"There is no hiding-place here," protested M. de Gesvres. "I know
"Yes, there is, Monsieur le Comte. Go to the mayor's office at
Varengeville, where they have collected all the papers that used to
be in the old parish of Ambrumesy, and you will learn from those
papers, which belong to the eighteenth century, that there is a
crypt below the chapel. This crypt doubtless dates back to the Roman
chapel, upon the site of which the present one was built."
"But how can Lupin have known this detail?" asked M. Filleul.
"In a very simple manner: because of the works which he had to
execute to take away the chapel."
"Come, come, M. Beautrelet, you're exaggerating. He has not taken
away the whole chapel. Look, not one of the stones of this top
course has been touched."
"Obviously, he cast and took away only what had a financial value:
the wrought stones, the sculptures, the statuettes, the whole
treasure of little columns and carved arches. He did not trouble
about the groundwork of the building itself. The foundations
"Therefore, M. Beautrelet, Lupin was not able to make his way into
At that moment, M. de Gesvres, who had been to call a servant,
returned with the key of the chapel. He opened the door. The three
men entered. After a short examination Beautrelet said:
"The flag-stones on the ground have been respected, as one might
expect. But it is easy to perceive that the high altar is nothing
more than a cast. Now, generally, the staircase leading to the crypt
opens in front of the high altar and passes under it."
"What do you conclude?"
"I conclude that Lupin discovered the crypt when working at the
The count sent for a pickaxe and Beautrelet attacked the altar. The
plaster flew to right and left. He pushed the pieces aside as he
"By Jove!" muttered M. Filleul, "I am eager to know--"
"So am I," said Beautrelet, whose face was pale with anguish.
He hurried his blows. And, suddenly, his pickaxe, which, until then,
had encountered no resistance, struck against a harder material and
rebounded. There was a sound of something falling in; and all that
remained of the altar went tumbling into the gap after the block of
stone which had been struck by the pickaxe. Beautrelet bent forward.
A puff of cold air rose to his face. He lit a match and moved it
from side to side over the gap:
"The staircase begins farther forward than I expected, under the
entrance-flags, almost. I can see the last steps, there, right at
"Is it deep?"
"Three or four yards. The steps are very high--and there are some
"It is hardly likely," said M. Filleul, "that the accomplices can
have had time to remove the body from the cellar, when they were
engaged in carrying off Mlle. de Saint-Veran--during the short
absence of the gendarmes. Besides, why should they?--No, in my
opinion, the body is here."
A servant brought them a ladder. Beautrelet let it down through the
opening and fixed it, after groping among the fallen fragments.
Holding the two uprights firmly:
"Will you go down, M. Filleul?" he asked.
The magistrate, holding a candle in his hand, ventured down the
ladder. The Comte de Gesvres followed him and Beautrelet, in his
turn, placed his foot on the first rung.
Mechanically, he counted eighteen rungs, while his eyes examined the
crypt, where the glimmer of the candle struggled against the heavy
darkness. But, at the bottom, his nostrils were assailed by one of
those foul and violent smells which linger m the memory for many a
long day. And, suddenly, a trembling hand seized him by the
"Well, what is it?"
"B-beautrelet," stammered M. Filleul. "B-beau-trelet--"
He could not get a word out for terror.
"Come, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, compose yourself!"
"Beautrelet--he is there--"
"Yes-there was something under the big stone that broke off the
altar--I pushed the stone--and I touched--I shall never--shall never
"Where is it?"
"On this side.--Don't you notice the smell?--And then look--see."
He took the candle and held it towards a motionless form stretched
upon the ground.
"Oh!" exclaimed Beautrelet, in a horror-stricken tone.
The three men bent down quickly. The corpse lay half-naked, lean,
frightful. The flesh, which had the greenish hue of soft wax,
appeared in places through the torn clothes. But the most hideous
thing, the thing that had drawn a cry of terror from the young man's
lips, was the head, the head which had just been crushed by the
block of stone, the shapeless head, a repulsive mass in which not
one feature could be distinguished.
Beautrelet took four strides up the ladder and fled into the
daylight and the open air.
M. Filleul found him again lying flat on the around, with his hands
glued to his face:
"I congratulate you, Beautrelet," he said. "In addition to the
discovery of the hiding-place, there are two points on which I have
been able to verify the correctness of your assertions. First of
all, the man on whom Mlle. de Saint-Veran fired was indeed Arsene
Lupin, as you said from the start. Also, he lived in Paris under the
name of Etienne de Vaudreix. His linen is marked with the initials
E. V. That ought to be sufficient proof, I think: don't you?"
Isidore did not stir.
"Monsieur le Comte has gone to have a horse put to. They're sending
for Dr. Jouet, who will make the usual examination. In my opinion,
death must have taken place a week ago, at least. The state of
decomposition of the corpse--but you don't seem to be listening--"
"What I say is based upon absolute reasons. Thus, for instance--"
M. Filleul continued his demonstrations, with-out, however,
obtaining any more manifest marks of attention. But M. de Gesvres's
return interrupted his monologue. The comte brought two letters. One
was to tell him that Holmlock Shears would arrive next morning.
"Capital!" cried M. Filleul, joyfully. "Inspector Ganimard will be
here too. It will be delightful."
"The other letter is for you, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction," said
"Better and better," said M. Filleul, after reading it. "There will
certainly not be much for those two gentlemen to do. M. Beautrelet,
I hear from Dieppe that the body of a young woman was found by some
shrimpers, this morning, on the rocks."
Beautrelet gave a start:
"What's that? The body--"
"Of a young woman.--The body is horribly mutilated, they say, and it
would be impossible to establish the identity, but for a very narrow
little gold curb-bracelet on the right arm which has become
encrusted in the swollen skin. Now Mlle. de Saint-Veran used to wear
a gold curb-bracelet on her right arm. Evidently, therefore,
Monsieur le Comte, this is the body of your poor niece, which the
sea must have washed to that distance. What do you think,
"Nothing--nothing--or, rather, yes--everything is connected, as you
see--and there is no link missing in my argument. All the facts, one
after the other, however contradictory, however disconcerting they
may appear, end by support-the supposition which I imagined from the
"I don't understand."
"You soon will. Remember, I promised you the whole truth."
"But it seems to me--"
"A little patience, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. So far, you have
had no cause to complain of me. It is a fine day. Go for a walk,
lunch at the chateau, smoke your pipe. I shall be back by four
o'clock. As for my school, well, I don't care: I shall take the
They had reached the out-houses at the back of the chateau.
Beautrelet jumped on his bicycle and rode away.
At Dieppe, he stopped at the office of the local paper, the Vigie,
and examined the file for the last fortnight. Then he went on to the
market-town of Envermeu, six or seven miles farther. At Envermeu, he
talked to the mayor, the rector and the local policeman. The church-
clock struck three. His inquiry was finished.
He returned singing for joy. He pressed upon the two pedals turn by
turn, with an equal and powerful rhythm; his chest opened wide to
take in the keen air that blew from the sea. And, from time to time,
he forgot himself to the extent of uttering shouts of triumph to the
sky, when he thought of the aim which he was pursuing and of the
success that was crowning his efforts.
Ambrumesy appeared in sight. He coasted at full speed down the slope
leading to the chateau. The top rows of venerable trees that line
the road seemed to run to meet him and to vanish behind him
forthwith. And, all at once, he uttered a cry. In a sudden vision,
he had seen a rope stretched from one tree to another, across the
His machine gave a jolt and stopped short. Beautrelet was flung
three yards forward, with immense violence, and it seemed to him
that only chance, a miraculous chance, caused him to escape a heap
of pebbles on which, logically, he ought to have broken his head.
He lay for a few seconds stunned. Then, all covered with bruises,
with the skin flayed from his knees, he examined the spot. On the
right lay a small wood, by which his aggressor had no doubt fled.
Beautrelet untied the rope. To the tree on the left around which it
was fastened a small piece of paper was fixed with string.
Beautrelet unfolded it and read:
"The third and last warning."
He went on to the chateau, put a few questions to the servants and
joined the examining magistrate in a room on the ground floor, at
the end of the right wing, where M. Filleul used to sit in the
course of his operations. M. Filleul was writing, with his clerk
seated opposite to him. At a sign from him, the clerk left the room;
and the magistrate exclaimed:
"Why, what have you been doing to yourself, M. Beautrelet? Your
hands are covered with blood."
"It's nothing, it's nothing," said the young man. "Just a fall
occasioned by this rope, which was stretched in front of my bicycle.
I will only ask you to observe that the rope comes from the chateau.
Not longer than twenty minutes ago, it was being used to dry linen
on, outside the laundry."
"You don't mean to say so!"
"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I am being watched here, by some
one in the very heart of the place, who can see me, who can hear me
and who, minute by minute, observes my actions and knows my
"Do you think so?"
I am sure of it. It is for you to discover him and you will have no
difficulty in that. As for myself, I want to have finished and to
give you the promised explanations. I have made faster progress than
our adversaries expected and I am convinced that they mean to take
vigorous measures on their side. The circle is closing around me.
The danger is approaching. I feel it."
"You wait and see! For the moment, let us lose no time. And, first,
a question on a point which I want to have done with at once. Have
you spoken to anybody of that document which Sergeant Quevillon
picked up and handed you in my presence?"
"No, indeed; not to a soul. But do you attach any value--?"
"The greatest value. It's an idea of mine, an idea, I confess, which
does not rest upon a proof of any kind--for, up to the present, I
have not succeeded in deciphering the document. And therefore I am
mentioning it--so that we need not come back to it."
Beautrelet pressed his hand on M. Filleul's and whispered:
"Don't speak--there's some one listening--outside--"
The gravel creaked. Beautrelet ran to the window and leaned out:
"There's no one there--but the border has been trodden down--we can
easily identify the footprints--"
He closed the window and sat down again:
"You see, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, the enemy has even ceased
to take the most ordinary precautions-he has not time left--he too
feels that the hour is urgent. Let us be quick, there-fore, and
speak, since they do not wish us to speak."
He laid the document on the table and held it in position, unfolded:
"One observation, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, to begin with. The
paper consists almost entirely of dots and figures. And in the first
three lines and the fifth--the only ones with which we have to do at
present, for the fourth seems to present an entirely different
character--not one of those figures is higher than the figure 5.
There is, therefore, a great chance that each of these figures
represents one of the five vowels, taken in alphabetical order. Let
us put down the result."
He wrote on a separate piece of paper:
E . A . A . . E . . E . A . . A . .
A . . . E . E . . E OI . E . . E .
. OU . . E . O . . . E . . E . O . . E
AI . UI . . E . . EU . E
Then he continued:
"As you see, this does not give us much to go upon. The key is, at
the same time, very easy, because the inventor has contented himself
with replacing the vowels by figures and the consonants by dots, and
very difficult, if not impossible, because he has taken no further
trouble to complicate the problem."
"It is certainly pretty obscure."
"Let us try to throw some light upon it. The second line is divided
into two parts; and the second part appears in such a way that it
probably forms one word. If we now seek to replace the intermediary
dots by consonants, we arrive at the conclusion, after searching and
casting about, that the only consonants which are logically able to
support the vowels are also logically able to produce only one word,
the word DEMOISELLES."
"That would refer to Mlle. de Gesvres and Mlle. de Saint-Veran."
"And do you see nothing more?"
"Yes. I also note an hiatus in the middle of the last line; and, if
I apply a similar operation to the beginning of the line, I at once
see that the only consonant able to take the place of the dot
between the diphthongs FAI and UI is the letter G and that, when I
have thus formed the first five letters of the word, AIGUI, it is
natural and inevitable that, with the two next dots and the final E,
I should arrive at the word AIGUILLE."
"Yes, the word AIGUILLE forces itself upon us."
"Finally, for the last word, I have three vowels and three
consonants. I cast about again, I try all the letters, one after the
other, and, starting with the principle that the two first letters
are necessary consonants, I find that three words apply: F*EUVE,
PREUVE and CREUSE. I eliminate the words F*EUVE and PREUVE, as
possessing no possible relation to a needle, and I keep the word
"Making 'hollow needle'! By jove! I admit that your solution is
correct, because it needs must be; but how does it help us?"
"Not at all," said Beautrelet, in a thoughtful tone. "Not at all,
for the moment.--Later on, we shall see.--I have an idea that a
number of things are included in the puzzling conjunction of those
two words, AIGUILLE CREUSE. What is troubling me at present is
rather the material on which the document is written, the paper
employed.--Do they still manufacture this sort of rather coarse-
grained parchment? And then this ivory color.--And those folds--the
wear of those folds--and. lastly, look, those marks of red sealing-
wax, on the back--"
At that moment Beautrelet, was interrupted by Bredoux, the
magistrate's clerk, who opened the door and announced the unexpected
arrival of the chief public prosecutor. M. Filleul rose:
"Anything new? Is Monsieur le Procureur General downstairs?"
"No, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. Monsieur le Procureur General
has not left his carriage. He is only passing through Ambrumesy and
begs you to be good enough to go down to him at the gate. He only
has a word to say to you."
"That's curious," muttered M. Filleul. "How-ever--we shall see.
Excuse me, Beautrelet, I shan't be long."
He went away. His footsteps sounded outside. Then the clerk closed
the door, turned the key and put it in his pocket.
"Hullo!" exclaimed Beautrelet, greatly surprised. "What are you
locking us in for?"
"We shall be able to talk so much better," retorted Bredoux.
Beautrelet rushed toward another door, which led to the next room.
He had understood: the accomplice was Bredoux, the clerk of the
examining magistrate himself. Bredoux grinned:
"Don't hurt your fingers, my young friend. I have the key of that
"There's the window!" cried Beautrelet.
"Too late," said Bredoux, planting himself in front of the casement,
revolver in hand.
Every chance of retreat was cut off. There was nothing more for
Isidore to do, nothing except to defend himself against the enemy
who was revealing himself with such brutal daring. He crossed his
"Good," mumbled the clerk. "And now let us waste no time." He took
out his watch. "Our worthy M. Filleul will walk down to the gate. At
the gate, he will find nobody, of course: no more public prosecutor
than my eye. Then he will come back. That gives us about four
minutes. It will take me one minute to escape by this window, clear
through the little door by the ruins and jump on the motor cycle
waiting for me. That leaves three minutes, which is just enough."
Bredoux was a queer sort of misshapen creature, who balanced on a
pair of very long spindle-legs a huge trunk, as round as the body of
a spider and furnished with immense arms. A bony face and a low,
small stubborn forehead pointed to the man's narrow obstinacy.
Beautrelet felt a weakness in the legs and staggered. He had to sit
"Speak," he said. "What do you want?"
"The paper. I've been looking for it for three days."
"I haven't got it."
"You're lying. I saw you put it back in your pocket-book when I came
"Next, you must undertake to keep quite quiet. You're annoying us.
Leave us alone and mind your own business. Our patience is at an
He had come nearer, with the revolver still aimed at the young man's
head, and spoke in a hollow voice, with a powerful stress on each
syllable that he uttered. His eyes were hard, his smile cruel.
Beautrelet gave a shudder. It was the first time that he was
experiencing the sense of danger. And such danger! He felt himself
in the presence of an implacable enemy, endowed with blind and
"And next?" he asked, with less assurance in his voice.
"Next? Nothing.--You will be free.--We will forget--"
There was a pause. Then Bredoux resumed:
"There is only a minute left. You must make up your mind. Come, old
chap, don't be a fool.--We are the stronger, you know, always and
everywhere.--Quick, the paper--"
Isidore did not flinch. With a livid and terrified face, he remained
master of himself, nevertheless, and his brain remained clear amid
the breakdown of his nerves. The little black hole of the revolver
was pointing at six inches from his eyes. The finger was bent and
obviously pressing on the trigger. It only wanted a moment--
"The paper," repeated Bredoux. "If not--"
"Here it is," said Beautrelet.
He took out his pocket-book and handed it to the clerk, who seized
"Capital! We've come to our senses. I've no doubt there's something
to be done with you.--You're troublesome, but full of common sense.
I'll talk about it to my pals. And now I'm off. Good-bye!"
He pocketed his revolver and turned back the fastening of the
window. There was a noise in the passage.
"Good-bye," he said again. "I'm only just in time."
But the idea stopped him. With a quick movement, he examined the
"Damn and blast it!" He grated through his teeth. "The paper's not
there.--You've done me--"
He leaped into the room. Two shots rang out. Isidore, in his turn,
had seized his pistol and fired.
"Missed, old chap!" shouted Bredoux. "Your hand's shaking.--You're
They caught each other round the body and came down to the floor
together. There was a violent and incessant knocking at the door.
Isidore's strength gave way and he was at once over come by his
adversary. It was the end. A hand was lifted over him, armed with a
knife, and fell. A fierce pain burst into his shoulder. He let go.
He had an impression of some one fumbling in the inside pocket of
his jacket and taking the paper from it. Then, through the lowered
veil of his eyelids, he half saw the man stepping over the window-
The same newspapers which, on the following morning, related the
last episodes that had occurred at the Chateau d'Ambrumesy--the
trickery at the chapel, the discovery of Arsene Lupin's body and of
Raymonde's body and, lastly, the murderous attempt made upon
Beautrelet by the clerk to the examining magistrate--also announced
two further pieces of news: the disappearance of Ganimard, and the
kidnapping of Holmlock Shears, in broad daylight, in the heart of
London, at the moment when he was about to take the train for Dover.
Lupin's gang, therefore, which had been disorganized for a moment by
the extraordinary ingenuity of a seventeen-year-old schoolboy, was
now resuming the offensive and was winning all along the line from
the first. Lupin's two great adversaries, Shears and Ganimard, were
put away. Isidore Beautrelet was disabled. The police were
powerless. For the moment there was no one left capable of
struggling against such enemies.
FACE TO FACE
One evening, five weeks later, I had given my man leave to go out.
It was the day before the 14th of July. The night was hot, a storm
threatened and I felt no inclination to leave the flat. I opened
wide the glass doors leading to my balcony, lit my reading lamp and
sat down in an easy-chair to look through the papers, which I had
not yet seen.
It goes without saying that there was something about Arsene Lupin
in all of them. Since the attempt at murder of which poor Isidore
Beautrelet had been the victim, not a day had passed without some
mention of the Ambrumesy mystery. It had a permanent headline
devoted to it. Never had public opinion been excited to that extent,
thanks to the extraordinary series of hurried events, of unexpected
and disconcerting surprises. M. Filleul, who was certainly accepting
the secondary part allotted to him with a good faith worthy of all
praise, had let the interviewers into the secret of his young
advisor's exploits during the memorable three days, so that the
public was able to indulge in the rashest suppositions. And the
public gave itself free scope. Specialists and experts in crime,
novelists and playwrights, retired magistrates and chief-detectives,
erstwhile Lecocqs and budding Holmlock Shearses, each had his theory
and expounded it in lengthy contributions to the press. Everybody
corrected and supplemented the inquiry of the examining magistrate;
and all on the word of a child, on the word of Isidore Beautrelet, a
sixth-form schoolboy at the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly!
For really, it had to be admitted, the complete elements of the
truth were now in everybody's possession. What did the mystery
consist of? They knew the hiding-place where Arsene Lupin had taken
refuge and lain a-dying; there was no doubt about it: Dr. Delattre,
who continued to plead professional secrecy and refused to give
evidence, nevertheless confessed to his intimate friends--who lost
no time in blabbing--that he really had been taken to a crypt to
attend a wounded man whom his confederates introduced to him by the
name of Arsene Lupin. And, as the corpse of Etienne de Vaudreix was
found in that same crypt and as the said Etienne de Vaudreix was
none other than Arsene Lupin--as the official examination went to
show--all this provided an additional proof, if one were needed, of
the identity of Arsene Lupin and the wounded man. Therefore, with
Lupin dead and Mlle. de Saint-Veran's body recognized by the curb-
bracelet on her wrist, the tragedy was finished.
It was not. Nobody thought that it was, because Beautrelet had said
the contrary. Nobody knew in what respect it was not finished, but,
on the word of the young man, the mystery remained complete. The
evidence of the senses did not prevail against the statement of a
Beautrelet. There was something which people did not know, and of
that something they were convinced that he was in position to supply
a triumphant explanation.
It is easy, therefore, to imagine the anxiety with which, at first,
people awaited the bulletins issued by the two Dieppe doctors to
whose care the Comte de Gesvres entrusted his patient; the distress
that prevailed during the first few days, when his life was thought
to be in danger; and the enthusiasm of the morning when the
newspapers announced that there was no further cause for fear. The
least details excited the crowd. People wept at the thought of
Beautrelet nursed by his old father, who had been hurriedly summoned
by telegram, and they also admired the devotion of Mlle. Suzanne de
Gesvres, who spent night after night by the wounded lad's bedside.
Next came a swift and glad convalescence. At last, the public were
about to know! They would know what Beautrelet had promised to
reveal to M. Filleul and the decisive words which the knife of the
would-be assassin had prevented him from uttering! And they would
also know everything, outside the tragedy itself, that remained
impenetrable or inaccessible to the efforts of the police.
With Beautrelet free and cured of his wound, one could hope for some
certainty regarding Harlington, Arsene Lupin's mysterious
accomplice, who was still detained at the Sante prison. One would
learn what had become, after the crime, of Bredoux the clerk, that
other accomplice, whose daring was really terrifying.
With Beautrelet free, one could also form a precise idea concerning
the disappearance of Ganimard and the kidnapping of Shears. How was
it possible for two attempts of this kind to take place? Neither the
English detectives nor their French colleagues possessed the
slightest clue on the subject. On Whit-Sunday, Ganimard did not come
home, nor on the Monday either, nor during the five weeks that
followed. In London, on Whit-Monday, Holmlock Shears took a cab at
eight o'clock in the evening to drive to the station. He had hardly
stepped in, when he tried to alight, probably feeling a presentiment
of danger. But two men jumped into the hansom, one on either side,
flung him back on the seat and kept him there between them, or
rather under them. All this happened in sight of nine or ten
witnesses, who had no time to interfere. The cab drove off at a
gallop. And, after that, nothing. Nobody knew anything.
Perhaps, also, Beautrelet would be able to give the complete
explanation of the document, the mysterious paper to which. Bredoux,
the magistrate's clerk, attached enough importance to recover it,
with blows of the knife, from the person in whose possession it was.
The problem of the Hollow Needle it was called, by the countless
solvers of riddles who, with their eyes bent upon the figures and
dots, strove to read a meaning into them. The Hollow Needle! What a
bewildering conjunction of two simple words! What an
incomprehensible question was set by that scrap of paper, whose very
origin and manufacture were unknown! The Hollow Needle! Was it a
meaningless expression, the puzzle of a schoolboy scribbling with
pen and ink on the corner of a page? Or were they two magic words
which could compel the whole great adventure of Lupin the great
adventurer to assume its true significance? Nobody knew.
But the public soon would know. For some days, the papers had been
announcing the approaching arrival of Beautrelet. The struggle was
on the point of recommencing; and, this time, it would be implacable
on the part of the young man, who was burning to take his revenge.
And, as it happened, my attention, just then, was drawn to his name,
printed in capitals. The Grand Journal headed its front page with
the following paragraph:
WE HAVE PERSUADED
M. ISIDORE BEAUTRELET
TO GIVE US THE FIRST RIGHT OF PRINTING HIS REVELATIONS. TO-MORROW,
TUESDAY, BEFORE THE POLICE THEMSELVES ARE INFORMED, THE Grand
Journal WILL PUBLISH THE WHOLE TRUTH OF THE AMBRUMESY MYSTERY.
"That's interesting, eh? What do you think of it, my dear chap?"
I started from my chair. There was some one sitting beside me, some
one I did not know. I cast my eyes round for a weapon. But, as my
visitor's attitude appeared quite inoffensive, I restrained myself
and went up to him.
He was a young man with strongly-marked features, long, fair hair
and a short, tawny beard, divided into two points. His dress
suggested the dark clothes of an English clergyman; and his whole
person, for that matter, wore an air of austerity and gravity that
"Who are you?" I asked. And, as he did not reply, I repeated, "Who
are you? How did you get in? What are you here for?"
He looked at me and said:
"Don't you know me?"
"Oh, that's really curious! Just search your memory--one of your
friends--a friend of a rather special kind--however--"
I caught him smartly by the arm:
"You lie! You lie! No, you're not the man you say you are--it's not
"Then why are you thinking of that man rather than another?" he
asked, with a laugh.
Oh, that laugh! That bright and clear young laugh, whose amusing
irony had so often contributed to my diversion! I shivered. Could it
"No, no," I protested, with a sort of terror. "It cannot be."
"It can't be I, because I'm dead, eh?" he retorted. "And because you
don't believe in ghosts." He laughed again. "Am I the sort of man
who dies? Do you think I would die like that, shot in the back by a
girl? Really, you misjudge me! As though I would ever consent to
such a death as that!"
"So it is you!" I stammered, still incredulous and yet greatly
excited. "So it is you! I can't manage to recognize you."
"In that case," he said, gaily, "I am quite easy. If the only man to
whom I have shown myself in my real aspect fails to know me to-day,
then everybody who will see me henceforth as I am to-day is bound
not to know me either, when he sees me in my real aspect--if,
indeed, I have a real aspect--"
I recognized his voice, now that he was no longer changing its tone,
and I recognized his eyes also and the expression of his face and
his whole attitude and his very being, through the counterfeit
appearance in which he had shrouded it:
"Arsene Lupin!" I muttered.
"Yes, Arsene Lupin!" he cried, rising from his chair. "The one and
only Arsene Lupin, returned from the realms of darkness, since it
appears that I expired and passed away in a crypt! Arsene Lupin,
alive and kicking, in the full exercise of his will, happy and free
and more than ever resolved to enjoy that happy freedom in a world
where hitherto he has received nothing but favors and privileges!"
It was my turn to laugh:
"Well, it's certainly you, and livelier this time than on the day
when I had the pleasure of seeing you, last year--I congratulate
I was alluding to his last visit, the visit following on the famous
adventure of the diadem, [Footnote: Arsene Lupin, play in three acts
and four scenes, by Maurice Leblanc and Drancis de Croisset.] his
interrupted marriage, his flight with Sonia Kirchnoff and the
Russian girl's horrible death. On that day, I had seen an Arsene
Lupin whom I did not know, weak, down-hearted, with eyes tired with
weeping, seeking for a little sympathy and affection.
"Be quiet," he said. "The past is far away."
"It was a year ago," I observed.
"It was ten years ago," he declared. "Arsene Lupin's years count for
ten times as much as another man's."
I did not insist and, changing the conversation:
"How did you get in?"
"Why, how do you think? Through the door, of course. Then, as I saw
nobody, I walked across the drawing room and out by the balcony, and
here I am."
"Yes, but the key of the door--?"
"There are no doors for me, as you know. I wanted your flat and I
"It is at your disposal. Am I to leave you?"
"Oh, not at all! You won't be in the way. In fact, I can promise you
an interesting evening."
"Are you expecting some one?"
"Yes. I have given him an appointment here at ten o'clock." He took
out his watch. "It is ten now. If the telegram reached him, he ought
to be here soon."
The front-door bell rang.
"What did I tell you? No, don't trouble to get up: I'll go."
With whom on earth could he have made an appointment? And what sort
of scene was I about to assist at: dramatic or comic? For Lupin
himself to consider it worthy of interest, the situation must be
He returned in a moment and stood back to make way for a young man,
tall and thin and very pale in the face.
Without a word and with a certain solemnity about his movements that
made me feel ill at ease. Lupin switched on all the electric lamps,
one after the other, till the room was flooded with light. Then the
two men looked at each other, exchanged profound and penetrating
glances, as if, with all the effort of their gleaming eyes, they
were trying to pierce into each other's souls.
It was an impressive sight to see them thus, grave and silent. But
who could the newcomer be?
I was on the point of guessing the truth, through his resemblance to
a photograph which had recently appeared in the papers, when Lupin
turned to me:
"My dear chap, let me introduce M. Isidore Beautrelet." And,
addressing the young man, he continued, "I have to thank you, M.
Beautrelet, first, for being good enough, on receipt of a letter
from me, to postpone your revelations until after this interview
and, secondly, for granting me this interview with so good a grace."
"Allow me to remark that my good grace consists, above all, in
obeying your orders. The threat which you made to me in the letter
in question was the more peremptory in being aimed not at me, but at
"My word," said Lupin laughing, "we must do the best we can and make
use of the means of action vouchsafed to us. I knew by experience
that your own safety was indifferent to you, seeing that you
resisted the arguments of Master Bredoux. There remained your
father--your father for whom you have a great affection--I played on
"And here I am," said Beautrelet, approvingly.
I motioned them to be seated. They consented and Lupin resumed, in
that tone of imperceptible banter which is all his own:
"In any case, M. Beautrelet, if you will not accept my thanks, you
will at least not refuse my apologies."
"Apologies! Bless my soul, what for?"
"For the brutality which Master Bredoux showed you."
"I confess that the act surprised me. It was not Lupin's usual way
of behaving. A stab--"
"I assure you I had no hand in it. Bredoux is a new recruit. My
friends, during the time that they had the management of our
affairs, thought that it might be useful to win over to our cause
the clerk of the magistrate himself who was conducting the inquiry."
"Your friends were right."
"Bredoux, who was specially attached to your person, was, in fact,
most valuable to us. But, with the ardor peculiar to any neophyte
who wishes to distinguish himself, he pushed his zeal too far and
thwarted my plans by permitting himself, on his own initiative, to
strike you a blow."
"Oh, it was a little accident!"
"Not at all, not at all! And I have reprimanded him severely! I am
bound, however, to say in his favor that he was taken unawares by
the really unexpected rapidity of your investigation. If you had
only left us a few hours longer, you would have escaped that
"And I should doubtless have enjoyed the enormous advantage of
undergoing the same fate as M. Ganimard and Mr. Holmlock Shears?"
"Exactly," said Lupin, laughing heartily. "And I should not have
known the cruel terrors which your wound caused me. I have had an
atrocious time because of it, believe me, and, at this moment, your
pallor fills me with all the stings of remorse. Can you ever forgive
"The proof of confidence which you have shown me in delivering
yourself unconditionally into my hands--it would have been so easy
for me to bring a few of Ganimard's friends with me--that proof of
confidence wipes out everything."
Was he speaking seriously? I confess frankly that I was greatly
perplexed. The struggle between the two men was beginning in a
manner which I was simply unable to understand. I had been present
at the first meeting between Lupin and Holmlock Shears, in the cafe
near the Gare Montparnesse, [Footnote: Arsene Lupin versus Holmlock
Shears, by Maurice Leblanc.] and I could not help recalling the
haughty carriage of the two combatants, the terrific clash of their
pride under the politeness of their manners, the hard blows which
they dealt each other, their feints, their arrogance.
Here, it was quite different. Lupin, it is true, had not changed; he
exhibited the same tactics, the same crafty affability. But what a
strange adversary he had come upon! Was it even an adversary?
Really, he had neither the tone of one nor the appearance. Very
calm, but with a real calmness, not one assumed to cloak the passion
of a man endeavoring to restrain himself; very polite, but without
exaggeration; smiling, but without chaff, he presented the most
perfect contrast to Arsene Lupin, a contrast so perfect even that,
to my mind, Lupin appeared as much perplexed as myself.
No, there was no doubt about it: in the presence of that frail
stripling, with cheeks smooth as a girl's and candid and charming
eyes, Lupin was losing his ordinary self-assurance. Several times
over, I observed traces of embarrassment in him. He hesitated, did
not attack frankly, wasted time in mawkish and affected phrases.
It also looked as though he wanted something. He seemed to be
seeking, waiting. What for? Some aid?
There was a fresh ring of the bell. He himself ran and opened the
door. He returned with a letter:
"Will you allow me, gentlemen?" he asked.
He opened the letter. It contained a telegram. He read it--and
became as though transformed. His face lit up, his figure righted
itself and I saw the veins on his forehead swell. It was the athlete
who once more stood before me, the ruler, sure of himself, master of
events and master of persons. He spread the telegram on the table
and, striking it with his fist, exclaimed:
"Now, M. Beautrelet, it's you and I!"
Beautrelet adopted a listening attitude and Lupin began, in
measured, but harsh and masterful tones:
"Let us throw off the mask--what say you?--and have done with
hypocritical compliments. We are two enemies, who know exactly what
to think of each other; we act toward each other as enemies; and
therefore we ought to treat with each other as enemies."
"To treat?" echoed Beautrelet, in a voice of surprise.
"Yes, to treat. I did not use that word at random and I repeat it,
in spite of the effort, the great effort, which it costs me. This is
the first time I have employed it to an adversary. But also, I may
as well tell you at once, it is the last. Make the most of it. I
shall not leave this flat without a promise from you. If I do, it
Beautrelet seemed more and more surprised. He said very prettily:
"I was not prepared for this--you speak so funnily! It's so
different from what I expected! Yes, I thought you were not a bit
like that! Why this display of anger? Why use threats? Are we
enemies because circumstances bring us into opposition? Enemies?
Lupin appeared a little out of countenance, but he snarled and,
leaning over the boy:
"Listen to me, youngster," he said. "It's not a question of picking
one's words. It's a question of a fact, a positive, indisputable
fact; and that fact is this: in all the past ten years, I have not
yet knocked up against an adversary of your capacity. With Ganimard
and Holmlock Shears I played as if they were children. With you, I
am obliged to defend myself, I will say more, to retreat. Yes, at
this moment, you and I well know that I must look upon myself as
worsted in the fight. Isidore Beautrelet has got the better of
Arsene Lupin. My plans are upset. What I tried to leave in the dark
you have brought into the full light of day. You annoy me, you stand
in my way. Well, I've had enough of it--Bredoux told you so to no
purpose. I now tell you so again; and I insist upon it, so that you
may take it to heart: I've had enough of it!"
Beautrelet nodded his head:
"Yes. but what do you want?"
"Peace! Each of us minding his own business, keeping to his own
"That is to say, you free to continue your burglaries undisturbed, I
free to return to my studies."
"Your studies--anything you please--I don't care. But you must leave
me in peace--I want peace."
"How can I trouble it now?"
Lupin seized his hand violently:
"You know quite well! Don't pretend not to know. You are at this
moment in possession of a secret to which I attach the highest
importance. This secret you were free to guess, but you have no
right to give it to the public."
"Are you sure that I know it?"
"You know it, I am certain: day by day, hour by hour, I have
followed your train of thought and the progress of your
investigations. At the very moment when Bredoux struck you, you were
about to tell all. Subsequently, you delayed your revelations, out
of solicitude for your father. But they are now promised to this
paper here. The article is written. It will be set up in an hour. It
will appear to-morrow."
Lupin rose, and slashing the air with his hand,
"It shall not appear!" he cried.
"It shall appear!" said Beautrelet, starting up in his turn.
At last, the two men were standing up to each other. I received the
impression of a shock, as if they had seized each other round the
body. Beautrelet seemed to burn with a sudden energy. It was as
though a spark had kindled within him a group of new emotions:
pluck, self-respect, the passion of fighting, the intoxication of
danger. As for Lupin, I read in the radiance of his glance the joy
of the duellist who at length encounters the sword of his hated
"Is the article in the printer's hands?"
"Have you it there--on you?"
"No fear! I shouldn't have it by now, in that case!"
"One of the assistant editors has it, in a sealed envelope. If I am
not at the office by midnight, he will have set it up."
"Oh, the scoundrel!" muttered Lupin. "He has provided for
His anger was increasing, visibly and frightfully. Beautrelet
chuckled, jeering in his turn, carried away by his success.
"Stop that, you brat!" roared Lupin. "You're forgetting who I am--
and that, if I wished--upon my word, he's daring to laugh!"
A great silence fell between them. Then Lupin stepped forward and,
in muttered tones, with his eyes on Beautrelet's:
"You shall go straight to the Grand Journal."
"Tear up your article."
"See the editor."
"Tell him you made a mistake."
"And write him another article, in which you will give the official
version of the Ambrumesy mystery, the one which every one has
Lupin took up a steel ruler that lay on my desk and broke it in two
without an effort. His pallor was terrible to see. He wiped away the
beads of perspiration that stood on his forehead. He, who had never
known his wishes resisted, was being maddened by the obstinacy of
this child. He pressed his two hands on Beautrelet's shoulder and,
emphasizing every syllable, continued:
"You shall do as I tell you, Beautrelet. You shall say that your
latest discoveries have convinced you of my death, that there is not
the least doubt about it. You shall say so because I wish it,
because it has to be believed that I am dead. You shall say so,
above all, because, if you do not say so--"
"Because, if I do not say so--?"
"Your father will be kidnapped to-night, as Ganimard and Holmlock
Beautrelet gave a smile.
"My answer is that I am very sorry to disappoint you, but I have
promised to speak and I shall speak."
"Speak in the sense which I have told you."
"I shall speak the truth," cried Beautrelet, eagerly. "It is
something which you can't understand, the pleasure, the need,
rather, of saying the thing that is and saying it aloud. The truth
is here, in this brain which has guessed it and discovered it; and
it will come out, all naked and quivering. The article, therefore,
will be printed as I wrote it. The world shall know that Lupin is
alive and shall know the reason why he wished to be considered dead.
The world shall know all." And he added, calmly, "And my father
shall not be kidnapped."
Once again, they were both silent, with their eyes still fixed upon
each other. They watched each other. Their swords were engaged up to
the hilt. And it was like the heavy silence that goes before the
mortal blow. Which of the two was to strike it?
Lupin said, between his teeth:
"Failing my instructions to the contrary, two of my friends have
orders to enter your father's room to-night, at three o'clock in the
morning, to seize him and carry him off to join Ganimard and
A burst of shrill laughter interrupted him:
"Why, you highwayman, don't you understand," cried Beautrelet, "that
I have taken my precautions? So you think that I am innocent enough,
ass enough, to have sent my father home to his lonely little house
in the open country!" Oh, the gay, bantering laughter that lit up
the boy's face! It was a new sort of laugh on his lips, a laugh that
showed the influence of Lupin himself. And the familiar form of
address which he adopted placed him at once on his adversary's
level. He continued:
"You see, Lupin, your great fault is to believe your schemes
infallible. You proclaim yourself beaten, do you? What humbug! You
are convinced that you will always win the day in the end--and you
forget that others can have their little schemes, too. Mine is a
very simple one, my friend."
It was delightful to hear him talk. He walked up and down, with his
hands in his pockets and with the easy swagger of a boy teasing a
caged beast. Really, at this moment, he was revenging, with the most
terrible revenges, all the victims of the great adventurer. And he
"Lupin, my father is not in Savoy. He is at the other end of France,
in the centre of a big town, guarded by twenty of our friends, who
have orders not to lose sight of him until our battle is over. Would
you like details? He is at Cherbourg, in the house of one of the
keepers of the arsenal. And remember that the arsenal is closed at
night and that no one is allowed to enter it by day, unless he
carries an authorization and is accompanied by a guide."
He stopped in front of Lupin and defied him, like a child making
faces at his playmate:
"What do you say to that, master?"
For some minutes, Lupin had stood motionless. Not a muscle of his
face had moved. What were his thoughts? Upon what action was he
resolving? To any one knowing the fierce violence of his pride the
only possible solution was the total, immediate, final collapse of
his adversary. His fingers twitched. For a second, I had a feeling
that he was about to throw himself upon the boy and wring his neck.
"What do you say to that, master?" Beautrelet repeated.
Lupin took up the telegram that lay on the table, held it out and
said, very calmly:
"Here, baby, read that."
Beautrelet became serious, suddenly, impressed by the gentleness of
the movement. He unfolded the paper and, at once, raising his eyes,
"What does it mean? I don't understand."
"At any rate, you understand the first word," said Lupin, "the first
word of the telegram--that is to say, the name of the place from
which it was sent--look--'Cherbourg.'"
"Yes--yes," stammered Beautrelet. "Yes--I understand--'Cherbourg'-
"And then?--I should think the rest is quite plain: 'Removal of
luggage finished. Friends left with it and will wait instructions
till eight morning. All well.' Is there anything there that seems
obscure? The word 'luggage'? Pooh, you wouldn't have them write 'M.
Beautrelet, senior'! What then? The way in which the operation was
performed? The miracle by which your father was taken out of
Cherbourg Arsenal, in spite of his twenty body-guards? Pooh, it's as
easy as A B C! And the fact remains that the luggage has been
dispatched. What do you say to that, baby?"
With all his tense being, with all his exasperated energy, Isidore
tried to preserve a good countenance. But I saw his lips quiver, his
jaw shrink, his eyes vainly strive to fix upon a point. He lisped a
few words, then was silent and, suddenly, gave way and, with his
hands before his face, burst into loud sobs:
"Oh, father! Father!"
An unexpected result, which was certainly the collapse which Lupin's
pride demanded, but also something more, something infinitely
touching and infinitely artless. Lupin gave a movement of annoyance
and took up his hat, as though this unaccustomed display of
sentiment were too much for him. But, on reaching the door, he
stopped, hesitated and then returned, slowly, step by step.
The soft sound of the sobs rose like the sad wailing of a little
child overcome with grief. The lad's shoulders marked the heart-
rending rhythm. Tears appeared through the crossed fingers. Lupin
leaned forward and, without touching Beautrelet, said, in a voice
that had not the least tone of pleasantry, nor even of the offensive
pity of the victor:
"Don't cry, youngster. This is one of those blows which a man must
expect when he rushes headlong into the fray, as you did. The worst
disasters lie in wait for him. The destiny of fighters will have it
so. We must suffer it as bravely as we can." Then, with a sort of
gentleness, he continued, "You were right, you see: we are not
enemies. I have known it for long. From the very first, I felt for
you, for the intelligent creature that you are, an involuntary
sympathy--and admiration. And that is why I wanted to say this to
you--don't be offended, whatever you do: I should be extremely sorry
to offend you--but I must say it: well, give up struggling against
me. I am not saying this out of vanity--nor because I despise you--
but, you see, the struggle is too unequal. You do not know--nobody
knows all the resources which I have at my command. Look here, this
secret of the Hollow Needle which you are trying so vainly to
unravel: suppose, for a moment, that it is a formidable,
inexhaustible treasure--or else an invisible, prodigious, fantastic
refuge--or both perhaps. Think of the superhuman power which I must
derive from it! And you do not know, either, all the resources which
I have within myself--all that my will and my imagination enable me
to undertake and to undertake successfully. Only think that my whole
life--ever since I was born, I might almost say--has tended toward
the same aim, that I worked like a convict before becoming what I am
and to realize, in its perfection, the type which I wished to
create--which I have succeeded in creating. That being so--what can
you do? At that very moment when you think that victory lies within
your grasp, it will escape you--there will be something of which you
have not thought--a trifle--a grain of sand which I shall have put
in the right place, unknown to you. I entreat vou, give up--I should
be obliged to hurt you; and the thought distresses me." And, placing
his hand on the boy's forehead, he repeated, "Once more, youngster,
give up. I should only hurt you. Who knows if the trap into which
you will inevitably fall has not already opened under your
Beautrelet uncovered his face. He was no longer crying. Had he heard
Lupin's words? One might have doubted it, judging by his inattentive
For two or three minutes, he was silent. He seemed to weigh the
decision which he was about to take, to examine the reasons for and
against, to count up the favorable and unfavorable chances. At last,
he said to Lupin:
"If I change the sense of the article, if I confirm the version of
your death and if I undertake never to contradict the false version
which I shall have sanctioned, do you swear that my father will be
"I swear it. My friends have taken your father by motor car to
another provincial town. At seven o'clock to-morrow morning, if the
article in the Grand Journal is what I want it to be, I shall
telephone to them and they will restore your father to liberty."
"Very well," said Beautrelet." I submit to your conditions."
Quickly, as though he saw no object in prolonging the conversation
after accepting his defeat, he rose, took his hat, bowed to me,
bowed to Lupin and went out. Lupin watched him go, listened to the
sound of the door closing and muttered:
"Poor little beggar!"
At eight o'clock the next morning, I sent my man out to buy the
Grand Journal. It was twenty minutes before he brought me a copy,
most of the kiosks being already sold out.
I unfolded the paper with feverish hands. Beautrelet's article
appeared on the front page. I give it as it stood and as it was
quoted in the press of the whole world:
THE AMBRUMESY MYSTERY
I do not intend in these few sentences to set out in detail the
mental processes and the investigations that have enabled me to
reconstruct the tragedy--I should say the twofold tragedy--of
Ambrumesy. In my opinion, this sort of work and the judgments which
it entails, deductions, inductions, analyses and so on, are only
interesting in a minor degree and, in any case, are highly
commonplace. No, I shall content myself with setting forth the two
leading ideas which I followed; and, if I do that, it will be seen
that, in so setting them forth and in solving the two problems which
they raise, I shall have told the story just as it happened, in the
exact order of the different incidents.
It may be said that some of these incidents are not proved and that
I leave too large a field to conjecture. That is quite true. But, in
my view, my theory is founded upon a sufficiently large number of
proved facts to be able to say that even those facts which are not
proved must follow from the strict logic of events. The stream is so
often lost under the pebbly bed: it is nevertheless the same stream
that reappears at intervals and mirrors back the blue sky.
The first riddle that confronted me, a riddle not in detail, but as
a whole, was how came it that Lupin, mortally wounded, one might
say, managed to live for five or six weeks without nursing, medicine
or food, at the bottom of a dark hole?
Let us start at the beginning. On Thursday the sixteenth of April,
at four o'clock in the morning, Arsene Lupin, surprised in the
middle of one of his most daring burglaries, runs away by the path
leading to the ruins and drops down shot. He drags himself painfully
along, falls again and picks himself up in the desperate hope of
reaching the chapel. The chapel contains a crypt, the existence of
which he has discovered by accident. If he can burrow there, he may
be saved. By dint of an effort, he approaches it, he is but a few
yards away, when a sound of footsteps approaches. Harassed and lost,
he lets himself go. The enemy arrives. It is Mlle. Raymonde de
This is the prologue or rather the first scene of the drama.
What happened between them? This is the easier to guess inasmuch as
the sequel of the adventure gives us all the necessary clues. At the
girl's feet lies a wounded man, exhausted by suffering, who will be
captured in two minutes. THIS MAN HAS BEEN WOUNDED BY HERSELF. Will
she also give him up?
If he is Jean Daval's murderer, yes, she will let destiny take its
course. But, in quick sentences, he tells her the truth about this
awful murder committed by her uncle, M. de Gesvres. She believes
him. What will she do?
Nobody can see them. The footman Victor is watching the little door.
The other, Albert, posted at the drawing-room window, has lost sight
of both of them. Will she give up the man she has wounded?
The girl is carried away by a movement of irresistible pity, which
any woman will understand. Instructed by Lupin, with a few movements
she binds up the wound with his handkerchief, to avoid the marks
which the blood would leave. Then, with the aid of the key which he
gives her, she opens the door of the chapel. He enters, supported by
the girl. She locks the door again and walks away. Albert arrives.
If the chapel had been visited at that moment or at least during the
next few minutes, before Lupin had had time to recover his strength,
to raise the flagstone and disappear by the stairs leading to the
crypt, he would have been taken. But this visit did not take place
until six hours later and then only in the most superficial way. As
it is, Lupin is saved; and saved by whom? By the girl who very
nearly killed him.
Thenceforth, whether she wishes it or no, Mlle. de Saint-Veran is
his accomplice. Not only is she no longer able to give him up, but
she is obliged to continue her work, else the wounded man will
perish in the shelter in which she has helped to conceal him.
Therefore she continues.
For that matter, if her feminine instinct makes the task a
compulsory one, it also makes it easy. She is full of artifice, she
foresees and forestalls everything. It is she who gives the
examining magistrate a false description of Arsene Lupin (the reader
will remember the difference of opinion on this subject between the
cousins). It is she, obviously, who, thanks to certain signs which I
do not know of, suspects an accomplice of Lupin's in the driver of
the fly. She warns him. She informs him of the urgent need of an
operation. It is she, no doubt, who substitutes one cap for the
other. It is she who causes the famous letter to be written in which
she is personally threatened. How, after that, is it possible to
It is she, who at that moment when I was about to confide my first
impressions to the examining magistrate, pretends to have seen me,
the day before, in the copsewood, alarms M. Filleul on my score and
reduces me to silence: a dangerous move, no doubt, because it
arouses my attention and directs it against the person who assails
me with an accusation which I know to be false; but an efficacious
move, because the most important thing of all is to gain time and
close my lips.
Lastly, it is she who, during forty days, feeds Lupin, brings him
his medicine (the chemist at Ouville will produce the prescriptions
which he made up for Mile, de Saint-Veran), nurses him, dresses his
wound, watches over him AND CURES HIM.
Here we have the first of our two problems solved, at the same time
that the Ambrumesy mystery is set forth. Arsene Lupin found, close
at hand, in the chateau itself, the assistance which was
indispensable to him in order, first, not to be discovered and,
secondly, to live.
He now lives. And we come to the second problem, corresponding with
the second Ambrumesy mystery, the study of which served me as a
conducting medium. Why does Lupin, alive, free, at the head of his
gang, omnipotent as before, why does Lupin make desperate efforts,
efforts with which I am constantly coming into collision, to force
the idea of his death upon the police and the public?
We must remember that Mlle. de Saint-Veran was a very pretty girl.
The photographs reproduced in the papers after her disappearance
give but an imperfect notion of her beauty. That follows which was
bound to follow. Lupin, seeing this lovely girl daily for five or
six weeks, longing for her presence when she is not there, subjected
to her charm and grace when she is there, inhaling the cool perfume
of her breath when she bends over him, Lupin becomes enamored of his
nurse. Gratitude turns to love, admiration to passion. She is his
salvation, but she is also the joy of his eyes, the dream of his
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