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THE BLONDE LADY

Being a Record of the Duel of Wits
between Arsène Lupin and the
English Detective

by

MAURICE LEBLANC

Translated by Alexander Teixeira De Mattos

Illustrated by H. Richard Boehm







New York
Doubleday, Page & Company
1910

All Rights Reserved, Including That of Translation
into Foreign Languages, Including the Scandinavian

Copyright, 1907, by Maurice Leblanc
Copyright, 1909, 1910, by the Short Stories Company, Ltd.
Copyright, 1910, by Maurice Leblanc
Published, June, 1910

This book appeared in England under the title of Arsène Lupin versus
Holmlock Shears




CONTENTS


FIRST EPISODE: THE BLONDE LADY

CHAPTER PAGE

I. Number 514, Series 23 3

II. The Blue Diamond 49

III. Holmlock Shears Opens Hostilities 91

IV. A Glimmer in the Darkness 131

V. Kidnapped 166

VI. The Second Arrest of Arsène Lupin 207


SECOND EPISODE: THE JEWISH LAMP

I. 249

II. 296




FIRST EPISODE

THE BLONDE LADY


CHAPTER I

NUMBER 514, SERIES 23


On the 8th of December last, M. Gerbois, professor of mathematics at
Versailles College, rummaging among the stores at a second-hand
dealer's, discovered a small mahogany writing-desk, which took his fancy
because of its many drawers.

"That's just what I want for Suzanne's birthday," he thought.

M. Gerbois' means were limited and, anxious as he was to please his
daughter, he felt it his duty to beat the dealer down. He ended by
paying sixty-five francs. As he was writing down his address, a
well-groomed and well-dressed young man, who had been hunting through
the shop in every direction, caught sight of the writing-desk and asked:

"How much for this?"

"It's sold," replied the dealer.

"Oh ... to this gentleman?"

M. Gerbois bowed and, feeling all the happier that one of his fellow-men
envied him his purchase, left the shop. But he had not taken ten steps
in the street before the young man caught him up and, raising his hat,
said, very politely:

"I beg a thousand pardons, sir.... I am going to ask you an indiscreet
question.... Were you looking for this desk rather than anything else?"

"No. I went to the shop to see if I could find a cheap set of scales for
my experiments."

"Therefore, you do not want it very particularly?"

"I want it, that's all."

"Because it's old I suppose?"

"Because it's useful."

"In that case, would you mind exchanging it for another desk, quite as
useful, but in better condition?"

"This one is in good condition and I see no point in exchanging it."

"Still ..."

M. Gerbois was a man easily irritated and quick to take offense. He
replied curtly:

"I must ask you to drop the subject, sir."

The young man placed himself in front of him.

"I don't know how much you paid, sir ... but I offer you double the
price."

"No, thank you."

"Three times the price."

"Oh, that will do," exclaimed the professor, impatiently. "The desk
belongs to me and is not for sale."

The young man stared at him with a look that remained imprinted on M.
Gerbois' memory, then turned on his heel, without a word, and walked
away.

* * * * *

An hour later, the desk was brought to the little house on the Viroflay
Road where the professor lived. He called his daughter:

"This is for you, Suzanne; that is, if you like it."

Suzanne was a pretty creature, of a demonstrative temperament and easily
pleased. She threw her arms round her father's neck and kissed him as
rapturously as though he had made her a present fit for a queen.

That evening, assisted by Hortense the maid, she carried up the desk to
her room, cleaned out the drawers and neatly put away her papers, her
stationery, her correspondence, her picture postcards and a few secret
souvenirs of her cousin Philippe.

M. Gerbois went to the college at half-past seven the next morning. At
ten o'clock Suzanne, according to her daily custom, went to meet him at
the exit; and it was a great pleasure to him to see her graceful,
smiling figure waiting on the pavement opposite the gate.

They walked home together.

"And how do you like the desk?"

"Oh, it's lovely! Hortense and I have polished up the brass handles till
they shine like gold."

"So you're pleased with it?"

"I should think so! I don't know how I did without it all this time."

They walked up the front garden. The professor said:

"Let's go and look at it before lunch."

"Yes, that's a good idea."

She went up the stairs first, but, on reaching the door of her room, she
gave a cry of dismay.

"What's the matter?" exclaimed M. Gerbois.

He followed her into the room. The writing-desk was gone.

* * * * *

What astonished the police was the wonderful simplicity of the means
employed. While Suzanne was out and the maid making her purchases for
the day, a ticket-porter, wearing his badge, had stopped his cart before
the garden, in sight of the neighbours, and rung the bell twice. The
neighbours, not knowing that the servant had left the house, suspected
nothing, so that the man was able to effect his object absolutely
undisturbed.

This fact must be noted: not a cupboard had been broken open, not so
much as a clock displaced. Even Suzanne's purse, which she had left on
the marble slab of the desk, was found on the adjacent table, with the
gold which it contained. The object of the theft was clearly determined,
therefore, and this made it the more difficult to understand; for, after
all, why should a man run so great a risk to secure so trivial a spoil?

The only clue which the professor could supply was the incident of the
day before:

"From the first, that young man displayed a keen annoyance at my
refusal; and I have a positive impression that he left me under a
threat."

It was all very vague. The dealer was questioned. He knew neither of the
two gentlemen. As for the desk, he had bought it for forty francs at
Chevreuse, at the sale of a person deceased, and he considered that he
had re-sold it at a fair price. A persistent inquiry revealed nothing
further.

But M. Gerbois remained convinced that he had suffered an enormous loss.
A fortune must have been concealed in some secret drawer and that was
why the young man, knowing of the hiding-place, had acted with such
decision.

"Poor father! What should we have done with the fortune?" Suzanne kept
saying.

"What! Why, with that for your dowry, you could have made the finest
match going!"

Suzanne aimed at no one higher than her cousin Philippe, who had not a
penny to bless himself with, and she gave a bitter sigh. And life in the
little house at Versailles went on gaily, less carelessly than before,
shadowed over as it now was with regret and disappointment.

* * * * *

Two months elapsed. And suddenly, one after the other, came a sequence
of the most serious events, forming a surprising run of alternate luck
and misfortune.

On the 1st of February, at half-past five, M. Gerbois, who had just come
home, with an evening paper in his hand, sat down, put on his spectacles
and began to read. The political news was uninteresting. He turned the
page and a paragraph at once caught his eye, headed:

"THIRD DRAWING OF THE PRESS-ASSOCIATION LOTTERY"

"First prize, 1,000,000 francs: No. 514, Series 23."

The paper dropped from his hands. The walls swam before his eyes and his
heart stopped beating. Number 514, series 23, was the number of his
ticket! He had bought it by accident, to oblige one of his friends, for
he did not believe in luck; and now he had won!

He took out his memorandum-book, quick! He was quite right: number 514,
series 23, was jotted down on the fly-leaf. But where was the ticket?

He flew to his study to fetch the box of stationery in which he had put
the precious ticket away; and he stopped short as he entered and
staggered back, with a pain at his heart: the box was not there
and - what an awful thing! - he suddenly realized that the box had not
been there for weeks.

"Suzanne! Suzanne!"

She had just come in and ran up the stairs hurriedly. He stammered, in a
choking voice:

"Suzanne ... the box ... the box of stationery...."

"Which one?"

"The one I bought at Louvre ... on a Thursday ... it used to stand at
the end of the table."

"But don't you remember, father?... We put it away together...."

"When?"

"That evening ... you know, the day before...."

"But where?... Quick, tell me ... it's more than I can bear...."

"Where?... In the writing-desk."

"In the desk that was stolen?"

"Yes."

"In the desk that was stolen!"

He repeated the words in a whisper, with a sort of terror. Then he took
her hand, and lower still:

"It contained a million, Suzanne...."

"Oh, father, why didn't you tell me?" she murmured innocently.

"A million!" he repeated. "It was the winning number in the press
lottery."

The hugeness of the disaster crushed them and, for a long time, they
maintained a silence which they had not the courage to break. At last
Suzanne said:

"But, father, they will pay you all the same."

"Why? On what evidence?"

"Does it require evidence?"

"Of course!"

"And have you none?"

"Yes, I have."

"Well?"

"It was in the box."

"In the box that has disappeared?"

"Yes. And the other man will get the money."

"Why, that would be outrageous! Surely, father, you can stop the
payment?"

"Who knows? Who knows? That man must be extraordinarily clever! He has
such wonderful resources.... Remember ... think how he got hold of the
desk...."

His energy revived; he sprang up and, stamping his foot on the floor.

"No, no, no," he shouted, "he shan't have that million, he shan't! Why
should he? After all, sharp as he may be, he can do nothing, either. If
he calls for the money, they'll lock him up! Ah, we shall see, my
friend!"

"Have you thought of something, father?"

"I shall defend our rights to the bitter end, come what may! And we
shall succeed!... The million belongs to me and I mean to have it!"

A few minutes later, he dispatched this telegram:

"Governor,
"Crédit Foncier,
"Rue Capucines,
"Paris.

"Am owner number 514, series 23; oppose by every legal method
payment to any other person.
"GERBOIS."

At almost the same time, the Crédit Foncier received another telegram:

"Number 514, series 23, is in my possession.
"ARSÈNE LUPIN."

* * * * *

Whenever I sit down to tell one of the numberless adventures which
compose the life of Arsène Lupin, I feel a genuine embarrassment,
because it is quite clear to me that even the least important of these
adventures is known to every one of my readers. As a matter of fact,
there is not a move on the part of "our national thief," as he has been
happily called, but has been described all over the country, not an
exploit but has been studied from every point of view, not an action but
has been commented upon with an abundance of detail generally reserved
for stories of heroic deeds.

Who, for instance, does not know that strange case of the blonde lady,
with the curious episodes which were reported under flaring headlines as
"NUMBER 514, SERIES 23!" ... "THE MURDER IN THE AVENUE HENRI-MARTIN!"
... and "THE BLUE DIAMOND!" ... What an excitement there was about the
intervention of Holmlock Shears, the famous English detective! What an
effervescence surrounded the varying fortunes that marked the struggle
between those two great artists! And what a din along the boulevards on
the day when the newsboys shouted:

"Arrest of Arsène Lupin!"

My excuse is that I can supply something new: I can furnish the key to
the puzzle. There is always a certain mystery about these adventures: I
can dispel it. I reprint articles that have been read over and over
again; I copy out old interviews: but all these things I rearrange and
classify and put to the exact test of truth. My collaborator in this
work is Arsène Lupin himself, whose kindness to me is inexhaustible. I
am also under an occasional obligation to the unspeakable Wilson, the
friend and confidant of Holmlock Shears.

* * * * *

My readers will remember the Homeric laughter that greeted the
publication of the two telegrams. The name of Arsène Lupin alone was a
guarantee of originality, a promise of amusement for the gallery. And
the gallery, in this case, was the whole world.

An inquiry was immediately set on foot by the Crédit Foncier and it was
ascertained that number 514, series 23, had been sold by the Versailles
branch of the Crédit Lyonnais to Major Bressy of the artillery. Now the
major had died of a fall from his horse; and it appeared that he told
his brother officers, some time before his death, that he had been
obliged to part with his ticket to a friend.

"That friend was myself," declared M. Gerbois.

"Prove it," objected the governor of the Crédit Foncier.

"Prove it? That's quite easy. Twenty people will tell you that I kept up
constant relations with the major and that we used to meet at the café
on the Place d'Armes. It was there that, one day, to oblige him in a
moment of financial embarrassment, I took his ticket off him and gave
him twenty francs for it."

"Have you any witnesses to the transaction?"

"No."

"Then upon what do you base your claim?"

"Upon the letter which he wrote me on the subject."

"What letter?"

"A letter pinned to the ticket."

"Produce it."

"But it was in the stolen writing-desk!"

"Find it."

* * * * *

The letter was communicated to the press by Arsène Lupin. A paragraph
inserted in the _Écho de France_ - which has the honour of being his
official organ and in which he seems to be one of the principal
shareholders - announced that he was placing in the hands of Maître
Detinan, his counsel, the letter which Major Bressy had written to him,
Lupin, personally.

There was a burst of delight: Arsène Lupin was represented by counsel!
Arsène Lupin, respecting established customs, had appointed a member of
the bar to act for him!

The reporters rushed to interview Maître Detinan, an influential radical
deputy, a man endowed with the highest integrity and a mind of uncommon
shrewdness, which was, at the same time, somewhat skeptical and given to
paradox.

Maître Detinan was exceedingly sorry to say that he had never had the
pleasure of meeting Arsène Lupin, but he had, in point of fact, received
his instructions, was greatly flattered at being selected, keenly alive
to the honour shown him and determined to defend his client's rights to
the utmost. He opened his brief and without hesitation showed the
major's letter. It proved the sale of the ticket, but did not mention
the purchaser's name. It began, "My dear friend," simply.

"'My dear friend' means me," added Arsène Lupin, in a note enclosing the
major's letter. "And the best proof is that I have the letter."

The bevy of reporters at once flew off to M. Gerbois, who could do
nothing but repeat:

"'My dear friend' is no one but myself. Arsène Lupin stole the major's
letter with the lottery-ticket."

"Tell him to prove it," was Lupin's rejoinder to the journalists.

"But he stole the desk!" exclaimed M. Gerbois in front of the same
journalists.

"Tell him to prove it!" retorted Lupin once again.

And a delightful entertainment was provided for the public by this duel
between the two owners of number 514, series 23, by the constant coming
and going of the journalists and by the coolness of Arsène Lupin as
opposed to the frenzy of poor M. Gerbois.

Unhappy man! The press was full of his lamentations! He confessed the
full extent of his misfortunes in a touchingly ingenuous way:

"It's Suzanne's dowry, gentlemen, that the villain has stolen!... For
myself, personally, I don't care; but for Suzanne! Just think, a
million! Ten hundred thousand francs! Ah, I always said the desk
contained a treasure!"

He was told in vain that his adversary, when taking away the desk, knew
nothing of the existence of the lottery-ticket and that, in any case, no
one could have foreseen that this particular ticket would win the first
prize. All he did was to moan:

"Don't talk to me; of course he knew!... If not, why should he have
taken the trouble to steal that wretched desk?"

"For unknown reasons, but certainly not to get hold of a scrap of paper
which, at that time, was worth the modest sum of twenty francs."

"The sum of a million! He knew it.... He knows everything!... Ah, you
don't know the sort of a man he is, the ruffian!... He hasn't defrauded
you of a million, you see!..."

This talk could have gone on a long time yet. But, twelve days later,
M. Gerbois received a letter from Arsène Lupin, marked "Private and
confidential," which worried him not a little:

"DEAR SIR:

"The gallery is amusing itself at our expense. Do you not think
that the time has come to be serious? I, for my part, have quite
made up my mind.

"The position is clear: I hold a ticket which I am not entitled
to cash and you are entitled to cash a ticket which you do not
hold. Therefore neither of us can do anything without the other.

"Now you would not consent to surrender _your_ rights to _me_
nor I to give up _my_ ticket to _you_.

"What are we to do?

"I see only one way out of the difficulty: let us divide. Half a
million for you, half a million for me. Is not that fair? And
would not this judgment of Solomon satisfy the sense of justice
in each of us?

"I propose this as an equitable solution, but also an immediate
solution. It is not an offer which you have time to discuss,
but a necessity before which circumstances compel you to bow. I
give you three days for reflection. I hope that, on Friday
morning, I may have the pleasure of seeing a discreet
advertisement in the agony-column of the _Écho de France_,
addressed to 'M. Ars. Lup.' and containing, in veiled terms,
your unreserved assent to the compact which I am suggesting to
you. In that event, you will at once recover possession of the
ticket and receive the million, on the understanding that you
will hand me five hundred thousand francs in a way which I will
indicate hereafter.

"Should you refuse, I have taken measures that will produce
exactly the same result; but, apart from the very serious
trouble which your obstinacy would bring upon you, you would be
the poorer by twenty-five thousand francs, which I should have
to deduct for additional expenses.

"I am, dear sir,
"Very respectfully yours,
"ARSÈNE LUPIN."

M. Gerbois, in his exasperation, was guilty of the colossal blunder of
showing this letter and allowing it to be copied. His indignation drove
him to every sort of folly:

"Not a penny! He shall not have a penny!" he shouted before the
assembled reporters. "Share what belongs to me? Never! Let him tear up
his ticket if he likes!"

"Still, half a million francs is better than nothing."

"It's not a question of that, but of my rights; and those rights I shall
establish in a court of law."

"Go to law with Arsène Lupin? That would be funny!"

"No, but the Crédit Foncier. They are bound to hand me the million."

"Against the ticket or at least against evidence that you bought it?"

"The evidence exists, seeing that Arsène Lupin admits that he stole the
desk."

"What judge is going to take Arsène Lupin's word?"

"I don't care, I shall go to law!"

The gallery was delighted. Bets were made, some people being certain
that Lupin would bring M. Gerbois to terms, others that he would not go
beyond threats. And the people felt a sort of apprehension; for the
adversaries were unevenly matched, the one being so fierce in his
attacks, while the other was as frightened as a hunted deer.

On Friday, there was a rush for the _Écho de France_ and the
agony-column on the fifth page was scanned with feverish eyes. There was
not a line addressed to "M. Ars. Lup." M. Gerbois had replied to Arsène
Lupin's demands with silence. It was a declaration of war.

That evening the papers contained the news that Mlle. Gerbois had been
kidnapped.

* * * * *

The most delightful factor in what I may call the Arsène Lupin
entertainment is the eminently ludicrous part played by the police.
Everything passes outside their knowledge. Lupin speaks, writes, warns,
orders, threatens, carries out his plans, as though there were no
police, no detectives, no magistrates, no impediment of any kind in
existence. They seem of no account to him whatever. No obstacle enters
into his calculations.

And yet the police struggle to do their best. The moment the name of
Arsène Lupin is mentioned, the whole force, from top to bottom, takes
fire, boils and foams with rage. He is the enemy, the enemy who mocks
you, provokes you, despises you, or, even worse, ignores you. And what
can one do against an enemy like that?

According to the evidence of the servant, Suzanne went out at twenty
minutes to ten. At five minutes past ten, her father, on leaving the
college, failed to see her on the pavement where she usually waited for
him. Everything, therefore, must have taken place in the course of the
short twenty minutes' walk which brought Suzanne from her door to the
college, or at least quite close to the college.

Two neighbours declared that they had passed her about three hundred
yards from the house. A lady had seen a girl walking along the avenue
whose description corresponded with Suzanne's. After that, all was
blank.

Inquiries were made on every side. The officials at the railway-stations
and the customs-barriers were questioned. They had seen nothing on that
day which could relate to the kidnapping of a young girl. However, a
grocer at Ville-d'Avray stated that he had supplied a closed motor-car,
coming from Paris, with petrol. There was a chauffeur on the front seat
and a lady with fair hair - exceedingly fair hair, the witness
said - inside. The car returned from Versailles an hour later. A block in
the traffic compelled it to slacken speed and the grocer was able to
perceive that there was now another lady seated beside the blonde lady
whom he had seen first. This second lady was wrapped up in veils and
shawls. No doubt it was Suzanne Gerbois.

Consequently, the abduction must have taken place in broad daylight, on
a busy road, in the very heart of the town! How? At what spot? Not a cry
had been heard, not a suspicious movement observed.

The grocer described the car, a Peugeot limousine, 24 horse-power, with
a dark blue body. Inquiries were made, on chance, of Mme. Bob-Walthour,
the manageress of the Grand Garage, who used to make a specialty of
motor-car elopements. She had, in fact, on Friday morning, hired out a
Peugeot limousine for the day to a fair-haired lady, whom she had not
seen since.

"But the driver?"

"He was a man called Ernest, whom I engaged the day before on the
strength of his excellent testimonials."

"Is he here?"

"No, he brought back the car and has not been here since."

"Can't we get hold of him?"

"Certainly, by applying to the people who recommended him. I will give
you the addresses."

The police called on these persons. None of them knew the man called
Ernest.

And every trail which they followed to find their way out of the
darkness led only to greater darkness and denser fogs.

M. Gerbois was not the man to maintain a contest which had opened in so
disastrous a fashion for him. Inconsolable at the disappearance of his
daughter and pricked with remorse, he capitulated. An advertisement
which appeared in the _Écho de France_ and aroused general comment


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