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"Every one. The porter answers for them. Besides, as an additional
precaution, I have posted a man in each flat."

"We must find them, you know."

"That's what I say, chief, that's what I say. We must and we shall,
because they are both here ... they can't be anywhere else. Be easy,
chief; if I don't catch them to-night, I shall to-morrow.... I shall
spend the night here!... I shall spend the night here!..."

He did, in fact, spend the night there and the next night and the night
after that. And, when three whole days and three nights had elapsed, not
only had he failed to discover the elusive Lupin and his no less elusive
companion, but he had not even observed the slightest clue upon which
to found the slightest supposition.

And that is why he refused to budge from his first opinion:

"Once there's no trace of their flight, they must be here!"

It is possible that, in the depths of his mind, he was less firmly
convinced. But he refused to admit as much to himself. No, a thousand
times no: a man and a woman do not vanish into space like the wicked
genii in the fairy-tales! And, without losing courage, he continued his
searchings and investigations, as though he hoped to discover them
hidden in some impenetrable retreat, bricked up in the walls of the
house.




CHAPTER II

THE BLUE DIAMOND


In the evening of the twenty-seventh of March, old General Baron
d'Hautrec, who had been French Ambassador in Berlin under the Second
Empire, was sleeping comfortably in an easy-chair in the house which his
brother had left him six months before, at 134, Avenue Henri-Martin. His
lady companion continued to read aloud to him, while Soeur Auguste
warmed the bed and prepared the night-light.

As an exceptional case, the sister was returning to her convent that
evening, to spend the night with the Mother Superior, and, at eleven
o'clock, she said:

"I'm finished now, Mlle. Antoinette, and I'm going."

"Very well, sister."

"And don't forget that the cook is sleeping out to-night and that you
are alone in the house with the man-servant."

"You need have no fear for monsieur le baron: I shall sleep in the next
room, as arranged, and leave the door open."

The nun went away. A minute later, Charles, the man-servant, came in for
his orders. The baron had woke up. He replied himself:

"Just the same as usual, Charles. Try the electric bell, to see if it
rings in your bedroom properly, and, if you hear it during the night,
run down at once and go straight to the doctor."

"Are you still anxious, general?"

"I don't feel well.... I don't feel at all well. Come, Mlle. Antoinette,
where were we in your book?"

"Aren't you going to bed, monsieur le baron?"

"No, no, I don't care to go to bed till very late; besides, I can do
without help."

Twenty minutes later, the old man dozed off again and Antoinette moved
away on tip-toe.

At that moment, Charles was carefully closing the shutters on the ground
floor, as usual. In the kitchen, he pushed the bolt of the door that led
to the garden and, in the front hall, he not only locked the double
door, but put up the chain fastening the two leaves. Then he went up to
his attic on the third floor, got into bed and fell asleep.

Perhaps an hour had elapsed when, suddenly, he jumped out of bed: the
bell was ringing. It went on for quite a long time, seven or eight
seconds, perhaps, and in a steady, uninterrupted way.

"That's all right," said Charles, recovering his wits. "Some fresh whim
of the baron's, I suppose."

He huddled on his clothes, ran down the stairs, stopped before the door
and, from habit, knocked. No answer. He entered the room:

"Hullo!" he muttered. "No light.... What on earth have they put the
light out for?" And he called, in a whisper, "Mademoiselle!..."

No reply.

"Are you there, mademoiselle?... What's the matter? Is monsieur le baron
ill?"

The same silence continued around him, a heavy silence that ended by
impressing him. He took two steps forward: his foot knocked against a
chair and, on touching it, he perceived that it was overturned. And
thereupon his hand came upon other objects on the floor: a small table,
a fire-screen. Greatly alarmed, he went back to the wall and felt for
the electric switch. He found it and turned on the light.

In the middle of the room, between the table and the looking-glass
wardrobe, lay the body of his master, the Baron d'Hautrec.

"What!" he stammered. "Is it possible?"

He did not know what to do and, without moving, with his eyes starting
from his head, he stood gazing at the general disorder of the room: the
chairs upset, a great crystal candlestick smashed into a thousand
pieces, the clock lying on the marble hearth-stone, all signs of a
fierce and hideous struggle. The handle of a little steel dagger gleamed
near the body. The blade was dripping with blood. A handkerchief stained
with red marks hung down from the mattress.

Charles gave a yell of horror: the body had suddenly stretched itself in
one last effort and then shrunk up again.... Two or three convulsions;
and that was all.

He stooped forward. Blood was trickling from a tiny wound in the neck
and spotting the carpet with dark stains. The face still wore an
expression of mad terror.

"They've killed him," he stammered, "they've killed him!"

And he shuddered at the thought of another probable crime: was not the
companion sleeping in the next room? And would not the baron's murderer
have killed her too?

He pushed open the door: the room was empty. He concluded that either
Antoinette had been carried off or that she had gone before the crime.

He returned to the baron's room and, his eyes falling upon the
writing-desk, he observed that it had not been broken open. More
remarkable still, he saw a handful of louis d'or on the table, beside
the bunch of keys and the pocketbook which the baron placed there every
evening. Charles took up the pocketbook and went through it. One of the
compartments contained bank-notes. He counted them: there were thirteen
notes of a hundred francs each.

Then the temptation became too strong for him: instinctively,
mechanically, while his thoughts did not even take part in the movement
of his hand, he took the thirteen notes, hid them in his jacket, rushed
down the stairs, drew the bolt, unhooked the chain, closed the door
after him and fled through the garden.

* * * * *

Charles was an honest man at heart. He had no sooner pushed back the
gate than, under the influence of the fresh air, with his face cooled by
the rain, he stopped. The deed of which he had been guilty appeared to
him in its true light and struck him with sudden horror.

A cab passed. He hailed the driver:

"Hi, mate! Go to the police-station and bring back the commissary....
Gallop! There's murder been done!"

The driver whipped up his horse. But, when Charles tried to go in again,
he could not: he had closed the gate himself and the gate could not be
opened from the outside.

On the other hand, it was of no use ringing, for there was no one in the
house. He therefore walked up and down along the gardens which, at the
La Muette end, line the avenue with a pleasant border of trim green
shrubs. And it was not until he had waited for nearly an hour that he
was at last able to tell the commissary the details of the crime and
hand him the thirteen bank-notes.

During this time, a locksmith was sent for who, with great difficulty,
succeeded in forcing the gate of the garden and the front door. The
commissary went upstairs and, at once, at the first glance, said to the
servant:

"Why, you told me that the room was in the greatest disorder!"

He turned round. Charles seemed pinned to the threshold, hypnotized: all
the furniture had resumed its usual place! The little table was standing
between the two windows, the chairs were on their legs and the clock in
the middle of the mantel-piece. The shivers of the smashed candlestick
had disappeared.

Gaping with stupor, he articulated:

"The body.... Monsieur le baron...."

"Yes," cried the commissary, "where is the victim?"

He walked up to the bed. Under a large sheet, which he drew aside, lay
General the Baron d'Hautrec, late French Ambassador in Berlin. His body
was covered with his general's cloak, decorated with the cross of the
Legion of Honour. The face was calm. The eyes were closed.

The servant stammered:

"Someone must have come."

"Which way?"

"I can't say, but someone has been here during my absence.... Look,
there was a very thin steel dagger there, on the floor.... And then, on
the table, a blood-stained handkerchief.... That's all gone.... They've
taken everything away.... They've arranged everything...."

"But who?"

"The murderer!"

"We found all the doors closed."

"He must have remained in the house."

"Then he would be here still, as you never left the pavement."

The man reflected and said, slowly:

"That's so ... that's so ... and I did not go far from the gate
either.... Still ..."

"Let us see, who was the last person you saw with the baron?"

"Mlle. Antoinette, the companion."

"What has become of her?"

"I should say that, as her bed was not even touched, she must have taken
advantage of Soeur Auguste's absence to go out also. It would only
half surprise me if she had: she is young ... and pretty...."

"But how could she have got out?"

"Through the door."

"You pushed the bolt and fastened the chain!"

"A good deal later! By that time, she must have left the house."

"And the crime was committed, you think, after she went?"

"Of course."

They searched the house from top to bottom, from the garrets to the
cellars; but the murderer had fled. How? When? Was it he or an
accomplice who had thought proper to return to the scene of the crime
and do away with anything that might have betrayed him? Those were the
questions that suggested themselves to the police.

* * * * *

The divisional surgeon came upon the scene at seven o'clock, the head of
the detective-service at eight. Next came the turn of the public
prosecutor and the examining magistrate. In addition, the house was
filled with policemen, inspectors, journalists, Baron d'Hautrec's nephew
and other members of the family.

They rummaged about, they studied the position of the body, according to
Charles's recollection, they questioned Soeur Auguste the moment she
arrived. They discovered nothing. At most, Soeur Auguste was surprised
at the disappearance of Antoinette Bréhat. She had engaged the girl
twelve days before, on the strength of excellent references, and refused
to believe that she could have abandoned the sick man confided to her
care, to go running about at night alone.

"All the more so," the examining magistrate insisted, "as, in that case,
she would have been in before now. We therefore come back to the same
point: what has become of her?"

"If you ask me," said Charles, "she has been carried off by the
murderer."

The suggestion was plausible enough and fitted in with certain details.
The head of the detective service said:

"Carried off? Upon my word, it's quite likely."

"It's not only unlikely," said a voice, "but absolutely opposed to the
facts, to the results of the investigation, in short, to the evidence
itself."

The voice was harsh, the accent gruff and no one was surprised to
recognize Ganimard. He alone, besides, would be forgiven that rather
free and easy way of expressing himself.

"Hullo, is that you, Ganimard?" cried M. Dudouis. "I hadn't seen you."

"I have been here for two hours."

"So you do take an interest in something besides number 514, series 23,
the Rue Clapeyron mystery, the blonde lady and Arsène Lupin?"

"Hee, hee!" grinned the old inspector. "I won't go so far as to declare
that Lupin has nothing to do with the case we're engaged on.... But let
us dismiss the story of the lottery-ticket from our minds, until
further orders, and look into this matter."

* * * * *

Ganimard is not one of those mighty detectives whose proceedings form a
school, as it were, and whose names will always remain inscribed on the
judicial annals of Europe. He lacks the flashes of genius that illumine
a Dupin, a Lecoq or a Holmlock Shears. But he possesses first-rate
average qualities: perspicacity, sagacity, perseverance and even a
certain amount of intuition. His greatest merit lies in the fact that he
is absolutely independent of outside influences. Short of a kind of
fascination which Arsène Lupin wields over him, he works without
allowing himself to be biased or disturbed.

At any rate, the part which he played that morning did not lack
brilliancy and his assistance was of the sort which a magistrate is able
to appreciate.

"To start with," he began, "I will ask Charles here to be very definite
on one point: were all the objects which, on the first occasion, he saw
upset or disturbed put back, on the second, exactly in their usual
places?"

"Exactly."

"It is obvious, therefore, that they can only have been put back by a
person to whom the place of each of those objects was familiar."

The remark impressed the bystanders. Ganimard resumed:

"Another question, Mr. Charles.... You were woke by a ring.... Who was
it, according to you, that called you?"

"Monsieur le baron, of course."

"Very well. But at what moment do you take it that he rang?"

"After the struggle ... at the moment of dying."

"Impossible, because you found him lying, lifeless, at a spot more than
four yards removed from the bell-push."

"Then he rang during the struggle."

"Impossible, because the bell, you told us, rang steadily, without
interruption, and went on for seven or eight seconds. Do you think that
his assailant would have given him time to ring like that?"

"Then it was before, at the moment when he was attacked."

"Impossible. You told us that, between the ring of the bell and the
instant when you entered the room, three minutes elapsed, at most. If,
therefore, the baron had rung before, it would be necessary for the
struggle, the murder, the dying agony and the flight to have taken place
within that short space of three minutes. I repeat, it is impossible."

"And yet," said the examining magistrate, "some one rang. If it was not
the baron, who was it?"

"The murderer."

"With what object?"

"I can't tell his object. But at least the fact that he rang proves that
he must have known that the bell communicated with a servant's bedroom.
Now who could have known this detail except a person belonging to the
house?"

The circle of suppositions was becoming narrower. In a few quick, clear,
logical sentences, Ganimard placed the question in its true light; and,
as the old inspector allowed his thoughts to appear quite plainly, it
seemed only natural that the examining magistrate should conclude:

"In short, in two words, you suspect Antoinette Bréhat."

"I don't suspect her; I accuse her."

"You accuse her of being the accomplice?"

"I accuse her of killing General Baron d'Hautrec."

"Come, come! And what proof...?"

"This handful of hair, which I found in the victim's right hand, dug
into his flesh by the points of his nails."

He showed the hair; it was hair of a brilliant fairness, gleaming like
so many threads of gold; and Charles muttered:

"That is certainly Mlle. Antoinette's hair. There is no mistaking it."
And he added, "Besides ... there's something more.... I believe the
knife ... the one I didn't see the second time ... belonged to her....
She used it to cut the pages of the books."

The silence that followed was long and painful, as though the crime
increased in horror through having been committed by a woman. The
examining magistrate argued:

"Let us admit, until further information is obtained, that the baron was
murdered by Antoinette Bréhat. We should still have to explain what way
she can have taken to go out after committing the crime, to return after
Charles's departure and to go out again before the arrival of the
commissary. Have you any opinion on this subject, M. Ganimard?"

"No."

"Then...?"

Ganimard wore an air of embarrassment. At last, he spoke, not without a
visible effort:

"All that I can say is that I find in this the same way of setting to
work as in the ticket 514-23 case, the same phenomenon which one might
call the faculty of disappearance. Antoinette Bréhat appears and
disappears in this house as mysteriously as Arsène Lupin made his way
into Maître Detinan's and escaped from there in the company of the
blonde lady."

"Which means...?"

"Which means that I cannot help thinking of these two coincidences,
which, to say the least, are very odd: first, Antoinette Bréhat was
engaged by Soeur Auguste twelve days ago, that is to say, on the day
after that on which the blonde lady slipped through my fingers. In the
second place, the hair of the blonde lady has precisely the same violent
colouring, the metallic brilliancy with a golden sheen, which we find in
this."

"So that, according to you, Antoinette Bréhat ..."

"Is none other than the blonde lady."

"And Lupin, consequently, plotted both cases?"

"I think so."

There was a loud burst of laughter. It was the chief of the
detective-service indulging his merriment:

"Lupin! Always Lupin! Lupin is in everything; Lupin is everywhere!"

"He is just where he is," said Ganimard, angrily.

"And then he must have his reasons for being in any particular place,"
remarked M. Dudouis, "and, in this case, his reasons seem to me obscure.
The writing-desk has not been broken open nor the pocketbook stolen.
There is even gold left lying on the table."

"Yes," cried Ganimard, "but what about the famous diamond?"

"What diamond?"

"The blue diamond! The celebrated diamond which formed part of the royal
crown of France and which was presented by the Duc d'Alais to Léonide
Latouche and, on her death, was bought by Baron d'Hautrec in memory of
the brilliant actress whom he had passionately loved. This is one of
those recollections which an old Parisian like myself never forgets."

"It is obvious," said the examining magistrate, "that, if the blue
diamond is not found, the thing explains itself. But where are we to
look?"

"On monsieur le baron's finger," replied Charles. "The blue diamond was
never off his left hand."

"I have looked at that hand," declared Ganimard, going up to the corpse,
"and, as you can see for yourselves, there is only a plain gold ring."

"Look inside the palm," said the servant.

Ganimard unfolded the clenched fingers. The bezel was turned inward and,
contained within the bezel, glittered the blue diamond.

"The devil!" muttered Ganimard, absolutely nonplussed. "This is beyond
me!"

"And I hope that you will now give up suspecting that unfortunate Arsène
Lupin?" said M. Dudouis, with a grin.

Ganimard took his time, reflected and retorted, in a sententious tone:

"It is just when a thing gets beyond me that I suspect Arsène Lupin
most."

These were the first discoveries effected by the police on the day
following upon that strange murder, vague, inconsistent discoveries to
which the subsequent inquiry imparted neither consistency nor certainty.
The movements of Antoinette Bréhat remained as absolutely inexplicable
as those of the blonde lady, nor was any light thrown upon the identity
of that mysterious creature with the golden hair who had killed Baron
d'Hautrec without taking from his finger the fabulous diamond from the
royal crown of France.

Moreover and especially, the curiosity which it inspired raised the
murder above the level of a sordid crime to that of a mighty, if heinous
trespass, the mystery of which irritated the public mind.

* * * * *

Baron d'Hautrec's heirs were obliged to benefit by this great
advertisement. They arranged an exhibition of the furniture and personal
effects in the Avenue Henri-Martin, in the house itself, on the scene of
the crime, prior to the sale at the Salle Drouot. The furniture was
modern and in indifferent taste, the knicknacks had no artistic value
... but, in the middle of the bedroom, on a stand covered with ruby
velvet, the ring with the blue diamond sparkled under a glass shade,
closely watched by two detectives.

It was a magnificent diamond of enormous size and incomparable purity
and of that undefined blue which clear water takes from the sky which it
reflects, the blue which we can just suspect in newly-washed linen.
People admired it, went into raptures over it ... and cast terrified
glances round the victim's room, at the spot where the corpse had lain,
at the floor stripped of its blood-stained carpet and especially at the
walls, those solid walls through which the criminal had passed. They
felt to make sure that the marble chimney-piece did not swing on a
pivot, that there was no secret spring in the mouldings of the mirrors.
They pictured yawning cavities, tunnels communicating with the sewers,
with the catacombs....

* * * * *

The blue diamond was sold at the Hôtel Drouot on the thirtieth of
January. The auction-room was crammed and the bidding proceeded madly.

All Paris, the Paris of the first nights and great public functions, was
there, all those who buy and all those who like others to think that
they are in a position to buy: stockbrokers, artists, ladies in every
class of society, two members of the Government, an Italian tenor, a
king in exile who, in order to reëstablish his credit, with great
self-possession and in a resounding voice, permitted himself the luxury
of running up the price to a hundred thousand francs. A hundred thousand
francs! His Majesty was quite safe in making the bid. The Italian tenor
was soon offering a hundred and fifty thousand, an actress at the
Français a hundred and seventy-five.

At two hundred thousand francs, however, the competition became less
brisk. At two hundred and fifty thousand, only two bidders remained:
Herschmann, the financial magnate, known as the Gold-mine King; and a
wealthy American lady, the Comtesse de Crozon, whose collection of
diamonds and other precious stones enjoys a world-wide fame.

"Two hundred and sixty thousand ... two hundred and seventy thousand ...
seventy-five ... eighty," said the auctioneer, with a questioning glance
at either competitor in turn. "Two hundred and eighty thousand for
madame.... No advance on two hundred and eighty thousand...?"

"Three hundred thousand," muttered Herschmann.

A pause followed. All eyes were turned on the Comtesse de Crozon.
Smiling, but with a pallor that betrayed her excitement, she stood
leaning over the back of the chair before her. In reality, she knew and
everybody present knew that there was no doubt about the finish of the
duel: it was logically and fatally bound to end in favour of the
financier, whose whims were served by a fortune of over five hundred
millions. Nevertheless, she said:

"Three hundred and five thousand."

There was a further pause. Every glance was now turned on the Gold-mine
King, in expectation of the inevitable advance. It was sure to come, in
all its brutal and crushing strength.

It did not come. Herschmann remained impassive, with his eyes fixed on a
sheet of paper which he held in his right hand, while the other crumpled
up the pieces of a torn envelope.

"Three hundred and five thousand," repeated the auctioneer. "Going ...
going.... No further bid...?"

No one spoke.

"Once more: going ... going...."

Herschmann did not move. A last pause. The hammer fell.

"Four hundred thousand!" shouted Herschmann, starting up, as though the
tap of the hammer had roused him from his torpor.

Too late. The diamond was sold.

Herschmann's acquaintances crowded round him. What had happened? Why had
he not spoken sooner?

He gave a laugh:

"What happened? Upon my word, I don't know. My thoughts wandered for a
second."

"You don't mean that!"

"Yes, some one brought me a letter."

"And was that enough...?"

"To put me off? Yes, for the moment."

Ganimard was there. He had watched the sale of the ring. He went up to
one of the porters:

"Did you hand M. Herschmann a letter?"

"Yes."

"Who gave it you?"

"A lady."

"Where is she?"

"Where is she?... Why, sir, there she is ... the lady over there, in a
thick veil."

"Just going out?"

"Yes."

Ganimard rushed to the door and saw the lady going down the staircase.
He ran after her. A stream of people stopped him at the entrance. When


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