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he came outside, he had lost sight of her.

He went back to the room, spoke to Herschmann, introduced himself and
asked him about the letter. Herschmann gave it to him. It contained the
following simple words, scribbled in pencil and in a handwriting
unknown to the financier:

"The blue diamond brings ill-luck. Remember Baron d'Hautrec."

* * * * *

The tribulations of the blue diamond were not over. Already famous
through the murder of Baron d'Hautrec and the incidents at the Hôtel
Drouot, it attained the height of its celebrity six months later. In the
summer, the precious jewel which the Comtesse de Crozon had been at such
pains to acquire was stolen.

Let me sum up this curious case, marked by so many stirring, dramatic
and exciting episodes, upon which I am at last permitted to throw some
light.

On the evening of the tenth of August, M. and Madame de Crozon's guests
were gathered in the drawing-room of the magnificent château overlooking
the Bay of Somme. There was a request for some music. The countess sat
down to the piano, took off her rings, which included Baron d'Hautrec's,
and laid them on a little table that stood beside the piano.

An hour later, the count went to bed, as did his two cousins, the
d'Andelles, and Madame de Réal, an intimate friend of the Comtesse de
Crozon, who remained behind with Herr Bleichen, the Austrian consul, and
his wife.

They sat and talked and then the countess turned down the big lamp which
stood on the drawing-room table. At the same moment, Herr Bleichen put
out the two lamps on the piano. There was a second's darkness and
groping; then the consul lit a candle and they all three went to their
rooms. But, the instant the countess reached hers, she remembered her
jewels and told her maid to go and fetch them. The woman returned and
placed them on the mantel-piece. Madame de Crozon did not examine them;
but, the next morning, she noticed that one of the rings was missing,
the ring with the blue diamond.

She told her husband. Both immediately came to the same conclusion: the
maid being above suspicion, the thief could be none but Herr Bleichen.

The count informed the central commissary of police at Amiens, who
opened an inquiry and arranged discreetly for the house to be constantly
watched, so as to prevent the Austrian consul from selling or sending
away the ring. The château was surrounded by detectives night and day.

A fortnight elapsed without the least incident. Then Herr Bleichen
announced his intention of leaving. On the same day, a formal accusation
was laid against him. The commissary made an official visit and ordered
the luggage to be examined. In a small bag of which the consul always
carried the key, they found a flask containing tooth-powder; and, inside
the flask, the ring!

Mrs. Bleichen fainted. Her husband was arrested.

My readers will remember the defense set up by the accused. He was
unable, he said, to explain the presence of the ring, unless it was
there as the result of an act of revenge on the part of M. de Crozon:

"The count ill-treats his wife," he declared, "and makes her life a
misery. I had a long conversation with her and warmly urged her to sue
for a divorce. The count must have heard of this and revenged himself by
taking the ring and slipping it into my dressing-bag when I was about to
leave."

The count and countess persisted in their charge. It was an even choice
between their explanation and the consul's: both were equally probable.
No new fact came to weigh down either scale. A month of gossip, of
guess-work and investigations, failed to produce a single element of
certainty.

Annoyed by all this worry and unable to bring forward a definite proof
of guilt to justify their accusation, M. and Madame de Crozon wrote to
Paris for a detective capable of unravelling the threads of the skein.
The police sent Ganimard.

For four days the old inspector rummaged and hunted about, strolled in
the park, had long talks with the maids, the chauffeur, the gardeners,
the people of the nearest post-offices, and examined the rooms occupied
by the Bleichen couple, the d'Andelle cousins and Madame de Réal. Then,
one morning, he disappeared without taking leave of his hosts.

But, a week later, they received this telegram:

"Please meet me five o'clock to-morrow, Friday afternoon at Thé
Japonais, Rue Boissy-d'Anglas.

"GANIMARD."

* * * * *

At five o'clock to the minute, on the Friday, their motor-car drew up in
front of 9, Rue Boissy-d'Anglas. The old inspector was waiting for them
on the pavement and, without a word of explanation, led them up to the
first-floor of the Thé Japonais.

In one of the rooms they found two persons, whom Ganimard introduced to
them.

"M. Gerbois, professor at Versailles College, whom, you will remember,
Arsène Lupin robbed of half a million.... M. Léonce d'Hautrec, nephew
and residuary legatee of the late Baron d'Hautrec."

The four sat down. A few minutes later, a fifth arrived. It was the
chief of the detective-service.

M. Dudouis appeared to be in a rather bad temper. He bowed and said:

"Well, what is it, Ganimard? They gave me your telephone message at
headquarters. Is it serious?"

"Very serious, chief. In less than an hour, the last adventures in which
I have assisted will come to an issue here. I considered that your
presence was indispensable."

"And does this apply also to the presence of Dieuzy and Folenfant, whom
I see below, hanging round the door?"

"Yes, chief."

"And what for? Is somebody to be arrested? What a melodramatic display!
Well, Ganimard, say what you have to say."

Ganimard hesitated for a few moments and then, with the evident
intention of impressing his hearers, said:

"First of all, I wish to state that Herr Bleichen had nothing to do with
the theft of the ring."

"Oh," said M. Dudouis, "that's a mere statement ... and a serious one!"

And the count asked:

"Is this ... discovery the only thing that has come of your exertions?"

"No, sir. Two days after the theft, three of your guests happened to be
at Crécy, in the course of a motor-trip. Two of them went on to visit
the famous battlefield, while the third hurried to the post-office and
sent off a little parcel, packed up and sealed according to the
regulations and insured to the value of one hundred francs."

M. de Crozon objected:

"There is nothing out of the way in that."

"Perhaps you will think it less natural when I tell you that, instead of
the real name, the sender gave the name of Rousseau and that the
addressee, a M. Beloux, residing in Paris, changed his lodgings on the
very evening of the day on which he received the parcel, that is to say,
the ring."

"Was it one of my d'Andelle cousins, by any chance?" asked the count.

"No, it was neither of those gentlemen."

"Then it was Mme. de Réal?"

"Yes."

The countess, in amazement, exclaimed:

"Do you accuse my friend Mme. de Réal?"

"A simple question, madame," replied Ganimard. "Was Mme. de Réal present
at the sale of the blue diamond?"

"Yes, but in a different part of the room. We were not together."

"Did she advise you to buy the ring?"

The countess collected her memory:

"Yes ... as a matter of fact ... I think she was the first to mention it
to me."

"I note your answer, madame," said Ganimard. "So it is quite certain
that it was Mme. de Réal who first spoke to you of the ring and advised
you to buy it."

"Still ... my friend is incapable...."

"I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon, Mme. de Réal is only your chance
acquaintance and not an intimate friend, as the newspapers stated, thus
diverting suspicion from her. You have only known her since last winter.
Now I can undertake to prove to you that all that she has told you about
herself, her past, her connections is absolutely false; that Mme.
Blanche de Réal did not exist before she met you; and that she has
ceased to exist at this present moment."

"Well?" said M. Dudouis, "what next?"

"What next?" echoed Ganimard.

"Yes, what next?... This is all very interesting; but what has it to do
with the case? If Mme. de Réal took the ring, why was it found in Herr
Bleichen's tooth-powder? Come, Ganimard! A person who takes the trouble
to steal the blue diamond keeps it. What have you to answer to that?"

"I, nothing. But Mme. de Réal will answer."

"Then she exists?"

"She exists ... without existing. In a few words, here it is: three days
ago, reading the paper which I read every day, I saw at the head of the
list of arrivals at Trouville, 'Hôtel Beaurivage, Mme. de Réal,' and so
on.... You can imagine that I was at Trouville that same evening,
questioning the manager of the Beaurivage. According to the description
and certain clues which I gathered, this Mme. de Réal was indeed the
person whom I was looking for, but she had gone from the hotel, leaving
her address in Paris, 3, Rue du Colisée. On Wednesday, I called at that
address and learnt that there was no Madame de Réal, but just a woman
called Réal, who lived on the second floor, followed the occupation of a
diamond-broker and was often away. Only the day before, she had come
back from a journey. Yesterday, I rang at her door and, under a false
name, offered my services to Mme. de Réal as an intermediary to
introduce her to people who were in a position to buy valuable stones.
We made an appointment to meet here to-day for a first transaction."

"Oh, so you expect her?"

"At half-past five."

"And are you sure?..."

"That it is Mme. de Réal of the Château de Crozon? I have indisputable
proofs. But ... hark!... Folenfant's signal!..."

A whistle had sounded. Ganimard rose briskly:

"We have not a moment to lose. M. and Madame de Crozon, go into the next
room, please. You too, M. d'Hautrec ... and you also, M. Gerbois.... The
door will remain open and, at the first sign, I will ask you to
intervene. Do you stay, chief, please."

"And, if anyone else comes in?" asked M. Dudouis.

"No one will. This is a new establishment and the proprietor, who is a
friend of mine, will not let a living soul come up the stairs ... except
the blonde lady."

"The blonde lady? What do you mean?"

"The blonde lady herself, chief, the friend and accomplice of Arsène
Lupin, the mysterious blonde lady, against whom I have positive proofs,
but against whom I want, over and above those and in your presence, to
collect the evidence of all the people whom she has robbed."

He leant out of the window:

"She is coming.... She has gone in.... She can't escape now: Folenfant
and Dieuzy are guarding the door.... The blonde lady is ours, chief;
we've got her!"

* * * * *

Almost at that moment, a woman appeared upon the threshold, a tall, thin
woman, with a very pale face and violent golden hair.

Ganimard was stifled by such emotion that he stood dumb, incapable of
articulating the least word. She was there, in front of him, at his
disposal! What a victory over Arsène Lupin! And what a revenge! And, at
the same time, that victory seemed to him to have been won with such
ease that he wondered whether the blonde lady was not going to slip
through his fingers, thanks to one of those miracles which Lupin was in
the habit of performing.

She stood waiting, meanwhile, surprised at the silence, and looked
around her without disguising her uneasiness.

"She will go! She will disappear!" thought Ganimard, in dismay.

Suddenly, he placed himself between her and the door. She turned and
tried to go out.

"No, no," he said. "Why go?"

"But, monsieur, I don't understand your ways. Let me pass...."

"There is no reason for you to go, madame, and every reason, on the
contrary, why you should stay."

"But ..."

"It's no use, you are not going."

Turning very pale, she sank into a chair and stammered:

"What do you want?"

Ganimard triumphed. He had got the blonde lady. Mastering himself, he
said:

"Let me introduce the friend of whom I spoke to you, the one who would
like to buy some jewels ... especially diamonds. Did you obtain the one
you promised me?"

"No ... no.... I don't know.... I forget...."

"Oh, yes.... Just try.... Someone you knew was to bring you a coloured
diamond.... 'Something like the blue diamond,' I said, laughing, and you
answered, 'Exactly. I may have what you want.' Do you remember?"

She was silent. A little wristbag which she was holding in her hand fell
to the ground. She picked it up quickly and pressed it to her. Her
fingers trembled a little.

"Come," said Ganimard. "I see that you do not trust us, Madame de Réal.
I will set you a good example and let you see what I have got to show."

He took a piece of paper from his pocketbook and unfolded it:

"Here, first of all, is some of the hair of Antoinette Bréhat, torn out
by the baron and found clutched in the dead man's hand. I have seen
Mlle. de Gerbois: she has most positively recognized the colour of the
hair of the blonde lady ... the same colour as yours, for that matter
... exactly the same colour."

Mme. de Réal watched him with a stupid expression, as though she really
did not grasp the sense of his words. He continued:

"And now here are two bottles of scent. They are empty, it is true, and
have no labels; but enough of the scent still clings to them to have
enabled Mlle. Gerbois, this very morning, to recognize the perfume of
the blonde lady who accompanied her on her fortnight's excursion. Now,
one of these bottles comes from the room which Mme. de Réal occupied at
the Château de Crozon and the other from the room which you occupied at
the Hôtel Beaurivage."

"What are you talking about?... The blonde lady ... the Château de
Crozon...."

The inspector, without replying, spread four sheets of paper on the
table.

"Lastly," he said, "here, on these four sheets, we have a specimen of
the handwriting of Antoinette Bréhat, another of the lady who sent a
note to Baron Herschmann during the sale of the blue diamond, another of
Mme. de Réal, at the time of her stay at Crozon, and the fourth ... your
own, madame ... your name and address given by yourself to the
hall-porter of the Hôtel Beaurivage at Trouville. Now, please compare
these four handwritings. They are one and the same."

"But you are mad, sir, you are mad! What does all this mean?"

"It means, madame," cried Ganimard, with a great outburst, "that the
blonde lady, the friend and accomplice of Arsène Lupin, is none other
than yourself."

He pushed open the door of the next room, rushed at M. Gerbois, shoved
him along by the shoulders and, planting him in front of Mme. Réal:

"M. Gerbois, do you recognize the person who took away your daughter and
whom you saw at Maître Detinan's?"

"No."

There was a commotion of which every one felt the shock. Ganimard
staggered back:

"No?... Is it possible?... Come, just think...."

"I have thought.... Madame is fair, like the blonde lady ... and pale,
like her ... but she doesn't resemble her in the least."

"I can't believe it ... a mistake like that is inconceivable....
M. d'Hautrec, do you recognize Antoinette Bréhat?"

"I have seen Antoinette Bréhat at my uncle's ... this is not she."

"And madame is not Mme. de Réal, either," declared the Comte de Crozon.

This was the finishing stroke. It stunned Ganimard, who stood
motionless, with hanging head and shifting eyes. Of all his
contrivances, nothing remained. The whole edifice was tumbling about his
shoulders.

M. Dudouis rose:

"I must beg you to forgive us, madame. There has been a regrettable
confusion of identities, which I will ask you to forget. But what I
cannot well understand is your agitation ... the strangeness of your
manner since you arrived...."

"Why, monsieur, I was frightened ... there is over a hundred thousand
francs' worth of jewels in my bag ... and your friend's attitude was not
very reassuring."

"But your continual absences?..."

"Surely my occupation demands them?"

M. Dudouis had no reply to make. He turned to his subordinate:

"You have made your inquiries with a deplorable want of thoroughness,
Ganimard, and your behaviour toward madame just now was uncouth. You
shall give me an explanation in my office."

The interview was over and the chief of the detective service was about
to take his leave, when a really disconcerting thing happened. Mme. Réal
went up to the inspector and said:

"Do I understand your name to be M. Ganimard?... Did I catch the name
right?"

"Yes."

"In that case, this letter must be for you. I received it this morning,
addressed as you see: 'M. Justin Ganimard, care of Mme. Réal.' I thought
it was a joke, as I did not know you under that name, but I have no
doubt the writer, whoever he is, knew of your appointment."

By a singular intuition, Justin Ganimard was very nearly seizing the
letter and destroying it. He dared not do so, however, before his
superior and he tore open the envelope. The letter contained the
following words, which he uttered in a hardly intelligible voice:

"There was once a Blonde Lady, a Lupin and a Ganimard. Now the
naughty Ganimard wanted to harm the pretty Blonde Lady and the
good Lupin did not wish it. So the good Lupin, who was anxious
for the Blonde Lady to become friends with the Comtesse de
Crozon, made her take the name of Mme. de Réal, which is the
same - or nearly - as that of an honest tradeswoman whose hair is
golden and her features pale. And the good Lupin said to
himself, 'If ever the naughty Ganimard is on the track of the
Blonde Lady, how useful it will be for me to shunt him on to the
track of the honest tradeswoman!' A wise precaution, which has
borne fruit. A little note sent to the naughty Ganimard's
newspaper, a bottle of scent forgotten on purpose at the Hôtel
Beaurivage by the real Blonde Lady, Mme. Réal's name and address
written by the real Blonde Lady in the visitors' book at the
hotel, and the trick is done. What do you say to it, Ganimard? I
wanted to tell you the story in detail, knowing that, with your
sense of humour, you would be the first to laugh at it. It is,
indeed, a pretty story and I confess that, for my part, it has
diverted me vastly.

"My best thanks to you, then, my dear friend, and kind regards
to that capital M. Dudouis.

"ARSÈNE LUPIN."

"But he knows everything!" moaned Ganimard, who did not think of
laughing. "He knows things that I have not told to a soul! How could he
know that I would ask you to come, chief? How could he know that I had
discovered the first scent-bottle?... How could he know?..."

He stamped about, tore his hair, a prey to the most tragic distress.

M. Dudouis took pity on him:

"Come, Ganimard, console yourself. We must try to do better next time."

And the chief detective went away, accompanied by Mme. Réal.

* * * * *

Ten minutes elapsed, while Ganimard read Lupin's letter over and over
again and M. and Mme. de Crozon, M. d'Hautrec and M. Gerbois sustained
an animated conversation in a corner. At last, the count crossed over to
the inspector and said:

"The upshot of all this, my dear sir, is that we are no further than we
were."

"Pardon me. My inquiry has established the fact that the blonde lady is
the undoubted heroine of these adventures and that Lupin is directing
her. That is a huge step forward."

"And not the smallest use to us. If anything, it makes the mystery
darker still. The blonde lady commits murder to steal the blue diamond
and does not steal it. She steals it and does so to get rid of it for
another's benefit."

"What can I do?"

"Nothing, but some one else might...."

"What do you mean?"

The count hesitated, but the countess said, point blank:

"There is one man, one man only, in my opinion, besides yourself, who
would be capable of fighting Lupin and reducing him to cry for mercy.
M. Ganimard, would you very much mind if we called in the assistance
of Holmlock Shears?"

He was taken aback:

"No ... no ... only ... I don't exactly understand...."

"Well, it's like this: all this mystery is making me quite ill. I want
to know where I am. M. Gerbois and M. d'Hautrec have the same wish and
we have come to an agreement to apply to the famous English detective."

"You are right, madame," said the inspector, with a loyalty that did him
credit; "you are right. Old Ganimard is not clever enough to fight
against Arsène Lupin. The question is, will Holmlock Shears be more
successful? I hope so, for I have the greatest admiration for him....
Still ... it's hardly likely...."

"It's hardly likely that he will succeed?"

"That's what I think. I consider that a duel between Holmlock Shears and
Arsène Lupin can only end in one way. The Englishman will be beaten."

"In any case, can he rely on you?"

"Certainly, madame. I will assist him to the very best of my power."

"Do you know his address?"

"Yes; 219, Parker Street."

* * * * *

That evening, the Comte and Comtesse de Crozon withdrew the charge
against Herr Bleichen and a collective letter was addressed to Holmlock
Shears.




CHAPTER III

HOLMLOCK SHEARS OPENS HOSTILITIES


"What can I get you, gentlemen?"

"Anything you please," replied Arsène Lupin, in the voice of a man who
takes no interest in his food. "Anything you please, but no meat or
wine."

The waiter walked away, with a scornful air.

I exclaimed:

"Do you mean to say that you are still a vegetarian?"

"Yes, more than ever," said Lupin.

"From taste? Conviction? Habit?"

"For reasons of health."

"And do you never break your rule?"

"Oh, yes ... when I go out to dinner, so as not to appear eccentric."

We were dining near the Gare du Nord, inside a little restaurant where
Arsène Lupin had invited me to join him. He is rather fond of
telegraphing to me, occasionally, in the morning and arranging a meeting
of this kind in some corner or other of Paris. He always arrives in the
highest spirits, rejoicing in life, unaffectedly and good-humouredly,
and always has some surprising anecdote to tell me, some memory, the
story of some adventure that I have not heard before.

That evening, he seemed to me to let himself go even more than usual. He
laughed and chatted with a singular animation and with that delicate
irony which is all his own, an irony devoid of bitterness, light and
spontaneous. It was a pleasure to see him like that, and I could not
help expressing my satisfaction.

"Oh, yes," he cried, "I have days when everything seems delightful, when
life bubbles in me like an infinite treasure which I can never exhaust.
And yet goodness knows that I live without counting!"

"Too much so, perhaps."

"The treasure is infinite, I tell you! I can spend myself and squander
myself, I can fling my strength and my youth to the four winds of heaven
and I am only making room for greater and more youthful strength.... And
then, really, my life is so beautiful!... I need only have the
wish - isn't it so? - to become, from one day to the next, anything: an
orator, a great manufacturer, a politician.... Well, I swear to you, the
idea would never enter my head! Arsène Lupin I am, Arsène Lupin I
remain. And I search history in vain for a destiny to compare with mine,
fuller, more intense.... Napoleon? Yes, perhaps.... But then it is
Napoleon at the end of his imperial career, during the campaign in
France, when Europe was crushing him and when he was wondering whether
each battle was not the last which he would fight."

Was he serious? Was he jesting? The tone of his voice had grown more
eager and he continued:

"Everything's there, you see: danger! The uninterrupted impression of
danger! Oh, to breathe it like the air one breathes, to feel it around
one, blowing, roaring, lying in wait, approaching!... And, in the midst
of the storm, to remain calm ... not to flinch!... If you do, you are
lost.... There is only one sensation to equal it, that of the chauffeur
driving his car. But that drive lasts for a morning, whereas mine lasts
all through life!"

"How lyrical we are!" I cried. "And you would have me believe that you
have no special reason for excitement!"

He smiled.

"You're a shrewd enough psychologist," he replied. "There is something
more, as you say."

He poured out a tumbler of water, drank it down and asked:

"Have you seen the _Temps_ to-day?"


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