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"No."

"Holmlock Shears was to have crossed the Channel this afternoon; he
arrived in Paris at six."

"The devil he did! And why?"

"He's taking a little trip at the expense of the Crozons, Hautrec's
nephew and the Gerbois fellow. They all met at the Gare du Nord and went
on to see Ganimard. The six of them are in conference at this moment."

Notwithstanding the immense curiosity with which he inspires me, I never
venture to question Arsène Lupin as to the acts of his private life
until he has spoken of them to me himself. It is a matter of discretion
on my part, with which I never compound. Besides, at that time, his name
had not yet been mentioned, at least not publicly, in connection with
the blue diamond. I waited patiently, therefore. He continued:

"The _Temps_ also prints an interview with that excellent Ganimard,
according to which a certain blonde lady, said to be my friend, is
supposed to have murdered Baron d'Hautrec and tried to steal his famous
ring from Madame de Crozon. And it goes without saying that he accuses
me of being the instigator of both these crimes."

A slight shiver passed through me. Could it be true? Was I to believe
that the habit of theft, his mode of life, the sheer logic of events had
driven this man to murder? I looked at him. He seemed so calm! His eyes
met mine so frankly!

I examined his hands: they were modelled with infinite daintiness, were
really inoffensive hands, the hands of an artist.

"Ganimard is a lunatic," I muttered.

He protested:

"Not a bit of it, not a bit of it! Ganimard is shrewd enough ...
sometimes he's even quick-witted."

"Quick-witted!"

"Yes, yes. For instance, this interview is a masterstroke. First, he
announces the coming of his English rival, so as to put me on my guard
and make Shears's task more difficult. Secondly, he specifies the exact
point to which he has carried the case, so that Shears may enjoy only
the benefit of his own discoveries. That's fair fighting."

"Still you have two adversaries to deal with now; and such
adversaries!"

"Oh, one of them doesn't count."

"And the other?"

"Shears? Oh, I admit that he's more of a match for me; but that's just
what I love and why you see me in such good spirits. To begin with,
there's the question of my vanity: they consider that I'm worth asking
the famous Englishman to meet. Next, think of the pleasure which a
fighter like myself must take in the prospect of a duel with Holmlock
Shears. Well, I shall have to exert myself to the utmost. For I know the
fellow: he won't retreat a step."

"He's a clever man."

"A very clever man. As a detective, I doubt if his equal exists, or has
ever existed. Only, I have one advantage over him, which is that he's
attacking, while I'm on the defensive. Mine is the easier game to play.
Besides ..." He gave an imperceptible smile before completing his
phrase. "Besides, I know his way of fighting, and he does not know mine.
And I have a few sly thrusts in store for him which will give him
something to think about...."

He tapped the table lightly with his fingers and flung out little
sentences with a delighted air:

"Arsène Lupin versus Holmlock Shears! France versus England.... Revenge
for Trafalgar at last!... Ah, the poor wretch ... he little thinks that
I am prepared ... and a Lupin armed...."

He stopped suddenly, seized with a fit of coughing, and hid his face in
his napkin, as though something had gone down the wrong way.

"What is it?" I asked. "A crumb?... Why don't you take some water?"

"No, it's not that," he gasped.

"What, then?"

"I want air."

"Shall I open the window?"

"No, I shall go out.... Quick, give me my hat and coat.... I'm off!"

"But what does it all mean?"

"You see the taller of those two men who have just come in? Well, I want
you to keep on my left as we go out, to prevent his seeing me."

"The one sitting behind you?..."

"Yes.... For personal reasons, I prefer.... I'll tell you why
outside...."

"But who is it?"

"Holmlock Shears."

He made a violent effort to overcome his agitation, as though he felt
ashamed of it, put down his napkin, drank a glass of water and then,
quite recovered, said, with a smile:

"It's funny, isn't it? I'm not easily excited but this unexpected
meeting...."

"What are you afraid of, seeing that no one can recognize you under all
your transformations? I myself, each time I see you, feel as if I were
with a new person."

"_He_ will recognize me," said Arsène Lupin. "_He_ saw me only once,[1]
but I felt that he saw me for life and that what he saw was not my
appearance, which I can always alter, but the very being that I am....
And then ... and then ... I wasn't prepared.... What a curious
meeting!... In this little restaurant!..."

"Well," said I, "shall we go?"

"No ... no...."

"What do you propose to do?"

"The best thing will be to act frankly ... to trust him."

"You can't be serious?"

"Oh, but I am.... Besides, it would be a good thing to question him, to
know what he knows.... Ah, there, I feel that his eyes are fixed on my
neck, on my shoulders.... He's trying to think ... to remember...."

He reflected. I noticed a mischievous smile on his lips; and then,
obeying, I believe, some whim of his frivolous nature rather than the
needs of the position itself, he rose abruptly, spun round on his heels
and, with a bow, said, gaily:

"What a stroke of luck! Who would have thought it?... Allow me to
introduce my friend."

For a second or two, the Englishman was taken aback. Then he made an
instinctive movement, as though he were ready to fling himself upon
Arsène Lupin. Lupin shook his head:

"That would be a mistake ... to say nothing of the bad taste of it ...
and the uselessness!"

The Englishman turned his head from side to side, as though looking for
assistance.

"That's no better.... And also, are you quite sure that you are entitled
to lay hands upon me? Come, be a sportsman!"

The display of sportsmanlike qualities was not particularly tempting on
this occasion. Nevertheless, it probably appeared to Shears to be the
wisest course; for he half rose and coldly introduced his companion:

"Mr. Wilson, my friend and assistant ... M. Arsène Lupin."

Wilson's stupefaction made us all laugh. His eyes and mouth, both wide
open, drew two streaks across his expansive face, with its skin gleaming
and tight-stretched like an apple's, while his bristly hair stood up
like so many thick-set, hardy blades of grass.

"Wilson, you don't seem able to conceal your bewilderment at one of the
most natural incidents in the world," grinned Holmlock Shears, with a
touch of sarcasm in his voice.

Wilson stammered:

"Why ... why don't you arrest him?"

"Don't you see, Wilson, that the gentleman is standing between the door
and myself and at two steps from the door. Before I moved a finger, he
would be outside."

"Don't let that stand in your way," said Lupin.

He walked round the table and sat down so that the Englishman was
between him and the door, thus placing himself at his mercy. Wilson
looked at Shears to see if he might admire this piece of pluck. Shears
remained impenetrable. But, after a moment, he called.

"Waiter!"

The waiter came up.

"Four whiskeys and sodas."

Peace was signed ... until further orders. Soon after, seated all four
round one table, we were quietly chatting.

* * * * *

Footnote

[1] See _The Seven of Hearts_, by Maurice Leblanc. Chapter IX:
_Holmlock Shears Arrives Too Late_.

* * * * *

Holmlock Shears is a man ... of the sort one meets every day. He is
about fifty years of age and looks like a decent City clerk who has
spent his life keeping books at a desk. He has nothing to distinguish
him from the ordinary respectable Londoner, with his clean-shaven face
and his somewhat heavy appearance, nothing except his terribly keen,
bright, penetrating eyes.

And then, of course, he is Holmlock Shears, that is to say, a sort of
miracle of intuition, of insight, of perspicacity, of shrewdness. It is
as though nature had amused herself by taking the two most extraordinary
types of detective that fiction had invented, Poe's Dupin and Gaboriau's
Lecoq, in order to build up one in her own fashion, more extraordinary
yet and more unreal. And, upon my word, any one hearing of the
adventures which have made the name of Holmlock Shears famous all over
the world must feel inclined to ask if he is not a legendary person, a
hero who has stepped straight from the brain of some great novel-writer,
of a Conan Doyle, for instance.

He at once, when Arsène Lupin asked him how long he meant to stay, led
the conversation into its right channel and replied:

"That depends upon yourself, M. Lupin."

"Oh," exclaimed the other, laughing, "if it depended on me, I should ask
you to take to-night's boat back."

"To-night is rather early. But I hope in a week or ten days...."

"Are you in such a hurry?"

"I am very busy. There's the robbery at the Anglo-Chinese Bank; and Lady
Eccleston has been kidnapped, as you know.... Tell me, M. Lupin, do you
think a week will do?"

"Amply, if you confine yourself to the two cases connected with the blue
diamond. It will just give me time to take my precautions, supposing the
solution of those two mysteries to give you certain advantages over me
that might endanger my safety."

"Yes," said the Englishman, "I expect to have gained those advantages in
a week or ten days."

"And to have me arrested on the eleventh?"

"On the tenth, at the very latest."

Lupin reflected and, shaking his head:

"It will be difficult ... it will be difficult...."

"Difficult, yes, but possible and, therefore, certain...."

"Absolutely certain," said Wilson, as though he himself had clearly
perceived the long series of operations which would lead his friend to
the result announced.

Holmlock Shears smiled:

"Wilson, who knows what he is talking about, is there to confirm what I
say." And he went on, "Of course, I have not all the cards in my hands,
because the case is already a good many months old. I have not the
factors, the clues upon which I am accustomed to base my inquiries."

"Such as mud-stains and cigarette-ashes," said Wilson, with an air of
importance.

"But, in addition to the remarkable conclusions arrived at by
M. Ganimard, I have at my service all the articles written on the
subject, all the evidence collected and, consequently, a few ideas
of my own regarding the mystery."

"A few views suggested to us either by analysis or hypothesis," added
Wilson, sententiously.

"Would it be indiscreet," said Arsène Lupin, in the deferential tone
which he adopted toward Shears, "would it be indiscreet to ask what
general opinion you have been able to form?"

It was really most stimulating to see those two men seated together,
with their elbows on the table, arguing solemnly and dispassionately, as
though they were trying to solve a steep problem or to come to an
agreement on some controversial point. And this was coupled with a very
delicate irony, which both of them, as experts and artists, thoroughly
enjoyed. As for Wilson, he was in the seventh heaven.

Shears slowly filled his pipe, lit it and said:

"I consider that this case is infinitely less complicated than it
appears at first sight."

"Very much less," echoed Wilson, faithfully.

"I say the case, for, in my opinion, there is but one case. The death of
Baron d'Hautrec, the story of the ring and - don't let us forget
that - the mystery of number 514, series 23, are only the different
aspects of what we may call the puzzle of the blonde lady. Now, in my
opinion, what lies before me is simply to discover the link which
connects these three phases of the same story, the particular fact which
proves the uniformity of the three methods. Ganimard, who is a little
superficial in his judgments, sees this uniformity in the faculty of
disappearing, in the power of coming and going unseen. This
intervention of miracles does not satisfy me."

"Well?"

"Well, according to me," said Shears, decidedly, "the characteristic
shared by the three incidents lies in your manifest and evident,
although hitherto unperceived intention to have the affair performed on
a stage which you have previously selected. This points to something
more than a plan on your part: a necessity rather, a _sine quâ non_ of
success."

"Could you give a few particulars?"

"Easily. For instance, from the commencement of your contest with
M. Gerbois, it was _evident_ that Maître Detinan's flat was the place
selected by you, the inevitable place at which you were all to meet. No
place seemed quite as safe to you, so much so that you made what one
might almost call a public appointment there with the blonde lady and
Mlle. Gerbois."

"The daughter of the professor," explained Wilson.

"Let us now speak of the blue diamond. Did you try to get hold of it
during all the years that Baron d'Hautrec had it in his possession? No.
But the baron moves into his brother's house: six months later,
Antoinette Bréhat appears upon the scene and the first attempt is
made.... You fail to secure the diamond and the sale takes place, amid
great excitement, at the Hôtel Drouot. Is the sale free? Is the richest
bidder sure of getting the diamond? Not at all. At the moment when
Herschmann is about to become the owner, a lady has a threatening letter
thrust into his hand and the diamond goes to the Comtesse de Crozon, who
has been worked upon and influenced by the same lady. Does it vanish at
once? No: you lack the facilities. So an interval ensues. But the
countess moves to her country-house. This is what you were waiting for.
The ring disappears."

"To reappear in the tooth-powder of Bleichen, the consul," objected
Lupin. "How odd!"

"Come, come!" said Shears, striking the table with his fist. "Tell that
to the marines. You can take in fools with that, but not an old fox like
me."

"What do you mean?"

Shears took his time, as though he wished to save up his effect. Then he
said:

"The blue diamond found in the tooth-powder is an imitation diamond. The
real one you kept."

Arsène Lupin was silent for a moment and then, with his eyes fixed on
the Englishman, said very simply:

"You're a great man, sir."

"Isn't he?" said Wilson, emphatically and gaping with admiration.

"Yes," said Lupin, "everything becomes cleared up and appears in its
true sense. Not one of the examining magistrates, not one of the special
reporters who have been exciting themselves about these cases has come
half as near the truth. I look upon you as a marvel of insight and
logic."

"Pooh!" said the Englishman, flattered at the compliment paid him by so
great an expert. "It only needed a little thought."

"It needed to know how to use one's thought; and there are so few who do
know. But, now that the field of surmise has been narrowed and the
ground swept clear...."

"Well, now, all that I have to do is to discover why the three cases
were enacted at 25, Rue Clapeyron, at 134, Avenue Henri-Martin and
within the walls of the Château de Crozon. The whole case lies there.
The rest is mere talk and child's play. Don't you agree?"

"I agree."

"In that case, M. Lupin, am I not right in saying that I shall have
finished my business in ten days?"

"In ten days, yes, the whole truth will be known."

"And you will be arrested."

"No."

"No?"

"For me to be arrested there would have to be a conjunction of such
unlikely circumstances, a series of such stupefying pieces of ill-luck,
that I cannot admit the possibility."

"What neither circumstances nor luck may be able to effect, M. Lupin,
can be brought about by one man's will and persistence."

"If the will and persistence of another man do not oppose an invincible
obstacle to that plan, Mr. Shears."

"There is no such thing as an invincible obstacle, M. Lupin."

The two exchanged a penetrating glance, free from provocation on either
side, but calm and fearless. It was the clash of two swords about to
open the combat. It sounded clear and frank.

"Joy!" cried Lupin. "Here's a man at last! An adversary is a _rara avis_
at any time; and this one is Holmlock Shears! We shall have some
sport."

"You're not afraid?" asked Wilson.

"Very nearly, Mr. Wilson," said Lupin, rising, "and the proof is that I
am going to hurry to make good my retreat ... else I might risk being
caught napping. Ten days, we said, Mr. Shears?"

"Ten days. This is Sunday. It will all be over by Wednesday week."

"And I shall be under lock and key?"

"Without the slightest doubt."

"By Jove! And I was congratulating myself on my quiet life! No bothers,
a good, steady little business, the police sent to the right about and a
comforting sense of the general sympathy that surrounds me.... We shall
have to change all this! It is the reverse of the medal.... After
sunshine comes rain.... This is no time for laughing! Good-bye."

"Look sharp!" said Wilson, full of solicitude on behalf of a person whom
Shears inspired with such obvious respect. "Don't lose a minute."

"Not a minute, Mr. Wilson, except to tell you how pleased I have been to
meet you and how I envy the leader who has an assistant so valuable as
yourself."

Courteous bows were exchanged, as between two adversaries on the
fencing-ground who bear each other no hatred, but who are constrained
by fate to fight to the death. And Lupin took my arm and dragged me
outside:

"What do you say to that, old fellow? There's a dinner that will be
worth describing in your memoirs of me!"

He closed the door of the restaurant and, stopping a little way off:

"Do you smoke?"

"No, but no more do you, surely."

"No more do I."

He lit a cigarette with a wax match which he waved several times to put
it out. But he at once flung away the cigarette, ran across the road and
joined two men who had emerged from the shadow, as though summoned by a
signal. He talked to them for a few minutes on the opposite pavement and
then returned to me:

"I beg your pardon; but I shall have my work cut out with that
confounded Shears. I swear, however, that he has not done with Lupin
yet.... By Jupiter, I'll show the fellow the stuff I'm made of!... Good
night.... The unspeakable Wilson is right: I have not a minute to lose."

He walked rapidly away.

Thus ended that strange evening, or, at least that part of it with which
I had to do. For many other incidents occurred during the hours that
followed, events which the confidences of the others who were present at
that dinner have fortunately enabled me to reconstruct in detail.

* * * * *

At the very moment when Lupin left me, Holmlock Shears took out his
watch and rose in his turn:

"Twenty to nine. At nine o'clock, I am to meet the count and countess at
the railway station."

"Let's go!" cried Wilson, tossing off two glasses of whiskey in
succession.

They went out.

"Wilson, don't turn your head.... We may be followed: if so, let us act
as though we don't care whether we are or not.... Tell me, Wilson,
what's your opinion: why was Lupin in that restaurant?"

Wilson, without hesitation, replied:

"To get some dinner."

"Wilson, the longer we work together, the more clearly I perceive the
constant progress you are making. Upon my word, you're becoming
amazing."

Wilson blushed with satisfaction in the dark; and Shears resumed:

"Yes, he went to get some dinner and then, most likely, to make sure if
I am really going to Crozon, as Ganimard says I am, in his interview. I
shall leave, therefore, so as not to disappoint him. But, as it is a
question of gaining time upon him, I shall not leave."

"Ah!" said Wilson, nonplussed.

"I want you, old chap, to go down this street. Take a cab, take two
cabs, three cabs. Come back later to fetch the bags which we left in the
cloak room and then drive as fast as you can to the Élysée-Palace."

"And what am I to do at the Élysée-Palace?"

"Ask for a room, go to bed, sleep the sleep of the just and await my
instructions."

* * * * *

Wilson, proud of the important task allotted to him, went off. Holmlock
Shears took his ticket at the railway station and entered the Amiens
express, in which the Comte and Comtesse de Crozon had already taken
their seats.

He merely bowed to them, lit a second pipe and smoked it placidly,
standing, in the corridor.

The train started. Ten minutes later, he came and sat down beside the
countess and asked:

"Have you the ring on you, madame?"

"Yes."

"Please let me look at it."

He took it and examined it:

"As I thought: it is a faked diamond."

"Faked?"

"Yes, by a new process which consists in subjecting diamond-dust to
enormous heat until it melts ... whereupon it is simply reformed into a
single diamond."

"Why, but my diamond is real!"

"Yes, yours; but this is not yours."

"Where is mine, then?"

"In the hands of Arsène Lupin."

"And this one?"

"This one was put in its place and slipped into Herr Bleichen's
tooth-powder flask, where you found it."

"Then it's an imitation?"

"Absolutely."

Nonplussed and overwhelmed, the countess said nothing more, while her
husband, refusing to believe the statement, turned the jewel over and
over in his fingers. She finished by stammering out:

"But it's impossible! Why didn't they just simply take it? And how did
they get it?"

"That's just what I mean to try to discover."

"At Crozon?"

"No, I shall get out at Creil and return to Paris. That's where the
game between Arsène Lupin and myself must be played out. The tricks will
count the same, wherever we make them; but it is better that Lupin
should think that I am out of town."

"Still ..."

"What difference can it make to you, madame? The main object is your
diamond, is it not?"

"Yes."

"Well, set your mind at rest. Only a little while ago, I gave an
undertaking which will be much more difficult to keep. On the word of
Holmlock Shears, you shall have the real diamond back."

The train slowed down. He put the imitation diamond in his pocket and
opened the carriage-door. The count cried:

"Take care; that's the wrong side!"

"Lupin will lose my tracks this way, if he's having me shadowed.
Good-bye."

A porter protested. The Englishman made for the station-master's office.
Fifty minutes later, he jumped into a train which brought him back to
Paris a little before midnight.

He ran across the station into the refreshment room, went out by the
other door and sprang into a cab:

"Drive to the Rue Clapeyron."

After making sure that he was not being followed, he stopped the cab at
the commencement of the street and began to make a careful examination
of the house in which Maître Detinan lived and of the two adjoining
houses. He paced off certain distances and noted the measurements in his
memorandum book:

"Now drive to the Avenue Henri-Martin."

He dismissed his cab at the corner of the avenue and the Rue de la
Pompe, walked along the pavement to No. 134 and went through the same
performance in front of the house which Baron d'Hautrec had occupied and
the two houses by which it was hemmed in on either side, measuring the
width of their respective frontages and calculating the depth of the
little gardens in front of the houses.

The avenue was deserted and very dark under its four rows of trees, amid
which an occasional gas-jet seemed to struggle vainly against the
thickness of the gloom. One of these lamps threw a pale light upon a
part of the house and Shears saw the notice "To Let" hanging on the
railings, saw the two neglected walks that encircled the miniature lawn
and the great empty windows of the uninhabited house.

"That's true," he thought. "There has been no tenant since the baron's
death.... Ah, if I could just get in and make a preliminary visit!"

The idea no sooner passed through his mind than he wanted to put it into
execution. But how to manage? The height of the gate made it impossible
for him to climb it. He took an electric lantern from his pocket, as
well as a skeleton key which he always carried. To his great surprise,
he found that one of the doors of the gate was standing ajar. He,
therefore, slipped into the garden, taking care not to close the gate
behind him. He had not gone three steps, when he stopped. A glimmer of
light had passed along one of the windows on the second floor.

And the glimmer passed along a second window and a third, while he was


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