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able to see nothing but a shadow outlined against the walls of the
rooms. And the glimmer descended from the second floor to the first and,
for a long time, wandered from room to room.

"Who on earth can be walking about, at one in the morning, in the house
where Baron d'Hautrec was murdered?" thought Shears, feeling immensely
interested.

There was only one way of finding out, which was to enter the house
himself. He did not hesitate. But the man must have seen him as he
crossed the belt of light cast by the gas-jet and made his way to the
steps, for the glimmer suddenly went out and Shears did not see it
again.

He softly tried the door at the top of the steps. It was open also.
Hearing no sound, he ventured to penetrate the darkness, felt for the
knob of the baluster, found it and went up one floor. The same silence,
the same darkness continued to reign.

On reaching the landing, he entered one of the rooms and went to the
window, which showed white in the dim light of the night outside.
Through the window, he caught sight of the man, who had doubtless gone
down by another staircase and out by another door and was now slipping
along the shrubs, on the left, that lined the wall separating the two
gardens:

"Dash it!" exclaimed Shears. "He'll escape me!"

He rushed downstairs and leapt into the garden, with a view to cutting
off the man's retreat. At first, he saw no one; and it was some seconds
before he distinguished, among the confused heap of shrubs, a darker
form which was not quite stationary.

The Englishman paused to reflect. Why had the fellow not tried to run
away when he could easily have done so? Was he staying there to spy, in
his turn, upon the intruder who had disturbed him in his mysterious
errand?

"In any case," thought Shears, "it is not Lupin. Lupin would be
cleverer. It must be one of his gang."

Long minutes passed. Shears stood motionless, with his eyes fixed upon
the adversary who was watching him. But, as the adversary was motionless
too and as the Englishman was not the man to hang about doing nothing,
he felt to see if the cylinder of his revolver worked, loosened his
dagger in its sheath and walked straight up to the enemy, with the cool
daring and the contempt of danger which make him so formidable.

A sharp sound: the man was cocking his revolver. Shears rushed into the
shrubbery. The other had no time to turn: the Englishman was upon him.
There was a violent and desperate struggle, amid which Shears was aware
that the man was making every effort to draw his knife. But Shears,
stimulated by the thought of his coming victory and by the fierce
longing to lay hold at once of this accomplice of Arsène Lupin's, felt
an irresistible strength welling up within himself. He threw his
adversary, bore upon him with all his weight and, holding him down with
his five fingers clutching at his throat like so many claws, he felt for
his electric lantern with the hand that was free, pressed the button and
threw the light upon his prisoner's face:

"Wilson!" he shouted, in terror.

"Holmlock Shears!" gasped a hollow, stifled voice.

* * * * *

They remained long staring at each other, without exchanging a word,
dumbfounded, stupefied. The air was torn by the horn of a motor-car. A
breath of wind rustled through the leaves. And Shears did not stir, his
fingers still fixed in Wilson's throat, which continued to emit an ever
fainter rattle.

And, suddenly, Shears, overcome with rage, let go his friend, but only
to seize him by the shoulders and shake him frantically:

"What are you doing here? Answer me!... What are you here for?... Who
told you to hide in the shrubbery and watch me?"

"Watch you?" groaned Wilson. "But I didn't know it was you."

"Then what? Why are you here? I told you to go to bed."

"I did go to bed."

"I told you to go to sleep."

"I did."

"You had no business to wake up."

"Your letter...."

"What letter?"

"The letter from you which a commissionaire brought me at the hotel."

"A letter from me? You're mad!"

"I assure you."

"Where is the letter?"

Wilson produced a sheet of note-paper and, by the light of his lantern,
Shears read, in amazement:

"Get up at once, Wilson, and go to the Avenue Henri-Martin as
fast as you can. The house is empty. Go in, inspect it, make out
an exact plan and go back to bed.

"HOLMLOCK SHEARS."

"I was busy measuring the rooms," said Wilson, "when I saw a shadow in
the garden. I had only one idea...."

"To catch the shadow.... The idea was excellent.... Only, look here,
Wilson," said Shears, helping his friend up and leading him away, "next
time you get a letter from me, make sure first that it's not a forgery."

"Then the letter was not from you?" asked Wilson, who began to have a
glimmering of the truth.

"No, worse luck!"

"Who wrote it, then?"

"Arsène Lupin."

"But with what object?"

"I don't know, and that's just what bothers me. Why the deuce should he
take the trouble to disturb your night's rest? If it were myself, I
could understand, but you.... I can't see what interest...."

"I am anxious to get back to the hotel."

"So am I, Wilson."

They reached the gate. Wilson, who was in front, took hold of one of the
bars and pulled it:

"Hullo!" he said. "Did you shut it?"

"Certainly not: I left the gate ajar."

"But ..."

Shears pulled in his turn and then frantically flung himself upon the
lock. An oath escaped him:

"Damn it all! It's locked!... The gate's locked!"

He shook the gate with all his might, but, soon realizing the
hopelessness of his exertions, let his arms fall to his sides in
discouragement and jerked out:

"I understand the whole thing now: it's his doing! He foresaw that I
should get out at Creil and he laid a pretty little trap for me, in case
I should come to start my inquiry to-night. In addition, he had the
kindness to send you to keep me company in my captivity. All this to
make me lose a day and also, no doubt, to show me that I would do much
better to mind my own business...."

"That is to say that we are his prisoners."

"You speak like a book. Holmlock Shears and Wilson are the prisoners of
Arsène Lupin. The adventure is beginning splendidly.... But no, no, I
refuse to believe...."

A hand touched his shoulder. It was Wilson's hand.

"Look," he said. "Up there ... a light...."

It was true: there was a light visible through one of the windows on the
first floor.

They both raced up, each by his own staircase, and reached the door of
the lighted room at the same time. A candle-end was burning in the
middle of the floor. Beside it stood a basket, from which protruded the
neck of a bottle, the legs of a chicken and half a loaf of bread.

Shears roared with laughter:

"Splendid! He gives us our supper. It's an enchanted palace, a regular
fairy-land! Come, Wilson, throw off that dismal face. This is all very
amusing."

"Are you sure it's very amusing?" moaned Wilson, dolefully.

"Sure?" cried Shears, with a gaiety that was too boisterous to be quite
natural. "Of course I'm sure! I never saw anything more amusing in my
life. It's first-rate farce.... What a master of chaff this Arsène Lupin
is!... He tricks you, but he does it so gracefully!... I wouldn't give
my seat at this banquet for all the gold in the world.... Wilson, old
chap, you disappoint me. Can I have been mistaken in you? Are you really
deficient in that nobility of character which makes a man bear up under
misfortune? What have you to complain of? At this moment, you might be
lying with my dagger in your throat ... or I with yours in mine ... for
that was what you were trying for, you faithless friend!"

He succeeded, by dint of humour and sarcasm, in cheering up the wretched
Wilson and forcing him to swallow a leg of the chicken and a glass of
wine. But, when the candle had gone out and they had to stretch
themselves on the floor to sleep, with the wall for a pillow, the
painful and ridiculous side of the situation became apparent to them.
And their slumbers were sad.

In the morning, Wilson woke aching in every bone and shivering with
cold. A slight sound caught his ear: Holmlock Shears, on his knees, bent
in two, was examining grains of dust through his lens and inspecting
certain hardly perceptible chalk-marks, which formed figures which he
put down in his note-book.

Escorted by Wilson, who seemed to take a particular interest in this
work, he studied each room and found similar chalk-marks in two of the
others. He also observed two circles on some oak panels, an arrow on a
wainscoting and four figures on four steps of the staircase.

After an hour spent in this way, Wilson asked:

"The figures are correct, are they not?"

"I don't know if they're correct," replied Shears, whose good temper had
been restored by these discoveries, "but, at any rate, they mean
something."

"Something very obvious," said Wilson. "They represent the number of
planks in the floor."

"Oh!"

"Yes. As for the two circles, they indicate that the panels sound
hollow, as you can see by trying, and the arrow points to show the
direction of the dinner-lift."

Holmlock Shears looked at him in admiration:

"Why, my dear chap, how do you know all this? Your perspicacity almost
makes me ashamed of myself."

"Oh, it's very simple," said Wilson, bursting with delight. "I made
those marks myself last night, in consequence of your instructions ...
or rather Lupin's instructions, as the letter I received from you came
from him."

I have little doubt that, at that moment, Wilson was in greater danger
than during his struggle with Shears in the shrubbery. Shears felt a
fierce longing to wring his neck. Mastering himself with an effort, he
gave a grin that pretended to be a smile and said:

"Well done, well done, that's an excellent piece of work; most useful.
Have your wonderful powers of analysis and observation been exercised in
any other direction? I may as well make use of the results obtained."

"No; that's all I did."

"What a pity! The start was so promising! Well, as things are, there is
nothing left for us to do but go."

"Go? But how?"

"The way respectable people usually go: through the gate."

"It's locked."

"We must get it opened."

"Whom by?"

"Would you mind calling those two policemen walking down the avenue?"

"But ..."

"But what?"

"It's very humiliating.... What will people say, when they learn that
you, Holmlock Shears, and I, Wilson, have been locked up by Arsène
Lupin?"

"It can't be helped, my dear fellow; they will laugh like anything,"
replied Shears, angrily, with a frowning face. "But we can't go on
living here forever, can we?"

"And you don't propose to try anything?"

"Not I!"

"Still, the man who brought the basket of provisions did not cross the
garden either in coming or going. There must, therefore, be another
outlet. Let us look for it, instead of troubling the police."

"Ably argued. Only you forget that the whole police of Paris have been
hunting for this outlet for the past six months and that I myself, while
you were asleep, examined the house from top to bottom. Ah, my dear
Wilson, Arsène Lupin is a sort of game we are not accustomed to hunt: he
leaves nothing behind him, you see...."

* * * * *

Holmlock Shears and Wilson were let out at eleven o'clock and ... taken
to the nearest police-station, where the commissary, after
cross-questioning them severely, released them with the most
exasperating pretences of courtesy:

"Gentlemen, I am grieved beyond measure at your mishap. You will have a
poor opinion of our French hospitality. Lord, what a night you must have
spent! Upon my word, Lupin might have shown you more consideration!"

They took a cab to the Élysée-Palace. Wilson went to the office and
asked for the key of his room.

The clerk looked through the visitors' book and replied, in great
surprise:

"But you gave up your room this morning, sir!"

"What do you mean? How did I give up my room?"

"You sent us a letter by your friend."

"What friend?"

"Why, the gentleman who brought us your letter.... Here it is, with your
card enclosed."

Wilson took the letter and the enclosure. It was certainly one of his
visiting-cards and the letter was in his writing:

"Good Lord!" he muttered. "Here's another nasty trick." And he added,
anxiously, "What about the luggage?"

"Why, your friend took it with him."

"Oh!.... So you gave it to him?"

"Certainly, on the authority of your card."

"Just so ... just so...."

They both went out and wandered down the Champs-Élysèes, slowly and
silently. A fine autumn sun filled the avenue. The air was mild and
light.

At the Rond-Point, Shears lit his pipe and resumed his walk. Wilson
cried:

"I can't understand you, Shears; you take it so calmly! The man laughs
at you, plays with you as a cat plays with a mouse ... and you don't
utter a word!"

Shears stopped and said:

"I'm thinking of your visiting-card, Wilson."

"Well?"

"Well, here is a man, who, by way of preparing for a possible struggle
with us, obtains specimens of your handwriting and mine and has one of
your cards ready in his pocketbook. Have you thought of the amount of
precaution, of perspicacity, of determination, of method, of
organization that all this represents?"

"You mean to say ..."

"I mean to say, Wilson, that, to fight an enemy so formidably armed, so
wonderfully equipped - and to beat him - takes ... a man like myself. And,
even then, Wilson," he added, laughing, "one does not succeed at the
first attempt, as you see!"

* * * * *

At six o'clock, the _Écho de France_ published the following paragraph
in its special edition:

"This morning, M. Thénard, the commissary of police of the 16th
division, released Messrs. Holmlock Shears and Wilson, who had
been confined, by order of Arsène Lupin, in the late Baron
d'Hautrec's house, where they spent an excellent night.

"They were also relieved of their luggage and have laid an
information against Arsène Lupin.

"Arsène Lupin has been satisfied with giving them a little
lesson this time; but he earnestly begs them not to compel him
to adopt more serious measures."

"Pooh!" said Holmlock Shears, crumpling up the paper. "Schoolboy tricks!
That's the only fault I have to find with Lupin ... he's too childish,
too fond of playing to the gallery.... He's a street arab at heart!"

"So you continue to take it calmly, Shears?"

"Quite calmly," replied Shears, in a voice shaking with rage. "What's
the use of being angry? _I am so certain of having the last word!_"




CHAPTER IV

A GLIMMER IN THE DARKNESS


However impervious to outside influences a man's character may be - and
Shears is one of those men upon whom ill-luck takes hardly any
hold - there are yet circumstances in which the most undaunted feel the
need to collect their forces before again facing the chances of a
battle.

"I shall take a holiday to-day," said Shears.

"And I?"

"You, Wilson, must go and buy clothes and shirts and things to replenish
our wardrobe. During that time, I shall rest."

"Yes, rest, Shears. I shall watch."

Wilson uttered those three words with all the importance of a sentry
placed on outpost duty and therefore exposed to the worst dangers. He
threw out his chest and stiffened his muscles. With a sharp eye, he
glanced round the little hotel bedroom where they had taken up their
quarters.

"That's right, Wilson: watch. I shall employ the interval in preparing a
plan of campaign better suited to the adversary whom we have to deal
with. You see, Wilson, we were wrong about Lupin. We must start again
from the beginning."

"Even earlier, if we can. But have we time?"

"Nine days, old chap: five days more than we want."

* * * * *

The Englishman spent the whole afternoon smoking and dozing. He did not
begin operations until the following morning:

"I'm ready now, Wilson. We can go ahead."

"Let's go ahead," cried Wilson, full of martial ardour. "My legs are
twitching to start."

Shears had three long interviews: first, with Maître Detinan, whose flat
he inspected through and through; next, with Suzanne Gerbois, to whom he
telegraphed to come and whom he questioned about the blonde lady; lastly
with Soeur Auguste, who had returned to the Visitation Convent after
the murder of Baron d'Hautrec.

At each visit, Wilson waited outside and, after each visit, asked:

"Satisfied?"

"Quite."

"I was sure of it. We're on the right track now. Let's go ahead."

They did a great deal of going. They called at the two mansions on
either side of the house in the Avenue Henri-Martin. From there they
went on to the Rue Clapeyron and, while he was examining the front of
No. 25, Shears continued:

"It is quite obvious that there are secret passages between all these
houses.... But what I cannot make out...."

For the first time and in his inmost heart, Wilson doubted the
omnipotence of his talented chief. Why was he talking so much and doing
so little?

"Why?" cried Shears, replying to Wilson's unspoken thoughts. "Because,
with that confounded Lupin, one has nothing to go upon; one works at
random. Instead of deriving the truth from exact facts, one has to get
at it by intuition and verify it afterward to see if it fits in."

"But the secret passages...?"

"What then? Even if I knew them, if I knew the one which admitted Lupin
to his lawyer's study or the one taken by the blonde lady after the
murder of Baron d'Hautrec, how much further should I be? Would that give
me a weapon to go for him with?"

"Let's go for him, in any case," said Wilson.

He had not finished speaking, when he jumped back with a cry. Something
had fallen at their feet: a bag half-filled with sand, which might have
hurt them seriously.

Shears looked up: some men were working in a cradle hooked on to the
balcony of the fifth floor.

"Upon my word," he said, "we've had a lucky escape! The clumsy beggars!
Another yard and we should have caught that bag on our heads. One would
really think...."

He stopped, darted into the house, rushed up the staircase, rang the
bell on the fifth landing, burst into the flat, to the great alarm of
the footman who opened the door, and went out on the balcony. There was
no one there.

"Where are the workmen who were here a moment ago?" he asked the
footman.

"They have just gone."

"Which way?"

"Why, down the servants' staircase."

Shears leant over. He saw two men leaving the house, leading their
bicycles. They mounted and rode away.

"Have they been working on this cradle long?"

"No, only since this morning. They were new men."

Shears joined Wilson down below.

They went home in a depressed mood; and this second day ended in silent
gloom.

* * * * *

They followed a similar programme on the following day. They sat down on
a bench in the Avenue Henri-Martin. Wilson, who was thoroughly bored by
this interminable wait opposite the three houses, felt driven to
desperation:

"What do you expect, Shears? To see Lupin come out?"

"No."

"Or the blonde lady?"

"No."

"What, then?"

"I expect some little thing to happen, some little tiny thing which I
can use as a starting-point."

"And, if nothing happens?"

"In that case, something will happen inside myself: a spark that will
set us going."

The only incident that broke the monotony of the morning was a rather
disagreeable one. A gentleman was coming down the riding-path that
separates the two roadways of the avenue, when his horse swerved, struck
the bench on which they were sitting and backed against Shears's
shoulder.

"Tut, tut!" snarled Shears. "A shade more and I should have had my
shoulder smashed."

The rider was struggling with his horse. The Englishman drew his
revolver and took aim. But Wilson seized his arm smartly:

"You're mad, Holmlock! Why ... look here ... you'll kill that
gentleman!"

"Let go, Wilson ... do let go!"

A wrestle ensued, during which the horseman got his mount under control
and galloped away.

"Now you can fire!" exclaimed Wilson, triumphantly, when the man was at
some distance.

"But, you confounded fool, don't you understand that that was a
confederate of Arsène Lupin's?"

Shears was trembling with rage. Wilson stammered, piteously:

"What do you mean? That gentleman...?"

"Was a confederate of Lupin's, like the workmen who flung that bag at
our heads."

"It's not credible!"

"Credible or not, there was a means handy of obtaining a proof."

"By killing that gentleman?"

"By simply bringing down his horse. But for you, I should have got one
of Lupin's pals. Do you see now what a fool you've been?"

The afternoon was passed in a very sullen fashion. Shears and Wilson did
not exchange a word. At five o'clock, as they were pacing up and down
the Rue Clapeyron, taking care, however, to keep away from the houses,
three young workingmen came along the pavement singing, arm-in-arm,
knocked up against them and tried to continue their road without
separating. Shears, who was in a bad temper, pushed them back. There was
a short scuffle. Shears put up his fists, struck one of the men in the
chest and gave another a blow in the face, whereupon the men desisted
and walked away with the third.

"Ah," cried Shears, "I feel all the better for that!... My nerves were a
bit strained.... Good business!..."

But he saw Wilson leaning against the wall:

"Hullo, old chap," he said, "what's up? You look quite pale."

Old chap pointed to his arm, which was hanging lifeless by his side, and
stammered:

"I don't know ... my arm's hurting me...."

"Your arm?... Badly?"

"Yes ... rather ... it's my right arm...."

He tried to lift it, but could not. Shears felt it, gently at first and
then more roughly, "to see exactly," he said, "how much it hurts." It
hurt exactly so much that Wilson, on being led to a neighbouring
chemist's shop, experienced an immediate need to fall into a dead faint.

The chemist and his assistant did what they could. They discovered that
the arm was broken and that it was a case for a surgeon, an operation
and a hospital. Meanwhile, the patient was undressed and began to
relieve his sufferings by roaring with pain.

"That's all right, that's all right," said Shears, who was holding
Wilson's arm. "Just a little patience, old chap ... in five or six
weeks, you won't know that you've been hurt.... But I'll make them pay
for it, the scoundrels!... You understand.... I mean him especially ...
for it's that wretched Lupin who's responsible for this.... Oh, I swear
to you that if ever...."

He interrupted himself suddenly, dropped the arm, which gave Wilson such
a shock of pain that the poor wretch fainted once more, and, striking
his forehead, shouted:

"Wilson, I have an idea.... Could it possibly...?"

He stood motionless, with his eyes fixed before him, and muttered in
short sentences:

"Yes, that's it.... It's all clear now ... the explanation staring us
in the face.... Why, of course, I knew it only needed a little
thought!... Ah, my dear Wilson, this will rejoice your heart!"

And, leaving old chap where he was, he rushed into the street and ran to
No. 25.

One of the stones above the door, on the right, bore the inscription:
"_Destange, architect_, 1875."

The same inscription appeared on No. 23. So far, this was quite natural.
But what would he find down there, in the Avenue Henri-Martin?

He hailed a passing cab:

"Drive to 134, Avenue Henri-Martin. Go as fast as you can."

Standing up in the cab, he urged on the horse, promising the driver tip
after tip:

"Faster!... Faster still!"

He was in an agony as he turned the corner of the Rue de la Pompe. Had
he caught a glimpse of the truth?

On one of the stones of the house, he read the words: "_Destange,
architect_, 1874." And he found the same inscription - "_Destange,
architect_, 1874" - on each of the adjoining blocks of flats.

* * * * *

The reaction after this excitement was so great that he sank back into
the cab for a few minutes, all trembling with delight. At last a tiny
glimmer flickered in the darkness! Amid the thousand intersecting paths
in the great, gloomy forest, he had found the first sign of a trail
followed by the enemy!

He entered a telephone-office and asked to be put on to the Château de


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