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[Illustration: "_Suddenly he rushed at her and caught her by the arm_"]




THE INTERNATIONAL
ADVENTURE LIBRARY


THREE OWLS EDITION

THE CONFESSIONS
OF ARSÈNE LUPIN

An Adventure Story

BY
MAURICE LEBLANC
Author of "Arsène Lupin"

W. R. CALDWELL & CO.
NEW YORK




_Copyright, 1912, 1913, by_
Maurice Leblanc

_All rights reserved, including that of
translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian_




CONTENTS


CHAPTER PAGE

I. TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND FRANCS REWARD! 1

II. THE WEDDING-RING 36

III. THE SIGN OF THE SHADOW 66

IV. THE INFERNAL TRAP 101

V. THE RED SILK SCARF 138

VI. SHADOWED BY DEATH 177

VII. A TRAGEDY IN THE FOREST OF MORGUES 210

VIII. LUPIN'S MARRIAGE 228

IX. THE INVISIBLE PRISONER 266

X. EDITH SWAN-NECK 291




THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSÈNE LUPIN




THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSÈNE LUPIN




I

TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND FRANCS REWARD!...


"Lupin," I said, "tell me something about yourself."

"Why, what would you have me tell you? Everybody knows my life!" replied
Lupin, who lay drowsing on the sofa in my study.

"Nobody knows it!" I protested. "People know from your letters in the
newspapers that you were mixed up in this case, that you started that
case. But the part which you played in it all, the plain facts of the
story, the upshot of the mystery: these are things of which they know
nothing."

"Pooh! A heap of uninteresting twaddle!"

"What! Your present of fifty thousand francs to Nicolas Dugrival's wife!
Do you call that uninteresting? And what about the way in which you
solved the puzzle of the three pictures?"

Lupin laughed:

"Yes, that was a queer puzzle, certainly. I can suggest a title for you
if you like: what do you say to _The Sign of the Shadow_?"

"And your successes in society and with the fair sex?" I continued. "The
dashing Arsène's love-affairs!... And the clue to your good actions?
Those chapters in your life to which you have so often alluded under the
names of _The Wedding-ring_, _Shadowed by Death_, and so on!... Why
delay these confidences and confessions, my dear Lupin?... Come, do what
I ask you!..."

It was at the time when Lupin, though already famous, had not yet fought
his biggest battles; the time that preceded the great adventures of _The
Hollow Needle_ and _813_. He had not yet dreamt of annexing the
accumulated treasures of the French Royal House[A] nor of changing the
map of Europe under the Kaiser's nose[B]: he contented himself with
milder surprises and humbler profits, making his daily effort, doing
evil from day to day and doing a little good as well, naturally and for
the love of the thing, like a whimsical and compassionate Don Quixote.


[A] _The Hollow Needle._ By Maurice Leblanc. Translated by Alexander
Teixeira de Mattos (Eveleigh Nash).

[B] _813._ By Maurice Leblanc. Translated by Alexander Teixeira de
Mattos (Mills & Boon).


He was silent; and I insisted:

"Lupin, I wish you would!"

To my astonishment, he replied:

"Take a sheet of paper, old fellow, and a pencil."

I obeyed with alacrity, delighted at the thought that he at last meant
to dictate to me some of those pages which he knows how to clothe with
such vigour and fancy, pages which I, unfortunately, am obliged to spoil
with tedious explanations and boring developments.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"Quite."

"Write down, 20, 1, 11, 5, 14, 15."

"What?"

"Write it down, I tell you."

He was now sitting up, with his eyes turned to the open window and his
fingers rolling a Turkish cigarette. He continued:

"Write down, 21, 14, 14, 5...."

He stopped. Then he went on:

"3, 5, 19, 19 ..."

And, after a pause:

"5, 18, 25 ..."

Was he mad? I looked at him hard and, presently, I saw that his eyes
were no longer listless, as they had been a little before, but keen and
attentive and that they seemed to be watching, somewhere, in space, a
sight that apparently captivated them.

Meanwhile, he dictated, with intervals between each number:

"18, 9, 19, 11, 19 ..."

There was hardly anything to be seen through the window but a patch of
blue sky on the right and the front of the building opposite, an old
private house, whose shutters were closed as usual. There was nothing
particular about all this, no detail that struck me as new among those
which I had had before my eyes for years....

"1, 2...."

And suddenly I understood ... or rather I thought I understood, for how
could I admit that Lupin, a man so essentially level-headed under his
mask of frivolity, could waste his time upon such childish nonsense?
What he was counting was the intermittent flashes of a ray of sunlight
playing on the dingy front of the opposite house, at the height of the
second floor!

"15, 22 ..." said Lupin.

The flash disappeared for a few seconds and then struck the house again,
successively, at regular intervals, and disappeared once more.

I had instinctively counted the flashes and I said, aloud:

"5...."

"Caught the idea? I congratulate you!" he replied, sarcastically.

He went to the window and leant out, as though to discover the exact
direction followed by the ray of light. Then he came and lay on the sofa
again, saying:

"It's your turn now. Count away!"

The fellow seemed so positive that I did as he told me. Besides, I could
not help confessing that there was something rather curious about the
ordered frequency of those gleams on the front of the house opposite,
those appearances and disappearances, turn and turn about, like so many
flash signals.

They obviously came from a house on our side of the street, for the sun
was entering my windows slantwise. It was as though some one were
alternately opening and shutting a casement, or, more likely, amusing
himself by making sunlight flashes with a pocket-mirror.

"It's a child having a game!" I cried, after a moment or two, feeling a
little irritated by the trivial occupation that had been thrust upon me.

"Never mind, go on!"

And I counted away.... And I put down rows of figures.... And the sun
continued to play in front of me, with mathematical precision.

"Well?" said Lupin, after a longer pause than usual.

"Why, it seems finished.... There has been nothing for some
minutes...."

We waited and, as no more light flashed through space, I said,
jestingly:

"My idea is that we have been wasting our time. A few figures on paper:
a poor result!"

Lupin, without stirring from his sofa, rejoined:

"Oblige me, old chap, by putting in the place of each of those numbers
the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Count A as 1, B as 2 and so
on. Do you follow me?"

"But it's idiotic!"

"Absolutely idiotic, but we do such a lot of idiotic things in this
life.... One more or less, you know!..."

I sat down to this silly work and wrote out the first letters:


"_Take no...._"


I broke off in surprise:

"Words!" I exclaimed. "Two English words meaning...."

"Go on, old chap."

And I went on and the next letters formed two more words, which I
separated as they appeared. And, to my great amazement, a complete
English sentence lay before my eyes.

"Done?" asked Lupin, after a time.

"Done!... By the way, there are mistakes in the spelling...."

"Never mind those and read it out, please.... Read slowly."

Thereupon I read out the following unfinished communication, which I
will set down as it appeared on the paper in front of me:


"_Take no unnecessery risks. Above all, avoid atacks, approach
ennemy with great prudance and...._"


I began to laugh:

"And there you are! _Fiat lux!_ We're simply dazed with light! But,
after all, Lupin, confess that this advice, dribbled out by a
kitchen-maid, doesn't help you much!"

Lupin rose, without breaking his contemptuous silence, and took the
sheet of paper.

I remembered soon after that, at this moment, I happened to look at the
clock. It was eighteen minutes past five.

Lupin was standing with the paper in his hand; and I was able at my ease
to watch, on his youthful features, that extraordinary mobility of
expression which baffles all observers and constitutes his great
strength and his chief safeguard. By what signs can one hope to identify
a face which changes at pleasure, even without the help of make-up, and
whose every transient expression seems to be the final, definite
expression?... By what signs? There was one which I knew well, an
invariable sign: Two little crossed wrinkles that marked his forehead
whenever he made a powerful effort of concentration. And I saw it at
that moment, saw the tiny tell-tale cross, plainly and deeply scored.

He put down the sheet of paper and muttered:

"Child's play!"

The clock struck half-past five.

"What!" I cried. "Have you succeeded?... In twelve minutes?..."

He took a few steps up and down the room, lit a cigarette and said:

"You might ring up Baron Repstein, if you don't mind, and tell him I
shall be with him at ten o'clock this evening."

"Baron Repstein?" I asked. "The husband of the famous baroness?"

"Yes."

"Are you serious?"

"Quite serious."

Feeling absolutely at a loss, but incapable of resisting him, I opened
the telephone-directory and unhooked the receiver. But, at that moment,
Lupin stopped me with a peremptory gesture and said, with his eyes on
the paper, which he had taken up again:

"No, don't say anything.... It's no use letting him know.... There's
something more urgent ... a queer thing that puzzles me.... Why on
earth wasn't the last sentence finished? Why is the sentence...."

He snatched up his hat and stick:

"Let's be off. If I'm not mistaken, this is a business that requires
immediate solution; and I don't believe I _am_ mistaken."

He put his arm through mine, as we went down the stairs, and said:

"I know what everybody knows. Baron Repstein, the company-promoter and
racing-man, whose colt Etna won the Derby and the Grand Prix this year,
has been victimized by his wife. The wife, who was well known for her
fair hair, her dress and her extravagance, ran away a fortnight ago,
taking with her a sum of three million francs, stolen from her husband,
and quite a collection of diamonds, pearls and jewellery which the
Princesse de Berny had placed in her hands and which she was supposed to
buy. For two weeks the police have been pursuing the baroness across
France and the continent: an easy job, as she scatters gold and jewels
wherever she goes. They think they have her every moment. Two days ago,
our champion detective, the egregious Ganimard, arrested a visitor at a
big hotel in Belgium, a woman against whom the most positive evidence
seemed to be heaped up. On enquiry, the lady turned out to be a
notorious chorus-girl called Nelly Darbal. As for the baroness, she has
vanished. The baron, on his side, has offered a reward of two hundred
thousand francs to whosoever finds his wife. The money is in the hands
of a solicitor. Moreover, he has sold his racing-stud, his house on the
Boulevard Haussmann and his country-seat of Roquencourt in one lump, so
that he may indemnify the Princesse de Berny for her loss."

"And the proceeds of the sale," I added, "are to be paid over at once.
The papers say that the princess will have her money to-morrow. Only,
frankly, I fail to see the connection between this story, which you have
told very well, and the puzzling sentence...."

Lupin did not condescend to reply.

We had been walking down the street in which I live and had passed some
four or five houses, when he stepped off the pavement and began to
examine a block of flats, not of the latest construction, which looked
as if it contained a large number of tenants:

"According to my calculations," he said, "this is where the signals came
from, probably from that open window."

"On the third floor?"

"Yes."

He went to the portress and asked her:

"Does one of your tenants happen to be acquainted with Baron Repstein?"

"Why, of course!" replied the woman. "We have M. Lavernoux here, such a
nice gentleman; he is the baron's secretary and agent. I look after his
flat."

"And can we see him?"

"See him?... The poor gentleman is very ill."

"Ill?"

"He's been ill a fortnight ... ever since the trouble with the
baroness.... He came home the next day with a temperature and took to
his bed."

"But he gets up, surely?"

"Ah, that I can't say!"

"How do you mean, you can't say?"

"No, his doctor won't let any one into his room. He took my key from
me."

"Who did?"

"The doctor. He comes and sees to his wants, two or three times a day.
He left the house only twenty minutes ago ... an old gentleman with a
grey beard and spectacles.... Walks quite bent.... But where are you
going sir?"

"I'm going up, show me the way," said Lupin, with his foot on the
stairs. "It's the third floor, isn't it, on the left?"

"But I mustn't!" moaned the portress, running after him. "Besides, I
haven't the key ... the doctor...."

They climbed the three flights, one behind the other. On the landing,
Lupin took a tool from his pocket and, disregarding the woman's
protests, inserted it in the lock. The door yielded almost immediately.
We went in.

At the back of a small dark room we saw a streak of light filtering
through a door that had been left ajar. Lupin ran across the room and,
on reaching the threshold, gave a cry:

"Too late! Oh, hang it all!"

The portress fell on her knees, as though fainting.

I entered the bedroom, in my turn, and saw a man lying half-dressed on
the carpet, with his legs drawn up under him, his arms contorted and his
face quite white, an emaciated, fleshless face, with the eyes still
staring in terror and the mouth twisted into a hideous grin.

"He's dead," said Lupin, after a rapid examination.

"But why?" I exclaimed. "There's not a trace of blood!"

"Yes, yes, there is," replied Lupin, pointing to two or three drops that
showed on the chest, through the open shirt. "Look, they must have taken
him by the throat with one hand and pricked him to the heart with the
other. I say, 'pricked,' because really the wound can't be seen. It
suggests a hole made by a very long needle."


[Illustration: "_Lupin took a tool from his pocket ... and inserted it
in the lock_"]


He looked on the floor, all round the corpse. There was nothing to
attract his attention, except a little pocket-mirror, the little mirror
with which M. Lavernoux had amused himself by making the sunbeams dance
through space.

But, suddenly, as the portress was breaking into lamentations and
calling for help, Lupin flung himself on her and shook her:

"Stop that!... Listen to me ... you can call out later.... Listen to me
and answer me. It is most important. M. Lavernoux had a friend living in
this street, had he not? On the same side, to the right? An intimate
friend?"

"Yes."

"A friend whom he used to meet at the café in the evening and with whom
he exchanged the illustrated papers?"

"Yes."

"Was the friend an Englishman?"

"Yes."

"What's his name?"

"Mr. Hargrove."

"Where does he live?"

"At No. 92 in this street."

"One word more: had that old doctor been attending him long?"

"No. I did not know him. He came on the evening when M. Lavernoux was
taken ill."

Without another word, Lupin dragged me away once more, ran down the
stairs and, once in the street, turned to the right, which took us past
my flat again. Four doors further, he stopped at No. 92, a small,
low-storied house, of which the ground-floor was occupied by the
proprietor of a dram-shop, who stood smoking in his doorway, next to the
entrance-passage. Lupin asked if Mr. Hargrove was at home.

"Mr. Hargrove went out about half-an-hour ago," said the publican. "He
seemed very much excited and took a taxi-cab, a thing he doesn't often
do."

"And you don't know...."

"Where he was going? Well, there's no secret about it He shouted it loud
enough! 'Prefecture of Police' is what he said to the driver...."

Lupin was himself just hailing a taxi, when he changed his mind; and I
heard him mutter:

"What's the good? He's got too much start of us...."

He asked if any one called after Mr. Hargrove had gone.

"Yes, an old gentleman with a grey beard and spectacles. He went up to
Mr. Hargrove's, rang the bell, and went away again."

"I am much obliged," said Lupin, touching his hat.

He walked away slowly without speaking to me, wearing a thoughtful air.
There was no doubt that the problem struck him as very difficult, and
that he saw none too clearly in the darkness through which he seemed to
be moving with such certainty.

He himself, for that matter, confessed to me:

"These are cases that require much more intuition than reflection. But
this one, I may tell you, is well worth taking pains about."

We had now reached the boulevards. Lupin entered a public reading-room
and spent a long time consulting the last fortnight's newspapers. Now
and again, he mumbled:

"Yes ... yes ... of course ... it's only a guess, but it explains
everything.... Well, a guess that answers every question is not far from
being the truth...."

It was now dark. We dined at a little restaurant and I noticed that
Lupin's face became gradually more animated. His gestures were more
decided. He recovered his spirits, his liveliness. When we left, during
the walk which he made me take along the Boulevard Haussmann, towards
Baron Repstein's house, he was the real Lupin of the great occasions,
the Lupin who had made up his mind to go in and win.

We slackened our pace just short of the Rue de Courcelles. Baron
Repstein lived on the left-hand side, between this street and the
Faubourg Saint-Honoré, in a three-storied private house of which we
could see the front, decorated with columns and caryatides.

"Stop!" said Lupin, suddenly.

"What is it?"

"Another proof to confirm my supposition...."

"What proof? I see nothing."

"I do.... That's enough...."

He turned up the collar of his coat, lowered the brim of his soft hat
and said:

"By Jove, it'll be a stiff fight! Go to bed, my friend. I'll tell you
about my expedition to-morrow ... if it doesn't cost me my life."

"What are you talking about?"

"Oh, I know what I'm saying! I'm risking a lot. First of all, getting
arrested, which isn't much. Next, getting killed, which is worse.
But...." He gripped my shoulder. "But there's a third thing I'm risking,
which is getting hold of two millions.... And, once I possess a capital
of two millions, I'll show people what I can do! Good-night, old chap,
and, if you never see me again...." He spouted Musset's lines:


"Plant a willow by my grave,
The weeping willow that I love...."


I walked away. Three minutes later - I am continuing the narrative as he
told it to me next day - three minutes later, Lupin rang at the door of
the Hôtel Repstein.

* * * * *

"Is monsieur le baron at home?"

"Yes," replied the butler, examining the intruder with an air of
surprise, "but monsieur le baron does not see people as late as this."

"Does monsieur le baron know of the murder of M. Lavernoux, his
land-agent?"

"Certainly."

"Well, please tell monsieur le baron that I have come about the murder
and that there is not a moment to lose."

A voice called from above:

"Show the gentleman up, Antoine."

In obedience to this peremptory order, the butler led the way to the
first floor. In an open doorway stood a gentleman whom Lupin recognized
from his photograph in the papers as Baron Repstein, husband of the
famous baroness and owner of Etna, the horse of the year.

He was an exceedingly tall, square-shouldered man. His clean-shaven face
wore a pleasant, almost smiling expression, which was not affected by
the sadness of his eyes. He was dressed in a well-cut morning-coat, with
a tan waistcoat and a dark tie fastened with a pearl pin, the value of
which struck Lupin as considerable.

He took Lupin into his study, a large, three-windowed room, lined with
book-cases, sets of pigeonholes, an American desk and a safe. And he at
once asked, with ill-concealed eagerness:

"Do you know anything?"

"Yes, monsieur le baron."

"About the murder of that poor Lavernoux?"

"Yes, monsieur le baron, and about madame le baronne also."

"Do you really mean it? Quick, I entreat you...."

He pushed forward a chair. Lupin sat down and began:

"Monsieur le baron, the circumstances are very serious. I will be
brief."

"Yes, do, please."

"Well, monsieur le baron, in a few words, it amounts to this: five or
six hours ago, Lavernoux, who, for the last fortnight, had been kept in
a sort of enforced confinement by his doctor, Lavernoux - how shall I put
it? - telegraphed certain revelations by means of signals which were
partly taken down by me and which put me on the track of this case. He
himself was surprised in the act of making this communication and was
murdered."

"But by whom? By whom?"

"By his doctor."

"Who is this doctor?"

"I don't know. But one of M. Lavernoux's friends, an Englishman called
Hargrove, the friend, in fact, with whom he was communicating, is bound
to know and is also bound to know the exact and complete meaning of the
communication, because, without waiting for the end, he jumped into a
motor-cab and drove to the Prefecture of Police."

"Why? Why?... And what is the result of that step?"

"The result, monsieur le baron, is that your house is surrounded. There
are twelve detectives under your windows. The moment the sun rises, they
will enter in the name of the law and arrest the criminal."

"Then is Lavernoux's murderer concealed in my house? Who is he? One of
the servants? But no, for you were speaking of a doctor!..."

"I would remark, monsieur le baron, that when this Mr. Hargrove went to
the police to tell them of the revelations made by his friend Lavernoux,
he was not aware that his friend Lavernoux was going to be murdered. The
step taken by Mr Hargrove had to do with something else...."

"With what?"

"With the disappearance of madame la baronne, of which he knew the
secret, thanks to the communication made by Lavernoux."

"What! They know at last! They have found the baroness! Where is she?
And the jewels? And the money she robbed me of?"

Baron Repstein was talking in a great state of excitement. He rose and,
almost shouting at Lupin, cried:

"Finish your story, sir! I can't endure this suspense!"

Lupin continued, in a slow and hesitating voice:

"The fact is ... you see ... it is rather difficult to explain ... for
you and I are looking at the thing from a totally different point of
view."

"I don't understand."

"And yet you ought to understand, monsieur le baron.... We begin by
saying - I am quoting the newspapers - by saying, do we not, that Baroness
Repstein knew all the secrets of your business and that she was able to
open not only that safe over there, but also the one at the Crédit
Lyonnais in which you kept your securities locked up?"

"Yes."

"Well, one evening, a fortnight ago, while you were at your club,
Baroness Repstein, who, unknown to yourself, had converted all those
securities into cash, left this house with a travelling-bag, containing
your money and all the Princesse de Berny's jewels?"

"Yes."

"And, since then, she has not been seen?"

"No."

"Well, there is an excellent reason why she has not been seen."

"What reason?"

"This, that Baroness Repstein has been murdered...."

"Murdered!... The baroness!... But you're mad!"

"Murdered ... and probably that same evening."

"I tell you again, you are mad! How can the baroness have been murdered,
when the police are following her tracks, so to speak, step by step?"

"They are following the tracks of another woman."

"What woman?"

"The murderer's accomplice."

"And who is the murderer?"

"The same man who, for the last fortnight, knowing that Lavernoux,
through the situation which he occupied in this house, had discovered
the truth, kept him imprisoned, forced him to silence, threatened him,


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