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leading to the door, and disappeared within the house. He saw her no
more.

A cloud obscured the sun. Arsène Lupin stood watching the imprints of
her tiny feet in the sand. Suddenly, he gave a start. Upon the box which
contained the bamboo, beside which Nelly had been standing, he saw
the rose, the white rose which he had desired but dared not ask
for. Forgotten, no doubt - it, also! But how - designedly or through
distraction? He seized it eagerly. Some of its petals fell to the
ground. He picked them up, one by one, like precious relics.

"Come!" he said to himself, "I have nothing more to do here. I must
think of my safety, before Sherlock Holmes arrives."

* * * * *

The park was deserted, but some gendarmes were stationed at the
park-gate. He entered a grove of pine trees, leaped over the wall,
and, as a short cut to the railroad station, followed a path across the
fields. After walking about ten minutes, he arrived at a spot where the
road grew narrower and ran between two steep banks. In this ravine, he
met a man traveling in the opposite direction. It was a man about fifty
years of age, tall, smooth-shaven, and wearing clothes of a foreign cut.
He carried a heavy cane, and a small satchel was strapped across his
shoulder. When they met, the stranger spoke, with a slight English
accent:

"Excuse me, monsieur, is this the way to the castle?"

"Yes, monsieur, straight ahead, and turn to the left when you come to
the wall. They are expecting you."

"Ah!"

"Yes, my friend Devanne told us last night that you were coming, and I
am delighted to be the first to welcome you. Sherlock Holmes has no more
ardent admirer than.... myself."

There was a touch of irony in his voice that he quickly regretted, for
Sherlock Holmes scrutinized him from head to foot with such a keen,
penetrating eye that Arsène Lupin experienced the sensation of being
seized, imprisoned and registered by that look more thoroughly and
precisely than he had ever been by a camera.

"My negative is taken now," he thought, "and it will be useless to use
a disguise with that man. He would look right through it. But, I wonder,
has he recognized me?"

They bowed to each other as if about to part. But, at that moment, they
heard a sound of horses' feet, accompanied by a clinking of steel. It
was the gendarmes. The two men were obliged to draw back against the
embankment, amongst the brushes, to avoid the horses. The gendarmes
passed by, but, as they followed each other at a considerable distance,
they were several minutes in doing so. And Lupin was thinking:

"It all depends on that question: has he recognized me? If so, he will
probably take advantage of the opportunity. It is a trying situation."

When the last horseman had passed, Sherlock Holmes stepped forth and
brushed the dust from his clothes. Then, for a moment, he and Arsène
Lupin gazed at each other; and, if a person could have seen them at that
moment, it would have been an interesting sight, and memorable as the
first meeting of two remarkable men, so strange, so powerfully equipped,
both of superior quality, and destined by fate, through their peculiar
attributes, to hurl themselves one at the other like two equal forces
that nature opposes, one against the other, in the realms of space.

Then the Englishman said: "Thank you, monsieur."

They parted. Lupin went toward the railway station, and Sherlock Holmes
continued on his way to the castle.

The local officers had given up the investigation after several hours
of fruitless efforts, and the people at the castle were awaiting the
arrival of the English detective with a lively curiosity. At first
sight, they were a little disappointed on account of his commonplace
appearance, which differed so greatly from the pictures they had formed
of him in their own minds. He did not in any way resemble the romantic
hero, the mysterious and diabolical personage that the name of Sherlock
Holmes had evoked in their imaginations. However, Mon. Devanne exclaimed
with much gusto:

"Ah! monsieur, you are here! I am delighted to see you. It is a
long-deferred pleasure. Really, I scarcely regret what has happened,
since it affords me the opportunity to meet you. But, how did you come?"

"By the train."

"But I sent my automobile to meet you at the station."

"An official reception, eh? with music and fireworks! Oh! no, not for
me. That is not the way I do business," grumbled the Englishman.

This speech disconcerted Devanne, who replied, with a forced smile:

"Fortunately, the business has been greatly simplified since I wrote to
you."

"In what way?"

"The robbery took place last night."

"If you had not announced my intended visit, it is probable the robbery
would not have been committed last night."

"When, then?"

"To-morrow, or some other day."

"And in that case?"

"Lupin would have been trapped," said the detective.

"And my furniture?"

"Would not have been carried away."

"Ah! but my goods are here. They were brought back at three o'clock."

"By Lupin."

"By two army-wagons."

Sherlock Holmes put on his cap and adjusted his satchel. Devanne
exclaimed, anxiously:

"But, monsieur, what are you going to do?"

"I am going home."

"Why?"

"Your goods have been returned; Arsène Lupin is far away - there is
nothing for me to do."

"Yes, there is. I need your assistance. What happened yesterday, may
happen again to-morrow, as we do not know how he entered, or how he
escaped, or why, a few hours later, he returned the goods."

"Ah! you don't know - "

The idea of a problem to be solved quickened the interest of Sherlock
Holmes.

"Very well, let us make a search - at once - and alone, if possible."

Devanne understood, and conducted the Englishman to the salon. In a dry,
crisp voice, in sentences that seemed to have been prepared in advance,
Holmes asked a number of questions about the events of the preceding
evening, and enquired also concerning the guests and the members of the
household. Then he examined the two volumes of the "Chronique," compared
the plans of the subterranean passage, requested a repetition of the
sentences discovered by Father Gélis, and then asked:

"Was yesterday the first time you have spoken hose two sentences to any
one?"

"Yes."

"You had never communicated then to Horace Velmont?"

"No."

"Well, order the automobile. I must leave in an hour."

"In an hour?"

"Yes; within that time, Arsène Lupin solved the problem that you placed
before him."

"I.... placed before him - "

"Yes, Arsène Lupin or Horace Velmont - same thing."

"I thought so. Ah! the scoundrel!"

"Now, let us see," said Holmes, "last night at ten o'clock, you
furnished Lupin with the information that he lacked, and that he had
been seeking for many weeks. During the night, he found time to solve
the problem, collect his men, and rob the castle. I shall be quite as
expeditious."

He walked from end to end of the room, in deep thought, then sat down,
crossed his long legs and closed his eyes.

Devanne waited, quite embarrassed. Thought he: "Is the man asleep? Or is
he only meditating?" However, he left the room to give some orders, and
when he returned he found the detective on his knees scrutinizing the
carpet at the foot of the stairs in the gallery.

"What is it?" he enquired.

"Look.... there.... spots from a candle."

"You are right - and quite fresh."

"And you will also find them at the top of the stairs, and around
the cabinet that Arsène Lupin broke into, and from which he took the
bibelots that he afterward placed in this armchair."

"What do you conclude from that?"

"Nothing. These facts would doubtless explain the cause for the
restitution, but that is a side issue that I cannot wait to investigate.
The main question is the secret passage. First, tell me, is there a
chapel some two or three hundred metres from the castle?"

"Yes, a ruined chapel, containing the tomb of Duke Rollo."

"Tell your chauffer to wait for us near that chapel."

"My chauffer hasn't returned. If he had, they would have informed me. Do
you think the secret passage runs to the chapel? What reason have - "

"I would ask you, monsieur," interrupted the detective, "to furnish me
with a ladder and a lantern."

"What! do you require a ladder and a lantern?"

"Certainly, or I shouldn't have asked for them."

Devanne, somewhat disconcerted by this crude logic, rang the bell. The
two articles were given with the sternness and precision of military
commands.

"Place the ladder against the bookcase, to the left of the word
Thibermesnil."

Devanne placed the ladder as directed, and the Englishman continued:

"More to the left.... to the right....There!....Now, climb up.... All the
letters are in relief, aren't they?"

"Yes."

"First, turn the letter I one way or the other."

"Which one? There are two of them."

"The first one."

Devanne took hold of the letter, and exclaimed:

"Ah! yes, it turns toward the right. Who told you that?"

Sherlock Holmes did not reply to the question, but continued his
directions:

"Now, take the letter B. Move it back and forth as you would a bolt."

Devanne did so, and, to his great surprise, it produced a clicking
sound.

"Quite right," said Holmes. "Now, we will go to the other end of the
word Thibermesnil, try the letter I, and see if it will open like a
wicket."

With a certain degree of solemnity, Devanne seized the letter. It
opened, but Devanne fell from the ladder, for the entire section of the
bookcase, lying between the first and last letters of the words, turned
on a picot and disclosed the subterranean passage.

Sherlock Holmes said, coolly:

"You are not hurt?"

"No, no," said Devanne, as he rose to his feet, "not hurt, only
bewildered. I can't understand now.... those letters turn.... the secret
passage opens...."

"Certainly. Doesn't that agree exactly with the formula given by Sully?
Turn one eye on the bee that shakes, the other eye will lead to God."

"But Louis the sixteenth?" asked Devanne.

"Louis the sixteenth was a clever locksmith. I have read a book he wrote
about combination locks. It was a good idea on the part of the owner of
Thibermesnil to show His Majesty a clever bit of mechanism. As an aid
to his memory, the king wrote: 3-4-11, that is to say, the third, fourth
and eleventh letters of the word."

"Exactly. I understand that. It explains how Lupin got out of the room,
but it does not explain how he entered. And it is certain he came from
the outside."

Sherlock Holmes lighted his lantern, and stepped into the passage.

"Look! All the mechanism is exposed here, like the works of a clock,
and the reverse side of the letters can be reached. Lupin worked the
combination from this side - that is all."

"What proof is there of that?"

"Proof? Why, look at that puddle of oil. Lupin foresaw that the wheels
would require oiling."

"Did he know about the other entrance?"

"As well as I know it," said Holmes. "Follow me."

"Into that dark passage?"

"Are you afraid?"

"No, but are you sure you can find the way out?"

"With my eyes closed."

At first, they descended twelve steps, then twelve more, and, farther
on, two other flights of twelve steps each. Then they walked through a
long passageway, the brick walls of which showed the marks of successive
restorations, and, in spots, were dripping with water. The earth, also,
was very damp.

"We are passing under the pond," said Devanne, somewhat nervously.

At last, they came to a stairway of twelve steps, followed by three
others of twelve steps each, which they mounted with difficulty, and
then found themselves in a small cavity cut in the rock. They could go
no further.

"The deuce!" muttered Holmes, "nothing but bare walls. This is
provoking."

"Let us go back," said Devanne. "I have seen enough to satisfy me."

But the Englishman raised his eye and uttered a sigh of relief. There,
he saw the same mechanism and the same word as before. He had merely to
work the three letters. He did so, and a block of granite swung out of
place. On the other side, this granite block formed the tombstone of
Duke Rollo, and the word "Thibermesnil" was engraved on it in relief.
Now, they were in the little ruined chapel, and the detective said:

"The other eye leads to God; that means, to the chapel."

"It is marvelous!" exclaimed Devanne, amazed at the clairvoyance and
vivacity of the Englishman. "Can it be possible that those few words
were sufficient for you?"

"Bah!" declared Holmes, "they weren't even necessary. In the chart in
the book of the National Library, the drawing terminates at the left, as
you know, in a circle, and at the right, as you do not know, in a cross.
Now, that cross must refer to the chapel in which we now stand."

Poor Devanne could not believe his ears. It was all so new, so novel to
him. He exclaimed:

"It is incredible, miraculous, and yet of a childish simplicity! How is
it that no one has ever solved the mystery?"

"Because no one has ever united the essential elements, that is to
say, the two books and the two sentences. No one, but Arsène Lupin and
myself."

"But, Father Gélis and I knew all about those things, and, likewise - "

Holmes smiled, and said:

"Monsieur Devanne, everybody cannot solve riddles."

"I have been trying for ten years to accomplish what you did in ten
minutes."

"Bah! I am used to it."

They emerged from the chapel, and found an automobile.

"Ah! there's an auto waiting for us."

"Yes, it is mine," said Devanne.

"Yours? You said your chauffeur hadn't returned."

They approached the machine, and Mon. Devanne questioned the chauffer:

"Edouard, who gave you orders to come here?"

"Why, it was Monsieur Velmont."

"Mon. Velmont? Did you meet him?"

"Near the railway station, and he told me to come to the chapel."

"To come to the chapel! What for?"

"To wait for you, monsieur, and your friend."

Devanne and Holmes exchanged looks, and Mon. Devanne said:

"He knew the mystery would be a simple one for you. It is a delicate
compliment."

A smile of satisfaction lighted up the detective's serious features for
a moment. The compliment pleased him. He shook his head, as he said:

"A clever man! I knew that when I saw him."

"Have you seen him?"

"I met him a short time ago - on my way from the station."

"And you knew it was Horace Velmont - I mean, Arsène Lupin?"

"That is right. I wonder how it came - "

"No, but I supposed it was - from a certain ironical speech he made."

"And you allowed him to escape?"

"Of course I did. And yet I had everything on my side, such as five
gendarmes who passed us."

"Sacrableu!" cried Devanne. "You should have taken advantage of the
opportunity."

"Really, monsieur," said the Englishman, haughtily, "when I encounter
an adversary like Arsène Lupin, I do not take advantage of chance
opportunities, I create them."

But time pressed, and since Lupin had been so kind as to send the
automobile, they resolved to profit by it. They seated themselves in
the comfortable limousine; Edouard took his place at the wheel, and away
they went toward the railway station. Suddenly, Devanne's eyes fell upon
a small package in one of the pockets of the carriage.

"Ah! what is that? A package! Whose is it? Why, it is for you."

"For me?"

"Yes, it is addressed: Sherlock Holmes, from Arsène Lupin."

The Englishman took the package, opened it, and found that it contained
a watch.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, with an angry gesture.

"A watch," said Devanne. "How did it come there?"

The detective did not reply.

"Oh! it is your watch! Arsène Lupin returns your watch! But, in order to
return it, he must have taken it. Ah! I see! He took your watch! That
is a good one! Sherlock Holmes' watch stolen by Arsène Lupin! Mon Dieu!
that is funny! Really.... you must excuse me....I can't help it."

He roared with laughter, unable to control himself. After which, he
said, in a tone of earnest conviction:

"A clever man, indeed!"

The Englishman never moved a muscle. On the way to Dieppe, he never
spoke a word, but fixed his gaze on the flying landscape. His silence
was terrible, unfathomable, more violent than the wildest rage. At the
railway station, he spoke calmly, but in a voice that impressed one with
the vast energy and will power of that famous man. He said:

"Yes, he is a clever man, but some day I shall have the pleasure of
placing on his shoulder the hand I now offer to you, Monsieur Devanne.
And I believe that Arsène Lupin and Sherlock Holmes will meet again
some day. Yes, the world is too small - we will meet - we must meet - and
then - "

*****
- The further startling and thrilling adventures of Arsène Lupin will be
found in the book entitled "Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes." -











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Online LibraryMaurice LeblancThe Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar → online text (page 13 of 13)