Maurice Leblanc.

The Hollow Needle; Further adventures of Arsene Lupin online

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I. The Shot
II. Isidore Beautrelet, Sixth-form Schoolboy
III. The Corpse
IV. Face to Face
V. On the Track
VI. An Historic Secret
VII. The Treatise of the Needle
VIII. From Caesar to Lupin
IX. Open, Sesame!
X. The Treasures of the Kings of France


Valmeras loved Raymonde's melancholy charm

She put the gun to her shoulder, calmly took aim and fired

Two huge letters, each perhaps a foot long, appeared cut in relief in
the granite of the floor

"We're going now. What do you think of my cockle-shell, Beautrelet?"




Raymonde listened. The noise was repeated twice over, clearly enough to
be distinguished from the medley of vague sounds that formed the great
silence of the night and yet too faintly to enable her to tell whether
it was near or far, within the walls of the big country-house, or
outside, among the murky recesses of the park.

She rose softly. Her window was half open: she flung it back wide. The
moonlight lay over a peaceful landscape of lawns and thickets, against
which the straggling ruins of the old abbey stood out in tragic
outlines, truncated columns, mutilated arches, fragments of porches and
shreds of flying buttresses. A light breeze hovered over the face of
things, gliding noiselessly through the bare motionless branches of the
trees, but shaking the tiny budding leaves of the shrubs.

And, suddenly, she heard the same sound again. It was on the left and
on the floor below her, in the living rooms, therefore, that occupied
the left wing of the house. Brave and plucky though she was, the girl
felt afraid. She slipped on her dressing gown and took the matches.

"Raymonde - Raymonde!"

A voice as low as a breath was calling to her from the next room, the
door of which had not been closed. She was feeling her way there, when
Suzanne, her cousin, came out of the room and fell into her arms:

"Raymonde - is that you? Did you hear - ?"

"Yes. So you're not asleep?"

"I suppose the dog woke me - some time ago. But he's not barking now.
What time is it?"

"About four."

"Listen! Surely, some one's walking in the drawing room!"

"There's no danger, your father is down there, Suzanne."

"But there is danger for him. His room is next to the boudoir."

"M. Daval is there too - "

"At the other end of the house. He could never hear."

They hesitated, not knowing what course to decide upon. Should they
call out? Cry for help? They dared not; they were frightened of the
sound of their own voices. But Suzanne, who had gone to the window,
suppressed a scream:

"Look! - A man! - Near the fountain!"

A man was walking away at a rapid pace. He carried under his arm a
fairly large load, the nature of which they were unable to distinguish:
it knocked against his leg and impeded his progress. They saw him pass
near the old chapel and turn toward a little door in the wall. The door
must have been open, for the man disappeared suddenly from view and
they failed to hear the usual grating of the hinges.

"He came from the drawing room," whispered Suzanne.

"No, the stairs and the hall would have brought him out more to the
left - Unless - "

The same idea struck them both. They leant out. Below them, a ladder
stood against the front of the house, resting on the first floor. A
glimmer lit up the stone balcony. And another man, who was also
carrying something, bestrode the baluster, slid down the ladder and ran
away by the same road as the first.

Suzanne, scared to the verge of swooning, fell on her knees, stammering:

"Let us call out - let us call for help - "

"Who would come? Your father - and if there are more of them left - and
they throw themselves upon him - ?"

"Then - then - we might call the servants - Your bell rings on their

"Yes - yes - perhaps, that's better. If only they come in time!"

Raymonde felt for the electric push near her bed and pressed it with
her finger. They heard the bell ring upstairs and had an impression
that its shrill sound must also reach any one below.

They waited. The silence became terrifying and the very breeze no
longer shook the leaves of the shrubs.

"I'm frightened - frightened," said Suzanne.

And, suddenly, from the profound darkness below them, came the sound of
a struggle, a crash of furniture overturned, words, exclamations and
then, horrible and ominous, a hoarse groan, the gurgle of a man who is
being murdered -

Raymonde leapt toward the door. Suzanne clung desperately to her arm:

"No - no - don't leave me - I'm frightened - "

Raymonde pushed her aside and darted down the corridor, followed by
Suzanne, who staggered from wall to wall, screaming as she went.
Raymonde reached the staircase, flew down the stairs, flung herself
upon the door of the big drawing room and stopped short, rooted to the
threshold, while Suzanne sank in a heap by her side. Facing them, at
three steps' distance, stood a man, with a lantern in his hand. He
turned it upon the two girls, blinding them with the light, stared long
at their pale faces, and then, without hurrying, with the calmest
movements in the world, took his cap, picked up a scrap of paper and
two bits of straw, removed some footmarks from the carpet, went to the
balcony, turned to the girls, made them a deep bow and disappeared.

Suzanne was the first to run to the little boudoir which separated the
big drawing-room from her father's bedroom. But, at the entrance, a
hideous sight appalled her. By the slanting rays of the moon, she saw
two apparently lifeless bodies lying close to each other on the floor.
She leaned over one of them:

"Father! - Father! - Is it you? What has happened to you?" she cried,

After a moment, the Comte de Gesvres moved. In a broken voice, he said:

"Don't be afraid - I am not wounded - Daval? - Is he alive? - The
knife? - The knife? - "

Two men-servants now arrived with candles. Raymonde flung herself down
before the other body and recognized Jean Daval, the count's private
secretary. A little stream of blood trickled from his neck. His face
already wore the pallor of death.

Then she rose, returned to the drawing room, took a gun that hung in a
trophy of arms on the wall and went out on the balcony. Not more than
fifty or sixty seconds had elapsed since the man had set his foot on
the top rung of the ladder. He could not, therefore, be very far away,
the more so as he had taken the precaution to remove the ladder, in
order to prevent the inmates of the house from using it. And soon she
saw him skirting the remains of the old cloister. She put the gun to
her shoulder, calmly took aim and fired. The man fell.

"That's done it! That's done it!" said one of the servants. "We've got
this one. I'll run down."

"No, Victor, he's getting up.... You had better go down by the
staircase and make straight for the little door in the wall. That's the
only way he can escape."

Victor hurried off, but, before he reached the park, the man fell down
again. Raymonde called the other servant:

"Albert, do you see him down there? Near the main cloister? - "

"Yes, he's crawling in the grass. He's done for - "

"Watch him from here."

"There's no way of escape for him. On the right of the ruins is the
open lawn - "

"And, Victor, do you guard the door, on the left," she said, taking up
her gun.

"But, surely, you are not going down, miss?"

"Yes, yes," she said, with a resolute accent and abrupt movements; "let
me be - I have a cartridge left - If he stirs - "

She went out. A moment later, Albert saw her going toward the ruins. He
called to her from the window:

"He's dragged himself behind the cloister. I can't see him. Be careful,
miss - "

Raymonde went round the old cloisters, to cut off the man's retreat,
and Albert soon lost sight of her. After a few minutes, as he did not
see her return, he became uneasy and, keeping his eye on the ruins,
instead of going down by the stairs he made an effort to reach the
ladder. When he had succeeded, he scrambled down and ran straight to
the cloisters near which he had seen the man last. Thirty paces
farther, he found Raymonde, who was searching with Victor.

"Well?" he asked.

"There's no laying one's hands on him," replied Victor.

"The little door?"

"I've been there; here's the key."

"Still - he must - "

"Oh, we've got him safe enough, the scoundrel - He'll be ours in ten

The farmer and his son, awakened by the shot, now came from the farm
buildings, which were at some distance on the right, but within the
circuit of the walls. They had met no one.

"Of course not," said Albert. "The ruffian can't have left the
ruins - We'll dig him out of some hole or other."

They organized a methodical search, beating every bush, pulling aside
the heavy masses of ivy rolled round the shafts of the columns. They
made sure that the chapel was properly locked and that none of the
panes were broken. They went round the cloisters and examined every
nook and corner. The search was fruitless.

There was but one discovery: at the place where the man had fallen
under Raymonde's gun, they picked up a chauffeur's cap, in very soft
buff leather; besides that, nothing.

* * * * *

The gendarmerie of Ouville-la-Riviere were informed at six o'clock in
the morning and at once proceeded to the spot, after sending an express
to the authorities at Dieppe with a note describing the circumstances
of the crime, the imminent capture of the chief criminal and "the
discovery of his headgear and of the dagger with which the crime had
been committed."

At ten o'clock, two hired conveyances came down the gentle slope that
led to the house. One of them, an old-fashioned calash, contained the
deputy public prosecutor and the examining magistrate, accompanied by
his clerk. In the other, a humble fly, were seated two reporters,
representing the Journal de Rouen and a great Paris paper.

The old chateau came into view - once the abbey residence of the priors
of Ambrumesy, mutilated under the Revolution, both restored by the
Comte de Gesvres, who had now owned it for some twenty years. It
consists of a main building, surmounted by a pinnacled clock-tower, and
two wings, each of which is surrounded by a flight of steps with a
stone balustrade. Looking across the walls of the park and beyond the
upland supported by the high Norman cliffs, you catch a glimpse of the
blue line of the Channel between the villages of Sainte-Marguerite and

Here the Comte de Gesvres lived with his daughter Suzanne, a delicate,
fair-haired, pretty creature, and his niece Raymonde de Saint-Veran,
whom he had taken to live with him two years before, when the
simultaneous death of her father and mother left Raymonde an orphan.
Life at the chateau was peaceful and regular. A few neighbors paid an
occasional visit. In the summer, the count took the two girls almost
every day to Dieppe. He was a tall man, with a handsome, serious face
and hair that was turning gray. He was very rich, managed his fortune
himself and looked after his extensive estates with the assistance of
his secretary, Jean Daval.

Immediately upon his arrival, the examining magistrate took down the
first observations of Sergeant Quevillon of the gendarmes. The capture
of the criminal, imminent though it might be, had not yet been
effected, but every outlet of the park was held. Escape was impossible.

The little company next crossed the chapter-hall and the refectory,
both of which are on the ground floor, and went up to the first story.
They at once remarked the perfect order that prevailed in the drawing
room. Not a piece of furniture, not an ornament but appeared to occupy
its usual place; nor was there any gap among the ornaments or
furniture. On the right and left walls hung magnificent Flemish
tapestries with figures. On the panels of the wall facing the windows
were four fine canvases, in contemporary frames, representing
mythological scenes. These were the famous pictures by Rubens which had
been left to the Comte de Gesvres, together with the Flemish
tapestries, by his maternal uncle, the Marques de Bobadilla, a Spanish

M. Filleul remarked:

"If the motive of the crime was theft, this drawing room, at any rate,
was not the object of it."

"You can't tell!" said the deputy, who spoke little, but who, when he
did, invariably opposed the magistrate's views.

"Why, my dear sir, the first thought of a burglar would be to carry off
those pictures and tapestries, which are universally renowned."

"Perhaps there was no time."

"We shall see."

At that moment, the Comte de Gesvres entered, accompanied by the
doctor. The count, who did not seem to feel the effects of the attack
to which he had been subjected, welcomed the two officials. Then he
opened the door of the boudoir.

This room, which no one had been allowed to enter since the discovery
of the crime, differed from the drawing room inasmuch as it presented a
scene of the greatest disorder. Two chairs were overturned, one of the
tables smashed to pieces and several objects - a traveling-clock, a
portfolio, a box of stationery - lay on the floor. And there was blood
on some of the scattered pieces of note-paper.

The doctor turned back the sheet that covered the corpse. Jean Daval,
dressed in his usual velvet suit, with a pair of nailed boots on his
feet, lay stretched on his back, with one arm folded beneath him. His
collar and tie had been removed and his shirt opened, revealing a large
wound in the chest.

"Death must have been instantaneous," declared the doctor. "One blow of
the knife was enough."

"It was, no doubt, the knife which I saw on the drawing-room
mantelpiece, next to a leather cap?" said the examining magistrate.

"Yes," said the Comte de Gesvres, "the knife was picked up here. It
comes from the same trophy in the drawing room from which my niece,
Mlle. de Saint-Veran, snatched the gun. As for the chauffeur's cap,
that evidently belongs to the murderer."

M. Filleul examined certain further details in the room, put a few
questions to the doctor and then asked M. de Gesvres to tell him what
he had seen and heard. The count worded his story as follows:

"Jean Daval woke me up. I had been sleeping badly, for that matter,
with gleams of consciousness in which I seemed to hear noises, when,
suddenly opening my eyes, I saw Daval standing at the foot of my bed,
with his candle in his hand and fully dressed - as he is now, for he
often worked late into the night. He seemed greatly excited and said,
in a low voice: 'There's some one in the drawing room.' I heard a noise
myself. I got up and softly pushed the door leading to this boudoir. At
the same moment, the door over there, which opens into the big drawing
room, was thrown back and a man appeared who leaped at me and stunned
me with a blow on the temple. I am telling you this without any
details, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, for the simple reason that I
remember only the principal facts, and that these facts followed upon
one another with extraordinary swiftness."

"And after that? - "

"After that, I don't know - I fainted. When I came to, Daval lay
stretched by my side, mortally wounded."

"At first sight, do you suspect no one?"

"No one."

"You have no enemy?"

"I know of none."

"Nor M. Daval either?"

"Daval! An enemy? He was the best creature that ever lived. M. Daval
was my secretary for twenty years and, I may say, my confidant; and I
have never seen him surrounded with anything but love and friendship."

"Still, there has been a burglary and there has been a murder: there
must be a motive for all that."

"The motive? Why, it was robbery pure and simple."

"Robbery? Have you been robbed of something, then?"

"No, nothing."

"In that case - ?"

"In that case, if they have stolen nothing and if nothing is missing,
they at least took something away."


"I don't know. But my daughter and my niece will tell you, with
absolute certainty, that they saw two men in succession cross the park
and that those two men were carrying fairly heavy loads."

"The young ladies - "

"The young ladies may have been dreaming, you think? I should be
tempted to believe it, for I have been exhausting myself in inquiries
and suppositions ever since this morning. However, it is easy enough to
question them."

The two cousins were sent for to the big drawing room. Suzanne, still
quite pale and trembling, could hardly speak. Raymonde, who was more
energetic, more of a man, better looking, too, with the golden glint in
her brown eyes, described the events of the night and the part which
she had played in them.

"So I may take it, mademoiselle, that your evidence is positive?"

"Absolutely. The men who went across the park were carrying things away
with them."

"And the third man?"

"He went from here empty-handed."

"Could you describe him to us?"

"He kept on dazzling us with the light of his lantern. All that I could
say is that he is tall and heavily built."

"Is that how he appeared to you, mademoiselle?" asked the magistrate,
turning to Suzanne de Gesvres.

"Yes - or, rather, no," said Suzanne, reflecting. "I thought he was
about the middle height and slender."

M. Filleul smiled; he was accustomed to differences of opinion and
sight in witnesses to one and the same fact:

"So we have to do, on the one hand, with a man, the one in the drawing
room, who is, at the same time, tall and short, stout and thin, and, on
the other, with two men, those in the park, who are accused of removing
from that drawing room objects - which are still here!"

M. Filleul was a magistrate of the ironic school, as he himself would
say. He was also a very ambitious magistrate and one who did not object
to an audience nor to an occasion to display his tactful resource in
public, as was shown by the increasing number of persons who now
crowded into the room. The journalists had been joined by the farmer
and his son, the gardener and his wife, the indoor servants of the
chateau and the two cabmen who had driven the flies from Dieppe.

M. Filleul continued:

"There is also the question of agreeing upon the way in which the third
person disappeared. Was this the gun you fired, mademoiselle, and from
this window?"

"Yes. The man reached the tombstone which is almost buried under the
brambles, to the left of the cloisters."

"But he got up again?"

"Only half. Victor ran down at once to guard the little door and I
followed him, leaving the second footman, Albert, to keep watch here."

Albert now gave his evidence and the magistrate concluded:

"So, according to you, the wounded man was not able to escape on the
left, because your fellow-servant was watching the door, nor on the
right, because you would have seen him cross the lawn. Logically,
therefore, he is, at the present moment, in the comparatively
restricted space that lies before our eyes."

"I am sure of it."

"And you, mademoiselle?"


"And I, too," said Victor.

The deputy prosecutor exclaimed, with a leer:

"The field of inquiry is quite narrow. We have only to continue the
search commenced four hours ago."

"We may be more fortunate."

M. Filleul took the leather cap from the mantel, examined it and,
beckoning to the sergeant of gendarmes, whispered:

"Sergeant, send one of your men to Dieppe at once. Tell him to go to
Maigret, the hatter, in the Rue de la Barre, and ask M. Maigret to tell
him, if possible, to whom this cap was sold."

The "field of inquiry," in the deputy's phrase, was limited to the
space contained between the house, the lawn on the right and the angle
formed by the left wall and the wall opposite the house, that is to
say, a quadrilateral of about a hundred yards each way, in which the
ruins of Ambrumesy, the famous mediaeval monastery, stood out at

They at once noticed the traces left by the fugitive in the trampled
grass. In two places, marks of blackened blood, now almost dried up,
were observed. After the turn at the end of the cloisters, there was
nothing more to be seen, as the nature of the ground, here covered with
pine-needles, did not lend itself to the imprint of a body. But, in
that case, how had the wounded man succeeded in escaping the eyes of
Raymonde, Victor and Albert? There was nothing but a few brakes, which
the servants and the gendarmes had beaten over and over again, and a
number of tombstones, under which they had explored. The examining
magistrate made the gardener, who had the key, open the chapel, a real
gem of carving, a shrine in stone which had been respected by time and
the revolutionaries, and which, with the delicate sculpture work of its
porch and its miniature population of statuettes, was always looked
upon as a marvelous specimen of the Norman-Gothic style. The chapel,
which was very simple in the interior, with no other ornament than its
marble altar, offered no hiding-place. Besides, the fugitive would have
had to obtain admission. And by what means?

The inspection brought them to the little door in the wall that served
as an entrance for the visitors to the ruins. It opened on a sunk road
running between the park wall and a copsewood containing some abandoned
quarries. M. Filleul stooped forward: the dust of the road bore marks
of anti-skid pneumatic tires. Raymonde and Victor remembered that,
after the shot, they had seemed to hear the throb of a motor-car.

The magistrate suggested:

"The man must have joined his confederates."

"Impossible!" cried Victor. "I was here while mademoiselle and Albert
still had him in view."

"Nonsense, he must be somewhere! Outside or inside: we have no choice!"

"He is here," the servants insisted, obstinately.

The magistrate shrugged his shoulders and went back to the house in a
more or less sullen mood. There was no doubt that it was an unpromising
case. A theft in which nothing had been stolen; an invisible prisoner:
what could be less satisfactory?

It was late. M. de Gesvres asked the officials and the two journalists
to stay to lunch. They ate in silence and then M. Filleul returned to
the drawing room, where he questioned the servants. But the sound of a
horse's hoofs came from the courtyard and, a moment after, the gendarme
who had been sent to Dieppe entered.

"Well, did you see the hatter?" exclaimed the magistrate, eager at last
to obtain some positive information.

"I saw M. Maigret. The cap was sold to a cab-driver."

"A cab-driver!"

"Yes, a driver who stopped his fly before the shop and asked to be
supplied with a yellow-leather chauffeur's cap for one of his
customers. This was the only one left. He paid for it, without
troubling about the size, and drove off. He was in a great hurry."

"What sort of fly was it?"

"A calash."

"And on what day did this happen?"

"On what day? Why, to-day, at eight o'clock this morning."

"This morning? What are you talking about?"

"The cap was bought this morning."

"But that's impossible, because it was found last night in the park. If
it was found there, it must have been there; and, consequently, it must
have been bought before."

"The hatter told me it was bought this morning."

There was a moment of general bewilderment. The nonplussed magistrate
strove to understand. Suddenly, he started, as though struck with a
gleam of light:

"Fetch the cabman who brought us here this morning! The man who drove
the calash! Fetch him at once!"

The sergeant of gendarmes and his subordinate ran off to the stables.
In a few minutes, the sergeant returned alone.

"Where's the cabman?"

"He asked for food in the kitchen, ate his lunch and then - "

"And then - ?"

"He went off."

"With his fly?"

"No. Pretending that he wanted to go and see a relation at Ouville, he
borrowed the groom's bicycle. Here are his hat and greatcoat."

"But did he leave bare-headed?"

"No, he took a cap from his pocket and put it on."

"A cap?"

"Yes, a yellow leather cap, it seems."

"A yellow leather cap? Why, no, we've got it here!"

"That's true, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, but his is just like it."

The deputy sniggered:

"Very funny! Most amusing! There are two caps - One, the real one, which

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