CHAPTER III : Holmlock Shears Opens Hostilities 1/4

"What can I get you, gentlemen?"

"Anything you please," replied Arsene Lupin, in the voice of a man who takes no interest in his food. "Anything you please, but no meat or wine."

The waiter walked away, with a scornful air.

I exclaimed:

"Do you mean to say that you are still a vegetarian?"

"Yes, more than ever," said Lupin.

"From taste? Conviction? Habit?"

"For reasons of health."

"And do you never break your rule?"

"Oh, yes ... when I go out to dinner, so as not to appear eccentric."

We were dining near the Gare du Nord, inside a little restaurant where Arsene Lupin had invited me to join him. He is rather fond of telegraphing to me, occasionally, in the morning and arranging a meeting of this kind in some corner or other of Paris. He always arrives in the highest spirits, rejoicing in life, unaffectedly and good-humouredly, and always has some surprising anecdote to tell me, some memory, the story of some adventure that I have not heard before.

That evening, he seemed to me to let himself go even more than usual. He laughed and chatted with a singular animation and with that delicate irony which is all his own, an irony devoid of bitterness, light and spontaneous. It was a pleasure to see him like that, and I could not help expressing my satisfaction.

"Oh, yes," he cried, "I have days when everything seems delightful, when life bubbles in me like an infinite treasure which I can never exhaust. And yet goodness knows that I live without counting!"

"Too much so, perhaps."

"The treasure is infinite, I tell you! I can spend myself and squander myself, I can fling my strength and my youth to the four winds of heaven and I am only making room for greater and more youthful strength.... And then, really, my life is so beautiful!... I need only have the wish?isn't it so??to become, from one day to the next, anything: an orator, a great manufacturer, a politician.... Well, I swear to you, the idea would never enter my head! Arsene Lupin I am, Arsene Lupin I remain. And I search history in vain for a destiny to compare with mine, fuller, more intense.... Napoleon? Yes, perhaps.... But then it is Napoleon at the end of his imperial career, during the campaign in France, when Europe was crushing him and when he was wondering whether each battle was not the last which he would fight."

Was he serious? Was he jesting? The tone of his voice had grown more eager and he continued:

"Everything's there, you see: danger! The uninterrupted impression of danger! Oh, to breathe it like the air one breathes, to feel it around one, blowing, roaring, lying in wait, approaching!... And, in the midst of the storm, to remain calm ... not to flinch!... If you do, you are lost.... There is only one sensation to equal it, that of the chauffeur driving his car. But that drive lasts for a morning, whereas mine lasts all through life!"

"How lyrical we are!" I cried. "And you would have me believe that you have no special reason for excitement!"

He smiled.

"You're a shrewd enough psychologist," he replied. "There is something more, as you say."

He poured out a tumbler of water, drank it down and asked:

"Have you seen the Temps to-day?"


"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 Arsene 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."


"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:

"Arsene 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 Arsene 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 Arsene 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. Arsene 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.

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