CHAPTER X. Lupin's Great Scheme
Contrary to his expectations, Lupin had no sort of annoyance to undergo in consequence of his assault on M. Formerie.

The examining-magistrate came to the Sante in person, two days later, and told him, with some embarrassment and with an affectation of kindness, that he did not intend to pursue the matter further.

"Nor I, either," retorted Lupin.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I mean that I shall send no communication to the press about this particular matter nor do anything that might expose you to ridicule, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. The scandal shall not be made public, I promise. That is what you want, is it not?"

M. Formerie blushed and, without replying, continued:

"Only, henceforth, your examinations will take place here."

"It's quite right that the law should put itself out for Lupin!" said that gentleman.

The announcement of this decision, which interrupted his almost daily meetings with the Doudevilles, did not disturb Lupin. He had taken his precautions from the first day, by giving the Doudevilles all the necessary instructions and, now that the preparations were nearly completed, reckoned upon being able to[Pg 255] turn old Steinweg's confidences to the best account without delay and to obtain his liberty by one of the most extraordinary and ingenious schemes that had ever entered his brain.

His method of correspondence was a simple one; and he had devised it at once. Every morning he was supplied with sheets of paper in numbered packets. He made these into envelopes; and, every evening, the envelopes, duly folded and gummed, were fetched away. Now Lupin, noticing that his packet always bore the same number, had drawn the inference that the distribution of the numbered packets was always affected in the same order among the prisoners who had chosen that particular kind of work. Experience showed that he was right.

It only remained for the Doudevilles to bribe one of the employees of the private firm entrusted with the supply and dispatch of the envelopes. This was easily done; and, thenceforward, Lupin, sure of success, had only to wait quietly until the sign agreed upon between him and his friends appeared upon the top sheet of the packet.

On the sixth day, he gave an exclamation of delight:

"At last!" he said.

He took a tiny bottle from a hiding-place, uncorked it, moistened the tip of his forefinger with the liquid which it contained and passed his finger over the third sheet in the packet.

In a moment, strokes appeared, then letters, then words and sentences.

He read:

"All well. Steinweg free. Hiding in country. Genevieve Ernemont good health. Often goes Hotel[Pg 256] Bristol to see Mrs. Kesselbach, who is ill. Meets Pierre Leduc there every time. Answer by same means. No danger."

So communications were established with the outside. Once more, Lupin's efforts were crowned with success. All that he had to do now was to execute his plan and lead the press campaign which he had prepared in the peaceful solitude of his prison.

Three days later, these few lines appeared in the Grand Journal:

"Quite apart from Prince Bismarck's Memoirs, which, according to well-informed people, contain merely the official history of the events in which the great chancellor was concerned, there exists a series of confidential letters of no little interest.

"These letters have been recently discovered. We hear, on good authority, that they will be published almost immediately."

My readers will remember the noise which these mysterious sentences made throughout the civilized world, the comments in which people indulged, the suggestions put forward and, in particular, the controversy that followed in the German press. Who had inspired those lines? What were the letters in question? Who had written them to the chancellor or who had received them from him? Was it an act of posthumous revenge? Or was it an indiscretion committed by one of Bismarck's correspondents?

[Pg 257]A second note settled public opinion as to certain points, but, at the same time, worked it up to a strange pitch of excitement. It ran as follows:

"To the Editor of the Grand Journal,
"Sante Palace,
"Cell 14, Second Division.


"You inserted in your issue of Tuesday last a paragraph based upon a few words which I let fall, the other evening, in the course of a lecture, which I was delivering at the Sante on foreign politics. Your correspondent's paragraph, although accurate in all essential particulars, requires a slight correction. The letters exist, as stated, and it is impossible to deny their exceptional importance, seeing that, for ten years, they have been the object of an uninterrupted search on the part of the government interested. But nobody knows where they are hidden and nobody knows a single word of what they contain.

"The public, I am convinced, will bear me no ill-will if I keep it waiting for some time before satisfying its legitimate curiosity. Apart from the fact that I am not in possession of all the elements necessary for the pursuit of the truth, my present occupation does not allow me to devote so much time as I could wish to this matter.

"All that I can say for the moment is that the letters were entrusted by the dying statesman to one of his most faithful friends and that this friend had eventually to suffer the serious consequences of his loyalty. Constant spying, domiciliary visits, nothing was spared him.

[Pg 258]"I have given orders to two of the best agents of my secret police to take up this scent from the start in a position to get to the bottom of this exciting mystery.

"I have the honor to be Sir,
"Your obedient servant,
"Arsene Lupin."

So it was Arsene Lupin who was conducting the case! It was he who, from his prison cell, was stage-managing the comedy or the tragedy announced in the first note. What luck! Everybody was delighted. With an artist like Lupin, the spectacle could not fail to be both picturesque and startling.

Three days later the Grand Journal contained the following letter from Arsene Lupin:

"The name of the devoted friend to whom I referred has been imparted to me. It was the Grand-Duke Hermann III., reigning (although dispossessed) sovereign of the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken-Veldenz and a confidant of Prince Bismarck, whose entire friendship he enjoyed.

"A thorough search was made of his house by Count von W??, at the head of twelve men. The result of this search was purely negative, but the grand-duke was nevertheless proved to be in possession of the papers.

"Where had he hidden them? This was a problem which probably nobody in the world would be able to solve at the present moment.

"I must ask for twenty-four hours in which to solve it.

"Arsene Lupin."

[Pg 259]And, twenty-four hours later, the promised note appeared:

"The famous letters are hidden in the feudal castle of Veldenz, the capital of the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken. The castle was partly destroyed in the course of the nineteenth century.

"Where exactly are they hidden? And what are the letters precisely? These are the two problems which I am now engaged in unravelling; and I shall publish the solution in four days' time.

"Arsene Lupin."

On the day stated, men scrambled to obtain copies of the Grand Journal. To the general disappointment, the promised information was not given. The same silence followed on the next day and the day after.

What had happened?

It leaked out through an indiscretion at the Prefecture of Police. The governor of the Sante, it appeared, had been warned that Lupin was communicating with his accomplices by means of the packets of envelopes which he made. Nothing had been discovered; but it was thought best, in any case, to forbid all work to the insufferable prisoner.

To this the insufferable prisoner replied:

"As I have nothing to do now, I may as well attend to my trial. Please let my counsel, Maitre Quimbel, know."

It was true. Lupin, who, hitherto, had refused to hold any intercourse with Maitre Quimbel, now consented to see him and to prepare his defence.

On the next day Maitre Quimbel, in cheery tones,[Pg 260] asked for Lupin to be brought to the barristers' room. He was an elderly man, wearing a pair of very powerful spectacles, which made his eyes seem enormous. He put his hat on the table, spread out his brief-case and at once began to put a series of questions which he had carefully prepared.

Lupin replied with extreme readiness and even volunteered a host of particulars, which Maitre Quimbel took down, as he spoke, on slips pinned one to the other.

"And so you say," continued the barrister, with his head over his papers, "that, at that time . . ."

"I say that, at that time . . ." Lupin answered.

Little by little, with a series of natural and hardly perceptible movements, he leant elbows on the table. He gradually lowered his arms, slipped his hand under Maitre Quimbel's hat, put his finger into the leather band and took out one of those strips of paper, folded lengthwise, which the hatter inserts between the leather and the lining when the hat is a trifle too large.

He unfolded the paper. It was a message from Doudeville, written in a cipher agreed upon beforehand:

"I am engaged as indoor servant at Maitre Quimbel's. You can answer by the same means without fear.

"It was L. M., the murderer, who gave away the envelope trick. A good thing that you foresaw this move!"

Hereupon followed a minute report of all the facts and comments caused by Lupin's revelations.

Lupin took from his pocket a similar strip of paper[Pg 261] containing his instructions, quietly substituted it in the place of the other and drew his hand back again. The trick was played.

And Lupin's correspondence with the Grand Journal was resumed without further delay.

"I apologize to the public for not keeping my promise. The postal arrangements at the Sante Palace are woefully inadequate.

"However, we are near the end. I have in hand all the documents that establish the truth upon an indisputable basis. I shall not publish them for the moment. Nevertheless, I will say this: among the letters are some that were addressed to the chancellor by one who, at that time, declared himself his disciple and his admirer and who was destined, several years after, to rid himself of that irksome tutor and to govern alone.

"I trust that I make myself sufficiently clear."

And, on the next day:

"The letters were written during the late Emperor's illness. I need hardly add more to prove their importance."

Four days of silence, and then this final note, which caused a stir that has not yet been forgotten:

"My investigation is finished. I now know everything.

"By dint of reflection, I have guessed the secret of the hiding-place.

"My friends are going to Veldenz and, in spite of[Pg 262] every obstacle, will enter the castle by a way which I am pointing out to them.

"The newspapers will then publish photographs of the letters, of which I already know the tenor; but I prefer to reproduce the whole text.

"This certain, inevitable publication will take place in a fortnight from to-day precisely, on the 22nd of August next.

"Between this and then I will keep silence . . . and wait."

The communications to the Grand Journal did, in fact, stop for a time, but Lupin never ceased corresponding with his friends, "via the hat," as they said among themselves. It was so simple! There was no danger. Who could ever suspect that Maitre Quimbel's hat served Lupin as a letter-box?

Every two or three mornings, whenever he called, in fact, the celebrated advocate faithfully brought his client's letters: letters from Paris, letters from the country, letters from Germany; all reduced and condensed by Doudeville into a brief form and cipher language. And, an hour later, Maitre Quimbel solemnly walked away, carrying Lupin's orders.

Now, one day, the governor of the Sante received a telephone message, signed, "L. M.," informing him that Maitre Quimbel was, in all probability, serving Lupin as his unwitting postman and that it would be advisable to keep an eye upon the worthy man's visits. The governor told Maitre Quimbel, who thereupon resolved to bring his junior with him.

So, once again, in spite of all Lupin's efforts, in spite of his fertile powers of invention, in spite of the marvels[Pg 263] of ingenuity which he renewed after each defeat, once again Lupin found himself cut off from communication with the outside world by the infernal genius of his formidable adversary. And he found himself thus cut off at the most critical moment, at the solemn minute when, from his cell, he was playing his last trump-card against the coalesced forces that were overwhelming him so terribly.

On the 13th of August, as he sat facing the two counsels, his attention was attracted by a newspaper in which some of Maitre Quimbel's papers were wrapped up.

He saw a heading in very large type


The sub-headings were:




Lupin turned pale with anguish. Below he read the words:

"Two sensational telegrams reach us at the moment of going to press.

"The body of an old man has been found near Augsburg, with his throat cut with a knife. The police have succeeded in identifying the victim: it is Steinweg, the man mentioned in the Kesselbach case.

[Pg 264]"On the other hand, a correspondent telegraphs that the famous English detective, Holmlock Shears, has been hurriedly summoned to Cologne. He will there meet the Emperor; and they will both proceed to Veldenz Castle.

"Holmlock Shears is said to have undertaken to discover the secret of the 'APOON.'

"If he succeeds, it will mean the pitiful failure of the incomprehensible campaign which Arsene Lupin has been conducting for the past month in so strange a fashion."

Perhaps public curiosity was never so much stirred as by the duel announced to take place between Shears and Lupin, an invisible duel in the circumstances, an anonymous duel, one might say, in which everything would happen in the dark, in which people would be able to judge only by the final results, and yet an impressive duel, because of all the scandal that circled around the adventure and because of the stakes in dispute between the two irreconcilable enemies, now once more opposed to each other.

And it was a question not of small private interests, of insignificant burglaries, of trumpery individual passions, but of a matter of really world-wide importance, involving the politics of the three great western nations and capable of disturbing the peace of the world.

People waited anxiously; and no one knew exactly what he was waiting for. For, after all, if the detective came out victorious in the duel, if he found the letters, who would ever know? What proof would any one have of his triumph?

In the main, all hopes were centred on Lupin, on his[Pg 265] well-known habit of calling the public to witness his acts. What was he going to do? How could he avert the frightful danger that threatened him? Was he even aware of it?

Those were the questions which men asked themselves.

Between the four walls of his cell, prisoner 14 asked himself pretty nearly the same questions; and he for his part, was not stimulated by idle curiosity, but by real uneasiness, by constant anxiety. He felt himself irrevocably alone, with impotent hands, an impotent will, an impotent brain. It availed him nothing that he was able, ingenious, fearless, heroic. The struggle was being carried on without him. His part was now finished. He had joined all the pieces and set all the springs of the great machine that was to produce, that was, in a manner of speaking, automatically to manufacture his liberty; and it was impossible for him to make a single movement to improve and supervise his handiwork.

At the date fixed, the machine would start working. Between now and then, a thousand adverse incidents might spring up, a thousand obstacles arise, without his having the means to combat those incidents or remove those obstacles.

Lupin spent the unhappiest hours of his life at that time. He doubted himself. He wondered whether his existence would be buried for good in the horror of a jail. Had he not made a mistake in his calculations? Was it not childish to believe that the event that was to set him free would happen on the appointed date?

"Madness!" he cried. "My argument is false. . . . How can I expect such a concurrence of circumstances?[Pg 266] There will be some little fact that will destroy all . . . the inevitable grain of sand. . . ."

Steinweg's death and the disappearance of the documents which the old man was to make over to him did not trouble him greatly. The documents he could have done without in case of need; and, with the few words which Steinweg had told him, he was able, by dint of guess-work and his native genius, to reconstruct what the Emperor's letters contained and to draw up the plan of battle that would lead to victory. But he thought of Holmlock Shears, who was over there now, in the very centre of the battlefield, and who was seeking and who would find the letters, thus demolishing the edifice so patiently built up.

And he thought of "the other one," the implacable enemy, lurking round the prison, hidden in the prison, perhaps, who guessed his most secret plans even before they were hatched in the mystery of his thought.

The 17th of August! . . . The 18th of August! . . . The 19th! . . . Two more days. . . . Two centuries rather! Oh, the interminable minutes! . . .

Lupin, usually so calm, so entirely master of himself, so ingenious at providing matter for his own amusement, was feverish, exultant and depressed by turns, powerless against the enemy, mistrusting everything and everybody, morose.

The 20th of August! . . . .

He would have wished to act and he could not. Whatever he did, it was impossible for him to hasten the hour of the catastrophe. This catastrophe would[Pg 267] take place or would not take place; but Lupin would not know for certain until the last hour of the last day was spent to the last minute. Then?and then alone?he would know of the definite failure of his scheme.

"The inevitable failure," he kept on repeating to himself. "Success depends upon circumstances far too subtle and can be obtained only by methods far too psychological. . . . There is no doubt that I am deceiving myself as to the value and the range of my weapons. . . . And yet . . ."

Hope returned to him. He weighed his chances. They suddenly seemed to him real and formidable. The fact was going to happen as he had foreseen it happening and for the very reasons which he had expected. It was inevitable. . . .

Yes, inevitable. Unless, indeed, Shears discovered the hiding-place. . . .

And again he thought of Shears; and again an immense sense of discouragement overwhelmed him.

The last day. . . .

He woke late, after a night of bad dreams.

He saw nobody that day, neither the examining magistrate nor his counsel.

The afternoon dragged along slowly and dismally, and the evening came, the murky evening of the cells. . . . He was in a fever. His heart beat in his chest like the clapper of a bell.

And the minutes passed, irretrievably. . . .

At nine o'clock, nothing. At ten o'clock, nothing.

With all his nerves tense as the string of a bow, he listened to the vague prison sounds, tried to catch through those inexorable walls all that might trickle in from the life outside.

[Pg 268]Oh, how he would have liked to stay the march of time and to give destiny a little more leisure!

But what was the good? Was everything not finished? . . .

"Oh," he cried, "I am going mad! If all this were only over . . . that would be better. I can begin again, differently. . . . I shall try something else . . . but I can't go on like this, I can't go on. . . ."

He held his head in his hands, pressing it with all his might, locking himself within himself and concentrating his whole mind upon one subject, as though he wished to provoke, as though he wished to create the formidable, stupefying, inadmissible event to which he had attached his independence and his fortune:

"It must happen," he muttered, "it must; and it must, not because I wish it, but because it is logical. And it shall happen . . . it shall happen. . . ."

He beat his skull with his fists; and delirious words rose to his lips. . . .

The key grated in the lock. In his frenzy, he had not heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor; and now, suddenly, a ray of light penetrated into his cell and the door opened.

Three men entered.

Lupin had not a moment of surprise.

The unheard-of miracle was being worked; and this at once seemed to him natural and normal, in perfect agreement with truth and justice.

But a rush of pride flooded his whole being. At this minute he really received a clear sensation of his own strength and intelligence. . . .

"Shall I switch on the light?" asked one of the three[Pg 269] men, in whom Lupin recognized the governor of the prison.

"No," replied the taller of his companions, speaking in a foreign accent. "This lantern will do."

"Shall I go?"

"Act according to your duty, sir," said the same individual.

"My instructions from the prefect of police are to comply entirely with your wishes."

"In that case, sir, it would be preferable that you should withdraw."

M. Borely went away, leaving the door half open, and remained outside, within call.

The visitor exchanged a few words with the one who had not yet spoken; and Lupin vainly tried to distinguish his features in the shade. He saw only two dark forms, clad in wide motoring-cloaks and wearing caps with the flaps lowered.

"Are you Arsene Lupin?" asked the man, turning the light of the lantern full on his face.

He smiled:

"Yes, I am the person known as Arsene Lupin, at present a prisoner in the Sante, cell 14, second division."

"Was it you," continued the visitor, "who published in the Grand Journal a series of more or less fanciful notes, in which there is a question of a so-called collection of letters . . . ?"

Lupin interrupted him.

"I beg your pardon, sir, but, before pursuing this conversation, the object of which, between ourselves, is none too clear to me, I should be much obliged if you would tell me to whom I have the honour of speaking."

[Pg 270]"Absolutely unnecessary," replied the stranger.

"Absolutely essential," declared Lupin.


"For reasons of politeness, sir. You know my name and I do not know yours; this implies a disregard of good form which I cannot suffer."

The stranger lost patience:

"The mere fact that the governor of the prison brought us here shows . . ."

"That M. Borely does not know his manners," said Lupin. "M. Borely should have introduced us to each other. We are equals here, sir: it is no case of a superior and an inferior, of a prisoner and a visitor who condescends to come and see him. There are two men here; and one of those two men has a hat on his head, which he ought not to have."

"Now look here . . ."

"Take the lesson as you please, sir," said Lupin.

The stranger came closer to him and tried to speak.

"The hat first," said Lupin, "the hat. . . ."

"You shall listen to me!"




Matters were becoming virulent, stupidly. The second stranger, the one who had kept silent, placed his hand on his companion's shoulder and said, in German:

"Leave him to me."

"Why, it was understood . . ."

"Hush . . . and go away!"

"Leaving you alone?"


"But the door?"

"Shut it and walk away."

[Pg 271]"But this man . . . you know who he is. . . . Arsene Lupin. . . ."

"Go away!"

The other went out, cursing under his breath.

"Pull the door!" cried the second visitor. "Harder than that. . . . Altogether! . . . That's right. . . ."

Then he turned, took the lantern and raised it slowly:

"Shall I tell you who I am?" he asked.

"No," replied Lupin.

"And why?"

"Because I know."


"You are the visitor I was expecting."


"Yes, Sire."

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