CHAPTER XV The Map of Europe

Pierre Leduc loved Dolores!

Lupin felt a keen, penetrating pain in the depths of his being, as though he had been wounded in the very source of life; a pain so great that, for the first time, he had a clear perception of what Dolores had gradually, unknown to himself, become to him.

Pierre Leduc loved Dolores! And he was looking at her as a man looks at the woman he loves.

Lupin felt a murderous instinct rise up within him, blindly and furiously. That look, that look of love cast upon Dolores, maddened him. He received an impression of the great silence that enveloped Dolores and Pierre Leduc; and in silence, in the stillness of their attitude there was nothing living but that look of love, that dumb and sensuous hymn in which the eyes told all the passion, all the desire, all the transport, all the yearning that one being can feel for another.

And he saw Mrs. Kesselbach also. Dolores' eyes were invisible under their lowered lids, the silky eyelids with the long black lashes. But how she seemed to feel that look of love which sought for hers! How she quivered under that impalpable caress!

"She loves him . . . she loves him," thought Lupin, burning with jealousy.

And, when Pierre made a movement:

[Pg 380]"Oh, the villain! If he dares to touch her, I will kill him!"

Then, realizing the disorder of his reason and striving to combat it, he said to himself:

"What a fool I am! What, you, Lupin, letting your self go like this! . . . Look here, it's only natural that she should love him. . . . Yes, of course, you expected her to show a certain emotion at your arrival . . . a certain agitation. . . . You silly idiot, you're only a thief, a robber . . . whereas he is a prince and young. . . ."

Pierre had not stirred further. But his lips moved and it seemed as though Dolores were waking. Softly, slowly, she raised her lids, turned her head a little and her eyes met the young man's eyes with the look that offers itself and surrenders itself and is more intense than the most intense of kisses.

What followed came suddenly and unexpectedly, like a thunder-clap. In three bounds, Lupin rushed into the drawing-room, sprang upon the young man, flung him to the ground and, with one hand on his rival's chest, beside himself with anger, turning to Mrs. Kesselbach, he cried:

"But don't you know? Hasn't he told you, the cheat? . . . And you love him, you love that! Does he look like a grand-duke? Oh, what a joke!"

He grinned and chuckled like a madman, while Dolores gazed at him in stupefaction:

"He, a grand-duke! Hermann IV., Grand-duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz! A reigning sovereign! Elector of Treves! But it's enough to make one die of laughing! He! Why, his name is Baupre, Gerard Baupre, the lowest of ragamuffins . . . a beggar, whom I picked up in the gutter! . . . A grand-duke? But[Pg 381] it's I who made him a grand-duke! Ha, ha, ha, what a joke! . . . If you had seen him cut his little finger . . . he fainted three times . . . the milksop! . . . Ah, you allow yourself to lift your eyes to ladies . . . and to rebel against the master! . . . Wait a bit, Grand-duke of Zweibrucken-Veldenz, I'll show you!"

He took him in his arms, like a bundle, swung him to and fro for a moment and pitched him through the open window:

"Mind the rose trees, grand-duke! There are thorns!"

When he turned round, Dolores was close to him and looking at him with eyes which he had never seen in her before, the eyes of a woman who hates and who is incensed with rage. Could this possibly be Dolores, the weak, ailing Dolores?

She stammered:

"What are you doing? . . . How dare you? . . . And he. . . . Then it's true? . . . lied to me? . . ."

"Lied to you?" cried Lupin, grasping the humiliation which she had suffered as a woman. "Lied to you? He, a grand-duke! A puppet, that's all, a puppet of which I pulled the string . . . an instrument which I tuned, to play upon as I chose! Oh, the fool, the fool!"

Overcome with renewed rage, he stamped his foot and shook his fist at the open window. And he began to walk up and down the room, flinging out phrases in which all the pent-up violence of his secret thought burst forth:

"The fool! Then he didn't see what I expected of him? He did not suspect the greatness of the part he[Pg 382] was to play? Oh, I shall have to drive it into his noddle by force, I see! Lift up your head, you idiot! You shall be grand-duke by the grace of Lupin! And a reigning sovereign! With a civil list! And subjects to fleece! And a palace which Charlemagne shall rebuild for you! And a master that shall be I, Lupin! Do you understand, you numskull? Lift up your head, dash it! Higher than that! Look up at the sky, remember that a Zweibrucken was hanged for cattle-lifting before the Hohenzollerns were ever heard of. And you are a Zweibrucken, by Jove, no less; and I am here, I, I, Lupin! And you shall be grand-duke, I tell you! A paste-board grand-duke? Very well! But a grand-duke all the same, quickened with my breath and glowing with my ardor. A puppet? Very well. But a puppet that shall speak my words and make my movements and perform my wishes and realize my dreams . . . yes . . . my dreams."

He stood motionless, as though dazzled by the glory of his conception. Then he went up to Dolores and, sinking his voice, with a sort of mystic exaltation, he said:

"On my left, Alsace-Lorraine. . . . On my right, Baden, Wurtemburg, Bavaria. . . . South Germany . . . all those disconnected, discontented states, crushed under the heel of the Prussian Charlemagne, but restless and ready to throw off the yoke at any moment. . . . Do you understand all that a man like myself can do in the midst of that, all the aspirations that he can kindle, all the hatred that he can produce, all the angry rebellion that he can inspire?"

In a still lower voice, he repeated:

"And, on my left, Alsace-Lorraine! . . . Do you fully understand? . . . Dreams? Not at all![Pg 383] It is the reality of the day after to-morrow, of to-morrow! . . . Yes. . . . I wish it. . . . I wish it. . . . Oh, all that I wish and all that I mean to do is unprecedented! . . . Only think, at two steps from the Alsatian frontier! In the heart of German territory! Close to the old Rhine! . . . A little intrigue, a little genius will be enough to change the surface of the earth. Genius I have . . . and to spare. . . . And I shall be the master! I shall be the man who directs. The other, the puppet can have the title and the honors. . . . I shall have the power! . . . I shall remain in the background. No office: I will not be a minister, nor even a chamberlain. Nothing. I shall be one of the servants in the palace, the gardener perhaps. . . . Yes, the gardener. . . . Oh, what a tremendous life! To grow flowers and alter the map of Europe!"

She looked at him greedily, dominated, swayed by the strength of that man. And her eyes expressed an admiration which she did not seek to conceal.

He put his hands on Dolores' shoulders and said:

"That is my dream. Great as it is, it will be surpassed by the facts: that I swear to you. The Kaiser has already seen what I am good for. One day, he will find me installed in front of him, face to face. I hold all the trumps. Valenglay will act at my bidding. . . . England also. . . . The game is played and won. . . . That is my dream. . . . There is another one. . . ."

He stopped suddenly. Dolores did not take her eyes from him; and an infinite emotion changed every feature of her face.

A vast joy penetrated him as he once more felt, and clearly felt, that woman's confusion in his presence.[Pg 384] He no longer had the sense of being to her . . . what he was, a thief, a robber; he was a man, a man who loved and whose love roused unspoken feelings in the depths of a friendly soul.

Then he said no more, but he lavished upon her, unuttered, every known word of love and admiration; and he thought of the life which he might lead somewhere, not far from Veldenz, unknown and all-powerful. . . .

A long silence united them. Then she rose and said, softly:

"Go away, I entreat you to go. . . . Pierre shall marry Genevieve, I promise you that, but it is better that you should go . . . that you should not be here. . . . Go. Pierre shall marry Genevieve."

He waited for a moment. Perhaps he would rather have had more definite words, but he dared not ask for anything. And he withdrew, dazed, intoxicated and happy to obey, to subject his destiny to hers!

On his way to the door, he came upon a low chair, which he had to move. But his foot knocked against something. He looked down. It was a little pocket-mirror, in ebony, with a gold monogram.

Suddenly, he started and snatched up the mirror. The monogram consisted of two letters interlaced, an "L" and an "M."

An "L" and an "M!"

"Louis de Malreich," he said to himself, with a shudder.

He turned to Dolores:

"Where does this mirror come from? Whose is it? It is important that I should . . ."

She took it from him and looked at it:

[Pg 385]"I don't know. . . . I never saw it before . . . a servant, perhaps. . . ."

"A servant, no doubt," he said, "but it is very odd . . . it is one of those coincidences. . . ."

At that moment, Genevieve entered by the other door, and without seeing Lupin, who was hidden by a screen, at once exclaimed:

"Why, there's your glass, Dolores! . . . So you have found it, after making me hunt for it all this time! . . . Where was it?" And the girl went away saying, "Oh, well, I'm very glad it's found! . . . How upset you were! . . . I will go and tell them at once to stop looking for it. . . ."

Lupin had not moved. He was confused, and tried in vain to understand. Why had Dolores not spoken the truth? Why had she not at once said whose the mirror was?

An idea flashed across his mind; and he asked, more or less at random:

"Do you know Louis de Malreich?"

"Yes," she said, watching him, as though striving to guess the thoughts that beset him.

He rushed toward her, in a state of intense excitement:

"You know him? Who was he? Who is he? Who is he? And why did you not tell me? Where have you known him? Speak . . . answer. . . . I implore you. . . ."

"No," she said.

"But you must, you must. . . . Think! Louis de Malreich! The murderer! The monster! . . . Why did you not tell me?"

She, in turn, placed her hands on Lupin's shoulders and, in a firm voice, declared:

[Pg 386]"Listen, you must never ask me, because I shall never tell. . . . It is a secret which I shall take with me to the grave. . . . Come what may, no one will ever know, no one in the wide world, I swear it!"

He stood before her for some minutes, anxiously, with a confused brain.

He remembered Steinweg's silence and the old man's terror when Lupin asked him to reveal the terrible secret. Dolores also knew and she also refused to speak.

He went out without a word.

The open air, the sense of space, did him good. He passed out through the park-wall and wandered long over the country. And he soliloquized aloud:

"What does it mean? What is happening? For months and months, fighting hard and acting, I have been pulling the strings of all the characters that are to help me in the execution of my plans; and, during this time, I have completely forgotten to stoop over them and see what is going on in their hearts and brains. I do not know Pierre Leduc, I do not know Genevieve, I do not know Dolores. . . . And I have treated them as so many jumping-jacks, whereas they are live persons. And to-day I am stumbling over obstacles."

He stamped his foot and cried:

"Over obstacles that do not exist! What do I care for the psychological state of Genevieve, of Pierre? . . . I will study that later, at Veldenz, when I have secured their happiness. But Dolores . . . she knew Malreich and said nothing! . . . Why? What relation united them? Was she afraid of him? Is she afraid that he will escape from prison and come to revenge himself for an indiscretion on her part?"

[Pg 387]At night, he went to the chalet which he had allotted to his own use at the end of the park and dined in a very bad temper, storming at Octave, who waited on him and who was always either too slow or too fast:

"I'm sick of it, leave me alone. . . . You're doing everything wrong to-day. . . . And this coffee. . . . It's not fit to drink."

He pushed back his cup half-full and, for two hours, walked about the park, sifting the same ideas over and over again. At last, one suggestion took definite shape within his mind:

"Malreich has escaped from prison. He is terrifying Mrs. Kesselbach. By this time, he already knows the story of the mirror from her. . . ."

Lupin shrugged his shoulders:

"And to-night he's coming to pull my leg, I suppose! I'm talking nonsense. The best thing I can do is to go to bed."

He went to his room, undressed and got into bed. He fell asleep at once, with a heavy sleep disturbed by nightmares. Twice he woke and tried to light his candle and twice fell back, as though stunned by a blow.

Nevertheless, he heard the hours strike on the village clock, or rather he thought that he heard them strike, for he was plunged in a sort of torpor in which he seemed to retain all his wits.

And he was haunted by dreams, dreams of anguish and terror. He plainly heard the sound of his window opening. He plainly, through his closed eyelids, through the thick darkness, saw a form come toward the bed.

And the form bent over him.

He made the incredible effort needed to raise his[Pg 388] eyelids and look . . . or, at least, he imagined that he did. Was he dreaming? Was he awake? He asked himself the question in despair.

A further sound. . . .

He took up the box of matches by his bedside:

"Let's have a light on it," he said, with a great sense of elation.

He struck a match and lit the candle.

Lupin felt the perspiration stream over his skin, from head to foot, while his heart ceased beating, stopped with terror. The man was there.

Was it possible? No, no . . . and yet he saw. . . . Oh, the fearsome sight! . . . The man, the monster, was there. . . .

"He shall not . . . he shall not," stammered Lupin madly.

The man, the monster was there, dressed in black, with a mask on his face and with his felt hat pulled down over his fair hair.

"Oh, I am dreaming. . . . I am dreaming!" said Lupin, laughing. "It's a nightmare! . . ."

Exerting all his strength and all his will-power, he tried to make a movement, one movement, to drive away the vision.

He could not.

And, suddenly, he remembered: the coffee! The taste of it . . . similar to the taste of the coffee which he had drunk at Veldenz!

He gave a cry, made a last effort and fell back exhausted. But, in his delirium, he felt that the man was unfastening the top button of his pajama-jacket and baring his neck, felt that the man was raising his arm, saw that the hand was clutching the handle of a dagger, a little steel dagger similar to that which had[Pg 389] struck Kesselbach, Chapman, Altenheim and so many others. . . .

A few hours later, Lupin woke up, shattered with fatigue, with a scorched palate.

He lay for several minutes collecting his thoughts and, suddenly, remembering, made an instinctive defensive movement, as though he were being attacked:

"Fool that I am!" he cried, jumping out of bed. "It was a nightmare, an hallucination. It only needs a little reflection. Had it been 'he,' had it really been a man, in flesh and blood, who lifted his hand against me last night, he would have cut my throat like a rabbit's. 'He' doesn't hesitate. Let's be logical. Why should he spare me? For the sake of my good looks? No, I have been dreaming, that's all. . . ."

He began to whistle and dressed himself, assuming the greatest calmness, but his brain never ceased working and his eyes sought about. . . .

On the floor, on the window-ledge, not a trace. As his room was on the ground-floor and as he slept with his window open, it was evident that his assailant would have entered that way.

Well, he discovered nothing; and nothing either at the foot of the wall outside, or on the gravel of the path that ran round the chalet.

"Still . . . still . . ." he repeated, between his teeth. . . .

He called Octave:

"Where did you make the coffee which you gave me last night?"

[Pg 390]"At the castle, governor, like the rest of the things. There is no range here."

"Did you drink any of it?"


"Did you throw away what was left in the coffee-pot?"

"Why, yes, governor. You said it was so bad. You only took a few mouthfuls."

"Very well. Get the motor ready. We're leaving."

Lupin was not the man to remain in doubt. He wanted to have a decisive explanation with Dolores. But, for this, he must first clear up certain points that seemed to him obscure and see Jean Doudeville who had sent him some rather curious information from Veldenz.

He drove, without stopping, to the grand-duchy, which he reached at two o'clock. He had an interview with Count de Waldemar, whom he asked, upon some pretext, to delay the journey of the delegates of the Regency to Bruggen. Then he went in search of Doudeville, in a tavern at Veldenz.

Doudeville took him to another tavern, where he introduced him to a shabbily-dressed little gentleman, Herr Stockli, a clerk in the department of births, deaths and marriages. They had a long conversation. They went out together and all three passed stealthily through the offices of the town-hall. At seven o'clock, Lupin dined and set out again. At ten o'clock he arrived at Bruggen Castle and asked for Genevieve, so that she might take him to Mrs. Kesselbach's room.

He was told that Mlle. Ernemont had been summoned back to Paris by a telegram from her grandmother.

"Ah!" he said. "Could I see Mrs. Kesselbach?"

[Pg 391]"Mrs. Kesselbach went straight to bed after dinner. She is sure to be asleep."

"No, I saw a light in her boudoir. She will see me."

He did not even wait for Mrs. Kesselbach to send out an answer. He walked into the boudoir almost upon the maid's heels, dismissed her and said to Dolores:

"I have to speak to you, madame, on an urgent matter. . . . Forgive me . . . I confess that my behavior must seem importunate. . . . But you will understand, I am sure. . . ."

He was greatly excited and did not seem much disposed to put off the explanation, especially as, before entering the room, he thought he heard a sound.

Yet Dolores was alone and lying down. And she said, in her tired voice:

"Perhaps we might . . . to-morrow. . . ."

He did not answer, suddenly struck by a smell that surprised him in that boudoir, a smell of tobacco. And, at once, he had the intuition, the certainty, that there was a man there, at the moment when he himself arrived, and that perhaps the man was there still, hidden somewhere. . . .

Pierre Leduc? No, Pierre Leduc did not smoke. Then who?

Dolores murmured:

"Be quick, please."

"Yes, yes, but first . . . would it be possible for you to tell me . . . ?"

He interrupted himself. What was the use of asking her? If there were really a man in hiding, would she be likely to tell?

Then he made up his mind and, trying to overcome the sort of timid constraint that oppressed him at the[Pg 392] sense of a strange presence, he said, in a very low voice, so that Dolores alone should hear:

"Listen, I have learnt something . . . which I do not understand . . . and which perplexes me greatly. You will answer me, will you not, Dolores?"

He spoke her name with great gentleness and as though he were trying to master her by the note of love and affection in his voice.

"What have you learnt?" she asked.

"The register of births at Veldenz contains three names which are those of the last descendants of the family of Malreich, which settled in Germany. . . ."

"Yes, you have told me all that. . . ."

"You remember, the first name is Raoul de Malreich, better known under his alias of Altenheim, the scoundrel, the swell hooligan, now dead . . . murdered."


"Next comes Louis de Malreich, the monster, this one, the terrible murderer who will be beheaded in a few days from now."


"Then, lastly, Isilda, the mad daughter. . . ."


"So all that is quite positive, is it not?"


"Well," said Lupin, leaning over her more closely than before, "I have just made an investigation which showed to me that the second of the three Christian names, or rather a part of the line on which it is written, has at some time or other, been subjected to erasure. The line is written over, in a new hand, with much fresher ink; but the writing below is not quite effaced, so that. . . ."

[Pg 393]"So that . . . ?" asked Mrs. Kesselbach, in a low voice.

"So that, with a good lens and particularly with the special methods which I have at my disposal, I was able to revive some of the obliterated syllables and, without any possibility of a mistake, in all certainty, to reconstruct the old writing. I then found not Louis de Malreich, but . . ."

"Oh, don't, don't! . . ."

Suddenly shattered by the strain of her prolonged effort of resistance, she lay bent in two and, with her head in her hands, her shoulders shaken with convulsive sobs, she wept.

Lupin looked for long seconds at this weak and listless creature, so pitifully helpless. And he would have liked to stop, to cease the torturing questions which he was inflicting upon her. But was it not to save her that he was acting as he did? And, to save her, was it not necessary that he should know the truth, however painful?

He resumed:

"Why that forgery?"

"It was my husband," she stammered, "it was my husband who did it. With his fortune, he could do everything; and he bribed a junior clerk to have the Christian name of the second child altered for him on the register."

"The Christian name and the sex," said Lupin.

"Yes," she said.

"Then," he continued, "I am not mistaken: the original Christian name, the real one, was Dolores?"


"But why did your husband . . . ?"

[Pg 394]She whispered in a shame-faced manner, while the tears streamed down her cheeks.

"Don't you understand?"


"But think," she said, shuddering, "I was the sister of Isilda, the mad woman, the sister of Altenheim, the ruffian. My husband?or rather my affianced husband?would not have me remain that. He loved me. I loved him too, and I consented. He suppressed Dolores de Malreich on the register, he bought me other papers, another personality, another birth-certificate; and I was married in Holland under another maiden name, as Dolores Amonti."

Lupin reflected for a moment and said, thoughtfully:

"Yes . . . yes . . . I understand. . . . But then Louis de Malreich does not exist; and the murderer of your husband, the murderer of your brother and sister, does not bear that name. . . . His name. . . ."

She sprang to a sitting posture and, eagerly:

"His name! Yes, that is his name . . . yes, it is his name nevertheless. . . . Louis de Malreich. . . . L. M. . . . Remember. . . . Oh, do not try to find out . . . it is the terrible secret. . . . Besides, what does it matter? . . . They have the criminal. . . . He is the criminal. . . . I tell you he is. Did he defend himself when I accused him, face to face? Could he defend himself, under that name or any other? It is he . . . it is he . . . He committed the murders. . . . He struck the blows. . . . The dagger. . . . The steel dagger. . . . Oh, if I could only tell all I know! . . . Louis de Malreich. . . . If I could only . . ."

[Pg 395]She fell back on the sofa in a fit of hysterical sobbing; and her hand clutched Lupin's and he heard her stammering, amid inarticulate words:

"Protect me . . . protect me. . . . You alone, perhaps. . . . Oh, do not forsake me. . . . I am so unhappy! . . . Oh, what torture . . . what torture! . . . It is hell! . . ."

With his free hand, he stroked her hair and forehead with infinite gentleness; and, under his caress, she gradually relaxed her tense nerves and became calmer and quieter.

Then he looked at her again and long, long asked himself what there could be behind that fair, white brow, what secret was ravaging that mysterious soul. She also was afraid. But of whom? Against whom was she imploring him to protect her?

Once again, he was obsessed by the image of the man in black, by that Louis de Malreich, the sinister and incomprehensible enemy, whose attacks he had to ward off without knowing whence they came or even if they were taking place.

He was in prison, watched day and night. Tush! Did Lupin not know by his own experience that there are beings for whom prison does not exist and who throw off their chains at the given moment? And Louis de Malreich was one of those.

Yes, there was some one in the Sante prison, in the condemned man's cell. But it might be an accomplice or some victim of Malreich . . . while Malreich himself prowled around Bruggen Castle, slipped in under cover of the darkness, like an invisible spectre, made his way into the chalet in the park and, at night, raised his dagger against Lupin asleep and helpless.

And it was Louis de Malreich who terrorized Dolores,[Pg 396] who drove her mad with his threats, who held her by some dreadful secret and forced her into silence and submission.

And Lupin imagined the enemy's plan: to throw Dolores, scared and trembling, into Pierre Leduc's arms, to make away with him, Lupin, and to reign in his place, over there, with the grand-duke's power and Dolores's millions.

It was a likely supposition, a certain supposition, which fitted in with the facts and provided a solution of all the problems.

"Of all?" thought Lupin. "Yes. . . . But then, why did he not kill me, last night, in the chalet? He had but to wish . . . and he did not wish. One movement and I was dead. He did not make that movement. Why?"

Dolores opened her eyes, saw him and smiled, with a pale smile:

"Leave me," she said:

He rose, with some hesitation. Should he go and see if the enemy was behind the curtain or hidden behind the dresses in a cupboard?

She repeated, gently:

"Go . . . I am so sleepy. . . ."

He went away.

But, outside, he stopped behind some trees that formed a dark cluster in front of the castle. He saw a light in Dolores' boudoir. Then the light passed into the bedroom. In a few minutes, all was darkness.

He waited. If the enemy was there, perhaps he would come out of the castle. . . .

An hour elapsed. . . . Two hours. . . . Not a sound. . . .

"There's nothing to be done," thought Lupin.[Pg 397] "Either he is burrowing in some corner of the castle . . . or else he has gone out by a door which I cannot see from here. Unless the whole thing is the most ridiculous supposition on my part. . . ."

He lit a cigarette and walked back to the chalet.

As he approached it, he saw, at some distance from him, a shadow that appeared to be moving away.

He did not stir, for fear of giving the alarm.

The shadow crossed a path. By the light of the moon, he seemed to recognize the black figure of Malreich.

He rushed forward.

The shadow fled and vanished from sight.

"Come," he said, "it shall be for to-morrow. And, this time. . . ."

Lupin went to Octave's, his chauffeur's, room, woke him and said:

"Take the motor and go to Paris. You will be there by six o'clock in the morning. See Jacques Doudeville and tell him two things: first, to give me news of the man under sentence of death; and secondly, as soon as the post-offices open, to send me a telegram which I will write down for you now. . . ."

He worded the telegram on a scrap of paper and added:

"The moment you have done that, come back, but this way, along the wall of the park. Go now. No one must suspect your absence."

Lupin went to his own room, pressed the spring of his lantern and began to make a minute inspection. "It's as I thought," he said presently. "Some one came here to-night, while I was watching beneath the window. And, if he came, I know what he came for. . . . I was certainly right: things are getting warm.[Pg 398] . . . The first time, I was spared. This time, I may be sure of my little stab."

For prudence's sake, he took a blanket, chose a lonely spot in the park and spent the night under the stars.

Octave was back by ten o'clock in the morning:

"It's all right, governor. The telegram has been sent."

"Good. And is Louis de Malreich still in prison?"

"Yes. Doudeville passed his cell at the Sante last night as the warder was coming out. They talked together. Malreich is just the same, it appears: silent as the grave. He is waiting."

"Waiting for what?"

"The fatal hour of course. They are saying, at headquarters, that the execution will take place on the day after to-morrow."

"That's all right, that's all right," said Lupin. "And one thing is quite plain: he has not escaped."

He ceased to understand or even to look for the explanation of the riddle, so clearly did he feel that the whole truth would soon be revealed to him. He had only to prepare his plan, for the enemy to fall into the trap.

"Or for me to fall into it myself," he thought, laughing.

He felt very gay, very free from care; and no fight had ever looked more promising to him.

A footman came from the castle with the telegram which he had told Doudeville to send him and which the postman had just brought. He opened it and put it in his pocket.

A little before twelve o'clock, he met Pierre Leduc in one of the avenues and said, off-hand:

[Pg 399]"I am looking for you . . . things are serious. . . . You must answer me frankly. Since you have been at the castle, have you ever seen a man there, besides the two German servants whom I sent in?"


"Think carefully. I'm not referring to a casual visitor. I mean a man who hides himself, a man whose presence you might have discovered or, less than that, whose presence you might have suspected from some clue or even by some intuition?"

"No. . . . Have you . . . ?"

"Yes. Some one is hiding here . . . some one is prowling about. . . . Where? And who is it? And what is his object? I don't know . . . but I shall know. I already have a suspicion. Do you, on your side, keep your eyes open and watch. And, above all, not a word to Mrs. Kesselbach. . . . It is no use alarming her. . . ."

He went away.

Pierre Leduc, taken aback and upset, went back to the castle. On his way, he saw a piece of blue paper on the edge of the lawn. He picked it up. It was a telegram, not crumpled, like a piece of paper that had been thrown away, but carefully folded: obviously lost.

It was addressed to "Beauny," the name by which Lupin was known at Bruggen. And it contained these words:

"We know the whole truth. Revelations impossible by letter. Will take train to-night. Meet me eight o'clock to-morrow morning Bruggen station."

"Excellent!" said Lupin, who was watching Pierre Leduc's movements from a neighboring coppice. "Ex[Pg 400]cellent! In two minutes from now, the young idiot will have shown Dolores the telegram and told her all my fears. They will talk about it all day. And 'the other one' will hear, 'the other one' will know, because he knows everything, because he lives in Dolores' own shadow and because Dolores is like a fascinated prey in his hands. . . . And, to-night. . . ."

He walked away humming to himself:

"To-night . . . to-night . . . we shall dance. . . . Such a waltz, my boys! The waltz of blood, to the tune of the little nickel-plated dagger! . . . We shall have some fun, at last! . . ."

He reached the chalet, called to Octave, went to his room, flung himself on his bed, and said to the chauffeur:

"Sit down in that chair, Octave, and keep awake. Your master is going to take forty winks. Watch over him, you faithful servant."

He had a good sleep.

"Like Napoleon on the morning of Austerlitz," he said, when he woke up.

It was dinner-time. He made a hearty meal and then, while he smoked a cigarette, inspected his weapons and renewed the charges of his two revolvers:

"Keep your powder dry and your sword sharpened, as my chum the Kaiser says. Octave!"

Octave appeared.

"Go and have your dinner at the castle, with the servants. Tell them you are going to Paris to-night, in the motor."

"With you, governor?"

"No, alone. And, as soon as dinner is over, make a start, ostensibly."

"But I am not to go to Paris. . . ."

[Pg 401]"No, remain outside the park, half a mile down the road, until I come. You will have a long wait."

He smoked another cigarette, went for a stroll, passed in front of the castle, saw a light in Dolores' rooms and then returned to the chalet.

There he took up a book. It was The Lives of Illustrious Men.

"There is one missing: the most illustrious of all. But the future will put that right; and I shall have my Plutarch some day or other."

He read the life of Cæsar and jotted down a few reflections in the margin.

At half-past eleven, he went to his bedroom.

Through the open window, he gazed into the immense, cool night, all astir with indistinct sounds. Memories rose to his lips, memories of fond phrases which he had read or uttered; and he repeatedly whispered Dolores's name, with the fervor of a stripling who hardly dares confide to the silence the name of his beloved.

He left the window half open, pushed aside a table that blocked the way, and put his revolvers under his pillow. Then, peacefully, without evincing the least excitement, he got into bed, fully dressed as he was, and blew out the candle.

And his fear began.

It was immediate. No sooner did he feel the darkness around him than his fear began!

"Damn it all!" he cried.

He jumped out of bed, took his weapons and threw them into the passage:

"My hands, my hands alone! Nothing comes up to the grip of my hands!"

[Pg 402]He went to bed again. Darkness and silence, once more. And, once more, his fear. . . .

The village clock struck twelve. . . .

Lupin thought of the foul monster who, outside, at a hundred yards, at fifty yards from where he lay, was trying the sharp point of his dagger:

"Let him come, let him come?" whispered Lupin, shuddering. "Then the ghosts will vanish. . . ."

One o'clock, in the village. . . .

And minutes passed, endless minutes, minutes of fever and anguish. . . . Beads of perspiration stood at the roots of his hair and trickled down his forehead; and he felt as though his whole frame were bathed in a sweat of blood. . . .

Two o'clock. . . .

And now, somewhere, quite close, a hardly perceptible sound stirred, a sound of leaves moving . . . but different from the sound of leaves moving in the night breeze. . . .

As Lupin had foreseen, he was at once pervaded by an immense calm. All his adventurous being quivered with delight. The struggle was at hand, at last!

Another sound grated under the window, more plainly this time, but still so faint that it needed Lupin's trained ear to distinguish it.

Minutes, terrifying minutes. . . . The darkness was impenetrable. No light of star or moon relieved it.

And, suddenly, without hearing anything, he knew that the man was in the room.

And the man walked toward the bed. He walked as a ghost walks, without displacing the air of the room, without shaking the objects which he touched.

[Pg 403]But, with all his instinct, with all his nervous force, Lupin saw the movements of the enemy and guessed the very sequence of his ideas.

He himself did not budge, but remained propped against the wall, almost on his knees, ready to spring.

He felt that the figure was touching, feeling the bed-clothes, to find the spot at which it must strike. Lupin heard its breath. He even thought that he heard the beating of its heart. And he noticed with pride that his own heart beat no louder than before . . . whereas the heart of the other . . . oh, yes, he could hear it now, that disordered, mad heart, knocking, like a clapper of a bell, against the cavity of the chest!

The hand of the other rose. . . .

A second, two seconds. . . .

Was he hesitating? Was he once more going to spare his adversary?

And Lupin, in the great silence, said:

"But strike! Why don't you strike?"

A yell of rage. . . . The arm fell as though moved by a spring.

Then came a moan.

Lupin had caught the arm in mid-air at the level of the wrist. . . . And, leaping out of bed, tremendous, irresistible, he clutched the man by the throat and threw him.

That was all. There was no struggle. There was no possibility even of a struggle. The man lay on the floor, nailed, pinned by two steel rivets, which were Lupin's hands. And there was not a man in the world strong enough to release himself from that grip.

And not a word. Lupin uttered none of those[Pg 404] phrases in which his mocking humor usually delighted. He had no inclination to speak. The moment was too solemn.

He felt no vain glee, no victorious exaltation. In reality, he had but one longing, to know who was there: Louis de Malreich, the man sentenced to death, or another? Which was it?

At the risk of strangling the man, he squeezed the throat a little more . . . and a little more . . . and a little more still. . . .

And he felt that all the enemy's strength, all the strength that remained to him, was leaving him. The muscles of the arm relaxed and became lifeless. The hand opened and dropped the dagger.

Then, free to move as he pleased, with his adversary's life hanging in the terrible clutch of his fingers, he took his pocket-lantern with one hand, laid his finger on the spring, without pressing, and brought it close to the man's face.

He had only to press the spring to wish to know and he would know.

For a second, he enjoyed his power. A flood of emotion upheaved him. The vision, of his triumph dazzled him. Once again, superbly, heroically, he was the master.

He switched on the light. The face of the monster came into view.

Lupin gave a shriek of terror.

Dolores Kesselbach!

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