CHAPTER III : Holmlock Shears Opens Hostilities 2/4

He walked round the table and sat down so that the Englishman was between him and the door, thus placing himself at his mercy. Wilson looked at Shears to see if he might admire this piece of pluck. Shears remained impenetrable. But, after a moment, he called.


The waiter came up.

"Four whiskeys and sodas."

Peace was signed ... until further orders. Soon after, seated all four round one table, we were quietly chatting.

[1] See The Seven of Hearts, by Maurice Leblanc. Chapter IX: Holmlock Shears Arrives Too Late.

Holmlock Shears is a man ... of the sort one meets every day. He is about fifty years of age and looks like a decent City clerk who has spent his life keeping books at a desk. He has nothing to distinguish him from the ordinary respectable Londoner, with his clean-shaven face and his somewhat heavy appearance, nothing except his terribly keen, bright, penetrating eyes.

And then, of course, he is Holmlock Shears, that is to say, a sort of miracle of intuition, of insight, of perspicacity, of shrewdness. It is as though nature had amused herself by taking the two most extraordinary types of detective that fiction had invented, Poe's Dupin and Gaboriau's Lecoq, in order to build up one in her own fashion, more extraordinary yet and more unreal. And, upon my word, any one hearing of the adventures which have made the name of Holmlock Shears famous all over the world must feel inclined to ask if he is not a legendary person, a hero who has stepped straight from the brain of some great novel-writer, of a Conan Doyle, for instance.

He at once, when Arsene Lupin asked him how long he meant to stay, led the conversation into its right channel and replied:

"That depends upon yourself, M. Lupin."

"Oh," exclaimed the other, laughing, "if it depended on me, I should ask you to take to-night's boat back."

"To-night is rather early. But I hope in a week or ten days...."

"Are you in such a hurry?"

"I am very busy. There's the robbery at the Anglo-Chinese Bank; and Lady Eccleston has been kidnapped, as you know.... Tell me, M. Lupin, do you think a week will do?"

"Amply, if you confine yourself to the two cases connected with the blue diamond. It will just give me time to take my precautions, supposing the solution of those two mysteries to give you certain advantages over me that might endanger my safety."

"Yes," said the Englishman, "I expect to have gained those advantages in a week or ten days."

"And to have me arrested on the eleventh?"

"On the tenth, at the very latest."

Lupin reflected and, shaking his head:

"It will be difficult ... it will be difficult...."

"Difficult, yes, but possible and, therefore, certain...."

"Absolutely certain," said Wilson, as though he himself had clearly perceived the long series of operations which would lead his friend to the result announced.

Holmlock Shears smiled:

"Wilson, who knows what he is talking about, is there to confirm what I say." And he went on, "Of course, I have not all the cards in my hands, because the case is already a good many months old. I have not the factors, the clues upon which I am accustomed to base my inquiries."

"Such as mud-stains and cigarette-ashes," said Wilson, with an air of importance.

"But, in addition to the remarkable conclusions arrived at by M. Ganimard, I have at my service all the articles written on the subject, all the evidence collected and, consequently, a few ideas of my own regarding the mystery."

"A few views suggested to us either by analysis or hypothesis," added Wilson, sententiously.

"Would it be indiscreet," said Arsene Lupin, in the deferential tone which he adopted toward Shears, "would it be indiscreet to ask what general opinion you have been able to form?"

It was really most stimulating to see those two men seated together, with their elbows on the table, arguing solemnly and dispassionately, as though they were trying to solve a steep problem or to come to an agreement on some controversial point. And this was coupled with a very delicate irony, which both of them, as experts and artists, thoroughly enjoyed. As for Wilson, he was in the seventh heaven.

Shears slowly filled his pipe, lit it and said:

"I consider that this case is infinitely less complicated than it appears at first sight."

"Very much less," echoed Wilson, faithfully.

"I say the case, for, in my opinion, there is but one case. The death of Baron d'Hautrec, the story of the ring and?don't let us forget that?the mystery of number 514, series 23, are only the different aspects of what we may call the puzzle of the blonde lady. Now, in my opinion, what lies before me is simply to discover the link which connects these three phases of the same story, the particular fact which proves the uniformity of the three methods. Ganimard, who is a little superficial in his judgments, sees this uniformity in the faculty of disappearing, in the power of coming and going unseen. This intervention of miracles does not satisfy me."


"Well, according to me," said Shears, decidedly, "the characteristic shared by the three incidents lies in your manifest and evident, although hitherto unperceived intention to have the affair performed on a stage which you have previously selected. This points to something more than a plan on your part: a necessity rather, a sine qua non of success."

"Could you give a few particulars?"

"Easily. For instance, from the commencement of your contest with M. Gerbois, it was evident that Maitre Detinan's flat was the place selected by you, the inevitable place at which you were all to meet. No place seemed quite as safe to you, so much so that you made what one might almost call a public appointment there with the blonde lady and Mlle. Gerbois."

"The daughter of the professor," explained Wilson.

"Let us now speak of the blue diamond. Did you try to get hold of it during all the years that Baron d'Hautrec had it in his possession? No. But the baron moves into his brother's house: six months later, Antoinette Brehat appears upon the scene and the first attempt is made.... You fail to secure the diamond and the sale takes place, amid great excitement, at the Hotel Drouot. Is the sale free? Is the richest bidder sure of getting the diamond? Not at all. At the moment when Herschmann is about to become the owner, a lady has a threatening letter thrust into his hand and the diamond goes to the Comtesse de Crozon, who has been worked upon and influenced by the same lady. Does it vanish at once? No: you lack the facilities. So an interval ensues. But the countess moves to her country-house. This is what you were waiting for. The ring disappears."

"To reappear in the tooth-powder of Bleichen, the consul," objected Lupin. "How odd!"

"Come, come!" said Shears, striking the table with his fist. "Tell that to the marines. You can take in fools with that, but not an old fox like me."

"What do you mean?"

Shears took his time, as though he wished to save up his effect. Then he said:

"The blue diamond found in the tooth-powder is an imitation diamond. The real one you kept."

Arsene Lupin was silent for a moment and then, with his eyes fixed on the Englishman, said very simply:

"You're a great man, sir."

"Isn't he?" said Wilson, emphatically and gaping with admiration.

"Yes," said Lupin, "everything becomes cleared up and appears in its true sense. Not one of the examining magistrates, not one of the special reporters who have been exciting themselves about these cases has come half as near the truth. I look upon you as a marvel of insight and logic."

"Pooh!" said the Englishman, flattered at the compliment paid him by so great an expert. "It only needed a little thought."

"It needed to know how to use one's thought; and there are so few who do know. But, now that the field of surmise has been narrowed and the ground swept clear...."

"Well, now, all that I have to do is to discover why the three cases were enacted at 25, Rue Clapeyron, at 134, Avenue Henri-Martin and within the walls of the Chateau de Crozon. The whole case lies there. The rest is mere talk and child's play. Don't you agree?"

"I agree."

"In that case, M. Lupin, am I not right in saying that I shall have finished my business in ten days?"

"In ten days, yes, the whole truth will be known."

"And you will be arrested."



"For me to be arrested there would have to be a conjunction of such unlikely circumstances, a series of such stupefying pieces of ill-luck, that I cannot admit the possibility."

"What neither circumstances nor luck may be able to effect, M. Lupin, can be brought about by one man's will and persistence."

"If the will and persistence of another man do not oppose an invincible obstacle to that plan, Mr. Shears."

"There is no such thing as an invincible obstacle, M. Lupin."

The two exchanged a penetrating glance, free from provocation on either side, but calm and fearless. It was the clash of two swords about to open the combat. It sounded clear and frank.

"Joy!" cried Lupin. "Here's a man at last! An adversary is a rara avis at any time; and this one is Holmlock Shears! We shall have some sport."

"You're not afraid?" asked Wilson.

"Very nearly, Mr. Wilson," said Lupin, rising, "and the proof is that I am going to hurry to make good my retreat ... else I might risk being caught napping. Ten days, we said, Mr. Shears?"

"Ten days. This is Sunday. It will all be over by Wednesday week."

"And I shall be under lock and key?"

"Without the slightest doubt."

"By Jove! And I was congratulating myself on my quiet life! No bothers, a good, steady little business, the police sent to the right about and a comforting sense of the general sympathy that surrounds me.... We shall have to change all this! It is the reverse of the medal.... After sunshine comes rain.... This is no time for laughing! Good-bye."

"Look sharp!" said Wilson, full of solicitude on behalf of a person whom Shears inspired with such obvious respect. "Don't lose a minute."

"Not a minute, Mr. Wilson, except to tell you how pleased I have been to meet you and how I envy the leader who has an assistant so valuable as yourself."

Courteous bows were exchanged, as between two adversaries on the fencing-ground who bear each other no hatred, but who are constrained by fate to fight to the death. And Lupin took my arm and dragged me outside:

"What do you say to that, old fellow? There's a dinner that will be worth describing in your memoirs of me!"

He closed the door of the restaurant and, stopping a little way off:

"Do you smoke?"

"No, but no more do you, surely."

"No more do I."

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