CHAPTER III : Holmlock Shears Opens Hostilities 3/4

He lit a cigarette with a wax match which he waved several times to put it out. But he at once flung away the cigarette, ran across the road and joined two men who had emerged from the shadow, as though summoned by a signal. He talked to them for a few minutes on the opposite pavement and then returned to me:

"I beg your pardon; but I shall have my work cut out with that confounded Shears. I swear, however, that he has not done with Lupin yet.... By Jupiter, I'll show the fellow the stuff I'm made of!... Good night.... The unspeakable Wilson is right: I have not a minute to lose."

He walked rapidly away.

Thus ended that strange evening, or, at least that part of it with which I had to do. For many other incidents occurred during the hours that followed, events which the confidences of the others who were present at that dinner have fortunately enabled me to reconstruct in detail.

At the very moment when Lupin left me, Holmlock Shears took out his watch and rose in his turn:

"Twenty to nine. At nine o'clock, I am to meet the count and countess at the railway station."

"Let's go!" cried Wilson, tossing off two glasses of whiskey in succession.

They went out.

"Wilson, don't turn your head.... We may be followed: if so, let us act as though we don't care whether we are or not.... Tell me, Wilson, what's your opinion: why was Lupin in that restaurant?"

Wilson, without hesitation, replied:

"To get some dinner."

"Wilson, the longer we work together, the more clearly I perceive the constant progress you are making. Upon my word, you're becoming amazing."

Wilson blushed with satisfaction in the dark; and Shears resumed:

"Yes, he went to get some dinner and then, most likely, to make sure if I am really going to Crozon, as Ganimard says I am, in his interview. I shall leave, therefore, so as not to disappoint him. But, as it is a question of gaining time upon him, I shall not leave."

"Ah!" said Wilson, nonplussed.

"I want you, old chap, to go down this street. Take a cab, take two cabs, three cabs. Come back later to fetch the bags which we left in the cloak room and then drive as fast as you can to the Elysee-Palace."

"And what am I to do at the Elysee-Palace?"

"Ask for a room, go to bed, sleep the sleep of the just and await my instructions."

Wilson, proud of the important task allotted to him, went off. Holmlock Shears took his ticket at the railway station and entered the Amiens express, in which the Comte and Comtesse de Crozon had already taken their seats.

He merely bowed to them, lit a second pipe and smoked it placidly, standing, in the corridor.

The train started. Ten minutes later, he came and sat down beside the countess and asked:

"Have you the ring on you, madame?"


"Please let me look at it."

He took it and examined it:

"As I thought: it is a faked diamond."


"Yes, by a new process which consists in subjecting diamond-dust to enormous heat until it melts ... whereupon it is simply reformed into a single diamond."

"Why, but my diamond is real!"

"Yes, yours; but this is not yours."

"Where is mine, then?"

"In the hands of Arsene Lupin."

"And this one?"

"This one was put in its place and slipped into Herr Bleichen's tooth-powder flask, where you found it."

"Then it's an imitation?"


Nonplussed and overwhelmed, the countess said nothing more, while her husband, refusing to believe the statement, turned the jewel over and over in his fingers. She finished by stammering out:

"But it's impossible! Why didn't they just simply take it? And how did they get it?"

"That's just what I mean to try to discover."

"At Crozon?"

"No, I shall get out at Creil and return to Paris. That's where the game between Arsene Lupin and myself must be played out. The tricks will count the same, wherever we make them; but it is better that Lupin should think that I am out of town."

"Still ..."

"What difference can it make to you, madame? The main object is your diamond, is it not?"


"Well, set your mind at rest. Only a little while ago, I gave an undertaking which will be much more difficult to keep. On the word of Holmlock Shears, you shall have the real diamond back."

The train slowed down. He put the imitation diamond in his pocket and opened the carriage-door. The count cried:

"Take care; that's the wrong side!"

"Lupin will lose my tracks this way, if he's having me shadowed. Good-bye."

A porter protested. The Englishman made for the station-master's office. Fifty minutes later, he jumped into a train which brought him back to Paris a little before midnight.

He ran across the station into the refreshment room, went out by the other door and sprang into a cab:

"Drive to the Rue Clapeyron."

After making sure that he was not being followed, he stopped the cab at the commencement of the street and began to make a careful examination of the house in which Maitre Detinan lived and of the two adjoining houses. He paced off certain distances and noted the measurements in his memorandum book:

"Now drive to the Avenue Henri-Martin."

He dismissed his cab at the corner of the avenue and the Rue de la Pompe, walked along the pavement to No. 134 and went through the same performance in front of the house which Baron d'Hautrec had occupied and the two houses by which it was hemmed in on either side, measuring the width of their respective frontages and calculating the depth of the little gardens in front of the houses.

The avenue was deserted and very dark under its four rows of trees, amid which an occasional gas-jet seemed to struggle vainly against the thickness of the gloom. One of these lamps threw a pale light upon a part of the house and Shears saw the notice "To Let" hanging on the railings, saw the two neglected walks that encircled the miniature lawn and the great empty windows of the uninhabited house.

"That's true," he thought. "There has been no tenant since the baron's death.... Ah, if I could just get in and make a preliminary visit!"

The idea no sooner passed through his mind than he wanted to put it into execution. But how to manage? The height of the gate made it impossible for him to climb it. He took an electric lantern from his pocket, as well as a skeleton key which he always carried. To his great surprise, he found that one of the doors of the gate was standing ajar. He, therefore, slipped into the garden, taking care not to close the gate behind him. He had not gone three steps, when he stopped. A glimmer of light had passed along one of the windows on the second floor.

And the glimmer passed along a second window and a third, while he was able to see nothing but a shadow outlined against the walls of the rooms. And the glimmer descended from the second floor to the first and, for a long time, wandered from room to room.

"Who on earth can be walking about, at one in the morning, in the house where Baron d'Hautrec was murdered?" thought Shears, feeling immensely interested.

There was only one way of finding out, which was to enter the house himself. He did not hesitate. But the man must have seen him as he crossed the belt of light cast by the gas-jet and made his way to the steps, for the glimmer suddenly went out and Shears did not see it again.

He softly tried the door at the top of the steps. It was open also. Hearing no sound, he ventured to penetrate the darkness, felt for the knob of the baluster, found it and went up one floor. The same silence, the same darkness continued to reign.

On reaching the landing, he entered one of the rooms and went to the window, which showed white in the dim light of the night outside. Through the window, he caught sight of the man, who had doubtless gone down by another staircase and out by another door and was now slipping along the shrubs, on the left, that lined the wall separating the two gardens:

"Dash it!" exclaimed Shears. "He'll escape me!"

He rushed downstairs and leapt into the garden, with a view to cutting off the man's retreat. At first, he saw no one; and it was some seconds before he distinguished, among the confused heap of shrubs, a darker form which was not quite stationary.

The Englishman paused to reflect. Why had the fellow not tried to run away when he could easily have done so? Was he staying there to spy, in his turn, upon the intruder who had disturbed him in his mysterious errand?

"In any case," thought Shears, "it is not Lupin. Lupin would be cleverer. It must be one of his gang."

Long minutes passed. Shears stood motionless, with his eyes fixed upon the adversary who was watching him. But, as the adversary was motionless too and as the Englishman was not the man to hang about doing nothing, he felt to see if the cylinder of his revolver worked, loosened his dagger in its sheath and walked straight up to the enemy, with the cool daring and the contempt of danger which make him so formidable.

A sharp sound: the man was cocking his revolver. Shears rushed into the shrubbery. The other had no time to turn: the Englishman was upon him. There was a violent and desperate struggle, amid which Shears was aware that the man was making every effort to draw his knife. But Shears, stimulated by the thought of his coming victory and by the fierce longing to lay hold at once of this accomplice of Arsene Lupin's, felt an irresistible strength welling up within himself. He threw his adversary, bore upon him with all his weight and, holding him down with his five fingers clutching at his throat like so many claws, he felt for his electric lantern with the hand that was free, pressed the button and threw the light upon his prisoner's face:

"Wilson!" he shouted, in terror.

"Holmlock Shears!" gasped a hollow, stifled voice.

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