CHAPTER XI. Charlemagne

"Silence!" said the stranger, sharply. "Don't use that word."

"Then what shall I call Your . . ."

"Call me nothing."

They were both silent; and this moment of respite was not one of those which go before the struggle of two adversaries ready for the fray. The stranger strode to and fro with the air of a master accustomed to command and to be obeyed. Lupin stood motionless. He had abandoned his usual provocative attitude and his sarcastic smile. He waited, gravely and deferentially. But, down in the depths of his being, he revelled, eagerly, madly, in the marvellous situation in which he found himself placed: here, in his cell, he, a prisoner; he, the adventurer; he, the swindler, the burglar; he, Arsene Lupin . . . face to face with that demi-god of the modern world, that formidable entity, the heir of Cæsar and of Charlemagne.

He was intoxicated for a moment with the sense of his own power. The tears came to his eyes when he thought of his triumph. . . .

The stranger stood still.

And at once, with the very first sentence, they came to the immediate point:

"To-morrow is the 22nd of August. The letters are to be published to-morrow, are they not?"

[Pg 273]"To-night, in two hours from now, my friends are to hand in to the Grand Journal, not the letters themselves, but an exact list of the letters, with the Grand-duke Hermann's annotations."

"That list shall not be handed in."

"It shall not be."

"You will give it to me."

"It shall be placed in the hands of Your . . . in your hands."

"Likewise, all the letters?"

"Likewise, all the letters."

"Without any of them being photographed?"

"Without any of them being photographed."

The stranger spoke in a very calm voice, containing not the least accent of entreaty nor the least inflection of authority. He neither ordered nor requested; he stated the inevitable actions of Arsene Lupin. Things would happen as he said. And they would happen, whatever Arsene Lupin's demands should be, at whatever price he might value the performance of those actions. The conditions were accepted beforehand.

"By Jove," said Lupin to himself, "that's jolly clever of him! If he leaves it to my generosity, I am a ruined man!"

The very way in which the conversation opened, the frankness of the words employed, the charm of voice and manner all pleased him infinitely.

He pulled himself together, lest he should relent and abandon all the advantages which he had conquered so fiercely.

And the stranger continued:

"Have you read the letters?"


[Pg 274]"But some one you know has read them?"


"In that case . . ."

"I have the grand-duke's list and his notes. Moreover, I know the hiding-place where he put all his papers."

"Why did you not take them before this?"

"I did not know the secret of the hiding-place until I came here. My friends are on the way there now."

"The castle is guarded. It is occupied by two hundred of my most trusty men."

"Ten thousand would not be sufficient."

After a minute's reflection, the visitor asked:

"How do you know the secret?"

"I guessed it."

"But you had other elements of information which the papers did not publish?"

"No, none at all."

"And yet I had the castle searched for four days."

"Holmlock Shears looked in the wrong place."

"Ah!" said the stranger to himself. "It's an odd thing, an odd thing! . . ." And, to Lupin, "You are sure that your supposition is correct?"

"It is not a supposition: it is a certainty."

"So much the better," muttered the visitor. "There will be no rest until those papers cease to exist."

And, placing himself in front of Arsene Lupin:

"How much?"

"What?" said Lupin, taken aback.

"How much for the papers? How much do you ask to reveal the secret?"

He waited for Lupin to name a figure. He suggested one himself:

"Fifty thousand? . . . A hundred thousand?"

[Pg 275]And, when Lupin did not reply, he said, with a little hesitation:

"More? Two hundred thousand? Very well! I agree."

Lupin smiled and, in a low voice, said:

"It is a handsome figure. But is it not likely that some sovereign, let us say, the King of England, would give as much as a million? In all sincerity?"

"I believe so."

"And that those letters are priceless to the Emperor, that they are worth two million quite as easily as two hundred thousand francs . . . three million as easily as two?"

"I think so."

"And, if necessary, the Emperor would give that three million francs?"


"Then it will not be difficult to come to an arrangement."

"On that basis?" cried the stranger, not without some alarm.

Lupin smiled again:

"On that basis, no. . . . I am not looking for money. I want something else, something that is worth more to me than any number of millions."

"What is that?"

"My liberty."

"What! Your liberty. . . . But I can do nothing. . . . That concerns your country . . . the law. . . . I have no power."

Lupin went up to him and, lowering his voice still more:

"You have every power, Sire. . . . My liberty is not such an exceptional event that they are likely to refuse you."

[Pg 276]"Then I should have to ask for it?"


"Of whom?"

"Of Valenglay, the prime minister."

"But M. Valenglay himself can do no more than I."

"He can open the doors of this prison for me."

"It would cause a public outcry."

"When I say, open . . . half-open would be enough . . . We should counterfeit an escape. . . . The public so thoroughly expects it that it would not so much as ask for an explanation."

"Very well . . . but M. Valenglay will never consent. . . ."

"He will consent."


"Because you will express the wish."

"My wishes are not commands . . . to him!"

"No . . . but an opportunity of making himself agreeable to the Emperor by fulfilling them. And Valenglay is too shrewd a politician. . . ."

"Nonsense! Do you imagine that the French government will commit so illegal an act for the sole pleasure of making itself agreeable to me?"

"That pleasure will not be the sole one."

"What will be the other?"

"The pleasure of serving France by accepting the proposal which will accompany the request for my release."

"I am to make a proposal? I?"

"Yes, Sire."

"What proposal?"

"I do not know, but it seems to me that there is always a favorable ground on which to come to an[Pg 277] understanding . . . there are possibilities of agreement. . . ."

The stranger looked at him, without grasping his meaning. Lupin leant forward and, as though seeking his words, as though putting an imaginary case, said:

"Let me suppose that two great countries are divided by some insignificant question . . . that they have different points of view on a matter of secondary importance . . . a colonial matter, for instance, in which their self-esteem is at stake rather than their interest. . . . Is it inconceivable that the ruler of one of those countries might come of his own accord to treat this matter in a new spirit of conciliation . . . and give the necessary instructions . . . so that . . ."

"So that I might leave Morocco to France?" said the stranger, with a burst of laughter.

The idea which Lupin was suggesting struck him as the most comical thing that he had ever heard; and he laughed heartily. The disparity was so great between the object aimed at and the means proposed!

"Of course, of course!" he resumed, with a vain attempt to recover his seriousness. "Of course, it's a very original idea: the whole of modern politics upset so that Arsene Lupin may be free! . . . The plans of the Empire destroyed so that Arsene Lupin may continue his exploits! . . . Why not ask me for Alsace and Lorraine at once?"

"I did think of it, Sire," replied Lupin, calmly. The stranger's merriment increased:

"Splendid! And you let me off?"

"This time, yes."

Lupin had crossed his arms. He, too, was amusing[Pg 278] himself by exaggerating the part which he was playing; and he continued, with affected seriousness:

"A series of circumstances might one day arise which would put in my hands the power of demanding and obtaining that restitution. When that day comes, I shall certainly not fail to do so. For the moment, the weapons at my disposal oblige me to be more modest. Peace in Morocco will satisfy me."

"Just that?"

"Just that."

"Morocco against your liberty!"

"Nothing more . . . or, rather?for we must not lose sight entirely of the main object of this conversation?or, rather, a little good will on the part of one of the countries in question . . . and, in exchange, the surrender of the letters which are in my power."

"Those letters, those letters!" muttered the stranger irritably. "After all, perhaps they are not so valuable. . . ."

"There are some in your own hand, Sire; and you considered them valuable enough to come to this cell. . . ."

"Well, what does it matter?"

"But there are others of which you do not know the authorship and about which I can give you a few particulars."

"Oh, indeed!" said the stranger, rather anxiously.

Lupin hesitated.

"Speak, speak plainly," said the stranger. "Say what you have in your mind."

In the profound silence of the cell, Lupin declared, with a certain solemnity:

"Twenty years ago a draft treaty was prepared between Germany, Great Britain, and France."

[Pg 279]"That's not true! It's impossible! Who could have done such a thing?"

"The Emperor's father and the Queen of England, his grandmother, both acting under the influence of the Empress Frederick."

"Impossible! I repeat, it is impossible!"

"The correspondence is in the hiding-place at Veldenz Castle; and I alone know the secret of the hiding-place."

The stranger walked up and down with an agitated step. Then he stopped short:

"Is the text of the treaty included in that correspondence?"

"Yes, Sire. It is in your father's own hand."

"And what does it say?"

"By that treaty, France and Great Britain granted and promised Germany an immense colonial empire, the empire which she does not at present possess and which has become a necessity to her, in these times, to ensure her greatness."

"And what did England demand as a set-off against that empire?"

"The limitation of the German fleet."

"And France?"

"Alsace and Lorraine."

The Emperor leant against the table in silent thought. Lupin continued:

"Everything was ready. The cabinets of Paris and London had been sounded and had consented. The thing was practically done. The great treaty of alliance was on the point of being concluded. It would have laid the foundations of a definite and universal peace. The death of your father destroyed that sublime dream. But I ask Your Imperial Majesty, what[Pg 280] will your people think, what will the world think, when it knows that Frederick III., one of the heroes of 1870, a German, a pure and loyal German, respected by all, generally admired for his nobility of character, agreed to the restitution of Alsace-Lorraine and therefore considered that restitution just?"

He was silent for an instant leaving the problem to fix itself in its precise terms before the Emperor's conscience, before his conscience as a man, a son and a sovereign. Then he concluded:

"Your Imperial Majesty yourself must know whether you wish or do not wish history to record the existence of that treaty. As for me, Sire, you can see that my humble personality counts for very little in the discussion."

A long pause followed upon Lupin's words. He waited, with his soul torn with anguish. His whole destiny was at stake, in this minute which he had conceived and, in a manner, produced with such effort and such stubbornness, an historic minute, born of his brain, in which "his humble personality," for all that he might say, weighed heavily upon the fate of empires and the peace of the world.

Opposite him, in the shadow, Cæsar stood meditating.

What answer would he make? What solution would he give to the problem?

He walked across the cell for a few moments, which to Lupin seemed interminable. Then he stopped and asked:

"Are there any other conditions?"

"Yes, Sire, but they are insignificant."

"Name them."

"I have found the son of the Grand-duke of Zwei[Pg 281]brucken-Veldenz. The grand-duchy must be restored to him."

"Anything else?"

"He loves a young girl, who loves him in her turn. She is the fairest and the most virtuous of her sex. He must marry her."

"Anything else?"

"That is all."

"There is nothing more?"

"Nothing. Your majesty need only have this letter delivered to the editor of the Grand Journal, who will then destroy, unread, the article which he may now receive at any moment."

Lupin held out the letter, with a heavy heart and a trembling hand. If the Emperor took it, that would be a sign of his acceptance.

The Emperor hesitated and then, with an abrupt movement, took the letter, put on his hat, wrapped his cloak round him and walked out without a word.

Lupin remained for a few seconds, staggering, as though dazed. . . .

Then, suddenly, he fell into his chair, shouting with joy and pride. . . .

"Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction, I am sorry to say good-bye to you to-day."

"Why, M. Lupin, are you thinking of leaving us?"

"With the greatest reluctance, I assure you, Monsieur le Juge d'Instruction. Our relations have been so very pleasant and cordial! But all good things must come to an end. My cure at the Sante Palace is finished. Other duties call me. I have resolved to make my escape to-night."

[Pg 282]"Then I wish you good luck, M. Lupin."

"A thousand thanks, M. le Juge d'Instruction."

Arsene Lupin waited patiently for the hour of his escape, not without asking himself how it would be contrived and by what means France and Germany, uniting for the joint performance of this deserving work, would succeed in effecting it without creating too great a scandal.

Late in the afternoon, the warder told him to go to the entrance-yard. He hurried out and was met by the governor, who handed him ever to M. Weber. M. Weber made him step into a motor-car in which somebody was already seated.

Lupin had a violent fit of laughter:

"What, you, my poor old Weber! Have they let you in for this tiresome job? Are you to be responsible for my escape? Upon my word, you are an unlucky beggar! Oh, my poor old chap, what hard lines! First made famous through my arrest, you are now to become immortal through my escape!"

He looked at the other man:

"Well, well, Monsieur le Prefet de Police, so you are in the business too! That's a nasty thing for you, what? If you take my advice, you'll stay in the background and leave the honor and glory to Weber! It's his by right! . . . And he can stand a lot, the rascal!"

The car travelled at a fast pace, along the Seine and through Boulogne. At Saint-Cloud, they crossed the river.

"Splendid!" cried Lupin. "We're going to Garches! You want me there, in order to reenact the death of Altenheim. We shall go down into the underground passage, I shall disappear and people will say that I got[Pg 283] through another outlet, known to myself alone! Lord, how idiotic!"

He seemed quite unhappy about it:

"Idiotic! Idiotic in the highest degree! I blush for shame! . . . And those are the people who govern us! . . . What an age to live in! . . . But, you poor devils, why didn't you come to me? I'd have invented a beautiful little escape for you, something of a miraculous nature. I had it all ready pigeon-holed in my mind! The public would have yelled with wonder and danced with delight. Instead of which . . . However, it's quite true that you were given rather short notice . . . but all the same . . ."

The programme was exactly as Lupin had foreseen. They walked through the grounds of the House of Retreat to the Pavillon Hortense. Lupin and his two companions went down the stairs and along the underground passage. At the end of the tunnel, the deputy-chief said:

"You are free."

"And there you are!" said Lupin. "Is that all? Well, my dear Weber, thank you very much and sorry to have given you so much trouble. Good-bye, Monsieur le Prefet; kind regards to the missus!"

He climbed the stairs that led to the Villa des Glycines, raised the trap-door and sprang into the room.

A hand fell on his shoulder.

Opposite him stood his first visitor of the day before, the one who had accompanied the Emperor. There were four men with him, two on either side.

"Look here," said Lupin, "what's the meaning of this joke? I thought I was free!"

"Yes, yes," growled the German, in his rough voice,[Pg 284] "you are free . . . free to travel with the five of us . . . if that suits you."

Lupin looked at him, for a second, with a mad longing to hit him on the nose, just to teach him. But the five men looked devilish determined. Their leader did not betray any exaggerated fondness for him; and it seemed to him that the fellow would be only too pleased to resort to extreme measures. Besides, after all, what did he care?

He chuckled:

"If it suits me? Why, it's the dream of my life!"

A powerful covered car was waiting in the paved yard outside the villa. Two men got into the driver's seat, two others inside, with their backs to the motor. Lupin and the stranger sat down on the front seat.

"Vorwarts!" cried Lupin, in German. "Vorwarts nach Veldenz!"

The stranger said:

"Silence! Those men must know nothing. Speak French. They don't know French. But why speak at all?"

"Quite right," said Lupin to himself. "Why speak at all?"

The car travelled all the evening and all night, without any incident. Twice they stopped to take in petrol at some sleepy little town.

The Germans took it in turns to watch their prisoner, who did not open his eyes until the early morning.

They stopped for breakfast at an inn on a hillside, near which stood a sign-post. Lupin saw that they were at an equal distance from Metz and Luxemburg.[Pg 285] From there, they took a road that slanted north-east, in the direction of Treves.

Lupin said to his travelling-companion:

"Am I right in believing that I have the honor of speaking to Count von Waldemar, the Emperor's confidential friend, the one who searched Hermann III.'s house in Dresden?"

The stranger remained silent.

"You're the sort of chap I can't stand at any price," muttered Lupin. "I'll have some fun with you, one of these days. You're ugly, you're fat, you're heavy; in short, I don't like you." And he added, aloud, "You are wrong not to answer me, Monsieur le Comte. I was speaking in your own interest: just as we were stepping in, I saw a motor come into sight, behind us, on the horizon. Did you see it?"

"No, why?"


"Still. . . ."

"No, nothing at all . . . a mere remark. . . . Besides, we are ten minutes ahead . . . and our car is at least a forty-horse-power."

"It's a sixty," said the German, looking at him uneasily from the corner of his eye.

"Oh, then we're all right!"

They were climbing a little slope. When they reached the top, the count leant out of the window:

"Damn it all!" he swore.

"What's the matter?" asked Lupin.

The count turned to him and, in a threatening voice:

"Take care! If anything happens, it will be so much the worse for you."

"Oho! It seems the other's gaining on us! . . . But what are you afraid of, my dear count? It's no[Pg 286] doubt a traveller . . . perhaps even some one they are sending to help us."

"I don't want any help," growled the German.

He leant out again. The car was only two or three hundred yards behind.

He said to his men, pointing to Lupin.

"Bind him. If he resists. . . ."

He drew his revolver.

"Why should I resist, O gentle Teuton?" chuckled Lupin. And he added, while they were fastening his hands, "It is really curious to see how people take precautions when they need not and don't when they ought to. What the devil do you care about that motor? Accomplices of mine? What an idea!"

Without replying, the German gave orders to the driver:

"To the right! . . . Slow down! . . . Let them pass. . . . If they slow down also, stop!"

But, to his great surprise, the motor seemed, on the contrary, to increase its speed. It passed in front of the car like a whirlwind, in a cloud of dust. Standing up at the back, leaning over the hood, which was lowered, was a man dressed in black.

He raised his arm.

Two shots rang out.

The count, who was blocking the whole of the left window, fell back into the car.

Before even attending to him, the two men leapt upon Lupin and finished securing him.

"Jackasses! Blockheads!" shouted Lupin, shaking with rage. "Let me go, on the contrary! There now, we're stopping! But go after him, you silly fools, catch him up! . . . It's the man in black, I tell you, the murderer! . . . Oh, the idiots! . . ."

[Pg 287]They gagged him. Then they attended to the count. The wound did not appear to be serious and was soon dressed. But the patient, who was in a very excited state, had an attack of fever and became delirious.

It was eight o'clock in the morning. They were in the open country, far from any village. The men had no information as to the exact object of the journey. Where were they to go? Whom were they to send to?

They drew up the motor beside a wood and waited. The whole day went by in this way. It was evening before a squad of cavalry arrived, dispatched from Treves in search of the motor-car.

Two hours later, Lupin stepped out of the car, and still escorted by his two Germans, by the light of a lantern climbed the steps of a staircase that led to a small room with iron-barred windows.

Here he spent the night.

The next morning, an officer led him, through a courtyard filled with soldiers, to the centre of a long row of buildings that ran round the foot of a mound covered with monumental ruins.

He was shown into a large, hastily-furnished room. His visitor of two days back was sitting at a writing-table, reading newspapers and reports, which he marked with great strokes of red pencil:

"Leave us," he said to the officer.

And, going up to Lupin:

"The papers."

The tone was no longer the same. It was now the harsh and imperious tone of the master who is at home and addressing an inferior . . . and such an[Pg 288] inferior! A rogue, an adventurer of the worst type, before whom he had been obliged to humiliate himself!

"The papers," he repeated.

Lupin was not put out of countenance. He said, quite calmly:

"They are in Veldenz Castle."

"We are in the out-buildings of the castle. Those are the ruins of Veldenz, over there."

"The papers are in the ruins."

"Let us go to them. Show me the way."

Lupin did not budge.


"Well, Sire, it is not as simple as you think. It takes some time to bring into play the elements which are needed to open that hiding-place."

"How long do you want?"

"Twenty-four hours."

An angry movement, quickly suppressed:

"Oh, there was no question of that between us!"

"Nothing was specified, neither that nor the little trip which Your Imperial Majesty made me take in the charge of half a dozen of your body-guard. I am to hand over the papers, that is all."

"And I am not to give you your liberty until you do hand over those papers."

"It is a question of confidence, Sire. I should have considered myself quite as much bound to produce the papers if I had been free on leaving prison; and Your Imperial Majesty may be sure that I should not have walked off with them. The only difference is that they would now be in your possession. For we have lost a day, Sire. And a day, in this business[Pg 289] . . . is a day too much. . . . Only, there it is, you should have had confidence."

The Emperor gazed with a certain amazement at that outcast, that vagabond, who seemed vexed that any one should doubt his word.

He did not reply, but rang the bell:

"The officer on duty," he commanded.

Count von Waldemar appeared, looking very white.

"Ah, it's you, Waldemar? So you're all right again?"

"At your service, Sire."

"Take five men with you . . . the same men, as you're sure of them. Don't leave this . . . gentleman until to-morrow morning." He looked at his watch. "Until to-morrow morning at ten o'clock. No, I will give him till twelve. You will go wherever he thinks fit to go, you will do whatever he tells you to do. In short, you are at his disposal. At twelve o'clock, I will join you. If, at the last stroke of twelve, he has not handed me the bundle of letters, you will put him back in your car and, without losing a second, take him straight to the Sante Prison."

"If he tries to escape. . . ."

"Take your own course."

He went out.

Lupin helped himself to a cigar from the table and threw himself into an easy chair:

"Good! I just love that way of going to work. It is frank and explicit."

The count had brought in his men. He said to Lupin:


Lupin lit his cigar and did not move.

"Bind his hands," said the count.

[Pg 290]And, when the order was executed, he repeated:

"Now then, march!"


"What do you mean by no?"

"I'm wondering."

"What about?"

"Where on earth that hiding-place can be!"

The count gave a start and Lupin chuckled:

"For the best part of the story is that I have not the remotest idea where that famous hiding-place is nor how to set about discovering it. What do you say to that, my dear Waldemar, eh? Funny, isn't it? . . . Not the very remotest idea! . . ."

[Pg 291]

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