It is not worthy for a tourist to not know the banks of the Seine, and to not notice, going from the ruins of Jumièges to the ruins of St. Wandrille, the strange little castle Malaquis, so proudly camped on her rock in the middle of the river. The arch of a bridge connect it to the road. The basis of its dark turrets merges with the granite that supports it, huge block detached from who knows what mountain and thrown there by some great convulsion. All around, the calm water of the great river plays among the reeds, and wagtails tremble on the wet crest of the pebbles.
The history of Malaquis is tough as its name, surly as his silhouette. It was only fighting, seats, assaults, robberies and killings. During the vigils of Caux, it is evoked shivering the crimes committed there. It tells of mysterious legends. We speak of the famous underground that once led to the Abbey of Jumieges and to the manor of Agnes Sorel, the beautiful girlfriend of Charles VII.
In this old haunt of heroes and brigands lives Baron Nathan Cahorn, Baron Satan, as previously called for the exchange where it was enriched a little too abruptly. The lords of Malaquis, ruined, had to sell him, for a piece of bread, the remains of their ancestors. There has installed its admirable collections of furniture, paintings, pottery and wood carvings. He lives there alone, with three old servants. No one ever gets there. No one has ever looked into the decor of these ancient halls the three Rubens that he possesses, his two Watteau, his Jean Goujon pulpit, and many other wonders torn from the richest regulars of the public sales.
Baron Satan is afraid. He is afraid not for himself but for the treasures accumulated with so tenacious passion and insight of an amateur than most crafty merchants can not boast of having misled. He loves it, his ornaments. He loves fiercely, like a miser; jealously, like a lover.
Every day, at sunset, the four bristling iron gates that control both ends of the bridge and the entrance to the courtyard, closed and locked. The slightest shock, electric bells vibrate in silence. On the side of the Seine, nothing to fear: the rock rises steeply.
Now, a Friday in September, the postman appeared as usual at the bridge-head. And, according to the daily rule, it was the baron who half opened the heavy door.
He examined the man as thoroughly as if he did not already know him for years, this good welcome face and the sly peasant eyes, and the man said, laughing:
– It’s always me, Monsieur Baron. I’m not another one that would have taken my coat and my cap.
– Do we ever know? murmured Cahorn.
The postman handed him a stack of newspapers. Then he added:
– And now, Monsieur Baron, it is something new.
– A letter … and more, recommended.
Isolated, without friends or anyone who was interested in him, the baron never received letters, and immediately it seemed an ominous event that there was cause for concern. What was this mysterious correspondent who had just revive in his retirement?
– You have to sign, Monsieur Baron.
He signed grumbling. Then he took the letter, waited until the postman had disappeared at the turn of the road, and, after taking a few steps up and down, he leaned against the parapet of the bridge and tore open the envelope. She wore a piece of graph paper with this header manuscript: Prison de la Santé, Paris. He looked at the signature: Arsene Lupin. Stunned, he read:
There, in the gallery that muster your two lounges, a painting of Philippe de Champaigne of excellent workmanship and that pleases me very much. Your Rubens are also to my taste as well as your smallest Watteau. In the right room, I note the Louis XIII credenza, the Beauvais tapestries, the Empire small painting signed Jacob and the Renaissance chest. In the left one, the whole showcase of jewels and miniatures.
This time I will content myself with those objects that will be, I believe, an easy flow. So please have them properly pack and ship them in my name (prepaid) in the Batignolles station, within a week … otherwise, I’ll make myself their move in the night of Wednesday 27 to Thursday 28, September. And, as fair, I will not limit myself of the abovementioned objects.
Please excuse the small inconvenience I cause you, and accept the expression of my sentiments of respectful consideration.
“P.S. Please do not send me the greatest of Watteau. Although you have paid thirty thousand francs to the Hôtel des Ventes, it is only a copy, the original having been burnt under the Directory, by Barras, during an orgy night. Consult the unpublished Memoirs of Garat.
I do not like the Louis XV chatelaine whose authenticity seems doubtful.”
This letter upset the Baron Cahorn. Signed by any other, he would have been considerably alarmed, but signed by Arsene Lupin!
Avid reader of newspapers, aware of everything that was happening in the world concerning theft and crime, he was fully aware of the exploits of the infernal burglar. Surely he knew that Lupin was arrested in America by his enemy Ganimard, he was indeed incarcerated, waiting for his trial and the sentence!
But he also knew that we could expect anything from him. Moreover, the exact knowledge of the castle, the arrangement of tables and furniture, was one of the most formidable arguments. Who had learned him about things that no one had seen?
The Baron looked up and stared at the fierce silhouette of Malaquis, its abrupt pedestal, the deep water that surrounds it, and shrugged. No, really, there was no danger. Nobody in the world could penetrate to the inviolable sanctuary of its collections.
No one, either, but Arsene Lupin? For Arsene Lupin, is there any door, drawbridge, wall? What are the best imagined obstacles, the most skilful precautions, if Arsene Lupin decided to reach such a goal?
The same evening he wrote to the public prosecutor in Rouen. He sent the threatening letter and demanded help and protection.
The answer was soon: being named Arsène Lupin currently detained in Santé, closely monitored, and unable to write, the letter could only be the work of a hoaxer. All showed this, the logic and common sense, as the reality of the facts. However, for an extra caution, an expert examined the writing, and the expert stated that, despite some similarities, this writing was not that of the prisoner.
“Despite some similarities,” the Baron kept staggering these three words only, in which he saw the confession of a doubt that in itself should have been enough for justice to intervene. His fears exasperated. He kept reading the letter. “I will make myself to move.” And this precise date: the night of Wednesday 27 to Thursday 28, September…!
Suspicious and taciturn, he had not dared to confide in his servants, whose devotion did not seem immune to any test. However, for the first time in years, he felt the need to talk, take advice. Abandoned by the justice of his country, he hoped to defend itself with its own resources, and was about to go to Paris and implore the assistance of a former police officer.
Two days passed. The third, by reading his newspapers, he rejoiced. Réveil de Caudebec published this snippet:
“We are pleased to have within our walls, almost three weeks ago, the Chief Inspector Ganimard, one of the veterans of the security service. Mr. Ganimard, whose arrest of Arsene Lupin, his latest achievement, earned a European reputation, rests his long fatigues teasing the stud and bleak.”
Ganimard! Here it is as well the man sought the Baron Cahorn! Who better than the devious and patient Ganimard will be able to thwart the Lupin’s project?
The Baron did not hesitate. Six kilometers separate the castle from the town of Caudebec. It crosses a light step, like a man excited by the hope of salvation.
After several unsuccessful attempts to find the address of the chief inspector, he walked to the offices of the Réveil, located in the middle of the dock. There he found the editor of the news that, approaching the window, exclaimed:
– Ganimard? But you will meet him for sure along the platform, the line by hand. This is where we acquaintance, and where I read by chance his name engraved on his fishing rod. Here it is, the old man that can be seen there, under the trees of the promenade.
– In coat and straw hat?
– Sure! Ah! A funny guy, not talkative and rather gruff.
Five minutes later, the Baron approached the famous Ganimard, has presented itself and tried to enter into conversation. Not reaching the point, he openly broached the subject and explained his case.
The other listened, motionless, without losing sight of the fish he was watching, then he turned his head towards him, measured him from head to foot with an air of profound pity, and said:
– Sir, this is hardly used to warn people that one wants to rob. Arsene Lupin, in particular, does not commit such blunders.
– However …
– Sir, if I had the slightest doubt, believe me that pleasure to cram in this dear Lupin would outweigh all other considerations. Unfortunately, this young man is behind bars.
– If he escapes? …
– It is not possible to escape from Santé.
– But him…
– Him, he is no more than another man.
– However …
– Well, if he escapes, so much the better, I will re-arrest him. Meanwhile, sleep soundly, and do not frightened anymore this bleak.
The conversation was over. The Baron returned home, somewhat reassured by the carelessness of Ganimard. He checked the locks, spied domestic and forty-eight hours yet passed, during which he arrived almost to persuade themselves that, after all, his fears were chimerical. No, really, as Ganimard had said, it does not prevent people one wants to strip.
The date approached. On the morning of Tuesday, the eve of 27, nothing special. But at three o’clock, a boy rang. He brought a dispatch.
“No packages in Batignolles station. Prepare everything for tomorrow night.
Again, it was panic, so much that he wondered if he would not bow to the demands of Arsene Lupin.
He ran to Caudebec. Ganimard was fishing in the same place, sitting on a folding chair. Without a word, he handed him the telegram.
– And after? Asked the inspector.
– After? But it is for tomorrow!
– The theft! Pillage of my collections!
Ganimard laid down his line, turned to him, and, with arms folded on his chest, cried impatiently:
– Ah! That, do you imagine that I will take care of a stupid story!
– What compensation you ask to spend the night at the castle of 27 to 28 September?
– Not a penny, leave me alone.
– Fix your price, I am rich, very rich.
The brutality of the offer disconcerted Ganimard who said, calmer:
– I am here on leave and I do not have the right to meddle …
– No one will know. I promise, whatever happens, to keep silent.
– Oh! Nothing will happen.
– Well, now, three thousand francs, is that enough?
The inspector sniffed a snuff, reflects, and dropped:
– OK. But I must say you honestly that this is money thrown out the window.
– I do not care.
– In this case … And then, after all, do we know with this devil Lupin! It must have at his command a band … Are you sure of your servants?
– My word…
-So, we do not count on them. I want to inform by mail two guys of my friends that will give us more security … Now go, to not be seen together. Tomorrow, about nine o’clock.
* * *
The next day, date fixed by Arsene Lupin, Baron Cahorn picked its panoply, prepares its defenses, and walked around Malaquis. He sees nothing equivocal.
That evening at half past eight, he sent his servants. They lived in a wing front on the road, but a little behind, and at the end of the castle. Once alone, he quietly opened the four doors. After a while he heard footsteps approaching.
Ganimard presented his two assistants, big strong guys, bull-necked and powerful hands, then asked some explanation. Having realized the layout of the place, he carefully closed and barricaded all the entrances through which one could enter the threatened rooms. He inspected the walls, raised the tapestries, and finally settled its guys in the central gallery.
– No stupidity, ok? We are not here to sleep. At the least alarm, open the windows of the court and call me. Beware also on the side of the water. Ten meters right cliff, for devils of their caliber, it does not frighten.
He shut them up, took the keys, and said to the Baron:
– And now, in our positions.
He had chosen, to spend the night, a small piece within the thickness of the boundary walls, between the two main gates, and which became this way the redoubt of the watchman. A peephole opened on deck, another on the court. In one corner could be seen something like the opening of a well.
– You told me, Monsieur Baron, this well was the only entrance of the underground, and that, in living memory, it is blocked?
– So, unless there is no other entrance ignored by all but Arsene Lupin, which seems a bit problematic, we are quiet.
He lined up three chairs, stretched out comfortably, lit his pipe and sighed:
– Really, Monsieur Baron, I must have rudely want to add another floor to the house where I must end my days, to accept such an elementary task. I will tell the story to my friend Lupin, he will held his sides with laughter.
The baron did not laugh. The ear listening, he questioned the silence with increasing concern. From time to time he leaned over the well and plunged into the gaping hole an anxious eye.
Eleven o’clock, midnight, one o’clock struck.
Suddenly, he grabbed the arm of Ganimard who woke up suddenly.
– Do you hear?
– What is it?
– It’s me snoring!
– But no, listen …
– Ah! Well, it is the horn of a car.
– Well, it is unlikely that Lupin would use a car as a battering ram to demolish your castle. Also, Monsieur Baron, in your place, I would sleep … as I will have the honor of doing it again. Good evening.
That was the only warning. Ganimard was able to resume his interrupted nap, and the Baron could hear her sound and steady snoring.
At dawn, they left their cells. A great serene peace, the peace of the morning on the banks of fresh water, surrounded the castle. Cahorn radiant with joy, Ganimard always peaceful, they went up the stairs. No noise. Nothing suspicious.
-What did I tell you, baron? Basically, I would not have accepted … I am ashamed …
He took the keys and entered the gallery.
On two chairs, bent, arms swinging, the two agents were sleeping.
– For goodness’ sake! growled the inspector.
At the same moment the Baron cried out:
– The paintings! … The credenza! …
He stammered, choking with outstretched hand toward the empty places, toward the denuded walls where pointed nails, where hung unnecessary strings. The Watteau, disappeared! Rubens, kidnapped! the tapestries taken down! showcases, emptied of their jewels!
– And my Louis XVI candelabra! … And the Regent chandelier! … And my Virgin of the twelfth! …
He ran from one place to another, frightened, desperate. He recalled his purchase price, added up the losses, accumulated figures, all jumbled in indistinct words in unfinished sentences. He stamped his feet, he convulsed, mad with rage and pain. It looked like a ruined man who only has to shoot himself.
If anything could have consoled would have been to see the amazement of Ganimard. Unlike the baron, the inspector did not move. He seemed petrified, and a vague eye he examined things. Windows? closed. Door locks? intact. No breach in the ceiling. No hole in the floor. The order was perfect. All this had to be done methodically, after an inexorable and logically plan.
– Arsene Lupin … Arsene Lupin, he murmured, collapsed.
Suddenly he leaped to the two agents, as if the anger finally shook, and he furiously shoved and insulted them. They never woke up!
– Devil, he said, is it by chance? …
He leaned on them and, in turn, watched them carefully: they were sleeping, but sleep was not natural.
He said to the baron:
– He asleep them.
– But who?
– Eh, him, of course! … Or his band, but directed by him. It is a blow of his way. The claw is well.
– In that case I am lost, nothing to do.
– Nothing to do.
– But it is abominable, it is monstrous.
– File a complaint.
– What’s the point?
– Oh! Always try … justice has resources …
– Justice! But you can see for yourself … Here, right now, you could search an indice, find something, you do not even move.
– Discover something with Arsene Lupin! But, my dear Monsieur, Arsene Lupin never leaves anything behind him! There is no chance with Arsene Lupin! I am wondering if it is not voluntarily he was arrested by me, in America!
– So, I must give up my paintings, everything! But these are the pearls of my collection that he robbed. I would give a fortune to find them. If we can do nothing against him, he tells the price!
Ganimard stared at him.
– It is a sensible word. You do not retrieve it?
– No, no, no. But why?
– I have an idea.
– What an idea?
– We will talk if the investigation gives no result … But, not a word about me, if you want me to succeed.
He added between his teeth:
– And then, true, I have nothing to boast about.
Both officers gradually regained knowledge with this numbly of those coming out of the hypnotic sleep. They opened astonished eyes, they sought to understand. When Ganimard questioned them, they remembered nothing.
– However, you must have seen someone?
– No, no.
– And you did not drink?
They pondered, and one of them replied:
– Yes, I drank a little water.
– Water from this pitcher?
– Me too, declared the second.
Ganimard felt it, tasted it. She had no special taste, no odor.
– Come, he said, we are wasting our time. This is not five minutes that we solve the problems of Arsene Lupin. But, damn it! I swear that I will re-arrest him. He wins the second round. Mine next, the best!
The same day, a complaint was filed for robbery by the Baron Cahorn against Arsene Lupin, detained at Santé!
* * *
This complaint, the baron often regretted when he saw the Malaquis delivered to the police, the prosecutor, the investigating judge, journalists and all curious that creep anywhere they should not be.
The case already fascinated the public. It happened in such special conditions, the name of Arsene Lupin excited the imagination to such an extent that the most fantastic stories filled newspaper columns and found credence with the public.
But the initial letter of Arsene Lupin, that published Écho de France (and no one ever knew who had provided the text), this letter where Baron Cahorn was brazenly warned of what threatened, caused considerable excitement. Immediately fabulous explanations were proposed. It recalled the existence of the famous subterranean. And the prosecutor, influenced, pushed his research in this direction.
They searched the castle from top to bottom. They searched each of the stones. They studied the woodwork and fireplaces, the frames of the ice caps and beamed ceilings. In the light of torches, they examined the immense cellars where the lords of Malaquis once piled ammunition and provisions. They probed the bowels of the rock. It was in vain. They did not discover the least vestige underground. There was point secret passage.
OK, they answered on all sides, but furniture and paintings do not disappear like ghosts. It goes through doors and windows, and people take it by force, creep and also go through doors and windows. What are these people? How were they introduced? And how are they gone?
Prosecutors in Rouen, convinced of his impotence, solicited the aid of Parisian agents. Mr. Dudouis, the chief detective, sent his best sleuths of the iron brigade. Himself made a stay of forty-eight hours in Malaquis. He also failed.
He then summoned the chief inspector Ganimard which he so often had the opportunity to value his services.
Ganimard listened silently to the instructions of his superior and then, shaking his head, he said:
– I believe we erred in persisting in searching the castle. The solution lies elsewhere.
– And where?
– Close to Arsene Lupin.
– Close to Arsene Lupin! Assuming this, it is to admit his intervention.
– I admit it. Moreover, I consider it certain.
– Come, Ganimard, that is absurd. Arsene Lupin is in prison.
– Arsène Lupin is in prison, maybe. He is monitored, I grant you. But even if I would have shackles, wrists tied with ropes and a gag over her mouth, I did not change my mind.
– And why this obstinacy?
– Because only Arsene Lupin can think a schema of this size, and combine it so it succeeds … as it was successful.
– Words, Ganimard!
– Who are realities. But now, no attempt in underground, stone turning on a pivot, and other nonsense of this caliber. Our man does not employ such old methods. It is the way of today, or rather tomorrow.
– And you conclude?
– I conclude by asking you clearly permission to spend an hour with him.
– In his cell?
– Yes. Returning from America we maintained, during the voyage, excellent relationships, and I dare to say he has some sympathy for the one who was able to stop him. If he can give me information without compromising himself, he will not hesitate to save me a useless trip.
It was a little past noon when Ganimard was introduced into the cell of Arsene Lupin. The latter, lying on his bed, raised his head and uttered a cry of joy.
– Ah! that’s a real surprise. This dear Ganimard, here!
– He himself.
– I wanted many things in retirement I have chosen … but none more passionately than to meet you.
– You’re too kind.
– But no, no, I claim for you the deepest esteem.
– I’m proud of it.
– I always said: Ganimard is our best detective. You‘re almost like – you see how frank I am! – youy’re almost like Sherlock Holmès. But, in truth, I’m sorry to have nothing to offer except this stool. And no refreshments! Not a glass of beer! Excuse me, I’m here in transit.
Ganimard sat smiling, and the prisoner replied, happy to talk:
– My God, I am content to rest my eyes on the figure of an honest man! I’m tired of all these faces of spies and informers who spend ten times a day to review my pockets and my small cell, to ensure that I do not prepare an escape. Damn, what the government wants me! …
– It is right.
– But no! I would be happy if they leave me live in my little corner!
– With the pensions of others.
– Isn’t it? It would be so easy! But I chat, I say nonsense, and you may be squeezed. Come to the point, Ganimard! What I owe the honor of a visit?
– The case of Cahorn declared Ganimard, frankly.
– Wait! A second … I have so much business! First let me find in my brain the record of the case Cahorn … Ah! Here it is. Case Cahorn, Malaquis castle, Lower Seine … Two Rubens, a Watteau, and some modest pieces.
– Oh! Believe me, it is all of little importance. There are better! But it is enough that the case interests you … Speak, Ganimard.
– Do I have to explain where we are with the investigation?
– No need. I read the papers this morning. I would even venture to say that you do not advance quickly.
– It’s exactly why I address your kindness.
– Fully at your orders.
– First: the action has been led by you?
– From A to Z.
– The notification letter? The telegram?
– All your servant. I must even have the receipts somewhere.
Arsene opened the drawer of a small white wooden table that consisted with the bed and the ladder all the furniture of his cell, took two scraps of paper and handed them to Ganimard.
– Ah! but, the other cried, I thought you kept in custody and I searched for a yes or a no. Or you read the newspapers, you collect receipts from the post …
– Bah! These people are so stupid! They undo the lining of my jacket, they explore the soles of my boots, they listen the walls of this room, but no one would think Arsene Lupin is silly enough to choose an easier hiding place. It is on this that I counted.
Ganimard, amused, exclaimed:
– What funny guy you are! You disconcert me. Come on, tell me the adventure.
– Oh! oh! As you go! You learn all my secrets … reveal my quick tips … This is serious.
– Do I wrong to count on your kindness?
– No, Ganimard, and since you insist …
Arsene Lupin paced two or three times his room, then stopping:
– What do you think of my letter to the baron?
– I think you were willing to entertain, impress a little gallery.
– Ah! Here, impress! Well, I assure you, Ganimard, I thought you stronger. Do I linger with these trifles, I, Arsene Lupin! Is what I would have written this letter if I could have robbed the baron without writing him? But so understand, you and others, that this letter is the essential starting point, the spring which set the whole machine in motion. Now, proceed in order and prepare together, if you want, the burglar of Malaquis.
– I‘m listening.
– So, Suppose a castle carefully closed, barricaded, as was that of Baron Cahorn. Will I give up and renounce the treasures that I covet, pretexting that the castle that contains them is inaccessible?
– Obviously no.
– Will I try the assault as before, at the head of a band of adventurers?
– Will I introduce myself slyly?
– It remains a way, the one I think it’s making me invite the owner of the castle.
– That way is original.
– And how easy! Suppose that one day, the said owner receives a letter warning him about a frame against him by a named Arsene Lupin, known burglar. What will he do?
– It will send the letter to the prosecutor.
– Who will laugh at him, because the said Lupin is now behind bars. So, panic of the man, who is willing to ask for help to the first comer, is it not?
– This is beyond doubt.
– And if he happens to read a news about a famous policeman on holiday in nearby …
– He will contact the police.
– You have said. But on the other hand, assume that in anticipation of this inevitable process, Arsene Lupin has asked one of his ablest friends to settle in Caudebec, to enter into relations with the editor of Réveil, newspaper to which Baron subscribed, to suggest that there is the famous detective, what will happen?
– The editor will announce in Réveil the presence in Caudebec of said detective.
– Perfect, and one of two things: either the fish – I mean Cahorn – does not bite the bait, and then nothing happens. Or, and this is the most likely hypothesis, it runs, wriggling. And here my Cahorn imploring, for assistance against me, one of my friends!
– More and more original.
-Of course, the pseudo-policeman initially refuses assistance. Thereupon, dispatch of Arsene Lupin. The Baron, terrorized, is begging again my friend, and it offers so much to ensure his salvation. The said friend accepts, takes two guys within our band, which, at night, while Cahorn is kept in sight by his protector, move through the window a number of objects and let them slide, using ropes in a nice little boat chartered ad hoc. It’s easy as Lupin.
– And it is quite simply wonderful, cried Ganimard, and I can not praise too the boldness of the plan and ingenuity of details. But I see no policeman enough known that his name could attract, suggest the Baron at this point.
– There is one, and there is only one.
– Which one?
– The most famous, the personal enemy of Arsene Lupin, in short, Inspector Ganimard.
– You yourself, Ganimard. And now what is delicious: if you go there and that the baron decides to talk, you’ll eventually discover that your duty is to arrest you, as you arrested me in America. Huh! Revenge is funny: I arrest Ganimard by means of Ganimard!
Arsene Lupin laughed good heart. The inspector, rather vexed, bit his lips. The joke did not seem to merit such access of joy.
The arrival of a guard gave him time to recover. The man brought the meal to Arsene Lupin, by special favor, from the nearby restaurant. Having deposited the tray on the table, he withdrew. Arsene settled, broke his bread, ate a couple of bites and continued:
– But, be assured, my dear Ganimard, you will not go there. I’m going to reveal something that will amaze you: the Cahorn case is about to be closed.
– About to be closed, I tell you.
– Come so, I just left the chief detective.
– And after? Do Mr. Dudouis knows more than I do for myself? You will learn that Ganimard – excuse me – that the pseudo-Ganimard remained on very good terms with the baron. This one, and this is the main reason why he has confessed nothing, he made pseudo-Ganimard responsible for the very delicate task of negotiating a deal with me, and at the present time, for a fee, it is probable that the Baron returned in possession of his beloved trinkets. In return for which it will withdraw its complaint. So, no more theft. So it will be necessary to abandon the prosecution…
Ganimard regarded the prisoner in amazement.
– And how do you know all this?
– I just received the telegram I was expecting.
– You just received a dispatch?
– Right now, dear friend. Out of politeness, I did not want to read it in your presence. But if I may …
– You kidding me, Lupin.
– Please, my dear friend, quietly behead this boiled egg. You will see for yourself that I’m not making fun of you.
Mechanically, Ganimard obeyed, and broke the egg with the blade of a knife. A gasp escaped him. The shell, empty, contained a sheet of blue paper. On the prayer of Arsene, he unfolded it. It was a telegram, or rather a part of a telegram which had been torn indications of mail. He read:
“Agreement reached. One hundred thousand balls delivered. All is well.”
– One hundred thousand balls? He asked.
– Yes, one hundred thousand francs! It’s little, but finally the times are tough … And I overheads so heavy! If you knew my budget … a budget of a great city!
Ganimard rose. His bad mood had dissipated. He thought for a few seconds, embraced with a glance the whole affair, to try to discover the weak point. Then he said in a tone which left frankly pierce his connoisseur admiration:
– By happiness, it does not exist dozens like you, otherwise there would simply have to close the shop.
Lupin took a little modest air and replied:
– Bah! It was good entertainment, to take care of leisure… especially since the blow could succeed only if I was in prison.
– What! Exclaimed Ganimard, your trial, your defense, charge, all this is not enough to distract you?
– No, because I have decided not to attend my trial.
– Oh! Oh!
Arsene Lupin repeated calmly:
– I do not attend my trial.
– In truth!
– Ah! That, my dear, do you imagine that I will rot on the damp straw? You dishonor me. Arsene Lupin remains in prison as the time he pleases, and not a minute longer.
– He might have been more prudent to start by not to enter, objected the inspector ironically.
– Ah! Monsieur mocks? Monsieur remembers that he was honored to make my arrest? You know, my respected friend, that no one, you not more than another, could have put a hand on me, if a much greater interest had directed me at this critical time.
– You surprise me.
-A woman looked at me, Ganimard, and I loved her. Do you understand all there is in this being watched by a woman you love? The rest did not matter to me, I swear. And that’s why I’m here.
– For a long time, allow me to notice.
– I wanted to forget first. Do not laugh: the adventure was charming, and I kept still tender memory … And I am somewhat neurotic! Life is so feverish these days! You should know, at times, to do what is called an isolation cure. This place is sovereign for such schemes. The cure at Santé is practiced in all its rigor.
– Arsene Lupin, noticed Ganimard, you makes fun of me.
– Ganimard, says Lupin, we are today on Friday. Next Wednesday I will smoke my cigar at home, Pergolesi street at four in the afternoon.
– Arsene Lupin I will wait for you.
They shook hands like two good friends who feel at fair value, and the old policeman walked towards the door.
This one turned.
– What is it?
– Ganimard, you forget your watch.
– My watch?
– Yes, it strayed into my pocket.
He gave it back apologetically.
– Forgive me… a bad habit … But that’s not a reason because they took mine from me that I deprive you of yours. Especially as I have here a stopwatch I have nothing to complain about, and which fully meets my needs.
He pulled out of the drawer a large gold watch, thick and comfortable, decorated with a heavy chain.
– And this, from whose pocket does it come? asked Ganimard.
Arsene Lupin casually examined the initials.
– J. B…. Who the hell can that be? … Ah! yes, I remember, Jules Bouvier, my judge, a charming man …
Translated by Nicolae Sfetcu