When Arsene Lupin finished his meal, and he drew from his pocket a handsome cigarette ringed with gold and examined it with complacency, the cell door opened. He only had time to throw it in the drawer and move away from the table. The guard came in, it was the time of the walk.
– I was expecting you, my dear friend, cried Lupin, always cheerful.
They went out. They had barely disappeared at the corner of the corridor, two men in turn entered the cell and began scrutiny. One was inspector Dieuzy, the other inspector Folenfant.
We wanted to finish. There was no doubt: Arsene Lupin kept a correspondence with the outside and communicated with his accomplices. The day before the Grand Journal published these lines addressed to its legal contributor:
In an article these days you wrote about me in terms that can not be justified. A few days before the opening of my trial, I will demand you accountability.
The writer was well Arsene Lupin. So he sent letters. So he received. So it was certain he was preparing the escape announced by him in a so arrogantly manner.
The situation became intolerable. In agreement with the investigating judge, the chief detective Dudouis surrendered himself to Santé to expose to the prison director the measures that it was appropriate to take. And, upon his arrival, he sent two of his men in the cell of the detainee.
They lifted each of slabs, dismantled the bed, did everything it is usual to do in such cases, and ultimately did not discover anything. They would give up their investigation, when the keeper ran in haste and told them:
– The drawer … look at the drawer of the table. When I entered, I thought he pushed it.
They looked, and Dieuzy exclaimed:
– My God, this time we caught him.
Folenfant stopped him.
– Stop it, my boy, the chef will make the inventory.
– But, this luxury cigar …
– Let the Havana, and let’s notify the chief.
Two minutes later, Dudouis was exploring the drawer. First he found there several newspaper articles cut from Argus de la Presse relating Arsene Lupin, and a tobacco pouch, a pipe, a onion skin papier, and finally two books.
He looked at the title. It was Hero-Worship by Carlyle, English edition, and a charming Elzevir, an old bookbinding, Manual of Epictetus, a German translation published at Leyden in 1634. Browsing it, he found that all pages were scarred, underlined, annotated. Was that conventional signs, or the marks that show the fervor that was for a book?
– We will see this in detail, said Dudouis.
He explored the tobacco pouch, the pipe. Then, seizing the famous gold banded cigar:
– Damn, he is doing well, our friend, he exclaimed, a Henri Clet!
With a mechanical gesture of smoking, he brought it close to his ear and cracked. And immediately an exclamation escaped him. The cigar had eased at the pressure of his fingers. He examined more carefully and soon distinguished something white between tobacco leaves. And gently, using a pin, he drew a very fine paper roll, barely the size of a toothpick. It was a ticket. He unrolled and read the words, a small writing of a woman:
“The basket has taken the place of the other. Eight out of ten are prepared. By pressing the outer leg, the plate is lifted up and down. Twelve to sixteen, daily, H-P will wait. But where? Immediate response. Do not worry, your friend is watching over you.”
Dudouis thought a moment and said:
– It’s clear enough … basket … the eight boxes … Twelve to six, that is to say from 12:00 to 4:00 …
– But this H-P, who will wait?
– H–P in this case must mean automobile, H–P, horse power, is it not as in sports language, meaning the force of a motor? A twenty-four H–P is an automobile twenty-four horses.
He stood up and asked:
– The detainee was finishing lunch?
And as he has not yet read this message as proved by the state of the cigar, it is likely that he had just received.
– In his food, amid bread or a potato, what do I know?
– Impossible, one was allowed to bring his food for the trap only, and we have found nothing.
– We will search this evening for the Lupin‘s answer. For now, hold him out of his cell. I’ll take this to the judge. In my opinion, we have to immediately make photos of the letter, and in an hour you can put in the drawer, besides these objects, the same cigar containing the original message itself. We need the detainee not suspecting anything.
It is not without some curiosity that Dudouis returned in the evening at the registry of Santé along with the inspector Dieuzy. In a corner, on the stove, three plates were displayed.
– Did he ate?
– Yes, replied the director.
– Dieuzy, please cut into very thin pieces those few strands of macaroni and open this dumpling bread… Nothing?
– No, chief.
Dudouis examined the plates, fork, spoon, finally the knife, a regulatory round blade knife. He twirled the handle to the left, then right. At right the handle ceded and unscrewed. The knife was hollow and was used in case for a sheet of paper.
– Pooh! he said, it is not very clever for a man like Arsene. But do not waste time. You, Dieuzy, go and investigate in this restaurant.
Then he read:
“I leave it to you, H–P will follow from a distance every day. I will go in front. See you, dear and wonderful friend.”
– Finally, exclaimed Dudouis, rubbing his hands, I believe that the matter is progressing well. A little help from us, and escape succeeded … at least enough to allow us to pinch accomplices.
– And if Arsene Lupin slips through your fingers? the director objected.
– We will use the needed number of men. If, however, he put too much skill … well, too bad for him! As for the band, since the chief refuses to speak, others will speak.
* * *
And in fact, he did not talk much, Arsene Lupin. For months Mr. Jules Bouvier, the examining judge, strove vainly. The interrogations were reduced to uninteresting colloquies between the judge and the lawyer, master Danval, one of the princes of the bar, which also knew about the accused about as much as anybody.
From time to time, out of courtesy, Arsene Lupin said a few words:
– But yes, Your Honour, we agree: the theft of Crédit Lyonnais, the theft of the Rue de Babylone, the issue of counterfeit banknotes, the case of insurance policies, the burglar of castles of Armesnil, Gouret, Imblevain, Groseilliers, Malaquis, all this is your servant.
– So, could you explain to me …
– Inutile, while I admit all and even ten times more than you suppose to.
Tired of this war, the judge suspended that tedious interrogations. After learning of the two intercepted tickets, he resumed. And regularly at noon, Arsene Lupin was brought, from Santé to Dépôt, in the prison car, with a number of detainees. They went away in about three or four hours.
But one afternoon, this return was carried out under specific conditions. The other inmates of Santé has not being questioned, it was decided to bring first Arsène Lupin. He went up alone in the car.
These prison cars, commonly called “salad baskets,” are divided lengthwise by a central corridor on which ten cases open, five right and five left. Each of these boxes is arranged so that one must stick seated, and that the five prisoners therefore sit on each other while being separated from each other by parallel partitions. A municipal guard, placed at the end, monitors the hall.
Arsene was introduced in the third cell on the right, and the heavy car moved off. He realized that they left the Quai de l’Horloge, and passed the Palace of Justice. Then, about the middle of the Saint Michel bridge, he pressed, the outside foot, that is to say the right foot, as he did every time, the metal plate that closed his cell. Immediately something clicked, and the metal plate pulled away gradually. He could see it was just between the two wheels.
He waited, his eyes alert. The car went up slowly the Boulevard Saint-Michel. Tt the crossroads with Saint-Germain, it stopped. The horse of a truck had fallen. Traffic is stopped, very fast it was a congestion of cabs and omnibuses.
Lupin stuck his head out. Another prison car stationed along it he occupied. He raised more the metal sheet, placed his foot on one of the spokes of the wheel and jumped down.
A coachman saw him, laughed with laughter, then tried to call. But his voice was lost in the din of vehicles that flowed again. Besides, Arsene Lupin was already far.
He ran a few steps; but on the left sidewalk, he turned, looked around, seemed to take the wind, like someone still unclear which direction will follow. Then solved, he put his hands in his pockets, and looked like a carefree walking wanderer, he continued to go up the boulevard.
The weather was mild, a good weather and a happy autumn. The cafes were full. He sat on the terrace of one of them.
He ordered a beer and a pack of cigarettes. He emptied his glass in small sips, calmly smoked a cigarette, lit one second. Finally, he got up, he asked the boy to bring the manager.
The manager came and Arsene said, loud enough for all to hear:
– I’m sorry, sir, I forgot my wallet. Maybe my name is it known to you enough that you agree me a few days credit: Arsene Lupin.
The manager looked at him, thinking it was a joke. But Arsene repeated:
– Lupin, the detainee of Santé, currently in a state of escape. I trust that this name inspires you with confidence.
And he walked away, amidst laughter, without the other having time to claim.
He crossed through the street Soufflot and enter the Rue St. Jacques. He was quietly walking, stopping at shop windows and smoking cigarettes. On boulevard de Port-Royal, he turned, inquired, and walked straight to the street Santé. The high gloomy walls of the prison appeared soon. Walking along it, he arrived near the municipal guar and, uncapping:
– It’s really here the Santé prison?
– I like to regain my cell. The car left me on the way and I would not want to abuse …
The guard growled:
– Listen, man, go your way, and be quick.
– Sorry, this is my way through that door. And if you prevent Arsene Lupin to cross it, it could cost you big, my friend.
– Arsene Lupin! What are you talking about here!
– I regret not having my card, said Arsene, pretending to search his pockets.
The guard eyed him from feet to head, stunned. Then, without a word, like in spite of himself, he rang a bell. The iron door half opened.
A few minutes later the director came running to the registry, gesticulating and feigning a violent anger. Arsene smiled:
– Come on, Sir, do not try to outsmart with me. What! You was careful to take me alone in the car, preparing a nice size, and you imagine that I will take my legs to my neck to join my friends. Well, how about the twenty agents and the police officers who escorted us on foot, by carriage or bicycle? No, they would have settled me! I’d not come out alive. Tell me, Sir, you may be count on that?
He shrugged and added,
– I beg you, Sir, let me alone. The day when I will want to escape, I’ll need anyone.
Two days later, Écho de France, which definitely became the official monitor of the exploits of Arsene Lupin – was said that he was a major sponsor – Écho de France published the most comprehensive details on this attempt to escape. The text of the notes exchanged between the prisoner and his mysterious girl friend, the means employed for this, the complicity of the police, the walk of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, the incident at the Soufflot café, everything was disclosed. They knew that the research of Dieuzy inspector with boys of restaurant did not yield any results. And they also learned this amazing thing that showed the infinite variety of resources that this man had: the prison car in which he had been carried was a fully rigged car, his band had substituted for one of usual six cars used by the prison.
The next escape of Arsene Lupin was waited by all. He himself also announced it in categorical terms, as proved by his response to Mr. Bouvier, the day after the incident. The judge was mocking his failure, so he looked at him and said coldly:
– Listen very well, Sir, and believe my word: this escape attempt was part of my plan of escape.
– I do not understand, the judge sneered.
– There is no need for you to understand.
And as the judge, during the interrogation which appeared in full in the columns of Écho de France, as the judge returned to his instruction, he cried with a weary air:
– My God, my God, what good! All these questions are not important!
– How that, no importance?
– But no, since I will not attend my trial.
– You will not attend …
– No, it is a fixed idea, an irrevocable decision. Nothing will make me change my mind.
A such confidence, the inexplicable indiscretions that were committed every day, annoyed and baffled the justice. There were secrets that Arsene Lupin alone knew, and whose disclosure could therefore have come only from him. But what purpose would he unveiled? And how?
It was changed the cell of Arsene Lupin. One night, he went down to the floor below. For its part, the judge buckled his instruction and remitted the case to the House of indictments.
There was silence. It lasted two months. Arsene passed them lying on his bed, almost always turned face against the wall. This change of cell seemed to have him shot down. He refused to receive his lawyer. Hardly he exchanged a few words with his keepers.
In the fortnight preceding his trial, he seemed to revive. He complained of lack of air. They brought him into the court in the morning, very early, flanked by two men.
Public curiosity had not yet weakened. Every day it was expected the news of his escape. It’s almost wished, so the character pleased the crowd with his verve, his gayety, his diversity, his inventive genius and mystery of life. Arsene Lupin would escape. It was inevitable, fatal. It even surprised that lasted so long. Every morning the Prefect of police asked his secretary:
– Well, he is not gone yet?
– No, Mr. Prefect.
– This will be tomorrow.
And on the eve of the trial, a man appeared in the Grand Journal office, asked the justice collaborator, gave him his card face, and walked away quickly. On the card were inscribed these words: “Arsene Lupin always keeps his promises.”
* * *
It is in these conditions that the debate opened.
The crowd was huge there. All wished to see the famous Arsene Lupin and enjoyed in advance how he would play the president. Lawyers and judges, columnists and socialites, artists and women of the world, all Paris pressed on the benches of the hearing.
It was raining, the day out was dark, Arsene Lupin was seen with difficulty when the guards were introduced him. However its heavy attitude, the way he fell in his place, his indifferent and passive immobility, not warned in his favor. Several times one of her lawyer – one of the secretaries of Mr. Danval, he having judged unworthy for him the role to which he was reduced several times – several times his lawyer spoke to him. He shook his head and said nothing.
The clerk read the indictment, and the president said:
– Accused, get up. Your name, first name, age and occupation?
Receiving no response, he repeated:
– Your name? I ask your name?
A thick, tired voice articulated:
– Baudru, Désiré.
There were murmurs. But the president replied:
-Baudru, Désiré? Ah! Well, a new avatar! As it is just about the eighth name to which you claim, and that is probably imaginary as the others, we will stick, if you wish, to that of Arsene Lupin, under which you are more favorably known.
The President consulted his notes, and continued:
– Because, despite all the research, it was impossible to reconstruct your identity. You present this rather original case in our modern society to have no past. We do not know who you are, where you come from, where you grew up during the childhood, in short, nothing. You appeared all of a sudden, three years ago, no one knows exactly what medium, to reveal all of a sudden as Arsene Lupin, that is to say, a strange compound of intelligence and perversion, of immorality and generosity. The data we have about you before this time are rather speculative. Probably the named Rostat who worked there eight years ago, alongside the magician Dickson was none other than Arsene Lupin. It is likely that the Russian student who attended, it was six years ago, the laboratory of Doctor Altier at the Saint Louis Hospital, and often surprised the master by the ingenuity of his hypotheses on bacteriology and the boldness his experiences in diseases of the skin, was none other than Arsene Lupin. Arsene Lupin, too, the Japanese wrestling teacher who came to Paris long before we are to speak of Jujitsu. Arsene Lupin, we believe, the cyclist who won the Expo Grand Prix, touched his 10,000 francs and did not appear again. Arsene Lupin perhaps the one who saved so many people through the small window of the Charity Bazaar … and robbed them.
And after a pause, the President concluded:
– This is this period of time, which seems to have been a careful preparation for the struggle you have undertaken against the society, a methodical learning where you wore at the highest point your strength, your energy and your address. Do you recognize the accuracy of these facts?
During the speech, the accused had swung one leg over the other, the round back, arms inert. Under the brighter light, they noticed his extreme thinness, his hollow cheeks, his strangely salient cheekbones, his earth-colored face, marbled by small red plaques and framed by a patchy and sparse beard. The prison had aged and withered him considerably. They no longer recognize the elegant silhouette and youthful face that newspapers had published so often sympathetic the portrait.
It seemed that he had not heard the question put to him. Twice it was repeated to him. Then he looked up, seemed to reflect, then, making a violent effort, murmured:
The President laughed.
– I do not truly understand the defense system that you have adopted, Arsene Lupin. If it is to play the fools and irresponsible, feel free to. As for me, I will go straight to the point without worrying about your fantasies.
And he went into the details of theft, fraud and false charges against Lupin. Sometimes he questioned the accused. This one gave a grunt or did not answer.
The parade of witnesses began. There were several insignificant depositions, others more serious, all had the common characteristic of contradicting each other. A disturbing darkness enveloped the proceedings, but the Chief Inspector Ganimard was introduced, and the interest awoke.
From the beginning, however, the old detective caused a certain disappointment. He looked, not intimidated – he had seen many others – but uneasy, uncomfortable. Several times he turned his eyes to the accused with visible discomfort. However, both hands resting on the stand, he recounted the incidents he had been involved, pursuit across Europe, arriving in America. And they listened eagerly, as we listen to the story of the most exciting adventures. But towards the end, having referred to his talks with Arsene Lupin, twice he stopped, distracted, indecisive.
It was clear that another thought obsessed him. The President said:
– If you are suffering, it would be better to interrupt your testimony.
– No, no, just …
He paused, looked at the accused at length, deeply, then said:
– I beg permission to examine the accused more closely. There is a mystery that I must clarify.
He approached, looked even deper, all his attention focused, then returned to the bar. And there, in a tone a little solemn, he said:
– Mr. President, I affirm that the man who is here in front of me is not Arsene Lupin.
A great silence greeted these words. The president, first taken aback, exclaimed:
– Ah! That, what are you saying! You’re crazy.
The inspector stated calmly:
– First glance one may get caught up in a likeness that exists indeed, I admit, but it only takes one second of attention. The nose, mouth, hair, skin color … well, this is not Arsene Lupin. And eyes, also! Has he ever such alcoholic eyes?
– Come on, explain to us. What do you intend, witness?
– I know! He put in his place a poor devil that we would condemn in his place … Unless it is an accomplice.
Shouts, laughter, exclamations went everywhere in the room agitating this unexpected bombshell. The President sent for the investigating judge, the director of Santé, the guards, and suspended the hearing.
– Upon resumption, Bouvier and the director, placed in the presence of the accused, declared that there were between Arsene Lupin and this man a very vague similarity of traits.
– But then, cried the President, who is this man? Where is he from? How is it in the hands of justice?
It was introduced the two guards of Santé. Staggering contradiction, they recognized the prisoner they had to monitor in turn! President breathed.
But one of the guards said:
– Yes, yes, I think it’s him.
– What, you think?
– Oh, I barely saw him. He was delivered to me at night, and for two months he remains lying against the wall.
– But, before these two months?
– Ah! before, he did not occupy the cell 24.
The prison director clarified this point:
– We changed the cell held after his escape attempt.
– But you, Mr. Director, you saw him the last two months?
– I have not had the opportunity to see him … he kept quiet.
– And that man is not the prisoner who was given to you?
– So who is he?
– I can not say.
– We are therefore in the presence of a substitution would have done it two months ago. How do you explain it?
– It’s impossible.
In desperation, the President turned to the accused and, in an engaging voice:
– Come, accused, could you explain to me how and since when you are in the hands of justice?
It was as though this benevolent tone disarmed the mistrust or stimulated human understanding. He tried to answer. Finally, deftly and gently questioned, he managed to gather a few sentences, which showed that: two months ago, he was brought to the Dépôt. It had spent a night and a morning. Possessor of a sum of seventy-five cents, he had been released. But as he crossed the courtyard, two guards took him by the arm and led him to the prison car. Since he lived in the cell 24, he was not unhappy … the food is good … he was sleeping a lot … Also had he not protest …
All this seemed likely. Amid the laughter and great excitement, the President referred the case to another session for further inquiry.
* * *
The investigation, immediately establishes this fact recorded on the prison register: eight weeks ago, a man named Baudru Désiré had slept at the Dépôt. Released the next day, he left the Dépôt at two o’clock in the afternoon. But that day, two hours later, interviewed for the last time, Arsene Lupin went out of the instruction and left again in the prison car.
Had the guards made a mistake? Deceived by the resemblance, had they themselves, in a moment of inattention, substituted this man for their prisoner? It would have had they really give proof of a negligence that their service did not allow to suppose.
Was the substitution combined in advance? Besides the layout of the places made it almost unattainable, it would have been necessary in this case that Baudru was an accomplice, and that he was arrested for the specific purpose to take the place of Arsene Lupin. But then, by what miracle such a plan, based solely on a series of incredible opportunity, chance meetings and fabulous mistakes, could it succeed?
They led Baudru Désiré to anthropometric service: there were no records matching his description. Moreover, they easily found his tracks. At Courbevoie, in Asnieres, in Levallois, he was known. He lived on alms and slept in one of these huts of rag pickers who crowd near the barrier of Ternes. Over the past year, however, he was gone.
Had he been hired by Arsene Lupin? There was no basis to believe. And if he had been, he do not know about had the flight of the prisoner. The prodigy was the same. Twenty hypotheses attempting to explain it, none was satisfactory. The only escape was not in doubt, and an incomprehensible, impressive escape, where the public, as well as justice, felt the effort of a long preparation, a set of acts wonderfully tangled in one another, and whose outcome justified the proud prediction of Arsene Lupin, “I will not attend my trial.”
After a month of painstaking research, the riddle was presented with the same inscrutable character. However, it could not indefinitely keep this poor devil of Baudru. His trial would have been ridiculous: what charges had they against him? His release was signed by the judge. But the chief detective decided to build around him an active surveillance.
The idea came from Ganimard. In his view, there was neither complicity nor chance. Baudru was an instrument which Arsene Lupin had played with his extraordinary skill. Baudru free, through him they would go back to Arsene Lupin or at least to someone in his band.
Ganimard were joined to the two inspectors Folenfant and Dieuzy, and a January morning, a misty time, the prison gates opened before Baudru Désiré.
He first appeared embarrassed, and walked like a man who has no specific ideas on the use of its time. He followed the road of Santé and the Rue Saint-Jacques. In front of the shop of a second-hand dealer, he took off his jacket and waistcoat, sold his vest a few sous, and, handing his jacket, went away.
He crossed the Seine. In Chatelet an omnibus passed him. He wanted to go up. There was no space. The controller advised him to take a number, he entered the waiting room.
At this time, Ganimard called his two men close to him, and without leaving the office of view, he said hurriedly:
– Stop a car… no, two, it’s safer. I’ll go with one of you and we will pursuit him.
The men obeyed. Baudru, however, did not appear. Ganimard advanced: there was nobody in the room.
– Idiot I am, he murmured, I forgot the second exit.
The office communicates, in fact, by an interior corridor, with that of the rue Saint-Martin. Ganimard rushed. He arrived just in time to see the Baudru on the imperial of Batignolles-Jardin des Plantes turning the corner of the Rivoli street. He ran and caught the omnibus. But he had lost both agents. He was alone to continue the pursuit.
In his fury, he was about to take him by the collar without further formality. Was it not with premeditation and by an ingenious trick that the so-called idiot had separated from his followers?
He looked Baudru. He was dozing on the bench, and his head tossed right and left. Mouth slightly ajar, his face had an incredible expression of stupidity. No, it was not an adversary capable of running the old Ganimard. Chance had served him, that’s all.
At the crossroads of Galeries Lafayette the man jumped out of the bus in the La Muette tramway. He followed the Boulevard Haussmann, the Avenue Victor Hugo. Baudru not down as before the La Muette station. And sauntered he plunged into the Bois de Boulogne.
He passed an alley to another, returned on his steps, walked away. What was he looking? Had he a purpose?
After an hour of this ride, he seemed weary fatigue. Indeed, notifying a bench, he sat down. The place, located not far from Auteuil, on the edge of a small lake hidden among the trees, was absolutely deserted. Half an hour passed. Losing patience, Ganimard resolved to enter into conversation.
It therefore came and sat alongside Baudru. He lit a cigarette, traced circles on the sand with his cane, and said,
– It’s not warm.
Silence. And suddenly, in that silence, sounds a laugh, but a joyous laugh, happy, the laughter of a child that can not stop laughing. Clearly, now, Ganimard felt his hair stand on leather lifted from its skull. That laugh, that infernal laugh he knew so well! …
With a sudden movement, he grabbed the man by his jacket cuffs and looked deeply, violently, even better than he had looked before, and in truth it was no longer the man he knew. It was the man, but it was same time the other, the true one.
Aided by an accomplice will, he found the fiery life of eyes, it completed the thin mask, he saw the real flesh under the damaged epidermis, the real mouth through the grimace which deformed it. And these were the eyes of the other, the mouth of the other, it was mostly his keen, lively, mocking, witty expression, so clear and so young!
– Arsene Lupin!, he stammered.
And suddenly, caught rage, clutching his throat, he tried to overthrow him. Despite his fifty years, he still had an unusual force, while his opponent seemed in pretty bad condition. And then, what masterstroke if he could bring him back!
The fight was short. Arsene Lupin barely defended himself, and he had attacked so quickly that Ganimard had to let him go. His right arm hung inert, numb.
– If you were taught jujitsu in the Quai des Orfèvres, said Lupin, you would know that this blow is called udi-shi-ghi in Japanese.
And he added, coolly:
– Next time I will broke your arm, and you would have got what you deserve. How, you, an old friend, that I respect, before whom I voluntarily reveal my incognito, you abuse of my confidence! This is bad … Well, what is with you?
Ganimard was silent. This escape he considered himself responsible – was it not he who, by his sensational evidence, had misled the court? – this escape seemed to him the shame of his career. A tear rolled to his gray mustache.
– Hey! My God, Ganimard, do not get angry: if you had not spoken, I would have arranged for another speak. Now, could I admit that they will condemn Baudru Désiré?
– So, murmured Ganimard, it was you who were there? It is you who are here!
– Me, still me, only me.
– Is it possible?
– Oh! There is no need to be rocket science. It is enough as this brave President said, to prepare for a dozen years to be ready for all eventualities.
– But your face? Your eyes?
– You understand that if I worked eighteen months at St. Louis with Dr. Altier, it was not by love of art. I thought one day that that would have the honor of being called Arsene Lupin would need to escape the ordinary laws of appearance and identity. The look? But it can be changed at will. With a hypodermic injection of paraffin puffs up your skin just to the chosen location. The acid pyrogallic will transform you into a mohican. The juice of the greater celandine adorns your sores and tumors with the happiest effect. Tel chemical process affects the growth of your beard and hair, another one the sound of your voice. Add to that two months of dieting in cell no. 24, a thousand times repeated exercises to open my mouth with this grin, to carry my head with this inclination and my back according to this curve. Finally five drops of atropine in the eyes to make them haggard and elusive, and voila.
– I do not conceive that the guards …
– The transformation was gradual. They were able to notice the daily evolution only.
– But Baudru Désiré?
– Baudru exists. He is an innocent poor man, whom I met last year, and that really has an analogy of traits with me. In anticipation of a still possible arrest, I put it in safety, and I applied to discern early on points of dissimilarity between us, to mitigate it as much as possible in me. My friends made him spend a night at the Dépôt, so he came out in about the same time as me, and that coincidence was easy to see. For, note this, they had to find trace of his passage, without which justice would have asked who I was. While in offering this excellent Baudru, it was inevitable, you see, inevitably to jump on him, and that despite the insurmountable difficulties of a substitution, it would prefer to believe in the substitution rather than admit its ignorance.
– Yes, yes, really, murmured Ganimard.
– And then, exclaimed Arsene Lupin, I had in hands a tremendous asset, a card engineered by me from the beginning: the expectation that everyone was aboout my escape. And that was the mistake where you fell, you and others, in this exciting part that justice and I had committed, and whose stake was my liberty: you still assumed that I was a swagger, that I was intoxicated with my success like a greenhorn. I, Arsene Lupin, such a weakness! And, just as in the case of Cahorn, you did say: “From the moment Arsene Lupin cries from the rooftops that he will escape, he has reasons that require it to the shouting.” But, damn it, you have to understand that to escape … without escaping, it was necessary to believe in advance in this escape, by faith, absolute conviction, a truth shining like the sun. And that was that way, by my will. Arsene Lupin would escape, Arsene Lupin would not attend his trial. And when you got up to say, “This man is not Arsene Lupin,” it would have been impossible that everyone does not immediately believed that I was not Arsene Lupin. Suspecting that one person, only one, issued this simple restriction: “And if it was Arsene Lupin?” at the minute, I would was lost. It was enough to look at me, not with the idea that I was not Arsene Lupin, as you did yourself and others, but with the idea that I might be Arsene Lupin, and despite all my precautions, one recognized me. But I was calm. Logically, psychologically, no one could have this simple idea.
He suddenly seized Ganimard’s hand.
– Come, Ganimard, confess that eight days after our interview in the prison of Santé, you waited for me at four, at home, as I had prayed?
– And your prison car? said Ganimard, avoiding answering.
– Bluff! These are my friends who have patched and substituted the old car out of service and wanted to try. But I knew it is impractical without a contest of exceptional circumstances. Only I found useful to complete this attempted escape and give it maximum publicity. A first combined daringly escape gave the second in advance the value of an escape realized.
– So that cigar…
– Dug by me, as well as the knife.
– And the tickets?
– Written by me.
– And the mysterious correspondent?
– She and I are same person. I can use all the writing styles at will.
Ganimard reflected a moment and objected:
– How is it possible that anthropometric service, when we took the Baudru profile, it has not previewed it coincided with that of Arsene Lupin?
– The profile of Arsene Lupin does not exist.
– Come on!
– Or at least it is false. This is a question that I really studied. The Bertillon system uses first the visual records – and you see it is not infallible – and then by measurements, of head, fingers, ears, etc. Against this second reports there is nothing to do.
– So I had to pay. Even before my return from America, a service employees accepted to register a false measure in my measurement. This is enough for the whole system deviates, and a profile is moving towards a diametrically opposed direction in a box where it has to end. The Baudru profile therefore should not coincide with Arsene Lupin‘s.
There was another silence, and then Ganimard asked:
– And now, what will you do?
– Now, exclaimed Lupin, I’m going to rest, start a overeating dieting and gradually become myself. It’s very good to be Baudru or another, to change personality like shirt and choose another appearance, voice, look, writing. But there comes a time when we recognize us anymore in all these and it is very sad. Currently I feel like the man who lost his shadow. I will seek me and find me….
He walked to and fro. A bit of darkness mingled with the light of day. He paused before Ganimard.
– We have nothing more to tell us, I believe?
– Yes, said the inspector, I wonder if you will reveal the truth about your escape … The mistake I made …
– Oh! Nobody will ever know that it was Arsene Lupin who was released. I have too much interest in accumulating around me the most mysterious darkness, to not let escape its almost miraculous character. Also, do not worry, my good friend, and farewell. I dine out tonight, and I only have time to get dressed.
– I thought you were so eager to rest!
– Alas! There are social obligations which it can not escape. The rest will start tomorrow.
– And where you dine?
– At the Embassy of England.
Translated by Nicolae Sfetcu