The day before, I had sent my automobile to Rouen by road. I was to join him there by train, and from there, go with friends who inhabit the banks of the Seine.
But in Paris, a few minutes before departure, seven men invaded my compartment; five of them were smoking. Even if the train is fast, the perspective of such company was disagreeable to me, especially as the wagon, a former model, had no corridor. So I took my overcoat, my newspapers, my map, and took refuge in one of a neighboring compartments.
A lady was there. To my view, it was a gesture of annoyance that did not escape me, and she leaned toward a gentleman planted on the step, her husband, no doubt, who had accompanied her to the station. The gentleman looked at me and examination probably ended my advantage as he spoke to his wife, smiling, air that we reassure a frightened child. She smiled back, and slipped me a friendly eye, as if she understood suddenly that I was one of those gallant men with whom a woman can remain trapped for two hours in a box six feet square, without have nothing to fear.
Her husband said:
– You do not mind, darling, but I have an urgent appointment, and I can not wait.
He kissed her affectionately, and went away. His wife sent to him by window discreet little kisses and waved her handkerchief.
But a whistle sounded. The train started.
At that moment, despite the protests of the employees, the door opened and a man appeared in our compartment. My companion, who was then standing and arranging its affairs along the net, uttered a cry of terror and fell on the bench.
I am not a coward, far from it, but I confess that these eruptions last time is always painful. They seem ambiguous, unnatural. There must be something down there, otherwise …
The appearance of the newcomer, however, and his attitude, would rather mitigated the bad impression produced by his act. Correction, almost elegance, a tasteful tie, clean gloves, energic face … But, in fact, where the hell had I seen that face? For, doubt was not possible, I had seen him. At least, more accurately, I found in myself the kind of memory that allows the vision of a portrait several times seen and which has never contemplated the original. And at the same time I felt the futility of any effort of memory, this memory was so inconsistent and vague.
But having turned my attention to the lady I was amazed at her pallor and the upheaval of his features. She watched her neighbor – they were sitting on the same side – with an expression of real terror, and I found one of his hands, trembling, slipped to a small travel bag resting on the bench to twenty centimeters from his knees . She finally grasp it and pulled nervously against her.
Our eyes met, and I read in hers so much discomfort and anxiety that I could not stop myself to say:
– You are not ill, madam? … Should I open this window?
Without answering, she pointed to me with a timid gesture the individual. I smiled as her husband had done, shrugged and explained to him by signs that she had nothing to fear, that I was there, and besides that gentleman seemed harmless.
At that moment, he turned to us, one after another we looked at the feet to the head, then leaned back in his corner and did not move.
There was a silence, but the lady, as if she had picked up all his energy to accomplish an act of desperation, said in a barely intelligible voice:
– Do you know he is in our train?
– But Him … him … I assure you.
– Who, him?
– Arsene Lupin!
She had not taken his eyes off the traveler and it was he rather than she gave me the syllables of that disquieting name.
He lowered his hat over his nose. Was it to hide her emotion, or simply is he preparing to sleep?
I made this objection:
-Arsene Lupin was sentenced yesterday in absentia to twenty years hard labor. It is therefore unlikely that today he commit the imprudence of appearing in public. Also, did the newspapers did not report his presence in Turkey this winter since his famous escape of Santé?
– He is in this train, repeated the lady, with an increasingly marked intention to be heard by our companion, my husband is deputy director for prison services, and it is the curator of the station himseld who told us they were looking for Arsene Lupin.
– It’s not a reason…
– We met him in the Salle des Pas Perdus. He took a first class ticket for Rouen.
– It was easy to get hold of him.
– He disappeared. The controller, at the entrance waiting rooms, did not see him, but it was assumed that he had gone through the suburban platforms, and was mounted in the express that leaves ten minutes after us.
– In this case, he will be pinched.
– And if at the last moment, he jumped in this express to come here in our train … … as it is likely, as it is certain?
– In this case, it is here that will be pinched. For employees and agents will not have failed to see the passage of a train in the other, and when we get to Rouen, they will pick him for good.
– Him, never! He will find the way to escape again.
– In that case, I wish him a good journey.
– But by then, all he can do!
– Do I know? We must expect everything!
She was very agitated, and the situation justified to some extent this nervous excitement. Almost despite myself, I said:
– There is indeed curious coincidences … But make yourself easy. Admitting that Arsene Lupin is in one of these cars, he is enough wise and, rather than attracting new trouble, he will have no other way than to avoid the risk.
My words did not reassured her. But she was silent, fearing perhaps to be indiscreet.
I unfolded my newspapers and read the reports of the trial of Arsene Lupin. As they contained nothing that I already knew, it interested me moderately only. Furthermore, I was tired, I had not slept, I felt my eyelids grow heavy and my head tilt.
– But, Sir, you don‘t have to sleep!
The woman tore me my journals and looked at me with indignation.
– Obviously not, I replied, I have no intention.
– This would be the last imprudence, she said.
– The last, I repeated.
And I struggled vigorously, clinging to the landscape, the clouds that streaked the sky. And soon all fell out in space, the image of the agitated lady and the drowsy gentleman faded in my mind, and that was in me the great, deep silence of sleep.
Inconsistent and light dreams soon decorated it, a being who played the part and have the name of Arsene Lupin was holding a certain place. He played on the horizon, back loaded with valuables, crossing walls and dismantled castles.
But the silhouette of this being, which was no more Arsene Lupin, took shape. He came towards me, became more and more, jumped in the car with incredible agility, and fell right on my chest.
A sharp pain … a piercing cry … I woke up. The man, the traveler, one knee on my chest, squeezing my throat.
I saw it very vaguely, for my eyes were bloodshot. I saw the lady convulsed in a corner, prey to an attack of nerves. I did not even try to resist. Besides, I should have not have the strength; my temples throbbed, I was suffocating … I ralais … Another minute … and it was asphyxiation.
The man must have felt it. He released his grip. Without deviating to the right hand, he held a rope where he had prepared a noose and, with a sharp movement, he tied both my wrists. In an instant, I was bound, gagged, immobilized.
And he accomplishes this task in the most natural way of the world, with an ease which revealed knowledge of a master, a professional theft and crime. Not a word, not a feverish movement. Composure and boldness. And I was there, on the bench, tied like a mummy, I, Arsene Lupin!
In truth, there was nothing to laugh about. And, despite the gravity of the circumstances, I valued all that ironic and tasty situation. Arsene Lupin rolled like a novice! Robbed as the first come – because, of course, the bandit lightened me of my purse and my wallet! Arsene Lupin, a victim in turn, duped, vanquished … What an adventure!
Remained the lady. He paid no attention to her. He simply pick up the small bag lying on the carpet and extract jewelry, wallets, gold ornaments and silver it contained. The lady opened one eye, trembled with fear, took off her rings and handed them to the man as if she wanted to spare him unnecessary effort. He took the rings and looked at her: she fainted.
Then, still silent and quiet, without taking care of us, he resumed his seat, lit a cigarette and gave himself up to a thorough examination of the treasures he had conquered, review that seemed to satisfy fully.
I was much less satisfied. I’m not talking about the twelve thousand francs which he had been unduly deprived me: it was a pity that I accepted even temporarily, although I counted these twelve thousand francs would return in my possession in the shortest possible time, as well as the very important paper that contained my wallet: plans, specifications, addresses, subscriber lists, compromising letters. But for the moment, a more immediate and serious concern bothered me:
What would happen?
As well we think, agitation caused by my passage through the Gare Saint-Lazare had not escaped me. Invited by some friends where I am known under the name of Guillaume Berlat, and for whom my resemblance to Arsene Lupin was a subject of affectionate jokes, I could not make up as I wish, and my presence was reported. In addition, they saw a man, Arsene Lupin probably, rush from the express to the fast train. So inevitably, without fail, the Rouen police commissioner, warned by telegram, and assisted by a respectable number of agents, would be at the arrival of the train, would interview the suspect travelers and conduct a thorough review of wagons.
All this I expected, and I was not too excited in me, certain that the police of Rouen would not be more perceptive than that of Paris, and that I could well go unnoticed, – it will be enough for me, at exit, to show carelessly my deputy card, with which I had inspired confidence to the controller of Saint Lazarus. – But how things changed! I was no longer free. Impossible to attempt one of my usual tricks. In one of the cars, the Commissioner would discover Sieur Arsene Lupin sent to him by a favorable chance bound hand and foot, as docile as a lamb, packaged, all prepared. It would only take delivery, as it receives a parcel addressed to you at the station, a basket with prey or fruit and vegetables.
And to avoid this unfortunate outcome, what could I, twisted in my strips?
The train sped towards Rouen, unique and next station, passing near Vernon, Saint-Pierre.
Another problem intrigued me, where I was less directly interested, but whose solution aroused my professional curiosity. What were the intentions of my companion?
If I would have been alone I would had time to Rouen to go down in peace. But the lady? Scarcely the door would open, the lady, wise and humble now, will cry, will agitate, will call for help!
And hence my astonishment! Why did not he reduced to impotence the same as me, which would have given him time to disappear before they even look at his double mischief?
He was still smoking, his eyes fixed on space where a rain began to scratch, hesitant, large oblique lines. Once, however, he turned away, grabbed my map and consulted it.
The lady tried to remain unconscious, to reassure his enemy. But coughing, caused by smoke, belied this fainting.
As for me, I was very uncomfortable, and very stiff. And I thought … I combined …
Pont-de-l’Arche … Oissel… The train hurried, happy, drunk with speed.
Saint-Étienne… At that moment, the man stood up and took two steps towards us, to which the lady hastened to reply with a new cry and a non-simulated fainting.
But what was his purpose? He lowered the window on our side. Now the rain fell with rage, and his gesture marked the boredom he felt at having neither umbrella nor overcoat. He glanced at the net: the umbrella of the lady was there. He took it. He also took my overcoat and weared it.
We crossed the Seine. He rolled up his pants down, then bent down and lifted the outside latch.
Would he throw himself on the way? At that speed it would have been certain death. We rushed into the tunnel pierced under Côte Sainte-Catherine. The man opened the door and, foot, felt the first step. What madness! The darkness, the smoke, the noise, all gave such an attempt a fantastic appearance. But, suddenly, the train slows down, Westinghouse opposed the effort of wheels. In one minute the pace became normal, diminished yet. Undoubtedly consolidation works were projected in this part of the tunnel, which required the slowed passage of trains for several days perhaps, and the man knew.
It therefore had only to put the other foot on the step, down to the second and to leave peacefully, not without having previously turned down the latch and closing the door.
No sooner had he gone than the day shone whiter smoke. The train uncorked in a valley. Another tunnel and we were in Rouen.
As soon as the lady recovered his senses his first care was to lament the loss of his jewelry. I implored her with my eyes. She understood and delivered me of the gag that stifled me. She also wanted to untie my bonds, I prevented.
– No, no, it is necessary that the policy see matters in this state. I want it to understand what did this scoundrel.
– And if I pull the alarm?
– Too late, you have tos think of it while he attacked me.
– But he would have killed me! Ah! Sir, I said he was traveling on that train! I recognized him right away, according to his portrait. And off he goes with my jewelry.
– We will find him, do not be afraid.
– Find Arsene Lupin! Never.
– It depends on you, Madame. Listen. Upon arrival, be on the door and call, make noise. Agents and employees will come. Tell them what you have seen in a few words, the attack I suffered and the flight of Arsene Lupin. Give his description, a soft hat, your umbrella, a gray waist overcoat.
– Yours, she said.
– What, mine? But no, his. I do not have any.
– It seemed to me that he did not when mounted.
– Yes, yes … unless it is a garment forgotten in the net. In any case, he had when he came down, and that’s the point … a gray waist overcoat, remember … Ah! I forgot … tell them your name, first. The functions of your husband stimulate the zeal of all these people.
The train arrived. She was already leaning out the door. I took a rather loud voice, almost imperious, so that my words engrave well in his brain.
– Tell them also my name, Guillaume Berlat. If necessary, say you know me … We will win time this way… We have to avoid the preliminary investigation … The important thing is the pursuit of Arsene Lupin … your jewelry. .. There is no error, isn’t it? Guillaume Berlat, a friend of your husband.
– Fine… Guillaume Berlat.
She was already calling and gesticulating. The train had not stopped when a gentleman rode, followed by several men. The critical hour struck.
Panting, the lady exclaimed:
– Arsene Lupin… he attacked us… he stole my jewels… I am Madame Renaud… my husband is deputy director of the prison service… Ah! Here you are, my brother, Georges Ardelle, director of Credit Rouennais … you need to know …
She embraced a young man who had just joined us, that the Commissioner bowed, and she said, weeping:
– Yes, Arsene Lupin … while Monsieur was sleeping, he jumped into his throat … Mr. Berlat, a friend of my husband.
The Commissioner asked:
– But where is he, Arsene Lupin?
– He jumped the train in the tunnel after the Seine.
– Are you sure it’s him?
– If I’m sure! I fully recognized. Indeed we have seen him at the Saint-Lazare station. He had a soft hat …
– No … a hard felt hat like this, the Commissioner corrected by designating my hat.
– A soft hat, I said, repeated Madame Renaud, and a gray overcoat size.
– In fact, murmured the Commissioner, the telegram reports that gray waist overcoat and a black velvet collar.
– With black velvet collar, precisely, exclaimed triumphant Madame Renaud.
I breathed. Ah! The brave, the excellent friend I had there!
However, the officers had freed me from my shackles. I bit my lips violently, the blood flowed. Bent double, the handkerchief on the mouth, as befits a man who has long been in an awkward position, and bringing in the face the bloody marks of the gag, I say to the Commissioner, in a feeble voice:
– Sir, it was Arsene Lupin, no doubt … With some diligence we can catch him… I think I can be of some use…
The wagon which was used to the findings of Justice was detached. The train continued to Havre. We were taken to the office of the station master, through the crowd of onlookers who thronged the quay.
At that time, I had a hesitation. Under some pretext, I could get away, back to my car and go. Wait was dangerous. Should produce an incident, a telegram came from Paris, and I was lost.
Yes, but my thief? Left to my own resources, in an area that was not very familiar to me, I should not expect to join him.
– Bah! the blow will attempt, I told myself, and stay. The game is hard to win, but so much fun to play! And the challenge is worth it.
And, as we were prayed to temporarily renew our testimony, I exclaimed:
– Monsieur Commissioner, currently Arsene Lupin gets ahead. My car is waiting for me in the yard. If you want to do me the favor to go up, we would try …
The commissioner smiled slyly:
– The idea is not bad … so little bad that it is being implemented.
– Yes, sir, two of my agents went biking … for some time now.
– But where?
– At the output of tunnel. There they will collect evidence, testimony, and follow the track of Arsene Lupin.
I could not help but shrug.
– Your two agents will collect no evidence or testimony.
– Arsene Lupin will be arranged so that no one see him out of the tunnel. He will joined the first road and from there …
– And from there, Rouen, where we pincerons.
– He will not go to Rouen.
– So, he will remain in the area where we are even safer …
– He will not stay in the area.
– Oh oh! And where will he hide?
– I pulled my watch.
– Now, Arsene Lupin is lurking around Darnétal station. At ten fifty, that is to say in twenty-two minutes, he will take the train from Rouen, Gare du Nord, Amiens.
– You think? And how do you know?
– Oh! It is very simple. In the compartment, Arsene Lupin consulted my map. For what reason? Is it there, not far from where he disappeared, another line, a station on that line, and a train stopping at this station? In my turn I see the map. He inquired.
– In truth, sir, said the Commissioner, it is wonderfully deducted. What skill!
Driven by my conviction, I had committed a blunder by showing such skill. He looked at me with astonishment, and I thought I felt a hint of suspicion. Oh! Just because the photographs sent in all directions by prosecutors were too imperfect, represented an Arsene Lupin too different from the one he had before him, for him it was possible to recognize me. But still, he was troubled, vaguely uneasy.
There was a moment of silence. Something equivocal and uncertain stopped our words. Myself, a shiver of gene shook me. The chance, will she turn against me? Controlling me, I began to laugh.
– My God, nothing opens understanding as the loss of a portfolio and the desire to find him. And it seems to me that if you would give me two of your agents, they and I, we could maybe …
– Oh! I beg you, Commissioner, exclaimed Madame Renaud, listen Mr. Berlat.
The intervention of my excellent friend was decisive. Uttered by her, the wife of an influential person, the name of Berlat really became mine and gave me an identity that no suspicion could reach. The commissioner stood up:
– I’d be too happy, Mr. Berlat, believe me, to see you succeed. As much as I want to arrest Arsene Lupin.
He led me to the car. Two of his agents, that he introduced me, Honoré Massol and Gaston Delivet, took their places. I sat behind the wheel. My mechanic started the car. A few seconds after we left the station. I was saved.
Ah! I confess that in rolling over the boulevards that encircle the old Norman city, the powerful stance of my thirty-five horses Moreau-Lepton, it was not without some pride. The engine was roaring harmoniously. To the right and left, the trees were fleeing behind us. And free, out of danger, I now had just to pay my little personal affairs, with the assistance of two honest representatives of the police force. Arsene Lupin was going in search of Arsene Lupin!
Modest support of social order, Honoré Massol and Gaston Delivet, how your audience was precious to me! What would I have done without you? Without you, how many times, at crossroads, I had chosen the wrong road! Without you, Arsene Lupin was wrong, and the other escaped!
But all was not over. Far from there. First I still had to catch up for the individual, and then to myself take possession of papers he had stolen from me. At no price, it must that my two acolytes might not set nose in these documents, even more to not seize them. I use them and act outside of them, that’s what I wanted and that was not easy.
In Darnétal, we arrived three minutes after the train passed. It is true that I had the consolation of knowing that an individual in gray waist overcoats, black velvet collar, was mounted in a second-class compartment with a ticket for Amiens. Definitely my debut as a policeman promised.
-The train is express and no longer stops till Montérolier-Buchy, in nineteen minutes. If we are not there before Arsene Lupin, he can continue on Amiens, like forking over Clères, and from there to Dieppe or Paris.
– Montérolier, how far?
– Twenty-three kilometers.
– Twenty-three kilometers in nineteen minutes … We will be there before him.
An exciting stage! Never before my faithful Moreau-Lepton replied to my impatience with greater ardor and regularity. I felt that I communicated to him my will directly without intermediate levers and shifters. She shared my wishes. She approved my obstinacy. She understood my animosity against that scoundrel of Arsene Lupin. The deceitful! The traitor! Am I correct about him? Would he play again against the authority, that authority which I was the incarnation?
– Go right, Delivet cried! … Left! … All right! …
We creep over the ground. The terminals seemed little timid beasts that vanished at our approach.
And suddenly, at the bend of a road, a cloud of smoke, the Northern Express.
During one kilometer, it was the struggle, side by side, unequal struggle whose outcome was certain. Upon arrival, we were winning twenty lengths.
In three seconds we were on the platform, before the second class. The doors opened. Some people came down. My thief, point. We examine the compartments. No Arsène Lupin.
– By Jove! I cried, he recognized me in the car as we walked side by side, and he skipped.
The conductor confirmed this assumption. He had seen a man who tumbled down the embankment, two hundred meters from the station.
– Here you are! Out there … the one that runs through the crossing.
I ran, followed by my two acolytes, or rather followed by one of them, for another, Massol, happened to be an exceptional runner, for both long-distance and speed. In a few moments, the interval between him and the fugitive diminished. The man saw him, crossed a hardle and quickly scampered to a talus he climbed. We saw him even further: he entered a small wood.
When we reached the wood, Massol was waiting for us. He had found it unnecessary to venture further, for fear of losing us.
– I congratulate you, my dear friend, I said. After such a journey, our individual should be out of breath. We have him.
I examined the surroundings, while reflecting on ways to proceed alone to arrest the fugitive, to recover myself the documents that justice would probably will return after many unpleasant investigations only. Then I returned to my companions.
– That is, it’s easy. You, Massol, post to left. You, Delivet, to right. From there, you monitor all the back line of the grove, and he can not get out without being seen by you, only through this cave, where I take position. If he does not come out, I entered, and, inevitably, I will deviate him on one or the other. So you have to wait. Ah! I forgot: in case of alarm, a shot.
Massol and Delivet departed each to his own. As soon as they were gone, I entered the woods with the utmost care, so as to be neither seen nor heard. There were thickets, equipped for hunting, and cut very narrow footpaths where it was not possible to walk in bending only as in green underground.
One of them led to a clearing where the wet grass showed footprints. I followed, taking care to slip through the thicket. They led me to the foot of a small hill crowned as a hovel in plaster, half demolished.
“He has to be there, I thought. The observatory is well chosen.“
I crawled up close to the building. A slight sound warned me of his presence, and, in fact, through an opening, I saw him back to me.
In two bounds I was on him. He tried to aim the revolver he held in his hand. I do not give him time, and dragged him to the ground, so that his arms were caught under him, twisted, and I weighed my knee on his chest.
– Listen, my boy, I said in his ear, I am Arsene Lupin. You’ll make me right away and willingly, my wallet and the bag of the lady … whereby I draw you from the clutches of the police, and I enroll you among my friends. One word: yes or no?
– Yes, he whispered.
– So much the better. Your case this morning was beautifully combined. It seems so.
I rose. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a large knife and tried to stab me.
– Idiot! I cried.
With one hand I parried the attack. With the other, I brought him a violent blow on the carotid artery, which is called “the carotid hook” … He fell, stunned.
In my wallet I found my papers and banknotes. Out of curiosity, I took his. On an envelope addressed to him I read his name: Pierre Onfrey.
I flinched. Pierre Onfrey, the assassin of the rue Lafontaine, at Auteuil! Pierre Onfrey, who had murdered Ms. Delbois and two daughters. I leaned on him. Yes, it was that face that in the compartment had awakened in me the memory of traits already contemplated.
But time passed. I put in an envelope two banknotes one hundred franc each with a card and the words: “Arsene Lupin to his colleagues HHonoré Massol and Gaston Delivet, in gratitude.” I put it in evidence in the middle of the room. Next, Ms. Renaud bag. I could not make it to the excellent friend who had rescued me? But I confess that I withdrew all that had any interest, leaving a tortoiseshell comb, a lipstick Dorin for the lips and an empty wallet. What the hell! Business is business. And really, her husband exercised so little honorable profession! …
There remained the man. He was beginning to stir. What should I do? I did not have the quality to save him or to condemn him.
I took off her arms in the air and pulled a revolver.
“The two others will come, I thought, he fend for hi8mself! Things will be fulfilled in the sense of his destiny.“
And I walked away at a run on the path of the cave.
Twenty minutes later, a cross-road, which I had noticed during our pursuit, brought me back to my car.
At four o’clock I telegraphed to my friends in Rouen that an unexpected incident compelled me to postpone my visit. Between us, I’m afraid, because they need to know now, to have to postpone it indefinitely. Cruel disillusion for them!
At six o’clock I returned to Paris by the Isle-Adam, Enghien and Bineau.
The evening newspapers informed me that they had finally managed to seize Peter Onfrey.
The next day, – do not despise the advantages of a smart advertisement – Écho de France published this sensational news:
“Yesterday, around Buchy, after numerous incidents, Arsene Lupin has operated the arrest of Pierre Onfrey. The assassin of the rue Lafontaine had robbed on the line from Paris to Le Havre Ms. Renaud, the wife of the deputy director of prison services. Arsene Lupin restored to Madame Renaud the bag which contained her jewels, and generously rewarded the two security officers who had helped him during this dramatic arrest.”
Translated by Nicolae Sfetcu