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“It must happen,” he muttered, “it must; and it must, not because I wish it, but because it is logical. And it shall happen… it shall happen…”

He beat his skull with his fists; and delirious words rose to his lips…

The key grated in the lock. In his frenzy, he had not heard the sound of footsteps in the corridor; and now, suddenly, a ray of light penetrated into his cell and the door opened.

Three men entered.

Lupin had not a moment of surprise.

The unheard-of miracle was being worked; and this at once seemed to him natural and normal, in perfect agreement with truth and justice.

But a rush of pride flooded his whole being. At this minute he really received a dear sensation of his own strength and intelligence…

“Shall I switch on the light?” asked one of the three men, in whom Lupin recognized the governor of the prison.

“No,” replied the taller of his companions, speaking in a foreign accent. “This lantern will do.”

“Shall I go?”

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He woke late, after a night of bad dreams.

He saw nobody that day, neither the examining magistrate nor his counsel.

The afternoon dragged along slowly and dismally, and the evening came, the murky evening of the cells… He was in a fever. His heart beat in his chest like the clapper of a bell.

And the minutes passed, irretrievably…

At nine o’clock, nothing. At ten o’clock, nothing.

With all his nerves tense as the string of a bow, he listened to the vague prison sounds, tried to catch through those inexorable walls ah1 that might trickle in from the life outside.

Oh, how he would have liked to stay the march of time and to give destiny a little more leisure!

But what was the good? Was everything not finished?…

“Oh,” he cried, “I am going mad! If all this were only over… that would be better. I can begin again, differently… I shall try something else… but I can’t go on like this, I can’t go on…”

He held his head in his hands, pressing it with all his might, locking himself within himself and concentrating his whole mind upon one subject, as though he wished to provoke, as though he wished to create the formidable, stupefying, inadmissible event to which he had attached his independence and his fortune:

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And he thought of “the other one,” the implacable enemy, lurking round the prison, hidden in the prison, perhaps, who guessed his most secret plans even before they were hatched in the mystery of his thought.

The 17th of August!… The 18th of August!… The 19th!… Two more days… Two centuries rather! Oh, the interminable minutes!…

Lupin, usually so calm, so entirely master of himself, so ingenious at providing matter for his own amusement, was feverish, exultant and depressed by turns, powerless against the enemy, mistrusting everything and everybody, morose.

The 20th of August!…

He would have wished to act and he could not. Whatever he did, it was impossible for him to hasten the hour of the catastrophe. This catastrophe would take place or would not take place; but Lupin would not know for certain until the last hour of the last day was spent to the last minute. Then-and then alone–he would know of the definite failure of his scheme.

“The inevitable failure,” he kept on repeating to himself. “Success depends upon circumstances far too subtle and can be obtained only by methods far too psychological… There is no doubt that I am deceiving myself as to the value and the range of my weapons… And yet…”

Hope returned to him. He weighed his chances. They suddenly seemed to him real and formidable. The fact was going to happen as he had foreseen it happening and for the very reasons which he had expected. It was inevitable…

Yes, inevitable. Unless, indeed, Shears discovered the hiding-place…

And again he thought of Shears; and again an immense sense of discouragement overwhelmed him.

The last day…

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Perhaps public curiosity was never so much stirred as by the duel announced to take place between Shears and Lupin, an invisible duel in the circumstances, an anonymous duel, one might say, in which everything would happen in the dark, in which people would be able to judge only by the final results, and yet an impressive duel, because of all the scandal that circled around the adventure and because of the stakes in dispute between the two irreconcilable enemies, now once more opposed to each other.

And it was a question not of small private interests, of insignificant burglaries, of trumpery individual passions, but of a matter of really world-wide importance, involving the politics of the three great western nations and capable of disturbing the peace of the world.

People waited anxiously; and no one knew exactly what he was waiting for. For, after all, if the detective came out victorious in the duel, if he found the letters, who would ever know? What proof would any one have of his triumph?

In the main, all hopes were centred on Lupin, on his well-known habit of calling the public to witness his acts. What was he going to do? How could he avert the frightful danger that threatened him? Was he even aware of it?

Those were the questions which men asked themselves.

Between the four walls of his cell, prisoner 14 asked himself pretty nearly the same questions; and he for his part, was not stimulated by idle curiosity, but by real uneasiness, by constant anxiety. He felt himself irrevocably alone, with impotent hands, an impotent will, an impotent brain. It availed him nothing that he was able, ingenious, fearless, heroic. The struggle was being carried on without him. His part was now finished. He had joined all the pieces and set all the springs of the great machine that was to produce, that was, in a manner of speaking, automatically to manufacture his liberty; and it was impossible for him to make a single movement to improve and supervise his handiwork.

At the date fixed, the machine would start working. Between now and then, a thousand adverse incidents might spring up, a thousand obstacles arise, without his having the means to combat those incidents or remove those obstacles.

Lupin spent the unhappiest hours of his life at that time. He doubted himself. He wondered whether his existence would be buried for good in the horror of a jail. Had he not made a mistake in his calculations? Was is not childish to believe that the event that was to set him free would happen on the appointed date?

“Madness!” he cried. “My argument is false… How can I expect such a concurrence of circumstances?There will be some little fact that will destroy all… the inevitable grain of sand…”

Steinweg’s death and the disappearance of the documents which the old man was to make over to him did not trouble him greatly. The documents he could have done without in case of need; and, with the few words which Steinweg had told him, he was able, by dint of guess-work and his native genius, to reconstruct what the Emperor’s letters contained and to draw up the plan of battle that would lead to victory. But he thought of Holmlock Shears, who was over there now, in the very centre of the battlefield, and who was seeking and who would find the letters, thus demolishing the edifice so patiently built up.

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The sub-headings were:

“A FRESH MURDER

“THE EXCITEMENT IN GERMANY

“HAS THE SECRET OF THE ‘APOON’ BEEN DISCOVERED?”

Lupin turned pale with anguish. Below he read the words:

“Two sensational telegrams reach us at the moment of going to press.

“The body of an old man has been found near Augsburg, with his throat cut with a knife. The police have succeeded in identifying the victim: it is Steinweg, the man mentioned in the Kesselbach case.

“On the other hand, a correspondent telegraphs that the famous English detective, Holmlock Shears, has been hurriedly summoned to Cologne’. He will there meet the Emperor; and they will both proceed to Vendenz Castle.

“Holmlock Shears is said to have undertaken to discover the secret of the ‘APOON.’

“If he succeeds, it will mean the pitiful failure of the incomprehensible campaign which Arséne Lupin has been conducting for the past month in so strange a fashion.”

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“The newspapers will then publish photographs of the letters, of which I already know the tenor; but I prefer to reproduce the whole text.

“This certain, inevitable publication will take place in a fortnight from to-day precisely, on the 22nd of August next.

“Between this and then I will keep silence… and wait.”

The communications to the Grand Journal did, in fact, stop for a time, but Lupin never ceased corresponding with his friends, “via the hat,” as they said among themselves. It was so simple! There was no danger. Who could ever suspect that Maitre Quimbel’s hat served Lupin as a letter-box?

Every two or three mornings, whenever he called, in fact, the celebrated advocate faithfully brought his client’s letters: letters from Paris, letters from the country, letters from Germany; all reduced and condensed by Doudeville into a brief form and cipher language. And, an hour later, Maitre Quimbel solemnly walked away, carrying Lupin’s orders.

7 Now, one day, the governor of the Sante received a telephone message, signed, “L. M.,” informing him that Maitre Quimbel was, in all probability, serving Lupin as his unwitting postman and that it would be advisable to keep an eye upon the worthy man’s visits. The governor told Maitre Quimbel, who thereupon resolved to bring his junior with him.

So, once again, in spite of all Lupin’s efforts, in spite of his fertile powers of invention, in spite of the marvels of ingenuity which he renewed after each defeat, once again Lupin found himself cut off from communication with the outside world by the infernal genius of his formidable adversary. And he found himself thus cut off at the most critical moment, at the solemn minute when, from his cell, he was playing his last trump-card against the coalesced forces that were overwhelming him so terribly.

On the 13th of August, as he sat facing the two counsels, his attention was attracted by a newspaper in which some of Maltre Quimbel’s papers were wrapped up.

He saw a heading in very large type

“813″

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And Lupin’s correspondence with the Grand Journal was resumed without further delay.

“I apologize to the public for not keeping my promise. The postal arrangements at the Sante Palace are woefully inadequate.

“However, we are near the end. I have in hand all the documents that establish the truth upon an indisputable basis. I shall not publish them for the moment. Nevertheless, I will say this: among the letters are some that were addressed to the chancellor by one who, at that time, declared himself his disciple and his admirer and who was destined, several years after, to rid himself of that irksome tutor and to govern alone.

“I trust that I make myself sufficiently clear.”

And, on the next day:

“The letters were written during the late Emperor’s illness. I need hardly add more to prove their importance.”

Four days of silence, and then this final note, which caused a stir that has not yet been forgotten:

“My investigation is finished. I now know everything.

“By dint of reflection, I have guessed the secret of the hiding-place.

“My friends are going to Veldenz and, in spite of every obstacle, will enter the castle by a way which I am pointing out to them.

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It was true. Lupin, who, hitherto, had refused to hold any intercourse with Maitre Quimbel, now consented to see him and to prepare his defence.

On the next day Maitre Quimbel, in cheery tones,asked for Lupin to be brought to the barristers’ room. He was an elderly man, wearing a pair of very powerful spectacles, which made his eyes seem enormous. He put his hat on the table, spread out his brief-case and at once began to put a series of questions which he had carefully prepared.

Lupin replied with extreme readiness and even volunteered a host of particulars, which Maitre Quimbel took down, as he spoke, on slips pinned one to the other.

“And so you say,” continued the barrister, with Jus head over his papers, “that, at that time…”

“I say that, at that time…” Lupin answered.

Little by little, with a series of natural and hardly perceptible movements, he leant elbows on the table. He gradually lowered his arms, slipped his hand under Maitre Quimbel’s hat put his finger into the leather band and took out one of those strips of paper, folded lengthwise, which the hatter inserts between the leather and the lining when the hat is a trifle too large.

He unfolded the paper. It was a message from Doudeville, written in a cipher agreed upon beforehand:

“I am engaged as indoor servant at Maitre Quimbel’s. You can answer by the same means without fear.

“It was L. M., the murderer, who gave away the envelope trick. A good thing that you foresaw this move!”

Hereupon followed a minute report of all the facts and comments caused by Lupin’s revelations. Lupin took from his pocket a similar strip of paper containing his instructions, quietly substituted it in the place of the other and drew his hand back again. The trick was played.

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“Arséne Lupin.”

And, twenty-four hours later, the promised note appeared:

“The famous letters are hidden in the feudal castle of Veldenz, the capital of the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken. The castle was partly destroyed in the course of the nineteenth century.

“Where exactly are they hidden? And what are the letters precisely? These are the two problems which I am now engaged in unravelling; and I shall publish the solution in four days’ time.

“Arséne Lupin.”

On the day stated, men scrambled to obtain copies of the Grand Journal. To the general disappointment, the promised information was not given. The same silence followed on the next day and the day after.

What had happened?

It leaked out through an indiscretion at the Prefecture of Police. The governor of the SantS, it appeared, had been warned that Lupin was communicating with his accomplices by means of the packets of envelopes which he made. Nothing had been discovered; but it was thought best, in any case, to forbid all work to the insufferable prisoner.

To this the insufferable prisoner replied:

“As I have nothing to do now, I may as well attend to my trial. Please let my counsel, Maitre Quimbel, know.”

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“I have given orders to two of the best agents of my secret police to take up this scent from the start in a position to get to the bottom of this exciting mystery.

“I have the honor to be Sir,

“Your obedient servant,

“Arséne Lupin.”

So it was Arséne Lupin who was conducting the case! It was he who, from his prison cell, was stage-managing the comedy or the tragedy announced in the first note. What luck! Everybody was delighted. With an artist like Lupin, the spectacle could not fail to be both picturesque and startling.

Three days later the Grand Journal contained the following letter from Arséne Lupin:

“The name of the devoted friend to whom I referred has been imparted to me. It was the Grand-Duke Hermann III., reigning (although dispossessed) sovereign of the Grand-duchy of Zweibrucken-Veldenz and a confidant of Prince Bismarck, whose entire friendship he enjoyed.

“A thorough search was made of his house by Count von W , at the head of twelve men. The result of this search was purely negative, but the grand-duke was nevertheless proved to be in possession of the papers.

“Where had he hidden them? This was a problem which probably nobody in the world would be able to solve at the present moment.

“I must ask for twenty-four hours in which to solve it