Arsène Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes - Maurice Leblanc - ebook

Arsène Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes ebook

Leblanc Maurice

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Leblanc’s creation, gentleman thief Arsene Lupin, is everything you would expect from a French aristocrat – witty, charming, brilliant, sly... and possibly the greatest thief in the world. „Arsene Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes” (Translator: George Morehead) is a collection of adventures which feature a match of wits between Lupin and Herlock Sholmes, a transparent reference to Sherlock Holmes, the hero of Conan Doyle’s detective stories. The novel consists of two closely linked novellas, in each of which the renowned English detective Herlock Sholmes is commissioned to come to Paris, accompanied as ever by amanuensis Dr. Wilson, to solve a crime that’s assumed to have at its heart the legendary figure of master criminal Arsene Lupin. For his part, Lupin relishes the challenge of crossing mental swords with the only man on earth intelligent and resourceful enough to be a worthy rival.

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Liczba stron: 306

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Contents

CHAPTER I. LOTTERY TICKET NO. 514

CHAPTER II. THE BLUE DIAMOND

CHAPTER III. HERLOCK SHOLMES OPENS HOSTILITIES

CHAPTER IV. LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

CHAPTER V. AN ABDUCTION

CHAPTER VI. SECOND ARREST OF ARSÈNE LUPIN

CHAPTER VII. THE JEWISH LAMP

CHAPTER VIII. THE SHIPWRECK

CHAPTER I

LOTTERY TICKET NO. 514

On the eighth day of last December, Mon. Gerbois, professor of mathematics at the College of Versailles, while rummaging in an old curiosity-shop, unearthed a small mahogany writing-desk which pleased him very much on account of the multiplicity of its drawers.

“Just the thing for Suzanne’s birthday present,” thought he. And as he always tried to furnish some simple pleasures for his daughter, consistent with his modest income, he enquired the price, and, after some keen bargaining, purchased it for sixty-five francs. As he was giving his address to the shopkeeper, a young man, dressed with elegance and taste, who had been exploring the stock of antiques, caught sight of the writing-desk, and immediately enquired its price.

“It is sold,” replied the shopkeeper.

“Ah! to this gentleman, I presume?”

Monsieur Gerbois bowed, and left the store, quite proud to be the possessor of an article which had attracted the attention of a gentleman of quality. But he had not taken a dozen steps in the street, when he was overtaken by the young man who, hat in hand and in a tone of perfect courtesy, thus addressed him:

“I beg your pardon, monsieur; I am going to ask you a question that you may deem impertinent. It is this: Did you have any special object in view when you bought that writing-desk?”

“No, I came across it by chance and it struck my fancy.”

“But you do not care for it particularly?”

“Oh! I shall keep it–that is all.”

“Because it is an antique, perhaps?”

“No; because it is convenient,” declared Mon. Gerbois.

“In that case, you would consent to exchange it for another desk that would be quite as convenient and in better condition?”

“Oh! this one is in good condition, and I see no object in making an exchange.”

“But––”

Mon. Gerbois is a man of irritable disposition and hasty temper. So he replied, testily:

“I beg of you, monsieur, do not insist.”

But the young man firmly held his ground.

“I don’t know how much you paid for it, monsieur, but I offer you double.”

“No.”

“Three times the amount.”

“Oh! that will do,” exclaimed the professor, impatiently; “I don’t wish to sell it.”

The young man stared at him for a moment in a manner that Mon. Gerbois would not readily forget, then turned and walked rapidly away.

An hour later, the desk was delivered at the professor’s house on the Viroflay road. He called his daughter, and said:

“Here is something for you, Suzanne, provided you like it.”

Suzanne was a pretty girl, with a gay and affectionate nature. She threw her arms around her father’s neck and kissed him rapturously. To her, the desk had all the semblance of a royal gift. That evening, assisted by Hortense, the servant, she placed the desk in her room; then she dusted it, cleaned the drawers and pigeon-holes, and carefully arranged within it her papers, writing material, correspondence, a collection of post-cards, and some souvenirs of her cousin Philippe that she kept in secret.

Next morning, at half past seven, Mon. Gerbois went to the college. At ten o’clock, in pursuance of her usual custom, Suzanne went to meet him, and it was a great pleasure for him to see her slender figure and childish smile waiting for him at the college gate. They returned home together.

“And your writing desk–how is it this morning!”

“Marvellous! Hortense and I have polished the brass mountings until they look like gold.”

“So you are pleased with it?”

“Pleased with it! Why, I don’t see how I managed to get on without it for such a long time.”

As they were walking up the pathway to the house, Mon. Gerbois said:

“Shall we go and take a look at it before breakfast?”

“Oh! yes, that’s a splendid idea!”

She ascended the stairs ahead of her father, but, on arriving at the door of her room, she uttered a cry of surprise and dismay.

“What’s the matter?” stammered Mon. Gerbois.

“The writing-desk is gone!”

When the police were called in, they were astonished at the admirable simplicity of the means employed by the thief. During Suzanne’s absence, the servant had gone to market, and while the house was thus left unguarded, a drayman, wearing a badge–some of the neighbors saw it–stopped his cart in front of the house and rang twice. Not knowing that Hortense was absent, the neighbors were not suspicious; consequently, the man carried on his work in peace and tranquility.

Apart from the desk, not a thing in the house had been disturbed. Even Suzanne’s purse, which she had left upon the writing-desk, was found upon an adjacent table with its contents untouched. It was obvious that the thief had come with a set purpose, which rendered the crime even more mysterious; because, why did he assume so great a risk for such a trifling object?

The only clue the professor could furnish was the strange incident of the preceding evening. He declared:

“The young man was greatly provoked at my refusal, and I had an idea that he threatened me as he went away.”

But the clue was a vague one. The shopkeeper could not throw any light on the affair. He did not know either of the gentlemen. As to the desk itself, he had purchased it for forty francs at an executor’s sale at Chevreuse, and believed he had resold it at its fair value. The police investigation disclosed nothing more.

But Mon. Gerbois entertained the idea that he had suffered an enormous loss. There must have been a fortune concealed in a secret drawer, and that was the reason the young man had resorted to crime.

“My poor father, what would we have done with that fortune?” asked Suzanne.

“My child! with such a fortune, you could make a most advantageous marriage.”

Suzanne sighed bitterly. Her aspirations soared no higher than her cousin Philippe, who was indeed a most deplorable object. And life, in the little house at Versailles, was not so happy and contented as of yore.

Two months passed away. Then came a succession of startling events, a strange blending of good luck and dire misfortune!

On the first day of February, at half-past five, Mon. Gerbois entered the house, carrying an evening paper, took a seat, put on his spectacles, and commenced to read. As politics did not interest him, he turned to the inside of the paper. Immediately his attention was attracted by an article entitled:

“Third Drawing of the Press Association Lottery.

“No. 514, series 23, draws a million.”

The newspaper slipped from his fingers. The walls swam before his eyes, and his heart ceased to beat. He held No. 514, series 23. He had purchased it from a friend, to oblige him, without any thought of success, and behold, it was the lucky number!

Quickly, he took out his memorandum-book. Yes, he was quite right. The No. 514, series 23, was written there, on the inside of the cover. But the ticket?

He rushed to his desk to find the envelope-box in which he had placed the precious ticket; but the box was not there, and it suddenly occurred to him that it had not been there for several weeks. He heard footsteps on the gravel walk leading from the street.

He called:

“Suzanne! Suzanne!”

She was returning from a walk. She entered hastily. He stammered, in a choking voice:

“Suzanne ... the box ... the box of envelopes?”

“What box?”

“The one I bought at the Louvre ... one Saturday ... it was at the end of that table.”

“Don’t you remember, father, we put all those things away together.”

“When?”

“The evening ... you know ... the same evening...”

“But where?... Tell me, quick!... Where?”

“Where? Why, in the writing-desk.”

“In the writing-desk that was stolen?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, mon Dieu!... In the stolen desk!”

He uttered the last sentence in a low voice, in a sort of stupor. Then he seized her hand, and in a still lower voice, he said:

“It contained a million, my child.”

“Ah! father, why didn’t you tell me?” she murmured, naively.

“A million!” he repeated. “It contained the ticket that drew the grand prize in the Press Lottery.”

The colossal proportions of the disaster overwhelmed them, and for a long time they maintained a silence that they feared to break. At last, Suzanne said:

“But, father, they will pay you just the same.”

“How? On what proof?”

“Must you have proof?”

“Of course.”

“And you haven’t any?”

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