7. The Theft Of The Motor-Cabs
The night was very black; the rain pattered in their faces.
Again the millionaire bellowed: "Jean! Firmin! Firmin! Jean!"
No answer came out of the darkness, though his bellow echoed and re- echoed among the out-
buildings and stables away on the left.
He turned and looked at the Duke and said uneasily, "What on earth can they be doing?"
"I can't conceive," said the Duke. "I suppose we must go and hunt them out."
"What! in this darkness, with these burglars about?" said the millionaire, starting back.
"If we don't, nobody else will," said the Duke. "And all the time that rascal Lupin is stealing
nearer and nearer your pictures. So buck up, and come along!"
He seized the reluctant millionaire by the arm and drew him down the steps. They took their
way to the stables. A dim light shone from the open door of the motor-house. The Duke went
into it first, and stopped short.
"Well, I'll be hanged!" he cried,
Instead of three cars the motor-house held but one--the hundred horse-power Mercrac. It was a
racing car, with only two seats. On them sat two figures, Jean and Firmin.
"What are you sitting there for? You idle dogs!" bellowed the millionaire.
Neither of the men answered, nor did they stir. The light from the lamp gleamed on their fixed
eyes, which stared at their infuriated master.
"What on earth is this?" said the Duke; and seizing the lamp which stood beside the car, he
raised it so that its light fell on the two figures. Then it was clear what had happened: they were
trussed like two fowls, and gagged.
The Duke pulled a penknife from his pocket, opened the blade, stepped into the car and set
Firmin free. Firmin coughed and spat and swore. The Duke cut the bonds of Jean.
"Well," said the Duke, in a tone of cutting irony, "what new game is this? What have you been
"It was those Charolais--those cursed Charolais!" growled Firmin.
"They came on us unawares from behind," said Jean.
"They tied us up, and gagged us--the swine!" said Firmin.
"And then--they went off in the two cars," said Jean.
"Went off in the two cars?" cried the millionaire, in blank stupefaction.
The Duke burst into a shout of laughter.
"Well, your dear friend Lupin doesn't do things by halves," he cried. "This is the funniest thing
I ever heard of."
"Funny!" howled the millionaire. "Funny! Where does the fun come in? What about my
pictures and the coronet?"
The Duke laughed his laugh out; then changed on the instant to a man of action.
"Well, this means a change in our plans," he said. "I must get to Paris in this car here."
"It's such a rotten old thing," said the millionaire. "You'll never do it."
"Never mind," said the Duke. "I've got to do it somehow. I daresay it's better than you think.
And after all, it's only a matter of two hundred miles." He paused, and then said in an anxious
tone: "All the same I don't like leaving you and Germaine in the chateau.-- these rogues have