The Hollow Needle
5. On The Track
Young Beautrelet was stunned by the violence of the blow. As a matter of fact, although,
in publishing his article, he had obeyed one of those irresistible impulses which make a
man despise every consideration of prudence, he had never really believed in the
possibility of an abduction. His precautions had been too thorough. The friends at
Cherbourg not only had instructions to guard and protect Beautrelet the elder: they were
also to watch his comings and goings, never to let him walk out alone and not even to
hand him a single letter without first opening it. No, there was no danger. Lupin, wishing
to gain time, was trying to intimidate his adversary.
The blow, therefore, was almost unexpected; and Isidore, because he was powerless to
act, felt the pain of the shock during the whole of the remainder of the day. One idea
alone supported him: that of leaving Paris, going down there, seeing for himself what had
happened and resuming the offensive.
He telegraphed to Cherbourg. He was at Saint-Lazare a little before nine. A few minutes
after, he was steaming out of the station in the Normandy express.
It was not until an hour later, when he mechanically unfolded a newspaper which he had
bought on the platform, that he became aware of the letter by which Lupin indirectly
replied to his article of that morning:
To the Editor of the Grand Journal.
SIR: I cannot pretend but that my modest personality, which would certainly have passed
unnoticed in more heroic times, has acquired a certain prominence in the dull and feeble
period in which we live. But there is a limit beyond which the morbid curiosity of the
crowd cannot go without becoming indecently indiscreet. If the walls that surround our
private lives be not respected, what is to safeguard the rights of the citizen?
Will those who differ plead the higher interest of truth? An empty pretext in so far as I
am concerned, because the truth is known and I raise no difficulty about making an
official confession of the truth in writing. Yes, Mlle. de Saint-Veran is alive. Yes, I love
her. Yes, I have the mortification not to be loved by her. Yes, the results of the boy
Beautrelet's inquiry are wonderful in their precision and accuracy. Yes, we agree on
every point. There is no riddle left. There is no mystery. Well, then, what?
Injured to the very depths of my soul, bleeding still from cruel wounds, I ask that my
more intimate feelings and secret hopes may no longer be delivered to the malevolence of
the public. I ask for peace, the peace which I need to conquer the affection of Mlle. de
Saint-Veran and to wipe out from her memory the thousand little injuries which she has
had to suffer at the hands of her uncle and cousin--this has not been told--because of her
position as a poor relation. Mlle. de Saint-Veran will forget this hateful past. All that she