Arsene Lupin HTML version

20. Lupin Comes Home
The cold light of the early September morning illumined but dimly the charming smoking-
room of the Duke of Charmerace in his house at 34 B, University Street, though it stole in
through two large windows. The smoking-room was on the first floor; and the Duke's bedroom
opened into it. It was furnished in the most luxurious fashion, but with a taste which nowadays
infrequently accompanies luxury. The chairs were of the most comfortable, but their lines were
excellent; the couch against the wall, between the two windows, was the last word in the matter
of comfort. The colour scheme, of a light greyish-blue, was almost too bright for a man's room;
it would have better suited a boudoir. It suggested that the owner of the room enjoyed an
uncommon lightness and cheerfulness of temperament. On the walls, with wide gaps between
them so that they did not clash, hung three or four excellent pictures. Two ballet-girls by
Degas, a group of shepherdesses and shepherds, in pink and blue and white beribboned silk, by
Fragonard, a portrait of a woman by Bastien-Lepage, a charming Corot, and two Conder fans
showed that the taste of their fortunate owner was at any rate eclectic. At the end of the room
was, of all curious things, the opening into the well of a lift. The doors of it were open, though
the lift itself was on some other floor. To the left of the opening stood a book- case, its shelves
loaded with books of a kind rather suited to a cultivated, thoughtful man than to an idle dandy.
Beside the window, half-hidden, and peering through the side of the curtain into the street,
stood M. Charolais. But it was hardly the M. Charolais who had paid M. Gournay-Martin that
visit at the Chateau de Charmerace, and departed so firmly in the millionaire's favourite motor-
car. This was a paler M. Charolais; he lacked altogether the rich, ruddy complexion of the
millionaire's visitor. His nose, too, was thinner, and showed none of the ripe acquaintance with
the vintages of the world which had been so plainly displayed on it during its owner's visit to
the country. Again, hair and eyebrows were no longer black, but fair; and his hair was no
longer curly and luxuriant, but thin and lank. His moustache had vanished, and along with it
the dress of a well-to-do provincial man of business. He wore a livery of the Charmeraces, and
at that early morning hour had not yet assumed the blue waistcoat which is an integral part of
it. Indeed it would have required an acute and experienced observer to recognize in him the
bogus purchaser of the Mercrac. Only his eyes, his close-set eyes, were unchanged.
Walking restlessly up and down the middle of the room, keeping out of sight of the windows,
was Victoire. She wore a very anxious air, as did Charolais too. By the door stood Bernard
Charolais; and his natural, boyish timidity, to judge from his frightened eyes, had assumed an
acute phase.
"By the Lord, we're done!" cried Charolais, starting back from the window. "That was the
front-door bell."
"No, it was only the hall clock," said Bernard.
"That's seven o'clock! Oh, where can he be?" said Victoire, wringing her hands. "The coup was
fixed for midnight. . . . Where can he be?"
"They must be after him," said Charolais. "And he daren't come home." Gingerly he drew back
the curtain and resumed his watch.
"I've sent down the lift to the bottom, in case he should come back by the secret entrance," said
Victoire; and she went to the opening into the well of the lift and stood looking down it,
listening with all her ears.