The Hollow Needle
4. Face To Face
One evening, five weeks later, I had given my man leave to go out. It was the day before
the 14th of July. The night was hot, a storm threatened and I felt no inclination to leave
the flat. I opened wide the glass doors leading to my balcony, lit my reading lamp and sat
down in an easy-chair to look through the papers, which I had not yet seen.
It goes without saying that there was something about Arsene Lupin in all of them. Since
the attempt at murder of which poor Isidore Beautrelet had been the victim, not a day had
passed without some mention of the Ambrumesy mystery. It had a permanent headline
devoted to it. Never had public opinion been excited to that extent, thanks to the
extraordinary series of hurried events, of unexpected and disconcerting surprises. M.
Filleul, who was certainly accepting the secondary part allotted to him with a good faith
worthy of all praise, had let the interviewers into the secret of his young advisor's exploits
during the memorable three days, so that the public was able to indulge in the rashest
suppositions. And the public gave itself free scope. Specialists and experts in crime,
novelists and playwrights, retired magistrates and chief-detectives, erstwhile Lecocqs and
budding Holmlock Shearses, each had his theory and expounded it in lengthy
contributions to the press. Everybody corrected and supplemented the inquiry of the
examining magistrate; and all on the word of a child, on the word of Isidore Beautrelet, a
sixth-form schoolboy at the Lycee Janson-de-Sailly!
For really, it had to be admitted, the complete elements of the truth were now in
everybody's possession. What did the mystery consist of? They knew the hiding-place
where Arsene Lupin had taken refuge and lain a-dying; there was no doubt about it: Dr.
Delattre, who continued to plead professional secrecy and refused to give evidence,
nevertheless confessed to his intimate friends--who lost no time in blabbing--that he
really had been taken to a crypt to attend a wounded man whom his confederates
introduced to him by the name of Arsene Lupin. And, as the corpse of Etienne de
Vaudreix was found in that same crypt and as the said Etienne de Vaudreix was none
other than Arsene Lupin--as the official examination went to show--all this provided an
additional proof, if one were needed, of the identity of Arsene Lupin and the wounded
man. Therefore, with Lupin dead and Mlle. de Saint-Veran's body recognized by the
curb- bracelet on her wrist, the tragedy was finished.
It was not. Nobody thought that it was, because Beautrelet had said the contrary. Nobody
knew in what respect it was not finished, but, on the word of the young man, the mystery
remained complete. The evidence of the senses did not prevail against the statement of a
Beautrelet. There was something which people did not know, and of that something they
were convinced that he was in position to supply a triumphant explanation.
It is easy, therefore, to imagine the anxiety with which, at first, people awaited the
bulletins issued by the two Dieppe doctors to whose care the Comte de Gesvres entrusted
his patient; the distress that prevailed during the first few days, when his life was thought
to be in danger; and the enthusiasm of the morning when the newspapers announced that