Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes
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Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes is the second book in the Arsene Lupin collection by French author Maurice Leblanc. The book consists of two stories: The Blond Lady (which includes the chapters Lottery Ticket No. 514; The Blue Diamond; Herlock Sholmes Opens Hostilities; Light in the Darkness; An Abduction; Second Arrest of Arsène Lupin), and The Jewish Lamp (The Shipwreck). In the previous book, The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar, there was a short story called 'Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late', but after protests from Arthur Conan Doyle's lawyers, the name was changed in this book to Herlock Sholmes.
№ 2 in the Arsène Lupin series
This book has 172 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1908. This translation by George Morehead was published in 1910.
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Excerpt from 'Arsène Lupin versus Herlock Sholmes'
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."
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."
"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.