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The Secret Tomb

Maurice Leblanc

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The Secret Tomb is the twelfth novel in the Arsene Lupin series of books by French author Maurice Leblanc. The French version was called 'Dorothée, Danseuse de Corde'.

№ 12 in the Arsène Lupin series.

This book has 194 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1923.

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Excerpt from 'The Secret Tomb'

Under a sky heavy with stars and faintly brighter for a low-hanging sickle moon, the gipsy caravan slept on the turf by the roadside, its shutters closed, its shafts stretched out like arms. In the shadow of the ditch nearby a stertorous horse was snoring.

Far away, above the black crest of the hills, a bright streak of sky announced the coming of the dawn. A church clock struck four. Here and there a bird awoke and began to sing. The air was soft and warm.

Abruptly, from the interior of the caravan, a woman's voice cried:

"Saint-Quentin! Saint-Quentin!"

A head was thrust out of the little window which looked out over the box under the projecting roof.

"A nice thing this! I thought as much! The rascal has decamped in the night. The little beast! Nice discipline this is!"

Other voices joined in the grumbling. Two or three minutes passed, then the door in the back of the caravan opened and a shadowy figure descended the five steps of the ladder while two tousled heads appeared at the side window.

"Dorothy! Where are you going?"

"To look for Saint-Quentin!" replied the shadowy figure.

"But he came back with you from your walk last night; and I saw him settle down on the box."

"You can see that he isn't there any longer, Castor."

"Where is he?"

"Patience! I'm going to bring him back to you by the ears."

But two small boys in their shirts came tumbling down the steps of the caravan and implored her:

"No, no, mummy Dorothy! Don't you go away by yourself in the night-time. It's dangerous...."

"What are you making a fuss about, Pollux? Dangerous? It's no business of yours!"

She smacked them and kicked them gently, and brought them quickly back to the caravan into which they climbed. There, sitting on the stool, she took their two heads, pressed them against her face, and kissed them tenderly.

"No ill feeling, children. Danger? I'll find Saint-Quentin in half an hour from now."

"A nice business!... Saint-Quentin!... A beggar who isn't sixteen!"

"While Castor and Pollux are twenty—taken together!" retorted Dorothy.

"But what does he want to go traipsing about like this at night for? And it isn't the first time either.... Where is it he makes these expeditions to?"

"To snare rabbits," she said. "There's nothing wrong in it, you see. But come, there's been talk enough about it. Go to by-by again, boys. And above all, Castor and Pollux, don't fight. D'you hear? And no noise. The Captain's asleep; and he doesn't like to be disturbed, the Captain doesn't."

She took herself off, jumped over the ditch, crossed a meadow, in which her feet splashed up the water in the puddles, and gained a path which wound through a copse of young trees which only reached her shoulders. Twice already, the evening before, strolling with her comrade Saint-Quentin, she had followed this half-formed path, so that she went briskly forward without hesitating. She crossed two roads, came to a stream, the white pebbly bottom of which gleamed under the quiet water, stepped into it, and walked up it against the current, as if she wished to hide her tracks, and when the first light of day began to invest objects with clear shapes, darted forth afresh through the woods, light, graceful, not very tall, her legs bare below a very short skirt from which streamed behind her a flutter of many-colored ribbons.

She ran, with effortless ease, surefooted, with never a chance of spraining an ankle, over the dead leaves, among the flowers of early spring, lilies of the valley, violet anemones, or white narcissi.

Her black hair, not very long, was divided into two heavy masses which flapped like two wings. Her smiling face, parted lips, dilated nostrils, her half-closed eyes proclaimed all her delight in her swift course through the fresh air of the morning. Her neck, long and flexible, rose from a blouse of gray linen, closed by a kerchief of orange silk. She looked to be fifteen or sixteen years old.

The wood came to an end. A valley lay before her, sunk between two walls of rock and turning off abruptly. Dorothy stopped short. She had reached her goal.

Facing her, on a pedestal of granite, cleanly cut down, and not more than a hundred feet in diameter, rose the main building of a château, which though it lacked grandeur of style itself, yet drew from its position and the impressive nature of its construction an air of being a seigniorial residence. To the right and left the valley, narrowed to two ravines, appeared to envelop it like an old-time moat. But in front of Dorothy the full breadth of the valley formed a slightly undulating glacis, strewn with boulders and traversed by hedges of briar, which ended at the foot of the almost vertical cliff of the granite pedestal.

"A quarter to five striking," murmured the young girl. "Saint-Quentin won't be long."

She crouched down behind the enormous trunk of an uprooted tree and watched with unwinking eyes the line of demarcation between the château itself and its rocky base.

A narrow shelf of rock lengthened this line, running below the windows of the ground floor; and there was a spot in this exiguous cornice at which there came to an end a slanting fissure in the face of the cliff, very narrow, something of the nature of a crevice in the face of a wall.

The evening before, during their walk, Saint-Quentin had said, his finger pointing at the fissure:

"Those people believe themselves to be perfectly secure; and yet nothing could be easier than to haul one's self up along that crack to one of the windows. ... Look; there's one which is actually half-open ... the window of some pantry."

Dorothy had no doubt whatever that the idea of climbing the granite pedestal had gripped Saint-Quentin and that that very night he had stolen away to attempt it. What had become of him after the attempt? Had there not been some one in the room he had entered? Knowing nothing of the place he was exploring nor of the dwellers in it, had he not let himself be taken? Or was he merely waiting for the break of day?

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