The House of the Arrow


Betty Harlowe Answers

A.E.W. Mason

“BUT we cannot see even through the widest of windows,” Hanaud continued, “what happened behind them a fortnight ago. In those cases, Mademoiselle, we have to make ourselves the nuisance and ask the questions.”

“I am ready to answer you,” returned Betty quietly.

“Oh, of that—not a doubt,” Hanaud cried genially. “Is it permitted to me to seat myself? Yes?”

Betty jumped up, the pallor of her face flushed to pink.

“I beg your pardon. Of course, Monsieur Hanaud.”

That little omission in her manners alone showed Jim Frobisher that she was nervous. But for it, he would have credited her with a self-command almost unnatural in her years.

“It is nothing,” said Hanaud with a smile. “After all, we are—the gentlest of us—disturbing guests.” He took a chair from the side of the table and drew it up close so that he faced Betty. But whatever advantage was to be gained from the positions he yielded to her. For the light from the window fell in all its morning strength upon his face, whilst hers was turned to the interior of the room.

“So!” he said as he sat down. “Mademoiselle, I will first give you a plan of our simple procedure, as at present I see it. The body of Madame Harlowe was exhumed the night before last in the presence of your notary.”

Betty moved suddenly with a little shiver of revolt.

“I know,” he continued quickly. “These necessities are distressing. But we do Madame Harlowe no hurt, and we have to think of the living one, you, Miss Betty Harlowe, and make sure that no suspicion shall rest upon you—no, not even amongst your most loyal friends. Isn’t that so? Well, next, I put my questions to you here. Then we wait for the analyst’s report. Then the examining magistrate will no doubt make you his compliments, and I, Hanaud, will, if I am lucky, carry back with me to that dull Paris, a signed portrait of the beautiful Miss Harlowe against my heart.”

“And that will be all?” cried Betty, clasping her hands together in her gratitude.

“For you, Mademoiselle, yes. But for our little Boris—no!” Hanaud grinned with a mischievous anticipation. “I look forward to half an hour with that broken-kneed one. I shall talk to him and I shall not be dignified—no, not at all. I shall take care, too, that my good friend Monsieur Frobisher is not present. He would take from me all my enjoyment. He would look at me all prim like my maiden aunt and he would say to himself, ‘Shocking! Oh, that comic! What a fellow! He is not proper.’ No, and I shall not be proper. But, on the other hand, I will laugh all the way from Dijon to Paris.”

Monsieur Hanaud had indeed begun to laugh already and Betty suddenly joined in with him. Hers was a clear, ringing laugh of enjoyment, and Jim fancied himself once more in the hall hearing that laughter come pealing through the open door.

“Ah, that is good!” exclaimed Hanaud. “You can laugh, Mademoiselle, even at my foolishnesses. You must keep Monsieur Frobisher here in Dijon and not let him return to London until he too has learnt that divinest of the arts.”

Hanaud hitched his chair a little nearer, and a most uncomfortable image sprang at once into Jim Frobisher’s mind. Just so, with light words and little jokes squeezed out to tenuity, did doctors hitch up their chairs to the bedsides of patients in a dangerous case. It took quite a few minutes of Hanaud’s questions before that image entirely vanished from his thoughts.

“Good!” said Hanaud. “Now let us to business and get the facts all clear and ordered!”

“Yes,” Jim agreed, and he too hitched his chair a little closer. It was curious, he reflected, how little he did know of the actual facts of the case.

“Now tell me, Mademoiselle! Madame Harlowe died, so far as we know, quite peacefully in her bed during the night.”

“Yes,” replied Betty.

“During the night of April the 27th?”


“She slept alone in her room that night?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“That was her rule?”


“I understand Madame Harlowe’s heart had given her trouble for some time.”

“She had been an invalid for three years.”

“And there was a trained nurse always in the house?”


Hanaud nodded. “Now tell me, Mademoiselle, where did this nurse sleep? Next door to Madame?”

“No. A bedroom had been fitted up for her on the same floor but at the end of the passage.”

“And how far away was this bedroom?”

“There were two rooms separating it from my aunt’s.”

“Large rooms?”

“Yes,” Betty explained. “These rooms are on the ground-floor, and are what you would call reception-rooms. But, since Madame’s heart made the stairs dangerous for her, some of them were fitted up especially for her use.”

“Yes, I see,” said Hanaud. “Two big reception-rooms between, eh? And the walls of the house are thick. It is not difficult to see that it was not built in these days. I ask you this, Mademoiselle. Would a cry from Madame Harlowe at night, when all the house was silent, be heard in the nurse’s room?”

“I am very sure that it would not,” Betty returned. “But there was a bell by Madame’s bed which rang in the nurse’s room. She had hardly to lift her arm to press the button.”

“Ah!” said Hanaud. “A bell specially fitted up?”


“And the button within reach of the fingers. Yes. That is all very well, if one does not faint, Mademoiselle. But suppose one does! Then the bell is not very useful. Was there no room nearer which could have been set aside for the nurse?”

“There was one next to my aunt’s room, Monsieur Hanaud, with a communicating door.”

Hanaud was puzzled and sat back in his chair. Jim Frobisher thought the time had come for him to interpose. He had been growing more and more restless as the catechism progressed. He could not see any reason why Betty, however readily and easily she answered, should be needlessly pestered.

“Surely, Monsieur Hanaud,” he said, “it would save a deal of time if we paid a visit to these rooms and saw them for ourselves.”

Hanaud swung round like a thing on a swivel. Admiration beamed in his eyes. He gazed at his junior colleague in wonder.

“But what an idea!” he cried enthusiastically. “What a fine idea! How ingenious! How difficult to conceive! And it is you, Monsieur Frobisher, who have thought of it! I make you my distinguished compliments!” Then all his enthusiasm declined into lassitude, and he sighed. “A pity —”

Hanaud waited intently for Jim to ask for an explanation of that sigh, but Jim simply got red in the face and refused to oblige. He had obviously made an asinine suggestion and was being rallied for it in front of the beautiful Betty Harlowe, who looked to him for her salvation; and on the whole he thought Hanaud to be a rather insufferable person as he sat there brightly watching for some second inanity. Hanaud in the end had to explain.

“We should have visited those rooms before now, Monsieur Frobisher. But the Commissaire of Police has sealed them up and without his presence we must not break the seals.”

An almost imperceptible movement was made by Betty Harlowe in the window, an almost imperceptible smile flickered for the space of a lightning-flash upon her lips; and Jim saw Hanaud stiffen like a watch-dog when he hears a sound at night. “You are amused, Mademoiselle?” he asked sharply.

“On the contrary, Monsieur.” And the smile reappeared upon her face and was seen to be what it was, pure wistfulness. “I had a hope those great seals with their linen bands across the doors were all now to be removed. It is fanciful, no doubt, but I have a horror of them. They seem to me like an interdict upon the house.”

Hanaud’s manner changed in an instant. “That I can very well understand, Mademoiselle,” he said, “and I will make it my business to see that those seals are broken. Indeed, there was no great use in affixing them, since they were only affixed when the charge was brought and ten days after Madame Harlowe died.” He turned to Jim. “But we in France are all tied up in red tape too. However, the question at which I am driving does not depend upon any aspect of the rooms. It is this, Mademoiselle,” and he turned back to Betty.

“Madame Harlowe was an invalid with a nurse in constant attendance. How is it that the nurse did not sleep in that suitable room with the communicating-door? Why must she be where she could hear no cry, no sudden call?”

Betty nodded her head. Here was a question which demanded an answer. She leaned forward, choosing her words with care.

“Yes, but for that, Monsieur, you must understand something of Madame, my aunt, and put yourself for a moment in her place. She would have it so. She was, as you say, an invalid. For three years she had not gone beyond the garden except in a private saloon once a year to Monte Carlo. But she would not admit her malady. No, she was in her mind strong and a fighter. She was going to get well, it was always a question of a few weeks with her, and a nurse in her uniform always near with the door open, as though she were in the last stages of illness—that distressed her.” Betty paused and went on again. “Of course, when she had some critical attack, the nurse was moved. I myself gave the order. But as soon as the attack subsided, the nurse must go. Madame would not endure it.”

Jim understood that speech. Its very sincerity gave him a glimpse of the dead woman, made him appreciate her tough vitality. She would not give in. She did not want the paraphernalia of malady always about her. No, she would sleep in her own room, and by herself, like other women of her age. Yes, Jim understood that and believed every word that Betty spoke. Only—only—she was keeping something back. It was that which troubled him. What she said was true, but there was more to be said. There had been hesitation in Betty’s speech, too nice a choice of words and then suddenly a little rush of phrases to cover up the hesitations. He looked at Hanaud, who was sitting without a movement and with his eyes fixed upon Betty’s face, demanding more from her by his very Impassivity. They were both, Jim felt sure, upon the edge of that little secret which, according to Haslitt, as to Hanaud, was always at the back of such wild charges as Waberski brought—the little shameful family secret which must be buried deep from the world’s eyes. And while Jim was pondering upon this explanation of Betty’s manner, he was suddenly startled out of his wits by a passionate cry which broke from her lips.

“Why do you look at me like that?” she cried to Hanaud, her eyes suddenly ablaze in her white face and her lips shaking. Her voice rose to a challenge. “Do you disbelieve me, Monsieur Hanaud?”

Hanaud raised his hands in protest. He leaned back in his chair. The vigilance of his eyes, of his whole attitude, was relaxed.

“I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle,” he said with a good deal of self-reproach. “I do not disbelieve you. I was listening with both my ears to what you said, so that I might never again have to trouble you with my questions. But I should have remembered, what I forgot, that for a number of days you have been living under a heavy strain. My manner was at fault.”

The small tornado of passion passed. Betty sank back in the corner of the window-seat, her head resting against the side of the sash and her face a little upturned.

“You are really very considerate, Monsieur Hanaud,” she returned. “It is I who should beg your pardon. For I was behaving like a hysterical schoolgirl. Will you go on with your questions?”

“Yes,” Hanaud replied gently. “It is better that we finish with them now. Let us come back to the night of the 27th.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“Madame was in her usual health that night—neither better nor worse.”

“If anything a little better,” returned Betty.

“So that you did not hesitate to go on that evening to a dance given by some friends of yours?”

Jim started. So Betty was actually out of the house on that fatal night. Here was a new point in her favour. “A dance!” he cried, and Hanaud lifted his hand.

“If you please, Monsieur Frobisher!” he said. “Let Mademoiselle speak!”

“I did not hesitate,” Betty explained. “The life of the household had to go on normally. It would never have done for me to do unusual things. Madame was quick to notice. I think that although she would not admit that she was dangerously ill, at the bottom of her mind she suspected that she was; and one had to be careful not to alarm her.”

“By such acts, for instance, as staying away from a dance to which she knew that you had meant to go?” said Hanaud. “Yes, Mademoiselle. I quite understand that.”

He cocked his head at Jim Froblsher, and added with a smile: “Ah, you did not know that, Monsieur Frobisher. No, nor our friend Boris Waberski, I think. Or he would hardly have rushed to the Prefect of Police in such a hurry. Yes, Mademoiselle was dancing with her friends on this night when she is supposed to be committing the most monstrous of crimes. By the way, Mademoiselle, where was Boris Waberski on the night of the 27th?”

“He was away,” returned Betty. “He went away on the 27th to fish for trout at a village on the River Ouche, and he did not come back until the morning of the 28th.”

“Exactly,” said Hanaud. “What a type that fellow! Let us hope he had a better landing-net for his trout than the one he prepared so hastily for Mademoiselle Harlowe. Otherwise his three days’ sport cannot have amounted to much.”

His laugh and his words called up a faint smile upon Betty’s face and then he swept back to his questions. “So you went to a dance, Mademoiselle. Where?”

“At the house of Monsieur de Pouillac on the Boulevard Thiers.”

“And at what hour did you go?”

“I left this house at five minutes to nine.”

“You are sure of the hour?”

“Quite,” said Betty.

“Did you see Madame Harlowe before you went?”

“Yes,” Betty answered. “I went to her room just before I left. She took her dinner in bed, as she often did. I was wearing for the dance a new frock which I had bought this winter at Monte Carlo, and I went to her room to show her how I looked in it.”

“Was Madame alone?”

“No; the nurse was with her.”

And upon that Hanaud smiled with a great appearance of cunning.

“I knew that, Mademoiselle,” he declared with a friendly grin. “See, I set a little trap for you. For I have here the evidence of the nurse herself, Jeanne Baudin.”

He took out from his pocket a sheet of paper upon which a paragraph was typed. “Yes, the examining magistrate sent for her and took her statement.”

“I didn’t know that,” said Betty. “Jeanne left us the day of the funeral and went home. I have not seen her since.”

She nodded at Hanaud once or twice with a little smile of appreciation.

“I would not like to be a person with a secret to hide from you, Monsieur Hanaud,” she said admiringly. “I do not think that I should be able to hide it for long.”

Hanaud expanded under the flattery like a novice, and, to Jim Frobisher’s thinking, rather like a very vulgar novice. “You are wise, Mademoiselle,” he exclaimed. “For, after all, I am Hanaud. There is only one,” and he thumped his chest and beamed delightedly. “Heavens, these are politenesses! Let us get on. This is what the nurse declared,” and he read aloud from his sheet of paper: “Mademoiselle came to the bedroom, so that Madame might admire her in her new frock of silver tissue and her silver slippers. Mademoiselle arranged the pillows and saw that Madame had her favourite books and her drink beside the bed. Then she wished her good night, and with her pretty frock rustling and gleaming, she tripped out of the room. As soon as the door was closed, Madame said to me——” and Hanaud broke off abruptly. “But that does not matter,” he said in a hurry.

Suddenly and sharply Betty leaned forward. “Does it not. Monsieur?” she asked, her eyes fixed upon his face, and the blood mounting slowly into her pale cheeks.

“No,” said Hanaud, and he began to fold the sheet of paper.

“What does the nurse report that Madame said to her about me, as soon as the door was closed?” Betty asked, measuring out her words with a slow insistence. “Come, Monsieur! I have a right to know,” and she held out her hand for the paper.

“You shall judge for yourself that it was of no importance,” said Hanaud. “Listen!” and once more he read: “Madame said to me, looking at her clock, ‘It is well that Mademoiselle has gone early. For Dijon is not Paris, and unless you go in time there are no partners for you to dance with.’ It was then ten minutes to nine.”

With a smile Hanaud gave the paper into Betty’s hand; and she bent her head over it swiftly, as though she doubted whether what he had recited was really written on that sheet, as if she rather trembled to think what Mrs. Harlowe had said of her after she had gone from the room. She took only a second or two to glance over the page, but when she handed it back to him, her manner was quite changed.

“Thank you,” she said with a note of bitterness, and her deep eyes gleamed with resentment. Jim understood the change and sympathized with it. Hanaud had spoken of setting a trap when he had set none. For there was no conceivable reason why she should hesitate to admit that she had seen Mrs. Harlowe in the presence of the nurse, and wished her good night before she went to the party. But he had set a real trap a minute afterwards and into that Betty had straightway stumbled. He had tricked her into admitting a dread that Mrs. Harlowe might have spoken of her in disparagement or even in horror after she had left the bedroom.

“You must know, Monsieur Hanaud,” she explained very coldly, “that women are not always very generous to one another, and sometimes have not the imagination—how shall I put it?—to visualize the possible consequences of things they may say with merely the intention to hurt and do a little harm. Jeanne Baudin and I were, so far as I ever knew, good friends, but one is never sure, and when you folded up her statement in a hurry I was naturally very anxious to hear the rest of it.”

“Yes, I agree,” Jim intervened. “It did look as if the nurse might have added something malevolent which could neither be proved nor disproved.”

“It was a misunderstanding, Mademoiselle,” Hanaud replied in a voice of apology. “We will take care that there shall not be any other.” He looked over the nurse’s statement again.

“It is said here that you saw that Madame had her favourite books and her drink beside the bed. That is true.”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“What was that drink?”

“A glass of lemonade.”

“It was placed on a table, I suppose, ready for her every night?”

“Every night.”

“And there was no narcotic dissolved in it?”

“None,” Betty replied. “If Mrs. Harlowe was restless, the nurse would give an opium pill and very occasionally a slight injection of morphia.”

“But that was not done on this night?”

“Not to my knowledge. If it was done, it was done after my departure.”

“Very well,” said Hanaud, and he folded the paper and put it away in his pocket. “That is finished with. We have you now out of the house at five minutes to nine in the evening, and Madame in her bed with her health no worse than usual.”


“Good!” Hanaud changed his attitude. “Now let us go over your evening, Mademoiselle! I take it that you stayed at the house of M. de Pouillac until you returned home.”


“You remember with whom you danced? If it was necessary, could you give me a list of your partners?”

She rose and, crossing to the writing-table, sat down in front of it. She drew a sheet of paper towards her and took up a pencil. Pausing now and again to jog her memory with the blunt end of the pencil at her lips, she wrote down a list of names.

“These are all, I think,” she said, handing the list to Hanaud. He put it in his pocket.

“Thank you!” He was all contentment now. Although his questions followed without hesitation, one upon the other, it seemed to Jim that he was receiving just the answers which he expected. He had the air of a man engaged upon an inevitable formality and anxious to get it completely accomplished, rather than of one pressing keenly a strict investigation.

“Now, Mademoiselle, at what hour did you arrive home?”

“At twenty minutes past one.”

“You are sure of that exact time? You looked at your watch? Or at the clock in the hall? Or what? How are you sure that you reached the Maison Crenelle exactly at twenty minutes past one?”

Hanaud hitched his chair a little more forward, but he had not to wait a second for the answer.

“There is no clock in the hall and I had no watch with me,” Betty replied. “I don’t like those wrist-watches which some girls wear. I hate things round my wrists,” and she shook her arm impatiently, as though she imagined the constriction of a bracelet. “And I did not put my watch in my hand-bag because I am so liable to leave that behind. So I had nothing to tell me the time when I reached home. I was not sure that I had not kept Georges—the chauffeur—out a little later than he cared for. So I made him my excuse, explaining that I didn’t really know how late I was.”

“I see. It was Georges who told you the time at the actual moment of your arrival?”


“And Georges is no doubt the chauffeur whom I saw at work as I crossed the courtyard?”

“Yes. He told me that he was glad to see me have a little gaiety, and he took out his watch and showed it to me with a laugh.”

“This happened at the front door, or at those big iron gates, Mademoiselle?” Hanaud asked.

“At the front door. There is no lodge-keeper and the gates are left open when anyone is out.”

“And how did you get into the house?”

“I used my latchkey.”

“Good! All this is very clear.”

Betty, however, was not mollified by Hanaud’s satisfaction with her replies. Although she answered him without delay, her answers were given mutinously. Jim began to be a little troubled. She should have met Hanaud half-way; she was imprudently petulant.

“She’ll make an enemy of this man before she has done,” he reflected uneasily. But he glanced at the detective and was relieved. For Hanaud was watching her with a smile which would have disarmed any less offended young lady—a smile half friendliness and half amusement. Jim took a turn upon himself.

“After all,” he argued, “this very imprudence pleads for her better than any calculation. The guilty don’t behave like that.” And he waited for the next stage in the examination with an easy mind.

“Now we have got you back home and within the Maison Grenelle before half-past one in the morning,” resumed Hanaud. “What did you do then?”

“I went straight upstairs to my bedroom,” said Betty.

“Was your maid waiting up for you, Mademoiselle?”

“No; I had told her that I should be late and that I could undress myself.”

“You are considerate, Mademoiselle. No wonder that your servants were pleased that you should have a little gaiety.”

Even that advance did not appease the offended girl.

“Yes?” she asked with a sort of silky sweetness which was more hostile than any acid rejoinder. But it did not stir Hanaud to any resentment.

“When, then, did you first hear of Madame Harlowe’s death?” he asked.

“The next morning my maid Francine came running into my room at seven o’clock. The nurse, Jeanne, had just discovered it. I slipped on my dressing-gown and ran downstairs. As soon as I saw that it was true, I rang up the two doctors who were in the habit of attending here.”

“Did you notice the glass of lemonade?”

“Yes. It was empty.”

“Your maid is still with you?”

“Yes—Francine Rollard. She is at your disposal.”

Hanaud shrugged his shoulders and smiled doubtfully.

“That, if it is necessary at all, can come later. We have the story of your movements now from you, Mademoiselle, and that is what is important.”

He rose from his chair. “I have been, I am afraid, a very troublesome person, Mademoiselle Harlowe,” he said with a bow. “But it is very necessary for your own sake that no obscurities should be left for the world’s suspicions to play with. And we are very close to the end of this ordeal.”

Jim had nursed a hope the moment Hanaud rose that this wearing interview had already ended. Betty, for her part, was indifferent.

“That is for you to say, Monsieur,” she said implacably.

“Just two points then, and I think, upon reflection, you will understand that I have asked you no question which is unfair.”

Betty bowed. “Your two points, Monsieur.”

“First, then. You inherit, I believe, the whole fortune of Madame?”


“Did you expect to inherit it all? Did you know of her will?”

“No. I expected that a good deal of the money would be left to Monsieur Boris. But I don’t remember that she ever told me so. I expected it, because Monsieur Boris so continually repeated that it was so.”

“No doubt,” said Hanaud lightly. “As to yourself, was Madame generous to you during her life?”

The hard look disappeared from Betty’s face. It softened to sorrow and regret.

“Very,” she answered in a low voice. “I had one thousand pounds a year as a regular allowance, and a thousand pounds goes a long way in Dijon. Besides, if I wanted more, I had only to ask for it.”

Betty’s voice broke in a sob suddenly and Hanaud turned away with a delicacy for which Jim was not prepared. He began to look at the books upon the shelves, that she might have time to control her sorrow, taking down one here, one there, and speaking of them in a casual tone.

“It is easy to see that this was the library of Monsieur Simon Harlowe,” he said, and was suddenly brought to a stop. For the door was thrown open and a girl broke into the room.

“Betty,” she began, and stood staring from one to another of Betty’s visitors.

“Ann, this is Monsieur Hanaud,” said Betty with a careless wave of her hand, and Ann went white as a sheet.

Ann! Then this girl was Ann Upcott, thought Jim Frobisher, the girl who had written to him, the girl, all acquaintanceship with whom he had twice denied, and he had sat side by side with her, he had even spoken to her. She swept across the room to him.

“So you have come!” she cried. “But I knew that you would!”

Jim was conscious of a mist of shining yellow hair, a pair of sapphire eyes, and of a face impertinently lovely and most delicate in its colour.

“Of course I have come,” he said feebly, and Hanaud looked on with a smile. He had an eye on Betty Harlowe, and the smile said as clearly as words could say, “That young man is going to have a deal of trouble before he gets out of Dijon.”

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     VI - Jim Changes His Lodging

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