The House of the Arrow


Jim Changes His Lodging

A.E.W. Mason

THE LIBRARY was a big oblong room with two tall windows looking into the court, and the observation window thrown out at the end over the footway of the street. A door in the inner wall close to this window led to a room behind, and a big open fireplace faced the windows on the court. For the rest, the walls were lined with high bookshelves filled with books, except for a vacant space here and there where a volume had been removed. Hanaud put back in its place the book which he had been holding in his hand.

“One can easily see that this is the library of Simon Harlowe, the collector,” he said. “I have always thought that if one only had the time to study and compare the books which a man buys and reads, one would more surely get the truth of him than in any other way. But alas! one never has the time.” He turned towards Jim Frobisher regretfully, “Come and stand with me, Monsieur Frobisher. For even a glance at the backs of them tells one something.”

Jim took his place by Hanaud’s side. “Look, here is a book on Old English Gold Plate, and another—pronounce that title for me, if you please.”

Jim read the title of the book on which Hanaud’s finger was placed. “Marks and Monograms on Pottery and Porcelain.”

Hanaud repeated the inscription and moved along. From a shelf at the level of his breast and just to the left of the window in which Betty was sitting, he took a large, thinnish volume, in a paper cover, and turned over the plates. It was a brochure upon Battersea Enamel.

“There should be a second volume,” said Jim Frobisher with a glance at the bookshelf. It was the idlest of remarks. He was not paying any attention to the paper-covered book upon Battersea Enamel. For he was really engaged in speculating why Hanaud had called him to his side. Was it on the chance that he might detect some swift look of understanding as it was exchanged by the two girls, some sign that they were in a collusion? If so, he was to be disappointed. For though Betty and Ann were now free from Hanaud’s vigilant eye, neither of them moved, neither of them signalled to the other. Hanaud, however, seemed entirely interested in his book. He answered Jim’s suggestion.

“Yes, one would suppose that there were a second volume. But this is complete,” he said, and he put back the book in its place. There was room next to it for another quarto book, so long as it was no thicker, and Hanaud rested his finger in the vacant place on the shelf, with his thoughts clearly far away.

Betty recalled him to his surroundings.

“Monsieur Hanaud,” she said in her quiet voice from her seat in the window, “there was a second point, you said, on which you would like to ask me a question.”

“Yes, Mademoiselle, I had not forgotten it.” He turned with a curiously swift movement and stood so that he had both girls in front of him, Betty on his left in the window, Ann Upcott standing a little apart upon his right, gazing at him with a look of awe.

“Have you, Mademoiselle,” he asked, “been pestered, since Boris Waberski brought his accusation, with any of these anonymous letters which seem to be flying about Dijon?”

“I have received one,” answered Betty, and Ann Upcott raised her eyebrows in surprise. “It came on Sunday morning. It was very slanderous, of course, and I should have taken no notice of it but for one thing. It told me that you, Monsieur Hanaud, were coming from Paris to take up the case.”

“Oho!” said Hanaud softly. “And you received this letter on the Sunday morning? Can you show it to me, Mademoiselle?”

Betty shook her head. “No, Monsieur.”

Hanaud smiled. “Of course not. You destroyed it, as such letter should be destroyed.”

“No, I didn’t,” Betty answered. “I kept it. I put it away in a drawer of my writing-table in my own sitting-room. But that room is sealed up, Monsieur Hanaud. The letter is in the drawer still.”

Hanaud received the statement with a frank satisfaction.

“It cannot run away, then, Mademoiselle,” he said contentedly. But the contentment passed. “So the Commissaire of Police actually sealed up your private sitting-room. That, to be sure, was going a little far.”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “It was mine, you see, where I keep my private things. And after all I was accused!” she said bitterly; but Ann Upcott was not satisfied to leave the matter there. She drew a step nearer to Betty and then looked at Hanaud.

“But that is not all the truth,” she said. “Betty’s room belongs to that suite of rooms in which Madame Harlowe’s bedroom was arranged. It is the last room of the suite opening on to the hall, and for that reason, as the Commissaire said with an apology, it was necessary to seal it up with the others.”

“I thank you, Mademoiselle,” said Hanaud with a smile. “Yes, that of course softens his action.” He looked whimsically at Betty in the window-seat. “It has been my misfortune, I am afraid, to offend Mademoiselle Harlowe. Will you help me to get all these troublesome dates now clear? Madame Harlowe was buried, I understand, on the Saturday morning twelve days ago!”

“Yes, Monsieur,” said Ann Upcott.

“And after the funeral, on your return to this house, the notary opened and read the will?”

“Yes, Monsieur.”

“And in Boris Waberski’s presence?”


“Then exactly a week later, on Saturday, the 7th of May, he goes off quickly to the Prefecture of Police?”


“And on Sunday morning by the post comes the anonymous letter?”

Hanaud turned away to Betty, who bowed her head in answer.

“And a little later on the same morning comes the Commissaire, who seals the doors?”

“At eleven o’clock, to be exact,” replied Ann Upcott.

Hanaud bowed low. “You are both wonderful young ladies. You notice the precise hour at which things happen. It is a rare gift, and very useful to people like myself.”

Ann Upcott had been growing easier and easier in her manner with each answer that she gave. Now she could laugh outright. “I do, at all events, Monsieur Hanaud,” she said. “But alas! I was born to be an old maid. A chair out of place, a book disarranged, a clock not keeping time, or even a pin on the carpet—I cannot bear these things. I notice them at once and I must put them straight. Yes, it was precisely eleven o’clock when the Commissaire of Police rang the bell.”

“Did he search the rooms before he sealed them?” Hanaud asked.

“No. We both of us thought his negligence strange,” Ann replied, “until he informed us that the examining magistrate wanted everything left just as it was.”

Hanaud laughed genially. “That was on my account,” he explained. “Who could tell what wonderful things Hanaud might not discover with his magnifying-glass when he arrived from Paris? What fatal finger-prints! Oh! Ho! ho! What scraps of burnt letter! Ah! Ha! ha! But I tell you, Mademoiselle, that if a crime has been committed in this house, even Hanaud would not expect to make any startling discoveries in rooms which had been open to the whole household for a fortnight since the crime. However,” and he moved towards the door, “since I am here now —”

Betty was upon her feet like a flash of lightning. Hanaud stopped and swung round upon her, swiftly, with his eyes very challenging and hard.

“You are going to break those seals now?” she asked with a curious breathlessness. “Then may I come with you—please, please! It is I who am accused. I have a right to be present,” and her voice rose into an earnest cry.

“Calm yourself, Mademoiselle,” Hanaud returned gently. “No advantage will be taken of you. I am going to break no seals. That, as I have told you, is the right of the Commissaire, who is a magistrate, and he will not move until the medical analysis is ready. No, what I was going to propose was that Mademoiselle here,” and he pointed to Ann, “should show me the outside of those reception-rooms and the rest of the house.”

“Of course,” said Betty, and she sat down again in the window-seat.

“Thank you,” said Hanaud. He turned back to Ann Upcott. “Shall we go? And as we go, will you tell me what you think of Boris Waberski?”

“He has some nerve. I can tell you that, Monsieur Hanaud,” Ann cried. “He actually came back to this house after he had lodged his charge, and asked me to support him”; and she passed out of the room in front of Hanaud.

Jim Froblsher followed the couple to the door and closed it behind them. The last few minutes had set his mind altogether at rest. The author of the anonymous letters was the detective’s real quarry. His manner had quite changed when putting his questions about them. The flamboyancies and the indifference, even his amusement at Betty’s ill-humour, had quite disappeared. He had got to business watchfully, quietly. Jim came back into the room. He took his cigarette-case from his pocket and opened it.

“May I smoke?” he asked. As he turned to Betty for permission, a fresh shock brought his thoughts and words alike to a standstill. She was staring at him with panic naked in her eyes and her face set like a tragic mask.

“He believes me guilty,” she whispered.

“No,” said Jim, and he went to her side. But she would not listen.

“He does. I am sure of it. Don’t you see that he was bound to? He was sent from Paris. He has his reputation to think of. He must have his victim before he returns.”

Jim was sorely tempted to break his word. He had only to tell the real cause which had fetched Hanaud out of Paris and Betty’s distress was gone. But he could not. Every tradition of his life strove to keep him silent. He dared not even tell her that this charge against her was only an excuse. She must live in anxiety for a little while longer. He laid his hand gently upon her shoulder.

“Betty, don’t believe that!” he said, with a consciousness of how weak that phrase was compared with the statement he could have made. “I was watching Hanaud, listening to him. I am sure that he already knew the answers to the questions he was asking you. Why, he even knew that Simon Harlowe had a passion for collecting, though not a word had been said of it. He was asking questions to see how you would answer them, setting now and then a little trap, as he admitted——”

“Yes,” said Betty in trembling voice, “all the time he was setting traps.”

“And every answer that you gave, even your manner in giving them,” Jim continued stoutly, “more and more made clear your innocence.”

“To him?” asked Betty.

“Yes, to him. I am sure of it.”

Betty Harlowe caught at his arm and held it in both her hands. She leaned her head against it. Through the sleeve of his coat he felt the velvet of her cheek.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you, Jim,” and as she pronounced the name she smiled. She was thanking him not so much for the stout confidence of his words, as for the comfort which the touch of him gave to her.

“Very likely I am making too much of little things,” she went on. “Very likely I am ungenerous, too, to Monsieur Hanaud. But he lives amidst crimes and criminals. He must be so used to seeing people condemned and passing out of sight into blackness and horrors, that one more or less, whether innocent or guilty, going that way, wouldn’t seem to matter very much.”

“Yes, Betty, I think that is a little unjust,” Jim Frobisher remarked gently.

“Very well, I take it back,” she said, and she let his arm go. “All the same, Jim, I am looking to you, not to him,” and she laughed with an appealing tremor in the laugh which took his heart by storm.

“Luckily,” said he, “you don’t have to look to anyone,” and he had hardly finished the sentence before Ann Upcott came back alone into the room. She was about Betty’s height and Betty’s age and had the same sort of boyish slenderness and carriage which marks the girls of this generation. But in other respects, even to the colour of her clothes, she was as dissimilar as one girl can be from another. She was dressed in white from her coat to her shoes, and she wore a big gold hat so that one was almost at a loss to know where her hat ended and her hair began.

“And Monsieur Hanaud?” Betty asked.

“He is prowling about by himself,” she replied. “I showed him all the rooms and who used them, and he said that he would have a look at them and sent me back to you,”

“Did he break the seals on the reception-rooms?” Betty Harlowe asked.

“Oh, no,” said Ann. “Why, he told us that he couldn’t do that without the Commissaire.”

“Yes, he told us that,” Betty remarked dryly.

“But I was wondering whether he meant what he told us.”

“Oh, I don’t think Monsieur Hanaud’s alarming,” said Ann. She gave Jim Frobisher the impression that at any moment she might call him a dear old thing. She had quite got over the first little shock which the announcement of his presence had caused her. “Besides,” and she sat down by the side of Betty in the window-seat and looked with the frankest confidence at Jim—“besides, we can feel safe now, anyway.”

Jim Frobisher threw up his hands in despair. That queer look of aloofness had played him false with Ann Upcott now, as it had already done with Betty. If these two girls had called on him for help when a sudden squall found them in an open sailing-boat with the sheet of the sail made fast, or on the ice-slope of a mountain, or with a rhinoceros lumbering towards them out of some forest of the Nile, he would not have shrunk from their trust. But this was quite a different matter. They were calmly pitting him against Hanaud.

“You were safe before,” he exclaimed. “Hanaud is not your enemy, and as for me, I have neither experience nor natural gifts for this sort of work”—and he broke off with a groan. For both the girls were watching him with a smile of complete disbelief.

“Good heavens, they think that I am being astute!” he reflected; “and the more I confess my incapacity the astuter they’ll take me to be.” He gave up all arguments. “Of course I am absolutely at your service,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Betty. “You will bring your luggage from your hotel and stay here, won’t you?”

Jim was tempted to accept that invitation. But, on the one hand, he might wish to see Hanaud at the Grande Taverne; or Hanaud might wish to see him, and secrecy was to be the condition of such meetings. It was better that he should keep his freedom of movement complete.

“I won’t put you to so much trouble, Betty,” he replied. “There’s no reason in the world that I should. A call over the telephone and in five minutes I am at your side.”

Betty Harlowe seemed in doubt to press her invitation or not.

“It looks a little inhospitable in me?” she began, and the door opened, and Hanaud entered the room.

“I left my hat and stick here,” he said. He picked them up and bowed to the girls.

“You have seen everything, Monsieur Hanaud?” Betty asked.

“Everything, Mademoiselle. I shall not trouble you again until the report of the analysis is in my hands. I wish you a good morning.”

Betty slipped off the window-seat and accompanied him out into the hall. It appeared to Jim Frobisher that she was seeking to make some amends for her ill-humour; and when he heard her voice he thought to detect in it some note of apology.

“I shall be very glad if you will let me know the sense of that report as soon as possible,” she pleaded. “You, better than anyone, will understand that this is a difficult hour for me.”

“I understand very well, Mademoiselle,” Hanaud answered gravely. “I will see to it that the hour is not prolonged.”

Jim, watching them through the doorway, as they stood together in the sunlit hall, felt ever so slight a touch upon his arm. He wheeled about quickly. Ann Upcott was at his side with all the liveliness and even the delicate colour gone from her face, and a wild and desperate appeal in her eyes.

“You will come and stay here? Oh, please!” she whispered.

“I have just refused,” he answered. “You heard me.”

“I know,” she went on, the words stumbling over one another from her lips. “But take back your refusal. Do! Oh, I am frightened out of my wits. I don’t understand anything. I am terrified!” And she clasped her hands together in supplication. Jim had never seen fear so stark, no, not even in Betty’s eyes a few minutes ago. It robbed her exquisite face of all its beauty, and made it in a second haggard and old. But before he could answer, a stick clattered loudly upon the pavement of the hall and startled them both like the crack of a pistol.

Jim looked through the doorway. Hanaud was stooping to pick up his cane. Betty made a dive for it, but Hanaud already had it in his hands.

“I thank you, Mademoiselle, but I can still touch my toes. Every morning I do it five times in my pyjamas,” and with a laugh he ran down the couple of steps into the courtyard and with that curiously quick saunter of his was out into the street of Charles-Robert in a moment. When Jim turned again to Ann Upcott, the fear had gone from her face so completely that he could hardly believe his eyes.

“Betty, he is going to stay,” she cried gaily.

“So I inferred,” replied Betty with a curious smile as she came back into the room.

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     VII - Exit Waberski

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