The House of the Arrow


Exit Waberski

A.E.W. Mason

JIM FROBISHER neither saw nor heard any more of Hanaud that day. He fetched his luggage away from the hotel and spent the evening with Betty Harlowe and Ann Upcott at the Maison Grenelle. They took their coffee after dinner in the garden behind the house, descending to it by a short flight of stone steps from a great door at the back of the hall. And by some sort of unspoken compact they avoided all mention of Waberski’s charge. They had nothing to do but to wait now for the analyst’s report. But the long line of high, shuttered windows just above their heads, the windows of the reception-rooms, forbade them to forget the subject, and their conversation perpetually dwindled down into long silences. It was cool out here in the dark garden, cool and very still; so that the bustle of a bird amongst the leaves of the sycamores startled them, and the rare footsteps of a passer-by in the little street of Charles-Robert rang out as though they would wake a dreaming city. Jim noticed that once or twice Ann Upcott leaned swiftly forward and stared across the dark lawns and glimmering paths to the great screen of tall trees, as if her eyes had detected a movement amongst their stems. But on each occasion she said nothing and with an almost inaudible sigh sank back in her chair.

“Is there a door into the garden from the street?” Frobisher asked, and Betty answered him.

“No. There is a passage at the end of the house under the reception-rooms from the courtyard which the gardeners use. The only other entrance is through the hall behind us. This old house was built in days when your house really was your castle, and the fewer the entrances, the more safely you slept.”

The clocks of that city of clocks clashed out the hour of eleven, throwing the sounds of their strokes backwards and forwards above the pinnacles and roof-tops in a sort of rivalry. Betty rose to her feet.

“There’s a day gone, at all events,” she said, and Ann Upcott agreed with a breath of relief. To Jim it seemed a pitiful thing that these two girls, to whom each day should be a succession of sparkling hours all too short, must be rejoicing quietly, almost gratefully, that another of them had passed.

“It should be the last of the bad days,” he said, and Betty turned swiftly towards him, her great eyes shining in the darkness.

“Good night, Jim,” she said, her voice ever so slightly lingering like a caress upon his name; and she held out her hand. “It’s terribly dull for you, but we are not unselfish enough to let you go. You see, we are shunned just now—oh, it’s natural! To have you with us means a great deal. For one thing,” and there came a little lilt in her voice, “I shall sleep tonight.” She ran up the steps and stood for a moment against the light from the hall. “A long-legged slip of a girl, in black silk stockings”—thus Mr. Haslitt had spoken of her as she was five years ago, and the description fitted her still.

“Good night, Betty,” said Jim, and Ann Upcott ran past him up the steps and waved her hand.

“Good night,” said Jim, and with a little twist of her shoulders Ann followed Betty. She came back, however. She was wearing a little white frock of crepe de Chine with white stockings and satin shoes, and she gleamed at the head of the steps like a slender thing of silver.

“You’ll bolt the door when you come in, won’t you?” she pleaded with a curious anxiety considering the height of the strong walls about the garden,

“I will,” said Jim, and he wondered why in all this business Ann Upcott stood out as a note of fear. It was high time indeed that the long line of windows was thrown open and the interdict raised from the house and its inmates. Jim Frobisher paced the quiet garden in the darkness with a prayer at his heart that that time would come tomorrow. In Betty’s room above the reception-rooms the light was still burning behind the latticed shutters of the windows, in spite of her confidence that she would sleep—yes, and in Ann Upcott’s room too, at the end of the house towards the street. A fury against Boris Waberski flamed up in him.

It was late before he himself went into the house and barred the door, later still before he fell asleep. But once asleep, he slept soundly, and when he waked, it was to find his shutters thrown wide to the sunlight, his coffee cold by his bedside, and Gaston, the old servant, in the room.

“Monsieur Hanaud asked me to tell you he was in the library,” he said.

Jim was out of bed in an instant. “Already? What is the time, Gaston?”

“Nine o’clock. I have prepared Monsieur’s bath.” He removed the tray from the table by the bed. “I will bring some fresh coffee.”

“Thank you! And will you please tell Monsieur Hanaud that I will not be long.”

“Certainly, Monsieur.”

Jim took his coffee while he dressed and hurried down to the library, where he found Hanaud seated at the big writing-table in the middle of the room, with a newspaper spread out over the blotting-pad and placidly reading the news. He spoke quickly enough, however, the moment Jim appeared.

“So you left your hotel in the Place Darcy, after all, eh, my friend? The exquisite Miss Upcott! She had but to sigh out a little prayer and clasp her hands together, and it was done. Yes, I saw it all from the hall. What it is to be young! You have those two letters which Waberski wrote your firm?”

“Yes,” said Jim. He did not think it necessary to explain that though the prayer was Ann Upcott’s, it was the thought of Betty which had brought him to the Maison Grenelle.

“Good! I have sent for him,” said Hanaud.

“To come to this house?”

“I am expecting him now.”

“That’s capital,” cried Jim. “I shall meet him, then! The damned rogue! I shouldn’t wonder if I thumped him,” and he clenched his fist and shook it in a joyous anticipation.

“I doubt if that would be so helpful as you think. No, I beg of you to place yourself in my hands this morning, Monsieur Frobisher,” Hanaud interposed soberly. “If you confront Waberski at once with those two letters, at once his accusation breaks down. He will withdraw it. He will excuse himself. He will burst into a torrent of complaints and reproaches. And I shall get nothing out of him. That I do not want.”

“But what is there to be got?” Jim asked impatiently.

“Something perhaps. Perhaps nothing,” the detective returned with a shrug of the shoulders. “I have a second mission in Dijon, as I told you in Paris.”

“The anonymous letters?”

“Yes. You were present yesterday when Mademoiselle Harlowe told me how she learned that I was summoned from Paris upon this case. It was not, after all, any of my colleagues here who spread the news. It is even now unknown that I am here. No, it was the writer of the letters. And in so difficult a matter I can afford to neglect no clue. Did Waberski know that I was going to be sent for? Did he hear that at the Prefecture when he lodged his charge on the Saturday or from the examining magistrate on the same day? And if he did, to whom did he talk between the time when he saw the magistrate and the time when letters must be posted, if they are to be delivered on the Sunday morning? These are questions I must have the answer to, and if we at once administer the knock-out with your letters, I shall not get them. I must lead him on with friendliness. You see that.”

Jim very reluctantly did. He had longed to see Hanaud dealing with Waberski in the most outrageous of his moods, pouncing and tearing and trampling with the gibes of a schoolboy and the improprieties of the gutter. Hanaud indeed had promised him as much. But he found him now all for restraint and sobriety and more concerned apparently with the authorship of the anonymous letters than with the righting of Betty Harlowe. Jim felt that he had been defrauded.

“But I am to meet this man,” he said. “That must not be forgotten.”

“And it shall not be,” Hanaud assured him. He led him over to the door in the inner wall close to the observation window and opened it.

“See! If you will please to wait in here,” and as the disappointment deepened on Jim’s face, he added, “Oh, I do not ask you to shut the door. No. Bring up a chair to it—so! And keep the door ajar so! Then you will see and hear and yet not be seen. You are content? Not very. You would prefer to be on the stage the whole time like an actor. Yes, we all do. But, at all events, you do not throw up your part,” and with a friendly grin he turned back to the table.

A shuffling step which merged into the next step with a curiously slovenly sound rose from the courtyard.

“It was time we made our little arrangements,” said Hanaud in an undertone. “For here comes our hero from the Steppes.”

Jim popped his head through the doorway.

“Monsieur Hanaud!” he whispered excitedly. “Monsieur Hanaud! It cannot be wise to leave those windows open on the courtyard. For if we can hear a footstep so loudly in this room, anything said in this room will be easily overheard in the court.”

“But how true that is!” Hanaud replied in the same voice and struck his forehead with his fist in anger at his folly. “But what are we to do? The day is so hot. This room will be an oven. The ladies and Waberski will all faint. Besides, I have an officer in plain clothes already stationed in the court to see that it is kept empty. Yes, we will risk it.”

Jim drew back.

“That man doesn’t welcome advice from anyone,” he said indignantly, but he said it only to himself; and almost before he had finished, the bell rang. A few seconds afterwards Gaston entered.

“Monsieur Boris,” he said.

“Yes,” said Hanaud with a nod. “And will you tell the ladies that we are ready?”

Boris Waberski, a long, round-shouldered man with bent knees and clumsy feet, dressed in black and holding a soft black felt hat in his hand, shambled quickly into the room and stopped dead at the sight of Hanaud. Hanaud bowed and Waberski returned the bow; and then the two men stood looking at one another—Hanaud all geniality and smiles, Waberski a rather grotesque figure of uneasiness like one of those many grim caricatures carved by the imagination of the Middle Ages on the columns of the churches of Dijon. He blinked in perplexity at the detective and with his long, tobacco-stained fingers tortured his grey moustache.

“Will you be seated?” said Hanaud politely. “I think that the ladies will not keep us waiting.”

He pointed towards a chair in front of the writing-table but on his left hand and opposite to the door.

“I don’t understand,” said Waberski doubtfully. “I received a message. I understood that the examining magistrate had sent for me.”

“I am his agent,” said Hanaud. “I am —” and he stopped. “Yes?”

Boris Waberski stared. “I said nothing.”

“I beg your pardon. I am—Hanaud.” He shot the name out quickly, but he was answered by no start, nor by any sign of recognition.

“Hanaud?” Waberski shook his head. “That no doubt should be sufficient to enlighten me,” he said with a smile, “but it is better to be frank—it doesn’t.”

“Hanaud of the Surete of Paris.”

And upon Waberski’s face there came slowly a look of utter consternation.

“Oh!” he said, and again “Oh!” with a lamentable look towards the door as if he was in two minds whether to make a bolt of it. Hanaud pointed again to the chair, and Waberski murmured, “Yes—to be sure,” and made a little run to it and sank down.

Jim Frobisher, watching from his secret place, was certain of one thing. Boris Waberski had not written the anonymous letters to Betty, nor had he contributed the information about Hanaud to the writer. He might well have been thought to have been acting ignorance of Hanaud’s name, up to the moment when Hanaud explained who Hanaud was. But no longer. His consternation then was too genuine.

“You will understand, of course, that an accusation so serious as the one you have brought against Mademoiselle Harlowe demands the closest inquiry,” Hanaud continued without any trace of irony, “and the examining magistrate in charge of the case honoured us in Paris with a request for help.”

“Yes, it is very difficult,” replied Boris Waberski, twisting about as if he was a martyr on red-hot plates.

But the difficulty was Waberski’s, as Jim, with that distressed man in full view, was now able to appreciate. Waberski had rushed to the Prefecture when no answer came from Messrs. Frobisher & Haslitt to his letter of threats, and had brought his charge in a spirit of disappointment and rancour, with a hope no doubt that some offer of cash would be made to him and that he could withdraw it. Now he found the trained detective service of France upon his heels, asking for his proofs and evidence. This was more than he had bargained for.

“I thought,” Hanaud continued easily, “that a little informal conversation between you and me and the two young ladies, without shorthand writers or secretaries, might be helpful.”

“Yes, indeed,” said Waberski hopefully.

“As a preliminary of course,” Hanaud added dryly, “a preliminary to the more serious and now inevitable procedure.”

Waberski’s gleam of hopefulness was extinguished. “To be sure,” he murmured, plucking at his lean throat nervously. “Cases must proceed.”

“That is what they are there for,” said Hanaud sententiously; and the door of the library was pushed open. Betty came into the room with Ann Upcott immediately behind her.

“You sent for me,” she began to Hanaud, and then she saw Boris Waberski. Her little head went up with a jerk, her eyes smouldered. “Monsieur Boris,” she said, and again she spoke to Hanaud. “Come to take possession, I suppose?” Then she looked round the room for Jim Frobisher, and exclaimed in a sudden dismay:

“But I understood that——” and Hanaud was just in time to stop her from mentioning any name.

“All in good time, Mademoiselle,” he said quickly. “Let us take things in their order.”

Betty took her old place in the window-seat. Ann Upcott shut the door and sat down in a chair a little apart from the others. Hanaud folded up his newspaper and laid it aside. On the big blotting-pad which was now revealed lay one of those green files which Jim Frobisher had noticed in the office of the Surete. Hanaud opened it and took up the top paper. He turned briskly to Waberski.

“Monsieur, you state that on the night of the 27th of April, this girl here, Betty Harlowe, did wilfully give to her adoptive mother and benefactress Jeanne-Marie Harlowe an overdose of a narcotic by which her death was brought about.”

“Yes,” said Waberski with an air of boldness, “I declare that.”

“You do not specify the narcotic?”

“It was probably morphine, but I cannot be sure.”

“And administered, according to you, if this summary which I hold here is correct, in the glass of lemonade which Madame Harlowe had always at her bedside.”


Hanaud laid the sheet of foolscap down again.

“You do not charge the nurse, Jeanne Baudin, with complicity in this crime?” he asked.

“Oh, no!” Waberski exclaimed with a sort of horror, with his eyes open wide and his eyebrows running up his forehead towards his hedge of wiry hair. “I have not a suspicion of Jeanne Baudin. I pray you, Monsieur Hanaud, to be clear upon that point. There must be no injustice! No! Oh, it is well that I came here to-day! Jeanne Baudin! Listen! I would engage her to nurse me tomorrow, were my health to fail.”

“One cannot say more than that,” replied Hanaud with a grave sympathy. “I only asked you the question because undoubtedly Jeanne Baudin was in Madame’s bedroom when Mademoiselle entered it to wish Madame good night and show off her new dancing-frock.”

“Yes, I understand,” said Waberski. He was growing more and more confident, so suave and friendly was this Monsieur Hanaud of the Surety. “But the fatal drug was slipped into that glass without a doubt when Jeanne Baudin was not looking. I do not accuse her. No! It is that hard one,” and his voice began to shake and his mouth to work, “who slipped it in and then hurried off to dance till morning, whilst her victim died. It is terrible, that! Yes, Monsieur Hanaud, it is terrible. My poor sister!”

“Sister-in-law.” The correction came with an acid calm from an arm-chair near the door in which Ann Upcott was reclining.

“Sister to me!” replied Waberski mournfully, and he turned to Hanaud. “Monsieur, I shall never cease to reproach myself. I was away fishing in the forest. If I had stayed at home! Think of it! I ask you to——” and his voice broke.

“Yes, but you did come back, Monsieur Waberski,” Hanaud said, “and this is where I am perplexed. You loved your sister. That is clear, since you cannot even think of her without tears.”

“Yes, yes.” Waberski shaded his eyes with his hand.

“Then why did you, loving her so dearly, wait for so long before you took any action to avenge her death? There will be some good reason, not a doubt, but I have not got it.” Hanaud continued, spreading out his hands. “Listen to the dates. Your dear sister dies on the night of the 27th of April. You return home on the 28th; and you do nothing, you bring no charge, you sit all quiet. She is buried on the 30th, and after that you still do nothing, you sit all quiet. It is not until one week after that you launch your accusation against Mademoiselle. Why? I beg you, Monsieur Waberski, not to look at me between the fingers, for the answer is not written on my face, and to explain this difficulty to me.”

The request was made in the same pleasant, friendly voice which Hanaud had used so far and without any change of intonation. But Waberski snatched his hand away from his forehead and sat up with a flush on his face.

“I answer you at once,” he exclaimed. “From the first I knew it here,” and he thumped his heart with his fist, “that murder had been committed. But as yet I did not know it here,” and he patted his forehead, in my head. So I think and I think and I think. I see reasons and motives. They build themselves up. A young girl of beauty and style, but of a strange and secret character, thirsting in her heart for colour and laughter and enjoyment and the power which her beauty offers her if she will but grasp it, and yet while thirsting, very able to conceal all sign of thirst. That is the picture I give you of that hard one, Betty Harlowe.”

For the first time since the interview had commenced, Betty herself showed some interest in it. Up till now she had sat without a movement, a figure of disdain in an ice-house of pride. Now she flashed into life. She leaned forward, her elbow on her crossed knee, her chin propped in her hand, her eyes on Waberski, and a smile of amusement at this analysis of herself giving life to her face. Jim Frobisher, on the other hand, behind his door felt that he was listening to blasphemies. Why did Hanaud endure it? There was information, he had said, which he wanted to get from Boris Waberski. The point on which he wanted information was settled long ago, at the very beginning of this informal session. It was as clear as daylight that Waberski had nothing to do with Betty’s anonymous letter. Why, then, should Hanaud give this mountebank of a fellow a free opportunity to slander Betty Harlowe? Why should he question and question as if there were solid weight in the accusation? Why, in a word, didn’t he fling open this door, allow Frobisher to produce the blackmailing letters to Mr. Haslitt, and then stand aside while Boris Waberski was put into that condition in which he would call upon the services of Jeanne Baudin? Jim indeed was furiously annoyed with Monsieur Hanaud. He explained to himself that he was disappointed.

Meanwhile, Boris Waberski, after a little nervous check when Betty had leaned forward, continued his description.

“For such a one Dijon would be tiresome. It is true there was each year a month or so at Monte Carlo, just enough to give one a hint of what might be, like a cigarette to a man who wants to smoke. And then back to Dijon! Ah, Monsieur, not the Dijon of the Dukes of Burgundy, not even the Dijon of the Parliament of the States, but the Dijon of today, an ordinary, dull, provincial town of France which keeps nothing of its former gaieties and glory but some old rare buildings and a little spirit of mockery. Imagine, then, Monsieur, this hard one with a fortune and freedom within her grasp if only she has the boldness on some night when Monsieur Boris is out of the way to seize them! Nor is that all. For there is an invalid in the house to whom attentions are owed—yes, and must be given.” Waberski, in a flight of excitement, checked himself and half closed his eyes, with a little cunning nod. “For the invalid was not so easy. No, even that dear one had her failings. Oh, yes, and we will not forget them when the moment comes for the extenuating pleas. No, indeed,” and he flung his arm out nobly. “I myself will be the first to urge them to the judge of the Assizes when the verdict is given.”

Betty Harlowe leaned back once more indifferent. From an arm-chair near the door, a little gurgle of laughter broke from the lips of Ann Upcott. Even Hanaud smiled. “Yes, yes,” he said; “but we have not got quite as far as the Court of Assizes, Monsieur Waberski. We are still at the point where you know it in your heart but not in your head.”

“That is so,” Waberski returned briskly. “On the 7th of May, a Saturday, I bring my accusation to the Prefecture. Why? For, on the morning of that day I am certain. I know it at last here, too,” and up went his hand to his forehead, and he hitched himself forward on to the edge of his chair.

“I am in the street of Gambetta, one of the small popular new streets, a street with some little shops and a reputation not of the best. At ten o’clock I am passing quickly through that street when from a little shop a few yards in front of me out pops that hard one, my niece.”

Suddenly the whole character of that session had changed. Jim Frobisher, though he sat apart from it, felt the new tension, and was aware of the new expectancy. A moment ago Boris Waberski as he sat talking and gesticulating had been a thing for ridicule, almost for outright laughter. Now, though his voice still jumped hysterically from high notes to low notes and his body jerked like a marionette’s, he held the eyes of everyone—everyone, that is, except Betty Harlowe. He was no longer vague. He was speaking of a definite hour and a place and of a definite incident which happened there.

“Yes, in that bad little street I see her. I do not believe my senses. I step into a little narrow alley and I peep round the corner. I peep with my eyes,” and Waberski pointed to them with two of his fingers as though there was something peculiarly convincing in the fact that he peeped with them and not with his elbows, “and I am sure. Then I wait until she is out of sight, and I creep forward to see what shop it is she visited in that little street of squalor. Once more I do not believe my eyes. For over the door I read the name, Jean Cladel, Herbalist.”

He pronounced the name in a voice of triumph and sat back in his chair, nodding his head violently at intervals of a second. There was not a sound in the room until Hanaud’s voice broke the silence.

“I don’t understand,” he said softly. “Who is this Jean Cladel, and why should a young lady not visit his shop?”

“I beg your pardon,” Waberski replied. “You are not of Dijon. No! or you would not have asked that question. Jean Cladel has no better name than the street he very suitably lives in. Ask a Dijonnais about Jean Cladel, and you will see how he becomes silent and shrugs his shoulders as if here was a topic on which it was becoming to be silent. Better still, Monsieur Hanaud, ask at the Prefecture. Jean Cladel! Twice he has been tried for selling prohibited drugs.”

Hanaud was stung at last out of his calm. “What is that?” he cried in a sharp voice.

“Yes, twice, Monsieur. Each time he has scraped through, that is true. He has powerful friends, and witnesses have been spirited away. But he is known! Jean Cladel! Yes, Jean Cladel!”

“Jean Cladel, Herbalist of the street Gambetta,” Hanaud repeated slowly. “But”—and he leaned back in an easier attitude—“you will see my difficulty, Monsieur Waberski. Ten o’clock is a public hour. It is not a likely hour for anyone to choose for so imprudent a visit, even if that one were stupid.”

“Yes, and so I reasoned too,” Waberski interposed quickly. “As I told you, I could not believe my eyes. But I made sure—oh, there was no doubt, Monsieur Hanaud. And I thought to myself this. Crimes are discovered because criminals, even the acutest, do sooner or later some foolish thing. Isn’t it so? Sometimes they are too careful; they make their proofs too perfect for an imperfect world. Sometimes they are too careless or are driven by necessity to a rash thing. But somehow a mistake is made and justice wins the game.”

Hanaud smiled. “Aha! a student of crime, Monsieur!” He turned to Betty, and it struck upon Jim Frobisher with a curious discomfort that this was the first time Hanaud had looked directly at Betty since the interview had begun. “And what do you say to this story, Mademoiselle?”

“It is a lie,” she answered quietly.

“You did not visit Jean Cladel in the street of Gambetta at ten o’clock on the morning of the 7th of May?”

“I did not, Monsieur.” Waberski smiled and twisted his moustache.

“Of course! Of course! We could not expect Mademoiselle to admit it. One fights for one’s skin, eh?”

“But, after all,” Hanaud interrupted, with enough savagery in his voice to check all Waberski’s complacency, “let us not forget that on the 7th of May, Madame Harlowe had been dead for ten days. Why should Mademoiselle still be going to the shop of Jean Cladel?”

“To pay,” said Waberski. “Oh, no doubt Jean Cladel’s wares are expensive and have to be paid for more than once, Monsieur.”

“By wares you mean poison,” said Hanaud. “Let us be explicit.”


“Poison which was used to murder Madame Harlowe.”

“I say so,” Waberski declared, folding his arms across his breast.

“Very well,” said Hanaud. He took from his green file a second paper written over in a fine hand and emphasized by an official stamp. “Then what will you say, Monsieur, if I tell you that the body of Madame Harlowe has been exhumed?” Hanaud continued, and Waberski’s face lost what little colour it had. He stared at Hanaud, his jaw working up and down nervously, and he did not say a word.

“And what will you say if I tell you,” Hanaud continued, “that no more morphia was discovered in it than one sleeping-dose would explain and no trace at all of any other poison?”

In a complete silence Waberski took his handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his forehead. The game was up. He had hoped to make his terms, but his bluff was called. He had not one atom: of faith in his own accusation. There was but one course for him to take, and that was to withdraw his charge and plead that his affection for his sister-in-law had led him into a gross mistake. But Boris Waberski was never the man for that. He had that extra share of cunning which shipwrecks always the minor rogue. He was unwise enough to imagine that Hanaud might be bluffing too.

He drew his chair a little nearer to the table. He tittered and noddled at Hanaud confidentially.

“You say ‘if I tell you’,” he said smoothly. “Yes, but you do not tell me, Monsieur Hanaud—no, not at all. On the contrary, what you say is this: ‘My friend Waberski, here is a difficult matter which, if exposed, means a great scandal, and of which the issue is doubtful. There is no good in stirring the mud.’”

“Oh, I say that?” Hanaud asked, smiling pleasantly.

Waberski felt sure of his ground now. “Yes, and more than that. You say, ‘You have been badly treated, my friend Waberski, and if you will now have a little talk with that hard one your niece——’” And his chair slid back against the bookcase and he sat gaping stupidly like a man who has been shot.

Hanaud had sprung to his feet, he stood towering above the table, his face suddenly dark with passion.

“Oh, I say all that, do I?” he thundered. “I came all the way from Paris to Dijon to preside over a little bargain in a murder case! I—Hanaud! Oh! ho! ho! I’ll teach you a lesson for that! Read this!” and bending forward he thrust out the paper with the official seal. “It is the report of the analysts. Take it, I tell you, and read it!”

Waberski reached out a trembling arm, afraid to venture nearer. Even when he had the paper in his hands, they shook so he could not read it. But since he had never believed in his charge that did not matter.

“Yes,” he muttered, “no doubt I have made a mistake.”

Hanaud caught the word up. “Mistake! Ah, there’s a fine word! I’ll show you what sort of a mistake you have made. Draw up your chair to this table in front of me! So! And take a pen—so! And a sheet of paper—so! and now you write for me a letter.”

“Yes, yes,” Waberski agreed. All the bravado had gone from his bearing, all the insinuating slyness. He was in a quiver from head to foot. “I will write that I am sorry.”

“That is not necessary,” roared Hanaud. “I will see to it that you are sorry. No! You write for me what I dictate to you and in English. You are ready? Yes? Then you begin. ‘Dear Sirs.’ You have that?”

“Yes, yes,” said Waberski, scribbling hurriedly. His head was in a whirl. He flinched as he wrote under the towering bulk of the detective. He had as yet no comprehension of the goal to which he was being led.

“Good! ‘Dear Sirs,’ “Hanaud repeated. “But we want a date for that letter. April 30th, eh? That will do. The day Madame Harlowe’s will was read and you found you were left no money. April 30th—put it in. So! Now we go on. ‘Dear Sirs, Send me at once one thousand pounds by the recommended post, or I make some awkwardnesses——’”

Waberski dropped his pen and sprang back out of his chair.

“I don’t understand—I can’t write that. . . .  There is an error—I never meant . . . ” he stammered, his hands raised as if to ward off an attack.

“Ah, you never meant the blackmail!” Hanaud cried savagely. “Ah! Ha! Ha! It is good for you that I now know that! For when, as you put it so delicately to Mademoiselle, the moment comes for the extenuating pleas, I can rise up in the Court and urge it. Yes! I will say: ‘Mr. the President, though he did the blackmail, poor fellow, he never meant it. So please to give him five years more!’” and with that Hanaud swept across the room like a tornado and flung open the door behind which Frobisher was waiting.

“Come!” he said, and he led Jim into the room. “You produce the two letters he wrote to your firm, Monsieur Frobisher. Good!”

But it was not necessary to produce them. Boris Waberski had dropped into a chair and burst into tears. There was a little movement of discomfort made by everyone in that room except Hanaud; and even his anger dropped. He looked at Waberski in silence.

“You make us all ashamed. You can go back to your hotel,” he said shortly. “But you will not leave Dijon, Monsieur Waberski, until it is decided what steps we shall take with you.”

Waberski rose to his feet and stumbled blindly to the door. “I make my apologies,” he stammered. “It is all a mistake. I am very poor . . . I meant no harm,” and without looking at anyone he got himself out of the room.

“That type! He at all events cannot any more think that Dijon is dull,” said Hanaud, and once more he adventured on the dangerous seas of the English language. “Do you know what my friend Mister Ricardo would have said? No? I tell you. He would have said, ‘That fellow! My God! What a sauce!’”

Those left in the room, Betty, Ann Upcott, and Jim Frobisher, were in a mood to welcome any excuse for laughter. The interdict upon the house was raised, the charge against Betty proved of no account, the whole bad affair was at an end. Or so it seemed. But Hanaud went quickly to the door and closed it, and when he turned back there was no laughter at all upon his face.

“Now that that man has gone,” he said gravely, “I have something to tell you three which is very serious. I believe that, though Waberski does not know it, Madame Harlowe was murdered by poison in this house on the night of April the 27th.”

The statement was received in a dreadful silence. Jim Frobisher stood like a man whom some calamity has stunned. Betty leaned forward in her seat with a face of horror and incredulity; and then from the arm-chair by the door where Ann Upcott was sitting there burst a loud, wild cry.

“There was someone in the house that night,” she cried.

Hanaud swung round to her, his eyes blazing. “And it is you who tell me that, Mademoiselle?” he asked in a curious, steady voice.

“Yes. It’s the truth,” she cried with a sort of relief in her voice, that at last a secret was out which had grown past endurance. “I am sure now. There was a stranger in the house.” And though her face was white as paper, her eyes met Hanaud’s without fear.

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     VIII - The Book

Back    |    Words Home    |    A.E.W. Mason Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback