The House of the Arrow


The Finding of the Arrow

A.E.W. Mason

ANN’S rooms were upon the second floor with the windows upon the garden, a bedroom and a sitting-room communicating directly with one another. They were low in the roof, but spacious, and Hanaud, as he looked around the bedroom, said in a tone of doubt: “Yes, . . . after all, if one were frightened suddenly out of one’s wits, one might stumble about this room in the dark and lose one’s way to the light switch. There isn’t one over the bed.” Then he shrugged his shoulders. “But, to be sure, one would be careful that one’s details could be verified. So——” and the doubt passed out of his voice. The words were all Greek to the Commissaire of Police and his secretary and Monsieur Bex. Maurice Thevenet, indeed, looked sharply at Hanaud, as if he was on the point of asking one of those questions which he had been invited to ask. But Girardot, the Commissaire, who was panting heavily with his ascent of two flights of stairs, spoke first.

“We shall find nothing to interest us here,” he said. “That pretty girl would never have asked us to pry about amongst her dainty belongings if there had been anything to discover.”

“One never knows,” replied Hanaud. “Let us see!”

Jim walked away into the sitting-room. He had no wish to follow step by step Hanaud and the Commissaire in their search; and he had noticed on the table in the middle of the room a blotting-pad and some notepaper and the materials for writing. He wanted to get all this whirl of conjecture and fact and lies, in which during the last two days he had lived, sorted and separated and set in order in his mind; and he knew no better way of doing so than by putting it all down shortly in the “for” and “against” style of Robinson Crusoe on his desert island. He would have a quiet hour or so whilst Hanaud indefatigably searched. He took a sheet of paper, selected a pen at random from the tray and began. It cost Ann Upcott, however, a good many sheets of notepaper, and more than once the nib dropped out of his penholder and was forced back into it before he had finished. But he had his problem reduced at last to these terms:


(i) Although suspicion that murder had been committed arose in the first instance only from the return to its shelf of the “Treatise on Strophanthus Hispidus,” subsequent developments, e.g. the disappearance of the Poison Arrow, the introduction into the case of the ill-famed Jean Cladel, Ann Upcott’s story of her visit to the treasure-room, and now the mystery of Mrs. Harlowe’s pearl necklace, make out a prima facie case for inquiry.


But in the absence of any trace of poison in the dead woman’s body, it is difficult to see how the criminal can be brought to justice, except by (a) A confession. (b) The commission of another crime of a similar kind. Hanaud’s theory—once a poisoner always a poisoner.


(2) If murder was committed, it is probable that it was committed at half-past ten at night when Ann Upcott in the treasure-room heard the sound of a struggle and the whisper, “That will do now.”


Ann Upcott’s story may be partly or wholly false. She knew that Mrs. Harlowe’s bedroom was to be opened and examined. If she also knew that the pearl necklace had disappeared, she must have realized that it would be advisable for her to tell some story before its disappearance was discovered, which would divert suspicion from her.


(3) It is clear that whoever committed the murder, if murder was committed, Betty Harlowe had nothing to do with it. She had an ample allowance. She was at M. de Pouillac’s ball on the night. Moreover, once Mrs. Harlowe was dead, the necklace became Betty Harlowe’s property. Had she committed the murder, the necklace would not have disappeared.


It is possible that the disappearance of the necklace is in no way connected with the murder, if murder there was.


(4) Who then are possibly guilty?

(i) The servants.


All of them have many years of service to their credit. It is not possible that any of them would have understood enough of the “Treatise on Strophanthus Hispidus” to make use of it. If any of them were concerned it can only be as an accessory or assistant working under the direction of another.


(ii) Jeanne Baudin the nurse. More attention might be given to her. It is too easily accepted that she has nothing to do with it.


No one suspects her. Her record is good.


(iii) Francine Rollard. She was certainly frightened this afternoon. The necklace would be a temptation. Was it she who bent over Ann Upcott in the darkness?


She was frightened of the police as a class, rather than of being accused of a crime. She acted her part in the reconstruction scene without breaking down. If she were concerned, it could only be for the reason given above, as an assistant.


(iv) Ann Upcott.

Her introduction into the Maison Grenelle took place through Waberski and under dubious circumstances. She is poor, a paid companion, and the necklace is worth a considerable fortune.

She was in the house on the night of Mrs. Harlowe’s death. She told Gaston he could turn out the lights and go to bed early that evening. She could easily have admitted Waberski and. received the necklace as the price of her complicity.

The story she told us in the garden may have been the true story of what occurred adapted. It may have been she who whispered “That will do now.” She may have whispered it to Waberski.

Her connection with Waberski was sufficiently close to make him count upon Ann’s support in his charge against Betty.


Her introductions may be explicable on favourable grounds. Until we know more of her history it is impossible to judge.

Her account of the night of the 27th April may be true from beginning to end.

In that case the theory of a murder is enormously strengthened. But who whispered, “That will do now”? And who was bending over Ann Upcott when she waked up?


(v) Waberski. He is a scoundrel, a would-be blackmailer.

He was in straits for money and he expected a thumping legacy from Mrs. Harlowe.

He may have brought Ann Upcott into the house with the thought of murder in his mind.

Having failed to obtain any profit from his crime, he accuses Betty of the same crime as a blackmailing proposition.

As soon as he knew that Mrs. Harlowe had been exhumed and an autopsy made he collapsed. He knew, if he had used himself the poison arrow, that no trace of poison would be found.

He knew of Jean Cladel, and according to his own story was in the Rue Gambetta close to Jean Cladel’s shop. It is possible that he himself had been visiting Cladel to pay for the solution of Strophanthus.


But he would have collapsed equally if he had believed that no murder had been committed at all.

If murder was committed the two people most obviously suspect are Ann Upcott and Waberski working in collusion.

To this conclusion Jim Frobisher was reluctantly brought, but even whilst writing it down there were certain questions racing through his mind to which he could find no answer. He was well aware that he was an utter novice in such matters as the investigation of crimes; and he recognized that were the answers to these questions known to him, some other direction might be given to his thoughts.

Accordingly he wrote those troublesome questions beneath his memorandum—thus:


(1) Why does Hanaud attach no importance to the return of the “Treatise on Strophanthus Hispidus” to its place in the library?

(2) What was it which so startled him upon the top of the Terrace Tower?

(3) What was it that he had in his mind to say to me at the cafe in the Place d’Armes and in the end did not say?

(4) Why did Hanaud search every corner of the treasure-room for the missing poison arrow—except the interior of the sedan chair?

The noise of a door gently closing aroused him from his speculations. He looked across the room. Hanaud had just entered it from the bedroom, shutting the communicating door behind him. He stood with his hand upon the door-knob gazing at Frobisher with a curious startled stare. He moved swiftly to the end of the table at which Jim was sitting.

“How you help me!” he said in a low voice and smiling. “How you do help me!”

Alert though Jim’s ears were to a note of ridicule, he could discover not a hint of it. Hanaud was speaking with the utmost sincerity, his eyes very bright and his heavy face quite changed by that uncannily sharp expression which Jim had learnt to associate with some new find in the development of the case.

“May I see what you have written?” Hanaud asked.

“It could be of no value to you,” Jim replied modestly, but Hanaud would have none of it.

“It is always of value to know what the other man thinks, and even more what the other man sees. What did I say to you in Paris? The last thing one sees one’s self is the thing exactly under one’s nose”; and he began to laugh lightly but continuously and with a great deal of enjoyment, which Jim did not understand. He gave in, however, over his memorandum and pushed it along to Hanaud, ashamed of it as something schoolboyish, but hopeful that some of these written questions might be answered.

Hanaud sat down at the end of the table close to Jim and read the items and the questions very slowly with an occasional grunt, and a still more occasional “Aha!” but with a quite unchanging face. Jim was in two minds whether to snatch it from his hands and tear it up or dwell upon its recollected phrases with a good deal of pride. One thing was clear. Hanaud took it seriously.

He sat musing over it for a moment or two. “Yes, here are questions, and dilemmas.” He looked at Frobisher with friendliness. “I shall make you an allegory. I have a friend who is a matador in Spain. He told me about the bull and how foolish those people are who think the bull not clever. Yes, but do not jump and look the offence with your eyes and tell me how very vulgar I am and how execrable my taste. All that I know very well. But listen to my friend the matador! He says all that the bull wants, to kill without fail all the bull-fighters in Spain, is a little experience. And very little, he learns so quick. Look! Between the entrance of the bull into the arena and his death there are reckoned twenty minutes. And there should not be more, if the matador is wise. The bull—he learns so quick the warfare of the ring. Well, I am an old bull who has fought in the arena many times. This is your first corrida. But only ten minutes of the twenty have passed. Already you have learned much. Yes, here are some shrewd questions which I had not expected you to ask. When the twenty are gone, you will answer them all for yourself. Meanwhile”—he took up another pen and made a tiny addition to item one—“I carry this on one step farther. See!”

He replaced the memorandum under Jim’s eyes. Jim read:

“—subsequent developments, e.g. the disappearance of the Poison Arrow, the introduction into the case of the ill-famed Jean Cladel, Ann Upcott’s story of her visit to the treasure-room, and now the mystery of Mrs. Harlowe’s pearl necklace, and the finding of the arrow, make out a prima facie case for inquiry.”

Jim sprang to his feet in excitement. “You have found the arrow, then?” he cried, glancing towards the door of Ann Upcott’s bedroom.

“Not I, my friend,” replied Hanaud with a grin.

“The Commissaire, then?”

“No, not the Commissaire.”

“His secretary, then?” Jim sat down again in his chair. “I am sorry. He wears cheap rings. I don’t like him.”

Hanaud broke into a laugh of delight. “Console yourself! I, too, don’t like that young gentleman of whom they are all so proud. Maurice Thevenet has found nothing.”

Jim looked at Hanaud in a perplexity. “Here is a riddle,” he said.

Hanaud rubbed his hands together. “Prove to me that you have been ten minutes in the bull-ring,” he said.

“I think that I have only been five,” Jim replied with a smile. “Let me see! The arrow had not been discovered when we first entered these rooms?”


“And it is discovered now?”


“And it was not discovered by you?”


“Nor the Commissaire?”


“Nor Maurice Thevenet?”


Jim stared and shook his head. “I have not been one minute in the bull-ring. I don’t understand.”

Hanaud’s face was all alight with enjoyment. “Then I take your memorandum and I write again.”

He hid the paper from Jim Frobisher’s eyes with the palm of his left hand, whilst he wrote with his right. Then with a triumphant gesture he laid it again before Jim. The last question of all had been answered in Hanaud’s neat, small handwriting.

Jim read:

(4) Why did Hanaud search every corner of the treasure-room for the missing Poison Arrow-except the interior of the sedan chair?

Underneath the question Hanaud had written as if it was Jim Frobisher himself who answered the question:

“It was wrong of Hanaud to forget to examine the sedan chair, but fortunately no harm has resulted from that lamentable omission. For Life, the incorrigible dramatist, had arranged that the head of the arrow-shaft should be the pen-holder with which I have written this memorandum.”

Jim looked at the pen-holder and dropped it with a startled cry.

There it was the slender, pencil-like shaft expanding into a slight bulb where the fingers held it, and the nib inserted into the tiny cleft made for the stem of the iron dart! Jim remembered that the nib had once or twice become loose and spluttered on the page, until he had jammed it in violently.

Then came a terrible thought. His jaw dropped; he stared at Hanaud in awe.

“I wonder if I sucked the end of it, whilst I was thinking out my sentences,” he stammered.

“O Lord!” cried Hanaud, and he snatched up the pen-holder and rubbed it hard with his pocket handkerchief. Then he spread out the handkerchief upon the table, and fetching a small magnifying-glass from his pocket, examined it minutely. He looked up with relief.

“There is not the least little trace of that reddish-brown clay which made the poison paste. The arrow was scraped clean before it was put on that tray of pens. I am enchanted. I cannot now afford to lose my junior colleague.”

Frobisher drew a long breath and lit a cigarette, and gave another proof that he was a very novice of a bull.

“What a mad thing to put the head of that arrow-shaft, which a glance at the plates in the Treatise would enable a child to identify, into an open tray of pens without the slightest concealment!” he exclaimed. It looked as if Ann Upcott was wilfully pushing her neck into the wooden ring of the guillotine.

Hanaud shook his head. “Not so mad, my friend! The old rules are the best. Hide a thing in some out-of-the-way corner, and it will surely be found. Put it to lie carelessly under everyone’s nose and no one will see it at all. No, no! This was cleverly done. Who could have foreseen that instead of looking on at our search you were going to plump yourself down in a chair and write your memorandum so valuable on Mademoiselle Ann’s notepaper? And even then you did not notice your pen. Why should you?”

Jim, however, was not satisfied.

“It is a fortnight since Mrs. Harlowe was murdered, if she was murdered,” he cried. “What I don’t understand is why the arrow wasn’t destroyed altogether!”

“But until this morning there was never any question of the arrow,” Hanaud returned. “It was a curiosity, an item in a collection—why should one trouble to destroy it? But this morning the arrow becomes a dangerous thing to possess. So it must be hidden away in a hurry. For there is not much time. An hour whilst you and I admired Mont Blanc from the top of the Terrace Tower.”

“And while Betty was out of the house,” Jim added quickly.

“Yes—that is true,” said Hanaud. “I had not thought of it. You can add that point, Monsieur Frobisher, to the reasons which put Mademoiselle Harlowe out of our considerations. Yes.”

He sat lost in thought for a little while and speaking now and then a phrase rather to himself than to his companion: “To run up here—to cut the arrow down—to round off the end as well as one can in a hurry—to stain it with some varnish—to mix it with the other pens in the tray. Not so bad!” He nodded his head in appreciation of the trick. “But nevertheless things begin to look black for that exquisite Mademoiselle Ann with her delicate colour and her pretty ways.”

A noise of the shifting of furniture in the bedroom next door attracted his attention. He removed the nib from the arrow-head.

“We will keep this little matter to ourselves just for the moment,” he said quickly, and he wrapped the improvised pen-holder in a sheet of the notepaper. “Just you and I shall know of it. No one else. This is my case, not Girardot’s. We will not inflict a great deal of pain and trouble until we are sure.”

“I agree,” said Jim eagerly. “That’s right, I am sure.”

Hanaud tucked the arrow-head carefully away in his pocket.

“This, too,” he said, and he took up Jim Frobisher’s memorandum. “It is not a good thing to carry about, and perhaps lose. I will put it away at the Prefecture with the other little things I have collected.”

He put the memorandum into his letter-case and got up from his chair.

“The rest of the arrow-shaft will be somewhere in this room, no doubt, and quite easy to see. But we shall not have time to look for it, and, after all, we have the important part of it.”

He turned towards the mantelshelf, where some cards of invitation were stuck in the frame of the mirror, just as the door was opened and the Commissaire with his secretary came out from the bedroom.

“The necklace is not in that room,” said Monsieur Girardot in a voice of finality.

“Nor is it here,” Hanaud replied with an unblushing assurance. “Let us go downstairs.”

Jim was utterly staggered. This room had not been searched for the necklace at all. First the sedan chair, then this sitting-room was neglected. Hanaud actually led the way out to the stairs without so much as a glance behind him. No wonder that in Paris he had styled himself and his brethren the servants of chance.

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     XVI - Hanaud Laughs

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