The House of the Arrow


Hanaud Laughs

A.E.W. Mason

AT THE BOTTOM of the stairs Hanaud thanked the Commissaire of Police for his assistance.

“As for the necklace, we shall of course search the baggage of every one in the house,” he said. “But we shall find nothing. Of that we may be sure. For if the necklace has been stolen, too much time has passed since it was stolen for us to hope to find it here.”

He bowed Girardot with much respect out of the house, whilst Monsieur Bex took Jim Frobisher a little aside.

“I have been thinking that Mademoiselle Ann should have some legal help,” he said. “Now both you and I are attached to the affairs of Mademoiselle Harlowe. And—it is a little difficult to put it delicately—it may be that the interests of those two young ladies are not identical. It would not therefore be at all correct for me, at all events, to offer her my services. But I can recommend a very good lawyer in Dijon, a friend of mine. You see, it may be important.”

Frobisher agreed. “It may be, indeed. Will you give me your friend’s address?” he said.

Whilst he was writing the address down Hanaud startled him by breaking unexpectedly into a loud laugh. The curious thing was that there was nothing whatever to account for it. Hanaud was standing by himself between them and the front door. In the courtyard outside there was no one within view. Within the hall Jim and Monsieur Bex were talking very seriously in a low voice. Hanaud was laughing at the empty air, and his laughter betokened a very strong sense of relief. “That I should have lived all these years and never noticed that before,” he cried aloud in a sort of amazement that there could be anything capable of notice which he, Hanaud, had not noticed.

“What is it?” asked Jim.

But Hanaud did not answer at all. He dashed back through the hall past Frobisher and his companion, vanished into the treasure-room, closed the door behind him and actually locked it.

Monsieur Bex jerked his chin high in the air. “He is an eccentric, that one. He would not do for Dijon.”

Jim was for defending Hanaud. “He must act. That is true,” he replied. “Whatever he does and however keenly he does it, he sees a row of footlights in front of him.”

“There are men like that,” Monsieur Bex agreed. Like all Frenchmen, he was easy in his mind if he could place a man in a category.

“But he is doing something which is quite important,” Jim continued, swelling a little with pride. He felt that he had been quite fifteen minutes in the bull-ring. “He is searching for something somewhere. I told him about it. He had overlooked it altogether. I reproached him this morning with his reluctance to take suggestions from people only too anxious to help him. But I did him obviously some injustice. He is quite willing.”

Monsieur Bex was impressed and a little envious. “I must think of some suggestions to make to Hanaud,” he said. “Yes, yes! Was there not once a pearl necklace in England which was dropped in a match-box into the gutter when the pursuit became too hot? I have read of it, I am sure. I must tell Hanaud that he should spend a day or two picking up the match-boxes in the gutters. He may be very likely to come across that necklace of Madame Harlowe’s. Yes, certainly.”

Monsieur Bex was considerably elated by the bright idea which had come to him. He felt that he was again upon a level with his English colleague, He saw Hanaud pouncing his way along the streets of Dijon and explaining to all who questioned him:

“This is the idea of Monsieur Bex, the notary. You know, Monsieur Bex, of the Place Etienne Dolet.” Until somewhere near—but Monsieur Bex had not actually located the particular gutter in which Hanaud should discover the match-box with the priceless beads, when the library door opened and Betty came out into the hall. She looked at the two men in surprise.

“And Monsieur Hanaud?” she asked. “I didn’t see him go.”

“He is in your treasure-room,” said Jim. “Oh!” Betty exclaimed in a voice which showed her interest. “He has gone back there!”

She walked quickly to the door and tried the handle.

“Locked!” she cried with a little start of surprise. She spoke without turning round. “He has locked himself in! Why?”

“Because of the footlights,” Monsieur Bex answered, and Betty turned about and stared at him. “Yes, we came to that conclusion, Monsieur Frobisher and I. Everything he does must ring a curtain down”; and once more the key turned in the lock.

Betty swung round again as the sound reached her ears and came face to face with Hanaud. Hanaud looked over her shoulder at Frobisher and shook his head ruefully.

“You did not find it, then?” Jim asked.

“No.” Hanaud looked away from Jim to Betty Harlowe.

“Monsieur Frobisher put an idea into my head, Mademoiselle. I had not looked into that exquisite sedan chair. It might well be that the necklace had been hidden behind the cushions. But it is not there.”

“And you locked the door, Monsieur,” said Betty stiffly. “The door of my room, I ask you to notice.”

Hanaud drew himself erect. “I did, Mademoiselle,” he replied. “And then?”

Betty hesitated with some sharp rejoinder on the tip of her tongue. But she did not speak it. She shrugged her shoulders and said coldly as she turned from him:

“You are within your rights, no doubt, Monsieur.”

Hanaud smiled at her good-humouredly. He had offended her again. She was showing him once more the petulant, mutinous child in her which he had seen the morning before. But the smile did remain upon his face. In the doorway of the library Ann Upcott was standing, her face still very pale, and fires smouldering in her eyes.

“You searched my rooms, I hope, Monsieur,” she said in a challenging voice.

“Thoroughly, Mademoiselle.”

“And you did not find the necklace?”

“No!” And he walked straight across the hall to her with a look suddenly grown stern.

“Mademoiselle, I should like you to answer me a question. But you need not. I wish you to understand that. You have a right to reserve your answers for the office of the examining magistrate and then give them only in the presence of and with the consent of your legal adviser. Monsieur Bex will assure you that is so.”

The girl’s defiance weakened. “What do you wish to ask me?” she asked. “Exactly how you came to the Maison Grenelle.” The fire died out of her eyes; Ann’s eyelids fluttered down. She stretched out a hand against the jamb of the door to steady herself. Jim wondered whether she guessed that the head of Simon Harlowe’s arrow was now hidden in Hanaud’s pocket. “I was at Monte Carlo,” she began, and stopped.

“And quite alone?” Hanaud continued relentlessly.


“And without money?”

“With a little money,” Ann corrected.

“Which you lost,” Hanaud rejoined.


“And at Monte Carlo you made the acquaintance of Boris Waberski?”


“And so you came to the Maison Grenelle?”


“It is all very curious, Mademoiselle,” said Hanaud gravely, and “If it were only curious!” Jim Frobisher wished with all his heart. For Ann Upcott quailed before the detective’s glance. It seemed to him that with another question from him, an actual confession would falter and stumble from her lips. A confession of complicity with Boris Waberski! And then? Jim caught a dreadful glimpse of the future which awaited her. The guillotine? Probably a fate much worse. For that would be over soon and she at rest. A few poignant weeks, an agony of waiting, now in an intoxication of hope, now in the lowest hell of terror; some dreadful minutes at the breaking of a dawn—and an end! That would be better after all than the endless years of sordid heart-breaking labour, coarse food and clothes, amongst the criminals of a convict prison in France.

Jim turned his eyes away from her with a shiver of discomfort and saw with a queer little shock that Betty was watching him with a singular intentness, as if what interested her was not so much Ann’s peril as his feeling about it.

Meanwhile Ann had made up her mind, “I shall tell you at once the little there is to tell!” she declared. The words were brave enough, but the bravery ended with the words. She had provoked the short interrogatory with a clear challenge. She ended it in a hardly audible whisper. However, she managed to tell her story, leaning there against the post of the door. Indeed her voice strengthened as she went on and once a smile of real amusement flickered about her lips and in her eyes and set the dimples playing in her cheeks.

Up to eighteen months ago she had lived with her mother, a widow, in Dorsetshire, a few miles behind Weymouth. The pair of them lived with difficulty. For Mrs. Upcott found herself in as desperate a position as England provides for gentlewomen. She was a small landowner taxed up to her ears, and then rated over the top of her head. Ann for her part was thought in the neighbourhood to have promise as an artist. On the death of her mother the estate was sold as a toy to a manufacturer, and Ann with a small purse and a sack-load of ambitions set out for London.

“It took me a year to understand that I was and should remain an amateur. I counted over my money. I had three hundred pounds left. What was I going to do with it? It wasn’t enough to set me up in a shop. On the other hand, I hated the idea of dependence. So I made up my mind to have ten wild gorgeous days at Monte Carlo and make a fortune, or lose the lot.”

It was then that the smile set her eyes dancing. “I should do the same again,” she cried, quite unrepentantly. “I had never been out of England in my life, but I knew a good deal of schoolgirl’s French. I bought a few frocks and hats and off I went. I had the most glorious time. I was nineteen. Everything from the sleeping-cars to the croupiers enchanted me. I stayed at one of the smaller hotels up the hill. I met one or two people whom I knew and they introduced me into the Sporting Club. Oh, and lots and lots of people wanted to be kind to me!” she cried.

“That is thoroughly intelligible,” said Hanaud dryly.

“Oh, but quite nice people too,” Ann rejoined. Her face was glowing with the recollections of that short joyous time. She had forgotten, for the moment, altogether the predicament in which she stood, or she was acting with an artfulness which Hanaud could hardly have seen surpassed in all his experience of criminals.

“There was a croupier, for instance, at the trente-et-quarante table in the big room of the Sporting Club. I always tried to sit next to him. For he saw that no one stole my money and that when I was winning I insured my stake and clawed a little off the heap from time to time. I was there for five weeks and I had made four hundred pounds—and then came three dreadful nights and I lost everything except thirty pounds which I had stowed away in the hotel safe.” She nodded across the hall towards Jim. “Monsieur Frobisher can tell you about the last night. For he sat beside me and very prettily tried to make me a present of a thousand francs.”

Hanaud, however, was not to be diverted.

“Afterwards he shall tell me,” he said, and resumed his questions. “You had met Waberski before that night?”

“Yes, a fortnight before. But I can’t remember who introduced me.”

“And Mademoiselle Harlowe?”

“Monsieur Boris introduced me a day or two later to Betty at tea-time in the lounge of the Hotel de Paris.”

“Aha!” said Hanaud. He glanced at Jim with an almost imperceptible shrug of the shoulders. It was, indeed, becoming more and more obvious that Waberski had brought Ann Upcott into that household deliberately, as part of a plan carefully conceived and in due time to be fulfilled.

“When did Waberski first suggest that you should join Mademoiselle Harlowe?” he asked.

“That last night,” Ann replied. “He had been standing opposite to me on the other side of the trente-et-quarante table. He saw that I had been losing.”

“Yes,” said Hanaud, nodding his head. “He thought that the opportune moment had come.”

He extended his arms and let his hands fall against his thighs. He was like a doctor presented with a hopeless case. He turned half aside from Ann with his shoulders bent and his troubled eyes fixed upon the marble squares of the floor. Jim could not but believe that he was at this moment debating whether he should take the girl into custody. But Betty intervened.

“You must not be misled, Monsieur Hanaud,” she said quickly. “It is true no doubt that Monsieur Boris mentioned the subject to Ann for the first time that night. But I had already told both my aunt and Monsieur Boris that I should like a friend of my own age to live with me and I had mentioned Ann.”

Hanaud looked up at her doubtfully. “On so short an acquaintance, Mademoiselle?”

Betty, however, stuck to her guns. “Yes. I liked her very much from the beginning. She was alone. It was quite clear that she was of our own world. There was every good reason why I should wish for her. And the four months she has been with me have proved to me that I was right.” She crossed over to Ann with a defiant little nod at Hanaud, who responded with a cordial grin and dropped into English.

“So I can push that into my pipe and puff it, as my dear Ricardo would say. That is what you mean? Well, against loyalty, the whole world is powerless.” And he made Betty a friendly bow. He could hardly have told Betty in plainer phrase that her intervention had averted Ann’s arrest; or Ann herself that he believed her guilty.

Everyone in the hall understood him in that sense. They stood foolishly looking here and looking there and not knowing where to look; and in the midst of their discomfort occurred an incongruous little incident which added a touch of the bizarre. Up the two steps to the open door came a girl carrying a big oblong cardboard milliner’s box. Her finger was on the bell, when Hanaud stepped forward.

“There is no need to ring,” he said. “What have you there?”

The girl stepped into the hall and looked at Ann. “It is Mademoiselle’s dress for the ball tomorrow night. Mademoiselle was to call for a final fitting but did not come. But Madame Grolin thinks that it will be all right.” She laid the box upon a chest at the side of the hall and went out again.

“I had forgotten all about it,” said Ann. “It was ordered just before Madame died and tried on once.”

Hanaud nodded. “For Madame Le Vay’s masked ball, no doubt,” he said. “I noticed the invitation card on the chimney-piece of Mademoiselle’s sitting-room. And in what character did Mademoiselle propose to go?”

Ann startled them all. She flung up her head, whilst the blood rushed into her cheeks and her eyes shone.

“Not Madame de Brinvilliers, Monsieur, at all events,” she cried.

Even Hanaud was brought up with a start. “I did not suggest it,” he replied coldly. “But let me see!” and in a moment whilst his face was flushed with anger his hands were busily untying the tapes of the box.

Betty stepped forward. “We talked over that little dress, together, Monsieur, more than a month ago. It is meant to represent a water-lily.”

“What could be more charming?” Hanaud asked, but his fingers did not pause in their work.

“Could suspicion betray itself more brutally?” Jim Frobisher wondered. What could he expect to find in that box? Did he imagine that this Madame Grolin, the milliner, was an accomplice of Waberski’s too? The episode was ludicrous with a touch of the horrible. Hanaud lifted off the lid and turned back the tissue-paper. Underneath was seen a short crepe de Chine frock of a tender vivid green with a girdle of gold and a great gold rosette at the side. The skirt was stiffened to stand out at the hips, and it was bordered with a row of white satin rosettes with golden hearts. To complete the dress there were a pair of white silk stockings with fine gold clocks and white satin shoes with single straps across the insteps and little tassels of brilliants where the straps buttoned, and four gold stripes at the back round the heels.

Hanaud felt under the frock and around the sides, replaced the lid, and stood up again. He never looked at Ann Upcott. He went straight across to Betty Harlowe. “I regret infinitely, Mademoiselle, that I have put you to so much trouble and occupied so many hours of your day,” he said with a good deal of feeling. He made her a courteous bow, took up his hat and stick from the table on which he had laid it, and made straight for the hall door. His business in the Maison Grenelle was to all appearances finished.

But Monsieur Bex was not content. He had been nursing his suggestion for nearly half an hour. Like a poem it demanded utterance.

“Monsieur Hanaud!” he called; “Monsieur Hanaud! I have to tell you about a box of matches.”

“Aha!” Hanaud answered, stopping alertly. “A box of matches! I will walk with you towards your office, and you shall tell me as you go.”

Monsieur Bex secured his hat and his stick in a great hurry. But he had time to throw a glance of pride towards his English colleague. “Your suggestion about the treasure-room was of no value, my friend. Let us see what I can do!” The pride and the airy wave of the hand spoke the unspoken words. Monsieur Bex was at Hanaud’s side in a moment, and talked volubly as they passed out of the gates into the street of Charles-Robert.

Betty turned to Jim Frobisher. “Tomorrow, now that I am once again allowed to use my motor-car, I shall take you for a drive and show you something of our neighbourhood. This afternoon—you will understand, I know—I belong to Ann.”

She took Ann Upcott by the arm and the two girls went out into the garden. Jim was left alone in the hall-as at that moment he wanted to be. It was very still here now and very silent. The piping of birds, the drone of bees outside the open doors were rather an accompaniment than an interruption of the silence. Jim placed himself where Hanaud had stood at that moment when he had laughed so strangely—half-way between the foot of the stairs where Monsieur Bex and he himself had been standing and the open porch. But Jim could detect nothing whatever to provoke any laughter, any excitement. “That I should have lived all these years and never noticed it before,” he had exclaimed. Noticed what? There was nothing to notice. A table, a chair or two, a barometer hanging upon the wall on one side and a mirror hanging upon the wall on the other—no, there was nothing. Of course, Jim reflected, there was a strain of the mountebank in Hanaud. The whole of that little scene might have been invented by him maliciously, just to annoy and worry and cause discomfort to Monsieur Bex and himself. Hanaud was very capable of a trick like that! A strain of the mountebank indeed! He had a great deal of the mountebank. More than half of him was probably mountebank. Possibly quite two-thirds! “Oh, damn the fellow! What in the world did he notice?” cried Jim. “What did he notice from the top of the Tower? What did he notice in this hall? Why must he be always noticing something?” and he jammed his hat on in a rage and stalked out of the house.

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     XVII - At Jean Cladel’s

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