The House of the Arrow


A Map and the Necklace

A.E.W. Mason

HANAUD turned his map round and pushed it across the table to Jim Frobisher.

“What do you make of that?” he asked, and Jim drew up a chair and sat down to examine it.

He made first of all a large-scale map of Dijon and its environments, the town itself lying at the bottom of the red hoop and constituting the top of the handle of the tennis racket. As to the red circle, it seemed to represent a tour which someone had made out from Dijon, round a good tract of outlying country and back again to the city. But there was more to it than that. The wavy dividing line, for instance, from the top of the circle to the handle, that is to Dijon; and on the left-hand edge of the hoop, as he bent over the map, and just outside Dijon, the red mark, a little red square which Hanaud had just made. Against this square an hour was marked.

“Eleven a.m.,” he read. He followed the red curve with his eyes and just where this dividing line touched the rim of the hoop, another period was inscribed. Here Frobisher read: “Eleven forty.”

Froblsher looked up at Hanaud in astonishment. “Good God!” he exclaimed, and he bent again over the map. The point where the dividing line branched off was in a valley, as he could see by the contours—yes—he had found the name now—the Val Terzon. Just before eleven o’clock Betty had stopped the car just outside Dijon, opposite a park with a big house standing back, and had asked him to tighten the strap of the tool-box. They had started again exactly at eleven. Betty had taken note of the exact time—and they had stopped where the secondary road branched off and doubled back to Dijon, at the top of the hoop, at the junction of the rim and the dividing line, exactly at eleven forty.

“This is a chart of the expedition we made today,” he cried. “We were followed, then?”

He remembered suddenly the second motor-cyclist who had come up from behind through the screen of their dust and had stopped by the side of their car to join in their conversation with the tourist.

“The motor-cyclist?” he asked, and again he got no answer.

But the motor-cyclist had not followed them all the way round. On their homeward course they had stopped to lunch in the tangled garden. There had been no sign of the man. Jim looked at the map again. He followed the red line from the junction of the two roads, round the curve of the valley, to the angle where the great National road to Paris cut across and where they had lunched. After luncheon they had continued along the National road into Dijon, whereas the red line crossed it and came back by a longer and obviously a less frequented route.

“I can’t imagine why you had us followed this morning, Monsieur Hanaud,” he exclaimed with some heat. “But I can tell you this. The chase was not very efficiently contrived. We didn’t come home that way at all.”

“I haven’t an idea how you came home,” Hanaud answered imperturbably. “The line on that side of the circle has nothing to do with you at all, as you can see for yourself by looking at the time marked where the line begins.”

The red hoop at the bottom was not complete; there was a space where the spliced handle of the racket would fit in, the space filled by the town of Dijon, and at the point on the right-hand side where the line started Frobisher read in small but quite clear figures:

“Ten twenty-five a.m.” Jim was more bewildered than ever. “I don’t understand one word of it,” he cried. Hanaud reached over and touched the point with the tip of his pen.

“This is where the motor-cyclist started, the cyclist who met you at the branch road at eleven-forty.”

“The tourist?” asked Jim. A second ago it had seemed to him impossible that the fog could thicken about his wits any more. And yet it had.

“Let us say the man with the portmanteau on his trailer,” Hanaud corrected. “You see that he left his starling-point in Dijon thirty-five minutes before you left yours. The whole manoeuvre seems to have been admirably planned. For you met precisely at the arranged spot at eleven-forty. Neither the car nor the cycle had to wait one moment.”

“Manoeuvre! Arranged spot!” Frobisher exclaimed, looking about him in a sort of despair. “Has everyone gone crazy? Why in the world should a man start out with a portmanteau in a sidecar from Dijon at ten twenty-five, run thirty or forty miles into the country by a roundabout road and then return by a bad straight track? There’s no sense in it!”

“No doubt it’s perplexing,” Hanaud agreed.

He nodded to Moreau who went out of the room by a communicating door towards the front of the house. “But I can help you,” Hanaud continued. “At the point where you started after tightening the strap of the tool-box, on the edge of the town, a big country house stands back in a park?”

“Yes,” said Jim.

“That is the house of Madame Le Vay where this fancy-dress ball takes place tonight.”

“Madame Le Vay’s chateau!” Frobisher repeated. “Where——”He began a question and caught it back. But Hanaud completed it for him.

“Yes, where Ann Upcott now is. You started from it at precisely eleven in the morning.” He looked at his watch. “It is not yet quite eleven at night. So she is still there.”

Frobisher started back in his chair. Hanaud’s words were like the blade of silver light cutting through the darkness of the cinema hall and breaking into a sheet of radiance upon the screen. The meaning of the red diagram upon Hanaud’s map, the unsuspected motive of Betty’s expedition this morning, were revealed to him. “It was a rehearsal,” he cried. Hanaud nodded. “A time-rehearsal.”

“Yes, the sort of thing which takes place in theatres, without the principal members of the company,” thought Frobisher. But a moment later he was dissatisfied with that explanation.

“Wait a moment!” he said. “That won’t do, I fancy.”

The motor-cyclist with the side-car had brought his arguments to a standstill. His times were marked upon the map; they were therefore of importance. What had he to do with Ann Upcott’s escape? But he visualized the motor-cyclist and his side-car and his connection with the affair became evident. The big portmanteau gave Frobisher the clue. Ann Upcott would be leaving Madame Le Vay’s house in her ball-dress, just as if she was returning to the Maison Grenelle—and without any luggage at all. She could not arrive in Paris in the morning like that if she were to avoid probably suspicion and certainly remark. The motor-cyclist was to meet her in the Val Terzon, transfer her luggage rapidly to her car, and then return to Dijon by the straight quick road whilst Ann turned off at the end of the valley to Paris. He remembered now that seven minutes had elapsed between the meeting of the cycle and the motor-car and their separation. Seven minutes then were allowed for the transference of the luggage. Another argument flashed into his thoughts. Betty had told him nothing of this plan. It had been presented to him as a mere excursion on a summer day, her first hours of liberty naturally employed. Her silence was all of a piece with the determination of Betty and Ann Upcott to keep him altogether out of the conspiracy. Every detail fitted like the blocks in a picture puzzle. Yes, there had been a time-rehearsal. And Hanaud knew all about it!

That was the disturbing certainty which first overwhelmed Frobisher when he had got the better of his surprise at the scheme itself. Hanaud knew! and Betty had so set her heart on Ann’s escape.

“Let her go!” he pleaded earnestly. “Let Ann Upcott get away to Paris and to England!” and Hanaud leaned back in his chair with a little gasp. The queerest smile broke over his face. “I see,” he said.

“Oh, I know,” Frobisher exclaimed, hotly appealing. “You are of the Surete and I am a lawyer, an officer of the High Court in my country, and I have no right to make such a petition. But I do without a scruple. You can’t get a conviction against Ann Upcott. You haven’t a chance of it. But you can throw such a net of suspicion about her that she’ll never get out of it. You can ruin her—yes—but that’s all you can do.”

“You speak very eagerly, my friend,” Hanaud interposed.

Jim could not explain that it was Betty’s anxiety to save her friend which inspired his plea. He fell back upon the scandal which such a trial would cause.

“There has been enough publicity already owing to Boris Waberski,” he continued. “Surely Miss Harlowe has had distress enough. Why must she stand in the witness-box and give evidence against her friend in a trial which can have no result? That’s what I want you to realize, Monsieur Hanaud. I have had some experience of criminal trials”—O shade of Mr. Haslitt! Why was that punctilious man not there in the flesh to wipe out with an indignant word the slur upon the firm of Frobisher & Haslitt?—“And I assure you that no jury could convict upon such evidence. Why, even the pearl necklace has not been traced—and it never will be. You can take that from me, Monsieur Hanaud! It never will be!”

Hanaud opened a drawer in the table and took out one of those little cedar-wood boxes made to hold a hundred cigarettes, which the better class of manufacturers use in England for their wares. He pushed this across the table towards Jim. Something which was more substantial than cigarettes rattled inside of it. Jim seized upon it in a panic. He had not a doubt that Betty would far sooner lose her necklace altogether than that her friend Ann Upcott should be destroyed by it. He opened the lid of the box. It was filled with cotton-wool. From the cotton-wool he took a string of pearls perfectly graded in size, and gleaming softly with a pink lustre which, even to his untutored eyes, was indescribably lovely.

“It would have been more correct if I had found them in a match-box,” said Hanaud. “But I shall point out to Monsieur Bex that after all matches and cigarettes are akin.”

Jim was still staring at the necklace in utter disappointment when Moreau knocked upon the other side of the communicating door. Hanaud looked again at his watch.

“Yes, it is eleven o’clock. We must go. The car has started from the house of Madame Le Vay.”

He rose from his chair, buried the necklace again within the layers of cotton-wool, and locked it up once more in the drawer. The room had faded away from Jim Frobisher’s eyes. He was looking at a big, brilliantly illuminated house, and a girl who slipped from a window and, wrapping a dark cloak about her glistening dress, ran down the dark avenue in her dancing slippers to where a car waited hidden under trees.

“The car may not have started,” Jim said with sudden hopefulness. “There may have been an accident to it. The chauffeur may be late. Oh, a hundred things may have happened!”

“With a scheme so carefully devised, so meticulously rehearsed? No, my friend.”

Hanaud took an automatic pistol from a cabinet against the wall and placed it in his pocket.

“You are going to leave that necklace just like that in a table drawer?” Jim asked. “We ought to take it first to the Prefecture.”

“This room is not unwatched,” replied Hanaud. “It will be safe.”

Jim hopefully tried another line of argument. “We shall be too late now to intercept Ann Upcott at the branch road,” he argued. “It is past eleven, as you say—well past eleven. And thirty-five minutes on a motor-cycle in the daytime means fifty minutes in a car at night, especially with a bad road to travel.”

“We don’t intend to intercept Ann Upcott at the branch road,” Hanaud returned. He folded up the map and put it aside upon the mantelshelf.

“I take a big risk, you know,” he said softly. “But I must take it! And—no! I can’t be wrong!” But he turned from the mantelshelf with a very anxious and troubled face. Then, as he looked at Jim, a fresh idea came into his mind.

“By the way,” he said. “The façade of Notre Dame?”

Jim nodded. “The bas-relief of The Last Judgment. We went to see it. We thought your way of saying what you believed a little brutal.”

Hanaud remained silent with his eyes upon the floor for a few seconds. Then he said quietly: “I am sorry.” He tacked on a question. “You say ‘we’?”

“Mademoiselle Harlowe and I,” Jim explained.

“Oh, yes—to be sure. I should have thought of that,” and once more his troubled cry broke from him. “It must be that!—No, I can’t be wrong. . . . Anyway, it’s too late to change now.”

A second time Moreau rapped upon the communicating door. Hanaud sprang to alertness.

“That’s it,” he said. “Take your hat and stick, Monsieur Frobisher! Good! You are ready?” and the room was at once plunged into darkness.

Hanaud opened the communicating door, and they passed into the front room—a bedroom looking out upon the big station square. This room was in darkness too. But the shutters were not closed, and there were patches of light upon the walls from the lamps in the square and the Grande Taverne at the corner. The three men could see one another, and to Jim in this dusk the faces of his companions appeared of a ghastly pallor.

“Daunay took his position when I first knocked,” said Moreau. “Patinot has just joined him.”

He pointed across the square to the station buildings. Some cabs were waiting for the Paris train, and in front of them two men dressed like artisans were talking. One of them lit a cigarette from the stump of a cigarette held out to him by his companion. The watchers in the room saw the end of the cigarette glow red.

“The way is clear, Monsieur,” said Moreau. “We can go.” And he turned and went out of the inn to the staircase. Jim started to follow him. Whither they were going Jim had not a notion, not even a conjecture. But he was gravely troubled. All his hopes and Betty’s hopes for the swift and complete suppression of the Waberski affair had seemingly fallen to the ground. He was not reassured when Hanaud’s hand was laid on his arm and detained him.

“You understand, Monsieur Frobisher,” said Hanaud with a quiet authority, his eyes shining very steadily in the darkness, his face glimmering very white, “that now the Law of France takes charge. There must not be a finger raised or a word spoken to hinder officers upon their duty. On the other hand, I make you in return the promise you desire. No one shall be arrested on suspicion. Your own eyes shall bear me out.”

The two men followed Moreau down the stairs into the street.

The House of the Arrow - Contents    |     XXI - The Secret House

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