Jim explained that the seals were to be removed from the rooms of the Maison Crenelle, but said nothing at all of the new developments which had begun with the discovery of the book of the arrows.
“I have had communications with Messrs. Frobisher and Haslitt,” the little man exclaimed. “Everything has been as correct as it could possibly be. I am happy to meet a partner of so distinguished a firm. Yes. I will certainly present myself at three with my keys and see the end of this miserable scandal. It has been a disgrace. That young lady so delicious and so correct! And that animal of a Waberski! But we can deal with him. We have laws in France.”
He gave Jim the impression that there were in his opinion no laws anywhere else, and he bowed his visitor into the street.
Jim returned by the Rue des Godrans and the main thoroughfare of the town, the street of Liberty. As he crossed the semicircle of the Place d’Armes in front of the Hotel de Ville, he almost ran into Hanaud smoking a cigar.
“You have lunched already?” he cried.
“An affair of a quarter of an hour,” said Hanaud with a wave of the hand. “And you?”
“Not until two. Miss Harlowe wanted a walk.”
Hanaud smiled. “How I understand that! The first walk after an ordeal! The first walk of a convalescent after an operation! The first walk of a defendant found innocent of a grave charge! It must be worth taking, that walk. But console yourself, my friend, for the postponement of your luncheon. You have met me!” and he struck something of an attitude.
Now Jim had the gravest objection to anything theatrical, especially when displayed in public places, and he answered stiffly, “That is a pleasure, to be sure.”
Hanaud grinned. To make Jim look “proper” was becoming to him an unfailing entertainment. “Now I reward you,” he said, though for what Jim could not imagine. “You shall come with me. At this hour, on the top of old Philippe Ie Eon’s Terrace Tower, we shall have the world to ourselves.”
He led the way into the great courtyard of the Hotel de Ville. Behind the long wing which faced them, a square, solid tower rose a hundred and fifty feet high above the ground. With Frobisher at his heels, Hanaud climbed the three hundred and sixteen steps and emerged upon the roof into the blue and gold of a cloudless May in France.
They looked eastwards, and the beauty of the scene took Frobisher’s breath away. Just in front, the slender apse of Notre Dame, fine as a lady’s ornament, set him wondering how in the world through all these centuries it had endured; and beyond, rich and green and wonderful, stretched the level plain with its shining streams and nestling villages.
Hanaud sat down upon a stone bench and stretched out his arm across the parapet. “Look!” he cried eagerly, proudly. “There is what I brought you here to see. Look!”
Jim looked and saw, and his face lit up. Far away on the horizon’s edge, unearthly in its beauty, hung the great mass of Mont Blanc; white as silver, soft as velvet, and here and there sparkling with gold as though the flame of a fire leaped and sank.
“Oho!” said Hanaud as he watched Jim’s face. “So we have that in common. You perhaps have stood on the top of that mountain?”
“Five times,” Jim answered, with a smile made up of many memories. “I hope to do so again.”
“You are fortunate,” said Hanaud a little enviously. “For me I see him only in the distance. But even so—if I am troubled—it is like sitting silent in the company of a friend.”
Jim Frobisher’s mind strayed back over memories of snow slope and rock ridge. It was a true phrase which Hanaud had used. It expressed one of the many elusive, almost incommunicable emotions which mountains did mean to the people who had “that”—the passion for mountains—in common.
Jim glanced curiously at Hanaud. “You are troubled about this case, then?” he said sympathetically. The distant and exquisite vision of that soaring arc of silver and velvet set in the blue air had brought the two men into at all events a momentary brotherhood.
“Very,” Hanaud returned slowly, without turning his eyes from the horizon, “and for more reasons than one. What do you yourself think of it?”
“I think, Monsieur Hanaud,” Jim said dryly, “that you do not like anyone to ask any questions except yourself.”
Hanaud laughed with an appreciation of the thrust. “Yes, you wished to ask a question of the beautiful Mademoiselle Upcott. Tell me if I have guessed aright the question you meant to ask! It was whether the face she touched in the darkness was the smooth face of a woman or the face of a man.”
“Yes. That was it.”
It was now for Hanaud to glance curiously and quickly at Jim. There could be no doubt of the thought which was passing through his mind: “I must begin to give you a little special attention, my friend.” But he was careful not to put his thoughts into words. “I did not want that question asked,” he said.
“Because it was unnecessary, and unnecessary questions are confusing things which had best be avoided altogether.”
Jim did not believe one word of that explanation. He had too clear a recollection of the swift movement and the look with which Hanaud had checked him. Both had been unmistakably signs of alarm. Hanaud would not have been alarmed at the prospect of a question being asked, merely because the question was superfluous. There was another and, Jim was sure, a very compelling reason in Hanaud’s mind. Only he could not discover it. Besides, was the question superfluous?
“Surely,” Hanaud replied. “Suppose that that young lady’s hand had touched in the darkness the face of a man with its stubble, its tough skin, and the short hair of his head around it, bending down so low over hers, would not that have been the most vivid, terrifying thing to her in all the terrifying incident? Stretching out her hands carelessly above her head, she touches suddenly, unexpectedly, the face of a man? She could not have told her story at all without telling that. It would have been the unforgettable detail, the very heart of her terror. She touched the face of a man!”
Jim recognized that the reasoning was sound, but he was no nearer to the solution of his problem—why Hanaud so whole-heartedly objected to the question being asked. And then Hanaud made a quiet remark which drove it for a long time altogether out of Jim’s speculations.
“Mademoiselle Ann touched the face of a woman in the darkness that night—if that night, in the darkness, she touched a face at all.” Jim was utterly startled.
“You believe that she was lying to us?” he cried. Hanaud shook a protesting hand in the air. “I believe nothing,” he said. “I am looking for a criminal.”
“Ann Upcott!” Jim spoke the name in amazement. “Ann Upcott!” Then he remembered the look of her as she had told her story, her face convulsed with terror, her shaking tones. “Oh, it’s impossible that she was lying. Surely no one could have so mimicked fear?”
Hanaud laughed. “You may take this from me, my friend. All women who are great criminals are also very artful actresses. I never knew one who wasn’t.”
“Ann Upcott!” Jim Frobisher once more exclaimed, but now with a trifle less of amazement. He was growing slowly and gradually accustomed to the idea. Still—that girl with the radiant look of young Spring! Oh, no!
“Ann Upcott was left nothing in Mrs. Harlowe’s will,” he argued. “What could she have to gain by murder?”
“Wait, my friend! Look carefully at her story! Analyse it. You will see—what? That it falls into two parts.” Hanaud ground the stump of his cigar beneath his heel, offered one of his black cigarettes to Jim Frobisher and lighted one for himself. He lit it with a sulphur match which Jim thought would never stop fizzling, would never burst into flame.
“One part when she was alone in her bedroom—a little story of terror and acted very effectively, but after all anyone could invent it. The other part was not so easy to invent. The communicating door open for no reason, the light beyond, the voice that whispered, ‘That will do,’ the sound of the struggle! No, my friend, I don’t believe that was invented. There were too many little details which seemed to have been lived through. The white face of the clock and the hour leaping at her. No! I think all that must stand. But adapt it a little. See! This morning Waberski told us a story of the street of Gambetta and of Jean Cladel.”
“Yes,” said Jim. “And I asked you afterwards whether Waberski might not be telling a true story of himself and attributing it to Mademoiselle Harlowe?”
“Well, then, interpret Ann Upcott’s story in the same way,” continued Hanaud. “Suppose that sometime that day she had unlocked the communicating door! What more easy? Madame Harlowe was up during the day-time. Her room was empty. And that communicating door opened not into Madame’s bedroom, where perhaps it might have been discovered whether it was locked or not, but into a dressing-room.”
“Yes,” Jim agreed.
“Well then, continue! Ann Upcott is left alone after Mademoiselle Harlowe’s departure to Monsieur de Pouillac’s ball. She sends Gaston to bed. The house is all dark and asleep. Suppose then that she is joined by—someone—someone with the arrow poison all ready in the hypodermic needle. That they enter the treasure-room just as Ann Upcott described. That she turns on the light for a second whilst—someone—crosses the treasure-room and opens the door. Suppose that the voice which whispered, ‘That will do now,’ was the voice of Ann Upcott herself and that she whispered it across Madame Harlowe’s body to the third person in that room!”
“The ‘someone’,” exclaimed Jim. “But, who then? Who?”
Hanaud shrugged his shoulders. “Why not Waberski?”
“Waberski?” cried Jim with a new excitement in his voice.
“You asked me what had Ann Upcott to gain by this murder and you answered your own question. Nothing, you said, Monsieur Frobisher, but did your quick answer cover the ground? Waberski at all events expected a fine fat legacy. What if he in return for help proposed to share that fine fat legacy with the exquisite Mademoiselle Ann? Has she no motive now? In the end what do we know of her at all except that she is the paid companion and therefore poor? Mademoiselle Ann!”; and he threw up his hands. “Where does she spring from? How did she come into that house? Was she perhaps Waberski’s friend?”—and a cry from Jim brought Hanaud to a stop.
Jim had thought of Waberski as the possible murderer if murder had been done—a murderer who, disappointed of his legacy, the profits of his murder, had carried on his villainy to blackmail and a false accusation. But he had not associated Ann Upcott with him until those moments on the Terrace Tower. Yet now memories began to crowd upon him. The letter to him, for instance. She had said that Waberski had claimed her support and ridiculed his claim. Might that letter not have been a blind and a rather cunning blind? Above all there was a scene passing vividly through his mind which was very different from the scene spread out before his eyes, a scene of lighted rooms and a crowd about a long green table, and a fair slender girl seated at the table who lost and lost until the whole of her little pile of bank-notes was swept in by the croupier’s rake, and then turned away with a high carriage but a quivering lip.
“Aha!” said Hanaud keenly. “You know something after all of Ann Upcott, my friend. What do you know?”
Jim hesitated. At one moment it did not seem fair to her that he should relate his story. Explained, it might wear so different a complexion. At another moment that it would be fairer to let her explain it. And there was Betty to consider. Yes, above all there was Betty to consider. He was in Dijon on her behalf.
“I will tell you,” he said to Hanaud. “When I saw you in Paris, I told you that I had never seen Ann Upcott in all my life. I believed it. It wasn’t until she danced into the library yesterday morning that I realized I had misled you. I saw Ann Upcott at the trente-et-quarante table at the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo in January of this year. I sat next to her. She was quite alone and losing her money. Nothing would go right for her. She bore herself proudly and well. The only sign I saw of distress was the tightening of her fingers about her little handbag, and a look of defiance thrown at the other players when she rose after her last coup, as though she dared them to pity her. I was on the other hand winning, and I slipped a thousand-franc note oft the table on to the floor, keeping my heel firmly upon it as you can understand. And as the girl turned to move out from the crowd I stopped her. I said in English, for she was obviously of my race, ‘This is yours. You have dropped it on the floor.’ She gave me a smile and a little shake of the head. I think that for the moment she dared not trust her lips to speak, and in a second, of course, she was swallowed up in the crowd. I played for a little while longer. Then I too rose, and as I passed the entrance to the bar on my way to get my coat, this girl rose up from one of the many little tables and spoke to me. She called me by my name. She thanked me very prettily and said that although she had lost that evening she was not really in any trouble. I doubted the truth of what she said. For she had not one ring upon any finger, not the tiniest necklace about her throat, not one ornament upon her dress or in her hair. She turned away from me at once and went back to the little table where she sat down again in the company of a man. The girl, of course, was Ann Upcott, the man Waberski. It was from him no doubt that she had got my name.”
“Did this little episode happen before Ann Upcott became a member of the household?” Hanaud asked.
“Yes,” replied Jim. “I think she joined Mrs. Harlowe and Betty at Monte Carlo. I think that she came with them back to Dijon.”
“No doubt,” said Hanaud. He sat for a little while in silence. Then he said softly, “That does not look so very well for Mademoiselle Ann.” Jim had to admit that it did not. “But consider this, Monsieur Hanaud,” he urged. “If Ann Upcott, which I will not believe, is mixed up in this affair, why should she of her own free will volunteer this story of what she heard upon the night of the 27th and invent that face which bent down over her in the darkness?”
“I have an idea about that,” Hanaud replied. “She told us this story—when? After I had said that we must have the seals broken this afternoon and the rooms thrown open. It is possible that we may come upon something in those rooms which makes it wise for her to divert suspicion upon some other woman in the house. Jeanne Baudin, or even Mademoiselle Harlowe’s maid, Francine Rollard.”
“But not Mademoiselle Betty,” Jim interposed quickly.
“No, no!” Hanaud returned with a wave of his hand. “The clock upon the marquetry cabinet settled that. Mademoiselle Betty is out of the affair. Well, this afternoon we shall see. Meanwhile, my friend, you will be late for your luncheon.”
Hanaud rose from the bench and with a last look at the magical mountain, that outpost of France, they turned towards the city.
Jim Frobisher looked down upon tiny squares green with limes and the steep gaily-patterned roofs of ancient houses. About him the fine tapering spires leapt high like lances from the slates of its many churches. A little to the south and a quarter of a mile away across the roof-tops he saw the long ridge of a big house and the smoke rising from a chimney-stack or two, and behind it the tops of tall trees which rippled and shook the sunlight from their leaves.
“The Maison Grenelle!” he said. There was no answer, not even the slightest movement at his side.
“Isn’t it?” he asked, and he turned. Hanaud had not even heard him. He was gazing also towards the Maison Grenelle with the queerest look upon his face; a look with which Jim was familiar in some sort of association, but which for a moment or two he could not define. It was not an expression of amazement. On the other hand interest was too weak a word. Suddenly Jim Frobisher understood and comprehension brought with it a sense of discomfort. Hanaud’s look, very bright and watchful and more than a little inhuman, was just the look of a good retriever dog when his master brings out a gun.
Jim looked again at the high ridge of the house. The slates were broken at intervals by little gabled windows, but at none of them could he see a figure. From none of them a signal was waved.
“What is it that you are looking at?” asked Jim in perplexity, and then with a touch of impatience, “You see something, I’m sure.”
Hanaud heard his companion at last. His face changed in a moment, lost its rather savage vigilance, and became the face of a buffoon.
“Of course I see something. Always I see something. Am I not Hanaud? Ah, my friend, the responsibility of being Hanaud! Aren’t you fortunate to be without it? Pity me! For the Hanauds must see something everywhere—even when there is nothing to see. Come!”
He bustled out of the sunlight on that high platform into the dark turret of the staircase. The two men descended the steps and came out again into the semicircle of the Place d’Armes.
“Well!” said Hanaud, and then “Yes,” as though he had some little thing to say and was not quite sure whether he would say it. Then he compromised. “You shall take a Vermouth with me before you go to your luncheon,” he said.
“I should be late if I did,” Frobisher replied. Hanaud waved the objection aside with a shake of his outstretched forefinger.
“You have plenty of time, Monsieur. You shall take a Vermouth with me, and you will still reach the Maison Grenelle before Mademoiselle Harlowe. I say that, Hanaud,” he said superbly, and Jim laughed and consented.
“I shall plead your vanity as my excuse when I find her and Ann Upcott half through their meal.”
A cafe stands at the corner of the street of Liberty and the Place d’Armes, with two or three little tables set out on the pavement beneath an awning. They sat down at one of them, and over the Vermouth, Hanaud was once more upon the brink of some recommendation or statement.
“You see——” he began, and then once more ran away. “So you have been five times upon the top of the Mont Bland” he said. “From Chamonix?”
“Once,” Jim replied. “Once from the Col du Geant by the Brenva glacier. Once by the Dome route. Once from the Brouillard glacier. And the last time by the Mont Mandit.”
Hanaud listened with genuine friendliness and said: “You tell me things which are interesting and very new to me,” he said warmly. “I am grateful, Monsieur.”
“On the other hand,” Jim answered dryly, “you, Monsieur, tell me very little. Even what you brought me to this cafe to say, you are going to keep to yourself. But for my part I shall not be so churlish. I am going to tell you what I think.”
“I think we have missed the way.”
Hanaud selected a cigarette from his bundle in its bright blue wrapping.
“You will perhaps think me presumptuous in saying so.”
“Not the least little bit in the world,” Hanaud replied seriously. “We of the Police are liable in searching widely to overlook the truth under our noses. That is our danger. Another angle of view—there is nothing more precious. I am all attention.”
Jim Frobisher drew his chair closer to the round table of iron and leaned his elbows upon it.
“I think there is one question in particular which we must answer if we are to discover whether Mrs. Harlowe was murdered, and if so by whom.”
Hanaud nodded. “I agree,” he said slowly. “But I wonder whether we have the same question in our minds.”
“It is a question which we have neglected. It is this—Who put back the Professor’s treatise on Strophanthus in its place upon the bookshelf in the library, between midday yesterday and this morning?”
Hanaud struck another of his abominable matches, and held it in the shelter of his palm until the flame shone. He lit his cigarette and took a few puffs at it.
“No doubt that question is important,” he admitted, although in rather an off-hand way. “But it is not mine. No. I think there is another more important still. I think if we could know why the door of the treasure-room, which had been locked since Simon Harlowe’s death, was unlocked on the night of the 27th of April, we should be very near to the whole truth of this dark affair. But,” and he flung out his hands, “that baffles me.”
Jim left him sitting at the table and staring moodily upon the pavement, as if he hoped to read the answer there.