The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow, by Anna Katherine Green

xiii

“Write Me His Name”

Refreshed by a good night’s rest and quite ready to take up his task again, Mr. Gryce sat at the same table in the early morning, awaiting the expected message from Sweetwater. Meanwhile he studied, with a fuller attention than he had been able to give it the evening before, the memorandum which this young fellow had handed him of his day’s work. A portion of this may be interesting to the reader. Against the list of people registered on his chart as present in the museum at the moment of tragedy, he had inscribed such details concerning them as he could gather in the short time allotted him.

I— Ephraim Short. A sturdy New Englander visiting New York for the first time. Has a big story to take back. Don’t care much for broken marbles and pictures so dingy you cannot tell what you are looking at; but the sight of a lot of folks standing up like scarecrows in a field, here and there all over a great building, because something had happened to somebody, will make a story the children will listen to for years.

Address taken, and account of himself verified by telegraph.

II— Mrs. Lynch. Widow, with a small house in Jersey and money to support it. No children. Interested in church work. Honest and of reliable character. Only fault a physical one — extreme nervousness.

III— Mr. Carleton Roberts, director; active in his work, member of the Union League and an aspirant for the high office of U. S. Senator. Lives in bachelor apartment, 67 W. —— Street. A universally respected man of unquestioned integrity and decided importance. Close friend of Curator Jewett.

IV— Eben Clarke, door-man. Been long in the employ of museum. Considered entirely trustworthy. Home in decent quarter of West 80th Street. Wife and nine children, mostly grown. Never been abroad. Has no foreign correspondence.

V— Emma Sutton, an art enthusiast, gaining her living by copying old masters. Is at museum six days in the week. It was behind her easel Travis found a hiding-place in Room H.

VI— Mrs. Alice Lee, widowed sister of Edward Cronk Tailor, —— Sixth Ave. Lives with brother. Kindly in disposition, much liked and truthful to a fault. No acquaintance abroad.

VII-VIII— John and Mary Draper, husband and wife, living in East Orange, N. J. Decent, respectable folk with no foreign connections.

IX— Hetty Armstrong, young girl, none too bright but honest to the core. Impossible to connect her with this affair.

X— Charles Simpson, resident of Minneapolis. In town on business, stopping at Hotel St. Denis. Eager to return home, but willing to remain if requested to do so. Hates foreigners; thinks the United States the greatest country on earth.

XI— John Turnbull, college professor; one of the new type, alert, observant and extremely precise. Not apt to make a misstatement.

XII— James Hunter, door-man, a little old for his work, but straight as a string and methodical to a fault. No wife, no child. Bank account more than sufficient for his small wants.

XIII— Miss Charlotte Hunsicker, one of last season’s débutantes. Given to tennis and all outdoor sports generally. Offhand but stanch. It was she who gave a woman’s care to Mrs. Taylor when the latter fainted in Room B.

XIV— Museum attendant coming up from basement.

XV— Eliza Blake a school-teacher, convalescing after a long illness.

XVI— Officer Rudd.

XVII— Tommy Evans, boy scout. Did not lose his game. Went to the field after lunching on pie at a bakery.

XVIII— Mrs. Nathaniel Lord, wealthy widow, living at the St. Regis.

XIX— Mrs. Ermentrude Taylor. (Nothing to add to what is already known.)

XX— Henry Abbott, Columbia student, good-hearted and reliable, but living in a world of his own to such an extent as to make him the butt of his fellow students.

XXI-XXII— Young couple from Haverstraw. Just married. He a drug-clerk, she a farmer’s daughter. Both regarded in their home town as harmless.

XXIII— James Correy, attendant. Bachelor, living with widowed mother. Fair record on the whole. Reprimanded once, not for negligence, but for some foolish act unbecoming his position. Thorough acquaintance with the museum and its exhibits. A valuable man, well liked, notwithstanding the one lapse alluded to. At home and among his friends regarded as the best fellow going. A little free, perhaps, when unduly excited, but not given to drink and very fond of games. A member once of a club devoted to contests with foils and target-shooting. Always champion. Visits a certain young lady three times a week.

XXIV— Curator Jewett. A widower with two grandchildren — a daughter married to an Englishman and living in Ringold, Hants, and a son, owner of a large ranch in California. Lives, when in city, at Hotel Gorham. Known too well for any description of himself or character to be necessary here. If he has a fault, or rather a weakness, it is his extreme pride in the museum and his own conduct of its many affairs.

As on the evening before, Mr. Gryce lingered longest over one name. He was still brooding anxiously over it when the telephone rang at his elbow and he was called up from Headquarters. Cablegrams had been received from London and Paris in acknowledgment of those sent, and in both these cablegrams promises were made of a full examination into the antecedents of Madame Duclos and her companion, Miss Willetts.

That was all. No further news regarding them from any quarter. Mr. Gryce hung up the receiver with a sigh.

“It is likely to be a long road full of unexpected turns and perilously near the precipice’s edge,” he muttered in weary comment to himself. “Nothing to start from but ——”

Here Sweetwater walked in.

Mr. Gryce showed surprise. He had not expected to see the young man himself. Perhaps he was not quite ready to, for he seemed to shrink, for one brief instant, as from an unwelcome presence.

But the cheer which always entered with Sweetwater was contagious, and the old detective smiled as the newcomer approached, saying significantly:

“I had those dreams you spoke of last night, Mr. Gryce, and found them too weighty for the telephone.”

“I see, I see! Sit down, Sweetwater, and tell me how they ran. I haven’t as much confidence in my own dreams as I hope to have in yours. Speak up! Mention names, if you want to. No echo follows confidences uttered in this room.”

“I know that; but for the present perhaps it will be best for me to follow your lead, and when I have to speak of a certain person, say X as you do. X, Mr. Gryce, is the man who for reasons we do not yet understand brought up the discarded bow from the cellar and stored it somewhere within reach on the floor above. X is also the man who for the same unknown reason robbed the quiver hanging in the southern gallery of one of its arrows and kept the same on hand or in hiding, till he could mate it with the bow. My dreams showed me this picture:

“A man with a predominating interest in sport, but otherwise active in business, correct in his dealings and respectable in private life, sees and frequently handles weapons of ancient and modern make which rouse his interest and awaken the longing, common to such men, to test his skill in their use. Sometimes it is a sword, which he twirls vigorously in sly corners. Again, it is a bow calling for a yeoman’s strength to pull. He is a man of sense and for a long time goes no further than the play I have just indicated. Perhaps he has no temptation to go further until one unfortunate day he comes upon an idle bow, rotting away in the cellar.”

Here Mr. Gryce looked sharply up — a proof of awakened interest which Sweetwater did not heed. Possibly he was not expected to. At all events he continued rapidly:

“It was a fine, strong bow, a typical one from the plains. He took it up — examined it closely — noted a slight defect in it somewhere — and put it back. But he did not forget it. Before many days had passed, he goes down cellar again and brings it up and stands it on end in — where do you think, sir? — in the closet of the Curator’s office!”

“How did you learn that?”

“From the woman who comes every day to wipe up the floors. I happened to think she might have something worth while to tell us, so I hunted her up ——”

“Go on, boy. Another long mark in your favor.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m relating a dream, you know. He stands it on end then in this closet into which nobody is supposed to go but the Curator and the scrubwoman, and there he leaves it, possibly as yet with no definite intention. How long it stood there I cannot say. It was well hidden, it seems, by something or other hanging over it. Nor am I altogether sure that it might not be standing there yet if the impulse swaying X had not been strengthened by seeing daily over his head a quiver full of arrows admirably fitted for this bow. Time has no place in dreams, or I might be able to state the day and the hour when he stood looking at the ring of keys lying on the Curator’s desk, and struck with what it might do for him, singled out one of the keys which he placed in the keyhole of a door opening upon a certain little iron staircase. He was alone, but he stopped to listen before turning that key. I can see him, can’t you? His air is a guilty one; but it is the guilt of folly, not of premeditated crime. He wants a try at that bow and recognizes his weakness and laughs.

“But his longing holds, and running up the little staircase to a second door, he unlocks this also and after another moment of hesitation pulls it open. He has brought the bow with him, but he does not take it past the drapery hanging straight down before his eyes. He simply drops it in the doorway and leaves it there within easy reach from the gallery if ever his impulse should be strong enough to lead him to make an attempt at striking a feather from the Indian headdress on the other side of the court. You think him mad. So do I, but dreams are filled with that kind of madness; and when I see him shut the door upon this bow, and steal back without relocking it or the one below, I have no other excuse than this to give in answer to your criticisms.”

“I do not criticise; I listen, Sweetwater.”

“You will criticise now. As Bunyan says in his ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’: ‘I dreamed again!’ This time I saw the museum proper. It was filled with visitors. The morning of May twenty-second was a busy one, I am told, and a whole lot of people, singly and in groups, were continually passing up and down the marble steps and along the two galleries. Partaking of the feelings of the one whose odd impulses I am endeavoring to describe, I was very uneasy and very restless until these crowds had thinned and most of the guests vanished from the building. The hands of the clock were stealing toward twelve — the hour of greatest quiet and fewest visitors. As it reached the quarter mark, I saw what I was looking for, the man X reaching for one of those arrows hanging in the southern gallery, and slipping it inside his coat. — Did you speak, sir?”

No, Mr. Gryce had not spoken; and Sweetwater, after an interval of uncertainty, went quietly on:

“As I saw both of his hands quite free the next minute, I judge that something had been attached to the lining of that coat to hold the arrow by its feathered head. But this is a deduction rather than a fact.”

He stopped abruptly. An exclamation — one of Mr. Gryce’s very own — had left that gentleman’s lips, and Sweetwater felt that he must pause if only for an instant, to enjoy his small triumph. But the delay was short.

“Go on,” said Mr. Gryce; and Sweetwater obeyed, but in lowered tones as though the vision he was describing was actually before his eyes.

“Next, I see a sweep of tapestry, and an eager, peering figure passing slowly across it. It is that of the love-lorn Travis watching his inamorata tripping up the marble staircase and turning at its top in the direction of the opposite gallery. His is a timid soul, and anxious as he is to watch her, he is not at all anxious to be detected in the act of doing so. So he slips behind the huge pedestal towering near him, thus causing the whole gallery to appear empty to the eyes of X, now entering it at the other end. This latter has come there with but one idea in his head — to shoot an arrow across the court at the mark I have mentioned. It may have been on a dare — sometimes I think it was; but shoot it he means to, before a fresh crowd collects.

“He already has, as you will remember, the arrow hidden somewhere about his person, and it is only a few steps to the edge of the tapestry behind which he has secreted the bow. If he takes a look opposite, it is at the moment when both Mrs. Taylor and Miss Willetts are screened from his view by one of the partitions separating the various sections. For unless he felt the way to be free for his arrow, he would never have proceeded to slip behind his chosen pedestal, secure the bow, pause to string it, then crouch for his aim in such apparent confidence. For after he has left the open gallery and limited his outlook to what is visible beyond the loophole through which he intends to shoot, he can see — as we know from Mr. La Flèche — little more than the spot where the cap hangs and the one narrow line between. Unhappily, it was across this line the young girl leaped just as the arrow left the bow. Don’t you see it, sir? I do; and I see what follows, too.”

“The escape of X?”

“Yes. Inadvertently, as you see, he has committed a horrible crime; he can never recall it. Whatever his remorse or shame, nothing will ever restore the victim of his folly to life, while he himself has many days before him — days which would be ruined if his part in this tragedy were known. Shall he confess to it, then, or shall he fly (the way is so easy), and leave it to fate to play his game — fate, whose well-known kindness to fools would surely favor him? It does not take long for such thoughts to pass through a man’s head, and before the dying cry of his innocent victim had ceased to echo through those galleries, he is behind the tapestry and on his way toward the court. Beyond that, my dream does not go. How about yours, sir?”

“My dream was of a crime, not of an accident. No man could be such a fool as you have made out this X of yours to be. Only an extraordinary purpose or some imperious necessity could drive a man to shoot an arrow across an open court where people were passing hither and yon, even if he didn’t see anyone in the gallery.”

“By which you mean ——”

“That he had already marked the approach of his victim and was ready with his weapon.”

“You are undoubtedly right, and I only wish to say this: that the purpose in my relation was merely to show the method and manner of this shooting, leaving you to put on the emphasis of crime if you saw fit.”

The gravity with which Mr. Gryce received this suggestion had the effect of slightly embarrassing Sweetwater. Yet he presently ventured to add after a moment of respectful waiting:

“Did you know that after I woke from my dream I had a moment’s doubt as to its accuracy on one point? The bow was undoubtedly flung behind the curtain, but the man ——”

He paused abruptly. A morsel of clean white paper had just been pushed across the table under his eyes, and a peremptory voice was saying:

“Write me his name. I will do the same for you.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:14