The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow, by Anna Katherine Green

xviii

Mrs. Davis’ Strange Lodger

“If you will look carefully at this chart, and note where the various persons then in the museum were standing at the moment Correy shouted his alarm, you will see that of all upon whom suspicion can with any probability be attached there is but one who could have fulfilled the conditions of escape as just explained to you.”

Stretching forth an impressive finger, Mr. Gryce pointed to a certain number on the chart outspread between him and the Chief Inspector.

He looked — saw the number “3” and glanced anxiously down at the name it prefigured.

“Roberts — the director! Impossible! Not to be considered for a moment. I’m afraid you’re getting old, Gryce.” And he looked about to be sure that the door was quite shut.

Mr. Gryce smiled, a little drearily perhaps, as he acknowledged this self-evident fact.

“You are right, Chief: I am getting old — but not so old as to venture upon so shocking an insinuation against a man of Mr. Roberts’ repute and seeming honor, if I had not some very substantial proofs to offer in its support.”

“No doubt, no doubt; but it won’t do. I tell you, Gryce, it won’t do. There cannot be any such far-fetched and ridiculous explanation to the crime you talk about. Why, he’s next to being the Republican nominee for Senator. An attack upon him, especially of this monstrous character, would be looked upon as a clear case of political persecution. And such it would be, and nothing less; and it would be all to no purpose, I am sure. I hope you are alone in these conclusions — that you have not seen fit to share your ideas on this subject with any of the boys?”

“Only with Sweetwater, who did some of the work for me.”

“And Joyce? How about him?”

“He had the same opportunities as myself, but we have not reached the point of mentioning names. I thought it best to consult with you first.”

“Good! Then we’ll drop it.”

It was decisively said, but Gryce gave no signs of yielding.

“I’m afraid that’s impossible,” said he. Then with the dignity of long experience, he added with quiet impressiveness:

“I have, as you know, faced crime these many years in all its aspects. I have tracked the ignorant, almost imbecile, murderer of the slums, and laid my hand in arrest on the shoulder of so-called gentlemen hiding their criminal instincts under a show of culture and sometimes of wide education. Human nature is not so very different in high and low; and what may lead an irresponsible dago into unsheathing his knife against his fellow may work a like effect upon his high-bred brother if circumstances lend their aid to make discovery appear impossible.

“Mr. Roberts is the friend of many a good man who would swear to his integrity with a clear conscience. I would have sworn to it myself, a month ago, had I heard it questioned in the slightest manner; and I may live to swear to it again, notwithstanding the doubts which have been raised in my mind by certain strange discoveries which link him to this unhappy affair by what we are pleased to call circumstantial evidence. For, as I am obliged to acknowledge, the one great thing we rely upon, in accusations of this kind, is so far lacking in his case: I mean, the motive.

“I know of none — can, in fact, conceive of none — which would cause a gentleman of even life and ambitious projects to turn a deadly weapon upon an innocent child with whom he is not, so far as we can discover, even acquainted. Dementia only can account for such a freak, and to dementia we must ascribe this crime, if it is necessary for us to find cause before proceeding to lay our evidence before the District Attorney. All I propose to do at present is to show you my reasons for thinking that the arrow which slew Angeline Willetts — or, as we have been assured by unimpeachable authority, Angeline Duclos masquerading under the name of Angeline Willetts — was set to bow and loosed across the court by the gentleman we have just mentioned.”

Here Mr. Gryce stopped for a look of encouragement from the severely silent man he was endeavoring to impress. But he did not get it. With a full sense of his years weighing upon him as never before, he sighed, but continued with little change of tone:

“In the first day or two of keen surprise following an event of so many complicated mysteries, I drew up in my own mind a list of questions which I felt should be properly answered before I would consider it my duty to submit to you a report to the disadvantage of any one suspect. This was Question One:

“‘Whose was the hand to bring up into the museum gallery the bow recognized by Correy as the one which had been lying by for an indefinite length of time in the cellar?’

“Not till yesterday did I get any really definite answer to this. Correy would not talk; nor would the Curator; and I dared not press either of them beyond a certain point, for equally with yourself, I felt it most undesirable to allow anyone to suspect the nature of my theory or whom it especially involved.

“The Curator had nothing to hide on this or any other point connected with the tragedy. But it was different with Correy. He had some very strong ideas about that visit to the cellar — only he would not acknowledge them. So yesterday, after the satisfactory settlement of another puzzling question, I made up my mind to trap him — which I did after this manner. He has, as most men have, in fact, a great love for the Curator. In discussing with him the mysterious fetching up of the bow and its subsequent concealment in the Curator’s office, I remarked, with a smile I did not mean to have him take as real, that only the Curator himself would do such a thing and then forget it; that it must have been his shadow he saw; and I begged him, in a way half jocose, half earnest, to say so and have done with it.

“It worked, sir. He flushed like a man who had been struck; then he grew white with indignation and blurted forth that it was no more his shadow than it was Mr. Roberts’— that indeed it was much more like Mr. Roberts’ than the Curator’s. At which I simply remarked: ‘You think so, Correy?’ To which he replied: ‘I do not think anything. But I know that Curator Jewett never brought up that bow from the cellar, or he would have said so the minute he saw it. There’s no better man in the world than he.’ ‘Nor than Mr. Roberts either,’ I put in, and left him comforted if not quite reassured.

“So much for Question One —

“Number Two is of a similar nature. ‘Was the transference of the arrow from one gallery to the other due to the same person who brought up the bow?’ Now, in answer to that, I have a curious thing to show you.” And lifting into view a bundle of goodly size, wrapped in heavy brown paper, he opened it up and disclosed a gentleman’s coat. Spreading this out between them lining side out, and pointing out two marks an inch or so apart showing the remains of stitches for which there seemed to have been no practical use, he took from his own vest-pocket what looked like a bit of narrow black tape. This he laid down on the upturned lining in the space bounded by the two lines of marks I have mentioned, and drawing the Chief’s attention to it, observed in quiet explanation:

“The one fits the other — stitch for stitch. Look closely at them both, I beg, and tell me if in your judgment it is not evident that this strap or loop, or whatever we may call it, has been cut away from this coat to which it had been previously sewed — and by no woman either.”

Anyone could see that this had been so. There could be but one reply:

“This coat I bought from an old man to whom it had been given by Mr. Roberts’ housekeeper on their arrival at his new home on Long Island. The strip was picked up at the museum in the room where Mrs. Taylor spent an hour or so immediately upon leaving the scene of crime. With her at the time was the young lady who had kindly offered to look after her and two or three men directly associated with the museum, of whom Mr. Roberts was one. These and these only. Now, this strap or let us say loop, since we are beginning to see for what purpose it was used, was not on the floor previous to the entrance of these few persons into this room — or, indeed, for some little time afterward. Otherwise this young lady, who was the one to open my eyes to this clue, surely would have seen it in the half-hour she stood at Mrs. Taylor’s side with no one to talk to and quite free to look about her. But it was there after that lady had revived from her fainting-fit — dropped, as you see — cut from its owner’s coat and dropped! Chief, let me ask why this should have been done in a time of such suspense if it had had nothing to do with the crime then occupying everybody’s attention — a good coat too, almost new, as you will observe?”

The Chief, possibly with a shade less of irony in his manner, answered this direct question with one equally direct:

“And what connection have you succeeded in establishing between this abominable crime and the coat with or without a loop worn by the museum’s leading director? One as straight and indisputable, no doubt, as that you have just attempted to make between this same gentleman and the museum bow,” he added with biting incredulity.

“Yes,” returned the other in calm disregard of the sarcasm, “straighter and more indisputable, if anything. We are asking, as you will remember, how an arrow could have been carried from the southern to the northern gallery without attracting anyone’s attention. I will show you how.”

With a rap on the table which brought Sweetwater into the room, he proceeded to pin again into its old place on the lining of Mr. Roberts’ coat the so-called tag. Then, taking the arrow which Sweetwater proceeded to hand him, he slipped it into the loop thus made and showed how securely it could be held there by its feather end.

“A man of Mr. Roberts’ upright carriage might, with his coat well buttoned up, walk the length of Broadway without disclosing the presence of this stick,” remarked Mr. Gryce as, at his look, Sweetwater doffed his own coat and put on the one thus discreetly weighted.

The Chief stared, paling slightly as he noted the result. Mr. Gryce, who never overemphasised his effects, motioned Sweetwater to leave and proceeded to the next question.

“Number Three,” he now observed, “should have come first, as it has already been answered. It asks if it is possible to hit the mark in Section II of the museum’s gallery, from behind the pedestal in Section VIII. From the pedestal nearest the front, no; but from the one further back — upon which, by the way, Stevens found the print of a gloved finger —yes.

“Who wore gloves that day — kid gloves, mind you, for the mark of the stitching is exact, as you can see in this print of the same made by Stevens? All the ladies, except a young copyist who was leaving in a hurry and had not stopped to put hers on. But of the men, only one — Mr. Roberts, the careful dresser, who was never known to enter the street without this last touch to his toilet. How do I know this? Look at the chart, Chief — this one which shows the court and the persons in it at the precise minute of first alarm. You see how near the exit Mr. Roberts was, and who was closest to him. I had a little talk — the most guarded one imaginable — with this lady, who was the very one of whom I have just said that she had omitted to put on her gloves; and she gave me the fact I have just passed on to you. She noted Mr. Roberts’ hands, because they shamed hers, and she was just stopping to pull her gloves from her coat-pocket when Correy’s voice rang out and everything else was forgotten.

“Corroborative, only corroborative, sir? I am quite aware of that. But what I have now to add may give it weight. The stringing of a bow is no easy task for an amateur; nor is the discharge of an arrow, under such dangerous circumstances as marked the delivery of the one we are discussing, one which would be lightly attempted by a person altogether ignorant of archery. However strong the evidence might be against a man who was not an utter fool, I would never have presumed to lay it out before you if I had not verified the fact that the director, whatever his life now, was once greatly addicted to sports, and thoroughly acquainted with the management of a bow and arrow. It has taken time. Many cablegrams were necessary, but I have at last received this copy of a report made sixteen years ago by a club in Lucerne, Switzerland, in which mention is made of a prize given to one Carleton Roberts, an American, for twelve piercings of the bull’s -eye in as many shots, in an archery-contest which included all nationalities.

“Nor is that all. In a study of himself — his home, his life, his secret interests — we come upon things which call for closer inspection. For instance, not a day has passed since that poor child has been in the morgue that he has not been one on the line to see her. He dreams of her, he says; he cannot get her face out of his mind — you notice that he has been growing gray.

“But I will stop here. I do not wonder that you look upon all this as the ravings of a man on the verge of senility. If I were in your place, I should undoubtedly do the same. But ungracious as the task has proved, I owed it to myself to rid my mind of its secret burden. It is for you to say whether, all things considered, I am to drop the matter here or proceed blindly in search of the motive lying back of every premeditated crime. I can imagine none in this case, as I have frankly stated, save the very weak and improbable one already advanced by young Sweetwater in connection with another party upon whom he had fixed his eye — that of the irresistible desire of an expert to test his skill with a bow which comes unexpectedly into his hands.”

“That wouldn’t apply to Roberts — not in the least,” affirmed the Chief with the emphasis of strong conviction. “Even if we should allow ourselves to regard these stray bits of circumstantial evidence as in any way conclusive of the extraordinary theory you have advanced, he’s much too able and cautious a man to yield to any such fool temptation as that. But to let that matter pass for the present: why have you paid such close attention to one end of your string, and quite ignored the other? Madame Duclos’ hasty flight and continued absence, in face of circumstances which would lead a natural mother to break through every obstacle put in the way of her return, offers a field of inquiry more promising, it appears to me, than the one upon which you have expended your best energies. You say nothing of her.”

“I have nothing to say. I am glad to leave that particular line of investigation to you, and more than glad if it has proved or is likely to prove fruitful. Have you heard ——”

“Read that.”

He tossed a letter within the detective’s grasp and leaned back while Gryce laboriously perused it.

It was illy written, but well worth the pains he gave to it — as witness:

To the Chief of Police:

Dear Sir:— I am told that there is a reward out for a certain woman by the name of Duclos. I do not know any such person, but there is a woman who has been lodging in my house for the last two weeks who has acted so strangely at odd times that I have become very suspicious of her, and think it right for you to know what she did here one night.

It’s about a fortnight since she came to my house in search of lodgings. Had she been young, I would not have opened my doors to her, decent as she was in her dress and ways; for she was a foreign woman and I don’t like foreigners. But being middle-aged and ready with her money in advance, I not only allowed her to come in but gave her my very best room. This is not saying much, because the elevated road runs by my door, darkening my whole front, besides making an awful clatter. But she did not seem to mind this, and I took little notice of her, till one of the other lodgers — a woman with a busy tongue — began to ask why this strange woman, who was so very dark and plain, went out only at night? Did she sew or write for a living? If not, what did she do with herself all day?

As the last was a question I could easily answer, I said that she spent most of her time in reading the newspapers; and this was true, because she always came in with her arms full of them. But there I stopped, as I never discuss my lodgers. Yet I must acknowledge that my curiosity had been roused by all this talk, and I began to watch the woman, who I soon saw was in what I would call a flustered state of mind, and as unhappy as anyone could be who hadn’t suffered some great bereavement. But still I wasn’t really alarmed, being misled by the name she gave, which was Clery.

Night before last I went to bed early. I am a heavy sleeper, as I need to be with those cars pounding by the house every few minutes. But there are certain noises which wake me, and I found myself all of a sudden sitting up in bed and listening with all my ears. Everything was quiet, even on the elevated road; but when the next train came thundering along, I heard, piercing shrilly through the rumble and roar, that same sharp ping which had wakened me. What was it? It seemed to come from somewhere in the house. But how could that be! I was startled enough, however, to get up and slip on some of my clothes and stand with ears astretch for the next train.

It came and passed, and right in the middle of the noise it made I heard again that quick, sharp sound. This time I was sure it came from somewhere near, and opening my door, I slid out into the hall. All my lodgers were in but one, a young gentleman who has a night-key. And most of the rooms were dark, as I can very well tell from the fact that none of the doors fit as they ought to and there is sure to be a streak of light showing somewhere about them if the gas is burning inside. Everything looked so natural, and the house was so still, that I was going back again when another train swept by and that sound was repeated. This time I was sure it came from somewhere on the lower floor, and mindful of Mrs. Clery’s queer ways, I stole downstairs to her door. She was up — that was plainly enough to be seen. But what was she doing? I was just a little frightened, or I would have knocked on the door and asked.

As I was waiting for the passing by of the next train, my last lodger came in and caught me standing there before Mrs. Clery’s door. I know him pretty well; so I put my finger to my lips and then beckoned him to join me. As the train approached, I seized him by the arm and pointed toward Mrs. Clery’s door. He didn’t know what I meant, of course, but he looked and listened, and when the train had gone by, I drew him down the hall and said, “You heard it!” and then asked him what it was. He answered that it was a pistol-shot, and he wanted to go back to see if any dreadful thing had happened. But I shook my head and told him it was one of five, each one taking place when the roar of the trains going by was at the loudest. Then he said that this woman was practising at a mark, and bade me look out or we should have a house full of anarchists. At that, I loudly declared she should go the first thing in the morning and so got rid of him. But I did not keep my word, and for this reason: When I went to do her room-work as I always do immediately after breakfast, I was all smiles and full of talk till I had taken a good look at the walls for the bullet-holes I expected to see there. But I didn’t find any, and was puzzled enough you may be sure, for those bullets must have gone somewhere and I was quite certain that they had not been fired out of the window. I hardly dared to look at the ceiling, for she was watching me and kept me chatting and wondering till all of a sudden I noticed that one of the sofa-pillows was missing from its place. This set me thinking, and I was about to ask her what she had done with it when my attention was drawn away by seeing among the scraps in the wastebasket I had lifted to carry out the end and corner of what looked like a partly destroyed photograph.

This was something too strange not to rouse any woman’s curiosity, but I was careful not to give it another glance till I was well out of the room. Then, as you may believe, I drew it quickly out, to find that all the middle part was gone — shot to pieces by those tearing bullets. Not a particle of the face was to be seen, and only enough of the neck and shoulders to show that it had been the portrait of a man. I enclose it for you to see; and if you want to talk to the woman, she is still here, though I only keep her in the hope of her being that Madame Duclos for whom money is offered. I will tell you why I think this: Not because of a torn skirt — you see I have been looking over the advertisement printed in the papers — but because she is foreign and dark and has a decidedly drooping eyelid. Then too, she halts a little on one foot, as I noticed when I called her hurriedly to the window to see something. If you want to have a look at her, come after five and before seven; we are both in then.

Yours respectfully,

Caroline Davis.

“No doubt that’s the woman,” commented Gryce. “We are fortunate in hitting her trail at this critical moment.”

He had already glanced at the mutilated photograph lying before him, but now he took it up.

“Very little here,” he remarked as he examined first the face of it and then the back. “But if you will let me take it, I may find that its place is in our incompleted chain.”

“Take it, and if you would like to have a talk with the woman herself ——”

“Yes, Chief; I would like that above all things.”

“Very good. I’m expecting her here any minute, but — Well, what now? What’s up?”

An officer had entered hurriedly after one quick knock.

“Mrs. Davis’ lodger is gone,” said he. “Left without a word to anybody. When they went to her room they found it empty, with a five-dollar bill pinned to the riddled cushion. As nobody saw her go, we are as much at sea as ever.”

A smile, both curious and fine, crossed Mr. Gryce’s lips as he listened to this, and turning earnestly to the Chief, he begged for the job of looking her up.

“I think with the little start we now have that I can find her,” said he. “At all events, I should like to try.”

“And let the other matter rest quiescent meanwhile?”

“If it will.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I hardly know myself, Chief. All is hazy yet, but skies clear, and so do most of our problems. If the two ends of my string should chance to come together ——”

But here a look from his Chief stopped him.

“Let us pray that they won’t. But if they do, we shall not shirk our duty, Gryce.”

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