The Mysterious Mr Quin
‘You mean–supposing Miss Le Couteau were still to sell Ashley Grange and leave–for no reason?’
‘Well, why not? It would have aroused talk, I suppose, there would have been a lot of interest displayed in the value of the contents in–Ah! wait!’
He was silent a minute, then burst out.
‘You are right, there is too much limelight, the limelight on Captain Harwell. And because of that, she has been in shadow. Miss Le Couteau! Everyone asking “Who was Captain Harwell? Where did he come from?” But because she is the injured party, no one makes inquiries about her. Was she really a French Canadian? Were those wonderful heirlooms really handed down to her? You were right when you said just now that we had not wandered far from our subject–only across the Channel. Those so-called heirlooms were stolen from the French châteaux, most of them valuable objets d’art, and in consequence difficult to dispose of. She buys the house–for a mere song, probably. Settles down there and pays a good sum to an irreproachable English woman to chaperone her. Then he comes. The plot is laid beforehand. The marriage, the disappearance and the nine days’ wonder! What more natural than that a broken-hearted woman should want to sell everything that reminds her of her past happiness. The American is a connoisseur, the things are genuine and beautiful, some of them beyond price. He makes an offer, she accepts it. She leaves the neighbourhood, a sad and tragic figure. The great coup has come off. The eye of the public has been deceived by the quickness of the hand and the spectacular nature of the trick.’
Mr Satterthwaite paused, flushed with triumph.
‘But for you, I should never have seen it,’ he said with sudden humility. ‘You have a most curious effect upon me. One says things so often without even seeing what they really mean. You have the knack of showing one. But it is still not quite clear to me. It must have been most difficult for Harwell to disappear as he did. After all, the police all over England were looking for him.’
‘It would have been simplest to remain hidden at the Grange,’ mused Mr Satterthwaite. ‘If it could be managed.’
‘He was, I think, very near the Grange,’ said Mr Quin.
His look of significance was not lost on Mr Satterthwaite.
‘Mathias’ cottage?’ he exclaimed. ‘But the police must have searched it?’