ЭЛЕКТРОННАЯ БИБЛИОТЕКА КОАПП
Сборники Художественной, Технической, Справочной, Английской, Нормативной, Исторической, и др. литературы.



Arthur Conan Doyle


Contest:

A Case of Identity
A Scandal in Bohemia
HIS LAST BOW
Silver Blaze
THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER
THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET
THE ADVENTURE OF THE COPPER BEECHES
THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN
THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ENGINEER'S THUMB
THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER
THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER
THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE STUDENTS
THE CASE BOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
The Aduenture of the Speckled Band
The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
The Five Orange Pips
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Red-headed League
The Sign of the Four
Through the Magic Door




                       The Five Orange Pips

When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes
cases between the years '82 and '90, I am faced by so many which
present strange and interesting features that it is no easy matter
to know which to choose and which to leave.  Some, however, have
already gained publicity through the papers, and others have not
offered a field for those peculiar qualities which my friend
possessed in so high a degree, and which it is the object of these
papers to illustrate.  Some, too, have baffled his analytical
skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending,
while others have been but partially cleared up, and have their
explanations founded rather upon conjecture and surmise than on
that absolute logical proof which was so dear to him.  There is,
however, one of these last which was so remarkable in its details
and so startling in its results that I am tempted to give some
account of it in spite of the fact that there are points in
connection with it which never have been, and probably never will
be, entirely cleared up.
The year '87 furnished us with a long series of cases of
greater or less interest, of which I retain the records.  Among my
headings under this one twelve months I find an account of the
adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant
Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a
furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the
British bark Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the
Grice Patersons in the island of Uffa, and finally of the
Camberwell poisoning case.  In the latter, as may be remembered,
Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the dead man's watch, to
prove that it had been wound up two hours before, and that
therefore the deceased had gone to bed within that timeДДa
deduction which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the
case.  All these I may sketch out at some future date, but none of
them present such singular features as the strange train of
circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial
gales had set in with exceptional violence.  All day the wind had
screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even
here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to
raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life, and to
recognize the presence of those great elemental forces which
shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like
untamed beasts in a cage.  As evening drew in, the storm grew
higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in
the chimney.  Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the
fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the
other was deep in one of Clark Russell's fine sea-stories until
the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text,
and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of
the sea waves.  My wife was on a visit to her mother's, and for a
few days I was a dweller once more in my old quarters at Baker
Street.
"Why," said I, glancing up at my companion, "that was surely
the bell.  Who could come to-night?  Some friend of yours,
perhaps?"
"Except yourself I have none," he answered.  "I do not
encourage visitors."
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case.  Nothing less would bring a man
out on such a day and at such an hour.  But I take it that it is
more likely to be some crony of the landlady's."
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture, however, for
there came a step in the passage and a tapping at the door.  He
stretched out his long arm to turn the lamp away from himself and
towards the vacant chair upon which a newcomer must sit.  "Come
in!" said he.
The man who entered was young, some two-and-twenty at the
outside, well-groomed and trimly clad, with something of
refinement and delicacy in his bearing.  The streaming umbrella
which he held in his hand, and his long shining waterproof told of
the fierce weather through which he had come.  He looked about him
anxiously in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that his face
was pale and his eyes heavy, like those of a man who is weighed
down with some great anxiety.
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his golden pince-nez
to his eyes.  "I trust that I am not intruding.  I fear that I
have brought some traces of the storm and rain into your snug
chamber."
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said Holmes.  "They may rest
here on the hook and will be dry presently.  You have come up from
the south-west, I see."
"Yes, from Horsham."
"That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon your toe caps is
quite distinctive."
"I have come for advice."
"That is easily got."
"And help."
"That is not always so easy."
"I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes.  I heard from Major
Prendergast how you saved him in the Tankerville Club scandal."
"Ah, of course.  He was wrongfully accused of cheating at
cards."
"He said that you could solve anything."
"He said too much."
"That you are never beaten."
"I have been beaten four timesДДthree times by men, and once
by a woman."
"But what is that compared with the number of your successes?"
"It is true that I have been generally successful."
"Then you may be so with me."
"I beg that you will draw your chair up to the fire and favour
me with some details as to your case."
"It is no ordinary one."
"None of those which come to me are.  I am the last court of
appeal."
"And yet I question, sir, whether, in all your experience, you
have ever listened to a more mysterious and inexplicable chain of
events than those which have happened in my own family."
"You fill me with interest," said Holmes.  "Pray give us the
essential facts from the commencement, and I can afterwards
question you as to those details which seem to me to be most
important."
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed his wet feet out
towards the blaze.
"My name," said he, "is John Openshaw, but my own affairs
have, as far as I can understand, little to do with this awful
business.  It is a hereditary matter; so in order to give you an
idea of the facts, I must go back to the commencement of the
affair.
"You must know that my grandfather had two sonsДДmy uncle
Elias and my father Joseph.  My father had a small factory at
Coventry, which he enlarged at the time of the invention of
bicycling.  He was a patentee of the Openshaw unbreakable tire,
and his business met with such success that he was able to sell it
and to retire upon a handsome competence.
"My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he was a young man
and became a planter in Florida, where he was reported to have
done very well.  At the time of the war he fought in Jackson's
army, and afterwards under Hood, where he rose to be a colonel.
When Lee laid down his arms my uncle returned to his plantation,
where he remained for three or four years.  About 1869 or 1870 he
came back to Europe and took a small estate in Sussex, near
Horsham.  He had made a very considerable fortune in the States,
and his reason for leaving them was his aversion to the negroes,
and his dislike of the Republican policy in extending the
franchise to them.  He was a singular man, fierce and
quick-tempered, very foul-mouthed when he was angry, and of a most
retiring disposition.  During all the years that he lived at
Horsham, I doubt if ever he set foot in the town.  He had a garden
and two or three fields round his house, and there he would take
his exercise, though very often for weeks on end he would never
leave his room.  He drank a great deal of brandy and smoked very
heavily, but he would see no society and did not want any friends,
not even his own brother.
"He didn't mind me; in fact, he took a fancy to me, for at the
time when he saw me first I was a youngster of twelve or so.  This
would be in the year 1878, after he had been eight or nine years
in England.  He begged my father to let me live with him, and he
was very kind to me in his way.  When he was sober he used to be
fond of playing backgammon and draughts with me, and he would make
me his representative both with the servants and with the
tradespeople, so that by the time that I was sixteen I was quite
master of the house.  I kept all the keys and could go where I
liked and do what I liked, so long as I did not disturb him in his
privacy.  There was one singular exception, however, for he had a
single room, a lumber-room up among the attics, which was
invariably locked, and which he would never permit either me or
anyone else to enter.  With a boy's curiosity I have peeped
through the keyhole, but I was never able to see more than such a
collection of old trunks and bundles as would be expected in such
a room.
"One dayДДit was in March, 1883ДДa letter with a foreign stamp
lay upon the table in front of the colonel's plate.  It was not a
common thing for him to receive letters, for his bills were all
paid in ready money, and he had no friends of any sort.  `From
India!' said he as he took it up, `Pondicherry postmark!  What can
this be?'  Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five little dried
orange pips, which pattered down upon his plate.  I began to laugh
at this, but the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight of his
face.  His lip had fallen, his eyes were protruding, his skin the
colour of putty, and he glared at the envelope which he still held
in his trembling hand, `K. K. K.!' he shrieked, and then, `My God,
my God, my sins have overtaken me!'
"`What is it, uncle?' I cried.
"`Death,' said he, and rising from the table he retired to his
room, leaving me palpitating with horror.  I took up the envelope
and saw scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just above the
gum, the letter K three times repeated.  There was nothing else
save the five dried pips.  What could be the reason of his
overpowering terror?  I left the breakfast-table, and as I
ascended the stair I met him coming down with an old rusty key,
which must have belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a small
brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
"`They may do what they like, but I'll checkmate them still,'
said he with an oath.  `Tell Mary that I shall want a fire in my
room to-day, and send down to Fordham, the Horsham lawyer.'
"I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer arrived I was asked
to step up to the room.  The fire was burning brightly, and in the
grate there was a mass of black, fluffy ashes, as of burned paper,
while the brass box stood open and empty beside it.  As I glanced
at the box I noticed, with a start, that upon the lid was printed
the treble K which I had read in the morning upon the envelope.
"`I wish you, John,' said my uncle, `to witness my will.  I
leave my estate, with all its advantages and all its
disadvantages, to my brother, your father, whence it will, no
doubt, descend to you.  If you can enjoy it in peace, well and
good!  If you find you cannot, take my advice, my boy, and leave
it to your deadliest enemy.  I am sorry to give you such a
two-edged thing, but I can't say what turn things are going to
take.  Kindly sign the paper where Mr. Fordham shows you.'
"I signed the paper as directed, and the lawyer took it away
with him.  The singular incident made, as you may think, the
deepest impression upon me, and I pondered over it and turned it
every way in my mind without being able to make anything of it.
Yet I could not shake off the vague feeling of dread which it left
behind, though the sensation grew less keen as the weeks passed,
and nothing happened to disturb the usual routine of our lives.  I
could see a change in my uncle, however.  He drank more than ever,
and he was less inclined for any sort of society.  Most of his
time he would spend in his room, with the door locked upon the
inside, but sometimes he would emerge in a sort of drunken frenzy
and would burst out of the house and tear about the garden with a
revolver in his hand, screaming out that he was afraid of no man,
and that he was not to be cooped up, like a sheep in a pen, by man
or devil.  When these hot fits were over, however, he would rush
tumultuously in at the door and lock and bar it behind him, like a
man who can brazen it out no longer against the terror which lies
at the roots of his soul.  At such times I have seen his face,
even on a cold day, glisten with moisture, as though it were new
raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr. Holmes, and not to
abuse your patience, there came a night when he made one of those
drunken sallies from which he never came back.  We found him, when
we went to search for him, face downward in a little green-scummed
pool, which lay at the foot of the garden.  There was no sign of
any violence, and the water was but two feet deep, so that the
jury, having regard to his known eccentricity, brought in a
verdict of `suicide.'  But I, who knew how he winced from the very
thought of death, had much ado to persuade myself that he had gone
out of his way to meet it.  The matter passed, however, and my
father entered into possession of the estate, and of some њ14,000,
which lay to his credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your statement is, I
foresee, one of the most remarkable to which I have ever listened.
Let me have the date of the reception by your uncle of the letter,
and the date of his supposed suicide."
"The letter arrived on March 10, 1883.  His death was seven
weeks later, upon the night of May 2d."
"Thank you.  Pray proceed."
"When my father took over the Horsham property, he, at my
request, made a careful examination of the attic, which had been
always locked up.  We found the brass box there, although its
contents had been destroyed.  On the inside of the cover was a
paper label, with the initials of K. K. K. repeated upon it, and
`Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a register' written beneath.
These, we presume, indicated the nature of the papers which had
been destroyed by Colonel Openshaw.  For the rest, there was
nothing of much importance in the attic save a great many
scattered papers and note-books bearing upon my uncle's life in
America.  Some of them were of the war time and showed that he had
done his duty well and had borne the repute of a brave soldier.
Others were of a date during the reconstruction of the Southern
states, and were mostly concerned with politics, for he had
evidently taken a strong part in opposing the carpet-bag
politicians who had been sent down from the North.
"Well, it was the beginning of '84 when my father came to live
at Horsham, and all went as well as possible with us until the
January of '85.  On the fourth day after the new year I heard my
father give a sharp cry of surprise as we sat together at the
breakfast-table.  There he was, sitting with a newly opened
envelope in one hand and five dried orange pips in the
outstretched palm of the other one.  He had always laughed at what
he called my cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but he looked
very scared and puzzled now that the same thing had come upon
himself.
"`Why, what on earth does this mean, John?' he stammered.
"My heart had turned to lead.  `It is K. K. K.,' said I.
"He looked inside the envelope.  `So it is,' he cried.  `Here
are the very letters.  But what is this written above them?'
"`Put the papers on the sundial,' I read, peeping over his
shoulder.
"`What papers?  What sundial?' he asked.
"`The sundial in the garden.  There is no other,' said I; `but
the papers must be those that are destroyed.'
"`Pooh!' said he, gripping hard at his courage.  `We are in a
civilized land here, and we can't have tomfoolery of this kind.
Where does the thing come from?'
"`From Dundee,' I answered, glancing at the postmark.
"`Some preposterous practical joke,' said he.  `What have I to
do with sundials and papers?  I shall take no notice of such
nonsense.'
"`I should certainly speak to the police,' I said.
"`And be laughed at for my pains.  Nothing of the sort.'
"`Then let me do so?'
"`No, I forbid you.  I won't have a fuss made about such
nonsense.'
"It was in vain to argue with him, for he was a very obstinate
man.  I went about, however, with a heart which was full of
forebodings.
"On the third day after the coming of the letter my father
went from home to visit an old friend of his, Major Freebody, who
is in command of one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill.  I was glad
that he should go, for it seemed to me that he was farther from
danger when he was away from home.  In that, however, I was in
error.  Upon the second day of his absence I received a telegram
from the major, imploring me to come at once.  My father had
fallen over one of the deep chalk-pits which abound in the
neighbourhood, and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull.  I
hurried to him, but he passed away without having ever recovered
his consciousness.  He had, as it appears, been returning from
Fareham in the twilight, and as the country was unknown to him,
and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no hesitation in bringing
in a verdict of `death from accidental causes.'  Carefully as I
examined every fact connected with his death, I was unable to find
anything which could suggest the idea of murder.  There were no
signs of violence, no footmarks, no robbery, no record of
strangers having been seen upon the roads.  And yet I need not
tell you that my mind was far from at ease, and that I was
well-nigh certain that some foul plot had been woven round him.
"In this sinister way I came into my inheritance.  You will
ask me why I did not dispose of it?  I answer, because I was well
convinced that our troubles were in some way dependent upon an
incident in my uncle's life, and that the danger would be as
pressing in one house as in another.
"It was in January, '85, that my poor father met his end, and
two years and eight months have elapsed since then.  During that
time I have lived happily at Horsham, and I had begun to hope that
this curse had passed away from the family, and that it had ended
with the last generation.  I had begun to take comfort too soon,
however; yesterday morning the blow fell in the very shape in
which it had come upon my father."
The young man took from his waistcoat a crumpled envelope, and
turning to the table he shook out upon it five little dried orange
pips.
"This is the envelope," he continued.  "The postmark is
LondonДДeastern division.  Within are the very words which were
upon my father's last message: `K. K. K.'; and then `Put the
papers on the sundial.'"
"What have you done?" asked Holmes.
"Nothing."
"Nothing?"
"To tell the truth"ДДhe sank his face into his thin, white
handsДД"I have felt helpless.  I have felt like one of those poor
rabbits when the snake is writhing towards it.  I seem to be in
the grasp of some resistless, inexorable evil, which no foresight
and no precautions can guard against."
"Tut! tut!" cried Sherlock Holmes.  "You must act, man, or you
are lost.  Nothing but energy can save you.  This is no time for
despair."
"I have seen the police."
"Ah!"
"But they listened to my story with a smile.  I am convinced
that the inspector has formed the opinion that the letters are all
practical jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were really
accidents, as the jury stated, and were not to be connected with
the warnings."
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air.  "Incredible
imbecility!" he cried.
"They have, however, allowed me a policeman, who may remain in
the house with me."
"Has he come with you to-night?"
"No.  His orders were to stay in the house."
Again Holmes raved in the air.
"Why did you come to me," he cried, "and, above all, why did
you not come at once?"
"I did not know.  It was only to-day that I spoke to Major
Prendergast about my troubles and was advised by him to come to
you."
"It is really two days since you had the letter.  We should
have acted before this.  You have no further evidence, I suppose,
than that which you have placed before usДДno suggestive detail
which might help us?"
"There is one thing," said John Openshaw.  He rummaged in his
coat pocket, and, drawing out a piece of discoloured, blue-tinted
paper, he laid it out upon the table.  "I have some remembrance,"
said he, "that on the day when my uncle burned the papers I
observed that the small, unburned margins which lay amid the ashes
were of this particular colour.  I found this single sheet upon
the floor of his room, and I am inclined to think that it may be
one of the papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out from among the
others, and in that way has escaped destruction.  Beyond the
mention of pips, I do not see that it helps us much.  I think
myself that it is a page from some private diary.  The writing is
undoubtedly my uncle's."
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over the sheet of
paper, which showed by its ragged edge that it had indeed been
torn from a book.  It was headed, "March, 1869," and beneath were
the following enigmatical notices:
4th.  Hudson came.  Same old platform.
7th.  Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and John
Swain, of St. Augustine.
9th.  McCauley cleared.
10th.  John Swain cleared.
12th.  Visited Paramore.  All well.
"Thank you!" said Holmes, folding up the paper and returning
it to our visitor.  "And now you must on no account lose another
instant.  We cannot spare time even to discuss what you have told
me.  You must get home instantly and act."
"What shall I do?"
"There is but one thing to do.  It must be done at once.  You
must put this piece of paper which you have shown us into the
brass box which you have described.  You must also put in a note
to say that all the other papers were burned by your uncle, and
that this is the only one which remains.  You must assert that in
such words as will carry conviction with them.  Having done this,
you must at once put the box out upon the sundial, as directed.
Do you understand?"
"Entirely."
"Do not think of revenge, or anything of the sort, at present.
I think that we may gain that by means of the law; but we have our
web to weave, while theirs is already woven.  The first
consideration is to remove the pressing danger which threatens
you.  The second is to clear up the mystery and to punish the
guilty parties."
"I thank you," said the young man, rising and pulling on his
overcoat.  "You have given me fresh life and hope.  I shall
certainly do as you advise."
"Do not lose an instant.  And, above all, take care of
yourself in the meanwhile, for I do not think that there can be a
doubt that you are threatened by a very real and imminent danger.
How do you go back?"
"By train from Waterloo."
"It is not yet nine.  The streets will be crowded, so I trust
that you may be in safety.  And yet you cannot guard yourself too
closely."
"I am armed."
"That is well.  To-morrow I shall set to work upon your case."
"I shall see you at Horsham, then?"
"No, your secret lies in London.  It is there that I shall
seek it."
"Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in two days, with
news as to the box and the papers.  I shall take your advice in
every particular."  He shook hands with us and took his leave.
Outside the wind still screamed and the rain splashed and pattered
against the windows.  This strange, wild story seemed to have come
to us from amid the mad elementsДДblown in upon us like a sheet of
sea-weed in a galeДДand now to have been reabsorbed by them once
more.
Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence, with his head
sunk forward and his eyes bent upon the red glow of the fire.
Then he lit his pipe, and leaning back in his chair he watched the
blue smoke-rings as they chased each other up to the ceiling.
"I think, Watson," he remarked at last, "that of all our cases
we have had none more fantastic than this."
"Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four."
"Well, yes.  Save, perhaps, that.  And yet this John Openshaw
seems to me to be walking amid even greater perils than did the
Sholtos."
"But have you," I asked, "formed any definite conception as to
what these perils are?"
"There can be no question as to their nature," he answered.
"Then what are they?  Who is this K. K. K., and why does he
pursue this unhappy family?"
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed his elbows upon the
arms of his chair, with his finger-tips together.  "The ideal
reasoner," he remarked, "would, when he had once been shown a
single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all the
chain of events which led up to it but also all the results which
would follow from it.  As Cuvier could correctly describe a whole
animal by the contemplation of a single bone, so the observer who
has thoroughly understood one link in a series of incidents should
be able to accurately state all the other ones, both before and
after.  We have not yet grasped the results which the reason alone
can attain to.  Problems may be solved in the study which have
baffled all those who have sought a solution by the aid of their
senses.  To carry the art, however, to its highest pitch, it is
necessary that the reasoner should be able to utilize all the
facts which have come to his knowledge; and this in itself
implies, as you will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and encyclopaedias, is
a somewhat rare accomplishment.  It is not so impossible, however,
that a man should possess all knowledge which is likely to be
useful to him in his work, and this I have endeavoured in my case
to do.  If I remember rightly, you on one occasion, in the early
days of our friendship, defined my limits in a very precise
fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing.  "It was a singular document.
Philosophy, astronomy, and politics were marked at zero, I
remember.  Botany variable, geology profound as regards the
mud-stains from any region within fifty miles of town, chemistry
eccentric, anatomy unsystematic, sensational literature and crime
records unique, violin-player, boxer, swordsman, lawyer, and
self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco.  Those, I think, were the
main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item.  "Well," he said, "I say now,
as I said then, that a man should keep his little brain-attic
stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the
rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he
can get it if he wants it.  Now, for such a case as the one which
has been submitted to us to-night, we need certainly to muster all
our resources.  Kindly hand me down the letter K of the American
Encyclopaedia which stands upon the shelf beside you.  Thank you.
Now let us consider the situation and see what may be deduced from
it.  In the first place, we may start with a strong presumption
that Colonel Openshaw had some very strong reason for leaving
America.  Men at his time of life do not change all their habits
and exchange willingly the charming climate of Florida for the
lonely life of an English provincial town.  His extreme love of
solitude in England suggests the idea that he was in fear of
someone or something, so we may assume as a working hypothesis
that it was fear of someone or something which drove him from
America.  As to what it was he feared, we can only deduce that by
considering the formidable letters which were received by himself
and his successors.  Did you remark the postmarks of those
letters?"
"The first was from Pondicherry, the second from Dundee, and
the third from London."
"From East London.  What do you deduce from that?"
"They are all seaports.  That the writer was on board of a
ship."
"Excellent.  We have already a clue.  There can be no doubt
that the probabilityДДthe strong probabilityДДis that the writer
was on board of a ship.  And now let us consider another point.
In the case of Pondicherry, seven weeks elapsed between the threat
and its fulfillment, in Dundee it was only some three or four
days.  Does that suggest anything?"
"A greater distance to travel."
"But the letter had also a greater distance to come."
"Then I do not see the point."
"There is at least a presumption that the vessel in which the
man or men are is a sailing-ship.  It looks as if they always sent
their singular warning or token before them when starting upon
their mission.  You see how quickly the deed followed the sign
when it came from Dundee.  If they had come from Pondicherry in a
steamer they would have arrived almost as soon as their letter.
But, as a matter of fact, seven weeks elapsed.  I think that those
seven weeks represented the difference between the mail-boat which
brought the letter and the sailing vessel which brought the
writer."
"It is possible."
"More than that.  It is probable.  And now you see the deadly
urgency of this new case, and why I urged young Openshaw to
caution.  The blow has always fallen at the end of the time which
it would take the senders to travel the distance.  But this one
comes from London, and therefore we cannot count upon delay."
"Good God!" I cried.  "What can it mean, this relentless
persecution?"
"The papers which Openshaw carried are obviously of vital
importance to the person or persons in the sailing-ship.  I think
that it is quite clear that there must be more than one of them.
A single man could not have carried out two deaths in such a way
as to deceive a coroner's jury.  There must have been several in
it, and they must have been men of resource and determination.
Their papers they mean to have, be the holder of them who it may.
In this way you see K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an
individual and becomes the badge of a society."
"But of what society?"
"Have you neverДД" said Sherlock Holmes, bending forward and
sinking his voice ДД"have you never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?"
"I never have."
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book upon his knee.
"Here it is," said he presently:
"Ku Klux Klan.  A name derived from the fanciful
resemblance to the sound produced by cocking a rifle.  This
terrible secret society was formed by some ex-Confederate
soldiers in the Southern states after the Civil War, and it
rapidly formed local branches in different parts of the
country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana, the Carolinas,
Georgia, and Florida.  Its power was used for political
purposes, principally for the terrorizing of the negro voters
and the murdering and driving from the country of those who
were opposed to its views.  Its outrages were usually preceded
by a warning sent to the marked man in some fantastic but
generally recognized shapeДДa sprig of oak-leaves in some
parts, melon seeds or orange pips in others.  On receiving
this the victim might either openly abjure his former ways, or
might fly from the country.  If he braved the matter out,
death would unfailingly come upon him, and usually in some
strange and unforeseen manner.  So perfect was the
organization of the society, and so systematic its methods,
that there is hardly a case upon record where any man
succeeded in braving it with impunity, or in which any of its
outrages were traced home to the perpetrators.  For some years
the organization flourished in spite of the efforts of the
United States government and of the better classes of the
community in the South.  Eventually, in the year 1869, the
movement rather suddenly collapsed, although there have been
sporadic outbreaks of the same sort since that date.
"You will observe," said Holmes, laying down the volume, "that
the sudden breaking up of the society was coincident with the
disappearance of Openshaw from America with their papers.  It may
well have been cause and effect.  It is no wonder that he and his
family have some of the more implacable spirits upon their track.
You can understand that this register and diary may implicate some
of the first men in the South, and that there may be many who will
not sleep easy at night until it is recovered."
"Then the page we have seenДД"
"Is such as we might expect.  It ran, if I remember right,
`sent the pips to A, B, and C'ДДthat is, sent the society's
warning to them.  Then there are successive entries that A and B
cleared, or left the country, and finally that C was visited,
with, I fear, a sinister result for C.  Well, I think, Doctor,
that we may let some light into this dark place, and I believe
that the only chance young Openshaw has in the meantime is to do
what I have told him.  There is nothing more to be said or to be
done to-night, so hand me over my violin and let us try to forget
for half an hour the miserable weather and the still more
miserable ways of our fellowmen."
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun was shining with a
subdued brightness through the dim veil which hangs over the great
city.  Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I came down.
"You will excuse me for not waiting for you," said he; "I
have, I foresee, a very busy day before me in looking into this
case of young Openshaw's."
"What steps will you take?" I asked.
"It will very much depend upon the results of my first
inquiries.  I may have to go down to Horsham, after all."
"You will not go there first?"
"No, I shall commence with the City.  Just ring the bell and
the maid will bring up your coffee."
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper from the table
and glanced my eye over it.  It rested upon a heading which sent a
chill to my heart.
"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."
"Ah!" said he, laying down his cup, "I feared as much.  How
was it done?"  He spoke calmly, but I could see that he was deeply
moved.
"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the heading `Tragedy
Near Waterloo Bridge.'  Here is the account:
"Between nine and ten last night Police-Constable Cook, of
the H Division, on duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for
help and a splash in the water.  The night, however, was
extremely dark and stormy, so that, in spite of the help of
several passers-by, it was quite impossible to effect a
rescue.  The alarm, however, was given, and, by the aid of the
water-police, the body was eventually recovered.  It proved to
be that of a young gentleman whose name, as it appears from an
envelope which was found in his pocket, was John Openshaw, and
whose residence is near Horsham.  It is conjectured that he
may have been hurrying down to catch the last train from
Waterloo Station, and that in his haste and the extreme
darkness he missed his path and walked over the edge of one of
the small landing-places for river steamboats.  The body
exhibited no traces of violence, and there can be no doubt
that the deceased had been the victim of an unfortunate
accident, which should have the effect of calling the
attention of the authorities to the condition of the riverside
landing-stages."
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes more depressed and
shaken than I had ever seen him.
"That hurts my pride, Watson," he said at last.  "It is a
petty feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride.  It becomes a
personal matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall
set my hand upon this gang.  That he should come to me for help,
and that I should send him away to his deathДД!"  He sprang from
his chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation,
with a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and
unclasping of his long thin hands.
"They must be cunning devils," he exclaimed at last.  "How
could they have decoyed him down there?  The Embankment is not on
the direct line to the station.  The bridge, no doubt, was too
crowded, even on such a night, for their purpose.  Well, Watson,
we shall see who will win in the long run.  I am going out now!"
"To the police?"
"No; I shall be my own police.  When I have spun the web they
may take the flies, but not before."
All day I was engaged in my professional work, and it was late
in the evening before I returned to Baker Street.  Sherlock Holmes
had not come back yet.  It was nearly ten o'clock before he
entered, looking pale and worn.  He walked up to the sideboard,
and tearing a piece from the loaf he devoured it voraciously,
washing it down with a long draught of water.
"You are hungry," I remarked.
"Starving.  It had escaped my memory.  I have had nothing
since breakfast."
"Nothing?"
"Not a bite.  I had no time to think of it."
"And how have you succeeded?"
"Well."
"You have a clue?"
"I have them in the hollow of my hand.  Young Openshaw shall
not long remain unavenged.  Why, Watson, let us put their own
devilish trade-mark upon them.  It is well thought of!"
"What do you mean?"
He took an orange from the cupboard, and tearing it to pieces
he squeezed out the pips upon the table.  Of these he took five
and thrust them into an envelope.  On the inside of the flap he
wrote "S. H. for J. O."  Then he sealed it and addressed it to
"Captain James Calhoun, Bark Lone Star, Savannah, Georgia."
"That will await him when he enters port," said he, chuckling.
"It may give him a sleepless night.  He will find it as sure a
precursor of his fate as Openshaw did before him."
"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"
"The leader of the gang.  I shall have the others, but he
first."
"How did you trace it, then?"
He took a large sheet of paper from his pocket, all covered
with dates and names.
"I have spent the whole day," said he, "over Lloyd's registers
and files of the old papers, following the future career of every
vessel which touched at Pondicherry in January and February in
'83.  There were thirty-six ships of fair tonnage which were
reported there during those months.  Of these, one, the Lone Star,
instantly attracted my attention, since, although it was reported
as having cleared from London, the name is that which is given to
one of the states of the Union."
"Texas, I think."
"I was not and am not sure which; but I knew that the ship
must have an American origin."
"What then?"
"I searched the Dundee records, and when I found that the bark
Lone Star was there in January, '85, my suspicion became a
certainty.  I then inquired as to the vessels which lay at present
in the port of London."
"Yes?"
"The Lone Star had arrived here last week.  I went down to the
Albert Dock and found that she had been taken down the river by
the early tide this morning, homeward bound to Savannah.  I wired
to Gravesend and learned that she had passed some time ago, and as
the wind is easterly I have no doubt that she is now past the
Goodwins and not very far from the Isle of Wight."
"What will you do, then?"
"Oh, I have my hand upon him.  He and the two mates, are, as I
learn, the only native-born Americans in the ship.  The others are
Finns and Germans.  I know, also, that they were all three away
from the ship last night.  I had it from the stevedore who has
been loading their cargo.  By the time that their sailing-ship
reaches Savannah the mail-boat will have carried this letter, and
the cable will have informed the police of Savannah that these
three gentlemen are badly wanted here upon a charge of murder."
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best laid of human
plans, and the murderers of John Openshaw were never to receive
the orange pips which would show them that another, as cunning and
as resolute as themselves, was upon their track.  Very long and
very severe were the equinoctial gales that year.  We waited long
for news of the Lone Star of Savannah, but none ever reached us.
We did at last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a
shattered stern-post of the boat was seen swinging in the trough
of a wave, with the letters "L. S." carved upon it, and that is
all which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone Star.




             The Aduenture of the Speckled Band

 On glancing over my notes of the seventy odd cases in which I
have during the last eight years studied the methods of my friend
Sherlock Holmes, I find many tragic, some comic, a large
number merely strange, but none commonplace; for, working as
he did rather for the love of his art than for the acquirement of
wealth, he refused to associate himself with any investigation
which did not tend towards the unusual, and even the fantastic.
Of all these varied cases, however, I cannot recall any which
presented more singular features than that which was associated
with the well-known Surrey family of the Roylotts of Stoke
Moran. The events in question occurred in the early days of my
association with Holmes, when we were sharing rooms as bache-
lors in Baker Street. It is possible that I might have placed them
upon record before, but a promise of secrecy was made at the
time, from which I have only been freed during the last month
by the untimely death of the lady to whom the pledge was given.
It is perhaps as well that the facts should now come to light, for I
have reasons to know that there are widespread rumours as to the
death of Dr. Grimesby Roylott which tend to make the matter
even more terrible than the truth.
 It was early in April in the year '83 that I woke one morning
to find Sherlock Holmes standing, fully dressed, by the side of
my bed. He was a late riser, as a rule, and as the clock on the
mantelpiece showed me that it was only a quarter-past seven, I
blinked up at him in some surprise, and perhaps just a little
resentment, for I was myself regular in my habits.
 "Very sorry to knock you up, Watson," said he, "but it's the
common lot this morning. Mrs. Hudson has been knocked up,
she retorted upon me, and I on you."
 "What is it, then -- a fire?"
 "No; a client. It seems that a young lady has arrived in a
considerable state of excitement, who insists upon seeing me.
She is waiting now in the sitting-room. Now, when young ladies
wander about the metropolis at this hour of the morning, and
knock sleepy people up out of their beds, I presume that it is
something very pressing which they have to communicate. Should
it prove to be an interesting case, you would, I am sure, wish to
follow it from the outset. I thought, at any rate, that I should call
you and give you the chance."
 "My dear fellow, I would not miss it for anything."
 I had no keener pleasure than in following Holmes in his
plofessional investigations, and in admiring the rapid deductions,
as swift as intuitions, and yet always founded on a logical basis
wlth which he unravelled the problems which were submitted to
him. I rapidly threw on my clothes and was ready in a few
minutes to accompany my friend down to the sitting-room. A
lady dressed in black and heavily veiled, who had been sitting in
the window, rose as we entered.
 "Good-morning, madam," said Holmes cheerily. "My name
is Sherlock Holmes. This is my intimate friend and associate,
Dr. Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as before
myself. Ha! I am glad to see that Mrs. Hudson has had the good
sense to light the fire. Pray draw up to it, and I shall order you a
cup of hot coffee, for I observe that you are shivering."
 "lt is not cold which makes me shiver," said the woman in a
low voice, changing her seat as requested.
 "What, then?"
 "It is fear, Mr. Holmes. It is terror." She raised her veil as
she spoke, and we could see that she was indeed in a pitiable
state of agitation, her face all drawn and gray, with restless
frightened eyes, like those of some hunted animal. Her features
and figure were those of a woman of thirty, but her hair was shot
with premature gray, and her expression was weary and haggard.
Sherlock Holmes ran her over with one of his quick, all-
comprehensive glances.
 "You must not fear," said he soothingly, bending forward
and patting her forearm. "We shall soon set matters right, I have
no doubt. You have come in by train this morning, I see."
 "You know me, then?"
 "No, but I observe the second half of a return ticket in the
palm of your left glove. You must have started early, and yet
you had a good drive in a dog-cart, along heavy roads, before
you reached the station."
 The lady gave a violent start and stared in bewilderment at my
companion.
 "There is no mystery, my dear madam," said he, smiling.
"The left arm of your jacket is spattered with mud in no less
than seven places. The marks are perfectly fresh. There is no
vehicle save a dog-cart which throws up mud in that way, and
then only when you sit on the left-hand side of the driver."
 "Whatever your reasons may be, you are perfectly correct,"
said she. "I started from home before six, reached Leatherhead
at twenty past, and came in by the first train to Waterloo. Sir, I
can stand this strain no longer; I shall go mad if it continues. I
have no one to turn to -- none, save only one, who cares for me,
and he, poor fellow, can be of little aid. I have heard of you,
Mr. Holmes; I have heard of you from Mrs. Farintosh, whom
you helped in the hour of her sore need. It was from her that I
had your address. Oh, sir, do you not think that you could help
me, too, and at least throw a little light through the dense
darkness which surrounds me? At present it is out of my power
to reward you for your services, but in a month or six weeks I
shall be married, with the control of my own income, and then at
least you shall not find me ungrateful."
 Holmes turned to his desk and, unlocking it, drew out a small
case-book, which he consulted.
 "Farintosh," said he. "Ah yes, I recall the case; it was
concerned with an opal tiara. I think it was before your time,
Watson. I can only say, madam, that I shall be happy to devote
the same care to your case as I did to that of your friend. As to
reward, my profession is its own reward; but you are at liberty to
defray whatever expenses I may be put to, at the time which
suits you best. And now I beg that you will lay before us
everything that may help us in forming an opinion upon the
matter."
 "Alas!" replied our visitor, "the very horror of my situation
lies in the fact that my fears are so vague, and my suspicions
depend so entirely upon small points, which might seem trivial
to another, that even he to whom of all others I have a right to
look for help and advice looks upon all that I tell him about it as
the fancies of a nervous woman. He does not say so, but I can
read it from his soothing answers and averted eyes. But I have
heard, Mr. Holmes, that you can see deeply into the manifold
wickedness of the human heart. You may advise me how to walk
amid the dangers which encompass me."
 "I am all attention, madam."
 "My name is Helen Stoner, and I am living with my stepfa-
ther, who is the last survivor of one of the oldest Saxon families
in England, the Roylotts of Stoke Moran, on the western border
of Surrey."
 Holmes nodded his head. "The name is familiar to me," said
he.
 "The family was at one time among the richest in England,
and the estates extended over the borders into Berkshire in the
north, and Hampshire in the west. In the last century, however,
four successive heirs were of a dissolute and wasteful disposi-
tion, and the family ruin was eventually completed by a gambler
in the days of the Regency. Nothing was left save a few acres of
ground, and the two-hundred-year-old house, which is itself crushed
under a heavy mortgage. The last squire dragged out his exis-
tence there, living the horrible life of an aristocratic pauper; but
his only son, my stepfather, seeing that he must adapt himself to
the new conditions, obtained an advance from a relative, which
enabled him to take a medical degree and went out to Calcutta,
where, by his professional skill and his force of character, he
established a large practice. In a fit of anger, however, caused by
some robberies which had been perpetrated in the house, he beat
his native butler to death and narrowly escaped a capital sen-
tence. As it was, he suffered a long term of imprisonment and
afterwards returned to England a morose and disappointed man.
 "When Dr. Roylott was in India he married my mother, Mrs.
Stoner, the young widow of Major-General Stoner, of the Bengal
Artillery. My sister Julia and I were twins, and we were only
two years old at the time of my mother's re-marriage. She had a
considerable sum of money -- not less than lOOO pounds a year -- and
this she bequeathed to Dr. Roylott entirely while we resided with
him, with a provision that a certain annual sum should be
allowed to each of us in the event of our marriage. Shortly after
our return to England my mother died -- she was killed eight
years ago in a railway accident near Crewe. Dr. Roylott then
abandoned his attempts to establish himself in practice in London
and took us to live with him in the old ancestral house at Stoke
Moran. The money which my mother had left was enough for all
our wants, and there seemed to be no obstacle to our happiness.
 "But a terrible change came over our stepfather about this
time. Instead of making friends and exchanging visits with our
neighbours, who had at first been overjoyed to see a Roylott of
Stoke Moran back in the old family seat, he shut himself up in
his house and seldom came out save to indulge in ferocious
quarrels with whoever might cross his path. Violence of temper
approaching to mania has been hereditary in the men of the
family, and in my stepfather's case it had, I believe, been
intensified by his long residence in the tropics. A series of
disgraceful brawls took place, two of which ended in the police-
court, until at last he became the terror of the village, and the
folks would fly at his approach, for he is a man of immense
strength, and absolutely uncontrollable in his anger.
 "Last week he hurled the local blacksmith over a parapet into
a stream, and it was only by paying over all the money which I
could gather together that I was able to avert another public
exposure. He had no friends at all save the wandering gypsies,
and he would give these vagabonds leave to encamp upon the
few acres of bramble-covered land which represent the family
estate, and would accept in return the hospitality of their tents,
wandering away with them sometimes for weeks on end. He has
a passion also for Indian animals, which are sent over to him by
a correspondent, and he has at this moment a cheetah and a
baboon, which wander freely over his grounds and are feared by
the villagers almost as much as their master.
 "You can imagine from what I say that my poor sister Julia
and I had no great pleasure in our lives. No servant would stay
with us, and for a long time we did all the work of the house.
She was but thirty at the time of her death, and yet her hair had
already begun to whiten, even as mine has."
 "Your sister is dead, then?"
 "She died just two years ago, and it is of her death that I wish
to speak to you. You can understand that, living the life which I
have described, we were little likely to see anyone of our own
age and position. We had, however, an aunt, my mother's
maiden sister, Miss Honoria Westphail, who lives near Harrow,
and we were occasionally allowed to pay short visits at this
lady's house. Julia went there at Christmas two years ago, and
met there a half-pay major of marines, to whom she became
engaged. My stepfather learned of the engagement when my
sister returned and offered no objection to the marriage; but
wlthin a fortnight of the day which had been fixed for the
wedding, the terrible event occurred which has deprived me of
my only companion."
 Sherlock Holmes had been leaning back in his chair with his
eyes closed and his head sunk in a cushion, but he half opened
hls lids now and glanced across at his visitor.
 "Pray be precise as to details," said he.
 "It is easy for me to be so, for every event of that dreadful
time is seared into my memory. The manor-house is, as I have
already said, very old, and only one wing is now inhabited. The
bedrooms in this wing are on the ground floor, the sitting-rooms
being in the central block of the buildings. Of these bedrooms the
first is Dr. Roylott's, the second my sister's, and the third my
own. There is no communication between them, but they all
open out into the same corridor. Do I make myself plain?"
 "Perfectly so."
 "The windows of the three rooms open out upon the lawn. That
fatal night Dr. Roylott had gone to his room early, though we
knew that he had not retired to rest, for my sister was troubled
by the smell of the strong Indian cigars which it was his custom
to smoke. She left her room, therefore, and came into mine,
where she sat for some time, chatting about her approaching
wedding. At eleven o'clock she rose to leave me, but she paused
at the door and looked back.
 " 'Tell me, Helen,' said she, 'have you ever heard anyone
whistle in the dead of the night?'
 " 'Never,' said I.
 " 'I suppose that you could not possibly whistle, yourself, in
your sleep?'
 " 'Certainly not. But why?'
 " 'Because during the last few nights I have always, about
three in the morning, heard a low, clear whistle. I am a light
sleeper, and it has awakened me. I cannot tell where it came
from perhaps from the next room, perhaps from the lawn. I
thought that I would just ask you whether you had heard it.'
 " 'No, I have not. It must be those wretched gypsies in the
plantation.'
 " 'Very likely. And yet if it were on the lawn, I wonder that
you did not hear it also.'
 " 'Ah, but I sleep more heavily than you.'
 " 'Well, it is of no great consequence, at any rate.' She
smiled back at me, closed my door, and a few moments later I
heard her key turn in the lock."
 "Indeed," said Holmes. "Was it your custom always to lock
yourselves in at night?"
 "Always."
 "And why?"
 "I think that I mentioned to you that the doctor kept a cheetah
and a baboon. We had no feeling of security unless our doors
were locked."
 "Quite so. Pray proceed with your statement."
 "I could not sleep that night. A vague feeling of impending
misfortune impressed me. My sister and I, you will recollect,
were twins, and you know how subtle are the links which bind
two souls which are so closely allied. It was a wild night. The
wind was howling outside, and the rain was beating and splash-
ing against the windows. Suddenly, amid all the hubbub of the
gale, there burst forth the wild scream of a terrified woman. I
knew that it was my sister's voice. I sprang from my bed,
wrapped a shawl round me, and rushed into the corridor. As I
opened my door I seemed to hear a low whistle, such as my
sister described, and a few moments later a clanging sound, as if
a mass of metal had fallen. As I ran down the passage, my
sister's door was unlocked, and revolved slowly upon its hinges.
I stared at it horror-stricken, not knowing what was about to
issue from it. By the light of the corridor-lamp I saw my sister
appear at the opening, her face blanched with terror, her hands
groping for help, her whole figure swaying to and fro like that of
a drunkard. I ran to her and threw my arms round her, but at that
moment her knees seemed to give way and she fell to the
ground. She writhed as one who is in terrible pain, and her limbs
were dreadfully convulsed. At first I thought that she had not
recognized me, but as I bent over her she suddenly shrieked out
in a voice which I shall never forget, 'Oh, my God! Helen! It
was the band! The speckled band!' There was something else
which she would fain have said, and she stabbed with her finger
into the air in the direction of the doctor's room, but a fresh
convulsion seized her and choked her words. I rushed out,
calling loudly for my stepfather, and I met him hastening from
his room in his dressing-gown. When he reached my sister's side
she was unconscious, and though he poured brandy down her
throat and sent for medical aid from the village, all efforts were
in vain, for she slowly sank and died without having recovered
her consciousness. Such was the dreadful end of my beloved
sister."
 One moment," said Holmes, "are you sure about this whis-
tle and metallic sound? Could you swear to it?"
 "That was what the county coroner asked me at the inquiry. It
is my strong impression that I heard it, and yet, among the crash
of the gale and the creaking of an old house, I may possibly have
been deceived."
 "Was your sister dressed?"
 "No, she was in her night-dress. In her right hand was found
the charred stump of a match, and in her left a match-box."
 "Showing that she had struck a light and looked about her
when the alarm took place. That is important. And what conclu-
sions did the coroner come to?"
 "He investigated the case with great care, for Dr. Roylott's
conduct had long been notorious in the county, but he was
unable to find any satisfactory cause of death. My evidence
showed that the door had been fastened upon the inner side, and
the windows were blocked by old-fashioned shutters with broad
iron bars, which were secured every night. The walls were
carefully sounded, and were shown to be quite solid all round,
and the flooring was also thoroughly examined, with the same
result. The chimney is wide, but is barred up by four large
staples. It is certain, therefore, that my sister was quite alone
when she met her end. Besides, there were no marks of any
violence upon her."
 "How about poison?"
 "The doctors examined her for it, but without success."
 "What do you think that this unfortunate lady died of, then?"
 "It is my belief that she died of pure fear and nervous shock,
though what it was that frightened her I cannot imagine."
 "Were there gypsies in the plantation at the time?"
 "Yes, there are nearly always some there."
 "Ah, and what did you gather from this allusion to a band -- a
speckled band?"
 "Sometimes I have thought that it was merely the wild talk of
delirium, sometimes that it may have referred to some band of
people, perhaps to these very gypsies in the plantation. I do not
know whether the spotted handkerchiefs which so many of them
wear over their heads might have suggested the strange adjective
which she used."
 Holmes shook his head like a man who is far from being
satisfied.
 "These are very deep waters," said he; "pray go on with your
narrative."
 "Two years have passed since then, and my life has been until
lately lonelier than ever. A month ago, however, a dear friend,
whom I have known for many years, has done me the honour to
ask my hand in marriage. His name is Armitage -- Percy
Armitage -- the second son of Mr. Armitage, of Crane Water,
near Reading. My stepfather has offered no opposition to the
match, and we are to be married in the course of the spring. Two
days ago some repairs were started in the west wing of the
building, and my bedroom wall has been pierced, so that I have
had to move into the chamber in which my sister died, and to
sleep in the very bed in which she slept. Imagine, then, my thrill
of terror when last night, as I lay awake, thinking over her
terrible fate, I suddenly heard in the silence of the night the low
whistle which had been the herald of her own death. I sprang up
and lit the lamp, but nothing was to be seen in the room. I was
too shaken to go to bed again, however, so I dressed, and as
soon as it was daylight I slipped down, got a dog-cart at the
Crown Inn, which is opposite, and drove to Leatherhead, from
whence I have come on this morning with the one object of
seeing you and asking your advice."
 "You have done wisely," said my friend. "But have you told
me all?"
 "Yes, all."
 "Miss Roylott, you have not. You are screening your
stepfather."
 "Why, what do you mean?"
 For answer Holmes pushed back the frill of black lace which
fringed the hand that lay upon our visitor's knee. Five little livid
spots, the marks of four fingers and a thumb, were printed upon
the white wrist.
 "You have been cruelly used," said Holmes.
 The lady coloured deeply and covered over her injured wrist.
"He is a hard man," she said, "and perhaps he hardly knows
his own strength."
 There was a long silence, during which Holmes leaned his
chin upon his hands and stared into the crackling fire.
 "This is a very deep business," he said at last. "There are a
thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide
upon our course of action. Yet we have not a moment to lose. If
we were to come to Stoke Moran to-day, would it be possible for
us to see over these rooms without the knowledge of your
stepfather?"
 "As it happens, he spoke of coming into town to-day upon
some most important business. It is probable that he will be
away all day, and that there would be nothing to disturb you. We
have a housekeeper now, but she is old and foolish, and I could
easily get her out of the way."
 "Excellent. You are not averse to this trip, Watson?"
 "By no means."
 "Then we shall both come. What are you going to do yourself?"
 "I have one or two things which I would wish to do now that I
am in town. But I shall return by the twelve o'clock train, so as
to be there in time for your coming."
 "And you may expect us early in the afternoon. I have myself
some small business matters to attend to. Will you not wait and
breakfast?"
 "No, I must go. My heart is lightened already since I have
confided my trouble to you. I shall look forward to seeing you
again this afternoon." She dropped her thick black veil over her
face and glided from the room.
 "And what do you think of it all, Watson?" asked Sherlock
Holmes, leaning back in his chair.
 "It seems to me to be a most dark and sinister business."
 "Dark enough and sinister enough."
 "Yet if the lady is correct in saying that the flooring and walls
are sound, and that the door, window, and chimney are impass-
able, then her sister must have been undoubtedly alone when she
met her mysterious end."
 "What becomes, then, of these nocturnal whistles, and what
of the very peculiar words of the dying woman?"
 "I cannot think."
 "When you combine the ideas of whistles at night, the pres-
ence of a band of gypsies who are on intimate terms with this old
doctor, the fact that we have every reason to believe that the
doctor has an interest in preventing his stepdaughter's marriage,
the dying allusion to a band, and, finally, the fact that Miss
Helen Stoner heard a metallic clang, which might have been
caused by one of those metal bars that secured the shutters
falling back into its place, I think that there is good ground to
think that the mystery may be cleared along those lines."
 "But what, then, did the gypsies do?"
 "I cannot imagine."
 "I see many objections to any such theory."
 "And so do I. It is precisely for that reason that we are going
to Stoke Moran this day. I want to see whether the objections are
fatal, or if they may be explained away. But what in the name of
the devil!"
 The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the
fact that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a
huge man had framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a
peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural,
having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high
gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he
that his hat actually brushed the cross bar of the- doorway, and
his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large
face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the
sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to
the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and his high,
thin, fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a
fierce old bird of prey.
 "Which of you is Holmes?" asked this apparition.
 "My name, sir; but you have the advantage of me," said my
companion quietly.
 "I am Dr. Grimesby Roylott, of Stoke Moran."
 "Indeed, Doctor," said Holmes blandly. "Pray take a seat."
 "I will do nothing of the kind. My stepdaughter has been
here. I have traced her. What has she been saying to you?"
 "It is a little cold for the time of the year," said Holmes.
 "What has she been saying to you?" screamed the old man
furiously.
 "But I have heard that the crocuses promise well," continued
my companion imperturbably.
 "Ha! You put me off, do you?" said our new visitor, taking a
step forward and shaking his hunting-crop. "I know you, you
scoundrel! I have heard of you before. You are Holmes, the
meddler."
 My friend smiled.
 "Holmes, the busybody!"
 His smile broadened.
 "Holmes, the Scotland Yard Jack-in-office!"
 Holmes chuckled heartily. "Your conversation is most enter-
taining," said he. "When you go out close the door, for there is
a decided draught."
 "I will go when I have said my say. Don't you dare to meddle
with my affairs. I know that Miss Stoner has been here. I traced
her! I am a dangerous man to fall foul of! See here." He stepped
swiftly forward, seized the poker, and bent it into a curve with
his huge brown hands.
 "See that you keep yourself out of my grip," he snarled, and
hurling the twisted poker into the fireplace he strode out of the
room.
 "He seems a very amiable person," said Holmes, laughing.
"I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have
shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his
own." As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a
sudden effort, straightened it out again.
 "Fancy his having the insolence to confound me with the
official detective force! This incident gives zest to our investiga-
tion, however, and I only trust that our little friend will not
suffer from her imprudence in allowing this brute to trace her.
And now, Watson, we shall order breakfast, and afterwards I
shall walk down to Doctors' Commons, where I hope to get
some data which may help us in this matter."

 It was nearly one o'clock when Sherlock Holmes returned
from his excursion. He held in his hand a sheet of blue paper,
scrawled over with notes and figures.
 "I have seen the will of the deceased wife," said he. "To
determine its exact meaning I have been obliged to work out the
present prices of the investments with which it is concerned. The
total income, which at the time of the wife's death was little
short of 1100 pounds, is now, through the fall in agricultural prices,
not more than 750 pounds. Each daughter can claim an income of
250 pounds, in case of marriage. It is evident, therefore, that if both
girls had married, this beauty would have had a mere pittance,
while even one of them would cripple him to a very serious
extent. My morning's work has not been wasted, since it has
proved that he has the very strongest motives for standing in the
way of anything of the sort. And now, Watson, this is too
serious for dawdling, especially as the old man is aware that we
are interesting ourselves in his affairs; so if you are ready, we
shall call a cab and drive to Waterloo. I should be very much
obliged if you would slip your revolver into your pocket. An
Eley's No. 2 is an excellent argument with gentlemen who can
twist steel pokers into knots. That and a tooth-brush are, I think
all that we need."
 At Waterloo we were fortunate in catching a train for
Leatherhead, where we hired a trap at the station inn and drove
for four or five miles through the lovely Surrey laries. It was a
perfect day, with a bright sun and a few fleecy clouds in the
heavens. The trees and wayside hedges were just throwing out
their first green shoots, and the air was full of the pleasant smell
of the moist earth. To me at least there was a strange contrast
between the sweet promise of the spring and this sinister quest
upon which we were engaged. My companion sat in the front of
the trap, his arms folded, his hat pulled down over his eyes, and
his chin sunk upon his breast, buried in the deepest thought.
Suddenly, however, he started, tapped me on the shoulder, and
pointed over the meadows
 "Look there!" said he.
 A heavily timbered park stretched up in a gentle slope, thick-
ening mto a grove at the highest point. From amid the branches
there jutted out the gray gables and high roof-tree of a very old
mansion.
 "Stoke Moran?" said he.
 "Yes, sir, that be the house of Dr. Grimesby Roylott,"
remarked the driver.
 "There is some building going on there," said Holmes; "that
is where we are going."
 "There's the village," said the driver, pointing to a cluster of
roofs some distance to the left; "but if you want to get to the
house, you'll find it shorter to get over this stile, and so by the
foot-path over the fields. There it is, where the lady is walking."
 "And the lady, I fancy, is Miss Stoner," observed Holmes,
shading his eyes. "Yes, I think we had better do as you suggest."
 We got off, paid our fare, and the trap rattled back on its way
to Leatherhead.
 "I thought it as well," said Holmes as we climbed the stile,
"that this fellow should think we had come here as architects, or
on some definite business. It may stop his gossip. Good-afternoon,
Miss Stoner. You see that we have been as good as our word."
 Our client of the morning had hurried forward to meet us with
a face which spoke her joy. "I have been waiting so eagerly for
you," she cried, shaking hands with us warmly. "All has turned
out splendidly. Dr. Roylott has gone to town, and it is unlikely
that he will be back before evening."
 "We have had the pleasure of making the doctor's acquaint-
ance," said Holmes, and in a few words he sketched out what
had occurred. Miss Stoner turned white to the lips as she listened.
 "Good heavens!" she cried, "he has followed me, then."
 "So it appears."
 "He is so cunning that I never know when I am safe from
him. What will he say when he returns?"
 "He must guard himself, for he may find that there is some-
one more cunning than himself upon his track. You must lock
yourself up from him to-night. If he is violent, we shall take you
away to your aunt's at Harrow. Now, we must make the best use
of our time, so kindly take us at once to the rooms which we are
to examine."
 The building was of gray, lichen-blotched stone, with a high
central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab,
thrown out on each side. In one of these wings the windows
were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof
was partly caved in, a picture of ruin. The central portion was in
little better repair, but the right-hand block was comparatively
modern, and the blinds in the windows, with the blue smoke
curling up from the chimneys, showed that this was where the
family resided. Some scaffolding had been erected against the
end wall, and the stone-work had been broken into, but there
were no signs of any workmen at the moment of our visit.
Holmes walked slowly up and down the ill-trimmed lawn and
examined with deep attention the outsides of the windows.
 "This, I take it, belongs to the room in which you used to
sleep, the centre one to your sister's, and the one next to the
main building to Dr. Roylott's chamber?"
 "Exactly so. But I am now sleeping in the middle one."
 "Pending the alterations, as I understand. By the way, there
does not seem to be any very pressing need for repairs at that end
wall."
 "There were none. I believe that it was an excuse to move me
from my room."
 "Ah! that is suggestive. Now, on the other side of this narrow
wing runs the corridor from which these three rooms open. There
are windows in it, of course?"

"Yes, but very small ones. Too narrow for anyone to pass
through."
 "As you both locked your doors at night, your rooms were
unapproachable from that side. Now, would you have the kind-
ness to go into your room and bar your shutters?"
 Miss Stoner did so, and Holmes, after a careful examination
through the open window, endeavoured in every way to force the
shutter open, but without success. There was no slit through
which a knife could be passed to raise the bar. Then with his lens
he tested the hinges, but they were of solid iron, built firmly into
the massive masonry. "Hum!" said he, scratching his chin in
some perplexity, "my theory certainly presents some difficulties.
No one could pass these shutters if they were bolted. Well, we
shall see if the inside throws any light upon the matter."
 A small slde door led into the whitewashed corridor from
which the three bedrooms opened. Holmes refused to examine
the third chamber, so we passed at once to the second, that in
which Miss Stoner was now sleeping, and in which her sister had
met with her fate. It was a homely little room, with a low ceiling
and a gaping fireplace, after the fashion of old country-houses. A
brown chest of drawers stood in one corner, a narrow white-
counterpaned bed in another, and a dressing-table on the left-hand
side of the window. These articles, with two small wicker-work
chairs, made up all the furniture in the room save for a square of
Wilton carpet in the centre. The boards round and the panelling
of the walls were of brown, worm-eaten oak, so old and
discoloured that it may have dated from the original building of
the house. Holmes drew one of the chairs into a corner and sat
sllent, while his eyes travelled round and round and up and
down, taking in every detail of the apartment.
 "Where does that bell communicate with?" he asked at last
pointing to a thick belt-rope which hung down beside the bed,
the tassel actually lying upon the pi]low.
 "It goes to the housekeeper's room."
 "It looks newer than the other things?"
 "Yes, it was only put there a couple of years ago."
 "Your sister asked for it, I suppose?"
 "No, I never heard of her using it. We used always to get
what we wanted for ourselves."
 "Indeed, it seemed unnecessary to put so nice a bell-pull
there. You will excuse me for a few minutes while I satisfy
myself as to this floor." He threw himself down upon his face
with his lens in his hand and crawled swiftly backward and
forward, examining minutely the cracks between the boards.
Then he dld the same with the wood-work with which the
chamber was panelled. Finally he walked over to the bed and
spent some time in staring at it and in running his eye up and
down the wall. Finally he took the bell-rope in his hand and gave
it a brisk tug.
 "Why, it's a dummy," said he.
 "Won't it ring?"
 "No, it is not even attached to a wire. This is very interesting.
You can see now that it is fastened to a hook just above where
the little opening for the ventilator is."
 "How very absurd! I never noticed that before."
 "Very strange!" muttered Holmes, pulling at the rope. "There
are one or two very singular points about this room. For exam-
ple, what a fool a builder must be to open a ventilator into
another room, when, with the same trouble, he might have
communicated with the outside air!"
 "That is also quite modern," said the lady.
 "Done about the same time as the bell-rope?" remarked
Holmes.
 "Yes, there were severa} little changes carried out about that
time."
 "They seem to have been of a most interesting character --
dummy bell-ropes, and ventilators which do not ventilate. With
your permission, Miss Stoner, we shall now carry our researches
into the inner apartment."
 Dr. Grimesby Roylott's chamber was larger than that of his
stepdaughter, but was as plainly furnished. A camp-bed, a small
wooden shelf full of books, mostly of a technical character an
armchair beside the bed, a plain wooden chair against the wail, a
round table, and a large iron safe were the principal things which
met the eye. Holmes walked slowly round and examined each
and all of them with the keenest interest.
 "What's in here?" he asked, tapping the safe.
 "My stepfather's business papers."
 "Oh! you have seen inside, then?"
 "Only once, some years ago. I remember that it was full of
papers."
 "There isn't a cat in it, for example?"
 "No. What a strange idea!"
 "Well, look at this!" He took up a small saucer of milk which
stood on the top of it.
 "No; we don't keep a cat. But there is a cheetah and a
baboon."
 "Ah, yes, of course! Well, a cheetah is just a big cat, and yet
a saucer of milk does not go very far in satisfying its wants, I
daresay. There is one point which I should wish to determine."
He squatted down in front of the wooden chair and examined the
seat of it with the greatest attention.
 "Thank you. That is quite settled," said he, rising and putting
his lens in his pocket. "Hello! Here is something interesting!"
 The object which had caught his eye was a small dog lash
hung on one corner of the bed. The lash, however, was curled
upon itself and tied so as to make a loop of whipcord.
 "What do you make of that, Watson?"
 "It's a common enough lash. But I don't know why if should
be tied."
 "That is not quite so common, is it? Ah, me! it's a wicked
world, and when a clever man turns his brains to crime it is the
worst of all. I think that I have seen enough now, Miss Stoner,
and with your permission we shall walk out upon the lawn."
 I had never seen my friend's face so grim or his brow so dark
as it was when we turned from the scene of this investigation.
We had walked several times up and down the lawn, neither
Miss Stoner nor myself liking to break in upon his thoughts
before he roused himself from his reverie.
 "It is very essential, Miss Stoner," said he, "that you should
absolutely follow my advice in every respect."
 "I shall most certainly do so."
 "The matter is too serious for any hesitation. Your life may
depend upon your compliance."
 "I assure you that I am in your hands."
 "In the first place, both my friend and I must spend the night
in your room."
 Both Miss Stoner and I gazed at him in astonishment.
 "Yes, it must be so. Let me explain. I believe that that is the
village inn over there?"
 "Yes, that is the Crown."
 "Very good. Your windows would be visible from there?"
 "Certainly."
 "You must confine yourself to your room, on pretence of a
headache, when your stepfather comes back. Then when you
hear him retire for the night, you must open the shutters of your
window, undo the hasp, put your lamp there as a signal to us,
and then withdraw quietly with everything which you are likely
to want into the room which you used to occupy. I have no doubt
that, in spite of the repairs, you could manage there for one
night."
 "Oh, yes, easily."
 "The rest you will leave in our hands."
 "But what will you do?"
 "We shall spend the night in your room, and we shall investi-
gate the cause of this noise which has disturbed you."
 "I believe, Mr. Holmes, that you have already made up your
mind," said Miss Stoner, laying her hand upon my companion's
sleeve.
 "Perhaps I have."
 "Then, for pity's sake, tell me what was the cause of my
sister's death."
 "I should prefer to have clearer proofs before I speak."
 "You can at least tell me whether my own thought is correct,
and if she died from some sudden fright."
 "No, I do not think so. I think that there was probably some
more tangible cause. And now, Miss Stoner, we must leave you
for if Dr. Roylott returned and saw us our journey would be in
vain. Good-bye, and be brave, for if you will do what I have told
you you may rest assured that we shall soon drive away the
dangers that threaten you."
 Sherlock Holmes and I had no difficulty in engaging a bed-
room and sitting-room at the Crown Inn. They were on the upper
floor, and from our window we could command a view of the
avenue gate, and of the inhabited wing of Stoke Moran Manor
House. At dusk we saw Dr. Grimesby Roylott drive past, his
huge form looming up beside the little figure of the lad who
drove him. The boy had some slight difficulty in undoing the
heavy iron gates, and we heard the hoarse roar of the doctor's
voice and saw the fury with which he shook his clinched fists at
him. The trap drove on, and a few minutes later we saw a
sudden light spring up among the trees as the lamp was lit in one
of the sitting-rooms.
 "Do you know, Watson," said Holmes as we sat together in
the gathering darkness, "I have really some scruples as to taking
you to-night. There is a distinct element of danger."
 "Can I be of assistance?"
 "Your presence might be invaluable."
 "Then I shall certainly come."
 "It is very kind of you."
 "You speak of danger. You have evidently seen more in these
rooms than was visible to me."
 "No, but I fancy that I may have deduced a little more. I
imagine that you saw all that I did."
 "I saw nothing remarkable save the bell-rope, and what purpose
that could answer I confess is more than I can imagine."
 "You saw the ventilator, too?"
 "Yes, but I do not think that it is such a very unusual thing to
have a small opening between two rooms. It was so small that a
rat could hardly pass through."
 "I knew that we should find a ventilator before ever we came
to Stoke Moran."
 "My dear Holmes!"
 "Oh, yes, I did. You remember in her statement she said that
her sister could smell Dr. Roylott's cigar. Now, of course that
suggested at once that there must be a communication between
the two rooms. It could only be a small one, or it would have
been remarked upon at the coroner's inquiry. I deduced a
ventilator."
 "But what harm can there be in that?"
 "Well, there is at least a curious coincidence of dates. A
ventilator is made, a cord is hung, and a lady who sleeps in the
bed dies. Does not that strike you?"
 "I cannot as yet see any connection."
 "Did you observe anything very peculiar about that bed?"
 "No."
 "It was clamped to the floor. Did you ever see a bed fastened
like that before?"
 "I cannot say that I have."
 "The lady could not move her bed. It must always be in the
same relative position to the ventilator and to the rope -- or so we
may call it, since it was clearly never meant for a bell-pull."
 "Holmes," I cried, "I seem to see dimly what you are hinting
at. We are only just in time to prevent some subtle and horrible
crime."
 "Subtle enough and horrible enough. When a doctor does go
wrong he is the first of criminals. He has nerve and he has
knowledge. Palmer and Pritchard were among the heads of their
profession. This man strikes even deeper, but I think, Watson,
that we shall be able to strike deeper still. But we shall have
horrors enough before the night is over; for goodness' sake let us
have a quiet pipe and turn our minds for a few hours to some-
thing more cheerful."

                        * * *

 About nine o'clock the light among the trees was extinguished,
and all was dark in the direction of the Manor House. Two hours
passed slowly away, and then, suddenly, just at the stroke of
eleven, a single bright light shone out right in front of us.
 "That is our signal," said Holmes, springing to his feet; "it
comes from the middle window."
 As we passed out he exchanged a few words with the land-
lord, explaining that we were going on a late visit to an acquaint-
ance, and that it was possible that we might spend the night
there. A moment later we were out on the dark road, a chill wind
blowing in our faces, and one yellow light twinkling in front of
us through the gloom to guide us on our sombre errand.
 There was little difficulty in entering the grounds, for unre-
paired breaches gaped in the old park wall. Making our way
among the trees, we reached the lawn, crossed it, and were about
to enter through the window when out from a clump of laurel
bushes there darted what seemed to be a hideous and distorted
child, who threw itself upon the grass with writhing limbs and
then ran swiftly across the lawn into the darkness.
 "My God!" I whispered; "did you see it?"
 Holmes was for the moment as startled as I. His hand closed
like a vise upon my wrist in his agitation. Then he broke into a
low laugh and put his lips to my ear.
 "It is a nice household," he murmured. "That is the baboon."
 I had forgotten the strange pets which the doctor affected.
There was a cheetah, too; perhaps we might find it upon our
shoulders at any moment. I confess that I felt easier in my mind
when, after following Holmes's example and slipping off my
shoes, I found myself inside the bedroom. My companion noise-
lessly closed the shutters, moved the lamp onto the table, and
cast his eyes round the room. All was as we had seen it in the
daytime. Then creeping up to me and making a trumpet of his
hand, he whispered into my ear again so gently that it was all
that I could do to distinguish the words:
 "The least sound would be fatal to our plans."
 I nodded to show that I had heard.
 "We must sit without light. He would see it through the
ventilator."
 I nodded again.
 "Do not go asleep; your very life may depend upon it. Have
your pistol ready in case we should need it. I will sit on the side
of the bed, and you in that chair."
 I took out my revolver and laid it on the corner of the table.
 Holmes had brought up a long thin cane, and this he placed
upon the bed beside him. By it he laid the box of matches and
the stump of a candle. Then he turned down the lamp, and we
were left in darkness.
 How shall I ever forget that dreadful vigil? I could not hear a
sound, not even the drawing of a breath, and yet I knew that my
companion sat open-eyed, within a few feet of me, in the same
state of nervous tension in which I was myself. The shutters cut
off the least ray of light, and we waited in absolute darkness.
From outside came the occasional cry of a night-bird, and once
at our very window a long drawn catlike whine, which told us
that the cheetah was indeed at liberty. Far away we could hear
the deep tones of the parish clock, which boomed out every
quarter of an hour. How long they seemed, those quarters!
Twelve struck, and one and two and three, and still we sat
waiting silently for whatever might befall.
 Suddenly there was the momentary gleam of a light up in the
direction of the ventilator, which vanished immediately, but was
succeeded by a strong smell of burning oil and heated metal.
Someone in the next room had lit a dark-lantern. I heard a gentle
sound of movement, and then all was silent once more, though
the smell grew stronger. For half an hour I sat with straining
ears. Then suddenly another sound became audible -- a very gen-
tle, soothing sound, like that of a small jet of steam escaping
continually from a kettle. The instant that we heard it, Holmes
sprang from the bed, struck a match, and lashed furiously with
his cane at the bell-pull.
 "You see it, Watson?" he yelled. "You see it?"
 But I saw nothing. At the moment when Holmes struck the
light I heard a low, clear whistle, but the sudden glare flashing
into my weary eyes made it impossible for me to tell what it was
at which my friend lashed so savagely. I could, however, see
that his face was deadly pale and filled with horror and loathing.-
 He had ceased to strike and was gazing up at the ventilator
when suddenly there broke from the silence of the night the most
horrible cry to which I have ever listened. It swelled up louder
and louder, a hoarse yell of pain and fear and anger all mingled
in the one dreadful shriek. They say that away down in the
village, and even in the distant parsonage, that cry raised the
sleepers from their beds. It struck cold to our hearts, and I stood
gazing at Holmes, and he at me, until the last echoes of it had
died away into the silence from which it rose.
 "What can it mean?" I gasped.
 "It means that it is all over," Holmes answered. "And per-
haps, after all, it is for the best. Take your pistol, and we will
enter Dr. Roylott's room."
 With a grave face he lit the lamp and led the way down the
corridor. Twice he struck at the chamber door without any reply
from within. Then he turned the handle and entered, I at his
heels, with the cocked pistol in my hand.
 It was a singular sight which met our eyes. On the table stood
a dark-lantern with the shutter half open, throwing a brilliant
beam of light upon the iron safe, the door of which was ajar.
Beside this table, on the wooden chair, sat Dr. Grimesby Roylott
clad in a long gray dressing-gown, his bare ankles protruding
beneath, and his feet thrust into red heelless Turkish slippers.
Across his lap lay the short stock with the long lash which we
had noticed during the day. His chin was cocked upward and his
eyes were fixed in a dreadful, rigid stare at the corner of the
ceiling. Round his brow he had a peculiar yellow band, with
brownish speckles, which seemed to be bound tightly round his
head. As we entered he made neither sound nor motion.
 "The band! the speckled band!" whispered Holmes.
 I took a step forward. In an instant his strange headgear began
to move, and there reared itself from among his hair the squat
diamond-shaped head and puffed neck of a loathsome serpent.
 "It is a swamp adder!" cried Holmes; "the deadliest snake in
India. He has died within ten seconds of being bitten. Violence
does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into
the pit which he digs for another. Let us thrust this creature back
into its den, and we can then remove Miss Stoner to some place
of shelter and let the county police know what has happened."

As he spoke he drew the dog-whip swiftly from the dead
man's lap, and throwing the noose round the reptile's neck he
drew it from its horrid perch and, carrying it at arm's length,
threw it into the iron safe, which he closed upon it.

Such are the true facts of the death of Dr. Grimesby Roylott,
of Stoke Moran. It is not necessary that I should prolong a
narrative which has already run to too great a length by telling
how we broke the sad news to the terrified girl, how we con-
veyed her by the morning train to the care of her good aunt at
Harrow, of how the slow process of official inquiry came to the
conclusion that the doctor met his fate while indiscreetly playing
with a dangerous pet. The little which I had yet to learn of the
case was told me by Sherlock Holmes as we travelled back next
day.
 "I had," said he, "come to an entirely erroneous conclusion
which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to
reason from insufficient data. The presence of the gypsies, and
the use of the word 'band,' which was used by the poor girl, no
doubt to explain the appearance which she had caught a hurried
glimpse of by the light of her match, were sufficient to put me
upon an entirely wrong scent. I can only claim the merit that I
instantly reconsidered my position when, however, it became
clear to me that whatever danger threatened an occupant of the
room could not come either from the window or the door. My
attention was speedily drawn, as I have already remarked to you,
to this ventilator, and to the bell-rope which hung down to the
bed. The discovery that this was a dummy, and that the bed was
clamped to the floor, instantly gave rise to the suspicion that the
rope was there as a bridge for something passing through the
hole and coming to the bed. The idea of a snake instantly
occurred to me, and when I coupled it with my knowledge that
the doctor was furnished with a supply of creatures from India, I
felt that I was probably on the right track. The idea of using a
form of poison which could not possibly be discovered by any
chemical test was just such a one as would occur to a clever and
ruthless man who had had an Eastern training. The rapidity with
which such a poison would take effect would also, from his point
of view, be an advantage. It would be a sharp-eyed coroner,
indeed, who could distinguish the two little dark punctures which
would show where the poison fangs had done their work. Then I
thought of the whistle. Of course he must recall the snake before
the morning light revealed it to the victim. He had trained it,
probably by the use of the milk which we saw, to return to him
when summoned. He would put it through this ventilator at the
hour that he thought best, with the certainty that it would crawl
down the rope and land on the bed. It might or might not bite the
occupant, perhaps she might escape every night for a week, but
sooner or later she must fall a victim.
 "I had come to these conclusions before ever I had entered his
room. An inspection of his chair showed me that he had been in
the habit of standing on it, which of course would be necessary
in order that he should reach the ventilator. The sight of the safe,
the saucer of milk, and the loop of whipcord were enough to
finally dispel any doubts which may have remained. The metallic
clang heard by Miss Stoner was obviously caused by her stepfa-
ther hastily closing the door of his safe upon its terrible occu-
pant. Having once made up my mind, you know the steps which
I took in order to put the matter to the proof. I heard the creature
hiss as I have no doubt that you did also, and I instantly lit the
light and attacked it."
 "With the result of driving it through the ventilator."
 "And also with the result of causing it to turn upon its master
at the other side. Some of the blows of my cane came home and
roused its snakish temper, so that it flew upon the first person it
saw. In this way I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr.
Grimesby Roylott's death, and I cannot say that it is likely to
weigh very heavily upon my conscience."





                                     1892

                               SHERLOCK HOLMES

                      THE ADVENTURE OF THE BERYL CORONET

                          by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle








Electronically Enhanced Text (c) Copyright 1991, World Library, Inc.

THE_ADVENTURE_OF_THE_BERYL_CORONET
          The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.
-
 "Holmes," said I as I stood one morning in our bow-window looking
down the street, "here is a madman coming along. It seems rather sad
that his relatives should allow him to come out alone."
 My friend rose lazily from his armchair and stood with his hands
in the pockets of his dressing-gown, looking over my shoulder. It
was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before
still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun.
Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown
crumbly band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up
edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell. The
gray pavement had been cleaned and scraped, but was still
dangerously slippery, so that there were fewer passengers than
usual. Indeed, from the direction of the Metropolitan Station no one
was coming save the single gentleman whose eccentric conduct had drawn
my attention.
 He was a man of about fifty, tall, portly, and imposing, with a
massive, strongly marked face and a commanding figure. He was
dressed in a sombre yet rich style, in black frock-coat, shining
hat, neat brown gaiters, and well-cut pearl-gray trousers. Yet his
actions were in absurd contrast to the dignity of his dress and
features, for he was running hard, with occasional little springs,
such as a weary man gives who is little accustomed to set any tax upon
his legs. As he ran he jerked his hands up and down, waggled his head,
and writhed his face into the most extraordinary contortions.
 "What on earth can be the matter with him?" I asked. "He is
looking up at the numbers of the houses."
 "I believe that he is coming here," said Holmes, rubbing his hands.
                                                             {^paragraph 5}
 "Here?"
 "Yes; I rather think he is coming to consult me professionally. I
think that I recognize the symptoms. Ha! did I not tell you?" As he
spoke, the man, puffing and blowing, rushed at our door and pulled
at our bell until the whole house resounded with the clanging.
 A few moments later he was in our room, still puffing, still
gesticulating, but with so fixed a look of grief and despair in his
eyes that our smiles were turned in an instant to horror and pity. For
a while he could not get his words out, but swayed his body and
plucked at his hair like one who has been driven to the extreme limits
of his reason. Then, suddenly springing to his feet, he beat his
head against the wall with such force that we both rushed upon him and
tore him away to the centre of the room. Sherlock Holmes pushed him
down into the easy-chair and, sitting beside him, patted his hand
and chatted with him in the easy, soothing tones which he knew so well
how to employ.
 "You have come to me to tell your story, have you not?" said he.
"You are fatigued with your haste. Pray wait until you have
recovered yourself, and then I shall be most happy to look into any
little problem which you may submit to me."
 The man sat for a minute or more with a heaving chest, fighting
against his emotion. Then he passed his handkerchief over his brow,
set his lips tight, and turned his face towards us.
                                                            {^paragraph 10}
 "No doubt you think me mad?" said he.
 "I see that you have had some great trouble," responded Holmes.
 "God knows I have!-a trouble which is enough to unseat my reason, so
sudden and so terrible is it. Public disgrace I might have faced,
although I am a man whose character has never yet borne a stain.
Private affliction also is the lot of every man; but the two coming
together, and in so frightful a form, have been enough to shake my
very soul. Besides, it is not I alone. The very noblest in the land
may suffer unless some way be found out of this horrible affair."
 "Pray compose yourself, sir," said Holmes, "and let me have a
clear account of who you are and what it is that has befallen you."
 "My name," answered our visitor, "is probably familiar to your ears.
I am Alexander Holder, of the banking firm of Holder & Stevenson, of
Threadneedle Street."
                                                            {^paragraph 15}
 The name was indeed well known to us as belonging to the senior
partner in the second largest private banking concern in the City of
London. What could have happened, then, to bring one of the foremost
citizens of London to this most pitiable pass? We waited, all
curiosity, until with another effort he braced himself to tell his
story.
 "I feel that time is of value," said he; "that is why I hastened
here when the police inspector suggested that I should secure your
cooperation. I came to Baker Street by the Underground and hurried
from there on foot, for the cabs go slowly through this snow. That
is why I was so out of breath, for I am a man who takes very little
exercise. I feel better now, and I will put the facts before you as
shortly and yet as clearly as I can.
 "It is, of course, well known to you that in a successful banking
business as much depends upon our being able to find remunerative
investments for our funds as upon our increasing our connection and
the number of our depositors. One of our most lucrative means of
laying out money is in the shape of loans, where the security is
unimpeachable. We have done a good deal in this direction during the
last few years, and there are many noble families to whom we have
advanced large sums upon the security of their pictures, libraries, or
plate.
 "Yesterday morning I was seated in my office at the bank when a card
was brought in to me by one of the clerks. I started when I saw the
name, for it was that of none other than-well, perhaps even to you I
had better say no more than that it was a name which is a household
word all over the earth-one of the highest, noblest, most exalted
names in England. I was overwhelmed by the honour and attempted,
when he entered, to say so, but he plunged at once into business
with the air of a man who wishes to hurry quickly through a
disagreeable task.
 "'Mr. Holder,' said he, 'I have been informed that you are in the
habit of advancing money.'
                                                            {^paragraph 20}
 "'The firm does so when the security is good,' I answered.
 "'It is absolutely essential to me,' said he, 'that I should have
L50,000 at once. I could, of course, borrow so trifling a sum ten
times over from my friends, but I much prefer to make it a matter of
business and to carry out that business myself. In my position you can
readily understand that it is unwise to place one's self under
obligations.'
 "'For how long, may I ask, do you want this sum?' I asked.
 "'Next Monday I have a large sum due to me, and I shall then most
certainly repay what you advance, with whatever interest you think
it right to charge. But it is very essential to me that the money
should be paid at once.'
 "'I should be happy to advance it without further parley from my own
private purse,' said I, 'were it not that the strain would be rather
more than it could bear. If, on the other hand, I am to do it in the
name of the firm, then in justice to my partner I must insist that
even in your case, every businesslike precaution should be taken.'
                                                            {^paragraph 25}
 "'I should much prefer to have it so,' said he, raising up a square,
black morocco case which he had laid beside his chair. 'You have
doubtless heard of the Beryl Coronet?'
 "'One of the most precious public possessions of the empire,' said
I.
 "'Precisely.' He opened the case, and there, imbedded in soft,
flesh-coloured velvet, lay the magnificent piece of jewellery which he
had named. 'There are thirty-nine enormous beryls,' said he, 'and
the price of the gold chasing is incalculable. The lowest estimate
would put the worth of the coronet at double the sum which I have
asked. I am prepared to leave it with you as my security.'
 "I took the precious case into my hands and looked in some
perplexity from it to my illustrious client.
 "'You doubt its value?' he asked.
                                                            {^paragraph 30}
 "'Not at all. I only doubt-'
 "'The propriety of my leaving it. You may set your mind at rest
about that. I should not dream of doing so were it not absolutely
certain that I should be able in four days to reclaim it. It is a pure
matter of form. Is the security sufficient?'
 "'Ample.'
 "'You understand, Mr. Holder, that I am giving you a strong proof of
the confidence which I have in you, founded upon all that I have heard
of you. I rely upon you not only to be discreet and to refrain from
all gossip upon the matter but, above all, to preserve this coronet
with every possible precaution because I need not say that a great
public scandal would be caused if any harm were to befall it. Any
injury to it would be almost as serious as its complete loss, for
there are no beryls in the world to match these, and it would be
impossible to replace them. I leave it with you, however, with every
confidence, and I shall call for it in person on Monday morning.'
 "Seeing that my client was anxious to leave, I said no more; but,
calling for my cashier, I ordered him to pay over fifty L1000 notes.
When I was alone once more, however, with the precious case lying upon
the table in front of me, I could not but think with some misgivings
of the immense responsibility which it entailed upon me. There could
be no doubt that, as it was a national possession, a horrible
scandal would ensue if any misfortune should occur to it. I already
regretted having ever consented to take charge of it. However, it
was too late to alter the matter now, so I locked it up in my
private safe and turned once more to my work.
                                                            {^paragraph 35}
 "When evening came I felt that it would be an imprudence to leave so
precious a thing in the office behind me. Bankers' safes had been
forced before now, and why should not mine be? If so, how terrible
would be the position in which I should find myself! I determined,
therefore, that for the next few days I would always carry the case
backward and forward with me, so that it might never be really out
of my reach. With this intention, I called a cab and drove out to my
house at Streatham, carrying the jewel with me. I did not breathe
freely until I had taken it upstairs and locked it in the bureau of my
dressing-room.
 "And now a word as to my household, Mr. Holmes, for I wish you to
thoroughly understand the situation. My groom and my page sleep out of
the house, and may be set aside altogether. I have three maid-servants
who have been with me a number of years and whose absolute reliability
is quite above suspicion. Another, Lucy Parr, the second waiting-maid,
has only been in my service a few months. She came with an excellent
character, however, and has always given me satisfaction. She is a
very pretty girl and has attracted admirers who have occasionally hung
about the place. That is the only drawback which we have found to her,
but we believe her to be a thoroughly good girl in every way.
 "So much for the servants. My family itself is so small that it will
not take me long to describe it. I am a widower and have an only
son, Arthur. He has been a disappointment to me, Mr. Holmes-a grievous
disappointment. I have no doubt that I am myself to blame. People tell
me that I have spoiled him. Very likely I have. When my dear wife died
I felt that he was all I had to love. I could not bear to see the
smile fade even for a moment from his face. I have never denied him
a wish. Perhaps it would have been better for both of us had I been
sterner, but I meant it for the best.
 "It was naturally my intention that he should succeed me in my
business, but he was not of a business turn. He was wild, wayward,
and, to speak the truth, I could not trust him in the handling of
large sums of money. When he was young he became a member of an
aristocratic club, and there, having charming manners, he was soon the
intimate of a number of men with long purses and expensive habits.
He learned to play heavily at cards and to squander money on the turf,
until he had again and again to come to me and implore me to give
him an advance upon his allowance, that he might settle his debts of
honour. He tried more than once to break away from the dangerous
company which he was keeping, but each time the influence of his
friend, Sir George Burnwell, was enough to draw him back again.
 "And, indeed, I could not wonder that such a man as Sir George
Burnwell should gain an influence over him, for he has frequently
brought him to my house, and I have found myself that I could hardly
resist the fascination of his manner. He is older than Arthur, a man
of the world to his finger-tips, one who had been everywhere, seen
everything, a brilliant talker, and a man of great personal beauty.
Yet when I think of him in cold blood, far away from the glamour of
his presence, I am convinced from his cynical speech and the look
which I have caught in his eyes that he is one who should be deeply
distrusted. So I think, and so, too, thinks my little Mary, who has
a woman's quick insight into character.
                                                            {^paragraph 40}
 "And now there is only she to be described. She is my niece; but
when my brother died five years ago and left her alone in the world
I adopted her, and have looked upon her ever since as my daughter. She
is a sunbeam in my house sweet, loving, beautiful, a wonderful manager
and housekeeper, yet as tender and quiet and gentle as a woman could
be. She is my right hand. I do not know what I could do without her.
In only one matter has she ever gone against my wishes. Twice my boy
has asked her to marry him, for he loves her devotedly, but each
time she has refused him. I think that if anyone could have drawn
him into the right path it would have been she, and that his
marriage might have changed his whole life; but now, alas! it is too
late-forever too late!
 "Now, Mr. Holmes, you know the people who live under my roof, and
I shall continue with my miserable story.
 "When we were taking coffee in the drawing-room that night after
dinner, I told Arthur and Mary my experience, and of the precious
treasure which we had under our roof, suppressing only the name of
my client. Lucy Parr, who had brought in the coffee, had, I am sure,
left the room; but I cannot swear that the door was closed. Mary and
Arthur were much interested and wished to see the famous coronet,
but I thought it better not to disturb it.
 "'Where have you put it?' asked Arthur.
 "'In my own bureau.'
                                                            {^paragraph 45}
 "'Well, I hope to goodness the house won't be burgled during the
night,' said he.
 "'It is locked up,' I answered.
 "'Oh, any old key will fit that bureau. When I was a youngster I
have opened it myself with the key of the box-room cupboard.'
 "He often had a wild way of talking, so that I thought little of
what he said. He followed me to my room, however, that night with a
very grave face.
 "'Look here, dad,' said he with his eyes cast down, 'can you let
me have L200?'
                                                            {^paragraph 50}
 "'No, I cannot!' I answered sharply. 'I have been far too generous
with you in money matters.'
 "'You have been very kind,' said he, 'but I must have this money, or
else I can never show my face inside the club again.'
 "'And a very good thing, too!' I cried.
 "'Yes, but you would not have me leave it a dishonoured man,' said
he. 'I could not bear the disgrace. I must raise the money in some
way, and if you will not let me have it, then I must try other means.'
 "I was very angry, for this was the third demand during the month.
'You shall not have a farthing from me,' cried, on which he bowed
and left the room without another word.
                                                            {^paragraph 55}
 "When he was gone I unlocked my bureau, made sure that my treasure
was safe, and locked it again. Then I started to go round the house to
see that all was secure-a duty which I usually leave to Mary but which
I thought it well to perform myself that night. As I came down the
stairs I saw Mary herself at the side window of the hail, which she
closed and fastened as I approached.
 "'Tell me, dad,' said she, looking, I thought, a little disturbed,
'did you give Lucy, the maid, leave to go out to-night?'
 "'Certainly not.'
 "'She came in just now by the back door. I have no doubt that she
has only been to the side gate to see someone, but I think that it
is hardly safe and should be stopped.'
 "'You must speak to her in the morning, or I will if you prefer
it. Are you sure that everything is fastened?'
                                                            {^paragraph 60}
 "'Quite sure, dad.'
 "'Then, good-night.' I kissed her and went up to my bedroom again,
where I was soon asleep.
 "I am endeavouring to tell you everything, Mr. Holmes, which may
have any bearing upon the case, but I beg that you will question me
upon any point which I do not make clear."
 "On the contrary, your statement is singularly lucid."
 "I come to a part of my story now in which I should wish to be
particularly so. I am not a very heavy sleeper, and the anxiety in
my mind tended, no doubt, to make me even less so than usual. About
two in the morning, then, I was awakened by some sound in the house.
It had ceased ere I was wide awake, but it had left an impression
behind it as though a window had gently closed somewhere. I lay
listening with all my ears. Suddenly, to my horror, there was a
distinct sound of footsteps moving softly in the next room. I
slipped out of bed, an palpitating with fear, and peeped round the
corner of my dressing-room door.
                                                            {^paragraph 65}
 "'Arthur' I screamed, 'you villain! you thief! How dare you touch
that coronet?'
 "The gas was half up, as I had left it, and my unhappy boy,
dressed only in his shirt and trousers, was standing beside the light,
holding the coronet in his hands. He appeared to be wrenching at it,
or bending it with all his strength. At my cry he dropped it from
his grasp and turned as pale as death. I snatched it up and examined
it. One of the gold corners, with three of the beryls in it, was
missing.
 "'You blackguard!' I shouted, beside myself with rage. 'You have
destroyed it! You have dishonoured me forever! Where are the jewels
which you have stolen?'
 "'Stolen!' he cried.
 "'Yes, thief!' I roared, shaking him by the shoulder.
                                                            {^paragraph 70}
 "'There are none missing. there cannot be any missing,' said he.
 "'There are three missing. And you know where they are. Must I
call you a liar as well as a thief? Did I not see you trying to tear
off another piece?'
 "'You have called me names enough,' said he; 'I will not stand it
any longer. I shall not say another word about this business, since
you have chosen to insult me. I will leave your house in the morning
and make my own way in the world.'
 "'You shall leave it in the hands of the police!' I cried,
half-mad with grief and rage. 'I shall have this matter probed to
the bottom.'
 "'You shall learn nothing from me,' said he with a passion such as I
should not have thought you choose to call the police, let the
police find what they can."
                                                            {^paragraph 75}
 "By this time the whole house was astir, for I had raised my voice
in my anger. Mary was the first to rush into my room, and, at the
sight of the coronet and of and of Arthur's face, she read the whole
story and, with a scream, fell down senseless on the ground. I sent
the house-maid for the police and put the investigation into their
hands at once. When the inspector and a constable entered the house,
Arthur, who had stood sullenly with his arms folded, asked me
whether it was my intention to charge him with theft. I answered
that it had ceased to be a private matter, but had become a public
one, since the ruined coronet was national property. I was
determined that the law should have its way in everything.
 "'At least,' said he, 'you will not have me arrested at once. It
would be to your advantage as well as mine if I might leave the
house for five minutes.'
 "'That you may get away, or perhaps that you may conceal what you
have stolen; said I. And then, realizing the dreadful position in
which I was placed, I implored him to remember that not only my honour
but that of one who was far greater than I was at stake; and that he
threatened to raise a scandal which would convulse the nation. He
might avert it all if he would but tell me what he had done with the
three missing stones.
 "'You may as well face the matter,' said I; 'you have been caught in
the act, and no confession could make your guilt more heinous. If
you but make such reparation as is in your power, by telling us
where the beryls are, all shall be forgiven and forgotten.'
 "'Keep your forgiveness for those who ask for it,' he answered,
turning away from me with a sneer. I saw that he was too hardened
for any words of mine to influence him. There was but one way for
it. I called in the inspector and gave him into custody. A search
was made at once not only of his person but of his room and of every
portion of the house where he could possibly have concealed the
gems; but no trace of them could be found, nor would the wretched
boy open his mouth for all our persuasions and our threats. This
morning he was removed to a cell, and I, after going through all the
police formalities, have hurried round to you to implore you to use
your skill in unravelling the matter. The police have openly confessed
that they can at present make nothing of it. You may go to any expense
which you think necessary. I have already offered a reward of L1000.
My God, what shall I do! I have lost my honour, my gems, and my son in
one night. Oh, what shall I do!"
                                                            {^paragraph 80}
 He put a hand on either side of his head and rocked himself to and
fro, droning to himself like a child whose grief has got beyond words.
 Sherlock Holmes sat silent for some few minutes, with his brows
knitted and his eyes fixed upon the fire.
 "Do you receive much company?" he asked.
 "None save my partner with his family and an occasional friend of
Arthur's. Sir George Burnwell has been several times lately. No one
else, I think."
 "Do you go out much in society?"
                                                            {^paragraph 85}
 "Arthur does. Mary and I stay at home. We neither of us care for
it."
 "That is unusual in a young girl."
 "She is of a quiet nature. Besides, she is not so very young. She is
four-and twenty."
 "This matter, from what you say, seems to have been a shock to her
also."
 "Terrible! She is even more affected than I."
                                                            {^paragraph 90}
 "You have neither of you any doubt as to your son's guilt?"
 "How can we have when I saw him with my own eyes with the coronet in
his hands."
 "I hardly consider that a conclusive proof. Was the remainder of the
coronet at all injured?"
 "Yes, it was twisted."
 "Do you not think, then, that he might have been trying to
straighten it?"
                                                            {^paragraph 95}
 "God bless you! You are doing what you can for him and for me. But
it is too heavy a task. What was he doing there at all? If his purpose
were innocent, why did he not say so?"
 "Precisely. And if it were guilty, why did he not invent a lie?
His silence appears to me to cut both ways. there are several singular
points about the case. What did the police think of the noise which
awoke you from your sleep?"
 "They considered that it might be caused by Arthur's closing his
bedroom door."
 "A likely story! As if a man bent on felony would slam his door so
as to wake a household. What did they say, then, of the
disappearance of these gems?"
 "They are still sounding the planking and probing the furniture in
the hope of finding them."
                                                           {^paragraph 100}
 "Have they thought of looking outside the house?"
 "Yes, they have shown extraordinary energy. The whole garden has
already been minutely examined."
 "Now, my dear sir," said Holmes, "is it not obvious to you now
that this matter really strikes very much deeper than either you or
the police were at first inclined to think? It appeared to you to be a
simple case; to me it seems exceedingly complex. Consider what is
involved by your theory. You suppose that your son came down from
his bed, went, at great risk, to your dressing-room, opened your
bureau, took out your coronet, broke off by main force a small portion
of it, went off to some other place, concealed three gems out of the
thirty-nine, with such skill that nobody can find them, and then
returned with the other thirty-six into the room in which he exposed
himself to the greatest danger of being discovered. I ask you now,
is such a theory tenable?"
 "But what other is there?" cried the banker with a gesture of
despair. "If his motives were innocent, why does he not explain them?"
 "It is our task to find that out," replied Holmes; "so now, if you
please, Mr. Holder, we will set off for Streatham together, and devote
an hour to glancing a little more closely into details."
                                                           {^paragraph 105}
 My friend insisted upon my accompanying them in their expedition,
which I was eager enough to do, for my curiosity and sympathy were
deeply stirred by the story to which we had listened. I confess that
the guilt of the banker's son appeared to me to be as obvious as it
did to his unhappy father, but still I had such faith in Holmes's
judgment that I felt that there must be some grounds for hope as
long as he was dissatisfied with the accepted explanation. He hardly
spoke a word the whole way out to the southern suburb, but sat with
his chin upon his breast and his hat drawn over his eyes, sunk in
the deepest thought. Our client appeared to have taken fresh heart
at the little glimpse of hope which had been presented to him, and
he even broke into a desultory chat with me over his business affairs.
A short railway journey and a shorter walk brought us to Fairbank, the
modest residence of the great financier.
 Fairbank was a good-sized square house of white stone, standing back
a little from the road. A double carriage-sweep, with a snow-clad
lawn, stretched down in front to two large iron gates which closed the
entrance. On the right side was a small wooden thicket, which led into
a narrow path between two neat hedges stretching from the road to
the kitchen door, and forming the tradesmen's entrance. On the left
ran a lane which led to the stables, and was not itself within the
grounds at all, being a public, though little used, thoroughfare.
Holmes left us standing at the door and walked slowly all round the
house, across the front, down the tradesmen's path, and so round by
the garden behind into the stable lane. So long was he that Mr. Holder
and I went into the dining-room and waited by the fire until he should
return. We were sitting there in silence when the door opened and a
young lady came in. She was rather above the middle height, slim, with
dark hair and eyes, which seemed the darker against the absolute
pallor of her skin. I do not think that I have ever seen such deadly
paleness in a woman's face. Her lips, too, were bloodless, but her
eyes were flushed with crying. As she swept silently into the room she
impressed me with a greater sense of grief than the banker had done in
the morning, and it was the more striking in her as she was
evidently a woman of strong character, with immense capacity for
self-restraint. Disregarding my presence, she went straight to her
uncle and passed her hand over his head with a sweet womanly caress.
 "You have given orders that Arthur should be liberated, have you
not, dad?" she asked.
 "No, no, my girl, the matter must be probed to the bottom."
 "But I am so sure that he is innocent. You know what woman's
instincts are. I know that he has done no harm and that you will be
sorry for having acted so harshly."
                                                           {^paragraph 110}
 "Why is he silent, then, if he is innocent?"
 "Who knows? Perhaps because he was so angry that you should
suspect him."
 "How could I help suspecting him, when I actually saw him with the
coronet in his hand?"
 "Oh, but he had only picked it up to look at it. Oh, do, do take
my word for it that he is innocent. Let the matter drop and say no
more. It is so dreadful to think of our dear Arthur in prison!"
 "I shall never let it drop until the gems are found-never, Mary!
Your affection for Arthur blinds you as to the awful consequences to
me. Far from hushing the thing up, I have brought a gentleman down
from London to inquire more deeply into it."
                                                           {^paragraph 115}
 "This gentleman?" she asked, facing round to me.
 "No, his friend. He wished us to leave him alone. He is round in the
stable lane now."
 "The stable lane?" She raised her dark eyebrows. "What can he hope
to find there? Ah! this, I suppose, is he. I trust, sir, that you will
succeed in proving, what I feel sure is the truth. that my cousin
Arthur is innocent of this crime."
 "I fully share your opinion, and I trust, with you, that we may
prove it," returned Holmes, going back to the mat to knock the snow
from his shoes. "I believe I have the honour of addressing Miss Mary
Holder. Might I ask you a question or two?"
 "Pray do, sir, if it may help to clear this horrible affair up."
                                                           {^paragraph 120}
 "You heard nothing yourself last night?"
 "Nothing, until my uncle here began to speak loudly. I heard that,
and I came down."
 "You shut up the windows and doors the night before. Did you
fasten all the windows?"
 "Yes."
 "Were they all fastened this morning?"
                                                           {^paragraph 125}
 "Yes."
 "You have a maid who has a sweetheart? I think that you remarked
to your uncle last night that she had been out to see him?"
 "Yes, and she was the girl who waited in the drawing-room, and who
may have heard uncle's remarks about the coronet."
 "I see. You infer that she may have gone out to tell her sweetheart,
and that the two may have planned the robbery."
 "But what is the good of all these vague theories," cried the banker
impatiently, "When I have told you that I saw Arthur with the
coronet in his hands?"
                                                           {^paragraph 130}
 "Wait a little, Mr. Holder. We must come back to that. About this
girl, Miss Holder. You saw her return by the kitchen door, I presume?"
 "Yes; when I went to see if the door was fastened for the night I
met her slipping in. I saw the man, too, in the gloom."
 "Do you know him?"
 "Oh, yes! he is the green-grocer who brings our vegetables round.
His name is Francis Prosper."
 "He stood," said Holmes, "to the left of the door-that is to say,
farther up the path than is necessary to reach the door?"
                                                           {^paragraph 135}
 "Yes, he did."
 "And he is a man with a wooden leg?"
 Something like fear sprang up in the young lady's expressive black
eyes. "Why, you are like a magician," said she. "How do you know
that?" She smiled, but there was no answering smile in Holmes's
thin, eager face.
 "I should be very glad now to go upstairs," said he. "I shall
probably wish to go over the outside of the house again. Perhaps I had
better take a look at the lower windows before I go up."
 He walked swiftly round from one to the other, pausing only at the
large one which looked from the hall onto the stable lane. This he
opened and made a very careful examination of the sill with his
powerful magnifying lens. "Now we shall go upstairs," said he at last.
                                                           {^paragraph 140}
 The banker's dressing-room was a plainly furnished little chamber,
with a gray carpet, a large bureau, and a long mirror. Holmes went
to the bureau first and looked hard at the lock.
 "Which key was used to open it?" he asked.
 "That which my son himself indicated-that of the cupboard of the
lumber room."
 "Have you it here?"
 "That is it on the dressing-table."
                                                           {^paragraph 145}
 Sherlock Holmes took it up and opened the bureau.
 "It is a noiseless lock," said he. "It is no wonder that it did
not wake you. This case, I presume, contains the coronet. We must have
a look at it." He opened the case, and taking out the diadem he laid
it upon the table. It was a magnificent specimen of the jeweller's
art, and the thirty-six stones were the finest that I have ever
seen. At one side of the coronet was a cracked edge, where a corner
holding three gems had been torn away.
 "Now, Mr. Holder," said Holmes, "here is the corner which
corresponds to that which has been so unfortunately lost. Might I
beg that you will break it off."
 The banker recoiled in horror. "I should not dream of trying,"
said he.
 "Then I will." Holmes suddenly bent his strength upon it, but
without result. "I feel it give a little," said he; "but, though I
am exceptionally strong in the fingers, it would take me all my time
to break it. An ordinary man could not do it. Now, what do you think
would happen if I did break it, Mr. Holder? There would be a noise
like a pistol shot. Do you tell me that all this happened within a few
yards of your bed and that you heard nothing of it?"
                                                           {^paragraph 150}
 "I do not know what to think. It is all dark to me."
 "But perhaps it may grow lighter as we go. What do you think, Miss
Holder?"
 "I confess that I still share my uncle's perplexity."
 "Your son had no shoes or slippers on when you saw him?"
 "He had nothing on save only his trousers and shirt."
                                                           {^paragraph 155}
 "Thank you. We have certainly been favoured with extraordinary
luck during this inquiry, and it will be entirely our own fault if
we do not succeed in clearing the matter up. With your permission, Mr.
Holder, I shall now continue my investigations outside."
 He went alone, at his own request, for he explained that any
unnecessary footmarks might make his task more difficult. For an
hour or more he was at work, returning at last with his feet heavy
with snow and his features as inscrutable as ever.
 "I think that I have seen now all that there is to see, Mr. Holder,"
said he; "I can serve you best by returning to my rooms."
 "But the gems, Mr. Holmes. Where are they?"
 "I cannot tell."
                                                           {^paragraph 160}
 The banker wrung his hands. "I shall never see them again!" he
cried. "And my son? You give me hopes?"
 "My opinion is in no way altered."
 "Then, for God's sake, what was this dark business which was acted
in my house last night?"
 "If you can call upon me at my Baker Street rooms to-morrow
morning between nine and ten I shall be happy to do what I can to make
it clearer. I understand that you give me carte blanche to act for
you, provided only that I get back the gems, and that you place no
limit on the sum I may draw."
 "I would give my fortune to have them back."
                                                           {^paragraph 165}
 "Very good. I shall look into the matter between this and then.
Good-bye; it is just possible that I may have to come over here
again before evening."
 It was obvious to me that my companion's mind was now made up
about the case, although what his conclusions were was more than I
could even dimly imagine. Several times during our homeward journey
I endeavoured to sound him upon the point, but he always glided away
to some other topic, until at last I gave it over in despair. It was
not yet three when we found ourselves in our room once more. He
hurried to his chamber, and was down again in a few minutes dressed as
a common loafer. With his collar turned up, his shiny, seedy coat, his
red cravat, and his worn boots, he was a perfect sample of the class.
 "I think that this should do," said he, glancing into the glass
above the fireplace. "I only wish that you could come with me, Watson,
but I fear that it won't do. I may be on the trail in this matter,
or I may be following a will-o'-the-wisp, but I shall soon know
which it is. I hope that I may be back in a few hours." He cut a slice
of beef from the joint upon the sideboard, sandwiched it between two
rounds of bread, and thrusting this rude meal into his pocket he
started off upon his expedition.
 I had just finished my tea when he returned, evidently in
excellent spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in his hand.
He chucked it down into a corner and helped himself to a cup of tea.
 "I only looked in as I passed," said he. "I am going right on."
                                                           {^paragraph 170}
 "Where to?"
 "Oh, to the other side of the West End. It may be some time before I
get back. Don't wait up for me in case I should be late."
 "How are you getting on?"
 "Oh, so so. Nothing to complain of. I have been out to Streatham
since I saw you last, but I did not call at the house. It is a very
sweet little problem, and I would not have missed it for a good
deal. However, I must not sit gossiping here, but must get these
disreputable clothes off and return to my highly respectable self."
 I could see by his manner that he had stronger reasons for
satisfaction than his words alone would imply. His eyes twinkled,
and there was even a touch of colour upon his sallow cheeks. He
hastened upstairs, and a few minutes later I heard the slam of the
hall door, which told me that he was off once more upon his
congenial hunt.
                                                           {^paragraph 175}
 I waited until midnight, but there was no sign of his return, so I
retired to my room. It was no uncommon thing for him to be away for
days and nights on end when he was hot upon a scent, so that his
lateness caused me no surprise. I do not know at what hour he came in,
but when I came down to breakfast in the morning there he was with a
cup of coffee in one hand and the paper in the other, as fresh and
trim as possible.
 "You will excuse my beginning without you, Watson," said he, "but
you remember that our client has rather an early appointment this
morning."
 "Why, it is after nine now," answered. "I should not be surprised if
that were he. I thought I heard a ring."
 It was, indeed, our friend the financier. I was shocked by the
change which had come over him, for his face which was naturally of
a broad and massive mould, was now pinched and fallen in, while his
hair seemed to me at least a shade whiter. He entered with a weariness
and lethargy which was even more painful than his violence of the
morning before, and he dropped heavily into the armchair which I
pushed forward for him.
 "I do not know what I have done to be so severely tried," said he.
"Only two days ago I was a happy and prosperous man, without a care in
the world. Now I am left to a lonely and dishonoured age. One sorrow
comes close upon the heels of another. My niece, Mary, has deserted
me."
                                                           {^paragraph 180}
 "Deserted you?"
 "Yes. Her bed this morning had not been slept in, her room was
empty, and a note for me lay upon the hall table. I had said to her
last night, in sorrow and not in anger, that if she had married my boy
all might have been well with him. Perhaps it was thoughtless of me to
say so. It is to that remark that she refers in this note:
-
 'MY DEAREST UNCLE:
 'I feel that I have brought trouble upon you, and that if I had
acted differently this terrible misfortune might never have
occurred. I cannot, with this thought in my mind, ever again be
happy under your roof, and I feel that I must leave you forever. Do
not worry about my future, for that is provided for; and, above all,
do not search for me, for it will be fruitless labour and an
ill-service to me. In life or in death, I am ever
                                                           {^paragraph 185}
                                    "Your loving "MARY.
-
 "What could she mean by that note, Mr. Holmes? Do you think it
points to suicide?"
 "No, no, nothing of the kind. It is perhaps the best possible
solution. I trust Mr. Holder, that you are nearing the end of your
troubles."
 "Ha! You say so! You have heard something, Mr. Holmes; you have
learned something! Where are the gems?"
                                                           {^paragraph 190}
 "You would not think L1000 apiece an excessive sum for them?"
 "I would pay ten."
 "That would be unnecessary. Three thousand will cover the matter.
And there is a little reward, I fancy. Have you your check-book?
Here is a pen. Better make it out for L4000."
 With a dazed face the banker made out the required check. Holmes
walked over to his desk, took out a little triangular piece of gold
with three gems in it, and threw it down upon the table.
 With a shriek of joy our client clutched it up.
                                                           {^paragraph 195}
 "You have it!" he gasped. "I am saved! I am saved!"
 The reaction of joy was as passionate as his grief had been, and
he hugged his recovered gems to his bosom.
 "There is one other thing you owe, Mr. Holder," said Sherlock Holmes
rather sternly.
 "Owe!" He caught up a pen. "Name the sum, and I will pay it."
 "No, the debt is not to me. You owe a very humble apology to that
noble lad, your son, who has carried himself in this matter as I
should be proud to see my own son do, should I ever chance to have
one."
                                                           {^paragraph 200}
 "Then it was not Arthur who took them?"
 "I told you yesterday, and I repeat to-day, that it was not."
 "You are sure of it! Then let us hurry to him at once to let him
know that the truth is known."
 "He knows it already. When I had cleared it all up I had an
interview with him, and finding that he would not tell me the story, I
told it to him, on which he had to confess that I was right and to add
the very few details which were not yet quite clear to me. Your news
of this morning, however, may open his lips."
 "For heaven's sake, tell me, then, what is this extraordinary
mystery!"
                                                           {^paragraph 205}
 "I will do so, and I will show the steps by which I reached it.
And let me to you, first, that which it is hardest for me to say and
for you to hear: there has been an understanding between Sir George
Burnwell and your niece Mary. They have now fled together."
 "My Mary? Impossible!"
 "It is unfortunately more than possible, it is certain. Neither
you nor your son knew the true character of this man when you admitted
him into your family circle. He is one of the most dangerous men in
England-a ruined gambler, an absolutely desperate villain, a man
without heart or conscience. Your niece knew nothing of such men. When
he breathed his vows to her, as he had done to a hundred before her,
she flattered herself that she alone had touched his heart. The
devil knows best what he said, but at least she became his tool and
was in the habit of seeing him nearly every evening."
 "I cannot, and I will not, believe it!" cried the banker with an
ashen face.
 "I will tell you, then, what occurred in your house last night. Your
niece, when you had, as she thought, gone to your room, slipped down
and talked to her lover through the window which leads into the stable
lane. His footmarks had pressed right through the snow, so long had he
stood there. She told him of the coronet. His wicked lust for gold
kindled at the news, and he bent her to his will. I have no doubt that
she loved you, but there are women in whom the love of a lover
extinguishes all other loves, and I think that she must have been one.
She had hardly listened to his instructions when she saw you coming
downstairs, on which she closed the window rapidly and told you
about one of the servants' escapade with her wooden-legged lover,
which was all perfectly true.
                                                           {^paragraph 210}
 "Your boy, Arthur, went to bed after his interview with you, but
he slept badly on account of his uneasiness about his club debts. In
the middle of the night he heard a soft tread pass his door, so he
rose and, looking out, was surprised to see his cousin walking very
stealthily along the passage until she disappeared into your
dressing-room. Petrified with astonishment, the lad slipped on some
clothes and waited there in the dark to see what would come of this
strange affair. Presently she emerged from the room again, and in
the light of the passage-lamp your son saw that she carried the
precious coronet in her hands. She passed down the stairs, and he,
thrilling with horror, ran along and slipped behind the curtain near
your door, whence he could see what passed in the hall beneath. He saw
her stealthily open the window, hand out the coronet to someone in the
gloom, and then closing it once more hurry back to her room, passing
quite close to where he stood hid behind the curtain.
 "As long as she was on the scene he could not take any action
without a horrible exposure of the woman whom he loved. But the
instant that she was gone he realized how crushing a misfortune this
would be for you, and how important it was to set it right. He
rushed down, just as he was, in his bare feet, opened the window,
sprang out into the snow, and ran down the lane, where he could see
a dark figure in the moonlight. Sir George Burnwell tried to get away,
but Arthur caught him, and there was a struggle between them, your lad
tugging at one side of the coronet and his opponent at the other. In
the scuffle, your son struck Sir George and cut him over the eye. Then
something suddenly snapped, and your son, finding that he had the
coronet in his hands, rushed back, closed the window, ascended to your
room, and had just observed that the coronet had been twisted in the
struggle and was endeavouring to straighten it when you appeared
upon the scene."
 "Is it possible?" gasped the banker.
 "You then roused his anger by calling him names at a moment when
he felt that he had deserved your warmest thanks. He could not explain
the true state of affairs without betraying one who certainly deserved
little enough consideration at his hands. He took the more
chivalrous view, however, and preserved her secret."
 "And that was why she shrieked and fainted when she saw the
coronet," cried Mr. Holder. "Oh, my God! what a blind fool I have
been! And his asking to be allowed to go out for five minutes! The
dear fellow wanted to see if the missing piece were at the scene of
the struggle. How cruelly I have misjudged him!"
                                                           {^paragraph 215}
 "When I arrived at the house," continued Holmes, "I at once went
very carefully round it to observe if there were any traces in the
snow which might help me. I knew that none had fallen since the
evening before, and also that there had been a strong frost to
preserve impressions. I passed along the tradesmen's path, but found
it all trampled down and indistinguishable. just beyond it, however,
at the far side of the kitchen door, a woman had stood and talked with
a man, whose round impressions on one side showed that he had a wooden
leg. I could even tell that they had been disturbed, for the woman had
run back swiftly to the door, as was shown by the deep toe and light
heel marks, while Wooden-leg had waited a little, and then had gone
away. I thought at the time that this might be the maid and her
sweetheart, of whom you had already spoken to me, and inquiry showed
it was so. I passed round the garden without seeing anything more than
random tracks, which I took to be the police; but when I got into
the stable lane a very long and complex story was written in the
snow in front of me.
 "There was a double line of tracks of a booted man, and a second
double line which I saw with delight belonged to a man with naked
feet. I was at once convinced from what you had told me that the
latter was your son. The first had walked both ways, but the other had
run swiftly, and as his tread was marked in places over the depression
of the boot, it was obvious that he had passed after the other. I
followed them up and found they led to the hall window, where Boots
had worn all the snow away while waiting. Then I walked to the other
end, which was a hundred yards or more down the lane. I saw where
Boots had faced round, where the snow was cut up as though there had
been a struggle, and, finally, where a few drops of blood had
fallen, to show me that I was not mistaken. Boots had then run down
the lane, and another little smudge of blood showed that it was he who
had been hurt. When he came to the highroad at the other end, I
found that the pavement had been cleared, so there was an end to
that clue.
 "On entering the house, however, I examined, as you remember, the
sill and framework of the hall window with my lens, and I could at
once see that someone had passed out. I could distinguish the
outline of an instep where the wet foot had been placed in coming
in. I was then beginning to be able to form an opinion as to what
had occurred. A man had waited outside the window; someone had brought
the gems; the deed had been overseen by your son; he had pursued the
thief, had struggled with him; they had each tugged at the coronet,
their united strength causing injuries which neither alone could
have effected. He had returned with the prize, but had left a fragment
in the grasp of his opponent. So far I was clear. The question now
was, who was the man and who was it brought him the coronet?
 "It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
Now, I knew that it was not you who had brought it down, so there only
remained your niece and the maids. But if it were the maids, why
should your son allow himself to be accused in their place? There
could be no possible reason. As he loved his cousin, however, there
was an excellent explanation why he should retain her secret-the
more so as the secret was a disgraceful one. When I remembered that
you had seen her at that window, and how she had fainted on seeing the
coronet again, my conjecture became a certainty.
 "And who could it be who was her confederate? A lover evidently, for
who else could outweigh the love and gratitude which she must feel
to you? I knew that you went out little, and that your circle of
friends was a very limited one. But among them was Sir George
Burnwell. I had heard of him before as being a man of evil
reputation among women. It must have been he who wore those boots
and retained the missing gems. Even though he knew that Arthur had
discovered him, he might still flatter himself that he was safe, for
the lad could not say a word without compromising his own family.
                                                           {^paragraph 220}
 "Well, your own good sense will suggest what measures I took next. I
went in the shape of a loafer to Sir George's house, managed to pick
up an acquaintance with his valet, learned that his master had cut his
head the night before, and, finally, at the expense of six
shillings, made all sure by buying a pair of his cast-off shoes.
With these I journeyed down to Streatham and saw that they exactly
fitted the tracks."
 "I saw an ill-dressed vagabond in the lane yesterday evening,"
said Mr. Holder.
 "Precisely. It was I. I found that I had my man, so I came home
and changed my clothes. It was a delicate part which I had to play
then, for I saw that a prosecution must be avoided to avert scandal,
and I knew that so astute a villain would see that our hands were tied
in the matter. I went and saw him. At first, of course, he denied
everything. But when I gave him every particular that had occurred, he
tried to bluster and took down a life-preserver from the wall. I
knew my man, however, and I clapped a pistol to his head before he
could strike. Then he became a little more reasonable. I told him that
we would give him a price for the stones he held-L1000 apiece. That
brought out the first signs of grief that he had shown. 'Why, dash
it all!' said he, 'I've let them go at six hundred for the three!' I
soon managed to get the address of the receiver who had them, on
promising him that there would be no prosecution. Off I set to him,
and after much chaffering I got our stones at L1000 apiece. Then I
looked in upon your son, told him that all was right, and eventually
got to my bed about two o'clock, after what I may call a really hard
day's work."
 "A day which has saved England from a great public scandal," said
the banker, rising. "Sir, I cannot find the words to thank you, but
you shall not find me ungrateful for what you have done. Your skill
has indeed exceeded all that I have heard of it. And now I must fly to
my dear boy to apologize to him for the wrong which I done him. As
to what you tell me of poor Mary, it goes to my very heart. Not even
your skill can inform me where she is now."
 "I think that we may safely say," returned Holmes, "that she is
wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too, that
whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than sufficient
punishment."
                                                           {^paragraph 225}
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                                   THE END



Electronically Enhanced Text  (C) Copyright 1991, 1992, World Library, Inc.
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                         A Scandal in Bohemia

To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard
him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes she eclipses
and predominates the whole of her sex.  It was not that he felt
any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler.  All emotions, and that
one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but
admirably balanced mind.  He was, I take it, the most perfect
reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a
lover he would have placed himself in a false position.  He never
spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer.  They
were admirable things for the observerДДexcellent for drawing the
veil from men's motives and actions.  But for the trained reasoner
to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted
temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might
throw a doubt upon all his mental results.  Grit in a sensitive
instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would
not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as
his.  And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was
the late Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.
I had seen little of Holmes lately.  My marriage had drifted
us away from each other.  My own complete happiness, and the
home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first
finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to
absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of
society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in
Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from
week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the
drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.  He was still,
as ever, deeply attracted by the study of crime, and occupied his
immense faculties and extraordinary powers of observation in
following out those clues, and clearing up those mysteries which
had been abandoned as hopeless by the official police.  From time
to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons
to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of
the singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee, and
finally of the mission which he had accomplished so delicately and
successfully for the reigning family of Holland.  Beyond these
signs of his activity, however, which I merely shared with all the
readers of the daily press, I knew little of my former friend and
companion.
One nightДДit was on the twentieth of March, 1888ДДI was
returning from a journey to a patient (for I had now returned to
civil practice), when my way led me through Baker Street.  As I
passed the well-remembered door, which must always be associated
in my mind with my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the
Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen desire to see Holmes
again, and to know how he was employing his extraordinary powers.
His rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I looked up, I saw
his tall, spare figure pass twice in a dark silhouette against the
blind.  He was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his head
sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped behind him.  To me, who
knew his every mood and habit, his attitude and manner told their
own story.  He was at work again.  He had risen out of his
drug-created dreams and was hot upon the scent of some new
problem.  I rang the bell and was shown up to the chamber which
had formerly been in part my own.
His manner was not effusive.  It seldom was; but he was glad,
I think, to see me.  With hardly a word spoken, but with a kindly
eye, he waved me to an armchair, threw across his case of cigars,
and indicated a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner.  Then he
stood before the fire and looked me over in his singular
introspective fashion.
"Wedlock suits you," he remarked.  "I think, Watson, that you
have put on seven and a half pounds since I saw you."
"Seven!" I answered.
"Indeed, I should have thought a little more.  Just a trifle
more, I fancy, Watson.  And in practice again, I observe.  You did
not tell me that you intended to go into harness."
"Then, how do you know?"
"I see it, I deduce it.  How do I know that you have been
getting yourself very wet lately, and that you have a most clumsy
and careless servant girl?"
"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much.  You would
certainly have been burned, had you lived a few centuries ago.  It
is true that I had a country walk on Thursday and came home in a
dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes I can't imagine
how you deduce it.  As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my
wife has given her notice; but there, again, I fail to see how you
work it out."
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long, nervous hands
together.
It is simplicity itself," said he; "my eyes tell me that on
the inside of your left shoe, just where the firelight strikes it,
the leather is scored by six almost parallel cuts.  Obviously they
have been caused by someone who has very carelessly scraped round
the edges of the sole in order to remove crusted mud from it.
Hence, you see, my double deduction that you had been out in vile
weather, and that you had a particularly malignant boot-slitting
specimen of the London slavey.  As to your practice, if a
gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of iodoform, with a black
mark of nitrate of silver upon his right forefinger, and a bulge
on the right side of his top-hat to show where he has secreted his
stethoscope, I must be dull, indeed, if I do not pronounce him to
be an active member of the medical profession."
I could not help laughing at the ease with which he explained
his process of deduction.  "When I hear you give your reasons," I
remarked, "the thing always appears to me to be so ridiculously
simple that I could easily do it myself, though at each successive
instance of your reasoning I am baffled until you explain your
process.  And yet I believe that my eyes are as good as yours."
"Quite so," he answered, lighting a cigarette, and throwing
himself down into an armchair.  "You see, but you do not observe.
The distinction is clear.  For example, you have frequently seen
the steps which lead up from the hall to this room."
"Frequently."
"How often?"
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many?  I don't know."
"Quite so!  You have not observed.  And yet you have seen.
That is just my point.  Now, I know that there are seventeen
steps, because I have both seen and observed.  By the way, since
you are interested in these little problems, and since you are
good enough to chronicle one or two of my trifling experiences,
you may be interested in this."  He threw over a sheet of thick,
pink-tinted note-paper which had been lying open upon the table.
"It came by the last post," said he.  "Read it aloud."
The note was undated, and without either signature or address.
"There will call upon you to-night, at a quarter to eight
o'clock [it said], a gentleman who desires to consult you upon
a matter of the very deepest moment.  Your recent services to
one of the royal houses of Europe have shown that you are one
who may safely be trusted with matters which are of an
importance which can hardly be exaggerated.  This account of
you we have from all quarters received.  Be in your chamber
then at that hour, and do not take it amiss if your visitor
wear a mask.
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked.  "What do you imagine
that it means?"
"I have no data yet.  It is a capital mistake to theorize
before one has data.  Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit
theories, instead of theories to suit facts.  But the note itself.
What do you deduce from it?"
I carefully examined the writing, and the paper upon which it
was written.
"The man who wrote it was presumably well to do," I remarked,
endeavouring to imitate my companion's processes.  "Such paper
could not be bought under half a crown a packet.  It is peculiarly
strong and stiff."
"PeculiarДДthat is the very word," said Holmes.  "It is not an
English paper at all.  Hold it up to the light."
I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small "g," a "P," and a
large "G" with a small "t" woven into the texture of the paper.
"What do you make of that?" asked Holmes.
"The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather."
"Not at all.  The `G' with the small `t' stands for
`Gesellschaft,' which is the German for `Company.'  It is a
customary contraction like our `Co.'  `P,' of course, stands for
`Papier.'  Now for the `Eg.'  Let us glance at our Continental
Gazetteer."  He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves.
"Eglow, EglonitzДДhere we are, Egria.  It is in a German-speaking
countryДДin Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad.  `Remarkable as being
the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous
glass-factories and paper-mills.'  Ha, ha, my boy, what do you
make of that?"  His eyes sparkled, and he sent upa great blue
triumphant cloud from his cigarette.
"The paper was made in Bohemia," I said.
"Precisely.  And the man who wrote the note is a German.  Do
you note the peculiar construction of the sentenceДД'This account
of you we have from all quarters received.'  A Frenchman or
Russian could not have written that.  It is the German who is so
uncourteous to his verbs.  It only remains, therefore, to discover
what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper and
prefers wearing a mask to showing his face.  And here he comes, if
I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts."
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of horses' hoofs and
grating wheels against the curb, followed by a sharp pull at the
bell.  Holmes whistled.
"A pair, by the sound," said he.  "Yes," he continued,
glancing out of the window.  "A nice little brougham and a pair of
beauties.  A hundred and fifty guineas apiece.  There's money in
this case, Watson, if there is nothing else."
"I think that I had better go, Holmes."
"Not a bit, Doctor.  Stay where you are.  I am lost without my
Boswell.  And this promises to be interesting.  It would be a pity
to miss it."
"But your clientДД"
"Never mind him.  I may want your help, and so may he.  Here
he comes.  Sit down in that armchair, Doctor, and give us your
best attention."
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard upon the stairs
and in the passage, paused immediately outside the door.  Then
there was a loud and authoritative tap.
"Come in!" said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less than six feet
six inches in height, with the chest and limbs of a Hercules.  His
dress was rich with a richness which would, in England, be looked
upon as akin to bad taste.  Heavy bands of astrakhan were slashed
across the sleeves and fronts of his double-breasted coat, while
the deep blue cloak which was thrown over his shoulders was lined
with flame-coloured silk and secured at the neck with a brooch
which consisted of a single flaming beryl.  Boots which extended
halfway up his calves, and which were trimmed at the tops with
rich brown fur, completed the impression of barbaric opulence
which was suggested by his whole appearance.  He carried a
broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while he wore across the upper part
of his face, extending down past the cheekbones, a black vizard
mask, which he had apparently adjusted that very moment, for his
hand was still raised to it as he entered.  From the lower part of
the face he appeared to be a man of strong character, with a
thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin suggestive of
resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy.
"You had my note?" he asked with a deep harsh voice and a
strongly marked German accent.  "I told you that I would call."
He looked from one to the other of us, as if uncertain which to
address.
"Pray take a seat," said Holmes.  "This is my friend and
colleague, Dr. Watson, who is occasionally good enough to help me
in my cases.  Whom have I the honour to address?"
"You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a Bohemian
nobleman.  I understand that this gentleman, your friend, is a man
of honour and discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of the
most extreme importance.  If not, I should much prefer to
communicate with you alone."
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the wrist and pushed me
back into my chair.  "It is both, or none," said he.  "You may say
before this gentleman anything which you may say to me."
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders.  "Then I must begin,"
said he, "by binding you both to absolute secrecy for two years;
at the end of that time the matter will be of no importance.  At
present it is not too much to say that it is of such weight it may
have an influence upon European history."
"I promise," said Holmes.
"And I."
"You will excuse this mask," continued our strange visitor.
"The august person who employs me wishes his agent to be unknown
to you, and I may confess at once that the title by which I have
just called myself is not exactly my own."
"I was aware of it," said Holmes drily.
"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and every precaution
has to be taken to quench what might grow to be an immense scandal
and seriously compromise one of the reigning families of Europe.
To speak plainly, the matter implicates the great House of
Ormstein, hereditary kings of Bohemia."
"I was also aware of that," murmured Holmes, settling himself
down in his armchair and closing his eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent surprise at the
languid, lounging figure of the man who had been no doubt depicted
to him as the most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent in
Europe.  Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and looked impatiently at
his gigantic client.
"If your Majesty would condescend to state your case," he
remarked, "I should be better able to advise you."
The man sprang from his chair and paced up and down the room
in uncontrollable agitation.  Then, with a gesture of desperation,
he tore the mask from his face and hurled it upon the ground.
"You are right," he cried; "I am the King.  Why should I attempt
to conceal it?"
"Why, indeed?" murmured Holmes.  "Your Majesty had not spoken
before I was aware that I was addressing Wilhelm Gottsreich
Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and
hereditary King of Bohemia."
"But you can understand," said our strange visitor, sitting
down once more and passing his hand over his high white forehead,
"you can understand that I am not accustomed to doing such
business in my own person.  Yet the matter was so delicate that I
could not confide it to an agent without putting myself in his
power.  I have come incognito from Prague for the purpose of
consulting you."
"Then, pray consult," said Holmes, shutting his eyes once
more.
"The facts are briefly these:  Some five years ago, during a
lengthy visit to Warsaw, I made the acquaintance of the well-known
adventuress, Irene Adler.  The name is no doubt familiar toyou."
"Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor," murmured Holmes
without opening his eyes.  For many years he had adopted a system
of docketing all paragraphs concerning men and things, so that it
was difficult to name a subject or a person on which he could not
at once furnish information.  In this case I found her biography
sandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi and that of a
staff-commander who had written a monograph upon the deep-sea
fishes.
"Let me see!" said Holmes.  "Hum!  Born in New Jersey in the
year 1858.  ContraltoДДhum!  La Scala, hum!  Prima donna Imperial
Opera of WarsawДДyes!  Retired from operatic stageДДha!  Living in
LondonДДquite so!  Your Majesty, as I understand, became entangled
with this young person, wrote her some compromising letters, and
is now desirous of getting those letters back."
"Precisely so.  But howДД"
"Was there a secret marriage?"
"None."
"No legal papers or certificates?"
"None."
"Then I fail to follow your Majesty.  If this young person
should produce her letters for blackmailing or other purposes, how
is she to prove their authenticity?"
"There is the writing."
"Pooh, pooh!  Forgery."
"My private notepaper."
"Stolen."
"My own seal."
"Imitated."
"My photograph."
"Bought."
"We were both in the photograph."
"Oh, dear!  That is very bad!  Your Majesty has indeed
committed an indiscretion."
"I was madДДinsane."
"You have compromised yourself seriously."
"I was only Crown Prince then.  I was young.  I am but thirty
now."
"It must be recovered."
"We have tried and failed."
"Your Majesty must pay.  It must be bought."
"She will not sell."
"Stolen, then."
"Five attempts have been made.  Twice burglars in my pay
ransacked her house.  Once we diverted her luggage when she
travelled.  Twice she has been waylaid.  There has been no
result."
"No sign of it?"
"Absolutely none."
Holmes laughed.  "It is quite a pretty little problem," said
he.
"But a very serious one to me," returned the King
reproachfully.
"Very, indeed.  And what does she propose to do with the
photograph?"
"To ruin me."
"But how?"
"I am about to be married."
"So I have heard."
"To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen, second daughter of the
King of Scandinavia.  You may know the strict principles of her
family.  She is herself the very soul of delicacy.  A shadow of a
doubt as to my conduct would bring the matter to an end."
"And Irene Adler?"
"Threatens to send them the photograph.  And she will do it.
I know that she will do it.  You do not know her, but she has a
soul of steel.  She has the face of the most beautiful of women,
and the mind of the most resolute of men.  Rather than I should
marry another woman, there are no lengths to which she would not
goДДnone."
"You are sure that she has not sent it yet?"
"I am sure."
"And why?"
"Because she has said that she would send it on the day when
the betrothal was publicly proclaimed.  That will be next Monday."
"Oh, then we have three days yet," said Holmes with a yawn.
"That is very fortunate, as I have one or two matters of
importance to look into just at present.  Your Majesty will, of
course, stay in London for the present?"
"Certainly.  You will find me at the Langham under the name of
the Count Von Kramm."
"Then I shall drop you a line to let you know how we
progress."
"Pray do so.  I shall be all anxiety."
"Then, as to money?"
"You have carte blanche."
"Absolutely?"
"I tell you that I would give one of the provinces of my
kingdom to have that photograph."
"And for present expenses?"
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag from under his cloak
and laid it on the table.
"There are three hundred pounds in gold and seven hundred in
notes," he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of his note-book and
handed it to him.
"And Mademoiselle's address?" he asked.
"Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St. John's Wood."
Holmes took a note of it.  "One other question," said he. "Was
the photograph a cabinet?"
"It was."
"Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust that we shall
soon have some good news for you.  And good-night, Watson," he
added, as the wheels of the royal brougham rolled down the street.
"If you will be good enough to call to-morrow afternoon at three
o'clock I should like to chat this little matter over with you."
At three o'clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes
had not yet returned.  The landlady informed me that he had left
the house shortly after eight o'clock in the morning.  I sat down
beside the fire, however, with the intention of awaiting him,
however long he might be.  I was already deeply interested in his
inquiry, for, though it was surrounded by none of the grim and
strange features which were associated with the two crimes which I
have already recorded, still, the nature of the case and the
exalted station of his client gave it a character of its own.
Indeed, apart from the nature of the investigation which my friend
had on hand, there was something in his masterly grasp of a
situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning, which made it a
pleasure to me to study his system of work, and to follow the
quick, subtle methods by which he disentangled the most
inextricable mysteries.  So accustomed was I to his invariable
success that the very possibility of his failing had ceased to
enter into my head.
It was close upon four before the door opened, and a
drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an
inflamed face and disreputable clothes, walked into the room.
Accustomed as I was to my friend's amazing powers in the use of
disguises, I had to look three times before I was certain that it
was indeed he.  With a nod he vanished into the bedroom, whence he
emerged in five minutes tweed-suited and respectable, as of old.
Putting his hands into his pockets, he stretched out his legs in
front of the fire and laughed heartily for some minutes.
"Well, really!" he cried, and then hechoked and laughed again
until he was obliged to lie back, limp and helpless, in the chair.
"What is it?"
"It's quite too funny.  I am sure you could never guess how I
employed my morning, or what I ended by doing."
"I can't imagine.  I suppose that you have been watching the
habits, and perhaps the house, of Miss Irene Adler."
"Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual.  I will tell
you, however.  I left the house a little after eight o'clock this
morning in the character of a groom out of work.  There is a
wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among horsy men.  Be one of
them, and you will know all that there is to know.  I soon found
Briony Lodge.  It is a bijou villa, with a garden at the back, but
built out in front right up to the road, two stories.  Chubb lock
to the door.  Large sitting-room on the right side, well
furnished, with long windows almost to the floor, and those
preposterous English window fasteners which a child could open.
Behind there was nothing remarkable, save that the passage window
could be reached from the top of the coach-house.  I walked round
it and examined it closely from every point of view, but without
noting anything else of interest.
"I then lounged down the street and found, as I expected, that
there was a mews in a lane which runs down by one wall of the
garden.  I lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their horses,
and received in exchange twopence, a glass of half and half, two
fills of shag tobacco, and as much information as I could desire
about Miss Adler, to say nothing of half a dozen other people in
the neighbourhood in whom I was not in the least interested, but
whose biographies I was compelled to listen to."
"And what of Irene Adler?" I asked.
"Oh, she has turned all the men's heads down in that part.
She is the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet.  So say
the Serpentine-mews, to a man.  She lives quietly, sings at
concerts, drives out at five every day, and returns at seven sharp
for dinner.  Seldom goes out at other times, except when she
sings.  Has only one male visitor, but a good deal of him.  He is
dark, handsome, and dashing, never calls less than once a day, and
often twice.  He is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of the Inner Temple.
See the advantages of a cabman as a confidant.  They had driven
him home a dozen times from Serpentine-mews, and knew all about
him.  When I had listened to all they had to tell, I began to walk
up and down near Briony Lodge once more, and to think over my plan
of campaign.
"This Godfrey Norton was evidently an important factor in the
matter.  He was a lawyer.  That sounded ominous.  What was the
relation between them, and what the object of his repeated visits?
Was she his client, his friend, or his mistress?  If the former,
she had probably transferred the photograph to his keeping.  If
the latter, it was less likely.  On the issue of this question
depended whether I should continue my work at Briony Lodge, or
turn my attention to the gentleman's chambers in the Temple.  It
was a delicate point, and it widened the field of my inquiry.  I
fear that I bore you with these details, but I have to let you see
my little difficulties, if you are to understand the situation."
"I am following you closely," I answered.
"I was still balancing the matter in my mind when a hansom cab
drove up to Briony Lodge, and a gentleman sprang out.  He was a
remarkably handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustachedДДevidently
the man of whom I had heard.  He appeared to be in a great hurry,
shouted to the cabman to wait, and brushed past the maid who
opened the door with the air of a man who was thoroughly at home.
"He was in the house about half an hour, and I could catch
glimpses of him in the windows of the sitting-room, pacing up and
down, talking excitedly, and waving his arms.  Of her I could see
nothing.  Presently he emerged, looking even more flurried than
before.  As he stepped up to the cab, he pulled a gold watch from
his pocket and looked at it earnestly, `Drive like the devil,' he
shouted, `first to Gross & Hankey's in Regent Street, and then to
the Church of St. Monica in the Edgeware Road.  Half a guinea if
you do it in twenty minutes!'
"Away they went, and I was just wondering whether I should not
do well to follow them when up the lane came a neat little landau,
the coachman with his coat only half-buttoned, and his tie under
his ear, while all the tags of his harness were sticking out of
the buckles.  It hadn't pulled up before she shot out of the hall
door and into it.  I only caught a glimpse of her at the moment,
but she was a lovely woman, with a face that a man might die for.
"`The Church of St. Monica, John,' she cried, `and half a
sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.'
"This was quite too good to lose, Watson.  I was just
balancing whether I should run for it, or whether I should perch
behind her landau when a cab came through the street.  The driver
looked twice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped in before he
could object.  `The Church of St. Monica,' said I, `and half a
sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes.'  It was twenty-five
minutes to twelve, and of course it was clear enough what was in
the wind.
"My cabby drove fast.  I don't think I ever drove faster, but
the others were there before us.  The cab and the landau with
their steaming horses were in front of the door when I arrived.  I
paid the man and hurried into the church.  There was not a soul
there save the two whom I had followed and a surpliced clergyman,
who seemed to be expostulating with them.  They were all three
standing in a knot in front of the altar.  I lounged up the side
aisle like any other idler who has dropped into a church.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar faced round to
me, and Godfrey Norton came running as hard as he could towards
me.
"`Thank God,' he cried.  `You'll do.  Come!  Come!'
"`What then?' I asked.
"`Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it won't be legal.'
"I was half-dragged up to the altar, and before I knew where I
was I found myself mumbling responses which were whispered in my
ear, and vouching for things of which I knew nothing, and
generally assisting in the secure tying up of Irene Adler,
spinster, to Godfrey Norton, bachelor.  It was all done in an
instant, and there was the gentleman thanking me on the one side
and the lady on the other, while the clergyman beamed on me in
front.  It was the most preposterous position in which I ever
found myself in my life, and it was the thought of it that started
me laughing just now.  It seems that there had been some
informality about their license, that the clergyman absolutely
refused to marry them without a witness of some sort, and that my
lucky appearance saved the bridegroom from having to sally out
into the streets in search of a best man.  The bride gave me a
sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my watch-chain in memory of
the occasion."
"This is a very unexpected turn of affairs," said I; "and what
then?"
"Well, I found my plans very seriously menaced.  It looked as
if the pair might take an immediate departure, and so necessitate
very prompt and energetic measures on my part.  At the church
door, however, they separated, he driving back to the Temple, and
she to her own house.  `I shall drive out in the park at five as
usual,' she said as she left him.  I heard no more.  They drove
away in different directions, and I went off to make my own
arrangements."
"Which are?"
"Some cold beef and a glass of beer," he answered, ringing the
bell.  "I have been too busy to think of food, and I am likely to
be busier still this evening.  By the way, Doctor, I shall want
your cooperation."
"I shall be delighted."
"You don't mind breaking the law?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor running a chance of arrest?"
"Not in a good cause."
"Oh, the cause is excellent!"
"Then I am your man."
"I was sure that I might rely on you."
"But what is it you wish?"
"When Mrs. Turner has brought in the tray I will make it clear
to you.  Now," he said as he turned hungrily on the simple fare
that our landlady had provided, "I must discuss it while I eat,
for I have not much time.  It is nearly five now.  In two hours we
must be on the scene of action.  Miss Irene, or Madame, rather,
returns from her drive at seven.  We must be at Briony Lodge to
meet her."
"And what then?"
"You must leave that to me.  I have already arranged what is
to occur.  There is only one point on which I must insist.  You
must not interfere, come what may.  You understand?"
"I am to be neutral?"
"To do nothing whatever.  There will probably be some small
unpleasantness.  Do not join in it.  It will end in my being
conveyed into the house.  Four or five minutes afterwards the
sitting-room window will open.  You are to station yourself close
to that open window."
"Yes."
"You are to watch me, for I will be visible to you."
"Yes."
"And when I raise my handДДsoДДyou will throw into the room
what I give you to throw, and will, at the same time, raise the
cry of fire.  You quite follow me?"
"Entirely."
"It is nothing very formidable," he said, taking a long
cigar-shaped roll from his pocket.  "It is an ordinary plumber's
smoke-rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to make it
self-lighting.  Your task is confined to that.  When you raise
your cry of fire, it will be taken up by quite a number of people.
You may then walk to the end of the street, and I will rejoin you
in ten minutes.  I hope that I have made myself clear?"
"I am to remain neutral, to get near the window, to watch you,
and at the signal to throw in this object, then to raise the cry
of fire, and to wait you at the corner of the street."
"Precisely."
"Then you may entirely rely on me."
"That is excellent.  I think, perhaps, it is almost time that
I prepare for the new role I have to play."
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned in a few minutes
in the character of an amiable and simple-minded Nonconformist
clergyman.  His broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white
tie, his sympathetic smile, and general look of peering and
benevolent curiosity were such as Mr. John Hare alone could have
equalled.  It was not merely that Holmes changed his costume.  His
expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to vary with every
fresh part that he assumed.  The stage lost a fine actor, even as
science lost an acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in
crime.
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker Street, and it
still wanted ten minutes to the hour when we found ourselves in
Serpentine Avenue.  It was already dusk, and the lamps were just
being lighted as we paced up and down in front of Briony Lodge,
waiting for the coming of its occupant.  The house was just such
as I had pictured it from Sherlock Holmes's succinct description,
but the locality appeared to be less private than I expected.  On
the contrary, for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it was
remarkably animated.  There was a group of shabbily dressed men
smoking and laughing in a corner, a scissors-grinder with his
wheel, two guardsmen who were flirting with a nurse-girl, and
several well-dressed young men who were lounging up and down with
cigars in their mouths.
"You see," remarked Holmes, as we paced to and fro in front of
the house, "this marriage rather simplifies matters.  The
photograph becomes a double-edged weapon now.  The chances are
that she would be as averse to its being seen by Mr. Godfrey
Norton, as our client is to its coming to the eyes of his
princess.  Now the question is, Where are we to find the
photograph?"
"Where, indeed?"
"It is most unlikely that she carries it about with her.  It
is cabinet size.  Too large for easy concealment about a woman's
dress.  She knows that the King is capable of having her waylaid
and searched.  Two attempts of the sort have already been made.
We may take it, then, that she does not carry it about with her."
"Where, then?"
"Her banker or her lawyer. There is that double possibility.
But I am inclined to think neither.  Women are naturally
secretive, and they like to do their own secreting.  Why should
she hand it over to anyone else?  She could trust her own
guardianship, but she could not tell what indirect or political
influence might be brought to bear upon a business man.  Besides,
remember that she had resolved to use it within a few days.  It
must be where she can lay her hands upon it.  It must be in her
own house."
"But it has twice been burgled."
"Pshaw!  They did not know how to look."
"But how will you look?"
"I will not look."
"What then?"
"I will get her to show me."
"But she will refuse."
"She will not be able to.  But I hear the rumble of wheels.
It is her carriage.  Now carry out my orders to the letter."
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a carriage came
round the curve of the avenue.  It was a smart little landau which
rattled up to the door of Briony Lodge.  As it pulled up, one of
the loafing men at the corner dashed forward to open the door in
the hope of earning a copper, but was elbowed away by another
loafer, who had rushed up with the same intention.  A fierce
quarrel broke out, which was increased by the two guardsmen, who
took sides with one of the loungers, and by the scissors-grinder,
who was equally hot upon the other side.  A blow was struck, and
in an instant the lady, who had stepped from her carriage, was the
centre of a little knot of flushed and struggling men, who struck
savagely at each other with their fists and sticks.  Holmes dashed
into the crowd to protect the lady; but just as he reached her he
gave a cry and dropped to the ground, with the blood running
freely down his face.  At his fall the guardsmen took to their
heels in one direction and the loungers in the other, while a
number of better-dressed people, who had watched the scuffle
without taking part in it, crowded in to help the lady and to
attend to the injured man.  Irene Adler, as I will still call her,
had hurried up the steps; but she stood at the top with her superb
figure outlined against the lights of the hall, looking back into
the street.
"Is the poor gentleman much hurt?" she asked.
"He is dead," cried several voices.
"No, no, there's life in him!" shouted another.  "But he'll be
gone before you can get him to hospital."
"He's a brave fellow," said a woman.  "They would have had the
lady's purse and watch if it hadn't been for him.  They were a
gang, and a rough one, too.  Ah, he's breathing now."
"He can't lie in the street.  May we bring him in, marm?"
"Surely.  Bring him into the sitting-room.  There is a
comfortable sofa.  This way, please!"
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony Lodge and laid
out in the principal room, while I still observed the proceedings
from my post by the window.  The lamps had been lit, but the
blinds had not been drawn, so that I could see Holmes as he lay
upon the couch.  I do not know whether he was seized with
compunction at that moment for the part he was playing, but I know
that I never felt more heartily ashamed of myself in my life than
when I saw the beautiful creature against whom I was conspiring,
or the grace and kindliness with which she waited upon the injured
man.  And yet it would be the blackest treachery to Holmes to draw
back now from the part which he had intrusted to me.  I hardened
my heart, and took the smoke-rocket from under my ulster.  After
all, I thought, we are not injuring her.  We are but preventing
her from injuring another.
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw him motion like a
man who is in need of air.  A maid rushed across and threw open
the window.  At the same instant I saw him raise his hand, and at
the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with a cry of "Fire!"
The word was no sooner out of my mouth than the whole crowd of
spectators, well dressed and illДДgentlemen, ostlers, and
servant-maidsДДjoined in a general shriek of "Fire!"  Thick clouds
of smoke curled through the room and out at the open window.  I
caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the voice
of Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.
Slipping through the shouting crowd I made my way to the corner of
the street, and in ten minutes was rejoiced to find my friend's
arm in mine, and to get away from the scene of uproar.  He walked
swiftly and in silence for some few minutes until we had turned
down one of the quiet streets which lead towards the Edgeware
Road.
"You did it very nicely, Doctor," he remarked.  "Nothing could
have been better.  It is all right."
"You have the photograph?"
"I know where it is."
"And how did you find out?"
"She showed me, as I told you she would."
"I am still in the dark."
"I do not wish to make a mystery," said he, laughing.  "The
matter was perfectly simple.  You, of course, saw that everyone in
the street was an accomplice.  They were all engaged for the
evening."
"I guessed as much."
"Then, when the row broke out, I had a little moist red paint
in the palm of my hand.  I rushed forward, fell down, clapped my
hand to my face, and became a piteous spectacle.  It is an old
trick."
"That also I could fathom."
"Then they carried me in.  She was bound to have me in.  What
else could she do?  And into her sitting-room, which was the very
room which I suspected.  It lay between that and her bedroom, and
I was determined to see which.  They laid me on a couch, I
motioned for air, they were compelled to open the window, and you
had your chance."
"How did that help you?"
"It was all-important.  When a woman thinks that her house is
on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she
values most.  It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I have
more than once taken advantage of it.  In the case of the
Darlington substitution scandal it was of use to me, and also in
the Arnsworth Castle business.  A married woman grabs at her baby;
an unmarried one reaches for her jewel-box.  Now it was clear to
me that our lady of today had nothing in the house more precious
to her than what we are in quest of.  She would rush to secure it.
The alarm of fire was admirably done.  The smoke and shouting were
enough to shake nerves of steel.  She responded beautifully.  The
photograph is in a recess behind a sliding panel just above the
right bell-pull.  She was there in an instant, and I caught a
glimpse of it as she half-drew it out.  When I cried out that it
was a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at the rocket, rushed
from the room, and I have not seen her since.  I rose, and, making
my excuses, escaped from the house.  I hesitated whether to
attempt to secure the photograph at once; but the coachman had
come in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed safer to
wait.  A little over-precipitance may ruin all."
"And now?" I asked.
"Our quest is practically finished.  I shall call with the
King to-morrow, and with you, if you care to come with us.  We
will be shown into the sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it
is probable that when she comes she may find neither us nor the
photograph.  It might be a satisfaction to his Majesty to regain
it with his own hands."
"And when will you call?"
"At eight in the morning.  She will not be up, so that we
shall have a clear field.  Besides, we must be prompt, for this
marriage may mean a complete change in her life and habits.  I
must wire to the King without delay."
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped at the door.  He
was searching his pockets for the key when someone passing said:
"Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes."
There were several people on the pavement at the time, but the
greeting appeared to come from a slim youth in an ulster who had
hurried by.
"I've heard that voice before," said Holmes, staring down the
dimly lit street.  "Now, I wonder who the deuce that could have
been."
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we were engaged upon
our toast and coffee in the morning when the King of Bohemia
rushed into the room.
"You have really got it!" he cried, grasping Sherlock Holmes
by either shoulder and looking eagerly into his face.
"Not yet."
"But you have hopes?"
"I have hopes."
"Then, come.  I am all impatience to be gone."
"We must have a cab."
"No, my brougham is waiting."
"Then that will simplify matters."  We descended and started
off once more for Briony Lodge.
"Irene Adler is married," remarked Holmes.
"Married!  When?"
"Yesterday."
"But to whom?"
"To an English lawyer named Norton."
"But she could not love him."
"I am in hopes that she does."
"And why in hopes?"
"Because it would spare your Majesty all fear of future
annoyance.  If the lady loves her husband, she does not love your
Majesty.  If she does not love your Majesty, there is no reason
why she should interfere with your Majesty's plan."
"It is true.  And yetДД Well!  I wish she had been of my own
station!  What a queen she would have made!"  He relapsed into a
moody silence, which was not broken until we drew up in Serpentine
Avenue.
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an elderly woman stood
upon the steps.  She watched us with a sardonic eye as we stepped
from the brougham.
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?" said she.
"I am Mr. Holmes," answered my companion, looking at her with
a questioning and rather startled gaze.
"Indeed!  My mistress told me that you were likely to call.
She left this morning with her husband by the 5:15 train from
Charing Cross for the Continent."
"What!"  Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white with chagrin
and surprise.  "Do you mean that she has left England?"
"Never to return."
"And the papers?" asked the King hoarsely.  "All is lost."
"We shall see."  He pushed past the servant and rushed into
the drawing-room, followed by the King and myself.  The furniture
was scattered about in every direction, with dismantled shelves
and open drawers, as if the lady had hurriedly ransacked them
before her flight.  Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a
small sliding shutter, and, plunging in his hand, pulled out a
photograph and a letter.  The photograph was of Irene Adler
herself in evening dress, the letter was superscribed to "Sherlock
Holmes, Esq.  To be left till called for."  My friend tore it
open, and we all three read it together.  It was dated at midnight
of the preceding night and ran in this way:
MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:
You really did it very well.  You took me in completely.
Until after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion.  But
then, when I found how I had betrayed myself, I began to
think.  I had been warned against you months ago.  I had been
told that if the King employed an agent it would certainly be
you.  And your address had been given me.  Yet, with all this,
you made me reveal what you wanted to know.  Even after I
became suspicious, I found it hard to think evil of such a
dear, kind old clergyman.  But, you know, I have been trained
as an actress myself.  Male costume is nothing new to me.  I
often take advantage of the freedom which it gives.  I sent
John, the coachman, to watch you, ran upstairs, got into my
walking-clothes, as I call them, and came down just as you
departed.
Well, I followed you to your door, and so made sure that I
was really an object of interest to the celebrated Mr.
Sherlock Holmes.  Then I, rather imprudently, wished you
good-night, and started for the Temple to see my husband.
We both thought the best resource was flight, when pursued
by so formidable an antagonist; so you will find the nest
empty when you call to-morrow.  As to the photograph, your
client may rest in peace.  I love and am loved by a better man
than he.  The King may do what he will without hindrance from
one whom he has cruelly wronged.  I keep it only to safeguard
myself, and to preserve a weapon which will always secure me
from any steps which he might take in the future.  I leave a
photograph which he might care to possess; and I remain, dear
Mr. Sherlock Holmes,
Very truly yours,
IRENE NORTON, nee ADLER.
"What a womanДДoh, what a woman!" cried the King of Bohemia,
when we had all three read this epistle.  "Did I not tell you how
quick and resolute she was?  Would she not have made an admirable
queen?  Is it not a pity that she was not on my level?"
"From what I have seen of the lady she seems indeed to be on a
very different level to your Majesty," said Holmes coldly.  "I am
sorry that I have not been able to bring your Majesty's business
to a more successful conclusion."
"On the contrary, my dear sir," cried the King; "nothing could
be more successful.  I know that her word is inviolate.  The
photograph is now as safe as if it were in the fire."
"I am glad to hear your Majesty say so."
"I am immensely indebted to you.  Pray tell me in what way I
can reward you.  This ringДД" He slipped an emerald snake ring
from his finger and held it out upon the palm of his hand.
"Your Majesty has something which I should value even more
highly," said Holmes.
"You have but to name it."
"This photograph!"
The King stared at him in amazement.
"Irene's photograph!" he cried.  "Certainly, if you wish it."
"I thank your Majesty.  Then there is no more to be done in
the matter.  I have the honour to wish you a very good-morning."
He bowed, and, turning away without observing the hand which the
King had stretched out to him, he set off in my company for his
chambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the
kingdom of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes
were beaten by a woman's wit.  He used to make merry over the
cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late.  And
when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her
photograph, it is always under the honourable title of the woman.




                  The Boscombe Valley Mystery

We are seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the
maid brought in a telegram.  It was from Sherlock Holmes and ran
in this way:
Have you a couple of days to spare?  Have just been wired
for from the west of England in connection with Boscombe
Valley tragedy.  Shall be glad if you will come with me.  Air
and scenery perfect.  Leave Paddington by the 11:15.
"What do you say, dear?" said my wife, looking across at me.
"Will you go?"
"I really don't know what to say.  I have a fairly long list
at present."
"Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you.  You have been
looking a little pale lately.  I think that the change would do
you good, and you are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock
Holmes's cases."
"I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing what I gained
through one of them," I answered.  "But if I am to go, I must pack
at once, for I have only half an hour."
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had at least had the
effect of making me a prompt and ready traveller.  My wants were
few and simple, so that in less than the time stated I was in a
cab with my valise, rattling away to Paddington Station.  Sherlock
Holmes was pacing up and down the platform, his tall, gaunt figure
made even gaunter and taller by his long gray travelling-cloak and
close-fitting cloth cap.
"It is really very good of you to come, Watson," said he.  "It
makes a considerable difference to me, having someone with me on
whom I can thoroughly rely.  Local aid is always either worthless
or else biassed.  If you will keep the two corner seats I shall
get the tickets."
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an immense litter of
papers which Holmes had brought with him.  Among these he rummaged
and read, with intervals of note-taking and of meditation, until
we were past Reading.  Then he suddenly rolled them all into a
gigantic ball and tossed them up onto the rack.
"Have you heard anything of the case?" he asked.
"Not a word.  I have not seen a paper for some days."
"The London press has not had very full accounts.  I have just
been looking through all the recent papers in order to master the
particulars.  It seems, from what I gather, to be one of those
simple cases which are so extremely difficult."
"That sounds a little paradoxical."
"But it is profoundly true.  Singularity is almost invariably
a clue.  The more featureless and commonplace a crime is, the more
difficult it is to bring it home.  In this case, however, they
have established a very serious case against the son of the
murdered man."
"It is a murder, then?"
"Well, it is conjectured to be so.  I shall take nothing for
granted until I have the opportunity of looking personally into
it.  I will explain the state of things to you, as far as I have
been able to understand it, in a very few words.
"Boscombe Valley is a country district not very far from Ross,
in Herefordshire.  The largest landed proprietor in that part is a
Mr. John Turner, who made his money in Australia and returned some
years ago to the old country.  One of the farms which he held,
that of Hatherley, was let to Mr. Charles McCarthy, who was also
an ex-Australian.  The men had known each other in the colonies,
so that it was not unnatural that when they came to settle down
they should do so as near each other as possible.  Turner was
apparently the richer man, so McCarthy became his tenant but still
remained, it seems, upon terms of perfect equality, as they were
frequently together.  McCarthy had one son, a lad of eighteen, and
Turner had an only daughter of the same age, but neither of them
had wives living.  They appear to have avoided the society of the
neighbouring English families and to have led retired lives,
though both the McCarthys were fond of sport and were frequently
seen at the race-meetings of the neighbourhood.  McCarthy kept two
servantsДДa man and a girl.  Turner had a considerable household,
some half-dozen at the least.  That is as much as I have been able
to gather about the families.  Now for the facts.
"On June 3d, that is, on Monday last, McCarthy left his house
at Hatherley about three in the afternoon and walked down to the
Boscombe Pool, which is a small lake formed by the spreading out
of the stream which runs down the Boscombe Valley.  He had been
out with his serving-man in the morning at Ross, and he had told
the man that he must hurry, as he had an appointment of importance
to keep at three.  From that appointment he never came back alive.
"From Hatherley Farmhouse to the Boscombe Pool is a quarter of
a mile, and two people saw him as he passed over this ground.  One
was an old woman, whose name is not mentioned, and the other was
William Crowder, a game-keeper in the employ of Mr. Turner.  Both
these witnesses depose that Mr. McCarthy was walking alone.  The
game-keeper adds that within a few minutes of his seeing Mr.
McCarthy pass he had seen his son, Mr. James McCarthy, going the
same way with a gun under his arm.  To the best of his belief, the
father was actually in sight at the time, and the son was
following him.  He thought no more of the matter until he heard in
the evening of the tragedy that had occurred.
"The two McCarthys were seen after the time when William
Crowder, the game-keeper, lost sight of them.  The Boscombe Pool
is thickly wooded round, with just a fringe of grass and of reeds
round the edge.  A girl of fourteen, Patience Moran, who is the
daughter of the lodge-keeper of the Boscombe Valley estate, was in
one of the woods picking flowers.  She states that while she was
there she saw, at the border of the wood and close by the lake,
Mr. McCarthy and his son, and that they appeared to be having a
violent quarrel.  She heard Mr. McCarthy the elder using very
strong language to his son, and she saw the latter raise up his
hand as if to strike his father.  She was so frightened by their
violence that she ran away and told her mother when she reached
home that she had left the two McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe
Pool, and that she was afraid that they were going to fight.  She
had hardly said the words when young Mr. McCarthy came running up
to the lodge to say that he had found his father dead in the wood,
and to ask for the help of the lodge-keeper.  He was much excited,
without either his gun or his hat, and his right hand and sleeve
were observed to be stained with fresh blood.  On following him
they found the dead body stretched out upon the grass beside the
pool.  The head had been beaten in by repeated blows of some heavy
and blunt weapon.  The injuries were such as might very well have
been inflicted by the butt-end of his son's gun, which was found
lying on the grass within a few paces of the body.  Under these
circumstances the young man was instantly arrested, and a verdict
of `wilful murder' having been returned at the inquest on Tuesday,
he was on Wednesday brought before the magistrates at Ross, who
have referred the case to the next Assizes.  Those are the main
facts of the case as they came out before the coroner and the
police-court."
"I could hardly imagine a more damning case," I remarked.  "If
ever circumstantial evidence pointed to a criminal it does so
here."
"Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky thing," answered
Holmes thoughtfully.  "It may seem to point very straight to one
thing, but if you shift your own point of view a little, you may
find it pointing in an equally uncompromising manner to something
entirely different.  It must be confessed, however, that the case
looks exceedingly grave against the young man, and it is very
possible that he is indeed the culprit.  There are several people
in the neighbourhood, however, and among them Miss Turner, the
daughter of the neighbouring landner, who believe in his
innocence, and who have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect
in connection with `A Study in Scarlet', to work out the case in
his interest.  Lestrade, being rather puzzled, has referred the
case to me, and hence it is that two middle-aged gentlemen are
flying westward at fifty miles an hour instead of quietly
digesting their breakfasts at home."
"I am afraid," said I, "that the facts are so obvious that you
will find little credit to be gained out of this case."
"There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact," he
answered, laughing.  "Besides, we may chance to hit upon some
other obvious facts which may have been by no means obvious to Mr.
Lestrade.  You know me too well to think that I am boasting when I
say that I shall either confirm or destroy his theory by means
which he is quite incapable of employing, or even of
understanding.  To take the first example to hand, I very clearly
perceive that in your bedroom the window is upon the right-hand
side, and yet I question whether Mr. Lestrade would have noted
even so self-evident a thing as that."
"How on earthДД"
"My dear fellow, I know you well.  I know the military
neatness which characterizes you.  You shave every morning, and in
this season you shave by the sunlight; but since your shaving is
less and less complete as we get farther back on the left side,
until it becomes positively slovenly as we get round the angle of
the jaw, it is surely very clear that that side is less
illuminated than the other.  I could not imagine a man of your
habits looking at himself in an equal light and being satisfied
with such a result.  I only quote this as a trivial example of
observation and inference.  Therein lies my metier, and it is just
possible that it may be of some service in the investigation which
lies before us.  There are one or two minor points which were
brought out in the inquest, and which are worth considering."
"What are they?"
"It appears that his arrest did not take place at once, but
after the return to Hatherley Farm.  On the inspector of
constabulary informing him that he was a prisoner, he remarked
that he was not surprised to hear it, and that it was no more than
his deserts.  This observation of his had the natural effect of
removing any traces of doubt which might have remained in the
minds of the coroner's jury."
"It was a confession," I ejaculated.
"No, for it was followed by a protestation of innocence."
"Coming on the top of such a damning series of events, it was
at least a most suspicious remark."
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "it is the brightest rift
which I can at present see in the clouds.  However innocent he
might be, he could not be such an absolute imbecile as not to see
that the circumstances were very black against him.  Had he
appeared surprised at his own arrest, or feigned indignation at
it, I should have looked upon it as highly suspicious, because
such surprise or anger would not be natural under the
circumstances, and yet might appear to be the best policy to a
scheming man.  His frank acceptance of the situation marks him as
either an innocent man, or else as a man of considerable
self-restraint and firmness.  As to his remark about his deserts,
it was also not unnatural if you consider that he stood beside the
dead body of his father, and that there is no doubt that he had
that very day so far forgotten his filial duty as to bandy words
with him, and even, according to the little girl whose evidence is
so important, to raise his hand as if to strike him.  The
self-reproach and contrition which are displayed in his remark
appear to me to be the signs of a healthy mind rather than of a
guilty one."
I shook my head.  "Many men have been hanged on far slighter
evidence," I remarked.
"So they have.  And many men have been wrongfully hanged."
"What is the young man's own account of the matter?"
"It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to his supporters,
though there are one or two points in it which are suggestive.
You will find it here, and may read it for yourself."
He picked out from his bundle a copy of the local
Herefordshire paper, and having turned down the sheet he pointed
out the paragraph in which the unfortunate young man had given his
own statement of what had occurred.  I settled myself down in the
corner of the carriage and read it very carefully.  It ran in this
way:
Mr. James McCarthy, the only son of the deceased, was then
called and gave evidence as follows:  "I had been away from
home for three days at Bristol, and had only just returned
upon the morning of last Monday, the 3d.  My father was absent
from home at the time of my arrival, and I was informed by the
maid that he had driven over to Ross with John Cobb, the
groom.  Shortly after my return I heard the wheels of his trap
in the yard, and, looking out of my window, I saw him get out
and walk rapidly out of the yard, though I was not aware in
which direction he was going.  I then took my gun and strolled
out in the direction of the Boscombe Pool, with the intention
of visiting the rabbit-warren which is upon the other side.
On my way I saw William Crowder, the game-keeper, as he had
stated in his evidence; but he is mistaken in thinking that I
was following my father.  I had no idea that he was in front
of me.  When about a hundred yards from the pool I heard a cry
of `Cooee!' which was a usual signal between my father and
myself.  I then hurried forward, and found him standing by the
pool.  He appeared to be much surprised at seeing me and asked
me rather roughly what I was doing there.  A conversation
ensued which led to high words and almost to blows, for my
father was a man of a very violent temper.  Seeing that his
passion was becoming ungovernable, I left him and returned
towards Hatherley Farm.  I had not gone more than 150 yards,
however, when I heard a hideous outcry behind me, which caused
me to run back again.  I found my father expiring upon the
ground, with his head terribly injured.  I dropped my gun and
held him in my arms, but he almost instantly expired.  I knelt
beside him for some minutes, and then made my way to Mr.
Turner's lodge-keeper, his house being the nearest, to ask for
assistance.  I saw no one near my father when I returned, and
I have no idea how he came by his injuries.  He was not a
popular man, being somewhat cold and forbidding in his
manners; but he had, as far as I know, no active enemies.  I
know nothing further of the matter."
The Coroner:  Did your father make any statement to you
before he died?
Witness:  He mumbled a few words, but I could only catch
some allusion to a rat.
The Coroner:  What did you understand by that?
Witness:  It conveyed no meaning to me.  I thought that he
was delirious.
The Coroner:  What was the point upon which you and your
father had this final quarrel?
Witness:  I should prefer not to answer.
The Coroner:  I am afraid that I must press it.
Witness:  It is really impossible for me to tell you.  I
can assure you that it has nothing to do with the sad tragedy
which followed.
The Coroner:  That is for the court to decide.  I need not
point out to you that your refusal to answer will prejudice
your case considerably in any future proceedings which may
arise.
Witness:  I must still refuse.
The Coroner:  I understand that the cry of "Cooee" was a
common signal between you and your father?
Witness:  It was.
The Coroner:  How was it, then, that he uttered it before
he saw you, and before he even knew that you had returned from
Bristol?
Witness (with considerable confusion):  I do not know.
A Juryman:  Did you see nothing which aroused your
suspicions when you returned on hearing the cry and found your
father fatally injured?
Witness:  Nothing definite.
The Coroner:  What do you mean?
Witness:  I was so disturbed and excited as I rushed out
into the open, that I could think of nothing except of my
father.  Yet I have a vague impression that as I ran forward
something lay upon the ground to the left of me.  It seemed to
me to be something gray in colour, a coat of some sort, or a
plaid perhaps.  When I rose from my father I looked round for
it, but it was gone.
"Do you mean that it disappeared before you went for
help?"
"Yes, it was gone."
"You cannot say what it was?"
"No, I had a feeling something was there."
"How far from the body?"
"A dozen yards or so."
"And how far from the edge of the wood?"
"About the same."
"Then if it was removed it was while you were within a
dozen yards of it?"
"Yes, but with my back towards it."
This concluded the examination of the witness.
"I see," said I as I glanced down the column, "that the
coroner in his concluding remarks was rather severe upon young
McCarthy.  He calls attention, and with reason, to the discrepancy
about his father having signalled to him before seeing him, also
to his refusal to give details of his conversation with his
father, and his singular account of his father's dying words.
They are all, as he remarks, very much against the son."
Holmes laughed softly to himself and stretched himself out
upon the cushioned seat.  "Both you and the coroner have been at
some pains," said he, "to single out the very strongest points in
the young man's favour.  Don't you see that you alternately give
him credit for having too much imagination and too little?  Too
little, if he could not invent a cause of quarrel which would give
him the sympathy of the jury; too much, if he evolved from his own
inner consciousness anything so outre as a dying reference to a
rat, and the incident of the vanishing cloth.  No, sir, I shall
approach this case from the point of view that what this young man
says is true, and we shall see whither that hypothesis will lead
us.  And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and not another word
shall I say of this case until we are on the scene of action.  We
lunch at Swindon, and I see that we shall be there in twenty
minutes."
It was nearly four o'clock when we at last, after passing
through the beautiful Stroud Valley, and over the broad gleaming
Severn, found ourselves at the pretty little country-town of Ross.
A lean, ferret-like man, furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for
us upon the platform.  In spite of the light brown dustcoat and
leather-leggings which he wore in deference to his rustic
surroundings, I had no difficulty in recognizing Lestrade, of
Scotland Yard.  With him we drove to the Hereford Arms where a
room had already been engaged for us.
"I have ordered a carriage," said Lestrade as we sat over a
cup of tea.  "I knew your energetic nature, and that you would not
be happy until you had been on the scene of the crime."
"It was very nice and complimentary of you," Holmes answered.
"It is entirely a question of barometric pressure."
Lestrade looked startled.  "I do not quite follow," he said.
"How is the glass?  Twenty-nine, I see.  No wind, and not a
cloud in the sky.  I have a caseful of cigarettes here which need
smoking, and the sofa is very much superior to the usual country
hotel abomination.  I do not think that it is probable that I
shall use the carriage to-night."
Lestrade laughed indulgently.  "You have, no doubt, already
formed your conclusions from the newspapers," he said.  "The case
is as plain as a pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the
plainer it becomes.  Still, of course, one can't refuse a lady,
and such a very positive one, too.  She had heard of you, and
would have your opinion, though I repeatedly told her that there
was nothing which you could do which I had not already done.  Why,
bless my soul! here is her carriage at the door."
He had hardly spoken before there rushed into the room one of
the most lovely young women that I have ever seen in my life.  Her
violet eyes shining, her lips parted, a pink flush upon her
cheeks, all thought of her natural reserve lost in her
overpowering excitement and concern.
"Oh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" she cried, glancing from one to the
other of us, and finally, with a woman's quick intuition,
fastening upon my companion, "I am so glad that you have come.  I
have driven down to tell you so.  I know that James didn't do it.
I know it, and I want you to start upon your work knowing it, too.
Never let yourself doubt upon that point.  We have known each
other since we were little children, and I know his faults as no
one else does; but he is too tenderhearted to hurt a fly.  Such a
charge is absurd to anyone who really knows him."
"I hope we may clear him, Miss Turner," said Sherlock Holmes.
"You may rely upon my doing all that I can."
"But you have read the evidence.  You have formed some
conclusion?  Do you not see some loophole, some flaw?  Do you not
yourself think that he is innocent?"
"I think that it is very probable."
"There, now!" she cried, throwing back her head and looking
defiantly at Lestrade.  "You hear!  He gives me hopes."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders.  "I am afraid that my
colleague has been a little quick in forming his conclusions," he
said.
"But he is right.  Oh!  I know that he is right.  James never
did it.  And about his quarrel with his father, I am sure that the
reason why he would not speak about it to the coroner was because
I was concerned in it."
"In what way?" asked Holmes.
"It is no time for me to hide anything.  James and his father
had many disagreements about me.  Mr. McCarthy was very anxious
that there should be a marriage between us.  James and I have
always loved each other as brother and sister; but of course he is
young and has seen very little of life yet, andДДandДДwell, he
naturally did not wish to do anything like that yet.  So there
were quarrels, and this, I am sure, was one of them."
"And your father?" asked Holmes.  "Was he in favour of such a
union?"
"No, he was averse to it also.  No one but Mr. McCarthy was in
favour of it."  A quick blush passed over her fresh young face as
Holmes shot one of his keen, questioning glances at her.
"Thank you for this information," said he.  "May I see your
father if I call tomorrow?"
"I am afraid the doctor won't allow it."
"The doctor?"
"Yes, have you not heard?  Poor father has never been strong
for years back, but this has broken him down completely.  He has
taken to his bed, and Dr. Willows says that he is a wreck and
that his nervous system is shattered.  Mr. McCarthy was the only
man alive who had known dad in the old days in Victoria."
"Ha!  In Victoria!  That is important."
"Yes, at the mines."
"Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I understand, Mr.
Turner made his money."
"Yes, certainly."
"Thank you, Miss Turner.  You have been of material assistance
to me."
"You will tell me if you have any news tomorrow.  No doubt you
will go to the prison to see James.  Oh, if you do, Mr. Holmes, do
tell him that I know him to be innocent."
"I will, Miss Turner."
"I must go home now, for dad is very ill, and he misses me so
if I leave him.  Good-bye, and God help you in your undertaking."
She hurried from the room as impulsively as she had entered, and
we heard the wheels of her carriage rattle off down the street.
"I am ashamed of you, Holmes," said Lestrade with dignity
after a few minutes' silence.  "Why should you raise up hopes
which you are bound to disappoint?  I am not over-tender of heart,
but I call it cruel."
"I think that I see my way to clearing James McCarthy," said
Holmes.  "Have you an order to see him in prison?"
"Yes, but only for you and me."
"Then I shall reconsider my resolution about going out.  We
have still time to take a train to Hereford and see him to-night?"
"Ample."
"Then let us do so.  Watson, I fear that you will find it very
slow, but I shall only be away a couple of hours."
I walked down to the station with them, and then wandered
through the streets of the little town, finally returning to the
hotel, where I lay upon the sofa and tried to interest myself in a
yellow-backed novel.  The puny plot of the story was so thin,
however, when compared to the deep mystery through which we were
groping, and I found my attention wander so continually from the
fiction to the fact, that I at last flung it across the room and
gave myself up entirely to a consideration of the events of the
day.  Supposing that this unhappy young man's story were
absolutely true, then what hellish thing, what absolutely
unforeseen and extraordinary calamity could have occurred between
the time when he parted from his father, and the moment when,
drawn back by his screams, he rushed into the glade?  It was
something terrible and deadly.  What could it be?  Might not the
nature of the injuries reveal something to my medical instincts?
I rang the bell and called for the weekly county paper, which
contained a verbatim account of the inquest.  In the surgeon's
deposition it was stated that the posterior third of the left
parietal bone and the left half of the occipital bone had been
shattered by a heavy blow from a blunt weapon.  I marked the spot
upon my own head.  Clearly such a blow must have been struck from
behind.  That was to some extent in favour of the accused, as when
seen quarrelling he was face to face with his father.  Still, it
did not go for very much, for the older man might have turned his
back before the blow fell.  Still, it might be worth while to call
Holmes's attention to it.  Then there was the peculiar dying
reference to a rat.  What could that mean?  It could not be
delirium.  A man dying from a sudden blow does not commonly become
delirious.  No, it was more likely to be an attempt to explain how
he met his fate.  But what could it indicate?  I cudgelled my
brains to find some possible explanation.  And then the incident
of the gray cloth seen by young McCarthy.  If that were true the
murderer must have dropped some part of his dress, presumably his
overcoat, in his flight, and must have had the hardihood to return
and to carry it away at the instant when the son was kneeling with
his back turned not a dozen paces off.  What a tissue of mysteries
and improbabilities the whole thing was!  I did not wonder at
Lestrade's opinion, and yet I had so much faith in Sherlock
Holmes's insight that I could not lose hope as long as every fresh
fact seemed to strengthen his conviction of young McCarthy's
innocence.
It was late before Sherlock Holmes returned.  He came back
alone, for Lestrade was staying in lodgings in the town.
"The glass still keeps very high," he remarked as he sat down.
"It is of importance that it should not rain before we are able to
go over the ground.  On the other hand, a man should be at his
very best and keenest for such nice work as that, and I did not
wish to do it when fagged by a long journey.  I have seen young
McCarthy."
"And what did you learn from him?"
"Nothing."
"Could he throw no light?"
"None at all.  I was inclined to think at one time that he
knew who had done it and was screening him or her, but I am
convinced now that he is as puzzled as everyone else.  He is not a
very quick-witted youth, though comely to look at and, I should
think, sound at heart."
"I cannot admire his taste," I remarked, "if it is indeed a
fact that he was averse to a marriage with so charming a young
lady as this Miss Turner."
"Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale.  This fellow is
madly, insanely, in love with her, but some two years ago, when he
was only a lad, and before he really knew her, for she had been
away five years at a boarding-school, what does the idiot do but
get into the clutches of a barmaid in Bristol and marry her at a
registry office?  No one knows a word of the matter, but you can
imagine how maddening it must be to him to be upbraided for not
doing what he would give his very eyes to do, but what he knows to
be absolutely impossible.  It was sheer frenzy of this sort which
made him throw his hands up into the air when his father, at their
last interview, was goading him on to propose to Miss Turner.  On
the other hand, he had no means of supporting himself, and his
father, who was by all accounts a very hard man, would have thrown
him over utterly had he known the truth.  It was with his barmaid
wife that he had spent the last three days in Bristol, and his
father did not know where he was.  Mark that point.  It is of
importance.  Good has come out of evil, however, for the barmaid,
finding from the papers that he is in serious trouble and likely
to be hanged, has thrown him over utterly and has written to him
to say that she has a husband already in the Bermuda Dockyard, so
that there is really no tie between them.  I think that that bit
of news has consoled young McCarthy for all that he has suffered."
"But if he is innocent, who has done it?"
"Ah! who?  I would call your attention very particularly to
two points.  One is that the murdered man had an appointment with
someone at the pool, and that the someone could not have been his
son, for his son was away, and he did not know when he would
return.  The second is that the murdered man was heard to cry
`Cooee!' before he knew that his son had returned.  Those are the
crucial points upon which the case depends.  And now let us talk
about George Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave all minor
matters until to-morrow."
There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold, and the morning
broke bright and cloudless.  At nine o'clock Lestrade called for
us with the carriage, and we set off for Hatherley Farm and the
Boscombe Pool.
"There is serious news this morning," Lestrade observed.  "It
is said that Mr. Turner, of the Hall, is so ill that his life is
despaired of."
"An elderly man, I presume?" said Holmes.
"About sixty; but his constitution has been shattered by his
life abroad, and he has been in failing health for some time.
This business has had a very bad effect upon him.  He was an old
friend of McCarthy's, and, I may add, a great benefactor to him,
for I have learned that he gave him Hatherley Farm rent free."
"Indeed!  That is interesting," said Holmes.
"Oh, yes!  In a hundred other ways he has helped him.
Everybody about here speaks of his kindness to him."
"Really!  Does it not strike you as a little singular that
this McCarthy, who appears to have had little of his own, and to
have been under such obligations to Turner, should still talk of
marrying his son to Turner's daughter, who is, presumably, heiress
to the estate, and that in such a very cocksure manner, as if it
were merely a case of a proposal and all else would follow?  It is
the more strange, since we know that Turner himself was averse to
the idea.  The daughter told us as much.  Do you not deduce
something from that?"
"We have got to the deductions and the inferences," said
Lestrade, winking at me.  "I find it hard enough to tackle facts,
Holmes, without flying away after theories and fancies."
"You are right," said Holmes demurely; "you do find it very
hard to tackle the facts."
"Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you seem to find it
difficult to get hold of," replied Lestrade with some warmth.
"And that isДД"
"That McCarthy senior met his death from McCarthy junior and
that all theories to the contrary are the merest moonshine."
"Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than fog," said Holmes,
laughing.  "But I am very much mistaken if this is not Hatherley
Farm upon the left."
"Yes, that is it."  It was a widespread, comfortable-looking
building, two-storied, slate-roofed, with great yellow blotches of
lichen upon the gray walls.  The drawn blinds and the smokeless
chimneys, however, gave it a stricken look, as though the weight
of this horror still lay heavy upon it.  We called at the door,
when the maid, at Holmes's request, showed us the boots which her
master wore at the time of his death, and also a pair of the
son's, though not the pair which he had then had.  Having measured
these very carefully from seven or eight different points, Holmes
desired to be led to the court-yard, from which we all followed
the winding track which led to Boscombe Pool.
Sherlock Holmes was transformed when he was hot upon such a
scent as this.  Men who had only known the quiet thinker and
logician of Baker Street would have failed to recognize him.  His
face flushed and darkened.  His brows were drawn into two hard
black lines, while his eyes shone out from beneath them with a
steely glitter.  His face was bent downward, his shoulders bowed,
his lips compressed, and the veins stood out like whipcord in his
long, sinewy neck.  His nostrils seemed to dilate with a purely
animal lust for the chase, and his mind was so absolutely
concentrated upon the matter before him that a question or remark
fell unheeded upon his ears, or, at the most, only provoked a
quick, impatient snarl in reply.  Swiftly and silently he made his
way along the track which ran through the meadows, and so by way
of the woods to the Boscombe Pool.  It was damp, marshy ground, as
is all that district, and there were marks of many feet, both upon
the path and amid the short grass which bounded it on either side.
Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes stop dead, and once he
made quite a little detour into the meadow.  Lestrade and I walked
behind him, the detective indifferent and contemptuous, while I
watched my friend with the interest which sprang from the
conviction that every one of his actions was directed towards a
definite end.
The Boscombe Pool, which is a little reed-girt sheet of water
some fifty yards across, is situated at the boundary between the
Hatherley Farm and the private park of the wealthy Mr. Turner.
Above the woods which lined it upon the farther side we could see
the red, jutting pinnacles which marked the site of the rich
landowner's dwelling.  On the Hatherley side of the pool the woods
grew very thick, and there was a narrow belt of sodden grass
twenty paces across between the edge of the trees and the reeds
which lined the lake.  Lestrade showed us the exact spot at which
the body had been found, and, indeed, so moist was the ground,
that I could plainly see the traces which had been left by the
fall of the stricken man.  To Holmes, as I could see by his eager
face and peering eyes, very many other things were to be read upon
the trampled grass.  He ran round, like a dog who is picking up a
scent, and then turned upon my companion.
"What did you go into the pool for?" he asked.
"I fished about with a rake.  I thought there might be some
weapon or other trace.  But how on earthДД"
"Oh, tut, tut!  I have no time!  That left foot of yours with
its inward twist is all over the place.  A mole could trace it,
and there it vanishes among the reeds.  Oh, how simple it would
all have been had I been here before they came like a herd of
buffalo and wallowed all over it.  Here is where the party with
the lodge-keeper came, and they have covered all tracks for six or
eight feet round the body.  But here are three separate tracks of
the same feet."  He drew out a lens and lay down upon his
waterproof to have a better view, talking all the time rather to
himself than to us.  "These are young McCarthy's feet.  Twice he
was walking, and once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are deeply
marked and the heels hardly visible.  That bears out his story.
He ran when he saw his father on the ground.  Then here are the
father's feet as he paced up and down.  What is this, then?  It is
the butt-end of the gun as the son stood listening.  And this?
Ha, ha!  What have we here?  Tiptoes!  tiptoes!  Square, too,
quite unusual boots!  They come, they go, they come againДДof
course that was for the cloak.  Now where did they come from?"  He
ran up and down, sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track
until we were well within the edge of the wood and under the
shadow of a great beech, the largest tree in the neighbourhood.
Holmes traced his way to the farther side of this and lay down
once more upon his face with a little cry of satisfaction.  For a
long time he remained there, turning over the leaves and dried
sticks, gathering up what seemed to me to be dust into an envelope
and examining with his lens not only the ground but even the bark
of the tree as far as he could reach.  A jagged stone was lying
among the moss, and this also he carefully examined and retained.
Then he followed a pathway through the wood until he came to the
highroad, where all traces were lost.
"It has been a case of considerable interest," he remarked,
returning to his natural manner.  "I fancy that this gray house on
the right must be the lodge.  I think that I will go in and have a
word with Moran, and perhaps write a little note.  Having done
that, we may drive back to our luncheon.  You may walk to the cab,
and I shall be with you presently."
It was about ten minutes before we regained our cab and drove
back into Ross, Holmes still carrying with him the stone which he
had picked up in the wood.
"This may interest you, Lestrade," he remarked, holding it
out.  "The murder was done with it."
"I see no marks."
"There are none."
"How do you know, then?"
"The grass was growing under it.  It had only lain there a few
days.  There was no sign of a place whence it had been taken.  It
corresponds with the injuries.  There is no sign of any other
weapon."
"And the murderer?"
"Is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the right leg, wears
thick-soled shooting-boots and a gray cloak, smokes Indian cigars,
uses a cigar-holder, and carries a blunt pen-knife in his pocket.
There are several other indications, but these may be enough to
aid us in our search."
Lestrade laughed.  "I am afraid that I am still a sceptic," he
said. "Theories are all very well, but we have to deal with a
hard-headed British jury."
"Mous verrons," answered Holmes calmly.  "You work your own
method, and I shall work mine.  I shall be busy this afternoon,
and shall probably return to London by the evening train."
"And leave your case unfinished?"
"No, finished."
"But the mystery?"
"It is solved."
"Who was the criminal, then?"
"The gentleman I describe."
"But who is he?"
"Surely it would not be difficult to find out.  This is not
such a populous neighbourhood."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders.  "I am a practical man," he
said, "and I really cannot undertake to go about the country
looking for a left-handed gentleman with a game-leg.  I should
become the laughing-stock of Scotland Yard."
"All right," said Holmes quietly.  "I have given you the
chance.  Here are your lodgings.  Good-bye.  I shall drop you a
line before I leave."
Having left Lestrade at his rooms, we drove to our hotel,
where we found lunch upon the table.  Holmes was silent and buried
in thought with a pained expression upon his face, as one who
finds himself in a perplexing position.
"Look here, Watson," he said when the cloth was cleared; "just
sit down in this chair and let me preach to you for a little.  I
don't know quite what to do, and I should value your advice.
Light a cigar and let me expound."
"Pray do so."
"Well, now, in considering this case there are two points
about young McCarthy's narrative which struck us both instantly,
although they impressed me in his favour and you against him.  One
was the fact that his father should, according to his account, cry
`Cooee!' before seeing him.  The other was his singular dying
reference to a rat.  He mumbled several words, you understand, but
that was all that caught the son's ear.  Now from this double
point our research must commence, and we will begin it by
presuming that what the lad says is absolutely true."
"What of this `Cooee!' then?"
"Well, obviously it could not have been meant for the son.
The son, as far as he knew, was in Bristol.  It was mere chance
that he was within earshot.  The `Cooee!' was meant to attract the
attention of whoever it was that he had the appointment with.  But
`Cooee' is a distinctly Australian cry, and one which is used
between Australians.  There is a strong presumption that the
person whom McCarthy expected to meet him at Boscombe Pool was
someone who had been in Australia."
"What of the rat, then?"
Sherlock Holmes took a folded paper from his pocket and
flattened it out on the table.  "This is a map of the Colony of
Victoria," he said.  "I wired to Bristol for it last night."  He
put his hand over part of the map.  "What do you read?"
"ARAT," I read.
"And now?"  He raised his hand.
"BALLARAT."
"Quite so.  That was the word the man uttered, and of which
his son only caught the last two syllables.  He was trying to
utter the name of his murderer.  So and so, of Ballarat."
"It is wonderful!" I exclaimed.
"It is obvious.  And now, you see, I had narrowed the field
down considerably.  The possession of a gray garment was a third
point which, granting the son's statement to be correct, was a
certainty.  We have come now out of mere vagueness to the definite
conception of an Australian from Ballarat with a gray cloak."
"Certainly."
"And one who was at home in the district, for the pool can
only be approached by the farm or by the estate, where strangers
could hardly wander."
"Quite so."
"Then comes our expedition of to-day.  By an examination of
the ground I gained the trifling details which I gave to that
imbecile Lestrade, as to the personality of the criminal."
"But how did you gain them?"
"You know my method.  It is founded upon the observation of
trifles."
"His height I know that you might roughly judge from the
length of his stride.  His boots, too, might be told from their
traces."
"Yes, they were peculiar boots."
"But his lameness?"
"The impression of his right foot was always less distinct
than his left.  He put less weight upon it.  Why?  Because he
limpedДДhe was lame."
"But his left-handedness."
"You were yourself struck by the nature of the injury as
recorded by the surgeon at the inquest.  The blow was struck from
immediately behind, and yet was upon the left side.  Now, how can
that be unless it were by a left-handed man?  He had stood behind
that tree during the interview between the father and son.  He had
even smoked there.  I found the ash of a cigar, which my special
knowledge of tobacco ashes enables me to pronounce as an Indian
cigar.  I have, as you know, devoted some attention to this, and
written a little monograph on the ashes of 14 different varieties
of pipe, cigar, and cigarette tobacco.  Having found the ash, I
then looked round and discovered the stump among the moss where he
had tossed it.  It was an Indian cigar, of the variety which are
rolled in Rotterdam."
"And the cigar-holder?"
"I could see that the end had not been in his mouth.
Therefore he used a holder.  The tip had been cut off, not bitten
off, but the cut was not a clean one, so I deduced a blunt
pen-knife."
"Holmes," I said, "you have drawn a net round this man from
which he cannot escape, and you have saved an innocent human life
as truly as if you had cut the cord which was hanging him.  I see
the direction in which all this points.  The culprit isДД"
"Mr. John Turner," cried the hotel waiter, opening the door of
our sitting-room, and ushering in a visitor.
The man who entered was a strange and impressive figure.  His
slow, limping step and bowed shoulders gave the appearance of
decrepitude, and yet his hard, deep-lined, craggy features, and
his enormous limbs showed that he was possessed of unusual
strength of body and of character.  His tangled beard, grizzled
hair, and outstanding, drooping eyebrows combined to give an air
of dignity and power to his appearance, but his face was of an
ashen white, while his lips and the corners of his nostrils were
tinged with a shade of blue.  It was clear to me at a glance that
he was in the grip of some deadly and chronic disease.
"Pray sit down on the sofa," said Holmes gently.  "You had my
note?"
"Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up.  You said that you
wished to see me here to avoid scandal."
"I thought people would talk if I went to the Hall."
"And why did you wish to see me?"  He looked across at my
companion with despair in his weary eyes, as though his question
was already answered.
"Yes," said Holmes, answering the look rather than the words.
"It is so.  I know all about McCarthy."
The old man sank his face in his hands.  "God help me!" he
cried.  "But I would not have let the young man come to harm.  I
give you my word that I would have spoken out if it went against
him at the Assizes."
"I am glad to hear you say so," said Holmes gravely.
"I would have spoken now had it not been for my dear girl.  It
would break her heartДДit will break her heart when she hears that
I am arrested."
"It may not come to that," said Holmes.
"What?"
"I am no official agent.  I understand that it was your
daughter who required my presence here, and I am acting in her
interests.  Young McCarthy must be got off, however."
"I am a dying man," said old Turner.  "I have had diabetes for
years.  My doctor says it is a question whether I shall live a
month.  Yet I would rather die under my own roof than in a jail."
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with his pen in his hand
and a bundle of paper before him.  "Just tell us the truth," he
said.  "I shall jot down the facts.  You will sign it, and Watson
here can witness it.  Then I could produce your confession at the
last extremity to save young McCarthy.  I promise you that I shall
not use it unless it is absolutely needed."
"Its as well," said the old man; "it's a question whether I
shall live to the Assizes, so it matters little to me, but I
should wish to spare Alice the shock.  And now I will make the
thing clear to you; it has been a long time in the acting, but
will not take me long to tell.
"You didn't know this dead man, McCarthy.  He was a devil
incarnate.  I tell you that.  God keep you out of the clutches of
such a man as he.  His grip has been upon me these twenty years,
and he has blasted my life.  I'll tell you first how I came to be
in his power.
"It was in the early '60's at the diggings.  I was a young
chap then, hot-blooded and reckless, ready to turn my hand at
anything; I got among bad companions, took to drink, had no luck
with my claim, took to the bush, and in a word became what you
would call over here a highway robber.  There were six of us, and
we had a wild, free life of it, sticking up a station from time to
time, or stopping the wagons on the road to the diggings.  Black
Jack of Ballarat was the name I went under, and our party is still
remembered in the colony as the Ballarat Gang.
"One day a gold convoy came down from Ballarat to Melbourne,
and we lay in wait for it and attacked it.  There were six
troopers and six of us, so it was a close thing, but we emptied
four of their saddles at the first volley.  Three of our boys were
killed, however, before we got the swag.  I put my pistol to the
head of the wagon-driver, who was this very man McCarthy.  I wish
to the Lord that I had shot him then, but I spared him, though I
saw his wicked little eyes fixed on my face, as though to remember
every feature.  We got away with the gold, became wealthy men, and
made our way over to England without being suspected.  There I
parted from my old pals and determined to settle down to a quiet
and respectable life.  I bought this estate, which chanced to be
in the market, and I set myself to do a little good with my money,
to make up for the way in which I had earned it.  I married, too,
and though my wife died young she left me my dear little Alice.
Even when she was just a baby her wee hand seemed to lead me down
the right path as nothing else had ever done.  In a word, I turned
over a new leaf and did my best to make up for the past.  All was
going well when McCarthy laid his grip upon me.
"I had gone up to town about an investment, and I met him in
Regent Street with hardly a coat to his back or a boot to his
foot.
"`Here we are, Jack,' says he, touching me on the arm; `we'll
be as good as a family to you.  There's two of us, me and my son,
and you can have the keeping of us.  If you don'tДДit's a fine,
law-abiding country is England, and there's always a policeman
within hail.'
"Well, down they came to the west country, there was no
shaking them off, and there they have lived rent free on my best
land ever since.  There was no rest for me, no peace, no
forgetfulness; turn where I would, there was his cunning, grinning
face at my elbow.  It grew worse as Alice grew up, for he soon saw
I was more afraid of her knowing my past than of the police.
Whatever he wanted he must have, and whatever it was I gave him
without question, land, money, houses, until at last he asked a
thing which I could not give.  He asked for Alice.
"His son, you see, had grown up, and so had my girl, and as I
was known to be in weak health, it seemed a fine stroke to him
that his lad should step into the whole property.  But there I was
firm.  I would not have his cursed stock mixed with mine; not that
I had any dislike to the lad, but his blood was in him, and that
was enough.  I stood firm.  McCarthy threatened.  I braved him to
do his worst.  We were to meet at the pool midway between our
houses to talk it over.
"When I went down there I found him talking with his son, so I
smoked a cigar and waited behind a tree until he should be alone.
But as I listened to his talk all that was black and bitter in me
seemed to come uppermost.  He was urging his son to marry my
daughter with as little regard for what she might think as if she
were a slut from off the streets.  It drove me mad to think that I
and all that I held most dear should be in the power of such a man
as this.  Could I not snap the bond?  I was already a dying and a
desperate man.  Though clear of mind and fairly strong of limb, I
knew that my own fate was sealed.  But my memory and my girl!
Both could be saved if I could but silence that foul tongue.  I
did it, Mr. Holmes.  I would do it again.  Deeply as I have
sinned, I have led a life of martyrdom to atone for it.  But that
my girl should be entangled in the same meshes which held me was
more than I could suffer.  I struck him down with no more
compunction than if he had been some foul and venomous beast.  His
cry brought back his son; but I had gained the cover of the wood,
though I was forced to go back to fetch the cloak which I had
dropped in my flight.  That is the true story, gentlemen, of all
that occurred."
"Well, it is not for me to judge you," said Holmes as the old
man signed the statement which had been drawn out.  "I pray that
we may never be exposed to such a temptation."
"I pray not, sir.  And what do you intend to do?"
"In view of your health, nothing.  You are yourself aware that
you will soon have to answer for your deed at a higher court than
the Assizes.  I will keep your confession, and if McCarthy is
condemned I shall be forced to use it.  If not, it shall never be
seen by mortal eye; and your secret, whether you be alive or dead,
shall be safe with us."
"Farewell, then," said the old man solemnly.  "Your own
deathbeds, when they come, will be the easier for the thought of
the peace which you have given to mine."  Tottering and shaking in
all his giant frame, he stumbled slowly from the room.
"God help us!" said Holmes after a long silence.  "Why does
fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms?  I never hear of
such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter's words, and
say, `There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.'"
James McCarthy was acquitted at the Assizes on the strength of
a number of objections which had been drawn out by Holmes and
submitted to the defending counsel.  Old Turner lived for seven
months after our interview, but he is now dead; and there is every
prospect that the son and daughter may come to live happily
together in ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon their
past.




           The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle

 I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holrnes upon the
second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing
him the compliments of the season. He was lounging upon the
sofa in a purple dressing-gown, a pipe-rack within his reach
upon the right, and a pile of crumpled morning papers, evidently
newly studied, near at hand. Beside the couch was a wooden
chair, and on the angle of the back hung a very seedy and
disreputable hard-felt hat, much the worse for wear, and cracked
in several places. A lens and a forceps lying upon the seat of the
chair suggested that the hat had been suspended in this manner
for the purpose of examination.
 "You are engaged," said l; "perhaps I interrupt you."
 "Not at all. I am glad to have a friend with whom I can
discuss my results. The matter is a perfectly trivial one" -- he
jerked his thumb in the direction of the old hat -- "but there are
points in connection with it which are not entirely devoid of
interest and even of instruction."
 I seated myself in his armchair and warmed my hands before
his crackling fire, for a sharp frost had set in, and the windows
were thick with the ice crystals. "I suppose," I remarked, "that,
homely as it looks, this thing has some deadly story linked on to
it -- that it is the clue which will guide you in the solution of
some mystery and the punishment of some crime."
 "No, no. No crime," said Sherlock Holmes, laughing. "Only
one of those whimsical little incidents which will happen when
you have four million human beings all jostling each other within
the space of a few square miles. Amid the action and reaction of
so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of
events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem
will be presented which may be striking and bizarre without
being criminal. We have already had experience of such."
 "So much so," l remarked, "that of the last six cases which I
have added to my notes, three have been entirely free of any
legal crime."
 "Precisely. You allude to my attempt to recover the Irene
Adler papers, to the singular case of Miss Mary Sutherland, and
to the adventure of the man with the twisted lip. Well, I have no
doubt that this small matter will fall into the same innocent
category. You know Peterson, the commissionaire?"
 "Yes."
 "It is to him that this trophy belongs."
 "It is his hat."
 "No, no, he found it. Its owner is unknown. I beg that you
will look upon it not as a battered billycock but as an intellectual
problem. And, first, as to how it came here. It arrived upon
Christmas morning, in company with a good fat goose, which is,
I have no doubt, roasting at this moment in front of Peterson's
fire. The facts are these: about four o'clock on Christmas morn-
ing, Peterson, who, as you know, is a very honest fellow, was
returning from some small jollification and was making his way
homeward down Tottenham Court Road. In front of him he saw,
in the gaslight, a tallish man, walking with a slight stagger, and
carrying a white goose slung over his shoulder. As he reached
the corner of Goodge Street, a row broke out between this
stranger and a little knot of roughs. One of the latter knocked off
the man's hat, on which he raised his stick to defend himself
and, swinging it over his head, smashed the shop window behind
him. Peterson had rushed forward to protect the stranger from his
assailants; but the man, shocked at having broken the window,
and seeing an official-looking person in uniform rushing towards
him, dropped his goose, took to his heels, and vanished amid the
labyrinth of small streets which lie at the back of Tottenham
Court Road. The roughs had also fled at the appearance of
Peterson, so that he was left in possession of the field of battle,
and also of the spoils of victory in the shape of this battered hat
and a most unimpeachable Christmas goose."
 "Which surely he restored to their owner?"
 "My dear fellow, there lies the problem. It is true that 'For
Mrs. Henry Baker' was printed upon a small card which was tied
to the bird's left leg, and it is also true that the initials 'H. B.'
are legible upon the lining of this hat, but as there are some
thousands of Bakers, and some hundreds of Henry Bakers in this
city of ours, it is not easy to restore lost property to any one of
them."
 "What, then, did Peterson do?"
 "He brought round both hat and goose to me on Christmas
morning, knowing that even the smallest problems are of interest
to me. The goose we retained until this morning, when there
were signs that, in spite of the slight frost, it would be well that
it should be eaten without unnecessary delay. Its finder has
carried it off, therefore, to fulfil the ultimate destiny of a goose,
while I continue to retain the hat of the unknown gentleman who
lost his Christmas dinner."
 "Did he not advertise?"
 "No."
 "Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?"
 "Only as much as we can deduce."
 "From his hat?"
 "Precisely."
 "But you are joking. What can you gather from this old
battered felt?"
 "Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you
gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn
this article?"
 I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather
ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round
shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of
red silk, but was a good deal discoloured. There was no maker's
name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials "H. B." were
scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hat-
securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked,
exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there
seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discoloured
patches by smearing them with ink.
 "I can see nothing," said I, handing it back to my friend.
 "On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail,
however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in
drawing your inferences."
 "Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this
hat?"
 He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective
fashion which was characteristic of him. "It is perhaps less
suggestive than it might have been," he remarked, "and yet
there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few
others which represent at least a strong balance of probability.
That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon
the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the
last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He
had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a
moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his
fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink,
at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact
that his wife has ceased to love him."
 "My dear Holmes!"
 "He has, however, retained some degree of self-respect," he
continued, disregarding my remonstrance. "He is a man who
leads a sedentary life, goes out little, is out of training entirely,
is middle-aged, has grizzled hair which he has had cut within the
last few days, and which he anoints with lime-cream. These are
the more patent facts which are to be deduced from his hat.
Also, by the way, that it is extremely improbable that he has gas
laid on in his house."
 "You are certainly joking, Holmes."
 "Not in the least. Is it possible that even now, when I give
you these results, you are unable to see how they are attained?"
 "I have no doubt that I am very stupid, but I must confess that
I am unable to follow you. For example, how did you deduce
that this man was intellectual?"
 For answer Holmes clapped the hat upon his head. It came
right over the forehead and settled upon the bridge of his nose.
"It is a question of cubic capacity," said he; "a man with so
large a brain must have something in it."
 "The decline of his fortunes, then?"
 "This hat is three years old. These flat brims curled at the
edge came in then. It is a hat of the very best quality. Look at
the band of ribbed silk and the excellent lining. If this man could
afford to buy so expensive a hat three years ago, and has had no
hat since, then he has assuredly gone down in the world."
 "Well, that is clear enough, certainly. But how about the
foresight and the moral retrogression?"
 Sherlock Holmes laughed. "Here is the foresight," said he
putting his finger upon the little disc and loop of the hat-securer.
"They are never sold upon hats. If this man ordered one, it is a
sign of a certain amount of foresight, since he went out of his
way to take this precaution against the wind. But since we see
that he has broken the elastic and has not troubled to replace it, it
is obvious that he has less foresight now than formerly, which is
a distinct proof of a weakening nature. On the other hand, he has
endeavoured to conceal some of these stains upon the felt by
daubing them with ink, which is a sign that he has not entirely
lost his self-respect."
 "Your reasoning is certainly plausible."
 "The further points, that he is middle-aged, that his hair is
grizzled, that it has been recently cut, and that he uses lime-
cream, are all to be gathered from a close examination of the
lower part of the lining. The lens discloses a large number of
hair-ends, clean cut by the scissors of the barber. They all appear
to be adhesive, and there is a distinct odour of lime-cream. This
dust, you will observe, is not the gritty, gray dust of the street
but the fluffy brown dust of the house, showing that it has been
hung up indoors most of the time, while the marks of moisture
upon the inside are proof positive that the wearer perspired very
freely, and could therefore, hardly be in the best of training."
 "But his wife -- you said that she had ceased to love him."
 "This hat has not been brushed for weeks. When I see you,
my dear Watson, with a week's accumulation of dust upon your
hat, and when your wife allows you to go out in such a state, I
shall fear that you also have been unfortunate enough to lose
your wife's affection."
 "But he might be a bachelor."
 "Nay, he was bringing home the goose as a peace-offering to
his wife. Remember the card upon the bird's leg."
 "You have an answer to everything. But how on earth do you
deduce that the gas is not laid on in his house?"
 "One tallow stain, or even two, might come by chance; but
when I see no less than five, I think that there can be little doubt
that the individual must be brought into frequent contact with
burning tallow -- walks upstairs at night probably with his hat in
one hand and a guttering candle in the other. Anyhow, he never
got tallow-stains from a gasjet. Are you satisfied?"
 "Well, it is very ingenious," said I, laughing; "but since, as
you said just now, there has been no crime committed, and no
harm done save the loss of a goose, all this seems to be rather a
waste of energy."
 Sherlock Holmes had opened his mouth to reply, when the
door flew open, and Peterson, the commissionaire, rushed into
the apartment with flushed cheeks and the face of a man who is
dazed with astonishment.
 "The goose, Mr. Holmes! The goose, sir!" he gasped.
 "Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off
through the kitchen window?" Holmes twisted himself round
upon the sofa to get a fairer view of the man's excited face.
 "See here, sir! See what my wife found in its crop!" He held
out his hand and displayed upon the centre of the palm a
brilliantly scintillating blue stone, rather smaller than a bean in
size, but of such purity and radiance that it twinkled like an
electric point in the dark hollow of his hand.
 Sherlock Holmes sat up with a whistle. "By Jove, Peterson!"
said he, "this is treasure trove indeed. I suppose you know what
you have got?"
 "A diamond, sir? A precious stone. It cuts into glass as
though it were putty."
 "It's. more than a precious stone. It is the precious stone."
 "Not the Countess of Morcar's blue carbuncle!" I ejaculated.
 "Precisely so. l ought to know its size and shape, seeing that I
have read the advertisement about it in The Times every day
lately. It is absolutely unique, and its value can only be conjec-
tured, but the reward offered of 1000 pounds is certainly not within a
twentieth part of the market price."
 "A thousand pounds! Great Lord of mercy!" The commis-
sionaire plumped down into a chair and stared from one to the
other of us.
 "That is the reward, and I have reason to know that there are
sentimental considerations in the background which would in-
duce the Countess to part with half her fortune if she could but
recover the gem."
 "It was lost, if I remember aright, at the Hotel Cosmopoli-
tan," I remarked.
 "Precisely so, on December 22d, just five days ago. John
Horner, a plumber, was accused of having abstracted it from the
lady's jewel-case. The evidence against him was so strong that
the case has been referred to the Assizes. I have some account of
the matter here, I believe." He rummaged amid his newspapers,
glancing over the dates, until at last he smoothed one out,
doubled it over, and read the following paragraph:

            "Hotel Cosmopolitan Jewel Robbery. John Horner, 26,
           plumber, was brought up upon the charge of having upon
           the 22d inst., abstracted from the jewel-case of the Countess
           of Morcar the valuable gem known as the blue carbuncle.
           James Ryder, upper-attendant at the hotel, gave his evi-
           dence to the effect that he had shown Horner up to the
           dressing-room of the Countess of Morcar upon the day of
           the robbery in order that he might solder the second bar of
           the grate, which was loose. He had remained with Horner
           some little time, but had finally been called away. On
           returning, he found that Horner had disappeared, that the
           bureau had been forced open, and that the small morocco
           casket in which, as it afterwards transpired, the Countess
           was accustomed to keep her jewel, was lying empty upon
           the dressing-table. Ryder instantly gave the alarm, and Horner
           was arrested the same evening; but the stone could not be
           found either upon his person or in his rooms. Catherine
           Cusack, maid to the Countess, deposed to having heard
           Ryder's cry of dismay on discovering the robbery, and to
           having rushed into the room, where she found matters as
           described by the last witness. Inspector Bradstreet, B divi-
           sion, gave evidence as to the arrest of Horner, who strug-
           gled frantically, and protested his innocence in the strongest
           terms. Evidence of a previous conviction for robbery having
           been given against the prisoner, the magistrate refused to
           deal summarily with the offence, but referred it to the
           Assizes. Horner, who had shown signs of intense emotion
           during the proceedings, fainted away at the conclusion and
           was carried out of court.

 "Hum! So much for the police-court," said Holmes thought-
fully, tossing aside the paper. "The question for us now to solve
is the sequence of events leading from a rifled jewel-case at one
end to the crop of a goose in Tottenham Court Road at the other.
You see, Watson, our little deductions have suddenly assumed a
much more important and less innocent aspect. Here is the stone;
the stone came from the goose, and the goose came from Mr.
Henry Baker, the gentleman with the bad hat and all the other
characteristics with which I have bored you. So now we must set
ourselves very seriously to finding this gentleman and ascertain-
ing what part he has played in this little mystery. To do this, we
must try the simplest means first, and these lie undoubtedly in an
advertisement in all the evening papers. If this fail, I shall have
recourse to other methods."
 "What will you say?"
 "Give me a pencil and that slip of paper. Now, then:

       "Found at the corner of Goodge Street, a goose and a
     black felt hat. Mr. Henry Baker can have the same by
     applying at 6:30 this evening at 221B, Baker Street.

That is clear and concise."
 "Very. But will he see it?"
 "Well, he is sure to keep an eye on the papers, since, to a
poor man, the loss was a heavy one. He was clearly so scared by
his mischance in breaking the window and by the approach of
Peterson that he thought of nothing but flight, but since then he
must have bitterly regretted the impulse which caused him to
drop his bird. Then, again, the introduction of his name will
cause him to see it, for everyone who knows him will direct his
attention to it. Here you are, Peterson, run down to the advertis-
ing agency and have this put in the evening papers."
 "In which, sir?"
 "Oh, in the Clobe, Star, Pall Mall, St. James's, Evening
News Standard, Echo, and any others that occur to you."
 "Very well, sir. And this stone?"
 "Ah, yes, I shall keep the stone. Thank you. And, I say,
Peterson, just buy a goose on your way back and leave it here
with me, for we must have one to give to this gentleman in place
of the one which your family is now devouring."
 When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone
and held it against the light. "It's a bonny thing," said he. "Just
see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus
of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil's pet baits. In
the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody
deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the
banks of the Amoy River in southem China and is remarkable in
having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue
in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has already a
sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing,
a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of this
forty-grain weight of crystallized charcoal. Who would think that
so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the
prison? I'll lock it up in my strong box now and drop a line to
the Countess to say that we have it."
 "Do you think that this man Horner is innocent?"
 "I cannot tell."
 "Well, then, do you imagine that this other one, Henry Baker,
had anything to do with the matter?"
 "It is, I think, much more likely that Henry Baker is an
absolutely innocent man, who had no idea that the bird which he
was carrying was of considerably more value than if it were
made of solid gold. That, however, I shall determine by a very
simple test if we have an answer to our advertisement."
 "And you can do nothing until then?"
 "Nothing. "
 "In that case I shall continue my professional round. But I
shall come back in the evening at the hour you have mentioned,
for I should like to see the solution of so tangled a business."
 "Very glad to see you. I dine at seven. There is a woodcock, I
believe. By the way, in view of recent occurrences, perhaps I
ought to ask Mrs. Hudson to examine its crop."
 I had been delayed at a case, and it was a little after half-past
six when I found myself in Baker Street once more. As I
approached the house I saw a tall man in a Scotch bonnet with a
coat which was buttoned up to his chin waiting outside in the
bright semicircle which was thrown from the fanlight. Just as l
arrived the door was opened, and we were shown up together to
Holmes's room.
 "Mr. Henry Baker, I believe," said he, rising from his armchair
and greeting his visitor with the easy air of geniality which he
could so readily assume. "Pray take this chair by the fire, Mr.
Baker. It is a cold night, and I observe that your circulation is
more adapted for summer than for winter. Ah, Watson, you have
just come at the right time. Is that your hat, Mr. Baker?"
 "Yes, sir, that is undoubtedly my hat."
 He was a large man with rounded shoulders, a massive head,
and a broad, intelligent face, sloping down to a pointed beard of
grizzled brown. A touch of red in nose and cheeks, with a slight
tremor of his extended hand, recalled Holmes's surmise as to his
habits. His rusty black frock-coat was buttoned right up in front,
with the collar turned up, and his lank wrists protruded from his
sleeves without a sign of cuff or shirt. He spoke in a slow
staccato fashion, choosing his words with care, and gave the
impression generally of a man of learning and letters who had
had ill-usage at the hands of fortune.
 "We have retained these things for some days," said Holmes,
"because we expected to see an advertisement from you giving
your address. I am at a loss to know now why you did not
advertise."
 Our visitor gave a rather shamefaced laugh. "Shillings have
not been so plentiful with me as they once were," he remarked.
"I had no doubt that the gang of roughs who assaulted me had
carried off both my hat and the bird. I did not care to spend more
money in a hopeless attempt at recovering them."
 "Very naturally. By the way, about the bird, we were com-
pelled to eat it."
 "To eat it!" Our visitor half rose from his chair in his
excitement.
 "Yes, it would have been of no use to anyone had we not
done so. But I presume that this other goose upon the sideboard,
which is about the same weight and perfectly fresh, will answer
your purpose equally well?"
 "Oh, certainly, certainly," answered Mr. Baker with a sigh of
relief.
 "Of course, we still have the feathers, legs, crop, and so on of
your own bird, so if you wish  --"
 The man burst into a hearty laugh. "They might be useful to
me as relics of my adventure," said he, "but beyond that I can
hardly see what use the disjecta membra of my late acquaintance
are going to be to me. No, sir, I think that, with your permis-
sion, I will confine my attentions to the excellent bird which I
perceive upon the sideboard."
 Sherlock Holmes glanced sharply across at me with a slight
shrug of his shoulders.
 "There is your hat, then, and there your bird," said he. "By
the way, would it bore you to tell me where you got the other
one from? I am somewhat of a fowl fancier, and I have seldom
seen a better grown goose."
 "Certainly, sir," said Baker, who had risen and tucked his
newly gained property under his arm. "There are a few of us
who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum -- we are to be
found in the Museum itself during the day, you understand. This
year our good host, Windigate by name, instituted a goose club,
by which, on consideration of some few pence every week, we
were each to receive a bird at Christmas. My pence were duly
paid, and the rest is familiar to you. I am much indebted to you,
sir, for a Scotch bonnet is fitted neither to my years nor my
gravity." With a comical pomposity of manner he bowed sol-
emnly to both of us and strode off upon his way.
 "So much for Mr. Henry Baker," said Holmes when he had
closed the door behind him. "It is quite certain that he knows
nothing whatever about the matter. Are you hungry, Watson?"
 "Not particularly."
 "Then I suggest that we turn our dinner into a supper and
follow up this clue while it is still hot."
 "By all means."
 It was a bitter night, so we drew on our ulsters and wrapped
cravats about our throats. Outside, the stars were shining coldly
in a cloudless sky, and the breath of the passers-by blew out into
smoke like so many pistol shots. Our footfalls rang out crisply
and loudly as we swung through the doctors' quarter, Wimpole
Street, Harley Street, and so through Wigmore Street into Ox-
ford Street. In a quarter of an hour we were in Bloomsbury at the
Alpha Inn, which is a small public-house at the corner of one of
the streets which runs down into Holborn. Holmes pushed open
the door of the private bar and ordered two glasses of beer from
the ruddy-faced, white-aproned landlord.
 "Your beer should be excellent if it is as good as your
geese," said he.
 "My geese!" The man seemed surprised.
 "Yes. I was speaking only half an hour ago to Mr. Henry
Baker, who was a member of your goose club."
 "Ah! yes, I see. But you see, sir, them's not our geese."
 "Indeed! Whose, then?"
 "Well, I got the two dozen from a salesman in Covent Garden."
 "Indeed? I know some of them. Which was it?"
 "Breckinridge is his name."
 "Ah! I don't know him. Well, here's your good health
landlord, and prosperity to your house. Good-night.
 "Now for Mr. Breckinridge," he continued, buttoning up his
coat as we came out into the frosty air. "Remember, Watson
that though we have so homely a thing as a goose at one end of
this chain, we have at the other a man who will certainly get
seven years' penal servitude unless we can establish his inno-
cence. It is possible that our inquiry may but confirm his guilt
but, in any case, we have a line of investigation which has been
missed by the police, and which a singular chance has placed in
our hands. Let us follow it out to the bitter end. Faces to the
south, then, and quick march!"
 We passed across Holborn, down Endell Street, and so through
a zigzag of slums to Covent Garden Market. One of the largest
stalls bore the name of Breckinridge upon it, and the proprietor
a horsy-looking man, with a sharp face and trim side-whiskers
was helping a boy to put up the shutters.
 "Good-evening. It's a cold night," said Holmes.
 The salesman nodded and shot a questioning glance at my
companion.
 "Sold out of geese, I see," continued Holmes, pointing at the
bare slabs of marble.
 "Let you have five hundred to-morrow morning."
 "That's no good."
 "Well, there are some on the stall with the gas-flare."
 "Ah, but I was recommended to you."
 "Who by?"
 "The landlord of the Alpha."
 "Oh, yes; I sent him a couple of dozen."
 "Fine birds they were, too. Now where did you get them
from?"
 To my surprise the question provoked a burst of anger from
the salesman.
 "Now, then, mister," said he, with his head cocked and his
arms akimbo, "what are you driving at? Let's have it straight,
now."
 "It is straight enough. I should like to know who sold you the
geese which you supplied to the Alpha."
 "Well then, I shan't tell you. So now!"
 "Oh, it is a matter of no importance; but I don't know why
you should be so warm over such a trifle."
 "Warm! You'd be as warm, maybe, if you were as pestered
as I am. When I pay good money for a good article there should
be an end of the business; but it's 'Where are the geese?' and
'Who did you sell the geese to?' and 'What will you take for the
geese?' One would think they were the only geese in the world,
to hear the fuss that is made over them."
 "Well, I have no connection with any other people who have
been making inquiries," said Holmes carelessly. "If you won't
tell us the bet is off, that is all. But I'm always ready to back my
opinion on a matter of fowls, and I have a fiver on it that the bird
I ate is country bred."
 "Well, then, you've lost your fiver, for it's town bred,"
snapped the salesman.
 "It's nothing of the kind."
 "I say it is."
 "I don't believe it."
 "D'you think you know more about fowls than I, who have
handled them ever since I was a nipper? I tell you, all those birds
that went to the Alpha were town bred."
 "You'll never persuade me to believe that."
 "Will you bet, then?"
 "It's merely taking your money, for I know that I am right.
But I'll have a sovereign on with you, just to teach you not to be
obstinate."
 The salesman chuckled grimly. "Bring me the books, Bill,"
said he.
 The small boy brought round a small thin volume and a great
greasy-backed one, laying them out together beneath the hanging
lamp.
 "Now then, Mr. Cocksure," said the salesman, "I thought
that I was out of geese, but before I finish you'll find that there
is still one left in my shop. You see this little book?"
 "Well?"
 "That's the list of the folk from whom I buy. D'you see?
Well, then, here on this page are the country folk, and the
numbers after their names are where their accounts are in the big
ledger. Now, then! You see this other page in red ink? Well, that
is a list of my town suppliers. Now, look at that third name. Just
read it out to me."
 "Mrs. Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road -- 249," read Holmes.
 "Quite so. Now turn that up in the ledger."
 Holmes turned to the page indicated. "Here you are, 'Mrs.
Oakshott, 117, Brixton Road, egg and poultry supplier."
 "Now, then, what's the last entry?"
 " 'December 22d. Twenty-four geese at 7s. 6d.' "
 "Quite so. There you are. And underneath?"
 " 'Sold to Mr. Windigate of the Alpha, at 12s.' "
 "What have you to say now?"
 Sherlock Holmes looked deeply chagrined. He drew a sover-
eign from his pocket and threw it down upon the slab, turning
away with the air of a man whose disgust is too deep for words.
A few yards off he stopped under a lamp-post and laughed in the
hearty, noiseless fashion which was peculiar to him.
 "When you see a man with whiskers of that cut and the
'Pink 'un' protruding out of his pocket, you can always draw him
by a bet," said he. "I daresay that if I had put lOO pounds down in
front of him, that man would not have given me such complete
information as was drawn from him by the idea that he was
doing me on a wager. Well, Watson, we are, I fancy, nearing
the end of our quest, and the only point which remains to be
determined is whether we should go on to this Mrs. Oakshott
to-night, or whether we should reserve it for to-morrow. It is
clear from what that surly fellow said that there are others
besides ourselves who are anxious about the matter, and I
should --"
 His remarks were suddenly cut short by a loud hubbub which
broke out from the stall which we had just left. Turning round
we saw a little rat-faced fellow standing in the centre of the
circle of yellow light which was thrown by the swinging lamp,
while Breckinridge, the salesman, framed in the door of his stall,
was shaking his fists fiercely at the cringing figure.
 "I've had enough of you and your geese," he shouted. "I
wish you were all at the devil together. If you come pestering me
any more with your silly talk I'll set the dog at you. You bring
Mrs. Oakshott here and I'll answer her, but what have you to do
with it? Did I buy the geese off you?"
 "No; but one of them was mine all the same," whined the
little man.
 "Well, then, ask Mrs. Oakshott for it."
 "She told me to ask you."
 "Well, you can ask the King of Proosia, for all I care. I've
had enough of it. Get out of this!" He rushed fiercely forward,
and the inquirer flitted away into the darkness.
 "Ha! this may save us a visit to Brixton Road," whispered
Holmes. "Come with me, and we will see what is to be made of
this fellow." Striding through the scattered knots of people who
lounged round the flaring stalls, my companion speedily over-
took the little man and touched him upon the shoulder. He
sprang round, and I could see in the gas-light that every vestige
of colour had been driven from his face.
 "Who are you, then? What do you want?" he asked in a
quavering voice.
 "You will excuse me," said Holmes blandly, "but I could not
help overhearing the questions which you put to the salesman
just now. I think that I could be of assistance to you."
 "You? Who are you? How could you know anything of the
matter?"
 "My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know
what other people don't know."
 "But you can know nothing of this?"
 "Excuse me, I know everything of it. You are endeavouring
to trace some geese which were sold by Mrs. Oakshott, of
Brixton Road, to a salesman named Breckinridge, by him in turn
to Mr. Windigate, of the Alpha, and by him to his club, of
which Mr. Henry Baker is a member."
 "Oh, sir, you are the very man whom I have longed to meet,"
cried the little fellow with outstretched hands and quivering
fingers. "I can hardly explain to you how interested I am in this
matter."
 Sherlock Holmes hailed a four-wheeler which was passing.
"In that case we had better discuss it in a cosy room rather than
in this wind-swept market-place," said he. "But pray tell me,
before we go farther, who it is that I have the pleasure of
assisting."
 The man hesitated for an instant. "My name is John Robin-
son," he answered with a sidelong glance.
 "No, no; the real name," said Holmes sweetly. "It is always
awkward doing business with an alias."
 A flush sprang to the white cheeks of the stranger. "Well
then," said he, "my real name is James Ryder."
 "Precisely so. Head attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan. Pray
step into the cab, and I shall soon be able to tell you everything
which you would wish to know."
 The little man stood glancing from one to the other of us with
half-frightened, half-hopeful eyes, as one who is not sure whether
he is on the verge of a windfall or of a catastrophe. Then he
stepped into the cab, and in half an hour we were back in the
sitting-room at Baker Street. Nothing had been said during our
drive, but the high, thin breathing of our new companion, and
the claspings and unclaspings of his hands, spoke of the nervous
tension within him.
 "Here we are!" said Holmes cheerily as we filed into the
room. "The fire looks very seasonabe in this weather. You look
cold, Mr. Ryder. Pray take the basket-chair. I will just put on my
slippers before we settle this little matter of yours. Now, then!
You want to know what became of those geese?"
 "Yes, sir."
 "Or rather, I fancy, of that goose. It was one bird, I imagine
in which you were interested -- white, with a black bar across the
tail."
 Ryder quivered with emotion. "Oh, sir," he cried, "can you
tell me where it went to?"
 "It came here."
 "Here?"
 "Yes, and a most remarkable bird it proved. I don't wonder
that you should take an interest in it. It laid an egg after it was
dead -- the bonniest, brightest little blue egg that ever was seen. I
have it here in my museum."
 Our visitor staggered to his feet and clutched the mantelpiece
with his right hand. Holmes unlocked his strong-box and held up
the blue carbuncle, which shone out like a star, with a cold
brilliant, many-pointed radiance. Ryder stood glaring with a
drawn face, uncertain whether to claim or to disown it.
 "The game's up, Ryder," said Holmes quietly. "Hold up,
man, or you'll be into the fire! Give him an arm back into his
chair, Watson. He's not got blood enough to go in for felony
with impunity. Give him a dash of brandy. So! Now he looks a
little more human. What a shrimp it is, to be sure!"
 For a moment he had staggered and nearly fallen, but the
brandy brought a tinge of colour into his cheeks, and he sat
staring with frightened eyes at his accuser.
 "I have almost every link in my hands, and all the proofs
which I could possibly need, so there is little which you need tell
me. Still, that little may as well be cleared up to make the case
complete. You had heard, Ryder, of this blue stone of the
Countess of Morcar's?"
 "It was Catherine Cusack who told me of it," said he in a
crackling voice.
 "I see -- her ladyship's waiting-maid. Well, the temptation of
sudden wealth so easily acquired was too much for you, as it has
been for better men before you; but you were not very scrupu-
lous in the means you used. It seems to me, Ryder, that there is
the making of a very pretty villain in you. You knew that this
man Horner, the plumber, had been concerned in some such
matter before, and that suspicion would rest the more readily
upon him. What did you do, then? You made some small job in
my lady's room -- you and your confederate Cusack -- and you
managed that he should be the man sent for. Then, when he had
left, you rifled the jewel-case, raised the alarm, and had this
unfortunate man arrested. You then --"
 Ryder threw himself down suddenly upon the rug and clutched
at my companion's knees. "For God's sake, have mercy!" he
shrieked. "Think of my father! of my mother! It would break
their hearts. I never went wrong before! I never will again. I
swear it. I'll swear it on a Bible. Oh, don't bring it into court!
For Christ's sake, don't!"
 "Get back into your chair!" said Holmes sternly. "It is very
well to cringe and crawl now, but you thought little enough of
this poor Horner in the dock for a crime of which he knew
nothing."
 "I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir. Then
the charge against him will break down."
 "Hum! We will talk about that. And now let us hear a true
account of the next act. How came the stone into the goose, and
how came the goose into the open market? Tell us the truth, for
there lies your only hope of safety."
 Ryder passed his tongue over his parched lips. "I will tell you
it just as it happened, sir," said he. "When Horner had been
arrested, it seemed to me that it would be best for me to get
away with the stone at once, for I did not know at what moment
the police might not take it into their heads to search me and my
room. There was no place about the hotel where it would be
safe. I went out, as if on some commission, and I made for my
sister's house. She had married a man named Oakshott, and
lived in Brixton Road, where she fattened fowls for the market.
All the way there every man I met seemed to me to be a
policeman or a detective; and, for all that it was a cold night, the
sweat was pouring down my face before I came to the Brixton
Road. My sister asked me what was the matter, and why I was
so pale; but I told her that I had been upset by the jewel robbery
at the hotel. Then I went into the back yard and smoked a pipe
and wondered what it would be best to do.
 "I had a friend once called Maudsley, who went to the bad,
and has just been serving his time in Pentonville. One day he had
met me, and fell into talk about the ways of thieves, and how
they could get rid of what they stole. I knew that he would be
true to me, for I knew one or two things about him; so I made up
my mind to go right on to Kilburn, where he lived, and take him
into my confidence. He would show me how to turn the stone
into money. But how to get to him in safety? I thought of the
agonies I had gone through in coming from the hotel. I might at
any moment be seized and searched, and there would be the
stone in my waistcoat pocket. I was leaning against the wall at
the time and looking at the geese which were waddling about
round my feet, and suddenly an idea came into my head which
showed me how I could beat the best detective that ever lived.
 "My sister had told me some weeks before that I might have
the pick of her geese for a Christmas present, and I knew that
she was always as good as her word. I would take my goose
now, and in it I would carry my stone to Kilburn. There was a
little shed in the yard, and behind this I drove one of the
birds -- a fine big one, white, with a barred tail. I caught it, and
prying its bill open, I thrust the stone down its throat as far as
my finger could reach. The bird gave a gulp, and I felt the stone
pass along its gullet and down into its crop. But the creature
flapped and struggled, and out came my sister to know what was
the matter. As I turned to speak to her the brute broke loose and
fluttered off among the others.
 " 'Whatever were you doing with that bird, Jem?' says she.
 " 'Well,' said I, 'you said you'd give me one for Christmas,
and I was feeling which was the fattest.'
 " 'Oh,' says she, 'we've set yours aside for you -- Jem's bird,
we call it. It's the big white one over yonder. There's twenty-six
of them, which makes one for you, and one for us, and two
dozen for the market.'
 " 'Thank you, Maggie,' says l; 'but if it is all the same to
you, I'd rather have that one I was handling just now.'
 " 'The other is a good three pound heavier,' said she, 'and we
fattened it expressly for you.'
 " 'Never mind. I'll have the other, and I'll take it now,' said I.
 " 'Oh, just as you like,' said she, a little huffed. 'Which is it
you want, then?'
 " 'That white one with the barred tail, right in the middle of
the flock.'
 " 'Oh, very well. Kill it and take it with you.'
 "Well, I did what she said, Mr. Holmes, and I carried the bird
all the way to Kilburn. I told my pal what I had done, for he was
a man that it was easy to tell a thing like that to. He laughed
until he choked, and we got a knife and opened the goose. My
heart turned to water, for there was no sign of the stone, and I
knew that some terrible mistake had occurred. I left the bird
rushed back to my sister's, and hurried into the back yard. There
was not a bird to be seen there.
 " 'Where are they all, Maggie?' I cried.
 " 'Gone to the dealer's, Jem.'
 " 'Which dealer's?'
 " 'Breckinridge, of Covent Garden.'
 " 'But was there another with a barred tail?' I asked, 'the
same as the one I chose?'
 " 'Yes, Jem; there were two barred-tailed ones, and I could
never tell them apart.'
 "Well, then, of course I saw it all, and I ran off as hard as my
feet would carry me to this man Breckinridge; but he had sold
the lot at once, and not one word would he tell me as to where
they had gone. You heard him yourselves to-night. Well, he has
always answered me like that. My sister thinks that I am going
mad. Sometimes I think that I am myself. And now -- and now I
am myself a branded thief, without ever having touched the
wealth for which I sold my character. God help me! God help
me!" He burst into convulsive sobbing, with his face buried in
his hands.
 There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing
and by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes's finger-tips
upon the edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open
the door.
 "Get out!" said he.
 "What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!"
 "No more words. Get out!"
 And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter
upon the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running
footfalls from the street.
 "After all, Watson," said Holmes, reaching up his hand for
his clay pipe, "I am not retained by the police to supply their
deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing;
but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must
collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a felony. but it is just
possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong
again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and
you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of
forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and
whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you
will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin
another investigation, in which, also a bird will be the chief
feature."



                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                   THE ADVENTURE OF THE EMPTY HOUSE


    It was in the spring of the year 1894 that all London was interested,
and the fashionable world dismayed, by the murder of the Honourable Ronald
Adair under most unusual and inexplicable circumstances.  The  public  has
already learned those particulars of the  crime  which  came  out  in  the
police investigation, but a good deal was suppressed upon  that  occasion,
since the case for the prosecution was so overwhelmingly  strong  that  it
was not necessary to bring forward all the facts. Only now, at the end  of
nearly ten years, am I allowed to supply those missing links which make up
the whole of that remarkable chain. The crime was of interest  in  itself,
but that interest was as nothing  to  me  compared  to  the  inconceivable
sequel, which afforded me the greatest shock and surprise of any event  in
my adventurous life. Even now, after this long  interval,  I  find  myself
thrilling as I think of it, and feeling once more  that  sudden  flood  of
joy, amazement, and incredulity which utterly submerged my  mind.  Let  me
say to that public, which has shown some interest in those glimpses  which
I have occasionally given them of the  thoughts  and  actions  of  a  very
remarkable man, that they are not to blame me if  I  have  not  shared  my
knowledge with them, for I should have considered it my first duty  to  do
so, had I not been barred by a positive prohibition  from  his  own  lips,
which was only withdrawn upon the third of last month.
    It can be imagined that my close intimacy with  Sherlock  Holmes  had
interested me deeply in crime, and that after his  disappearance  I  never
failed to read with care  the  various  problems  which  came  before  the
public. And  I  even  attempted,  more  than  once,  for  my  own  private
satisfaction, to  employ  his  methods  in  their  solution,  though  with
indifferent success. There was none, however, which appealed  to  me  like
this tragedy of Ronald Adair. As I read the evidence at the inquest, which
led up to a verdict of willful  murder  against  some  person  or  persons
unknown, I realized more clearly than I had ever done the loss  which  the
community had sustained by the death of Sherlock Holmes. There were points
about this strange business  which  would,  I  was  sure,  have  specially
appealed  to  him,  and  the  efforts  of  the  police  would  have   been
supplemented, or more probably anticipated, by the trained observation and
the alert mind of the first criminal agent in Europe. All day, as I  drove
upon my round, I turned over the case in my mind and found no  explanation
which appeared to me to be adequate. At the risk of telling  a  twice-told
tale, I will recapitulate the facts as they were known to  the  public  at
the conclusion of the inquest.
    The Honourable Ronald Adair  was  the  second  son  of  the  Earl  of
Maynooth, at that time governor of one of the Australian colonies. Adair's
mother had returned from Australia to undergo the operation for  cataract,
and she, her son Ronald, and her daughter Hilda were  living  together  at
427 Park Lane. The youth moved in the best society - had, so  far  as  was
known, no enemies and no particular vices. He had  been  engaged  to  Miss
Edith Woodley, of Carstairs, but the engagement had  been  broken  off  by
mutual consent some months before, and there was no sign that it had  left
any very profound feeling behind it. For the rest  {sic}  the  man's  life
moved in a narrow and conventional circle, for his habits were  quiet  and
his nature unemotional. Yet it was upon this easy-going  young  aristocrat
that death came, in most strange and unexpected form, between the hours of
ten and eleven-twenty on the night of March 30, 1894.
    Ronald Adair was fond of cards - playing continually, but  never  for
such stakes as would hurt him.  He  was  a  member  of  the  Baldwin,  the
Cavendish, and the Bagatelle card clubs. It was shown that,  after  dinner
on the day of his death, he had played a rubber of  whist  at  the  latter
club. He had also played there in the afternoon. The evidence of those who
had played with him - Mr. Murray, Sir John  Hardy,  and  Colonel  Moran  -
showed that the game was whist, and that there was a fairly equal fall  of
the cards. Adair might have lost five pounds, but not  more.  His  fortune
was a considerable one, and such a loss could not in any way  affect  him.
He had played nearly every day at one club or other, but he was a cautious
player, and usually rose a winner.  It  came  out  in  evidence  that,  in
partnership with Colonel Moran, he  had  actually  won  as  much  as  four
hundred and twenty pounds in a sitting, some weeks  before,  from  Godfrey
Milner and Lord Balmoral. So much for his recent history as it came out at
the inquest.
    On the evening of the crime, he returned from  the  club  exactly  at
ten. His mother and sister were out spending the evening with a  relation.
The servant deposed that she heard him enter the front room on the  second
floor, generally used as his sitting-room. She had lit a fire  there,  and
as it smoked she had opened the window. No sound was heard from  the  room
until eleven-twenty, the hour of the  return  of  Lady  Maynooth  and  her
daughter. Desiring to say good-night, she attempted  to  enter  her  son's
room. The door was locked on the inside, and no answer  could  be  got  to
their cries and knocking. Help was obtained,  and  the  door  forced.  The
unfortunate young man was found lying near the table. His  head  had  been
horribly mutilated by an expanding revolver bullet, but no weapon  of  any
sort was to be found in the room. On the table lay two banknotes  for  ten
pounds each and seventeen  pounds  ten  in  silver  and  gold,  the  money
arranged in little piles of varying amount. There were some  figures  also
upon a sheet of paper, with the names of some  club  friends  opposite  to
them, from  which  it  was  conjectured  that  before  his  death  he  was
endeavouring to make out his losses or winnings at cards.
    A minute examination of the circumstances served  only  to  make  the
case more complex. In the first place, no reason could be  given  why  the
young man should have fastened the door upon the  inside.  There  was  the
possibility that the murderer had done this, and had afterwards escaped by
the window. The drop was at least twenty  feet,  however,  and  a  bed  of
crocuses in full bloom lay beneath. Neither  the  flowers  nor  the  earth
showed any sign of having been disturbed, nor were there  any  marks  upon
the narrow strip of  grass  which  separated  the  house  from  the  road.
Apparently, therefore, it was the young man himself who had  fastened  the
door. But how did he come by his death? No one could have  climbed  up  to
the window without leaving traces. Suppose a man  had  fired  through  the
window, he would indeed be a remarkable shot who  could  with  a  revolver
inflict so deadly a wound. Again, Park Lane is a frequented  thoroughfare;
there is a cab stand within a hundred yards of the house. No one had heard
a shot. And yet there was the dead man  and  there  the  revolver  bullet,
which had mushroomed out, as soft-nosed bullets will, and so  inflicted  a
wound  which  must  have  caused  instantaneous  death.  Such   were   the
circumstances of the Park Lane Mystery, which were further complicated  by
entire absence of motive, since, as I have said, young Adair was not known
to have any enemy, and no attempt had been made to  remove  the  money  or
valuables in the room.
    All day I turned these facts over in my  mind,  endeavouring  to  hit
upon some theory which could reconcile them all, and to find that line  of
least  resistance  which  my  poor  friend  had   declared   to   be   the
starting-point of every  investigation.  I  confess  that  I  made  little
progress. In the evening I strolled across  the  Park,  and  found  myself
about six o'clock at the Oxford Street  end  of  Park  Lane.  A  group  of
loafers upon the  pavements,  all  staring  up  at  a  particular  window,
directed me to the house which I had come to see. A tall,  thin  man  with
coloured glasses, whom I  strongly  suspected  of  being  a  plain-clothes
detective, was pointing out some theory  of  his  own,  while  the  others
crowded round to listen to what he said. I got as near him as I could, but
his observations seemed to me to be absurd, so I withdrew  again  in  some
disgust. As I did so I struck against an elderly, deformed  man,  who  had
been behind me, and I knocked down several books which he was carrying.  I
remember that as I picked them up, I observed the title of  one  of  them,
THE ORIGIN OF TREE WORSHIP, and it struck me that the fellow must be  some
poor bibliophile, who, either as a trade or as a hobby, was a collector of
obscure volumes. I endeavoured to apologize for the accident, but  it  was
evident that these books which I had so unfortunately maltreated were very
precious objects in the eyes of their owner. With a snarl of  contempt  he
turned upon his heel, and I saw his curved back  and  white  side-whiskers
disappear among the throng.
    My observations of No. 427 Park Lane  did  little  to  clear  up  the
problem in which I was interested. The house was separated from the street
by a low wall and railing, the whole not more than five feet high. It  was
perfectly easy, therefore, for anyone to get  into  the  garden,  but  the
window was entirely inaccessible, since there was no waterpipe or anything
which could help the most active man to climb it. More puzzled than  ever,
I retraced my steps to Kensington. I had not been in my study five minutes
when the maid entered to say that a  person  desired  to  see  me.  To  my
astonishment it was none other than my strange  old  book  collector,  his
sharp, wizened face peering out from  a  frame  of  white  hair,  and  his
precious volumes, a dozen of them at least, wedged under his right arm.
    "You're surprised to see me, sir," said he, in  a  strange,  croaking
voice.
    I acknowledged that I was.
    "Well, I've a conscience, sir, and when I chanced to see you go  into
this house, as I came hobbling after you, I thought to myself,  I'll  just
step in and see that kind gentleman, and tell him that  if  I  was  a  bit
gruff in my manner there was not any  harm  meant,  and  that  I  am  much
obliged to him for picking up my books."
    "You make too much of a trifle," said I. "May I ask how you knew  who
I was?"
    "Well, sir, if it isn't too great a liberty,  I  am  a  neighbour  of
yours, for you'll find my little bookshop at the corner of Church  Street,
and very happy to see you, I am sure. Maybe  you  collect  yourself,  sir.
Here's BRITISH BIRDS, and CATULLUS, and THE HOLY WAR -  a  bargain,  every
one of them. With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second
shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?"
    I moved my head to look at the  cabinet  behind  me.  When  I  turned
again, Sherlock Holmes was standing smiling at me across my study table. I
rose to my feet, stared at him for some seconds in  utter  amazement,  and
then it appears that I must have fainted for the first and the  last  time
in my life. Certainly a gray mist swirled before  my  eyes,  and  when  it
cleared I found my collar-ends undone  and  the  tingling  after-taste  of
brandy upon my lips. Holmes was bending over my chair, his  flask  in  his
hand.
    "My dear Watson," said  the  well-remembered  voice,  "I  owe  you  a
thousand apologies. I had no idea that you would be so affected."
    I gripped him by the arms.
    "Holmes!" I cried. "Is it really you? Can it indeed be that  you  are
alive? Is it possible that you succeeded in climbing  out  of  that  awful
abyss?"
    "Wait a moment," said he. "Are you sure that you are  really  fit  to
discuss things? I have given you  a  serious  shock  by  my  unnecessarily
dramatic reappearance."
    "I am all right, but indeed, Holmes, I can hardly  believe  my  eyes.
Good heavens! to think that you - you of all men - should be  standing  in
my study." Again I gripped him by the sleeve, and felt  the  thin,  sinewy
arm beneath it. "Well, you're not a spirit anyhow," said I. "My dear chap,
I'm overjoyed to see you. Sit down, and tell me how you came alive out  of
that dreadful chasm."
    He sat opposite to me, and lit a cigarette  in  his  old,  nonchalant
manner. He was dressed in the seedy frockcoat of the  book  merchant,  but
the rest of that individual lay in a pile of white hair and old books upon
the table. Holmes looked even thinner and keener than of  old,  but  there
was a dead-white tinge in his aquiline face which told me  that  his  life
recently had not been a healthy one.
    "I am glad to stretch myself, Watson," said he. "It is no joke when a
tall man has to take a foot off his stature for several hours on end. Now,
my dear fellow, in the matter of these explanations, we have, if I may ask
for your cooperation, a hard and dangerous night's work in  front  of  us.
Perhaps it would be better if I gave you an account of the whole situation
when that work is finished."
    "I am full of curiosity. I should much prefer to hear now."
    "You'll come with me to-night?"
    "When you like and where you like."
    "This is, indeed, like the  old  days.  We  shall  have  time  for  a
mouthful of dinner before we need go. Well, then, about that chasm. I  had
no serious difficulty in getting out of it, for  the  very  simple  reason
that I never was in it."
    "You never were in it?"
    "No, Watson, I never was  in  it.  My  note  to  you  was  absolutely
genuine. I had little doubt that I had come to the end of my career when I
perceived the somewhat sinister figure  of  the  late  Professor  Moriarty
standing upon the narrow pathway which led to safety. I read an inexorable
purpose in his gray eyes. I exchanged some remarks  with  him,  therefore,
and obtained his courteous permission to write the short  note  which  you
afterwards received. I left it with my cigarette-box and my stick,  and  I
walked along the pathway, Moriarty still at my heels. When I  reached  the
end I stood at bay. He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and  threw  his
long arms around me. He knew that his  own  game  was  up,  and  was  only
anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of
the fall. I have some knowledge, however,  of  baritsu,  or  the  Japanese
system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful  to  me.  I
slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a
few seconds, and clawed the air with both  his  hands.  But  for  all  his
efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went. With my face  over
the brink, I saw him fall for a long way. Then he struck a  rock,  bounded
off, and splashed into the water."
    I listened with amazement to this explanation, which Holmes delivered
between the puffs of his cigarette.
    "But the tracks!" I cried. "I saw, with my own eyes,  that  two  went
down the path and none returned."
    "It came about in this  way.  The  instant  that  the  Professor  had
disappeared, it struck me what a really extraordinarily lucky chance  Fate
had placed in my way. I knew that Moriarty was not the only  man  who  had
sworn my death.  There  were  at  least  three  others  whose  desire  for
vengeance upon me would only be increased by the death  of  their  leader.
They were all most dangerous men. One or other would certainly get me.  On
the other hand, if all the world was convinced that I was dead they  would
take liberties, these men, they would soon lay themselves open, and sooner
or later I could destroy them. Then it would be time for  me  to  announce
that I was still in the land of the living. So rapidly does the brain  act
that I believe I had thought this all out before  Professor  Moriarty  had
reached the bottom of the Reichenbach Fall.
    "I  stood  up  and  examined  the  rocky  wall  behind  me.  In  your
picturesque account of the matter, which I read with great  interest  some
months later, you assert that the wall was sheer. That was  not  literally
true. A few small footholds  presented  themselves,  and  there  was  some
indication of a ledge. The cliff is so high that to climb it  all  was  an
obvious impossibility, and it was equally impossible to make my way  along
the wet path without leaving some  tracks.  I  might,  it  is  true,  have
reversed my boots, as I have done on similar occasions, but the  sight  of
three sets of tracks in one direction would  certainly  have  suggested  a
deception. On the whole, then, it was best that I should risk  the  climb.
It was not a pleasant business, Watson. The fall roared beneath me.  I  am
not a fanciful person, but I give you  my  word  that  I  seemed  to  hear
Moriarty's voice screaming at me out of the abyss. A  mistake  would  have
been fatal. More than once, as tufts of grass came out in my  hand  or  my
foot slipped in the wet notches of the rock, I thought that  I  was  gone.
But I struggled upward, and at last I reached a ledge  several  feet  deep
and covered with soft green moss, where I could lie unseen,  in  the  most
perfect comfort. There I was stretched, when you, my dear Watson, and  all
your following were investigating in the most sympathetic and  inefficient
manner the circumstances of my death.
    "At last, when  you  had  all  formed  your  inevitable  and  totally
erroneous conclusions, you departed for the hotel, and I was left alone. I
had imagined that I had reached the end  of  my  adventures,  but  a  very
unexpected occurrence showed me that there were surprises still  in  store
for me. A huge rock, falling from above, boomed past me, struck the  path,
and bounded over into the chasm. For an instant I thought that it  was  an
accident, but a moment later, looking up, I saw a man's head  against  the
darkening sky, and another stone struck the very ledge upon  which  I  was
stretched, within a foot of my head. Of course, the meaning  of  this  was
obvious. Moriarty had not been alone. A confederate - and  even  that  one
glance had told me how dangerous a man that confederate  was  -  had  kept
guard while the Professor had attacked me. From a distance, unseen by  me,
he had been a witness of his friend's death  and  of  my  escape.  He  had
waited, and then making his way round to the top  of  the  cliff,  he  had
endeavoured to succeed where his comrade had failed.
    "I did not take long to think about it, Watson. Again I saw that grim
face look over the cliff, and I knew that it was the precursor of  another
stone. I scrambled down on to the path. I don't think I could have done it
in cold blood. It was a hundred times more difficult than getting up.  But
I had no time to think of the danger, for another stone sang past me as  I
hung by my hands from the edge of the ledge. Halfway down I slipped,  but,
by the blessing of God, I landed, torn and bleeding, upon the path. I took
to my heels, did ten miles over the mountains in the darkness, and a  week
later I found myself in Florence, with the certainty that no  one  in  the
world knew what had become of me.
    "I had only one confidant -  my  brother  Mycroft.  I  owe  you  many
apologies, my dear Watson, but it was  all-important  that  it  should  be
thought I was dead, and it is  quite  certain  that  you  would  not  have
written so convincing an account of my unhappy end had  you  not  yourself
thought that it was true. Several times during the last three years I have
taken up  my  pen  to  write  to  you,  but  always  I  feared  lest  your
affectionate regard for me should tempt you  to  some  indiscretion  which
would betray my secret. For that  reason  I  turned  away  from  you  this
evening when you upset my books, for I was in danger at the time, and  any
show of surprise and emotion upon your part might have drawn attention  to
my identity and led to the most deplorable and irreparable results. As  to
Mycroft, I had to confide in him in order to  obtain  the  money  which  I
needed. The course of events in London did not run so well as I had hoped,
for the trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members,
my own most vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two  years  in
Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending  some
days with the head lama. You may have read of the remarkable  explorations
of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you
that you were receiving news of your friend. I then passed through Persia,
looked in at Mecca, and paid a short but interesting visit to the  Khalifa
at Khartoum the results of  which  I  have  communicated  to  the  Foreign
Office. Returning to France, I spent some months in a  research  into  the
coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, in
the south of France. Having concluded this to my satisfaction and learning
that only one of my enemies was now left in London, I was about to  return
when my movements were hastened by the news of this very  remarkable  Park
Lane Mystery, which not only appealed to me by its own merits,  but  which
seemed to offer some most peculiar personal opportunities. I came over  at
once to London, called in my own person at Baker Street, threw Mrs. Hudson
into violent hysterics, and found that Mycroft had preserved my rooms  and
my papers exactly as they had always been. So it was, my dear Watson, that
at two o'clock to-day I found myself in my old  armchair  in  my  own  old
room, and only wishing that I could have seen my old friend Watson in  the
other chair which he has so often adorned."
    Such was the remarkable narrative to which I listened on  that  April
evening - a narrative which would have been utterly incredible to  me  had
it not been confirmed by the actual sight of the tall,  spare  figure  and
the keen, eager face, which I had never thought  to  see  again.  In  some
manner he had learned of my own sad  bereavement,  and  his  sympathy  was
shown in his manner rather than in his words. "Work is the  best  antidote
to sorrow, my dear Watson," said he; "and I have a piece of  work  for  us
both to-night which, if we can bring it to a successful  conclusion,  will
in itself justify a man's life on this planet." In vain I  begged  him  to
tell me more. "You will hear and see enough before morning," he  answered.
"We have three years of the  past  to  discuss.  Let  that  suffice  until
half-past nine, when we start upon the  notable  adventure  of  the  empty
house."
    It was indeed like old times when,  at  that  hour,  I  found  myself
seated beside him in a hansom, my revolver in my pocket, and the thrill of
adventure in my heart. Holmes was cold and stern and silent. As the  gleam
of the street-lamps flashed upon his austere  features,  I  saw  that  his
brows were drawn down in thought and his thin lips compressed. I knew  not
what wild beast we were about to hunt down in the dark jungle of  criminal
London, but I was well assured, from the bearing of this master  huntsman,
that the adventure was a most grave one - while the sardonic  smile  which
occasionally broke through his ascetic gloom boded  little  good  for  the
object of our quest.
    I had imagined that we  were  bound  for  Baker  Street,  but  Holmes
stopped the cab at the corner of Cavendish Square. I observed that  as  he
stepped out he gave a most searching glance to  right  and  left,  and  at
every subsequent street corner he took the utmost pains to assure that  he
was not followed.  Our  route  was  certainly  a  singular  one.  Holmes's
knowledge of the byways of London was extraordinary, and on this  occasion
he passed rapidly and with an assured step through a network of  mews  and
stables, the very existence of which I had never known. We emerged at last
into a small road, lined with  old,  gloomy  houses,  which  led  us  into
Manchester Street, and so to Blandford Street. Here he turned swiftly down
a narrow passage, passed through a wooden gate into a deserted  yard,  and
then opened with a key the back door of a house. We entered together,  and
he closed it behind us.
    The place was pitch dark, but it was evident to me  that  it  was  an
empty house. Our feet creaked and crackled over the bare planking, and  my
outstretched hand touched a wall from  which  the  paper  was  hanging  in
ribbons. Holmes's cold, thin fingers closed round  my  wrist  and  led  me
forward down a long hall, until I dimly saw the murky  fanlight  over  the
door. Here Holmes turned suddenly to the right and we found ourselves in a
large, square, empty room, heavily shadowed in the  corners,  but  faintly
lit in the centre from the lights of the street beyond. There was no  lamp
near, and the window was thick with dust,  so  that  we  could  only  just
discern each other's figures within. My companion put  his  hand  upon  my
shoulder and his lips close to my ear.
    "Do you know where we are?" he whispered.
    "Surely that is Baker Street" I answered,  staring  through  the  dim
window.
    "Exactly. We are in Camden House, which stands opposite  to  our  own
old quarters."
    "But why are we here?"
    "Because it commands so excellent a view of  that  picturesque  pile.
Might I trouble you, my dear Watson,  to  draw  a  little  nearer  to  the
window, taking every precaution not to show yourself, and then to look  up
at our old rooms  -  the  starting-  point  of  so  many  of  your  little
fairy-tales? We will see if my three years of absence have entirely  taken
away my power to surprise you."
    I crept forward and looked across at the familiar window. As my  eyes
fell upon it, I gave a gasp and a cry of amazement. The  blind  was  down,
and a strong light was burning in the room. The shadow of a  man  who  was
seated in a chair within was  thrown  in  hard,  black  outline  upon  the
luminous screen of the window. There was no mistaking  the  poise  of  the
head, the squareness of the shoulders, the sharpness of the features.  The
face was turned half-round, and the effect was that of one of those  black
silhouettes which our grandparents  loved  to  frame.  It  was  a  perfect
reproduction of Holmes. So amazed was I that I threw out my hand  to  make
sure that the man himself was standing beside me. He  was  quivering  with
silent laughter.
    "Well?" said he.
    "Good heavens!" I cried. "It is marvellous."
    "I trust that age doth  not  wither  nor  custom  stale  my  infinite
variety," said he, and I recognized in his voice the joy and  pride  which
the artist takes in his own creation. "It really is rather like me, is  it
not?"
    "I should be prepared to swear that it was you."
    "The credit of the execution is due to  Monsieur  Oscar  Meunier,  of
Grenoble, who spent some days in doing the moulding. It is a bust in  wax.
The rest I arranged myself during my visit to Baker Street this afternoon."
    "But why?"
    "Because, my dear Watson, I had the  strongest  possible  reason  for
wishing certain people to think  that  I  was  there  when  I  was  really
elsewhere."
    "And you thought the rooms were watched?"
    "I KNEW that they were watched."
    "By whom?"
    "By my old enemies, Watson. By the charming society whose leader lies
in the Reichenbach Fall. You must remember that they knew, and  only  they
knew, that I was still alive. Sooner or later they believed that I  should
come back to my rooms. They watched them continuously,  and  this  morning
they saw me arrive."
    "How do you know?"
    "Because I recognized their sentinel when I glanced out of my window.
He is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a
remarkable performer upon the jew's-harp. I cared nothing for him.  But  I
cared a great deal for the much more formidable person who was behind him,
the bosom friend of Moriarty, the man  who  dropped  the  rocks  over  the
cliff, the most cunning and dangerous criminal in London. That is the  man
who is after me to-night Watson, and that is the man who is quite  unaware
that we are after him."
    My friend's plans were  gradually  revealing  themselves.  From  this
convenient retreat, the watchers  were  being  watched  and  the  trackers
tracked. That angular shadow up yonder was  the  bait,  and  we  were  the
hunters. In silence we stood together in  the  darkness  and  watched  the
hurrying figures who passed and repassed in front of us. Holmes was silent
and motionless; but I could tell that he was keenly alert,  and  that  his
eyes were fixed intently upon the stream of passers-by. It was a bleak and
boisterous night and the wind whistled shrilly down the long street.  Many
people were moving to and fro, most of them muffled  in  their  coats  and
cravats. Once or twice it seemed to me that I had  seen  the  same  figure
before, and I especially noticed two men who  appeared  to  be  sheltering
themselves from the wind in the doorway of a house some  distance  up  the
street. I tried to draw my companion's attention to them; but  he  gave  a
little ejaculation of impatience, and continued to stare into the  street.
More than once he fidgeted with his  feet  and  tapped  rapidly  with  his
fingers upon the wall. It was evident to me that he was  becoming  uneasy,
and that his plans were not working out altogether as  he  had  hoped.  At
last, as midnight approached and the street gradually cleared, he paced up
and down the room in uncontrollable agitation. I was about  to  make  some
remark to him, when I raised my eyes to  the  lighted  window,  and  again
experienced almost as great a surprise as before. I clutched Holmes's arm,
and pointed upward.
    "The shadow has moved!" I cried.
    It was indeed no longer the profile, but the back, which  was  turned
towards us.
    Three years had certainly not smoothed the asperities of  his  temper
or his impatience with a less active intelligence than his own.
    "Of course it has moved," said he. "Am I  such  a  farcical  bungler,
Watson, that I should erect an obvious dummy, and expect that some of  the
sharpest men in Europe would be deceived by it? We have been in this  room
two hours, and Mrs. Hudson has made  some  change  in  that  figure  eight
times, or once in every quarter of an hour. She works it from  the  front,
so that her shadow may never be seen. Ah!" He drew in his  breath  with  a
shrill, excited intake. In the dim light I saw his  head  thrown  forward,
his whole attitude rigid with attention. Outside the street was absolutely
deserted. Those two men might still be crouching in  the  doorway,  but  I
could no longer see them. All was still and dark, save only that brilliant
yellow screen in front of us with  the  black  figure  outlined  upon  its
centre. Again in the utter silence I heard that thin, sibilant note  which
spoke of intense suppressed excitement. An instant later he pulled me back
into the blackest corner of the room, and I felt his warning hand upon  my
lips. The fingers which clutched me were quivering. Never had I  known  my
friend more moved, and yet the dark  street  still  stretched  lonely  and
motionless before us.
    But suddenly I was aware of that which his keener senses had  already
distinguished. A low, stealthy  sound  came  to  my  ears,  not  from  the
direction of Baker Street, but from the back of the very house in which we
lay concealed. A door opened and shut. An instant later steps  crept  down
the passage - steps which were meant to be silent, but which  reverberated
harshly through the empty house. Holmes crouched back  against  the  wall,
and I did the same, my hand  closing  upon  the  handle  of  my  revolver.
Peering through the gloom, I saw the vague  outline  of  a  man,  a  shade
blacker than the blackness of the open door. He stood for an instant,  and
then he crept forward, crouching, menacing, into the room. He  was  within
three yards of us, this sinister figure, and I had braced myself  to  meet
his spring, before I realized that he had no  idea  of  our  presence.  He
passed close beside us, stole over to the  window,  and  very  softly  and
noiselessly raised it for half a foot. As he sank to  the  level  of  this
opening, the light of the street, no longer dimmed  by  the  dusty  glass,
fell full upon his  face.  The  man  seemed  to  be  beside  himself  with
excitement. His two eyes shone like stars, and his features  were  working
convulsively. He was an elderly man, with a thin, projecting nose, a high,
bald forehead, and a huge grizzled moustache. An opera hat was  pushed  to
the back of his head, and an evening dress shirt-front gleamed out through
his open overcoat. His face was  gaunt  and  swarthy,  scored  with  deep,
savage lines. In his hand he carried what appeared to be a stick,  but  as
he laid it down upon the floor it gave a metallic  clang.  Then  from  the
pocket of his overcoat he drew a bulky object, and he  busied  himself  in
some task which ended with a loud, sharp click, as if a spring or bolt had
fallen into its place. Still kneeling upon the floor he bent  forward  and
threw all his weight and strength upon some lever, with  the  result  that
there came a long,  whirling,  grinding  noise,  ending  once  more  in  a
powerful click. He straightened himself then, and I saw that what he  held
in his hand was a sort of gun, with a curiously misshapen butt. He  opened
it at the breech, put something in, and  snapped  the  breech-lock.  Then,
crouching down, he rested the end of the barrel upon the ledge of the open
window, and I saw his long moustache droop over  the  stock  and  his  eye
gleam as it peered along the sights. I heard a little sigh of satisfaction
as he cuddled the butt into his shoulder; and saw that amazing target, the
black man on  the  yellow  ground,  standing  clear  at  the  end  of  his
foresight. For an instant he was rigid and  motionless.  Then  his  finger
tightened on the trigger. There was a  strange,  loud  whiz  and  a  long,
silvery tinkle of broken glass. At that instant Holmes sprang like a tiger
on to the marksman's back, and hurled him flat upon his face.  He  was  up
again in a moment, and with convulsive strength he seized  Holmes  by  the
throat, but I struck him on the head with the butt of my revolver, and  he
dropped again upon the floor. I fell upon  him,  and  as  I  held  him  my
comrade blew a shrill call upon  a  whistle.  There  was  the  clatter  of
running feet upon the pavement, and two policemen  in  uniform,  with  one
plain-clothes detective, rushed through the front entrance  and  into  the
room.
    "That you, Lestrade?" said Holmes.
    "Yes, Mr. Holmes. I took the job myself. It's good to see you back in
London, sir."
    "I think you want a little unofficial help. Three undetected  murders
in one year won't do, Lestrade. But you handled the Molesey  Mystery  with
less than your usual - that's to say, you handled it fairly well."
    We had all risen to our feet, our prisoner  breathing  hard,  with  a
stalwart constable on each side of him. Already a few loiterers had  begun
to collect in the street. Holmes stepped up to the window, closed it,  and
dropped the blinds. Lestrade had produced two candles, and  the  policemen
had uncovered their lanterns. I was able at last to have a  good  look  at
our prisoner.
    It was a tremendously virile and yet sinister face which  was  turned
towards us. With the brow  of  a  philosopher  above  and  the  jaw  of  a
sensualist below, the man must have started with great capacities for good
or for evil. But one could not look upon his cruel blue eyes,  with  their
drooping, cynical lids, or  upon  the  fierce,  aggressive  nose  and  the
threatening,  deep-lined   brow,   without   reading   Nature's   plainest
danger-signals. He took no heed of any of us, but his eyes were fixed upon
Holmes's face with an  expression  in  which  hatred  and  amazement  were
equally blended. "You fiend!" he kept on muttering.  "You  clever,  clever
fiend!"
    "Ah, Colonel!" said Holmes, arranging his rumpled collar.  "`Journeys
end in lovers' meetings,' as the old play says. I don't think I  have  had
the pleasure of seeing you since you favoured me with those attentions  as
I lay on the ledge above the Reichenbach Fall."
    The colonel still stared at my friend like a man in  a  trance.  "You
cunning, cunning fiend!" was all that he could say.
    "I have not introduced you yet," said Holmes.  "This,  gentlemen,  is
Colonel Sebastian Moran, once of Her Majesty's Indian Army, and  the  best
heavy-game shot that our Eastern Empire has ever produced. I believe I  am
correct  Colonel,  in  saying  that  your  bag  of  tigers  still  remains
unrivalled?"
    The fierce old man said nothing, but still glared  at  my  companion.
With his savage eyes and bristling moustache he  was  wonderfully  like  a
tiger himself.
    "I wonder that my very  simple  stratagem  could  deceive  so  old  a
SHIKARI," said Holmes. "It must be very familiar  to  you.  Have  you  not
tethered a young kid under a tree, lain above  it  with  your  rifle,  and
waited for the bait to bring up your tiger? This empty house is  my  tree,
and you are my tiger. You have possibly had other guns in reserve in  case
there should be several tigers, or in the unlikely supposition of your own
aim failing you. These," he  pointed  around,  "are  my  other  guns.  The
parallel is exact."
    Colonel Moran sprang forward with a snarl of rage, but the constables
dragged him back. The fury upon his face was terrible to look at.
    "I confess that you had one small surprise for me," said  Holmes.  "I
did not anticipate that you would yourself make use of  this  empty  house
and this convenient front window. I had imagined you as operating from the
street, where my friend, Lestrade and his merry  men  were  awaiting  you.
With that exception, all has gone as I expected."
    Colonel Moran turned to the official detective.
    "You may or may not have just cause for arresting me," said he,  "but
at least there can be no reason why I should submit to the gibes  of  this
person. If I am in the hands of the law, let things be  done  in  a  legal
way."
    "Well, that's reasonable enough," said Lestrade. "Nothing further you
have to say, Mr. Holmes, before we go?"
    Holmes had picked up the powerful air-gun from  the  floor,  and  was
examining its mechanism.
    "An  admirable  and  unique  weapon,"  said  he,  "noiseless  and  of
tremendous power: I knew  Von  Herder,  the  blind  German  mechanic,  who
constructed it to the order of the late Professor Moriarty.  For  years  I
have been aware of its existance  though  I  have  never  before  had  the
opportunity of handling it. I commend it very specially to your attention,
Lestrade and also the bullets which fit it."
    "You can trust us to look after that, Mr. Holmes," said Lestrade,  as
the whole party moved towards the door. "Anything further to say?"
    "Only to ask what charge you intend to prefer?"
    "What charge, sir? Why,  of  course,  the  attempted  murder  of  Mr.
Sherlock Holmes."
    "Not so, Lestrade. I do not propose to appear in the matter  at  all.
To you, and to you only, belongs the credit of the remarkable arrest which
you have effected. Yes, Lestrade, I  congratulate  you!  With  your  usual
happy mixture of cunning and audacity, you have got him."
    "Got him! Got whom, Mr. Holmes?"
    "The man that the whole force has been  seeking  in  vain  -  Colonel
Sebastian Moran, who shot the Honourable Ronald Adair  with  an  expanding
bullet from an air-gun through the open window of the  second-floor  front
of No. 427 Park Lane, upon the thirtieth of last month. That's the charge,
Lestrade. And now, Watson, if you can endure the  draught  from  a  broken
window, I think that half an hour in my study over a cigar may afford  you
some profitable amusement."
    Our old chambers had been left unchanged through the  supervision  of
Mycroft Holmes and the immediate care of Mrs. Hudson. As I entered I  saw,
it is true, an unwonted tidiness, but the old landmarks were all in  their
place. There were the chemical corner and  the  acid-stained,  deal-topped
table. There upon a shelf was the row of formidable scrap-books and  books
of reference which many of our fellow-citizens would have been so glad  to
burn. The diagrams, the violin-case, and the pipe-rack - even the  Persian
slipper which contained the tobacco - all met my eyes as I  glanced  round
me. There were two occupants of the room - one, Mrs.  Hudson,  who  beamed
upon us both as we entered - the other, the strange dummy which had played
so important a part in the evening's adventures.  It  was  a  wax-coloured
model of my friend, so admirably done that it was a perfect facsimile.  It
stood on a small pedestal table with an old dressing-gown of  Holmes's  so
draped round it that the illusion from the street was absolutely perfect.
    "I hope you observed all precautions, Mrs. Hudson?" said Holmes.
    "I went to it on my knees, sir, just as you told me."
    "Excellent. You carried the thing out  very  well.  Did  you  observe
where the bullet went?"
    "Yes, sir. I'm afraid it has  spoilt  your  beautiful  bust,  for  it
passed right through the head and flattened itself on the wall.  I  picked
it up from the carpet. Here it is!"
    Holmes held it out to me. "A soft revolver bullet, as  you  perceive,
Watson. There's genius in that, for who would expect to find such a  thing
fired from an airgun? All right, Mrs. Hudson. I am much obliged  for  your
assistance. And now, Watson, let me see you in your old  seat  once  more,
for there are several points which I should like to discuss with you."
    He had thrown off the seedy frockcoat, and now he was the  Holmes  of
old in the mouse-coloured dressing-gown which he took from his effigy.
    "The old SHIKARI'S nerves have not lost  their  steadiness,  nor  his
eyes their keenness," said he, with a laugh, as he inspected the shattered
forehead of his bust.
    "Plumb in the middle of the back of the head and  smack  through  the
brain. He was the best shot in India, and I  expect  that  there  are  few
better in London. Have you heard the name?"
    "No, I have not."
    "Well, well, such is fame! But, then, if I remember  right,  you  had
not heard the name of Professor James Moriarty, who had one of  the  great
brains of the century. Just give me down my index of biographies from  the
shelf."
    He turned over the pages  lazily,  leaning  back  in  his  chair  and
blowing great clouds from his cigar.
    "My collection of M's is a fine one," said he. "Moriarty  himself  is
enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is  Morgan  the  poisoner,
and Merridew of abominable memory, and Mathews, who knocked  out  my  left
canine in the waiting-room at Charing Cross, and,  finally,  here  is  our
friend of to-night."
    He handed over the book, and I read:
    MORAN,  SEBASTIAN,  COLONEL.  Unemployed.  Formerly   1st   Bangalore
Pioneers. Born London, 1840. Son  of  Sir  Augustus  Moran,  C.  B.,  once
British Minister to Persia. Educated Eton and  Oxford.  Served  in  Jowaki
Campaign, Afghan Campaign, Charasiab  (despatches),  Sherpur,  and  Cabul.
Author of HEAVY GAME OF THE WESTERN HIMALAYAS (1881); THREE MONTHS IN  THE
JUNGLE (1884). Address:  Conduit  Street.  Clubs:  The  Anglo-Indian,  the
Tankerville, the Bagatelle Card Club.
    On the margin was written, in Holmes's precise hand:
    The second most dangerous man in London.


    "This is astonishing," said I, as I  handed  back  the  volume.  "The
man's career is that of an honourable soldier."
    "It is true," Holmes answered. "Up to a certain point he did well. He
was always a man of iron nerve, and the story is still told in  India  how
he crawled down a drain after a wounded man-eating tiger. There  are  some
trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then  suddenly  develop
some unsightly eccentricity. You will see it often in  humans.  I  have  a
theory that  the  individual  represents  in  his  development  the  whole
procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good  or  evil
stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree.
The person becomes, as it were, the epitome of  the  history  of  his  own
family."
    "It is surely rather fanciful."
    "Well, I don't insist upon it.  Whatever  the  cause,  Colonel  Moran
began hot to hold him. He retired, came to London, and again  acquired  an
evil name. It was at this  time  that  he  was  sought  out  by  Professor
Moriarty, to whom for a time he was chief of the staff. Moriarty  supplied
him liberally with money, and used him only in one or two very  high-class
jobs, which no ordinary criminal could have undertaken. You may have  some
recollection of the death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887. Not?  Well,
I am sure Moran was at the bottom of it, but nothing could be  proved.  So
cleverly was the colonel concealed that, even when the Moriarty  gang  was
broken up, we could not incriminate him. You remember at that date, when I
called upon you in your rooms, how I put  up  the  shutters  for  fear  of
air-guns? No doubt you thought me fanciful. I  knew  exactly  what  I  was
doing, for I knew of the existence of this remarkable gun, and I knew also
that one of the best shots in the world would be behind it. When  we  were
in Switzerland he followed us with Moriarty, and it was undoubtedly he who
gave me that evil five minutes on the Reichenbach ledge.
    "You may think that I read the papers with some attention  during  my
sojourn in France, on the look-out for any chance of  laying  him  by  the
heels. So long as he was free in London, my life  would  really  not  have
been worth living. Night and day the shadow would have been over  me,  and
sooner or later his chance must have come. What could I do?  I  could  not
shoot him at sight, or I should myself be in the dock. There  was  no  use
appealing to a magistrate. They cannot interfere on the strength  of  what
would appear to them to be a wild suspicion. So I could do nothing. But  I
watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner or later I should get  him.
Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My  chance  had  come  at  last.
Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it?  He
had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the club,  he
had shot him through the open window. There was not a  doubt  of  it.  The
bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at  once.
I was seen by the sentinel,  who  would,  I  knew,  direct  the  colonel's
attention to my presence. He could not fail to connect  my  sudden  return
with his crime, and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would  make
an attempt to get me out of the way AT once, and  would  bring  round  his
murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an  excellent  mark  in  the
window, and, having warned the police that they might be needed -  by  the
way, Watson, you spotted their presence  in  that  doorway  with  unerring
accuracy - I took up what  seemed  to  me  to  be  a  judicious  post  for
observation, never dreaming that he would choose the  same  spot  for  his
attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?"
    "Yes," said I. "You have not made it clear what was  Colonel  Moran's
motive in murdering the Honourable Ronald Adair?"
    "Ah! my dear Watson, there we come into those realms  of  conjecture,
where the most logical mind may  be  at  fault.  Each  may  form  his  own
hypothesis upon the present evidence, and yours is as likely to be correct
as mine."
    "You have formed one, then?"
    "I think that it is not difficult to explain the facts. It  came  out
in evidence that Colonel Moran and young Adair had, between  them,  won  a
considerable amount of money. Now, undoubtedly played foul  -  of  that  I
have long been aware. I believe that on the day of the  murder  Adair  had
discovered that Moran was cheating. Very  likely  he  had  spoken  to  him
privately, and had threatened to expose him unless he voluntarily resigned
his membership of the club, and promised not to play cards  again.  It  is
unlikely that a youngster like Adair would at once make a hideous  scandal
by exposing a well known man so much older than himself. Probably he acted
as I suggest. The exclusion from his clubs would mean ruin to  Moran,  who
lived by his ill-gotten card-gains. He therefore murdered  Adair,  who  at
the time was endeavouring to work out how much  money  he  should  himself
return, since he could not profit by his partner's foul  play.  He  locked
the door lest the ladies should surprise him and insist upon knowing  what
he was doing with these names and coins. Will it pass?"
    "I have no doubt that you have hit upon the truth."
    "It will be verified or disproved at the trial. Meanwhile, come  what
may, Colonel Moran will trouble us no more.  The  famous  air-gun  of  Von
Herder will embellish  the  Scotland  Yard  Museum,  and  once  again  Mr.
Sherlock Holmes is free to devote his life to examining those  interesting
little problems which the complex life of London so plentifully presents."





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER


    "From the point of view of the criminal expert,"  said  Mr.  Sherlock
Holmes, "London has become a singularly uninteresting city since the death
of the late lamented Professor Moriarty."
    "I can hardly think that you would find many decent citizens to agree
with you," I answered.
    "Well, well, I must not be selfish," said he, with  a  smile,  as  be
pushed  back  his  chair  from  the  breakfast-table.  "The  community  is
certainly the gainer, and no one the  loser,  save  the  poor  out-of-work
specialist, whose occupation has gone. With that man in the  field,  one's
morning paper presented infinite possibilities.  Often  it  was  only  the
smallest trace, Watson, the faintest indication, and yet it was enough  to
tell me that the great malignant brain was there, as the gentlest  tremors
of the edges of the web remind one of the foul spider which lurks  in  the
centre. Petty thefts, wanton assaults, purposeless outrage -  to  the  man
who held the clue all could be worked into one  connected  whole.  To  the
scientific student of the higher criminal  world,  no  capital  in  Europe
offered the  advantages  which  London  then  possessed.  But  now..."  He
shrugged his shoulders in humorous deprecation  of  the  state  of  things
which he had himself done so much to produce.
    At the time of which I speak, Holmes had been back for  some  months,
and I at his request had sold my practice and returned to  share  the  old
quarters in Baker Street. A young doctor, named Verner, had  purchased  my
small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little  demur  the
highest price that I ventured to ask - an incident  which  only  explained
itself some years later, when I found that Verner was a  distant  relation
of Holmes, and that it was my friend who had really found the money.
    Our months of partnership had  not  been  so  uneventful  as  he  had
stated, for I find, on looking over my notes, that  this  period  includes
the case of the papers of ex-President  Murillo,  and  also  the  shocking
affair of the Dutch steamship FRIESLAND, which so nearly cost us both  our
lives. His cold and proud nature was always averse, however, from anything
in the shape of public applause, and he bound me  in  the  most  stringent
terms to say no further word of himself, his methods, or his successes - a
prohibition which, as I have explained, has only now been removed.
    Mr. Sherlock Holmes was leaning back in his chair after his whimsical
protest, and was unfolding his morning paper in a leisurely fashion,  when
our attention was arrested by a tremendous  ring  at  the  bell,  followed
immediately by a hollow drumming sound, as if someone were beating on  the
outer door with his fist. As it opened there came a tumultuous  rush  into
the hall, rapid feet clattered up  the  stair,  and  an  instant  later  a
wild-eyed and frantic young man, pale, disheveled, and palpitating,  burst
into the room. He looked from one to the other of us, and under  our  gaze
of inquiry he became conscious that  some  apology  was  needed  for  this
unceremonious entry.
    "I'm sorry, Mr. Holmes," he cried. "You mustn't blame me. I am nearly
mad. Mr. Holmes, I am the unhappy John Hector McFarlane."
    He made the announcement as if the name alone would explain both  his
visit and its manner, but I could  see,  by  my  companion's  unresponsive
face, that it meant no more to him than to me.
    "Have a cigarette, Mr. McFarlane," said he, pushing his case  across.
"I am sure that, with your symptoms,  my  friend  Dr.  Watson  here  would
prescribe a sedative. The weather has been so very  warm  these  last  few
days. Now, if you feel a little more composed, I should  be  glad  if  you
would sit down in that chair, and tell us very slowly and quietly who  you
are, and what it is that you want. You mentioned your name, as if I should
recognize it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious facts that you are
a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an  asthmatic,  I  know  nothing
whatever about you."
    Familiar as I was with my friend's methods, it was not difficult  for
me to follow his deductions, and to observe the untidiness of attire,  the
sheaf of legal papers,  the  watch-charm,  and  the  breathing  which  had
prompted them. Our client, however, stared in amazement.
    "Yes, I am all that, Mr. Holmes; and, in  addition,  I  am  the  most
unfortunate man at this moment in London. For heaven's sake, don't abandon
me, Mr. Holmes! If they come to arrest me before I have finished my story,
make them give me time, so that I may tell you the whole truth. I could go
to jail happy if I knew that you were working for me outside."
    "Arrest you!"  said  Holmes.  "This  is  really  most  grati  -  most
interesting. On what charge do you expect to be arrested?"
    "Upon the charge of murdering Mr. Jonas Oldacre, of Lower Norwood."
    My companion's expressive face showed a sympathy which was not, I  am
afraid, entirely unmixed with satisfaction.
    "Dear me," said he, "it was only this moment at breakfast that I  was
saying to my friend, Dr. Watson, that sensational  cases  had  disappeared
out of our papers."
    Our visitor stretched forward a quivering  hand  and  picked  up  the
DAILY TELEGRAPH, which still lay upon Holmes's knee.
    "If you had looked at it, sir, you would have seen at a  glance  what
the errand is on which I have come to you this morning. I feel  as  if  my
name and my misfortune must be in every man's mouth." He turned it over to
expose the central page. "Here it is, and with your permission I will read
it to you. Listen to this, Mr.  Holmes.  The  headlines  are:  `Mysterious
Affair at Lower Norwood. Disappearance of a Well Known Builder.  Suspicion
of Murder and Arson. A Clue to the Criminal.' That is the clue which  they
are already following, Mr. Holmes, and I know that it leads infallibly  to
me. I have been followed from London Bridge Station, and I  am  sure  that
they are only waiting for the warrant to  arrest  me.  It  will  break  my
mother's heart - it will break her heart!" He wrung his hands in an  agony
of apprehension, and swayed backward and forward in his chair.
    I looked with interest upon this man, who was accused  of  being  the
perpetrator of a crime of violence. He was flaxen-haired and handsome,  in
a  washed-out  negative  fashion,  with  frightened  blue  eyes,   and   a
clean-shaven face, with a weak, sensitive mouth. His  age  may  have  been
about twenty-seven, his dress and bearing that of a  gentleman.  From  the
pocket of his light summer  overcoat  protruded  the  bundle  of  indorsed
papers which proclaimed his profession.
    "We must use what time we have," said Holmes. "Watson, would you have
the kindness to take the paper and to read the paragraph in question?"
    Underneath the vigorous headlines which our client had quoted, I read
the following suggestive narrative:
    "Late last night, or early this  morning,  an  incident  occurred  at
Lower Norwood which points, it is feared, to a serious  crime.  Mr.  Jonas
Oldacre is a well known resident of that suburb, where he has  carried  on
his business as a builder for many  years.  Mr.  Oldacre  is  a  bachelor,
fifty-two years of age, and lives in Deep Dene House, at the Sydenham  end
of the road of that name. He has had the reputation  of  being  a  man  of
eccentric  habits,  secretive  and  retiring.  For  some  years   he   has
practically withdrawn from the business, in  which  he  is  said  to  have
massed considerable wealth. A small timber-yard still exists, however,  at
the back of the house, and last night, about twelve o'clock, an alarm  was
given that one of the stacks was on fire. The engines were soon  upon  the
spot, but the dry wood burned with great fury, and it  was  impossible  to
arrest the conflagration until the stack had been entirely consumed. Up to
this point the incident bore the appearance of an ordinary  accident,  but
fresh indications seem to point to serious crime. Surprise  was  expressed
at the absence of the master of the establishment from the  scene  of  the
fire, and an inquiry followed, which showed that he had  disappeared  from
the house. An examination of his room revealed that the bed had  not  been
slept in, that a safe which stood  in  it  was  open,  that  a  number  of
important papers were scattered about the room, and  finally,  that  there
were signs of a murderous struggle, slight traces  of  blood  being  found
within the room, and an oaken walking-stick, which also showed  stains  of
blood upon the handle. It is known that Mr. Jonas Oldacre had  received  a
late visitor in his bedroom upon that night, and the stick found has  been
identified as the property of this person, who is a young London solicitor
named John Hector McFarlane, junior partner of Graham  and  McFarlane,  of
426 Gresham Buildings, E. C. The police believe that they have evidence in
their possession which supplies a very convincing motive  for  the  crime,
and altogether it cannot be doubted  that  sensational  developments  will
follow.
    "LATER. - It is rumoured as we go  to  press  that  Mr.  John  Hector
McFarlane has actually been arrested on the charge of the  murder  of  Mr.
Jonas Oldacre. It is at least certain that  a  warrant  has  been  issued.
There have been further and sinister developments in the investigation  at
Norwood. Besides the signs of a struggle in the room  of  the  unfortunate
builder it is now known that the French windows of his bedroom  (which  is
on the ground floor) were found to be open, that there were  marks  as  if
some bulky object had been dragged across to the wood-pile, and,  finally,
it is asserted that charred remains have been  found  among  the  charcoal
ashes of the fire. The police theory is that a most sensational crime  has
been committed, that the victim was clubbed to death in his  own  bedroom,
his papers rifled, and his dead body dragged  across  to  the  wood-stack,
which was then ignited so as to hide all traces of the crime. The  conduct
of the criminal investigation has been left in the  experienced  hands  of
Inspector Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, who is following up the  clues  with
his accustomed energy and sagacity."
    Sherlock Holmes listened with closed eyes and fingertips together  to
this remarkable account.
    "The case has certainly some points of interest,"  said  he,  in  his
languid fashion. "May I ask, in the first place, Mr. McFarlane, how it  is
that you are still at liberty, since there appears to be  enough  evidence
to justify your arrest?"
    "I live at Torrington Lodge, Blackheath, with my parents, Mr. Holmes,
but last night, having to do business very late with Mr. Jonas Oldacre,  I
stayed at an hotel in Norwood, and came to my business from there. I  knew
nothing of this affair until I was in the train, when I read what you have
just heard. I at once saw the  horrible  danger  of  my  position,  and  I
hurried to put the case into your hands. I have no  doubt  that  I  should
have been arrested either at my city office or at my home. A man  followed
me from London Bridge Station, and I have no doubt - Great heaven! what is
that?"
    It was a clang of the bell, followed instantly by  heavy  steps  upon
the stair. A moment  later,  our  old  friend  Lestrade  appeared  in  the
doorway. Over his shoulder I caught a glimpse  of  one  or  two  uniformed
policemen outside.
    "Mr. John Hector McFarlane?" said Lestrade.
    Our unfortunate client rose with a ghastly face.
    "I arrest you for the wilful murder of Mr. Jonas  Oldacre,  of  Lower
Norwood."
    McFarlane turned to us with a gesture of despair, and sank  into  his
chair once more like one who is crushed.
    "One moment, Lestrade," said Holmes. "Half an hour more or  less  can
make no difference to you, and the gentleman  was  about  to  give  us  an
account of this very interesting affair, which might aid us in clearing it
up."
    "I think there will  be  no  difficulty  in  clearing  it  up,"  said
Lestrade, grimly.
    "None the less, with your permission, I should be much interested  to
hear his account."
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, it is difficult for me to refuse you anything, for
you have been of use to the force once or twice in the past,  and  we  owe
you a good turn at Scotland Yard," said Lestrade. "At the same time I must
remain with my prisoner, and I am bound to warn him that anything  he  may
say will appear in evidence against him."
    "I wish nothing better," said our client. "All  I  ask  is  that  you
should hear and recognize the absolute truth."
    Lestrade looked at his watch. "I'll give you half an hour," said he.
    "I must explain first," said McFarlane, "that I knew nothing  of  Mr.
Jonas Oldacre. His name was familiar to me, for many years ago my  parents
were acquainted with  him,  but  they  drifted  apart.  I  was  very  much
surprised therefore, when yesterday, about three o'clock in the afternoon,
he walked into my office in the city. But I was still more astonished when
he told me the object of his visit. He had in his hand several sheets of a
notebook, covered with scribbled writing - here they are  -  and  he  laid
them on my table.
    "`Here is my will,' said he. `I want you, Mr. McFarlane, to  cast  it
into proper legal shape. I will sit here while you do so.'
    "I set myself to copy it, and you can imagine my astonishment when  I
found that, with some reservations, he had left all his property to me. He
was a strange little ferret-like man, with white  eyelashes,  and  when  I
looked up at him I found his keen gray eyes fixed upon me with  an  amused
expression. I could hardly believe my own as I read the terms of the will;
but he explained that he was a bachelor with hardly any  living  relation,
that he had known my parents in his youth, and that he had always heard of
me as a very deserving young man, and was assured that his money would  be
in worthy hands. Of course, I could only stammer out my thanks.  The  will
was duly finished, signed, and witnessed by my clerk. This is  it  on  the
blue paper, and these slips, as I have explained, are the rough draft. Mr.
Jonas Oldacre then informed me that there were a  number  of  documents  -
building leases, title-deeds, mortgages, scrip, and so forth  -  which  it
was necessary that I should see and understand.  He  said  that  his  mind
would not be easy until the whole thing was settled, and he begged  me  to
come out to his house at Norwood that night, bringing the  will  with  me,
and to arrange matters. `Remember, my boy, not one word  to  your  parents
about the affair until everything is settled. We will keep it as a  little
surprise for them.' He was very insistent upon this  point,  and  made  me
promise it faithfully.
    "You can imagine, Mr. Holmes, that I was not in a  humour  to  refuse
him anything that he might ask. He was my benefactor, and  all  my  desire
was to carry out his wishes in every particular. I sent a  telegram  home,
therefore, to say that I had important business on hand, and that  it  was
impossible for me to say how late I might be. Mr. Oldacre had told me that
he would like me to have supper with him at nine, as he might not be  home
before that hour. I had some difficulty in finding his house, however, and
it was nearly half-past before I reached it. I found him..."
    "One moment!" said Holmes. "Who opened the door?"
    "A middle-aged woman, who was, I suppose, his housekeeper."
    "And it was she, I presume, who mentioned your name?"
    "Exactly," said McFarlane.
    "Pray proceed."
    McFarlane wiped his damp brow, and then continued his narrative:
    "I was shown by this woman into a sitting-room, where a frugal supper
was laid out. Afterwards, Mr. Jonas Oldacre led me into  his  bedroom,  in
which there stood a heavy safe. This he opened and  took  out  a  mass  of
documents, which we went over together. It was between eleven  and  twelve
when we finished. He remarked that we must not disturb the housekeeper. He
showed me out through his own French window, which had been open all  this
time."
    "Was the blind down?" asked Holmes.
    "I will not be sure, but I believe that it was only half down. Yes, I
remember how he pulled it up in order to swing open the  window.  I  could
not find my stick, and he said, `Never mind, my boy, I shall  see  a  good
deal of you now, I hope, and I will keep your stick until you come back to
claim it.' I left him there, the safe open, and  the  papers  made  up  in
packets upon the table. It was so late  that  I  could  not  get  back  to
Blackheath, so I spent the night at the Anerley Arms, and I  knew  nothing
more until I read of this horrible affair in the morning."
    "Anything more  that  you  would  like  to  ask,  Mr.  Holmes?"  said
Lestrade, whose eyebrows had gone up once or twice during this  remarkable
explanation.
    "Not until I have been to Blackheath."
    "You mean to Norwood," said Lestrade.
    "Oh, yes, no doubt that is what I must have meant," said Holmes, with
his enigmatical smile. Lestrade had learned by more  experiences  than  he
would care to acknowledge that that brain could cut through that which was
impenetrable to him. I saw him look curiously at my companion.
    "I think I should like  to  have  a  word  with  you  presently,  Mr.
Sherlock Holmes," said he. "Now, Mr. McFarlane, two of my  constables  are
at the door, and there is a four-wheeler waiting." The wretched young  man
arose, and with a last beseeching glance at us walked from the  room.  The
officers conducted him to the cab, but Lestrade remained.
    Holmes had picked up the pages which formed the rough  draft  of  the
will, and was looking at them with the keenest interest upon his face.
    "There are some points about that document, Lestrade, are there not?"
said he, pushing them over.
    The official looked at them with a puzzled expression.
    "I can read the first few lines and these in the middle of the second
page, and one or two at the end. Those are as clear as  print,"  said  he,
"but the writing in between is very bad, and there are three places  where
I cannot read it at all."
    "What do you make of that?" said Holmes.
    "Well, what do YOU make of it?"
    "That it  was  written  in  a  train.  The  good  writing  represents
stations, the bad writing movement, and the very bad writing passing  over
points. A scientific expert would pronounce at once that this was drawn up
on a suburban line, since nowhere save in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  a
great city could there be so quick a succession of points.  Granting  that
his whole journey was occupied in drawing up the will, then the train  was
an express, only stopping once between Norwood and London Bridge."
    Lestrade began to laugh.
    "You are too many for me when you begin to get on your theories,  Mr.
Holmes," said he. "How does this bear on the case?"
    "Well, it corroborates the young man's story to the extent  that  the
will was drawn up by Jonas Oldacre in his journey yesterday. It is curious
- is it not? - that a man should draw up so important  a  document  in  so
haphazard a fashion. It suggests that he did not think it was going to  be
of much practical importance. If a man drew up a will  which  he  did  not
intend ever to be effective, he might do it so."
    "Well, he drew up his own death  warrant  at  the  same  time,"  said
Lestrade.
    "Oh, you think so?"
    "Don't you?"
    "Well, it is quite possible, but the case is not clear to me yet."
    "Not clear? Well, if that isn't clear, what COULD be clear? Here is a
young man who learns suddenly that, if a certain older man dies,  he  will
succeed to a fortune. What does he do? He says nothing to anyone,  but  he
arranges that he shall go out on some  pretext  to  see  his  client  that
night. He waits until the only other person in the house is  in  bed,  and
then in the solitude of a man's room he murders him, burns his body in the
wood-pile, and departs to a neighbouring hotel. The  blood-stains  in  the
room and also on the stick  are  very  slight.  It  is  probable  that  he
imagined his crime to be a bloodless one, and hoped that if the body  were
consumed it would hide all traces of the method  of  his  death  -  traces
which, for some reason, must have pointed to him. Is not all this obvious?"
    "It strikes me, my good Lestrade, as being just a trifle too obvious,"
said Holmes. "You do not add imagination to your  other  great  qualities,
but if you could for one moment put yourself in the place  of  this  young
man, would you choose the very night after  the  will  had  been  made  to
commit your crime? Would it not seem dangerous to  you  to  make  so  very
close a relation between the two incidents? Again,  would  you  choose  an
occasion when you are known to be in the house, when a servant has let you
in? And, finally, would you take the great pains to conceal the body,  and
yet leave your own stick as a sign that you were  the  criminal?  Confess,
Lestrade, that all this is very unlikely."
    "As to the stick, Mr. Holmes, you  know  as  well  as  I  do  that  a
criminal is often flurried, and does such things, which a cool  man  would
avoid. He was very likely afraid to go back to the room. Give  me  another
theory that would fit the facts."
    "I could very easily give you half a dozen," said Holmes.  "Here  for
example, is a very possible and even probable  one.  I  make  you  a  free
present of it. The older man is showing documents  which  are  of  evident
value. A passing tramp sees them through the window, the blind of which is
only half down. Exit the solicitor. Enter the tramp! He  seizes  a  stick,
which he observes there, kills Oldacre,  and  departs  after  burning  the
body."
    "Why should the tramp burn the body?"
    "For the matter of that, why should McFarlane?"
    "To hide some evidence."
    "Possibly the tramp wanted to hide that any murder at  all  had  been
committed."
    "And why did the tramp take nothing?"
    "Because they were papers that he could not negotiate."
    Lestrade shook his head, though it seemed to me that his  manner  was
less absolutely assured than before.
    "Well, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you may look for your  tramp,  and  while
you are finding him we will hold on to our man. The future will show which
is right. Just notice this point, Mr. Holmes: that so far as we know, none
of the papers were removed, and that the prisoner is the one  man  in  the
world who had no reason for removing them, since he was  heir-at-law,  and
would come into them in any case."
    My friend seemed struck by this remark.
    "I don't mean to deny that the evidence is in some ways very strongly
in favour of your theory," said he. "I only wish to point out  that  there
are  other  theories  possible.  As  you  say,  the  future  will  decide.
Good-morning! I dare say that in the course of the day I shall drop in  at
Norwood and see how you are getting on."
    When the detective departed, my friend rose and made his preparations
for the day's work with the alert air of a man who has  a  congenial  task
before him.
    "My  first  movement  Watson,"  said  he,  as  he  bustled  into  his
frockcoat, "must, as I said, be in the direction of Blackheath."
    "And why not Norwood?"
    "Because we have in this case one singular incident coming  close  to
the heels of another singular incident. The police are making the  mistake
of concentrating their attention upon the second, because it happens to be
the one which is actually criminal. But it  is  evident  to  me  that  the
logical way to approach the case is to begin by trying to throw some light
upon the first incident - the curious will, so suddenly made,  and  to  so
unexpected an heir. It may do something to simplify what followed. No,  my
dear fellow, I don't think you can  help  me.  There  is  no  prospect  of
danger, or I should not dream of stirring out without you.  I  trust  that
when I see you in the evening, I will be able to report that I  have  been
able to do something  for  this  unfortunate  youngster,  who  has  thrown
himself upon my protection."
    It was late when my friend returned, and I could see, by a glance  at
his haggard and anxious face, that  the  high  hopes  with  which  be  had
started had not been fulfilled. For  an  hour  he  droned  away  upon  his
violin, endeavouring to soothe his own ruffled spirits. At last  he  flung
down  the  instrument,  and  plunged  into  a  detailed  account  of   his
misadventures.
    "It's all going wrong, Watson - all as wrong as it can go. I  kept  a
bold face before Lestrade, but, upon my soul, I believe that for once  the
fellow is on the right track and we are on the wrong. All my instincts are
one way, and all the facts are the other, and I  much  fear  that  British
juries have not yet attained that pitch of  intelligence  when  they  will
give the preference to my theories over Lestrade's facts."
    "Did you go to Blackheath?"
    "Yes, Watson, I went there, and I found very quickly  that  the  late
lamented Oldacre was a pretty considerable blackguard. The father was away
in search of his son. The mother was at home - a little, fluffy, blue-eyed
person, in a tremor of fear and indignation.  Of  course,  she  would  not
admit even the possibility of his guilt. But she would not express  either
surprise or regret over the fate of Oldacre. On the contrary, she spoke of
him  with  such  bitterness  that  she  was   unconsciously   considerably
strengthening the case of the police for, of course, if her son had  heard
her speak of the man in this fashion,  it  would  predispose  him  towards
hatred and violence. `He was more like a malignant and cunning ape than  a
human being,' said she, `and he always was, ever since he was a young man.
'
    "`You knew him at that time?' said I.
    "`Yes, I knew him well, in fact, he was an old suitor of mine.  Thank
heaven that I had the sense to turn away from him and to marry  a  better,
if poorer, man. I was engaged to him, Mr. Holmes, when I heard a  shocking
story of how he had turned a  cat  loose  in  an  aviary,  and  I  was  so
horrified at his brutal cruelty that I would have nothing more to do  with
him.' She rummaged in a bureau, and presently she produced a photograph of
a woman, shamefully defaced and mutilated with a knife. `That  is  my  own
photograph,' she said. `He sent it to me in that state,  with  his  curse,
upon my wedding morning.'
    "`Well,' said I, `at least he has forgiven you now, since he has left
all his property to your son.'
    "`Neither my son nor I want anything  from  Jonas  Oldacre,  dead  or
alive!' she cried, with a proper spirit. `There is a God  in  heaven,  Mr.
Holmes, and that same God who has punished that wicked man will  show,  in
His own good time, that my son's hands are guiltless of his blood.'
    "Well, I tried one or two leads, but could get at nothing which would
help our hypothesis, and several points which would  make  against  it.  I
gave it up at last and off I went to Norwood.
    "This place, Deep Dene House, is a big modern villa of staring brick,
standing back in its own grounds, with a laurel-clumped lawn in  front  of
it. To the right and some distance back from the road was the  timber-yard
which had been the scene of the fire. Here's a rough plan on a leaf of  my
notebook. This window on the left is the one which  opens  into  Oldacre's
room. You can look into it from the road, you see. That is about the  only
bit of consolation I have had to-day. Lestrade was not there, but his head
constable did the honours. They had just  found  a  great  treasure-trove.
They had spent the morning raking among the ashes of the burned wood-pile,
and  besides  the  charred  organic  remains  they  had  secured   several
discoloured metal discs. I examined them with care, and there was no doubt
that they were trouser buttons. I even distinguished that one of them  was
marked with the name of `Hyams,' who was Oldacres tailor.  I  then  worked
the lawn very carefully for signs and traces, but this  drought  has  made
everything as hard as iron. Nothing was to be seen save that some body  or
bundle had been dragged through a low privet hedge which is in a line with
the wood-pile. All that, of course, fits in with the  official  theory.  I
crawled about the lawn with an August sun on my back, but I got up at  the
end of an hour no wiser than before.
    "Well, after this fiasco I went into the bedroom  and  examined  that
also. The blood-stains were very slight, mere smears and  discolourations,
but undoubtedly fresh. The stick had been  removed,  but  there  also  the
marks were slight. There is no doubt about  the  stick  belonging  to  our
client. He admits it. Footmarks of both men  could  be  made  out  on  the
carpet, but none of any third person, which again is a trick for the other
side. They were piling up their score all  the  time  and  we  were  at  a
standstill.
    "Only one little gleam of hope did I get - and  yet  it  amounted  to
nothing. I examined the contents of the safe, most of which had been taken
out and left on the table.  The  papers  had  been  made  up  into  sealed
envelopes, one or two of which had been opened by the  police.  They  were
not, so far as I could judge, of any great value, nor  did  the  bank-book
show that Mr. Oldacre was in such  very  affluent  circumstances.  But  it
seemed to me that all the papers were not there. There were  allusions  to
some deeds - possibly the more valuable - which I could not find. This, of
course, if we could definitely prove it, would  turn  Lestrade's  argument
against himself, for who would steal a thing if  he  knew  that  he  would
shortly inherit it?
    "Finally, having drawn every other cover and picked up  no  scent,  I
tried my luck with the housekeeper. Mrs. Lexington is her name - a little,
dark, silent person, with suspicious and sidelong eyes. She could tell  us
something if she would - I am convinced of it. But she  was  as  close  as
wax. Yes, she had let Mr. McFarlane in at half-past nine. She  wished  her
hand had withered before she had done so. She had gone to bed at half-past
ten. Her room was at the other end  of  the  house,  and  she  could  hear
nothing of what had passed. Mr. McFarlane had left his  hat,  and  to  the
best of her had been awakened by the alarm of fire. Her poor, dear  master
had certainly been murdered. Had he  any  enemies?  Well,  every  man  had
enemies, but Mr. Oldacre kept himself very much to himself, and  only  met
people in the way of business. She had seen the buttons, and was sure that
they belonged to the clothes which he had worn last night.  The  wood-pile
was very dry, for it had not rained for a month. It  burned  like  tinder,
and by the time she reached the spot, nothing could be  seen  but  flames.
She and all the firemen smelled the burned flesh from inside it. She  knew
nothing of the papers, nor of Mr. Oldacre's private affairs.
    "So, my dear Watson, there's my report of a failure. And  yet  -  and
yet - " he clenched his thin hands in a paroxysm of conviction -  "I  KNOW
it's all wrong. I feel it in my bones. There is  something  that  has  not
come out, and that housekeeper  knows  it.  There  was  a  sort  of  sulky
defiance in her eyes, which only  goes  with  guilty  knowledge.  However,
there's no good talking any more about it, Watson; but unless  some  lucky
chance comes our way I fear that the Norwood Disappearance Case  will  not
figure in that chronicle of our successes which I foresee that  a  patient
public will sooner or later have to endure."
    "Surely," said I, "the man's appearance would go far with any jury?"
    "That is a dangerous argument  my  dear  Watson.  You  remember  that
terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted us to get him off in '87?  Was
there ever a more mild-mannered, Sunday-school young man?"
    "It is true."
    "Unless we succeed in establishing an alternative theory, this man is
lost. You can hardly find a flaw in the case which can  now  be  presented
against him, and all further investigation has served to strengthen it. By
the way, there is one curious little point about those  papers  which  may
serve us as the  starting-point  for  an  inquiry.  On  looking  over  the
bank-book I found that the low state of the balance was principally due to
large checks which have  been  made  out  during  the  last  year  to  Mr.
Cornelius. I confess that I should be interested  to  know  who  this  Mr.
Cornelius may  be  with  whom  a  retired  builder  has  such  very  large
transactions. Is it possible that  he  has  had  a  hand  in  the  affair?
Cornelius might be a broker, but we have found no scrip to correspond with
these large payments. Failing any other indication, my researches must now
take the direction of an inquiry at the bank for  the  gentleman  who  has
cashed these checks. But I fear, my dear fellow, that our  case  will  end
ingloriously by Lestrade hanging our client, which  will  certainly  be  a
triumph for Scotland Yard."
    I do not know how far Sherlock Holmes took any sleep that night,  but
when I came down to breakfast I found him pale and  harassed,  his  bright
eyes the brighter for the dark shadows round them. The  carpet  round  his
chair was littered with cigarette-ends and with the early editions of  the
morning papers. An open telegram lay upon the table.
    "What do you think of this, Watson?" he asked, tossing it across.
    It was from Norwood, and ran as follows:

    Important  fresh  evidence  to  hand.  McFarlane's  guilt  definitely
established. Advise you to abandon case. LESTRADE.

    "This sounds serious," said I.
    "It is Lestrade's little cock-a-doodle of victory," Holmes  answered,
with a bitter smile. "And yet it may be premature  to  abandon  the  case.
After all, important fresh evidence is a two-edged thing, and may possibly
cut in a very different direction to that which  Lestrade  imagines.  Take
your breakfast, Watson, and we will go out together and see  what  we  can
do. I feel as if I shall need your company and your moral support today."
    My  friend  had  no  breakfast  himself,  for  it  was  one  of   his
peculiarities that in his more intense moments he would permit himself  no
food, and I have known him presume upon his iron  strength  until  he  has
fainted from pure inanition. "At present I cannot spare energy  and  nerve
force for digestion," he would say in answer to my medical  remonstrances.
I was not surprised, therefore, when this morning he  left  his  untouched
meal behind him, and started with  me  for  Norwood.  A  crowd  of  morbid
sightseers were still gathered round Deep Dene House, which was just  such
a suburban villa as I had pictured. Within the gates Lestrade met us,  his
face flushed with victory, his manner grossly triumphant.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, have you proved us to be wrong yet? Have you found
your tramp?" he cried.
    "I have formed no conclusion whatever," my companion answered.
    "But we formed ours yesterday, and now it proves to  be  correct,  so
you must acknowledge that we have been a little in front of you this time,
Mr. Holmes."
    "You certainly have the air of something  unusual  having  occurred,"
said Holmes.
    Lestrade laughed loudly.
    "You don't like being beaten any more than the rest of us  do,"  said
he. "A man can't expect always to have it his own way, can he, Dr. Watson?
Step this way, if you please, gentlemen, and I think I  can  convince  you
once for all that it was John McFarlane who did this crime."
    He led us through the passage and out into a dark hall beyond.
    "This is where young McFarlane must have come  out  to  get  his  hat
after the crime was done," said he. "Now  look  at  this."  With  dramatic
suddenness he struck a match, and by its light exposed a  stain  of  blood
upon the whitewashed wall. As he held the match nearer, I saw that it  was
more than a stain. It was the well-marked print of a thumb.
    "Look at that with your magnifying glass, Mr. Holmes."
    "Yes, I am doing so."
    "You are aware that no two thumb-marks are alike?"
    "I have heard something of the kind."
    "Well, then, will  you  please  compare  that  print  with  this  wax
impression of young McFarlane's right  thumb,  taken  by  my  orders  this
morning?"
    As he held the waxen print close to the blood-stain, it did not  take
a magnifying glass to see that the two  were  undoubtedly  from  the  same
thumb. It was evident to me that our unfortunate client was lost.
    "That is final," said Lestrade.
    "Yes, that is final," I involuntarily echoed.
    "It is final," said Holmes.
    Something in his tone caught my ear, and I turned to look at him.  An
extraordinary change had come over his face. It was writhing  with  inward
merriment. His two eyes were shining like stars. It seemed to me  that  he
was making desperate efforts to restrain a convulsive attack of laughter.
    "Dear me! Dear me!" he said at  last.  "Well,  now,  who  would  have
thought it? And how deceptive appearances may be, to be sure! Such a  nice
young man to look at! It is a lesson to us not to trust our own  judgment,
is it not, Lestrade?"
    "Yes, some of us are a little too much inclined to be cock-sure,  Mr.
Holmes," said Lestrade. The man's insolence was maddening,  but  we  could
not resent it.
    "What a providential thing that this young man should press his right
thumb against the wall in taking his hat from the peg! Such a very natural
action, too, if you come to think of it." Holmes was outwardly  calm,  but
his whole body gave a wriggle of suppressed excitement as he spoke.
    "By the way, Lestrade, who made this remarkable discovery?"
    "It  was  the  housekeeper,  Mrs.  Lexington,  who  drew  the   night
constable's attention to it."
    "Where was the night constable?"
    "He remained on guard in the bedroom where the crime  was  committed,
so as to see that nothing was touched."
    "But why didn't the police see this mark yesterday?"
    "Well, we had no particular reason to make a careful  examination  of
the hall. Besides, it's not in a very prominent place, as you see."
    "No, no - of course not. I suppose there is no doubt  that  the  mark
was there yesterday?"
    Lestrade looked at Holmes as if he thought he was going  out  of  his
mind. I confess that I was myself surprised both at his  hilarious  manner
and at his rather wild observation.
    "I don't know whether you think that McFarlane came out  of  jail  in
the dead of the night in order to strengthen the evidence against himself,"
said Lestrade. "I leave it to any expert in  the  world  whether  that  is
not the mark of his thumb."
    "It is unquestionably the mark of his thumb."
    "There, that's enough," said Lestrade. "I am  a  practical  man,  Mr.
Holmes, and when I have got my evidence I come to my conclusions.  If  you
have anything  to  say,  you  will  find  me  writing  my  report  in  the
sitting-room."
    Holmes had recovered his equanimity, though I still seemed to  detect
gleams of amusement in his expression.
    "Dear me, this is a very sad development, Watson, is  it  not?"  said
he. "And yet there are singular points about it which hold out some  hopes
for our client."
    "I am delighted to hear it," said I, heartily. "I was afraid  it  was
all up with him."
    "I would hardly go so far as to say that, my dear Watson. The fact is
that there is one really serious flaw in this evidence to which our friend
attaches so much importance."
    "Indeed, Holmes! What is it?"
    "Only this: that I KNOW that that mark was not there when I  examined
the hall yesterday. And now, Watson, let us have a little stroll round  in
the sunshine."
    With a confused brain, but with a heart into  which  some  warmth  of
hope was returning, I accompanied my friend in a walk  round  the  garden.
Holmes took each face of the house in turn, and  examined  it  with  great
interest. He then led the way inside, and went  over  the  whole  building
from basement to attic. Most of the rooms were unfurnished, but  none  the
less Holmes inspected them all minutely. Finally,  on  the  top  corridor,
which ran outside three untenanted bedrooms, he again was  seized  with  a
spasm of merriment.
    "There are really some very unique features about this case, Watson,"
said he. "I think it is time now that we took our friend Lestrade into our
confidence. He has had his little smile at our expense, and perhaps we may
do as much by him, if my reading of this problem  proves  to  be  correct.
Yes, yes, I think I see how we should approach it."
    The Scotland Yard inspector was still writing  in  the  parlour  when
Holmes interrupted him.
    "I understood that you were writing a report of this case," said he.
    "So I am."
    "Don't you think it may be a little premature? I can't help  thinking
that your evidence is not complete."
    Lestrade knew my friend too well to disregard his words. He laid down
his pen and looked curiously at him.
    "What do you mean, Mr. Holmes?"
    "Only that there is an important witness whom you have not seen."
    "Can you produce him?"
    "I think I can."
    "Then do so."
    "I will do my best. How many constables have you?"
    "There are three within call."
    "Excellent!"  said  Holmes.  "May  I  ask  if  they  are  all  large,
able-bodied men with powerful voices?"
    "I have no doubt they are, though I fail to  see  what  their  voices
have to do with it."
    "Perhaps I can help you to see that and one or two  other  things  as
well," said Holmes. "Kindly summon your men, and I will try."
    Five minutes later, three policemen had assembled in the hall.
    "In the outhouse you will find a  considerable  quantity  of  straw,"
said Holmes. "I will ask you to carry in two bundles of  it.  I  think  it
will be of the  greatest  assistance  in  producing  the  witness  whom  I
require. Thank you very much. I believe you  have  some  matches  in  your
pocket Watson. Now, Mr. Lestrade, I will ask you all to  accompany  me  to
the top landing."
    As I have said, there was a broad corridor there, which  ran  outside
three empty bedrooms. At one end of the corridor we were all marshalled by
Sherlock Holmes, the constables grinning and Lestrade staring at my friend
with amazement, expectation, and derision chasing each  other  across  his
features. Holmes stood before us  with  the  air  of  a  conjurer  who  is
performing a trick.
    "Would you kindly send one of your  constables  for  two  buckets  of
water? Put the straw on the floor here, free from the wall on either side.
Now I think that we are all ready."
    Lestrade's face had begun to  grow  red  and  angry.  "I  don't  know
whether you are playing a game with us, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said he. "If
you know anything, you can surely say it without all this tomfoolery."
    "I assure you, my good Lestrade, that I have an excellent reason  for
everything that I do. You may possibly remember  that  you  chaffed  me  a
little, some hours ago, when the sun seemed on your side of the hedge,  so
you must not grudge me a little pomp and ceremony now. Might  I  ask  you,
Watson, to open that window, and then to put a match to the  edge  of  the
straw?"
    I did so, and driven by the draught a coil of gray smoke swirled down
the corridor, while the dry straw crackled and flamed.
    "Now we must see if we can find this witness for you, Lestrade. Might
I ask you all to join in the cry of `Fire!'? Now then; one, two, three..."
    "Fire!" we all yelled.
    "Thank you. I will trouble you once again."
    "Fire!"
    "Just once more, gentlemen, and all together."
    "Fire!" The shout must have rung over Norwood.
    It had hardly died away  when  an  amazing  thing  happened.  A  door
suddenly flew open out of what appeared to be solid wall at the end of the
corridor, and a little, wizened man darted out of it, like a rabbit out of
its burrow.
    "Capital!" said Holmes, calmly. "Watson, a bucket of water  over  the
straw. That will do! Lestrade, allow me to present you with your principal
missing witness, Mr. Jonas Oldacre."
    The detective stared at the newcomer with blank amazement. The latter
was blinking in the bright light of the corridor, and peering at us and at
the smouldering fire. It was an odious face - crafty, vicious,  malignant,
with shifty, light-gray eyes and white lashes.
    "What's this, then?" said Lestrade, at  last.  "What  have  you  been
doing all this time, eh?"
    Oldacre gave an uneasy laugh, shrinking back  from  the  furious  red
face of the angry detective.
    "I have done no harm."
    "No harm? You have done your best to get an innocent man  hanged.  If
it wasn't for this gentleman here, I am not sure that you would  not  have
succeeded."
    The wretched creature began to whimper.
    "I am sure, sir, it was only my practical joke."
    "Oh! a joke, was it? You won't find the laugh on your side, I promise
you. Take him down, and keep him in the sitting-room  until  I  come.  Mr.
Holmes," he continued, when they had gone, "I could not speak  before  the
constables, but I don't mind saying, in the presence of Dr.  Watson,  that
this is the brightest thing that you have done yet, though it is a mystery
to me how you did it. You have saved an innocent man's life, and you  have
prevented a very grave scandal, which would have ruined my  reputation  in
the Force."
    Holmes smiled, and clapped Lestrade upon the shoulder.
    "Instead of being ruined, my  good  sir,  you  will  find  that  your
reputation has been enormously enhanced. Just make a  few  alterations  in
that report which you were writing, and they will understand how  hard  it
is to throw dust in the eyes of Inspector Lestrade."
    "And you don't want your name to appear?"
    "Not at all. The work is its own reward.  Perhaps  I  shall  get  the
credit also at some distant day, when I permit my zealous historian to lay
out his foolscap once more - eh, Watson? Well, now, let us see where  this
rat has been lurking."
    A lath-and-plaster partition had been run across the passage six feet
from the end, with a door cunningly concealed in it. It was lit within  by
slits under the eaves. A few articles of furniture and a  supply  of  food
and water were within, together with a number of books and papers.
    "There's the advantage of being a builder," said Holmes, as  we  came
out. "He was able to fix  up  his  own  little  hiding-place  without  any
confederate - save, of course, that precious housekeeper of  his,  whom  I
should lose no time in adding to your bag, Lestrade."
    "I'll take your advice. But how did  you  know  of  this  place,  Mr.
Holmes?"
    "I made up my mind that the fellow was in hiding in the house. When I
paced one corridor and found it six feet shorter  than  the  corresponding
one below, it was pretty clear where he was. I  thought  he  had  not  the
nerve to lie quiet before an alarm of fire. We could, of course, have gone
in and taken him, but it amused me to make him reveal himself. Besides,  I
owed you a little mystification, Lestrade, for your chaff in the morning."
    "Well, sir, you certainly got equal with me on that. But how  in  the
world did you know that he was in the house at all?"
    "The thumb-mark, Lestrade. You said it was final; and so it was, in a
very different sense. I knew it had not been there the day before. I pay a
good deal of attention to matters of detail, as you may have observed, and
I had examined the hall, and was sure that the wall was clear.  Therefore,
it had been put on during the night."
    "But how?"
    "Very simply. When those packets were sealed up,  Jonas  Oldacre  got
McFarlane to secure one of the seals by putting his thumb  upon  the  soft
wax. It would be done so quickly and so  naturally,  that  I  daresay  the
young man himself has no recollection  of  it.  Very  likely  it  just  so
happened, and Oldacre had himself no notion of the use he would put it to.
Brooding over the case in that den of his, it  suddenly  struck  him  what
absolutely damning evidence he could make against McFarlane by using  that
thumb-mark. It was the simplest thing in the world for him to take  a  wax
impression from the seal, to moisten it in as much blood as he  could  get
from a pin-prick, and to put the mark upon  the  wall  during  the  night,
either with his own hand or with that of his housekeeper. If  you  examine
among those documents which he took with him into his retreat, I will  lay
you a wager that you find the seal with the thumb-mark upon it."
    "Wonderful!" said Lestrade. "Wonderful! It's all as clear as crystal,
as you put it. But what is the object of this deep deception, Mr. Holmes?"
    It was amusing to me to see how the  detective's  overbearing  manner
had changed suddenly to that of a child asking questions of its teacher.
    "Well, I don't think that is very  hard  to  explain.  A  very  deep,
malicious, vindictive person is  the  gentleman  who  is  now  waiting  us
downstairs. You know that he was once refused by McFarlane's  mother?  You
don't! I told you that you should  go  to  Blackheath  first  and  Norwood
afterwards. Well, this injury, as he would consider it, has rankled in his
wicked, scheming brain, and all his life he has longed for vengeance,  but
never seen his chance. During the last  year  or  two,  things  have  gone
against him - secret speculation, I think - and he finds himself in a  bad
way. He determines to swindle his creditors, and for this purpose he  pays
large checks to a certain Mr. Cornelius, who is, I imagine, himself  under
another name. I have not traced these checks yet, but I have no doubt that
they were banked under that name at some  provincial  town  where  Oldacre
from time to time led a double existence. He intended to change  his  name
altogether, draw this money, and vanish, starting life again elsewhere."
    "Well, that's likely enough."
    "It would strike him that in disappearing he might throw all  pursuit
off his track, and at the same time have an  ample  and  crushing  revenge
upon his old sweetheart, if he could give the impression that he had  been
murdered by her only child. It was  a  masterpiece  of  villainy,  and  he
carried it out like a master. The idea of the will, which  would  give  an
obvious motive for the crime, the secret visit unknown to his own parents,
the retention of the stick, the blood, and the animal remains and  buttons
in the wood-pile, all were admirable. It was a net from which it seemed to
me, a few hours ago, that there was no possible escape.  But  he  had  not
that supreme gift of the artist, the knowledge of when to stop. He  wished
to improve that which was already perfect - to draw the rope  tighter  yet
round the neck of his unfortunate victim - and so he ruined  all.  Let  us
descend, Lestrade. There are just one or two questions that  I  would  ask
him."
    The malignant  creature  was  seated  in  his  own  parlour,  with  a
policeman upon each side of him.
    "It was a joke, my good sir - a practical  joke,  nothing  more,"  he
whined incessantly. "I assure you, sir, that I simply concealed myself  in
order to see the effect of my disappearance, and I am sure that you  would
not be so unjust as to imagine that I  would  have  allowed  any  harm  to
befall poor young Mr. McFarlane."
    "That's for a jury to decide," said Lestrade. "Anyhow, we shall  have
you on a charge of conspiracy, if not for attempted murder."
    "And you'll probably  find  that  your  creditors  will  impound  the
banking account of Mr. Cornelius," said Holmes.
    The little man started, and turned his malignant eyes upon my friend.
    "I have to thank you for a good deal," said he. "Perhaps I'll pay  my
debt some day."
    Holmes smiled indulgently.
    "I fancy that, for some few years, you will find your time very fully
occupied," said he. "By the way, what was it you put  into  the  wood-pile
besides your old trousers? A dead dog, or  rabbits,  or  what?  You  won't
tell? Dear me, how very unkind of you! Well, well, I daresay that a couple
of rabbits would account both for the blood and for the charred ashes.  If
ever you write an account, Watson, you can make rabbits serve your turn."





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                   THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MEN


    Holmes had been seated for some hours in silence with his long,  thin
back curved over a chemical vessel in which he was brewing a  particularly
malodorous product. His head was sunk upon his breast, and he looked  from
my point of view like a strange, lank bird, with dull gray plumage  and  a
black top-knot.
    "So, Watson," said he, suddenly, "you do not  propose  to  invest  in
South African securities?"
    I gave a start of astonishment.  Accustomed  as  I  was  to  Holmes's
curious faculties, this sudden intrusion into my  most  intimate  thoughts
was utterly inexplicable.
    "How on earth do you know that?" I asked.
    He wheeled round upon his stool, with a  steaming  test-tube  in  his
hand, and a gleam of amusement in his deep-set eyes.
    "Now, Watson, confess yourself utterly taken aback," said he.
    "I am."
    "I ought to make you sign a paper to that effect."
    "Why?"
    "Because in five minutes you will say that  it  is  all  so  absurdly
simple."
    "I am sure that I shall say nothing of the kind."
    "You see, my dear Watson" - he propped his test-tube in the rack, and
began to lecture with the air of a professor addressing his class - "it is
not really difficult to construct a series of inferences,  each  dependent
upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after  doing  so,  one
simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents  one's  audience
with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce  a  startling,
though possibly a meretricious, effect. Now, it was not really  difficult,
by an inspection of the groove between your left forefinger and thumb,  to
feel sure that you did NOT propose to invest your  small  capital  in  the
gold fields."
    "I see no connection."
    "Very likely not; but I can quickly show you a close connection. Here
are the missing links of the very simple chain: 1. You had  chalk  between
your left finger and thumb when you returned from the club last night.  2.
You put chalk there when you play billiards, to steady  the  cue.  3.  You
never play billiards except with Thurston. 4. You told me, four weeks ago,
that Thurston had an option on some South  African  property  which  would
expire in a month, and which he desired you to share  with  him.  5.  Your
check book is locked in my drawer, and you have not asked for the key.  6.
You do not propose to invest your money in this manner."
    "How absurdly simple!" I cried.
    "Quite so!" said he, a little nettled. "Every  problem  becomes  very
childish when once it is explained to you. Here is an unexplained one. See
what you can make of that, friend Watson." He tossed a sheet of paper upon
the table, and turned once more to his chemical analysis.
    I looked with amazement at the absurd hieroglyphics upon the paper.
    "Why, Holmes, it is a child's drawing," I cried.
    "Oh, that's your idea!"
    "What else should it be?"
    "That is what Mr. Hilton Cubitt, of Riding Thorpe Manor, Norfolk,  is
very anxious to know. This little conundrum came by the first post, and he
was to follow by the next train. There's a ring at  the  bell,  Watson.  I
should not be very much surprised if this were he."
    A heavy step was heard upon the stairs, and an  instant  later  there
entered a tall, ruddy, clean-shaven gentleman, whose clear eyes and florid
cheeks told of a life led far from the fogs of Baker Street. He seemed  to
bring a whiff of his strong, fresh, bracing, east-coast air with him as he
entered. Having shaken hands with each of us, he was about  to  sit  down,
when his eye rested upon the paper with the curious markings, which I  had
just examined and left upon the table.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, what do you make of these?" he cried.  "They  told
me that you were fond of queer mysteries, and I don't think you can find a
queerer one than that. I sent the paper on ahead, so that you  might  have
time to study it before I came."
    "It is certainly rather a curious production," said Holmes. "At first
sight it would appear to be some childish prank. It consists of  a  number
of absurd little figures dancing across the  paper  upon  which  they  are
drawn. Why should you attribute any importance to so grotesque an object?"
    "I never should, Mr. Holmes. But my wife does. It is frightening  her
to death. She says nothing, but I can see terror in her eyes. That's why I
want to sift the matter to the bottom."
    Holmes held up the paper so that the sunlight shone full upon it.  It
was a page torn from a notebook. The markings were done in pencil, and ran
in this way:

                                GRAPHIC

    Holmes examined it for some time, and then, folding it carefully  up,
he placed it in his pocketbook.
    "This promises to be a most interesting and unusual case,"  said  he.
"You gave me a few particulars in your letter, Mr. Hilton  Cubitt,  but  I
should be very much obliged if you would kindly go over it all  again  for
the benefit of my friend, Dr. Watson."
    "I'm not  much  of  a  story-teller,"  said  our  visitor,  nervously
clasping and unclasping his great,  strong  hands.  "You'll  just  ask  me
anything that I don't make clear. I'll begin at the time  of  my  marriage
last year, but I want to say first of all that, though I'm not a rich man,
my people have been at Riding Thorpe for a matter of five  centuries,  and
there is no better known family in the County of Norfolk. Last year I came
up to London for the Jubilee, and I stopped at a boarding-house in Russell
Square, because Parker, the vicar of our parish, was staying in it.  There
was an American young lady there - Patrick was the name -  Elsie  Patrick.
In some way we became friends, until before my month was up I was as  much
in love as man could be. We were quietly married at a registry office, and
we returned to Norfolk a wedded couple. You'll  think  it  very  mad,  Mr.
Holmes, that a man of a good old  family  should  marry  a  wife  in  this
fashion, knowing nothing of her past or of her people, but if you saw  her
and knew her, it would help you to understand.
    "She was very straight about it, was Elsie. I can't say that she  did
not give me every chance of getting out of it if I wished  to  do  so.  `I
have had some very disagreeable associations in my  life,'  said  she,  `I
wish to forget all about them. I would rather never allude  to  the  past,
for it is very painful to me. If you take me,  Hilton,  you  will  take  a
woman who has nothing that she need be personally ashamed of, but you will
have to be content with my word for it, and to allow me to be silent as to
all that passed up to the time when I became yours.  If  these  conditions
are too hard, then go back to Norfolk, and leave me to the lonely life  in
which you found me.' It was only the day before our wedding that she  said
those very words to me. I told her that I was content to take her  on  her
own terms, and I have been as good as my word.
    "Well we have been married now for a year, and  very  happy  we  have
been. But about a month ago, at the end of June, I saw for the first  time
signs of trouble. One day my wife received a letter from  America.  I  saw
the American stamp. She turned deadly white, read the letter, and threw it
into the fire. She made no allusion to it afterwards, and I made none, for
a promise is a promise, but she has never known an  easy  hour  from  that
moment. There is always a look of fear upon her face - a look  as  if  she
were waiting and expecting. She would do better to  trust  me.  She  would
find that I was her best friend. But until she speaks, I can say  nothing.
Mind you, she is a truthful woman, Mr. Holmes, and whatever trouble  there
may have been in her past life it has been no fault of hers. I am  only  a
simple Norfolk squire, but there is not a man in  England  who  ranks  his
family honour more highly than I do. She knows it well, and  she  knew  it
well before she married me. She would never bring any stain upon it  -  of
that I am sure.
    "Well, now I come to the queer part of my story. About a week  ago  -
it was the Tuesday of last week - I found on one  of  the  window-sills  a
number of absurd little dancing figures like these upon  the  paper.  They
were scrawled with chalk. I thought that it was  the  stable-boy  who  had
drawn them, but the lad swore he knew nothing about it. Anyhow,  they  had
come there during the night. I had them washed out, and I  only  mentioned
the matter to my wife  afterwards.  To  my  surprise,  she  took  it  very
seriously, and begged me if any more came to let her see  them.  None  did
come for a week, and then yesterday morning I found this  paper  lying  on
the sundial in the garden. I showed it to Elsie, and down she dropped in a
dead faint. Since then she has looked like a woman in a dream, half dazed,
and with terror always lurking in her eyes. It was then that I  wrote  and
sent the paper to you, Mr. Holmes. It was not a thing that I could take to
the police, for they would have laughed at me, but you will tell  me  what
to do. I am not a rich man, but if there  is  any  danger  threatening  my
little woman, I would spend my last copper to shield her."
    He was a fine creature, this man of the old English  soil  -  simple,
straight, and gentle, with his great, earnest blue eyes and broad,  comely
face. His love for his wife and his trust in her shone  in  his  features.
Holmes had listened to his story with the utmost attention, and now he sat
for some time in silent thought.
    "Don't you think, Mr. Cubitt," said he, at last, "that your best plan
would be to make a direct appeal to your wife, and to ask her to share her
secret with you?"
    Hilton Cubitt shook his massive head.
    "A promise is a promise, Mr. Holmes. If Elsie wished to tell  me  she
would. If not, it is not  for  me  to  force  her  confidence.  But  I  am
justified in taking my own line - and I will."
    "Then I will help you with all my heart. In the first place, have you
heard of any strangers being seen in your neighbourhood?"
    "No."
    "I presume that it is a very quiet place. Any fresh face would  cause
comment?"
    "In the immediate neighbourhood,  yes.  But  we  have  several  small
watering-places not very far away. And the farmers take in lodgers."
    "These hieroglyphics have evidently a meaning.  If  it  is  a  purely
arbitrary one, it may be impossible for us to solve it. If, on  the  other
hand, it is systematic, I have no doubt that we shall get to the bottom of
it. But this particular sample is so short that I can do nothing, and  the
facts which you have brought me are so indefinite that we  have  no  basis
for an investigation. I would suggest that you return to Norfolk, that you
keep a keen lookout, and that you take an exact copy of any fresh  dancing
men which may appear.  It  is  a  thousand  pities  that  we  have  not  a
reproduction of those which were done in chalk upon the window-sill.  Make
a discreet inquiry also as to any strangers in the neighbourhood. When you
have collected some fresh evidence, come to me again.  That  is  the  best
advice which I can give you, Mr. Hilton Cubitt. If there are any  pressing
fresh developments, I shall be always ready to run down  and  see  you  in
your Norfolk home."
    The interview left Sherlock Holmes very thoughtful, and several times
in the next few days I saw him take his slip of paper  from  his  notebook
and look long and earnestly at the curious figures inscribed upon  it.  He
made no allusion to the affair, however, until one afternoon  a  fortnight
or so later. I was going out when he called me back.
    "You had better stay here, Watson."
    "Why?"
    "Because I had a wire from Hilton Cubitt this morning.  You  remember
Hilton Cubitt, of the dancing men? He was to  reach  Liverpool  Street  at
one-twenty. He may be here at any moment. I  gather  from  his  wire  that
there have been some new incidents of importance."
    We had not long to wait, for our Norfolk squire  came  straight  from
the station as fast as a hansom could bring him. He  was  looking  worried
and depressed, with tired eyes and a lined forehead.
    "It's getting on my nerves, this business, Mr. Holmes," said  he,  as
he sank, like a wearied man, into an armchair. "It's bad  enough  to  feel
that you are surrounded by unseen, unknown folk, who  have  some  kind  of
design upon you, but when, in addition to that, you know that it  is  just
killing your wife by inches, then it becomes as much as  flesh  and  blood
can endure. She's wearing away under it -  just  wearing  away  before  my
eyes."
    "Has she said anything yet?"
    "No, Mr. Holmes, she has not. And yet there have been times when  the
poor girl has wanted to speak, and yet could not quite  bring  herself  to
take the plunge. I have tried  to  help  her,  but  I  daresay  I  did  it
clumsily, and scared her from it. She has spoken about my old family,  and
our reputation in the county, and our pride in our unsullied honour, and I
always felt it was leading to the point, but somehow it turned off  before
we got there."
    "But you have found out something for yourself?"
    "A good deal, Mr. Holmes. I have several fresh  dancing-men  pictures
for you to examine, and, what is more important, I have seen the fellow."
    "What, the man who draws them?"
    "Yes, I saw him at his work. But I will tell you everything in order.
When I got back after my visit to you, the very first  thing  I  saw  next
morning was a fresh crop of dancing men. They had been drawn in chalk upon
the black wooden door of the tool-house, which stands beside the  lawn  in
full view of the front windows. I took an exact copy, and here it is."  He
unfolded a paper and laid it upon  the  table.  Here  is  a  copy  of  the
hieroglyphics:

                                GRAPHIC

    "Excellent!" said Holmes. "Excellent! Pray continue."
    "When I had taken the copy, I rubbed out the marks, but, two mornings
later, a fresh inscription had appeared. I have a copy of it here":

                                GRAPHIC

    Holmes rubbed his hands and chuckled with delight.
    "Our material is rapidly accumulating," said he.
    "Three days later a message was left scrawled upon paper, and  placed
under a pebble upon the sundial. Here it is. The characters  are,  as  you
see, exactly the same as the last one. After that I determined to  lie  in
wait, so I got out my revolver and I sat up in my study,  which  overlooks
the lawn and garden. About two in the morning I was seated by the  window,
all being dark save for the moonlight outside, when I heard  steps  behind
me, and there was my wife in her dressing-gown. She implored me to come to
bed. I told her frankly that I wished to see who it was  who  played  such
absurd tricks upon us. She answered that it was some  senseless  practical
joke, and that I should not take any notice of it.
    "`If it really annoys you, Hilton, we might go and travel, you and I,
and so avoid this nuisance.'
    "`What, be driven out of our own house by a practical joker?' said I.
`Why, we should have the whole county laughing at us.'
    "`Well, come to bed,' said  she,  `and  we  can  discuss  it  in  the
morning.'
    "Suddenly, as she spoke, I saw her white face grow whiter yet in  the
moonlight, and her hand tightened upon my shoulder. Something  was  moving
in the shadow of the tool-house. I  saw  a  dark,  creeping  figure  which
crawled round the corner and squatted in front of  the  door.  Seizing  my
pistol, I was rushing out, when my wife threw her arms round me  and  held
me with convulsive strength. I tried to throw her off, but she clung to me
most desperately. At last I got clear, but by the time I  had  opened  the
door and reached the house the creature was gone. He had left a  trace  of
his presence, however, for there on the door was the very same arrangement
of dancing men which had already twice appeared, and which I  have  copied
on that paper. There was no other sign of the fellow  anywhere,  though  I
ran all over the grounds. And yet the amazing thing is that he  must  have
been there all the time, for  when  I  examined  the  door  again  in  the
morning, he had scrawled some more of his pictures under the line which  I
had already seen."
    "Have you that fresh drawing?"
    "Yes, it is very short, but I made a copy of it, and here it is."
    Again he produced a paper. The new dance was in this form:

                                GRAPHIC

    "Tell me," said Holmes - and I could see by his eyes that he was much
excited - "was this a mere addition to the first or did it  appear  to  be
entirely separate?"
    "It was on a different panel of the door."
    "Excellent! This is far the most important of all for our purpose. It
fills me with hopes. Now, Mr. Hilton Cubitt,  please  continue  your  most
interesting statement."
    "I have nothing more to say, Mr. Holmes, except that I was angry with
my wife that night for having held me back when I might  have  caught  the
skulking rascal. She said that she feared that I might come to  harm.  For
an instant it had crossed my mind that perhaps what she really feared  was
that HE might come to harm, for I could not doubt that she knew  who  this
man was, and what he meant by these strange signals. But there is  a  tone
in my wife's voice, Mr. Holmes, and a look in her eyes which forbid doubt,
and I am sure that it was indeed my own  safety  that  was  in  her  mind.
There's the whole case, and now I want your advice as to what I  ought  to
do. My own inclination is to put half a dozen  of  my  farm  lads  in  the
shrubbery, and when this fellow comes again to give him such a hiding that
he will leave us in peace for the future."
    "I fear it is too deep a case for such simple remedies," said Holmes.
"How long can you stay in London?"
    "I must go back to-day. I would not leave my wife alone all night for
anything. She is very nervous, and begged me to come back."
    "I daresay you are right. But if you  could  have  stopped,  I  might
possibly have been able to return with you in a day or two. Meanwhile  you
will leave me these papers, and I think that it  is  very  likely  that  I
shall be able to pay you a visit shortly and to throw some light upon your
case."
    Sherlock Holmes preserved his  calm  professional  manner  until  our
visitor had left us, although it was easy for me, who knew him so well, to
see that he was profoundly excited. The moment that Hilton Cubitt's  broad
back had disappeared through the door my comrade rushed to the table, laid
out all the slips of paper containing dancing men in  front  of  him,  and
threw himself into an intricate and elaborate calculation. For two hours I
watched him as he covered sheet after sheet  of  paper  with  figures  and
letters, so  completely  absorbed  in  his  task  that  he  had  evidently
forgotten my presence. Sometimes he was making progress and  whistled  and
sang at his work; sometimes he was puzzled, and would sit for long  spells
with a furrowed brow and a vacant eye. Finally he sprang  from  his  chair
with a cry of satisfaction, and walked up and down the  room  rubbing  his
hands together. Then he wrote a long telegram upon a cable  form.  "If  my
answer to this is as I hope, you will have a very pretty case  to  add  to
your collection, Watson," said he. "I expect that we shall be able  to  go
down to Norfolk tomorrow, and to take our friend some very  definite  news
as to the secret of his annoyance."
    I confess that I was filled with curiosity,  but  I  was  aware  that
Holmes liked to make his disclosures at his own time and in his  own  way,
so I waited until it should suit him to take me into his confidence.
    But there was a delay in that answering telegram,  and  two  days  of
impatience followed, during which Holmes pricked up his ears at every ring
of the bell. On the evening of the second there came a letter from  Hilton
Cubitt. All was quiet with him, save that a long inscription had  appeared
that morning upon the pedestal of the sundial. He inclosed a copy  of  it,
which is here reproduced:

                                GRAPHIC

    Holmes bent over this grotesque frieze for  some  minutes,  and  then
suddenly sprang to his feet with an exclamation of  surprise  and  dismay.
His face was haggard with anxiety.
    "We have let this affair go far enough," said he. "Is there  a  train
to North Walsham to-night?"
    I turned up the time-table. The last had just gone.
    "Then we shall breakfast  early  and  take  the  very  first  in  the
morning," said Holmes. "Our presence is most urgently needed. Ah! here  is
our expected cablegram. One moment, Mrs. Hudson, there may be  an  answer.
No, that is quite as I expected. This message makes it even more essential
that we should not lose an hour in letting Hilton Cubitt know how  matters
stand, for it is a singular and  a  dangerous  web  in  which  our  simple
Norfolk squire is entangled."
    So, indeed, it proved, and as I come to  the  dark  conclusion  of  a
story which had seemed to me to be only childish and bizarre, I experience
once again the dismay and horror with which I was filled. Would that I had
some brighter ending to communicate to  my  readers,  but  these  are  the
chronicles of fact, and I must follow to their  dark  crisis  the  strange
chain of events which for some days made Riding Thorpe Manor  a  household
word through the length and breadth of England.
    We had hardly alighted at North Walsham, and mentioned  the  name  of
our destination, when the station-master hurried towards  us.  "I  suppose
that you are the detectives from London?" said he.
    A look of annoyance passed over Holmes's face.
    "What makes you think such a thing?"
    "Because Inspector Martin from Norwich has just passed  through.  But
maybe you are the surgeons. She's not dead - or wasn't by  last  accounts.
You may be in time to save her yet - though it be for the gallows."
    Holmes's brow was dark with anxiety.
    "We are going to Riding Thorpe Manor," said he, "but  we  have  heard
nothing of what has passed there."
    "It's a terrible business," said the stationmaster. "They  are  shot,
both Mr. Hilton Cubitt and his wife. She shot him and then  herself  -  so
the servants say. He's dead and her life is despaired of. Dear, dear,  one
of the oldest families in the county of  Norfolk,  and  one  of  the  most
honoured."
    Without a word Holmes hurried to a  carriage,  and  during  the  long
seven miles' drive he never opened his mouth. Seldom have I  seen  him  so
utterly despondent. He had been uneasy during all our journey  from  town,
and I had observed that he had turned over the morning papers with anxious
attention, but now this sudden realization of his worst fears left him  in
a  blank  melancholy.  He  leaned  back  in  his  seat,  lost  in   gloomy
speculation. Yet there was much around to interest us, for we were passing
through as singular a countryside as any in England, where a few scattered
cottages represented  the  population  of  to-day,  while  on  every  hand
enormous square-towered churches bristled up from the flat green landscape
and told of the glory and prosperity of  old  East  Anglia.  At  last  the
violet rim of the German Ocean appeared over the green edge of the Norfolk
coast, and the driver pointed with his whip to two old  brick  and  timber
gables which projected from a grove of trees. "That's Riding Thorpe Manor,"
said he.
    As we drove up to the porticoed front door, I observed  in  front  of
it, beside the tennis lawn,  the  black  tool-house  and  the  pedestalled
sundial with which we had such strange associations. A dapper little  man,
with a quick, alert manner and a waxed moustache, had just descended  from
a high dog-cart. He introduced himself as Inspector Martin, of the Norfolk
Constabulary, and he was considerably astonished when he heard the name of
my companion.
    "Why, Mr. Holmes, the crime was only committed at three this morning.
How could you hear of it in London and get to the spot as soon as I?"
    "I anticipated it. I came in the hope of preventing it."
    "Then you must have important evidence, of which we are ignorant, for
they were said to be a most united couple."
    "I have only the evidence of the dancing men," said Holmes.  "I  will
explain the matter to you later.  Meanwhile,  since  it  is  too  late  to
prevent this tragedy, I am very anxious that I should  use  the  knowledge
which I possess in  order  to  insure  that  justice  be  done.  Will  you
associate me in your investigation, or will you prefer that I  should  act
independently?"
    "I should be proud to feel that we were acting together, Mr. Holmes,"
said the inspector, earnestly.
    "In that case I should be glad to hear the evidence  and  to  examine
the premises without an instant of unnecessary delay."
    Inspector Martin had the good sense to allow my friend to  do  things
in his own fashion,  and  contented  himself  with  carefully  noting  the
results. The local surgeon, an old, white-haired man, had just  come  down
from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt's room, and he reported  that  her  injuries  were
serious, but not necessarily fatal. The  bullet  had  passed  through  the
front of her brain, and it would probably be some time  before  she  could
regain consciousness. On the question of whether she had been shot or  had
shot herself, he  would  not  venture  to  express  any  decided  opinion.
Certainly the bullet had been discharged at very close quarters. There was
only the one pistol found in the room,  two  barrels  of  which  had  been
emptied. Mr. Hilton Cubitt had been shot through the heart. It was equally
conceivable that he had shot her and then himself, or that  she  had  been
the criminal, for the revolver lay upon the floor midway between them.
    "Has he been moved?" asked Holmes.
    "We have moved nothing except the lady. We could not leave her  lying
wounded upon the floor."
    "How long have you been here, Doctor?"
    "Since four o'clock."
    "Anyone else?"
    "Yes, the constable here."
    "And you have touched nothing?"
    "Nothing."
    "You have acted with great discretion. Who sent for you?"
    "The housemaid, Saunders."
    "Was it she who gave the alarm?"
    "She and Mrs. King, the cook."
    "Where are they now?"
    "In the kitchen, I believe."
    "Then I think we had better hear their story at once."
    The old hall, oak-panelled and high-windowed, had been turned into  a
court of investigation. Holmes sat in a great,  old-fashioned  chair,  his
inexorable eyes gleaming out of his haggard face. I could read in  them  a
set purpose to devote his life to this quest until the client whom he  had
failed to save should at last be avenged. The trim Inspector  Martin,  the
old, gray-headed country doctor, myself, and a  stolid  village  policeman
made up the rest of that strange company.
    The two women told their story clearly enough. They had been  aroused
from their sleep by the sound of an explosion, which had been  followed  a
minute later by a second one. They slept in adjoining rooms, and Mrs. King
had rushed in to Saunders. Together they had  descended  the  stairs.  The
door of the study was open, and a candle was burning upon the table. Their
master lay upon his face in the centre of the room.  He  was  quite  dead.
Near the window his wife was crouching, her head leaning against the wall.
She was horribly wounded, and the side of her face was red with blood. She
breathed heavily, but was incapable of saying anything.  The  passage,  as
well as the room, was full of smoke and the smell of  powder.  The  window
was certainly shut and fastened upon the inside. Both women were  positive
upon the point. They  had  at  once  sent  for  the  doctor  and  for  the
constable. Then, with the aid of the groom and the  stable-boy,  they  had
conveyed their injured mistress to her room. Both she and her husband  had
occupied the bed. She was clad in her dress -  he  in  his  dressing-gown,
over his night-clothes. Nothing had been moved in the  study.  So  far  as
they knew, there had never been any quarrel between husband and wife. They
had always looked upon them as a very united couple.
    These were the main points of the servants' evidence.  In  answer  to
Inspector Martin, they were clear that every door was  fastened  upon  the
inside, and that no one could have escaped from the house.  In  answer  to
Holmes, they both remembered that they were  conscious  of  the  smell  of
powder from the moment that they ran out  of  their  rooms  upon  the  top
floor. "I commend that fact very carefully to your attention," said Holmes
to his professional colleague. "And now I think that we are in a  position
to undertake a thorough examination of the room."
    The study proved to be a small chamber, lined  on  three  sides  with
books, and with a writing-table facing an ordinary  window,  which  looked
out upon the garden. Our first attention was given  to  the  body  of  the
unfortunate squire, whose huge frame lay stretched across  the  room.  His
disordered dress showed that he had been hastily aroused from  sleep.  The
bullet had been fired at him from the front, and had remained in his body,
after penetrating the heart. His death had  certainly  been  instantaneous
and painless. There was no powder-marking either upon his dressing-gown or
on his hands. According to the country surgeon, the lady had  stains  upon
her face, but none upon her hand.
    "The absence of the latter means nothing,  though  its  presence  may
mean everything," said Holmes. "Unless the powder  from  a  badly  fitting
cartridge happens to spurt backward,  one  may  fire  many  shots  without
leaving a sign. I would suggest that Mr. Cubitt's body may now be removed.
I suppose, Doctor, you have not recovered the  bullet  which  wounded  the
lady?"
    "A serious operation will be necessary before that can be  done.  But
there are still four cartridges in the revolver. Two have been  fired  and
two wounds inflicted, so that each bullet can be accounted for."
    "So it would seem," said Holmes. "Perhaps you can  account  also  for
the bullet which has so obviously struck the edge of the window?"
    He had turned suddenly, and his long, thin finger was pointing  to  a
hole which had been drilled right through the lower window-sash, about  an
inch above the bottom.
    "By George!" cried the inspector. "How ever did you see that?"
    "Because I looked for it."
    "Wonderful!" said the country doctor. "You are certainly right,  sir.
Then a third shot has been fired, and therefore a third person  must  have
been present. But who could that have been, and  how  could  he  have  got
away?"
    "That is the problem which we are now about to solve," said  Sherlock
Holmes. "You remember, Inspector Martin, when the servants  said  that  on
leaving their room they were at once conscious of a  smell  of  powder,  I
remarked that the point was an extremely important one?"
    "Yes, sir; but I confess I did not quite follow you."
    "It suggested that at the time of the firing, the window as  well  as
the door of the room had been open. Otherwise the fumes  of  powder  could
not have been blown so rapidly through the house. A draught  in  the  room
was necessary for that. Both door and window were only  open  for  a  very
short time, however."
    "How do you prove that?"
    "Because the candle was not guttered."
    "Capital!" cried the inspector. "Capital!
    "Feeling sure that the window had  been  open  at  the  time  of  the
tragedy, I conceived that there might have been  a  third  person  in  the
affair, who stood outside this opening and  fired  through  it.  Any  shot
directed at this person might hit the sash.  I  looked,  and  there,  sure
enough, was the bullet mark!"
    "But how came the window to be shut and fastened?"
    "The woman's first instinct would be to shut and fasten  the  window.
But, halloa! What is this?"
    It was a lady's hand-bag which stood upon the study table  -  a  trim
little handbag of crocodile-skin and silver. Holmes opened it  and  turned
the contents out. There were twenty  fifty-pound  notes  of  the  Bank  of
England, held together by an india-rubber band - nothing else.
    "This must be preserved, for  it  will  figure  in  the  trial"  said
Holmes, as he handed the bag with its contents to the  inspector.  "It  is
now necessary that we should try to  throw  some  light  upon  this  third
bullet, which has clearly, from the splintering of the  wood,  been  fired
from inside the room. I should like to see Mrs. King, the cook, again. You
said, Mrs. King, that you were awakened by a LOUD explosion. When you said
that, did you mean that it seemed to you to be louder than the second one?"
    "Well, sir, it wakened me from my sleep, so it is hard to judge.  But
it did seem very loud."
    "You don't think that it might have been two shots  fired  almost  at
the same instant?"
    "I am sure I couldn't say, sir."
    "I believe that it was undoubtedly  so.  I  rather  think,  Inspector
Martin, that we have now exhausted all that this room can teach us. If you
will kindly step round with me, we  shall  see  what  fresh  evidence  the
garden has to offer."
    A flower-bed extended up to the study window, and we all  broke  into
an exclamation as we approached it. The flowers were  trampled  down,  and
the soft soil was imprinted all over with footmarks. Large, masculine feet
they were, with peculiarly long, sharp toes. Holmes hunted about among the
grass and leaves like a retriever after a wounded bird. Then, with  a  cry
of satisfaction, he bent forward and picked up a little brazen cylinder.
    "I thought so," said he, "the revolver had an ejector,  and  here  is
the third cartridge. I really think, Inspector Martin, that  our  case  is
almost complete."
    The country inspector's face had shown his intense amazement  at  the
rapid and masterful progress of Holmes's investigation. At  first  he  had
shown some disposition to assert his own position, but now he was overcome
with admiration, and ready to follow without question wherever Holmes led.
    "Whom do you suspect?" he asked.
    "I'll go into that later. There are several points  in  this  problem
which I have not been able to explain to you yet. Now that I have  got  so
far, I had best proceed on my own lines, and then clear the  whole  matter
up once and for all."
    "Just as you wish, Mr. Holmes, so long as we get our man."
    "I have no desire to make mysteries, but  it  is  impossible  at  the
moment of action to enter into long and complex explanations. I  have  the
threads of this affair all in my hand. Even  if  this  lady  should  never
recover consciousness, we can still reconstruct the events of  last  night
and insure that justice be done. First of all,  I  wish  to  know  whether
there is any inn in this neighbourhood known as `Elrige's'?"
    The servants were cross-questioned, but none of  them  had  heard  of
such a place. The stable-boy threw a light upon the matter by  remembering
that a farmer of that name lived some miles off, in the direction of  East
Ruston.
    "Is it a lonely farm?"
    "Very lonely, sir."
    "Perhaps they have not heard yet of all that happened here during the
night?"
    "Maybe not, sir."
    Holmes thought for a little, and then a curious smile played over his
face.
    "Saddle a horse, my lad," said he. "I shall wish you to take  a  note
to Elrige's Farm."
    He took from his pocket the various slips of the  dancing  men.  With
these in front of him, he worked for some time at the study-table. Finally
he handed a note to the boy, with directions to put it into the  hands  of
the person to whom it was addressed, and especially to answer no questions
of any sort which might be put to him. I saw  the  outside  of  the  note,
addressed in straggling, irregular characters, very unlike Holmes's  usual
precise hand. It was consigned to  Mr.  Abe  Slaney,  Elriges  Farm,  East
Ruston, Norfolk.
    "I think, Inspector," Holmes remarked, "that you  would  do  well  to
telegraph for an escort, as, if my calculations prove to be  correct,  you
may have a particularly dangerous prisoner to convey to the  county  jail.
The boy who takes this note could no doubt forward your telegram. If there
is an afternoon train to town, Watson, I think we should do well  to  take
it, as I have a chemical analysis of some interest  to  finish,  and  this
investigation draws rapidly to a close."
    When the youth had been dispatched with  the  note,  Sherlock  Holmes
gave his instructions to the servants. If any visitor were to call  asking
for Mrs.  Hilton  Cubitt,  no  information  should  be  given  as  to  her
condition, but he was to be  shown  at  once  into  the  drawing-room.  He
impressed these points upon them with the utmost earnestness.  Finally  he
led the way into the drawing-room, with the remark that the  business  was
now out of our hands, and that we must while away  the  time  as  best  we
might until we could see what was in store for us. The doctor had departed
to his patients, and only the inspector and myself remained.
    "I think that I can help you to pass an hour in  an  interesting  and
profitable manner," said Holmes, drawing his chair up to  the  table,  and
spreading out in front of him the various papers upon which were  recorded
the antics of the dancing men. "As to you, friend Watson, I owe you  every
atonement for having allowed your natural  curiosity  to  remain  so  long
unsatisfied. To you,  Inspector,  the  whole  incident  may  appeal  as  a
remarkable professional  study.  I  must  tell  you,  first  of  all,  the
interesting circumstances connected with the previous consultations  which
Mr. Hilton Cubitt has had with  me  in  Baker  Street."  He  then  shortly
recapitulated the facts which have already been recorded. "I have here  in
front of me these singular productions, at which one might smile, had they
not proved themselves to be the forerunners of so terrible a tragedy. I am
fairly familiar with all forms of  secret  writings,  and  am  myself  the
author of a trifling monograph upon the subject, in which  I  analyze  one
hundred and sixty separate ciphers, but I confess that  this  is  entirely
new to me. The object of those who invented the system has apparently been
to conceal that these characters convey a message, and to  give  the  idea
that they are the mere random sketches of children.
    "Having once recognized, however, that the symbols stood for letters,
and having applied the rules  which  guide  us  in  all  forms  of  secret
writings, the solution was easy enough. The first message submitted to  me
was so short that it was impossible for me to do more than  to  say,  with
some confidence, that the symbol XXX stood for E. As you are aware,  E  is
the most common letter in the English alphabet, and it predominates to  so
marked an extent that even in a short sentence one would expect to find it
most often. Out of fifteen symbols in the first  message,  four  were  the
same, so it was reasonable to set this down as E. It is true that in  some
cases the figure was bearing a flag, and in some cases  not,  but  it  was
probable, from the way in which the flags were distributed, that they were
used to break the sentence up into words. I accepted this as a hypothesis,
and noted that E was represented by XXX.
    "But now came the real difficulty of the inquiry. The  order  of  the
English letters after E is by no means well marked, and any  preponderance
which may be shown in an average of a printed sheet may be reversed  in  a
single short sentence. Speaking roughly, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, and  L
are the numerical order in which letters occur, but T, A,  O,  and  I  are
very nearly abreast of each other, and it would be an endless task to  try
each combination until a meaning was arrived at. I  therefore  waited  for
fresh material. In my second interview with Mr. Hilton Cubitt he was  able
to give me two other short sentences and one  message,  which  appeared  -
since there was no flag - to be a single word. Here are the symbols.  Now,
in the single word I have already got the two E's coming second and fourth
in a word of five letters. It might be `sever,' or  `lever,'  or  `never.'
There can be no question that the latter as a reply to an  appeal  is  far
the most probable, and the circumstances pointed  to  its  being  a  reply
written by the lady. Accepting it as correct, we are now able to say  that
the symbols stand respectively for N, V, and R.
    "Even now I was in considerable difficulty, but a happy  thought  put
me in possession of several other letters. It occurred to me that if these
appeals came, as I expected, from someone who had been intimate  with  the
lady in her early life, a combination which contained two E's  with  three
letters between might very well stand for the name `ELSIE.' On examination
I found that such a combination formed  the  termination  of  the  message
which was three times repeated. It was certainly some appeal  to  `Elsie.'
In this way I had got my L, S, and I. But what appeal could it  be?  There
were only four letters in the word which preceded `Elsie,' and it ended in
E. Surely the word must be `COME.' I tried all other four  letters  ending
in E, but could find none to fit the case. So now I was in  possession  of
C, O, and M, and I was in a position to  attack  the  first  message  once
more, dividing it into words and putting dots for each  symbol  which  was
still unknown. So treated, it worked out in this fashion:

                          .M .ERE ..E SL.NE.

    "Now the first  letter  CAN  only  be  A,  which  is  a  most  useful
discovery, since it occurs  no  fewer  than  three  times  in  this  short
sentence, and the H is also apparent in the second word. Now it becomes:

                          AM HERE A.E SLANE.

    Or, filling in the obvious vacancies in the name:

                          AM HERE ABE SLANEY.

    I had so many letters now that  I  could  proceed  with  considerable
confidence to the second message, which worked out in this fashion:

                             A. ELRI. ES.

    Here I could only make sense by putting  T  and  G  for  the  missing
letters, and supposing that the name was that of  some  house  or  inn  at
which the writer was staying."
    Inspector Martin and I had listened with the utmost interest  to  the
full and clear account of how my friend had produced results which had led
to so complete a command over our difficulties.
    "What did you do then, sir?" asked the inspector.
    "I had every reason to suppose that this Abe Slaney was an  American,
since Abe is an American contraction, and since a letter from America  had
been the starting-point of all the trouble. I  had  also  every  cause  to
think that there was some  criminal  secret  in  the  matter.  The  lady's
allusions to her past, and her  refusal  to  take  her  husband  into  her
confidence, both pointed in that  direction.  I  therefore  cabled  to  my
friend, Wilson Hargreave, of the New York Police Bureau, who has more than
once made use of my knowledge of London crime. I  asked  him  whether  the
name of Abe Slaney was  known  to  him.  Here  is  his  reply:  `The  most
dangerous crook in Chicago.' On the very evening  upon  which  I  had  his
answer, Hilton Cubitt sent me the last message from Slaney.  Working  with
known letters, it took this form:

                     ELSIE .RE.ARE TO MEET THY GO.

    The addition of a P and a D completed a message which showed me  that
the rascal was proceeding from persuasion to threats, and my knowledge  of
the crooks of Chicago prepared me to find that he might very  rapidly  put
his words into action. I at once  came  to  Norfolk  with  my  friend  and
colleague, Dr. Watson, but, unhappily, only in time to find that the worst
had already occurred."
    "It is a privilege to be associated with you in  the  handling  of  a
case," said the inspector, warmly. "You will  excuse  me,  however,  if  I
speak frankly to you. You are only answerable to yourself, but I  have  to
answer to my superiors. If this Abe Slaney, living at Elrige's, is  indeed
the murderer, and if he has made his escape while  I  am  seated  here,  I
should certainly get into serious trouble."
    "You need not be uneasy. He will not try to escape."
    "How do you know?"
    "To fly would be a confession of guilt."
    "Then let us go arrest him."
    "I expect him here every instant."
    "But why should he come."
    "Because I have written and asked him."
    "But this is incredible, Mr. Holmes! Why should he come  because  you
have asked him? Would not such a request rather rouse his  suspicions  and
cause him to fly?"
    "I think I have known how to frame the letter," said Sherlock Holmes.
"In fact, if I am not very much mistaken, here is  the  gentleman  himself
coming up the drive."
    A man was striding up the path which led to the door. He was a  tall,
handsome, swarthy fellow, clad in a suit of gray flannel,  with  a  Panama
hat, a bristling black beard, and a great,  aggressive  hooked  nose,  and
flourishing a cane as he walked. He swaggered up a path as if  as  if  the
place belonged to him, and we heard his loud, confident peal at the bell.
    "I think, gentlemen," said Holmes, quietly, "that we had best take up
our position behind the door. Every precaution is necessary  when  dealing
with such a fellow. You will need your handcuffs, Inspector. You can leave
the talking to me."
    We waited in silence for a minute - one of those  minutes  which  one
can never forget. Then the door opened and  the  man  stepped  in.  In  an
instant Holmes clapped a pistol  to  his  head,  and  Martin  slipped  the
handcuffs over his wrists. It was all done so swiftly and deftly that  the
fellow was helpless before he knew that he was attacked.  He  glared  from
one to the other of us with a pair of blazing black eyes.  Then  he  burst
into a bitter laugh.
    "Well, gentlemen, you have the drop on me this time. I seem  to  have
knocked up against something hard. But I came here in answer to  a  letter
from Mrs. Hilton Cubitt. Don't tell me that she is in this? Don't tell  me
that she helped to set a trap for me?"
    "Mrs. Hilton Cubitt was seriously injured, and is at death's door."
    The man gave a hoarse cry of grief, which rang through the house.
    "You're crazy!" he cried, fiercely. "It was he  that  was  hurt,  not
she. Who would have hurt little Elsie? I may have  threatened  her  -  God
forgive me! - but I would not have touched a hair of her pretty head. Take
it back - you! Say that she is not hurt!"
    "She was found badly wounded, by the side of her dead husband."
    He sank with a deep groan on the settee and buried his  face  in  his
manacled hands. For five minutes he was silent. Then he  raised  his  face
once more, and spoke with the cold composure of despair.
    "I have nothing to hide from you, gentlemen," said he. "If I shot the
man he had his shot at me, and there's no murder in that. But if you think
I could have hurt that woman, then you don't know either me or her. I tell
you, there was never a man in this world loved a woman more than  I  loved
her. I had a right to her. She was pledged to me years ago. Who  was  this
Englishman that he should come between us? I tell you that I had the first
right to her, and that I was only claiming my own.
    "She broke away from your influence when she found the man  that  you
are," said Holmes, sternly. "She fled from America to avoid you,  and  she
married an honourable gentleman in England. You dogged  her  and  followed
her and made her life a misery to her, in order to induce her  to  abandon
the husband whom she loved and respected in order to fly  with  you,  whom
she feared and hated. You have ended by bringing  about  the  death  of  a
noble man and driving his wife to suicide. That is  your  record  in  this
business, Mr. Abe Slaney, and you will answer for it to the law."
    "If Elsie dies,  I  care  nothing  what  becomes  of  me,"  said  the
American. He opened one of his hands, and looked at a note crumpled up  in
his palm. "See here, mister! he cried, with a gleam of  suspicion  in  his
eyes, "you're not trying to scare me over this, are you? If  the  lady  is
hurt as bad as you say, who was it that wrote this  note?"  He  tossed  it
forward on to the table.
    "I wrote it, to bring you here."
    "You wrote it? There was no one on earth outside the Joint  who  knew
the secret of the dancing men. How came you to write it?"
    "What one man can invent another can discover," said Holmes. There is
a cab coming to convey you to Norwich, Mr. Slaney. But meanwhile, you have
time to make some small reparation for the injury you  have  wrought.  Are
you aware that Mrs. Hilton Cubitt has herself lain under  grave  suspicion
of the murder of her husband, and that it was only my presence  here,  and
the knowledge which I happened to possess, which has saved  her  from  the
accusation? The least that you owe her is to make it clear  to  the  whole
world that she was in no way, directly or indirectly, responsible for  his
tragic end."
    "I ask nothing better," said the American. "I  guess  the  very  best
case I can make for myself is the absolute naked truth."
    "It is my duty to warn you that it will be used against  you,"  cried
the inspector, with the magnificent fair play of the British criminal law.
    Slaney shrugged his shoulders.
    "I'll chance that," said he. "First of all, I want you  gentlemen  to
understand that I have known this lady since she was a child.  There  were
seven of us in a gang in Chicago, and Elsie's father was the boss  of  the
Joint. He was a clever man, was old Patrick. It was he who  invented  that
writing, which would pass as a child's scrawl unless you just happened  to
have the key to it. Well, Elsie learned some of our ways, but she couldn't
stand the business, and she had a bit of honest money of her own,  so  she
gave us all the slip and got away to London. She had been engaged  to  me,
and she would have married me, I believe, if  I  had  taken  over  another
profession, but she would have nothing to do with anything on  the  cross.
It was only after her marriage to this Englishman that I was able to  find
out where she was. I wrote to her, but got no answer. After  that  I  came
over, and, as letters were no use, I put my messages where she could  read
them.
    "Well, I have been here a month now. I lived in that  farm,  where  I
had a room down below, and could get in and out every night,  and  no  one
the wiser. I tried all I could to coax Elsie away. I knew  that  she  read
the messages, for once she wrote an answer under  one  of  them.  Then  my
temper got the better of me, and I began to threaten her. She  sent  me  a
letter then, imploring me to go away, and saying that it would  break  her
heart if any scandal should come upon her husband. She said that she would
come down when her husband was asleep at three in the morning,  and  speak
with me through the end window, if I would go away  afterwards  and  leave
her in peace. She came down and brought money with her, trying to bribe me
to go. This made me mad, and I caught  her  arm  and  tried  to  pull  her
through the window. At that moment in rushed the husband with his revolver
in his hand. Elsie had sunk down upon the floor, and we were face to face.
I was heeled also, and I held up my gun to scare him off and  let  me  get
away. He fired and missed me. I pulled off almost at the same instant, and
down he dropped. I made away across the garden, and as I went I heard  the
window shut behind me. That's God's truth, gentlemen, every  word  of  it,
and I heard no more about it until that lad came riding  up  with  a  note
which made me walk in here, like a jay, and give myself into your hands."
    A cab had driven  up  whilst  the  American  had  been  talking.  Two
uniformed policemen sat inside. Inspector  Martin  rose  and  touched  his
prisoner on the shoulder.
    "It is time for us to go."
    "Can I see her first?"
    "No, she is not conscious. Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I only hope  that  if
ever again I have an important case, I shall have the good fortune to have
you by my side."
    We stood at the window and watched the cab drive away.  As  I  turned
back, my eye caught the pellet of paper which the prisoner had tossed upon
the table. It was the note with which Holmes had decoyed him.
    "See if you can read it, Watson," said he, with a smile.
    It contained no word, but this little line of dancing men:

                                GRAPHIC

    "If you use the code which I have explained," said Holmes, "you  will
find that it simply means `Come here at once.' I was convinced that it was
an invitation which he would not refuse, since he could never imagine that
it could come from anyone but the lady. And so, my dear  Watson,  we  have
ended by turning the dancing men to good when they have so often been  the
agents of evil, and I think that I have fulfilled my promise of giving you
something unusual for your notebook. Three-forty is our train, and I fancy
we should be back in Baker Street for dinner."
    Only one word of epilogue. The American, Abe Slaney, was condemned to
death at the winter assizes at Norwich, but his  penalty  was  changed  to
penal servitude in consideration  of  mitigating  circumstances,  and  the
certainty that Hilton Cubitt had fired the  first  shot.  Of  Mrs.  Hilton
Cubitt I only know that I have heard she recovered entirely, and that  she
still remains a widow, devoting her whole life to the care of the poor and
to the administration of her husband's estate.





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                THE ADVENTURE OF THE SOLITARY CYCLIST


    From the years 1894 to 1901 inclusive, Mr. Sherlock Holmes was a very
busy man. It is safe  to  say  that  there  was  no  public  case  of  any
difficulty in which he was not consulted during  those  eight  years,  and
there were hundreds of private cases, some of them of the  most  intricate
and extraordinary character, in which he played  a  prominent  part.  Many
startling successes and a few unavoidable failures  were  the  outcome  of
this long period of continuous work. As I have preserved very  full  notes
of all these cases, and was myself personally engaged in many of them,  it
may be imagined that it is no easy task to know which I should  select  to
lay before the public. I shall, however, preserve my former rule, and give
the preference to those cases which derive their interest not so much from
the brutality of the crime as from the ingenuity and dramatic  quality  of
the solution. For this reason I will now lay before the reader  the  facts
connected with Miss Violet Smith, the solitary cyclist of Charlington, and
the curious sequel of our investigation, which  culminated  in  unexpected
tragedy. It is true that the circumstance did not admit  of  any  striking
illustration of those powers for which my friend  was  famous,  but  there
were some points about the case which made it  stand  out  in  those  long
records of crime from  which  I  gather  the  material  for  these  little
narratives.
    On referring to my notebook for the year 1895, I  find  that  it  was
upon Saturday, the 23rd of April, that  we  first  heard  of  Miss  Violet
Smith. Her visit was, I remember, extremely unwelcome to  Holmes,  for  he
was immersed at the moment in a  very  abstruse  and  complicated  problem
concerning the peculiar persecution to which John Vincent Harden, the well
known tobacco millionaire, had been subjected. My friend, who loved  above
all things precision and concentration of thought, resented anything which
distracted his attention from the matter  in  hand.  And  yet,  without  a
harshness which was foreign to his nature, it was impossible to refuse  to
listen to the story of the young and beautiful woman, tall, graceful,  and
queenly, who presented herself at Baker Street late in  the  evening,  and
implored his assistance and advice. It was vain to urge that his time  was
already fully occupied, for the young lady had come with the determination
to tell her story, and it was evident that nothing short  of  force  could
get her out of the room until she had done so. With a resigned air  and  a
somewhat weary smile, Holmes begged the beautiful intruder to take a seat,
and to inform us what it was that was troubling her.
    "At least it cannot be your health," said he, as his keen eyes darted
over her, "so ardent a bicyclist must be full of energy."
    She glanced down in surprise at her own  feet,  and  I  observed  the
slight roughening of the side of the sole caused by the  friction  of  the
edge of the pedal.
    "Yes, I bicycle a good deal, Mr. Holmes, and that has something to do
with my visit to you to-day."
    My friend took the lady's ungloved hand,  and  examined  it  with  as
close an attention and as little sentiment as a scientist would show to  a
specimen.
    "You will excuse me, I am sure. It is my business," said  he,  as  he
dropped it. "I nearly fell into the  error  of  supposing  that  you  were
typewriting. Of course, it is obvious that it is music.  You  observe  the
spatulate finger-ends, Watson, which is common to both professions?  There
is a spirituality about the face, however" - she gently turned it  towards
the light - "which the typewriter  does  not  generate.  This  lady  is  a
musician."
    "Yes, Mr. Holmes, I teach music."
    "In the country, I presume, from your complexion."
    "Yes, sir, near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey."
    "A  beautiful  neighbourhood,  and  full  of  the  most   interesting
associations. You remember, Watson, that it was near there  that  we  took
Archie Stamford, the forger. Now, Miss Violet, what has happened  to  you,
near Farnham, on the borders of Surrey?"
    The  young  lady,  with  great  clearness  and  composure,  made  the
following curious statement:
    "My father is dead, Mr. Holmes. He was James Smith, who conducted the
orchestra at the old Imperial Theatre. My mother and I were left without a
relation in the world except one uncle, Ralph Smith, who  went  to  Africa
twenty-five years ago, and we have never had a word from him  since.  When
father died, we were left very poor, but one day we were told  that  there
was an advertisement in the TIMES, inquiring for our whereabouts. You  can
imagine how excited we were, for we thought that someone  had  left  us  a
fortune. We went at once to the lawyer whose name was given in the  paper.
There we, met two gentlemen, Mr. Carruthers and Mr. Woodley, who were home
on a visit from South Africa. They said that my  uncle  was  a  friend  of
theirs,  that  he  had  died  some  months  before  in  great  poverty  in
Johannesburg, and that he had asked them with his last breath to  hunt  up
his relations, and see that they were in no want. It seemed strange to  us
that Uncle Ralph, who took no notice of us when he was alive, should be so
careful to look after us when he was dead, but  Mr.  Carruthers  explained
that the reason was that my uncle had just  heard  of  the  death  of  his
brother, and so felt responsible for our fate."
    "Excuse me," said Holmes. "When was this interview?"
    "Last December - four months ago."
    "Pray proceed."
    "Mr. Woodley seemed to me to be a most odious person. He was for ever
making eyes at me - a coarse, puffy-faced, red-moustached young man,  with
his hair plastered down on each side of his forehead. I  thought  that  he
was perfectly hateful - and I was sure that Cyril would  not  wish  me  to
know such a person."
    "Oh, Cyril is his name!" said Holmes, smiling.
    The young lady blushed and laughed.
    "Yes, Mr. Holmes, Cyril Morton, an electrical engineer, and  we  hope
to be married at the end of the summer. Dear me, how  DID  I  get  talking
about him? What I wished to say was that Mr. Woodley was perfectly odious,
but that Mr. Carruthers, who was a much older man, was more agreeable.  He
was a dark, sallow, clean-shaven, silent person, but he had polite manners
and a pleasant smile. He inquired how we were left, and on finding that we
were very poor, he suggested that I should come and  teach  music  to  his
only daughter, aged ten. I said that I did not like to leave my mother, on
which he suggested that I should go home to her  every  week-end,  and  he
offered me a hundred a year, which was certainly splendid pay. So it ended
by my accepting, and I went down to Chiltern Grange, about six miles  from
Farnham. Mr.  Carruthers  was  a  widower,  but  he  had  engaged  a  lady
housekeeper, a very respectable, elderly person,  called  Mrs.  Dixon,  to
look after his  establishment.  The  child  was  a  dear,  and  everything
promised well. Mr. Carruthers was very kind and very musical, and  we  had
most pleasant evenings together. Every week-end I went home to  my  mother
in town.
    "The first flaw in my happiness was the arrival of the red-moustached
Mr. Woodley. He came for a visit of a week, and oh! it seemed three months
to me. He was a dreadful person - a bully to  everyone  else,  but  to  me
something infinitely worse. He made odious love  to  me,  boasted  of  his
wealth, said that if I married him I could have  the  finest  diamonds  in
London, and finally, when I would have nothing to do with him,  he  seized
me in his arms one day after dinner - he was hideously strong - and  swore
that he would not let me go until I had kissed him. Mr. Carruthers came in
and tore him from me, on which he turned upon his own host,  knocking  him
down and cutting his face open. That was the end of his visit, as you  can
imagine. Mr. Carruthers apologized to me next day, and assured me  that  I
should never be exposed to such an insult  again.  I  have  not  seen  Mr.
Woodley since.
    "And now, Mr. Holmes, I come at last to the special thing  which  has
caused me to ask your advice to-day. You must  know  that  every  Saturday
forenoon I ride on my bicycle to Farnham Station,  in  order  to  get  the
12:22 to town. The road from Chiltern Grange is a lonely one, and  at  one
spot it  is  particularly  so,  for  it  lies  for  over  a  mile  between
Charlington Heath upon one side and the woods which lie round  Charlington
Hall upon the other. You could not  find  a  more  lonely  tract  of  road
anywhere, and it is quite rare to meet so much as a cart,  or  a  peasant,
until you reach the high road near Crooksbury Hill. Two weeks  ago  I  was
passing this place, when I chanced to look  back  over  my  shoulder,  and
about two hundred yards behind me I saw a  man,  also  on  a  bicycle.  He
seemed to be a middle-aged man, with a short, dark beard.  I  looked  back
before I reached Farnham, but the man was gone, so I thought no more about
it. But you can imagine how surprised I  was,  Mr.  Holmes,  when,  on  my
return on the Monday, I saw the same man on the same stretch of  road.  My
astonishment was increased when the incident occurred  again,  exactly  as
before, on the following Saturday and Monday. He always kept his  distance
and did not molest me in any way, but still it certainly was very  odd.  I
mentioned it to Mr. Carruthers, who seemed interested in what I said,  and
told me that he had ordered a horse and trap, so that in future  I  should
not pass over these lonely roads without some companion.
    "The horse and trap were to have come this week, but for some  reason
they were not delivered, and again I had to cycle to the station. That was
this morning. You can think that I looked out when I came  to  Charlington
Heath, and there, sure enough, was the man, exactly as he had been the two
weeks before. He always kept so far from me that I could not  clearly  see
his face, but it was certainly someone whom I did not know. He was dressed
in a dark suit with a cloth cap. The only thing  about  his  face  that  I
could clearly see was his dark beard. To-day I was not alarmed, but I  was
filled with curiosity, and I determined to find out who he was and what he
wanted. I slowed down my machine, but he slowed down his. Then  I  stopped
altogether, but he stopped also. Then I laid a trap for him.  There  is  a
sharp turning of the road, and I pedalled very  quickly  round  this,  and
then I stopped and waited. I expected him  to  shoot  round  and  pass  me
before he could stop. But he never appeared. Then I went back  and  looked
round the corner. I could see a mile of road, but he was  not  on  it.  To
make it the more extraordinary, there was no side road at this point  down
which he could have gone."
    Holmes chuckled and rubbed his hands. "This case  certainly  presents
some features of its own," said he. "How much time  elapsed  between  your
turning the corner and your discovery that the road was clear?"
    "Two or three minutes."
    "Then he could not have retreated down the road,  and  you  say  that
there are no side roads?"
    "None."
    "Then he certainly took a footpath on one side or the other."
    "It could not have been on the side of the heath, or  I  should  have
seen him."
    "So, by the process of exclusion, we arrive at the fact that he  made
his way toward Charlington Hall, which, as I understand,  is  situated  in
its own grounds on one side of the road. Anything else?"
    "Nothing, Mr. Holmes, save that I was so  perplexed  that  I  felt  I
should not be happy until I had seen you and had your advice."
    Holmes sat in silence for some little time.
    "Where is the gentleman to whom you are engaged?" he asked at last.
    "He is in the Midland Electrical Company, at Coventry."
    "He would not pay you a surprise visit?"
    "Oh, Mr. Holmes! As if I should not know him!"
    "Have you had any other admirers?"
    "Several before I knew Cyril."
    "And since?"
    "There was this dreadful  man,  Woodley,  if  you  can  call  him  an
admirer."
    "No one else?"
    Our fair client seemed a little confused.
    "Who was he?" asked Holmes.
    "Oh, it may be a mere  fancy  of  mine;  but  it  had  seemed  to  me
sometimes that my employer, Mr. Carruthers, takes a great deal of interest
in me. We are thrown rather together. I play  his  accompaniments  in  the
evening. He has never said anything. He is a perfect gentleman. But a girl
always knows."
    "Ha!" Holmes looked grave. "What does he do for a living?"
    "He is a rich man."
    "No carriages or horses?"
    "Well, at least he is fairly well-to-do. But he goes  into  the  city
two or three times a week. He is deeply interested in South  African  gold
shares."
    "You will let me know any fresh development, Miss Smith.  I  am  very
busy just now, but I will find time to make some inquiries into your case.
In the meantime, take no step without letting me  know.  Good-bye,  and  I
trust that we shall have nothing but good news from you."
    "It is part of the settled order of Nature that such  a  girl  should
have followers," said Holmes, he pulled at his meditative pipe,  "but  for
choice not on bicycles in lonely  country  roads.  Some  secretive  lover,
beyond all doubt. But there are curious and suggestive details  about  the
case, Watson."
    "That he should appear only at that point?"
    "Exactly. Our first effort must be to find who  are  the  tenants  of
Charlington Hall. Then, again, how about the connection between Carruthers
and Woodley, since they appear to be men of such  a  different  type?  How
came they BOTH to be so keen upon looking up Ralph Smith's relations?  One
more point. What sort of a menage is it which pays double the market price
for a governess but does not keep a horse, although  six  miles  from  the
station? Odd, Watson - very odd!"
    "You will go down?"
    "No, my dear fellow, YOU will go down.  This  may  be  some  trifling
intrigue, and I cannot break my other important research for the  sake  of
it. On Monday you will arrive early at Farnham; you will conceal  yourself
near Charlington Heath; you will observe these facts for yourself, and act
as your own judgment advises. Then, having inquired as to the occupants of
the Hall, you will come back to  me  and  report.  And  now,  Watson,  not
another word of the matter until we have a few  solid  stepping-stones  on
which we may hope to get across to our solution."
    We had ascertained from the lady that she went down upon  the  Monday
by the train which leaves Waterloo at 9:50, so I started early and  caught
the 9:13. At Farnham Station I had no  difficulty  in  being  directed  to
Charlington Heath. It was impossible to mistake the  scene  of  the  young
lady's adventure, for the road runs between the open heath on one side and
an old yew hedge upon the other, surrounding a park which is studded  with
magnificent trees. There was a main gateway of lichen-studded stone,  each
side pillar surmounted by mouldering heraldic emblems,  but  besides  this
central carriage drive I observed several points where there were gaps  in
the hedge and paths leading through them. The house was invisible from the
road, but the surroundings all spoke of gloom and decay.
    The heath  was  covered  with  golden  patches  of  flowering  gorse,
gleaming magnificently in the light of the bright spring sunshine.  Behind
one of these clumps I took up my position,  so  as  to  command  both  the
gateway of the Hall and a long stretch of the road upon  either  side.  It
had been deserted when I left it, but now I saw a cyclist riding  down  it
from the opposite direction to that in which I had come. He was clad in  a
dark suit, and I saw that he had a black beard. On reaching the end of the
Charlington grounds, he sprang from his machine and led it through  a  gap
in the hedge, disappearing from my view.
    A quarter of an hour passed, and then a second cyclist appeared. This
time it was the young lady coming from the station. I saw her  look  about
her as she came to the Charlington hedge. An instant later the man emerged
from his hiding-place, sprang upon his cycle, and followed her. In all the
broad landscape those were the only  moving  figures,  the  graceful  girl
sitting very straight upon her machine, and the man behind her bending low
over his handle-bar with a curiously furtive suggestion in every movement.
She looked back at him and slowed her pace. He slowed also.  She  stopped.
He at once stopped, too, keeping two hundred yards behind  her.  Her  next
movement was as unexpected as it was spirited. She  suddenly  whisked  her
wheels round and dashed straight at him. He was as quick as she,  however,
and darted off in desperate flight. Presently she came back  up  the  road
again, her head haughtily in the air, not deigning  to  take  any  further
notice of her silent attendant. He had turned also,  and  still  kept  his
distance until the curve of the road hid them from my sight.
    I remained in my hiding-place, and it was well that  I  did  so,  for
presently the man reappeared, cycling slowly back. He  turned  in  at  the
Hall gates, and dismounted from his machine. For some minutes I could  see
him standing among the trees. His hands were raised, and he seemed  to  be
settling his necktie. Then he mounted his cycle, and  rode  away  from  me
down the drive towards the Hall. I ran across the heath and peered through
the trees. Far away I could catch glimpses of the old gray  building  with
its bristling Tudor chimneys, but the drive ran through a dense shrubbery,
and I saw no more of my man.
    However, it seemed to me that I had  done  a  fairly  good  morning's
work, and I walked back in high spirits to Farnham. The local house  agent
could tell me nothing about Charlington Hall, and referred me  to  a  well
known firm in Pall Mall. There I halted on  my  way  home,  and  met  with
courtesy from the representative. No, I could not  have  Charlington  Hall
for the summer. I was just too late. It had been let about  a  month  ago.
Mr. Williamson was the name of the tenant. He was a  respectable,  elderly
gentleman. The polite agent was afraid  he  could  say  no  more,  as  the
affairs of his clients were not matters which he could discuss.
    Mr. Sherlock Holmes listened with attention to the long report  which
I was able to present to him that evening, but it did not elicit that word
of curt praise which I had hoped  for  and  should  have  valued.  On  the
contrary, his austere face was even more severe than usual as he commented
upon the things that I had done and the things that I had not.
    "Your hiding-place, my dear Watson, was very faulty. You should  have
been behind the hedge, then you would  have  had  a  close  view  of  this
interesting person. As it is, you were some hundreds of yards away and can
tell me even less than Miss Smith. She thinks she does not know the man; I
am convinced she does. Why, otherwise, should he be so desperately anxious
that she should not get so near him as to see his features?  You  describe
him as bending over the handle-bar. Concealment again, you see. You really
have done remarkably badly. He returns to the house, and you want to  find
out who he is. You come to a London house agent!"
    "What should I have done?" I cried, with some heat.
    "Gone to the nearest public-house. That  is  the  centre  of  country
gossip. They would have told you  every  name,  from  the  master  to  the
scullery-maid. Williamson? It conveys nothing to my  mind.  If  he  is  an
elderly man he is not this active cyclist who sprints away from that young
lady's athletic pursuit. What have  we  gained  by  your  expedition?  The
knowledge that the girl's story is true. I never doubted it. That there is
a connection between the cyclist  and  the  Hall.  I  never  doubted  that
either. That the Hall is tenanted by  Williamson.  Who's  the  better  for
that? Well, well, my dear sir, don't look so depressed. We can  do  little
more until next Saturday, and in the  meantime  I  may  make  one  or  two
inquiries myself."
    Next morning, we had a note from Miss Smith, recounting  shortly  and
accurately the very incidents which I had seen, but the pith of the letter
lay in the postscript:
    I am sure that you will respect my confidence,  Mr.  Holmes,  when  I
tell you that my place here has become difficult, owing to the  fact  that
my employer has proposed marriage to me. I am convinced that his  feelings
are most deep and most honourable. At the same  time,  my  promise  is  of
course given. He took my refusal very seriously, but also very gently. You
can understand, however, that the situation is  a  little  strained.  "Our
young  friend  seems  to  be  getting  into  deep  waters,"  said  Holmes,
thoughtfully, as he finished the letter. "The case certainly presents more
features of interest and  more  possibility  of  development  than  I  had
originally thought. I should be none the worse for a quiet,  peaceful  day
in the country, and I am inclined to run down this afternoon and test  one
or two theories which I have formed."
    Holmes's quiet day in the country had a singular termination, for  he
arrived at Baker Street late  in  the  evening,  with  a  cut  lip  and  a
discoloured lump upon his forehead, besides a general air  of  dissipation
which would have made his own person the fitting object of a Scotland Yard
investigation. He was immensely tickled by his own adventures and  laughed
heartily as he recounted them.
    "I get so little active exercise that it is always a treat" said  he.
"You are aware that I have some proficiency in the good old British  sport
of boxing. Occasionally, it is of service, to-day, for example,  I  should
have come to very ignominious grief without it."
    I begged him to tell me what had occurred.
    "I found that country pub which I had  already  recommended  to  your
notice, and there I made my discreet inquiries. I was in the  bar,  and  a
garrulous landlord was giving me  all  that  I  wanted.  Williamson  is  a
white-bearded man, and he lives alone with a small staff  of  servants  at
the Hall. There is some rumor that he is or has been a clergyman, but  one
or two incidents  of  his  short  residence  at  the  Hall  struck  me  as
peculiarly unecclesiastical. I have  already  made  some  inquiries  at  a
clerical agency, and they tell me that there WAS a man  of  that  name  in
orders, whose career has been a singularly dark one. The landlord  further
informed me that there are usually week-end visitors - `a warm lot, sir' -
at the Hall, and especially  one  gentleman  with  a  red  moustache,  Mr.
Woodley by name, who was always there. We had got as far as this, when who
should walk in but the gentleman himself, who had been drinking  his  beer
in the tap-room and had heard the whole conversation. Who was I? What  did
I want? What did I mean by  asking  questions?  He  had  a  fine  flow  of
language, and his adjectives were very vigorous.  He  ended  a  string  of
abuse by a vicious backhander, which I failed to entirely avoid. The  next
few minutes were delicious. It was a  straight  left  against  a  slogging
ruffian. I emerged as you see me. Mr. Woodley went  home  in  a  cart.  So
ended my country trip, and it must be confessed that,  however  enjoyable,
my day on the Surrey border has not been much more  profitable  than  your
own."
    The Thursday brought us another letter from our client.
    You will not be surprised, Mr. Holmes [said she] to hear  that  I  am
leaving Mr. Carruthers's employment. Even the high pay cannot reconcile me
to the discomforts of my situation. On Saturday I come up to town,  and  I
do not intend to return. Mr. Carruthers has got a trap, and so the dangers
of the lonely road, if there ever were any dangers, are now over.
    As to the special cause of my leaving, it is not merely the  strained
situation with Mr. Carruthers, but it is the reappearance of  that  odious
man, Mr. Woodley. He was always hideous, but he looks more awful than ever
now, for he appears to have had an accident and he is much  disfigured.  I
saw him out of the window, but I am glad to say I did not meet him. He had
a long talk with Mr.  Carruthers,  who  seemed  much  excited  afterwards.
Woodley must be staying in the neighbourhood, for he did not  sleep  here,
and yet I caught a glimpse of him again this morning,  slinking  about  in
the shrubbery. I would sooner have a savage wild animal  loose  about  the
place. I loathe and fear him more than I can say. How CAN  Mr.  Carruthers
endure such a creature for a moment? However, all my troubles will be over
on Saturday.
    "So I trust, Watson, so I trust," said  Holmes,  gravely.  "There  is
some deep intrigue going on round that little woman, and it is our duty to
see that no one molests her upon that last journey. I think, Watson,  that
we must spare time to run down together on Saturday morning and make  sure
that this curious and inclusive investigation has no untoward ending."
    I confess that I had not up to now taken a very serious view  of  the
case, which had seemed to me rather grotesque and bizarre than  dangerous.
That a man should lie in wait for and follow a very handsome woman  is  no
unheard-of thing, and if he has so little audacity that he not only  dared
not address her, but even fled from  her  approach,  he  was  not  a  very
formidable assailant. The ruffian Woodley was  a  very  different  person,
but, except on one occasion, he had not molested our client,  and  now  he
visited the house of Carruthers without intruding upon her  presence.  The
man on the bicycle was doubtless a member of those week-end parties at the
Hall of which the publican had spoken, but who he was, or what he  wanted,
was as obscure as ever. It was the severity of  Holmes's  manner  and  the
fact that he slipped a revolver into his pocket before leaving  our  rooms
which impressed me with the feeling  that  tragedy  might  prove  to  lurk
behind this curious train of events.
    A rainy night had been  followed  by  a  glorious  morning,  and  the
heath-covered countryside, with the glowing  clumps  of  flowering  gorse,
seemed all the more beautiful to eyes which were weary  of  the  duns  and
drabs and slate grays of London. Holmes and  I  walked  along  the  broad,
sandy road inhaling the fresh morning air and rejoicing in  the  music  of
the birds and the fresh breath of the spring. From a rise of the  road  on
the shoulder of Crooksbury Hill, we could see the grim Hall bristling  out
from amidst the ancient oaks, which, old as they were, were still  younger
than the building which they surrounded.  Holmes  pointed  down  the  long
tract of road which wound, a reddish yellow band, between the brown of the
heath and the budding green of the woods. Far away, a black dot, we  could
see a vehicle moving in our  direction.  Holmes  gave  an  exclamation  of
impatience.
    "I have given a margin of half an hour," said he.  "If  that  is  her
trap, she must be making for the earlier train. I fear, Watson,  that  she
will be past Charlington before we can possibly meet her."
    From the instant that we passed the rise, we could no longer see  the
vehicle, but we hastened onward at such a  pace  that  my  sedentary  life
began to tell upon me,  and  I  was  compelled  to  fall  behind.  Holmes,
however, was always in  training,  for  he  had  inexhaustible  stores  of
nervous energy upon which to draw. His springy  step  never  slowed  until
suddenly, when he was a hundred yards in front of me, he halted, and I saw
him throw up his hand with a gesture of grief and  despair.  At  the  same
instant an empty  dog-cart,  the  horse  cantering,  the  reins  trailing,
appeared round the curve of the road and rattled swiftly towards us.
    "Too late, Watson, too late!" cried Holmes, as I ran panting  to  his
side. "Fool that  I  was  not  to  allow  for  that  earlier  train!  It's
abduction, Watson - abduction! Murder! Heaven knows what! Block the  road!
Stop the horse! That's right. Now, jump in, and let us see if I can repair
the consequences of my own blunder."
    We had sprung into the dog-cart, and Holmes, after turning the horse,
gave it a sharp cut with the whip, and we flew back along the road. As  we
turned the curve, the whole stretch of road between the Hall and the heath
was opened up. I grasped Holmes's arm.
    "That's the man!" I gasped. A solitary cyclist was coming towards us.
His head was down and his shoulders rounded, as  he  put  every  ounce  of
energy that he possessed on to the pedals. He was  flying  like  a  racer.
Suddenly he raised his bearded face, saw us close to him, and  pulled  up,
springing from his machine. That coal-black beard was in singular contrast
to eyes were as bright as if he had a fever. He stared at us  and  at  the
dog-cart. Then a look of amazement came over his face.
    "Halloa! Stop there!" he shouted, holding his bicycle  to  block  our
road. "Where did you get that dog-cart? Pull up, man!" he yelled,  drawing
a pistol from his side "Pull up, I say, or, by George, I'll put  a  bullet
into your horse."
    Holmes threw the reins into my lap and sprang down from the cart.
    "You're the man we want to see. Where is Miss Violet Smith?" he said,
in his quick, clear way.
    "That's what I'm asking you. You're in her  dog-cart.  You  ought  to
know where she is."
    "We met the dog-cart on the road. There was no one in  it.  We  drove
back to help the young lady."
    "Good Lord! Good Lord! What shall I do?" cried the  stranger,  in  an
ecstasy of despair. "They've got her,  that  hell-hound  Woodley  and  the
blackguard parson. Come, man, come, if you really are her friend. Stand by
me and we'll save her, if I have to leave my carcass in Charlington Wood."
    He ran distractedly, his pistol in his hand, towards  a  gap  in  the
hedge. Holmes followed him, and I, leaving the horse  grazing  beside  the
road, followed Holmes.
    "This is where they came through," said he, pointing to the marks  of
several feet upon the muddy path. "Halloa! Stop a minute!  Who's  this  in
the bush?"
    It was a young fellow about seventeen, dressed like an  ostler,  with
leather cords and gaiters. He lay upon his back, his  knees  drawn  up,  a
terrible cut upon his head. He was insensible, but alive. A glance at  his
wound told me that it had not penetrated the bone.
    "That's Peter, the groom," cried the stranger.  "He  drove  her.  The
beasts have pulled him off and clubbed him. Let him lie; we can't  do  him
any good, but we may save her from the worst fate that can befall a woman."
    We ran frantically down the path, which wound among the trees. We had
reached the shrubbery which surrounded the house when Holmes pulled up.
    "They didn't go to the house. Here are their  marks  on  the  left  -
here, beside the laurel bushes. Ah! I said so."
    As he spoke, a woman's shrill scream - a scream which vibrated with a
frenzy of horror - burst from the thick, green clump of bushes in front of
us. It ended suddenly on its highest note with a choke and a gurgle.
    "This way! This way!  They  are  in  the  bowling-alley,"  cried  the
stranger, darting through the bushes. "Ah, the cowardly dogs!  Follow  me,
gentlemen! Too late! too late! by the living Jingo!"
    We had broken suddenly into a lovely glade of  greensward  surrounded
by ancient trees. On the farther side of it, under the shadow of a  mighty
oak, there stood a singular group of three people. One was  a  woman,  our
client, drooping and faint, a handkerchief round her mouth.  Opposite  her
stood a brutal, heavy-faced, red-moustached young man, his  gaitered  legs
parted wide, one arm akimbo, the other waving a  riding  crop,  his  whole
attitude suggestive  of  triumphant  bravado.  Between  them  an  elderly,
gray-bearded man, wearing a short surplice over a light  tweed  suit,  had
evidently  just  completed  the  wedding  service,  for  he  pocketed  his
prayer-book as we appeared, and slapped the sinister bridegroom  upon  the
back in jovial congratulation.
    "They're married!" I gasped.
    "Come on!" cried our guide, "come on!" He rushed  across  the  glade,
Holmes and I at his heels. As we approached, the  lady  staggered  against
the trunk of the tree for support. Williamson, the ex-clergyman, bowed  to
us with mock politeness, and the bully, Woodley, advanced with a shout  of
brutal and exultant laughter.
    "You can take your beard off, Bob,"  said  he.  "I  know  you,  right
enough. Well, you and your pals have just come in time for me to  be  able
to introduce you to Mrs. Woodley."
    Our guide's answer was a singular one. He snatched off the dark beard
which had disguised him and threw it on the  ground,  disclosing  a  long,
sallow, clean-shaven face below  it.  Then  he  raised  his  revolver  and
covered the young ruffian, who was advancing upon him with  his  dangerous
riding-crop swinging in his hand.
    "Yes," said our ally, "I am Bob Carruthers, and I'll see  this  woman
righted, if I have to swing for it. I told you what I'd do if you molested
her, and, by the Lord! I'll be as good as my word."
    "You're too late. She's my wife."
    "No, she's your widow."
    His revolver cracked, and I saw the blood spurt  from  the  front  of
Woodley's waistcoat. He spun round with a scream and fell upon  his  back,
his hideous red face turning suddenly to a dreadful  mottled  pallor.  The
old man, still clad in his surplice, burst into  such  a  string  of  foul
oaths as I have never heard, and pulled out a revolver of  his  own,  but,
before he could raise it, he was  looking  down  the  barrel  of  Holmes's
weapon.
    "Enough of this," said my friend, coldly. "Drop that pistol!  Watson,
pick it up! Hold it to his head. Thank you. You, Carruthers, give me  that
revolver. We'll have no more violence. Come, hand it over!"
    "Who are you, then?"
    "My name is Sherlock Holmes."
    "Good Lord!"
    "You have heard of me, I see. I will represent  the  official  police
until their arrival. Here, you!" he shouted to a frightened groom, who had
appeared at the edge of the glade. "Come here. Take this note as  hard  as
you can ride to Farnham." He scribbled a few words upon a  leaf  from  his
notebook. "Give it to the superintendent at the police-station.  Until  he
comes, I must detain you all under my personal custody."
    The strong, masterful personality  of  Holmes  dominated  the  tragic
scene,  and  all  were  equally  puppets  in  his  hands.  Williamson  and
Carruthers found themselves carrying the wounded Woodley into  the  house,
and I gave my arm to the frightened girl. The injured man was laid on  his
bed, and at Holmes's request I examined him. I carried my report to  where
he sat in the old tapestry-hung dining-room with his two prisoners  before
him.
    "He will live," said I.
    "What!" cried Carruthers,  springing  out  of  his  chair.  "I'll  go
upstairs and finish him first. Do you tell me that that angel,  is  to  be
tied to Roaring Jack Woodley for life?"
    "You need not concern yourself about that," said Holmes.  "There  are
two very good reasons why she should, under no circumstances, be his wife.
In the first place, we are very safe in questioning Mr. Williamson's right
to solemnize a marriage."
    "I have been ordained," cried the old rascal.
    "And also unfrocked."
    "Once a clergyman, always a clergyman."
    "I think not. How about the license?"
    "We had a license for the marriage. I have it here in my pocket."
    "Then you got it by trick. But, in any case a forced marriage  is  no
marriage, but it is a very serious felony, as you will discover before you
have finished. You'll have time to think the point out during the next ten
years or so, unless I am mistaken. As to you, Carruthers, you  would  have
done better to keep your pistol in your pocket."
    "I begin to think so, Mr. Holmes, but  when  I  thought  of  all  the
precaution I had taken to shield this girl - for I loved her, Mr.  Holmes,
and it is the only time that ever I knew what love was - it  fairly  drove
me mad to think that she was in the power of the greatest brute and  bully
in South Africa - a man whose name is a  holy  terror  from  Kimberley  to
Johannesburg. Why, Mr. Holmes, you'll hardly believe it,  but  ever  since
that girl has been in my employment I never once  let  her  go  past  this
house, where I knew the rascals were lurking, without following her on  my
bicycle, just to see that she came to no harm. I  kept  my  distance  from
her, and I wore a beard, so that she should not recognize me, for she is a
good and high-spirited girl, and she wouldn't have stayed in my employment
long if she had thought that I was following her about the country roads."
    "Why didn't you tell her of her danger?"
    "Because then, again, she would have left me, and I couldn't bear  to
face that. Even if she couldn't love me, it was a great deal to me just to
see her dainty form about the house, and to hear the sound of her voice."
    "Well," said I, "you call that love, Mr.  Carruthers,  but  I  should
call it selfishness."
    "Maybe the two things go together. Anyhow, I  couldn't  let  her  go.
Besides, with this crowd about, it was well that she should  have  someone
near to look after her. Then, when the cable came, I knew they were  bound
to make a move."
    "What cable?"
    Carruthers took a telegram from his pocket "That's it," said he.
    It was short and concise: The old man is dead.
    "Hum!" said Holmes. "I think I see  how  things  worked,  and  I  can
understand how this message would, as you say, bring them to a  head.  But
while you wait, you might tell me what you can.
    The old reprobate with the  surplice  burst  into  a  volley  of  bad
language.
    "By heaven!" said he, "if you squeal  on  us,  Bob  Carruthers,  I'll
serve you as you served Jack Woodley. You can bleat about the girl to your
heart's content, for that's your own affair, but if you round on your pals
to this plain-clothes copper, it will be the worst day's  work  that  ever
you did."
    "Your reverence  need  not  be  excited,"  said  Holmes,  lighting  a
cigarette. "The case is clear enough against you, and all I ask is  a  few
details for my private curiosity. However, if there's  any  difficulty  in
your telling me, I'll do the talking, and then you will see  how  far  you
have a chance of holding back your secrets. In the first place,  three  of
you came from South Africa on this game - you Williamson, you  Carruthers,
and Woodley."
    "Lie number one," said the old man; "I never saw either of them until
two months ago, and I have never been in Africa in my life, so you can put
that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Busybody Holmes!"
    "What he says is true," said Carruthers.
    "Well, well, two of you came over. His reverence is our own  homemade
article. You had known Ralph Smith in South  Africa.  You  had  reason  to
believe he would not live long. You found out that his niece would inherit
his fortune. How's that - eh?"
    Carruthers nodded and Williamson swore.
    "She was next of kin, no doubt, and  you  were  aware  that  the  old
fellow would make no will."
    "Couldn't read or write," said Carruthers.
    "So you came over, the two of you, and hunted up the girl.  The  idea
was that one of you was to marry her, and the other have a  share  of  the
plunder. For some reason, Woodley was chosen as the husband. Why was that?"
    "We played cards for her on the voyage. He won."
    "I see. You got the young lady into your service, and  there  Woodley
was to do the courting. She recognized the drunken brute that he was,  and
would have nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, your arrangement was  rather
upset by the fact that you had yourself fallen in love with the lady.  You
could no longer bear the idea of this ruffian owning her?"
    "No, by George, I couldn't!"
    "There was a quarrel between you. He left you in a rage, and began to
make his own plans independently of you."
    "It strikes me, Williamson, there isn't very much that  we  can  tell
this  gentleman,"  cried  Carruthers,  with  a  bitter  laugh.  "Yes,   we
quarreled, and he knocked me down. I am level with him  on  that,  anyhow.
Then I lost sight of him. That was when he picked  up  with  this  outcast
padre here. I found that they had set up  housekeeping  together  at  this
place on the line that she had to pass for the station. I kept my  eye  on
her after that, for I knew there was some devilry in the wind. I saw  them
from time to time, for I was anxious to know what  they  were  after.  Two
days ago Woodley came up to my house with this cable,  which  showed  that
Ralph Smith was dead. He asked me if I would stand by the bargain. I  said
I would not. He asked me if I would marry the girl myself and give  him  a
share. I said I would willingly do so, but that she would not have me.  He
said, `Let us get her married first and after a week or two  she  may  see
things a bit different.' I said I would have nothing to do with  violence.
So he went off cursing, like the foul-mouthed blackguard that he was,  and
swearing that he would have her yet. She was leaving me this week-end, and
I had got a trap to take her to the station, but I was  so  uneasy  in  my
mind that I followed her on my bicycle. She had got a start, however,  and
before I could catch her, the mischief was done. The first  thing  I  knew
about it was when I saw you two gentlemen driving back in her dog-cart"
    Holmes rose and tossed the end of his cigarette into  the  grate.  "I
have been very obtuse, Watson," said he. "When in  your  report  you  said
that you had seen the cyclist as you thought arrange his  necktie  in  the
shrubbery,  that  alone  should  have  told  me  all.  However,   we   may
congratulate ourselves upon a curious and,  in  some  respects,  a  unique
case. I perceive three of the county constabulary in the drive, and  I  am
glad to see that the little ostler is able to keep pace with them,  so  it
is  likely  that  neither  he  nor  the  interesting  bridegroom  will  be
permanently damaged by their morning's adventures. I think,  Watson,  that
in your medical capacity, you might wait upon Miss Smith and tell her that
if she is sufficiently recovered, we shall be happy to escort her  to  her
mother's home. If she is not quite convalescent you will find that a  hint
that we were about to telegraph to a young  electrician  in  the  Midlands
would probably complete the cure. As to you, Mr. Carruthers, I think  that
you have done what you could to make amends for  your  share  in  an  evil
plot. There is my card, sir, and if my evidence can be  of  help  in  your
trial, it shall be at your disposal."
    In the whirl of our incessant activity, it has often  been  difficult
for me, as the reader has probably observed, to round off  my  narratives,
and to give those final details which the curious might expect. Each  case
has been the prelude to another, and the crisis once over, the actors have
passed for ever out of our busy lives. I find, however, a  short  note  at
the end of my manuscript dealing with this case, in which I  have  put  it
upon record that Miss Violet Smith did indeed inherit a large fortune, and
that she is now the wife of Cyril Morton, the senior partner of  Morton  &
Kennedy, the famous Westminster electricians. Williamson and Woodley  were
both tried for abduction and assault, the former getting seven  years  the
latter ten. Of the fate of Carruthers, I have no record,  but  I  am  sure
that his assault was not viewed very gravely by the court,  since  Woodley
had the reputation of being a most dangerous ruffian, and I think  that  a
few, months were sufficient to satisfy the demands of justice.





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                 THE ADVENTURE OF THE PRIORY SCHOOL


    We have had some dramatic entrances and exits upon our small stage at
Baker Street, but I cannot recollect anything more  sudden  and  startling
than the first appearance of Thorneycroft Huxtable, M.A., Ph.D., etc.  His
card, which  seemed  too  small  to  carry  the  weight  of  his  academic
distinctions, preceded him by a few seconds, and then he entered himself -
so large, so pompous, and so dignified that he was the very embodiment  of
self-possession and solidity. And yet his first action, when the door  had
closed behind him, was to stagger against the  table,  whence  he  slipped
down upon the floor, and there was  that  majestic  figure  prostrate  and
insensible upon our bearskin hearth-rug.
    We had sprung to our feet, and for a few moments we stared in  silent
amazement at this ponderous piece of wreckage, which told of  some  sudden
and fatal storm far out on the ocean of life. Then Holmes hurried  with  a
cushion for his head, and I with brandy for his  lips.  The  heavy,  white
face was seamed with lines of  trouble,  the  hanging  pouches  under  the
closed eyes were leaden in colour, the loose mouth drooped  dolorously  at
the corners, the rolling chins were unshaven. Collar and  shirt  bore  the
grime  of  a  long  journey,  and  the  hair  bristled  unkempt  from  the
well-shaped head. It was a sorely stricken man who lay before us.
    "What is it, Watson?" asked Holmes.
    "Absolute exhaustion - possibly mere hunger  and  fatigue,"  said  I,
with my finger on the thready pulse, where the  stream  of  life  trickled
thin and small.
    "Return ticket from Mackleton, in the north of England," said Holmes,
drawing it from the watch-pocket. "It is not twelve o'clock  yet.  He  has
certainly been an early starter."
    The puckered eyelids had begun to quiver, and now a  pair  of  vacant
gray eyes looked up at us. An instant later the man had  scrambled  on  to
his feet, his face crimson with shame.
    "Forgive this weakness, Mr. Holmes, I have been a little overwrought.
Thank you, if I might have a glass of milk and a biscuit, I have no  doubt
that I should be better. I came personally, Mr. Holmes, in order to insure
that you would return with me. I feared that no  telegram  would  convince
you of the absolute urgency of the case."
    "When you are quite restored..."
    "I am quite well again. I cannot imagine how I came to be so weak.  I
wish you, Mr. Holmes, to come to Mackleton with me by the next train."
    My friend shook his head.
    "My colleague, Dr. Watson, could tell you that we are  very  busy  at
present. I am retained in this case of  the  Ferrers  Documents,  and  the
Abergavenny murder is coming up for trial. Only  a  very  important  issue
could call me from London at present."
    "Important!" Our visitor threw up his hands. "Have you heard  nothing
of the abduction of the only son of the Duke of Holdernesse?"
    "What! the late Cabinet Minister?"
    "Exactly. We had tried to keep it out of the papers,  but  there  was
some rumor in the GLOBE last night. I thought it might have  reached  your
ears."
    Holmes shot out his long, thin arm and picked out Volume "H"  in  his
encyclopaedia of reference.
    "`Holdernesse, 6th Duke, K.G., P.C.'  -  half  the  alphabet!  `Baron
Beverley, Earl of Carston' - dear me, what a  list!  `Lord  Lieutenant  of
Hallamshire since 1900. Married Edith, daughter of Sir Charles  Appledore,
1888. Heir and only child, Lord Saltire. Owns about two hundred and  fifty
thousand acres. Minerals in Lancashire and Wales. Address:  Carlton  House
Terrace; Holdernesse Hall, Hallamshire;  Carston  Castle,  Bangor,  Wales.
Lord of the Admiralty, 1872; Chief Secretary of State for...' Well,  well,
this man is certainly one of the greatest subjects of the Crown!"
    "The greatest and perhaps the wealthiest. I  am  aware,  Mr.  Holmes,
that you take a very high line in professional matters, and that  you  are
prepared to work for the work's sake. I may tell you,  however,  that  his
Grace has already intimated that a check for five thousand pounds will  be
handed over to the person who can tell him where his son is,  and  another
thousand to him who can name the man or men who have taken him."
    "It is a princely offer," said Holmes. "Watson, I think that we shall
accompany Dr. Huxtable  back  to  the  north  of  England.  And  now,  Dr.
Huxtable, when you have consumed that milk, you will kindly tell  me  what
has happened, when it happened, how it happened, and,  finally,  what  Dr.
Thorneycroft Huxtable, of the Priory School, near  Mackleton,  has  to  do
with the matter, and why he comes three days after an event - the state of
your chin gives the date - to ask for my humble services."
    Our visitor had consumed his milk and biscuits. The  light  had  come
back to his eyes and the colour to his cheeks,  as  he  set  himself  with
great vigour and lucidity to explain the situation.
    "I must inform you, gentlemen,  that  the  Priory  is  a  preparatory
school, of which I am the founder and principal. HUXTABLE'S SIDELIGHTS  ON
HORACE may possibly recall my  name  to  your  memories.  The  Priory  is,
without exception, the best and most select preparatory school in England.
Lord Leverstoke, the Earl of Blackwater, Sir Cathcart Soames  -  they  all
have intrusted their sons to me. But I felt that my school had reached its
zenith when, weeks ago, the Duke of Holdernesse sent Mr. James Wilder, his
secretary, with intimation that young Lord Saltire,  ten  years  old,  his
only son and heir, was about to be committed to my charge.  Little  did  I
think that this would be the prelude to the most crushing misfortune of my
life.
    "On May 1st the boy arrived, that being the beginning of  the  summer
term. He was a charming youth, and he soon fell into our ways. I may  tell
you - I trust that I am not indiscreet, but half-confidences are absurd in
such a case - that he was not entirely happy at home. It is an open secret
that the Duke's married life had not been a peaceful one, and  the  matter
had ended in a separation by mutual consent, the  Duchess  taking  up  her
residence in the south of France. This had occurred very  shortly  before,
and the boy's sympathies are known to have been strongly with his  mother.
He moped after her departure from Holdernesse Hall, and it  was  for  this
reason that the Duke desired  to  send  him  to  my  establishment.  In  a
fortnight the boy was quite at home with us and was apparently  absolutely
happy.
    "He was last seen on the night of May 13th - that is,  the  night  of
last Monday. His room was on the second floor and was  approached  through
another larger room, in which two boys were sleeping. These boys  saw  and
heard nothing, so that it is certain that young Saltire did not  pass  out
that way. His window was open, and there is a stout ivy plant  leading  to
the ground. We could trace no footmarks below, but it is sure that this is
the only possible exit.
    "His absence was discovered at seven o'clock on Tuesday morning.  His
bed had been slept in. He had dressed himself fully, before going off,  in
his usual school suit of black Eton jacket and dark gray  trousers.  There
were no signs that anyone had entered the room, and it  is  quite  certain
that anything in the nature of cries or  ones  struggle  would  have  been
heard, since Caunter, the elder boy in the inner room,  is  a  very  light
sleeper.
    "When Lord Saltire's disappearance was discovered, I at once called a
roll of the whole establishment - boys, masters, and servants. It was then
that we ascertained that Lord Saltire had not been alone  in  his  flight.
Heidegger, the German master, was missing. His  room  was  on  the  second
floor, at the farther end of the building, facing the  same  way  as  Lord
Saltire's. His bed had also been slept in, but he had apparently gone away
partly dressed, since his shirt and socks were lying on the floor. He  had
undoubtedly let himself down by the ivy, for we could see the marks of his
feet where he had landed on the lawn. His bicycle was kept in a small shed
beside this lawn, and it also was gone.
    "He had  been  with  me  for  two  years,  and  came  with  the  best
references, but he was a silent, morose man, not very popular either  with
masters or boys. No trace could be found of the  fugitives,  and  now,  on
Thursday morning, we are as ignorant as we were on Tuesday.  Inquiry  was,
of course, made at once at Holdernesse Hall. It is only a few miles  away,
and we imagined that, in some sudden attack of homesickness, he  had  gone
back to his father, but nothing had been heard of him. The Duke is greatly
agitated, and, as to me, you have seen yourselves  the  state  of  nervous
prostration to which the suspense and the responsibility have reduced  me.
Mr. Holmes, if ever you put forward your full powers, I implore you to  do
so now, for never in your life could you have a case which is more  worthy
of them."
    Sherlock Holmes had  listened  with  the  utmost  intentness  to  the
statement of the unhappy schoolmaster. His drawn brows and the deep furrow
between them showed that he needed no exhortation to concentrate  all  his
attention upon a  problem  which,  apart  from  the  tremendous  interests
involved must appeal so directly to  his  love  of  the  complex  and  the
unusual. He now  drew  out  his  notebook  and  jotted  down  one  or  two
memoranda.
    "You have been very remiss in not coming  to  me  sooner,"  said  he,
severely. "You start me on my investigation with a very serious  handicap.
It is inconceivable, for example, that this ivy and this lawn  would  have
yielded nothing to an expert observer."
    "I am not to blame, Mr. Holmes. His Grace was extremely  desirous  to
avoid all public scandal. He was afraid of his  family  unhappiness  being
dragged before the world. He has a deep horror of anything of the kind."
    "But there has been some official investigation?"
    "Yes, sir, and it has proved most disappointing. An apparent clue was
at once obtained, since a boy and a young man were reported to  have  been
seen leaving a neighbouring station by an early train. Only last night  we
had news that the couple had been hunted down in Liverpool, and they prove
to have no connection whatever with the matter in hand. Then it  was  that
in my despair and disappointment, after a sleepless night, I came straight
to you by the early train."
    "I suppose the local investigation was relaxed while this false  clue
was being followed up?"
    "It was entirely dropped."
    "So that three days have  been  wasted.  The  affair  has  been  most
deplorably handled."
    "I feel it and admit it."
    "And yet the problem should be capable of ultimate solution. I  shall
be very happy to look into it. Have you been able to trace any  connection
between the missing boy and this German master?"
    "None at all."
    "Was he in the master's class?"
    "No, he never exchanged a word with him, so far as I know."
    "That is certainly very singular. Had the boy a bicycle?"
    "No."
    "Was any other bicycle missing?"
    "No."
    "Is that certain?"
    "Quite."
    "Well, now, you do not mean to seriously  suggest  that  this  German
rode off upon a bicycle in the dead of the night, bearing the boy  in  his
arms?"
    "Certainly not."
    "Then what is the theory in your mind?"
    "The bicycle  may  have  been  a  blind.  It  may  have  been  hidden
somewhere, and the pair gone off on foot."
    "Quite so, but it seems rather an absurd blind,  does  it  not?  Were
there other bicycles in this shed?"
    "Several."
    "Would he not have hidden a couple, had he desired to give  the  idea
that they had gone off upon them?"
    "I suppose he would."
    "Of course he would. The blind theory won't do. But the  incident  is
an admirable starting-point for an investigation. After all, a bicycle  is
not an easy thing to conceal or to destroy. One other question. Did anyone
call to see the boy on the day before he disappeared?"
    "No."
    "Did he get any letters?"
    "Yes, one letter."
    "From whom?"
    "From his father."
    "Do you open the boys' letters?"
    "No."
    "How do you know it was from the father?"
    "The coat of arms was on the envelope, and it was  addressed  in  the
Duke's peculiar stiff hand. Besides, the Duke remembers having written."
    "When had he a letter before that?"
    "Not for several days."
    "Had he ever one from France?"
    "No, never.
    "You see the point of my questions, of course.  Either  the  boy  was
carried off by force or he went of his own free will. In the latter  case,
you would expect that some prompting from outside would be needed to  make
so young a lad do such a thing. If he has had no visitors, that  prompting
must have come  in  letters;  hence  I  try  to  find  out  who  were  his
correspondents."
    "I fear I cannot help you much. His only correspondent, so far  as  I
know, was his own father."
    "Who wrote to him on the very day  of  his  disappearance.  Were  the
relations between father and son very friendly?"
    "His Grace is never very  friendly  with  anyone.  He  is  completely
immersed in large public questions, and  is  rather  inaccessible  to  all
ordinary emotions. But he was always kind to the boy in his own way."
    "But the sympathies of the latter were with the mother?"
    "Yes."
    "Did he say so?"
    "No."
    "The Duke, then?"
    "Good heaven, no!"
    "Then how could you know?"
    "I have had some confidential talks with Mr. James Wilder, his Graces
secretary. It was he who gave me  the  information  about  Lord  Saltire's
feelings."
    "I see. By the way, that last letter of the Dukes - was it  found  in
the boy's room after he was gone?"
    "No, he had taken it with him. I think, Mr. Holmes, it is  time  that
we were leaving for Euston."
    "I will order a four-wheeler. In a quarter of an hour, we shall be at
your service. If you are telegraphing home, Mr. Huxtable, it would be well
to allow the people in your neighbourhood to imagine that the  inquiry  is
still going on in Liverpool, or wherever else that red  herring  led  your
pack. In the meantime I will do a little quiet work at your own doors, and
perhaps the scent is not so cold but that two old hounds like  Watson  and
myself may get a sniff of it."
    That evening found us in the cold, bracing  atmosphere  of  the  Peak
country, in which Dr. Huxtable's famous school is situated. It was already
dark when we reached it. A card was lying  on  the  hall  table,  and  the
butler whispered something to his master, who turned to us with  agitation
in every heavy feature.
    "The Duke is here," said he. "The Duke and  Mr.  Wilder  are  in  the
study. Come, gentlemen, and I will introduce you."
    I was, of course, familiar with the pictures of the famous statesman,
but the man himself was very different from his representation. He  was  a
tall and stately person, scrupulously dressed, with a  drawn,  thin  face,
and a nose which was grotesquely curved and long. His complexion was of  a
dead pallor, which was more startling by contrast with a  long,  dwindling
beard of vivid red, which flowed down over his white  waistcoat  with  his
watch-chain gleaming through its fringe. Such was the stately presence who
looked stonily at us from the centre of Dr. Huxtable's  hearthrug.  Beside
him stood a very young man, whom I understood to be  Wilder,  the  private
secretary. He was small, nervous, alert with intelligent  light-blue  eyes
and mobile features. It was he who at once, in an  incisive  and  positive
tone, opened the conversation.
    "I called this morning, Dr. Huxtable, too late to  prevent  you  from
starting for London. I learned that your object was to invite Mr. Sherlock
Holmes to undertake the conduct of this case. His Grace is surprised,  Dr.
Huxtable, that you should have taken such a step without consulting him."
    "When I learned that the police had failed..."
    "His Grace is by no means convinced that the police have failed."
    "But surely, Mr. Wilder..."
    "You are well aware, Dr. Huxtable, that  his  Grace  is  particularly
anxious to avoid all public scandal. He prefers to take as few  people  as
possible into his confidence."
    "The matter can be easily remedied,"  said  the  brow-beaten  doctor;
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes can return to London by the morning train."
    "Hardly that, Doctor, hardly that,"  said  Holmes,  in  his  blandest
voice. "This northern air is invigorating and pleasant, so  I  propose  to
spend a few days upon your moors, and to occupy my mind  as  best  I  may.
Whether I have the shelter of your roof or  of  the  village  inn  is,  of
course, for you to decide."
    I could see that the unfortunate doctor was  in  the  last  stage  of
indecision, from which he was rescued by the deep, sonorous voice  of  the
red-bearded Duke, which boomed out like a dinner-gong.
    "I agree with Mr. Wilder, Dr. Huxtable,  that  you  would  have  done
wisely to consult me. But since Mr. Holmes has  already  been  taken  into
your confidence, it would indeed  be  absurd  that  we  should  not  avail
ourselves of his services. Far from going to the inn, Mr. Holmes, I should
be pleased if you would come and stay with me at Holdernesse Hall."
    "I thank your Grace. For the purposes of my  investigation,  I  think
that it would be wiser for me to remain at the scene of the mystery."
    "Just as you like, Mr. Holmes. Any information which Mr. Wilder or  I
can give you is, of course, at your disposal."
    "It will probably be necessary for me to see you at the  Hall,"  said
Holmes. "I would only ask you  now,  sir,  whether  you  have  formed  any
explanation in your own mind as to the mysterious  disappearance  of  your
son?"
    "No sir I have not."
    "Excuse me if I allude to that which is painful to you, but I have no
alternative. Do you think that the Duchess had anything  to  do  with  the
matter?"
    The great minister showed perceptible hesitation.
    "I do not think so," he said, at last.
    "The other most obvious  explanation  is  that  the  child  has  been
kidnapped for the purpose of levying ransom. You have not had  any  demand
of the sort?"
    "No, sir."
    "One more question, your Grace. I understand that you wrote  to  your
son upon the day when this incident occurred."
    "No, I wrote upon the day before."
    "Exactly. But he received it on that day?"
    "Yes."
    "Was there anything in your letter which might have unbalanced him or
induced him to take such a step?"
    "No, sir, certainly not."
    "Did you post that letter yourself?"
    The nobleman's reply was interrupted by his secretary, who  broke  in
with some heat.
    "His Grace is not in the habit of posting letters himself," said  he.
"This letter was laid with others upon the study table, and I  myself  put
them in the post-bag."
    "You are sure this one was among them?"
    "Yes, I observed it."
    "How many letters did your Grace write that day?"
    "Twenty or thirty. I have a large correspondence. But surely this  is
somewhat irrelevant?"
    "Not entirely," said Holmes.
    "For my own part," the Duke continued, "I have advised the police  to
turn their attention to the south of France. I have already said that I do
not believe that the Duchess would encourage so monstrous an  action,  but
the lad had the most wrong-headed opinions, and it is possible that he may
have fled to her, aided and abetted by this German. I think, Dr. Huxtable,
that we will now return to the Hall."
    I could see that there were other questions which Holmes  would  have
wished to put, but the nobleman's abrupt manner showed that the  interview
was at an end. It was evident that to his  intensely  aristocratic  nature
this discussion of his intimate family affairs with a  stranger  was  most
abhorrent, and that he feared lest every  fresh  question  would  throw  a
fiercer light into the discreetly shadowed corners of his ducal history.
    When the nobleman and his secretary had left, my friend flung himself
at once with characteristic eagerness into the investigation.
    The boy's chamber was carefully examined, and  yielded  nothing  save
the absolute conviction that it was only through the window that he  could
have escaped. The German master's room and effects gave no  further  clue.
In his case a trailer of ivy had given way under his weight, and we saw by
the light of a lantern the mark on the lawn where his heels had come down.
That one dint in the short, green grass was the only material witness left
of this inexplicable nocturnal flight.
    Sherlock Holmes left the house alone, and only returned after eleven.
He had obtained a large ordnance map of the  neighbourhood,  and  this  he
brought into my room, where he  laid  it  out  on  the  bed,  and,  having
balanced the lamp in the middle of it, he began  to  smoke  over  it,  and
occasionally to point out objects of interest with the  reeking  amber  of
his pipe.
    "This case grows upon me, Watson," said he. "There are decidedly some
points of interest in connection with it. In this early stage, I want  you
to realize those geographical features which may have a good  deal  to  do
with our investigation.
    "Look at this map. This dark square is the Priory School. I'll put  a
pin in it. Now, this line is the main road. You see that it runs east  and
west past the school, and you see also that there is no side  road  for  a
mile either way. If these two folk passed away by road, it was THIS road."

                                GRAPHIC

    "Exactly."
    "By a singular and happy chance, we are able to some extent to  check
what passed along this road during the night in question. At  this  point,
where my pipe is now resting, a county constable was on duty  from  twelve
to six. It is, as you perceive, the first cross-road  on  the  east  side.
This man declares that he was not absent from his post for an instant, and
he is positive that neither boy nor man could have gone that way unseen. I
have spoken with this policeman to-night and he appears  to  me  to  be  a
perfectly reliable person. That blocks this end. We have now to deal  with
the other. There is an inn here, the Red Bull, the landlady of  which  was
ill. She had sent to Mackleton for a doctor, but he did not  arrive  until
morning, being absent at another case. The people at the  inn  were  alert
all night, awaiting his coming, and one or other of  them  seems  to  have
continually had an eye upon the road. They declare that no one passed.  If
their evidence is good, then we are fortunate enough to be able  to  block
the west, and also to be able to say that the fugitives did  NOT  use  the
road at all."
    "But the bicycle?" I objected.
    "Quite so. We will come to the bicycle  presently.  To  continue  our
reasoning: if these people  did  not  go  by  the  road,  they  must  have
traversed the country to the north of the house or to  the  south  of  the
house. That is certain. Let us weigh the one against  the  other.  On  the
south of the house is, as you perceive, a large district of  arable  land,
cut up into small fields, with stone walls between them.  There,  I  admit
that a bicycle is impossible. We can dismiss the  idea.  We  turn  to  the
country on the north. Here there lies a grove  of  trees,  marked  as  the
`Ragged Shaw,' and on the farther side stretches  a  great  rolling  moor,
Lower Gill Moor, extending for ten miles  and  sloping  gradually  upward.
Here, at one side of this wilderness, is Holdernesse Hall,  ten  miles  by
road, but only six across the moor. It is a peculiarly desolate  plain.  A
few moor farmers have small holdings, where they rear  sheep  and  cattle.
Except these, the plover and the curlew are the only inhabitants until you
come to the Chesterfield high road. There is a church there,  you  see,  a
few cottages, and an inn. Beyond that the hills become precipitous. Surely
it is here to the north that our quest must lie."
    "But the bicycle?" I persisted.
    "Well, well!" said Holmes, impatiently. "A good cyclist does not need
a high road. The moor is intersected with paths, and the moon was  at  the
full. Halloa! what is this?"
    There was an agitated knock at the door, and  an  instant  afterwards
Dr. Huxtable was in the room. In his hand he held a blue cricket-cap  with
a white chevron on the peak.
    "At last we have a clue!" he cried. "Thank heaven! at last we are  on
the dear boy's track! It is his cap."
    "Where was it found?"
    "In the van of the gipsies who camped  on  the  moor.  They  left  on
Tuesday. To-day the police traced them down and  examined  their  caravan.
This was found."
    "How do they account for it?"
    "They shuffled and lied - said that they found  it  on  the  moor  on
Tuesday morning. They know where he is, the rascals! Thank goodness,  they
are all safe under lock and key. Either the fear of the law or the  Duke's
purse will certainly get out of them all that they know."
    "So far, so good," said Holmes, when the doctor had at last left  the
room. "It at least bears out the theory that it is  on  the  side  of  the
Lower Gill Moor that we must hope for results. The police have really done
nothing locally, save the arrest of  these  gipsies.  Look  here,  Watson!
There is a watercourse across the moor. You see it marked here in the map.
In some parts it widens into a morass. This  is  particularly  so  in  the
region between Holdernesse Hall  and  the  school.  It  is  vain  to  look
elsewhere for tracks in this dry weather,  but  at  THAT  point  there  is
certainly a chance of some record  being  left.  I  will  call  you  early
to-morrow morning, and you and I will try if  we  can  throw  some  little
light upon the mystery."
    The day was just breaking when I woke to find the long, thin form  of
Holmes by my bedside. He was fully dressed,  and  had  apparently  already
been out.
    "I have done the lawn and the bicycle shed," said, he. "I  have  also
had a rumble through the Ragged Shaw. Now, Watson, there is cocoa ready in
the next room. I must beg you to hurry, for we have a great day before us."
    His eyes shone, and his cheek was flushed with  the  exhilaration  of
the master workman who  sees  his  work  lie  ready  before  him.  A  very
different Holmes, this active,  alert  man,  from  the  introspective  and
pallid dreamer of Baker Street. I felt, as  I  looked  upon  that  supple,
figure, alive with nervous energy, that it was indeed a strenuous day that
awaited us.
    And yet it opened in the blackest disappointment. With high hopes  we
struck across the peaty, russet moor, intersected with  a  thousand  sheep
paths, until we came to the  broad,  light-green  belt  which  marked  the
morass between  us  and  Holdernesse.  Certainly,  if  the  lad  had  gone
homeward, he must have passed this, and  he  could  not  pass  it  without
leaving his traces. But no sign of him or the German could be seen. With a
darkening face my friend strode along the  margin,  eagerly  observant  of
every muddy stain upon  the  mossy  surface.  Sheep-marks  there  were  in
profusion, and at one place, some miles down, cows had left their  tracks.
Nothing more.
    "Check number one," said Holmes, looking gloomily  over  the  rolling
expanse of the moor. "There is another morass down yonder,  and  a  narrow
neck between. Halloa! halloa! halloa! what have we here?"
    We had come on a small black ribbon of pathway. In the middle of  it,
clearly marked on the sodden soil, was the track of a bicycle.
    "Hurrah!" I cried. "We have it."
    But Holmes was shaking  his  head,  and  his  face  was  puzzled  and
expectant rather than joyous.
    "A bicycle, certainly, but not THE bicycle," said he. "I am  familiar
with forty-two different impressions left by tires. This, as you perceive,
is a Dunlop, with a patch upon the outer  cover.  Heidegger's  tires  were
Palmer's, leaving longitudinal stripes. Aveling, the mathematical  master,
was sure upon the point. Therefore, it is not Heidegger's track."
    "The boy's, then?"
    "Possibly,  if  we  could  prove  a  bicycle  to  have  been  in  his
possession. But this we have utterly failed to  do.  This  track,  as  you
perceive, was made by a rider who was going  from  the  direction  of  the
school."
    "Or towards it?"
    "No, no, my dear Watson. The  more  deeply  sunk  impression  is,  of
course, the hind wheel, upon which the weight rests. You perceive  several
places where it has passed across and obliterated the more shallow mark of
the front one. It was undoubtedly heading away from the school. It may  or
may not be connected with our inquiry, but we  will  follow  it  backwards
before we go any farther."
    We did so, and at the end of a few hundred yards lost the  tracks  as
we emerged from  the  boggy  portion  of  the  moor.  Following  the  path
backwards, we picked out another spot, where a spring trickled across  it.
Here, once again, was the mark of the bicycle, though  nearly  obliterated
by the hoofs of cows. After that there was no sign, but the path ran right
on into Ragged Shaw, the wood which backed on to  the  school.  From  this
wood the cycle must have emerged. Holmes sat down on a boulder and  rested
his chin in his hands. I had smoked two cigarettes before he moved.
    "Well, well," said he, at last. "It is, of course,  possible  that  a
cunning man might change the tires  of  his  bicycle  in  order  to  leave
unfamiliar tracks. A criminal who was capable of such a thought is  a  man
whom I should be proud to do business with. We will  leave  this  question
undecided and hark back to our morass again, for we have left a good  deal
unexplored."
    We continued our systematic survey of the edge of the sodden  portion
of the moor, and soon our  perseverance  was  gloriously  rewarded.  Right
across the lower part of the bog lay a miry path. Holmes  gave  a  cry  of
delight as he approached it. An impression like a fine bundle of telegraph
wires ran down the centre of it. It was the Palmer tires.
    "Here is Herr Heidegger, sure enough!" cried Holmes, exultantly.  "My
reasoning seems to have been pretty sound, Watson."
    "I congratulate you."
    "But we have a long way still to go. Kindly walk clear of  the  path.
Now let us follow the trail. I fear that it will not lead very far."
    We found, however, as we advanced that this portion of  the  moor  is
intersected with soft patches, and, though we frequently lost sight of the
track, we always succeeded in picking it up once more.
    "Do you observe," said Holmes, "that the  rider  is  now  undoubtedly
forcing the pace? There can be no doubt of it. Look  at  this  impression,
where you get both tires clear. The one is as deep as the other. That  can
only mean that the rider is throwing his weight on to the handle-bar, as a
man does when he is sprinting. By Jove! he has had a fall."
    There was a broad, irregular smudge covering some yards of the track.
Then there were a few footmarks, and the tire reappeared once more.
    "A side-slip," I suggested.
    Holmes held up a crumpled branch of flowering gorse. To my  horror  I
perceived that the yellow blossoms were all dabbled with crimson.  On  the
path, too, and among the heather were dark stains of clotted blood.
    "Bad!" said Holmes. "Bad! Stand clear,  Watson!  Not  an  unnecessary
footstep! What do I read here?  He  fell  wounded  -  he  stood  up  -  he
remounted - he proceeded. But there is no other track. Cattle on this side
path. He was surely not gored by a bull? Impossible! But I see  no  traces
of anyone else. We must push on, Watson. Surely, with stains  as  well  as
the track to guide us, he cannot escape us now."
    Our search was not a very long one. The tracks of the tire  began  to
curve fantastically upon the wet and shining path. Suddenly, as  I  looked
ahead, the gleam of metal caught my eye from amid the thick  gorse-bushes.
Out of them we dragged a bicycle, Palmer-tired, one pedal  bent,  and  the
whole front of it horribly smeared and slobbered with blood. On the  other
side of the bushes a shoe was projecting. We ran round, and there lay  the
unfortunate rider. He was a tall man, full-bearded, with  spectacles,  one
glass of which had been  knocked  out.  The  cause  of  his  death  was  a
frightful blow upon the head, which had crushed in part of his skull. That
he could have gone on after receiving such an injury  said  much  for  the
vitality and courage of the man. He wore shoes, but no socks, and his open
coat disclosed a nightshirt beneath it.  It  was  undoubtedly  the  German
master.
    Holmes turned the body over reverently, and examined  it  with  great
attention. He then sat in deep thought for a time, and I could see by  his
ruffled brow that this grim discovery had not, in his opinion, advanced us
much in our inquiry.
    "It is a little difficult to know what to do, Watson,"  said  he,  at
last. "My own inclinations are to  push  this  inquiry  on,  for  we  have
already lost so much time that we cannot afford to waste another hour.  On
the other hand, we are bound to inform the police of the discovery, and to
see that this poor fellow's body is looked after."
    "I could take a note back."
    "But I need your company and assistance.  Wait  a  bit!  There  is  a
fellow cutting peat up yonder. Bring him over here, and he will guide  the
police."
    I brought the peasant across, and Holmes  dispatched  the  frightened
man with a note to Dr. Huxtable.
    "Now, Watson," said he, "we have picked up two  clues  this  morning.
One is the bicycle with the Palmer tire, and we see what that has led  to.
The other is the bicycle with the  patched  Dunlop.  Before  we  start  to
investigate that, let us try to realize what we do know, so as to make the
most of it, and to separate the essential from the accidental."
    "First of all, I wish to impress upon you that the boy certainly left
of his own free-will. He got down from his window and he went off,  either
alone or with someone. That is sure."
    I assented.
    "Well, now, let us turn to this unfortunate German  master.  The  boy
was fully dressed when he fled. Therefore, he foresaw what  he  would  do.
But the German went without his socks. He certainly acted  on  very  short
notice."
    "Undoubtedly."
    "Why did he go? Because, from his bedroom window, he saw  the  flight
of the boy, because he wished to overtake  him  and  bring  him  back.  He
seized his bicycle, pursued the lad, and in pursuing him met his death."
    "So it would seem."
    "Now I come to the critical part of my argument. The  natural  action
of a man in pursuing a little boy would be to run after him. He would know
that he could overtake him. But the German does not do so. He turns to his
bicycle. I am told that he was an excellent cyclist. He would not do this,
if he did not see that the boy had some swift means of escape."
    "The other bicycle."
    "Let us continue our reconstruction. He meets his  death  five  miles
from the school - not by a bullet,  mark  you,  which  even  a  lad  might
conceivably discharge, but by a savage blow dealt by a vigorous  arm.  The
lad, then, HAD a companion in his flight. And the flight was a swift  one,
since it took five miles before an expert cyclist could overtake them. Yet
we survey the ground round the scene of the tragedy. What do  we  find?  A
few cattle-tracks, nothing more. I took a wide sweep round, and  there  is
no path within fifty yards. Another cyclist could have had nothing  to  do
with the actual murder, nor were there any human foot-marks."
    "Holmes," I cried, "this is impossible."
    "Admirable!" he said. "A most illuminating remark. It  IS  impossible
as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it  wrong.
Yet you saw for yourself. Can you suggest any fallacy?"
    "He could not have fractured his skull in a fall?"
    "In a morass, Watson?"
    "I am at my wit's end."
    "Tut, tut, we have solved some  worse  problems.  At  least  we  have
plenty of material, if we  can  only  use  it.  Come,  then,  and,  having
exhausted the Palmer, let us see what the Dunlop with  the  patched  cover
has to offer us."
    We picked up the track and followed it onward for some distance,  but
soon the moor rose into a long, heather-tufted  curve,  and  we  left  the
watercourse behind us. No further help from tracks could be hoped for.  At
the spot where we saw the last of the Dunlop tire it  might  equally  have
led to Holdernesse Hall, the stately towers of which rose  some  miles  to
our left, or to a low, gray village which lay in front of  us  and  marked
the position of the Chesterfield high road.
    As we approached the forbidding and squalid inn, with the sign  of  a
game-cock above the door, Holmes gave a sudden groan, and clutched  me  by
the shoulder to save himself from falling. He had had one of those violent
strains of the ankle which leave a man helpless. With difficulty he limped
up to the door, where a squat, dark, elderly man was smoking a black  clay
pipe.
    "How are you, Mr. Reuben Hayes?" said Holmes.
    "Who are you, and how do you get my  name  so  pat?"  the  countryman
answered, with a suspicious flash of a pair of cunning eyes.
    "Well, it's printed on the board above your head. It's easy to see  a
man who is master of his own house. I suppose you haven't such a thing  as
a carriage in your stables?"
    "No, I have not."
    "I can hardly put my foot to the ground."
    "Don't put it to the ground."
    "But I can't walk."
    "Well, then hop."
    Mr. Reuben Hayes's manner was far from gracious, but Holmes  took  it
with admirable good-humour.
    "Look here, my man," said he. "This is really rather an  awkward  fix
for me. I don't mind how I get on."
    "Neither do I," said the morose landlord.
    "The matter is very important. I would offer you a sovereign for  the
use of a bicycle."
    The landlord pricked up his ears.
    "Where do you want to go?"
    "To Holdernesse Hall."
    "Pals of the Dook, I  suppose?"  said  the  landlord,  surveying  our
mud-stained garments with ironical eyes.
    Holmes laughed good-naturedly.
    "He'll be glad to see us, anyhow."
    "Why?"
    "Because we bring him news of his lost son."
    The landlord gave a very visible start.
    "What, you're on his track?"
    "He has been heard of in Liverpool. They  expect  to  get  him  every
hour."
    Again a swift change passed over the heavy, unshaven face. His manner
was suddenly genial.
    "I've less reason to wish the Dook well than most men," said he, "for
I was head coachman once, and cruel bad he treated me.  It  was  him  that
sacked me without a character on the word of a  lying  corn-chandler.  But
I'm glad to hear that the young lord was heard of in Liverpool,  and  I'll
help you to take the news to the Hall."
    "Thank you," said Holmes. "Well have some food first.  Then  you  can
bring round the bicycle."
    "I haven't got a bicycle."
    Holmes held up a sovereign.
    "I tell you, man, that I haven't got  one.  I'll  let  you  have  two
horses as far as the Hall."
    "Well, well," said  Holmes,  "well  talk  about  it  when  we've  had
something to eat."
    When we  were  left  alone  in  the  stone-flagged  kitchen,  it  was
astonishing how rapidly that  sprained  ankle  recovered.  It  was  nearly
nightfall, and we had eaten nothing since early morning, so that we  spent
some time over our meal. Holmes was lost in thought, and once or twice  he
walked over to the window and stared earnestly out.  It  opened  on  to  a
squalid courtyard. In the far corner was a smithy, where a grimy  lad  was
at work. On the other side were the stables. Holmes  had  sat  down  again
after one of these excursions, when he suddenly sprang out  of  his  chair
with a loud exclamation.
    "By heaven, Watson, I believe that I've got it!" he cried. "Yes, yes,
it must be so. Watson, do you remember seeing any cow-tracks to-day?"
    "Yes, several."
    "Were?"
    "Well, everywhere. They were at the morass, and again  on  the  path,
and again near where poor Heidegger met his death."
    "Exactly. Well, now, Watson, how many cows did you see on the moor?"
    "I don't remember seeing any."
    "Strange, Watson, that we should see tracks all along our  line,  but
never a cow on the whole moor. Very strange, Watson, eh?"
    "Yes, it is strange."
    "Now, Watson, make an effort, throw your mind back. Can you see those
tracks upon the path?"
    "Yes, I can."
    "Can you recall that the tracks were sometimes like that,  Watson"  -
he arranged a number of bread-crumbs in this fashion - : : : :  :  -  "and
sometimes like this" - : . : . : . : . - "and occasionally  like  this"  -
. : . : . : . "Can you remember that?"
    "No, I cannot."
    "But I can. I could swear to it. However, we  will  go  back  at  our
leisure and verify it. What a blind beetle I have been,  not  to  draw  my
conclusion."
    "And what is your conclusion?"
    "Only that it is a remarkable cow which walks, canters, and  gallops.
By George! Watson, it was no brain of a country publican that thought  out
such a blind as that. The coast seems to be clear, save for  that  lad  in
the smithy. Let us slip out and see what we can see."
    There were  two  rough-haired,  unkempt  horses  in  the  tumble-down
stable. Holmes raised the hind leg of one of them and laughed aloud.
    "Old shoes, but newly shod - old shoes,  but  new  nails.  This  case
deserves to be a classic. Let us go across to the smithy."
    The lad continued his work without regarding us. I saw  Holmes's  eye
darting to right and left among the litter of  iron  and  wood  which  was
scattered about the floor. Suddenly, however, we heard a step  behind  us,
and there was the landlord, his heavy eyebrows drawn over his savage eyes,
his swarthy features convulsed with passion. He held a short, metal-headed
stick in his hand, and he advanced in so menacing a  fashion  that  I  was
right glad to feel the revolver in my pocket.
    "You infernal spies!" the man cried. "What are you doing there?"
    "Why, Mr. Reuben Hayes," said Holmes, coolly, "one might  think  that
you were afraid of our finding something out."
    The man mastered himself with a violent effort, and  his  grim  mouth
loosened into a false laugh, which was more menacing than his frown.
    "You're welcome to all you can find out in my smithy," said he.  "But
look here, mister, I don't care for folk poking about my place without  my
leave, so the sooner you pay your score and get out of this the  better  I
shall be pleased."
    "All right, Mr. Hayes, no harm meant," said  Holmes.  "We  have  been
having a look at your horses, but I think I'll walk, after all.  It's  not
far, I believe."
    "Not more than two miles to the Hall gates. That's the  road  to  the
left." He watched us with sullen eyes until we had left his premises.
    We did not go very far along the road, for Holmes stopped the instant
that the curve hid us from the landlord's view.
    "We were warm, as the children say, at that inn," said he. "I seem to
grow colder every step that I take away from it. No, no, I can't  possibly
leave it."
    "I am convinced," said I, "that this Reuben Hayes knows all about it.
A more self-evident villain I never saw."
    "Oh! he impressed you in that way, did  he?  There  are  the  horses,
there is the smithy. Yes, it is an interesting place, this Fighting  Cock.
I think we shall have another look at it in an unobtrusive way."
    A long,  sloping  hillside,  dotted  with  gray  limestone  boulders,
stretched behind us. We had turned off the road, and were making  our  way
up the hill, when, looking in the direction of Holdernesse Hall, I  saw  a
cyclist coming swiftly along.
    "Get down, Watson!" cried Holmes, with a heavy hand upon my shoulder.
We had hardly sunk from view when the man flew past us on the road. Amid a
rolling cloud of dust, I caught a glimpse of a pale,  agitated  face  -  a
face with horror in every lineament, the  mouth  open,  the  eyes  staring
wildly in front. It was like some strange caricature of the  dapper  James
Wilder whom we had seen the night before.
    "The Duke's secretary!" cried Holmes. "Come, Watson, let us see  what
he does."
    We scrambled from rock to rock, until in a few moments  we  had  made
our way to a point from which we could see the  front  door  of  the  inn.
Wilder's bicycle was leaning against the wall beside it. No one was moving
about the house, nor could we catch a glimpse of any faces at the windows.
Slowly the twilight crept down as the sun sank behind the high  towers  of
Holdernesse Hall. Then, in the gloom, we saw the two side-lamps of a  trap
light up in the stable-yard of the inn, and shortly afterwards  heard  the
rattle of hoofs, as it wheeled out into the road and tore off at a furious
pace in the direction of Chesterfield.
    "What do you make of that, Watson?" Holmes whispered.
    "It looks like a flight."
    "A single man in a  dog-cart,  so  far  as  I  could  see.  Well,  it
certainly was not Mr. James Wilder, for there he is at the door."
    A red square of light had sprung out of the darkness. In  the  middle
of it was the black figure of the secretary, his  head  advanced,  peering
out into the night. It was evident that he was expecting someone. Then  at
last there were steps in the road, a second  figure  was  visible  for  an
instant against the light, the door shut, and all  was  black  once  more.
Five minutes later a lamp was lit in a room upon the first floor.
    "It seems to be a curious  class  of  custom  that  is  done  by  the
Fighting Cock," said Holmes.
    "The bar is on the other side."
    "Quite so. These are what one may call the private guests. Now,  what
in the world is Mr. James Wilder doing in that den at this hour of  night,
and who is the companion who comes to meet him  there?  Come,  Watson,  we
must really take a risk and try to investigate this a little more closely."
    Together we stole down to the road and crept across to  the  door  of
the inn. The bicycle still leaned against the wall. Holmes struck a  match
and held it to the back wheel, and I heard him chuckle as the  light  fell
upon a patched Dunlop tire. Up above us was the lighted window.
    "I must have a peep through that, Watson. If you bend your  back  and
support yourself upon the wall, I think that I can manage."
    An instant later, his feet were on my shoulders, but he was hardly up
before he was down again.
    "Come, my friend," said he, "our  day's  work  has  been  quite  long
enough. I think that we have gathered all that we can. It's a long walk to
the school, and the sooner we get started the better."
    He hardly opened his lips during that weary trudge across  the  moor,
nor would he enter the school when he reached it, but went on to Mackleton
Station, whence he could send some telegrams. Late at night  I  heard  him
consoling Dr. Huxtable, prostrated by the tragedy of his  master's  death,
and later still he entered my room as alert and vigorous as  he  had  been
when he started in the morning. "All goes well, my friend,"  said  he.  "I
promise that before to-morrow evening we shall have reached  the  solution
of the mystery."
    At eleven o'clock next morning my friend and I were  walking  up  the
famous yew avenue  of  Holdernesse  Hall.  We  were  ushered  through  the
magnificent Elizabethan doorway and into his Grace's study. There we found
Mr. James Wilder, demure and courtly, but with some  trace  of  that  wild
terror of the night before still lurking in his furtive eyes  and  in  his
twitching features.
    "You have come to see his Grace? I am sorry, but the fact is that the
Duke is far from well. He has been very much upset by the tragic news.  We
received a telegram from Dr. Huxtable yesterday afternoon, which  told  us
of your discovery."
    "I must see the Duke, Mr. Wilder."
    "But he is in his room."
    "Then I must go to his room."
    "I believe he is in his bed."
    "I will see him there."
    Holmes's cold and inexorable manner showed the secretary that it  was
useless to argue with him.
    "Very good, Mr. Holmes, I will tell him that you are here."
    After an hour's delay, the great nobleman appeared. His face was more
cadaverous than ever, his shoulders had rounded, and he seemed to me to be
an altogether older man than he had been the morning before. He greeted us
with a stately courtesy and seated himself at  his  desk,  his  red  beard
streaming down on the table.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes?" said he.
    But my friend's eyes were fixed upon the secretary, who stood by  his
master's chair.
    "I think, your Grace, that I could speak more freely in Mr.  Wilder's
absence."
    The man turned a shade paler and cast a malignant glance at Holmes.
    "If your Grace wishes..."
    "Yes, yes, you had better go. Now, Mr. Holmes, what have you to say?"
    My friend waited until the door  had  closed  behind  the  retreating
secretary.
    "The fact is, your Grace," said he, "that my colleague,  Dr.  Watson,
and myself had an assurance from Dr.  Huxtable  that  a  reward  had  been
offered in this case. I should like to have this confirmed from  your  own
lips."
    "Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
    "It amounted, if I am correctly informed, to five thousand pounds  to
anyone who will tell you where your son is?"
    "Exactly."
    "And another thousand to the man who will name the person or  persons
who keep him in custody?"
    "Exactly."
    "Under the latter heading is included, no doubt, not only  those  who
may have taken him away, but also those who conspire to keep  him  in  his
present position?"
    "Yes, yes," cried the Duke, impatiently. "If you do your  work  well,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, you will have no  reason  to  complain  of  niggardly
treatment."
    My friend rubbed his  thin  hands  together  with  an  appearance  of
avidity which was a surprise to me, who knew his frugal tastes.
    "I fancy that I see your Grace's check-book upon the table," said he.
"I should be glad if you would make  me  out  a  check  for  six  thousand
pounds. It would be as well, perhaps, for you to cross it. The Capital and
Counties Bank, Oxford Street branch are my agents."
    His Grace sat very stern and upright in his chair and looked  stonily
at my friend.
    "Is this a joke, Mr. Holmes? It is hardly a subject for pleasantry."
    "Not at all, your Grace. I was never more earnest in my life."
    "What do you mean, then?"
    "I mean that I have earned the reward. I know where your son is,  and
I know some, at least, of those who are holding him."
    The Duke's beard had turned more aggressively red than  ever  against
his ghastly white face.
    "Where is he?" he gasped.
    "He is, or was last night, at the Fighting Cock Inn, about two  miles
from your park gate."
    The Duke fell back in his chair.
    "And whom do you accuse?"
    Sherlock Holmes's answer was an astounding one.  He  stepped  swiftly
forward and touched the Duke upon the shoulder.
    "I accuse YOU," said he. "And now, your Grace, I'll trouble  you  for
that check."
    Never shall I forget the Duke's appearance as he sprang up and clawed
with his hands, like one who is sinking  into  an  abyss.  Then,  with  an
extraordinary effort of aristocratic self-command, he sat  down  and  sank
his face in his hands. It was some minutes before he spoke.
    "How much do you know?" he asked at last, without raising his head.
    "I saw you together last night."
    "Does anyone else beside your friend know?"
    "I have spoken to no one."
    The Duke  took  a  pen  in  his  quivering  fingers  and  opened  his
check-book.
    "I shall be as good as my word, Mr. Holmes. I am about to write  your
check, however unwelcome the information which you have gained may  be  to
me. When the offer was first made, I little thought the turn which  events
might take. But you and your friend are men of discretion, Mr. Holmes?"
    "I hardly understand your Grace."
    "I must put it plainly, Mr. Holmes. If only  you  two  know  of  this
incident, there is no reason why it should go any farther. I think  twelve
thousand pounds is the sum that I owe you, is it not?"
    But Holmes smiled and shook his head.
    "I fear, your Grace, that matters can hardly be arranged  so  easily.
There is the death of this schoolmaster to be accounted for."
    "But James knew nothing of that. You cannot hold him responsible  for
that. It was the work of this brutal ruffian whom he had the misfortune to
employ."
    "I must take the view, your Grace, that when a  man  embarks  upon  a
crime, he is morally guilty of any other crime which may spring from it."
    "Morally, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are right. But surely not  in  the
eyes of the law. A man cannot be condemned for a murder at  which  he  was
not present, and which he loathes and  abhors  as  much  as  you  do.  The
instant that he heard of it he made a complete confession to me, so filled
was he with horror and remorse. He lost not an hour in  breaking  entirely
with the murderer. Oh, Mr. Holmes, you must save him - you must save  him!
I tell you that you must save him!" The Duke had dropped the last  attempt
at self-command, and was pacing the room with a convulsed  face  and  with
his clenched hands raving in the air. At last he mastered himself and  sat
down once more at his desk. "I appreciate  your  conduct  in  coming  here
before you spoke to anyone else," said he. "At least, we may take  counsel
how far we can minimize this hideous scandal."
    "Exactly," said Holmes. "I think, your Grace, that this can  only  be
done by absolute frankness between us. I am disposed to help your Grace to
the best of my ability, but, in order to do so, I must understand  to  the
last detail how the matter stands. I realize that your  words  applied  to
Mr. James Wilder, and that he is not the murderer."
    "No, the murderer has escaped."
    Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
    "Your Grace can hardly have heard of any  small  reputation  which  I
possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy  to  escape  me.  Mr.
Reuben Hayes was arrested at Chesterfield, on my  information,  at  eleven
o'clock last night. I had a telegram from the head  of  the  local  police
before I left the school this morning."
    The Duke leaned back in his chair and stared  with  amazement  at  my
friend.
    "You seem to have powers that are hardly human," said he. "So  Reuben
Hayes is taken? I am right glad to hear it, if it will not react upon  the
fate of James."
    "Your secretary?"
    "No, sir, my son."
    It was Holmes's turn to look astonished.
    "I confess that this is entirely new to me, your Grace.  I  must  beg
you to be more explicit."
    "I will conceal nothing from you. I  agree  with  you  that  complete
frankness, however painful it may be to me, is the  best  policy  in  this
desperate situation to which James's folly and jealousy have  reduced  us.
When I was a very young man, Mr. Holmes, I loved with such a love as comes
only once in a lifetime. I offered the lady marriage, but she  refused  it
on the grounds that such a match might mar my career.  Had  she  lived,  I
would certainly never have married anyone else. She died,  and  left  this
one child, whom for her sake I have cherished and cared for. I  could  not
acknowledge the paternity to the  world,  but  I  gave  him  the  best  of
educations, and since he came to manhood I have kept him near  my  person.
He surprised my secret, and has presumed ever since upon the  claim  which
he has upon me, and upon his power of provoking a scandal which  would  be
abhorrent to me. His presence had something to do with the  unhappy  issue
of my marriage. Above all, he hated my  young  legitimate  heir  from  the
first with a persistent hatred. You may  well  ask  me  why,  under  these
circumstances, I still kept James under my roof.  I  answer  that  it  was
because I could see his mother's face in his, and that for her  dear  sake
there was no end to my long-suffering. All her pretty ways too - there was
not one of them which he could not suggest and bring back to my memory.  I
COULD not send him away. But I feared so much lest he should do  Arthur  -
that is, Lord Saltire - a mischief, that I dispatched him  for  safety  to
Dr. Huxtable's school.
    "James came into contact with this fellow Hayes, because the man  was
a tenant of mine, and James acted as agent. The fellow was a  rascal  from
the beginning, but, in some extraordinary way, James became intimate  with
him. He had always a taste for  low  company.  When  James  determined  to
kidnap Lord Saltire, it was of this man's service that he availed himself.
You remember that I wrote to Arthur upon that last day. Well, James opened
the letter and inserted a note asking Arthur to meet him in a little  wood
called the Ragged Shaw, which is near to the school. He used the Duchess's
name, and in that way got the boy to come.  That  evening  James  bicycled
over - I am telling you what he has himself confessed to me - and he  told
Arthur, whom he met in the wood, that his mother longed to see  him,  that
she was awaiting him on the moor, and that if he would come back into  the
wood at midnight he would find a man with a horse, who would take  him  to
her. Poor Arthur fell into the trap. He came to the appointment, and found
this fellow Hayes with a led  pony.  Arthur  mounted,  and  they  set  off
together. It appears - though this James only heard yesterday - that  they
were pursued, that Hayes struck the pursuer with his stick, and  that  the
man died of his injuries. Hayes brought Arthur to  his  public-house,  the
Fighting Cock, where he was confined in an upper room, under the  care  of
Mrs. Hayes, who is a kindly woman, but entirely under the control  of  her
brutal husband.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, that was the state of affairs when I first saw you
two days ago. I had no more idea of the truth than you. You  will  ask  me
what was James's motive in doing such a deed. I answer that  there  was  a
great deal which was unreasoning and fanatical in the hatred which he bore
my heir. In his view he should himself have been heir of all  my  estates,
and he deeply resented those social laws which made it impossible. At  the
same time, he had a definite motive also. He was eager that I should break
the entail, and he was of opinion that it lay in my power  to  do  so.  He
intended to make a bargain with me - to restore Arthur if  I  would  break
the entail, and so make it possible for the estate to be left  to  him  by
will. He knew well that I should never willingly invoke  the  aid  of  the
police against him. I say that he would have proposed such  a  bargain  to
me, but he did not actually do so, for events moved too quickly  for  him,
and he had not time to put his plans into practice.
    "What brought all his wicked scheme to wreck was  your  discovery  of
this man Heidegger's dead body. James was seized with horror at the  news.
It came to us yesterday, as we sat together in this  study.  Dr.  Huxtable
had sent a telegram. James was so overwhelmed  with  grief  and  agitation
that my suspicions, which had never been entirely absent,  rose  instantly
to a certainty, and I  taxed  him  with  the  deed.  He  made  a  complete
voluntary confession. Then he implored me to keep  his  secret  for  three
days longer, so as to give his wretched accomplice a chance of saving  his
guilty life. I yielded - as I have always yielded - to  his  prayers,  and
instantly James hurried off to the Fighting Cock to warn  Hayes  and  give
him the means of  flight.  I  could  not  go  there  by  daylight  without
provoking comment, but as soon as night fell I hurried off to see my  dear
Arthur. I found him safe and well, but horrified beyond expression by  the
dreadful deed he had witnessed. In  deference  to  my  promise,  and  much
against my will, I consented to leave him there for three days, under  the
charge of Mrs. Hayes, since it was  evident  that  it  was  impossible  to
inform the police where he was without  telling  them  also  who  was  the
murderer, and I could not see how that murderer could be punished  without
ruin to my unfortunate James. You asked for frankness, Mr. Holmes,  and  I
have taken you at your word, for I have now told you everything without an
attempt at circumlocution or concealment. Do you in turn be as frank  with
me."
    "I will," said Holmes. "In the first place, your Grace, I am bound to
tell you that you have placed yourself in a most serious position  in  the
eyes of the law. You have condoned a felony, and you have aided the escape
of a murderer, for I cannot doubt that any money which was taken by  James
Wilder to aid his accomplice in his flight came from your Grace's purse."
    The Duke bowed his assent.
    "This is, indeed, a most serious matter. Even  more  culpable  in  my
opinion, your Grace, is your attitude towards your younger son. You  leave
him in this den for three days."
    "Under solemn promises..."
    "What are promises to such people as these?  You  have  no  guarantee
that he will not be spirited away again. To humour your guilty elder  son,
you have exposed your innocent younger son  to  imminent  and  unnecessary
danger. It was a most unjustifiable action."
    The proud lord of Holdernesse was not accustomed to be  so  rated  in
his own ducal hall. The blood flushed into  his  high  forehead,  but  his
conscience held him dumb.
    "I will help you, but on one condition only. It is that you ring  for
the footman and let me give such orders as I like."
    Without a word,  the  Duke  pressed  the  electric  bell.  A  servant
entered.
    "You will be glad to hear," said Holmes, "that your young  master  is
found. It is the Duke's desire that the carriage shall go at once  to  the
Fighting Cock Inn to bring Lord Saltire home.
    "Now," said  Holmes,  when  the  rejoicing  lackey  had  disappeared,
"having secured the future, we can afford to  be  more  lenient  with  the
past. I am not in an official position, and there is no reason, so long as
the ends of justice are served, why I should disclose all that I know.  As
to Hayes, I say nothing. The gallows awaits him, and I would do nothing to
save him from it. What he will divulge I cannot tell, but I have no  doubt
that your Grace could make him understand that it is to his interest to be
silent. From the police point of view he will have kidnapped the  boy  for
the purpose of ransom. If they do not themselves find it  out,  I  see  no
reason why I should prompt them to take a broader point of view.  I  would
warn your Grace, however, that the continued presence of Mr. James  Wilder
in your household can only lead to misfortune."
    "I understand that, Mr. Holmes, and it is  already  settled  that  he
shall leave me forever, and go to seek his fortune in Australia."
    "In that case, your Grace, since you have yourself  stated  that  any
unhappiness in your married life  was  caused  by  his  presence  I  would
suggest that you make such amends as you can to the Duchess, and that  you
try to resume those relations which have been so unhappily interrupted."
    "That also I have arranged, Mr. Holmes. I wrote to the  Duchess  this
morning."
    "In that case," said Holmes, rising, "I think that my  friend  and  I
can congratulate ourselves upon several most happy results from our little
visit to the North. There is one other small point  upon  which  I  desire
some light. This fellow  Hayes  had  shod  his  horses  with  shoes  which
counterfeited the tracks of cows. Was it from Mr. Wilder that  he  learned
so extraordinary a device?"
    The Duke stood in thought for  a  moment,  with  a  look  of  intense
surprise on his face. Then he opened a door and showed  us  into  a  large
room furnished as a museum. He led the way to a glass case  in  a  corner,
and pointed to the inscription.
    "These shoes," it ran, "were dug up in the moat of Holdernesse  Hall.
They are for the use of horses, but they are shaped below  with  a  cloven
foot of iron, so as to throw pursuers off the track. They are supposed  to
have belonged to some of the marauding Barons of Holdernesse in the Middle
Ages."
    Holmes opened the case, and moistening his finger he passed it  along
the shoe. A thin film of recent mud was left upon his skin.
    "Thank you," said he, as he replaced the glass.  "It  is  the  second
most interesting object that I have seen in the North."
    "And the first?"
    Holmes folded up his check and placed it carefully in  his  notebook.
"I am a poor man," said he, as he patted it affectionately, and thrust  it
into the depths of his inner pocket.





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                     THE ADVENTURE OF BLACK PETER


    I have never known my friend to be in better form,  both  mental  and
physical, than in the year '95. His increasing fame had brought with it an
immense practice, and I should be guilty of an indiscretion if I were even
to hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our
humble threshold in Baker Street. Holmes, however, like all great artists,
lived for  his  art's  sake,  and,  save  in  the  case  of  the  Duke  of
Holdernesse, I have seldom known  him  claim  any  large  reward  for  his
inestimable services. So unworldly was he - or so  capricious  -  that  he
frequently refused his help to the powerful and wealthy where the  problem
made no appeal to his sympathies, while he  would  devote  weeks  of  most
intense application to the  affairs  of  some  humble  client  whose  case
presented those strange and  dramatic  qualities  which  appealed  to  his
imagination and challenged his ingenuity.
    In this memorable year '95, a curious and incongruous  succession  of
cases had engaged his attention, ranging from his famous investigation  of
the sudden death of Cardinal Tosca - an inquiry which was carried  out  by
him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope - down to his arrest of
Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the
East End of London. Close on the heels of these two famous cases came  the
tragedy of  Woodman's  Lee,  and  the  very  obscure  circumstances  which
surrounded the death of Captain Peter Carey. No record of  the  doings  of
Mr. Sherlock Holmes would be complete which did not include  some  account
of this very unusual affair.
    During the first week of July, my friend had been absent so often and
so long from our lodgings that I knew he had something on hand.  The  fact
that several rough-looking men called during that time  and  inquired  for
Captain Basil made me understand that Holmes was working  somewhere  under
one of the numerous disguises and names with which he  concealed  his  own
formidable identity. He had at least five small refuges in different parts
of London, in which he was able to change his personality. He said nothing
of his business to me, and it was not my habit to force a confidence.  The
first  positive  sign  which  he  gave  me  of  the  direction  which  his
investigation was taking was an extraordinary one. He had gone out  before
breakfast, and I had sat down to mine when he strode into  the  room,  his
hat upon his head and a huge barbed-headed spear tucked like  an  umbrella
under his arm.
    "Good gracious, Holmes!" I cried. "You don't mean  to  say  that  you
have been walking about London with that thing?"
    "I drove to the butcher's and back."
    "The butcher's?"
    "And I return with an excellent appetite. There can be  no  question,
my dear Watson, of the value  of  exercise  before  breakfast.  But  I  am
prepared to bet that you will not guess the  form  that  my  exercise  has
taken."
    "I will not attempt it."
    He chuckled as he poured out the coffee.
    "If you could have looked into Allardyce's back shop, you would  have
seen a dead pig swung from a hook in the ceiling, and a gentleman  in  his
shirt sleeves furiously stabbing at  it  with  this  weapon.  I  was  that
energetic person, and I have satisfied myself that by no  exertion  of  my
strength can I transfix the pig with a single blow. Perhaps you would care
to try?"
    "Not for worlds. But why were you doing this?"
    "Because it seemed to me to have an indirect bearing upon the mystery
of Woodman's Lee. Ah, Hopkins, I got your wire last night, and I have been
expecting you. Come and join us."
    Our visitor was an  exceedingly  alert  man,  thirty  years  of  age,
dressed in a quiet tweed suit, but retaining the erect bearing of one  who
was accustomed to official uniform. I recognized him at  once  as  Stanley
Hopkins, a young police inspector, for whose future Holmes had high hopes,
while he in turn professed the admiration and respect of a pupil  for  the
scientific methods of the famous amateur. Hopkins's brow was clouded,  and
he sat down with an air of deep dejection.
    "No, thank you, sir. I breakfasted before I came round. I  spent  the
night in town, for I came up yesterday to report."
    "And what had you to report?"
    "Failure, sir, absolute failure."
    "You have made no progress?"
    "None."
    "Dear me! I must have a look at the matter."
    "I wish to heavens that you would, Mr.  Holmes.  It's  my  first  big
chance, and I am at my wit's end. For goodness' sake, come down  and  lend
me a hand."
    "Well, well, it just  happens  that  I  have  already  read  all  the
available evidence, including the report of the inquest, with  some  care.
By the way, what do you make of that tobacco pouch, found on the scene  of
the crime? Is there no clue there?"
    Hopkins looked surprised.
    "It was the man's own pouch, sir. His initials were inside it. And it
was of sealskin, - and he was an old sealer."
    "But he had no pipe."
    "No, sir, we could find no pipe. Indeed, he smoked very  little,  and
yet he might have kept some tobacco for his friends."
    "No doubt. I only mention it because, if  I  had  been  handling  the
case, I should have been inclined to make that the  starting-point  of  my
investigation. However, my friend,  Dr.  Watson,  knows  nothing  of  this
matter, and I should be none the worse for hearing the sequence of  events
once more. Just give us some short sketches of the essentials."
    Stanley Hopkins drew a slip of paper from his pocket.
    "I have a few dates here which will give you the career of  the  dead
man, Captain Peter Carey. He was born in '45 - fifty years of age. He  was
a most daring and successful seal and whale fisher. In 1883  he  commanded
the steam  sealer  SEA  UNICORN,  of  Dundee.  He  had  then  had  several
successful voyages in succession, and in  the  following  year,  1884,  he
retired. After that he travelled for some years, and finally he  bought  a
small place called Woodman's Lee, near Forest Row, in Sussex. There he has
lived for six years, and there he died just a week ago to-day.
    "There were some most singular points  about  the  man.  In  ordinary
life, he was a strict Puritan - a silent,  gloomy  fellow.  His  household
consisted of his wife, his daughter, aged twenty, and two female servants.
These last were continually changing, for  it  was  never  a  very  cheery
situation, and sometimes it became  past  all  bearing.  The  man  was  an
intermittent drunkard, and when he had the fit on him  he  was  a  perfect
fiend. He has been known to drive his wife and daughter out  of  doors  in
the middle of the night and flog them through the  park  until  the  whole
village outside the gates was aroused by their screams.
    "He was summoned once for a savage assault upon the  old  vicar,  who
had called upon him to remonstrate with him upon his  conduct.  In  short,
Mr. Holmes, you would go far before you found a more  dangerous  man  than
Peter Carey, and I have heard that he bore  the  same  character  when  he
commanded his ship. He was known in the trade as Black Peter, and the name
was given him, not only on account of his swarthy features and the  colour
of his huge beard, but for the humours which were the terror of all around
him. I need not say that he was loathed and avoided by every  one  of  his
neighbours, and that I have not heard one single word of sorrow about  his
terrible end.
    "You must have read in the account of the  inquest  about  the  man's
cabin, Mr. Holmes, but perhaps your friend here has not heard  of  it.  He
had built himself a wooden outhouse - he always called it the `cabin' -  a
few hundred yards from his house, and it was  here  that  he  slept  every
night. It was a little, single-roomed hut, sixteen feet by  ten.  He  kept
the key in his pocket, made his own bed, cleaned it himself,  and  allowed
no other foot to cross the threshold. There  are  small  windows  on  each
side, which were covered by  curtains  and  never  opened.  One  of  these
windows was turned towards the high road, and when the light burned in  it
at night the folk used to point it out to each other and wonder what Black
Peter was doing in there. That's the window, Mr. Holmes, which gave us one
of the few bits of positive evidence that came out at the inquest.
    "You remember that a stonemason, named Slater,  walking  from  Forest
Row about one o'clock in the morning  -  two  days  before  the  murder  -
stopped as he passed the grounds and looked at the square of  light  still
shining among the trees. He swears that the shadow of a man's head  turned
sideways was clearly visible on  the  blind,  and  that  this  shadow  was
certainly not that of Peter Carey, whom he knew well. It  was  that  of  a
bearded man, but the beard was short and bristled forward in  a  way  very
different from that of the captain. So he says, but he had been two  hours
in the public-house, and it is some distance from the road to the  window.
Besides, this refers to the Monday,  and  the  crime  was  done  upon  the
Wednesday.
    "On the Tuesday, Peter Carey  was  in  one  of  his  blackest  moods,
flushed with drink and as savage as a  dangerous  wild  beast.  He  roamed
about the house, and the women ran for it when they heard him coming. Late
in the evening, he went down  to  his  own  hut.  About  two  o'clock  the
following morning, his daughter, who slept with her window open,  heard  a
most fearful yell from that direction, but it was no unusual thing for him
to bawl and shout when he was in drink, so no notice was taken. On  rising
at seven, one of the maids noticed that the door of the hut was open,  but
so great was the terror which the man caused that  it  was  midday  before
anyone would venture down to see what had become of him. Peeping into  the
open door, they saw a sight which sent them flying, with white faces, into
the village. Within an hour, I was on the spot  and  had  taken  over  the
case.
    "Well, I have fairly steady nerves, as you know, Mr.  Holmes,  but  I
give you my word, that I got a shake when I put my head into  that  little
house. It was droning like a harmonium with the flies and bluebottles, and
the floor and walls were like a slaughter-house. He had called it a cabin,
and a cabin it was, sure enough, for you would have thought that you  were
in a ship. There was a bunk at one end, a sea-chest, maps  and  charts,  a
picture of the SEA UNICORN, a line of logbooks on a shelf, all exactly  as
one would expect to find it in a captain's room. And there, in the  middle
of it, was the man himself - his face twisted like a lost soul in torment,
and his great brindled beard stuck upward in his agony. Right through  his
broad breast a steel harpoon had been driven, and it had  sunk  deep  into
the wood of the wall behind him. He was pinned like a beetle on a card. Of
course, he was quite dead, and had been so from the instant  that  he  had
uttered that last yell of agony.
    "I know your methods, sir, and I applied  them.  Before  I  permitted
anything to be moved, I examined most carefully the  ground  outside,  and
also the floor of the room. There were no footmarks."
    "Meaning that you saw none?"
    "I assure you, sir, that there were none."
    "My good Hopkins, I have investigated many crimes, but I  have  never
yet seen one which was committed by a flying  creature.  As  long  as  the
criminal remains upon two legs so long must  there  be  some  indentation,
some abrasion, some trifling displacement which can  be  detected  by  the
scientific searcher. It is incredible  that  this  blood-bespattered  room
contained no trace which could have aided us. I understand, however,  from
the inquest that there were some objects which you failed to overlook?"
    The young inspector winced at my companion's ironical comments.
    "I was a fool not to call you in at the  time  Mr.  Holmes.  However,
that's past praying for now. Yes, there were several objects in  the  room
which called for special attention. One was the  harpoon  with  which  the
deed was committed. It had been snatched down from a rack on the wall. Two
others remained there, and there was a vacant place for the third. On  the
stock was engraved `SS. SEA UNICORN, Dundee.'  This  seemed  to  establish
that the crime had been done in a moment of fury, and  that  the  murderer
had seized the first weapon which came in his way. The fact that the crime
was committed at two in  the  morning,  and  yet  Peter  Carey  was  fully
dressed, suggested that he had an appointment with the murderer, which  is
borne out by the fact that a bottle of rum and  two  dirty  glasses  stood
upon the table."
    "Yes," said Holmes; "I think that both  inferences  are  permissible.
Was there any other spirit but rum in the room?"
    "Yes, there was a  tantalus  containing  brandy  and  whisky  on  the
sea-chest. It is of no importance to us, however, since the decanters were
full, and it had therefore not been used."
    "For all that, its presence  has  some  significance,"  said  Holmes.
"However, let us hear some more about the objects which do seem to you  to
bear upon the case."
    "There was this tobacco-pouch upon the table."
    "What part of the table?"
    "It  lay  in  the  middle.  It  was  of   coarse   sealskin   -   the
straight-haired skin, with a leather thong to bind it. Inside  was  `P.C.'
on the flap. There was half an ounce of strong ship's tobacco in it."
    "Excellent! What more?"
    Stanley Hopkins drew from his pocket  a  drab-covered  notebook.  The
outside was rough and worn, the leaves discoloured. On the first page were
written the initials "J.H.N." and the date "1883." Holmes laid it  on  the
table and examined it in his minute way, while Hopkins and  I  gazed  over
each shoulder. On the second page were the printed letters  "C.P.R.,"  and
then came several sheets of  numbers.  Another  heading  was  "Argentine,"
another "Costa Rica," and another "San Paulo," each with  pages  of  signs
and figures after it.
    "What do you make of these?" asked Holmes.
    "They appear to be lists of Stock Exchange securities. I thought that
`J.H.N.' were the initials of a broker, and that `C.P.R.'  may  have  been
his client."
    "Try Canadian Pacific Railway," said Holmes.
    Stanley Hopkins swore between his teeth, and struck  his  thigh  with
his clenched hand.
    "What a fool I have been!" he cried. "Of course, it is  as  you  say.
Then `J.H.N.' are the only initials we  have  to  solve.  I  have  already
examined the old Stock Exchange lists, and I can  find  no  one  in  1883,
either  in  the  house  or  among  the  outside  brokers,  whose  initials
correspond with these. Yet I feel that the clue is the most important  one
that I hold. You will admit, Mr. Holmes, that there is a possibility  that
these initials are those of the second person who was present -  in  other
words, of the murderer. I would also urge that the introduction  into  the
case of a document relating to large masses of valuable  securities  gives
us for the first time some indication of a motive for the crime."
    Sherlock Holmes's face showed that he was thoroughly taken  aback  by
this new development.
    "I must admit both your  points,"  said  he.  "I  confess  that  this
notebook, which did not appear at the inquest, modifies any views which  I
may have formed. I had come to a theory of the crime in which I  can  find
no place for this. Have you endeavoured to trace  any  of  the  securities
here mentioned?"
    "Inquiries are now being made at the offices, but  I  fear  that  the
complete register of the stockholders of these South American concerns  is
in South America, and that some weeks must elapse before we can trace  the
shares."
    Holmes had  been  examining  the  cover  of  the  notebook  with  his
magnifying lens.
    "Surely there is some discolouration here," said he.
    "Yes, sir, it is a blood-stain. I told you that I picked the book off
the floor."
    "Was the blood-stain above or below?"
    "On the side next the boards."
    "Which proves, of course, that the book was dropped after  the  crime
was committed."
    "Exactly, Mr. Holmes. I appreciated that  point,  and  I  conjectured
that it was dropped by the murderer in his hurried flight. It lay near the
door."
    "I suppose that none of these securities have been  found  among  the
property of the dead man?"
    "No, sir."
    "Have you any reason to suspect robbery?"
    "No, sir. Nothing seemed to have been touched."
    "Dear me, it is certainly a very interesting case. Then there  was  a
knife, was there not?"
    "A sheath-knife, still in its sheath. It lay at the feet of the  dead
man. Mrs. Carey has identified it as being her husband's property."
    Holmes was lost in thought for some time.
    "Well," said he, at last, "I suppose I shall have  to  come  out  and
have a look at it."
    Stanley Hopkins gave a cry of joy.
    "Thank you, sir. That will, indeed, be a weight off my mind."
    Holmes shook his finger at the inspector.
    "It would have been an easier task a week ago," said  he.  "But  even
now my visit may not be entirely fruitless. Watson, if you can  spare  the
time, I should  be  very  glad  of  your  company.  If  you  will  call  a
four-wheeler, Hopkins, we shall be ready to start  for  Forest  Row  in  a
quarter of an hour."
    Alighting at the small wayside  station,  we  drove  for  some  miles
through the remains of widespread woods, which  were  once  part  of  that
great forest which for so long held  the  Saxon  invaders  at  bay  -  the
impenetrable "weald,"  for  sixty  years  the  bulwark  of  Britain.  Vast
sections of it have been cleared, for  this  is  the  seat  of  the  first
iron-works of the country, and the trees have been  felled  to  smelt  the
ore. Now the richer fields of the  North  have  absorbed  the  trade,  and
nothing save these ravaged groves and great scars in the  earth  show  the
work of the past. Here, in a clearing upon the  green  slope  of  a  hill,
stood a long, low, stone house, approached  by  a  curving  drive  running
through the fields. Nearer the road, and  surrounded  on  three  sides  by
bushes, was a small outhouse, one  window  and  the  door  facing  in  our
direction. It was the scene of the murder.
    Stanley Hopkins led us first to the house, where he introduced us  to
a haggard, gray-haired woman, the widow of the murdered man,  whose  gaunt
and deep-lined face, with the furtive look of terror in the depths of  her
red-rimmed eyes, told of the years of hardship and ill-usage which she had
endured. With her was her daughter, a pale, fair-haired girl,  whose  eyes
blazed defiantly at us as she told us that she was glad  that  her  father
was dead, and that she blessed the hand which had struck him down. It  was
a terrible household that Black Peter Carey had made for himself,  and  it
was with a sense of relief that we found ourselves in the  sunlight  again
and making our way along a path which had been worn across the  fields  by
the feet of the dead man.
    The  outhouse  was  the   simplest   of   dwellings,   wooden-walled,
shingle-roofed, one window beside the door and one on  the  farther  side.
Stanley Hopkins drew the key from his pocket and had stooped to the  lock,
when he paused with a look of attention and surprise upon his face.
    Somone has been tampering with it," he said.
    There could be no doubt of the fact. The woodwork was  cut,  and  the
scratches showed white through the paint, as if they had been that instant
done. Holmes had been examining the window.
    "Someone has tried to force this also. Whoever it was has  failed  to
make his way in. He must have been a very poor burglar."
    "This is a most extraordinary thing," said the  inspector,  "I  could
swear that these marks were not here yesterday evening."
    "Some curious person from the village, perhaps," I suggested.
    "Very unlikely. Few of them would dare to set foot  in  the  grounds,
far less try to force their way into the cabin. What do you think  of  it,
Mr. Holmes?"
    "I think that fortune is very kind to us."
    "You mean that the person will come again?"
    "It is very probable. He came expecting to find  the  door  open.  He
tried to get in with the blade of a very  small  penknife.  He  could  not
manage it. What would he do?"
    "Come again next night with a more useful tool."
    "So I should say. It will be our fault if we are not there to receive
him. Meanwhile, let me see the inside of the cabin."
    The traces of the tragedy had been removed, but the furniture  within
the little room still stood as it had been on the night of the crime.  For
two hours, with most intense concentration, Holmes examined  every  object
in turn, but his face showed that his quest was not a successful one. Once
only he paused in his patient investigation.
    "Have you taken anything off this shelf, Hopkins?"
    "No, I have moved nothing."
    "Something has been taken. There is less dust in this corner  of  the
shelf than elsewhere. It may have been a book lying on its  side.  It  may
have been a box. Well, well, I can do nothing more. Let us walk  in  these
beautiful woods, Watson, and give  a  few  hours  to  the  birds  and  the
flowers. We shall meet you here later, Hopkins, and see if we can come  to
closer quarters with the gentleman who has paid this visit in the night."
    It was past eleven o'clock  when  we  formed  our  little  ambuscade.
Hopkins was for leaving the door of the hut open, but Holmes  was  of  the
opinion that this would rouse the suspicions of the stranger. The lock was
a perfectly simple one, and only a strong blade  was  needed  to  push  it
back. Holmes also suggested that we should wait, not inside the  hut,  but
outside it, among the bushes which grew round the farther window. In  this
way we should be able to watch our man if he struck a light, and see  what
his object was in this stealthy nocturnal visit.
    It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet brought with it something
of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside  the  water-pool,
and waits for the coming  of  the  thirsty  beast  of  prey.  What  savage
creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness?  Was  it  a
fierce tiger of crime, which  could  only  be  taken  fighting  hard  with
flashing fang and claw, or would it prove  to  be  some  skulking  jackal,
dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?
    In absolute silence we  crouched  amongst  the  bushes,  waiting  for
whatever might come. At first the steps of a few belated villagers, or the
sound of voices from the village, lightened our  vigil,  but  one  by  one
these interruptions died away, and an absolute  stillness  fell  upon  us,
save for the chimes of the distant church, which told us of  the  progress
of the night, and for the rustle and whisper of a fine rain  falling  amid
the foliage which roofed us in.
    Half-past two had chimed, and it was the darkest hour which  precedes
the dawn, when we all started as a low  but  sharp  click  came  from  the
direction of the gate. Someone had entered the drive. Again  there  was  a
long silence, and I had begun to fear that it was a false  alarm,  when  a
stealthy step was heard upon the other side of the hut, and a moment later
a metallic scraping and clinking. The man was trying to  force  the  lock.
This time his skill was greater or his tool was better, for  there  was  a
sudden snap and the creak of the hinges. Then a match was struck, and next
instant the steady light from a candle filled the  interior  of  the  hut.
Through the gauze curtain our eyes were all riveted upon the scene within.
    The nocturnal visitor was a young man, frail and thin, with  a  black
moustache, which intensified the deadly pallor of his face. He  could  not
have been much above twenty years of age. I  have  never  seen  any  human
being who appeared to be in such a pitiable fright,  for  his  teeth  were
visibly chattering, and he was shaking in every limb. He was dressed  like
a gentleman, in Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, with a cloth  cap  upon
his head. We watched him staring round with frightened eyes. Then he  laid
the candle-end upon the table and disappeared from our view  into  one  of
the corners. He returned with a large book,  one  of  the  logbooks  which
formed a line upon the shelves. Leaning on the table,  he  rapidly  turned
over the leaves of this volume until he came to the entry which he sought.
Then, with an angry gesture of his clenched  hand,  he  closed  the  book,
replaced it in the corner, and put out the light. He had hardly turned  to
leave the hut when Hopkin's hand was on the fellow's collar, and  I  heard
his loud gasp of terror as he understood that he was taken. The candle was
relit, and there was our wretched captive, shivering and cowering  in  the
grasp of the detective. He  sank  down  upon  the  sea-chest,  and  looked
helplessly from one of us to the other.
    "Now, my fine fellow," said Stanley Hopkins, "who are you,  and  what
do you want here?"
    The man pulled himself together, and  faced  us  with  an  effort  at
self-composure.
    "You are detectives, I suppose?" said he. "You imagine I am connected
with the death of Captain Peter Carey. I assure you that I am innocent."
    "We'll see about that," said Hopkins. "First of  all,  what  is  your
name?"
    "It is John Hopley Neligan."
    I saw Holmes and Hopkins exchange a quick glance.
    "What are you doing here?"
    "Can I speak confidentially?"
    "No, certainly not."
    "Why should I tell you?"
    "If you have no answer, it may go badly with you at the trial."
    The young man winced.
    "Well, I will tell you," he said. "Why should I not? And yet  I  hate
to think of this old scandal gaining a new lease of  life.  Did  you  ever
hear of Dawson and Neligan?"
    I could see, from Hopkins's face, that he never had, but  Holmes  was
keenly interested.
    "You mean the West Country bankers," said  he.  "They  failed  for  a
million,  ruined  half  the  county  families  of  Cornwall,  and  Neligan
disappeared."
    "Exactly. Neligan was my father."
    At last we were getting something positive, and yet it seemed a  long
gap between an absconding banker and Captain Peter  Carey  pinned  against
the wall with one of his own harpoons. We all  listened  intently  to  the
young man's words.
    "It was my father who was really concerned. Dawson had retired. I was
only ten years of age at the time, but I was old enough to feel the  shame
and horror of it all. It has always been said that my father stole all the
securities and fled. It is not true. It was his belief  that  if  he  were
given time in which to realize them, all would be well and every  creditor
paid in full. He started in his little yacht for Norway  just  before  the
warrant was issued for his arrest. I can remember that last night when  he
bade farewell to my mother. He left us a list of  the  securities  he  was
taking, and he swore that he would come back with his honour cleared,  and
that none who had trusted him would suffer. Well, no word was  ever  heard
from him again. Both the yacht and he vanished utterly.  We  believed,  my
mother and I, that he and it, with the securities that he had  taken  with
him, were at the bottom of the sea. We had a faithful friend, however, who
is a business man, and it was he who discovered some time ago that some of
the securities which my father had with him had reappeared on  the  London
market. You can imagine our amazement. I spent months in trying  to  trace
them, and at last, after many doubtings  and  difficulties,  I  discovered
that the original seller had been Captain Peter Carey, the owner  of  this
hut.
    "Naturally, I made some inquiries about the man. I found that he  had
been in command of a whaler which was due to return from the  Arctic  seas
at the very time when my father was crossing to Norway. The autumn of that
year was a stormy one, and there was a long succession of southerly gales.
My father's yacht may well have been blown to the north, and there met  by
Captain Peter Carey's ship. If that were so, what had become of my father?
In any case, if I could  prove  from  Peter  Carey's  evidence  how  these
securities came on the market it would be a proof that my father  had  not
sold them, and that he had no view to personal profit when he took them.
    "I came down to Sussex with the intention of seeing the captain,  but
it was at this moment that his terrible death  occurred.  I  read  at  the
inquest a description of his cabin,  in  which  it  stated  that  the  old
logbooks of his vessel were preserved in it. It struck me that if I  could
see what occurred in the month of August, 1883, on board the SEA  UNICORN,
I might settle the mystery of my father's fate. I tried last night to  get
at these logbooks, but was unable to open the door. To-night I tried again
and succeeded, but I find that the pages which deal with that  month  have
been torn from the book. It was at that moment I found myself  a  prisoner
in your hands."
    "Is that all?" asked Hopkins.
    "Yes, that is all." His eyes shifted as he said it.
    "You have nothing else to tell us?"
    He hesitated.
    "No, there is nothing."
    "You have not been here before last night?"
    "No.
    "Then how do you account for THAT?" cried Hopkins, as he held up  the
damning notebook, with the initials of our prisoner on the first leaf  and
the blood-stain on the cover.
    The wretched man collapsed. He  sank  his  face  in  his  hands,  and
trembled all over.
    "Where did you get it?" he groaned. "I did not know. I thought I  had
lost it at the hotel."
    "That is enough," said Hopkins, sternly. "Whatever else you  have  to
say, you must say in court.  You  will  walk  down  with  me  now  to  the
police-station. Well, Mr. Holmes, I am very much obliged  to  you  and  to
your friend for coming down to help me. As it turns out your presence  was
unnecessary, and I would have brought the case to  this  successful  issue
without you, but, none the less, I am grateful. Rooms have  been  reserved
for you at the Brambletye Hotel, so we can all walk down  to  the  village
together."
    "Well, Watson, what  do  you  think  of  it?"  asked  Holmes,  as  we
travelled back next morning.
    "I can see that you are not satisfied."
    "Oh, yes, my dear Watson, I am perfectly satisfied. At the same time,
Stanley  Hopkins's  methods  do  not  commend  themselves  to  me.  I   am
disappointed in Stanley Hopkins. I had hoped for better things  from  him.
One should always look for a possible alternative, and provide against it.
It is the first rule of criminal investigation."
    "What, then, is the alternative?"
    "The line of investigation which I have myself been pursuing. It  may
give us nothing. I cannot tell. But at least I shall follow it to the end."
    Several letters were waiting for Holmes at Baker Street. He  snatched
one of them up, opened it, and burst out  into  a  triumphant  chuckle  of
laughter.
    "Excellent, Watson! The  alternative  develops.  Have  you  telegraph
forms? Just write a couple of messages for me:  `Sumner,  Shipping  Agent,
Ratcliff Highway. Send three men on, to arrive ten  to-morrow  morning.  -
Basil.' That's my name in those parts. The other  is:  `Inspector  Stanley
Hopkins, 46 Lord Street, Brixton. Come breakfast to-morrow at nine-thirty.
Important. Wire if unable to come. - Sherlock Holmes.' There, Watson, this
infernal case has haunted me for ten days. I hereby banish  it  completely
from my presence. To-morrow, I trust that we shall hear  the  last  of  it
forever."
    Sharp at the hour named Inspector Stanley Hopkins  appeared,  and  we
sat down together  to  the  excellent  breakfast  which  Mrs.  Hudson  had
prepared. The young detective was in high spirits at his success.
    "You really think that your solution must be correct?" asked Holmes.
    "I could not imagine a more complete case."
    "It did not seem to me conclusive."
    "You astonish me, Mr. Holmes. What more could one ask for?"
    "Does your explanation cover every point?"
    "Undoubtedly. I find that young Neligan  arrived  at  the  Brambletye
Hotel on the very day of the crime. He came on  the  pretence  of  playing
golf. His room was on the ground-floor, and  he  could  get  out  when  he
liked. That very night he went down to Woodman's Lee, saw Peter  Carey  at
the hut, quarrelled with him, and  killed  him  with  the  harpoon.  Then,
horrified by what he had done, he  fled  out  of  the  hut,  dropping  the
notebook which he had brought with him in order to  question  Peter  Carey
about these different securities. You may have observed that some of  them
were marked with ticks, and the others - the great majority  -  were  not.
Those which are ticked have been traced on  the  London  market,  but  the
others, presumably, were still in  the  possession  of  Carey,  and  young
Neligan, according to his own account, was  anxious  to  recover  them  in
order to do the right thing by his father's creditors. After his flight he
did not dare to approach the hut again for  some  time,  but  at  last  he
forced himself to do so in  order  to  obtain  the  information  which  he
needed. Surely that is all simple and obvious?"
    Holmes smiled and shook his head. "It seems to me to  have  only  one
drawback, Hopkins, and that is that it is intrinsically  impossible.  Have
you tried to drive a harpoon through a body? No? Tut, tut my dear sir, you
must really pay attention to these details. My friend  Watson  could  tell
you that I spent a whole morning in that exercise. It is no  easy  matter,
and requires a strong and practised arm. But this blow was delivered  with
such violence that the head of the weapon sank deep into the wall. Do  you
imagine that this anaemic youth was capable of so frightful an assault? Is
he the man who hobnobbed in rum and water with Black Peter in the dead  of
the night? Was it his profile that  was  seen  on  the  blind  two  nights
before? No, no, Hopkins, it is another and more formidable person for whom
we must seek."
    The detective's face had grown  longer  and  longer  during  Holmes's
speech. His hopes and his ambitions were all crumbling about him.  But  he
would not abandon his position without a struggle.
    "You can't deny that Neligan was present that night, Mr. Holmes.  The
book will prove that. I fancy that I have evidence  enough  to  satisfy  a
jury, even if you are able to pick a hole in it. Besides,  Mr.  Holmes,  I
have laid my hand upon MY man. As to this terrible person of yours,  where
is he?"
    "I rather fancy that he is on the stair," said Holmes,  serenely.  "I
think, Watson, that you would do well to put that revolver where  you  can
reach it." He rose and laid a written paper upon a side-table. "Now we are
ready," said he.
    There had been some talking in gruff voices  outside,  and  now  Mrs.
Hudson opened the door to say that there  were  three  men  inquiring  for
Captain Basil.
    "Show them in one by one," said Holmes.
    "The first who entered was a little Ribston pippin  of  a  man,  with
ruddy cheeks and fluffy white side-whiskers. Holmes  had  drawn  a  letter
from his pocket.
    "What name?" he asked.
    "James Lancaster."
    "I am sorry, Lancaster, but  the  berth  is  full.  Here  is  half  a
sovereign for your trouble. Just step into this room and wait there for  a
few minutes."
    The second man was a long, dried-up  creature,  with  lank  hair  and
sallow cheeks. His name was Hugh Pattins. He also received his  dismissal,
his half-sovereign, and the order to wait.
    The third applicant was a man  of  remarkable  appearance.  A  fierce
bull-dog face was framed in a tangle of hair and beard, and two bold, dark
eyes gleamed behind the cover of  thick,  tufted,  overhung  eyebrows.  He
saluted and stood sailor-fashion, turning his cap round in his hands.
    "Your name?" asked Holmes.
    "Patrick Cairns."
    "Harpooner?"
    "Yes, sir. Twenty-six voyages."
    "Dundee, I suppose?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "And ready to start with an exploring ship?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "What wages?"
    "Eight pounds a month."
    "Could you start at once?"
    "As soon as I get my kit."
    "Have you your papers?"
    "Yes, sir." He took a sheaf of worn and greasy forms from his pocket.
Holmes glanced over them and returned them.
    "You are just the man I want," said he. "Here's the agreement on  the
side-table. If you sign it the whole matter will be settled."
    The seaman lurched across the room and took up the pen.
    "Shall I sign here?" he asked, stooping over the table.
    Holmes leaned over his shoulder and passed both hands over his neck.
    "This will do," said he.
    I heard a click of steel and a bellow like an enraged bull. The  next
instant Holmes and the seaman were rolling on the ground together. He  was
a man of such gigantic strength that, even with the handcuffs which Holmes
had so deftly fastened  upon  his  wrists,  he  would  have  very  quickly
overpowered my friend had Hopkins and I not rushed  to  his  rescue.  Only
when I pressed the cold muzzle of the revolver to his  temple  did  he  at
last understand that resistance was vain. We lashed his ankles with  cord,
and rose breathless from the struggle.
    "I must really apologize, Hopkins," said  Sherlock  Holmes.  "I  fear
that the scrambled eggs are cold. However, you will enjoy the rest of your
breakfast all the better, will you not, for  the  thought  that  you  have
brought your case to a triumphant conclusion."
    Stanley Hopkins was speechless with amazement.
    "I don't know what to say, Mr. Holmes," he blurted out at last,  with
a very red face. "It seems to me that I have been making a fool of  myself
from the beginning. I understand now, what I should never have  forgotten,
that I am the pupil and you are the master. Even now I see what  you  have
done, but I don't know how you did it or what it signifies."
    "Well,  well,"  said  Holmes,  good-humouredly.  "We  all  learn   by
experience, and your lesson this time is that you should never lose  sight
of the alternative. You were so absorbed in young Neligan that  you  could
not spare a thought to Patrick Cairns, the true murderer of Peter Carey."
    The hoarse voice of the seaman broke in on our conversation.
    "See  here,  mister,"  said  he,  "I  make  no  complaint  of   being
man-handled in this fashion, but I would have you  call  things  by  their
right names. You say I murdered Peter Carey, I say I KILLED  Peter  Carey,
and there's all the difference. Maybe you don't believe what I say.  Maybe
you think I am just slinging you a yarn."
    "Not at all," said Holmes. "Let us hear what you have to say."
    "It's soon told, and, by the Lord, every word of it is truth. I  knew
Black Peter, and when he pulled out his knife I whipped a harpoon  through
him sharp, for I knew that it was him or me. That's how he died.  You  can
call it murder. Anyhow, I'd as soon die with a rope round my neck as  with
Black Peter's knife in my heart."
    "How came you there?" asked Holmes.
    "I'll tell it you from the beginning. Just sit me up a little, so  as
I can speak easy. It was in '83 that it happened - August  of  that  year.
Peter Carey was master of the SEA UNICORN, and I was spare  harpooner.  We
were coming out of the ice-pack on our way home, with  head  winds  and  a
week's southerly gale, when we picked up a  little  craft  that  had  been
blown north. There was one man on her - a landsman. The crew  had  thought
she would founder and had made for the Norwegian coast in  the  dinghy.  I
guess they were all drowned. Well, we took him on board, this man, and  he
and the skipper had some long talks in the cabin. All the baggage we  took
off with him was one tin box. So far as I know, the man's name  was  never
mentioned, and on the second night he disappeared as if he had never been.
It was given out that he had either thrown  himself  overboard  or  fallen
overboard in the heavy weather that we were having. Only one man knew what
had happened to him, and that was me, for, with my own  eyes,  I  saw  the
skipper tip up his heels and put him over the rail in the middle watch  of
a dark night, two days before we sighted the  Shetland  Lights.  "Well,  I
kept my knowledge to myself, and waited to see what would come of it. When
we got back to Scotland it was easily hushed  up,  and  nobody  asked  any
questions. A stranger died by accident and it  was  nobody's  business  to
inquire. Shortly after Peter Carey gave up the sea, and it was long  years
before I could find where he was. I guessed that he had done the deed  for
the sake of what was in that tin box, and that he could afford now to  pay
me well for keeping my mouth shut. "I found out where  he  was  through  a
sailor man that had met him in London, and down I went to squeeze him. The
first night he was reasonable enough, and was ready to give me what  would
make me free of the sea for life. We were to fix it all two nights  later.
When I came, I found him three parts drunk and in a vile  temper.  We  sat
down and we drank and we yarned about old times, but the more he drank the
less I liked the look on his face. I spotted that harpoon upon  the  wall,
and I thought I might need it before I was through. Then at last he  broke
out at me, spitting and cursing, with murder  in  his  eyes  and  a  great
clasp-knife in his hand. He had not time to get it from the sheath  before
I had the harpoon through him. Heavens! what a yell he gave! and his  face
gets between me and my sleep. I stood  there,  with  his  blood  splashing
round me, and I waited for a bit, but all was quiet, so I took heart  once
more. I looked round, and there was the tin box on the  shelf.  I  had  as
much right to it as Peter Carey, anyhow, so I took it with me and left the
hut. Like a fool I left my baccy-pouch upon the table.
    "Now I'll tell you the queerest part of the whole story. I had hardly
got outside the hut when I heard someone  coming,  and  I  hid  among  the
bushes. A man came slinking along, went into the hut, gave a cry as if  he
had seen a ghost, and legged it as hard as he could run until he  was  out
of sight. Who he was or what he wanted is more than I  can  tell.  For  my
part I walked ten miles, got a train at Tunbridge Wells,  and  so  reached
London, and no one the wiser.
    "Well, when I came to examine the box I found there was no  money  in
it, and nothing but papers that I would not dare to sell. I  had  lost  my
hold on Black Peter and was stranded in London without a  shilling.  There
was only my trade left. I saw these advertisements about  harpooners,  and
high wages, so I went to the shipping  agents,  and  they  sent  me  here.
That's all I know, and I say again that if I killed Black Peter,  the  law
should give me thanks, for I saved them the rice of a hempen rope."
    "A very clear statement said Holmes, rising and lighting his pipe. "I
think, Hopkins, that you should lose no time in conveying your prisoner to
a place of safety. This room is not well  adapted  for  a  cell,  and  Mr.
Patrick Cairns occupies too large a proportion of our carpet."
    "Mr. Holmes," said  Hopkins,  "I  do  not  know  how  to  express  my
gratitude. Even now I do not understand how you attained this result."
    "Simply by having the good fortune to get the  right  clue  from  the
beginning. It is very possible if I had known about this notebook it might
have led away my thoughts, as it did yours. But all I heard pointed in the
one direction. The amazing strength, the skill in the use of the  harpoon,
the rum and water, the sealskin tobacco-pouch with the  coarse  tobacco  -
all these pointed to a seaman, and one  who  had  been  a  whaler.  I  was
convinced that the initials `P.C.' upon the pouch were a coincidence,  and
not those of Peter Carey, since he seldom smoked, and no pipe was found in
his cabin. You remember that I asked whether whisky and brandy were in the
cabin. You said they were. How many landsmen are there who would drink rum
when they could get these other spirits? Yes,  I  was  certain  it  was  a
seaman."
    "And how did you find him?"
    "My dear sir, the problem had become a very simple one. If it were  a
seaman, it could only be a seaman  who  had  been  with  him  on  the  SEA
UNICORN. So far as I could learn he had sailed in no other ship.  I  spent
three days in wiring to Dundee,  and  at  the  end  of  that  time  I  had
ascertained the names of the crew of the SEA UNICORN in 1883. When I found
Patrick Cairns among the harpooners, my research was nearing  its  end.  I
argued that the man was probably in London, and that he  would  desire  to
leave the country for a time. I therefore spent some days in the East End,
devised an Arctic expedition, put forth tempting terms for harpooners  who
would serve under Captain Basil - and behold the result!"
    "Wonderful!" cried Hopkins. "Wonderful!"
    "You must obtain the release of young Neligan as soon  as  possible,"
said Holmes. "I confess that I think you owe him some apology. The tin box
must be returned to him, but, of course, the securities which Peter  Carey
has sold are lost forever. There's the cab, Hopkins, and  you  can  remove
your man. If you want me for the trial, my address and that of Watson will
be somewhere in Norway - I'll send particulars later."





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

            THE ADVENTURE OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON


    It is years since the incidents of which I speak took place, and  yet
it is with diffidence that I allude to them. For a long  time,  even  with
the utmost discretion and reticence, it would have been impossible to make
the facts public, but now the principal person  concerned  is  beyond  the
reach of human law, and with due suppression the story may be told in such
fashion as to injure no one. It records an absolutely unique experience in
the career both of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and  of  myself.  The  reader  will
excuse me if I conceal the date or any other fact by which he might  trace
the actual occurrence.
    We had been out for one of our evening rambles, Holmes and I, and had
returned about six o'clock on a cold, frosty winter's evening.  As  Holmes
turned up the lamp the light fell upon a card on the table. He glanced  at
it, and then, with an ejaculation of disgust, threw it  on  the  floor.  I
picked it up and read:

                      CHARLES AUGUSTUS MILVERTON,
                  Appledore Towers, Hampstead. Agent.

    "Who is he?" I asked.
    "The worst man in London,"  Holmes  answered,  as  he  sat  down  and
stretched his legs before the fire. "Is anything on the back of the card?"
    I turned it over.
    "Will call at 6:30 - C.A.M.," I read.
    "Hum! He's about due. Do you feel a  creeping,  shrinking  sensation,
Watson, when you stand before  the  serpents  in  the  Zoo,  and  see  the
slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and  wicked,
flattened faces? Well, that's how Milverton impresses me. I've had  to  do
with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the
repulsion which I have for this fellow. And yet I can't get out  of  doing
business with him - indeed, he is here at my invitation."
    "But who is he?"
    "I'll tell you, Watson. He is  the  king  of  all  the  blackmailers.
Heaven help the man, and still more the woman, whose secret and reputation
come into the power of Milverton! With a  smiling  face  and  a  heart  of
marble, he will squeeze and squeeze until he has  drained  them  dry.  The
fellow is a genius in his way, and would have made his mark in  some  more
savoury trade. His method is as follows: He allows it to be known that  he
is prepared to pay very high sums for letters which compromise  people  of
wealth and position. He receives these wares  not  only  from  treacherous
valets or maids, but frequently from genteel ruffians, who have gained the
confidence and affection of trusting women. He deals with no niggard hand.
I happen to know that he paid seven hundred pounds to a footman for a note
two lines in length, and that the ruin of a noble family was  the  result.
Everything which is in  the  market  goes  to  Milverton,  and  there  are
hundreds in this great city who turn white at his name. No one knows where
his grip may fall, for he is far too rich and far too cunning to work from
hand to mouth. He will hold a card back for years in order to play  it  at
the moment when the stake is best worth winning. I have said  that  he  is
the worst man in London, and I would ask you how  could  one  compare  the
ruffian, who  in  hot  blood  bludgeons  his  mate,  with  this  man,  who
methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in
order to add to his already swollen money-bags?"
    I had seldom heard my friend speak with such intensity of feeling.
    "But surely," said I, "the fellow must be within  the  grasp  of  the
law?"
    "Technically, no doubt, but practically not. What would it  profit  a
woman, for example, to get him a few months' imprisonment if her own  ruin
must immediately follow? His  victims  dare  not  hit  back.  If  ever  he
blackmailed an innocent person, then indeed we should have him, but he  is
as cunning as the Evil One. No, no, we must find other ways to fight him."
    "And why is he here?"
    "Because an illustrious client has placed  her  piteous  case  in  my
hands. It is the Lady Eva Blackwell, the most beautiful debutante of  last
season. She is to be married in a fortnight to  the  Earl  of  Dovercourt.
This fiend has several imprudent  letters  -  imprudent,  Watson,  nothing
worse - which were written to an impecunious young squire in the  country.
They would suffice to break off the match. Milverton will send the letters
to the Earl unless a  large  sum  of  money  is  paid  him.  I  have  been
commissioned to meet him, and - to make the best terms I can."
    At that instant there was a clatter and a rattle in the street below.
Looking down I saw a  stately  carriage  and  pair,  the  brilliant  lamps
gleaming on the glossy haunches of the noble chestnuts. A  footman  opened
the door, and a small, stout man in a shaggy astrakhan overcoat descended.
A minute later he was in the room.
    Charles Augustus  Milverton  was  a  man  of  fifty,  with  a  large,
intellectual head, a round,  plump,  hairless  face,  a  perpetual  frozen
smile, and two keen gray eyes, which gleamed brightly from  behind  broad,
gold-rimmed glasses. There was something of Mr. Pickwick's benevolence  in
his appearance, marred only by the insincerity of the fixed smile  and  by
the hard glitter of those restless and penetrating eyes. His voice was  as
smooth and suave as his countenance, as he advanced with  a  plump  little
hand extended, murmuring his regret for having  missed  us  at  his  first
visit. Holmes disregarded the outstretched hand and looked at him  with  a
face of granite. Milverton's smile broadened, he  shrugged  his  shoulders
removed his overcoat, folded it with great deliberation over the back of a
chair, and then took a seat.
    "This gentleman?" said he, with  a  wave  in  my  direction.  "Is  it
discreet? Is it right?"
    "Dr. Watson is my friend and partner."
    "Very good, Mr. Holmes. It is only in your client's interests that  I
protested. The matter is so very delicate..."
    "Dr. Watson has already heard of it."
    "Then we can proceed to business. You say that  you  are  acting  for
Lady Eva. Has she empowered you to accept my terms?"
    "What are your terms?"
    "Seven thousand pounds."
    "And the alternative?"
    "My dear sir, it is painful for me to discuss it, but if the money is
not paid on the 14th, there certainly will be no marriage  on  the  18th."
His insufferable smile was more complacent than ever.
    Holmes thought for a little.
    "You appear to me," he said, at last, "to be taking matters too  much
for granted. I am, of course, familiar with the contents of these letters.
My client will certainly do what I may advise. I shall counsel her to tell
her future husband the whole story and to trust to his generosity."
    Milverton chuckled.
    "You evidently do not know the Earl," said he.
    From the baffled look upon Holmes's face, I could see clearly that he
did.
    "What harm is there in the letters?" he asked.
    "They are sprightly - very sprightly," Milverton answered. "The  lady
was a charming correspondent. But I  can  assure  you  that  the  Earl  of
Dovercourt would  fail  to  appreciate  them.  However,  since  you  think
otherwise, we will let it rest at that. It is purely a matter of business.
If you think that it is in the best interests of your  client  that  these
letters should be placed in the hands of the Earl, then you  would  indeed
be foolish to pay so large a sum of money to regain  them."  He  rose  and
seized his astrakhan coat.
    Holmes was gray with anger and mortification.
    "Wait a little," he said. "You go too fast. We should certainly  make
every effort to avoid scandal in so delicate a matter."
    Milverton relapsed into his chair.
    "I was sure that you would see it in that light," he purred.
    "At the same time," Holmes continued, "Lady  Eva  is  not  a  wealthy
woman. I assure you that two thousand pounds would be  a  drain  upon  her
resources, and that the sum you name is utterly beyond her power.  I  beg,
therefore, that you will moderate your demands, and that you  will  return
the letters at the price I indicate, which is, I assure you,  the  highest
that you can get."
    Milverton's smile broadened and his eyes twinkled humorously.
    "I am aware that what you say is true about  the  lady's  resources,"
said he. "At the same time you must admit that the occasion  of  a  lady's
marriage is a very suitable time for her friends  and  relatives  to  make
some little effort upon her behalf. They may hesitate as to an  acceptable
wedding present. Let me assure them that this  little  bundle  of  letters
would give more joy than all the candelabra and butter-dishes in London."
    "It is impossible," said Holmes.
    "Dear me, dear me, how unfortunate!" cried Milverton,  taking  out  a
bulky pocketbook. "I cannot help thinking that ladies are  ill-advised  in
not making an effort. Look at this!" He held  up  a  little  note  with  a
coat-of-arms upon the envelope. "That belongs to -  well,  perhaps  it  is
hardly fair to tell the name until to-morrow morning. But at that time  it
will be in the hands of the lady's husband. And all because she  will  not
find a beggarly sum which she could  get  by  turning  her  diamonds  into
paste. It IS such a  pity!  Now,  you  remember  the  sudden  end  of  the
engagement between the Honourable Miss Miles and Colonel Dorking? Only two
days before the wedding, there was a paragraph in the MORNING POST to  say
that it was all off. And why? It is almost incredible, but the absurd  sum
of twelve hundred pounds would have settled the whole question. Is it  not
pitiful? And here I find you, a man of sense, boggling about  terms,  when
your client's future and honour are at stake. You surprise me, Mr. Holmes."
    "What I say is true," Holmes answered. "The money  cannot  be  found.
Surely it is better for you to take the substantial sum which I offer than
to ruin this woman's career, which can profit you in no way?"
    "There you make a mistake, Mr. Holmes. An exposure  would  profit  me
indirectly to a considerable extent. I have eight  or  ten  similar  cases
maturing. If it was circulated among them that I had made a severe example
of the Lady Eva, I should find all of them much more open to  reason.  You
see my point?"
    Holmes sprang from his chair.
    "Get behind him, Watson! Don't let him out! Now, sir, let us see  the
contents of that notebook."
    Milverton had glided as quick as a rat to the side of  the  room  and
stood with his back against the wall.
    "Mr. Holmes, Mr. Holmes," he said, turning the front of his coat  and
exhibiting the butt of a large revolver, which projected from  the  inside
pocket. "I have been expecting you to do something original. This has been
done so often, and what good has ever come from it? I assure you that I am
armed to the teeth, and I am perfectly prepared to use my weapons, knowing
that the law will support me. Besides, your supposition that I would bring
the letters here in a notebook is entirely mistaken. I would do nothing so
foolish. And now, gentlemen, I have one  or  two  little  interviews  this
evening, and it is a long drive to Hampstead." He stepped forward, took up
his coat, laid his hand on his revolver, and turned to the door. I  picked
up a chair, but Holmes shook his head, and I laid it down again. With bow,
a smile, and a twinkle, Milverton was out of the room, and a  few  moments
after we heard the slam of the carriage door and the rattle of the  wheels
as he drove away.
    Holmes sat motionless by the fire,  his  hands  buried  deep  in  his
trouser pockets, his chin sunk upon his breast, his eyes  fixed  upon  the
glowing embers. For half an hour he was silent and still. Then,  with  the
gesture of a man who has taken his decision, he sprang  to  his  feet  and
passed into his bedroom. A little later a rakish  young  workman,  with  a
goatee beard and  a  swagger,  lit  his  clay  pipe  at  the  lamp  before
descending into the street. "I'll be back some time, Watson," said he, and
vanished into the night. I understood that  he  had  opened  his  campaign
against Charles Augustus Milverton, but I little dreamed the strange shape
which that campaign was destined to take.
    For some days Holmes came and went at all hours in this  attire,  but
beyond a remark that his time was spent at Hampstead, and that it was  not
wasted, I knew nothing of what he was doing. At last, however, on a  wild,
tempestuous evening, when  the  wind  screamed  and  rattled  against  the
windows, he returned from his last  expedition,  and  having  removed  his
disguise he sat before the fire and laughed heartily in his silent  inward
fashion.
    "You would not call me a marrying man, Watson?"
    "No, indeed!"
    "You'll be interested to hear that I'm engaged."
    "My dear fellow! I congrat..."
    "To Milverton's housemaid."
    "Good heavens, Holmes!"
    "I wanted information, Watson."
    "Surely you have gone too far?"
    "It was a most necessary step. I am a plumber with a rising business,
Escott, by name. I have walked out with  her  each  evening,  and  I  have
talked with her. Good heavens, those talks! However,  I  have  got  all  I
wanted. I know Milverton's house as I know the palm of my hand."
    "But the girl, Holmes?"
    He shrugged his shoulders.
    "You can't help it, my dear Watson. You must play your cards as  best
you can when such a stake is on the table. However, I rejoice to say  that
I have a hated rival, who will certainly cut me out the  instant  that  my
back is turned. What a splendid night it is!"
    "You like this weather?"
    "It suits my purpose. Watson, I  mean  to  burgle  Milverton's  house
to-night."
    I had a catching of the breath, and my skin went cold at  the  words,
which were slowly uttered in a tone of concentrated resolution. As a flash
of lightning in the night shows up in an instant every detail  of  a  wild
landscape, so at one glance I seemed to see every possible result of  such
an action - the detection, the capture,  the  honoured  career  ending  in
irreparable failure and disgrace, my friend himself lying at the mercy  of
the odious Milverton.
    "For heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing," I cried.
    "My dear fellow, I have given it  every  consideration.  I  am  never
precipitate in my actions, nor would I adopt so energetic and, indeed,  so
dangerous a course, if any other were possible. Let us look at the  matter
clearly and fairly. I suppose that you  will  admit  that  the  action  is
morally justifiable, though technically criminal. To burgle his  house  is
no more than to forcibly take his pocketbook - an action in which you were
prepared to aid me."
    I turned it over in my mind.
    "Yes," I said, "it is morally justifiable so long as our object is to
take no articles save those which are used for an illegal purpose."
    Exactly. Since it is morally justifiable, I have only to consider the
question of personal risk. Surely a gentleman should not lay  much  stress
upon this, when a lady is in most desperate need of his help?"
    "You will be in such a false position."
    "Well, that is part of the risk. There is no other  possible  way  of
regaining these letters. The unfortunate lady has not the money, and there
are none of her people in whom she could confide. To-morrow  is  the  last
day of grace, and unless we can get the  letters  to-night,  this  villain
will be as good as his word  and  will  bring  about  her  ruin.  I  must,
therefore, abandon my client to her fate or I must play  this  last  card.
Between ourselves, Watson,  it's  a  sporting  duel  between  this  fellow
Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first exchanges, but
my self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it to a finish."
    "Well, I don't like it, but I suppose it must be," said I.  "When  do
we start?"
    "You are not coming."
    "Then you are not going," said I. "I give you my word of honour - and
I never broke it in my life - that I will  take  a  cab  straight  to  the
police-station and give you away, unless you let me share  this  adventure
with you."
    "You can't help me."
    "How do you know that? You can't tell what  may  happen.  Anyway,  my
resolution is taken. Other people besides you have self-respect, and  even
reputations."
    Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he clapped me on
the shoulder.
    "Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared this same  room
for some years, and it would be amusing if we ended by  sharing  the  same
cell. You know, Watson, I don't mind confessing to you that I have  always
had an idea that I would have made a highly efficient  criminal.  This  is
the chance of my lifetime in that direction. See here!"  He  took  a  neat
little leather case out of a drawer, and opening it he exhibited a  number
of shining instruments. "This is a first-class, up-to-date  burgling  kit,
with nickel-plated jemmy, diamond-tipped glass-cutter, adaptable keys, and
every modern improvement which the march of  civilization  demands.  Here,
too, is my dark lantern. Everything is in order. Have you a pair of silent
shoes?"
    "I have rubber-soled tennis shoes."
    "Excellent! And a mask?"
    "I can make a couple out of black silk."
    "I can see that you have a strong, natural  turn  for  this  sort  of
thing. Very good, do you make the masks. We shall have  some  cold  supper
before we start. It is now nine-thirty. At eleven we shall drive as far as
Church Row. It is a quarter of an hour's  walk  from  there  to  Appledore
Towers. We shall be at work before midnight. Milverton is a heavy sleeper,
and retires punctually at ten-thirty. With any luck we should be back here
by two, with the Lady Eva's letters in my pocket."
    Holmes and I put on our dress-clothes, so that we might appear to  be
two theatre-goers homeward bound. In Oxford Street we picked up  a  hansom
and drove to an address in Hampstead. Here we paid off our cab,  and  with
our great coats buttoned up, for it was bitterly cold, and the wind seemed
to blow through us, we walked along the edge of the heath.
    "It's a business that needs delicate treatment," said Holmes.  "These
documents are contained in a safe in the fellow's study, and the study  is
the ante-room of his bed-chamber. On the other hand, like all these stout,
little men who do themselves well, he is a  plethoric  sleeper.  Agatha  -
that's my fiancee - says it is a joke in  the  servants'  hall  that  it's
impossible to wake the master. He has a secretary who is  devoted  to  his
interests, and never budges from the study all  day.  That's  why  we  are
going at night. Then he has a beast of a dog which roams the garden. I met
Agatha late the last two evenings, and she locks the brute  up  so  as  to
give me a clear run. This is the house, this big one in its  own  grounds.
Through the gate - now to the right among the laurels. We might put on our
masks here, I think. You see, there is not a glimmer of light  in  any  of
the windows, and everything is working splendidly."
    With our black silk face-coverings, which turned us into two  of  the
most truculent figures in London, we stole up to the silent, gloomy house.
A sort of tiled veranda extended along one side of it,  lined  by  several
windows and two doors.
    "That's his bedroom," Holmes whispered.  "This  door  opens  straight
into the study. It would suit us best, but it is bolted as well as locked,
and we should make too much noise getting in. Come round here.  There's  a
greenhouse which opens into the drawing-room."
    The place was locked, but Holmes removed a circle of glass and turned
the key from the inside. An instant afterwards  he  had  closed  the  door
behind us, and we had become felons in the eyes of  the  law.  The  thick,
warm air of the conservatory and the rich,  choking  fragrance  of  exotic
plants took us by the throat. He seized my hand in the darkness and led me
swiftly past banks of shrubs which brushed against our faces.  Holmes  had
remarkable powers, carefully cultivated, of  seeing  in  the  dark.  Still
holding my hand in one of his,  he  opened  a  door,  and  I  was  vaguely
conscious that we had entered a large room  in  which  a  cigar  had  been
smoked not long before. He  felt  his  way  among  the  furniture,  opened
another door, and closed it behind us. Putting out my hand I felt  several
coats hanging from the wall, and I understood that I was in a passage.  We
passed along it and Holmes very gently opened a door upon  the  right-hand
side. Something rushed out at us and my heart sprang into my mouth, but  I
could have laughed when I realized that it was the cat. A fire was burning
in this new room, and again the air was heavy with tobacco  smoke.  Holmes
entered on tiptoe, waited for me to follow, and then  very  gently  closed
the door. We were in Milverton's study, and a portiere at the farther side
showed the entrance to his bedroom.
    It was a good fire, and the room was illuminated by it. Near the door
I saw the gleam of an electric switch, but it was unnecessary, even if  it
had been safe, to turn it on. At one side of the  fireplace  was  a  heavy
curtain which covered the bay window we had  seen  from  outside.  On  the
other side was the door which communicated with the veranda. A desk  stood
in the centre, with a turning-chair of shining red leather. Opposite was a
large bookcase, with a marble bust of Athene on the top.  In  the  corner,
between the bookcase and the wall, there stood a  tall,  green  safe,  the
firelight flashing back from the  polished  brass  knobs  upon  its  face.
Holmes stole across and looked at it. Then he crept to  the  door  of  the
bedroom, and stood with slanting head listening intently.  No  sound  came
from within. Meanwhile it had struck me that it would be  wise  to  secure
our retreat through the outer door, so I examined it. To my amazement,  it
was neither locked nor bolted. I touched Holmes on the arm, and he  turned
his masked face in that direction. I saw him start, and he  was  evidently
as surprised as I.
    "I don't like it," he whispered, putting his lips to my very ear.  "I
can't quite make it out. Anyhow, we have no time to lose."
    "Can I do anything?"
    "Yes, stand by the door. If you hear anyone  come,  bolt  it  on  the
inside, and we can get away as we came. If they come the other way, we can
get through the door if our job is  done,  or  hide  behind  these  window
curtains if it is not. Do you understand?"
    I nodded, and stood by the door. My first feeling of fear had  passed
away, and I thrilled now with a keener zest than I had ever  enjoyed  when
we were the defenders of the law instead of its defiers. The  high  object
of our mission, the consciousness that it was  unselfish  and  chivalrous,
the villainous character of  our  opponent,  all  added  to  the  sporting
interest of the adventure. Far from feeling guilty, I rejoiced and exulted
in our dangers. With a glow of admiration I watched Holmes  unrolling  his
case of instruments and  choosing  his  tool  with  the  calm,  scientific
accuracy of a surgeon who performs a delicate operation. I knew  that  the
opening of safes was a particular hobby with him, and I understood the joy
which it gave him to be confronted with this green and gold  monster,  the
dragon which held in its maw the reputations of many fair ladies.  Turning
up the cuffs of his dress-coat - he had placed his overcoat on a  chair  -
Holmes laid out two drills, a jemmy, and several skeleton keys. I stood at
the centre door with my eyes glancing at each of the others, ready for any
emergency, though, indeed, my plans were  somewhat  vague  as  to  what  I
should do if we were interrupted. For half an  hour,  Holmes  worked  with
concentrated energy, laying down one tool, picking  up  another,  handling
each with the strength and delicacy of the  trained  mechanic.  Finally  I
heard a click, the broad green door swung open, and inside I had a glimpse
of a number of paper packets, each tied,  sealed,  and  inscribed.  Holmes
picked one out, but it was as hard to read by the flickering fire, and  he
drew out his little dark lantern, for it was too dangerous, with Milverton
in the next room, to switch on the electric  light.  Suddenly  I  saw  him
halt, listen intently, and then in an instant he had swung the door of the
safe to, picked up his coat, stuffed  his  tools  into  the  pockets,  and
darted behind the window curtain, motioning me to do the same.
    It was only when I had joined him there that I heard what had alarmed
his quicker senses. There was a noise somewhere within the house.  A  door
slammed in the distance. Then a confused, dull murmur  broke  itself  into
the measured thud of heavy footsteps rapidly approaching. They were in the
passage outside the room. They paused at the door. The door opened.  There
was a sharp snick as the electric light was turned  on.  The  door  closed
once more, and the pungent reek  of  a  strong  cigar  was  borne  to  our
nostrils. Then the footsteps continued backward and forward, backward  and
forward, within a few yards of us. Finally there was a creak from a chair,
and the footsteps ceased. Then a key clicked in a lock, and  I  heard  the
rustle of papers.
    So far I had not dared to look out,  but  now  I  gently  parted  the
division of the curtains in front of  me  and  peeped  through.  From  the
pressure of Holmes's shoulder against mine, I knew that he was sharing  my
observations. Right in front of us, and almost within our reach,  was  the
broad, rounded back of Milverton. It was  evident  that  we  had  entirely
miscalculated his movements, that he had never been to  his  bedroom,  but
that he had been sitting up in  some  smoking  or  billiard  room  in  the
farther wing of the house, the windows of  which  we  had  not  seen.  His
broad, grizzled head, with its shining  patch  of  baldness,  was  in  the
immediate foreground of our vision. He was leaning far  back  in  the  red
leather chair, his legs outstretched, a long, black cigar projecting at an
angle  from  his  mouth.  He  wore   a   semi-military   smoking   jacket,
claret-coloured, with a black velvet collar. In his hand he held  a  long,
legal document which he was reading in an indolent fashion, blowing  rings
of tobacco smoke from his lips as he did so. There was  no  promise  of  a
speedy departure in his composed bearing and his comfortable attitude.
    I felt Holmes's hand steal into mine and give me a reassuring  shake,
as if to say that the situation was within his powers,  and  that  he  was
easy in his mind. I was not sure whether he had seen  what  was  only  too
obvious from my position, that  the  door  of  the  safe  was  imperfectly
closed, and that Milverton might at any moment observe it. In my own  mind
I had determined that if I were sure, from the rigidity of his gaze,  that
it had caught his eye, I would at once spring out,  throw  my  great  coat
over his head, pinion him, and leave the rest  to  Holmes.  But  Milverton
never looked up. He was languidly interested by the papers  in  his  hand,
and page after page was turned as he followed the argument of the  lawyer.
At least, I thought, when he has finished the document and  the  cigar  he
will go to his room, but before he had reached the end  of  either,  there
came a remarkable  development,  which  turned  our  thoughts  into  quite
another channel.
    Several times I had observed that Milverton looked at his watch,  and
once he had risen and sat down again, with a gesture  of  impatience.  The
idea, however, that he might have an appointment at  so  strange  an  hour
never occurred to me until a faint sound reached my ears from the  veranda
outside. Milverton dropped his papers and sat  rigid  in  his  chair.  The
sound was repeated, and  then  there  came  a  gentle  tap  at  the  door.
Milverton rose and opened it.
    "Well," said he, curtly, "you are nearly half an hour late."
    So this was the explanation of the unlocked door and of the nocturnal
vigil of Milverton. There was the gentle rustle of a woman's dress. I  had
closed the slit between the curtains as Milverton's face had turned in our
direction, but now I ventured very carefully to open it once more. He  had
resumed his seat, the cigar still projecting at an insolent angle from the
corner of his mouth. In front of him, in the full glare  of  the  electric
light, there stood a tall, slim, dark woman,  a  veil  over  her  face,  a
mantle drawn round her chin. Her breath came quick  and  fast,  and  every
inch of the lithe figure was quivering with strong emotion.
    "Well," said Milverton, "you made me lose a  good  night's  rest,  my
dear. I hope you'll prove worth it. You couldn't come any other time - eh?"
    The woman shook her head.
    "Well, if you couldn't you  couldn't.  If  the  Countess  is  a  hard
mistress, you have your chance to get level with her now. Bless the  girl,
what are you shivering about? That's right. Pull yourself  together.  Now,
let us get down to business." He took a notebook from the  drawer  of  his
desk. "You say that you have five letters which  compromise  the  Countess
d'Albert. You want to sell them. I want to buy them. So far  so  good.  It
only remains to fix a price. I should want  to  inspect  the  letters,  of
course. If they are really good specimens - Great heavens, is it you?"
    The woman, without a word, had raised her veil and dropped the mantle
from her chin. It was a dark, handsome, clear-cut  face  which  confronted
Milverton - a face with a curved nose, strong, dark eyebrows shading hard,
glittering eyes, and a straight, thin-lipped  mouth  set  in  a  dangerous
smile.
    "It is I," she said, "the woman whose life you have ruined."
    Milverton laughed, but fear vibrated in his voice. "You were so  very
obstinate," said he. "Why did you drive me to such extremities?  I  assure
you I wouldn't hurt a fly  of  my  own  accord,  but  every  man  has  his
business, and what was I to do? I put the price well  within  your  means.
You would not pay."
    "So you sent the  letters  to  my  husband,  and  he  -  the  noblest
gentleman that ever lived, a man whose boots I was never worthy to lace  -
he broke his gallant heart and died. You remember that last night, when  I
came through that door, I begged and prayed you for mercy, and you laughed
in my face as you are trying to laugh now, only your coward  heart  cannot
keep your lips from twitching. Yes, you  never  thought  to  see  me  here
again, but it was that night which taught me how I could meet you face  to
face, and alone. Well, Charles Milverton, what have you to say?"
    "Don't imagine that you can bully me," said he, rising to  his  feet.
"I have only to raise my voice and I could call my servants and  have  you
arrested. But I will make allowance for your natural anger. Leave the room
at once as you came, and I will say no more."
    The woman stood with her hand buried  in  her  bosom,  and  the  same
deadly smile on her thin lips.
    "You will ruin no more lives as you have ruined mine. You will  wring
no more hearts as you wrung mine. I will free the  world  of  a  poisonous
thing. Take that, you hound - and that! - and that! - and that!"
    She had drawn a little gleaming revolver, and  emptied  barrel  after
barrel into Milverton's body, the muzzle within  two  feet  of  his  shirt
front. He shrank away and then  fell  forward  upon  the  table,  coughing
furiously and clawing among the papers. Then he  staggered  to  his  feet,
received another shot, and rolled upon the floor.  "You've  done  me,"  he
cried, and lay still. The woman looked at him  intently,  and  ground  her
heel into his upturned face. She looked again, but there was no  sound  or
movement. I heard a sharp rustle, the night air blew into the heated room,
and the avenger was gone.
    No interference upon our part could have saved the man from his fate,
but, as the woman poured bullet after bullet  into  Milverton's  shrinking
body I was about to spring out, when I felt Holmes's  cold,  strong  grasp
upon my wrist. I understood the whole argument of that  firm,  restraining
grip - that it was no  affair  of  ours,  that  justice  had  overtaken  a
villain, that we had our own duties and our own objects, which were not to
be lost sight of. But hardly had the  woman  rushed  from  the  room  when
Holmes, with swift, silent steps, was over at the other  door.  He  turned
the key in the lock. At the same instant we heard voices in the house  and
the sound of hurrying feet. The revolver shots had roused  the  household.
With perfect coolness Holmes slipped across to the safe,  filled  his  two
arms with bundles of letters, and poured them all into the fire. Again and
again he did it, until the safe was empty. Someone turned the  handle  and
beat upon the outside of the door. Holmes looked swiftly round. The letter
which had been the messenger of death for Milverton lay, all mottled  with
his blood, upon the table. Holmes tossed it in among the  blazing  papers.
Then he drew the key from the outer door, passed  through  after  me,  and
locked it on the outside. "This way, Watson," said he, "we can  scale  the
garden wall in this direction."
    I could not have believed that an alarm could have spread so swiftly.
Looking back, the huge house was one blaze of light. The  front  door  was
open, and figures were rushing down the drive. The whole garden was  alive
with people, and one fellow raised a view-halloa as we  emerged  from  the
veranda and followed hard at our heels. Holmes seemed to know the  grounds
perfectly, and he threaded his way swiftly among  a  plantation  of  small
trees, I close at his heels, and our foremost pursuer panting  behind  us.
It was a six-foot wall which barred our path, but he sprang to the top and
over. As I did the same I felt the hand of the man behind me  grab  at  my
ankle, but I kicked myself free and scrambled over a grass-strewn  coping.
I fell upon my face among some bushes, but Holmes had me on my feet in  an
instant, and together we dashed away across the huge expanse of  Hampstead
Heath. We had run two miles, I suppose, before Holmes at last  halted  and
listened intently. All was absolute silence behind us. We had  shaken  off
our pursuers and were safe.
    We had breakfasted and were smoking our morning pipe on the day after
the remarkable experience which I have recorded,  when  Mr.  Lestrade,  of
Scotland Yard, very solemn and impressive, was  ushered  into  our  modest
sitting-room.
    "Good-morning, Mr. Holmes," said he; "good-morning. May I ask if  you
are very busy just now?"
    "Not too busy to listen to you."
    "I thought that, perhaps, if you had nothing particular on hand,  you
might care to assist us in a most remarkable  case,  which  occurred  only
last night at Hampstead."
    "Dear me!" said Holmes. "What was that?"
    "A murder - a most dramatic and remarkable murder. I  know  how  keen
you are upon these things, and I would take it as a great  favour  if  you
would step down to Appledore Towers, and  give  us  the  benefit  of  your
advice. It is no ordinary crime. We  have  had  our  eyes  upon  this  Mr.
Milverton for some time, and,  between  ourselves,  he  was  a  bit  of  a
villain. He is known to have held papers which he  used  for  blackmailing
purposes. These papers have all been burned by the murderers.  No  article
of value was taken, as it is probable that the criminals were men of  good
position, whose sole object was to prevent social exposure."
    "Criminals?" said Holmes. "Plural?"
    "Yes, there were two  of  them.  They  were  as  nearly  as  possible
captured red-handed. We have their footmarks, we have  their  description,
it's ten to one that we trace them. The first fellow was a bit too active,
but the second was caught by the under-gardener, and only got away after a
struggle. He was a middle-sized, strongly built man -  square  jaw,  thick
neck, moustache, a mask over his eyes."
    "That's rather vague," said Sherlock  Holmes.  "My,  it  might  be  a
description of Watson!"
    "It's true," said the inspector,  with  amusement.  "It  might  be  a
description of Watson."
    "Well, I'm afraid I can't help you, Lestrade," said Holmes. "The fact
is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered  him  one  of  the
most dangerous men in London, and that I think there  are  certain  crimes
which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some  extent,  justify
private revenge. No, it's no use arguing. I  have  made  up  my  mind.  My
sympathies are with the criminals rather than with the victim, and I  will
not handle this case."
    Holmes had not said one word to me about the  tragedy  which  we  had
witnessed, but I observed  all  the  morning  that  he  was  in  his  most
thoughtful mood, and he gave me the impression, from his vacant  eyes  and
his abstracted manner, of a man who is striving to recall something to his
memory. We were in the middle of our lunch, when he suddenly sprang to his
feet. "By Jove, Watson, I've got it!" he cried. "Take your hat! Come  with
me!" He hurried at his top  speed  down  Baker  Street  and  along  Oxford
Street, until we had almost reached Regent Circus. Here, on the left hand,
there stands a shop window filled with photographs of the celebrities  and
beauties of the day. Holmes's eyes fixed themselves upon one of them,  and
following his gaze I saw the picture of a regal and stately lady in  Court
dress, with a high diamond tiara upon her noble head.  I  looked  at  that
delicately curved nose, at the marked eyebrows, at the straight mouth, and
the strong little chin beneath it. Then I caught my breath as I  read  the
time-honoured title of the great nobleman and statesman whose wife she had
been. My eyes met those of Holmes, and he put his finger to his lips as we
turned away from the window.





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                  THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS


    It was no very unusual thing for Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland  Yard,  to
look in upon us of an evening, and his visits  were  welcome  to  Sherlock
Holmes, for they enabled him to keep in touch with all that was  going  on
at the police headquarters. In return for the news  which  Lestrade  would
bring, Holmes was always ready to listen with attention to the details  of
any case upon which the detective was engaged, and was able  occasionally,
without any active interference, to give some  hint  or  suggestion  drawn
from his own vast knowledge and experience.
    On this particular evening, Lestrade had spoken of  the  weather  and
the newspapers. Then he had fallen silent,  puffing  thoughtfully  at  his
cigar. Holmes looked keenly at him.
    "Anything remarkable on hand?" he asked.
    "Oh, no, Mr. Holmes - nothing very particular."
    "Then tell me about it."
    Lestrade laughed.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, there is no use denying that there IS something on
my mind. And yet it is such an absurd business, that I hesitated to bother
you about it. On the other hand, although it is trivial, it is undoubtedly
queer, and I know that you have a taste for all that is out of the common.
But, in my opinion, it comes more in Dr. Watson's line than ours."
    "Disease?" said I.
    "Madness, anyhow. And a queer madness, too. You wouldn't think  there
was anyone living at this time of day who had such a  hatred  of  Napoleon
the First that he would break any image of him that he could see."
    Holmes sank back in his chair.
    "That's no business of mine," said he.
    "Exactly. That's what I said. But then, when the man commits burglary
in order to break images which are not his own, that brings it  away  from
the doctor and on to the policeman."
    Holmes sat up again.
    "Burglary! This is more interesting. Let me hear the details."
    Lestrade took out his official notebook and refreshed his memory from
its pages.
    "The first case reported was four days ago," said he. "It was at  the
shop of Morse Hudson, who has a place for the sale of pictures and statues
in the Kennington Road. The assistant had  left  the  front  shop  for  an
instant, when he heard a crash, and hurrying in he found a plaster bust of
Napoleon, which stood with several other works of art  upon  the  counter,
lying shivered into fragments. He rushed out into the road, but,  although
several passers-by declared that they had noticed a man  run  out  of  the
shop, he could  neither  see  anyone  nor  could  he  find  any  means  of
identifying the rascal. It seemed to be one of  those  senseless  acts  of
Hooliganism which occur from time to time, and  it  was  reported  to  the
constable on the beat as such. The plaster cast was not worth more than  a
few shillings, and the whole affair appeared to be too  childish  for  any
particular investigation.
    "The second case, however, was more serious, and also more  singular.
It occurred only last night.
    "In Kennington Road, and within a few hundred yards of Morse Hudson's
shop, there lives a well-known medical practitioner, named  Dr.  Barnicot,
who has one of the largest practices upon the south side  of  the  Thames.
His residence and principal consulting-room is at Kennington Road, but  he
has a branch surgery and dispensary at Lower Brixton Road, two miles away.
This Dr. Barnicot is an enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon, and his house is
full of books, pictures, and relics of the  French  Emperor.  Some  little
time ago he purchased from Morse Hudson two duplicate plaster casts of the
famous head of Napoleon by the French sculptor, Devine. One  of  these  he
placed in his hall in the house at Kennington Road, and the other  on  the
mantelpiece of the surgery at Lower Brixton. Well, when Dr. Barnicot  came
down this morning he was astonished  to  find  that  his  house  had  been
burgled during the night, but that nothing had been taken save the plaster
head from the hall. It had been carried out and had been  dashed  savagely
against the  garden  wall,  under  which  its  splintered  fragments  were
discovered."
    Holmes rubbed his hands.
    "This is certainly very novel," said he.
    "I thought it would please you. But I have not got to  the  end  yet.
Dr. Barnicot was due at his surgery at twelve o'clock, and you can imagine
his amazement when, on arriving there, he found that the window  had  been
opened in the night and that the broken pieces of  his  second  bust  were
strewn all over the room. It had been smashed to atoms where it stood.  In
neither case were there any signs which could give us a  clue  as  to  the
criminal or lunatic who had done the mischief. Now, Mr. Holmes,  you  have
got the facts."
    "They are singular, not to say grotesque," said Holmes.  "May  I  ask
whether the two busts smashed in  Dr.  Barnicot's  rooms  were  the  exact
duplicates of the one which was destroyed in Morse Hudson's shop?"
    "They were taken from the same mould."
    "Such a fact must tell against the theory that  the  man  who  breaks
them is influenced by any general hatred of Napoleon. Considering how many
hundreds of statues of the great Emperor must exist in London, it  is  too
much to suppose such a coincidence as that a promiscuous iconoclast should
chance to begin upon three specimens of the same bust."
    "Well, I thought as you do," said Lestrade. "On the other hand,  this
Morse Hudson is the purveyor of busts in that part of  London,  and  these
three were the only ones which  had  been  in  his  shop  for  years.  So,
although, as you say, there are many hundreds of statues in London, it  is
very probable that these three  were  the  only  ones  in  that  district.
Therefore, a local fanatic would begin with them. What do you  think,  Dr.
Watson?"
    "There are no limits to the possibilities of monomania," I  answered.
"There is the condition which the modern French psychologists have  called
the `IDEE FIXE,' which may be trifling in character,  and  accompanied  by
complete sanity in every other way.  A  man  who  had  read  deeply  about
Napoleon, or who had  possibly  received  some  hereditary  family  injury
through the great war, might conceivably form such an IDEE FIXE and  under
its influence be capable of any fantastic outrage."
    "That won't do, my dear Watson," said Holmes, shaking his head,  "for
no amount of IDEE FIXE would enable your interesting  monomaniac  to  find
out where these busts were situated."
    "Well, how do YOU explain it?"
    "I don't attempt to do so. I would  only  observe  that  there  is  a
certain method in the gentleman's eccentric proceedings. For  example,  in
Dr. Barnicot's hall, where a sound might arouse the family, the  bust  was
taken outside before being broken, whereas in the surgery, where there was
less danger of an alarm, it was smashed where it stood. The  affair  seems
absurdly trifling, and yet I dare call nothing trivial when I reflect that
some of my most classic cases have had the least  promising  commencement.
You will remember, Watson, how the  dreadful  business  of  the  Abernetty
family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the  parsley  had
sunk into the butter upon a hot day. I can't afford, therefore,  to  smile
at your three broken busts, Lestrade, and I shall be very much obliged  to
you if you will let me hear of any fresh  development  of  so  singular  a
chain of events."


    The development for which my friend had asked came in a  quicker  and
an infinitely more tragic form than he could have imagined.  I  was  still
dressing in my bedroom next morning, when there was a tap at the door  and
Holmes entered, a telegram in his hand. He read it aloud:

        "Come instantly, 131 Pitt Street, Kensington. "LESTRADE."

    "What is it, then?" I asked.
    "Don't know - may be anything. But I suspect it is the sequel of  the
story of the statues. In that case our friend the image-breaker has  begun
operations in another quarter of London.  There's  coffee  on  the  table,
Watson, and I have a cab at the door."
    In half an hour we had reached Pitt Street, a quiet little  backwater
just beside one of the briskest currents of London life. No. 131  was  one
of a row, all flat-chested, respectable, and most unromantic dwellings. As
we drove up, we found the railings in  front  of  the  house  lined  by  a
curious crowd. Holmes whistled.
    "By George! It's attempted murder at the  least.  Nothing  less  will
hold the London message-boy. There's a deed of violence indicated in  that
fellow's round shoulders and outstretched neck. What's this,  Watson?  The
top steps swilled down and the other ones dry. Footsteps  enough,  anyhow!
Well, well, there's Lestrade at the front window, and we shall  soon  know
all about it."
    The official received us with a very grave face and showed us into  a
sitting-room, where an exceedingly unkempt and agitated elderly man,  clad
in a flannel dressing-gown, was pacing up and down. He was  introduced  to
us as the owner of the house - Mr. Horace Harker,  of  the  Central  Press
Syndicate.
    "It's the Napoleon bust business again," said Lestrade.  "You  seemed
interested last night, Mr. Holmes, so I thought perhaps you would be  glad
to be present now that the affair has taken a very much graver turn."
    "What has it turned to, then?"
    "To murder. Mr. Harker, will you tell these  gentlemen  exactly  what
has occurred?"
    The man in the dressing-gown turned upon us with  a  most  melancholy
face.
    "It's an extraordinary thing," said he, "that all my life I have been
collecting other people's news, and now that a real piece of news has come
my own way I am so confused and  bothered  that  I  can't  put  two  words
together. If I had come in here as a journalist, I should have interviewed
myself and had two columns in every evening paper. As it is, I  am  giving
away valuable copy by telling my story  over  and  over  to  a  string  of
different people, and I can make no use of it myself. However, I've  heard
your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and if  you'll  only  explain  this  queer
business, I shall be paid for my trouble in telling you the story."
    Holmes sat down and listened.
    "It all seems to centre round that bust of Napoleon  which  I  bought
for this very room about four months  ago.  I  picked  it  up  cheap  from
Harding Brothers, two doors from the High Street Station. A great deal  of
my journalistic work is done at night, and I often write until  the  early
morning. So it was to-day. I was sitting in my den, which is at  the  back
of the top of the house, about three o'clock, when I was convinced that  I
heard some sounds downstairs. I listened, but they were not repeated,  and
I concluded that they came from outside. Then suddenly, about five minutes
later, there came a most horrible yell -  the  most  dreadful  sound,  Mr.
Holmes, that ever I heard. It will ring in my ears as long as  I  live.  I
sat frozen with horror for a minute or two. Then I seized  the  poker  and
went downstairs. When I entered this room I found the  window  wide  open,
and I at once observed that the bust was gone from  the  mantelpiece.  Why
any burglar should take such a thing passes my understanding, for  it  was
only a plaster cast and of no real value whatever.
    "You can see for yourself that anyone going  out  through  that  open
window could reach the front doorstep by taking a long  stride.  This  was
clearly what the burglar had done, so I went round and  opened  the  door.
Stepping out into the dark, I nearly fell over a dead man, who  was  lying
there. I ran back for a light and there was the poor fellow, a great  gash
in his throat and the whole place swimming in blood. He lay on  his  back,
his knees drawn up, and his mouth horribly open. I shall  see  him  in  my
dreams. I had just time to blow on my police-whistle, and then I must have
fainted, for I knew nothing more until I found the policeman standing over
me in the hall."
    "Well, who was the murdered man?" asked Holmes.
    "There's nothing to show who he was," said Lestrade. "You  shall  see
the body at the mortuary, but we have made nothing of it up to now. He  is
a tall man, sunburned, very powerful, not more than thirty. He  is  poorly
dressed, and yet does not appear to be a labourer.  A  horn-handled  clasp
knife was lying in a pool of blood beside him. Whether it was  the  weapon
which did the deed, or whether it belonged to the dead man, I do not know.
There was no name on his clothing, and nothing  in  his  pockets  save  an
apple, some string, a shilling map of London, and a  photograph.  Here  it
is."
    It was evidently  taken  by  a  snapshot  from  a  small  camera.  It
represented an alert, sharp-featured simian man, with thick eyebrows and a
very peculiar projection of the lower part of the face, like the muzzle of
a baboon.
    "And what became of the bust?" asked Holmes, after a careful study of
this picture.
    "We had news of it just before you came. It has  been  found  in  the
front garden of an empty house in Campden House Road. It was  broken  into
fragments. I am going round now to see it. Will you come?"
    "Certainly. I must just take one look round." He examined the  carpet
and the window. "The fellow had either very long legs or was a most active
man," said he. "With an area beneath, it was no mean feat  to  reach  that
window ledge and open that window. Getting back was comparatively  simple.
Are you coming with us to see the remains of your bust, Mr. Harker?"
    The disconsolate journalist had seated himself at a writing-table.
    "I must try and make something of it," said he,  "though  I  have  no
doubt that the first editions of the evening papers are out  already  with
full details. It's like my luck! You  remember  when  the  stand  fell  at
Doncaster? Well, I was the only journalist in the stand,  and  my  journal
the only one that had no account of it, for I was too shaken to write  it.
And now I'll be too late with a murder done on my own doorstep."
    As we left the room, we heard his pen  travelling  shrilly  over  the
foolscap.
    The spat where the fragments of the bust had been found  was  only  a
few hundred yards away. For the first  time  our  eyes  rested  upon  this
presentment of the great emperor, which seemed to raise such  frantic  and
destructive hatred in the mind  of  the  unknown.  It  lay  scattered,  in
splintered shards, upon the grass. Holmes picked up several  of  them  and
examined them carefully. I was convinced, from his  intent  face  and  his
purposeful manner, that at last he was upon a clue.
    "Well?" asked Lestrade.
    Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
    "We have a long way to go yet," said he. "And yet - and yet  -  well,
we have some suggestive facts to act upon. The possession of this trifling
bust was worth more, in the eyes of this strange criminal,  than  a  human
life. That is one point. Then there is the singular fact that he  did  not
break it in the house, or immediately outside the house, if  to  break  it
was his sole object."
    "He was rattled and bustled by meeting this other fellow.  He  hardly
knew what he was doing."
    "Well, that's likely enough. But I wish to call your  attention  very
particularly to the position of this house, in the  garden  of  which  the
bust was destroyed."
    Lestrade looked about him.
    "It was an empty house, and so he knew that he would not be disturbed
in the garden."
    "Yes, but there is another empty house farther up the street which he
must have passed before he came to this one.  Why  did  he  not  break  it
there, since it is evident that every yard that he  carried  it  increased
the risk of someone meeting him?"
    "I give it up," said Lestrade.
    Holmes pointed to the street lamp above our heads.
    "He could see what he was doing here, and he could  not  there.  That
was his reason."
    "By Jove! that's true," said the detective. "Now that I come to think
of it, Dr. Barnicot's bust was broken not far from his red lamp. Well, Mr.
Holmes, what are we to do with that fact?"
    "To remember it - to docket it. We may come on something later  which
will bear upon it. What steps do you propose to take now, Lestrade?"
    "The most practical way of getting  at  it,  in  my  opinion,  is  to
identify the dead man. There should be no difficulty about that.  When  we
have found who he is and who his associates are, we  should  have  a  good
start in learning what he was doing in Pitt Street last night, and who  it
was who met him and killed him on the doorstep of Mr. Horace Harker. Don't
you think so?"
    "No doubt; and yet it is not quite the way in which I should approach
the case."
    "What would you do then?"
    "Oh, you must not let me influence you in any way. I suggest that you
go on your line and I on mine. We can compare notes afterwards,  and  each
will supplement the other."
    "Very good," said Lestrade.
    "If you are going back to Pitt  Street,  you  might  see  Mr.  Horace
Harker. Tell him for me that I have quite made up my mind, and that it  is
certain that a dangerous homicidal lunatic, with Napoleonic delusions, was
in his house last night. It will be useful for his article."
    Lestrade stared.
    "You don't seriously believe that?"
    Holmes smiled.
    "Don't I? Well, perhaps I don't. But I am sure that it will  interest
Mr. Horace Harker and the subscribers of the Central Press Syndicate. Now,
Watson, I think that we shall find that we have a long and rather  complex
day's work before us. I should be glad, Lestrade, if  you  could  make  it
convenient to meet us at Baker Street at six o'clock this  evening.  Until
then I should like to keep  this  photograph,  found  in  the  dead  man's
pocket. It is possible that I may have to ask your company and  assistance
upon a small expedition which will have  be  undertaken  to-night,  if  my
chain of reasoning should prove to be correct.  Until  then  good-bye  and
good luck!"
    Sherlock Holmes and I walked together to the High  Street,  where  we
stopped at the  shop  of  Harding  Brothers,  whence  the  bust  had  been
purchased. A young assistant informed us that Mr. Harding would be  absent
until afternoon, and that he was himself a newcomer, who could give us  no
information. Holmes's face showed his disappointment and annoyance.
    "Well, well, we can't expect to have it all our own way, Watson,"  he
said, at last. "We must come back in the afternoon, if  Mr.  Harding  will
not be here until then. I am, as you have no doubt surmised,  endeavouring
to trace these busts to their source, in order to find  if  there  is  not
something peculiar which may account for their  remarkable  fate.  Let  us
make for Mr. Morse Hudson, of the Kennington Road, and see if he can throw
any light upon the problem."
    A drive of an hour brought us to the picture-dealer's  establishment.
He was a small, stout man with a red face and a peppery manner.
    "Yes, sir. On my very counter, sir," said he. "What we pay rates  and
taxes for I don't know, when any ruffian  can  come  in  and  break  one's
goods. Yes, sir,  it  was  I  who  sold  Dr.  Barnicot  his  two  statues.
Disgraceful, sir! A Nihilist plot - that's what I make it. No one  but  an
anarchist would go about breaking statues. Red republicans - that's what I
call 'em. Who did I get the statues from? I don't see what that has to  do
with it. Well, if you really want to know, I got them from Gelder  &  Co.,
in Church Street, Stepney. They are a well-known house in the  trade,  and
have been this twenty years. How many had I? Three - two and one are three
- two of Dr. Barnicot's, and one smashed  in  broad  daylight  on  my  own
counter. Do I know that photograph? No, I don't. Yes, I do,  though.  Why,
it's Beppo. He was a kind of Italian  piece-work  man,  who  made  himself
useful in the shop. He could carve a bit, and gild and frame, and  do  odd
jobs. The fellow left me last week, and I've heard nothing of  him  since.
No, I don't know where he came from nor where he went to.  I  had  nothing
against him while he was here. He was gone two days before  the  bust  was
smashed."
    "Well, that's all we could reasonably expect from Morse Hudson," said
Holmes, as we emerged from the shop.  We  have  this  Beppo  as  a  common
factor, both in Kennington and in Kensington, so that is worth a  ten-mile
drive. Now, Watson, let us make for Gelder & Co., of Stepney,  the  source
and origin of the busts. I shall be surprised if we don't  get  some  help
down there."
    In rapid succession we  passed  through  the  fringe  of  fashionable
London, hotel  London,  theatrical  London,  literary  London,  commercial
London, and, finally, maritime London, till we came to a riverside city of
a hundred thousand souls, where the tenement houses swelter and reek  with
the outcasts of Europe. Here, in a broad thoroughfare, once the  abode  of
wealthy City  merchants,  we  found  the  sculpture  works  for  which  we
searched. Outside was a considerable  yard  full  of  monumental  masonry.
Inside was a large room in which fifty workers were carving  or  moulding.
The manager, a big blond German, received us  civilly  and  gave  a  clear
answer to all Holmes's questions. A reference to  his  books  showed  that
hundreds of casts had been taken from a marble copy of  Devine's  head  of
Napoleon, but that the three which had been sent to Morse Hudson a year or
so before had been half of a batch of six, the other three being  sent  to
Harding Brothers, of Kensington. There was no reason why those six  should
be different from any of the other casts. He  could  suggest  no  possible
cause why anyone should wish to destroy them - in fact, he laughed at  the
idea. Their wholesale price was six shillings, but the retailer would  get
twelve or more. The cast was taken in two moulds from  each  side  of  the
face, and then these two profiles of plaster of Paris were joined together
to make the complete bust. The work was usually done by Italians,  in  the
room we were in. When finished, the busts were  put  on  a  table  in  the
passage to dry, and afterwards stored. That was all he could tell us.
    But the production of the photograph had a remarkable effect upon the
manager. His face flushed with anger, and his brows knotted over his  blue
Teutonic eyes.
    "Ah, the rascal!" he cried. "Yes, indeed, I know him very well.  This
has always been a respectable establishment, and the  only  time  that  we
have ever had the police in it was over this very fellow. It was more than
a year ago now. He knifed another Italian in the street, and then he  came
to the works with the police on his heels, and he was  taken  here.  Beppo
was his name - his second name I never knew. Serve me right for engaging a
man with such a face. But he was a good workman - one of the best."
    "What did he get?"
    "The man lived and he got off with a year. I have no doubt he is  out
now, but he has not dared to show his nose here. We have a cousin  of  his
here, and I daresay he could tell you where he is."
    "No, no," cried Holmes, "not a word to the cousin - not a word, I beg
of you. The matter is very important, and the farther I go  with  it,  the
more important it seems to grow. When you referred in your ledger  to  the
sale of those casts I observed that the date was June 3rd  of  last  year.
Could you give me the date when Beppo was arrested?"
    "I could tell you roughly by the  pay-list,"  the  manager  answered.
"Yes," he continued, after some turning over of pages, "he was  paid  last
on May 20th."
    "Thank you," said Holmes. "I don't think that  I  need  intrude  upon
your time and patience any more." With a last  word  of  caution  that  he
should say nothing as to our researches, we turned our faces westward once
more.
    The afternoon was far advanced before we were able to snatch a  hasty
luncheon  at  a  restaurant.  A  news-bill  at  the   entrance   announced
"Kensington Outrage. Murder by a Madman," and the contents  of  the  paper
showed that Mr. Horace Harker had got his account into  print  after  all.
Two columns were occupied with a highly sensational and flowery  rendering
of the whole incident. Holmes propped it against the cruet-stand and  read
it while he ate. Once or twice he chuckled.
    "This is all right, Watson," said he. "Listen to this:

    "It is satisfactory to know  that  there  can  be  no  difference  of
opinion upon this case, since Mr. Lestrade, one of  the  most  experienced
members of the official force, and Mr. Sherlock  Holmes,  the  well  known
consulting expert, have each come to the  conclusion  that  the  grotesque
series of incidents, which have ended in so tragic a fashion,  arise  from
lunacy rather than from  deliberate  crime.  No  explanation  save  mental
aberration can cover the facts.

    The Press, Watson, is a most valuable institution, if you  only  know
how to use it. And now, if you have quite finished, we will hark  back  to
Kensington and see what the manager of Harding Brothers has to say on  the
matter."
    The founder of that great emporium proved to be a brisk, crisp little
person, very dapper and quick, with a clear head and a ready tongue.
    "Yes, sir, I have already read the account in the evening papers. Mr.
Horace Harker is a customer of ours. We supplied him with  the  bust  some
months ago. We ordered three busts of that sort  from  Gelder  &  Co.,  of
Stepney. They are all sold now. To whom? Oh, I daresay by  consulting  our
sales book we could very easily tell you. Yes, we have the  entries  here.
One to Mr. Harker you see, and one to Mr. Josiah Brown, of Laburnum Lodge,
Laburnum Vale, Chiswick, and one to Mr. Sandeford, of  Lower  Grove  Road,
Reading. No, I have never  seen  this  face  which  you  show  me  in  the
photograph. You would hardly forget it, would you, sir,  for  I've  seldom
seen an uglier. Have we any Italians on  the  staff?  Yes,  sir,  we  have
several among our workpeople and cleaners. I daresay they might get a peep
at that sales book if they wanted to. There is no  particular  reason  for
keeping a watch upon that book. Well, well, it's a very strange  business,
and I hope that you will let me know if anything comes of your inquiries."
    Holmes had taken several notes during Mr. Harding's evidence,  and  I
could see that he was thoroughly satisfied by the turn which affairs  were
taking. He made no remark, however,  save  that,  unless  we  hurried,  we
should be late for our appointment with Lestrade.  Sure  enough,  when  we
reached Baker Street the detective was already there,  and  we  found  him
pacing up and down in a fever of impatience. His look of importance showed
that his day's work had not been in vain.
    "Well?" he asked. "What luck, Mr. Holmes?"
    "We have had a very busy day, and not  entirely  a  wasted  one,"  my
friend explained. "We have seen both the retailers and also the  wholesale
manufacturers. I can trace each of the busts now from the beginning."
    "The busts" cried Lestrade. "Well, well, you have your  own  methods,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and it is not for me to say a word against them,  but
I think I have done a better day's work than you. I  have  identified  the
dead man."
    "You don't say so?"
    "And found a cause for the crime."
    "Splendid!"
    "We have an inspector who makes a specialty of Saffron Hill  and  the
Italian Quarter. Well, this dead man had some Catholic  emblem  round  his
neck, and that, along with his colour, made  me  think  he  was  from  the
South. Inspector Hill knew him the moment he caught sight of him. His name
is Pietro Venucci, from Naples, and he is one of the greatest  cut-throats
in London. He is connected with the Mafia, which, as you know, is a secret
political society, enforcing its decrees by murder. Now, you see  how  the
affair begins to clear up. The other fellow is probably an  Italian  also,
and a member of the Mafia. He has broken the rules in some fashion. Pietro
is set upon his track. Probably the photograph we found in his  pocket  is
the man himself, so that he may not knife the wrong person.  He  dogs  the
fellow, he sees him enter a house, he waits outside for him,  and  in  the
scuffle he receives his own death-wound. How is that, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
    Holmes clapped his hands approvingly.
    "Excellent, Lestrade, excellent!"  he  cried.  "But  I  didn't  quite
follow your explanation of the destruction of the busts."
    "The busts! You never can get those busts out  of  your  head.  After
all, that is nothing; petty larceny, six months at the  most.  It  is  the
murder that we are  really  investigating,  and  I  tell  you  that  I  am
gathering all the threads into my hands."
    "And the next stage?"
    "Is a very simple one. I shall go  down  with  Hill  to  the  Italian
Quarter, find the man whose photograph we have got, and arrest him on  the
charge of murder. Will you come with us?"
    "I think not. I fancy we can attain our end in a simpler way. I can't
say for certain, because it all depends - well,  it  all  depends  upon  a
factor which is completely outside our control. But I have great  hopes  -
in fact, the betting is exactly two to one - that if you will come with us
to-night I shall be able to help you to lay him by the heels."
    "In the Italian Quarter?"
    "No, I fancy Chiswick is an address which is more likely to find him.
If you will come with me to Chiswick to-night, Lestrade, I'll  promise  to
go to the Italian Quarter with you to-morrow, and no harm will be done  by
the delay. And now I think that a few hours' sleep would do us  all  good,
for I do not propose to leave before eleven o'clock, and  it  is  unlikely
that we shall be back before morning. You'll dine with us,  Lestrade,  and
then you are welcome to the sofa until it is time for us to start. In  the
meantime, Watson, I should be glad  if  you  would  ring  for  an  express
messenger, for I have a letter to send and it is important that it  should
go at once."
    Holmes spent the evening in rummaging among  the  files  of  the  old
daily papers with which one of our lumber-rooms was packed. When  at  last
he descended, it was with triumph in his eyes,  but  he  said  nothing  to
either of us as to the result of his researches. For my own  part,  I  had
followed step by step the methods by  which  he  had  traced  the  various
windings of this complex case, and, though I could not  yet  perceive  the
goal which we would reach, I understood clearly that Holmes expected  this
grotesque criminal to make an attempt upon the two remaining busts, one of
which, I remembered, was at Chiswick. No doubt the object of  our  journey
was to catch him in the very act, and I could not but admire  the  cunning
with which my friend had inserted a wrong clue in the evening paper, so as
to give the fellow the  idea  that  he  could  continue  his  scheme  with
impunity. I was not surprised when Holmes suggested that I should take  my
revolver with me. He had himself picked up the loaded hunting-crop,  which
was his favourite weapon.
    A four-wheeler was at the door at eleven, and in it  we  drove  to  a
spot at the other side of Hammersmith Bridge. Here the cabman was directed
to wait. A short walk brought us to a secluded road fringed with  pleasant
houses, each standing in its own grounds. In the light of a street lamp we
read "Laburnum Villa" upon the gate-post of one of them. The occupants had
evidently retired to rest, for all was dark save for a fanlight  over  the
hall door, which shed a single blurred circle on to the garden  path.  The
wooden fence which separated the grounds from the road threw a dense black
shadow upon the inner side, and here it was that we crouched.
    "I fear that you'll have a long  wait,"  Holmes  whispered.  "We  may
thank our stars that it is not raining. I don't think we can even  venture
to smoke to pass the time. However, it's a two to one chance that  we  get
something to pay us for our trouble."
    It proved, however, that our vigil was not to be so  long  as  Holmes
had led us to fear, and it ended in a very sudden and singular fashion. In
an instant, without the least sound to warn us of his coming,  the  garden
gate swung open, and a lithe, dark figure, as swift and active as an  ape,
rushed up the garden path. We saw it whisk past the light thrown from over
the door and disappear against the black shadow of the house. There was  a
long pause, during which we held  our  breath,  and  then  a  very  gentle
creaking sound came to our ears. The window was being  opened.  The  noise
ceased, and again there was a long silence. The fellow was making his  way
into the house. We saw the sudden flash of a dark lantern inside the room.
What he sought was evidently not there, for again we saw the flash through
another blind, and then through another.
    "Let us get to the open window. We will nab him as  he  climbs  out,"
Lestrade whispered.
    But before we could move, the man had emerged again. As he  came  out
into the glimmering patch of light, we saw that he carried something white
under his arm. He looked stealthily all round  him.  The  silence  of  the
deserted street reassured him. Turning his back upon us he laid  down  his
burden, and the next instant there was the sound of a sharp tap,  followed
by a clatter and rattle. The man was so intent upon what he was doing that
he never heard our steps as we stole across the grass plot. With the bound
of a tiger Holmes was on his back, and an instant later Lestrade and I had
him by either wrist, and the handcuffs had been fastened. As we turned him
over I saw a  hideous,  sallow  face,  with  writhing,  furious  features,
glaring up at us, and I knew that it was indeed the man of the  photograph
whom we had secured.
    But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his  attention.
Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most carefully examining  that
which the man had brought from the house. It was a bust of Napoleon,  like
the one which we had seen that  morning,  and  it  had  been  broken  into
similar fragments. Carefully Holmes held each separate shard to the light,
but in no way did it differ from any other shattered piece of plaster.  He
had just completed his examination when the hall lights flew up, the  door
opened, and the owner of the house, a jovial, rotund figure in  shirt  and
trousers, presented himself.
    "Mr. Josiah Brown, I suppose?" said Holmes.
    "Yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are Mr. Sherlock Holmes? I had the note
which you sent by the express messenger, and I did exactly what  you  told
me. We locked every door on the inside and awaited developments. Well, I'm
very glad to see that you have got the rascal. I hope, gentlemen, that you
will come in and have some refreshment."
    However, Lestrade was anxious to get his man into safe  quarters,  so
within a few minutes our cab had been summoned and we were all  four  upon
our way to London. Not a word would our captive say, but he glared  at  us
from the shadow of his matted hair, and once, when my hand  seemed  within
his reach, he snapped at it like a hungry wolf. We stayed long  enough  at
the police-station to learn that a search of his clothing revealed nothing
save a few shillings and a long sheath knife, the  handle  of  which  bore
copious traces of recent blood.
    "That's all right," said Lestrade, as  we  parted.  "Hill  knows  all
these gentry, and he will give a name to him. You'll find that  my  theory
of the Mafia will work out all  right.  But  I'm  sure  I  am  exceedingly
obliged to you, Mr. Holmes, for the workmanlike  way  in  which  you  laid
hands upon him. I don't quite understand it all yet."
    "I fear it is rather too late an hour for explanations," said Holmes.
"Besides, there are one or two details which are not finished off, and  it
is one of those cases which are worth working out to the very end. If  you
will come round once more to my rooms at six o'clock to-morrow, I think  I
shall be able to show you that even now you have not  grasped  the  entire
meaning of this business, which  presents  some  features  which  make  it
absolutely original in the history of crime.  If  ever  I  permit  you  to
chronicle any more of my little problems, Watson, I foresee that you  will
enliven your pages  by  an  account  of  the  singular  adventure  of  the
Napoleonic busts."
    When we met again next evening,  Lestrade  was  furnished  with  much
information concerning our prisoner. His name,  it  appeared,  was  Beppo,
second name unknown. He was a well-known ne'er-do-well among  the  Italian
colony. He had once been a skilful  sculptor  and  had  earned  an  honest
living, but he had taken to evil courses and had  twice  already  been  in
jail - once for a petty theft, and once, as  we  had  already  heard,  for
stabbing a fellow-countryman. He could talk English  perfectly  well.  His
reasons for destroying the busts were still unknown,  and  he  refused  to
answer any questions upon the subject, but the police had discovered  that
these same busts might very well have been made by his own hands, since he
was engaged in this class of work at the establishment of Gelder & Co.  To
all this information, much of which we already knew, Holmes listened  with
polite attention, but I, who knew him so well, could clearly see that  his
thoughts were elsewhere, and I detected a mixture  of  mingled  uneasiness
and expectation beneath that mask which he was wont to assume. At last  he
started in his chair, and his eyes brightened. There had been  a  ring  at
the bell. A minute later we heard steps upon the stairs,  and  an  elderly
red-faced man with grizzled side-whiskers was ushered  in.  In  his  right
hand he carried an old-fashioned carpet-bag,  which  he  placed  upon  the
table.
    "Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?"
    My friend bowed and smiled. "Mr. Sandeford, of Reading,  I  suppose?"
said he.
    "Yes, sir, I fear that I am  a  little  late,  but  the  trains  were
awkward. You wrote to me about a bust that is in my possession."
    "Exactly."
    "I have your letter here. You said, `I desire to possess  a  copy  of
Devine's Napoleon, and am prepared to pay you ten pounds for the one which
is in your possession.' Is that right?"
    "Certainly."
    "I was very much surprised at your letter, for I  could  not  imagine
how you knew that I owned such a thing."
    "Of course you must have been surprised, but the explanation is  very
simple. Mr. Harding, of Harding Brothers, said  that  they  had  sold  you
their last copy, and he gave me your address."
    "Oh, that was it, was it? Did he tell you what I paid for it?"
    "No, he did not."
    "Well, I am an honest man, though not a very rich one.  I  only  gave
fifteen shillings for the bust, and I think you ought to know that  before
I take ten pounds from you.
    "I am sure the scruple does you honour, Mr.  Sandeford.  But  I  have
named that price, so I intend to stick to it."
    "Well, it is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. I brought the bust  up
with me, as you asked me to do. Here it is!" He opened  his  bag,  and  at
last we saw placed upon our table a complete specimen of that  bust  which
we had already seen more than once in fragments.
    Holmes took a paper from his pocket and laid a  ten-pound  note  upon
the table.
    "You will kindly sign that paper, Mr. Sandeford, in the  presence  of
these witnesses. It is simply to say  that  you  transfer  every  possible
right that you ever had in the bust to me. I am a methodical man, you see,
and you never know what turn events might take afterwards. Thank you,  Mr.
Sandeford; here is your money, and I wish you a very good evening."
    When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock  Holmes's  movements  were
such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking  a  clean  white  cloth
from a drawer and laying it over the  table.  Then  he  placed  his  newly
acquired bust in the centre of  the  cloth.  Finally,  he  picked  up  his
hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a sharp blow on the top of the head.  The
figure broke into fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly  over  the  shattered
remains. Next instant, with a  loud  shout  of  triumph  he  held  up  one
splinter, in which a round, dark  object  was  fixed  like  a  plum  in  a
pudding.
    "Gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduce  you  to  the  famous  black
pearl of the Borgias."
    Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a  spontaneous
impulse, we both broke at clapping, as at the  well-wrought  crisis  of  a
play. A flush of colour sprang to Holmes's pale cheeks, and he bowed to us
like the master dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It  was
at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a  reasoning  machine,
and betrayed  his  human  love  for  admiration  and  applause.  The  same
singularly proud and reserved nature which turned away with  disdain  from
popular notoriety was capable of being moved to its depths by  spontaneous
wonder and praise from a friend.
    "Yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the most famous pearl now  existing
in the world, and it has been my good fortune, by  a  connected  chain  of
inductive reasoning, to trace it from the Prince of Colonna's  bedroom  at
the Dacre Hotel, where it was lost, to the interior of this, the  last  of
the six busts of Napoleon which were manufactured  by  Gelder  &  Co.,  of
Stepney.  You  will  remember,  Lestrade,  the  sensation  caused  by  the
disappearance of this valuable jewel and the vain efforts  of  the  London
police to recover it. I was myself consulted upon  the  case,  but  I  was
unable to throw any light upon it. Suspicion fell upon  the  maid  of  the
Princess, who was an Italian, and it was proved that she had a brother  in
London, but we failed to trace any connection  between  them.  The  maid's
name was Lucretia Venucci, and there is no doubt  in  my  mind  that  this
Pietro who was murdered two nights  ago  was  the  brother.  I  have  been
looking up the dates in the old files of the paper, and I  find  that  the
disappearance of the pearl was exactly  two  days  before  the  arrest  of
Beppo, for some crime of violence - an  event  which  took  place  in  the
factory of Gelder & Co., at the very moment when these  busts  were  being
made. Now you clearly see the sequence of events, though you see them,  of
course, in the inverse order to the way in which they presented themselves
to me. Beppo had the pearl in his possession. He may have stolen  it  from
Pietro, he may have been  Pietro's  confederate,  he  may  have  been  the
go-between of Pietro and his sister. It is of no consequence to  us  which
is the correct solution.
    "The main fact is that he HAD the pearl, and at that moment, when  it
was on his person, he was pursued by the police. He made for  the  factory
in which he worked, and he knew that he had only a few minutes in which to
conceal this enormously valuable prize, which would otherwise be found  on
him when he was searched. Six plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in the
passage. One of them was still  soft.  In  an  instant  Beppo,  a  skilful
workman, made a small hole in the wet plaster, dropped in the  pearl,  and
with a few touches  covered  over  the  aperture  once  more.  It  was  an
admirable hiding-place. No one could  possibly  find  it.  But  Beppo  was
condemned to a year's imprisonment, and in the  meanwhile  his  six  busts
were scattered  over  London.  He  could  not  tell  which  contained  his
treasure. Only by breaking them could he see. Even shaking would tell  him
nothing, for as the plaster was wet it was probable that the  pearl  would
adhere to it - as, in fact, it has done. Beppo did  not  despair,  and  he
conducted his search with considerable ingenuity and perseverance. Through
a cousin who works with Gelder, he found out  the  retail  firms  who  had
bought the busts. He managed to find employment with Morse Hudson, and  in
that way tracked down three of them. The pearl was not there.  Then,  with
the help of some Italian employe, he succeeded in finding  out  where  the
other three busts had gone. The first was at Harker's. There he was dogged
by his confederate, who held Beppo responsible for the loss of the  pearl,
and he stabbed him in the scuffle which followed."
    "If he was his confederate, why should he carry  his  photograph?"  I
asked.
    "As a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire  about  him  from
any third person. That was the obvious reason. Well, after  the  murder  I
calculated  that  Beppo  would  probably  hurry  rather  than  delay   his
movements. He would fear that the police would read his secret, and so  he
hastened on before they should get ahead of him. Of course,  I  could  not
say that he had not found the pearl in  Harker's  bust.  I  had  not  even
concluded for certain that it was the pearl, but it was evident to me that
he was looking for something, since he carried the  bust  past  the  other
houses in order to break it in the garden which had a lamp overlooking it.
Since Harker's bust was one in three, the chances were exactly as  I  told
you - two to one against the pearl being inside  it.  There  remained  two
busts, and it was obvious that he would go for the  London  one  first.  I
warned the inmates of the house, so as to avoid a second tragedy,  and  we
went down, with the happiest results. By that time, of course, I knew  for
certain that it was the Borgia pearl that we were after. The name  of  the
murdered man linked the one event with the other. There  only  remained  a
single bust - the Reading one - and the pearl must be there. I  bought  it
in your presence from the owner - and there it lies."
    We sat in silence for a moment.
    "Well," said Lestrade, "I've seen you handle a good many  cases,  Mr.
Holmes, but I don't know that I ever knew  a  more  workmanlike  one  than
that. We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard.  No,  sir,  we  are  very
proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there's not a man, from  the
oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn't be glad to  shake
you by the hand."
    "Thank you!" said Holmes. "Thank you!" and  as  he  turned  away,  it
seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the  softer  human  emotions
than I had ever seen him. A moment later he was  the  cold  and  practical
thinker once more. "Put the pearl in the safe, Watson," said he, "and  get
out the papers of the Conk-Singleton forgery case. Good-bye, Lestrade.  If
any little problem comes your way, I shall be happy, if I can, to give you
a hint or two as to its solution."





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                THE ADVENTURE OF THE GOLDEN PINCE-NEZ


    When I look at the three massive manuscript volumes which contain our
work for the year 1894, I confess that it is very difficult for me, out of
such a wealth of material, to select the cases which are most  interesting
in themselves, and at the same time most conducive to a display  of  those
peculiar powers for which my friend was famous. As I turn over the  pages,
I see my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the  terrible
death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an account of  the  Addleton
tragedy, and the singular contents of  the  ancient  British  barrow.  The
famous Smith-Mortimer succession case comes also within this  period,  and
so does the tracking and arrest of Huret,  the  Boulevard  assassin  -  an
exploit which won for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French
President and the Order of the Legion  of  Honour.  Each  of  these  would
furnish a narrative, but on the whole I am of opinion that  none  of  them
unites so many singular points of interest as the episode  of  Yoxley  Old
Place, which includes not only the lamentable death  of  young  Willoughby
Smith, but also those subsequent developments which  threw  so  curious  a
light upon the causes of the crime.
    It was a wild, tempestuous night,  towards  the  close  of  November.
Holmes and I sat together in silence all the evening, he  engaged  with  a
powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original inscription  upon  a
palimpsest, I deep in a recent treatise upon  surgery.  Outside  the  wind
howled down Baker  Street,  while  the  rain  beat  fiercely  against  the
windows. It was strange there, in the very depths of the  town,  with  ten
miles of man's handiwork on every side of us, to feel  the  iron  grip  of
Nature, and to be conscious that to the huge elemental forces  all  London
was no more than the molehills that  dot  the  fields.  I  walked  to  the
window, and looked out  on  the  deserted  street.  The  occasional  lamps
gleamed on the expanse of muddy road and shining pavement.  A  single  cab
was splashing its way from the Oxford Street end.
    "Well, Watson, it's as well we have not to turn out  to-night,"  said
Holmes, laying aside his lens and rolling up the  palimpsest.  "I've  done
enough for one sitting. It is trying work for the eyes. So far  as  I  can
make out, it is nothing more exciting than an Abbey's accounts dating from
the second half of the fifteenth century. Halloa! halloa!  halloa!  What's
this?"
    Amid the droning of the wind there had come the stamping of a horse's
hoofs, and the long grind of a wheel as it rasped against  the  curb.  The
cab which I had seen had pulled up at our door.
    "What can he want?" I ejaculated, as a man stepped out of it.
    "Want? He wants us. And  we,  my  poor  Watson,  want  overcoats  and
cravats and goloshes, and every aid that man ever invented  to  fight  the
weather. Wait a bit, though! There's the cab off again! There's hope  yet.
He'd have kept it if he had wanted us to come. Run down, my  dear  fellow,
and open the door, for all virtuous folk have been long in bed."
    When the light of the hall lamp fell upon our midnight visitor, I had
no difficulty  in  recognizing  him.  It  was  young  Stanley  Hopkins,  a
promising detective, in whose career Holmes had several times shown a very
practical interest.
    "Is he in?" he asked, eagerly.
    "Come up, my dear sir," said Holmes's voice from above. "I  hope  you
have no designs upon us such a night as this."
    The detective mounted the stairs,  and  our  lamp  gleamed  upon  his
shining waterproof. I helped him out of it, while Holmes knocked  a  blaze
out of the logs in the grate.
    "Now, my dear Hopkins, draw up and warm your toes," said he.  "Here's
a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription  containing  hot  water  and  a
lemon, which is good medicine on a night like this. It must  be  something
important which has brought you out in such a gale."
    "It is indeed, Mr. Holmes. I've had a bustling afternoon,  I  promise
you. Did you see anything of the Yoxley case in the latest editions?"
    "I've seen nothing later than the fifteenth century to-day."
    "Well, it was only a paragraph, and all wrong at that,  so  you  have
not missed anything. I haven't let the grass grow under my feet. It's down
in Kent, seven miles from Chatham and three from the railway line.  I  was
wired  for  at  3:15,  reached  Yoxley  Old  Place  at  5,  conducted   my
investigation, was back at Charing Cross by the last train,  and  straight
to you by cab."
    "Which means, I suppose, that you are  not  quite  clear  about  your
case?"
    "It means that I can make neither head nor tail of it. So  far  as  I
can see, it is just as tangled a business as ever I handled,  and  yet  at
first it seemed so simple that one couldn't go wrong. There's  no  motive,
Mr. Holmes. That's what bothers me - I can't put  my  hand  on  a  motive.
Here's a man dead - there's no denying that - but, so far as I can see, no
reason on earth why anyone should wish him harm."
    Holmes lit his cigar and leaned back in his chair.
    "Let us hear about it," said he.
    "I've got my facts pretty clear," said Stanley Hopkins. "All  I  want
now is to know what they all mean. The story, so far as I can make it out,
is like this. Some years ago this country house,  Yoxley  Old  Place,  was
taken by an elderly man, who gave the name of Professor Coram. He  was  an
invalid, keeping his bed half the time, and the other half hobbling  round
the house with a stick or being pushed about the grounds by  the  gardener
in a Bath chair. He was well liked by the few neighbours who  called  upon
him, and he has the reputation down there of being a very learned man. His
household used to consist of an elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Marker, and of a
maid, Susan Tarlton. These have both been with him since his arrival,  and
they seem to be women of excellent character. The professor is  writing  a
learned book, and he found it necessary, about a year  ago,  to  engage  a
secretary. The first two that he tried were not successes, but the  third,
Mr. Willoughby Smith, a very young man straight from the university, seems
to have been just what his employer wanted. His work consisted in  writing
all the morning to the professor's dictation, and  he  usually  spent  the
evening in hunting up references and passages which  bore  upon  the  next
day's work. This Willoughby Smith has nothing against him, either as a boy
at Uppingham or as a young man at Cambridge. I have seen his testimonials,
and from the first he was a decent, quiet, hard-working  fellow,  with  no
weak spot in him at all. And yet this is the lad who  has  met  his  death
this morning in the professor's study under circumstances which can  point
only to murder."
    The wind howled and screamed at the windows. Holmes and I drew closer
to the fire, while the young inspector slowly and point by point developed
his singular narrative.
    "If you were to search all England," said he, "I  don't  suppose  you
could  find  a  household  more  self-contained  or  freer  from   outside
influences. Whole weeks would pass, and not one of them go past the garden
gate. The professor was buried in his work and existed for  nothing  else.
Young Smith knew nobody in the neighbourhood, and lived very much  as  his
employer did. The two women had nothing  to  take  them  from  the  house.
Mortimer, the gardener, who wheels the Bath chair, is an army pensioner  -
an old Crimean man of excellent character. He does not live in the  house,
but in a three-roomed cottage at the other end of the  garden.  Those  are
the only people that you would find  within  the  grounds  of  Yoxley  Old
Place. At the same time, the gate of the garden is a  hundred  yards  from
the main London to Chatham road. It opens  with  a  latch,  and  there  is
nothing to prevent anyone from walking in.
    "Now I will give you the evidence of Susan Tarlton, who is  the  only
person who can say anything positive about  the  matter.  It  was  in  the
forenoon, between eleven and twelve. She was  engaged  at  the  moment  in
hanging some curtains in the upstairs front bedroom. Professor  Coram  was
still in bed, for when the weather is bad he seldom rises  before  midday.
The housekeeper was busied with some  work  in  the  back  of  the  house.
Willoughby Smith had been in his bedroom, which he uses as a sitting-room,
but the maid heard him at that moment pass along the passage  and  descend
to the study immediately below her. She did not see him, but she says that
she could not be mistaken in his quick, firm tread. She did not  hear  the
study door close, but a minute or so later there was a dreadful cry in the
room below. It was a wild, hoarse scream, so strange and unnatural that it
might have come either from a man or a woman. At the  same  instant  there
was a heavy thud, which shook the old house, and then all was silence. The
maid stood petrified for a moment, and then, recovering her  courage,  she
ran downstairs. The study door was shut and she opened it.  Inside,  young
Mr. Willoughby Smith was stretched upon the floor. At first she could  see
no injury, but as she tried to raise him she saw that  blood  was  pouring
from the underside of his neck. It was pierced by a very  small  but  very
deep wound, which had divided the  carotid  artery.  The  instrument  with
which the injury had been inflicted lay upon the carpet beside him. It was
one of those  small  sealing-wax  knives  to  be  found  on  old-fashioned
writing-tables, with an ivory handle and a stiff blade. It was part of the
fittings of the professor's own desk.
    "At first the maid thought that young Smith was already dead, but  on
pouring some water from the carafe over his forehead he  opened  his  eyes
for an instant. `The professor,' he murmured - `it was she.' The  maid  is
prepared to swear that those were the exact words. He tried desperately to
say something else, and he held his right hand up in the air. Then he fell
back dead.
    "In the meantime the housekeeper had also arrived upon the scene, but
she was just too late to catch the young man's dying words. Leaving  Susan
with the body, she hurried to the professors room. He was  sitting  up  in
bed, horribly agitated, for he had  heard  enough  to  convince  him  that
something terrible had occurred. Mrs. Marker is prepared to swear that the
professor was still in his night-clothes, and indeed it was impossible for
him to dress without the help of Mortimer, whose orders were  to  come  at
twelve o'clock. The professor declares that he heard the distant cry,  but
that he knows nothing more. He can give no explanation of the young  man's
last words, `The professor - it was she,' but imagines that they were  the
outcome of delirium. He believes that Willoughby Smith had not an enemy in
the world, and can give no reason for the crime. His first action  was  to
send Mortimer, the gardener, for the local  police.  A  little  later  the
chief constable sent for me. Nothing was moved before  I  got  there,  and
strict orders were given that no one should walk upon the paths leading to
the house. It  was  a  splendid  chance  of  putting  your  theories  into
practice, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. There was really nothing wanting."
    "Except Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said  my  companion,  with  a  somewhat
bitter smile. "Well, let us hear about it. What sort of a job did you make
of it?"
    "I must ask you first, Mr. Holmes, to  glance  at  this  rough  plan,
which will give you a general idea of  the  position  of  the  professor's
study and the various points of the case. It will help you in following my
investigation."
    He unfolded the rough chart, which I here reproduce,

                                GRAPHIC

    and he laid it across Holmes's knee.  I  rose  and,  standing  behind
Holmes, studied it over his shoulder.
    "It is very rough, of course, and it only deals with the points which
seem to me to be essential. All the rest you will see later for  yourself.
Now, first of all, presuming that the assassin entered the house, how  did
he or she come in? Undoubtedly by the garden path and the back door,  from
which there is direct access to the study. Any other way would  have  been
exceedingly complicated. The escape must have also been  made  along  that
line, for of the two other exits from the room one was blocked by Susan as
she ran downstairs  and  the  other  leads  straight  to  the  professor's
bedroom. I therefore directed my attention at once  to  the  garden  path,
which was saturated  with  recent  rain,  and  would  certainly  show  any
footmarks.
    "My examination showed me that I was  dealing  with  a  cautious  and
expert criminal. No footmarks were to be found on the path. There could be
no question, however, that someone had passed along the grass border which
lines the path, and that he had done so in order to avoid leaving a track.
I could not find anything in the nature of a distinct impression, but  the
grass was trodden down, and someone had undoubtedly passed. It could  only
have been the murderer, since neither the gardener  nor  anyone  else  had
been there that morning, and the rain had only begun during the night."
    "One moment," said Holmes. "Where does this path lead to?"
    "To the road."
    "How long is it?"
    "A hundred yards or so."
    "At the point where the path  passes  through  the  gate,  you  could
surely pick up the tracks?"
    "Unfortunately, the path was tiled at that point."
    "Well, on the road itself?"
    "No, it was all trodden into mire."
    "Tut-tut! Well, then, these tracks upon the grass, were  they  coming
or going?"
    "It was impossible to say. There was never any outline."
    "A large foot or a small?"
    "You could not distinguish."
    Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience.
    "It has been pouring rain and blowing a hurricane ever  since,"  said
he. "It will be harder to read now than that palimpsest.  Well,  well,  it
can't be helped. What did you do, Hopkins, after you had made certain that
you had made certain of nothing?"
    "I think I made certain of a good  deal,  Mr.  Holmes.  I  knew  that
someone had entered the house cautiously from without. I next examined the
corridor. It is lined with cocoanut matting and had taken no impression of
any kind. This brought  me  into  the  study  itself.  It  is  a  scantily
furnished room. The main article is a large  writing-table  with  a  fixed
bureau. This bureau consists of a double column of drawers, with a central
small cupboard between them. The drawers were open, the  cupboard  locked.
The drawers, it seems, were always open, and nothing of value was kept  in
them. There were some papers of importance in the cupboard, but there were
no signs that this had been tampered with, and the  professor  assures  me
that nothing  was  missing.  It  is  certain  that  no  robbery  has  been
committed.
    "I come now to the body of the young  man.  It  was  found  near  the
bureau, and just to the left of it, as marked upon that  chart.  The  stab
was on the right side of the neck and from behind forward, so that  it  is
almost impossible that it could have been self-inflicted."
    "Unless he fell upon the knife," said Holmes.
    "Exactly. The idea crossed my mind. But we found the knife some  feet
away from the body, so that seems impossible. Then, of course,  there  are
the man's own dying words. And, finally, there  was  this  very  important
piece of evidence which was found clasped in the dead man's right hand."
    From his pocket  Stanley  Hopkins  drew  a  small  paper  packet.  He
unfolded it and disclosed a golden pince-nez,  with  two  broken  ends  of
black silk cord dangling  from  the  end  of  it.  "Willoughby  Smith  had
excellent sight," he added. "There  can  be  no  question  that  this  was
snatched from the face or the person of the assassin."
    Sherlock Holmes took the glasses into his  hand,  and  examined  them
with the utmost  attention  and  interest.  He  held  them  on  his  nose,
endeavoured to read through them, went to the window  and  stared  up  the
street with them, looked at them most minutely in the full  light  of  the
lamp, and finally, with a chuckle, seated himself at the table and wrote a
few lines upon a sheet  of  paper,  which  he  tossed  across  to  Stanley
Hopkins.
    "That's the best I can do for you," said he. "It may prove to  be  of
some use."
    The astonished detective read the note aloud. It ran as follows:

    "Wanted, a woman of good address, attired like  a  lady.  She  has  a
remarkably thick nose, with eyes which are set close upon either  side  of
it. She has a  puckered  forehead,  a  peering  expression,  and  probably
rounded shoulders. There are indications that she has had recourse  to  an
optician at least twice during the last few months. As her glasses are  of
remarkable strength, and as opticians are not very numerous, there  should
be no difficulty in tracing her."

    Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins, which  must  have  been
reflected upon my features. "Surely my deductions are simplicity  itself,"
said he. "It would be difficult to name any articles which afford a  finer
field for inference than a pair of glasses,  especially  so  remarkable  a
pair as these. That they belong to a woman I infer  from  their  delicacy,
and also, of course, from the last words of the dying man. As to her being
a person of refinement and  well  dressed,  they  are,  as  you  perceive,
handsomely mounted in solid gold, and it is inconceivable that anyone  who
wore such glasses could be slatternly in other  respects.  You  will  find
that the clips are too wide for your nose, showing that  the  lady's  nose
was very broad at the base. This sort of  nose  is  usually  a  short  and
coarse one, but there is a sufficient number of exceptions to  prevent  me
from being dogmatic or from insisting upon this point in  my  description.
My own face is a narrow one, and yet I find that I cannot get my eyes into
the centre, nor near the centre, of these glasses. Therefore,  the  lady's
eyes are set very near to the  sides  of  the  nose.  You  will  perceive,
Watson, that the glasses are concave and of unusual strength. A lady whose
vision has been so extremely contracted all her life is sure to  have  the
physical characteristics of such vision, which are seen in  the  forehead,
the eyelids, and the shoulders."
    "Yes," I said, "I can follow  each  of  your  arguments.  I  confess,
however, that I am unable to understand how you arrive at the double visit
to the optician."
    Holmes took the glasses in his hand.
    "You will perceive," he said, "that the clips  are  lined  with  tiny
bands of cork to soften the pressure  upon  the  nose.  One  of  these  is
discoloured and worn  to  some  slight  extent,  but  the  other  is  new.
Evidently one has fallen off and been replaced. I should  judge  that  the
older of them has not been there more than  a  few  months.  They  exactly
correspond, so I gather that the lady went back to the same  establishment
for the second."
    "By George,  it's  marvellous!"  cried  Hopkins,  in  an  ecstasy  of
admiration. "To think that I had all that evidence in my  hand  and  never
knew it! I had intended, however, to go the round of the London opticians."
    "Of course you would. Meanwhile, have you anything more  to  tell  us
about the case?"
    "Nothing, Mr. Holmes. I think that you know as much as  I  do  now  -
probably more. We have had inquiries made as to any stranger seen  on  the
country roads or at the railway station. We have heard of none. What beats
me is the utter want of all object in the crime. Not a ghost of  a  motive
can anyone suggest."
    "Ah! there I am not in a position to help you. But I suppose you want
us to come out to-morrow?"
    "If it is not asking too much,  Mr.  Holmes.  There's  a  train  from
Charing Cross to Chatham at six in the morning, and we should be at Yoxley
Old Place between eight and nine."
    "Then we shall take it. Your case  has  certainly  some  features  of
great interest, and I shall be delighted  to  look  into  it.  Well,  it's
nearly one, and we had best get a few hours'  sleep.  I  daresay  you  can
manage all right on the sofa in front of the fire. I'll  light  my  spirit
lamp, and give you a cup of coffee before we start."
    The gale had blown itself out next day, but it was a  bitter  morning
when we started upon our journey. We saw the cold winter sun rise over the
dreary marshes of the Thames and the long, sullen reaches  of  the  river,
which I shall ever associate with our pursuit of the Andaman  Islander  in
the earlier days of our  career.  After  a  long  and  weary  journey,  we
alighted at a small station some miles from Chatham.  While  a  horse  was
being put into a trap at the local inn, we snatched a  hurried  breakfast,
and so we were all ready for business when we at last  arrived  at  Yoxley
Old Place. A constable met us at the garden gate.
    "Well, Wilson, any news?"
    "No, sir - nothing."
    "No reports of any stranger seen?"
    "No, sir. Down at the station  they  are  certain  that  no  stranger
either came or went yesterday."
    "Have you had inquiries made at inns and lodgings?"
    "Yes, sir: there is no one that we cannot account for."
    "Well, it's only a reasonable walk  to  Chatham.  Anyone  might  stay
there or take a train without being observed. This is the garden  path  of
which I spoke, Mr. Holmes. I'll pledge my word there was  no  mark  on  it
yesterday."
    "On which side were the marks on the grass?"
    "This side, sir. This narrow margin of grass between the path and the
flower-bed. I can't see the traces now, but they were clear to me then."
    "Yes, yes: someone has passed along," said Holmes, stooping over  the
grass border. "Our lady must have picked her  steps  carefully,  must  she
not, since on the one side she would leave a track on the path, and on the
other an even clearer one on the soft bed?"
    "Yes, sir, she must have been a cool hand."
    I saw an intent look pass over Holmes's face.
    "You say that she must have come back this way?"
    "Yes, sir, there is no other."
    "On this strip of grass?"
    "Certainly, Mr. Holmes."
    "Hum! It was a very remarkable performance - very remarkable. Well, I
think we have exhausted the path. Let us go farther. This garden  door  is
usually kept open, I suppose? Then this visitor had nothing to do  but  to
walk in. The idea of murder was  not  in  her  mind,  or  she  would  have
provided herself with some sort of weapon, instead of having to pick  this
knife off the writing-table. She advanced along this corridor, leaving  no
traces upon the cocoanut matting. Then she found herself  in  this  study.
How long was she there? We have no means of judging."
    "Not more than a few minutes, sir. I forgot to  tell  you  that  Mrs.
Marker, the housekeeper, had been in there tidying not very long before  -
about a quarter of an hour, she says."
    "Well, that gives us a limit. Our lady enters  this  room,  and  what
does she do? She goes  over  to  the  writing-table.  What  for?  Not  for
anything in the drawers. If there had been anything worth her  taking,  it
would surely have been locked up. No, it was for something in that  wooden
bureau. Halloa! what is that scratch upon the face  of  it?  Just  hold  a
match, Watson. Why did you not tell me of this, Hopkins?"
    The mark which he was examining began  upon  the  brass-work  on  the
right-hand side of the keyhole, and extended for about four inches,  where
it had scratched the varnish from the surface.
    "I noticed it, Mr. Holmes, but you'll always find scratches  round  a
keyhole."
    "This is recent, quite recent. See how the brass shines where  it  is
cut. An old scratch would be the same colour as the surface.  Look  at  it
through my lens. There's the varnish, too, like earth on each  side  of  a
furrow. Is Mrs. Marker there?"
    A sad-faced, elderly woman came into the room.
    "Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "Did you notice this scratch?"
    "No, sir, I did not."
    "I am sure you did not, for a duster  would  have  swept  away  these
shreds of varnish. Who has the key of this bureau?"
    "The Professor keeps it on his watch-chain."
    "Is it a simple key?"
    "No, sir, it is a Chubb's key."
    "Very good. Mrs. Marker, you can go.  Now  we  are  making  a  little
progress. Our lady enters the room, advances to  the  bureau,  and  either
opens it or tries to do so. While she is thus  engaged,  young  Willoughby
Smith enters the room. In her hurry to withdraw the key,  she  makes  this
scratch upon the door. He seizes her, and she, snatching  up  the  nearest
object, which happens to be this knife, strikes at him in  order  to  make
him let go his hold. The blow is a fatal one. He falls  and  she  escapes,
either with or without the object for which she has come.  Is  Susan,  the
maid, there? Could anyone have got away through that door after  the  time
that you heard the cry, Susan?"
    "No sir, it is impossible. Before I got down the stair, I'd have seen
anyone in the passage. Besides, the door never opened,  or  I  would  have
heard it."
    "That settles this exit. Then no doubt the lady went out the way  she
came. I understand that this other passage leads only to  the  professor's
room. There is no exit that way?"
    "No, sir."
    "We shall go down it and make  the  acquaintance  of  the  professor.
Halloa, Hopkins! this  is  very  important,  very  important  indeed.  The
professor's corridor is also lined with cocoanut matting."
    "Well, sir, what of that?"
    "Don't you see any bearing upon the case? Well, well. I don't  insist
upon it. No doubt I am wrong. And yet it seems to  me  to  be  suggestive.
Come with me and introduce me."
    We passed down the passage, which was of  the  same  length  as  that
which led to the garden. At the end was a short flight of steps ending  in
a door. Our guide knocked,  and  then  ushered  us  into  the  professor's
bedroom.
    It was a very large chamber, lined with  innumerable  volumes,  which
had overflowed from the shelves and lay in piles in the corners,  or  were
stacked all round at the base of the cases. The bed was in the  centre  of
the room, and in it, propped up with pillows, was the owner of the  house.
I have seldom seen a more  remarkable-looking  person.  It  was  a  gaunt,
aquiline face which was turned towards us, with piercing dark eyes,  which
lurked in deep hollows under overhung and tufted brows. His hair and beard
were white, save that the latter was curiously stained with yellow  around
his mouth. A cigarette glowed amid the tangle of white hair, and  the  air
of the room was fetid with stale tobacco smoke. As he held out his hand to
Holmes, I perceived that it was also stained with yellow nicotine.
    "A smoker, Mr. Holmes?" said he,  speaking  in  well-chosen  English,
with a curious little mincing accent. "Pray take  a  cigarette.  And  you,
sir? I can recommend them, for I have them especially prepared by Ionides,
of Alexandria. He sends me a thousand at a time, and I grieve to say  that
I have to arrange for a fresh supply every fortnight. Bad, sir, very  bad,
but an old man has few pleasures. Tobacco and my work - that is  all  that
is left to me."
    Holmes had lit a cigarette and was shooting  little  darting  glances
all over the room.
    "Tobacco and my work, but now only tobacco," the old  man  exclaimed.
"Alas! what a fatal interruption! Who could have foreseen such a  terrible
catastrophe? So estimable a young man! I assure  you  that,  after  a  few
months' training, he was an admirable assistant. What do you think of  the
matter, Mr. Holmes?"
    "I have not yet made up my mind."
    "I shall indeed be indebted to you if you can throw a light where all
is so dark to us. To a poor bookworm and invalid like myself such  a  blow
is paralyzing. I seem to have lost the faculty of thought. But you  are  a
man of action - you are a man of affairs.  It  is  part  of  the  everyday
routine of your life. You can preserve your balance in every emergency. We
are fortunate, indeed, in having you at our side."
    Holmes was pacing up and down one side of the  room  whilst  the  old
professor was talking. I observed that he was smoking  with  extraordinary
rapidity. It was evident that he shared our host's liking  for  the  fresh
Alexandrian cigarettes.
    "Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow," said the  old  man.  "That  is  my
MAGNUM OPUS - the pile of papers on  the  side  table  yonder.  It  is  my
analysis of the documents found in the Coptic  monasteries  of  Syria  and
Egypt, a work which will cut deep  at  the  very  foundation  of  revealed
religion. With my enfeebled health I do not know whether I shall  ever  be
able to complete it, now that my assistant has been taken  from  me.  Dear
me! Mr. Holmes, why, you are even a quicker smoker than I am myself."
    Holmes smiled.
    "I am a connoisseur," said he, taking another cigarette from the  box
- his fourth - and lighting  it  from  the  stub  of  that  which  he  had
finished. "I will not trouble  you  with  any  lengthy  cross-examination,
Professor Coram, since I gather that you were in bed at the  time  of  the
crime, and could know nothing about it. I would only ask this: What do you
imagine that this poor fellow meant by his last words: `The professor - it
was she'?"
    The professor shook his head.
    "Susan is a country girl," said he,  "and  you  know  the  incredible
stupidity of that class. I  fancy  that  the  poor  fellow  murmured  some
incoherent  delirious  words,  and  that  she  twisted  them   into   this
meaningless message."
    "I see. You have no explanation yourself of the tragedy?"
    "Possibly an accident, possibly - I only breathe it among ourselves -
a suicide. Young men have their hidden  troubles  -  some  affair  of  the
heart, perhaps,  which  we  have  never  known.  It  is  a  more  probable
supposition than murder."
    "But the eyeglasses?"
    "Ah! I am only a student - a man of  dreams.  I  cannot  explain  the
practical things of life.  But  still,  we  are  aware,  my  friend,  that
love-gages may take strange shapes. By all means take  another  cigarette.
It is a pleasure to see anyone appreciate them so. A fan, a glove, glasses
- who knows what article may be carried as a token or treasured when a man
puts an end to his life? This gentleman speaks of footsteps in the  grass,
but, after all, it is easy to be mistaken on  such  a  point.  As  to  the
knife, it might well be thrown far from the unfortunate man as he fell. It
is possible that I speak as a child, but to me it  seems  that  Willoughby
Smith has met his fate by his own hand."
    Holmes seemed struck by the theory thus put forward, and he continued
to walk up and down for some time, lost in thought and consuming cigarette
after cigarette.
    "Tell me, Professor Coram," he  said,  at  last,  "what  is  in  that
cupboard in the bureau?"
    "Nothing that would help a thief. Family papers, letters from my poor
wife, diplomas of universities which have done me honour. Here is the key.
You can look for yourself."
    Holmes picked up the key, and looked at it for an  instant,  then  he
handed it back.
    "No, I hardly think that it would help me," said he. "I should prefer
to go quietly down to your garden, and turn the whole matter  over  in  my
head. There is something to be said for the theory of  suicide  which  you
have put  forward.  We  must  apologize  for  having  intruded  upon  you,
Professor Coram, and I promise that  we  won't  disturb  you  until  after
lunch. At two o'clock we will come again, and report to you anything which
may have happened in the interval."
    Holmes was curiously distrait, and we walked up and down  the  garden
path for some time in silence.
    "Have you a clue?" I asked, at last.
    "It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked,"  said  he.  "It  is
possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will show me."
    "My dear Holmes," I exclaimed, "how on earth..."
    "Well, well, you may see for yourself. If not, there's no harm  done.
Of course, we always have the optician clue to fall back upon, but I  take
a short cut when I can get it. Ah, here is the good Mrs.  Marker!  Let  us
enjoy five minutes of instructive conversation with her."
    I may have  remarked  before  that  Holmes  had,  when  he  liked,  a
peculiarly  ingratiating  way  with  women,  and  that  he  very   readily
established terms of confidence with them. In half the time which  he  had
named, he had captured the housekeeper's goodwill and  was  chatting  with
her as if he had known her for years.
    "Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say,  sir.  He  does  smoke  something
terrible. All day and sometimes all night, sir. I've seen that room  of  a
morning - well, sir, you'd have thought it was a London  fog.  Poor  young
Mr. Smith, he was a smoker also, but not as  bad  as  the  professor.  His
health - well, I don't know that it's better nor worse for the smoking."
    "Ah!" said Holmes, "but it kills the appetite."
    "Well, I don't know about that, sir."
    "I suppose the professor eats hardly anything?"
    "Well, he is variable. I'll say that for him."
    "I'll wager he took no breakfast this morning,  and  won't  face  his
lunch after all the cigarettes I saw him consume."
    "Well, you're out there, sir, as it happens, for he ate a  remarkable
big breakfast this morning. I don't know when I've known him make a better
one, and he's ordered a good dish of cutlets for his lunch. I'm  surprised
myself, for since I came into that room yesterday and saw young Mr.  Smith
lying there on the floor, I couldn't bear to look at food. Well, it  takes
all sorts to make a world, and  the  professor  hasn't  let  it  take  his
appetite away."
    We loitered the morning away in the garden. Stanley Hopkins had  gone
down to the village to look into some rumours of a strange woman  who  had
been seen by some children on the Chatham Road the previous morning. As to
my friend, all his usual energy seemed to have deserted him. I  had  never
known him handle a case in such a  half-hearted  fashion.  Even  the  news
brought back by Hopkins that he had found the children, and that they  had
undoubtedly seen a woman exactly corresponding with Holmes's  description,
and wearing either spectacles or eyeglasses, failed to rouse any  sign  of
keen interest. He was more attentive when Susan, who  waited  upon  us  at
lunch, volunteered the information that she believed Mr.  Smith  had  been
out for a walk yesterday morning, and that he had only  returned  half  an
hour before the tragedy occurred. I could not myself see  the  bearing  of
this incident, but I clearly perceived that Holmes was weaving it into the
general scheme which he had formed in his brain. Suddenly he  sprang  from
his chair and glanced at his watch. "Two o'clock, gentlemen," said he. "We
must go up and have it out with our friend, the professor."
    The old man had just finished his lunch, and certainly his empty dish
bore evidence to the good appetite with which his housekeeper had credited
him. He was, indeed, a weird figure as he turned his white  mane  and  his
glowing eyes towards us. The eternal cigarette smouldered in his mouth. He
had been dressed and was seated in an armchair by the fire.
    "Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery yet?" He  shoved  the
large tin of cigarettes which stood on  a  table  beside  him  towards  my
companion. Holmes stretched out his hand at the same moment,  and  between
them they tipped the box over the edge. For a minute or two we were all on
our knees retrieving stray cigarettes from impossible places. When we rose
again, I observed Holmes's eyes were shining and his  cheeks  tinged  with
colour. Only at a crisis have I seen those battle-signals flying.
    "Yes," said he, "I have solved it."
    Stanley Hopkins and I stared in amazement.  Something  like  a  sneer
quivered over the gaunt features of the old professor.
    "Indeed! In the garden?"
    "No, here."
    "Here! When?"
    "This instant."
    "You are surely joking, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You compel  me  to  tell
you that this is too serious a matter to be treated in such a fashion."
    "I have forged and tested every link of my  chain,  Professor  Coram,
and I am sure that it is sound. What your motives are, or what exact  part
you play in this strange business, I am not yet able  to  say.  In  a  few
minutes I shall probably hear it from your  own  lips.  Meanwhile  I  will
reconstruct what is past for your  benefit,  so  that  you  may  know  the
information which I still require.
    "A lady yesterday entered your study. She came with the intention  of
possessing herself of certain documents which were in your bureau. She had
a key of her own. I have had an opportunity of examining yours, and  I  do
not find that slight  discolouration  which  the  scratch  made  upon  the
varnish would have produced. You were not an accessory, therefore, and she
came, so far as I can read the evidence, without  your  knowledge  to  rob
you."
    The professor blew a cloud from his lips. "This is  most  interesting
and instructive," said he. "Have you no more to add? Surely, having traced
this lady so far, you can also say what has become of her."
    "I will endeavour to do so. In the first place she was seized by your
secretary, and stabbed him in order  to  escape.  This  catastrophe  I  am
inclined to regard as an unhappy accident, for I  am  convinced  that  the
lady had no intention of inflicting so grievous  an  injury.  An  assassin
does not come unarmed. Horrified by what she had done, she  rushed  wildly
away from the scene of the tragedy. Unfortunately for her,  she  had  lost
her glasses in the scuffle, and as she was extremely short-sighted she was
really helpless without them. She ran down a corridor, which she  imagined
to be that by which she had come - both were lined with cocoanut matting -
and it was only when it was too late that  she  understood  that  she  had
taken the wrong passage, and that her retreat was cut off behind her. What
was she to do? She could not go back. She could not remain where she  was.
She must go on. She went on. She mounted a stair, pushed open a door,  and
found herself in your room."
    The old man sat with  his  mouth  open,  staring  wildly  at  Holmes.
Amazement and fear were stamped upon his expressive features. Now, with an
effort, he shrugged his shoulders and burst into insincere laughter.
    "All very fine, Mr. Holmes," said he. "But there is one  little  flaw
in your splendid theory. I was myself in my room,  and  I  never  left  it
during the day."
    "I am aware of that, Professor Coram."
    "And you mean to say that I could lie upon that bed and not be  aware
that a woman had entered my room?"
    "I never said so. You WERE aware of  it.  You  spoke  with  her.  You
recognized her. You aided her to escape."
    Again the professor burst into high-keyed laughter. He had  risen  to
his feet, and his eyes glowed like embers.
    "You are mad!" he cried. "You are talking insanely. I helped  her  to
escape? Where is she now?"
    "She is there," said Holmes, and he pointed to a high bookcase in the
corner of the room.
    I saw the old man throw up his arms,  a  terrible  convulsion  passed
over his grim face, and he fell back in his chair. At the same instant the
bookcase at which Holmes pointed swung round upon a  hinge,  and  a  woman
rushed out into the room. "You are right!" she cried, in a strange foreign
voice. "You are right! I am here."
    She was brown with the dust and draped with  the  cobwebs  which  had
come from the walls of her hiding-place. Her face, too, was streaked  with
grime, and at the best she could never have been handsome, for she had the
exact  physical  characteristics  which  Holmes  had  divined,  with,   in
addition, a long and obstinate chin. What with her natural blindness,  and
what with the change from dark to light, she stood as one dazed,  blinking
about her to see where and who we were. And yet, in  spite  of  all  these
disadvantages, there was a certain nobility in the  woman's  bearing  -  a
gallantry in the defiant chin and in the upraised  head,  which  compelled
something of respect and admiration.
    Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her arm and claimed her as his
prisoner, but she waved him aside gently, and yet with  an  over-mastering
dignity which compelled obedience. The old man lay back in his chair  with
a twitching face, and stared at her with brooding eyes.
    "Yes, sir, I am your prisoner," she said. "From where I stood I could
hear everything, and I know that you have learned the truth. I confess  it
all. It was I who killed the young man. But you are right - you who say it
was an accident. I did not even know that it was a knife which I  held  in
my hand, for in my despair I snatched anything from the table  and  struck
at him to make him let me go. It is the truth that I tell."
    "Madam," said Holmes, "I am sure that it is the truth.  I  fear  that
you are far from well."
    She had turned a dreadful colour, the more  ghastly  under  the  dark
dust-streaks upon her face. She seated herself on the  side  of  the  bed;
then she resumed.
    "I have only a little time here," she said, "but I would have you  to
know the whole truth. I am this man's wife. He is not an Englishman. He is
a Russian. His name I will not tell."
    For the first time the old man stirred. "God  bless  you,  Anna!"  he
cried. "God bless you!"
    She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his direction. "Why  should
you cling so hard to that wretched life of yours, Sergius?" said she.  "It
has done harm to many and good to none - not even to yourself. However, it
is not for me to cause the frail thread to be snapped before God's time. I
have enough already upon my soul since I crossed  the  threshold  of  this
cursed house. But I must speak or I shall be too late.
    "I have said, gentlemen, that I am this man's wife. He was fifty  and
I a foolish girl of twenty when we married. It was in a city of Russia,  a
university - I will not name the place."
    "God bless you, Anna!" murmured the old man again.
    "We were reformers - revolutionists - Nihilists, you  understand.  He
and I and many more. Then there came a time of trouble, a  police  officer
was killed, many were arrested, evidence was wanted, and in order to  save
his own life and to earn a great reward, my husband betrayed his own  wife
and his companions. Yes, we were all arrested upon his confession. Some of
us found our way to the gallows, and some to Siberia. I  was  among  these
last, but my term was not for life. My husband came to  England  with  his
ill-gotten gains and has lived in quiet ever since, knowing well  that  if
the Brotherhood knew where he was not a week  would  pass  before  justice
would be done."
    The old man reached out a trembling hand  and  helped  himself  to  a
cigarette. "I am in your hands, Anna," said he. "You were always  good  to
me."
    "I have not yet told you the  height  of  his  villainy,"  said  she.
"Among our comrades of the Order, there was one who was the friend  of  my
heart. He was noble, unselfish, loving - all that my husband was  not.  He
hated violence. We were all guilty - if that is guilt - but he was not. He
wrote forever dissuading us from such a course. These letters  would  have
saved him. So would my diary, in which, from day to  day,  I  had  entered
both my feelings towards him and the view which each of us had  taken.  My
husband found and kept both diary and letters. He hid them, and  he  tried
hard to swear away the young man's life. In this he failed, but Alexis was
sent a convict to Siberia, where now, at this moment, he works in  a  salt
mine. Think of that, you villain, you villain! - now, now,  at  this  very
moment, Alexis, a man whose name you are not worthy to  speak,  works  and
lives like a slave, and yet I have your life in my hands, and  I  let  you
go."
    "You were always a noble woman, Anna," said the old man,  puffing  at
his cigarette.
    She had risen, but she fell back again with a little cry of pain.
    "I must finish," she said. "When my term was over I set myself to get
the diary and letters which, if sent  to  the  Russian  government,  would
procure my friend's release. I knew that my husband had come  to  England.
After months of searching I discovered where he was. I knew that he  still
had the diary, for when I was in Siberia I had a  letter  from  him  once,
reproaching me and quoting some passages from its pages. Yet  I  was  sure
that, with his revengeful nature, he would never give it to me of his  own
free-will. I must get it for myself. With this object I engaged  an  agent
from a private detective  firm,  who  entered  my  husband's  house  as  a
secretary - it was your second secretary, Sergius, the one who left you so
hurriedly. He found that papers were kept in the cupboard, and he  got  an
impression of the key. He would not go farther. He  furnished  me  with  a
plan of the house, and he told me that  in  the  forenoon  the  study  was
always empty, as the secretary was employed up here. So at last I took  my
courage in both hands, and I came down to get the  papers  for  myself.  I
succeeded; but at what a cost!
    "I had just taken the paper; and was locking the cupboard,  when  the
young man seized me. I had seen him already that morning. He had met me on
the road, and I had asked him to tell me where Professor Coram lived,  not
knowing that he was in his employ."
    "Exactly! Exactly!" said Holmes. "The secretary came back,  and  told
his employer of the woman he had met. Then, in his last breath,  he  tried
to send a message that it was she - the she whom  he  had  just  discussed
with him."
    "You must let me speak," said the woman, in an imperative voice,  and
her face contracted as if in pain. "When he had fallen I rushed  from  the
room, chose the wrong door, and found myself  in  my  husband's  room.  He
spoke of giving me up. I showed him that if he did so, his life was in  my
hands. If he gave me to the law, I could give him to the  Brotherhood.  It
was not that I wished to live for my own sake, but it was that  I  desired
to accomplish my purpose. He knew that I would do what I said -  that  his
own fate was involved in mine. For that  reason,  and  for  no  other,  he
shielded me. He thrust me into that dark hiding-place -  a  relic  of  old
days, known only to himself. He took his meals in his own room, and so was
able to give me part of his food. It was agreed that when the police  left
the house I should slip away by night and come back no more. But  in  some
way you have read our plans." She tore from the bosom of her dress a small
packet. "These are my last words," said she; "here  is  the  packet  which
will save Alexis. I confide it to your honour and to your love of justice.
Take it! You will deliver it at the Russian Embassy. Now, I have  done  my
duty, and..."
    "Stop her!" cried Holmes. He had bounded  across  the  room  and  had
wrenched a small phial from her hand.
    "Too late!" she said, sinking back on the bed. "Too late! I took  the
poison before I left my hiding-place. My head swims! I am going! I  charge
you, sir, to remember the packet."
    "A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an  instructive  one,"  Holmes
remarked, as we travelled back to town. "It hinged from  the  outset  upon
the pince-nez. But for the fortunate chance of the dying man having seized
these, I am not sure that we could ever have reached our solution. It  was
clear to me, from the strength of the glasses, that the wearer  must  have
been very blind and helpless when deprived of them. When you asked  me  to
believe that she walked along a narrow strip of grass without once  making
a false step, I remarked, as you may remember, that it  was  a  noteworthy
performance. In my mind I set it down as an impossible  performance,  save
in the unlikely case that she had a second pair of glasses. I was  forced,
therefore, to consider seriously the  hypothesis  that  she  had  remained
within the house. On perceiving the similarity of the  two  corridors,  it
became clear that she might very easily have made such a mistake, and,  in
that case, it was evident that she must have entered the professor's room.
I was keenly on the alert, therefore, for whatever  would  bear  out  this
supposition, and I examined the room narrowly for anything in the shape of
a hiding-place. The carpet seemed  continuous  and  firmly  nailed,  so  I
dismissed the idea of a trap-door. There might well be a recess behind the
books. As you are aware, such devices  are  common  in  old  libraries.  I
observed that books were piled on the floor at all other points, but  that
one bookcase was left clear. This, then, might be the door. I could see no
marks to guide me, but the carpet was of a dun colour, which lends  itself
very well to examination. I therefore  smoked  a  great  number  of  those
excellent cigarettes, and I dropped the ash all over the space in front of
the suspected bookcase. It was a simple trick, but exceedingly  effective.
I then went downstairs, and  I  ascertained,  in  your  presence,  Watson,
without your perceiving the drift of my remarks,  that  Professor  Coram's
consumption of food had increased  -  as  one  would  expect  when  he  is
supplying a second person. We then ascended to the room  again,  when,  by
upsetting the cigarette-box, I obtained  a  very  excellent  view  of  the
floor, and was able to  see  quite  clearly,  from  the  traces  upon  the
cigarette ash, that the prisoner had in our  absence  come  out  from  her
retreat. Well, Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross, and  I  congratulate
you on having brought your case to a successful conclusion. You are  going
to headquarters, no doubt. I think, Watson, you and I will drive  together
to the Russian Embassy."





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

              THE ADVENTURE OF THE MISSING THREE-QUARTER


    We were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker Street,
but I have a particular recollection of one which reached us on  a  gloomy
February morning, some seven or eight years ago,  and  gave  Mr.  Sherlock
Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was  addressed  to  him,  and  ran
thus:

    Please  await  me.  Terrible  misfortune.  Right  wing  three-quarter
missing, indispensable to-morrow. OVERTON.

    "Strand  postmark,  and  dispatched  ten  thirty-six,"  said  Holmes,
reading it over and over. "Mr. Overton was evidently considerably  excited
when he sent it, and somewhat incoherent in consequence.  Well,  well,  he
will be here, I daresay, by the time I have looked through the TIMES,  and
then we shall know all about it. Even the most insignificant problem would
be welcome in these stagnant days."
    Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned to  dread
such periods of inaction, for I knew by  experience  that  my  companion's
brain was so abnormally active that it was dangerous to leave  it  without
material upon which to work. For years I had  gradually  weaned  him  from
that drug mania which had threatened once to check his remarkable  career.
Now I knew that under ordinary conditions he no  longer  craved  for  this
artificial stimulus, but I was well aware that the fiend was not dead  but
sleeping, and I have known that the sleep was a light one and  the  waking
near when in periods of idleness I have seen the drawn look upon  Holmes's
ascetic face, and the brooding  of  his  deep-set  and  inscrutable  eyes.
Therefore I blessed this Mr. Overton whoever he might  be,  since  he  had
come with his enigmatic message to break that dangerous calm which brought
more peril to my friend than all the storms of his tempestuous life.
    As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its sender, and
the card of Mr. Cyril Overton, Trinity College, Cambridge,  announced  the
arrival of an enormous young man, sixteen stone of solid bone and  muscle,
who spanned the doorway with his broad shoulders, and looked from  one  of
us to the other with a comely face which was haggard with anxiety.
    "Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
    My companion bowed.
    "I've been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes. I saw Inspector Stanley
Hopkins. He advised me to come to you. He said the  case,  so  far  as  he
could see, was more in your line than in that of the regular police."
    "Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter."
    "It's awful, Mr. Holmes - simply awfull I wonder my hair isn't  gray.
Godfrey Staunton - you've heard of him, of course? He's simply  the  hinge
that the whole team turns on. I'd rather spare two from the pack, and have
Godfrey for my three-quarter line. Whether it's passing, or  tackling,  or
dribbling, there's no one to touch him, and then, he's got the  head,  and
can hold us all together. What am I to do? That's  what  I  ask  you,  Mr.
Holmes. There's Moorhouse, first reserve, but he is trained as a half, and
he always edges right in on to the scrum instead of  keeping  out  on  the
touchline. He's a fine place-kick, it's true, but then he has no judgment,
and he can't sprint for nuts. Why, Morton or Johnson, the  Oxford  fliers,
could romp round him. Stevenson is fast enough, but he couldn't drop  from
the twenty-five line, and a three-quarter who can't either  punt  or  drop
isn't worth a place for pace alone. No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you
can help me to find Godfrey Staunton."
    My friend had listened with amused  surprise  to  this  long  speech,
which was poured forth with extraordinary vigour  and  earnestness,  every
point being driven home  by  the  slapping  of  a  brawny  hand  upon  the
speaker's knee. When our visitor was silent Holmes stretched out his  hand
and took down letter "S" of his commonplace book. For once he dug in  vain
into that mine of varied information.
    "There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger," said he, "and
there was Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang, but Godfrey Staunton is a
new name to me."
    It was our visitor's turn to look surprised.
    "Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things," said  he.  "I  suppose,
then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton, you  don't  know  Cyril
Overton either?"
    Holmes shook his head good humouredly.
    "Great Scott!" cried the athlete.  "Why,  I  was  first  reserve  for
England against Wales, and I've skippered the 'Varsity all this year.  But
that's nothing! I didn't think there was a soul in England who didn't know
Godfrey Staunton, the crack three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and five
Internationals. Good Lord! Mr. Holmes, where HAVE you lived?"
    Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment.
    "You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton  -  a  sweeter  and
healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society,
but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is  the  best  and
soundest thing in England. However, your  unexpected  visit  this  morning
shows me that even in that world of fresh air and fair play, there may  be
work for me to do. So now, my good sir, I beg you to sit down and to  tell
me, slowly and quietly, exactly what it is that has occurred, and how  you
desire that I should help you."
    Young Overton's face assumed the bothered look of the man who is more
accustomed to using his muscles than his wits, but by degrees,  with  many
repetitions and obscurities which I may omit from his narrative,  he  laid
his strange story before us.
    "It's this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper  of  the
Rugger team of Cambridge 'Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton is  my  best  man.
To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we all came  up,  and  we  settled  at
Bentley's private hotel. At ten o'clock I went round and saw that all  the
fellows had gone to roost, for I believe in strict training and plenty  of
sleep to keep a team fit. I had a word  or  two  with  Godfrey  before  he
turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I asked him  what  was
the matter. He said he was all right - just a touch of  headache.  I  bade
him good-night and left him. Half an hour later, the porter tells me  that
a rough-looking man with a beard called with a note for  Godfrey.  He  had
not gone to bed, and the note was taken to his room. Godfrey read it,  and
fell back in a chair as if he had been pole-axed. The porter was so scared
that he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey stopped him,  had  a  drink  of
water, and pulled himself together. Then he went downstairs,  said  a  few
words to the man who was waiting in the hall, and the two of them went off
together. The last that the porter saw of them, they were  almost  running
down the street in the direction of the  Strand.  This  morning  Godfrey's
room was empty, his bed had never been slept in, and his things  were  all
just as I had seen them the night before. He had gone off  at  a  moment's
notice with this stranger, and no word has come from him  since.  I  don't
believe he will ever come back. He was a sportsman, was Godfrey,  down  to
his marrow, and he wouldn't have stopped  his  training  and  let  in  his
skipper if it were not for some cause that was too strong for him.  No:  I
feel as if he were gone for good, and we should never see him again."
    Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this  singular
narrative.
    "What did you do?" he asked.
    "I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything  had  been  heard  of  him
there. I have had an answer. No one has seen him."
    "Could he have got back to Cambridge?"
    "Yes, there is a late train - quarter-past eleven."
    "But, so far as you can ascertain, he did not take it?"
    "No, he has not been seen."
    "What did you do next?"
    "I wired to Lord Mount-James."
    "Why to Lord Mount-James?"
    "Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest relative -
his uncle, I believe."
    "Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter. Lord  Mount-James  is
one of the richest men in England."
    "So I've heard Godfrey say."
    "And your friend was closely related?"
    "Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty -  cram  full
of gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard-cue with his  knuckles.
He never allowed Godfrey a shilling in his life, for  he  is  an  absolute
miser, but it will all come to him right enough."
    "Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?"
    "No."
    "What motive could your friend have in going to Lord Mount-James?"
    "Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if it was  to
do with money it is possible that he would make for his nearest  relative,
who had so much of it, though from all I have heard he would not have much
chance of getting it. Godfrey was not fond of the old man. He would not go
if he could help it."
    "Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was  going  to  his
relative, Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain  the  visit  of  this
rough-looking fellow at so late an hour, and the agitation that was caused
by his coming."
    Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. "I can make  nothing  of
it," said he.
    "Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy  to  look  into
the matter," said Holmes. "I should strongly recommend you  to  make  your
preparations for your match without reference to this young gentleman.  It
must, as you say, have been an overpowering necessity which tore him  away
in such a fashion, and the same necessity is likely to hold him away.  Let
us step round together to the hotel, and see if the porter can  throw  any
fresh light upon the matter."
    Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the  art  of  putting  a  humble
witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of  Godfrey  Staunton's
abandoned room, he had extracted all that the  porter  had  to  tell.  The
visitor of the night  before  was  not  a  gentleman,  neither  was  he  a
workingman. He was simply what the porter described as  a  "medium-looking
chap," a man of fifty, beard grizzled,  pale  face,  quietly  dressed.  He
seemed himself to be agitated. The porter had observed his hand  trembling
when he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed the note  into
his pocket. Staunton had not shaken hands with the man in the  hall.  They
had exchanged a few sentences, of which the porter had only  distinguished
the one word "time." Then they had hurried off in the manner described. It
was just half-past ten by the hall clock.
    "Let me see," said Holmes, seating himself on  Staunton's  bed.  "You
are the day porter, are you not?"
    "Yes, sir, I go off duty at eleven."
    "The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?"
    "No, sir, one theatre party came in late. No one else."
    "Were you on duty all day yesterday?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?"
    "Yes, sir, one telegram."
    "Ah! that's interesting. What o'clock was this?"
    "About six."
    "Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?"
    "Here in his room."
    "Were you present when he opened it?"
    "Yes, sir, I waited to see if there was an answer."
    "Well, was there?"
    "Yes, sir, he wrote an answer."
    "Did you take it?"
    "No, he took it himself."
    "But he wrote it in your presence."
    "Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his back turned at
that table. When he had written it, he said: `All right,  porter,  I  will
take this myself.'"
    "What did he write it with?"
    "A pen, sir."
    "Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?"
    "Yes, sir, it was the top one."
    Holmes rose. Taking the forms, he carried them over to the window and
carefully examined that which was uppermost.
    "It is a pity he did not write in pencil,"  said  he,  throwing  them
down again  with  a  shrug  of  disappointment.  "As  you  have  no  doubt
frequently observed, Watson, the impression usually goes through - a  fact
which has dissolved many a happy marriage. However, I can  find  no  trace
here. I rejoice, however, to perceive that he wrote with  a  broad-pointed
quill pen, and I can hardly doubt that we will find some  impression  upon
this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!"
    He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards  us  the
following hieroglyphic:

                                GRAPHIC

    Cyril Overton was much excited. "Hold it to the glass!" he cried.
    "That is unnecessary," said Holmes.  "The  paper  is  thin,  and  the
reverse will give the message. Here it is." He  turned  it  over,  and  we
read:

                GRAPHIC [Stand by us for Gods sake]

    "So that is the tail end  of  the  telegram  which  Godfrey  Staunton
dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance. There are at least six
words of the message which have escaped us; but what remains -  `Stand  by
us for God's sake!' - proves that this young man saw a  formidable  danger
which approached him, and from which someone else could protect him. `US,'
mark  you!  Another  person  was  involved.  Who  should  it  be  but  the
pale-faced, bearded man, who seemed himself in so nervous a  state?  What,
then, is the connection between Godfrey Staunton and the bearded man?  And
what is the third source from which each of them sought for  help  against
pressing danger? Our inquiry has already narrowed down to that."
    "We have only  to  find  to  whom  that  telegram  is  addressed,"  I
suggested.
    "Exactly, my dear  Watson.  Your  reflection,  though  profound,  had
already crossed my mind. But I daresay it may have  come  to  your  notice
that,  counterfoil  of  another  man's  message,   there   may   be   some
disinclination on the part of the officials to oblige  you.  There  is  so
much red tape in these matters. However, I  have  no  doubt  that  with  a
little delicacy and finesse the end may be attained. Meanwhile,  I  should
like in your presence, Mr. Overton, to go through these papers which  have
been left upon the table."
    There were a number of letters, bills, and  notebooks,  which  Holmes
turned  over  and  examined  with  quick,  nervous  fingers  and  darting,
penetrating eyes. "Nothing here," he said, at last. "By the way, I suppose
your friend was a healthy young fellow - nothing amiss with him?"
    "Sound as a bell."
    "Have you ever known him ill?"
    "Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he slipped  his
knee-cap, but that was nothing."
    "Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should think  he  may
have had some secret trouble. With your assent, I will put one or  two  of
these papers in my pocket, in  case  they  should  bear  upon  our  future
inquiry."
    "One moment - one moment!" cried a querulous voice, and we looked  up
to find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching in the  doorway.  He
was dressed in rusty black, with a very broad-brimmed top-hat and a  loose
white necktie - the whole effect being that of a very rustic parson or  of
an undertaker's mute.  Yet,  in  spite  of  his  shabby  and  even  absurd
appearance, his voice  had  a  sharp  crackle,  and  his  manner  a  quick
intensity which commanded attention.
    "Who are you, sir, and by what right do you  touch  this  gentleman's
papers?" he asked.
    "I am a private detective, and  I  am  endeavouring  to  explain  his
disappearance."
    "Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?"
    "This gentleman,  Mr.  Staunton's  friend,  was  referred  to  me  by
Scotland Yard."
    "Who are you, sir?"
    "I am Cyril Overton."
    "Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord  Mount-James.
I came round as quickly as the Bayswater bus would bring me. So  you  have
instructed a detective?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "And are you prepared to meet the cost?"
    "I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find him, will
be prepared to do that."
    "But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!"
    "In that case, no doubt his family..."
    "Nothing of the sort, sir!" screamed the little man. "Don't  look  to
me for a penny - not a penny! You understand that, Mr. Detective! I am all
the family that this young man has got, and I  tell  you  that  I  am  not
responsible. If he has any expectations it is due to the fact that I  have
never wasted money, and I do not propose to begin to  do  so  now.  As  to
those papers with which you are making so free, I may  tell  you  that  in
case there should be anything of any value among them, you  will  be  held
strictly to account for what you do with them."
    "Very good, sir," said Sherlock Holmes. "May I ask, in the meanwhile,
whether you have yourself any theory  to  account  for  this  young  man's
disappearance?"
    "No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to  look  after
himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself, I entirely refuse  to
accept the responsibility of hunting for him."
    "I quite understand your position," said Holmes, with  a  mischievous
twinkle in his eyes. "Perhaps you don't  quite  understand  mine.  Godfrey
Staunton appears to have been a poor man. If he  has  been  kidnapped,  it
could not have been for anything which he himself possesses. The  fame  of
your wealth has gone abroad, Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely possible
that a gang of thieves have secured your nephew in order to gain from  him
some information as to your house, your habits, and your treasure."
    The face of our unpleasant little visitor  turned  as  white  as  his
neckcloth.
    "Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such  villainy!  What
inhuman rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey  is  a  fine  lad  -  a
staunch lad. Nothing would induce him to give his  old  uncle  away.  I'll
have the plate moved over to the bank this evening. In the meantime  spare
no pains, Mr. Detective! I beg you to leave no stone unturned to bring him
safely back. As to money, well, so far as a fiver or even  a  tenner  goes
you can always look to me."
    Even in his chastened frame of mind, the noble miser could give us no
information which could help us, for he knew little of the private life of
his nephew. Our only clue lay in the truncated telegram, and with  a  copy
of this in his hand Holmes set forth to find a second link for his  chain.
We had shaken off Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to  consult  with
the other members of his team over the misfortune which had befallen them.
    There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the  hotel.  We
halted outside it.
    "It's worth trying, Watson," said Holmes. "Of course, with a  warrant
we could demand to see the counterfoils, but  we  have  not  reached  that
stage yet. I don't suppose they remember faces in so busy a place. Let  us
venture it."
    "I am sorry to trouble you," said he, in his blandest manner, to  the
young woman behind the grating; "there  is  some  small  mistake  about  a
telegram I sent yesterday. I have had no answer, and I very much fear that
I must have omitted to put my name at the end. Could you tell me  if  this
was so?"
    The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.
    "What o'clock was it?" she asked.
    "A little after six."
    "Whom was it to?"
    Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me. "The last  words
in it were `For God's sake,'" he whispered,  confidentially;  "I  am  very
anxious at getting no answer."
    The young woman separated one of the forms.
    "This is it. There is no name," said she, smoothing it out  upon  the
counter.
    "Then that, of course, accounts  for  my  getting  no  answer,"  said
Holmes. "Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure!  Good-morning,  miss,
and many thanks for having relieved my mind." He chuckled and  rubbed  his
hands when we found ourselves in the street once more.
    "Well?" I asked.
    "We progress, my dear Watson, we  progress.  I  had  seven  different
schemes for getting a glimpse of that telegram, but I could hardly hope to
succeed the very first time."
    "And what have you gained?"
    "A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed  a  cab.  "King's
Cross Station," said he.
    "We have a journey, then?"
    "Yes, I think we  must  run  down  to  Cambridge  together.  All  the
indications seem to me to point in that direction."
    "Tell me," I asked, as we rattled up Gray's Inn Road, "have  you  any
suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance?  I  don't  think  that
among all our cases I have known one where the motives are  more  obscure.
Surely you don't really imagine that he may be kidnapped in order to  give
information against his wealthy uncle?"
    "I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to me as a very
probable explanation. It struck me, however, as being the  one  which  was
most likely to interest that exceedingly unpleasant old person."
    "It certainly did that; but what are your alternatives?"
    "I could mention several. You must  admit  that  it  is  curious  and
suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve  of  this  important
match, and should involve the only man whose presence seems  essential  to
the success of the side. It may, of course, be a coincidence,  but  it  is
interesting. Amateur sport is free  from  betting,  but  a  good  deal  of
outside betting goes on among the public, and it is possible that it might
be worth someone's while to get at a player as the ruffians  of  the  turf
get at a race-horse. There is one explanation. A second very  obvious  one
is that this young man really is the heir of  a  great  property,  however
modest his means may at present be, and it is not impossible that  a  plot
to hold him for ransom might be concocted."
    "These theories take no account of the telegram."
    "Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only solid  thing
with which we have to deal, and we must not permit our attention to wander
away from it. It is to gain light upon the purpose of this  telegram  that
we are now upon our way to Cambridge. The path of our investigation is  at
present obscure, but I shall be very much surprised if before  evening  we
have not cleared it up, or made a considerable advance along it."
    It was already dark when we reached the old university  city.  Holmes
took a cab at the station and ordered the man to drive to the house of Dr.
Leslie Armstrong. A few minutes later, we had stopped at a  large  mansion
in the busiest thoroughfare. We were shown in, and after a long wait  were
at last admitted into the  consulting-room,  where  we  found  the  doctor
seated behind his table.
    It argues the degree in which I had lost  touch  with  my  profession
that the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me. Now I am  aware  that
he is not only one of the heads of the medical school of  the  university,
but a thinker of European reputation in more than one branch  of  science.
Yet even without knowing his brilliant record one could  not  fail  to  be
impressed by a mere glance at the  man,  the  square,  massive  face,  the
brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite  moulding  of  the
inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an alert  mind,  grim,
ascetic, self-contained, formidable - so I read Dr. Leslie  Armstrong.  He
held my friend's card in his hand, and he looked up with no  very  pleased
expression upon his dour features.
    "I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware of  your
profession - one of which I by no means approve."
    "In that, Doctor, you will find  yourself  in  agreement  with  every
criminal in the country," said my friend, quietly.
    "So far as your efforts  are  directed  towards  the  suppression  of
crime, sir, they must have the support of every reasonable member  of  the
community, though I cannot doubt that  the  official  machinery  is  amply
sufficient for the purpose. Where your calling is more open  to  criticism
is when you pry into the secrets of private individuals, when you rake  up
family matters which are better hidden, and when  you  incidentally  waste
the time of men who are more busy than yourself. At  the  present  moment,
for example, I should be writing a treatise  instead  of  conversing  with
you."
    "No doubt, Doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more  important
than the treatise. Incidentally, I may tell you  that  we  are  doing  the
reverse of what you very justly blame, and that  we  are  endeavouring  to
prevent anything like  public  exposure  of  private  matters  which  must
necessarily follow when once the case  is  fairly  in  the  hands  of  the
official police. You may look upon me simply as an irregular pioneer,  who
goes in front of the regular forces of the country. I have come to ask you
about Mr. Godfrey Staunton."
    "What about him?"
    "You know him, do you not?"
    "He is an intimate friend of mine."
    "You are aware that he has disappeared?"
    "Ah, indeed!" There  was  no  change  of  expression  in  the  rugged
features of the doctor.
    "He left his hotel last night - he has not been heard of."
    "No doubt he will return."
    "To-morrow is the 'Varsity football match."
    "I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young  man's  fate
interests me deeply, since I know him and like  him.  The  football  match
does not come within my horizon at all."
    "I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of  Mr.  Staunton's
fate. Do you know where he is?"
    "Certainly not."
    "You have not seen him since yesterday?"
    "No, I have not."
    "Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?"
    "Absolutely."
    "Did you ever know him ill?"
    "Never."
    Holmes popped a sheet  of  paper  before  the  doctor's  eyes.  "Then
perhaps you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen guineas, paid by
Mr. Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Leslie Armstrong, of  Cambridge.  I
picked it out from among the papers upon his desk."
    The doctor flushed with anger.
    "I do not feel that there is  any  reason  why  I  should  render  an
explanation to you, Mr. Holmes."
    Holmes replaced the bill in his notebook. "If  you  prefer  a  public
explanation, it must come sooner or later," said he. "I have already  told
you that I can hush up that which others will be bound to publish, and you
would really be wiser to take me into your complete confidence."
    "I know nothing about it."
    "Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?"
    "Certainly not."
    "Dear me, dear me - the postoffice again!" Holmes sighed, wearily. "A
most urgent telegram was dispatched to you from London by Godfrey Staunton
at six-fifteen  yesterday  evening  -  a  telegram  which  is  undoubtedly
associated with his disappearance - and yet you have not  had  it.  It  is
most culpable. I shall certainly go down to the office here and register a
complaint."
    Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his  desk,  and  his  dark
face was crimson with fury.
    "I'll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir," said  he.  "You  can
tell your employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not wish to have  anything
to do either with him or with his agents. No, sir - not another word!"  He
rang the bell furiously. "John,  show  these  gentlemen  out!"  A  pompous
butler ushered us severely to the door, and  we  found  ourselves  in  the
street. Holmes burst out laughing.
    "Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of  energy  and  character,"
said he. "I have not seen a man who, if he turns his talents that way, was
more calculated to fill the gap left by the illustrious Moriarty. And now,
my poor Watson, here we are, stranded and friendless in this  inhospitable
town, which we cannot leave without abandoning our case. This  little  inn
just opposite Armstrong's house is singularly adapted to our needs. If you
would engage a front room and purchase the necessaries for  the  night,  I
may have time to make a few inquiries."
    These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy  proceeding
than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to the  inn  until  nearly
nine o'clock. He was pale and dejected, stained with dust,  and  exhausted
with hunger and fatigue. A cold supper was ready upon the table, and  when
his needs were satisfied and his pipe alight he was  ready  to  take  that
half comic and wholly philosophic view which was natural to him  when  his
affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused him  to  rise
and glance out of the window. A brougham and  pair  of  grays,  under  the
glare of a gas-lamp, stood before the doctor's door.
    "It's been out three hours," said Holmes; "started at half-past  six,
and here it is back again. That gives a radius of ten or twelve miles, and
he does it once, or sometimes twice, a day."
    "No unusual thing for a doctor in practice."
    "But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is  a  lecturer
and a consultant, but  he  does  not  care  for  general  practice,  which
distracts him from his literary work. Why, then, does he make  these  long
journeys, which must be exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that  he
visits?"
    "His coachman..."
    "My dear Watson, can you doubt that  it  was  to  him  that  I  first
applied? I do not know whether it came from his own  innate  depravity  or
from the promptings of his master, but he was rude enough to set a dog  at
me. Neither dog nor man liked the look  of  my  stick,  however,  and  the
matter fell through. Relations  were  strained  after  that,  and  further
inquiries out of the question. All that  I  have  learned  I  got  from  a
friendly native in the yard of our own inn. It was he who told me  of  the
doctor's habits and of his daily journey. At that instant, to  give  point
to his words, the carriage came round to the door."
    "Could you not follow it?"
    "Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening. The idea  did
cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed, a bicycle shop next  to
our inn. Into this I rushed, engaged  a  bicycle,  and  was  able  to  get
started before the carriage was quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook it,
and then, keeping at a discreet distance of  a  hundred  yards  or  so,  I
followed its lights until we were clear of the town. We had got  well  out
on the country road, when a somewhat  mortifying  incident  occurred.  The
carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back to where I  had
also halted, and told me in an excellent sardonic fashion that  he  feared
the road was narrow, and that he hoped his carriage  did  not  impede  the
passage of my bicycle. Nothing could have been more admirable than his way
of putting it. I at once rode past the carriage, and, keeping to the  main
road, I went on for a few miles, and then halted in a convenient place  to
see if the carriage passed. There was no sign of it, however,  and  so  it
became evident that it had turned down one of several side roads  which  I
had observed. I rode back, but again saw nothing of the carriage, and now,
as you perceive, it has returned after me. Of course, I had at the  outset
no particular reason to connect these journeys with the  disappearance  of
Godfrey Staunton, and was only inclined to investigate them on the general
grounds that everything which concerns Dr.  Armstrong  is  at  present  of
interest to us, but, now that I find he keeps  so  keen  a  look-out  upon
anyone who may follow him on these excursions,  the  affair  appears  more
important, and I shall not be satisfied  until  I  have  made  the  matter
clear."
    "We can follow him to-morrow."
    "Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are not familiar
with  Cambridgeshire  scenery,  are  you?  It  does  not  lend  itself  to
concealment. All this country that I passed over to-night is as  flat  and
clean as the palm of your hand, and the man we are following is  no  fool,
as he very clearly showed to-night. I have wired to Overton to let us know
any fresh London developments at this address, and in the meantime we  can
only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong, whose name the obliging
young lady at the office allowed  me  to  read  upon  the  counterfoil  of
Staunton's urgent message. He knows where the young man is - to that  I'll
swear, and if he knows, then it must be our own fault if we cannot  manage
to know also. At present it must be admitted that the odd trick is in  his
possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is not my habit to leave the
game in that condition."
    And yet the next day brought us no nearer  to  the  solution  of  the
mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes passed  across
to me with a smile.

    SIR [it ran]:
    I can assure you that  you  are  wasting  your  time  in  dogging  my
movements. I have, as you discovered last night, a window at the  back  of
my brougham, and if you desire a twenty-mile ride which will lead  you  to
the spot from which you started, you have only to follow me. Meanwhile,  I
can inform you that no spying upon me can in  any  way  help  Mr.  Godfrey
Staunton, and I am convinced that the best service  you  can  do  to  that
gentleman is to return at once to London and to report  to  your  employer
that you are unable to trace him. Your time in Cambridge will certainly be
wasted. Yours faithfully, LESLIE ARMSTRONG.

    "An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor," said Holmes.  "Well,
well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really know before I leave him."
    "His carriage is at his door now," said I. "There he is stepping into
it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so. Suppose I try my  luck
upon the bicycle?"
    "No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your natural acumen,  I
do not think that you are quite a match for the  worthy  doctor.  I  think
that possibly I can attain our end by some independent explorations of  my
own. I am afraid that I must  leave  you  to  your  own  devices,  as  the
appearance of TWO inquiring strangers  upon  a  sleepy  countryside  might
excite more gossip than I care for. No doubt you will find some sights  to
amuse you in this venerable  city,  and  I  hope  to  bring  back  a  more
favourable report to you before evening."
    Once more, however, my friend was destined  to  be  disappointed.  He
came back at night weary and unsuccessful.
    "I have had a blank day, Watson.  Having  got  the  doctor's  general
direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages upon that side  of
Cambridge, and  comparing  notes  with  publicans  and  other  local  news
agencies. I have covered some ground. Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach,  and
Oakington have each been explored, and have each proved disappointing. The
daily appearance of a brougham and pair could hardly have been  overlooked
in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor  has  scored  once  more.  Is  there  a
telegram for me?"
    "Yes, I opened it. Here it is:

    "Ask for Pompey from Jeremy Dixon, Trinity College.

    I don't understand it."
    "Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend  Overton,  and  is  in
answer to a question from me. I'll just send round a note  to  Mr.  Jeremy
Dixon, and then I have no doubt that our luck will turn. By  the  way,  is
there any news of the match?"
    "Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account  in  its  last
edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The  last  sentences  of  the
description say:

    "The defeat of the Light Blues may  be  entirely  attributed  to  the
unfortunate absence of the crack International,  Godfrey  Staunton,  whose
want was felt at every instant of the game. The lack of combination in the
three-quarter line and their weakness both in attack and defence more than
neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack."

    "Then our friend Overton's forebodings  have  been  justified,"  said
Holmes. "Personally I am in agreement with  Dr.  Armstrong,  and  football
does not come within my horizon. Early to  bed  to-night,  Watson,  for  I
foresee that to-morrow may be an eventful day."
    I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next  morning,  for  he
sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic  syringe.  I  associated  that
instrument with the single weakness of his nature, and I feared the  worst
when I saw it glittering in his hand.  He  laughed  at  my  expression  of
dismay and laid it upon the table.
    "No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is not  upon
this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather prove to  be  the
key which will unlock our mystery. On this syringe I base all my hopes.  I
have just returned from a small scouting  expedition,  and  everything  is
favourable. Eat a good breakfast, Watson, for I propose to  get  upon  Dr.
Armstrong's trail to-day, and once on it I will not stop for rest or  food
until I run him to his burrow."
    "In that case," said I, "we had best carry our breakfast with us, for
he is making an early start. His carriage is at the door."
    "Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can  drive  where  I
cannot follow him. When you have finished, come downstairs with me, and  I
will introduce you to a detective who is a very eminent specialist in  the
work that lies before us."
    When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable  yard,  where  he
opened  the  door  of  a  loose-box  and  led  out  a  squat,   lop-eared,
white-and-tan dog, something between a beagle and a foxhound.
    "Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is  the  pride  of
the local draghounds - no very great flier, as his build will show, but  a
staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pompey, you may not be fast, but I  expect
you will be too fast for a couple of middle-aged London  gentlemen,  so  I
will take the liberty of fastening this leather leash to your collar. Now,
boy, come along, and show what you can do."  He  led  him  across  to  the
doctor's door. The dog sniffed round for  an  instant,  and  then  with  a
shrill whine of excitement started off down the  street,  tugging  at  his
leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour, we were clear  of  the
town and hastening down a country road.
    "What have you done, Holmes?" I asked.
    "A threadbare and venerable  device,  but  useful  upon  occasion.  I
walked into the doctor's yard this morning, and shot my  syringe  full  of
aniseed over the hind wheel. A draghound will follow aniseed from here  to
John o'Groat's, and our friend, Armstrong, would have to drive through the
Cam before he would shake Pompey off his trail. Oh,  the  cunning  rascal!
This is how he gave me the slip the other night."
    The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into  a  grass-grown
lane. Half a mile farther this opened into another  broad  road,  and  the
trail turned hard to the right in the direction of the town, which we  had
just quitted. The road took  a  sweep  to  the  south  of  the  town,  and
continued in the opposite direction to that in which we started.
    "This DETOUR has been entirely for our benefit, then?"  said  Holmes.
"No wonder that my inquiries among those villagers  led  to  nothing.  The
doctor has certainly played the game for all it is worth,  and  one  would
like to know the reason for such elaborate deception. This should  be  the
village of Trumpington to the right of us.  And,  by  Jove!  here  is  the
brougham coming round the corner. Quick, Watson - quick, or we are done!"
    He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the reluctant  Pompey
after him. We had hardly got under the  shelter  of  the  hedge  when  the
carriage rattled past. I caught a glimpse of  Dr.  Armstrong  within,  his
shoulders bowed, his head sunk on his hands, the very image of distress. I
could tell by my companion's graver face that he also had seen.
    "I fear there is some dark ending to our quest," said he. "It  cannot
be long before we know it. Come, Pompey! Ah, it  is  the  cottage  in  the
field!"
    There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of  our  journey.
Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate, where the  marks  of
the brougham's wheels were still to be seen. A footpath led across to  the
lonely cottage. Holmes tied the dog to the hedge, and we hastened  onward.
My friend knocked at the little rustic door,  and  knocked  again  without
response. And yet the cottage was not deserted, for a low  sound  came  to
our ears - a kind of drone of misery and despair which  was  indescribably
melancholy. Holmes paused irresolute, and then he glanced back at the road
which he had just traversed. A brougham was  coming  down  it,  and  there
could be no mistaking those gray horses.
    "By Jove, the doctor is coming back!" cried Holmes. "That settles it.
We are bound to see what it means before he comes."
    He opened the door, and we stepped into the hall. The  droning  sound
swelled louder upon our ears until  it  became  one  long,  deep  wail  of
distress. It came from upstairs. Holmes darted up, and I followed him.  He
pushed open a half-closed door, and we both stood appalled  at  the  sight
before us.
    A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed.  Her  calm
pale face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes,  looked  upward  from  amid  a
great tangle of golden hair. At the foot of the bed,  half  sitting,  half
kneeling, his face buried in the clothes, was a young man, whose frame was
racked by his sobs. So absorbed was he by his bitter grief, that he  never
looked up until Holmes's hand was on his shoulder.
    "Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?"
    "Yes, yes, I am - but you are too late. She is dead."
    The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand that  we
were anything but doctors who had been sent to his assistance. Holmes  was
endeavouring to utter a few words of consolation and to explain the  alarm
which had been caused to his friends  by  his  sudden  disappearance  when
there was a step  upon  the  stairs,  and  there  was  the  heavy,  stern,
questioning face of Dr. Armstrong at the door.
    "So, gentlemen," said he,  "you  have  attained  your  end  and  have
certainly chosen a particularly delicate  moment  for  your  intrusion.  I
would not brawl in the presence of death, but I can assure you that  if  I
were a younger man your monstrous conduct would not pass with impunity."
    "Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at cross-purposes,"
said my friend, with dignity. "If you could step downstairs  with  us,  we
may each be able to give some light  to  the  other  upon  this  miserable
affair."
    A  minute  later,  the  grim  doctor  and  ourselves  were   in   the
sitting-room below.
    "Well, sir?" said he.
    "I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not employed
by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this  matter  are  entirely
against that nobleman. When a man is lost it is my duty to  ascertain  his
fate, but having done so the matter ends so far as I am concerned, and  so
long as there is nothing criminal I  am  much  more  anxious  to  hush  up
private scandals than to give them publicity. If, as I imagine,  there  is
no breach of the law in this matter, you can  absolutely  depend  upon  my
discretion and my cooperation in keeping the facts out of the papers."
    Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by the hand.
    "You are a good fellow," said he.  "I  had  misjudged  you.  I  thank
heaven that my compunction at leaving poor  Staunton  all  alone  in  this
plight  caused  me  to  turn  my  carriage  back  and  so  to  make   your
acquaintance. Knowing as much as you do,  the  situation  is  very  easily
explained. A year ago Godfrey Staunton lodged in London  for  a  time  and
became passionately attached to his landlady's daughter, whom he  married.
She was as good as she was beautiful and as intelligent as she  was  good.
No man need be ashamed of such a wife. But Godfrey was the  heir  to  this
crabbed old nobleman, and it was  quite  certain  that  the  news  of  his
marriage would have been the end of his inheritance. I knew the lad  well,
and I loved him for his many excellent qualities. I did  all  I  could  to
help him to keep things straight. We did our very best to keep  the  thing
from everyone, for, when once such a whisper gets about, it  is  not  long
before everyone has heard it. Thanks to this lonely cottage  and  his  own
discretion, Godfrey has up to now succeeded. Their secret was known to  no
one save to me and to one excellent servant, who has at present  gone  for
assistance to Trumpington. But at last there came a terrible blow  in  the
shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was  consumption  of  the  most
virulent kind. The poor boy was half crazed with grief, and yet he had  to
go to London to play this match, for he could not get out  of  it  without
explanations which would expose his secret. I tried to  cheer  him  up  by
wire, and he sent me one in reply, imploring me to do all  I  could.  This
was the telegram which you appear in some inexplicable way to have seen. I
did not tell him how urgent the danger was, for I knew that he could do no
good here, but I sent  the  truth  to  the  girl's  father,  and  he  very
injudiciously communicated it to Godfrey. The  result  was  that  he  came
straight away in a state bordering on frenzy, and has remained in the same
state, kneeling at the end of her bed, until this morning death put an end
to her sufferings. That is all, Mr. Holmes, and I am sure that I can  rely
upon your discretion and that of your friend."
    Holmes grasped the doctor's hand.
    "Come, Watson," said he, and we passed from that house of grief  into
the pale sunlight of the winter day.





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                  THE ADVENTURE OF THE ABBEY GRANGE


    It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end of  the
winter of '97, that I was awakened by a tugging at  my  shoulder.  It  was
Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager,  stooping  face,  and
told me at a glance that something was amiss.
    "Come, Watson, come!" he cried. "The game is afoot. Not a word!  Into
your clothes and come!"
    Ten minutes later we were both in a cab,  and  rattling  through  the
silent streets on our way  to  Charing  Cross  Station.  The  first  faint
winter's dawn was  beginning  to  appear,  and  we  could  dimly  see  the
occasional figure of an  early  workman  as  he  passed  us,  blurred  and
indistinct in the opalescent London reek. Holmes nestled in  silence  into
his heavy coat, and I was glad to do  the  same,  for  the  air  was  most
bitter, and neither of us had broken our fast.
    It was not until we had consumed some hot  tea  at  the  station  and
taken our places in the Kentish train that we were sufficiently thawed, he
to speak and I to listen. Holmes drew a note from  his  pocket,  and  read
aloud:

    Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent, 3:30 A.M.
    MY DEAR MR. HOLMES:
    I should be very glad of your immediate assistance in  what  promises
to be a most remarkable case. It is something quite in your  line.  Except
for releasing the lady I will see that everything is  kept  exactly  as  I
have found it, but I beg you not to lose an instant, as it is difficult to
leave Sir Eustace there.
    Yours faithfully, STANLEY HOPKINS.

    "Hopkins has called me in seven  times,  and  on  each  occasion  his
summons has been entirely justified," said Holmes. "I fancy that every one
of his cases has found its way into your collection,  and  I  must  admit,
Watson, that you have some power of selection, which atones for much which
I deplore in your narratives. Your fatal habit of  looking  at  everything
from the point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise  has
ruined what might have been an instructive and even  classical  series  of
demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost finesse and delicacy,  in
order to dwell upon sensational  details  which  may  excite,  but  cannot
possibly instruct, the reader."
    "Why do you not write them yourself?" I said, with some bitterness.
    "I will, my dear Watson, I will. At present I am, as you know, fairly
busy, but I propose to devote my declining years to the composition  of  a
textbook, which shall focus the whole art of detection  into  one  volume.
Our present research appears to be a case of murder."
    "You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
    "I should say so. Hopkins's writing shows considerable agitation, and
he is not an emotional man. Yes, I gather there  has  been  violence,  and
that the body is left for our inspection. A mere suicide  would  not  have
caused him to send for me. As to the release of the lady, it would  appear
that she has been locked in her room during the tragedy. We are moving  in
high  life,  Watson,  crackling  paper,  `E.B.'  monogram,   coat-of-arms,
picturesque address. I think that friend  Hopkins  will  live  up  to  his
reputation, and that we shall have an interesting morning. The  crime  was
committed before twelve last night."
    "How can you possibly tell?"
    "By an inspection of the trains, and by reckoning the time. The local
police had to be called in, they had to communicate  with  Scotland  Yard,
Hopkins had to go out, and he in turn had to send for me. All that makes a
fair night's work. Well, here we are at Chiselhurst Station, and we  shall
soon set our doubts at rest."
    A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes brought  us
to a park gate, which was opened for us  by  an  old  lodge-keeper,  whose
haggard face bore the reflection of some great disaster.  The  avenue  ran
through a noble park, between lines of ancient elms, and ended in  a  low,
widespread house, pillared in front after the  fashion  of  Palladio.  The
central part was evidently of a great age and shrouded  in  ivy,  but  the
large windows showed that modern changes had been  carried  out,  and  one
wing of the house appeared to be entirely new.  The  youthful  figure  and
alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley Hopkins confronted us in  the  open
doorway.
    "I'm very glad you have come, Mr. Holmes. And you, too,  Dr.  Watson.
But, indeed, if I had my time over again, I should not have troubled  you,
for since the lady has come to herself, she has given so clear an  account
of the affair that there is not much left for us to do. You remember  that
Lewisham gang of burglars?"
    "What, the three Randalls?"
    "Exactly; the father and two sons. It's their  work.  I  have  not  a
doubt of it. They did a job at Sydenham a fortnight ago and were seen  and
described. Rather cool to do another so soon and so near, but it is  they,
beyond all doubt. It's a hanging matter this time."
    "Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
    "Yes, his head was knocked in with his own poker."
    "Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me."
    "Exactly - one of the richest men in Kent - Lady Brackenstall  is  in
the morning-room. Poor lady, she has had a most dreadful  experience.  She
seemed half dead when I saw her first. I think you had best  see  her  and
hear her account of the  facts.  Then  we  will  examine  the  dining-room
together."
    Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary  person.  Seldom  have  I  seen  so
graceful a figure, so womanly a presence, and so beautiful a face. She was
a blonde, golden-haired, blue-eyed,  and  would  no  doubt  have  had  the
perfect complexion which goes with such  colouring,  had  not  her  recent
experience left her drawn and haggard. Her  sufferings  were  physical  as
well as mental, for over one eye rose a hideous,  plum-coloured  swelling,
which her maid, a  tall,  austere  woman,  was  bathing  assiduously  with
vinegar and water. The lady lay back  exhausted  upon  a  couch,  but  her
quick, observant gaze, as we entered the room, and the alert expression of
her beautiful features, showed that neither her wits nor her  courage  had
been shaken by her terrible experience.  She  was  enveloped  in  a  loose
dressing-gown of blue and silver, but a black sequin-covered  dinner-dress
lay upon the couch beside her.
    "I have told you all that happened, Mr. Hopkins," she said,  wearily.
"Could you not repeat it for me? Well, if you think it necessary,  I  will
tell these gentlemen what occurred. Have they been in the dining-room yet?"
    "I thought they had better hear your ladyship's story first."
    "I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. It is horrible  to  me
to think of him still lying there." She shuddered and buried her  face  in
her hands. As she did so, the loose gown  fell  back  from  her  forearms.
Holmes uttered an exclamation.
    "You have other injuries, madam! What is this?" Two vivid  red  spots
stood out on one of the white, round limbs. She hastily covered it.
    "It is nothing. It has  no  connection  with  this  hideous  business
to-night. If you and your friend will sit down, I will tell you all I can.
    "I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been married about
a year. I suppose that it is no use my  attempting  to  conceal  that  our
marriage has not been a happy one. I fear that all  our  neighbours  would
tell you that, even if I were to attempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may
be partly  mine.  I  was  brought  up  in  the  freer,  less  conventional
atmosphere of South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties
and its primness, is not congenial to me. But the main reason lies in  the
one fact, which is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was
a confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for an hour is unpleasant. Can
you imagine what it means for a sensitive and high-spirited  woman  to  be
tied to him for day and night? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a  villainy  to
hold that such a marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous  laws  of
yours will bring a curse upon the land - God will not let such  wickedness
endure." For an instant she sat up,  her  cheeks  flushed,  and  her  eyes
blazing from under the terrible mark  upon  her  brow.  Then  the  strong,
soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head down on  to  the  cushion,
and the wild  anger  died  away  into  passionate  sobbing.  At  last  she
continued:
    "I will tell you about last night. You are aware,  perhaps,  that  in
this house all the servants sleep in the modern wing. This  central  block
is made up of the dwelling-rooms, with the kitchen behind and our  bedroom
above. My maid, Theresa, sleeps above my room. There is no one  else,  and
no sound could alarm those who are in the farther  wing.  This  must  have
been well known to the robbers, or they would not have acted as they did.
    "Sir Eustace retired about half-past ten. The  servants  had  already
gone to their quarters. Only my maid was up, and she had remained  in  her
room at the top of the house until I needed  her  services.  I  sat  until
after eleven in this room, absorbed in a book. Then I walked round to  see
that all was right before I went upstairs. It was my  custom  to  do  this
myself, for, as I have  explained,  Sir  Eustace  was  not  always  to  be
trusted. I went into the kitchen, the butler's pantry, the  gun-room,  the
billiard-room,  the  drawing-room,  and  finally  the  dining-room.  As  I
approached the window, which is covered with thick  curtains,  I  suddenly
felt the wind blow upon my face and realized that it was open. I flung the
curtain aside and found  myself  face  to  face  with  a  broad-shouldered
elderly man, who had just stepped into the room.  The  window  is  a  long
French one, which really forms a door leading  to  the  lawn.  I  held  my
bedroom candle lit in my hand, and, by its light, behind the first  man  I
saw two others, who were in the act of entering. I stepped back,  but  the
fellow was on me in an instant. He caught me first by the wrist  and  then
by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream, but he struck me a savage blow
with his fist over the eye, and felled me to the ground. I must have  been
unconscious for a few minutes, for when I came to  myself,  I  found  that
they had torn down the bell-rope, and had secured me tightly to the  oaken
chair which stands at the head of the dining-table. I was so firmly  bound
that I could not move, and a handkerchief round my mouth prevented me from
uttering a sound. It was at  this  instant  that  my  unfortunate  husband
entered the room. He had evidently heard some suspicious  sounds,  and  he
came prepared for such a scene as he found. He was dressed  in  nightshirt
and trousers, with his favourite blackthorn cudgel in his hand. He  rushed
at the burglars, but another - it was an elderly man - stooped, picked the
poker out of the grate and struck him a horrible blow  as  he  passed.  He
fell with a groan and never moved again. I fainted once more, but again it
could only have been for a very few minutes during which I was insensible.
When I opened my eyes I found that they had collected the silver from  the
sideboard, and they had drawn a bottle of wine which stood there. Each  of
them had a glass in his hand. I have already told you, have  I  not,  that
one was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless  lads.  They
might have been a father with  his  two  sons.  They  talked  together  in
whispers. Then they came over and made sure that  I  was  securely  bound.
Finally they withdrew, closing the window  after  them.  It  was  quite  a
quarter of an hour before I got my mouth free. When I did so,  my  screams
brought the maid to my assistance. The other servants were  soon  alarmed,
and we sent for the local police, who instantly communicated with  London.
That is really all that I can tell you, gentlemen, and  I  trust  that  it
will not be necessary for me to go over so painful a story again."
    "Any questions, Mr. Holmes?" asked Hopkins.
    "I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's  patience
and time," said Holmes. "Before I go into the dining-room, I  should  like
to hear your experience." He looked at the maid.
    "I saw the men before ever they came into the house," said she. "As I
sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in  the  moonlight  down  by  the
lodge gate yonder, but I thought nothing of it at the time.  It  was  more
than an hour after that I heard my mistress scream, and  down  I  ran,  to
find her, poor lamb, just as she says, and him  on  the  floor,  with  his
blood and brains over the room. It was enough to drive a woman out of  her
wits, tied there, and her very dress  spotted  with  him,  but  she  never
wanted courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide and Lady Brackenstall  of
Abbey Grange hasn't learned new ways. You've questioned her  long  enough,
you gentlemen, and now she is coming to her own room, just  with  her  old
Theresa, to get the rest that she badly needs."
    With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman  put  her  arm  round  her
mistress and led her from the room.
    "She has been with her all her life," said Hopkins. "Nursed her as  a
baby, and came with  her  to  England  when  they  first  left  Australia,
eighteen months ago. Theresa Wright is her name, and the kind of maid  you
don't pick up nowadays. This way, Mr. Holmes, if you please!"
    The keen interest had passed out of Holmes's expressive face,  and  I
knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had  departed.  There
still remained an arrest to be effected, but what were  these  commonplace
rogues that he should soil his hands with them? An  abstruse  and  learned
specialist who finds that he has been called in  for  a  case  of  measles
would experience something of the annoyance which I read  in  my  friend's
eyes.  Yet  the  scene  in  the  dining-room  of  the  Abbey  Grange   was
sufficiently strange to arrest his attention  and  to  recall  his  waning
interest.
    It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling,  oaken
panelling, and a fine array of deer's heads and ancient weapons around the
walls. At the further end from the door was  the  high  French  window  of
which we had heard. Three smaller windows on the  right-hand  side  filled
the apartment with cold winter sunshine. On the left  was  a  large,  deep
fireplace,  with  a  massive,  overhanging  oak  mantelpiece.  Beside  the
fireplace was a heavy oaken chair with arms and cross-bars at the  bottom.
In and out through the open woodwork was woven a crimson cord,  which  was
secured at each side to the crosspiece below. In releasing the  lady,  the
cord had been slipped off her, but  the  knots  with  which  it  had  been
secured  still  remained.  These  details  only   struck   our   attention
afterwards, for our thoughts were entirely absorbed by the terrible object
which lay upon the tigerskin hearthrug in front of the fire.
    It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years  of  age.
He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with  his  white  teeth  grinning
through his short, black beard. His two clenched hands were  raised  above
his head, and a  heavy,  blackthorn  stick  lay  across  them.  His  dark,
handsome, aquiline features were convulsed  into  a  spasm  of  vindictive
hatred, which had set his dead face in a terribly fiendish expression.  He
had evidently been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he wore a
foppish, embroidered nightshirt, and his  bare  feet  projected  from  his
trousers. His head was horribly injured, and the whole room  bore  witness
to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck him down.  Beside  him
lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by the concussion. Holmes  examined
both it and the indescribable wreck which it had wrought.
    "He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall," he remarked.
    "Yes," said Hopkins. "I have some record of the fellow, and he  is  a
rough customer."
    "You should have no difficulty in getting him."
    "Not the slightest. We have been on the look-out for him,  and  there
was some idea that he had got away to America. Now that we know  that  the
gang are here, I don't see how they can escape. We have the news at  every
seaport already, and a reward will be offered before evening.  What  beats
me is how they could have done so mad a thing, knowing that the lady could
describe them and that we could not fail to recognize the description."
    "Exactly. One would  have  expected  that  they  would  silence  Lady
Brackenstall as well."
    "They may not have realized," I suggested, "that  she  had  recovered
from her faint."
    "That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless, they would not
take her life. What about this poor fellow, Hopkins? I seem to have  heard
some queer stories about him."
    "He was a good-hearted man when he was sober,  but  a  perfect  fiend
when he was drunk, or rather when he was half drunk, for he seldom  really
went the whole way. The devil seemed to be in him at such  times,  and  he
was capable of anything. From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth  and
his title, he very nearly came our way once or twice. There was a  scandal
about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting  it  on  fire  -  her
ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse - and that  was  only  hushed  up
with difficulty. Then he threw a decanter at that maid, Theresa  Wright  -
there was trouble about that. On the whole, and between ourselves, it will
be a brighter house without him. What are you looking at now?"
    Holmes was down on his knees,  examining  with  great  attention  the
knots upon the red cord with which the lady  had  been  secured.  Then  he
carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed end where it had  snapped  off
when the burglar had dragged it down.
    "When this was pulled down, the bell in the kitchen  must  have  rung
loudly," he remarked.
    "No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the  back  of  the
house."
    "How did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared he pull  at
a bell-rope in that reckless fashion?"
    "Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question which I have
asked myself again and again. There can be no doubt that this fellow  must
have known the house and its habits. He  must  have  perfectly  understood
that the servants would all be in bed at that  comparatively  early  hour,
and that no one could possibly hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore,
he must have been in close league with one of the servants. Surely that is
evident. But there are eight servants, and all of good character."
    "Other things being equal," said Holmes, "one would suspect  the  one
at whose head the master threw a decanter.  And  yet  that  would  involve
treachery towards the mistress to whom this  woman  seems  devoted.  Well,
well, the point is a minor  one,  and  when  you  have  Randall  you  will
probably find no difficulty in securing his accomplice. The  lady's  story
certainly seems to be corroborated, if it needed corroboration,  by  every
detail which we see before us." He walked to the French window  and  threw
it open. "There are no signs here, but the ground is iron  hard,  and  one
would not expect them. I see that these candles in  the  mantelpiece  have
been lighted."
    "Yes, it was by their light and that of the  lady's  bedroom  candle,
that the burglars saw their way about."
    "And what did they take?"
    "Well, they did not take much - only half a dozen articles  of  plate
off the sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they were  themselves  so
disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that they did not ransack the house,
as they would otherwise have done."
    "No doubt that is true, and yet they drank some wine, I understand."
    "To steady their nerves."
    "Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have been untouched,
I suppose?"
    "Yes, and the bottle stands as they left it."
    "Let us look at it. Halloa, halloa! What is this?"
    The three glasses were grouped together,  all  of  them  tinged  with
wine, and one of them containing some dregs of beeswing. The bottle  stood
near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay a long, deeply stained cork.
Its appearance and the dust upon the bottle showed that it was  no  common
vintage which the murderers had enjoyed.
    A change had come over Holmes's manner.  He  had  lost  his  listless
expression, and again I saw an  alert  light  of  interest  in  his  keen,
deep-set eyes. He raised the cork and examined it minutely.
    "How did they draw it?" he asked.
    Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. In it lay some  table  linen
and a large corkscrew.
    "Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used?"
    "No, you remember that she was  senseless  at  the  moment  when  the
bottle was opened."
    "Quite so. As a matter of fact, that screw was not used. This  bottle
was opened by a pocket screw, probably contained in a knife, and not  more
than an inch and a half long. If you will examine the top of the cork, you
will observe that the screw was driven in three times before the cork  was
extracted. It has never  been  transfixed.  This  long  screw  would  have
transfixed it and drawn it up with a single  pull.  When  you  catch  this
fellow, you will find that he has one of these  multiplex  knives  in  his
possession."
    "Excellent!" said Hopkins.
    "But these  glasses  do  puzzle  me,  I  confess.  Lady  Brackenstall
actually SAW the three men drinking, did she not?"
    "Yes; she was clear about that."
    "Then there is an end of it. What more is to be said?  And  yet,  you
must admit, that the three glasses are very remarkable, Hopkins. What? You
see nothing remarkable? Well, well, let it pass. Perhaps, when a  man  has
special knowledge and special powers like my own, it rather encourages him
to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand. Of course, it
must be a mere chance about the glasses. Well,  good-morning,  Hopkins.  I
don't see that I can be of any use to you, and you  appear  to  have  your
case very clear. You will let me know when Randall is  arrested,  and  any
further developments which may occur. I trust that I shall  soon  have  to
congratulate you upon a successful conclusion. Come, Watson, I fancy  that
we may employ ourselves more profitably at home."
    During our return journey, I could see by Holmes's face that  he  was
much puzzled by something which he had observed. Every now and then, by an
effort, he would throw off the impression, and talk as if the matter  were
clear, but then his doubts would settle  down  upon  him  again,  and  his
knitted brows and abstracted eyes would show that his  thoughts  had  gone
back once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange, in which this
midnight tragedy had been enacted. At last, by a sudden impulse,  just  as
our train was crawling out of a suburban station,  he  sprang  on  to  the
platform and pulled me out after him.
    "Excuse me, my  dear  fellow,"  said  he,  as  we  watched  the  rear
carriages of our train disappearing round a curve, "I am sorry to make you
the victim of what may seem a mere whim, but on my life, Watson, I  simply
CAN'T leave that case in this condition. Every  instinct  that  I  possess
cries out against it. It's wrong - it's all wrong - I'll swear  that  it's
wrong. And yet the lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration was
sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I  to  put  up  against
that? Three wine-glasses, that is all. But if I had not taken  things  for
granted, if I had examined everything with care which I should have  shown
had we approached the case DE NOVO and had no cut-and-dried story to  warp
my mind, should I not then have found something more definite to go  upon?
Of course I should. Sit down on this bench,  Watson,  until  a  train  for
Chiselhurst arrives,  and  allow  me  to  lay  the  evidence  before  you,
imploring you in the first instance to dismiss from  your  mind  the  idea
that  anything  which  the  maid  or  her  mistress  may  have  said  must
necessarily be true. The lady's charming personality must not be permitted
to warp our judgment.
    "Surely there are details in her story which, if we looked at in cold
blood, would excite our suspicion. These burglars made a considerable haul
at Sydenham a fortnight ago. Some account of them and of their  appearance
was in the papers, and would naturally  occur  to  anyone  who  wished  to
invent a story in which imaginary robbers should play a part. As a  matter
of fact, burglars who have done a good stroke of business are, as a  rule,
only too glad to enjoy the proceeds in peace and quiet  without  embarking
on another perilous undertaking. Again, it  is  unusual  for  burglars  to
operate at so early an hour, it is unusual for burglars to strike  a  lady
to prevent her screaming, since one would imagine that was the sure way to
make her scream, it is unusual  for  them  to  commit  murder  when  their
numbers are sufficient to overpower one man, it is unusual for them to  be
content with a limited plunder when  there  was  much  more  within  their
reach, and finally, I should say, that it was very unusual for such men to
leave a bottle half empty. How do all these unusuals strike you, Watson?"
    "Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet  each  of
them is quite possible in itself. The most unusual thing  of  all,  as  it
seems to me, is that the lady should be tied to the chair."
    "Well, I am not so clear about that, Watson, for it is  evident  that
they must either kill her or else secure her in such a way that she  could
not give immediate notice of their escape. But at any rate I  have  shown,
have I not, that there is a certain element  of  improbability  about  the
lady's story? And now, on the top of  this,  comes  the  incident  of  the
wineglasses."
    "What about the wineglasses?"
    "Can you see them in your mind's eye?"
    "I see them clearly."
    "We are told that three men drank from them. Does that strike you  as
likely?"
    "Why not? There was wine in each glass."
    "Exactly, but there was beeswing only in one  glass.  You  must  have
noticed that fact. What does that suggest to your mind?"
    "The last glass filled would be most likely to contain beeswing."
    "Not at all. The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable  that
the first two glasses were clear and the third heavily  charged  with  it.
There are two possible explanations, and only two. One is that  after  the
second glass was filled the bottle was  violently  agitated,  and  so  the
third glass received the beeswing. That does not appear probable. No,  no,
I am sure that I am right."
    "What, then, do you suppose?"
    "That only two glasses were used, and that the  dregs  of  both  were
poured into a third glass, so as to give the false impression  that  three
people had been here. In that way all the beeswing would be  in  the  last
glass, would it not? Yes, I am convinced that this is so. But  if  I  have
hit upon the true explanation of this one small  phenomenon,  then  in  an
instant the case rises from the commonplace to the exceedingly remarkable,
for it can only mean that Lady Brackenstall and her maid have deliberately
lied to us, that not one word of their story is to be believed, that  they
have some very strong reason for covering the real criminal, and  that  we
must construct our case for ourselves without any help from them. That  is
the mission which now lies before us, and here, Watson,  is  the  Sydenham
train."
    The household at the Abbey Grange were much surprised at our  return,
but Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hopkins had gone off  to  report
to headquarters, took possession of the dining-room, locked the door  upon
the inside, and devoted himself for two hours to one of those  minute  and
laborious investigations which form the solid basis on which his brilliant
edifices of deduction were reared. Seated in a corner like  an  interested
student who observes the demonstration of his professor, I followed  every
step of that remarkable research. The window, the  curtains,  the  carpet,
the chair, the rope  -  each  in  turn  was  minutely  examined  and  duly
pondered. The body of the unfortunate baronet had been  removed,  and  all
else  remained  as  we  had  seen  it  in  the  morning.  Finally,  to  my
astonishment, Holmes climbed up on to the massive mantelpiece.  Far  above
his head hung the few inches of red cord which were still attached to  the
wire. For a long time he gazed upward at it, and then in an attempt to get
nearer to it he rested his knee upon a wooden bracket on  the  wall.  This
brought his hand within a few inches of the broken end of the rope, but it
was not this so much as the bracket itself  which  seemed  to  engage  his
attention. Finally, he sprang down with an ejaculation of satisfaction.
    "It's all right, Watson," said he. "We have got our case - one of the
most remarkable in our collection. But, dear me, how  slow-witted  I  have
been, and how nearly I have committed the blunder of my lifetime!  Now,  I
think that, with a few missing links, my chain is almost complete."
    "You have got your men?"
    "Man, Watson, man. Only one, but a very formidable person. Strong  as
a lion - witness the blow that bent that poker! Six foot three in  height,
active as a squirrel, dexterous  with  his  fingers,  finally,  remarkably
quick-witted, for this whole ingenious story is of  his  concoction.  Yes,
Watson, we have come upon the handiwork of a very  remarkable  individual.
And yet, in that bell-rope, he has given us a clue which should  not  have
left us a doubt."
    "Where was the clue?"
    "Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where would  you
expect it to break? Surely at the spot where it is attached to  the  wire.
Why should it break three inches from the top, as this one has done?"
    "Because it is frayed there?"
    "Exactly. This end, which we can examine, is frayed. He  was  cunning
enough to do that with his knife. But the other end  is  not  frayed.  You
could not observe that from here, but if you were on the  mantelpiece  you
would see that it is cut clean off without any mark of  fraying  whatever.
You can reconstruct what occurred. The man needed the rope. He  would  not
tear it down for fear of giving the alarm by ringing the bell. What did he
do? He sprang up on the mantelpiece, could not quite  reach  it,  put  his
knee on the bracket - you will see the impression in the dust - and so got
his knife to bear upon the cord. I could not reach the place by  at  least
three inches - from which I infer that he  is  at  least  three  inches  a
bigger man than I. Look at that mark upon the seat  of  the  oaken  chair!
What is it?"
    "Blood."
    "Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the  lady's  story  out  of
court. If she were seated on the chair when the crime was done, how  comes
that mark? No, no, she was placed in the chair  AFTER  the  death  of  her
husband. I'll wager that the black dress shows  a  corresponding  mark  to
this. We have not yet met our Waterloo, Watson, but this is  our  Marengo,
for it begins in defeat and ends in victory. I should like now to  have  a
few words with the nurse, Theresa. We must be wary for a while, if we  are
to get the information which we want."
    She  was  an  interesting  person,  this  stern  Australian  nurse  -
taciturn, suspicious,  ungracious,  it  took  some  time  before  Holmes's
pleasant manner and frank acceptance of all that she said thawed her  into
a corresponding amiability. She did not attempt to conceal her hatred  for
her late employer.
    "Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. I  heard  him
call my mistress a name, and I told him that he would not dare to speak so
if her brother had been there. Then it was that he  threw  it  at  me.  He
might have thrown a dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone.  He  was
forever ill-treating her, and she too proud to complain. She will not even
tell me all that he has done to her. She never told me of those  marks  on
her arm that you saw this morning, but I know very  well  that  they  come
from a stab with a hatpin. The sly devil - God forgive me  that  I  should
speak of him so, now that he is dead! But a devil  he  was,  if  ever  one
walked the earth. He was all honey when first we met him -  only  eighteen
months ago, and we both feel as if it were eighteen years.  She  had  only
just arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage - she had never  been
from home before. He won her with his title and his money  and  his  false
London ways. If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if  ever  a  woman
did. What month did we meet him? Well, I tell you it  was  just  after  we
arrived. We arrived in June, and it was July. They were married in January
of last year. Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, and  I  have  no
doubt she will see you, but you must not ask too much of her, for she  has
gone through all that flesh and blood will stand."
    Lady Brackenstall  was  reclining  on  the  same  couch,  but  looked
brighter than before. The maid had entered with us, and began once more to
foment the bruise upon her mistress's brow.
    "I hope," said the lady, "that you have not come to cross-examine  me
again?"
    "No," Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, "I will not  cause  you
any unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and my whole desire is to make
things easy for you, for I am convinced that you are a  much-tried  woman.
If you will treat me as a friend and trust me, you may find  that  I  will
justify your trust."
    "What do you want me to do?"
    "To tell me the truth."
    "Mr. Holmes!"
    "No, no, Lady Brackenstall - it is no use. You may have heard of  any
little reputation which I possess. I will stake it all on  the  fact  that
your story is an absolute fabrication."
    Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes  with  pale  faces  and
frightened eyes.
    "You are an impudent fellow!" cried Theresa. "Do you mean to say that
my mistress has told a lie?"
    Holmes rose from his chair.
    "Have you nothing to tell me?"
    "I have told you everything."
    "Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not  be  better  to  be
frank?"
    For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face. Then  some
new strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
    "I have told you all I know."
    Holmes took his hat and shrugged his  shoulders.  "I  am  sorry,"  he
said, and without another word we left the room and the house. There was a
pond in the park, and to this my friend led the way. It was  frozen  over,
but a single hole was left for the convenience of a solitary swan.  Holmes
gazed at it, and then passed on to the lodge gate. There  he  scribbled  a
short note for Stanley Hopkins, and left it with the lodge-keeper.
    "It may be a hit, or it may be  a  miss,  but  we  are  bound  to  do
something for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit," said he.
"I will not quite take him into my confidence yet. I think our next  scene
of operations must be the  shipping  office  of  the  Adelaide-Southampton
line, which stands at the end of Pall Mall, if I remember right. There  is
a second line of steamers which connect South Australia with England,  but
we will draw the larger cover first."
    Holmes's card sent in to the manager ensured instant  attention,  and
he was not long in acquiring all the information he  needed.  In  June  of
'95, only one of their line had reached a home port. It was  the  ROCK  OF
GIBRALTAR, their largest and best boat. A reference to the passenger  list
showed that Miss Fraser, of Adelaide, with her maid had made the voyage in
her. The boat was now somewhere south of the Suez  Canal  on  her  way  to
Australia. Her officers were the same as in '95, with one  exception.  The
first officer, Mr. Jack Crocker, had been made a captain and was  to  take
charge of their new ship, the BASS ROCK, sailing in two  days'  time  from
Southampton. He lived at Sydenham, but he was likely to be in that morning
for instructions, if we cared to wait for him.
    No, Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be  glad  to  know
more about his record and character.
    His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the fleet  to
touch him. As to his character, he was  reliable  on  duty,  but  a  wild,
desperate fellow off the deck of his ship  -  hot-headed,  excitable,  but
loyal, honest, and kind-hearted. That was the pith of the information with
which Holmes left the office of the Adelaide-Southampton  company.  Thence
he drove to Scotland Yard, but, instead of entering, he  sat  in  his  cab
with his brows drawn down, lost in  profound  thought.  Finally  he  drove
round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a message, and then,
at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
    "No, I couldn't do it, Watson," said he, as we  reentered  our  room.
"Once that warrant was made out, nothing on earth would save him. Once  or
twice in my career I feel that I have done more real harm by my  discovery
of the criminal than ever he had done by his crime. I have learned caution
now, and I had rather play tricks with the law of England than with my own
conscience. Let us know a little more before we act."
    Before evening, we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins. Things
were not going very well with him.
    "I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really  do  sometimes
think that you have powers that are not human. Now, how on earth could you
know that the stolen silver was at the bottom of that pond?"
    "I didn't know it."
    "But you told me to examine it."
    "You got it, then?"
    "Yes, I got it."
    "I am very glad if I have helped you."
    "But you haven't helped  me.  You  have  made  the  affair  far  more
difficult. What sort of burglars are they who steal silver and then  throw
it into the nearest pond?"
    "It was certainly rather eccentric behaviour. I was merely  going  on
the idea that if the silver had been taken by persons who did not want  it
- who merely took it for a blind, as it were - then they  would  naturally
be anxious to get rid of it."
    "But why should such an idea cross your mind?"
    "Well, I thought it was possible. When  they  came  out  through  the
French window, there was the pond with one tempting  little  hole  in  the
ice, right in front of their noses. Could there be a better hiding-place?"
    "Ah, a hiding-place - that is better!" cried Stanley  Hopkins.  "Yes,
yes, I see it all now! It was early, there were folk upon the roads,  they
were afraid of being seen with the silver, so they sank it  in  the  pond,
intending to return for it when the coast was clear. Excellent, Mr. Holmes
- that is better than your idea of a blind."
    "Quite so, you have got an admirable theory. I have no doubt that  my
own ideas were quite wild, but you must admit  that  they  have  ended  in
discovering the silver."
    "Yes, sir - yes. It was all your doing. But I have had a bad setback."
    "A setback?"
    "Yes, Mr. Holmes. The Randall gang were arrested  in  New  York  this
morning."
    "Dear me, Hopkins! That is certainly rather against your theory  that
they committed a murder in Kent last night."
    "It is fatal, Mr. Holmes - absolutely fatal. Still, there  are  other
gangs of three besides the Randalls, or it may be some new gang  of  which
the police have never heard."
    "Quite so, it is perfectly possible. What, are you off?"
    Yes, Mr. Holmes, there is no rest for me until  I  have  got  to  the
bottom of the business. I suppose you have no hint to give me?"
    "I have given you one."
    "Which?"
    "Well, I suggested a blind."
    "But why, Mr. Holmes, why?"
    "Ah, that's the question, of course. But I commend the idea  to  your
mind. You might possibly find that there was something in  it.  You  won't
stop for dinner? Well, good-bye, and let us know how you get on."
    Dinner was over, and the table cleared before Holmes alluded  to  the
matter again. He had lit his pipe and  held  his  slippered  feet  to  the
cheerful blaze of the fire. Suddenly he looked at his watch.
    "I expect developments, Watson."
    "When?"
    "Now - within a few minutes. I dare say you thought  I  acted  rather
badly to Stanley Hopkins just now?"
    "I trust your judgment."
    "A very sensible reply, Watson. You must look at it this way: what  I
know is unofficial, what he knows is official. I have the right to private
judgment, but he has none. He must disclose all, or he is a traitor to his
service. In a doubtful case I would not put him in so painful a  position,
and so I reserve my information until  my  own  mind  is  clear  upon  the
matter."
    "But when will that be?"
    "The time has come. You will now be present at the last  scene  of  a
remarkable little drama."
    There was a sound upon the stairs, and our door was opened  to  admit
as fine a specimen of manhood as ever passed through it.  He  was  a  very
tall young man, golden-moustached, blue-eyed, with a skin which  had  been
burned by tropical suns, and a springy step, which showed  that  the  huge
frame was as active as it was strong. He closed the door behind  him,  and
then he stood with clenched hands and heaving breast,  choking  down  some
overmastering emotion.
    "Sit down, Captain Crocker. You got my telegram?"
    Our visitor sank into an armchair and looked from one to the other of
us with questioning eyes.
    "I got your telegram, and I came at the hour you said. I  heard  that
you had been down to the office. There was no getting away from you. Let's
hear the worst. What are you going to do with me? Arrest  me?  Speak  out,
man! You can't sit there and play with me like a cat with a mouse."
    "Give him a cigar," said Holmes. "Bite on that, Captain Crocker,  and
don't let your nerves run away with you. I should  not  sit  here  smoking
with you if I thought that you were a common criminal, you may be sure  of
that. Be frank with me and we may do some good. Play tricks with  me,  and
I'll crush you."
    "What do you wish me to do?"
    "To give me a true account of all that happened at the  Abbey  Grange
last night - a TRUE account, mind you,  with  nothing  added  and  nothing
taken off. I know so much  already  that  if  you  go  one  inch  off  the
straight, I'll blow this police whistle from my window and the affair goes
out of my hands forever."
    The sailor thought for a little. Then he  struck  his  leg  with  his
great sunburned hand.
    "I'll chance it," he cried. "I believe you are a man  of  your  word,
and a white man, and I'll tell you the whole story. But one thing  I  will
say first. So far as I am concerned, I regret nothing and I fear  nothing,
and I would do it all again and be proud of the job. Damn the beast, if he
had as many lives as a cat, he would owe them all  to  me!  But  it's  the
lady, Mary - Mary Fraser - for never will I  call  her  by  that  accursed
name. When I think of getting her into trouble, I who would give  my  life
just to bring one smile to her dear face, it's that  that  turns  my  soul
into water. And yet - and yet - what less could I do?  I'll  tell  you  my
story, gentlemen, and then I'll ask you, as man to man, what less could  I
do?
    "I must go back a bit. You seem to know everything, so I expect  that
you know that I met her when she was a passenger and I was  first  officer
of the ROCK OF GIBRALTAR. From the first day I met her, she was  the  only
woman to me. Every day of that voyage I loved her more, and  many  a  time
since have I kneeled down in the darkness of the night  watch  and  kissed
the deck of that ship because I knew her dear feet had trod  it.  She  was
never engaged to me. She treated me as fairly as ever a  woman  treated  a
man. I have no complaint to make. It was all love on my side, and all good
comradeship and friendship on hers. When we parted she was a  free  woman,
but I could never again be a free man.
    "Next time I came back from sea, I heard of her marriage.  Well,  why
shouldn't she marry whom she liked? Title and money - who could carry them
better than she? She was born for all that  is  beautiful  and  dainty.  I
didn't grieve over her marriage. I was not such a selfish hound as that. I
just rejoiced that good luck had come her way, and that she had not thrown
herself away on a penniless sailor. That's how I loved Mary Fraser.
    "Well, I never thought to see  her  again,  but  last  voyage  I  was
promoted, and the new boat was not yet launched, so I had to  wait  for  a
couple of months with my people at Sydenham. One day out in a country lane
I met Theresa Wright, her old maid. She told me all about her, about  him,
about everything. I tell you, gentlemen, it  nearly  drove  me  mad.  This
drunken hound, that he should dare to raise his hand to her,  whose  boots
he was not worthy to lick! I met Theresa again. Then I met Mary herself  -
and met her again. Then she would meet me no more. But the other day I had
a notice that I was to start on my voyage within a week, and I  determined
that I would see her once before I left. Theresa was always my friend, for
she loved Mary and hated this villain almost as much as I did. From her  I
learned the ways of the house. Mary used to sit  up  reading  in  her  own
little room downstairs. I crept round there last night  and  scratched  at
the window. At first she would not open to me, but in  her  heart  I  know
that now she loves me, and she could not leave me in the frosty night. She
whispered to me to come round to the big front window, and I found it open
before me, so as to let me into the dining-room. Again I  heard  from  her
own lips things that made my blood boil, and again I cursed this brute who
mishandled the woman I loved. Well, gentlemen, I  was  standing  with  her
just inside the window, in all innocence, as God  is  my  judge,  when  he
rushed like a madman into the room, called her the vilest name that a  man
could use to a woman, and welted her across the face with the stick he had
in his hand. I had sprung for the poker, and it was a fair  fight  between
us. See here, on my arm, where his first blow fell. Then it was  my  turn,
and I went through him as if he had been a rotten pumpkin. Do you think  I
was sorry? Not I! It was his life or mine, but far more than that, it  was
his life or hers, for how could I leave her in the power of  this  madman?
That was how I killed him. Was I wrong? Well, then, what would  either  of
you gentlemen have done, if you had been in my position?"
    "She had screamed when he struck her, and that  brought  old  Theresa
down from the room above. There was a bottle of wine on the sideboard, and
I opened it and poured a little between Mary's lips, for she was half dead
with shock. Then I took a drop myself. Theresa was as cool as ice, and  it
was her plot as much as mine. We must make it  appear  that  burglars  had
done the thing. Theresa kept on repeating our story to her mistress, while
I swarmed up and cut the rope of the bell. Then I lashed her in her chair,
and frayed out the end of the rope to make  it  look  natural,  else  they
would wonder how in the world a burglar could have got up there to cut it.
Then I gathered up a few plates and pots of silver, to carry out the  idea
of the robbery, and there I left them, with orders to give the alarm  when
I had a quarter of an hour's start. I dropped the silver  into  the  pond,
and made off for Sydenham, feeling that for once in my life I had  done  a
real good night's work. And that's the truth  and  the  whole  truth,  Mr.
Holmes, if it costs me my neck."
    Holmes smoked for some time in silence. Then he crossed the room, and
shook our visitor by the hand.
    "That's what I think," said he. "I know that every word is true,  for
you have hardly said a word which I did not know. No one but an acrobat or
a sailor could have got up to that bell-rope from the bracket, and no  one
but a sailor could have made the knots with which the cord was fastened to
the chair. Only once had this lady been brought into contact with sailors,
and that was on her voyage, and it was someone of her own class  of  life,
since she was trying hard to shield him, and so  showing  that  she  loved
him. You see how easy it was for me to lay my hands upon you when  once  I
had started upon the right trail."
    "I thought the police never could have seen through our dodge."
    "And the police haven't, nor will they, to the  best  of  my  belief.
Now, look here, Captain Crocker, this is a very serious matter,  though  I
am willing to admit that you acted under the most extreme  provocation  to
which any man could be subjected. I am not sure that in  defence  of  your
own life your action will not be pronounced legitimate. However,  that  is
for a British jury to decide. Meanwhile I have so much  sympathy  for  you
that, if you choose to disappear in the next  twenty-four  hours,  I  will
promise you that no one will hinder you."
    "And then it will all come out?"
    "Certainly it will come out."
    The sailor flushed with anger.
    "What sort of proposal is that to make a man? I know enough of law to
understand that Mary would be held as accomplice. Do  you  think  I  would
leave her alone to face the music while I slunk away? No, sir, let them do
their worst upon me, but for heaven's sake, Mr. Holmes, find some  way  of
keeping my poor Mary out of the courts."
    Holmes for a second time held out his hand to the sailor.
    "I was only testing you, and you ring true every time. Well, it is  a
great responsibility that I take upon myself, but I have given Hopkins  an
excellent hint and if he can't avail himself of it I can do no  more.  See
here, Captain Crocker, we'll do this in due  form  of  law.  You  are  the
prisoner. Watson, you are a British jury, and I never met a  man  who  was
more eminently fitted to represent one. I am the judge. Now, gentleman  of
the jury, you have heard the evidence. Do you find the prisoner guilty  or
not guilty?"
    "Not guilty, my lord," said I.
    "VOX POPULI, VOX DEI. You are acquitted, Captain Crocker. So long  as
the law does not find some other victim you are safe from me. Come back to
this lady in a year, and may her  future  and  yours  justify  us  in  the
judgment which we have pronounced this night!"





                           Arthur Conan Doyle

                   THE ADVENTURE OF THE SECOND STAIN


    I had intended "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange" to be the last  of
those exploits of my friend, Mr. Sherlock  Holmes,  which  I  should  ever
communicate to the public. This resolution of mine was not due to any lack
of material, since I have notes of many hundreds of cases to which I  have
never alluded, nor was it caused by any waning interest on the part of  my
readers in the singular personality and unique methods of this  remarkable
man. The real reason lay in the reluctance which Mr. Holmes has  shown  to
the continued publication of his experiences. So long as he was in  actual
professional practice the records of his successes were of some  practical
value to him, but since he has definitely retired from London and  betaken
himself to study and bee-farming on the Sussex Downs, notoriety has become
hateful to him, and he has peremptorily requested that his wishes in  this
matter should be strictly observed. It was only upon  my  representing  to
him that I had given a promise that "The Adventure of  the  Second  Stain"
should be published when the times were ripe, and pointing out to him that
it is only appropriate that this long series of episodes should  culminate
in the most important international case which he  has  ever  been  called
upon to handle, that I at last succeeded in obtaining his consent  that  a
carefully guarded account of the incident should at last  be  laid  before
the public. If in telling the story I seem to be somewhat vague in certain
details, the public will readily understand that  there  is  an  excellent
reason for my reticence.
    It was, then, in a  year,  and  even  in  a  decade,  that  shall  be
nameless, that upon one Tuesday morning in autumn we found two visitors of
European fame within the walls of our humble room  in  Baker  Street.  The
one, austere, high-nosed, eagle-eyed, and dominant, was  none  other  than
the illustrious Lord Bellinger, twice Premier of Britain. The other, dark,
clear-cut, and elegant, hardly yet of middle age, and endowed  with  every
beauty of body and of mind,  was  the  Right  Honourable  Trelawney  Hope,
Secretary for European Affairs, and  the  most  rising  statesman  in  the
country. They sat side by side upon our paper-littered settee, and it  was
easy to see from their worn and anxious faces that it was business of  the
most pressing importance which  had  brought  them.  The  Premier's  thin,
blue-veined hands  were  clasped  tightly  over  the  ivory  head  of  his
umbrella, and his gaunt, ascetic face looked gloomily from Holmes  to  me.
The European Secretary pulled nervously at his moustache and fidgeted with
the seals of his watch-chain.
    "When I discovered my loss, Mr. Holmes, which was  at  eight  o'clock
this morning, I at once  informed  the  Prime  Minister.  It  was  at  his
suggestion that we have both come to you."
    "Have you informed the police?"
    "No, sir," said the Prime Minister, with the quick,  decisive  manner
for which he was famous. "We have not done so, nor is it possible that  we
should do so. To inform the police must, in the long run, mean  to  inform
the public. This is what we particularly desire to avoid."
    "And why, sir?"
    "Because the document in question is of such immense importance  that
its publication might very easily - I might almost say probably - lead  to
European complications of the utmost moment. It is not  too  much  to  say
that peace or war may hang upon the issue.  Unless  its  recovery  can  be
attended with the utmost secrecy, then it may as well not be recovered  at
all, for all that is aimed at by those who  have  taken  it  is  that  its
contents should be generally known."
    "I understand. Now, Mr. Trelawney Hope, I should be much  obliged  if
you would tell me exactly the  circumstances  under  which  this  document
disappeared."
    "That can be done in a very few words, Mr. Holmes. The letter  -  for
it was a letter from a foreign potentate - was received six days  ago.  It
was of such importance that I have never left it  in  my  safe,  but  have
taken it across each evening to my house in Whitehall Terrace, and kept it
in my bedroom in a locked despatch-box. It was there last night. Of that I
am certain. I actually opened the box while I was dressing for dinner  and
saw the document inside. This morning it was gone.  The  despatch-box  had
stood beside the glass upon my dressing-table all  night.  I  am  a  light
sleeper, and so is my wife. We are both prepared  to  swear  that  no  one
could have entered the room during the night. And yet I  repeat  that  the
paper is gone."
    "What time did you dine?"
    "Half-past seven."
    "How long was it before you went to bed?"
    "My wife had gone to the  theatre.  I  waited  up  for  her.  It  was
half-past eleven before we went to our room."
    "Then for four hours the despatch-box had lain unguarded?"
    "No one is ever permitted to enter that room save the  house-maid  in
the morning, and my valet, or my wife's maid, during the rest of the  day.
They are both trusty servants  who  have  been  with  us  for  some  time.
Besides, neither of them could possibly have known that there was anything
more valuable than the ordinary departmental papers in my despatch-box."
    "Who did know of the existence of that letter?"
    "No one in the house."
    "Surely your wife knew?"
    "No, sir. I had said nothing to my wife until I missed the paper this
morning."
    The Premier nodded approvingly.
    "I have long known, sir, how high is your sense of public duty," said
he. "I am convinced that in the case of a secret  of  this  importance  it
would rise superior to the most intimate domestic ties.
    The European Secretary bowed.
    "You do me no more than justice, sir. Until this morning I have never
breathed one word to my wife upon this matter."
    "Could she have guessed?"
    "No, Mr. Holmes, she could not have guessed - nor could  anyone  have
guessed."
    "Have you lost any documents before?"
    "No, sir."
    "Who is there in England who  did  know  of  the  existence  of  this
letter?"
    "Each member of the Cabinet was informed of  it  yesterday,  but  the
pledge of secrecy which attends every Cabinet meeting was increased by the
solemn warning which was given by the Prime  Minister.  Good  heavens,  to
think that within a few hours I should myself have lost it!" His  handsome
face was distorted with a spasm of despair, and  his  hands  tore  at  his
hair. For a moment we caught a glimpse  of  the  natural  man,  impulsive,
ardent, keenly sensitive. The next the aristocratic mask was replaced, and
the gentle voice had returned. "Besides the members of the  Cabinet  there
are two, or possibly three, departmental officials who know of the letter.
No one else in England, Mr. Holmes, I assure you."
    "But abroad?"
    "I believe that no one abroad has seen it save the man who wrote  it.
I am well convinced that his Ministers - that the usual official  channels
have not been employed."
    Holmes considered for some little time.
    "Now, sir, I must ask you more particularly what  this  document  is,
and why its disappearance should have such momentous consequences?"
    The two statesmen exchanged a quick glance and the  Premier's  shaggy
eyebrows gathered in a frown.
    "Mr. Holmes, the envelope is a long, thin one of  pale  blue  colour.
There is a seal of red wax stamped with a crouching lion. It is  addressed
in large, bold handwriting to..."
    "I fear, sir," said Holmes, "that, interesting and  indeed  essential
as these details are, my inquiries must go more to  the  root  of  things.
What WAS the letter?"
    "That is a State secret of the utmost importance, and I fear  that  I
cannot tell you, nor do I see that it is necessary. If by the aid  of  the
powers which you are said to possess you can find such an  envelope  as  I
describe with its enclosure, you will have deserved well of your  country,
and earned any reward which it lies in our power to bestow."
    Sherlock Holmes rose with a smile.
    "You are two of the most busy men in the country," said he,  "and  in
my own small way I  have  also  a  good  many  calls  upon  me.  I  regret
exceedingly that I cannot help you in this matter, and any continuation of
this interview would be a waste of time."
    The Premier sprang to his feet with that quick, fierce gleam  of  his
deep-set eyes before which a Cabinet has cowered. "I  am  not  accustomed,
sir," he began, but mastered his anger and resumed his seat. For a  minute
or more we all sat  in  silence.  Then  the  old  statesman  shrugged  his
shoulders.
    "We must accept your terms, Mr. Holmes. No doubt you are  right,  and
it is unreasonable for us to expect you to act  unless  we  give  you  our
entire confidence."
    "I agree with you," said the younger statesman.
    "Then I will tell you, relying entirely upon your honour and that  of
your colleague, Dr. Watson. I may appeal to your patriotism  also,  for  I
could not imagine a greater misfortune for  the  country  than  that  this
affair should come out."
    "You may safely trust us."
    "The letter, then, is from a certain foreign potentate who  has  been
ruffled by some recent Colonial developments of this country. It has  been
written hurriedly and upon his own responsibility entirely. Inquiries have
shown that his Ministers know nothing of the matter. At the same  time  it
is couched in so unfortunate a manner, and certain phrases in it are of so
provocative a character, that its publication would undoubtedly lead to  a
most dangerous state of feeling in this country. There  would  be  such  a
ferment, sir, that I do not hesitate to say that  within  a  week  of  the
publication of that letter this country would be involved in a great war."
    Holmes wrote a name upon a  slip  of  paper  and  handed  it  to  the
Premier.
    "Exactly. It was he. And it is this letter - this  letter  which  may
well mean the expenditure of a  thousand  millions  and  the  lives  of  a
hundred thousand men  -  which  has  become  lost  in  this  unaccountable
fashion."
    "Have you informed the sender?"
    "Yes, sir, a cipher telegram has been despatched."
    "Perhaps he desires the publication of the letter."
    "No,  sir,  we  have  strong  reason  to  believe  that  he   already
understands that he has acted in an indiscreet and hot-headed  manner.  It
would be a greater blow to him and to his  country  than  to  us  if  this
letter were to come out."
    "If this is so, whose interest is it that,  the  letter  should  come
out? Why should anyone desire to steal it or to publish it?"
    "There, Mr. Holmes, you take me into regions  of  high  international
politics. But if you consider the European  situation  you  will  have  no
difficulty in perceiving the motive. The whole of Europe is an armed camp.
There is a double league which makes a fair  balance  of  military  power.
Great Britain holds the scales. If Britain were driven into war  with  one
confederacy, it would assure  the  supremacy  of  the  other  confederacy,
whether they joined in the war or not. Do you follow?"
    "Very clearly. It is  then  the  interest  of  the  enemies  of  this
potentate to secure and publish this  letter,  so  as  to  make  a  breach
between his country and ours?"
    "Yes, sir."
    "And to whom would this document be sent if it fell into the hands of
an enemy?"
    "To any of the great Chancelleries of Europe. It is probably speeding
on its way thither at the present instant as fast as steam can take it."
    Mr. Trelawney Hope dropped his head on his chest and  groaned  aloud.
The Premier placed his hand kindly upon his shoulder.
    "It is your misfortune, my dear fellow. No one can blame  you.  There
is no precaution which you have neglected. Now, Mr.  Holmes,  you  are  in
full possession of the facts. What course do you recommend?"
    Holmes shook his head mournfully.
    "You think, sir, that unless this document is recovered there will be
war?"
    "I think it is very probable."
    "Then, sir, prepare for war."
    "That is a hard saying, Mr. Holmes."
    "Consider the facts, sir. It is inconceivable that it was taken after
eleven-thirty at night, since I understand that Mr. Hope and his wife were
both in the room from that hour until the  loss  was  found  out.  It  was
taken, then, yesterday evening  between  seven-thirty  and  eleven-thirty,
probably near the earlier hour, since whoever took it evidently knew  that
it was there and would naturally secure it as early as possible. Now, sir,
if a document of this importance were taken at that hour, where can it  be
now? No one has any reason to retain it. It has been passed rapidly on  to
those who need it. What chance have we now to overtake or  even  to  trace
it? It is beyond our reach."
    The Prime Minister rose from the settee.