Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
ADVENTUREI - Silver Blaze
"I amafraidWatsonthat I shall have to go" saidHolmesaswe sat down together to our breakfast onemorning.
"ToDartmoor; to King's Pyland."
I was notsurprised. Indeedmy only wonder was thathe had notalready been mixed upon this extraordinarycasewhich was the one topic of conversation throughthe lengthand breadth of England. For a whole day mycompanionhad rambled about the room with his chinupon hischest and his brows knittedcharging andrecharginghis pipe with the strongest black tobaccoandabsolutely deaf to any of my questions or remarks.Fresheditions of every paper had been sent up by ournewsagentonly to be glanced over and tossed downinto acorner. Yetsilent as he wasI knewperfectlywell what it was over which he was brooding.There wasbut one problem before the public whichcouldchallenge his powers of analysisand that wasthesingular disappearance of the favorite for theWessexCupand the tragic murder of its trainer.Whenthereforehe suddenly announced his intentionof settingout for the scene of the drama it was onlywhat I hadboth expected and hoped for.
"Ishould be most happy to go down with you if Ishould notbe in the way" said I.
"Mydear Watsonyou would confer a great favor uponme bycoming. And I think that your time will not bemisspentfor there are points about the case whichpromise tomake it an absolutely unique one. We haveI thinkjust time to catch our train at Paddingtonand I willgo further into the matter upon ourjourney. You would oblige me by bringing with youyour veryexcellent field-glass."
And so ithappened that an hour or so later I foundmyself inthe corner of a first-class carriage flyingalong enroute for Exeterwhile Sherlock Holmeswithhis sharpeager face framed in his ear-flappedtravelling-capdipped rapidly into the bundle offreshpapers which he had procured at Paddington. Wehad leftReading far behind us before he thrust thelast oneof them under the seatand offered me hiscigar-case.
"Weare going well" said helooking out the windowandglancing at his watch. "Our rate at present isfifty-threeand a half miles an hour."
"Ihave not observed the quarter-mile posts" said I.
"Norhave I. But the telegraph posts upon this lineare sixtyyards apartand the calculation is a simpleone. I presume that you have looked into this matterof themurder of John Straker and the disappearance ofSilverBlaze?"
"Ihave seen what the Telegraph and the Chronicle haveto say."
"Itis one of those cases where the art of thereasonershould be used rather for the sifting ofdetailsthan for the acquiring of fresh evidence. Thetragedyhas been so uncommonso complete and of suchpersonalimportance to so many peoplethat we aresufferingfrom a plethora of surmiseconjectureandhypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the frameworkoffact--of absolute undeniable fact--from theembellishmentsof theorists and reporters. Thenhavingestablished ourselves upon this sound basisitis ourduty to see what inferences may be drawn andwhat arethe special points upon which the wholemysteryturns. On Tuesday evening I receivedtelegramsfrom both Colonel Rossthe owner of thehorseandfrom Inspector Gregorywho is lookingafter thecaseinviting my cooperation.
"Tuesdayevening!" I exclaimed. "And this is Thursdaymorning. Why didn't you go down yesterday?"
"BecauseI made a blundermy dear Watson--which isIam afraida more common occurrence than any one wouldthink whoonly knew me through your memoirs. The factis that Icould not believe is possible that the mostremarkablehorse in England could long remainconcealedespecially in so sparsely inhabited a placeas thenorth of Dartmoor. From hour to hour yesterdayI expectedto hear that he had been foundand thathisabductor was the murderer of John Straker. Whenhoweveranother morning had comeand I found thatbeyond thearrest of young Fitzroy Simpson nothing hadbeen doneI felt that it was time for me to takeaction. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday hasnot beenwasted."
"Youhave formed a theorythen?"
"Atleast I have got a grip of the essential facts ofthe case. I shall enumerate them to youfor nothingclears upa case so much as stating it to anotherpersonand I can hardly expect your co-operation if Ido notshow you the position from which we start."
I lay backagainst the cushionspuffing at my cigarwhileHolmesleaning forwardwith his longthinforefingerchecking off the points upon the palm ofhis lefthandgave me a sketch of the events whichhad led toour journey.
"SilverBlaze" said he"is from the Somomy stockand holdsas brilliant a record as his famousancestor. He is now in his fifth yearand hasbrought inturn each of the prizes of the turf toColonelRosshis fortunate owner. Up to the time ofthecatastrophe he was the first favorite for theWessexCupthe betting being three to one on him. Hehasalwayshoweverbeen a prime favorite with theracingpublicand has never yet disappointed themsothat evenat those odds enormous sums of money havebeen laidupon him. It is obviousthereforethatthere weremany people who had the strongest interestinpreventing Silver Blaze from being there at thefall ofthe flag next Tuesday.
"Thefact wasof courseappreciated at King'sPylandwhere the Colonel's training-stable issituated. Every precaution was taken to guard thefavorite. The trainerJohn Strakeris a retiredjockey whorode in Colonel Ross's colors before hebecame tooheavy for the weighing-chair. He hasserved theColonel for five years as jockey and forseven astrainerand has always shown himself to be azealousand honest servant. Under him were threelads; forthe establishment was a small onecontainingonly four horses in all. One of these ladssat upeach night in the stablewhile the othersslept inthe loft. All three bore excellentcharacters. John Strakerwho is a married manlivedin a smallvilla about two hundred yards from thestables. He has no childrenkeeps one maid-servantand iscomfortably off. The country round is verylonelybut about half a mile to the north there is asmallcluster of villas which have been built by aTavistockcontractor for the use of invalids andothers whomay wish to enjoy the pure Dartmoor air.Tavistockitself lies two miles to the westwhileacross themooralso about two miles distantis thelargertraining establishment of Mapletonwhichbelongs toLord Backwaterand is managed by SilasBrown. In every other direction the moor is acompletewildernessinhabited only by a few roaminggypsies. Such was the general situation last Mondaynight whenthe catastrophe occurred.
"Onthat evening the horses had been exercised andwatered asusualand the stables were locked up atnineo'clock. Two of the lads walked up to thetrainer'shousewhere they had supper in the kitchenwhile thethirdNed Hunterremained on guard. At afewminutes after nine the maidEdith Baxtercarrieddown tothe stables his supperwhich consisted of adish ofcurried mutton. She took no liquidas therewas awater-tap in the stablesand it was the rulethat thelad on duty should drink nothing else. Themaidcarried a lantern with heras it was very darkand thepath ran across the open moor.
"EdithBaxter was within thirty yards of the stableswhen a manappeared out of the darkness and called toher tostop. As he stepped into the circle of yellowlightthrown by the lantern she saw that he was aperson ofgentlemanly bearingdressed in a gray suitof tweedswith a cloth cap. He wore gaitersandcarried aheavy stick with a knob to it. She was mostimpressedhoweverby the extreme pallor of his faceand by thenervousness of his manner. His ageshethoughtwould be rather over thirty than under it.
"'Canyou tell me where I am?' he asked. 'I had almostmade up mymind to sleep on the moorwhen I saw thelight ofyour lantern.'
"'Youare close to the King's Pylandtraining-stables'said she.
"'Ohindeed! What a stroke of luck!' he cried. 'Iunderstandthat a stable-boy sleeps there alone everynight. Perhaps that is his supper which you arecarryingto him. Now I am sure that you would not betoo proudto earn the price of a new dresswouldyou?' He took a piece of white paper folded up out ofhiswaistcoat pocket. 'See that the boy has thisto-nightand you shall have the prettiest frock thatmoney canbuy.'
"Shewas frightened by the earnestness of his mannerand ranpast him to the window through which she wasaccustomedto hand the meals. It was already openedand Hunterwas seated at the small table inside. Shehad begunto tell him of what had happenedwhen thestrangercame up again.
"'Good-evening'said helooking through the window.'I wantedto have a word with you.' The girl hassworn thatas he spoke she noticed the corner of thelittlepaper packet protruding from his closed hand.
"'Whatbusiness have you here?' asked the lad.
"'It'sbusiness that may put something into yourpocket'said the other. 'You've two horses in forthe WessexCup--Silver Blaze and Bayard. Let me havethestraight tip and you won't be a loser. Is it afact thatat the weights Bayard could give the other ahundredyards in five furlongsand that the stablehave puttheir money on him?'
"'Soyou're one of those damned touts!' cried thelad. 'I'll show you how we serve them in King'sPyland.' He sprang up and rushed across the stable tounloosethe dog. The girl fled away to the housebutas she ranshe looked back and saw that the strangerwasleaning through the window. A minute laterhoweverwhen Hunter rushed out with the hound he wasgoneandthough he ran all round the buildings hefailed tofind any trace of him."
"Onemoment" I asked. "Did the stable-boywhen heran outwith the dogleave the door unlocked behindhim?"
"ExcellentWatsonexcellent!" murmured my companion."Theimportance of the point struck me so forciblythat Isent a special wire to Dartmoor yesterday toclear thematter up. The boy locked the door beforehe leftit. The windowI may addwas not largeenough fora man to get through.
"Hunterwaited until his fellow-grooms had returnedwhen hesent a message to the trainer and told himwhat hadoccurred. Straker was excited at hearing theaccountalthough he does not seem to have quiterealizedits true significance. It left himhowevervaguelyuneasyand Mrs. Strakerwaking at one in themorningfound that he was dressing. In reply to herinquirieshe said that he could not sleep on accountof hisanxiety about the horsesand that he intendedto walkdown to the stables to see that all was well.She beggedhim to remain at homeas she could hearthe rainpattering against the windowbut in spite ofherentreaties he pulled on his large mackintosh andleft thehouse.
"Mrs.Straker awoke at seven in the morningto findthat herhusband had not yet returned. She dressedherselfhastilycalled the maidand set off for thestables. The door was open; insidehuddled togetherupon achairHunter was sunk in a state of absolutestuporthe favorite's stall was emptyand there wereno signsof his trainer.
"Thetwo lads who slept in the chaff-cutting loftabove theharness-room were quickly aroused. They hadheardnothing during the nightfor they are bothsoundsleepers. Hunter was obviously under theinfluenceof some powerful drugand as no sense couldbe got outof himhe was left to sleep it off whilethe twolads and the two women ran out in search oftheabsentees. They still had hopes that the trainerhad forsome reason taken out the horse for earlyexercisebut on ascending the knoll near the housefrom whichall the neighboring moors were visiblethey notonly could see no signs of the missingfavoritebut they perceived something which warnedthem thatthey were in the presence of a tragedy.
"Abouta quarter of a mile from the stables JohnStraker'sovercoat was flapping from a furze-bush.Immediatelybeyond there was a bowl-shaped depressionin themoorand at the bottom of this was found thedead bodyof the unfortunate trainer. His head hadbeenshattered by a savage blow from some heavyweaponand he was wounded on the thighwhere therewas alongclean cutinflicted evidently by somevery sharpinstrument. It was clearhoweverthatStrakerhad defended himself vigorously against hisassailantsfor in his right hand he held a smallknifewhich was clotted with blood up to the handlewhile inhis left he clasped a red and black silkcravatwhich was recognized by the maid as havingbeen wornon the preceding evening by the stranger whohadvisited the stables. Hunteron recovering fromhisstuporwas also quite positive as to theownershipof the cravat. He was equally certain thatthe samestranger hadwhile standing at the windowdruggedhis curried muttonand so deprived thestables oftheir watchman. As to the missing horsethere wereabundant proofs in the mud which lay at thebottom ofthe fatal hollow that he had been there atthe timeof the struggle. But from that morning hehasdisappearedand although a large reward has beenofferedand all the gypsies of Dartmoor are on thealertnonews has come of him. Finallyan analysishas shownthat the remains of his supper left by thestable-ladcontain an appreciable quantity of powderedopiumwhile the people at the house partook of thesame dishon the same night without any ill effect.
"Thoseare the main facts of the casestripped of allsurmiseand stated as baldly as possible. I shallnowrecapitulate what the police have done in thematter.
"InspectorGregoryto whom the case has beencommittedis an extremely competent officer. Were hebut giftedwith imagination he might rise to greatheights inhis profession. On his arrival he promptlyfound andarrested the man upon whom suspicionnaturallyrested. There was little difficulty infindinghimfor he inhabited one of those villaswhich Ihave mentioned. His nameit appearswasFitzroySimpson. He was a man of excellent birth andeducationwho had squandered a fortune upon the turfand wholived now by doing a little quiet and genteelbook-makingin the sporting clubs of London. Anexaminationof his betting-book shows that bets to theamount offive thousand pounds had been registered byhimagainst the favorite. On being arrested hevolunteeredthat statement that he had come down toDartmoorin the hope of getting some information aboutthe King'sPyland horsesand also about Desboroughthe secondfavoritewhich was in charge of SilasBrown atthe Mapleton stables. He did not attempt todeny thathe had acted as described upon the eveningbeforebut declared that he had no sinister designsand hadsimply wished to obtain first-handinformation. When confronted with his cravatheturnedvery paleand was utterly unable to accountfor itspresence in the hand of the murdered man. Hiswetclothing showed that he had been out in the stormof thenight beforeand his stickwhich was aPenang-lawyerweighted with leadwas just such aweapon asmightby repeated blowshave inflicted theterribleinjuries to which the trainer had succumbed.On theother handthere was no wound upon his personwhile thestate of Straker's knife would show that oneat leastof his assailants must bear his mark uponhim. There you have it all in a nutshellWatsonandif you cangive me any light I shall be infinitelyobliged toyou."
I hadlistened with the greatest interest to thestatementwhich Holmeswith characteristic clearnesshad laidbefore me. Though most of the facts werefamiliarto meI had not sufficiently appreciatedtheirrelative importancenor their connection toeachother.
"Isin not possible" I suggested"that the incisedwould uponStraker may have been caused by his ownknife inthe convulsive struggles which follow anybraininjury?"
"Itis more than possible; it is probable" saidHolmes. "In that case one of the main points in favorof theaccused disappears."
"Andyet" said I"even now I fail to understand whatthe theoryof the police can be."
"I amafraid that whatever theory we state has verygraveobjections to it" returned my companion. "ThepoliceimagineI take itthat this Fitzroy Simpsonhavingdrugged the ladand having in some wayobtained aduplicate keyopened the stable door andtook outthe horsewith the intentionapparentlyofkidnappinghim altogether. His bridle is missingsothatSimpson must have put this on. Thenhaving leftthe dooropen behind himhe was leading the horseaway overthe moorwhen he was either met orovertakenby the trainer. A row naturally ensued.Simpsonbeat out the trainer's brains with his heavystickwithout receiving any injury from the smallknifewhich Straker used in self-defenceand then thethiefeither led the horse on to some secrethiding-placeor else it may have bolted during thestruggleand be now wandering out on the moors. Thatis thecase as it appears to the policeandimprobableas it isall other explanations are moreimprobablestill. HoweverI shall very quickly testthe matterwhen I am once upon the spotand untilthen Icannot really see how we can get much furtherthan ourpresent position."
It wasevening before we reached the little town ofTavistockwhich lieslike the boss of a shieldinthe middleof the huge circle of Dartmoor. Twogentlemenwere awaiting us in the station--the one atallfairman with lion-like hair and beard andcuriouslypenetrating light blue eyes; the other asmallalert personvery neat and dapperin afrock-coatand gaiterswith trim little side-whiskersand aneye-glass. The latter was Colonel Rossthewell-knownsportsman; the otherInspector Gregoryaman whowas rapidly making his name in the Englishdetectiveservice.
"I amdelighted that you have come downMr. Holmes"said theColonel. "The Inspector here has done allthat couldpossibly be suggestedbut I wish to leaveno stoneunturned in trying to avenge poor Straker andinrecovering my horse."
"Havethere been any fresh developments?" askedHolmes.
"I amsorry to say that we have made very littleprogress"said the Inspector. "We have an opencarriageoutsideand as you would no doubt like tosee theplace before the light failswe might talk itover as wedrive."
A minutelater we were all seated in a comfortablelandauand were rattling through the quaint oldDevonshirecity. Inspector Gregory was full of hiscaseandpoured out a stream of remarkswhile Holmesthrew inan occasional question or interjection.ColonelRoss leaned back with his arms folded and hishat tiltedover his eyeswhile I listened withinterestto the dialogue of the two detectives.Gregorywas formulating his theorywhich was almostexactlywhat Holmes had foretold in the train.
"Thenet is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy Simpson"heremarked"and I believe myself that he is our man.At thesame time I recognize that the evidence ispurelycircumstantialand that some new developmentmay upsetit."
"Howabout Straker's knife?"
"Wehave quite come to the conclusion that he woundedhimself inhis fall."
"Myfriend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to me as wecamedown. If soit would tell against this manSimpson."
"Undoubtedly. He has neither a knife nor any sign ofa wound. The evidence against him is certainly verystrong. He had a great interest in the disappearanceof thefavorite. He lies under suspicion of havingpoisonedthe stable-boyhe was undoubtedly out in thestormhewas armed with a heavy stickand his cravatwas foundin the dead man's hand. I really think wehaveenough to go before a jury."
Holmesshook his head. "A clever counsel would tearit all torags" said he. "Why should he take thehorse outof the stable? If he wished to injure itwhy couldhe not do it there? Has a duplicate keybeen foundin his possession? What chemist sold himthepowdered opium? Above allwhere could heastrangerto the districthide a horseand such ahorse asthis? What is his own explanation as to thepaperwhich he wished the maid to give to thestable-boy?"
"Hesays that it was a ten-pound note. One was foundin hispurse. But your other difficulties are not soformidableas they seem. He is not a stranger to thedistrict. He has twice lodged at Tavistock in thesummer. The opium was probably brought from London.The keyhaving served its purposewould be hurledaway. The horse may be at the bottom of one of thepits orold mines upon the moor."
"Whatdoes he say about the cravat?"
"Heacknowledges that it is hisand declares that hehad lostit. But a new element has been introducedinto thecase which may account for his leading thehorse fromthe stable."
Holmespricked up his ears.
"Wehave found traces which show that a party ofgypsiesencamped on Monday night within a mile of thespot wherethe murder took place. On Tuesday theyweregone. Nowpresuming that there was someunderstandingbetween Simpson and these gypsiesmighthe nothave been leading the horse to them when he wasovertakenand may they not have him now?"
"Itis certainly possible."
"Themoor is being scoured for these gypsies. I havealsoexamined every stable and out-house in Tavistockand for aradius of ten miles."
"Thereis another training-stable quite closeIunderstand?"
"Yesand that is a factor which we must certainly notneglect. As Desboroughtheir horsewas second inthebettingthey had an interest in the disappearanceof thefavorite. Silas Brownthe traineris knownto havehad large bets upon the eventand he was nofriend topoor Straker. We havehoweverexaminedthestablesand there is nothing to connect him withtheaffair."
"Andnothing to connect this man Simpson with theinterestsof the Mapleton stables?"
Holmesleaned back in the carriageand theconversationceased. A few minutes later our driverpulled upat a neat little red-brick villa withoverhangingeaves which stood by the road. Somedistanceoffacross a paddocklay a long gray-tiledout-building. In every other direction the low curvesof themoorbronze-colored from the fading fernsstretchedaway to the sky-linebroken only by thesteeplesof Tavistockand by a cluster of houses awayto thewestward which marked the Mapleton stables. Weall sprangout with the exception of Holmeswhocontinuedto lean back with his eyes fixed upon thesky infront of himentirely absorbed in his ownthoughts. It was only when I touched his arm that herousedhimself with a violent start and stepped out ofthecarriage.
"Excuseme" said heturning to Colonel Rosswhohad lookedat him in some surprise. "I wasday-dreaming." There was a gleam in his eyes and asuppressedexcitement in his manner which convincedmeusedas I was to his waysthat his hand was upona cluethough I could not imagine where he had foundit.
"Perhapsyou would prefer at once to go on to thescene ofthe crimeMr. Holmes?" said Gregory.
"Ithink that I should prefer to stay here a littleand gointo one or two questions of detail. Strakerwasbrought back hereI presume?"
"Yes;he lies upstairs. The inquest is to-morrow."
"Hehas been in your service some yearsColonelRoss?"
"Ihave always found him an excellent servant."
"Ipresume that you made an inventory of what he hadin thispockets at the time of his deathInspector?"
"Ihave the things themselves in the sitting-roomifyou wouldcare to see them."
"Ishould be very glad." We all filed into the frontroom andsat round the central table while theInspectorunlocked a square tin box and laid a smallheap ofthings before us. There was a box of vestastwo inchesof tallow candlean A D P brier-root pipea pouch ofseal-skin with half an ounce of long-cutCavendisha silver watch with a gold chainfivesovereignsin goldan aluminum pencil-casea fewpapersand an ivory-handled knife with a verydelicateinflexible bade marked Weiss & Co.London.
"Thisis a very singular knife" said Holmesliftingit up andexamining it minutely. "I presumeas I seeblood-stainsupon itthat it is the one which wasfound inthe dead man's grasp. Watsonthis knife issurely inyour line?"
"Itis what we call a cataract knife" said I.
"Ithought so. A very delicate blade devised for verydelicatework. A strange thing for a man to carrywith himupon a rough expeditionespecially as itwould notshut in his pocket."
"Thetip was guarded by a disk of cork which we foundbeside hisbody" said the Inspector. "His wife tellsus thatthe knife had lain upon the dressing-tableand thathe had picked it up as he left the room. Itwas a poorweaponbut perhaps the best that he couldlay hishands on at the moment."
"Verypossible. How about these papers?"
"Threeof them are receipted hay-dealers' accounts.One ofthem is a letter of instructions from ColonelRoss. This other is a milliner's account forthirty-sevenpounds fifteen made out by MadameLesurierof Bond Streetto William Derbyshire. Mrs.Strakertells us that Derbyshire was a friend of herhusband'sand that occasionally his letters wereaddressedhere."
"MadamDerbyshire had somewhat expensive tastes"remarkedHolmesglancing down the account."Twenty-twoguineas is rather heavy for a singlecostume. However there appears to be nothing more tolearnandwe may now go down to the scene of thecrime."
As weemerged from the sitting-room a womanwho hadbeenwaiting in the passagetook a step forward andlaid herhand upon the Inspector's sleeve. Her facewashaggard and thin and eagerstamped with the printof arecent horror.
"Haveyou got them? Have you found them?" she panted.
"NoMrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has come fromLondon tohelp usand we shall do all that ispossible."
"SurelyI met you in Plymouth at a garden-party somelittletime agoMrs. Straker?" said Holmes.
"Nosir; you are mistaken."
"Dearme! WhyI could have sworn to it. You wore acostume ofdove-colored silk with ostrich-feathertrimming."
"Inever had such a dresssir" answered the lady.
"Ahthat quite settles it" said Holmes. And with anapology hefollowed the Inspector outside. A shortwalkacross the moor took us to the hollow in whichthe bodyhad been found. At the brink of it was thefurze-bushupon which the coat had been hung.
"Therewas no wind that nightI understand" saidHolmes.
"None;but very heavy rain."
"Inthat case the overcoat was not blown against thefurze-bushbut placed there."
"Yesit was laid across the bush."
"Youfill me with interest I perceive that theground hasbeen trampled up a good deal. No doubtmany feethave been here since Monday night."
"Apiece of matting has been laid here at the sideand wehave all stood upon that."
"Inthis bag I have one of the boots which Strakerworeoneof Fitzroy Simpson's shoesand a casthorseshoeof Silver Blaze."
"Mydear Inspectoryou surpass yourself!" Homes tookthe baganddescending into the hollowhe pushedthematting into a more central position. Thenstretchinghimself upon his face and leaning his chinupon hishandshe made a careful study of thetrampledmud in front of him. "Hullo!" said hesuddenly. "What's this?" It was a wax vesta halfburnedwhich was so coated with mud that it looked atfirst likea little chip of wood.
"Icannot think how I came to overlook it" said theInspectorwith an expression of annoyance.
"Itwas invisibleburied in the mud. I only saw itbecause Iwas looking for it."
"What!You expected to find it?"
"Ithought it not unlikely."
He tookthe boots from the bagand compared theimpressionsof each of them with marks upon theground. Then he clambered up to the rim of thehollowand crawled about among the ferns and bushes.
"I amafraid that there are no more tracks" said theInspector. "I have examined the ground very carefullyfor ahundred yards in each direction."
"Indeed!"said Holmesrising. "I should not have theimpertinenceto do it again after what you say. But Ishouldlike to take a little walk over the moor beforeit growsdarkthat I may know my ground to-morrowand Ithink that I shall put this horseshoe into mypocket forluck."
ColonelRosswho had shown some signs of impatienceat mycompanion's quiet and systematic method of workglanced athis watch. "I wish you would come backwith meInspector" said he. "There are severalpoints onwhich I should like your adviceandespeciallyas to whether we do not owe it to thepublic toremove our horse's name from the entries forthe Cup."
"Certainlynot" cried Holmeswith decision. "Ishould letthe name stand."
TheColonel bowed. "I am very glad to have had youropinionsir" said he. "You will find us at poorStraker'shouse when you have finished your walkandwe candrive together into Tavistock."
He turnedback with the Inspectorwhile Holmes and Iwalkedslowly across the moor. The sun was beginningto sinkbehind the stables of Mapletonand the longslopingplain in front of us was tinged with golddeepeninginto richruddy browns where the fadedferns andbrambles caught the evening light. But theglories ofthe landscape were all wasted upon mycompanionwho was sunk in the deepest thought.
"It'sthis wayWatson" said he at last. "We mayleave thequestion of who killed John Straker for theinstantand confine ourselves to finding out what hasbecome ofthe horse. Nowsupposing that he brokeawayduring or after the tragedywhere could he havegone to? The horse is a very gregarious creature. Ifleft tohimself his instincts would have been eitherto returnto King's Pyland or go over to Mapleton.Why shouldhe run wild upon the moor? He would surelyhave beenseen by now. And why should gypsies kidnaphim? These people always clear out when they hear oftroublefor they do not wish to be pestered by thepolice. They could not hope to sell such a horse.They wouldrun a great risk and gain nothing by takinghim. Surely that is clear."
"Ihave already said that he must have gone to King'sPyland orto Mapleton. He is not at King's Pyland.Thereforehe is at Mapleton. Let us take that as aworkinghypothesis and see what it leads us to. Thispart ofthe mooras the Inspector remarkedis veryhard anddry. But if falls away towards Mapletonandyou cansee from here that there is a long hollow overyonderwhich must have been very wet on Monday night.If oursupposition is correctthen the horse musthavecrossed thatand there is the point where weshouldlook for his tracks."
We hadbeen walking briskly during this conversationand a fewmore minutes brought us to the hollow inquestion. At Holmes' request I walked down the bankto therightand he to the leftbut I had not takenfiftypaces before I heard him give a shoutand sawhim wavinghis hand to me. The track of a horse wasplainlyoutlined in the soft earth in front of himand theshoe which he took from his pocket exactlyfitted theimpression.
"Seethe value of imagination" said Holmes. "It isthe onequality which Gregory lacks. We imagined whatmight havehappenedacted upon the suppositionandfindourselves justified. Let us proceed."
We crossedthe marshy bottom and passed over a quarterof a mileof dryhard turf. Again the ground slopedand againwe came on the tracks. Then we lost themfor half amilebut only to pick them up once morequiteclose to Mapleton. It was Holmes who saw themfirstandhe stood pointing with a look of triumphupon hisface. A man's track was visible beside thehorse's.
"Thehorse was alone before" I cried.
"Quiteso. It was alone before. Hullowhat isthis?"
The doubletrack turned sharp off and took thedirectionof King's Pyland. Homes whistledand webothfollowed along after it. His eyes were on thetrailbutI happened to look a little to one sideand saw tomy surprise the same tracks coming backagain inthe opposite direction.
"Onefor youWatson" said Holmeswhen I pointed itout. "You have saved us a long walkwhich would havebrought usback on our own traces. Let us follow thereturntrack."
We had notto go far. It ended at the paving ofasphaltwhich led up to the gates of the Mapletonstables. As we approacheda groom ran out from them.
"Wedon't want any loiterers about here" said he.
"Ionly wished to ask a question" said Holmeswithhis fingerand thumb in his waistcoat pocket. "ShouldI be tooearly to see your masterMr. Silas BrownifI were tocall at five o'clock to-morrow morning?"
"Blessyousirif any one is about he will beforhe isalways the first stirring. But here he issirto answeryour questions for himself. Nosirno; itis as muchas my place is worth to let him see metouch yourmoney. Afterwardsif you like."
AsSherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown which hehad drawnfrom his pocketa fierce-looking elderlyman strodeout from the gate with a hunting-cropswingingin his hand.
"What'sthisDawson!" he cried. "No gossiping! Goabout yourbusiness! And youwhat the devil do youwanthere?"
"Tenminutes' talk with youmy good sir" said Holmesin thesweetest of voices.
"I'veno time to talk to every gadabout. We want nostrangerhere. Be offor you may find a dog at yourheels."
Holmesleaned forward and whispered something in thetrainer'sear. He started violently and flushed tothetemples.
"It'sa lie!" he shouted"an infernal lie!"
"Verygood. Shall we argue about it here in public ortalk itover in your parlor?"
"Ohcome in if you wish to."
Holmessmiled. "I shall not keep you more than a fewminutesWatson" said he. "NowMr. BrownI amquite atyour disposal."
It wastwenty minutesand the reds had all faded intograysbefore Holmes and the trainer reappeared. Neverhave Iseen such a change as had been brought about inSilasBrown in that short time. His face was ashypalebeads of perspiration shone upon his browandhis handsshook until the hunting-crop wagged like abranch inthe wind. His bullyingoverbearing mannerwas allgone tooand he cringed along at mycompanion'sside like a dog with its master.
"Youinstructions will be done. It shall all bedone"said he.
"Theremust be no mistake" said Holmeslooking roundat him. The other winced as he read the menace in hiseyes.
"Ohnothere shall be no mistake. It shall be there.Should Ichange it first or not?"
Holmesthought a little and then burst out laughing."Nodon't" said he; "I shall write to you about it.No tricksnowor--"
"Ohyou can trust meyou can trust me!"
"YesI think I can. Wellyou shall hear from meto-morrow." He turned upon his heeldisregarding thetremblinghand which the other held out to himand weset offfor King's Pyland.
"Amore perfect compound of the bullycowardandsneak thanMaster Silas Brown I have seldom met with"remarkedHolmes as we trudged along together.
"Hehas the horsethen?"
"Hetried to bluster out of itbut I described to himso exactlywhat his actions had been upon that morningthat he isconvinced that I was watching him. Ofcourse youobserved the peculiarly square toes in theimpressionsand that his own boots exactlycorrespondedto them. Againof course no subordinatewould havedared to do such a thing. I described tohim howwhen according to his custom he was the firstdownheperceived a strange horse wandering over themoor. How he went out to itand his astonishment atrecognizingfrom the white forehead which has giventhefavorite its namethat chance had put in hispower theonly horse which could beat the one uponwhich hehad put his money. Then I described how hisfirstimpulse had been to lead him back to King'sPylandand how the devil had shown him how he couldhide thehorse until the race was overand how he hadled itback and concealed it at Mapleton. When I toldhim everydetail he gave it up and thought only ofsaving hisown skin."
"Buthis stables had been searched?"
"Ohand old horse-fakir like him has many a dodge."
"Butare you not afraid to leave the horse in hispower nowsince he has every interest in injuringit?"
"Mydear fellowhe will guard it as the apple of hiseye. He knows that his only hope of mercy is toproduce itsafe."
"ColonelRoss did not impress me as a man who would belikely toshow much mercy in any case."
"Thematter does not rest with Colonel Ross. I followmy ownmethodsand tell as much or as little as Ichoose. That is the advantage of being unofficial. Idon't knowwhether you observed itWatsonbut theColonel'smanner has been just a trifle cavalier tome. I am inclined now to have a little amusement athisexpense. Say nothing to him about the horse."
"Certainlynot without your permission."
"Andof course this is all quite a minor pointcomparedto the question of who killed John Straker."
"Andyou will devote yourself to that?"
"Onthe contrarywe both go back to London by thenighttrain."
I wasthunderstruck by my friend's words. We had onlybeen a fewhours in Devonshireand that he shouldgive up aninvestigation which he had begun sobrilliantlywas quite incomprehensible to me. Not aword morecould I draw from him until we were back atthetrainer's house. The Colonel and the Inspectorwereawaiting us in the parlor.
"Myfriend and I return to town by the night-express"saidHolmes. "We have had a charming little breath ofyourbeautiful Dartmoor air."
TheInspector opened his eyesand the Colonel's lipcurled ina sneer.
"Soyou despair of arresting the murderer of poorStraker"said he.
Holmesshrugged his shoulders. "There are certainlygravedifficulties in the way" said he. "I haveeveryhopehoweverthat your horse will start uponTuesdayand I beg that you will have your jockey inreadiness. Might I ask for a photograph of Mr. JohnStraker?"
TheInspector took one from an envelope and handed itto him.
"Mydear Gregoryyou anticipate all my wants. If Imight askyou to wait here for an instantI have aquestionwhich I should like to put to the maid."
"Imust say that I am rather disappointed in ourLondonconsultant" said Colonel Rossbluntlyas myfriendleft the room. "I do not see that we are anyfurtherthan when he came."
"Atleast you have his assurance that your horse willrun"said I.
"YesI have his assurance" said the Colonelwith ashrug ofhis shoulders. "I should prefer to have thehorse."
I wasabout to make some reply in defence of my friendwhen heentered the room again.
"Nowgentlemen" said he"I am quite ready forTavistock."
As westepped into the carriage one of the stable-ladsheld thedoor open for us. A sudden idea seemed tooccur toHolmesfor he leaned forward and touched thelad uponthe sleeve.
"Youhave a few sheep in the paddock" he said. "Whoattends tothem?"
"Haveyou noticed anything amiss with them of late?"
"Wellsirnot of much account; but three of themhave gonelamesir."
I couldsee that Holmes was extremely pleasedfor hechuckledand rubbed his hands together.
"Along shotWatson; a very long shot" said hepinchingmy arm. "Gregorylet me recommend to yourattentionthis singular epidemic among the sheep.Drive oncoachman!"
ColonelRoss still wore an expression which showed thepooropinion which he had formed of my companion'sabilitybut I saw by the Inspector's face that hisattentionhad been keenly aroused.
"Youconsider that to be important?" he asked.
"Isthere any point to which you would wish to draw myattention?"
"Tothe curious incident of the dog in thenight-time."
"Thedog did nothing in the night-time."
"Thatwas the curious incident" remarked SherlockHolmes.
Four dayslater Holmes and I were again in the trainbound forWinchester to see the race for the WessexCup. Colonel Ross met us by appointment outside thestationand we drove in his drag to the course beyondthe town. His face was graveand his manner was coldin theextreme.
"Ihave seen nothing of my horse" said he.
"Isuppose that you would know him when you saw him?"askedHolmes.
TheColonel was very angry. "I have been on the turffor twentyyearsand never was asked such a questionas thatbefore" said he. "A child would know SilverBlazewith his white forehead and his mottledoff-foreleg."
"Howis the betting?"
"Wellthat is the curious part of it. You could havegotfifteen to one yesterdaybut the price has becomeshorterand shorteruntil you can hardly get three toone now."
"Hum!"said Holmes. "Somebody knows somethingthatis clear."
As thedrag drew up in the enclosure near the grandstand Iglanced at the card to see the entries.
WessexPlate [it ran] 50 sovs each h ft with 1000 sovsadded forfour and five year olds. SecondL300.ThirdL200. New course (one mile and five furlongs).Mr. HeathNewton's The Negro. Red cap. Cinnamonjacket.ColonelWardlaw's Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and blackjacket.LordBackwater's Desborough. Yellow cap and sleeves.ColonelRoss's Silver Blaze. Black cap. Red jacket.Duke ofBalmoral's Iris. Yellow and black stripes.LordSingleford's Rasper. Purple cap. Black sleeves.
"Wescratched our other oneand put all hopes on yourword"said the Colonel. "Whywhat is that? SilverBlazefavorite?"
"Fiveto four against Silver Blaze!" roared the ring."Fiveto four against Silver Blaze! Five to fifteenagainstDesborough! Five to four on the field!"
"Thereare the numbers up" I cried. "They are allsixthere."
"Allsix there? Then my horse is running" cried theColonel ingreat agitation. "But I don't see him. Mycolorshave not passed."
"Onlyfive have passed. This must be he."
As I spokea powerful bay horse swept out from theweightingenclosure and cantered past usbearing onit backthe well-known black and red of the Colonel.
"That'snot my horse" cried the owner. "That beasthas not awhite hair upon its body. What is this thatyou havedoneMr. Holmes?"
"Wellwelllet us see how he gets on" said myfriendimperturbably. For a few minutes he gazedthrough myfield-glass. "Capital! An excellentstart!"he cried suddenly. "There they arecominground thecurve!"
From ourdrag we had a superb view as they came up thestraight. The six horses were so close together thata carpetcould have covered thembut half way up theyellow ofthe Mapleton stable showed to the front.Beforethey reached ushoweverDesborough's bolt wasshotandthe Colonel's horsecoming away with arushpassed the post a good six lengths before itsrivaltheDuke of Balmoral's Iris making a bad third.
"It'smy raceanyhow" gasped the Colonelpassinghis handover his eyes. "I confess that I can makeneitherhead nor tail of it. Don't you think that youhave keptup your mystery long enoughMr. Holmes?"
"CertainlyColonelyou shall know everything. Letus all goround and have a look at the horse together.Here heis" he continuedas we made our way into theweighingenclosurewhere only owners and theirfriendsfind admittance. "You have only to wash hisface andhis leg in spirits of wineand you will findthat he isthe same old Silver Blaze as ever."
"Youtake my breath away!"
"Ifound him in the hands of a fakirand took theliberty ofrunning him just as he was sent over."
"Mydear siryou have done wonders. The horse looksvery fitand well. It never went better in its life.I owe youa thousand apologies for having doubted yourability. You have done me a great service byrecoveringmy horse. You would do me a greater stillif youcould lay your hands on the murderer of JohnStraker."
"Ihave done so" said Holmes quietly.
TheColonel and I stared at him in amazement. "Youhave gothim! Where is hethen?"
"Inmy company at the present moment."
TheColonel flushed angrily. "I quite recognize thatI am underobligations to youMr. Holmes" said he"butI must regard what you have just said as either avery badjoke or an insult."
SherlockHolmes laughed. "I assure you that I havenotassociated you with the crimeColonel" said he."Thereal murderer is standing immediately behindyou." He stepped past and laid his hand upon theglossyneck of the thoroughbred.
"Thehorse!" cried both the Colonel and myself.
"Yesthe horse. And it may lessen his guilt if I saythat itwas done in self-defenceand that JohnStrakerwas a man who was entirely unworthy of yourconfidence. But there goes the belland as I standto win alittle on this next raceI shall defer alengthyexplanation until a more fitting time."
We had thecorner of a Pullman car to ourselves thatevening aswe whirled back to Londonand I fancy thatthejourney was a short one to Colonel Ross as well asto myselfas we listened to our companion's narrativeof theevents which had occurred at the Dartmoortraining-stablesupon the Monday nightand the meansby whichhe had unravelled them.
"Iconfess" said he"that any theories which I hadformedfrom the newspaper reports were entirelyerroneous. And yet there were indications therehadthey notbeen overlaid by other details whichconcealedtheir true import. I went to Devonshirewith theconviction that Fitzroy Simpson was the trueculpritalthoughof courseI saw that the evidenceagainsthim was by no means complete. It was while Iwas in thecarriagejust as we reached the trainer'shousethat the immense significance of the curriedmuttonoccurred to me. You may remember that I wasdistraitand remained sitting after you had allalighted. I was marvelling in my own mind how I couldpossiblyhave overlooked so obvious a clue."
"Iconfess" said the Colonel"that even now I cannotsee how ithelps us."
"Itwas the first link in my chain of reasoning.Powderedopium is by no means tasteless. The flavoris notdisagreeablebut it is perceptible. Were itmixed withany ordinary dish the eater wouldundoubtedlydetect itand would probably eat no more.A currywas exactly the medium which would disguisethistaste. By no possible supposition could thisstrangerFitzroy Simpsonhave caused curry to beserved inthe trainer's family that nightand it issurely toomonstrous a coincidence to suppose that hehappenedto come along with powdered opium upon thevery nightwhen a dish happened to be served whichwoulddisguise the flavor. That is unthinkable.ThereforeSimpson becomes eliminated from the caseand ourattention centers upon Straker and his wifethe onlytwo people who could have chosen curriedmutton forsupper that night. The opium was addedafter thedish was set aside for the stable-boyforthe othershad the same for supper with no illeffects. Which of themthenhad access to that dishwithoutthe maid seeing them?
"Beforedeciding that question I had grasped thesignificanceof the silence of the dogfor one trueinferenceinvariably suggests others. The Simpsonincidenthad shown me that a dog was kept in thestablesand yetthough some one had been in and hadfetchedout a horsehe had not barked enough toarouse thetwo lads in the loft. Obviously themidnightvisitor was some one whom the dog knew well.
"Iwas already convincedor almost convincedthatJohnStraker went down to the stables in the dead ofthe nightand took out Silver Blaze. For whatpurpose? For a dishonest oneobviouslyor whyshould hedrug his own stable-boy? And yet I was at aloss toknow why. There have been cases before nowwheretrainers have made sure of great sums of moneyby layingagainst their own horsesthrough agentsand thenpreventing them from winning by fraud.Sometimesit is a pulling jockey. Sometimes it issome surerand subtler means. What was it here? Ihoped thatthe contents of his pockets might help meto form aconclusion.
"Andthey did so. You cannot have forgotten thesingularknife which was found in the dead man's handa knifewhich certainly no sane man would choose for aweapon. It wasas Dr. Watson told usa form ofknifewhich is used for the most delicate operationsknown insurgery. And it was to be used for adelicateoperation that night. You must knowwithyour wideexperience of turf mattersColonel Rossthat it ispossible to make a slight nick upon thetendons ofa horse's hamand to do it subcutaneouslyso as toleave absolutely no trace. A horse sotreatedwould develop a slight lamenesswhich wouldbe putdown to a strain in exercise or a touch ofrheumatismbut never to foul play."
"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the Colonel.
"Wehave here the explanation of why John Strakerwished totake the horse out on to the moor. Sospirited acreature would have certainly roused thesoundestof sleepers when it felt the prick of theknife. It was absolutely necessary to do it in theopen air."
"Ihave been blind!" cried the Colonel. "Of coursethat waswhy he needed the candleand struck thematch."
"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings I wasfortunateenough to discover not only the method ofthe crimebut even its motives. As a man of theworldColonelyou know that men do not carry otherpeople'sbills about in their pockets. We have mostof usquite enough to do to settle our own. I at onceconcludedthat Straker was leading a double lifeandkeeping asecond establishment. The nature of thebillshowed that there was a lady in the caseand onewho hadexpensive tastes. Liberal as you are withyourservantsone can hardly expect that they can buytwenty-guineawalking dresses for their ladies. IquestionedMrs. Straker as to the dress without herknowingitand having satisfied myself that it hadneverreached herI made a note of the milliner'saddressand felt that by calling there with Straker'sphotographI could easily dispose of the mythicalDerbyshire.
"Fromthat time on all was plain. Straker had led outthe horseto a hollow where his light would beinvisible. Simpson in his flight had dropped hiscravatand Straker had picked it up--with some ideaperhapsthat he might use it in securing the horse'sleg. Once in the hollowhe had got behind the horseand hadstruck a light; but the creature frightened atthe suddenglareand with the strange instinct ofanimalsfeeling that some mischief was intendedhadlashedoutand the steel shoe had struck Straker fullon theforehead. He had alreadyin spite of theraintaken off his overcoat in order to do hisdelicatetaskand soas he fellhis knife gashedhisthigh. Do I make it clear?"
"Wonderful!"cried the Colonel. "Wonderful! Youmight havebeen there!"
"Myfinal shot wasI confess a very long one. Itstruck methat so astute a man as Straker would notundertakethis delicate tendon-nicking without alittlepractice. What could he practice on? My eyesfell uponthe sheepand I asked a question whichrather tomy surpriseshowed that my surmise wascorrect.
"WhenI returned to London I called upon the millinerwho hadrecognized Straker as an excellent customer ofthe nameof Derbyshirewho had a very dashing wifewith astrong partiality for expensive dresses. Ihave nodoubt that this woman had plunged him overhead andears in debtand so led him into thismiserableplot."
"Youhave explained all but one thing" cried theColonel. "Where was the horse?"
"Ahit boltedand was cared for by one of yourneighbors. We must have an amnesty in that directionI think. This is Clapham Junctionif I am notmistakenand we shall be in Victoria in less than tenminutes. If you care to smoke a cigar in our roomsColonelIshall be happy to give you any otherdetailswhich might interest you."
[Inpublishing these short sketches based upon thenumerouscases in which my companion's singular giftshave madeus the listeners toand eventually theactors insome strange dramait is only natural thatI shoulddwell rather upon his successes than upon hisfailures. And this not so much for the sake of hisreputations--forindeedit was when he was at hiswits' endthat his energy and his versatility weremostadmirable--but because where he failed ithappenedtoo often that no one else succeededandthat thetale was left forever without a conclusion.Now andagainhoweverit chanced that even when heerredthetruth was still discovered. I have notedof somehalf-dozen cases of the kind the Adventure oftheMusgrave Ritual and that which I am about torecountare the two which present the strongestfeaturesof interest.]
SherlockHolmes was a man who seldom took exercise forexercise'ssake. Few men were capable of greatermusculareffortand he was undoubtedly one of thefinestboxers of his weight that I have ever seen; buthe lookedupon aimless bodily exertion as a waste ofenergyand he seldom bestirred himself save whenthere wassome professional object to be served. Thenhe wasabsolutely untiring and indefatigable. That heshouldhave kept himself in training under suchcircumstancesis remarkablebut his diet was usuallyof thesparestand his habits were simple to theverge ofausterity. Save for the occasional use ofcocainehe had no vicesand he only turned to thedrug as aprotest against the monotony of existencewhen caseswere scanty and the papers uninteresting.
One day inearly spring he had so far relaxed as togo for awalk with me in the Parkwhere the firstfaintshoots of green were breaking out upon the elmsand thesticky spear-heads of the chestnuts were justbeginningto burst into their five-fold leaves. Fortwo hourswe rambled about togetherin silence forthe mostpartas befits two men who know each otherintimately. It was nearly five before we were back inBakerStreet once more.
"Begpardonsir" said our page-boyas he opened thedoor. "There's been a gentleman here asking for yousir."
Holmesglanced reproachfully at me. "So much forafternoonwalks!" said he. "Has this gentleman gonethen?"
"Didn'tyou ask him in?"
"Yessir; he came in."
"Howlong did he wait?"
"Halfan hoursir. He was a very restless gentlemansira-walkin' and a-stampin' all the time he washere. I was waitin' outside the doorsirand Icould hearhim. At last he outs into the passageandhe cries'Is that man never goin' to come?' Thosewere hisvery wordssir. 'You'll only need to wait alittlelonger' says I. 'Then I'll wait in the openairfor Ifeel half choked' says he. 'I'll be backbeforelong.' And with that he ups and he outsandall Icould say wouldn't hold him back."
"Wellwellyou did you best" said Holmesas wewalkedinto our room. "It's very annoyingthoughWatson. I was badly in need of a caseand thislooksfrom the man's impatienceas if it were ofimportance. Hullo! That's not your pipe on the table.He musthave left his behind him. A nice old brierwith agood long stem of what the tobacconists callamber. I wonder how many real amber mouthpieces thereare inLondon? Some people think that a fly in it isa sign. Wellhe must have been disturbed in his mindto leave apipe behind him which he evidently valueshighly."
"Howdo you know that he values it highly?" I asked.
"WellI should put the original cost of the pipe atseven andsixpence. Now it hasyou seebeen twicemendedonce in the wooden stem and once in theamber. Each of these mendsdoneas you observewithsilver bandsmust have cost more than the pipedidoriginally. The man must value the pipe highlywhen heprefers to patch it up rather than buy a newone withthe same money."
"Anythingelse?" I askedfor Holmes was turning thepipe aboutin his handand staring at it in hispeculiarpensive way.
He held itup and tapped on it with his longthinfore-fingeras a professor might who was lecturing ona bone.
"Pipesare occasionally of extraordinary interest"said he. "Nothing has more individualitysaveperhapswatches and bootlaces. The indications herehoweverare neither very marked nor very important.The owneris obviously a muscular manleft-handedwith anexcellent set of teethcareless in hishabitsand with no need to practise economy."
My friendthrew out the information in a very offhandwaybut Isaw that he cocked his eye at me to see ifI hadfollowed his reasoning.
"Youthink a man must be well-to-do if he smokes aseven-shillingpipe" said I.
"Thisis Grosvenor mixture at eightpence an ounce"Holmesansweredknocking a little out on his palm."Ashe might get an excellent smoke for half thepricehehas no need to practise economy."
"Andthe other points?"
"Hehas been in the habit of lighting his pipe atlamps andgas-jets. You can see that it is quitecharredall down one side. Of course a match couldnot havedone that. Why should a man hold a match tothe sideof his pipe? But you cannot light it at alampwithout getting the bowl charred. And it is allon theright side of the pipe. From that I gatherthat he isa left-handed man. You hold your own pipeto thelampand see how naturally youbeingright-handedhold the left side to the flame. Youmight doit once the other waybut not as aconstancy. This has always been held so. Then he hasbittenthrough his amber. It takes a muscularenergeticfellowand one with a good set of teethtodo that. But if I am not mistaken I hear him upon thestairsowe shall have something more interestingthan hispipe to study."
An instantlater our door openedand a tall young manenteredthe room. He was well but quietly dressed inadark-gray suitand carried a brown wide-awake inhis hand. I should have put him at about thirtythough hewas really some years older.
"Ibeg your pardon" said hewith some embarrassment;"Isuppose I should have knocked. Yesof course Ishouldhave knocked. The fact is that I am a littleupsetandyou must put it all down to that." Hepassed hishand over his forehead like a man who ishalfdazedand then fell rather than sat down upon achair.
"Ican see that you have not slept for a night ortwo"said Holmesin his easygenial way. "Thattries aman's nerves more than workand more eventhanpleasure. May I ask how I can help you?"
"Iwanted your advicesir. I don't know what to doand mywhole life seems to have gone to pieces."
"Youwish to employ me as a consulting detective?"
"Notthat only. I want your opinion as a judiciousman--as aman of the world. I want to know what Iought todo next. I hope to God you'll be able totell me."
He spokein littlesharpjerky outburstsand itseemed tome that to speak at all was very painful tohimandthat his will all through was overriding hisinclinations.
"It'sa very delicate thing" said he. "One does notlike tospeak of one's domestic affairs to strangers.It seemsdreadful to discuss the conduct of one's wifewith twomen whom I have never seen before. It'shorribleto have to do it. But I've got to the end ofmy tetherand I must have advice."
"Mydear Mr. Grant Munro--" began Holmes.
Ourvisitor sprang from his char. "What!" he cried"youknow my mane?"
"Ifyou wish to preserve your incognito' said Holmessmiling"I would suggest that you cease to write yourname uponthe lining of your hator else that youturn thecrown towards the person whom you areaddressing. I was about to say that my friend and Ihavelistened to a good many strange secrets in thisroomandthat we have had the good fortune to bringpeace tomany troubled souls. I trust that we may doas muchfor you. Might I beg youas time may proveto be ofimportanceto furnish me with the facts ofyour casewithout further delay?"
Ourvisitor again passed his hand over his foreheadas if hefound it bitterly hard. From every gestureandexpression I could see that he was a reservedself-containedmanwith a dash of pride in hisnaturemore likely to hide his wounds than to exposethem. Then suddenlywith a fierce gesture of hisclosedhandlike one who throws reserve to the windshe began.
"Thefacts are theseMr. Holmes" said he. "I am amarriedmanand have been so for three years. Duringthat timemy wife and I have loved each other asfondly andlived as happily as any two that ever werejoined. We have not had a differencenot oneinthought orword or deed. And nowsince last Mondaythere hassuddenly sprung up a barrier between usandI findthat there is something in her life and in herthought ofwhich I know as little as if she were thewoman whobrushes by me in the street. We areestrangedand I want to know why.
"Nowthere is one thing that I want to impress uponyou beforeI go any furtherMr. Holmes. Effie lovesme. Don't let there be any mistake about that. Sheloves mewith her whole heart and souland never morethan now. I know it. I feel it. I don't want toargueabout that. A man can tell easily enough when awomanloves him. But there's this secret between usand we cannever be the same until it is cleared."
"Kindlylet me have the factsMr. Munro" saidHolmeswith some impatience.
"I'lltell you what I know about Effie's history. Shewas awidow when I met her firstthough quiteyoung--onlytwenty-five. Her name then was Mrs.Hebron. She went out to America when she was youngand livedin the town of Atlantawhere she marriedthisHebronwho was a lawyer with a good practice.They hadone childbut the yellow fever broke outbadly inthe placeand both husband and child died ofit. I have seen his death certificate. This sickenedher ofAmericaand she came back to live with amaidenaunt at Pinnerin Middlesex. I may mentionthat herhusband had left her comfortably offandthat shehad a capital of about four thousand fivehundredpoundswhich had been so well invested by himthat itreturned an average of seven per cent. Shehad onlybeen six months at Pinner when I met her; wefell inlove with each otherand we married a fewweeksafterwards.
"I ama hop merchant myselfand as I have an incomeof sevenor eight hundredwe found ourselvescomfortablyoffand took a nice eighty-pound-a-yearvilla atNorbury. Our little place was verycountrifiedconsidering that it is so close to town.We had aninn and two houses a little above usand asinglecottage at the other side of the field whichfaces usand except those there were no houses untilyou gothalf way to the station. My business took meinto townat certain seasonsbut in summer I had lessto doandthen in our country home my wife and I werejust ashappy as could be wished. I tell you thattherenever was a shadow between us until thisaccursedaffair began.
"There'sone thing I ought to tell you before I gofurther. When we marriedmy wife made over all herpropertyto me--rather against my willfor I saw howawkward itwould be if my business affairs went wrong.Howevershe would have it soand it was done. Wellabout sixweeks ago she came to me.
"'Jack'said she'when you took my money you saidthat ifever I wanted any I was to ask you for it.'
"'Certainly'said I. 'It's all your own.'
"'Well'said she'I want a hundred pounds.'
"Iwas a bit staggered at thisfor I had imagined itwas simplya new dress or something of the kind thatshe wasafter.
"'Whaton earth for?' I asked.
"'Oh'said shein her playful way'you said thatyou wereonly my bankerand bankers never askquestionsyou know.'
"'Ifyou really mean itof course you shall have themoney'said I.
"'OhyesI really mean it.'
"'Andyou won't tell me what you want it for?'
"'Somedayperhapsbut not just at presentJack.'
"So Ihad to be content with thatthought it was thefirst timethat there had ever been any secret betweenus. I gave her a checkand I never thought any moreof thematter. It may have nothing to do with whatcameafterwardsbut I thought it only right tomentionit.
"WellI told you just now that there is a cottage notfar fromour house. There is just a field between usbut toreach it you have to go along the road and thenturn downa lane. Just beyond it is a nice littlegrove ofScotch firsand I used to be very fond ofstrollingdown therefor trees are always aneighborlykind of things. The cottage had beenstandingempty this eight monthsand it was a pityfor it wasa pretty two storied placewith anold-fashionedporch and honeysuckle about it. I havestood manya time and thought what a neat littlehomesteadit would make.
"Welllast Monday evening I was taking a stroll downthat waywhen I met an empty van coming up the laneand saw apile of carpets and things lying about onthegrass-plot beside the porch. It was clear thatthecottage had at last been let. I walked past itandwondered what sort of folk they were who had cometo live sonear us. And as I looked I suddenly becameaware thata face was watching me out of one of theupperwindows.
"Idon't know what there was about that faceMr.Holmesbut it seemed to send a chill right down myback. I was some little way offso that I could notmake outthe featuresbut there was somethingunnaturaland inhuman about the face. That was theimpressionthat I hadand I moved quickly forwards toget anearer view of the person who was watching me.But as Idid so the face suddenly disappearedsosuddenlythat it seemed to have been plucked away intothedarkness of the room. I stood for five minutesthinkingthe business overand trying to analyze myimpressions. I could not tell if the face were thatof a manor a woman. It had been too far from me forthat. But its color was what had impressed me most.It was ofa livid chalky whiteand with something setand rigidabout it which was shockingly unnatural. Sodisturbedwas I that I determined to see a little moreof the newinmates of the cottage. I approached andknocked atthe doorwhich was instantly opened by atallgaunt woman with a harshforbidding face.
"'Whatmay you be wantin'?' she askedin a Northernaccent.
"'Iam your neighbor over yonder' said Inoddingtowards myhouse. 'I see that you have only justmoved inso I thought that if I could be of any helpto you inany--'
"'Aywe'll just ask ye when we want ye' said sheand shutthe door in my face. Annoyed at the churlishrebuffIturned my back and walked home. Alleveningthough I tried to think of other thingsmymind wouldstill turn to the apparition at the windowand therudeness of the woman. I determined to saynothingabout the former to my wifefor she is anervoushighly strung womanand I had no wish thatshe wouldshare the unpleasant impression which hadbeenproduced upon myself. I remarked to herhoweverbefore I fell asleepthat the cottage wasnowoccupiedto which she returned no reply.
"I amusually an extremely sound sleeper. It has beena standingjest in the family that nothing could everwake meduring the night. And yet somehow on thatparticularnightwhether it may have been the slightexcitementproduced by my little adventure or not Iknow notbut I slept much more lightly than usual.Half in mydreams I was dimly conscious that somethingwas goingon in the roomand gradually became awarethat mywife had dressed herself and was slipping onher mantleand her bonnet. My lips were parted tomurmur outsome sleepy words of surprise orremonstranceat this untimely preparationwhensuddenlymy half-opened eyes fell upon her faceilluminatedby the candle-lightand astonishment heldme dumb. She wore an expression such as I had neverseenbefore--such as I should have thought herincapableof assuming. She was deadly pale andbreathingfastglancing furtively towards the bed asshefastened her mantleto see if she had disturbedme. Thenthinking that I was still asleepsheslippednoiselessly from the roomand an instantlater Iheard a sharp creaking which could only comefrom thehinges of the front door. I sat up in bedand rappedmy knuckles against the rail to makecertainthat I was truly awake. Then I took my watchfrom underthe pillow. It was three in the morning.What onthis earth could my wife be doing out on thecountryroad at three in the morning?
"Ihad sat for about twenty minutes turning the thingover in mymind and trying to find some possibleexplanation. The more I thoughtthe moreextraordinaryand inexplicable did it appear. I wasstillpuzzling over it when I heard the door gentlycloseagainand her footsteps coming up the stairs.
"'Wherein the world have you beenEffie?' I asked assheentered.
"Shegave a violent start and a kind of gasping crywhen Ispokeand that cry and start troubled me morethan allthe restfor there was somethingindescribablyguilty about them. My wife had alwaysbeen awoman of a frankopen natureand it gave me achill tosee her slinking into her own roomandcrying outand wincing when her own husband spoke toher.
"'YouawakeJack!' she criedwith a nervous laugh.'WhyIthought that nothing could awake you.'
"'Wherehave you been?' I askedmore sternly.
"'Idon't wonder that you are surprised' said sheand Icould see that her fingers were trembling as sheundid thefastenings of her mantle. 'WhyI neverrememberhaving done such a thing in my life before.The factis that I felt as though I were chokingandhad aperfect longing for a breath of fresh air. Ireallythink that I should have fainted if I had notgone out. I stood at the door for a few minutesandnow I amquite myself again.'
"Allthe time that she was telling me this story shenever oncelooked in my directionand her voice wasquiteunlike her usual tones. It was evident to methat shewas saying what was false. I said nothing inreplybutturned my face to the wallsick at heartwith mymind filled with a thousand venomous doubtsandsuspicions. What was it that my wife wasconcealingfrom me? Where had she been during thatstrangeexpedition? I felt that I should have nopeaceuntil I knewand yet I shrank from asking heragainafter once she had told me what was false. Allthe restof the night I tossed and tumbledframingtheoryafter theoryeach more unlikely than the last.
"Ishould have gone to the City that daybut I wastoodisturbed in my mind to be able to pay attentiontobusiness matters. My wife seemed to be as upset asmyselfand I could see from the little questioningglanceswhich she kept shooting at me that sheunderstoodthat I disbelieved her statementand thatshe was ather wits' end what to do. We hardlyexchangeda word during breakfastand immediatelyafterwardsI went out for a walkthat I might thinkthe matterout in the fresh morning air.
"Iwent as far as the Crystal Palacespent an hour inthegroundsand was back in Norbury by one o'clock.Ithappened that my way took me past the cottageandI stoppedfor an instant to look at the windowsandto see ifI could catch a glimpse of the strange facewhich hadlooked out at me on the day before. As Istoodthereimagine my surpriseMr. Holmeswhen thedoorsuddenly opened and my wife walked out.
"Iwas struck dumb with astonishment at the sight ofher; butmy emotions were nothing to those whichshowedthemselves upon her face when our eyes met.She seemedfor an instant to wish to shrink backinside thehouse again; and thenseeing how uselessallconcealment must beshe came forwardwith a verywhite faceand frightened eyes which belied the smileupon herlips.
"'AhJack' she said'I have just been in to see ifI can beof any assistance to our new neighbors. Whydo youlook at me like thatJack? You are not angrywith me?'
"'So'said I'this is where you went during thenight.'
"'Whatdo you mean?" she cried.
"'Youcame here. I am sure of it. Who are thesepeoplethat you should visit them at such an hour?'
"'Ihave not been here before.'
"'Howcan you tell me what you know is false?' Icried. 'Your very voice changes as you speak. Whenhave Iever had a secret from you? I shall enter thatcottageand I shall probe the matter to the bottom.'
"'NonoJackfor God's sake!' she gaspedinuncontrollableemotion. Thenas I approached thedoorsheseized my sleeve and pulled me back withconvulsivestrength.
"'Iimplore you not to do thisJack' she cried. 'Iswear thatI will tell you everything some daybutnothingbut misery can come of it if you enter thatcottage.' Thenas I tried to shake her offsheclung tome in a frenzy of entreaty.
"'TrustmeJack!' she cried. 'Trust me only thisonce. You will never have cause to regret it. Youknow thatI would not have a secret from you if itwere notfor your own sake. Our whole lives are atstake inthis. If you come home with meall will bewell. If you force your way into that cottageall isoverbetween us.'
"Therewas such earnestnesssuch despairin hermannerthat her words arrested meand I stoodirresolutebefore the door.
"'Iwill trust you on one conditionand on oneconditiononly' said I at last. 'It is that thismysterycomes to an end from now. You are at libertytopreserve your secretbut you must promise me thatthereshall be no more nightly visitsno more doingswhich arekept from my knowledge. I am willing toforgetthose which are passed if you will promise thatthereshall be no more in the future.'
"'Iwas sure that you would trust me' she criedwitha greatsigh of relief. 'It shall be just as youwish. Come away--ohcome away up to the house.'
"Stillpulling at my sleeveshe led me away from thecottage. As we went I glanced backand there wasthatyellow livid face watching us out of the upperwindow. What link could there be between thatcreatureand my wife? Or how could the coarseroughwoman whomI had seen the day before be connected withher? It was a strange puzzleand yet I knew that mymind couldnever know ease again until I had solvedit.
"Fortwo days after this I stayed at homeand my wifeappearedto abide loyally by our engagementforasfar as Iknowshe never stirred out of the house. Onthe thirddayhoweverI had ample evidence that hersolemnpromise was not enough to hold her back fromthissecret influence which drew her away from herhusbandand her duty.
"Ihad gone into town on that daybut I returned bythe 2.40instead of the 3.36which is my usual train.As Ientered the house the maid ran into the hall witha startledface.
"'Whereis your mistress?' I asked.
"'Ithink that she has gone out for a walk' sheanswered.
"Mymind was instantly filled with suspicion. Irushedupstairs to make sure that she was not in thehouse. As I did so I happened to glance out of one ofthe upperwindowsand saw the maid with whom I hadjust beenspeaking running across the field in thedirectionof the cottage. Then of course I sawexactlywhat it all meant. My wife had gone overthereandhad asked the servant to call her if Ishouldreturn. Tingling with angerI rushed down andhurriedacrossdetermined to end the matter once andforever. I saw my wife and the maid hurrying backalong thelanebut I did not stop to speak with them.In thecottage lay the secret which was casting ashadowover my life. I vowed thatcome what mightit shouldbe a secret no longer. I did not even knockwhen Ireached itbut turned the handle and rushedinto thepassage.
"Itwas all still and quiet upon the ground floor. Inthekitchen a kettle was singing on the fireand alargeblack cat lay coiled up in the basket; but therewas nosign of the woman whom I had seen before. Iran intothe other roombut it was equally deserted.Then Irushed up the stairsonly to find two otherroomsempty and deserted at the top. There was no oneat all inthe whole house. The furniture and pictureswere ofthe most common and vulgar descriptionsavein the onechamber at the window of which I had seenthestrange face. That was comfortable and elegantand all mysuspicions rose into a fierce bitter flamewhen I sawthat on the mantelpiece stood a copy of afell-lengthphotograph of my wifewhich had beentaken atmy request only three months ago.
"Istayed long enough to make certain that the housewasabsolutely empty. Then I left itfeeling aweight atmy heart such as I had never had before. Mywife cameout into the hall as I entered my house; butI was toohurt and angry to speak with herandpushingpast herI made my way into my study. Shefollowedmehoweverbefore I could close the door.
"'Iam sorry that I broke my promiseJack' said she;'but ifyou knew all the circumstances I am sure thatyou wouldforgive me.'
"'Tellme everythingthen' said I.
"'IcannotJackI cannot' she cried.
"'Untilyou tell me who it is that has been living inthatcottageand who it is to whom you have giventhatphotographthere can never be any confidencebetweenus' said Iand breaking away from herIleft thehouse. That was yesterdayMr. Holmesand Ihave notseen her sincenor do I know anything moreabout thisstrange business. It is the first shadowthat hascome between usand it has so shaken me thatI do notknow what I should do for the best. Suddenlythismorning it occurred to me that you were the manto advisemeso I have hurried to you nowand Iplacemyself unreservedly in your hands. If there isany pointwhich I have not made clearpray questionme aboutit. Butabove alltell me quickly what Iam to dofor this misery is more than I can bear."
Holmes andI had listened with the utmost interest tothisextraordinary statementwhich had been deliveredin thejerkybroken fashion of a man who is under theinfluenceof extreme emotions. My companion satsilent forsome timewith his chin upon his handlost inthought.
"Tellme" said he at last"could you swear that thiswas aman's face which you saw at the window?"
"Eachtime that I saw it I was some distance away fromitsothat it is impossible for me to say."
"Youappearhoweverto have been disagreeablyimpressedby it."
"Itseemed to be of an unnatural colorand to have astrangerigidity about the features. When Iapproachedit vanished with a jerk."
"Howlong is it since your wife asked you for ahundredpounds?"
"Haveyou ever seen a photograph of her firsthusband?"
"No;there was a great fire at Atlanta very shortlyafter hisdeathand all her papers were destroyed."
"Andyet she had a certificate of death. You say thatyou sawit."
"Yes;she got a duplicate after the fire."
"Didyou ever meet any one who knew her in America?"
"Didshe ever talk of revisiting the place?"
"Orget letters from it?"
"Thankyou. I should like to think over the matter alittlenow. If the cottage is now permanentlydesertedwe may have some difficulty. Ifon theotherhandas I fancy is more likelythe inmateswerewarned of you comingand left before you enteredyesterdaythen they may be back nowand we shouldclear itall up easily. Let me advise youthentoreturn toNorburyand to examine the windows of thecottageagain. If you have reason to believe that isinhabiteddo not force your way inbut send a wireto myfriend and me. We shall be with you within anhour ofreceiving itand we shall then very soon getto thebottom of the business."
"Andif it is still empty?"
"Inthat case I shall come out to-morrow and talk itover withyou. Good-by; andabove alldo not fretuntil youknow that you really have a cause for it."
"I amafraid that this is a bad businessWatson"said mycompanionas he returned after accompanyingMr. GrantMunro to the door. "What do you make ofit?"
"Ithad an ugly sound" I answered.
"Yes. There's blackmail in itor I am muchmistaken."
"Andwho is the blackmailer?"
"Wellit must be the creature who lives in the onlycomfortableroom in the placeand has her photographabove hisfireplace. Upon my wordWatsonthere issomethingvery attractive about that livid face at thewindowand I would not have missed the case forworlds."
"Youhave a theory?"
"Yesa provisional one. But I shall be surprised ifit doesnot turn out to be correct. This woman'sfirsthusband is in that cottage."
"Whydo you think so?"
"Howelse can we explain her frenzied anxiety that hersecond oneshould not enter it? The factsas I readthemaresomething like this: This woman was marriedinAmerica. Her husband developed some hatefulqualities;or shall we say that he contracted someloathsomediseaseand became a leper or an imbecile?She fliesfrom him at lastreturns to Englandchangesher nameand starts her lifeas she thinksafresh. She has been married three yearsandbelievesthat her position is quite securehavingshown herhusband the death certificate of some manwhose nameshe has assumedwhen suddenly herwhereaboutsis discovered by her first husband; orwemaysupposeby some unscrupulous woman who hasattachedherself to the invalid. They write to thewifeandthreaten to come and expose her. She asksfor ahundred poundsand endeavors to buy them off.They comein spite of itand when the husbandmentionscasually to the wife that there a new-comersin thecottageshe knows in some way that they areherpursuers. She waits until her husband is asleepand thenshe rushes down to endeavor to persuade themto leaveher in peace. Having no successshe goesagain nextmorningand her husband meets heras hehas toldusas she comes out. She promises him thennot to gothere againbut two days afterwards thehope ofgetting rid of those dreadful neighbors wastoo strongfor herand she made another attempttakingdown with her the photograph which had probablybeendemanded from her. In the midst of thisinterviewthe maid rushed in to say that the masterhad comehomeon which the wifeknowing that hewould comestraight down to the cottagehurried theinmatesout at the back doorinto the grove offir-treesprobablywhich was mentioned as standingnear. In this way he found the place deserted. Ishall bevery much surprisedhoweverif it still sowhen hereconnoitres it this evening. What do youthink ofmy theory?"
"Itis all surmise."
"Butat least it covers all the facts. When new factscome toour knowledge which cannot be covered by itit will betime enough to reconsider it. We can donothingmore until we have a message from our friendatNorbury."
But we hadnot a very long time to wait for that. Itcame justas we had finished our tea. "The cottage isstilltenanted" it said. "Have seen the face againat thewindow. Will meet the seven o'clock trainandwill takeno steps until you arrive."
He waswaiting on the platform when we stepped outand wecould see in the light of the station lampsthat hewas very paleand quivering with agitation.
"Theyare still thereMr. Holmes" said helayinghis handhard upon my friend's sleeve. "I saw lightsin thecottage as I came down. We shall settle it nowonce andfor all."
"Whatis your planthen?" asked Holmesas he walkeddown thedark tree-lined road.
"I amgoing to force my way in and see for myself whois in thehouse. I wish you both to be there aswitnesses."
"Youare quite determined to do thisin spite of yourwife'swarning that it is better that you should notsolve themystery?"
"YesI am determined."
"WellI think that you are in the right. Any truthis betterthan indefinite doubt. We had better go upat once. Of courselegallywe are putting ourselveshopelesslyin the wrong; but I think that it is worthit."
It was avery dark nightand a thin rain began tofall as weturned from the high road into a narrowlanedeeply ruttedwith hedges on either side. Mr.GrantMunro pushed impatiently forwardhoweverandwestumbled after him as best we could.
"Thereare the lights of my house" he murmuredpointingto a glimmer among the trees. "And here isthecottage which I am going to enter."
We turneda corner in the lane as he spokeand therewas thebuilding close beside us. A yellow barfallingacross the black foreground showed that thedoor wasnot quite closedand one window in the upperstory wasbrightly illuminated. As we lookedwe sawa darkblur moving across the blind.
"Thereis that creature!" cried Grant Munro. "You cansee foryourselves that some one is there. Now followmeand weshall soon know all."
Weapproached the door; but suddenly a woman appearedout of theshadow and stood in the golden track of thelamp-light. I could not see her face in the hedarknessbut her arms were thrown out in an attitudeofentreaty.
"ForGod's sakedon't Jack!" she cried. "I had apresentimentthat you would come this evening. Thinkbetter ofitdear! Trust me againand you willnever havecause to regret it."
"Ihave trusted you tool longEffie" he criedsternly. "Leave go of me! I must pass you. Myfriendsand I are going to settle this matter once andforever!" He pushed her to one sideand we followedcloselyafter him. As he threw the door open an oldwoman ranout in front of him and tried to bar hispassagebut he thrust her backand an instantafterwardswe were all upon the stairs. Grant Munrorushedinto the lighted room at the topand weentered athis heels.
It was acoseywell-furnished apartmentwith twocandlesburning upon the table and two upon themantelpiece. In the cornerstooping over a deskthere satwhat appeared to be a little girl. Her facewas turnedaway as we enteredbut we could see thatshe wasdressed in a red frockand that she had longwhitegloves on. As she whisked round to usI gave acry ofsurprise and horror. The face which she turnedtowards uswas of the strangest livid tintand thefeatureswere absolutely devoid of any expression. Aninstantlater the mystery was explained. Holmeswitha laughpassed his hand behind the child's earamaskpeeled off from her countenancean there was alittlecoal black negresswith all her white teethflashingin amusement at our amazed faces. I burstoutlaughingout of sympathy with her merriment; butGrantMunro stood staringwith his hand clutching histhroat.
"MyGod!" he cried. "What can be the meaning ofthis?"
"Iwill tell you the meaning of it" cried the ladysweepinginto the room with a proudset face. "Youhaveforced meagainst my own judgmentto tell youand now wemust both make the best of it. My husbanddied atAtlanta. My child survived."
She drew alarge silver locket from her bosom. "Youhave neverseen this open."
"Iunderstood that it did not open."
Shetouched a springand the front hinged back.There wasa portrait within of a man strikinglyhandsomeand intelligent-lookingbut bearingunmistakablesigns upon his features of his Africandescent.
"Thatis John Hebronof Atlanta" said the lady"anda noblerman never walked the earth. I cut myself offfrom myrace in order to wed himbut never once whilehe liveddid I for an instant regret it. It was ourmisfortunethat our only child took after his peopleratherthan mine. It is often so in such matchesandlittleLucy is darker far than ever her father was.But darkor fairshe is my own dear little girlieand hermother's pet." The little creature ran acrossat thewords and nestled up against the lady's dress."WhenI left her in America" she continued"it wasonlybecause her health was weakand the change mighthave doneher harm. She was given to the care of afaithfulScotch woman who had once been our servant.Never foran instant did I dream of disowning her asmy child. But when chance threw you in my wayJackand Ilearned to love youI feared to tell you aboutmy child. God forgive meI feared that I should loseyouand Ihad not the courage to tell you. I had tochoosebetween youand in my weakness I turned awayfrom myown little girl. For three years I have keptherexistence a secret from youbut I heard from thenurseandI knew that all was well with her. Atlasthoweverthere came an overwhelming desire tosee thechild once more. I struggled against itbutin vain. Though I knew the dangerI determined tohave thechild overif it were but for a few weeks.I sent ahundred pounds to the nurseand I gave herinstructionsabout this cottageso that she mightcome as aneighborwithout my appearing to be in anywayconnected with her. I pushed my precautions sofar as toorder her to keep the child in the houseduring thedaytimeand to cover up her little faceand handsso that even those who might see her at thewindowshould not gossip about there being a blackchild inthe neighborhood. If I had been lesscautious Imight have been more wisebut I was halfcrazy withfear that you should learn the truth.
"Itwas you who told me first that the cottage wasoccupied. I should have waited for the morningbut Icould notsleep for excitementand so at last Islippedoutknowing how difficult it is to awake you.But yousaw me goand that was the beginning of mytroubles. Next day you had my secret at your mercybut younobly refrained from pursuing your advantage.Three dayslaterhoweverthe nurse and child onlyjustescaped from the back door as you rushed in atthe frontone. And now to-night you at last know alland I askyou what is to become of usmy child andme?" She clasped her hands and waited for an answer.
It was along ten minutes before Grant Munro broke thesilenceand when his answer came it was one of whichI love tothink. He lifted the little childkissedherandthenstill carrying herhe held his otherhand outto his wife and turned towards the door.
"Wecan talk it over more comfortably at home" saidhe. "I am not a very good manEffiebut I thinkthat I ama better one than you have given me creditforbeing."
Holmes andI followed them down the laneand myfriendplucked at my sleeve as we came out.
"Ithink" said he"that we shall be of more use inLondonthan in Norbury."
Notanother word did he say of the case until latethatnightwhen he was turning awaywith his lightedcandlefor his bedroom.
"Watson"said he"if it should ever strike you thatI amgetting a little over-confident in my powersorgivingless pains to a case than it deserveskindlywhisper'Norbury' in my earand I shall be infinitelyobliged toyou."
Shortlyafter my marriage I had bought a connection inthePaddington district. Old Mr. Farquharfrom whomIpurchased ithad at one time an excellent generalpractice;but his ageand an affliction of the natureof St.Vitus's dance from which he sufferedhad verymuchthinned it. The public not unnaturally goes ontheprinciple that he who would heal others musthimself bewholeand looks askance at the curativepowers ofthe man whose own case is beyond the reachof hisdrugs. Thus as my predecessor weakened hispracticedeclineduntil when I purchased it from himit hadsunk from twelve hundred to little more thanthreehundred a year. I had confidencehoweverinmy ownyouth and energyand was convinced that in avery fewyears the concern would be as flourishing asever.
For threemonths after taking over the practice I waskept veryclosely at workand saw little of my friendSherlockHolmesfor I was too busy to visit BakerStreetand he seldom went anywhere himself save uponprofessionalbusiness. I was surprisedthereforewhenonemorning in Juneas I sat reading theBritishMedical Journal after breakfastI heard aring atthe bellfollowed by the highsomewhatstridenttones of my old companion's voice.
"Ahmy dear Watson" said hestriding into the room"I amvery delighted to see you! I trust that Mrs.Watson hasentirely recovered from all the littleexcitementsconnected with our adventure of the Signof Four."
"Thankyouwe are both very well" said Ishakinghim warmlyby the hand.
"AndI hopealso" he continuedsitting down in therocking-chair"that the cares of medical practicehave notentirely obliterated the interest which youused totake in our little deductive problems."
"Onthe contrary" I answered"it was only last nightthat I waslooking over my old notesand classifyingsome ofour past results."
"Itrust that you don't consider your collectionclosed."
"Notat all. I should wish nothing better than tohave somemore of such experiences."
"Yesto-dayif you like."
"Andas far off as Birmingham?"
"Certainlyif you wish it."
"I domy neighbor's when he goes. He is always readyto workoff the debt."
"Ha!Nothing could be better" said Holmesleaningback inhis chair and looking keenly at me from underhis halfclosed lids. "I perceive that you have beenunwelllately. Summer colds are always a littletrying."
"Iwas confined to the house by a sever chill forthree dayslast week. I thoughthoweverthat I hadcast offevery trace of it."
"Soyou have. You look remarkably robust."
"Howthendid you know of it?"
"Mydear fellowyou know my methods."
I glanceddown at the new patent leathers which I waswearing. "How on earth--" I beganbut Holmesansweredmy question before it was asked.
"Yourslippers are new" he said. "You could not havehad themmore than a few weeks. The soles which youare atthis moment presenting to me are slightlyscorched. For a moment I thought they might have gotwet andbeen burned in the drying. But near the instepthere is asmall circular wafer of paper with theshopman'shieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of coursehaveremoved this. You hadthenbeen sitting withour feetoutstretched to the firewhich a man wouldhardly doeven in so wet a June as this if he were inhis fullhealth."
Like allHolmes's reasoning the thing seemedsimplicityitself when it was once explained. He readthethought upon my featuresand his smile had atinge ofbitterness.
"I amafraid that I rather give myself away when Iexplain"said he. "Results without causes are muchmoreimpressive. You are ready to come to Birminghamthen?"
"Certainly. What is the case?"
"Youshall hear it all in the train. My client isoutside ina four-wheeler. Can you come at once?"
"Inan instant." I scribbled a note to my neighborrushedupstairs to explain the matter to my wifeandjoinedHolmes upon the door-step.
"Yourneighbor is a doctor" said henodding at thebrassplate.
"Yes;he bought a practice as I did."
"Justthe same as mine. Both have been ever since thehouseswere built."
"Ah!Then you got hold of the best of the two."
"Ithink I did. But how do you know?"
"Bythe stepsmy boy. Yours are worn three inchesdeeperthan his. But this gentleman in the cab is myclientMr. Hall Pycroft. Allow me to introduce youto him. Whip your horse upcabbyfor we have onlyjust timeto catch our train."
The manwhom I found myself facing was a well builtfresh-complexioned young fellowwith a frankhonestface and aslightcrispyellow mustache. He wore avery shinytop hat and a neat suit of sober blackwhich madehim look what he was--a smart young Citymanofthe class who have been labeled cockneysbutwho giveus our crack volunteer regimentsand whoturn outmore fine athletes and sportsmen than anybody ofmen in these islands. His roundruddy facewasnaturally full of cheerinessbut the corners ofhis mouthseemed to me to be pulled down in ahalf-comicaldistress. It was nothoweveruntil wewere allin a first-class carriage and well startedupon ourjourney to Birmingham that I was able tolearn whatthe trouble was which had driven him toSherlockHolmes.
"Wehave a clear run here of seventy minutes" Holmesremarked. "I want youMr. Hall Pycroftto tell myfriendyour very interesting experience exactly as youhave toldit to meor with more detail if possible.It will beof use to me to hear the succession ofeventsagain. It is a caseWatsonwhich may proveto havesomething in itor may prove to have nothingbut whichat leastpresents those unusual and outréfeatureswhich are as dear to you as they are to me.NowMr.PycroftI shall not interrupt you again."
Our youngcompanion looked at me with a twinkle in hiseye.
The worstof the story issaid hethat I show myselfup as sucha confounded fool. Of course it may workout allrightand I don't see that I could have doneotherwise;but if I have lost my crib and get nothinginexchange I shall feel what a soft Johnnie I havebeen. I'm not very good at telling a storyDr.Watsonbut it is like this with me"
I used tohave a billet at Coxon & Woodhouse'sofDraper'sGardensbut they were let in early in thespringthrough the Venezuelan loanas no doubt yourememberand came a nasty cropper. I had been withthem fiveyearsand old Coxon gave me a ripping goodtestimonialwhen the smash camebut of course weclerkswere all turned adriftthe twenty-seven of us.I triedhere and tried therebut there were lots ofotherchaps on the same lay as myselfand it was aperfectfrost for a long time. I had been takingthreepounds a week at Coxon'sand I had saved aboutseventy ofthembut I soon worked my way through thatand out atthe other end. I was fairly at the end ofmy tetherat lastand could hardly find the stamps toanswer theadvertisements or the envelopes to stickthem to. I had worn out my boots paddling up officestairsand I seemed just as far from getting a billetas ever.
At last Isaw a vacancy at Mawson & Williams'sthegreatstock-broking firm in Lombard Street. I daresay E. C.Is not much in your linebut I can tell youthat thisis about the richest house in London. Theadvertisementwas to be answered by letter only. Isent in mytestimonial and applicationbut withoutthe leasthope of getting it. Back came an answer byreturnsaying that if I would appear next Monday Imight takeover my new duties at onceprovided thatmyappearance was satisfactory. No one knows howthesethings are worked. Some people say that themanagerjust plunges his hand into the heap and takesthe firstthat comes. Anyhow it was my innings thattimeandI don't ever wish to feel better pleased.The screwwas a pound a week riseand the duties justabout thesame as at Coxon's.
And now Icome to the queer part of the business. Iwas indiggings out Hampstead way17 Potter'sTerrace. WellI was sitting doing a smoke that veryeveningafter I had been promised the appointmentwhen upcame my landlady with a card which had "ArthurPinnerFinancial Agent" printed upon it. I hadneverheard the name before and could not imagine whathe wantedwith me; butof courseI asked her to showhim up. In he walkeda middle-sizeddark- haireddark-eyedblack-bearded manwith a touch of theSheenyabout his nose. He had a brisk kind of waywith himand spoke sharplylike a man who knew thevalue oftime.
"Mr.Hall PycroftI believe?" said he.
"Yessir" I answeredpushing a chair towards him.
"Latelyengaged at Coxon & Woodhouse's?"
"Andnow on the staff of Mawson's."
"Well"said he"the fact is that I have heard somereallyextraordinary stories about your financialability. You remember Parkerwho used to be Coxon'smanager? He can never say enough about it."
Of courseI was pleased to hear this. I had alwaysbeenpretty sharp in the officebut I had neverdreamedthat I was talked about in the City in thisfashion.
"Youhave a good memory?" said he.
"Prettyfair" I answeredmodestly.
"Haveyou kept in touch with the market while you havebeen outof work?" he asked.
"Yes. I read the stock exchange list every morning."
"Nowthat shows real application!" he cried. "That isthe way toprosper! You won't mind my testing youwill you? Let me see. How are Ayrshires?"
"Ahundred and six and a quarter to a hundred and fiveandseven-eighths."
"AndNew Zealand consolidated?"
"Ahundred and four."
"AndBritish Broken Hills?"
"Wonderful!"he criedwith his hands up. "This quitefits inwith all that I had heard. My boymy boyyou arevery much too good to be a clerk at Mawson's!"
Thisoutburst rather astonished meas you can think."Well"said I"other people don't think quite somuch of meas you seem to doMr. Pinner. I had ahardenough fight to get this berthand I am veryglad tohave it."
"Poohman; you should soar above it. You are not inyour truesphere. NowI'll tell you how it standswith me. What I have to offer is little enough whenmeasuredby your abilitybut when compared withMawson'sit's light to dark. Let me see. When doyou go toMawson's?"
"Haha! I think I would risk a little sportingflutterthat you don't go there at all."
"Notgo to Mawson's?"
"Nosir. By that day you will be the businessmanager ofthe Franco-Midland Hardware CompanyLimitedwith a hundred and thirty-four branches inthe townsand villages of Francenot counting one inBrusselsand one in San Remo."
This tookmy breath away. "I never heard of it" saidI.
"Verylikely not. It has been kept very quietforthecapital was all privately subscribedand it's toogood athing to let the public into. My brotherHarryPinneris promoterand joins the board afterallotmentas managing director. He knew I was in theswim downhereand asked me to pick up a good mancheap. A youngpushing man with plenty of snap abouthim. Parker spoke of youand that brought me heretonight. We can only offer you a beggarly fivehundred tostart with."
"Fivehundred a year!" I shouted.
"Onlythat at the beginning; but you are to have anoverridingcommission of one per cent on all businessdone byyour agentsand you may take my word for itthat thiswill come to more than your salary."
"ButI know nothing about hardware."
"Tutmy boy; you know about figures."
My headbuzzedand I could hardly sit still in mychair. But suddenly a little chill of doubt came uponme.
"Imust be frank with you" said I. "Mawson onlygives metwo hundredbut Mawson is safe. NowreallyIknow so little about your company that--"
"Ahsmartsmart!" he criedin a kind of ecstasy ofdelight. "You are the very man for us. You are notto betalked overand quite righttoo. Nowhere'sa note fora hundred poundsand if you think that wecan dobusiness you may just slip it into your pocketas anadvance upon your salary."
"Thatis very handsome" said I. "When should I takeover mynew duties?"
"Bein Birmingham to-morrow at one" said he. "I havea note inmy pocket here which you will take to mybrother. You will find him at 126b CorporationStreetwhere the temporary offices of the company aresituated. Of course he must confirm your engagementbutbetween ourselves it will be all right."
"ReallyI hardly know how to express my gratitudeMr.Pinner" said I.
"Notat allmy boy. You have only got your desserts.There areone or two small things--mereformalities--whichI must arrange with you. You havea bit ofpaper beside you there. Kindly write upon it'I amperfectly willing to act as business manager totheFranco-Midland Hardware CompanyLimitedat aminimumsalary of L500."
I did ashe askedand he put the paper in his pocket.
"Thereis one other detail" said he. "What do youintend todo about Mawson's?"
I hadforgotten all about Mawson's in my joy. "I'llwrite andresign" said I.
"Preciselywhat I don't want you to do. I had a rowover youwith Mawson's manager. I had gone up to askhim aboutyouand he was very offensive; accused meof coaxingyou away from the service of the firmandthat sortof thing. At last I fairly lost my temper.'If youwant good men you should pay them a goodprice'said I.
"'Hewould rather have our small price than your bigone' saidhe.
"'I'lllay you a fiver' said I'that when he has myofferyou'll never so much as hear from him again.'
"'Done!'said he. 'We picked him out of the gutterand hewon't leave us so easily.' Those were his verywords."
"Theimpudent scoundrel!" I cried. "I've never somuch asseen him in my life. Why should I considerhim in anyway? I shall certainly not write if youwouldrather I didn't."
"Good! That's a promise" said herising from hischair. "WellI'm delighted to have got so good a manfor mybrother. Here's your advance of a hundredpoundsand here is the letter. Make a note of theaddress126b Corporation Streetand remember thatoneo'clock to-morrow is your appointment.Good-night;and may you have all the fortune that youdeserve!"
That'sjust about all that passed between usas nearas I canremember. You can imagineDr. Watsonhowpleased Iwas at such an extraordinary bit of goodfortune. I sat up half the night hugging myself overitandnext day I was off to Birmingham in a trainthat wouldtake me in plenty time for my appointment.I took mythings to a hotel in New Streetand then Imade myway to the address which had been given me.
It was aquarter of an hour before my timebut Ithoughtthat would make no difference. 126b was apassagebetween two large shopswhich led to awindingstone stairfrom which there were many flatslet asoffices to companies or professional men. Thenames ofthe occupants were painted at the bottom onthe wallbut there was no such name as theFranco-MidlandHardware CompanyLimited. I stood fora fewminutes with my heart in my bootswonderingwhetherthe whole thing was an elaborate hoax or notwhen upcame a man and addressed me. He was very likethe chap Ihad seen the night beforethe same figureand voicebut he was clean shaven and his hair waslighter.
"Areyou Mr. Hall Pycroft?" he asked.
"Oh!I was expecting youbut you are a trifle beforeyourtime. I had a note from my brother this morningin whichhe sang your praises very loudly."
"Iwas just looking for the offices when you came."
"Wehave not got our name up yetfor we only securedthesetemporary premises last week. Come up with meand wewill talk the matter over."
I followedhim to the top of a very lofty stairandthereright under the slateswere a couple of emptydustylittle roomsuncarpeted and uncurtainedintowhich heled me. I had thought of a great office withshiningtables and rows of clerkssuch as I was usedtoand Idare say I stared rather straight at the twodealchairs and one little tablewhichwith a ledgerand awaste paper basketmade up the whole furniture.
"Don'tbe disheartenedMr. Pycroft" said my newacquaintanceseeing the length of my face. "Rome wasnot builtin a dayand we have lots of money at ourbacksthough we don't cut much dash yet in offices.Pray sitdownand let me have your letter."
I gave itto himand her read it over very carefully.
"Youseem to have made a vast impression upon mybrotherArthur" said he; "and I know that he is aprettyshrewd judge. Hew swears by Londonyou know;and I byBirmingham; but this time I shall follow hisadvice. Pray consider yourself definitely engaged."
"Whatare my duties?" I asked.
"Youwill eventually manage the great depot in Pariswhich willpour a flood of English crockery into theshops of ahundred and thirty-four agents in France.Thepurchase will be completed in a weekandmeanwhileyou will remain in Birmingham and makeyourselfuseful."
Foranswerhe took a big red book out of a drawer.
"Thisis a directory of Paris" said he"with thetradesafter the names of the people. I want you totake ithome with youand to mark off all the hardwaresellerswith their addresses. It would be of thegreatestuse to me to have them."
"Surelythere are classified lists?" I suggested.
"Notreliable ones. Their system is different fromours. Stick at itand let me have the lists byMondayattwelve. Good-dayMr. Pycroft. If youcontinueto show zeal and intelligence you will findthecompany a good master."
I wentback to the hotel with the big book under myarmandwith very conflicting feelings in my breast.On the onehandI was definitely engaged and had ahundredpounds in my pocket; on the otherthe look oftheofficesthe absence of name on the wallandother ofthe points which would strike a business manhad left abad impression as to the position of myemployers. Howevercome what mightI had my moneyso Isettled down to my task. All Sunday I was kepthard atworkand yet by Monday I had only got as faras H. I went round to my employerfound him in thesamedismantled kind of roomand was told to keep atit untilWednesdayand then come again. On Wednesdayit wasstill unfinishedso I hammered away untilFriday--thatisyesterday. Then I brought it roundto Mr.Harry Pinner.
"Thankyou very much" said he; "I fear that Iunderratedthe difficulty of the task. This list willbe of verymaterial assistance to me."
"Ittook some time" said I.
"Andnow" said he"I want you to make a list of thefurnitureshopsfor they all sell crockery."
"Andyou can come up to-morrow eveningat sevenandlet meknow how you are getting on. Don't overworkyourself. A couple of hours at Day's Music Hall intheevening would do you no harm after your labors."He laughedas he spokeand I saw with a thrill thathis secondtooth upon the left-hand side had been verybadlystuffed with gold.
SherlockHolmes rubbed his hands with delightand Istaredwith astonishment at our client.
"Youmay well look surprisedDr. Watson; but it isthis way"said he: "When I was speaking to the otherchap inLondonat the time that he laughed at my notgoing toMawson'sI happened to notice that his toothwasstuffed in this very identical fashion. The glintof thegold in each case caught my eyeyou see. WhenI put thatwith the voice and figure being the sameand onlythose things altered which might be changedby a razoror a wigI could not doubt that it was thesame man. Of course you expect two brothers to bealikebutnot that they should have the same toothstuffed inthe same way. He bowed me outand I foundmyself inthe streethardly knowing whether I was onmy head ormy heels. Back I went to my hotelput myhead in abasin of cold waterand tried to think itout. Why had he sent me from London to Birmingham?Why had hegot there before me? And why had hewritten aletter from himself to himself? It wasaltogethertoo much for meand I could make no senseof it. And then suddenly it struck me that what wasdark to memight be very light to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.I had justtime to get up to town by the night trainto see himthis morningand to bring you both backwith me toBirmingham."
There wasa pause after the stock-broker's clerk hadconcludedhis surprising experience. Then SherlockHolmescocked his eye at meleaning back on thecushionswith a pleased and yet critical facelike aconnoisseurwho has just taken his first sip of acometvintage.
"RatherfineWatsonis it not?" said he. "There arepoints init which please me. I think that you willagree withme that an interview with Mr. Arthur HarryPinner inthe temporary offices of the Franco-MidlandHardwareCompanyLimitedwould be a ratherinterestingexperience for both of us."
"Buthow can we do it?" I asked.
"Oheasily enough" said Hall Pycroftcheerily."Youare two friends of mine who are in want of abilletand what could be more natural than that Ishouldbring you both round to the managing director?"
"Quitesoof course" said Holmes. "I should like tohave alook at the gentlemanand see if I can makeanythingof his little game. What qualities have youmy friendwhich would make your services so valuable?or is itpossible that--" He began biting his nailsandstaring blankly out of the windowand we hardlydrewanother word from him until we were in NewStreet.
At seveno'clock that evening we were walkingthethree ofusdown Corporation Street to the company'soffices.
"Itis no use our being at all before our time" saidourclient. "He only comes there to see meapparentlyfor the place is deserted up to the veryhour henames."
"Thatis suggestive" remarked Holmes.
"ByJoveI told you so!" cried the clerk. "That's hewalkingahead of us there."
He pointedto a smallishdarkwell-dressed man whowasbustling along the other side of the road. As wewatchedhim he looked across at a boy who was bawlingout thelatest edition of the evening paperandrunningover among the cabs and busseshe bought onefrom him. Thenclutching it in his handhe vanishedthrough adoor-way.
"Therehe goes!" cried Hall Pycroft. "These are thecompany'soffices into which he has gone. Come withmeandI'll fix it up as easily as possible."
Followinghis leadwe ascended five storiesuntil wefoundourselves outside a half-opened doorat whichour clienttapped. A voice within bade us enterandwe entereda bareunfurnished room such as HallPycrofthad described. At the single table sat theman whomwe had seen in the streetwith his eveningpaperspread out in front of himand as he looked upat us itseemed to me that I had never looked upon aface whichbore such marks of griefand of somethingbeyondgrief--of a horror such as comes to few men inalifetime. His brow glistened with perspirationhischeekswere of the dulldead white of a fish's bellyand hiseyes were wild and staring. He looked at hisclerk asthough he failed to recognize himand Icould seeby the astonishment depicted upon ourconductor'sface that this was by no means the usualappearanceof his employer.
"Youlook illMr. Pinner!" he exclaimed.
"YesI am not very well" answered the othermakingobviousefforts to pull himself togetherand lickinghis drylips before he spoke. "Who are thesegentlemenwhom you have brought with you?"
"Oneis Mr. Harrisof Bermondseyand the other isMr. Priceof this town" said our clerkglibly."Theyare friends of mine and gentlemen of experiencebut theyhave been out of a place for some littletimeandthey hoped that perhaps you might find anopeningfor them in the company's employment."
"Verypossibly! Very possibly!" cried Mr. Pinner witha ghastlysmile. "YesI have no doubt that we shallbe able todo something for you. What is yourparticularlineMr. Harris?"
"I aman accountant" said Holmes.
"Ahyeswe shall want something of the sort. AndyouMr.Price?"
"Aclerk" said I.
"Ihave every hope that the company may accommodateyou. I will let you know about it as soon as we cometo anyconclusion. And now I beg that you will go.For God'ssake leave me to myself!"
These lastwords were shot out of himas though theconstraintwhich he was evidently setting upon himselfhadsuddenly and utterly burst asunder. Holmes and Iglanced ateach otherand Hall Pycroft took a steptowardsthe table.
"YouforgetMr. Pinnerthat I am here by appointmentto receivesome directions from you" said he.
"CertainlyMr. Pycroftcertainly" the other resumedin acalmer tone. "You may wait here a moment; andthere isno reason why your friends should not waitwith you. I will be entirely at your service in threeminutesif I might trespass upon your patience sofar." He rose with a very courteous airandbowingto ushepassed out through a door at the farther endof theroomwhich he closed behind him.
"Whatnow?" whispered Holmes. "Is he giving us theslip?"
"Thatdoor leads into an inner room."
"Thereis no exit?"
"Itwas empty yesterday."
"Thenwhat on earth can he be doing? There issomethingwhich I don't understand in his manner. Ifever a manwas three parts mad with terrorthat man'sname isPinner. What can have put the shivers onhim?"
"Hesuspects that we are detectives" I suggested.
"That'sit" cried Pycroft.
Holmesshook his head. "He did not turn pale. He waspale whenwe entered the room" said he. "It is justpossiblethat--"
His wordswere interrupted by a sharp rat-tat from thedirectionof the inner door.
"Whatthe deuce is he knocking at his own door for?"cried theclerk.
Again andmuch louder cam the rat-tat-tat. We allgazedexpectantly at the closed door. Glancing atHolmesIsaw his face turn rigidand he leanedforward inintense excitement. Then suddenly came alowgugglinggargling soundand a brisk drumminguponwoodwork. Holmes sprang frantically across theroom andpushed at the door. It was fastened on theinnerside. Following his examplewe threw ourselvesupon itwith all our weight. One hinge snappedthenthe otherand down came the door with a crash.Rushingover itwe found ourselves in the inner room.It wasempty.
But it wasonly for a moment that we were at fault.At onecornerthe corner nearest the room which wehad leftthere was a second door. Holmes sprang toit andpulled it open. A coat and waistcoat werelying onthe floorand from a hook behind the doorwith hisown braces round his neckwas hanging themanagingdirector of the Franco-Midland HardwareCompany. His knees were drawn uphis head hung at adreadfulangle to his bodyand the clatter of hisheelsagainst the door made the noise which had brokenin uponour conversation. In an instant I had caughthim roundthe waistand held him up while Holmes andPycroftuntied the elastic bands which had disappearedbetweenthe livid creases of skin. Then we carriedhim intothe other roomwhere he lay with aclay-coloredfacepuffing his purple lips in and outwith everybreath--a dreadful wreck of all that he hadbeen butfive minutes before.
"Whatdo you think of himWatson?" asked Holmes.
I stoopedover him and examined him. His pulse wasfeeble andintermittentbut his breathing grewlongerand there was a little shivering of hiseyelidswhich showed a thin white slit of ballbeneath.
"Ithas been touch and go with him" said I"buthe'll livenow. Just open that windowand hand methe watercarafe." I undid his collarpoured thecold waterover his faceand raised and sank his armsuntil hedrew a longnatural breath. "It's only aquestionof time now" said Ias I turned away fromhim.
Holmesstood by the tablewith his hands deep in histrouser'spockets and his chin upon his breast.
"Isuppose we ought to call the police in now" saidhe. "And yet I confess that I'd like to give them acompletecase when they come."
"It'sa blessed mystery to me" cried Pycroftscratchinghis head. "Whatever they wanted to bringme all theway up here forand then--"
"Pooh! All that is clear enough" said Holmesimpatiently. "It is this last sudden move."
"Youunderstand the restthen?"
"Ithink that it is fairly obvious. What do you sayWatson?"
I shruggedmy shoulders. "I must confess that I amout of mydepths" said I.
"Ohsurely if you consider the events at first theycan onlypoint to one conclusion."
"Whatdo you make of them?"
"Wellthe whole thing hinges upon two points. Thefirst isthe making of Pycroft write a declaration bywhich heentered the service of this preposterouscompany. Do you not see how very suggestive that is?"
"I amafraid I miss the point."
"Wellwhy did they want him to do it? Not as abusinessmatterfor these arrangements are usuallyverbaland there was no earthly business reason whythisshould be an exception. Don't you seemy youngfriendthat they were very anxious to obtain aspecimenof your handwritingand had no other way ofdoing it?"
"Quiteso. Why? When we answer that we have madesomeprogress with our little problem. Why? Therecan beonly one adequate reason. Some one wanted tolearn toimitate your writingand had to procure aspecimenof it first. And now if we pass on to thesecondpoint we find that each throws light upon theother. That point is the request made by Pinner thatyou shouldnot resign your placebut should leave themanager ofthis important business in the fullexpectationthat a Mr. Hall Pycroftwhom he had neverseenwasabout to enter the office upon the Mondaymorning."
"MyGod!" cried our client"what a blind beetle Ihavebeen!"
"Nowyou see the point about the handwriting. Supposethat someone turned up in your place who wrote acompletelydifferent hand from that in which you hadappliedfor the vacancyof course the game would havebeen up. But in the interval the rogue had learned toimitateyouand his position was therefore secureasI presumethat nobody in the office had ever set eyesupon you."
"Nota soul" groaned Hall Pycroft.
"Verygood. Of course it was of the utmost importanceto preventyou from thinking better of itand also tokeep youfrom coming into contact with any one whomight tellyou that your double was at work inMawson'soffice. Therefore they gave you a handsomeadvance onyour salaryand ran you off to theMidlandswhere they gave you enough work to do topreventyour going to Londonwhere you might havebursttheir little game up. That is all plainenough."
"Butwhy should this man pretend to be his ownbrother?"
"Wellthat is pretty clear also. There are evidentlyonly twoof them in it. The other is impersonating youat theoffice. This one acted as your engagerandthen foundthat he could not find you an employerwithoutadmitting a third person into his plot. Thathe wasmost unwilling to do. He changed hisappearanceas far as he couldand trusted that thelikenesswhich you could not fail to observewouldbe putdown to a family resemblance. But for thehappychance of the gold stuffingyour suspicionswouldprobably never have been aroused."
HallPycroft shook his clinched hands in the air."GoodLord!" he cried"while I have been fooled inthis waywhat has this other Hall Pycroft been doingatMawson's? What should we doMr. Holmes? Tell mewhat todo."
"Wemust wire to Mawson's."
"Theyshut at twelve on Saturdays."
"Nevermind. There may be some door-keeper orattendant--"
"Ahyesthey keep a permanent guard there on accountof thevalue of the securities that they hold. Irememberhearing it talked of in the City."
"Verygood; we shall wire to himand see if all iswellandif a clerk of your name is working there.That isclear enough; but what is not so clear is whyat sightof us one of the rogues should instantly walkout of theroom and hang himself."
"Thepaper!" croaked a voice behind us. The man wassittingupblanched and ghastlywith returningreason inhis eyesand hands which rubbed nervouslyat thebroad red band which still encircled histhroat.
"Thepaper! Of course!" yelled Holmesin a paroxysmofexcitement. "Idiot that I was! I thought so mustof ourvisit that the paper never entered my head foraninstant. To be surethe secret must be there."Heflattened it out upon the tableand a cry oftriumphburst from his lips. "Look at thisWatson"he cried. "It is a London paperan early edition oftheEvening Standard. Here is what we want. Look attheheadlines: 'Crime in the City. Murder at Mawson &Williams's. Gigantic attempted Robbery. Capture oftheCriminal.' HereWatsonwe are all equallyanxious tohear itso kindly read it aloud to us."
Itappeared from its position in the paper to havebeen theone event of importance in townand theaccount ofit ran in this way:
"Adesperate attempt at robberyculminating in thedeath ofone man and the capture of the criminaloccurredthis afternoon in the City. For some timebackMawson & Williamsthe famous financial househave beenthe guardians of securities which amount intheaggregate to a sum of considerably over a millionsterling. So conscious was the manager of theresponsibilitywhich devolved upon him in consequenceof thegreat interests at stake that safes of the verylatestconstruction have been employedand an armedwatchmanhas been left day and night in the building.It appearsthat last week a new clerk named HallPycroftwas engaged by the firm. This person appearsto havebeen none other that Beddingtonthe famousforger andcracksmanwhowith his brotherhad onlyrecentlyemerged from a five years' spell of penalservitude. By some meanwhich are not yet clearhesucceededin winingunder a false namethis officialpositionin the officewhich he utilized in order toobtainmoulding of various locksand a thoroughknowledgeof the position of the strong room and thesafes.
"Itis customary at Mawson's for the clerks to leaveat middayon Saturday. Sergeant Tusonof the CityPolicewas somewhat surprisedtherefore to see agentlemanwith a carpet bag come down the steps attwentyminutes past one. His suspicions beingarousedthe sergeant followed the manand with theaid ofConstable Pollack succeededafter a mostdesperateresistancein arresting him. It was atonce clearthat a daring and gigantic robbery had beencommitted. Nearly a hundred thousand pounds' worth ofAmericanrailway bondswith a large amount of scripin minesand other companieswas discovered in thebag. On examining the premises the body of theunfortunatewatchman was found doubled up and thrustinto thelargest of the safeswhere it would not havebeendiscovered until Monday morning had it not beenfor theprompt action of Sergeant Tuson. The man'sskull hadbeen shattered by a blow from a pokerdeliveredfrom behind. There could be no doubt thatBeddingtonhad obtained entrance by pretending that hehad leftsomething behind himand having murdered thewatchmanrapidly rifled the large safeand then madeoff withhis booty. His brotherwho usually workswith himhas not appeared in this job as far as canat presentbe ascertainedalthough the police aremakingenergetic inquiries as to his whereabouts."
"Wellwe may save the police some little trouble inthatdirection" said Holmesglancing at the haggardfigurehuddled up by the window. "Human nature is astrangemixtureWatson. You see that even a villainandmurderer can inspire such affection that hisbrotherturns to suicide when he learns that his neckisforfeited. Howeverwe have no choice as to ouraction. The doctor and I will remain on guardMr.Pycroftif you will have the kindness to step out forthepolice."
I havesome papers here" said my friend SherlockHolmesaswe sat one winter's night on either side ofthe fire"which I really thinkWatsonthat it wouldbe worthyour while to glance over. These are thedocumentsin the extraordinary case of the GloriaScottandthis is the message which struck Justice ofthe PeaceTrevor dead with horror when he read it."
He hadpicked from a drawer a little tarnishedcylinderandundoing the tapehe handed me a shortnotescrawled upon a half-sheet of slate gray-paper.
"Thesupply of game for London is going steadily up"it ran. "Head-keeper Hudsonwe believehad been nowtold toreceive all orders for fly-paper and forpreservationof your hen-pheasant's life."
As Iglanced up from reading this enigmatical messageI sawHolmes chuckling at the expression upon my face.
"Youlook a little bewildered" said he.
"Icannot see how such a message as this could inspirehorror. It seems to me to be rather grotesque thanotherwise."
"Verylikely. Yet the fact remains that the readerwho was afinerobust old manwas knocked clean downby it asif it had been the butt end of a pistol."
"Youarouse my curiosity" said I. "But why did yousay justnow that there were very particular reasonswhy Ishould study this case?"
"Becauseit was the first in which I was everengaged."
I hadoften endeavored to elicit from my companionwhat hadfirst turned is mind in the direction ofcriminalresearchbut had never caught him before inacommunicative humor. Now he sat forward in this armchair andspread out the documents upon his knees.Then helit his pipe and sat for some time smoking andturningthem over.
"Younever heard me talk of Victor Trevor?" he asked."Hewas the only friend I made during the two years Iwas atcollege. I was never a very sociable fellowWatsonalways rather fond of moping in my rooms andworkingout my own little methods of thoughtso thatI nevermixed much with the men of my year. Barfencingand boxing I had few athletic tastesand thenmy line ofstudy was quite distinct from that of theotherfellowsso that we had no points of contact atall. Trevor was the only man I knewand that onlythroughthe accident of his bull terrier freezing onto myankle one morning as I went down to chapel.
"Itwas a prosaic way of forming a friendshipbut itwaseffective. I was laid by the heels for ten daysbut Trevorused to come in to inquire after me. Atfirst itwas only a minute's chatbut soon his visitslengthenedand before the end of the term we wereclosefriends. He was a heartyfull-blooded fellowfull ofspirits and energythe very opposite to me inmostrespectsbut we had some subjects in commonandit was abond of union when I found that he was asfriendlessas I. Finallyhe invited me down to hisfather'splace at Donnithorpein Norfolkand Iacceptedhis hospitality for a month of the longvacation.
"OldTrevor was evidently a man of some wealth andconsiderationa J.P.and a landed proprietor.Donnithorpeis a little hamlet just to the north ofLangmerein the country of the Broads. The house wasandold-fashionedwide-spreadoak-beamed brickbuildingwith a fine lime-lined avenue leading up toit. There was excellent wild-duck shooting in thefensremarkably good fishinga small but selectlibrarytaken overas I understoodfrom a formeroccupantand a tolerable cookso that he would be afastidiousman who could not put in a pleasant monththere.
"Trevorsenior was a widowerand my friend his onlyson.
"Therehad been a daughterI heardbut she had diedofdiphtheria while on a visit to Birmingham. Thefatherinterested me extremely. He was a man oflittleculturebut with a considerable amount of rudestrengthboth physically and mentally. He knewhardly anybooksbut he had traveled farhad seenmuch ofthe world. And had remembered all that he hadlearned. In person he was a thick-setburly man witha shock ofgrizzled haira brownweather-beatenfaceandblue eyes which were keen to the verge offierceness. Yet he had a reputation for kindness andcharity onthe country-sideand was noted for theleniencyof his sentences from the bench.
"Oneeveningshortly after my arrivalwe weresittingover a glass of port after dinnerwhen youngTrevorbegan to talk about those habits of observationandinference which I had already formed into asystemalthough I had not yet appreciated the partwhich theywere to play in my life. The old manevidentlythought that his son was exaggerating in hisdescriptionof one or two trivial feats which I hadperformed.
"'ComenowMr. Holmes' said helaughinggood-humoredly. 'I'm an excellent subjectif you candeduceanything from me.'
"'Ifear there is not very much' I answered; 'I mightsuggestthat you have gone about in fear of somepersonalattack with the last twelvemonth.'
"Thelaugh faded from his lipsand he stared at me ingreatsurprise.
"'Wellthat's true enough' said he. 'You knowVictor'turning to his son'when we broke up thatpoachinggang they swore to knife usand Sir EdwardHolly hasactually been attacked. I've always been onmy guardsince thenthough I have no idea how youknow it.'
"'Youhave a very handsome stick' I answered. 'Bytheinscription I observed that you had not had itmore thana year. But you have taken some pains tobore thehead of it and pour melted lead into the holeso as tomake it a formidable weapon. I argued thatyou wouldnot take such precautions unless you hadsomedanger to fear.'
"'Anythingelse?' he askedsmiling.
"'Youhave boxed a good deal in your youth.'
"'Rightagain. How did you know it? Is my noseknocked alittle out of the straight?'
"'No'said I. 'It is your ears. They have thepeculiarflattening and thickening which marks theboxingman.'
"'Youhave done a good deal of digging by yourcallosities.'
"'Madeall my money at the gold fields.'
"'Youhave been in New Zealand.'
"'Youhave visited Japan.'
"'Andyou have been most intimately associated withsome onewhose initials were J. A.and whom youafterwardswere eager to entirely forget.'
"Mr.Trevor stood slowly upfixed his large blue eyesupon mewith a strange wild stareand then pitchedforwardwith his face among the nutshells whichstrewedthe clothin a dead faint.
"Youcan imagineWatsonhow shocked both his son andI were. His attack did not last longhoweverforwhen weundid his collarand sprinkled the water fromone of thefinger-glasses over his facehe gave agasp ortwo and sat up.
"'Ahboys' said heforcing a smile'I hope Ihaven'tfrightened you. Strong as I lookthere is aweak placein my heartand it does not take much toknock meover. I don't know how you manage thisMr.Holmesbut it seems to me that all the detectives offact andof fancy would be children in your hands.That'syour line of lifesirand you may take theword of aman who has seen something of the world.'
"Andthat recommendationwith the exaggeratedestimateof my ability with which he prefaced itwasif youwill believe meWatsonthe very first thingwhich evermade me feel that a profession might bemade outof what had up to that time been the meresthobby. At the momenthoweverI was too muchconcernedat the sudden illness of my host to think ofanythingelse.
"'Ihope that I have said nothing to pain you?' saidI.
"'Wellyou certainly touched upon rather a tenderpoint. Might I ask how you knowand how much youknow?' He spoke now in a half-jesting fashionbut alook ofterror still lurked at the back of his eyes.
"'Itis simplicity itself' said I. 'When you baredyour armto draw that fish into the boat I saw that J.A. Hadbeen tattooed in the bend of the elbow. Theletterswere still legiblebut it was perfectly clearfrom theirblurred appearanceand from the stainingof theskin round themthat efforts had been made toobliteratethem. It was obviousthenthat thoseinitialshad once been very familiar to youand thatyou hadafterwards wished to forget them.'
"Whatan eye you have!" he criedwith a sigh ofrelief. 'It is just as you say. But we won't talk ofit. Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old lovers aretheworst. Come into the billiard-room and have aquietcigar.'
"Fromthat dayamid all his cordialitythere wasalways atouch of suspicion in Mr. Trevor's mannertowardsme. Even his son remarked it. 'You've giventhegovernor such a turn' said he'that he'll neverbe sureagain of what you know and what you don'tknow.' He did not mean to show itI am surebut itwas sostrongly in his mind that it peeped out ateveryaction. At last I became so convinced that Iwascausing him uneasiness that I drew my visit to aclose. On the very dayhoweverbefore I leftandincidentoccurred which proved in the sequel to be ofimportance.
"Wewere sitting out upon the lawn on garden chairsthe threeof usbasking in the sun and admiring theviewacross the Broadswhen a maid came out to saythat therewas a man at the door who wanted to see Mr.Trevor.
"'Whatis his name?' asked my host.
"'Hewould not give any.'
"'Whatdoes he wantthen?'
"'Hesays that you know himand that he only wants amoment'sconversation.'
"'Showhim round here.' An instant afterwards thereappeared alittle wizened fellow with a cringingmanner anda shambling style of walking. He wore anopenjacketwith a splotch of tar on the sleeveared-and-blackcheck shirtdungaree trousersandheavyboots badly worn. His face was thin and brownandcraftywith a perpetual smile upon itwhichshowed anirregular line of yellow teethand hiscrinkledhands were half closed in a way that isdistinctiveof sailors. As he came slouching acrossthe lawn Iheard Mr. Trevor make a sort of hiccoughingnoise inhis throatand jumping out of his chairheran intothe house. He was back in a momentand Ismelt astrong reek of brandy as he passed me.
"'Wellmy man' said he. 'What can I do for you?'
"Thesailor stood looking at him with puckered eyesand withthe same loose-lipped smile upon his face.
"'Youdon't know me?' he asked.
"'Whydear meit is surely Hudson' said Mr. Trevorin a toneof surprise.
"'Hudsonit issir' said the seaman. 'Whyit'sthirtyyear and more since I saw you last. Here youare inyour houseand me still picking my salt meatout of theharness cask.'
"'Tutyou will find that I have not forgotten oldtimes'cried Mr. Trevorandwalking towards thesailorhesaid something in a low voice. 'Go intothekitchen' he continued out loud'and you will getfood anddrink. I have no doubt that I shall find youasituation.'
"'Thankyousir' said the seamantouching hisfore-lock. 'I'm just off a two-yearer in aneight-knottrampshort-handed at thatand I wants arest. I thought I'd get it either with Mr. Beddoes orwith you.'
"'Ah!'cried Trevor. 'You know where Mr. Beddoes is?'
"'BlessyousirI know where all my old friendsare' saidthe fellow with a sinister smileand heslouchedoff after the maid to the kitchen. Mr.Trevormumbled something to us about having beenshipmatewith the man when he was going back to thediggingsand thenleaving us on the lawnhe wentindoors. An hour laterwhen we entered the housewefound himstretched dead drunk upon the dining-roomsofa. The whole incident left a most ugly impressionupon mymindand I was not sorry next day to leaveDonnithorpebehind mefor I felt that my presencemust be asource of embarrassment to my friend.
"Allthis occurred during the first month of the longvacation. I went up to my London roomswhere I spentsevenweeks working out a few experiments in organicchemistry. On dayhoweverwhen the autumn was faradvancedand the vacation drawing to a closeIreceived atelegram from my friend imploring me toreturn toDonnithorpeand saying that he was in greatneed of myadvice and assistance. Of course I droppedeverythingand set out for the North once more.
"Hemet me with the dog-cart at the stationand I sawat aglance that the last two months had been verytryingones for him. He had grown thin and carewornand hadlost the loudcheery manner for which he hadbeenremarkable.
"'Thegovernor is dying' were the first words hesaid.
"'Impossible!'I cried. 'What is the matter?'
"'Apoplexy. Nervous shock He's been on the vergeall day. I doubt if we shall find him alive.'
"Iwasas you may thinkWatsonhorrified at thisunexpectednews.
"'Whathas caused it?' I asked.
"'Ahthat is the point. Jump in and we can talk itover whilewe drive. You remember that fellow whocame uponthe evening before you left us?'
"'Doyou know who it was that we let into the housethat day?'
"'Ihave no idea.'
"'Itwas the devilHolmes' he cried.
"Istared at him in astonishment.
"'Yesit was the devil himself. We have not had apeacefulhour since--not one. The governor has neverheld uphis head from that eveningand now the lifehas beencrushed out of him and his heart brokenallthroughthis accursed Hudson.'
"'Whatpower had hethen?'
"'Ahthat is what I would give so much to know. Thekindlycharitablegood old governor--how could hehavefallen into the clutches of such a ruffian! ButI am soglad that you have comeHolmes. I trust verymuch toyour judgment and discretionand I know thatyou willadvise me for the best.'
"Wewere dashing along the smooth white country roadwith thelong stretch of the Broads in front of usglimmeringin the red light of the setting sun. Froma groveupon our left I could already see the highchimneysand the flag-staff which marked the squire'sdwelling.
"'Myfather made the fellow gardener' said mycompanion'and thenas that did not satisfy himhewaspromoted to be butler. The house seemed to be athis mercyand he wandered about and did what he chosein it. The maids complained of his drunken habits andhis vilelanguage. The dad raised their wages allround torecompense them for the annoyance. Thefellowwould take the boat and my father's best gunand treathimself to little shooting trips. And allthis withsuch a sneeringleeringinsolent face thatI wouldhave knocked him down twenty times over if hehad been aman of my own age. I tell youHolmesIhave hadto keep a tight hold upon myself all thistime; andnow I am asking myself whetherif I had letmyself goa little moreI might not have been a wiserman.
"'Wellmatters went from bad to worse with usandthisanimal Hudson became more and more intrusiveuntil atlaston making some insolent reply to myfather inmy presence one dayI took him by theshouldersand turned him out of the room. He slunkaway witha livid face and two venomous eyes whichutteredmore threats than his tongue could do. Idon't knowwhat passed between the poor dad and himafterthatbut the dad came to me next day and askedme whetherI would mind apologizing to Hudson. Irefusedas you can imagineand asked my father howhe couldallow such a wretch to take such libertieswithhimself and his household.
"'"Ahmy boy" said he"it is all very well to talkbut youdon't know how I am placed. But you shallknowVictor. I'll see that you shall knowcome whatmay. You wouldn't believe harm of your poor oldfatherwould youlad?" He was very much movedandshuthimself up in the study all daywhere I couldseethrough the window that he was writing busily.
"'Thatevening there came what seemed to me to be agrandreleasefor Hudson told us that he was going toleave us. He walked into the dining-room as we satafterdinnerand announced his intention in the thickvoice of ahalf-drunken man.
"'"I'vehad enough of Norfolk" said he. "I'll rundown toMr. Beddoes in Hampshire. He'll be as glad tosee me asyou wereI dare say."
"'"You'renot going away in any kind of spiritHudsonIhope" said my fatherwith a tameness whichmad myblood boil.
"'"I'venot had my 'pology" said he sulkilyglancingin mydirection.
"'"Victoryou will acknowledge that you have usedthisworthy fellow rather roughly" said the dadturning tome.
"'"Onthe contraryI think that we have both shownextraordinarypatience towards him" I answered.
"'"Ohyou dodo you?" he snarls. "Very goodmate.We'll seeabout that!"
"'Heslouched out of the roomand half an hourafterwardsleft the houseleaving my father in astate ofpitiable nervousness. Night after night Iheard himpacing his roomand it was just as he wasrecoveringhis confidence that the blow did at lastfall.'
"'Andhow?' I asked eagerly.
"'Ina most extraordinary fashion. A letter arrivedfor myfather yesterday eveningbearing theFordingbridgepost-mark. My father read itclappedboth hishands to his headand began running roundthe roomin little circles like a man who has beendriven outof his senses. When I at last drew himdown on tothe sofahis mouth and eyelids were allpuckeredon one sideand I saw that he had a stroke.Dr.Fordham came over at once. We put him to bed; buttheparalysis has spreadhe has shown no sign ofreturningconsciousnessand I think that we shallhardlyfind him alive.'
"'Youhorrify meTrevor!' I cried. 'What then couldhave beenin this letter to cause so dreadful aresult?'
"'Nothing. There lies the inexplicable part of it.Themessage was absurd and trivial. Ahmy Godit isas Ifeared!'
"Ashe spoke we came round the curve of the avenueand saw inthe fading light that every blind in thehouse hadbeen drawn down. As we dashed up to thedoormyfriend's face convulsed with griefagentlemanin black emerged from it.
"'Whendid it happendoctor?' asked Trevor.
"'Almostimmediately after you left.'
"'Didhe recover consciousness?'
"'Foran instant before the end.'
"'Anymessage for me.'
"'Onlythat the papers were in the back drawer of theJapanesecabinet.'
"Myfriend ascended with the doctor to the chamber ofdeathwhile I remained in the studyturning thewholematter over and over in my headand feeling assombre asever I had done in my life. What was thepast ofthis Trevorpugilisttravelerandgold-diggerand how had he placed himself in thepower ofthis acid-faced seaman? Whytooshould hefaint atan allusion to the half-effaced initials uponhis armand die of fright when he had a letter fromFordingham? Then I remembered that Fordingham was inHampshireand that this Mr. Beddoeswhom the seamanhad goneto visit and presumably to blackmailhadalso beenmentioned as living in Hampshire. Theletterthenmight either come from Hudsontheseamansaying that he had betrayed the guilty secretwhichappeared to existor it might come fromBeddoeswarning an old confederate that such abetrayalwas imminent. So far it seemed clear enough.But thenhow could this letter be trivial andgrotesqueas describe by the son? He must havemisreadit. If soit must have been one of thoseingenioussecret codes which mean one thing while theyseem tomean another. I must see this letter. Ifthere werea hidden meaning in itI was confidentthat Icould pluck it forth. For an hour I satponderingover it in the gloomuntil at last aweepingmaid brought in a lampand close at her heelscame myfriend Trevorpale but composedwith theseverypapers which lie upon my knee held in his grasp.He satdown opposite to medrew the lamp to the edgeof thetableand handed me a short note scribbledasyou seeupon a single sheet of gray paper. "Thesupply ofgame for London is going steadily up' itran. 'Head-keeper Hudsonwe believehas been nowtold toreceive all orders for fly-paper and forpreservationof your hen-pheasant's life.'
"Idare say my face looked as bewildered as your didjust nowwhen first I read this message. Then Ireread itvery carefully. It was evidently as I hadthoughtand some secret meaning must lie buried inthisstrange combination of words. Or could it bethat therewas a prearranged significance to suchphrases as'fly-paper' and hen-pheasant'? Such ameaningwould be arbitrary and could not be deduced inany way. And yet I was loath to believe that this wasthe caseand the presence of the word Hudson seemedto showthat the subject of the message was as I hadguessedand that it was from Beddoes rather than thesailor. I tried it backwardsbut the combination'lifepheasant's hen' was not encouraging. Then Itriedalternate wordsbut neither 'the of for' nor'supplygame London' promised to throw any light uponit.
"Andthen in an instant the key of the riddle was inmy handsand I saw that every third wordbeginningwith thefirstwould give a message which might welldrive oldTrevor to despair.
"Itwas short and tersethe warningas I now read itto mycompanion:
"'Thegame is up. Hudson has told all. Fly for yourlife.'
"VictorTrevor sank his face into his shaking hands'It mustbe thatI suppose' said he. "This is worsethandeathfor it means disgrace as well. But whatis themeaning of these "head-keepers" and"hen-pheasants"?
"'Itmeans nothing to the messagebut it might mean agood dealto us if we had no other means ofdiscoveringthe sender. You see that he has begun bywriting"The...game...is" and so on. Afterwards hehadtofulfill the prearranged cipherto fill in anytwo wordsin each space. He would naturally use thefirstwords which came to his mindand if there wereso manywhich referred to sport among themyou may betolerablysure that he is either an ardent shot orinterestedin breeding. Do you know anything of thisBeddoes?'
"'Whynow that you mention it' said he'I rememberthat mypoor father used to have an invitation fromhim toshoot over his preserves every autumn.'
"'Thenit is undoubtedly from him that the notecomes'said I. 'It only remains for us to find outwhat thissecret was which the sailor Hudson seems tohave heldover the heads of these two wealthy andrespectedmen.'
"'AlasHolmesI fear that it is one of sin andshame!'cried my friend. 'But from you I shall havenosecrets. Here is the statement which was drawn upby myfather when he knew that the danger from Hudsonhad becomeimminent. I found it in the Japanesecabinetas he told the doctor. Take it and read itto meforI have neither the strength nor the courageto do itmyself.'
"Theseare the very papersWatsonwhich he handed tomeand Iwill read them to youas I read them in theold studythat night to him. They are endorsedoutsideas you see'Some particulars of the voyageof thebark Gloria Scottfrom her leaving Falmouth onthe 8thOctober1855to her destruction in N. Lat.15 degrees20'W. Long. 25 degrees 14' on Nov. 6th.'It is inthe form of a letterand runs in this way:
"'Mydeardear sonnow that approaching disgracebegins todarken the closing years of my lifeI canwrite withall truth and honesty that it is not theterror ofthe lawit is not the loss of my positionin thecountynor is it my fall in the eyes of allwho haveknown mewhich cuts me to the heart; but itis thethought that you should come to blush forme--youwho love me and who have seldomI hopehadreason todo other than respect me. But if the blowfallswhich is forever hanging over methen I shouldwish youto read thisthat you may know straight fromme how farI have been to blame. On the other handif allshould go well (which may kind God Almightygrant!)then if by any chance this paper should bestillundestroyed and should fall into your handsIconjureyouby all you hold sacredby the memory ofyour dearmotherand by the love which had beenbetweenusto hurl it into the fire and to never giveonethought to it again.
"'Ifthen your eye goes onto read this lineI knowthat Ishall already have been exposed and draggedfrom myhomeor as is more likelyfor you know thatmy heartis weakby lying with my tongue sealedforever indeath. In either case the time forsuppressionis pastand every word which I tell youis thenaked truthand this I swear as I hope formercy.
"'Mynamedear ladis not Trevor. I was JamesArmitagein my younger daysand you can understandnow theshock that it was to me a few weeks ago whenyourcollege friend addressed me in words which seemedto implythat he had surprised my secret. As Armitageit wasthat I entered a London banking-houseand asArmitage Iwas convicted of breaking my country'slawsandwas sentenced to transportation. Do notthink veryharshly of meladdie. It was a debt ofhonorsocalledwhich I had to payand I used moneywhich wasnot my own to do itin the certainty that Icouldreplace it before there could be any possibilityof itsbeing missed. But the most dreadful ill-luckpursuedme. The money which I had reckoned upon nevercame tohandand a premature examination of accountsexposed mydeficit. The case might have been dealtlenientlywithbut the laws were more harshlyadministeredthirty years ago than nowand on mytwenty-thirdbirthday I found myself chained as afelon withthirty-seven other convicts in 'tween-decksof thebark Gloria Scottbound for Australia.
"'Itwas the year '55 when the Crimean war was at itsheightand the old convict ships had been largely usedastransports in the Black Sea. The government wascompelledthereforeto use smaller and less suitablevesselsfor sending out their prisoners. The GloriaScott hadbeen in the Chinese tea-tradebut she wasanold-fashionedheavy-bowedbroad-beamed craftandthe newclippers had cut her out. She was afive-hundred-tonboat; and besides her thirty-eightjail-birdsshe carried twenty-six of a creweighteensoldiersa captainthree matesa doctorachaplainand four warders. Nearly a hundred soulswere inherall toldwhen we set said from Falmouth.
"'Thepartitions between the cells of the convictsinstead ofbeing of thick oakas is usual inconvict-shipswere quite thin and frail. The mannext tomeupon the aft sidewas one whom I hadparticularlynoticed when we were led down the quay.He was ayoung man with a clearhairless facealongthinnoseand rather nut-cracker jaws. Hecarriedhis head very jauntily in the airhad aswaggeringstyle of walkingand wasabove all elseremarkablefor his extraordinary height. I don'tthink anyof our heads would have come up to hisshoulderand I am sure that he could not havemeasuredless than six and a half feet. It wasstrangeamong so many sad and weary faces to see onewhich wasfull of energy and resolution. The sight ofit was tome like a fire in a snow-storm. I was gladthentofind that he was my neighborand gladderstillwhenin the dead of the nightI heard awhisperclose to my earand found that he had managedto cut anopening in the board which separated us.
"'"Hullochummy!" said he"what's your nameandwhat areyou here for?"
"'Ianswered himand asked in turn who I was talkingwith.
"'"I'mJack Prendergast" said he"and by God! You'lllearn tobless my name before you've done with me."
"'Iremembered hearing of his casefor it was onewhich hadmade an immense sensation throughout thecountrysome time before my own arrest. He was a manof goodfamily and of great abilitybut on incurablyvicioushabitswho had be an ingenious system offraudobtained huge sums of money from the leadingLondonmerchants.
"'"Haha! You remember my case!" said he proudly.
"'"Thenmaybe you remember something queer about it?"
"'"I'dhad nearly a quarter of a millionhadn't I?"
"'"Soit was said."
"'"Butnone was recoveredeh?"
"'"Wellwhere d'ye suppose the balance is?" he asked.
"'"Ihave no idea" said I.
"'"Rightbetween my finger and thumb" he cried. "ByGod! I've go more pounds to my name than you've hairson yourhead. And if you've moneymy sonand knowhow tohandle it and spread ityou can do anything.Nowyoudon't think it likely that a man who could doanythingis going to wear his breeches out sitting inthestinking hold of a rat-guttedbeetle-riddenmouldy oldcoffin of a Chin China coaster. Nosirsuch a manwill look after himself and will look afterhischums. You may lay to that! You hold on to himand youmay kiss the book that he'll haul youthrough."
"'Thatwas his style of talkand at first I thoughtit meantnothing; but after a whilewhen he hadtested meand sworn me in with all possible solemnityhe let meunderstand that there really was a plot togaincommand of the vessel. A dozen of the prisonershadhatched it before they came aboardPrendergastwas theleaderand his money was the motive power.
"'"I'da partner" said he"a rare good manas trueas a stockto a barrel. He's got the dibbshe hasand wheredo you think he is at this moment? Whyhe's thechaplain of this ship--the chaplainno less!He cameaboard with a black coatand his papersrightandmoney enough in his box to buy the thingright upfrom keel to main-truck. The crew are hisbody andsoul. He could buy 'em at so much a grosswith acash discountand he did it before ever theysignedon. He's got two of the warders and Mereerthe secondmateand he'd get the captain himselfifhe thoughthim worth it."
"'"Whatare we to dothen?" I asked.
"'"Whatdo you think?" said he. "We'll make the coatsof some ofthese soldiers redder than ever the tailordid."
"'"Butthey are armed" said I.
"'"Andso shall we bemy boy. There's a brace ofpistolsfor every mother's son of usand if we can'tcarry thisshipwith the crew at our backit's timewe wereall sent to a young misses' boarding-school.You speakto your mate upon the left to-nightand seeif he isto be trusted."
"'Idid soand found my other neighbor to be a youngfellow inmuch the same position as myselfwhosecrime hadbeen forgery. His name was Evansbut heafterwardschanged itlike myselfand his is now arich andprosperous man in the south of England. Hewas readyenough to join the conspiracyas the onlymeans ofsaving ourselvesand before we had crossedthe Baythere were only two of the prisoners who werenot in thesecret. One of these was of weak mindandwe did notdare to trust himand the other wassufferingfrom jaundiceand could not be of any useto us.
"'Fromthe beginning there was really nothing toprevent usfrom taking possession of the ship. Thecrew werea set of ruffiansspecially picked for thejob. The sham chaplain came into our cells to exhortuscarrying a black bagsupposed to be full oftractsand so often did he come that by the third daywe hadeach stowed away at the foot of our beds afileabrace of pistolsa pound of powderandtwentyslugs. Two of the warders were agents ofPrendergastand the second mate was his right-handman. The captainthe two matestwo wardersLieutenantMartinhis eighteen soldiersand thedoctorwere all that we had against us. Yetsafe asit waswedetermined to neglect no precautionand tomake ourattack suddenly by night. It camehowevermorequickly than we expectedand in this way.
"'Oneeveningabout the third week after our startthe doctorhad come down to see one of the prisonerswho wasilland putting his hand down on the bottomof hisbunk he felt the outline of the pistols. If hehad beensilent he might have blown the whole thingbut he wasa nervous little chapso he gave a cry ofsurpriseand turned so pale that the man knew what wasup in aninstant and seized him. He was gagged beforehe couldgive the alarmand tied down upon the bed.He hadunlocked the door that led to the deckand wewerethrough it in a rush. The two sentries were shotdownandso was a corporal who came running to seewhat wasthe matter. There were two more soldiers atthe doorof the state-roomand their muskets seemednot to beloadedfor they never fired upon usandthey wereshot while trying to fix their bayonets.Then werushed on into the captain's cabinbut as wepushedopen the door there was an explosion fromwithinand there he lay wit his brains smeared overthe chartof the Atlantic which was pinned upon thetablewhile the chaplain stood with a smoking pistolin hishand at his elbow. The two mates had both beenseized bythe crewand the whole business seemed tobesettled.
"'Thestate-room was next the cabinand we flocked inthere andflopped down on the setteesall speakingtogetherfor we were just mad with the feeling thatwe werefree once more. There were lockers all roundandWilsonthe sham chaplainknocked one of them inand pulledout a dozen of brown sherry. We crackedoff thenecks of the bottlespoured the stuff outintotumblersand were just tossing them offwhen inan instantwithout warning there came the roar ofmuskets inour earsand the saloon was so full ofsmoke thatwe could not see across the table. When itclearedagain the place was a shambles. Wilson andeightothers were wriggling on the top of each otheron thefloorand the blood and the brown sherry onthat tableturn me sick now when I think of it. Wewere socowed by the sight that I think we should havegiven thejob up if had not been for Prendergast. Hebellowedlike a bull and rushed for the door with allthat wereleft alive at his heels. Out we ranandthere onthe poop were the lieutenent and ten of hismen. The swing skylights above the saloon table hadbeen a bitopenand they had fired on us through theslit. We got on them before they could loadand theystood toit like men; but we had the upper hand ofthemandin five minutes it was all over. My God!Was thereever a slaughter-house like that ship!Predergastwas like a raging deveiland he picked thesoldiersup as if they had been children and threwthemoverboard alive or dead. There was one sergeantthat washorribly wounded and yet kept on swimming forasurprising timeuntil some one in mercy blew outhisbrains. When the fighting was over there was noone leftof our enemies except just the warders thematesandthe doctor.
"'Itwas over them that the great quarrel arose.There weremany of us who were glad enough to win backourfreedomand yet who had no wish to have murder onour souls. It was one thing to knock the soldiersover withtheir muskets in their handsand it wasanother tostand by while men were being killed incoldblood. Eight of usfive convicts and threesailorssaid that we would not see it done. Butthere wasno moving Predergast and those who were withhim. Our only chance of safety lay in making a cleanjob of itsaid heand he would not leave a tonguewith powerto wag in a witness-box. It nearly came tooursharing the fate of the prisonersbut at last hesaid thatif we wished we might take a boat and go.We jumpedat the offerfor we were already sick oftheseblookthirsty doingsand we saw that there wouldbe worsebefore it was done. We were given a suit ofsailortogs eacha barrel of watertwo casksone ofjunk andone of biscuitsand a compass. Prendergastthrew usover a charttold us that we wereshipwreckedmariners whose ship had foundered in Lat.15 degreesand Long 25 degrees westand then cut the painter andlet us go.
"'Andnow I come to the most surprising part of mystorymydear son. The seamen had hauled thefore-yardaback during the risingbut now as we leftthem theybrought it square againand as there was alight windfrom the north and east the bark began todrawslowly away from us. Our boat layrising andfallingupon the longsmooth rollersand Evans andIwhowere the most educated of the partyweresitting inthe sheets working out our position andplanningwhat coast we should make for. It was a nicequestionfor the Cape de Verds were about fivehundredmiles to the north of usand the Africancoastabout seven hundred to the east. On the wholeas thewind was coming round to the northwe thoughtthatSierra Leone might be bestand turned our headin thatdirectionthe bark being at that time nearlyhull downon our starboard quarter. Suddenly as welooked ather we saw a dense black cloud of smokeshoot upfrom herwhich hung like a monstrous treeupon thesky line. A few seconds later a roar likethunderburst upon our earsand as the smoke thinnedaway therewas no sign left of the Gloria Scott. Inan instantwe swept the boat's head round again andpulledwith all our strength for the place where thehaze stilltrailing over the water marked the scene ofthiscatastrophe.
"'Itwas a long hour before we reached itand atfirst wefeared that we had come too late to save anyone. A splintered boat and a number of crates andfragmentsof spars rising and falling on the wavesshowed uswhere the vessel had foundered; but therewas nosign of lifeand we had turned away in despairwhen weheard a cry for helpand saw at some distancea piece ofwreckage with a man lying stretched acrossit. When we pulled him aboard the boat he proved tobe a youngseaman of the name of Hudsonwho was soburned andexhausted that he could give us no accountof whathad happened until the following morning.
"'Itseemed that after we had leftPrendergast andhis ganghad proceeded to put to death the fiveremainingprisoners. The two warders had been shotand thrownoverboardand so also had the third mate.Prendergastthen descended into the 'tween-decks andwith hisown hands cut the throat of the unfortunatesurgeon. There only remained the first matewho wasa bold andactive man. When he saw the convictapproachinghim with the bloody knife in his hand hekicked offhis bondswhich he had somehow contrivedto loosenand rushing down the deck he plunged intotheafter-hold. A dozen convictswho descended withtheirpistols in search of himfound him with amatch-boxin his hand seated beside an openpowder-barrelwhich was one of a hundred carried onboardandswearing that he would blow all hands up ifhe were inany way molested. An instant later theexplosionoccurredthough Hudson thought it wascaused bythe misdirected bullet of one of theconvictsrather than the mate's match. Be the causewhat Imayit was the end of the Gloria Scott and ofthe rabblewho held command of her.
"'Suchin a few wordsmy dear boyis the history ofthisterrible business in which I was involved. Nextday wewere picked up by the brig Hotspurbound forAustraliawhose captain found no difficulty inbelievingthat we were the survivors of a passengership whichhad foundered. The transport ship GloriaScott wasset down by the Admiralty as being lost atseaandno word has ever leaked out as to her truefate. After an excellent voyage the Hotspur landed usat Sydneywhere Evans and I changed our names andmade ourway to the diggingswhereamong the crowdswho weregathered from all nationswe had nodifficultyin losing our former identities. The restI need notrelate. We prosperedwe traveledwe cameback asrich colonials to Englandand we boughtcountryestates. For more than twenty years we haveledpeaceful and useful livesand we hoped that ourpast wasforever buried. Imaginethenmy feelingswhen inthe seaman who came to us I recognizedinstantlythe man who had been picked off the wreck.He hadtracked us down somehowand had set himself tolive uponour fears. You will understand now how itwas that Istrove to keep the peace with himand youwill insome measure sympathize with me in the fearswhich fillmenow that he has gone from me to hisothervictim with threats upon his tongue.'
"Underneathis written in a hand so shaky as to behardlylegible'Beddoes writes in cipher to say H.Has toldall. Sweet Lordhave mercy on our souls!'
"Thatwas the narrative which I read that night toyoungTrevorand I thinkWatsonthat under thecircumstancesit was a dramatic one. The good fellowwasheart-broken at itand went out to the Terai teaplantingwhere I hear that he is doing well. As tothe sailorand Beddoesneither of them was ever heardof againafter that day on which the letter of warningwaswritten. They both disappeared utterly andcompletely. No complaint had been lodged with hepolicesothat Beddoes had mistaken a threat for adeed. Hudson had been seen lurking aboutand it wasbelievedby the police that he had done away withBeddoesand had fled. For myself I believe that thetruth wasexactly the opposite. I think that it ismostprobable that Beddoespushed to desperation andbelievinghimself to have been already betrayedhadrevengedhimself upon Hudsonand had fled from thecountrywith as much money as he could lay his handson. Those are the facts of the caseDoctorand ifthey areof any use to your collectionI am sure thatthey arevery heartily at your service."
An anomalywhich often struck me in the character ofmy friendSherlock Holmes was thatalthough in hismethods ofthought he was the neatest and mostmethodicalof mankindand although also he affected acertainquiet primness of dresshe was none the lessin hispersonal habits one of the most untidy men thatever drovea fellow-lodger to distraction. Not that Iam in theleast conventional in that respect myself.Therough-and-tumble work in Afghanistancoming onthe top ofa natural Bohemianism of dispositionhasmade merather more lax than befits a medical man whokeeps hiscigars in the coal-scuttlehis tobacco inthe toeend of a Persian slipperand his unansweredcorrespondencetransfixed by a jack-knife into theverycentre of his wooden mantelpiecethen I begin togivemyself virtuous airs. I have always heldtoothatpistol practice should be distinctly an open-airpastime;and when Holmesin one of his queer humorswould sitin an arm-chair with his hair-trigger and ahundredBoxer cartridgesand proceed to adorn theoppositewall with a patriotic V. R. Done inbullet-pocksI felt strongly that neither theatmospherenor the appearance of our room was improvedby it.
Ourchambers were always full of chemicals and ofcriminalrelics which had a way of wandering intounlikelypositionsand of turning up in thebutter-dishor in even less desirable places. But hispaperswere my great crux. He had a horror ofdestroyingdocumentsespecially those which wereconnectedwith his past casesand yet it was onlyonce inevery year or two that he would muster energyto docketand arrange them; foras I have mentionedsomewherein these incoherent memoirsthe outburstsofpassionate energy when he performed the remarkablefeats withwhich his name is associated were followedbyreactions of lethargy during which he would lieabout withhis violin and his bookshardly movingsave fromthe sofa to the table. Thus month aftermonth hispapers accumulateduntil every corner ofthe roomwas stacked with bundles of manuscript whichwere on noaccount to be burnedand which could notbe putaway save by their owner. One winter's nightas we sattogether by the fireI ventured to suggestto himthatas he had finished pasting extracts intohiscommon-place bookhe might employ the next twohours inmaking our room a little more habitable. Hecould notdeny the justice of my requestso with aratherrueful face went off to his bedroomfrom whichhereturned presently pulling a large tin box behindhim. This he placed in the middle of the floor andsquattingdown upon a stool in front of ithe threwback thelid. I could see that it was already a thirdfull ofbundles of paper tied up with red tape intoseparatepackages.
"Thereare cases enough hereWatson" said helooking atme with mischievous eyes. "I think that ifyou knewall that I had in this box you would ask meto pullsome out instead of putting others in."
"Theseare the records of your early workthen?" Iasked. "I have often wished that I had notes of thosecases."
"Yesmy boythese were all done prematurely beforemybiographer had come to glorify me." He liftedbundleafter bundle in a tendercaressing sort ofway. "They are not all successesWatson" said he."Butthere are some pretty little problems among them.Here's therecord of the Tarleton murdersand thecase ofVamberrythe wine merchantand the adventureof the oldRussian womanand the singular affair ofthealuminium crutchas well as a full account ofRicolettiof the club-footand his abominable wife.Andhere--ahnowthis really is something a littlerecherché."
He divedhis arm down to the bottom of the chestandbrought upa small wooden box with a sliding lidsuchaschildren's toys are kept in. From within heproduced acrumpled piece of paperand old-fashionedbrass keya peg of wood with a ball of stringattachedto itand three rusty old disks of metal.
"Wellmy boywhat do you make of this lot?" heaskedsmiling at my expression.
"Itis a curious collection."
"Verycuriousand the story that hangs round it willstrike youas being more curious still."
"Theserelics have a history then?"
"Somuch so that they are history."
"Whatdo you mean by that?"
SherlockHolmes picked them up one by oneand laidthem alongthe edge of the table. Then he reseatedhimself inhis chair and looked them over with a gleamofsatisfaction in his eyes.
"These"said he"are all that I have left to remindme of theadventure of the Musgrave Ritual."
I hadheard him mention the case more than oncethough Ihad never been able to gather the details."Ishould be so glad" said I"if you would give mean accountof it."
"Andleave the litter as it is?" he criedmischievously. "Your tidiness won't bear much strainafter allWatson. But I should be glad that youshould addthis case to your annalsfor there arepoints init which make it quite unique in thecriminalrecords of this orI believeof any othercountry. A collection of my trifling achievementswouldcertainly be incomplete which contained noaccount ofthis very singular business.
"Youmay remember how the affair of the Gloria Scottand myconversation with the unhappy man whose fate Itold youoffirst turned my attention in thedirectionof the profession which has become my life'swork. You see me now when my name has become knownfar andwideand when I am generally recognized bothby thepublic and by the official force as being afinalcourt of appeal in doubtful cases. Even whenyou knewme firstat the time of the affair which youhavecommemorated in 'A Study in Scarlet' I hadalreadyestablished a considerablethough not a verylucrativeconnection. You can hardly realizethenhowdifficult I found it at firstand how long I hadto waitbefore I succeeded in making any headway.
"WhenI first came up to London I had rooms inMontagueStreetjust round the corner from theBritishMuseumand there I waitedfilling in my tooabundantleisure time by studying all those branchesof sciencewhich might make me more efficient. Nowand againcases came in my wayprincipally throughtheintroduction of old fellow-studentsfor during mylast yearsat the University there was a good deal oftalk thereabout myself and my methods. The third ofthesecases was that of the Musgrave Ritualand it isto theinterest which was aroused by that singularchain ofeventsand the large issues which proved tobe atstakethat I trace my first stride towards topositionwhich I now hold.
"ReginaldMusgrave had been in the same college asmyselfand I had some slight acquaintance with him.He was notgenerally popular among the undergraduatesthough italways seemed to me that what was set downas pridewas really an attempt to cover extremenaturaldiffidence. In appearance he was a man ofexceedinglyaristocratic typethinhigh-nosedandlarge-eyedwith languid and yet courtly manners. Hewas indeeda scion of one of the very oldest familiesin thekingdomthough his branch was a cadet onewhich hadseparated from the northern Musgraves sometime inthe sixteenth centuryand had establisheditself inwestern Sussexwhere the Manor House ofHurlstoneis perhaps the oldest inhabited building inthecounty. Something of his birth place seemed tocling tothe manand I never looked at his palekeenface orthe poise of his head without associating himwith grayarchways and mullioned windows and all thevenerablewreckage of a feudal keep. Once or twice wedriftedinto talkand I can remember that more thanonce heexpressed a keen interest in my methods ofobservationand inference.
"Forfour years I had seen nothing of him until onemorning hewalked into my room in Montague Street. Hehadchanged littlewas dressed like a young man offashion--hewas always a bit of a dandy--and preservedthe samequietsuave manner which had formerlydistinguishedhim.
"'Howhas all gone with you Musgrave?" I askedafterwe hadcordially shaken hands.
"'Youprobably heard of my poor father's death' saidhe; 'hewas carried off about two years ago. Sincethen Ihave of course had the Hurlstone estates tomanageand as I am member for my district as wellmylife hasbeen a busy one. But I understandHolmesthat youare turning to practical ends those powerswith whichyou used to amaze us?"
"'Yes'said I'I have taken to living by my wits.'
"'Iam delighted to hear itfor your advice atpresentwould be exceedingly valuable to me. We havehad somevery strange doings at Hurlstoneand thepolicehave been able to throw no light upon thematter. It is really the most extraordinary andinexplicablebusiness.'
"Youcan imagine with what eagerness I listened tohimWatsonfor the very chance for which I had beenpantingduring all those months of inaction seemed tohave comewithin my reach. In my inmost heart Ibelievedthat I could succeed where others failedandnow I hadthe opportunity to test myself.
"'Praylet me have the details' I cried.
"ReginaldMusgrave sat down opposite to meand litthecigarette which I had pushed towards him.
"'Youmust know' said he'that though I am abachelorI have to keep up a considerable staff ofservantsat Hurlstonefor it is a rambling old placeand takesa good deal of looking after. I preservetooandin the pheasant months I usually have ahouse-partyso that it would not do to beshort-handed. Altogether there are eight maidsthecookthebutlertwo footmenand a boy. The gardenand thestables of course have a separate staff.
"'Ofthese servants the one who had been longest inourservice was Brunton the butler. He was a youngschool-masterout of place when he was first taken upby myfatherbut he was a man of great energy andcharacterand he soon became quite invaluable in thehousehold. He was a well-grownhandsome manwith asplendidforeheadand though he has been with us fortwentyyears he cannot be more than forty now. Withhispersonal advantages and his extraordinarygifts--forhe can speak several languages and playnearlyevery musical instrument--it is wonderful thathe shouldhave been satisfied so long in such apositionbut I suppose that he was comfortableandlackedenergy to make any change. The butler ofHurlstoneis always a thing that is remembered by allwho visitus.
"'Butthis paragon has one fault. He is a bit of aDon Juanand you can imagine that for a man like himit is nota very difficult part to play in a quietcountrydistrict. When he was married it was allrightbutsince he has been a widower we have had noend oftrouble with him. A few months ago we were inhopes thathe was about to settle down again for hebecameengaged to Rachel Howellsour secondhouse-maid;but he has thrown her over since then andtaken upwith Janet Tregellisthe daughter of theheadgame-keeper. Rachel--who is a very good girlbut of anexcitable Welsh temperament--had a sharptouch ofbrain-feverand goes about the house now--ordid untilyesterday--like a black-eyed shadow of herformerself. That was our first drama at Hurlstone;but asecond one came to drive it from our mindsandit wasprefaced by the disgrace and dismissal ofbutlerBrunton.
"'Thiswas how it came about. I have said that theman wasintelligentand this very intelligence hascaused hisruinfor it seems to have led to aninsatiablecuriosity about things which did not in theleastconcern him. I had no idea of the lengths towhich thiswould carry himuntil the merest accidentopened myeyes to it.
"'Ihave said that the house is a rambling one. Oneday lastweek--on Thursday nightto be more exact--Ifound thatI could not sleephaving foolishly taken acup ofstrong café noir after my dinner. Afterstrugglingagainst it until two in the morningI feltthat itwas quite hopelessso I rose and lit thecandlewith the intention of continuing a novel whichI wasreading. The bookhoweverhad been left inthebilliard-roomso I pulled on my dressing-gown andstartedoff to get it.
"'Inorder to reach the billiard-room I had to descenda flightof stairs and then to cross the head of apassagewhich led to the library and the gun-room.You canimagine my surprise whenas I looked downthiscorridorI saw a glimmer of light coming fromthe opendoor of the library. I had myselfextinguishedthe lamp and closed the door beforecoming tobed. Naturally my first thought was ofburglars. The corridors at Hurlstone have their wallslargelydecorated with trophies of old weapons. Fromone ofthese I picked a battle-axeand thenleavingmy candlebehind meI crept on tiptoe down thepassageand peeped in at the open door.
"'Bruntonthe butlerwas in the library. He wassittingfully dressedin an easy-chairwith a slipof paperwhich looked like a map upon his kneeandhisforehead sunk forward upon his hand in deepthought. I stood dumb with astonishmentwatching himfrom thedarkness. A small taper on the edge of thetable sheda feeble light which sufficed to show methat hewas fully dressed. Suddenlyas I lookedherose fromhis chairand walking over to a bureau atthe sidehe unlocked it and drew out one of thedrawers. From this he took a paperand returning tohis seathe flattened it out beside the taper on theedge ofthe tableand began to study it with minuteattention. My indignation at this calm examination ofour familydocuments overcame me so far that I took astepforwardand Bruntonlooking upsaw me standingin thedoorway. He sprang to his feethis faceturnedlivid with fearand he thrust into his breastthechart-like paper which he had been originallystudying.
"'"So!"said I. "This is how you repay the trustwhich wehave reposed in you. You will leave myserviceto-morrow."
"'Hebowed with the look of a man who is utterlycrushedand slunk past me without a word. The taperwas stillon the tableand by its light I glanced tosee whatthe paper was which Brunton had taken fromthebureau. To my surprise it was nothing of anyimportanceat allbut simply a copy of the questionsandanswers in the singular old observance called theMusgraveRitual. It is a sort of ceremony peculiar toourfamilywhich each Musgrave for centuries past hasgonethrough on his coming of age--a thing of privateinterestand perhaps of some little importance to thearchaeologistlike our own blazonings and chargesbut of nopractical use whatever.'
"'Wehad better come back to the paper afterwards'said I.
"'Ifyou think it really necessary' he answeredwithsomehesitation. 'To continue my statementhowever:I relockedthe bureauusing the key which Brunton hadleftandI had turned to go when I was surprised tofind thatthe butler had returnedand was standingbefore me.
"'"Mr.Musgravesir" he criedin a voice which washoarsewith emotion"I can't bear disgracesir.I'vealways been proud above my station in lifeanddisgracewould kill me. My blood will be on yourheadsir--it willindeed--if you drive me todespair. If you cannot keep me after what has passedthen forGod's sake let me give you notice and leavein amonthas if of my own free will. I could standthatMr.Musgravebut not to be cast out before allthe folkthat I know so well."
"'"Youdon't deserve much considerationBrunton" Ianswered. "Your conduct has been most infamous.Howeveras you have been a long time in the familyIhave nowish to bring public disgrace upon you. Amonthhowever is too long. Take yourself away in aweekandgive what reason you like for going."
"'"Onlya weeksir?" he criedin a despairing voice."Afortnight--say at least a fortnight!"
"'"Aweek" I repeated"and you may consider yourselfto havebeen very leniently dealt with."
"'Hecrept awayhis face sunk upon his breastlike abrokenmanwhile I put out the light and returned tomy room.
""Fortwo days after this Brunton was most assiduousin hisattention to his duties. I made no allusion towhat hadpassedand waited with some curiosity to seehow hewould cover his disgrace. On the thirdmorninghowever he did not appearas was his customafterbreakfast to receive my instructions for theday. As I left the dining-room I happened to meetRachelHowellsthe maid. I have told you that shehad onlyrecently recovered from an illnessand waslooking sowretchedly pale and wan that I remonstratedwith herfor being at work.
"'"Youshould be in bed" I said. "Come back to yourdutieswhen you are stronger."
"'Shelooked at me with so strange an expression thatI began tosuspect that her brain was affected.
"'"Iam strong enoughMr. Musgrave" said she.
"'"Wewill see what the doctor says" I answered."Youmust stop work nowand when you go downstairsjust saythat I wish to see Brunton."
"'"Thebutler is gone" said she.
"'"Gone! Gone where?"
"'"Heis gone. No one has seen him. He is not in hisroom. Ohyeshe is gonehe is gone!" She fellbackagainst the wall with shriek after shriek oflaughterwhile Ihorrified at this sudden hystericalattackrushed to the bell to summon help. The girlwas takento her roomstill screaming and sobbingwhile Imade inquiries about Brunton. There was nodoubtabout it that he had disappeared. His bed hadnot beenslept inhe had been seen by no one since hehadretired to his room the night beforeand yet itwasdifficult to see how he could have left the houseas bothwindows and doors were found to be fastened inthemorning. His clotheshis watchand even hismoney werein his roombut the black suit which heusuallywore was missing. His slipperstooweregonebuthis boots were left behind. Where thencouldbutler Brunton have gone in the nightand whatcould havebecome of him now?
"'Ofcourse we searched the house from cellar togarretbut there was no trace of him. It isas Ihave saida labyrinth of an old houseespecially theoriginalwingwhich is now practically uninhabited;but weransacked every room and cellar withoutdiscoveringthe least sign of the missing man. It wasincredibleto me that he could have gone away leavingall hisproperty behind himand yet where could hebe? I called in the local policebut withoutsuccess. Rain had fallen on the night before and weexaminedthe lawn and the paths all round the housebut invain. Matters were in this statewhen a newdevelopmentquite drew our attention away from theoriginalmystery.
"'Fortwo days Rachel Howells had been so illsometimesdelirioussometimes hystericalthat anurse hadbeen employed to sit up with her at night.On thethird night after Brunton's disappearancethenursefinding her patient sleeping nicelyhaddroppedinto a nap in the arm-chairwhen shoe woke inthe earlymorning to find the bed emptythe windowopenandno signs of the invalid. I was instantlyarousedandwith the two footmenstarted off atonce insearch of the missing girl. It was notdifficultto tell the direction which she had takenforstarting from under her windowwe could followherfootmarks easily across the lawn to the edge ofthe merewhere they vanished close to the gravel pathwhichleads out of the grounds. The lake there iseight feetdeepand you can imagine our feelings whenwe sawthat the trail of the poor demented girl cameto an endat the edge of it.
"'Ofcoursewe had the drags at onceand set to workto recoverthe remainsbut no trace of the body couldwe find. On the other handwe brought to the surfacean objectof a most unexpected kind. It was a linenbag whichcontained within it a mass of old rusted anddiscoloredmetal and several dull-colored pieces ofpebble orglass. This strange find was all that wecould getfrom the mereandalthough we made everypossiblesearch and inquiry yesterdaywe know nothingof thefate either of Rachel Howells or of RichardBrunton. The county police are at their wits' endand I havecome up to you as a last resource.'
"Youcan imagineWatsonwith what eagerness Ilistenedto this extraordinary sequence of eventsandendeavoredto piece them togetherand to devise somecommonthread upon which they might all hang. Thebutler wasgone. The maid was gone. The maid hadloved thebutlerbut had afterwards had cause to hatehim. She was of Welsh bloodfiery and passionate.She hadbeen terribly excited immediately after hisdisappearance. She had flung into the lake a bagcontainingsome curious contents. These were allfactorswhich had to be taken into considerationandyet noneof them got quite to the heart of the matter.What wasthe starting-point of this chain of events?There laythe end of this tangled line.
"'Imust see that paperMusgrave' said I'whichthisbutler of your thought it worth his while toconsulteven at the risk of the loss of his place.'
"'Itis rather an absurd businessthis ritual ofours' heanswered. 'But it has at least the savinggrace ofantiquity to excuse it. I have a copy of thequestionsand answers here if you care to run your eyeoverthem.'
"Hehanded me the very paper which I have hereWatsonand this is the strange catechism to whicheachMusgrave had to submit when he came to man'sestate. I will read you the questions and answers astheystand.
"'Hiswho is gone.'
"'Whoshall have it?'
"'Hewho will come.'
"'Wherewas the sun?'
"'Wherewas the shadow?'
"Howwas it stepped?'
"'Northby ten and by teneast by five and by fivesouth bytwo and by twowest by one and by oneandso under.'
"'Whatshall we give for it?'
"'Allthat is ours.'
"'Whyshould we give it?'
"'Forthe sake of the trust.'
"'Theoriginal has no datebut is in the spelling ofthe middleof the seventeenth century' remarkedMusgrave. 'I am afraidhoweverthat it can be oflittlehelp to you in solving this mystery.'
"'Atleast' said I'it gives us another mysteryandone whichis even more interesting than the first. Itmay bethat the solution of the one may prove to bethesolution of the other. You will excuse meMusgraveif I say that your butler appears to me tohave beena very clever manand to have had a clearerinsightthat ten generations of his masters.'
"'Ihardly follow you' said Musgrave. 'The paperseems tome to be of no practical importance.'
"'Butto me it seems immensely practicaland I fancythatBrunton took the same view. He had probably seenit beforethat night on which you caught him.'
"'Itis very possible. We took no pains to hide it.'
"'Hesimply wishedI should imagineto refresh hismemoryupon that last occasion. He hadas Iunderstandsome sort of map or chart which he wascomparingwith the manuscriptand which he thrustinto hispocket when you appeared.'
"'Thatis true. But what could he have to do withthis oldfamily custom of oursand what does thisrigmarolemean?'
"'Idon't think that we should have much difficulty indeterminingthat' said I; 'with your permission wewill takethe first train down to Sussexand go alittlemore deeply into the matter upon the spot.'
"Thesame afternoon saw us both at Hurlstone.Possiblyyou have seen pictures and read descriptionsof thefamous old buildingso I will confine myaccount ofit to saying that it is built in the shapeof an Lthe long arm being the more modern portionand theshorter the ancient nucleusfrom which theother haddeveloped. Over the lowheavily-lintelleddoorinthe centre of this old partis chiseled thedate1607but experts are agreed that the beams andstone-workare really much older than this. Theenormouslythick walls and tiny windows of this parthad in thelast century driven the family intobuildingthe new wingand the old one was used now asastore-house and a cellarwhen it was used at all.A splendidpark with fine old timber surrounds thehouseandthe laketo which my client had referredlay closeto the avenueabout two hundred yards fromthebuilding.
"Iwas already firmly convincedWatsonthat therewere notthree separate mysteries herebut one onlyand thatif I could read the Musgrave Ritual aright Ishouldhold in my hand the clue which would lead me tothe truthconcerning both the butler Brunton and themaidHowells. To that then I turned all my energies.Why shouldthis servant be so anxious to master thisoldformula? Evidently because he saw something in itwhich hadescaped all those generations of countrysquiresand from which he expected some personaladvantage. What was it thenand how had it affectedhis fate?
"Itwas perfectly obvious to meon reading theritualthat the measurements must refer to some spotto whichthe rest of the document alludedand that ifwe couldfind that spotwe should be in a fair waytowardsfinding what the secret was which the oldMusgraveshad thought it necessary to embalm in socurious afashion. There were two guides given us tostartwithan oak and an elm. As to the oak therecould beno question at all. Right in front of thehouseupon the left-hand side of the drivetherestood apatriarch among oaksone of the mostmagnificenttrees that I have ever seen.
"'Thatwas there when you ritual was drawn up' saidIas wedrove past it.
"'Itwas there at the Norman Conquest in allprobability'he answered. 'It has a girth oftwenty-threefeet.'
"'Haveyou any old elms?' I asked.
"'Thereused to be a very old one over yonder but itwas struckby lightning ten years agoand we cut downthestump'
"'Youcan see where it used to be?'
"'Thereare no other elms?'
"'Noold onesbut plenty of beeches.'
"'Ishould like to see where it grew.'
"Wehad driven up in a dogcartand my client led meaway atoncewithout our entering the houseto thescar onthe lawn where the elm had stood. It wasnearlymidway between the oak and the house. Myinvestigationseemed to be progressing.
"'Isuppose it is impossible to find out how high theelm was?'I asked.
"'Ican give you it at once. It was sixty-four feet.'
"'Howdo you come to know it?' I askedin surprise.
"'Whenmy old tutor used to give me an exercise intrigonometryit always took the shape of measuringheights. When I was a lad I worked out every tree andbuildingin the estate.'
"Thiswas an unexpected piece of luck. My data werecomingmore quickly than I could have reasonablyhoped.
"'Tellme' I asked'did your butler ever ask yousuch aquestion?'
"ReginaldMusgrave looked at me in astonishment. 'Nowthat youcall it to my mind' he answered'Bruntondid ask meabout the height of the tree some monthsagoinconnection with some little argument with thegroom'
"Thiswas excellent newsWatsonfor it showed methat I wason the right road. I looked up at the sun.It was lowin the heavensand I calculated that inless thanan hour it would lie just above the topmostbranchesof the old oak. One condition mentioned inthe Ritualwould then be fulfilled. And the shadow ofthe elmmust mean the farther end of the shadowotherwisethe trunk would have been chosen as theguide. I hadthento find where the far end of theshadowwould fall when the sun was just clear of theoak."
"Thatmust have been difficultHolmeswhen the elmwas nolonger there."
"Wellat least I knew that if Brunton could do itIcouldalso. Besidesthere was no real difficulty. Iwent withMusgrave to his study and whittled myselfthis pegto which I tied this long string with a knotat eachyard. Then I took two lengths of afishing-rodwhich came to just six feetand I wentback withmy client to where the elm had been. Thesun wasjust grazing the top of the oak. I fastenedthe rod onendmarked out the direction of theshadowand measured it. It was nine feet in length.
"Ofcourse the calculation now was a simple one. If arod of sixfeet threw a shadow of ninea tree ofsixty-fourfeet would throw one of ninety-sixand theline ofthe one would of course the line of the other.I measuredout the distancewhich brought me almostto thewall of the houseand I thrust a peg into thespot. You can imagine my exultationWatsonwhenwithin twoinches of my peg I saw a conical depressionin theground. I knew that it was the mark made byBrunton inhis measurementsand that I was still uponhis trail.
"Fromthis starting-point I proceeded to stephavingfirsttaken the cardinal points by my pocket-compass.Ten stepswith each foot took me along parallel withthe wallof the houseand again I marked my spot witha peg. Then I carefully paced off five to the eastand two tothe south. It brought me to the verythresholdof the old door. Two steps to the westmeant nowthat I was to go two paces down thestone-flaggedpassageand this was the placeindicatedby the Ritual.
"Neverhave I felt such a cold chill ofdisappointmentWatson. For a moment is seemed to methat theremust be some radical mistake in mycalculations. The setting sun shone full upon thepassagefloorand I could see that the oldfoot-worngraystones with which it was paved were firmlycementedtogetherand had certainly not been movedfor many along year. Brunton had not been at workhere. I tapped upon the floorbut it sounded thesame alloverand there was no sign of any crack orcrevice. ButFortunatelyMusgravewho had begun toappreciatethe meaning of my proceedingsand who wasnow asexcited as myselftook out his manuscript tocheck mycalculation.
"'Andunder' he cried. 'You have omitted the "andunder."'
"Ihad thought that it meant that we were to digbutnowofcourseI saw at once that I was wrong.'There isa cellar under this then?' I cried.
"'Yesand as old as the house. Down herethroughthisdoor.'
"Wewent down a winding stone stairand my companionstriking amatchlit a large lantern which stood on abarrel inthe corner. In an instant it was obviousthat wehad at last come upon the true placeand thatwe had notbeen the only people to visit the spotrecently.
"Ithad been used for the storage of woodbut thebilletswhich had evidently been littered over thefloorwere now piled at the sidesso as to leave aclearspace in the middle. In this space lay a largeand heavyflagstone with a rusted iron ring in thecentre towhich a thick shepherd's-check muffler wasattached.
"'ByJove!' cried my client. 'That's Brunton'smuffler. I have seen it on himand could swear toit. What has the villain been doing here?'
"Atmy suggestion a couple of the county police weresummonedto be presentand I then endeavored to raisethe stoneby pulling on the cravat. I could only moveitslightlyand it was with the aid of one of theconstablesthat I succeeded at last in carrying it toone side. A black hole yawned beneath into which weallpeeredwhile Musgravekneeling at the sidepusheddown the lantern.
"Asmall chamber about seven feet deep and four feetsquare layopen to us. At one side of this was asquatbrass-bound wooden boxthe lid of which washingedupwardswith this curious old-fashioned keyprojectingfrom the lock. It was furred outside by athicklayer of dustand damp and worms had eatenthroughthe woodso that a crop of livid fungi wasgrowing onthe inside of it. Several discs of metalold coinsapparentlysuch as I hold herewerescatteredover the bottom of the boxbut it containednothingelse.
"Atthe momenthoweverwe had no thought for the oldchestforour eyes were riveted upon that whichcrouchedbeside it. It was the figure of a mancladin a suitof blackwho squatted down upon him hamswith hisforehead sunk upon the edge of the box andhis twoarms thrown out on each side of it. Theattitudehad drawn all the stagnant blood to the faceand no mancould have recognized that distortedliver-coloredcountenance; but his heighthis dressand hishair were all sufficient to show my clientwhen wehad drawn the body upthat it was indeed hismissingbutler. He had been dead some daysbut therewas nowound or bruise upon his person to show how hehad methis dreadful end. When his body had beencarriedfrom the cellar we found ourselves stillconfrontedwith a problem which was almost asformidableas that with which we had started.
"Iconfess that so farWatsonI had beendisappointedin my investigation. I had reckoned uponsolvingthe matter when once I had found the placereferredto in the Ritual; but now I was thereandwasapparently as far as ever from knowing what it waswhich thefamily had concealed with such elaborateprecautions. It is true that I had thrown a lightupon thefate of Bruntonbut now I had to ascertainhow thatfate had come upon himand what part hadbeenplayed in the matter by the woman who haddisappeared. I sat down upon a keg in the corner andthoughtthe whole matter carefully over.
"Youknow my methods in such casesWatson. I putmyself inthe man's place andhaving first gauged hisintelligenceI try to imagine how I should myselfhaveproceeded under the same circumstances. In thiscase thematter was simplified by Brunton'sintelligencebeing quite first-rateso that it wasunnecessaryto make any allowance for the personalequationas the astronomers have dubbed it. He knowthatsomething valuable was concealed. He had spottedtheplace. He found that the stone which covered itwas justtoo heavy for a man to move unaided. Whatwould hedo next? He could not get help from outsideeven if hehad some one whom he could trustwithouttheunbarring of doors and considerable risk ofdetection. It was betterif he couldto have hishelpmateinside the house. But whom could he ask?This girlhad been devoted to him. A man always findsit hard torealize that he may have finally lost awoman'slovehowever badly he may have treated her.He wouldtry by a few attentions to make his peacewith thegirl Howellsand then would engage her ashisaccomplice. Together they would come at night tothecellarand their united force would suffice toraise thestone. So far I could follow their actionsas if Ihad actually seen them.
"Butfor two of themand one a womanit must havebeen heavywork the raising of that stone. A burlySussexpoliceman and I had found it no light job.What wouldthey do to assist them? Probably what Ishouldhave done myself. I rose and examinedcarefullythe different billets of wood which werescatteredround the floor. Almost at once I came uponwhat Iexpected. One pieceabout three feet inlengthhad a very marked indentation at one endwhileseveral were flattened at the sides as if theyhad beencompressed by some considerable weight.Evidentlyas they had dragged the stone up they hadthrust thechunks of wood into the chinkuntil atlastwhenthe opening was large enough to crawlthroughthey would hold it open by a billet placedlengthwisewhich might very well become indented atthe lowerendsince the whole weight of the stonewouldpress it down on to the edge of this other slab.So far Iwas still on safe ground.
"Andnow how was I to proceed to reconstruct thismidnightdrama? Clearlyonly one could fit into theholeandthat one was Brunton. The girl must havewaitedabove. Brunton then unlocked the boxhandedup thecontents presumably--since they were not to befound--andthen--and then what happened?
"Whatsmouldering fire of vengeance had suddenlysprunginto flame in this passionate Celtic woman'ssoul whenshe saw the man who had wronged her--wrongedherperhapsfar more than we suspected--in herpower? Was it a chance that the wood had slippedandthat thestone had shut Brunton into what had becomehissepulchre? Had she only been guilty of silence asto hisfate? Or had some sudden blow from her handdashed thesupport away and sent the slab crashingdown intoits place? Be that as it mightI seemed tosee thatwoman's figure still clutching at hertreasuretrove and flying wildly up the winding stairwith herears ringing perhaps with the muffled screamsfrombehind her and with the drumming of frenziedhandsagainst the slab of stone which was choking herfaithlesslover's life out.
"Herewas the secret of her blanched faceher shakennervesher peals of hysterical laughter on the nextmorning. But what had been in the box? What had shedone withthat? Of courseit must have been the oldmetal andpebbles which my client had dragged from themere. She had thrown them in there at the firstopportunityto remove the last trace of her crime.
"Fortwenty minutes I had sat motionlessthinking thematterout. Musgrave still stood with a very palefaceswinging his lantern and peering down into thehole.
"'Theseare coins of Charles the First' said heholdingout the few which had been in the box; 'yousee wewere right in fixing our date for the Ritual.'
"'Wemay find something else of Charles the First' Icriedasthe probable meaning of the first twoquestionof the Ritual broke suddenly upon me. 'Letme see thecontents of the bag which you fished fromthe mere.'
"Weascended to his studyand he laid the debrisbeforeme. I could understand his regarding it as ofsmallimportance when I looked at itfor the metalwas almostblack and the stones lustreless and dull.I rubbedone of them on my sleevehoweverand itglowedafterwards like a spark in the dark hollow ofmy hand. The metal work was in the form of a doubleringbutit had been bent and twisted out of itsoriginalshape.
"'Youmust bear in mind' said I'that the royalparty madehead in England even after the death of thekingandthat when they at last fled they probablyleft manyof their most precious possessions buriedbehindthemwith the intention of returning for themin morepeaceful times.'
"'MyancestorSir Ralph Musgraveas a prominentCavalierand the right-hand man of Charles the Secondin hiswanderings' said my friend.
"'Ahindeed!' I answered. 'Well nowI think thatreallyshould give us the last link that we wanted. Imustcongratulate you on coming into the possessionthough inrather a tragic manner of a relic which isof greatintrinsic valuebut of even greaterimportanceas an historical curiosity.'
"'Whatis itthen?' he gasped in astonishment.
"'Itis nothing less than the ancient crown of thekings ofEngland.'
"'Precisely. Consider what the Ritual says: How doesit run? "Whose was it?" "His who is gone." That wasafter theexecution of Charles. Then"Who shall haveit?" "He who will come." That was Charles theSecondwhose advent was already foreseen. There canI thinkbe no doubt that this battered and shapelessdiademonce encircled the brows of the royal Stuarts.'
"'Andhow came it in the pond?'
"'Ahthat is a question that will take some time toanswer.' And with that I sketched out to him thewhole longchain of surmise and of proof which I hadconstructed. The twilight had closed in and the moonwasshining brightly in the sky before my narrativewasfinished.
"'Andhow was it then that Charles did not get hiscrown whenhe returned?' asked Musgravepushing backthe relicinto its linen bag.
"'Ahthere you lay your finger upon the one pointwhich weshall probably never be able to clear up. Itis likelythat the Musgrave who held the secret diedin theintervaland by some oversight left this guideto hisdescendant without explaining the meaning ofit. From that day to this it has been handed downfromfather to sonuntil at last it came within reachof a manwho tore its secret out of it and lost hislife inthe venture.'
"Andthat's the story of the Musgrave RitualWatson.They havethe crown down at Hurlstone--though they hadsome legalbother and a considerable sum to pay beforethey wereallowed to retain it. I am sure that if youmentionedmy name they would be happy to show it toyou. Of the woman nothing was ever heardand theprobabilityis that she got away out of England andcarriedherself and the memory of her crime to somelandbeyond the seas."
It wassome time before the health of my friend Mr.SherlockHolmes recovered from the strain caused byhisimmense exertions in the spring of '87. The wholequestionof the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of thecolossalschemes of Baron Maupertuis are too recent inthe mindsof the publicand are too intimatelyconcernedwith politics and finance to be fittingsubjectsfor this series of sketches. They ledhoweverin an indirect fashion to a singular andcomplexproblem which gave my friend an opportunity ofdemonstratingthe value of a fresh weapon among themany withwhich he waged his life-long battle againstcrime.
Onreferring to my notes I see that it was upon the14th ofApril that I received a telegram from Lyonswhichinformed me that Holmes was lying ill in theHotelDulong. Within twenty-four hours I was in hissick-roomand was relieved to find that there wasnothingformidable in his symptoms. Even his ironconstitutionhoweverhad broken down under thestrain ofan investigation which had extended over twomonthsduring which period he had never worked lessthanfifteen hours a dayand had more than onceashe assuredmekept to his task for five days at astretch. Even the triumphant issue of his laborscould notsave him from reaction after so terrible anexertionand at a time when Europe was ringing withhis nameand when his room was literally ankle-deepwithcongratulatory telegrams I found him a prey totheblackest depression. Even the knowledge that hehadsucceeded where the police of three countries hadfailedand that he had outmanoeuvred at every pointthe mostaccomplished swindler in Europewasinsufficientto rouse him from his nervousprostration.
Three dayslater we were back in Baker Streettogether;but it was evident that my friend would bemuch thebetter for a changeand the thought of aweek ofspring time in the country was full ofattractionsto me also. My old friendColonelHayterwho had come under my professional care inAfghanistanhad now taken a house near Reigate inSurreyand had frequently asked me to come down tohim upon avisit. On the last occasion he hadremarkedthat if my friend would only come with me hewould beglad to extend his hospitality to him also.A littlediplomacy was neededbut when Holmesunderstoodthat the establishment was a bachelor oneand thathe would be allowed the fullest freedomhefell inwith my plans and a week after our return fromLyons wewere under the Colonel's roof. Hayter was afine oldsoldier who had seen much of the worldandhe soonfoundas I had expectedthat Holmes and hehad muchin common.
On theevening of our arrival we were sitting in theColonel'sgun-room after dinnerHolmes stretched uponthe sofawhile Hayter and I looked over his littlearmory ofEastern weapons.
"Bythe way" said he suddenly"I think I'll take oneof thesepistols upstairs with me in case we have analarm."
"Analarm!" said I.
"Yeswe've had a scare in this part lately. OldActonwhois one of our county magnateshad hishousebroken into last Monday. No great damage donebut thefellows are still at large."
"Noclue?" asked Holmescocking his eye at theColonel.
"Noneas yet. But the affair is a pretty oneone ofour littlecountry crimeswhich must seem too smallfor yourattentionMr. Holmesafter this greatinternationalaffair."
Holmeswaved away the complimentthough his smileshowedthat it had pleased him.
"Wasthere any feature of interest?"
"Ifancy not. The thieves ransacked the library andgot verylittle for their pains. The whole place wasturnedupside downdrawers burst openand pressesransackedwith the result that an odd volume ofPope's'Homer' two plated candlesticksan ivoryletter-weighta small oak barometerand a ball oftwine areall that have vanished."
"Whatan extraordinary assortment!" I exclaimed.
"Ohthe fellows evidently grabbed hold of everythingthey couldget."
Holmesgrunted from the sofa.
"Thecounty police ought to make something of that"said he;"whyit is surely obvious that--"
But I heldup a warning finger.
"Youare here for a restmy dear fellow. ForHeaven'ssake don't get started on a new problem whenyournerves are all in shreds."
Holmesshrugged his shoulders with a glance of comicresignationtowards the Coloneland the talk driftedaway intoless dangerous channels.
It wasdestinedhoweverthat all my professionalcautionshould be wastedfor next morning the problemobtrudeditself upon us in such a way that it wasimpossibleto ignore itand our country visit took aturn whichneither of us could have anticipated. Wewere atbreakfast when the Colonel's butler rushed inwith allhis propriety shaken out of him.
"Haveyou heard the newssir?" he gasped. "At theCunningham'ssir!"
"Burglary!"cried the Colonelwith his coffee-cup inmid-air.
TheColonel whistled. "By Jove!" said he. "Who'skilledthen? The J.P. or his son?"
"Neithersir. It was William the coachman. Shotthroughthe heartsirand never spoke again."
"Theburglarsir. He was off like a shot and gotcleanaway. He'd just broke in at the pantry windowwhenWilliam came on him and met his end in saving hismaster'sproperty."
"Itwas last nightsirsomewhere about twelve."
"Ahthenwe'll step over afterwards" said theColonelcoolly settling down to his breakfast again."It'sa baddish business" he added when the butlerhad gone;"he's our leading man about hereis oldCunninghamand a very decent fellow too. He'll becut upover thisfor the man has been in his servicefor yearsand was a good servant. It's evidently thesamevillains who broke into Acton's."
"Andstole that very singular collection" saidHolmesthoughtfully.
"Hum! It may prove the simplest matter in the worldbut allthe same at first glance this is just a littlecuriousis it not? A gang of burglars acting in thecountrymight be expected to vary the scene of theiroperationsand not to crack two cribs in the samedistrictwithin a few days. When you spoke last nightof takingprecautions I remember that it passedthrough mymind that this was probably the last parishin Englandto which the thief or thieves would belikely toturn their attention--which shows that Ihave stillmuch to learn."
"Ifancy it's some local practitioner" said theColonel. "In that caseof courseActon's andCunningham'sare just the places he would go forsince theyare far the largest about here."
"Wellthey ought to bebut they've had a lawsuit forsome yearswhich has sucked the blood out of both ofthemIfancy. Old Acton has some claim on halfCunningham'sestateand the lawyers have been at itwith bothhands."
"Ifit's a local villain there should not be muchdifficultyin running him down" said Holmes with ayawn. "All rightWatsonI don't intend to meddle."
"InspectorForrestersir" said the butlerthrowingopen thedoor.
Theofficiala smartkeen-faced young fellowsteppedinto the room. "Good-morningColonel" saidhe; "Ihope I don't intrudebut we hear that Mr.Holmes ofBaker Street is here."
TheColonel waved his hand towards my friendand theInspectorbowed.
"Wethought that perhaps you would care to stepacrossMr. Holmes."
"Thefates are against youWatson" said helaughing. "We were chatting about the matter when youcame inInspector. Perhaps you can let us have a fewdetails." As he leaned back in his chair in thefamiliarattitude I knew that the case was hopeless.
"Wehad no clue in the Acton affair. But here we haveplenty togo onand there's no doubt it is the sameparty ineach case. The man was seen."
"Yessir. But he was off like a deer after the shotthatkilled poor William Kirwan was fired. Mr.Cunninghamsaw him from the bedroom windowand Mr.AlecCunningham saw him from the back passage. It wasquarter totwelve when the alarm broke out. Mr.Cunninghamhad just got into bedand Mr. Alec wassmoking apipe in his dressing-gown. They both heardWilliamthe coachman calling for helpand Mr. Alecran downto see what was the matter. The back doorwas openand as he came to the foot of the stairs hesaw twomen wrestling together outside. One of themfired ashotthe other droppedand the murdererrushedacross the garden and over the hedge. Mr.Cunninghamlooking out of his bedroomsaw the fellowas hegained the roadbut lost sight of him at once.Mr. Alecstopped to see if he could help the dyingmanandso the villain got clean away. Beyond thefact thathe was a middle-sized man and dressed insome darkstuffwe have no personal clue; but we aremakingenergetic inquiriesand if he is a stranger weshall soonfind him out."
"Whatwas this William doing there? Did he sayanythingbefore he died?"
"Nota word. He lives at the lodge with his motherand as hewas a very faithful fellow we imagine thathe walkedup to the house with the intention of seeingthat allwas right there. Of course this Actonbusinesshas put every one on their guard. The robbermust havejust burst open the door--the lock has beenforced--whenWilliam came upon him."
"DidWilliam say anything to his mother before goingout?"
"Sheis very old and deafand we can get noinformationfrom her. The shock has made herhalf-wittedbut I understand that she was never verybright. There is one very important circumstancehowever. Look at this!"
He took asmall piece of torn paper from a note-bookand spreadit out upon his knee.
"Thiswas found between the finger and thumb of thedead man. It appears to be a fragment torn from alargersheet. You will observe that the hourmentionedupon it is the very time at which the poorfellow methis fate. You see that his murderer mighthave tornthe rest of the sheet from him or he mighthave takenthis fragment from the murderer. It readsalmost asthough it were an appointment."
Holmestook up the scrap of papera fac-simile ofwhich ishere reproduced.
d atquarter to twelvelearn whatmaybe
"Presumingthat it is an appointment" continued theInspector"it is of course a conceivable theory thatthisWilliam Kirwan--though he had the reputation ofbeing anhonest manmay have been in league with thethief. He may have met him theremay even havehelped himto break in the doorand then they mayhavefallen out between themselves."
"Thiswriting is of extraordinary interest" saidHolmeswho had been examining it with intenseconcentration. "These are much deeper waters than Ihadthough." He sank his head upon his handswhiletheInspector smiled at the effect which his case hadhad uponthe famous London specialist.
"Yourlast remark" said Holmespresently"as to thepossibilityof there being an understanding betweentheburglar and the servantand this being a note ofappointmentfrom one to the otheris an ingenious andnotentirely impossible supposition. But this writingopensup--" He sank his head into his hands again andremainedfor some minutes in the deepest thought.When heraised his face againI was surprised to seethat hischeek was tinged with colorand his eyes asbright asbefore his illness. He sprang to his feetwith allhis old energy.
"I'lltell you what" said he"I should like to havea quietlittle glance into the details of this case.There issomething in it which fascinates meextremely. If you will permit meColonelI willleave myfriend Watson and youand I will step roundwith theInspector to test the truth of one or twolittlefancies of mine. I will be with you again inhalf anhour."
An hourand half had elapsed before the Inspectorreturnedalone.
"Mr.Holmes is walking up and down in the fieldoutside"said he. "He wants us all four to go up tothe housetogether."
TheInspector shrugged his shoulders. "I don't quiteknowsir. Between ourselvesI think Mr. Holmes hadnot quitegot over his illness yet. He's beenbehavingvery queerlyand he is very much excited."
"Idon't think you need alarm yourself" said I. "Ihaveusually found that there was method in hismadness."
"Somefolks might say there was madness in hismethod"muttered the Inspector. "But he's all onfire tostartColonelso we had best go out if youareready."
We foundHolmes pacing up and down in the fieldhischin sunkupon his breastand his hands thrust intohistrousers pockets.
"Thematter grows in interest" said he. "Watsonyourcountry-trip has been a distinct success. I havehad acharming morning."
"Youhave been up to the scene of the crimeIunderstand"said the Colonel.
"Yes;the Inspector and I have made quite a littlereconnaissancetogether."
"Wellwe have seen some very interesting things.I'll tellyou what we did as we walk. First of allwe saw thebody of this unfortunate man. He certainlydied froma revolved wound as reported."
"Hadyou doubted itthen?"
"Ohit is as well to test everything. Our inspectionwas notwasted. We then had an interview with Mr.Cunninghamand his sonwho were able to point out theexact spotwhere the murderer had broken through thegarden-hedgein his flight. That was of greatinterest."
"Thenwe had a look at this poor fellow's mother. Wecould getno information from herhoweveras she isvery oldand feeble."
"Andwhat is the result of your investigations?"
"Theconviction that the crime is a very peculiar one.Perhapsour visit now may do something to make it lessobscure. I think that we are both agreedInspectorthat thefragment of paper in the dead man's handbearingas it doesthe very hour of his deathwrittenupon itis of extreme importance."
"Itshould give a clueMr. Holmes."
"Itdoes give a clue. Whoever wrote that note was theman whobrought William Kirwan out of his bed at thathour. But where is the rest of that sheet of paper?"
"Iexamined the ground carefully in the hope offindingit" said the Inspector.
"Itwas torn out of the dead man's hand. Why was someone soanxious to get possession of it? Because itincriminatedhim. And what would he do with it?Thrust itinto his pocketmost likelynever noticingthat acorner of it had been left in the grip of thecorpse. If we could get the rest of that sheet it isobviousthat we should have gone a long way towardssolvingthe mystery."
"Yesbut how can we get at the criminal's pocketbefore wecatch the criminal?"
"Wellwellit was worth thinking over. Then thereis anotherobvious point. The note was sent toWilliam. The man who wrote it could not have takenit;otherwiseof coursehe might have delivered hisownmessage by word of mouth. Who brought the notethen? Or did it come through the post?"
"Ihave made inquiries" said the Inspector. "Williamreceived aletter by the afternoon post yesterday.Theenvelope was destroyed by him."
"Excellent!"cried Holmesclapping the Inspector onthe back. "You've seen the postman. It is a pleasureto workwith you. Wellhere is the lodgeand if youwill comeupColonelI will show you the scene ofthecrime."
We passedthe pretty cottage where the murdered manhad livedand walked up an oak-lined avenue to thefine oldQueen Anne housewhich bears the date ofMalplaquetupon the lintel of the door. Holmes andtheInspector led us round it until we came to theside gatewhich is separated by a stretch of gardenfrom thehedge which lines the road. A constable wasstandingat the kitchen door.
"Throwthe door openofficer" said Holmes. "Nowitwas onthose stairs that young Mr. Cunningham stoodand sawthe two men struggling just where we are. OldMr.Cunningham was at that window--the second on theleft--andhe saw the fellow get away just to the leftof thatbush. Then Mr. Alec ran out and knelt besidethewounded man. The ground is very hardyou seeand thereare no marks to guide us." As he spoke twomen camedown the garden pathfrom round the angle ofthehouse. The one was an elderly manwith a strongdeep-linedheavy-eyed face; the other a dashing youngfellowwhose brightsmiling expression and showydress werein strange contract with the business whichhadbrought us there.
"Stillat itthen?" said he to Holmes. "I thoughtyouLondoners were never at fault. You don't seem tobe so veryquickafter all."
"Ahyou must give us a little time" said Holmesgood-humoredly.
"You'llwant it" said young Alec Cunningham. "WhyIdon't seethat we have any clue at all."
"There'sonly one" answered the Inspector. "Wethoughtthat if we could only find--Good heavensMr.Holmes! What is the matter?"
My poorfriend's face had suddenly assumed the mostdreadfulexpression. His eyes rolled upwardshisfeatureswrithed in agonyand with a suppressed groanhe droppedon his face upon the ground. Horrified atthesuddenness and severity of the attackwe carriedhim intothe kitchenwhere he lay back in a largechairandbreathed heavily for some minutes.Finallywith a shamefaced apology for his weaknesshe roseonce more.
"Watsonwould tell you that I have only just recoveredfrom asevere illness" he explained. "I am liable tothesesudden nervous attacks."
"ShallI send you home in my trap?" asked oldCunningham.
"Wellsince I am herethere is one point on which Ishouldlike to feel sure. We can very easily verifyit."
"Wellit seems to me that it is just possible thatthearrival of this poor fellow William was notbeforebut afterthe entrance of the burglary intothehouse. You appear to take it for granted thatalthoughthe door was forcedthe robber never gotin."
"Ifancy that is quite obvious" said Mr. Cunninghamgravely. "Whymy son Alec had not yet gone to bedand hewould certainly have heard any one movingabout."
"Wherewas he sitting?"
"Iwas smoking in my dressing-room."
"Whichwindow is that?"
"Thelast on the left next my father's."
"Bothof your lamps were litof course?"
"Thereare some very singular points here" saidHolmessmiling. "Is it not extraordinary that aburglary--anda burglar who had had some previousexperience--shoulddeliberately break into a house ata timewhen he could see from the lights that two ofthe familywere still afoot?"
"Hemust have been a cool hand."
"Wellof courseif the case were not an odd one weshould nothave been driven to ask you for anexplanation"said young Mr. Alec. "But as to yourideas thatthe man had robbed the house before WilliamtackledhimI think it a most absurd notion.Wouldn'twe have found the place disarrangedandmissed thethings which he had taken?"
"Itdepends on what the things were" said Holmes."Youmust remember that we are dealing with a burglarwho is avery peculiar fellowand who appears to workon linesof his own. Lookfor exampleat the queerlot ofthings which he took from Acton's--what wasit?--aball of stringa letter-weightand I don'tknow whatother odds and ends."
"Wellwe are quite in your handsMr. Holmes" saidoldCunningham. "Anything which you or the Inspectormaysuggest will most certainly be done."
"Inthe first place" said Holmes"I should like youto offer areward--coming from yourselffor theofficialsmay take a little time before they wouldagree uponthe sumand these things cannot be donetoopromptly. I have jotted down the form hereifyou wouldnot mind signing it. Fifty pound was quiteenoughIthought."
"Iwould willingly give five hundred" said the J.P.taking theslip of paper and the pencil which Holmeshanded tohim. "This is not quite correcthowever"he addedglancing over the document.
"Iwrote it rather hurriedly."
"Yousee you begin'Whereasat about a quarter toone onTuesday morning an attempt was made' and soon. It was at a quarter to twelveas a matter offact."
I waspained at the mistakefor I knew how keenlyHolmeswould feel any slip of the kind. It was hisspecialtyto be accurate as to factbut his recentillnesshad shaken himand this one little incidentwas enoughto show me that he was still far from beinghimself. He was obviously embarrassed for an instantwhile theInspector raised his eyebrowsand AlecCunninghamburst into a laugh. The old gentlemancorrectedthe mistakehoweverand handed the paperback toHolmes.
"Getit printed as soon as possible" he said; "Ithink youridea is an excellent one."
Holmes putthe slip of paper carefully away into hispocket-book.
"Andnow" said he"it really would be a good thingthat weshould all go over the house together and makecertainthat this rather erratic burglar did notafter allcarry anything away with him."
BeforeenteringHolmes made an examination of thedoor whichhad been forced. It was evident that achisel orstrong knife had been thrust inand thelockforced back with it. We could see the marks inthe woodwhere it had been pushed in.
"Youdon't use barsthen?" he asked.
"Wehave never found it necessary."
"Youdon't keep a dog?"
"Yesbut he is chained on the other side of thehouse."
"Whendo the servants go to bed?"
"Iunderstand that William was usually in bed also atthathour."
"Itis singular that on this particular night heshouldhave been up. NowI should be very glad ifyou wouldhave the kindness to show us over the houseMr.Cunningham."
Astone-flagged passagewith the kitchens branchingaway fromitled by a wooden staircase directly tothe firstfloor of the house. It came out upon thelandingopposite to a second more ornamental stairwhich cameup from the front hall. Out of thislandingopened the drawing-room and several bedroomsincludingthose of Mr. Cunningham and his son. Holmeswalkedslowlytaking keen note of the architecture ofthehouse. I could tell from his expression that hewas on ahot scentand yet I could not in the leastimagine inwhat direction his inferences were leadinghim.
"Mygood sir" said Mr. Cunningham with someimpatience"this is surely very unnecessary. That ismy room atthe end of the stairsand my son's is theone beyondit. I leave it to your judgment whether itwaspossible for the thief to have come up herewithoutdisturbing us."
"Youmust try round and get on a fresh scentIfancy"said the son with a rather malicious smile.
"StillI must ask you to humor me a little further.I shouldlikefor exampleto see how far the windowsof thebedrooms command the front. ThisI understandis yourson's room"--he pushed open the door--"andthatIpresumeis the dressing-room in which he satsmokingwhen the alarm was given. Where does thewindow ofthat look out to?" He stepped across thebedroompushed open the doorand glanced round theotherchamber.
"Ihope that you are satisfied now?" said Mr.Cunninghamtartly.
"ThankyouI think I have seen all that I wished."
"Thenif it is really necessary we can go into myroom."
"Ifit is not too much trouble."
The J. P.shrugged his shouldersand led the way intohis ownchamberwhich was a plainly furnished andcommonplaceroom. As we moved across it in thedirectionof the windowHolmes fell back until he andI were thelast of the group. Near the foot of thebed stooda dish of oranges and a carafe of water. Aswe passedit Holmesto my unutterable astonishmentleanedover in front of me and deliberately knockedthe wholething over. The glass smashed into athousandpieces and the fruit rolled about into everycorner ofthe room.
"You'vedone it nowWatson" said hecoolly. "Aprettymess you've made of the carpet."
I stoopedin some confusion and began to pick up thefruitunderstanding for some reason my companiondesired meto take the blame upon myself. The othersdid thesameand set the table on its legs again.
"Hullo!"cried the Inspector"where's he got to?"
"Waithere an instant" said young Alec Cunningham."Thefellow is off his headin my opinion. Come withmefatherand see where he has got to!"
Theyrushed out of the roomleaving the InspectortheColoneland me staring at each other.
"'Ponmy wordI am inclined to agree with MasterAlec"said the official. "It may be the effect ofthisillnessbut it seems to me that--"
His wordswere cut short by a sudden scream of "Help!Help! Murder!" With a thrill I recognized the voiceof that ofmy friend. I rushed madly from the room onto thelanding. The crieswhich had sunk down into ahoarseinarticulate shoutingcame from the roomwhich wehad first visited. I dashed inand on intothedressing-room beyond. The two Cunninghams werebendingover the prostrate figure of Sherlock Holmestheyounger clutching his throat with both handswhile theelder seemed to be twisting one of hiswrists. In an instant the three of us had torn themaway fromhimand Holmes staggered to his feetverypale andevidently greatly exhausted.
"Arrestthese menInspector" he gasped.
"Thatof murdering their coachmanWilliam Kirwan."
TheInspector stared about him in bewilderment. "Ohcome nowMr. Holmes" said he at last"I'm sure youdon'treally mean to--"
"Tutmanlook at their faces!" cried Holmescurtly.
Nevercertainly have I seen a plainer confession ofguilt uponhuman countenances. The older man seemednumbed anddazed with a heavysullen expression uponhisstrongly-marked face. The sonon the other handhaddropped all that jauntydashing style which hadcharacterizedhimand the ferocity of a dangerouswild beastgleamed in his dark eyes and distorted hishandsomefeatures. The Inspector said nothingbutsteppingto the doorhe blew his whistle. Two of hisconstablescame at the call.
"Ihave no alternativeMr. Cunningham" said he. "Itrust thatthis may all prove to be an absurd mistakebut youcan see that--Ahwould you? Drop it!" Hestruck outwith his handand a revolver which theyoungerman was in the act of cocking clattered downupon thefloor.
"Keepthat" said Holmesquietly putting his footupon it;"you will find it useful at the trial. Butthis iswhat we really wanted." He held up a littlecrumpledpiece of paper.
"Theremainder of the sheet!" cried the Inspector.
"Andwhere was it?"
"WhereI was sure it must be. I'll make the wholematterclear to you presently. I thinkColonelthatyou andWatson might return nowand I will be withyou againin an hour at the furthest. The Inspectorand I musthave a word with the prisonersbut youwillcertainly see me back at luncheon time."
SherlockHolmes was as good as his wordfor about oneo'clock herejoined us in the Colonel's smoking-room.He wasaccompanied by a little elderly gentlemanwhowasintroduced to me as the Mr. Acton whose house hadbeen thescene of the original burglary.
"Iwished Mr. Acton to be present while I demonstratedthis smallmatter to you" said Holmes"for it isnaturalthat he should take a keen interest in thedetails. I am afraidmy dear Colonelthat you mustregret thehour that you took in such a stormy petrelas I am."
"Onthe contrary" answered the Colonelwarmly"Iconsiderit the greatest privilege to have beenpermittedto study your methods of working. I confessthat theyquite surpass my expectationsand that I amutterlyunable to account for you result. I have notyet seenthe vestige of a clue."
"I amafraid that my explanation may disillusion youbut it hasalways been my habit to hide none of mymethodseither from my friend Watson or from any onewho mighttake an intelligent interest in them. ButfirstasI am rather shaken by the knocking aboutwhich Ihad in the dressing-roomI think that I shallhelpmyself to a dash of your brandyColonel. Mystrengthhad been rather tried of late."
"Itrust that you had no more of those nervousattacks."
SherlockHolmes laughed heartily. "We will come tothat inits turn" said he. "I will lay an account ofthe casebefore you in its due ordershowing you thevariouspoints which guided me in my decision. Prayinterruptme if there is any inference which is notperfectlyclear to you.
"Itis of the highest importance in the art ofdetectionto be able to recognizeout of a number offactswhich are incidental and which vital.Otherwiseyour energy and attention must be dissipatedinstead ofbeing concentrated. Nowin this casethere wasnot the slightest doubt in my mind from thefirst thatthe key of the whole matter must be lookedfor in thescrap of paper in the dead man's hand.
"Beforegoing into thisI would draw your attentionto thefact thatif Alec Cunningham's narrative wascorrectand if the assailantafter shooting WilliamKirwanhad instantly fledthen it obviously couldnot be hewho tore the paper from the dead man's hand.But if itwas not heit must have been AlecCunninghamhimselffor by the time that the old manhaddescended several servants were upon the scene.The pointis a simple onebut the Inspector hadoverlookedit because he had started with thesuppositionthat these county magnates had had nothingto do withthe matter. NowI make a point of neverhaving anyprejudicesand of following docilelywhereverfact may lead meand soin the very firststage ofthe investigationI found myself looking alittleaskance at the part which had been played byMr. AlecCunningham.
"Andnow I made a very careful examination of thecorner ofpaper which the Inspector had submitted tous. It was at once clear to me that it formed part ofa veryremarkable document. Here it is. Do you notnowobserved something very suggestive about it?"
"Ithas a very irregular look" said the Colonel.
"Mydear sir" cried Holmes"there cannot be theleastdoubt in the world that it has been written bytwopersons doing alternate words. When I draw yourattentionto the strong t's of 'at' and 'to'and askyou tocompare them with the weak ones of 'quarter'and'twelve' you will instantly recognize the fact.A verybrief analysis of these four words would enableyou to saywith the utmost confidence that the 'learn'and the'maybe' are written in the stronger handandthe 'what'in the weaker."
"ByJoveit's as clear as day!" cried the Colonel."Whyon earth should two men write a letter in such afashion?"
"Obviouslythe business was a bad oneand one of themen whodistrusted the other was determined thatwhateverwas doneeach should have an equal hand init. Nowof the two menit is clear that the one whowrote the'at' and 'to' was the ringleader."
"Howdo you get at that?"
"Wemight deduce it from the mere character of the onehand ascompared with the other. But we have moreassuredreasons than that for supposing it. If youexaminethis scrap with attention you will come to theconclusionthat the man with the stronger hand wroteall hiswords firstleaving blanks for the other tofill up. These blanks were not always sufficientandyou cansee that the second man had a squeeze to fithis'quarter' in between the 'at' and the 'to'showingthat the latter were already written. The manwho wroteall his words first in undoubtedly the manwhoplanned the affair."
"Excellent!"cried Mr. Acton.
"Butvery superficial" said Holmes. "We come nowhoweverto a point which is of importance. You maynot beaware that the deduction of a man's age fromhiswriting is one which has brought to considerableaccuracyby experts. In normal cases one can place aman in histrue decade with tolerable confidence. Isay normalcasesbecause ill-health and physicalweaknessreproduce the signs of old ageeven when theinvalid isa youth. In this caselooking at theboldstrong hand of the oneand the ratherbroken-backedappearance of the otherwhich stillretainsits legibility although the t's have begun tolose theircrossingwe can say that the one was ayoung manand the other was advanced in years withoutbeingpositively decrepit."
"Excellent!"cried Mr. Acton again.
"Thereis a further pointhoweverwhich is subtlerand ofgreater interest. There is something in commonbetweenthese hands. They belong to men who areblood-relatives. It may be most obvious to you in theGreek e'sbut to me there are many small points whichindicatethe same thing. I have no doubt at all thata familymannerism can be traced in these twospecimensof writing. I am onlyof coursegivingyou theleading results now of my examination of thepaper. There were twenty-three other deductions whichwould beof more interest to experts than to you.They alltend to deepen the impression upon my mindthat theCunninghamsfather and sonhad written thisletter.
"Havinggot so farmy next step wasof coursetoexamineinto the details of the crimeand to see howfar theywould help us. I went up to the house withtheInspectorand saw all that was to be seen. Thewound uponthe dead man wasas I was able todeterminewith absolute confidencefired from arevolverat the distance of something over four yards.There wasno powder-blackening on the clothes.Evidentlytherefore Alec Cunningham had lied whenhe saidthat the two men were struggling when the shotwasfired. Againboth father and son agreed as tothe placewhere the man escaped into the road. Atthatpointhoweveras it happensthere is abroadishditchmoist at the bottom. As there were noindicationsof bootmarks about this ditchI wasabsolutelysure not only that the Cunninghams hadagainliedbut that there had never been any unknownman uponthe scene at all.
"Andnow I have to consider the motive of thissingularcrime. To get at thisI endeavored first ofall tosolve the reason of the original burglary atMr.Acton's. I understoodfrom something which theColoneltold usthat a lawsuit had been going onbetweenyouMr. Actonand the Cunninghams. Ofcourseitinstantly occurred to me that they hadbrokeninto your library with the intention of gettingat somedocument which might be of importance in thecase."
"Preciselyso" said Mr. Acton. "There can be nopossibledoubt as to their intentions. I have theclearestclaim upon half of their present estateandif theycould have found a single paper--whichfortunatelywas in the strong-box of mysolicitors--theywould undoubtedly have crippled ourcase."
"Thereyou are" said Holmessmiling. "It was adangerousreckless attemptin which I seem to tracetheinfluence of young Alec. Having found nothingthey triedto divert suspicion by making it appear tobe anordinary burglaryto which end they carried offwhateverthey could lay their hands upon. That is allclearenoughbut there was much that was stillobscure. What I wanted above all was to get themissingpart of that note. I was certain that Alechad tornit out of the dead man's handand almostcertainthat he must have thrust it into the pocket ofhisdressing-gown. Where else could he have put it?The onlyquestion was whether it was still there. Itwas worthan effort to find outand for that objectwe allwent up to the house.
"TheCunninghams joined usas you doubtless rememberoutsidethe kitchen door. It wasof courseof thevery firstimportance that they should not be remindedof theexistence of this paperotherwise they wouldnaturallydestroy it without delay. The Inspector wasabout totell them the importance which we attached toit whenby the luckiest chance in the worldItumbleddown in a sort of fit and so changed theconversation.
"Goodheavens!" cried the Colonellaughing"do youmean tosay all our sympathy was wasted and your fitanimposture?"
"Speakingprofessionallyit was admirably done"cried Ilooking in amazement at this man who wasforeverconfounding me with some new phase of hisastuteness.
"Itis an art which is often useful" said he. "WhenIrecovered I managedby a device which had perhapssomelittle merit of ingenuityto get old Cunninghamto writethe word 'twelve' so that I might compare itwith the'twelve' upon the paper."
"Ohwhat an ass I have been!" I exclaimed.
"Icould see that you were commiserating me over myweakness"said Holmeslaughing. "I was sorry tocause youthe sympathetic pain which I know that youfelt. We then went upstairs togetherand havingenteredthe room and seen the dressing-gown hanging upbehind thedoorI contrivedby upsetting a tabletoengagetheir attention for the momentand slippedback toexamine the pockets. I had hardly got thepaperhowever--which wasas I had expectedin oneofthem--when the two Cunninghams were on meandwouldIverily believehave murdered me then andthere butfor your prompt and friendly aid. As it isI feelthat young man's grip on my throat nowand thefather hastwisted my wrist round in the effort to getthe paperout of my hand. They saw that I must knowall aboutityou seeand the sudden change fromabsolutesecurity to complete despair made themperfectlydesperate.
"Ihad a little talk with old Cunningham afterwards asto themotive of the crime. He was tractable enoughthough hisson was a perfect demonready to blow outhis own oranybody else's brains if he could have gotto hisrevolver. When Cunningham saw that the caseagainsthim was so strong he lost all heart and made acleanbreast of everything. It seems that William hadsecretlyfollowed his two masters on the night whenthey madetheir raid upon Mr. Acton'sand having thusgot theminto his powerproceededunder threats ofexposureto levy black-mail upon them. Mr. Alechoweverwas a dangerous man to play games of thatsortwith. It was a stroke of positive genius on hispart tosee in the burglary scare which was convulsingthecountry side an opportunity of plausibly gettingrid of theman whom he feared. William was decoyed upand shotand had they only got the whole of the noteand paid alittle more attention to detail in theaccessoriesit is very possible that suspicion mightnever havebeen aroused."
"Andthe note?" I asked.
SherlockHolmes placed the subjoined paper before us.
If youwill only come aroundto theeast gate you willwill verymuch surprise you andbe of thegreatest service to you and alsoto AnnieMorrison. But say nothing toanyoneupon the matter
"Itis very much the sort of thing that I expected"said he. "Of coursewe do not yet know what therelationsmay have been between Alec CunninghamWilliamKirwanand Annie Morrison. The results showsthat thetrap was skillfully baited. I am sure thatyou cannotfail to be delighted with the traces ofheredityshown in the p's and in the tails of the g's.Theabsence of the i-dots in the old man's writing isalso mostcharacteristic. WatsonI think our quietrest inthe country has been a distinct successand Ishallcertainly return much invigorated to BakerStreetto-morrow."
One summernighta few months after my marriageIwas seatedby my own hearth smoking a last pipe andnoddingover a novelfor my day's work had been anexhaustingone. My wife had already gone upstairsand thesound of the locking of the hall door sometimebefore told me that the servants had alsoretired. I had risen from my seat and was knockingout theashes of my pipe when I suddenly heard theclang ofthe bell.
I lookedat the clock. It was a quarter to twelve.This couldnot be a visitor at so late an hour. Apatientevidentlyand possibly an all-night sitting.With a wryface I went out into the hall and openedthe door. To my astonishment it was Sherlock Holmeswho stoodupon my step.
"AhWatson" said he"I hoped that I might not betoo lateto catch you."
"Mydear fellowpray come in."
"Youlook surprisedand no wonder! RelievedtooIfancy! Hum! You still smoke the Arcadia mixture ofyourbachelor days then! There's no mistaking thatfluffy ashupon your coat. It's easy to tell that youhave beenaccustomed to wear a uniformWatson.You'llnever pass as a pure-bred civilian as long asyou keepthat habit of carrying your handkerchief inyoursleeve. Could you put me up tonight?"
"Youtold me that you had bachelor quarters for oneand I seethat you have no gentleman visitor atpresent. Your hat-stand proclaims as much."
"Ishall be delighted if you will stay."
"Thankyou. I'll fill the vacant peg then. Sorry tosee thatyou've had the British workman in the house.He's atoken of evil. Not the drainsI hope?"
"Ah! He has left two nail-marks from his boot uponyourlinoleum just where the light strikes it. Nothank youI had some supper at Waterloobut I'llsmoke apipe with you with pleasure."
I handedhim my pouchand he seated himself oppositeto me andsmoked for some time in silence. I was wellaware thatnothing but business of importance wouldhavebrought him to me at such an hourso I waitedpatientlyuntil he should come round to it.
"Isee that you are professionally rather busy justnow"said heglancing very keenly across at me.
"YesI've had a busy day" I answered. "It may seemveryfoolish in your eyes" I added"but really Idon't knowhow you deduced it."
Holmeschuckled to himself.
"Ihave the advantage of knowing your habitsmy dearWatson"said he. "When your round is a short one youwalkandwhen it is a long one you use a hansom. AsI perceivethat your bootsalthough usedare by nomeansdirtyI cannot doubt that you are at presentbusyenough to justify the hansom."
"Elementary"said he. "It is one of those instanceswhere thereasoner can produce an effect which seemsremarkableto his neighborbecause the latter hasmissed theone little point which is the basis of thededuction. The same may be saidmy dear fellowforthe effectof some of these little sketches of yourswhich isentirely meretriciousdepending as it doesupon yourretaining in your own hands some factors intheproblem which are never imparted to the reader.Nowatpresent I am in the position of these samereadersfor I hold in this hand several threads ofone of thestrangest cases which ever perplexed aman'sbrainand yet I lack the one or two which areneedful tocomplete my theory. But I'll have themWatsonI'll have them!" His eyes kindled and aslightflush sprang into his thin cheeks. For aninstantonly. When I glanced again his face hadresumedthat red-Indian composure which had made somanyregard him as a machine rather than a man.
"Theproblem presents features of interest" said he."Imay even say exceptional features of interest. Ihavealready looked into the matterand have comeasI thinkwithin sight of my solution. If you couldaccompanyme in that last step you might be ofconsiderableservice to me."
"Ishould be delighted."
"Couldyou go as far as Aldershot to-morrow?"
"Ihave no doubt Jackson would take my practice."
"Verygood. I want to start by the 11.10 fromWaterloo."
"Thatwould give me time."
"Thenif you are not too sleepyI will give you asketch ofwhat has happenedand of what remains to bedone."
"Iwas sleepy before you came. I am quite wakefulnow."
"Iwill compress the story as far as may be donewithoutomitting anything vital to the case. It isconceivablethat you may even have read some accountof thematter. It is the supposed murder of ColonelBarclayof the Royal Munstersat Aldershotwhich Iaminvestigating."
"Ihave heard nothing of it."
"Ithas not excited much attention yetexceptlocally. The facts are only two days old. Brieflythey arethese:
"TheRoyal Munsters isas you knowone of the mostfamousIrish regiments in the British army. It didwondersboth in the Crimea and the Mutinyand hassince thattime distinguished itself upon everypossibleoccasion. It was commanded up to Mondaynight byJames Barclaya gallant veteranwho startedas a fullprivatewas raised to commissioned rank forhisbravery at the time of the Mutinyand so lived tocommandthe regiment in which he had once carried amusket.
"ColonelBarclay had married at the time when he was asergeantand his wifewhose maiden name was MissNancyDevoywas the daughter of a formercolor-sergeantin the same corps. There wasthereforeas can be imaginedsome little socialfrictionwhen the young couple (for they were stillyoung)found themselves in their new surroundings.Theyappearhoweverto have quickly adaptedthemselvesand Mrs. Barclay has alwaysI understandbeen aspopular with the ladies of the regiment as herhusbandwas with his brother officers. I may add thatshe was awoman of great beautyand that even nowwhen shehas been married for upwards of thirty yearsshe isstill of a striking and queenly appearance.
"ColonelBarclay's family life appears to have been auniformlyhappy one. Major Murphyto whom I owe mostof myfactsassures me that he has never heard of anymisunderstandingbetween the pair. On the wholehethinksthat Barclay's devotion to his wife was greaterthan hiswife's to Barclay. He was acutely uneasy ifhe wereabsent from her for a day. Sheon the otherhandthough devoted and faithfulwas lessobtrusivelyaffectionate. But they were regarded intheregiment as the very model of a middle-agedcouple. There was absolutely nothing in their mutualrelationsto prepare people for the tragedy which wasto follow.
"ColonelBarclay himself seems to have had somesingulartraits in his character. He was a dashingjovial oldsolder in his usual moodbut there wereoccasionson which he seemed to show himself capableofconsiderable violence and vindictiveness. Thisside ofhis naturehoweverappears never to havebeenturned towards his wife. Another factwhich hadstruckMajor Murphy and three out of five of the otherofficerswith whom I conversedwas the singular sortofdepression which came upon him at times. As themajorexpressed itthe smile had often been struckfrom hismouthas if by some invisible handwhen hehas beenjoining the gayeties and chaff of themess-table. For days on endwhen the mood was onhimhehas been sunk in the deepest gloom. This anda certaintinge of superstition were the only unusualtraits inhis character which his brother officers hadobserved. The latter peculiarity took the form of adislike tobeing left aloneespecially after dark.Thispuerile feature in a nature which wasconspicuouslymanly had often given rise to commentandconjecture.
"Thefirst battalion of the Royal Munsters (which isthe old117th) has been stationed at Aldershot forsomeyears. The married officers live out ofbarracksand the Colonel has during all this timeoccupied avilla called Lachineabout half a milefrom thenorth camp. The house stands in its owngroundsbut the west side of it is not more thanthirtyyards from the high-road. A coachman and twomaids formthe staff of servants. These with theirmaster andmistress were the sole occupants ofLachinefor the Barclays had no childrennor was itusual forthem to have resident visitors.
"Nowfor the events at Lachine between nine and ten ontheevening of last Monday."
"Mrs.Barclay wasit appearsa member of the RomanCatholicChurchand had interested herself very muchin theestablishment of the Guild of St. Georgewhichwas formedin connection with the Watt Street Chapelfor thepurpose of supplying the poor with cast-offclothing. A meeting of the Guild had been held thatevening ateightand Mrs. Barclay had hurried overher dinnerin order to be present at it. When leavingthe houseshe was heard by the coachman to make somecommonplaceremark to her husbandand to assure himthat shewould be back before very long. She thencalled forMiss Morrisona young lady who lives inthe nextvillaand the two went off together to theirmeeting. It lasted forty minutesand at aquarter-pastnine Mrs. Barclay returned homehavingleft MissMorrison at her door as she passed.
"Thereis a room which is used as a morning-room atLachine. This faces the road and opens by a largeglassfolding-door on to the lawn. The lawn is thirtyyardsacrossand is only divided from the highway bya low wallwith an iron rail above it. It was intothis roomthat Mrs. Barclay went upon her return. Theblindswere not downfor the room was seldom used intheeveningbut Mrs. Barclay herself lit the lamp andthen rangthe bellasking Jane Stewartthehouse-maidto bring her a cup of teawhich was quitecontraryto her usual habits. The Colonel had beensitting inthe dining-roombut hearing that his wifehadreturned he joined her in the morning-room. Thecoachmansaw him cross the hall and enter it. He wasnever seenagain alive.
"Thetea which had been ordered was brought up at theend of tenminutes; but the maidas she approachedthe doorwas surprised to hear the voices of hermaster andmistress in furious altercation. Sheknockedwithout receiving any answerand even turnedthehandlebut only to find that the door was lockedupon theinside. Naturally enough she ran down totell thecookand the two women with the coachmancame upinto the hall and listened to the disputewhich wasstill raging. They all agreed that only twovoiceswere to be heardthose of Barclay and of hiswife. Barclay's remarks were subdued and abruptsothat noneof them were audible to the listeners. Thelady'sonthe other handwere most bitterand whenshe raisedher voice could be plainly heard. 'Youcoward!'she repeated over and over again. 'What canbe donenow? What can be done now? Give me back mylife. I will never so much as breathe the same airwith youagain! You coward! You Coward!' Those werescraps ofher conversationending in a suddendreadfulcry in the man's voicewith a crashand apiercingscream from the woman. Convinced that sometragedyhad occurredthe coachman rushed to the doorand stroveto force itwhile scream after screamissuedfrom within. He was unablehoweverto makehis wayinand the maids were too distracted withfear to beof any assistance to him. A sudden thoughtstruckhimhoweverand he ran through the hall doorand roundto the lawn upon which the long Frenchwindowsopen. One side of the window was openwhichIunderstand was quite usual in the summer-timeandhe passedwithout difficulty into the room. Hismistresshad ceased to scream and was stretchedinsensibleupon a couchwhile with his feet tiltedover theside of an arm-chairand his head upon thegroundnear the corner of the fenderwas lying theunfortunatesoldier stone dead in a pool of his ownblood.
"Naturallythe coachman's first thoughton findingthat hecould do nothing for his masterwas to openthe door. But here an unexpected and singulardifficultypresented itself. The key was not in theinner sideof the doornor could he find it anywherein theroom. He went out againthereforethroughthewindowand having obtained the help of apolicemanand of a medical manhe returned. Theladyagainst whom naturally the strongest suspicionrestedwas removed to her roomstill in a state ofinsensibility. The Colonel's body was then placedupon thesofaand a careful examination made of thescene ofthe tragedy.
"Theinjury from which the unfortunate veteran wassufferingwas found to be a jagged cut some two incheslong atthe back part of his headwhich had evidentlybeencaused by a violent blow from a blunt weapon.Nor was itdifficult to guess what that weapon mayhavebeen. Upon the floorclose to the bodywaslying asingular club of hard carved wood with a bonehandle. The Colonel possessed a varied collection ofweaponsbrought from the different countries in whichhe hadfoughtand it is conjectured by the policethat hisclub was among his trophies. The servantsdenyhaving seen it beforebut among the numerouscuriositiesin the house it is possible that it mayhave beenoverlooked. Nothing else of importance wasdiscoveredin the room by the policesave theinexplicablefact that neither upon Mrs. Barclay'sperson norupon that of the victim nor in any part ofthe roomwas the missing key to be found. The doorhadeventually to be opened by a locksmith fromAldershot.
"Thatwas the state of thingsWatsonwhen upon theTuesdaymorning Iat the request of Major Murphywent downto Aldershot to supplement the efforts ofthepolice. I think that you will acknowledge thattheproblem was already one of interestbut myobservationssoon made me realize that it was in truthmuch moreextraordinary than would at first sightappear.
"Beforeexamining the room I cross-questioned theservantsbut only succeeded in eliciting the factswhich Ihave already stated. One other detail ofinterestwas remembered by Jane Stewartthehousemaid. You will remember that on hearing thesound ofthe quarrel she descended and returned withthe otherservants. On that first occasionwhen shewas aloneshe says that the voices of her master andmistresswere sunk so low that she could hear hardlyanythingand judged by their tones rather than theirwords thatthey had fallen out. On my pressing herhowevershe remembered that she heard the word Davidutteredtwice by the lady. The point is of the utmostimportanceas guiding us towards the reason of thesuddenquarrel. The Colonel's nameyou rememberwasJames.
"Therewas one thing in the case which had made thedeepestimpression both upon the servants and thepolice. This was the contortion of the Colonel'sface. It had setaccording to their accountintothe mostdreadful expression of fear and horror whicha humancountenance is capable of assuming. More thanone personfainted at the mere sight of himsoterriblewas the effect. It was quite certain that hehadforeseen his fateand that it had caused him theutmosthorror. Thisof coursefitted in well enoughwith thepolice theoryif the Colonel could have seenhis wifemaking a murderous attack upon him. Nor wasthe factof the wound being on the back of his head afatalobjection to thisas he might have turned toavoid theblow. No information could be got from theladyherselfwho was temporarily insane from an acuteattack ofbrain-fever.
"Fromthe police I learned that Miss Morrisonwho yourememberwent out that evening with Mrs. Barclaydeniedhaving any knowledge of what it was which hadcaused theill-humor in which her companion hadreturned.
"Havinggathered these factsWatsonI smoked severalpipes overthemtrying to separate those which werecrucialfrom others which were merely incidental.Therecould be no question that the most distinctiveandsuggestive point in the case was the singulardisappearanceof the door-key. A most careful searchhad failedto discover it in the room. Therefore itmust havebeen taken from it. But neither the Colonelnor theColonel's wife could have taken it. That wasperfectlyclear. Therefore a third person must haveenteredthe room. And that third person could onlyhave comein through the window. It seemed to me thata carefulexamination of the room and the lawn mightpossiblyreveal some traces of this mysteriousindividual. You know my methodsWatson. There wasnot one ofthem which I did not apply to the inquiry.And itended by my discovering tracesbut verydifferentones from those which I had expected. Therehad been aman in the roomand he had crossed the lawncomingfrom the road. I was able to obtain five veryclearimpressions of his foot-marks: one in theroadwayitselfat the point where he had climbed thelow walltwo on the lawnand two very faint onesupon thestained boards near the window where he hadentered. He had apparently rushed across the lawnfor histoe-marks were much deeper than his heels.But it wasnot the man who surprised me. It was hiscompanion."
Holmespulled a large sheet of tissue-paper out of hispocket andcarefully unfolded it upon his knee.
"Whatdo you make of that?" he asked.
The paperwas covered with he tracings of thefoot-marksof some small animal. It had fivewell-markedfoot-padsan indication of long nailsand thewhole print might be nearly as large as adessert-spoon.
"It'sa dog" said I.
"Didyou ever hear of a dog running up a curtain? Ifounddistinct traces that this creature had done so."
"Butit is not the print of a monkey."
"Whatcan it bethen?"
"Neitherdog nor cat nor monkey nor any creature thatwe arefamiliar with. I have tried to reconstruct itfrom themeasurements. Here are four prints where thebeast hasbeen standing motionless. You see that itis no lessthan fifteen inches from fore-foot to hind.Add tothat the length of neck and headand you get acreaturenot much less than two feet long--probablymore ifthere is any tail. But now observe this othermeasurement. The animal has been movingand we havethe lengthof its stride. In each case it is onlyaboutthree inches. You have an indicationyou seeof a longbody with very short legs attached to it.It has notbeen considerate enough to leave any of itshairbehind it. But its general shape must be what Ihaveindicatedand it can run up a curtainand it iscarnivorous."
"Howdo you deduce that?"
"Becauseit ran up the curtain. A canary's cage washanging inthe windowand its aim seems to have beento get atthe bird."
"Thenwhat was the beast?"
"Ahif I could give it a name it might go a long waytowardssolving the case. On the wholeit wasprobablysome creature of the weasel and stoattribe--andyet it is larger than any of these that Ihaveseen."
"Butwhat had it to do with the crime?"
"Thatalsois still obscure. But we have learned agood dealyou perceive. We know that a man stood inthe roadlooking at the quarrel between theBarclays--theblinds were up and the room lighted. Weknowalsothat he ran across the lawnentered theroomaccompanied by a strange animaland that heeitherstruck the Colonel oras is equally possiblethat theColonel fell down from sheer fright at thesight ofhimand cut his head on the corner of thefender. Finallywe have the curious fact that theintrudercarried away the key with him when he left."
"Yourdiscoveries seem to have left the business moreobscurethat it was before" said I.
"Quiteso. They undoubtedly showed that the affairwas muchdeeper than was at first conjectured. Ithoughtthe matter overand I came to the conclusionthat Imust approach the case from another aspect.ButreallyWatsonI am keeping you upand I mightjust aswell tell you all this on our way to Aldershotto-morrow."
"Thankyouyou have gone rather too far to stop."
"Itis quite certain that when Mrs. Barclay left thehouse athalf-past seven she was on good terms withherhusband. She was neveras I think I have saidostentatiouslyaffectionatebut she was heard by thecoachmanchatting with the Colonel in a friendlyfashion. Nowit was equally certain thatimmediatelyon her returnshe had gone to the room inwhich shewas least likely to see her husbandhadflown totea as an agitated woman willand finallyon hiscoming in to herhad broken into violentrecriminations. Therefore something had occurredbetweenseven-thirty and nine o'clock which hadcompletelyaltered her feelings towards him. But MissMorrisonhad been with her during the whole of thathour and ahalf. It was absolutely certainthereforein spite of her denialthat she must knowsomethingof the matter.
"Myfirst conjecture wasthat possibly there had beensomepassages between this young lady and the oldsoldierwhich the former had now confessed to thewife. That would account for the angry returnandalso forthe girl's denial that anything had occurred.Nor wouldit be entirely incompatible with most of thewordsoverhead. But there was the reference to Davidand therewas the known affection of the Colonel forhis wifeto weigh against itto say nothing of thetragicintrusion of this other manwhich mightofcoursebeentirely disconnected with what had gonebefore. It was not easy to pick one's stepsbutonthe wholeI was inclined to dismiss the idea thatthere hadbeen anything between the Colonel and MissMorrisonbut more than ever convinced that the younglady heldthe clue as to what it was which had turnedMrs.Barclay to hatred of her husband. I took theobviouscoursethereforeof calling upon Miss M.ofexplainingto her that I was perfectly certain thatshe heldthe facts in her possessionand of assuringher thather friendMrs. Barclaymight find herselfin thedock upon a capital charge unless the matterwerecleared up.
"MissMorrison is a little ethereal slip of a girlwith timideyes and blond hairbut I found her by nomeanswanting in shrewdness and common-sense. She satthinkingfor some time after I had spokenand thenturning tome with a brisk air of resolutionshebroke intoa remarkable statement which I willcondensefor your benefit.
"'Ipromised my friend that I would say nothing of thematterand a promise is a promise; said she; 'but ifI canreally help her when so serious a charge is laidagainstherand when her own mouthpoor darlingisclosed byillnessthen I think I am absolved from mypromise. I will tell you exactly what happened uponMondayevening.
"'Wewere returning from the Watt Street Mission abouta quarterto nine o'clock. On our way we had to passthroughHudson Streetwhich is a very quietthoroughfare. There is only one lamp in itupon theleft-handsideand as we approached this lamp I saw aman comingtowards us with is back very bentandsomethinglike a box slung over one of his shoulders.Heappeared to be deformedfor he carried his headlow andwalked with his knees bent. We were passinghim whenhe raised his face to look at us in thecircle oflight thrown by the lampand as he did sohe stoppedand screamed out in a dreadful voice"MyGodit'sNancy!" Mrs. Barclay turned as white asdeathandwould have fallen down had thedreadful-lookingcreature not caught hold of her. Iwas goingto call for the policebut sheto mysurprisespoke quite civilly to the fellow.
"'"Ithought you had been dead this thirty yearsHenry"said shein a shaking voice.
"'"SoI have" said heand it was awful to hear thetones thathe said it in. He had a very darkfearsomefaceand a gleam in his eyes that comes backto me inmy dreams. His hair and whiskers were shotwith grayand his face was all crinkled and puckeredlike awithered apple.
"'"Justwalk on a little waydear" said Mrs.Barclay;"I want to have a word with this man. Thereis nothingto be afraid of." She tried to speakboldlybut she was still deadly pale and could hardlyget herwords out for the trembling of her lips.
"'Idid as she asked meand they talked together fora fewminutes. Then she came down the street with hereyesblazingand I saw the crippled wretch standingby thelamp-post and shaking his clenched fists in theair as ifhe were made with rage. She never said aword untilwe were at the door herewhen she took meby thehand and begged me to tell no one what hadhappened.
"'"It'san old acquaintance of mine who has come downin theworld" said she. When I promised her I wouldsaynothing she kissed meand I have never seen hersince. I have told you now the whole truthand if Iwithheldit from the police it is because I did notrealizethen the danger in which my dear friend stood.I knowthat it can only be to her advantage thateverythingshould be known.'
"Therewas her statementWatsonand to meas youcanimagineit was like a light on a dark night.Everythingwhich had been disconnected before began atonce toassume its true placeand I had a shadowypresentimentof the whole sequence of events. My nextstepobviously was to find the man who had producedsuch aremarkable impression upon Mrs. Barclay. If hewere stillin Aldershot it should not be a verydifficultmatter. There are not such a very greatnumber ofciviliansand a deformed man was sure tohaveattracted attention. I spent a day in thesearchand by evening--this very eveningWatson--Ihad runhim down. The man's name is Henry Woodandhe livesin lodgings in this same street in which theladies methim. He has only been five days in theplace. In the character of a registration-agent I hada mostinteresting gossip with his landlady. The manis bytrade a conjurer and performergoing round thecanteensafter nightfalland giving a littleentertainmentat each. He carries some creature aboutwith himin that box; about which the landlady seemedto be inconsiderable trepidationfor she had neverseen ananimal like it. He uses it in some of histricksaccording to her account. So much the womanwas ableto tell meand also that it was a wonder theman livedseeing how twisted he wasand that hespoke in astrange tongue sometimesand that for thelast twonights she had heard him groaning and weepingin hisbedroom. He was all rightas far as moneywentbutin his deposit he had given her what lookedlike a badflorin. She showed it to meWatsonandit was anIndian rupee.
"Sonowmy dear fellowyou see exactly how we standand why itis I want you. It is perfectly plain thatafter theladies parted from this man he followed themat adistancethat he saw the quarrel between husbandand wifethrough the windowthat he rushed inandthat thecreature which he carried in his box gotloose. That is all very certain. But he is the onlyperson inthis world who can tell us exactly whathappenedin that room."
"Andyou intend to ask him?"
"Mostcertainly--but in the presence of a witness."
"AndI am the witness?"
"Ifyou will be so good. If he can clear the matterupwelland good. If he refuseswe have noalternativebut to apply for a warrant."
"Buthow do you know he'll be there when we return?"
"Youmay be sure that I took some precautions. I haveone of myBaker Street boys mounting guard over himwho wouldstick to him like a burrgo where he might.We shallfind him in Hudson Street to-morrowWatsonandmeanwhile I should be the criminal myself if Ikept youout of bed any longer."
It wasmidday when we found ourselves at the scene ofthetragedyandunder my companion's guidancewemade ourway at once to Hudson Street. In spite ofhiscapacity for concealing his emotionsI couldeasily seethat Holmes was in a state of suppressedexcitementwhile I was myself tingling with thathalf-sportinghalf-intellectual pleasure which Iinvariablyexperienced when I associated myself withhim in hisinvestigations.
"Thisis the street" said heas we turned into ashortthoroughfare lined with plain two-storied brickhouses. "Ahhere is Simpson to report."
"He'sin all rightMr. Holmes" cried a small streetArabrunning up to us.
"GoodSimpson!" said Holmespatting him on the head."ComealongWatson. This is the house." He sent inhis cardwith a message that he had come on importantbusinessand a moment later we were face to face withthe manwhom we had come to see. In spite of the warmweather hewas crouching over a fireand the littleroom waslike an oven. The man sat all twisted andhuddled inhis chair in a way which gave anindescribablyimpression of deformity; but the facewhich heturned towards usthough worn and swarthymust atsome time have been remarkable for its beauty.He lookedsuspiciously at us now out of yellow-shotbiliouseyesandwithout speaking or risinghewavedtowards two chairs.
"Mr.Henry Woodlate of IndiaI believe" saidHolmesaffably. "I've come over this little matterof ColonelBarclay's death."
"Whatshould I know about that?"
"That'swhat I want to ascertain. You knowIsupposethat unless the matter is cleared upMrs.Barclaywho is an old friend of yourswill in allprobabilitybe tried for murder."
The mangave a violent start.
"Idon't know who you are" he cried"nor how youcome toknow what you do knowbut will you swear thatthis istrue that you tell me?"
"Whythey are only waiting for her to come to hersenses toarrest her."
"MyGod! Are you in the police yourself?"
"Whatbusiness is it of yoursthen?"
"It'severy man's business to see justice done."
"Youcan take my word that she is innocent."
"Thenyou are guilty."
"NoI am not."
"Whokilled Colonel James Barclaythen?"
"Itwas a just providence that killed him. Butmindyou thisthat if I had knocked his brains outas itwas in myheart to dohe would have had no more thanhis duefrom my hands. If his own guilty consciencehad notstruck him down it is likely enough that Imight havehad his blood upon my soul. You want me totell thestory. WellI don't know why I shouldn'tforthere's no cause for me to be ashamed of it.
"Itwas in this waysir. You see me now with my backlike acamel and by ribs all awrybut there was atime whenCorporal Henry Wood was the smartest man inthe 117thfoot. We were in India thenincantonmentsat a place we'll call Bhurtee. Barclaywho diedthe other daywas sergeant in the samecompany asmyselfand the belle of the regimentayand thefinest girl that ever had the breath of lifebetweenher lipswas Nancy Devoythe daughter of thecolor-sergeant. There were two men that loved herand onethat she lovedand you'll smile when you lookat thispoor thing huddled before the fireand hearme saythat it was for my good looks that she lovedme.
"Wellthough I had her hearther father was set uponhermarrying Barclay. I was a harum-scarumrecklessladandhe had had an educationand was alreadymarked forthe sword-belt. But the girl held true tomeand itseemed that I would have had her when theMutinybroke outand all hell was loose in thecountry.
"Wewere shut up in Bhurteethe regiment of us withhalf abattery of artillerya company of Sikhsand alot ofcivilians and women-folk. There were tenthousandrebels round usand they were as keen as aset ofterriers round a rat-cage. About the secondweek of itour water gave outand it was a questionwhether wecould communicate with General Neill'scolumnwhich was moving up country. It was our onlychancefor we could not hope to fight our way outwith allthe women and childrenso I volunteered togo out andto warn General Neill of our danger. Myoffer wasacceptedand I talked it over with SergeantBarclaywho was supposed to know the ground betterthan anyother manand who drew up a route by which Imight getthrough the rebel lines. At ten o'clock thesame nightI started off upon my journey. There werea thousandlives to savebut it was of only one thatI wasthinking when I dropped over the wall thatnight.
"Myway ran down a dried-up watercoursewhich wehopedwould screen me from the enemy's sentries; butas I creptround the corner of it I walked right intosix ofthemwho were crouching down in the darkwaitingfor me. In an instant I was stunned with ablow andbound hand and foot. But the real blow wasto myheart and not to my headfor as I came to andlistenedto as much as I could understand of theirtalkIheard enough to tell me that my comradethevery manwho had arranged the way that I was to takehadbetrayed me by means of a native servant into thehands ofthe enemy.
"Wellthere's no need for me to dwell on that part ofit. You know now what James Barclay was capable of.Bhurteewas relieved by Neill next daybut the rebelstook meaway with them in their retreatand it wasmany along year before ever I saw a white face again.I wastortured and tried to get awayand was capturedandtortured again. You can see for yourselves thestate inwhich I was left. Some of them that fledintoNepaul took me with themand then afterwards Iwas uppast Darjeeling. The hill-folk up theremurderedthe rebels who had meand I became theirslave fora time until I escaped; but instead of goingsouth Ihad to go northuntil I found myself amongtheAfghans. There I wandered about for many a yearand atlast came back to the Punjaubwhere I livedmostlyamong the natives and picked up a living by theconjuringtricks that I had learned. What use was itfor meawretched crippleto go back to England orto makemyself known to my old comrades? Even my wishforrevenge would not make me do that. I had ratherthat Nancyand my old pals should think of Harry Woodas havingdied with a straight backthan see himliving andcrawling with a stick like a chimpanzee.They neverdoubted that I was deadand I meant thatthey nevershould. I heard that Barclay had marriedNancyandthat he was rising rapidly in the regimentbut eventhat did not make me speak.
"Butwhen one gets old one has a longing for home.For yearsI've been dreaming of the bright greenfields andthe hedges of England. At last Ideterminedto see them before I died. I saved enoughto bringme acrossand then I came here where thesoldiersarefor I know their ways and how to amusethem andso earn enough to keep me."
"Yournarrative is most interesting" said SherlockHolmes. "I have already heard of your meeting withMrs.Barclayand your mutual recognition. You thenas Iunderstandfollowed her home and saw through thewindow analtercation between her husband and herinwhich shedoubtless cast his conduct to you in histeeth. Your own feelings overcame youand you ranacross thelawn and broke in upon them."
"Ididsirand at the sight of me he looked as Ihave neverseen a man look beforeand over he wentwith hishead on the fender. But he was dead beforehe fell. I read death on his face as plain as I canread thattext over the fire. The bare sight of mewas like abullet through his guilty heart."
"ThenNancy faintedand I caught up the key of thedoor fromher handintending to unlock it and gethelp. But as I was doing it it seemed to me better toleave italone and get awayfor the thing might lookblackagainst meand any way my secret would be outif I weretaken. In my haste I thrust the key into mypocketand dropped my stick while I was chasingTeddywhohad run up the curtain. When I got himinto hisboxfrom which he had slippedI was off asfast as Icould run."
"Who'sTeddy?" asked Holmes.
The manleaned over and pulled up the front of a kindof hutchin the corner. In an instant out thereslipped abeautiful reddish-brown creaturethin andlithewith the legs of a stoata longthin noseand a pairof the finest red eyes that ever I saw inananimal's head.
"It'sa mongoose" I cried.
"Wellsome call them thatand some call themichneumon"said the man. "Snake-catcher is what Icall themand Teddy is amazing quick on cobras. Ihave onehere without the fangsand Teddy catches iteverynight to please the folk in the canteen.
"Wellwe may have to apply to you again if Mrs.Barclayshould prove to be in serious trouble."
"Inthat caseof courseI'd come forward."
"Butif notthere is no object in raking up thisscandalagainst a dead manfoully as he has acted.You haveat least the satisfaction of knowing that forthirtyyears of his life his conscience bitterlyreproachedhim for this wicked deed. Ahthere goesMajorMurphy on the other side of the street.Good-byWood. I want to learn if anything hashappenedsince yesterday."
We were intime to overtake the major before hereachedthe corner.
"AhHolmes" he said: "I suppose you have heard thatall thisfuss has come to nothing?"
"Theinquest is just over. The medical evidenceshowedconclusively that death was due to apoplexy.You see itwas quite a simple case after all."
"Ohremarkably superficial" said Holmessmiling."ComeWatsonI don't think we shall be wanted inAldershotany more."
"There'sone thing" said Ias we walked down to thestation. "If the husband's name was Jamesand theother wasHenrywhat was this talk about David?"
"Thatone wordmy dear Watsonshould have told methe wholestory had I been the ideal reasoner whichyou are sofond of depicting. It was evidently a termofreproach."
"Yes;David strayed a little occasionallyyou knowand on oneoccasion in the same direction as SergeantJamesBarclay. You remember the small affair of UriahandBathsheba? My biblical knowledge is a triflerustyIfearbut you will find the story in thefirst orsecond of Samuel."
Glancingover the somewhat incoherent series ofMemoirswith which I have endeavored to illustrate afew of themental peculiarities of my friend Mr.SherlockHolmesI have been struck by the difficultywhich Ihave experienced in picking out examples whichshall inevery way answer my purpose. For in thosecases inwhich Holmes has performed some tour de forceofanalytical reasoningand has demonstrated thevalue ofhis peculiar methods of investigationthefactsthemselves have often been so slight or socommonplacethat I could not feel justified in layingthembefore the public. On the other handit hasfrequentlyhappened that he has been concerned in someresearchwhere the facts have been of the mostremarkableand dramatic characterbut where the sharewhich hehas himself taken in determining their causeshas beenless pronounced than Ias his biographercouldwish. The small matter which I have chronicledunder theheading of "A Study in Scarlet" and thatotherlater one connected with the loss of the GloriaScottmayserve as examples of this Scylla andCharybdiswhich are forever threatening the historian.It may bethat in the business of which I am now aboutto writethe part which my friend played is notsufficientlyaccentuated; and yet the whole train ofcircumstancesis so remarkable that I cannot bringmyself toomit it entirely from this series.
It hadbeen a closerainy day in October. Our blindswerehalf-drawnand Holmes lay curled upon the sofareadingand re-reading a letter which he had receivedby themorning post. For myselfmy term of servicein Indiahad trained me to stand heat better thancoldanda thermometer of 90 was no hardship. Butthe paperwas uninteresting. Parliament had risen.Everybody was out of townand I yearned for theglades ofthe New Forest or the shingle of Southsea.A depletedbank account had caused me to postpone myholidayand as to my companionneither the countrynor thesea presented the slightest attraction to him.He lovedto lie in the very centre of five millions ofpeoplewith his filaments stretching out and runningthroughthemresponsive to every little rumor orsuspicionof unsolved crime. Appreciation of Naturefound noplace among his many giftsand his onlychange waswhen he turned his mind from the evil-doerof thetown to track down his brother of the country.
Findingthat Holmes was too absorbed for conversationI hadtossed aside the barren paperand leaning backin mychairI fell into a brown study. Suddenly mycompanion'svoice broke in upon my thoughts.
"Youare rightWatson" said he. "It does seem averypreposterous way of settling a dispute."
"Mostpreposterous!" I exclaimedand thensuddenlyrealizinghow he had echoed the inmost thought of mysoulIsat up in my chair and stared at him in blankamazement.
"Whatis thisHolmes?" I cried. "This is beyondanythingwhich I could have imagined."
He laughedheartily at my perplexity.
"Youremember" said he"that some little time agowhen Iread you the passage in one of Poe's sketchesin which aclose reasoner follows the unspoken thoughtof hiscompanionyou were inclined to treat thematter asa mere tour de force of the author. On myremarkingthat I was constantly in the habit of doingthe samething you expressed incredulity."
"Perhapsnot with your tonguemy dear Watsonbutcertainlywith your eyebrows. So when I saw you throwdown yourpaper and enter upon a train of thoughtIwas veryhappy to have the opportunity of reading itoffandeventually of breaking into itas a proofthat I hadbeen in rapport with you."
But I wasstill far from satisfied. "In the examplewhich youread to me" said I"the reasoner drew hisconclusionsfrom the actions of the man whom heobserved. If I remember righthe stumbled over aheap ofstoneslooked up at the starsand so on.But I havebeen seated quietly in my chairand whatclues canI have given you?"
"Youdo yourself an injustice. The features are givento man asthe means by which he shall express hisemotionsand yours are faithful servants."
"Doyou mean to say that you read my train of thoughtsfrom myfeatures?"
"Yourfeaturesand especially your eyes. Perhaps youcannotyourself recall how your reverie commenced?"
"ThenI will tell you. After throwing down yourpaperwhich was the action which drew my attention toyouyousat for half a minute with a vacantexpression. Then your eyes fixed themselves upon yournewly-framedpicture of General Gordonand I saw bythealteration in your face that a train of thoughthad beenstarted. But it did not lead very far. Youreyesturned across to the unframed portrait of HenryWardBeecher which stands upon the top of your books.You thenglanced up at the walland of course yourmeaningwas obvious. You were thinking that if theportraitwere framed it would just cover that barespace andcorrespond with Gordon's picture overthere."
"Youhave followed me wonderfully!" I exclaimed.
"Sofar I could hardly have gone astray. But now yourthoughtswent back to Beecherand you looked hardacross asif you were studying the character in hisfeatures. Then your eyes ceased to puckerbut youcontinuedto look acrossand your face wasthoughtful. You were recalling the incidents ofBeecher'scareer. I was well aware that you could notdo thiswithout thinking of the mission which heundertookon behalf of the North at the time of theCivil Warfor I remember you expressing yourpassionateindignation at the way in which he wasreceivedby the more turbulent of our people. Youfelt sostrongly about it that I knew you could notthink ofBeecher without thinking of that also. Whena momentlater I saw your eyes wander away from thepictureIsuspected that your mind had now turned tothe CivilWarand when I observed that your lips setyour eyessparkledand your hands clinchedI waspositivethat you were indeed thinking of thegallantrywhich was shown by both sides in thatdesperatestruggle. But thenagainyour face grewsadder;you shook your head. You were dwelling uponthesadness and horror and useless waste of life.Your handstole towards your own old woundand asmilequivered on your lipswhich showed me that theridiculousside of this method of settlinginternationalquestions had forced itself upon yourmind. At this point I agreed with you that it waspreposterousand was glad to find that all mydeductionshad been correct."
"Absolutely!"said I. "And now that you haveexplaineditI confess that I am as amazed asbefore."
"Itwas very superficialmy dear WatsonI assureyou. I should not have intruded it upon yourattentionhad you not shown some incredulity the otherday. But the evening has brought a breeze with it.What doyou say to a ramble through London?"
I wasweary of our little sitting-room and gladlyacquiesced. For three hours we strolled abouttogetherwatching the ever-changing kaleidoscope oflife as itebbs and flows through Fleet Street and theStrand. His characteristic talkwith its keenobservanceof detail and subtle power of inferenceheld meamused and enthralled. It was ten o'clockbefore wereached Baker Street again. A brougham waswaiting atour door.
"Hum! A doctor's--general practitionerI perceive"saidHolmes. "Not been long in practicebut has hada gooddeal to do. Come to consult usI fancy!Lucky wecame back!"
I wassufficiently conversant with Holmes's methods tobe able tofollow his reasoningand to see that thenature andstate of the various medical instruments inthe wickerbasket which hung in the lamplight insidethebrougham had given him the data for his swiftdeduction. The light in our window above showed thatthis latevisit was indeed intended for us. With somecuriosityas to what could have sent a brother medicoto us atsuch an hourI followed Holmes into oursanctum.
A paletaper-faced man with sandy whiskers rose upfrom achair by the fire as we entered. His age maynot havebeen more than three or four and thirtybuthishaggard expression and unhealthy hue told of alife whichhas sapped his strength and robbed him ofhisyouth. His manner was nervous and shylike thatof asensitive gentlemanand the thin white handwhich helaid on the mantelpiece as he rose was thatof anartist rather than of a surgeon. His dress wasquiet andsombre--a black frock-coatdark trousersand atouch of color about his necktie.
"Good-eveningdoctor" said Holmescheerily. "I amglad tosee that you have only been waiting a very fewminutes."
"Youspoke to my coachmanthen?"
"Noit was the candle on the side-table that told me.Prayresume your seat and let me know how I can serveyou."
"Myname is Doctor Percy Trevelyan" said our visitor"andI live at 403 Brook Street."
"Areyou not the author of a monograph upon obscurenervouslesions?" I asked.
His palecheeks flushed with pleasure at hearing thathis workwas known to me.
"I soseldom hear of the work that I thought it wasquitedead" said he. "My publishers gave me a mostdiscouragingaccount of its sale. You are yourselfIpresumeamedical man?"
"Aretired army surgeon."
"Myown hobby has always been nervous disease. Ishouldwish to make it an absolute specialtybutofcourseaman must take what he can get at first.Thishoweveris beside the questionMr. SherlockHolmesand I quite appreciate how valuable your timeis. The fact is that a very singular train of eventshasoccurred recently at my house in Brook Streetandto-nightthey came to such a head that I felt it wasquiteimpossible for me to wait another hour beforeasking foryour advice and assistance."
SherlockHolmes sat down and lit his pipe. "You areverywelcome to both" said he. "Pray let me have adetailedaccount of what the circumstances are whichhavedisturbed you."
"Oneor two of them are so trivial" said Dr.Trevelyan"that really I am almost ashamed to mentionthem. But the matter is so inexplicableand therecentturn which it has taken is so elaboratethat Ishall layit all before youand you shall judge whatisessential and what is not.
"I amcompelledto begin withto say something of myowncollege career. I am a London University manyouknowandI am sure that your will not think that I amundulysinging my own praises if I say that my studentcareer wasconsidered by my professors to be a verypromisingone. After I had graduated I continued todevotemyself to researchoccupying a minor positionin King'sCollege Hospitaland I was fortunate enoughto exciteconsiderable interest by my research intothepathology of catalepsyand finally to win theBrucePinkerton prize and medal by the monograph onnervouslesions to which your friend has just alluded.I shouldnot go too far if I were to say that therewas ageneral impression at that time that adistinguishedcareer lay before me.
"Butthe one great stumbling-block lay in my want ofcapital. As you will readily understanda specialistwho aimshigh is compelled to start in one of a dozenstreets inthe Cavendish Square quarterall of whichentailenormous rents and furnishing expenses.Besidesthis preliminary outlayhe must be preparedto keephimself for some yearsand to hire apresentablecarriage and horse. To do this was quitebeyond mypowerand I could only hope that by economyI might inten years' time save enough to enable me toput up myplate. Suddenlyhoweveran unexpectedincidentopened up quite a new prospect to me.
"Thiswas a visit from a gentleman of the name ofBlessingtonwho was a complete stranger to me. Hecame up tomy room one morningand plunged intobusinessin an instant.
"'Youare the same Percy Trevelyan who has had sodistinguisheda career and own a great prize lately?'said he.
"'Answerme frankly' he continued'for you will findit to yourinterest to do so. You have all theclevernesswhich makes a successful man. Have you thetact?'
"Icould not help smiling at the abruptness of thequestion.
"'Itrust that I have my share' I said.
"'Anybad habits? Not drawn towards drinkeh?'
"'Reallysir!' I cried.
"'Quiteright! That's all right! But I was bound toask. With all these qualitieswhy are you not inpractice?'
"Ishrugged my shoulders.
"'Comecome!' said hein his bustling way. 'It'sthe oldstory. More in your brains than in yourpocketeh? What would you say if I were to start youin BrookStreet?'
"Istared at him in astonishment.
"'Ohit's for my sakenot for yours' he cried.'I'll beperfectly frank with youand if it suits youit willsuit me very well. I have a few thousands toinvestd'ye seeand I think I'll sink them in you.'
"'Butwhy?' I gasped.
"'Wellit's just like any other speculationandsafer thanmost.'
"'Whatam I to dothen?'
"'I'lltell you. I'll take the housefurnish itpaythe maidsand run the whole place. All you have todo is justto wear out your chair in theconsulting-room. I'll let you have pocket-money andeverything. Then you hand over to me three quartersof whatyou earnand you keep the other quarter foryourself.'
"Thiswas the strange proposalMr. Holmeswith whichthe manBlessington approached me. I won't weary youwith theaccount of how we bargained and negotiated.It endedin my moving into the house next Lady-dayandstarting in practice on very much the sameconditionsas he had suggested. He came himself tolive withme in the character of a resident patient.His heartwas weakit appearsand he needed constantmedicalsupervision. He turned the two best rooms ofthe firstfloor into a sitting-room and bedroom forhimself. He was a man of singular habitsshunningcompanyand very seldom going out. His life wasirregularbut in one respect he was regularityitself. Every eveningat the same hourhe walkedinto theconsulting-roomexamined the booksput downfive andthree-pence for every guinea that I hadearnedand carried the rest off to the strong-box inhis ownroom.
"Imay say with confidence that he never had occasionto regrethis speculation. From the first it was asuccess. A few good cases and the reputation which Ihad won inthe hospital brought me rapidly to thefrontandduring the last few years I have made him arich man.
"SomuchMr. Holmesfor my past history and myrelationswith Mr. Blessington. It only remains forme now totell you what has occurred to bring me herto-night.
"Someweeks ago Mr. Blessington came down to me inasit seemedto mea state of considerable agitation.He spokeof some burglary whichhe saidhad beencommittedin the West Endand he appearedIrememberto be quite unnecessarily excited about itdeclaringthat a day should not pass before we shouldaddstronger bolts to our windows and doors. For aweek hecontinued to be in a peculiar state ofrestlessnesspeering continually out of the windowsandceasing to take the short walk which had usuallybeen theprelude to his dinner. From his manner itstruck methat he was in mortal dread of something orsomebodybut when I questioned him upon the point hebecame sooffensive that I was compelled to drop thesubject. Graduallyas time passedhis fearsappearedto die awayand he had renewed his formerhabitswhen a fresh event reduced him to the pitiablestate ofprostration in which he now lies.
"Whathappened was this. Two days ago I received theletterwhich I now read to you. Neither address nordate isattached to it.
"'ARussian nobleman who is now resident in England'it runs'would be glad to avail himself of theprofessionalassistance of Dr. Percy Trevelyan. Hehas beenfor some years a victim to catalepticattackson whichas is well knownDr. Trevelyan isanauthority. He proposes to call at about quarterpast sixto-morrow eveningif Dr. Trevelyan will makeitconvenient to be at home.'
"Thisletter interest me deeplybecause the chiefdifficultyin the study of catalepsy is the rarenessof thedisease. You may believethanthat I was inmyconsulting-room whenat the appointed hourthepageshowed in the patient.
He was anelderly manthindemureandcommon-place--byno means the conception one forms ofa Russiannobleman. I was much more struck by theappearanceof his companion. This was a tall youngmansurprisingly handsomewith a darkfierce faceand thelimbs and chest of a Hercules. He had hishand underthe other's arm as they enteredand helpedhim to achair with a tenderness which one wouldhardlyhave expected from his appearance.
"'Youwill excuse my coming indoctor' said he tomespeaking English with a slight lisp. 'This is myfatherand his health is a matter of the mostoverwhelmingimportance to me.'
"Iwas touched by this filial anxiety. 'You wouldperhapscare to remain during the consultation?' saidI.
"'Notfor the world' he cried with a gesture ofhorror. 'It is more painful to me than I can express.If I wereto see my father in one of these dreadfulseizures Iam convinced that I should never surviveit. My own nervous system is an exceptionallysensitiveone. With your permissionI will remain inthewaiting-room while you go into my father's case.'
"Tothisof courseI assentedand the young manwithdrew. The patient and I then plunged into adiscussionof his caseof which I took exhaustivenotes. He was not remarkable for intelligenceandhisanswers were frequently obscurewhich Iattributedto his limited acquaintance with ourlanguage. Suddenlyhoweveras I sat writingheceased togive any answer at all to my inquiriesandon myturning towards him I was shocked to see that hewassitting bolt upright in his chairstaring at mewith aperfectly blank and rigid face. He was againin thegrip of his mysterious malady.
"Myfirst feelingas I have just saidwas one ofpity andhorror. My secondI fearwas rather one ofprofessionalsatisfaction. I made notes of mypatient'spulse and temperaturetested the rigidityof hismusclesand examined his reflexes. There wasnothingmarkedly abnormal in any of these conditionswhichharmonized with my former experiences. I hadobtainedgood results in such cases by the inhalationof nitriteof amyland the present seemed anadmirableopportunity of testing its virtues. Thebottle wasdownstairs in my laboratoryso leaving mypatientseated in his chairI ran down to get it.There wassome little delay in finding it--fiveminuteslet us say--and then I returned. Imagine myamazementto find the room empty and the patient gone.
"Ofcoursemy first act was to run into thewaiting-room. The son had gone also. The hall doorhad beenclosedbut not shut. My page who admitspatientsis a new boy and by no means quick. He waitsdownstairsand runs up to show patients out when Iring theconsulting-room bell. He had heard nothingand theaffair remained a complete mystery. Mr.Blessingtoncame in from his walk shortly afterwardsbut I didnot say anything to him upon the subjectfortotell the truthI have got in the way of lateof holdingas little communication with him aspossible.
"WellI never thought that I should see anything moreof theRussian and his sonso you can imagine myamazementwhenat the very same hour this eveningthey bothcame marching into my consulting-roomjustas theyhad done before.
"'Ifeel that I owe you a great many apologies for myabruptdeparture yesterdaydoctor' said my patient.
"'Iconfess that I was very much surprised at it'said I.
"'Wellthe fact is' he remarked'that when Irecoverfrom these attacks my mind is always veryclouded asto all that has gone before. I woke up ina strangeroomas it seemed to meand made my wayout intothe street in a sort of dazed way when youwereabsent.'
"'AndI' said the son'seeing my father pass thedoor ofthe waiting-roomnaturally thought that theconsultationhad come to an end. It was not until wehadreached home that I began to realize the truestate ofaffairs.'
"'Well'said Ilaughing'there is no harm doneexceptthat you puzzled me terribly; so if yousirwouldkindly step into the waiting-room I shall behappy tocontinue our consultation which was broughtto soabrupt an ending.'
"'Forhalf an hour or so I discussed that oldgentleman'ssymptoms with himand thenhavingprescribedfor himI saw him go off upon the arm ofhis son.
"Ihave told you that Mr. Blessington generally chosethis hourof the day for his exercise. He came inshortlyafterwards and passed upstairs. An instantlater Iheard him running downand he burst into myconsulting-roomlike a man who is mad with panic.
"'Whohas been in my room?' he cried.
"'Noone' said I.
"'It'sa lie! He yelled. 'Come up and look!'
"Ipassed over the grossness of his languageas heseemedhalf out of his mind with fear. When I wentupstairswith him he pointed to several footprintsupon thelight carpet.
"'D'youmean to say those are mine?' he cried.
"Theywere certainly very much larger than any whichhe couldhave madeand were evidently quite fresh.It rainedhard this afternoonas you knowand mypatientswere the only people who called. It musthave beenthe casethenthat the man in thewaiting-roomhadfor some unknown reasonwhile I wasbusy withthe otherascended to the room of myresidentpatient. Nothing has been touched or takenbut therewere the footprints to prove that theintrusionwas an undoubted fact.
"Mr.Blessington seemed more excited over the matterthan Ishould have thought possiblethough of courseit wasenough to disturb anybody's peace of mind. Heactuallysat crying in an arm-chairand I couldhardly gethim to speak coherently. It was hissuggestionthat I should come round to youand ofcourse Iat once saw the propriety of itforcertainlythe incident is a very singular onethoughhe appearsto completely overtake its importance. Ifyou wouldonly come back with me in my broughamyouwould atleast be able to soothe himthough I canhardlyhope that you will be able to explain thisremarkableoccurrence."
SherlockHolmes had listened to this long narrativewith anintentness which showed me that his interestwas keenlyaroused. His face was as impassive aseverbuthis lids had drooped more heavily over hiseyesandhis smoke had curled up more thickly fromhis pipeto emphasize each curious episode in thedoctor'stale. As our visitor concludedHolmessprang upwithout a wordhanded me my hatpicked hisown fromthe tableand followed Dr. Trevelyan to thedoor. Within a quarter of an hour we had been droppedat thedoor of the physician's residence in BrookStreetone of those sombreflat-faced houses whichoneassociates with a West-End practice. A small pageadmittedusand we began at once to ascend the broadwell-carpetedstair.
But asingular interruption brought us to astandstill. The light at the top was suddenly whiskedoutandfrom the darkness came a reedyquiveringvoice.
"Ihave a pistol" it cried. "I give you my word thatI'll fireif you come any nearer."
"Thisreally grows outrageousMr. Blessington" criedDr.Trevelyan.
"Ohthen it is youdoctor" said the voicewith agreatheave of relief. "But those other gentlemenare theywhat they pretend to be?"
We wereconscious of a long scrutiny out of thedarkness.
"Yesyesit's all right" said the voice at last."Youcan come upand I am sorry if my precautionshaveannoyed you."
He relitthe stair gas as he spokeand we saw beforeus asingular-looking manwhose appearanceas wellas hisvoicetestified to his jangled nerves. He wasvery fatbut had apparently at some time been muchfattersothat the skin hung about his face in loosepoucheslike the cheeks of a blood-hound. He was ofa sicklycolorand his thinsandy hair seemed tobristle upwith the intensity of his emotion. In hishand heheld a pistolbut he thrust it into hispocket aswe advanced.
"Good-eveningMr. Holmes" said he. "I am sure I amvery muchobliged to you for coming round. No oneeverneeded your advice more than I do. I supposethat Dr.Trevelyan has told you of this mostunwarrantableintrusion into my rooms."
"Quiteso" said Holmes. "Who are these two men Mr.Blessingtonand why do they wish to molest you?"
"Wellwell" said the resident patientin a nervousfashion"of course it is hard to say that. You canhardlyexpect me to answer thatMr. Holmes."
"Doyou mean that you don't know?"
"Comein hereif you please. Just have the kindnessto step inhere."
He led theway into his bedroomwhich was large andcomfortablyfurnished.
"Yousee that" said hepointing to a big black boxat the endof his bed. "I have never been a very richmanMr.Holmes--never made but one investment in mylifeasDr. Trevelyan would tell you. But I don'tbelieve inbankers. I would never trust a bankerMr.Holmes. Between ourselveswhat little I have is inthat boxso you can understand what it means to mewhenunknown people force themselves into my rooms."
Holmeslooked at Blessington in his questioning wayand shookhis head.
"Icannot possibly advise you if you try to deceiveme"said he.
"ButI have told you everything."
Holmesturned on his heel with a gesture of disgust."Good-nightDr. Trevelyan" said he.
"Andno advice for me?" cried Blessingtonin abreakingvoice.
"Myadvice to yoursiris to speak the truth."
A minutelater we were in the street and walking forhome. We had crossed Oxford Street and were half waydownHarley Street before I could get a word from mycompanion.
"Sorryto bring you out on such a fool's errandWatson"he said at last. "It is an interesting casetooatthe bottom of it."
"Ican make little of it" I confessed.
"Wellit is quite evident that there are twomen--moreperhapsbut at least two--who aredeterminedfor some reason to get at this fellowBlessington. I have no doubt in my mind that both onthe firstand on the second occasion that young manpenetratedto Blessington's roomwhile hisconfederateby an ingenious devicekept the doctorfrominterfering."
"Afraudulent imitationWatsonthough I shouldhardlydare to hint as much to our specialist. It isa veryeasy complaint to imitate. I have done itmyself."
"Bythe purest chance Blessington was out on eachoccasion. Their reason for choosing so unusual anhour for aconsultation was obviously to insure thatthereshould be no other patient in the waiting-room.It justhappenedhoweverthat this hour coincidedwithBlessington's constitutionalwhich seems to showthat theywere not very well acquainted with his dailyroutine. Of courseif they had been merely afterplunderthey would at least have made some attempt tosearch forit. BesidesI can read in a man's eyewhen it ishis own skin that he is frightened for. Itisinconceivable that this fellow could have made twosuchvindictive enemies as these appear to be withoutknowing ofit. I hold itthereforeto be certainthat hedoes know who these men areand that forreasons ofhis own he suppresses it. It is justpossiblethat to-morrow may find him in a morecommunicativemood."
"Isthere not one alternative" I suggested"grotesquelyimprobablyno doubtbut still justconceivable? Might the whole story of the catalepticRussianand his son be a concoction of Dr.Trevelyan'swho hasfor his own purposesbeen inBlessington'srooms?"
I saw inthe gaslight that Holmes wore an amused smileat thisbrilliant departure of mine.
"Mydear fellow" said he"it was one of the firstsolutionswhich occurred to mebut I was soon able tocorroboratethe doctor's tale. This young man hasleftprints upon the stair-carpet which made it quitesuperfluousfor me to ask to see those which he hadmade inthe room. When I tell you that his shoes weresquare-toedinstead of being pointed likeBlessington'sand were quite an inch and a thirdlongerthan the doctor'syou will acknowledge thatthere canbe no doubt as to his individuality. But wemay sleepon it nowfor I shall be surprised if we donot hearsomething further from Brook Street in themorning."
SherlockHolmes's prophecy was soon fulfilledand ina dramaticfashion. At half-past seven next morningin thefirst glimmer of daylightI found him standingby mybedside in his dressing-gown.
"There'sa brougham waiting for usWatson" said he.
"TheBrook Street business."
"Tragicbut ambiguous" said hepulling up theblind. "Look at this--a sheet from a note-bookwith'For God'ssake come at once--P. T.' scrawled upon itinpencil. Our friendthe doctorwas hard put to itwhen hewrote this. Come alongmy dear fellowforit's anurgent call."
In aquarter of an hour or so we were back at thephysician'shouse. He came running out to meet uswith aface of horror.
"Ohsuch a business!" he criedwith his hands to histemples.
"Blessingtonhas committed suicide!"
"Yeshe hanged himself during the night."
We hadenteredand the doctor had preceded us intowhat wasevidently his waiting-room.
"Ireally hardly know what I am doing" he cried."Thepolice are already upstairs. It has shaken memostdreadfully."
"Whendid you find it out?"
"Hehas a cup of tea taken in to him early everymorning. When the maid enteredabout seventheretheunfortunate fellow was hanging in the middle ofthe room. He had tied his cord to the hook on whichthe heavylamp used to hangand he had jumped offfrom thetop of the very box that he showed usyesterday."
Holmesstood for a moment in deep thought.
"Withyour permission" said he at last"I shouldlike to goupstairs and look into the matter."
We bothascendedfollowed by the doctor.
It was adreadful sight which met us as we entered thebedroomdoor. I have spoken of the impression offlabbinesswhich this man Blessington conveyed. As hedangledfrom the hook it was exaggerated andintensifieduntil he was scarce human in hisappearance. The neck was drawn out like a pluckedchicken'smaking the rest of him seem the more obeseandunnatural by the contrast. He was clad only inhis longnight-dressand his swollen ankles andungainlyfeet protruded starkly from beneath it.Beside himstood a smart-looking police-inspectorwhowas takingnotes in a pocket-book.
"AhMr. Holmes" said heheartilyas my friendentered"I am delighted to see you."
"Good-morningLanner" answered Holmes; "you won'tthink mean intruderI am sure. Have you heard ofthe eventswhich led up to this affair?"
"YesI heard something of them."
"Haveyou formed any opinion?"
"Asfar as I can seethe man has been driven out ofhis sensesby fright. The bed has been well slept inyou see. There's his impression deep enough. It'sabout fivein the morningyou knowthat suicides aremostcommon. That would be about his time for hanginghimself. It seems to have been a very deliberateaffair."
"Ishould say that he has been dead about three hoursjudging bythe rigidity of the muscles" said I.
"Noticedanything peculiar about the room?" askedHolmes.
"Founda screw-driver and some screws on the wash-handstand. Seems to have smoked heavily during the nighttoo. Here are four cigar-ends that I picked out ofthefireplace."
"Hum!"said Holmes"have you got his cigar-holder?"
"NoI have seen none."
"Yesit was in his coat-pocket."
Holmesopened it and smelled the single cigar which itcontained.
"Ohthis is an Havanaand these others are cigars ofthepeculiar sort which are imported by the Dutch fromtheir EastIndian colonies. They are usually wrappedin strawyou knowand are thinner for their lengththan anyother brand." He picked up the four ends andexaminedthem with his pocket-lens.
"Twoof these have been smoked from a holder and twowithout"said he. "Two have been cut by a not verysharpknifeand two have had the ends bitten off by aset ofexcellent teeth. This is no suicideMr.Lanner. It is a very deeply planned and cold-bloodedmurder."
"Impossible!"cried the inspector.
"Whyshould any one murder a man in so clumsy afashion asby hanging him?"
"Thatis what we have to find out."
"Howcould they get in?"
"Throughthe front door."
"Itwas barred in the morning."
"Thenit was barred after them."
"Howdo you know?"
"Isaw their traces. Excuse me a momentand I may beable togive you some further information about it."
He wentover to the doorand turning the lock heexaminedit in his methodical way. Then he took outthe keywhich was on the insideand inspected thatalso. The bedthe carpetthe chairs themantelpiecethe dead bodyand the rope were each inturnexamineduntil at last he professed himselfsatisfiedand with my aid and that of the inspectorcut downthe wretched object and laid it reverentlyunder asheet.
"Howabout this rope?" he asked.
"Itis cut off this" said Dr. Trevelyandrawing alarge coilfrom under the bed. "He was morbidlynervous offireand always kept this beside himsothat hemight escape by the window in case the stairswereburning."
"Thatmust have saved them trouble" said Holmesthoughtfully. "Yesthe actual facts are very plainand Ishall be surprised if by the afternoon I cannotgive youthe reasons for them as well. I will takethisphotograph of Blessingtonwhich I see upon themantelpieceas it may help me in my inquiries."
"Butyou have told us nothing!" cried the doctor.
"Ohthere can be no doubt as to the sequence ofevents"said Holmes. "There were three of them init: the young manthe old manand a thirdto whoseidentity Ihave no clue. The first twoI need hardlyremarkare the same who masqueraded as the Russiancount andhis sonso we can give a very fulldescriptionof them. They were admitted by aconfederateinside the house. If I might offer you aword ofadviceInspectorit would be to arrest thepagewhoas I understandhas only recently comeinto yourserviceDoctor."
"Theyoung imp cannot be found" said Dr. Trevelyan;"themaid and the cook have just been searching forhim."
Holmesshrugged his shoulders.
"Hehas played a not unimportant part in this drama"said he. "The three men having ascended the stairswhich theydid on tiptoethe elder man firsttheyoungerman secondand the unknown man in the rear--"
"Mydear Holmes!" I ejaculated.
"Ohthere could be no question as to thesuperimposingof the footmarks. I had the advantageoflearning which was which last night. Theyascendedthento Mr. Blessington's roomthe door ofwhich theyfound to be locked. With the help of awirehoweverthey forced round the key. Evenwithoutthe lens you will perceiveby the scratcheson thiswardwhere the pressure was applied.
"Onentering the room their first proceeding must havebeen togag Mr. Blessington. He may have been asleepor he mayhave been so paralyzed with terror as tohave beenunable to cry out. These walls are thickand it isconceivable that his shriekif he had timeto utteronewas unheard.
"Havingsecured himit is evident to me that aconsultationof some sort was held. Probably it wassomethingin the nature of a judicial proceeding. Itmust havelasted for some timefor it was then thatthesecigars were smoke. The older man sat in thatwickerchair; it was he who used the cigar-holder.Theyounger man sat over yonder; he knocked his ashoffagainst the chest of drawers. The third fellowpaced upand down. BlessingtonI thinksat uprightin thebedbut of that I cannot be absolutelycertain.
"Wellit ended by their taking Blessington andhanginghim. The matter was so prearranged that it ismy beliefthat they brought with them some sort ofblock orpulley which might serve as a gallows. Thatscrew-driverand those screws wereas I conceiveforfixing itup. Seeing the hookhowever they naturallysavedthemselves the trouble. Having finished theirwork theymade offand the door was barred behindthem bytheir confederate."
We had alllistened with the deepest interest to thissketch ofthe night's doingswhich Holmes had deducedfrom signsso subtle and minute thateven when he hadpointedthem out to uswe could scarcely follow himin hisreasoning. The inspector hurried away on theinstant tomake inquiries about the pagewhile Holmesand Ireturned to Baker Street for breakfast.
"I'llbe back by three" said hewhen we had finishedour meal. "Both the inspector and the doctor willmeet mehere at that hourand I hope by that time tohavecleared up any little obscurity which the casemay stillpresent."
Ourvisitors arrived at the appointed timebut it wasa quarterto four before my friend put in anappearance. From his expression as he enteredhoweverIcould see that all had gone well with him.
"Wehave got the boysir."
"Excellentand I have got the men."
"Youhave got them!" we criedall three.
"Wellat least I have got their identity. Thisso-calledBlessington isas I expectedwell known atheadquartersand so are his assailants. Their namesareBiddleHaywardand Moffat."
"TheWorthingdon bank gang" cried the inspector.
"ThenBlessington must have been Sutton."
"Whythat makes it as clear as crystal" said theinspector.
ButTrevelyan and I looked at each other inbewilderment.
"Youmust surely remember the great Worthingdon bankbusiness"said Holmes. "Five men were in it--thesefour and afifth called Cartwright. Tobinthecare-takerwas murderedand the thieves got awaywith seventhousand pounds. This was in 1875. Theywere allfive arrestedbut the evidence against themwas by nomeans conclusive. This Blessington orSuttonwho was the worst of the gangturnedinformer. On his evidence Cartwright was hanged andthe otherthree got fifteen years apiece. When theygot outthe other daywhich was some years beforetheir fulltermthey set themselvesas you perceiveto huntdown the traitor and to avenge the death oftheircomrade upon him. Twice they tried to get athim andfailed; a third timeyou seeit came off.Is thereanything further which I can explainDr.Trevelyan?"
"Ithink you have made it all remarkable clear" saidthedoctor. "No doubt the day on which he wasperturbedwas the day when he had seen of theirrelease inthe newspapers."
"Quiteso. His talk about a burglary was the merestblind."
"Butwhy could he not tell you this?"
"Wellmy dear sirknowing the vindictive characterof his oldassociateshe was trying to hide his ownidentityfrom everybody as long as he could. Hissecret wasa shameful oneand he could not bringhimself todivulge it. Howeverwretch as he washewas stillliving under the shield of British lawandI have nodoubtInspectorthat you will see thatthoughthat shield may fail to guardthe sword ofjustice isstill there to avenge."
Such werethe singular circumstances in connectionwith theResident Patient and the Brook Street Doctor.From thatnight nothing has been seen of the threemurderersby the policeand it is surmised atScotlandYard that they were among the passengers oftheill-fated steamer Norah Creinawhich was lostsome yearsago with all hands upon the Portuguesecoastsome leagues to the north of Oporto. Theproceedingsagainst the page broke down for want ofevidenceand the Brook Street Mysteryas it wascalledhas never until now been fully dealt with inany publicprint.
During mylong and intimate acquaintance with Mr.SherlockHolmes I had never heard him refer to hisrelationsand hardly ever to his own early life.Thisreticence upon his part had increased thesomewhatinhuman effect which he produced upon meuntilsometimes I found myself regarding him as anisolatedphenomenona brain without a heartasdeficientin human sympathy as he was pre-eminent inintelligence. His aversion to women and hisdisinclinationto form new friendships were bothtypical ofhis unemotional characterbut not more sothan hiscomplete suppression of every reference tohis ownpeople. I had come to believe that he was anorphanwith no relatives livingbut one dayto myvery greatsurprisehe began to talk to me about hisbrother.
It wasafter tea on a summer eveningand theconversationwhich had roamed in a desultoryspasmodicfashion from golf clubs to the causes of thechange inthe obliquity of the eclipticcame round atlast tothe question of atavism and hereditaryaptitudes. The point under discussion washow faranysingular gift in an individual was due to hisancestryand how far to his own early training.
"Inyour own case" said I"from all that you havetold meit seems obvious that your faculty ofobservationand your peculiar facility for deductionare due toyour own systematic training."
"Tosome extent" he answeredthoughtfully. "Myancestorswere country squireswho appear to have ledmuch thesame life as is natural to their class. Butnone thelessmy turn that way is in my veinsandmay havecome with my grandmotherwho was the sisterof Vernetthe French artist. Art in the blood isliable totake the strangest forms."
"Buthow do you know that it is hereditary?"
"Becausemy brother Mycroft possesses it in a largerdegreethan I do."
This wasnews to me indeed. If there were another manwith suchsingular powers in Englandhow was it thatneitherpolice nor public had heard of him? I put thequestionwith a hint that it was my companion'smodestywhich made him acknowledge his brother as hissuperior. Holmes laughed at my suggestion.
"Mydear Watson" said he"I cannot agree with thosewho rankmodesty among the virtues. To the logicianall thingsshould be seen exactly as they areand tounderestimateone's self is as much a departure fromtruth asto exaggerate one's own powers. When I saythereforethat Mycroft has better powers ofobservationthan Iyou may take it that I am speakingthe exactand literal truth."
"Ishe your junior?"
"Sevenyears my senior."
"Howcomes it that he is unknown?"
"Ohhe is very well known in his own circle."
"Wellin the Diogenes Clubfor example."
I hadnever heard of the institutionand my face musthaveproclaimed as muchfor Sherlock Holmes pulledout hiswatch.
"TheDiogenes Club is the queerest club in LondonandMycroftone of the queerest men. He's always therefromquarter to five to twenty to eight. It's sixnowso ifyou care for a stroll this beautifulevening Ishall be very happy to introduce you to twocuriosities."
"Fiveminutes later we were in the streetwalkingtowardsRegent's Circus.
"Youwonder" said my companion"why it is thatMycroftdoes not use his powers for detective work.He isincapable of it."
"ButI thought you said--"
"Isaid that he was my superior in observation anddeduction. If the art of the detective began andended inreasoning from an arm-chairmy brother wouldbe thegreatest criminal agent that ever lived. Buthe has noambition and no energy. He will not even goout of hisway to verify his own solutionand wouldrather beconsidered wrong than take the trouble toprovehimself right. Again and again I have taken aproblem tohimand have received an explanation whichhasafterwards proved to be the correct one. And yethe wasabsolutely incapable of working out thepracticalpoints which must be gone into before a casecould belaid before a judge or jury."
"Itis not his professionthen?"
"Byno means. What is to me a means of livelihood isto him themerest hobby of a dilettante. He has anextraordinaryfaculty for figuresand audits thebooks insome of the government departments. Mycroftlodges inPall Malland he walks round the cornerintoWhitehall every morning and back every evening.Fromyear's end to year's end he takes no otherexerciseand is seen nowhere elseexcept only in theDiogenesClubwhich is just opposite his rooms."
"Icannot recall the name."
"Verylikely not. There are many men in Londonyouknowwhosome from shynesssome from misanthropyhave nowish for the company of their fellows. Yetthey arenot averse to comfortable chairs and thelatestperiodicals. It is for the convenience ofthese thatthe Diogenes Club was startedand it nowcontainsthe most unsociable and unclubable men intown. No member is permitted to take the least noticeof anyother one. Save in the Stranger's Roomnotalkingisunder any circumstancesallowedandthreeoffencesif brought to the notice of thecommitteerender the talker liable to expulsion. Mybrotherwas one of the foundersand I have myselffound it avery soothing atmosphere."
We hadreached Pall Mall as we talkedand werewalkingdown it from the St. James's end. SherlockHolmesstopped at a door some little distance from theCarltonandcautioning me not to speakhe led theway intothe hall. Through the glass paneling Icaught aglimpse of a large and luxurious roominwhich aconsiderable number of men were sitting aboutandreading paperseach in his own little nook.Holmesshowed me into a small chamber which looked outinto PallMalland thenleaving me for a minutehecame backwith a companion whom I knew could only behisbrother.
MycroftHolmes was a much larger and stouter man thanSherlock. His body was absolutely corpulentbut isfacethough massivehad preserved something of thesharpnessof expression which was so remarkable inthat ofhis brother. His eyeswhich were of apeculiarlylightwatery grayseemed to always retainthatfar-awayintrospective look which I had onlyobservedin Sherlock's when he was exerting his fullpowers.
"I amglad to meet yousir" said heputting out abroadfathand like the flipper of a seal. "I hearofSherlock everywhere since you became hischronicler. By the waySherlockI expected to seeyou roundlast weekto consult me over that ManorHousecase. I thought you might be a little out ofyourdepth."
"NoI solved it" said my friendsmiling.
"Itwas Adamsof course."
"Yesit was Adams."
"Iwas sure of it from the first." The two sat downtogetherin the bow-window of the club. "To any onewho wishesto study mankind this is the spot" saidMycroft. "Look at the magnificent types! Look atthese twomen who are coming towards usfor example."
"Thebilliard-marker and the other?"
"Precisely. What do you make of the other?"
The twomen had stopped opposite the window. Somechalkmarks over the waistcoat pocket were the onlysigns ofbilliards which I could see in one of them.The otherwas a very smalldark fellowwith his hatpushedback and several packages under his arm.
"Anold soldierI perceive" said Sherlock.
"Andvery recently discharged" remarked the brother.
"Servedin IndiaI see."
"Anda non-commissioned officer."
"RoyalArtilleryI fancy" said Sherlock.
"Butwith a child."
"Childrenmy dear boychildren."
"Come"said Ilaughing"this is a little too much."
"Surely"answered Holmes"it is not hard to say thata man withthat bearingexpression of authorityandsunbakedskinis a soldieris more than a privateand is notlong from India."
"Thathe has not left the service long is shown by hisstillwearing is ammunition bootsas they arecalled"observed Mycroft.
"Hehad not the cavalry strideyet he wore his hat onone sideas is shown by the lighter skin of that sideof hisbrow. His weight is against his being asapper. He is in the artillery."
"Thenof coursehis complete mourning shows that hehas lostsome one very dear. The fact that he isdoing hisown shopping looks as though it were hiswife. He has been buying things for childrenyouperceive. There is a rattlewhich shows that one ofthem isvery young. The wife probably died inchildbed. The fact that he has a picture-book underhis armshows that there is another child to bethoughtof."
I began tounderstand what my friend meant when hesaid thathis brother possessed even keener facultiesthat hedid himself. He glanced across at me andsmiled. Mycroft took snuff from a tortoise-shell boxandbrushed away the wandering grains from his coatfront witha largered silk handkerchief.
"Bythe waySherlock" said he"I have had somethingquiteafter your own heart--a most singularproblem--submittedto my judgment. I really had notthe energyto follow it up save in a very incompletefashionbut it gave me a basis for some pleasingspeculation. If you would care to hear the facts--"
"Mydear MycroftI should be delighted."
Thebrother scribbled a note upon a leaf of hispocket-bookandringing the bellhe handed it tothewaiter.
"Ihave asked Mr. Melas to step across" said he. "Helodges onthe floor above meand I have some slightacquaintancewith himwhich led him to come to me inhisperplexity. Mr. Melas is a Greek by extractionas Iunderstandand he is a remarkable linguist. Heearns hisliving partly as interpreter in the lawcourts andpartly by acting as guide to any wealthyOrientalswho may visit the Northumberland Avenuehotels. I think I will leave him to tell his veryremarkableexperience in his own fashion."
A fewminutes later we were joined by a shortstoutman whoseolive face and coal-black hair proclaimedhisSouthern originthough his speech was that of aneducatedEnglishman. He shook hands eagerly withSherlockHolmesand his dark eyes sparkled withpleasurewhen he understood that the specialist wasanxious tohear his story.
"I donot believe that the police credit me--on mywordI donot" said he in a wailing voice. "Justbecausethey have never heard of it beforethey thinkthat sucha thing cannot be. But I know that I shallnever beeasy in my mind until I know what has becomeof my poorman with the sticking-plaster upon hisface."
"I amall attention" said Sherlock Holmes.
"Thisis Wednesday evening" said Mr. Melas. "Wellthenitwas Monday night--only two days agoyouunderstand--thatall this happened. I am aninterpreteras perhaps my neighbor there has toldyou. I interpret all languages--or nearly all--but asI am aGreek by birth and with a Grecian nameit iswith thatparticular tongue that I am principallyassociated. For many years I have been the chiefGreekinterpreter in Londonand my name is very wellknown inthe hotels.
It happensnot unfrequently that I am sent for atstrangehours by foreigners who get into difficultiesor bytravelers who arrive late and wish my services.I was notsurprisedthereforeon Monday night when aMr.Latimera very fashionably dressed young mancame up tomy rooms and asked me to accompany him in acab whichwas waiting at the door. A Greek friend hadcome tosee him upon businesshe saidand as hecouldspeak nothing but his own tonguethe servicesof aninterpreter were indispensable. He gave me tounderstandthat his house was some little distanceoffinKensingtonand he seemed to be in a greathurrybustling me rapidly into the cab when we haddescendedto the street.
"Isay into the cabbut I soon became doubtful as towhether itwas not a carriage in which I found myself.It wascertainly more roomy than the ordinaryfour-wheeleddisgrace to Londonand the fittingsthoughfrayedwere of rich quality. Mr. Latimerseatedhimself opposite to me and we started offthroughCharing Cross and up the Shaftesbury Avenue.We hadcome out upon Oxford Street and I had venturedsomeremark as to this being a roundabout way toKensingtonwhen my words were arrested by theextraordinaryconduct of my companion.
"Hebegan by drawing a most formidable-lookingbludgeonloaded with lead from his pocketandswitchingit backward and forward several timesas ifto testits weight and strength. Then he placed itwithout aword upon the seat beside him. Having donethishedrew up the windows on each sideand I foundto myastonishment that they were covered with paperso as toprevent my seeing through them.
"'Iam sorry to cut off your viewMr. Melas' saidhe. 'The fact is that I have no intention that youshould seewhat the place is to which we are driving.It mightpossibly be inconvenient to me if you couldfind yourway there again.'
"Asyou can imagineI was utterly taken aback by suchanaddress. My companion was a powerfulbroad-shoulderedyoung fellowandapart from theweaponIshould not have had the slightest chance ina strugglewith him.
"'Thisis very extraordinary conductMr. Latimer' Istammered. 'You must be aware that what you are doingis quiteillegal.'
"'Itis somewhat of a libertyno doubt' said he'but we'llmake it up to you. I must warn youhoweverMr. Melasthat if at any time to-night youattempt toraise an alarm or do anything which isagainst myinterestsyou will find it a very seriousthing. I beg you to remember that no one knows whereyou areand thatwhether you are in this carriage orin myhouseyou are equally in my power.'
"Hiswords were quietbut he had a rasping way ofsayingthem which was very menacing. I sat in silencewonderingwhat on earth could be his reason forkidnappingme in this extraordinary fashion. Whateverit mightbeit was perfectly clear that there was nopossibleuse in my resistingand that I could onlywait tosee what might befall.
"Fornearly two hours we drove without my having theleast clueas to where we were going. Sometimes therattle ofthe stones told of a paved causewayand atothers oursmoothsilent course suggested asphalt;butsaveby this variation in soundthere wasnothing atall which could in the remotest way help meto form aguess as to where we were. The paper overeachwindow was impenetrable to lightand a bluecurtainwas drawn across the glass work in front. Itwas aquarter-past seven when we left Pall Mallandmy watchshowed me that it was ten minutes to ninewhen we atlast came to a standstill. My companionlet downthe windowand I caught a glimpse of a lowarcheddoorway with a lamp burning above it. As I washurriedfrom the carriage it swung openand I foundmyselfinside the housewith a vague impression of alawn andtrees on each side of me as I entered.Whetherthese were private groundshoweverorbona-fidecountry was more than I could possiblyventure tosay.
"Therewas a colored gas-lamp inside which was turnedso lowthat I could see little save that the hall wasof somesize and hung with pictures. In the dim lightI couldmake out that the person who had opened thedoor was asmallmean-lookingmiddle-aged man withroundedshoulders. As he turned towards us the glintof thelight showed me that he was wearing glasses.
"'Isthis Mr. MelasHarold?' said he.
"'Welldonewell done! No ill-willMr. MelasIhopebutwe could not get on without you. If youdeal fairwith us you'll not regret itbut if you tryanytricksGod help you!' He spoke in a nervousjerkyfashionand with little giggling laughs inbetweenbut somehow he impressed me with fear morethan theother.
"'Whatdo you want with me?' I asked.
"'Onlyto ask a few questions of a Greek gentleman whoisvisiting usand to let us have the answers. Butsay nomore than you are told to sayor--' here camethenervous giggle again--'you had better never havebeenborn.'
"Ashe spoke he opened a door and showed the way intoa roomwhich appeared to be very richly furnishedbutagain theonly light was afforded by a single lamphalf-turneddown. The chamber was certainly largeand theway in which my feet sank into the carpet as Isteppedacross it told me of its richness. I caughtglimpsesof velvet chairsa high white marblemantel-pieceand what seemed to be a suit of Japanesearmor atone side of it. There was a chair just underthe lampand the elderly man motioned that I shouldsit init. The younger had left usbut he suddenlyreturnedthrough another doorleading with him agentlemanclad in some sort of loose dressing-gown whomovedslowly towards us. As he came into the circleof dimlight which enables me to see him more clearlyI wasthrilled with horror at his appearance. He wasdeadlypale and terribly emaciatedwith theprotrudingbrilliant eyes of a man whose spirit wasgreaterthan his strength. But what shocked me morethan anysigns of physical weakness was that his facewasgrotesquely criss-crossed with sticking-plasterand thatone large pad of it was fastened over hismouth.
"'Haveyou the slateHarold?' cried the older manasthisstrange being fell rather than sat down into achair. 'Are his hands loose? Nowthengive him thepencil. You are to ask the questionsMr. Melasandhe willwrite the answers. Ask him first of allwhether heis prepared to sign the papers?'
"Theman's eyes flashed fire.
"'Never!'he wrote in Greek upon the slate.
"'Onno condition?' I askedat the bidding of ourtyrant.
"'Onlyif I see her married in my presence by a Greekpriestwhom I know.'
"Theman giggled in his venomous way.
"'Youknow what awaits youthen?'
"'Icare nothing for myself.'
"Theseare samples of the questions and answers whichmade upour strange half-spokenhalf-writtenconversation. Again and again I had to ask himwhether hewould give in and sign the documents.Again andagain I had the same indignant reply. Butsoon ahappy thought came to me. I took to adding onlittlesentences of my own to each questioninnocentones atfirstto test whether either of ourcompanionsknew anything of the matterand thenas Ifound thatthey showed no signs I played a moredangerousgame. Our conversation ran something likethis:
"'Youcan do no good by this obstinacy. Who are you?'
"'Icare not. I am a stranger in London.'
"'Yourfate will be upon your own head. How long haveyou beenhere?'
"'Letit be so. Three weeks.'
"'Theproperty can never be yours. What ails you?'
"'Itshall not go to villains. They are starving me.'
"'Youshall go free if you sign. What house is this?'
"'Iwill never sign. I do not know.'
"'Youare not doing her any service. What is yourname?'
"'Letme hear her say so. Kratides.'
"'Youshall see her if you sign. Where are you from?'
"'ThenI shall never see her. Athens.'
"Anotherfive minutesMr. Holmesand I should havewormed outthe whole story under their very noses. Myvery nextquestion might have cleared the matter upbut atthat instant the door opened and a womansteppedinto the room. I could not see her clearlyenough toknow more than that she was tall andgracefulwith black hairand clad in some sort ofloosewhite gown.
"'Harold'said shespeaking English with a brokenaccent. 'I could not stay away longer. It is solonely upthere with only--Ohmy Godit is Paul!'
"Theselast words were in Greekand at the sameinstantthe man with a convulsive effort tore theplasterfrom his lipsand screaming out 'Sophy!Sophy!'rushed into the woman's arms. Their embracewas butfor an instanthoweverfor the younger manseized thewoman and pushed her out of the roomwhilethe eldereasily overpowered his emaciated victimanddraggedhim away through the other door. For a momentI was leftalone in the roomand I sprang to my feetwith somevague idea that I might in some way get aclue towhat this house was in which I found myself.FortunatelyhoweverI took no stepsfor looking upI saw thatthe older man was standing in the door-waywith hiseyes fixed upon me.
"'Thatwill doMr. Melas' said he. 'You perceivethat wehave taken you into our confidence over someveryprivate business. We should not have troubledyouonlythat our friend who speaks Greek and whobeganthese negotiations has been forced to return tothe East. It was quite necessary for us to find someone totake his placeand we were fortunate inhearing ofyour powers.'
"'Thereare five sovereigns here' said hewalking upto me'which willI hopebe a sufficient fee. Butremember'he addedtapping me lightly on the chestandgiggling'if you speak to a human soul aboutthis--onehuman soulmind--wellmay God have mercyupon yoursoul!"
"Icannot tell you the loathing and horror with whichthisinsignificant-looking man inspired me. I couldsee himbetter now as the lamp-light shone upon him.Hisfeatures were peaky and sallowand his littlepointedbeard was thready and ill-nourished. Hepushed hisface forward as he spoke and his lips andeyelidswere continually twitching like a man with St.Vitus'sdance. I could not help thinking that hisstrangecatchy little laugh was also a symptom ofsomenervous malady. The terror of his face lay inhis eyeshoweversteel grayand glistening coldlywith amalignantinexorable cruelty in their depths.
"'Weshall know if you speak of this' said he. 'Wehave ourown means of information. Now you will findthecarriage waitingand my friend will see you onyour way.'
"Iwas hurried through the hall and into the vehicleagainobtaining that momentary glimpse of trees and agarden. Mr. Latimer followed closely at my heelsandtook hisplace opposite to me without a word. Insilence weagain drove for an interminable distancewith thewindows raiseduntil at lastjust aftermidnightthe carriage pulled up.
"'Youwill get down hereMr. Melas' said mycompanion. 'I am sorry to leave you so far from yourhousebutthere is no alternative. Any attempt uponyour partto follow the carriage can only end ininjury toyourself.'
"Heopened the door as he spokeand I had hardly timeto springout when the coachman lashed the horse andthecarriage rattled away. I looked around me inastonishment. I was on some sort of a heathy commonmottledover with dark clumps of furze-bushes. Farawaystretched a line of houseswith a light here andthere inthe upper windows. On the other side I sawthe redsignal-lamps of a railway.
"Thecarriage which had brought me was already out ofsight. I stood gazing round and wondering where onearth Imight bewhen I saw some one coming towardsme in thedarkness. As he came up to me I made outthat hewas a railway porter.
"'Canyou tell me what place this is?' I asked.
"'WandsworthCommon' said he.
"'CanI get a train into town?'
"'Ifyou walk on a mile or so to Clapham Junction'said he'you'll just be in time for the last toVictoria.'
"Sothat was the end of my adventureMr. Holmes. Ido notknow where I wasnor whom I spoke withnoranythingsave what I have told you. But I know thatthere isfoul play going onand I want to help thatunhappyman if I can. I told the whole story to Mr.MycroftHolmes next morningand subsequently to thepolice."
We all satin silence for some little time afterlisteningto this extraordinary narrative. ThenSherlocklooked across at his brother.
"Anysteps?" he asked.
Mycroftpicked up the Daily Newswhich was lying ontheside-table.
"'Anybodysupplying any information to the whereaboutsof a Greekgentleman named Paul Kratidesfrom Athenswho isunable to speak Englishwill be rewarded. Asimilarreward paid to any one giving informationabout aGreek lady whose first name is Sophy. X2473.' That was in all the dailies. No answer."
"Howabout the Greek Legation?"
"Ihave inquired. They know nothing."
"Awire to the head of the Athens policethen?"
"Sherlockhas all the energy of the family" saidMycroftturning to me. "Wellyou take the case upby allmeansand let me know if you do any good."
"Certainly"answered my friendrising from hischair. "I'll let you knowand Mr. Melas also. InthemeantimeMr. MelasI should certainly be on myguardifI were youfor of course they must knowthroughthese advertisements that you have betrayedthem."
As wewalked home togetherHolmes stopped at atelegraphoffice and sent off several wires.
"YouseeWatson" he remarked"our evening has beenby nomeans wasted. Some of my most interesting caseshave cometo me in this way through Mycroft. Theproblemwhich we have just listened toalthough itcan admitof but one explanationhas still somedistinguishingfeatures."
"Youhave hopes of solving it?"
"Wellknowing as much as we doit will be singularindeed ifwe fail to discover the rest. You mustyourselfhave formed some theory which will explainthe factsto which we have listened."
"In avague wayyes."
"Whatwas your ideathen?"
"Itseemed to me to be obvious that this Greek girlhad beencarried off by the young Englishman namedHaroldLatimer."
"Carriedoff from where?"
SherlockHolmes shook his head. "This young man couldnot talk aword of Greek. The lady could talk Englishfairlywell. Inference--that she had been in Englandsomelittle timebut he had not been in Greece."
"Wellthenwe will presume that she had come on avisit toEnglandand that this Harold had persuadedher to flywith him."
"Thatis more probable."
"Thenthe brother--for thatI fancymust be therelationship--comesover from Greece to interfere. Heimprudentlyputs himself into the power of the youngman andhis older associate. They seize him and useviolencetowards him in order to make him sign somepapers tomake over the girl's fortune--of which hemay betrustee--to them. This he refuses to do. Inorder tonegotiate with him they have to get aninterpreterand they pitch upon this Mr. Melashavingused some other one before. The girl is nottold ofthe arrival of her brotherand finds it outby themerest accident."
"ExcellentWatson!" cried Holmes. "I really fancythat youare not far from the truth. You see that wehold allthe cardsand we have only to fear somesudden actof violence on their part. If they give ustime wemust have them."
"Buthow can we find where this house lies?"
"Wellif our conjecture is correct and the girl'sname is orwas Sophy Kratideswe should have nodifficultyin tracing her. That must be our mainhopeforthe brother isof coursea completestranger. It is clear that some time has elapsedsince thisHarold established these relations with thegirl--someweeksat any rate--since the brother inGreece hashad time to hear of it and come across. Ifthey havebeen living in the same place during thistimeitis probable that we shall have some answer toMycroft'sadvertisement."
We hadreached our house in Baker Street while we hadbeentalking. Holmes ascended the stair firstand ashe openedthe door of our room he gave a start ofsurprise. Looking over his shoulderI was equallyastonished. His brother Mycroft was sitting smokingin thearm-chair.
"ComeinSherlock! Come insir" said he blandlysmiling atour surprised faces. "You don't expectsuchenergy from medo youSherlock? But somehowthis caseattracts me."
"Howdid you get here?"
"Ipassed you in a hansom."
"Therehas been some new development?"
"Ihad an answer to my advertisement."
"Yesit came within a few minutes of your leaving."
"Andto what effect?"
MycroftHolmes took out a sheet of paper.
"Hereit is" said he"written with a J pen on royalcreampaper by a middle-aged man with a weakconstitution. 'Sir' he says'in answer to youradvertisementof to-day's dateI beg to inform youthat Iknow the young lady in question very well. Ifyou shouldcare to call upon me I could give you someparticularsas to her painful history. She is livingat presentat The MyrtlesBeckenham. YoursfaithfullyJ. Davenport.'
"Hewrites from Lower Brixton" said Mycroft Holmes."Doyou not think that we might drive to him nowSherlockand learn these particulars?"
"Mydear Mycroftthe brother's life is more valuablethan thesister's story. I think we should call atScotlandYard for Inspector Gregsonand go straightout toBeckenham. We know that a man is being done todeathandevery hour may be vital."
"Betterpick up Mr. Melas on our way" I suggested."Wemay need an interpreter."
"Excellent"said Sherlock Holmes. "Send the boy forafour-wheelerand we shall be off at once." Heopened thetable-drawer as he spokeand I noticedthat heslipped his revolver into his pocket. "Yes"said hein answer to my glance; "I should say fromwhat wehave heardthat we are dealing with aparticularlydangerous gang."
It wasalmost dark before we found ourselves in PallMallatthe rooms of Mr. Melas. A gentleman had justcalled forhimand he was gone.
"Canyou tell me where?" asked Mycroft Holmes.
"Idon't knowsir" answered the woman who had openedthe door;"I only know that he drove away with thegentlemanin a carriage."
"Didthe gentleman give a name?"
"Hewasn't a tallhandsomedark young man?"
"Ohnosir. He was a little gentlemanwithglassesthin in the facebut very pleasant in hiswaysforhe was laughing al the time that he wastalking."
"Comealong!" cried Sherlock Holmesabruptly. "Thisgrowsserious" he observedas we drove to ScotlandYard. "These men have got hold of Melas again. He isa man ofno physical courageas they are well awarefrom theirexperience the other night. This villainwas ableto terrorize him the instant that he got intohispresence. No doubt they want his professionalservicesbuthaving used himthey may be inclinedto punishhim for what they will regard as histreachery."
Our hopewas thatby taking trainwe might get toBeckenhamas soon or sooner than the carriage. OnreachingScotland Yardhoweverit was more than anhourbefore we could get Inspector Gregson and complywith thelegal formalities which would enable us toenter thehouse. It was a quarter to ten before wereachedLondon Bridgeand half past before the fourof usalighted on the Beckenham platform. A drive ofhalf amile brought us to The Myrtles--a largedarkhousestanding back from the road in its own grounds.Here wedismissed our caband made our way up thedrivetogether.
"Thewindows are all dark" remarked the inspector."Thehouse seems deserted."
"Ourbirds are flown and the nest empty" said Holmes.
"Whydo you say so?"
"Acarriage heavily loaded with luggage has passed outduring thelast hour."
Theinspector laughed. "I saw the wheel-tracks in thelight ofthe gate-lampbut where does the luggagecome in?"
"Youmay have observed the same wheel-tracks going theotherway. But the outward-bound ones were very muchdeeper--somuch so that we can say for a certaintythat therewas a very considerable weight on thecarriage."
"Youget a trifle beyond me there" said theinspectorshrugging his shoulder. "It will not be aneasy doorto forcebut we will try if we cannot makesome onehear us."
Hehammered loudly at the knocker and pulled at thebellbutwithout any success. Holmes had slippedawaybuthe came back in a few minutes.
"Ihave a window open" said he.
"Itis a mercy that you are on the side of the forceand notagainst itMr. Holmes" remarked theinspectoras he noted the clever way in which myfriend hadforced back the catch. "WellI think thatunder thecircumstances we may enter without aninvitation."
One afterthe other we made our way into a largeapartmentwhich was evidently that in which Mr. Melashad foundhimself. The inspector had lit his lanternand by itslight we could see the two doorsthecurtainthe lampand the suit of Japanese mail as hehaddescribed them. On the table lay two glassesandemptybrandy-bottleand the remains of a meal.
"Whatis that?" asked Holmessuddenly.
We allstood still and listened. A low moaning soundwas comingfrom somewhere over our heads. Holmesrushed tothe door and out into the hall. The dismalnoise camefrom upstairs. He dashed upthe inspectorand I athis heelswhile his brother Mycroft followedas quicklyas his great bulk would permit.
Threedoors faced up upon the second floorand it wasfrom thecentral of these that the sinister soundswereissuingsinking sometimes into a dull mumble andrisingagain into a shrill whine. It was lockedbutthe keyhad been left on the outside. Holmes flungopen thedoor and rushed inbut he was out again inaninstantwith his hand to his throat."
"It'scharcoal" he cried. "Give it time. It willclear."
Peeringinwe could see that the only light in theroom camefrom a dull blue flame which flickered froma smallbrass tripod in the centre. It threw a lividunnaturalcircle upon the floorwhile in the shadowsbeyond wesaw the vague loom of two figures whichcrouchedagainst the wall. From the open door therereeked ahorrible poisonous exhalation which set usgaspingand coughing. Holmes rushed to the top of thestairs todraw in the fresh airand thendashinginto theroomhe threw up the window and hurled thebrazentripod out into the garden.
"Wecan enter in a minute" he gaspeddarting outagain. "Where is a candle? I doubt if we couldstrike amatch in that atmosphere. Hold the light atthe doorand we shall get them outMycroftnow!"
With arush we got to the poisoned men and draggedthem outinto the well-lit hall. Both of them wereblue-lippedand insensiblewith swollencongestedfaces andprotruding eyes. Indeedso distorted weretheirfeatures thatsave for his black beard andstoutfigurewe might have failed to recognize in oneof themthe Greek interpreter who had parted from usonly a fewhours before at the Diogenes Club. Hishands andfeet were securely strapped togetherand hebore overone eye the marks of a violent blow. Theotherwhowas secured in a similar fashionwas atall manin the last stage of emaciationwith severalstrips ofsticking-plaster arranged in a grotesquepatternover his face. He had ceased to moan as welaid himdownand a glance showed me that for him atleast ouraid had come too late. Mr. Melashoweverstilllivedand in less than an hourwith the aid ofammoniaand brandy I had the satisfaction of seeinghim openhis eyesand of knowing that my hand haddrawn himback from that dark valley in which allpathsmeet.
It was asimple story which he had to telland onewhich didbut confirm our own deductions. Hisvisitoron entering his roomshad drawn alife-preserverfrom his sleeveand had so impressedhim withthe fear of instant and inevitable death thathe hadkidnapped him for the second time. Indeeditwas almostmesmericthe effect which this gigglingruffianhad produced upon the unfortunate linguistfor hecould not speak of him save with tremblinghands anda blanched cheek. He had been taken swiftlytoBeckenhamand had acted as interpreter in a secondintervieweven more dramatic than the firstin whichthe twoEnglishmen had menaced their prisoner withinstantdeath if he did not comply with their demands.Finallyfinding him proof against every threattheyhad hurledhim back into his prisonand afterreproachingMelas with his treacherywhich appearedfrom thenewspaper advertisementthey had stunned himwith ablow from a stickand he remembered nothingmore untilhe found us bending over him.
And thiswas the singular case of the GrecianInterpreterthe explanation of which is stillinvolvedin some mystery. We were able to find outbycommunicating with the gentleman who had answeredtheadvertisementthat the unfortunate young ladycame of awealthy Grecian familyand that she hadbeen on avisit to some friends in England. Whilethere shehad met a young man named Harold Latimerwho hadacquired an ascendancy over he and hadeventuallypersuaded her to fly with him. Herfriendsshocked at the eventhad contentedthemselveswith informing her brother at Athensandhad thenwashed their hands of the matter. Thebrotheron his arrival in Englandhad imprudentlyplacedhimself in the power of Latimer and of hisassociatewhose name was Wilson Kemp--that throughhisignorance of the language he was helpless in theirhandshadkept him a prisonerand had endeavored bycrueltyand starvation to make him sign away his ownand hissister's property. They had kept him in thehousewithout the girl's knowledgeand the plasterover theface had been for the purpose of makingrecognitiondifficult in case she should ever catch aglimpse ofhim. Her feminine perceptionhoweverhadinstantlyseen through the disguise whenon theoccasionof the interpreter's visitshe had seen himfor thefirst time. The poor girlhoweverwasherself aprisonerfor there was no one about thehouseexcept the man who acted as coachmanand hiswifebothof whom were tools of the conspirators.Findingthat their secret was outand that theirprisonerwas not to be coercedthe two villains withthe girlhad fled away at a few hours' notice from thefurnishedhouse which they had hiredhaving firstastheythoughttaken vengeance both upon the man whohad defiedand the one who had betrayed them.
Monthsafterwards a curious newspaper cutting reachedus fromBuda-Pesth. It told how two Englishmen whohad beentraveling with a woman had met with a tragicend. They had each been stabbedit seemsand theHungarianpolice were of opinion that they hadquarreledand had inflicted mortal injuries upon eachother. HolmeshoweverisI fancyof a differentway ofthinkingand holds to this day thatif onecould findthe Grecian girlone might learn how thewrongs ofherself and her brother came to be avenged.
The Julywhich immediately succeeded my marriage wasmadememorable by three cases of interestin which Ihad theprivilege of being associated with SherlockHolmes andof studying his methods. I find themrecordedin my notes under the headings of "TheAdventureof the Second Stain" "The Adventure of theNavalTreaty" and "The Adventure of the TiredCaptain." The first of thesehoweverdeals withinterestof such importance and implicates so many ofthe firstfamilies in the kingdom that for many yearsit will beimpossible to make it public. No casehoweverin which Holmes was engaged has everillustratedthe value of his analytical methods soclearly orhas impressed those who were associatedwith himso deeply. I still retain an almost verbatimreport ofthe interview in which he demonstrated thetrue factsof the case to Monsieur Dubugue of theParispoliceand Fritz von Waldbaumthe well-knownspecialistof Dantzigboth of whom had wasted theirenergiesupon what proved to be side-issues. The newcenturywill have comehoweverbefore the story canbe safelytold. Meanwhile I pass on to the second onmy listwhich promised also at one time to be ofnationalimportanceand was marked by severalincidentswhich give it a quite unique character.
During myschool-days I had been intimately associatedwith a ladnamed Percy Phelpswho was of much thesame ageas myselfthough he was two classes ahead ofme. He was a very brilliant boyand carried awayeveryprize which the school had to offerfinishedhisexploits by winning a scholarship which sent himon tocontinue his triumphant career at Cambridge. HewasIrememberextremely well connectedand evenwhen wewere all little boys together we knew that hismother'sbrother was Lord Holdhurstthe greatconservativepolitician. This gaudy relationship didhim littlegood at school. On the contraryit seemedrather apiquant thing to us to chevy him about theplaygroundand hit him over the shins with a wicket.But it wasanother thing when he came out into theworld. I heard vaguely that his abilities and theinfluenceswhich he commanded had won him a goodpositionat the Foreign Officeand then he passedcompletelyout of my mind until the following letterrecalledhis existence:
BriarbraeWoking.My dearWatson--I have no doubt that you can remember"Tadpole"Phelpswho was in the fifth form when youwere inthe third. It is possible even that you mayhave heardthat through my uncle's influence Iobtained agood appointment at the Foreign Officeandthat I wasin a situation of trust and honor until ahorriblemisfortune came suddenly to blast my career.
There isno use writing of the details of thatdreadfulevent. In the event of your acceding to myrequest itis probably that I shall have to narratethem toyou. I have only just recovered from nineweeks ofbrain-feverand am still exceedingly weak.Do youthink that you could bring your friend Mr.Holmesdown to see me? I should like to have hisopinion ofthe casethough the authorities assure methatnothing more can be done. Do try to bring himdownandas soon as possible. Every minute seems anhour whileI live in this state of horrible suspense.Assure himthat if I have not asked his advice soonerit was notbecause I did not appreciate his talentsbutbecause I have been off my head ever since theblowfell. Now I am clear againthough I dare notthink ofit too much for fear of a relapse. I am stillso weakthat I have to writeas you seeby dictating.Do try tobring him.
There wassomething that touched me as I read thislettersomething pitiable in the reiterated appealsto bringHolmes. So moved was I that even had it beenadifficult matter I should have tried itbut ofcourse Iknew well that Holmes loved his artso thathe wasever as ready to bring his aid as his clientcould beto receive it. My wife agreed with me thatnot amoment should be lost in laying the matterbeforehimand so within an hour of breakfast-time Ifoundmyself back once more in the old rooms in BakerStreet.
Holmes wasseated at his side-table clad in hisdressing-gownand working hard over a chemicalinvestigation. A large curved retort was boilingfuriouslyin the bluish flame of a Bunsen burnerandthedistilled drops were condensing into a two-litremeasure. My friend hardly glanced up as I enteredand Iseeing that his investigation must be ofimportanceseated myself in an arm-chair and waited.He dippedinto this bottle or thatdrawing out a fewdrops ofeach with his glass pipetteand finallybrought atest-tube containing a solution over to thetable. In his right hand he held a slip oflitmus-paper.
"Youcome at a crisisWatson" said he. "If thispaperremains blueall is well. If it turns reditmeans aman's life." He dipped it into the test-tubeand itflushed at once into a dulldirty crimson."Hum! I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be atyourservice in an instantWatson. You will findtobacco inthe Persian slipper." He turned to hisdesk andscribbled off several telegramswhich werehandedover to the page-boy. Then he threw himselfdown intothe chair oppositeand drew up his kneesuntil hisfingers clasped round his longthin shins.
"Avery commonplace little murder" said he. "You'vegotsomething betterI fancy. You are the stormypetrel ofcrimeWatson. What is it?"
I handedhim the letterwhich he read with the mostconcentratedattention.
"Itdoes not tell us very muchdoes it?" he remarkedas hehanded it back to me.
"Andyet the writing is of interest."
"Butthe writing is not his own."
"Precisely. It is a woman's."
"Aman's surely" I cried.
"Noa woman'sand a woman of rare character. Youseeatthe commencement of an investigation it issomethingto know that your client is in close contactwith someone whofor good or evilhas anexceptionalnature. My interest is already awakenedin thecase. If you are ready we will start at onceforWokingand see this diplomatist who is in suchevil caseand the lady to whom he dictates hisletters."
We werefortunate enough to catch an early train atWaterlooand in a little under an hour we foundourselvesamong the fir-woods and the heather ofWoking. Briarbrae proved to be a large detached housestandingin extensive grounds within a few minutes'walk ofthe station. On sending in our cards we wereshown intoan elegantly appointed drawing-roomwherewe werejoined in a few minutes by a rather stout manwhoreceived us with much hospitality. His age mayhave beennearer forty than thirtybut his cheekswere soruddy and his eyes so merry that he stillconveyedthe impression of a plump and mischievousboy.
"I amso glad that you have come" said heshakingour handswith effusion. "Percy has been inquiringfor youall morning. Ahpoor old chaphe clings toanystraw! His father and his mother asked me to seeyouforthe mere mention of the subject is verypainful tothem."
"Wehave had no details yet" observed Holmes. "Iperceivethat you are not yourself a member of thefamily."
Ouracquaintance looked surprisedand thenglancingdownhebegan to laugh.
"Ofcourse you saw the J H monogram on my locket"said he. "For a moment I thought you had donesomethingclever. Joseph Harrison is my nameand asPercy isto marry my sister Annie I shall at least bea relationby marriage. You will find my sister inhis roomfor she has nursed him hand-and-foot thistwo monthsback. Perhaps we'd better go in at oncefor I knowhow impatient he is."
Thechamber in which we were shown was on the samefloor asthe drawing-room. It was furnished partly asa sittingand partly as a bedroomwith flowersarrangeddaintily in every nook and corner. A youngmanverypale and wornwas lying upon a sofa nearthe openwindowthrough which came the rich scent ofthe gardenand the balmy summer air. A woman wassittingbeside himwho rose as we entered.
"ShallI leavePercy?" she asked.
Heclutched her hand to detain her. "How are youWatson?"said hecordially. "I should never haveknown youunder that moustacheand I dare say youwould notbe prepared to swear to me. This I presumeis yourcelebrated friendMr. Sherlock Holmes?"
Iintroduced him in a few wordsand we both sat down.The stoutyoung man had left usbut his sister stillremainedwith her hand in that of the invalid. Shewas astriking-looking womana little short and thickforsymmetrybut with a beautiful olive complexionlargedarkItalian eyesand a wealth of deep blackhair. Her rich tints made the white face of hercompanionthe more worn and haggard by the contrast.
"Iwon't waste your time" said heraising himselfupon thesofa. "I'll plunge into the matter withoutfurtherpreamble. I was a happy and successful manMr.Holmesand on the eve of being marriedwhen asudden anddreadful misfortune wrecked all myprospectsin life.
"Iwasas Watson may have told youin the ForeignOfficeand through the influences of my uncleLordHoldhurstI rose rapidly to a responsible position.When myuncle became foreign minister in thisadministrationhe gave me several missions of trustand as Ialways brought them to a successfulconclusionhe came at last to have the utmostconfidencein my ability and tact.
"Nearlyten weeks ago--to be more accurateon the 23dof May--hecalled me into his private roomandaftercomplimentingme on the good work which I had doneheinformedme that he had a new commission of trust forme toexecute.
"'This'said hetaking a gray roll of paper from hisbureau'is the original of that secret treaty betweenEnglandand Italy of whichI regret to saysomerumorshave already got into the public press. It isofenormous importance that nothing further shouldleak out. The French or the Russian embassy would payan immensesum to learn the contents of these papers.Theyshould not leave my bureau were it not that it isabsolutelynecessary to have them copied. You have adesk inyour office?"
"'Thentake the treaty and lock it up there. I shallgivedirections that you may remain behind when theothers goso that you may copy it at your leisurewithoutfear of being overlooked. When you havefinishedrelock both the original and the draft inthe deskand hand them over to me personallyto-morrowmorning.'
"Itook the papers and--"
"Excuseme an instant" said Holmes. "Were you aloneduringthis conversation?"
"In alarge room?"
"Thirtyfeet each way."
"Myuncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardlyspoke atall."
"Thankyou" said Holmesshutting his eyes; "pray goon."
"Idid exactly what he indicatedand waited until theotherclerks had departed. One of them in my roomCharlesGorothad some arrears of work to make upsoI left himthere and went out to dine. When Ireturnedhe was gone. I was anxious to hurry my workfor I knewthat Joseph--the Mr. Harrison whom you sawjustnow--was in townand that he would travel downto Wokingby the eleven-o'clock trainand I wanted ifpossibleto catch it.
"WhenI came to examine the treaty I saw at once thatit was ofsuch importance that my uncle had beenguilty ofno exaggeration in what he had said.Withoutgoing into detailsI may say that it definedtheposition of Great Britain towards the TripleAllianceand fore-shadowed the policy which thiscountrywould pursue in the event of the French fleetgaining acomplete ascendancy over that of Italy intheMediterranean. The questions treated in it werepurelynaval. At the end were the signatures of thehighdignitaries who had signed it. I glanced my eyesover itand then settled down to my task of copying.
"Itwas a long documentwritten in the Frenchlanguageand containing twenty-six separate articles.I copiedas quickly as I couldbut at nine o'clock Ihad onlydone nine articlesand it seemed hopelessfor me toattempt to catch my train. I was feelingdrowsy andstupidpartly from my dinner and also fromtheeffects of a long day's work. A cup of coffeewouldclear my brain. A commissionnaire remains allnight in alittle lodge at the foot of the stairsandis in thehabit of making coffee at his spirit-lampfor any ofthe officials who may be working over time.I rang thebellthereforeto summon him.
"Tomy surpriseit was a woman who answered thesummonsalargecoarse-facedelderly womanin anapron. She explained that she was thecommissionnaire'swifewho did the charingand Igave herthe order for the coffee.
"Iwrote two more articles and thenfeeling moredrowsythan everI rose and walked up and down theroom tostretch my legs. My coffee had not yet comeand Iwondered what was the cause of the delay couldbe. Opening the doorI started down the corridor tofind out. There was a straight passagedimlylightedwhich led from the room in which I had beenworkingand was the only exit from it. It ended in acurvingstaircasewith the commissionnaire's lodge inthepassage at the bottom. Half way down thisstaircaseis a small landingwith another passagerunninginto it at right angles. This second oneleads bymeans of a second small stair to a side doorused byservantsand also as a short cut by clerkswhencoming from Charles Street. Here is a roughchart ofthe place."
"Thankyou. I think that I quite follow you" saidSherlockHolmes.
"Itis of the utmost importance that you should noticethispoint. I went down the stairs and into the hallwhere Ifound the commissionnaire fast asleep in hisboxwiththe kettle boiling furiously upon thespirit-lamp. I took off the kettle and blew out thelampforthe water was spurting over the floor. ThenI put outmy hand and was about to shake the manwhowas stillsleeping soundlywhen a bell over his headrangloudlyand he woke with a start.
"'Mr.Phelpssir!' said helooking at me inbewilderment.
"'Icame down to see if my coffee was ready.'
"'Iwas boiling the kettle when I fell asleepsir.'He lookedat me and then up at the still quiveringbell withan ever-growing astonishment upon his face.
"'Ifyou was heresirthen who rang the bell?' heasked.
"'Thebell!' I cried. 'What bell is it?'
"'It'sthe bell of the room you were working in.'
"Acold hand seemed to close round my heart. Someonethenwas in that room where my precious treatylay uponthe table. I ran frantically up the stairand alongthe passage. There was no one in thecorridorsMr. Holmes. There was no one in the room.All wasexactly as I left itsave only that thepaperswhich had been committed to my care had beentaken fromthe desk on which they lay. The copy wasthereandthe original was gone."
Holmes satup in his chair and rubbed his hands. Icould seethat the problem was entirely to his heart."Praywhat did you do then?" he murmured.
"Irecognized in an instant that the thief must havecome upthe stairs from the side door. Of course Imust havemet him if he had come the other way."
"Youwere satisfied that he could not have beenconcealedin the room all the timeor in the corridorwhich youhave just described as dimly lighted?"
"Itis absolutely impossible. A rat could not concealhimselfeither in the room or the corridor. There isno coverat all."
"Thankyou. Pray proceed."
"Thecommissionnaireseeing by my pale face thatsomethingwas to be fearedhad followed me upstairs.Now weboth rushed along the corridor and down thesteepsteps which led to Charles Street. The door atthe bottomwas closedbut unlocked. We flung it openand rushedout. I can distinctly remember that as wedid sothere came three chimes from a neighboringclock. It was quarter to ten."
"Thatis of enormous importance" said Holmesmakinga noteupon his shirt-cuff.
"Thenight was very darkand a thinwarm rain wasfalling. There was no one in Charles Streetbut agreattraffic was going onas usualin Whitehallattheextremity. We rushed along the pavementbare-headedas we wereand at the far corner we foundapoliceman standing.
"'Arobbery has been committed' I gasped. 'Adocumentof immense value has been stolen from theForeignOffice. Has any one passed this way?'
"'Ihave been standing here for a quarter of an hoursir' saidhe; 'only one person has passed during thattime--awomantall and elderlywith a Paisleyshawl.'
"'Ahthat is only my wife' cried thecommissionnaire;'has no one else passed?'
"'Thenit must be the other way that the thief took'cried thefellowtugging at my sleeve.
"'ButI was not satisfiedand the attempts which hemade todraw me away increased my suspicions.
"'Whichway did the woman go?' I cried.
"'Idon't knowsir. I noticed her passbut I had nospecialreason for watching her. She seemed to be ina hurry.'
"'Howlong ago was it?'
"'Ohnot very many minutes.'
"'Withinthe last five?'
"'Wellit could not be more than five.'
"'You'reonly wasting your timesirand every minutenow is ofimportance' cried the commissionnaire;'take myword for it that my old woman has nothing todo withitand come down to the other end of thestreet. Wellif you won'tI will.' And with thathe rushedoff in the other direction.
"ButI was after him in an instant and caught him bythesleeve.
"'Wheredo you live?' said I.
"'16Ivy LaneBrixton' he answered. 'But don't letyourselfbe drawn away upon a false scentMr. Phelps.Come tothe other end of the street and let us see ifwe canhear of anything.'
"Nothingwas to be lost by following his advice. Withthepoliceman we both hurried downbut only to findthe streetfull of trafficmany people coming andgoingbutall only too eager to get to a place ofsafetyupon so wet a night. There was no lounger whocould tellus who had passed.
"Thenwe returned to the officeand searched thestairs andthe passage without result. The corridorwhich ledto the room was laid down with a kind ofcreamylinoleum which shows an impression very easily.Weexamined it very carefullybut found no outline ofanyfootmark."
"Hadit been raining all evening?"
"Howis itthenthat the woman who came into theroom aboutnine left no traces with her muddy boots?"
"I amglad you raised the point. It occurred to me atthe time. The charwomen are in the habit of takingoff theirboots at the commissionnaire's officeandputting onlist slippers."
"Thatis very clear. There were no marksthenthough thenight was a wet one? The chain of eventsiscertainly one of extraordinary interest. What didyou donext?
"Weexamined the room also. There is no possibilityof asecret doorand the windows are quite thirtyfeet fromthe ground. Both of them were fastened ontheinside. The carpet prevents any possibility of atrap-doorand the ceiling is of the ordinarywhitewashedkind. I will pledge my life that whoeverstole mypapers could only have come through thedoor."
"Howabout the fireplace?"
"Theyuse none. There is a stove. The bell-ropehangs fromthe wire just to the right of my desk.Whoeverrang it must have come right up to the desk todo it. Butwhy should any criminal wish to ring thebell? It is a most insoluble mystery."
""Certainlythe incident was unusual. What were yournextsteps? You examined the roomI presumeto seeif theintruder had left any traces--any cigar-end ordroppedglove or hairpin or other trifle?"
"Therewas nothing of the sort."
"Well we never thought of that."
"Aha scent of tobacco would have been worth a greatdeal to usin such an investigation."
"Inever smoke myselfso I think I should haveobservedit if there had been any smell of tobacco.There wasabsolutely no clue of any kind. The onlytangiblefact was that the commissionnaire's wife-Mrs.Tangey wasthe name--had hurried out of the place. Hecould giveno explanation save that it was about thetime whenthe woman always went home. The policemanand Iagreed that our best plan would be to seize thewomanbefore she could get rid of the paperspresumingthat she had them.
"Thealarm had reached Scotland Yard by this timeandMr.Forbesthe detectivecame round at once and tookup thecase with a great deal of energy. We hired ahansomand in half an hour we were at the addresswhich hadbeen given to us. A young woman opened thedoorwhoproved to be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter.Her motherhad not come back yetand we were showninto thefront room to wait.
"Aboutten minutes later a knock came at the doorandhere wemade the one serious mistake for which I blamemyself. Instead of opening the door ourselvesweallowedthe girl to do so. We heard her say'Motherthere aretwo men in the house waiting to see you'and aninstant afterwards we heard the patter of feetrushingdown the passage. Forbes flung open the doorand weboth ran into the back room or kitchenbut thewoman hadgot there before us. She stared at us withdefianteyesand thensuddenly recognizing meanexpressionof absolute astonishment came over herface.
"'Whyif it isn't Mr. Phelpsof the office!' shecried.
"'Comecomewho did you think we were when you ranaway fromus?' asked my companion.
"'Ithought you were the brokers' said she'we havehad sometrouble with a tradesman.'
"'That'snot quite good enough' answered Forbes. 'Wehavereason to believe that you have taken a paper ofimportancefro the Foreign Officeand that you ran inhere todispose of it. You must come back with us toScotlandYard to be searched.'
"Itwas in vain that she protested and resisted. Afour-wheelerwas broughtand we all three drove backin it. We had first made an examination of thekitchenand especially of the kitchen fireto seewhethershe might have made away with the papersduring theinstant that she was alone. There were nosignshoweverof any ashes or scraps. When wereachedScotland Yard she was handed over at once tothe femalesearcher. I waited in an agony of suspenseuntil shecame back with her report. There were nosigns ofthe papers.
"Thenfor the first time the horror of my situationcame inits full force. Hitherto I had been actingand actionhad numbed thought. I had been soconfidentof regaining the treaty at once that I hadnot daredto think of what would be the consequence ifI failedto do so. But now there was nothing more tobe doneand I had leisure to realize my position. Itwashorrible. Watson there would tell you that I wasa nervoussensitive boy at school. It is my nature.I thoughtof my uncle and of his colleagues in theCabinetof the shame which I had brought upon himuponmyselfupon every one connected with me. Whatthough Iwas the victim of an extraordinary accident?Noallowance is made for accidents where diplomaticinterestsare at stake. I was ruinedshamefullyhopelesslyruined. I don't know what I did. I fancyI musthave made a scene. I have a dim recollectionof a groupof officials who crowded round meendeavoringto soothe me. One of them drove down withme toWaterlooand saw me into the Woking train. Ibelievethat he would have come all the way had it notbeen thatDr. Ferrierwho lives near mewas goingdown bythat very train. The doctor most kindly tookcharge ofmeand it was well he did sofor I had afit in thestationand before we reached home I waspracticallya raving maniac.
"Youcan imagine the state of things here when theywereroused from their beds by the doctor's ringingand foundme in this condition. Poor Annie here andmy motherwere broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had justheardenough from the detective at the station to beable togive an idea of what had happenedand hisstory didnot mend matters. It was evident to allthat I wasin for a long illnessso Joseph wasbundledout of this cheery bedroomand it was turnedinto asick-room for me. Here I have lainMr.Holmesfor over nine weeksunconsciousand ravingwithbrain-fever. If it had not been for MissHarrisonhere and for the doctor's care I should notbespeaking to you now. She has nursed me by day anda hirednurse has looked after me by nightfor in mymad fits Iwas capable of anything. Slowly my reasonhasclearedbut it is only during the last three daysthat mymemory has quite returned. Sometimes I wishthat itnever had. The first thing that I did was towire toMr. Forbeswho had the case in hand. He cameoutandassures me thatthough everything has beendonenotrace of a clue has been discovered. Thecommissionnaireand his wife have been examined inevery waywithout any light being thrown upon thematter. The suspicions of the police then rested uponyoungGorotwhoas you may rememberstayed overtime inthe office that night. His remaining behindand hisFrench name were really the only two pointswhichcould suggest suspicion; butas a matter offactIdid not begin work until he had goneand hispeople areof Huguenot extractionbut as English insympathyand tradition as you and I are. Nothing wasfound toimplicate him in any wayand there thematterdropped. I turn to youMr. Holmesasabsolutelymy last hope. If you fail methen myhonor aswell as my position are forever forfeited."
Theinvalid sank back upon his cushionstired out bythis longrecitalwhile his nurse poured him out aglass ofsome stimulating medicine. Holmes satsilentlywith his head thrown back and his eyesclosedinan attitude which might seem listless to astrangerbut which I knew betokened the most intenseself-absorption.
"Youstatement has been so explicit" said he at last"thatyou have really left me very few questions toask. There is one of the very utmost importancehowever. Did you tell any one that you had thisspecialtask to perform?"
"NotMiss Harrison herefor example?"
"No. I had not been back to Woking between gettingthe orderand executing the commission."
"Andnone of your people had by chance been to seeyou?"
"Didany of them know their way about in the office?"
"Ohyesall of them had been shown over it."
"Stillof courseif you said nothing to any oneabout thetreaty these inquiries are irrelevant."
"Doyou know anything of the commissionnaire?"
"Nothingexcept that he is an old soldier."
"OhI have heard--Coldstream Guards."
"Thankyou. I have no doubt I can get details fromForbes. The authorities are excellent at amassingfactsthough they do not always use them toadvantage. What a lovely thing a rose is!"
He walkedpast the couch to the open windowand heldup thedrooping stalk of a moss-roselooking down atthe daintyblend of crimson and green. It was a newphase ofhis character to mefor I had never beforeseen himshow any keen interest in natural objects.
"Thereis nothing in which deduction is so necessaryas inreligion" said heleaning with his backagainstthe shutters. "It can be built up as an exactscience bythe reasoner. Our highest assurance of thegoodnessof Providence seems to me to rest in theflowers. All other thingsour powers our desiresour foodare all really necessary for our existencein thefirst instance. But this rose is an extra.Its smelland its color are an embellishment of lifenot acondition of it. It is only goodness whichgivesextrasand so I say again that we have much tohope fromthe flowers.
PercyPhelps and his nurse looked at Holmes duringthisdemonstration with surprise and a good deal ofdisappointmentwritten upon their faces. He hadfalleninto a reveriewith the moss-rose between hisfingers. It had lasted some minutes before the younglady brokein upon it.
"Doyou see any prospect of solving this mysteryMr.Holmes?"she askedwith a touch of asperity in hervoice.
"Ohthe mystery!" he answeredcoming back with astart tothe realities of life. "Wellit would beabsurd todeny that the case is a very abstruse andcomplicatedonebut I can promise you that I willlook intothe matter and let you know any points whichmay strikeme."
"Doyou see any clue?"
"Youhave furnished me with sevenbutof courseImust testthem before I can pronounce upon theirvalue."
"Yoususpect some one?"
"Ofcoming to conclusions too rapidly."
"Thengo to London and test your conclusions."
"Youradvice is very excellentMiss Harrison" saidHolmesrising. "I thinkWatsonwe cannot dobetter. Do not allow yourself to indulge in falsehopesMr.Phelps. The affair is a very tangled one."
"Ishall be in a fever until I see you again" criedthediplomatist.
"WellI'll come out be the same train to-morrowthoughit's more than likely that my report will be anegativeone."
"Godbless you for promising to come" cried ourclient. "It gives me fresh life to know thatsomethingis being done. By the wayI have had aletterfrom Lord Holdhurst."
"Ha! What did he say?"
"Hewas coldbut not harsh. I dare say my severeillnessprevented him from being that. He repeatedthat thematter was of the utmost importanceandadded thatno steps would be taken about my future--bywhich hemeansof coursemy dismissal--until myhealth wasrestored and I had an opportunity ofrepairingmy misfortune."
"Wellthat was reasonable and considerate" saidHolmes. "ComeWatsonfor we have a goody day's workbefore usin town."
Mr. JosephHarrison drove us down to the stationandwe weresoon whirling up in a Portsmouth train.Holmes wassunk in profound thoughtand hardly openedhis mouthuntil we had passed Clapham Junction.
"It'sa very cheery thing to come into London by anyof theselines which run highand allow you to lookdown uponthe houses like this."
I thoughthe was jokingfor the view was sordidenoughbut he soon explained himself.
"Lookat those bigisolated clumps of building risingup abovethe slateslike brick islands in alead-coloredsea."
"Light-housesmy boy! Beacons of the future!Capsuleswith hundreds of bright little seeds in eachout ofwhich will spring the wisebetter England ofthefuture. I suppose that man Phelps does notdrink?"
"Ishould not think so."
"Norshould Ibut we are bound to take everypossibilityinto account. The poor devil hascertainlygot himself into very deep waterand it's aquestionwhether we shall ever be able to get himashore. What did you think of Miss Harrison?"
"Agirl of strong character."
"Yesbut she is a good sortor I am mistaken. Sheand herbrother are the only children of aniron-mastersomewhere up Northumberland way. He gotengaged toher when traveling last winterand shecame downto be introduced to his peoplewith herbrother asescort. Then came the smashand shestayed onto nurse her loverwhile brother Josephfindinghimself pretty snugstayed on too. I've beenmaking afew independent inquiriesyou see. Butto-daymust be a day of inquiries."
"Mypractice--" I began.
"Ohif you find your own cases more interesting thanmine--"said Holmeswith some asperity.
"Iwas going to say that my practice could get alongvery wellfor a day or twosince it is the slackesttime inthe year."
"Excellent"said herecovering his good-humor."Thenwe'll look into this matter together. I thinkthat weshould begin be seeing Forbes. He canprobablytell us all the details we want until we knowfrom whatside the case is to be approached.
"Yousaid you had a clue?"
"Wellwe have severalbut we can only test theirvalue byfurther inquiry. The most difficult crime totrack isthe one which is purposeless. Now this isnotpurposeless. Who is it who profits by it? Thereis theFrench ambassadorthere is the Russianthereiswho-ever might sell it to either of theseandthere isLord Holdhurst."
"Wellit is just conceivable that a statesman mightfindhimself in a position where he was not sorry tohave sucha document accidentally destroyed."
"Nota statesman with the honorable record of LordHoldhurst?"
"Itis a possibility and we cannot afford to disregardit. We shall see the noble lord to-day and find outif he cantell us anything. Meanwhile I have alreadysetinquiries on foot."
"YesI sent wires from Woking station to everyeveningpaper in London. This advertisement willappear ineach of them."
He handedover a sheet torn from a note-book. On itwasscribbled in pencil: "L10 reward. The number ofthe cabwhich dropped a fare at or about the door oftheForeign Office in Charles Street at quarter to tenin theevening of May 23d. Apply 221 BBakerStreet."
"Youare confident that the thief came in a cab?"
"Ifnotthere is no harm done. But if Mr. Phelps iscorrect instating that there is no hiding-placeeither inthe room or the corridorsthen the personmust havecome from outside. If he came from outsideon so weta nightand yet left no trace of damp uponthelinoleumwhich was examined within a few minutesof hispassingthen it is exceeding probably that hecame in acab. YesI think that we may safely deducea cab."
"Thatis one of the clues of which I spoke. It maylead us tosomething. And thenof coursethere isthebell--which is the most distinctive feature of thecase. Why should the bell ring? Was it the thief whodid it outof bravado? Or was it some one who waswith thethief who did it in order to prevent thecrime? Or was it an accident? Or was it--?" He sankback intothe state of intense and silent thought fromwhich hehad emerged; but it seemed to meaccustomedas I wasto his every moodthat some new possibilityhad dawnedsuddenly upon him.
It wastwenty past three when we reached our terminusand aftera hasty luncheon at the buffet we pushed onat once toScotland Yard. Holmes had already wired toForbesand we found him waiting to receive us--asmallfoxy man with a sharp but by no means amiableexpression. He was decidedly frigid in his manner tousespecially when he heard the errand upon which wehad come.
"I'veheard of your methods before nowMr. Holmes"said hetartly. "You are ready enough to use all theinformationthat the police can lay at your disposaland thenyou try to finish the case yourself and bringdiscrediton them."
"Onthe contrary" said Holmes"out of my lastfifty-threecases my name has only appeared in fourand thepolice have had all the credit in forty-nine.I don'tblame you for not knowing thisfor you areyoung andinexperiencedbut if you wish to get on inyour newduties you will work with me and not againstme."
"I'dbe very glad of a hint or two" said thedetectivechanging his manner. "I've certainly hadno creditfrom the case so far."
"Whatsteps have you taken?"
"Tangeythe commissionnairehas been shadowed. Heleft theGuards with a good character and we can findnothingagainst him. His wife is a bad lotthough.I fancyshe knows more about this than appears."
"Haveyou shadowed her?"
"Wehave set one of our women on to her. Mrs. Tangeydrinksand our woman has been with her twice when shewas wellonbut she could get nothing out of her."
"Iunderstand that they have had brokers in thehouse?"
"Yesbut they were paid off."
"Wheredid the money come from?"
"Thatwas all right. His pension was due. They havenot shownany sign of being in funds."
"Whatexplanation did she give of having answered thebell whenMr. Phelps rang for the coffee?"
"Shesaid that he husband was very tired and shewished torelieve him."
"Wellcertainly that would agree with his being founda littlelater asleep in his chair. There is nothingagainstthem then but the woman's character. Did youask herwhy she hurried away that night? Her hasteattractedthe attention of the police constable."
"Shewas later than usual and wanted to get home."
"Didyou point out to her that you and Mr. Phelpswhostarted atleast twenty minutes after hegot homebeforeher?"
"Sheexplains that by the difference between a 'busand ahansom."
"Didshe make it clear whyon reaching her housesheran intothe back kitchen?"
"Becauseshe had the money there with which to pay offthebrokers."
"Shehas at least an answer for everything. Did youask herwhether in leaving she met any one or saw anyoneloitering about Charles Street?"
"Shesaw no one but the constable."
"Wellyou seem to have cross-examined her prettythoroughly. What else have you done?"
"Theclerk Gorot has been shadowed all these nineweeksbutwithout result. We can show nothingagainsthim."
"Wellwe have nothing else to go upon--no evidence ofany kind."
"Haveyou formed a theory about how that bell rang?"
"WellI must confess that it beats me. It was a coolhandwhoever it wasto go and give the alarm likethat."
"Yesit was queer thing to do. Many thanks to youfor whatyou have told me. If I can put the man intoyour handsyou shall hear from me. Come alongWatson."
"Whereare we going to now?" I askedas we left theoffice.
"Weare now going to interview Lord Holdhurstthecabinetminister and future premier of England."
We werefortunate in finding that Lord Holdhurst wasstill inhis chambers in Downing Streetand on Holmessending inhis card we were instantly shown up. Thestatesmanreceived us with that old-fashioned courtesyfor whichhe is remarkableand seated us on the twoluxuriantlounges on either side of the fireplace.Standingon the rug between uswith his slighttallfigurehis sharp featuresthoughtful faceandcurlinghair prematurely tinged with grayhe seemedtorepresent that not to common typea nobleman whois intruth noble.
"Yourname is very familiar to meMr. Holmes" saidhesmiling. "Andof courseI cannot pretend to beignorantof the object of your visit. There has onlybeen oneoccurrence in these offices which could callfor yourattention. In whose interest are you actingmay Iask?"
"Inthat of Mr. Percy Phelps" answered Holmes.
"Ahmy unfortunate nephew! You can understand thatourkinship makes it the more impossible for me toscreen himin any way. I fear that the incident musthave avery prejudicial effect upon his career."
"Butif the document is found?"
"Ahthatof coursewould be different."
"Ihad one or two questions which I wished to ask youLordHoldhurst."
"Ishall be happy to give you any information in mypower."
"Wasit in this room that you gave your instructionsas to thecopying of the document?"
"Thenyou could hardly have been overheard?"
"Itis out of the question."
"Didyou ever mention to any one that it was yourintentionto give any one the treaty to be copied?"
"Youare certain of that?"
"Wellsince you never said soand Mr. Phelps neversaid soand nobody else knew anything of the matterthen thethief's presence in the room was purelyaccidental. He saw his chance and he took it."
Thestatesman smiled. "You take me out of my provincethere"said he.
Holmesconsidered for a moment. "There is anotherveryimportant point which I wish to discuss withyou"said he. "You fearedas I understandthatvery graveresults might follow from the details ofthistreaty becoming known."
A shadowpassed over the expressive face of thestatesman. "Very grave results indeed."
"Anyhave they occurred?"
"Ifthe treaty had reachedlet us saythe French orRussianForeign Officeyou would expect to hear ofit?"
"Ishould" said Lord Holdhurstwith a wry face.
"Sincenearly ten weeks have elapsedthenandnothinghas been heardit is not unfair to supposethat forsome reason the treaty has not reached them."
LordHoldhurst shrugged his shoulders.
"Wecan hardly supposeMr. Holmesthat the thieftook thetreaty in order to frame it and hang it up."
"Perhapshe is waiting for a better price."
"Ifhe waits a little longer he will get no price atall. The treaty will cease to be secret in a fewmonths."
"Thatis most important" said Holmes. "Of courseitis apossible supposition that the thief has had asuddenillness--"
"Anattack of brain-feverfor example?" asked thestatesmanflashing a swift glance at him.
"Idid not say so" said Holmesimperturbably. "AndnowLordHoldhurstwe have already taken up too muchof yourvaluable timeand we shall wish yougood-day."
"Everysuccess to your investigationbe the criminalwho itmay" answered the noblemanas he bowed us outthe door.
"He'sa fine fellow" said Holmesas we came out intoWhitehall. "But he has a struggle to keep up hisposition. He is far from rich and has many calls.Younoticedof coursethat his boots had beenresoled. NowWatsonI won't detain you from yourlegitimatework any longer. I shall do nothing moreto-dayunless I have an answer to my cabadvertisement. But I should be extremely obliged toyou if youwould come down with me to Wokingto-morrowby the same train which we took yesterday."
I met himaccordingly next morning and we traveleddown toWoking together. He had had no answer to hisadvertisementhe saidand no fresh light had beenthrownupon the case. He hadwhen he so willed itthe utterimmobility of countenance of a red Indianand Icould not gather from his appearance whether hewassatisfied or not with the position of the case.HisconversationI rememberwas about the Bertillonsystem ofmeasurementsand he expressed hisenthusiasticadmiration of the French savant.
We foundour client still under the charge of hisdevotednursebut looking considerably better thanbefore. He rose from the sofa and greeted us withoutdifficultywhen we entered.
"Anynews?" he askedeagerly.
"Myreportas I expectedis a negative one" saidHolmes. "I have seen Forbesand I have seen youruncleandI have set one or two trains of inquiryupon footwhich may lead to something."
"Youhave not lost heartthen?"
"Godbless you for saying that!" cried Miss Harrison."Ifwe keep our courage and our patience the truthmust comeout."
"Wehave more to tell you than you have for us" saidPhelpsreseating himself upon the couch.
"Ihoped you might have something."
"Yeswe have had an adventure during the nightandone whichmight have proved to be a serious one." Hisexpressiongrew very grave as he spokeand a look ofsomethingakin to fear sprang up in his eyes. "Do youknow"said he"that I begin to believe that I am theunconsciouscentre of some monstrous conspiracyandthat mylife is aimed at as well as my honor?"
"Itsounds incrediblefor I have notas far as Iknowanenemy in the world. Yet from last night'sexperienceI can come to no other conclusion."
"Praylet me hear it."
"Youmust know that last night was the very firstnight thatI have ever slept without a nurse in theroom. I was so much better that I thought I coulddispensewith one. I had a night-light burninghowever. Wellabout two in the morning I had sunkinto alight sleep when I was suddenly aroused by aslightnoise. It was like the sound which a mousemakes whenit is gnawing a plankand I lay listeningto it forsome time under the impression that it mustcome fromthat cause. Then it grew louderandsuddenlythere came from the window a sharp metallicsnick. I sat up in amazement. There could be nodoubt whatthe sounds were now. The first ones hadbeencaused by some one forcing an instrument throughthe slitbetween the sashesand the second by thecatchbeing pressed back.
"Therewas a pause then for about ten minutesas ifthe personwere waiting to see whether the noise hadawakenedme. Then I heard a gentle creaking as thewindow wasvery slowly opened. I could stand it nolongerfor my nerves are not what they used to be. Isprang outof bed and flung open the shutters. A manwascrouching at the window. I could see little ofhimforhe was gone like a flash. He was wrapped insome sortof cloak which came across the lower part ofhis face. One thing only I am sure ofand that isthat hehad some weapon in his hand. It looked to melike along knife. I distinctly saw the gleam of itas heturned to run."
"Thisis most interesting" said Holmes. "Pray whatdid you dothen?"
"Ishould have followed him through the open window ifI had beenstronger. As it wasI rang the bell androused thehouse. It took me some little timeforthe bellrings in the kitchen and the servants allsleepupstairs. I shoutedhoweverand that broughtJosephdownand he roused the others. Joseph and thegroomfound marks on the bed outside the windowbuttheweather has been so dry lately that they found ithopelessto follow the trail across the grass.There's aplacehoweveron the wooden fence whichskirts theroad which shows signsthey tell meas ifsome onehad got overand had snapped the top of therail indoing so. I have said nothing to the localpoliceyetfor I thought I had best have your opinionfirst."
This taleof our client's appeared to have anextraordinaryeffect upon Sherlock Holmes. He rosefrom hischair and paced about the room inuncontrollableexcitement.
"Misfortunesnever come single" said Phelpssmilingthough itwas evident that his adventure had somewhatshakenhim.
"Youhave certainly had your share" said Holmes. "Doyou thinkyou could walk round the house with me?"
"OhyesI should like a little sunshine. Josephwill cometoo."
"AndI also" said Miss Harrison.
"I amafraid not" said Holmesshaking his head. "Ithink Imust ask you to remain sitting exactly whereyou are."
The younglady resumed her seat with an air ofdispleasure. Her brotherhoweverhad joined us andwe set offall four together. We passed round thelawn tothe outside of the young diplomatist's window.Therewereas he had saidmarks upon the bedbutthey werehopelessly blurred and vague. Holmesstoppedover them for an instantand then roseshrugginghis shoulders.
"Idon't think any one could make much of this" saidhe. "Let us go round the house and see why thisparticularroom was chose by the burglar. I shouldhavethought those larger windows of the drawing-roomanddining-room would have had more attractions forhim."
"Theyare more visible from the road" suggested Mr.JosephHarrison.
"Ahyesof course. There is a door here which hemight haveattempted. What is it for?"
"Itis the side entrance for trades-people. Of courseit islocked at night."
"Haveyou ever had an alarm like this before?"
"Never"said our client.
"Doyou keep plate in the houseor anything toattractburglars?"
Holmesstrolled round the house with his hands in hispocketsand a negligent air which was unusual withhim.
"Bythe way" said he to Joseph Harrison"you foundsomeplaceI understandwhere the fellow scaled thefence. Let us have a look at that!"
The plumpyoung man led us to a spot where the top ofone of thewooden rails had been cracked. A smallfragmentof the wood was hanging down. Holmes pulledit off andexamined it critically.
"Doyou think that was done last night? It looksratherolddoes it not?"
"Thereare no marks of any one jumping down upon theotherside. NoI fancy we shall get no help here.Let us goback to the bedroom and talk the matterover."
PercyPhelps was walking very slowlyleaning upon thearm of hisfuture brother-in-law. Holmes walkedswiftlyacross the lawnand we were at the openwindow ofthe bedroom long before the others came up.
"MissHarrison" said Holmesspeaking with the utmostintensityof manner"you must stay where you are allday. Let nothing prevent you from staying where youare allday. It is of the utmost importance."
"Certainlyif you wish itMr. Holmes" said the girlinastonishment.
"Whenyou go to bed lock the door of this room on theoutsideand keep the key. Promise to do this."
"Hewill come to London with us."
"Andam I to remain here?"
"Itis for his sake. You can serve him. Quick!Promise!"
She gave aquick nod of assent just as the other twocame up.
"Whydo you sit moping thereAnnie?" cried herbrother. "Come out into the sunshine!"
"Nothank youJoseph. I have a slight headache andthis roomis deliciously cool and soothing."
"Whatdo you propose nowMr. Holmes?" asked ourclient.
"Wellin investigating this minor affair we must notlose sightof our main inquiry. It would be a verygreat helpto me if you would come up to London withus."
"Wellas soon as you conveniently can. Say in anhour."
"Ifeel quite strong enoughif I can really be of anyhelp."
"Perhapsyou would like me the stay there to-night?"
"Iwas just going to propose it."
"Thenif my friend of the night comes to revisit mehe willfind the bird flown. We are all in yourhandsMr.Holmesand you must tell us exactly whatyou wouldlike done. Perhaps you would prefer thatJosephcame with us so as to look after me?"
"Ohno; my friend Watson is a medical manyou knowand he'lllook after you. We'll have our lunch hereif youwill permit usand then we shall all three setoff fortown together."
It wasarranged as he suggestedthough Miss Harrisonexcusedherself from leaving the bedroominaccordancewith Holmes's suggestion. What the objectof myfriend's manoeuvres was I could not conceiveunless itwere to keep the lady away from Phelpswhorejoicedby his returning health and by the prospectof actionlunched with us in the dining-room. Holmeshad stillmore startling surprise for ushoweverforafteraccompanying us down to the station andseeing usinto our carriagehe calmly announced thathe had nointention of leaving Woking.
"Thereare one or two small points which I shoulddesire toclear up before I go" said he. "YourabsenceMr. Phelpswill in some ways rather assistme. Watsonwhen you reach London you would oblige meby drivingat once to Baker Street with our friendhereandremaining with him until I see you again.It isfortunate that you are old school-fellowsasyou musthave much to talk over. Mr. Phelps can havethe sparebedroom to-nightand I will be with you intime forbreakfastfor there is a train which willtake meinto Waterloo at eight."
"Buthow about our investigation in London?" askedPhelpsruefully.
"Wecan do that to-morrow. I think that just atpresent Ican be of more immediate use here."
"Youmight tell them at Briarbrae that I hope to bebackto-morrow night" cried Phelpsas we began tomove fromthe platform.
"Ihardly expect to go back to Briarbrae" answeredHolmesand waved his hand to us cheerily as we shotout fromthe station.
Phelps andI talked it over on our journeybutneither ofus could devise a satisfactory reason forthis newdevelopment.
"Isuppose he wants to find out some clue as to theburglarylast nightif a burglar it was. For myselfI don'tbelieve it was an ordinary thief."
"Whatis your own ideathen?"
"Uponmy wordyou may put it down to my weak nervesor notbut I believe there is some deep politicalintriguegoing on around meand that for some reasonthatpasses my understanding my life is aimed at bytheconspirators. It sounds high-flown and absurdbutconsider the fats! Why should a thief try tobreak inat a bedroom windowwhere there could be nohope ofany plunderand why should he come with along knifein his hand?"
"Youare sure it was not a house-breaker's jimmy?"
"Ohnoit was a knife. I saw the flash of the bladequitedistinctly."
"Butwhy on earth should you be pursued with suchanimosity?"
"Ahthat is the question."
"Wellif Holmes takes the same viewthat wouldaccountfor his actionwould it not? Presuming thatyourtheory is correctif he can lay his hands uponthe manwho threatened you last night he will havegone along way towards finding who took the navaltreaty. It is absurd to suppose that you have twoenemiesone of whom robs youwhile the otherthreatensyour life."
"ButHolmes said that he was not going to Briarbrae."
"Ihave known him for some time" said I"but I neverknew himdo anything yet without a very good reason"and withthat our conversation drifted off on to othertopics.
But it wasa weary day for me. Phelps was still weakafter hislong illnessand his misfortune made himquerulousand nervous. In vain I endeavored tointeresthim in Afghanistanin Indiain socialquestionsin anything which might take his mind outof thegroove. He would always come back to his losttreatywonderingguessingspeculatingas to whatHolmes wasdoingwhat steps Lord Holdhurst wastakingwhat news we should have in the morning. Astheevening wore on his excitement became quitepainful.
"Youhave implicit faith in Holmes?" he asked.
"Ihave seen him do some remarkable things."
"Buthe never brought light into anything quite sodark asthis?"
"Ohyes; I have known him solve questions whichpresentedfewer clues than yours."
"Butnot where such large interests are at stake?"
"Idon't know that. To my certain knowledge he hasacted onbehalf of three of the reigning houses ofEurope invery vital matters."
"Butyou know him wellWatson. He is such aninscrutablefellow that I never quite know what tomake ofhim. Do you think he is hopeful? Do youthink heexpects to make a success of it?"
"Hehas said nothing."
"Thatis a bad sign."
"Onthe contraryI have noticed that when he is offthe trailhe generally says so. It is when he is on ascent andis not quite absolutely sure yet that it isthe rightone that he is most taciturn. Nowmy dearfellowwecan't help matters by making ourselvesnervousabout themso let me implore you to go to bedand so befresh for whatever may await us to-morrow."
I was ableat last to persuade my companion to take myadvicethough I knew from his excited manner thatthere wasnot much hope of sleep for him. Indeedhismood wasinfectiousfor I lay tossing half the nightmyselfbrooding over this strange problemandinventinga hundred theorieseach of which was moreimpossiblethan the last. Why had Holmes remained atWoking? Why had he asked Miss Harrison to remain inthesick-room all day? Why had he been so careful notto informthe people at Briarbrae that he intended toremainnear them? I cudgelled my brains until I fellasleep inthe endeavor to find some explanation whichwouldcover all these facts.
It wasseven o'clock when I awokeand I set off atonce forPhelps's roomto find him haggard and spentafter asleepless night. His first question waswhetherHolmes had arrived yet.
"He'llbe here when he promised" said I"and not aninstantsooner or later."
And mywords were truefor shortly after eight ahansomdashed up to the door and our friend got out ofit. Standing in the window we saw that his left handwasswathed in a bandage and that his face was verygrim andpale. He entered the housebut it was somelittletime before he came upstairs.
"Helooks like a beaten man" cried Phelps.
I wasforced to confess that he was right. "Afterall"said I"the clue of the matter lies probablyhere intown."
Phelpsgave a groan.
"Idon't know how it is" said he"but I had hopedfor somuch from his return. But surely his hand wasnot tiedup like that yesterday. What can be thematter?"
"Youare not woundedHolmes?" I askedas my friendenteredthe room.
"Tutit is only a scratch through my own clumsiness"heanswerednodding his good-mornings to us. "Thiscase ofyoursMr. Phelpsis certainly one of thedarkestwhich I have ever investigated."
"Ifeared that you would find it beyond you."
"Ithas been a most remarkable experience."
"Thatbandage tells of adventures" said I. "Won'tyou tellus what has happened?"
"Afterbreakfastmy dear Watson. Remember that Ihavebreathed thirty miles of Surrey air this morning.I supposethat there has been no answer from my cabmanadvertisement? Wellwellwe cannot expect to scoreeverytime."
The tablewas all laidand just as I was about toring Mrs.Hudson entered with the tea and coffee. Afewminutes later she brought in three coversand weall drewup to the tableHolmes ravenousI curiousand Phelpsin the gloomiest state of depression.
"Mrs.Hudson has risen to the occasion" said Holmesuncoveringa dish of curried chicken. "Her cuisine isa littlelimitedbut she has as good an idea ofbreakfastas a Scotch-woman. What have you hereWatson?"
"Hamand eggs" I answered.
"Good! What are you going to takeMr.Phelps--curriedfowl or eggsor will you helpyourself?"
"Thankyou. I can eat nothing" said Phelps.
"Ohcome! Try the dish before you."
"ThankyouI would really rather not."
"Wellthen" said Holmeswith a mischievous twinkle"Isuppose that you have no objection to helping me?"
Phelpsraised the coverand as he did so he uttered ascreamand sat there staring with a face as white asthe plateupon which he looked. Across the centre ofit waslying a little cylinder of blue-gray paper. Hecaught itupdevoured it with his eyesand thendancedmadly about the roompassing it to his bosomandshrieking out in his delight. Then he fell backinto anarm-chair so limp and exhausted with his ownemotionsthat we had to pour brandy down his throat tokeep himfrom fainting.
"There! there!" said Holmessoothingpatting himupon theshoulder. "It was too bad to spring it onyou likethisbut Watson here will tell you that Inever canresist a touch of the dramatic."
Phelpsseized his hand and kissed it. "God blessyou!"he cried. "You have saved my honor."
"Wellmy own was at stakeyou know" said Holmes."Iassure you it is just as hateful to me to fail in acase as itcan be to you to blunder over acommission."
Phelpsthrust away the precious document into theinnermostpocket of his coat.
"Ihave not the heart to interrupt your breakfast anyfurtherand yet I am dying to know how you got it andwhere itwas."
SherlockHolmes swallowed a cup of coffeeand turnedhisattention to the ham and eggs. Then he roselithis pipeand settled himself down into his chair.
"I'lltell you what I did firstand how I came to doitafterwards" said he. "After leaving you at thestation Iwent for a charming walk through someadmirableSurrey scenery to a pretty little villagecalledRipleywhere I had my tea at an innand tooktheprecaution of filling my flask and of putting apaper ofsandwiches in my pocket. There I remaineduntileveningwhen I set off for Woking againandfoundmyself in the high-road outside Briarbrae justaftersunset.
"WellI waited until the road was clear--it is nevera veryfrequented one at any timeI fancy--and then Iclamberedover the fence into the grounds."
"Surelythe gate was open!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yesbut I have a peculiar taste in these matters. Ichose theplace where the three fir-trees standandbehindtheir screen I got over without the leastchance ofany one in the house being able to see me.I croucheddown among the bushes on the other sideandcrawled from one to the other--witness thedisreputablestate of my trouser knees--until I hadreachedthe clump of rhododendrons just opposite toyourbedroom window. There I squatted down andawaiteddevelopments.
"Theblind was not down in your roomand I could seeMissHarrison sitting there reading by the table. Itwasquarter-past ten when she closed her bookfastenedthe shuttersand retired.
"Iheard her shut the doorand felt quite sure thatshe hadturned the key in the lock."
"Thekey!" ejaculated Phelps.
"Yes;I had given Miss Harrison instructions to lockthe dooron the outside and take the key with her whenshe wentto bed. She carried out every one of myinjunctionsto the letterand certainly without hercooperationyou would not have that paper in youcoat-pocket. She departed then and the lights wentoutand Iwas left squatting in therhododendron-bush.
"Thenight was finebut still it was a very wearyvigil. Of course it has the sort of excitement aboutit thatthe sportsman feels when he lies beside thewater-courseand waits for the big game. It was verylongthough--almost as longWatsonas when you andI waitedin that deadly room when we looked into thelittleproblem of the Speckled Band. There was achurch-clockdown at Woking which struck the quartersand Ithought more than once that it had stopped. Atlasthowever about two in the morningI suddenlyheard thegentle sound of a bolt being pushed back andthecreaking of a key. A moment later the servant'sdoor wasopenedand Mr. Joseph Harrison stepped outinto themoonlight."
"Hewas bare-headedbut he had a black coat thrownover hisshoulder so that he could conceal his face inan instantif there were any alarm. He walked ontiptoeunder the shadow of the walland when hereachedthe window he worked a long-bladed knifethroughthe sash and pushed back the catch. Then heflung openthe windowand putting his knife throughthe crackin the shuttershe thrust the bar up andswung themopen.
"Fromwhere I lay I had a perfect view of the insideof theroom and of every one of his movements. He litthe twocandles which stood upon the mantelpieceandthen heproceeded to turn back the corner of thecarpet inthe neighborhood of the door. Presently hestoppedand picked out a square piece of boardsuchas isusually left to enable plumbers to get at thejoints ofthe gas-pipes. This one coveredas amatter offactthe T joint which gives off the pipewhichsupplies the kitchen underneath. Out of thishiding-placehe drew that little cylinder of paperpusheddown the boardrearranged the carpetblew outthecandlesand walked straight into my arms as Istoodwaiting for him outside the window.
"Wellhe has rather more viciousness than I gave himcreditforhas Master Joseph. He flew at me with hisknifeandI had to grasp him twiceand got a cutover theknucklesbefore I had the upper hand of him.He lookedmurder out of the only eye he could see withwhen wehad finishedbut he listened to reason andgave upthe papers. Having got them I let my man gobut Iwired full particulars to Forbes this morning.If he isquick enough to catch is birdwell and good.But ifasI shrewdly suspecthe finds the nest emptybefore hegets therewhyall the better for thegovernment. I fancy that Lord Holdhurst for oneandMr. PercyPhelps for anotherwould very much ratherthat theaffair never got as far as a police-court.
"MyGod!" gasped our client. "Do you tell me thatduringthese long ten weeks of agony the stolen paperswerewithin the very room with me all the time?"
"AndJoseph! Joseph a villain and a thief!"
"Hum! I am afraid Joseph's character is a ratherdeeper andmore dangerous one than one might judgefrom hisappearance. From what I have heard from himthismorningI gather that he has lost heavily indabblingwith stocksand that he is ready to doanythingon earth to better his fortunes. Being anabsolutelyselfish manwhen a chance presented itselfhe did notallow either his sister's happiness or yourreputationto hold his hand."
PercyPhelps sank back in his chair. "My headwhirls"said he. "Your words have dazed me."
"Theprincipal difficulty in your case" remarkedHolmesinhis didactic fashion"lay in the fact oftherebeing too much evidence. What was vital wasoverlaidand hidden by what was irrelevant. Of allthe factswhich were presented to us we had to pickjust thosewhich we deemed to be essentialand thenpiece themtogether in their orderso as toreconstructthis very remarkable chain of events. Ihadalready begun to suspect Josephfrom the factthat youhad intended to travel home with him thatnightandthat therefore it was a likely enough thingthat heshould call for youknowing the ForeignOfficewellupon his way. When I heard that some onehad beenso anxious to get into the bedroomin whichno one butJoseph could have concealed anything--youtold us inyour narrative how you had turned Josephout whenyou arrived with the doctor--my suspicionsallchanged to certaintiesespecially as the attemptwas madeon the first night upon which the nurse wasabsentshowing that the intruder was well acquaintedwith theways of the house."
"Howblind I have been!"
"Thefacts of the caseas far as I have worked themoutarethese: this Joseph Harrison entered theofficethrough the Charles Street doorand knowinghis way hewalked straight into your room the instantafter youleft it. Finding no one there he promptlyrang thebelland at the instant that he did so hiseyescaught the paper upon the table. A glance showedhim thatchance had put in his way a State document ofimmensevalueand in an instant he had thrust it intohis pocketand was gone. A few minutes elapsedasyourememberbefore the sleepy commissionnaire drewyourattention to the belland those were just enoughto givethe thief time to make his escape.
"Hemade his way to Woking by the first trainandhavingexamined his booty and assured himself that itreally wasof immense valuehe had concealed it inwhat hethought was a very safe placewith theintentionof taking it out again in a day or twoandcarryingit to the French embassyor wherever hethoughtthat a long price was to be had. Then cameyoursudden return. Hewithout a moment's warningwasbundled out of his roomand from that time onwardthere werealways at least two of you there to preventhim fromregaining his treasure. The situation to himmust havebeen a maddening one. But at last hethought hesaw his chance. He tried to steal inbutwasbaffled by your wakefulness. You remember thatyou didnot take your usual draught that night."
"Ifancy that he had taken steps to make that draughtefficaciousand that he quite relied upon your beingunconscious. Of courseI understood that he wouldrepeat theattempt whenever it could be done withsafety. Your leaving the room gave him the chance hewanted. I kept Miss Harrison in it all day so that hemight notanticipate us. Thenhaving given him theidea thatthe coast was clearI kept guard as I havedescribed. I already knew that the papers wereprobablyin the roombut I had no desire to rip upall theplanking and skirting in search of them. Ilet himtake themthereforefrom the hiding-placeand sosaved myself an infinity of trouble. Is thereany otherpoint which I can make clear?"
"Whydid he try the window on the first occasion" Iasked"when he might have entered by the door?"
"Inreaching the door he would have to pass sevenbedrooms. On the other handhe could get out on tothe lawnwith ease. Anything else?"
"Youdo not think" asked Phelps"that he had anymurderousintention? The knife was only meant as atool."
"Itmay be so" answered Holmesshrugging hisshoulders. "I can only say for certain that Mr.JosephHarrison is a gentleman to whose mercy I shouldbeextremely unwilling to trust."
It is witha heavy heart that I take up my pen towritethese the last words in which I shall everrecord thesingular gifts by which my friend Mr.SherlockHolmes was distinguished. In an incoherentandas Ideeply feelan entirely inadequate fashionI haveendeavored to give some account of my strangeexperiencesin his company from the chance which firstbrought ustogether at the period of the "Study inScarlet"up to the time of his interference in thematter ofthe "Naval Treaty"--and interference whichhad theunquestionable effect of preventing a seriousinternationalcomplication. It was my intention tohavestopped thereand to have said nothing of thateventwhich has created a void in my life which thelapse oftwo years has done little to fill. My handhas beenforcedhoweverby the recent letters inwhichColonel James Moriarty defends the memory of hisbrotherand I have no choice but to lay the factsbefore thepublic exactly as they occurred. I aloneknow theabsolute truth of the matterand I amsatisfiedthat the time has come when on good purposeis to beserved by its suppression. As far as I knowthere havebeen only three accounts in the publicpress: that in the Journal de Geneve on May 6th1891theReuter's despatch in the English papers onMay 7thand finally the recent letter to which I havealluded. Of these the first and second were extremelycondensedwhile the last isas I shall now showanabsoluteperversion of the facts. It lies with me totell forthe first time what really took place betweenProfessorMoriarty and Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
It may beremembered that after my marriageand mysubsequentstart in private practicethe veryintimaterelations which had existed between Holmesand myselfbecame to some extent modified. He stillcame to mefrom time to time when he desired acompanionin his investigationbut these occasionsgrew moreand more seldomuntil I find that in theyear 1890there were only three cases of which Iretain anyrecord. During the winter of that year andthe earlyspring of 1891I saw in the papers that hehad beenengaged by the French government upon amatter ofsupreme importanceand I received two notesfromHolmesdated from Narbonne and from Nimesfromwhich Igathered that his stay in France was likely tobe a longone. It was with some surprisethereforethat I sawhim walk into my consulting-room upon theevening ofApril 24th. It struck me that he waslookingeven paler and thinner than usual.
"YesI have been using myself up rather too freely"heremarkedin answer to my look rather than to mywords; "Ihave been a little pressed of late. Haveyou anyobjection to my closing your shutters?"
The onlylight in the room came from the lamp upon thetable atwhich I had been reading. Holmes edged hisway roundthe wall and flinging the shutters togetherhe boltedthem securely.
"Youare afraid of something?" I asked.
"Mydear Holmeswhat do you mean?"
"Ithink that you know me well enoughWatsontounderstandthat I am by no means a nervous man. Atthe sametimeit is stupidity rather than courage torefuse torecognize danger when it is close upon you.Might Itrouble you for a match?" He drew in thesmoke ofhis cigarette as if the soothing influencewasgrateful to him.
"Imust apologize for calling so late" said he"andI mustfurther beg you to be so unconventional as toallow meto leave your house presently by scramblingover yourback garden wall."
"Butwhat does it all mean?" I asked.
He heldout his handand I saw in the light of thelamp thattwo of his knuckles were burst and bleeding.
"Itis not an airy nothingyou see" said hesmiling. "On the contraryit is solid enough for aman tobreak his hand over. Is Mrs. Watson in?"
"Sheis away upon a visit."
"Indeed! You are alone?"
"Thenit makes it the easier for me to propose thatyou shouldcome away with me for a week to theContinent."
"Ohanywhere. It's all the same to me."
There wassomething very strange in all this. It wasnotHolmes's nature to take an aimless holidayandsomethingabout his paleworn face told me that hisnerveswere at their highest tension. He saw thequestionin my eyesandputting his finger-tipstogetherand his elbows upon his kneeshe explainedthesituation.
"Youhave probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?"said he.
"Ayethere's the genius and the wonder of the thing!"he cried. "The man pervades Londonand no one hasheard ofhim. That's what puts him on a pinnacle intherecords of crime. I tell youWatsonin allseriousnessthat if I could beat that manif I couldfreesociety of himI should feel that my own careerhadreached its summitand I should be prepared toturn tosome more placid line in life. Betweenourselvesthe recent cases in which I have been ofassistanceto the royal family of Scandinaviaand tothe Frenchrepublichave left me in such a positionthat Icould continue to live in the quiet fashionwhich ismost congenial to meand to concentrate myattentionupon my chemical researches. But I couldnot restWatsonI could not sit quiet in my chairif Ithought that such a man as Professor Moriartywerewalking the streets of London unchallenged."
"Whathas he donethen?"
"Hiscareer has been an extraordinary one. He is aman ofgood birth and excellent educationendowed bynaturewith a phenomenal mathematical faculty. At theage oftwenty-one he wrote a treatise upon theBinomialTheoremwhich has had a European vogue. Onthestrength of it he won the Mathematical Chair atone of oursmaller universitiesand hadto allappearancea most brilliant career before him. Butthe manhad hereditary tendencies of the mostdiabolicalkind. A criminal strain ran in his bloodwhichinstead of being modifiedwas increased andrenderedinfinitely more dangerous by hisextraordinarymental powers. Dark rumors gatheredround himin the university townand eventually hewascompelled to resign his chair and to come down toLondonwhere he set up as an army coach. So much isknown tothe worldbut what I am telling you now iswhat Ihave myself discovered.
"Asyou are awareWatsonthere is no one who knowsthe highercriminal world of London so well as I do.For yearspast I have continually been conscious ofsome powerbehind the malefactorsome deep organizingpowerwhich forever stands in the way of the lawandthrows itsshield over the wrong-doer. Again and againin casesof the most varying sorts--forgery casesrobberiesmurders--I have felt the presence of thisforceandI have deduced its action in many of thoseundiscoveredcrimes in which I have not beenpersonallyconsulted. For years I have endeavored tobreakthrough the veil which shrouded itand at lastthe timecame when I seized my thread and followed ituntil itled meafter a thousand cunning windingstoex-ProfessorMoriarty of mathematical celebrity.
He is theNapoleon of crimeWatson. He is theorganizerof half that is evil and of nearly all thatisundetected in this great city. He is a geniusaphilosopheran abstract thinker. He has a brain ofthe firstorder. He sits motionlesslike a spider inthe centerof its webbut that web has a thousandradiationsand he knows well every quiver of each ofthem. He does little himself. He only plans. Buthis agentsare numerous and splendidly organized. Isthere acrime to be donea paper to be abstractedwewill saya house to be rifleda man to beremoved--theword is passed to the Professorthematter isorganized and carried out. The agent may becaught. In that case money is found for his bail orhisdefence. But the central power which uses theagent isnever caught--never so much as suspected.This wasthe organization which I deducedWatsonandwhich Idevoted my whole energy to exposing andbreakingup.
"Butthe Professor was fenced round with safeguards socunninglydevised thatdo what I wouldit seemedimpossibleto get evidence which would convict in acourt oflaw. You know my powersmy dear Watsonandyet at theend of three months I was forced to confessthat I hadat last met an antagonist who was myintellectualequal. My horror at his crimes was lostin myadmiration at his skill. But at last he made atrip--onlya littlelittle trip--but it was more thanhe couldafford when I was so close upon him. I hadmy chanceandstarting from that pointI have wovenmy netround him until now it is all ready to close.In threedays--that is to sayon Monday next--matterswill beripeand the Professorwith all theprincipalmembers of his gangwill be in the hands ofthepolice. Then will come the greatest criminaltrial ofthe centurythe clearing up of over fortymysteriesand the rope for all of them; but if wemove atall prematurelyyou understandthey may slipout of ourhands even at the last moment.
"Nowif I could have done this without the knowledgeofProfessor Moriartyall would have been well. Buthe was toowily for that. He saw every step which Itook todraw my toils round him. Again and again hestrove tobreak awaybut I as often headed him off.I tellyoumy friendthat if a detailed account ofthatsilent contest could be writtenit would takeits placeas the most brilliant bit ofthrust-and-parrywork in the history of detection.Never haveI risen to such a heightand never have Ibeen sohard pressed by an opponent. He cut deepandyet I justundercut him. This morning the last stepsweretakenand three days only were wanted tocompletethe business. I was sitting in my roomthinkingthe matter overwhen the door opened andProfessorMoriarty stood before me.
"Mynerves are fairly proofWatsonbut I mustconfess toa start when I saw the very man who hadbeen somuch in my thoughts standing there on mythreshhold. His appearance was quite familiar to me.He isextremely tall and thinhis forehead domes outin a whitecurveand his two eyes are deeply sunkenin thishead. He is clean-shavenpaleandascetic-lookingretaining something of the professorin hisfeatures. His shoulders are rounded from muchstudyandhis face protrudes forwardand is foreverslowlyoscillating from side to side in a curiouslyreptilianfashion. He peered at me with greatcuriosityin his puckered eyes.
"'Youhave less frontal development that I should haveexpected'said heat last. 'It is a dangerous habitto fingerloaded firearms in the pocket of one'sdressing-gown.'
"Thefact is that upon his entrance I had instantlyrecognizedthe extreme personal danger in which I lay.The onlyconceivable escape for him lay in silencingmytongue. In an instant I had slipped the revolvedfrom thedrawer into my pocketand was covering himthroughthe cloth. At his remark I drew the weaponout andlaid it cocked upon the table. He stillsmiled andblinkedbut there was something about hiseyes whichmade me feel very glad that I had it there.
"'Youevidently don't now me' said he.
"'Onthe contrary' I answered'I think it is fairlyevidentthat I do. Pray take a chair. I can spareyou fiveminutes if you have anything to say.'
"'Allthat I have to say has already crossed yourmind'said he.
"'Thenpossibly my answer has crossed yours' Ireplied.
"Heclapped his hand into his pocketand I raised thepistolfrom the table. But he merely drew out amemorandum-bookin which he had scribbled some dates.
"'Youcrossed my patch on the 4th of January' saidhe. 'On the 23d you incommoded me; by the middle ofFebruary Iwas seriously inconvenienced by you; at theend ofMarch I was absolutely hampered in my plans;and nowat the close of AprilI find myself placedin such aposition through your continual persecutionthat I amin positive danger of losing my liberty.Thesituation is becoming an impossible one.'
"'Haveyou any suggestion to make?' I asked.
"'Youmust drop itMr. Holmes' said heswaying hisfaceabout. 'You really mustyou know.'
"'AfterMonday' said I.
"'Tuttut' said he. 'I am quite sure that a man ofyourintelligence will see that there can be but oneoutcome tothis affair. It is necessary that youshouldwithdraw. You have worked things in such afashionthat we have only one resource left. It has beenanintellectual treat to me to see the way in whichyou havegrappled with this affairand I sayunaffectedlythat it would be a grief to me to beforced totake any extreme measure. You smilesirabut Iassure you that it really would.'
"'Dangeris part of my trade' I remarked.
"'Thatis not danger' said he. 'It is inevitabledestruction. You stand in the way not merely of anindividualbut of a mighty organizationthe fullextent ofwhich youwith all your clevernesshavebeenunable to realize. You must stand clearMr.Holmesorbe trodden under foot.'
"'Iam afraid' said Irising'that in the pleasureof thisconversation I am neglecting business ofimportancewhich awaits me elsewhere.'
"Herose also and looked at me in silenceshaking hisheadsadly.
"'Wellwell' said heat last. 'It seems a pitybut I havedone what I could. I know every move ofyourgame. You can do nothing before Monday. It hasbeen aduel between you and meMr. Holmes. You hopeto placeme in the dock. I tell you that I will neverstand inthe dock. You hope to beat me. I tell youthat youwill never beat me. If you are clever enoughto bringdestruction upon merest assured that Ishall doas much to you.'
"'Youhave paid me several complimentsMr. Moriarty'said I. 'Let me pay you one in return when I say thatif I wereassured of the former eventuality I wouldin theinterests of the publiccheerfully accept thelatter.'
"'Ican promise you the onebut not the other' hesnarledand so turned his rounded back upon meandwentpeering and blinking out of the room.
"Thatwas my singular interview with ProfessorMoriarty. I confess that it left an unpleasant effectupon mymind. His softprecise fashion of speechleaves aconviction of sincerity which a mere bullycould notproduce. Of courseyou will say: 'Why nottakepolice precautions against him?' the reason isthat I amwell convinced that it is from his agentsthe blowwill fall. I have the best proofs that itwould beso."
"Youhave already been assaulted?"
"Mydear WatsonProfessor Moriarty is not a man wholets thegrass grow under his feet. I went out aboutmid-day totransact some business in Oxford Street.As Ipassed the corner which leads from BentinckStreet onto the Welbeck Street crossing a two-horsevanfuriously driven whizzed round and was on me likea flash. I sprang for the foot-path and saved myselfby thefraction of a second. The van dashed round byMaryleboneLane and was gone in an instant. I kept tothepavement after thatWatsonbut as I walked downVereStreet a brick came down from the roof of one ofthehousesand was shattered to fragments at my feet.I calledthe police and had the place examined. Therewereslates and bricks piled up on the roofpreparatoryto some repairsand they would have mebelievethat the wind had toppled over one of these.Of courseI knew betterbut I could prove nothing. Itook a cabafter that and reached my brother's roomsin PallMallwhere I spent the day. Now I have comeround toyouand on my way I was attacked by a roughwith abludgeon. I knocked him downand the policehave himin custody; but I can tell you with the mostabsoluteconfidence that no possible connection willever betraced between the gentleman upon whose frontteeth Ihave barked my knuckles and the retiringmathematicalcoachwho isI dare sayworking outproblemsupon a black-board ten miles away. You willnotwonderWatsonthat my first act on entering yourrooms wasto close your shuttersand that I have beencompelledto ask your permission to leave the house bysome lessconspicuous exit than the front door."
I hadoften admired my friend's couragebut nevermore thannowas he sat quietly checking off a seriesofincidents which must have combined to make up a dayof horror.
"Youwill spend the night here?" I said.
"Nomy friendyou might find me a dangerous guest.I have myplans laidand all will be well. Mattershave goneso far now that they can move without myhelp asfar as the arrest goesthough my presence isnecessaryfor a conviction. It is obviousthereforethat Icannot do better than get away for the few dayswhichremain before the police are at liberty to act.It wouldbe a great pleasure to methereforeif youcould comeon to the Continent with me."
"Thepractice is quiet" said I"and I have anaccommodatingneighbor. I should be glad to come."
"Andto start to-morrow morning?"
"Ohyesit is most necessary. Then these are yourinstructionsand I begmy dear Watsonthat you willobey themto the letterfor you are now playing adouble-handedgame with me against the cleverest rogueand themost powerful syndicate of criminals inEurope. Now listen! You will dispatch whateverluggageyou intend to take by a trusty messengerunaddressedto Victoria to-night. In the morning youwill sendfor a hansomdesiring your man to takeneitherthe first nor the second which may presentitself. Into this hansom you will jumpand you willdrive tothe Strand end of the Lowther Arcadehandlingthe address to the cabman upon a slip ofpaperwith a request that he will not throw it away.Have yourfare readyand the instant that your cabstopsdash through the Arcadetiming yourself toreach theother side at a quarter-past nine. You willfind asmall brougham waiting close to the curbdriven bya fellow with a heavy black cloak tipped atthe collarwith red. Into this you will stepand youwill reachVictoria in time for the Continentalexpress."
"Whereshall I meet you?"
"Atthe station. The second first-class carriage fromthe frontwill be reserved for us."
"Thecarriage is our rendezvousthen?"
It was invain that I asked Holmes to remain for theevening. It was evident to me that he though he mightbringtrouble to the roof he was underand that thatwas themotive which impelled him to go. With a fewhurriedwords as to our plans for the morrow he roseand cameout with me into the gardenclambering overthe wallwhich leads into Mortimer Streetandimmediatelywhistling for a hansomin which I heardhim driveaway.
In themorning I obeyed Holmes's injunctions to theletter. A hansom was procured with such precaution aswouldprevent its being one which was placed ready forusand Idrove immediately after breakfast to theLowtherArcadethrough which I hurried at the top ofmy speed. A brougham was waiting with a very massivedriverwrapped in a dark cloakwhothe instant thatI hadstepped inwhipped up the horse and rattled offtoVictoria Station. On my alighting there he turnedthecarriageand dashed away again without so much asa look inmy direction.
So far allhad gone admirably. My luggage was waitingfor meand I had no difficulty in finding thecarriagewhich Holmes had indicatedthe less so as itwas theonly one in the train which was marked"Engaged." My only source of anxiety now was thenon-appearanceof Holmes. The station clock markedonly sevenminutes from the time when we were due tostart. In vain I searched among the groups oftravellersand leave-takers for the little figure ofmyfriend. There was no sign of him. I spent a fewminutes inassisting a venerable Italian priestwhowasendeavoring to make a porter understandin hisbrokenEnglishthat his luggage was to be bookedthrough toParis. Thenhaving taken another lookroundIreturned to my carriagewhere I found thattheporterin spite of the tickethad given me mydecrepitItalian friend as a traveling companion. Itwasuseless for me to explain to him that his presencewas anintrusionfor my Italian was even more limitedthan hisEnglishso I shrugged my shouldersresignedlyand continued to look out anxiously for myfriend. A chill of fear had come over meas Ithoughtthat his absence might mean that some blow hadfallenduring the night. Already the doors had allbeen shutand the whistle blownwhen--
"Mydear Watson" said a voice"you have not evencondescendedto say good-morning."
I turnedin uncontrollable astonishment. The agedecclesiastichad turned his face towards me. For aninstantthe wrinkles were smoothed awaythe nose drewaway fromthe chinthe lower lip ceased to protrudeand themouth to mumblethe dull eyes regained theirfirethedrooping figure expanded. The next thewholeframe collapsed againand Holmes had gone asquickly ashe had come.
"Goodheavens!" I cried; "how you startled me!"
"Everyprecaution is still necessary" he whispered."Ihave reason to think that they are hot upon ourtrail. Ahthere is Moriarty himself."
The trainhad already begun to move as Holmes spoke.GlancingbackI saw a tall man pushing his wayfuriouslythrough the crowdand waving his hand as ifhe desiredto have the train stopped. It was toolatehoweverfor we were rapidly gathering momentumand aninstant later had shot clear of the station.
"Withall our precautionsyou see that we have cut itratherfine" said Holmeslaughing. He roseandthrowingoff the black cassock and hat which hadformed hisdisguisehe packed them away in ahand-bag.
"Haveyou seen the morning paperWatson?"
"Youhaven't' seen about Baker Streetthen?"
"Theyset fire to our rooms last night. No great harmwas done."
"GoodheavensHolmes! this is intolerable."
"Theymust have lost my track completely after theirbludgeon-manwas arrested. Otherwise they could nothaveimagined that I had returned to my rooms. Theyhaveevidently taken the precaution of watching youhoweverand that is what has brought Moriarty toVictoria. You could not have made any slip incoming?"
"Idid exactly what you advised."
"Didyou find your brougham?"
"Yesit was waiting."
"Didyou recognize your coachman?"
"Itwas my brother Mycroft. It is an advantage to getabout insuch a case without taking a mercenary intoyourconfidence. But we must plan what we are to doaboutMoriarty now."
"Asthis is an expressand as the boat runs inconnectionwith itI should think we have shaken himoff veryeffectively."
"Mydear Watsonyou evidently did not realize mymeaningwhen I said that this man may be taken asbeingquite on the same intellectual plane as myself.You do notimagine that if I were the pursuer I shouldallowmyself to be baffled by so slight an obstacle.Whythenshould you think so meanly of him?"
"Whatwill he do?"
"WhatI should do?"
"Whatwould you dothen?"
"Butit must be late."
"Byno means. This train stops at Canterbury; andthere isalways at least a quarter of an hour's delayat theboat. He will catch us there."
"Onewould think that we were the criminals. Let ushave himarrested on his arrival."
"Itwould be to ruin the work of three months. Weshould getthe big fishbut the smaller would dartright andleft out of the net. On Monday we shouldhave themall. Noan arrest is inadmissible."
"Weshall get out at Canterbury."
"Wellthen we must make a cross-country journey toNewhavenand so over to Dieppe. Moriarty will againdo what Ishould do. He will get on to Parismarkdown ourluggageand wait for two days at the depot.In themeantime we shall treat ourselves to a coupleofcarpet-bagsencourage the manufactures of thecountriesthrough which we traveland make our way atourleisure into Switzerlandvia Luxembourg andBasle."
AtCanterburythereforewe alightedonly to findthat weshould have to wait an hour before we couldget atrain to Newhaven.
I wasstill looking rather ruefully after the rapidlydisappearingluggage-van which contained my wardrobewhenHolmes pulled my sleeve and pointed up the line.
"Alreadyyou see" said he.
Far awayfrom among the Kentish woods there rose athin sprayof smoke. A minute later a carriage andenginecould be seen flying along the open curve whichleads tothe station. We had hardly time to take ourplacebehind a pile of luggage when it passed with arattle anda roarbeating a blast of hot air into ourfaces.
"Therehe goes" said Holmesas we watched thecarriageswing and rock over the point. "There arelimitsyou seeto our friend's intelligence. Itwould havebeen a coup-de-maître had he deduced what Iwoulddeduce and acted accordingly."
"Andwhat would he have done had he overtaken us?"
"Therecannot be the least doubt that he would havemade amurderous attack upon me. It ishoweveragame atwhich two may play. The questionnow iswhether weshould take a premature lunch hereor runour chanceof starving before we reach the buffet atNewhaven."
We madeour way to Brussels that night and spent twodaystheremoving on upon the third day as far asStrasburg. On the Monday morning Holmes hadtelegraphedto the London policeand in the eveningwe found areply waiting for us at our hotel. Holmestore itopenand then with a bitter curse hurled itinto thegrate.
"Imight have known it!" he groaned. "He hasescaped!"
"Theyhave secured the whole gang with the exceptionof him. He has given them the slip. Of coursewhenI had leftthe country there was no one to cope withhim. But I did think that I had put the game in theirhands. I think that you had better return to EnglandWatson."
"Becauseyou will find me a dangerous companion now.This man'soccupation is gone. He is lost if hereturns toLondon. If I read his character right hewilldevote his whole energies to revenging himselfupon me. He said as much in our short interviewandI fancythat he meant it. I should certainlyrecommendyou to return to your practice."
It washardly an appeal to be successful with one whowas an oldcampaigner as well as an old friend. Wesat in theStrasburg salle-à-manger arguing thequestionfor half an hourbut the same night we hadresumedour journey and were well on our way toGeneva.
For acharming week we wandered up the Valley of theRhoneandthenbranching off at Leukwe made ourway overthe Gemmi Passstill deep in snowand soby way ofInterlakento Meiringen. It was a lovelytripthedainty green of the spring belowthe virginwhite ofthe winter above; but it was clear to me thatnever forone instant did Holmes forget the shadowwhich layacross him. In the homely Alpine villagesor in thelonely mountain passesI could tell by hisquickglancing eyes and his sharp scrutiny of everyface thatpassed usthat he was well convinced thatwalk wherewe wouldwe could not walk ourselves clearof thedanger which was dogging our footsteps.
OnceIrememberas we passed over the Gemmiandwalkedalong the border of the melancholy Daubenseealarge rockwhich had been dislodged from the ridgeupon ourright clattered down and roared into the lakebehindus. In an instant Holmes had raced up on tothe ridgeandstanding upon a lofty pinnaclecranedhis neckin every direction. It was in vain that ourguideassured him that a fall of stones was a commonchance inthe spring-time at that spot. He saidnothingbut he smiled at me with the air of a man whosees thefulfillment of that which he had expected.
And yetfor all his watchfulness he was neverdepressed. On the contraryI can never recollecthavingseen him in such exuberant spirits. Again andagain herecurred to the fact that if he could beassuredthat society was freed from Professor Moriartyhe wouldcheerfully bring his own career to aconclusion.
"Ithink that I may go so far as to sayWatsonthatI have notlived wholly in vain" he remarked. "If myrecordwere closed to-night I could still survey itwithequanimity. The air of London is the sweeter formypresence. In over a thousand cases I am not awarethat Ihave ever used my powers upon the wrong side.Of late Ihave been tempted to look into the problemsfurnishedby nature rather than those more superficialones forwhich our artificial state of society isresponsible. Your memoirs will draw to an endWatsonupon the day that I crown my career by thecapture orextinction of the most dangerous andcapablecriminal in Europe."
I shall bebriefand yet exactin the little whichremainsfor me to tell. It is not a subject on whichI wouldwillingly dwelland yet I am conscious that adutydevolves upon me to omit no detail.
It was onthe 3d of May that we reached the littlevillage ofMeiringenwhere we put up at theEnglischerHofthen kept by Peter Steiler the elder.Ourlandlord was an intelligent manand spokeexcellentEnglishhaving served for three years aswaiter atthe Grosvenor Hotel in London. At hisadviceonthe afternoon of the 4th we set offtogetherwith the intention of crossing the hills andspendingthe night at the hamlet of Rosenlaui. We hadstrictinjunctionshoweveron no account to pass thefalls ofReichenbachwhich are about half-way up thehillwithout making a small detour to see them.
It isindeeda fearful place. The torrentswollenby themelting snowplunges into a tremendous abyssfrom whichthe spray rolls up like the smoke from aburninghouse. The shaft into which the river hurlsitself isa immense chasmlined by glisteningcoal-blackrockand narrowing into a creamingboilingpit of incalculable depthwhich brims overand shootsthe stream onward over its jagged lip. Thelong sweepof green water roaring forever downandthe thickflickering curtain of spray hissing foreverupwardturn a man giddy with their constant whirl andclamor. We stood near the edge peering down at thegleam ofthe breaking water far below us against theblackrocksand listening to the half-human shoutwhich camebooming up with the spray out of the abyss.
The pathhas been cut half-way round the fall toafford acomplete viewbut it ends abruptlyand thetravelerhas to return as he came. We had turned todo sowhen we saw a Swiss lad come running along itwith aletter in his hand. It bore the mark of thehotelwhich we had just leftand was addressed to meby thelandlord. It appeared that within a very fewminutes ofour leavingan English lady had arrivedwho was inthe last stage of consumption. She hadwinteredat Davos Platzand was journeying now tojoin herfriends at Lucernewhen a sudden hemorrhagehadovertaken her. It was thought that she couldhardlylive a few hoursbut it would be a greatconsolationto her to see an English doctorandif Iwould onlyreturnetc. The good Steiler assured mein apostscript that he would himself look upon mycomplianceas a very great favorsince the ladyabsolutelyrefused to see a Swiss physicianand hecould notbut feel that he was incurring a greatresponsibility.
The appealwas one which could not be ignored. It wasimpossibleto refuse the request of afellow-countrywomandying in a strange land. Yet Ihad myscruples about leaving Holmes. It was finallyagreedhoweverthat he should retain the young Swissmessengerwith him as guide and companion while Ireturnedto Meiringen. My friend would stay somelittletime at the fallhe saidand would then walkslowlyover the hill to Rosenlauiwhere I was torejoin himin the evening. As I turned away I sawHolmeswith his back against a rock and his armsfoldedgazing down at the rush of the waters. It wasthe lastthat I was ever destined to see of him inthisworld.
When I wasnear the bottom of the descent I lookedback. It was impossiblefrom that positionto seethe fallbut I could see the curving path which windsover theshoulder of the hill and leads to it. Alongthis a manwasI rememberwalking very rapidly.
I couldsee his black figure clearly outlined againstthe greenbehind him. I noted himand the energy withwhich hewalked but he passed from my mind again as Ihurried onupon my errand.
It mayhave been a little over an hour before IreachedMeiringen. Old Steiler was standing at theporch ofhis hotel.
"Well"said Ias I came hurrying up"I trust thatshe is noworse?"
A look ofsurprise passed over his faceand at thefirstquiver of his eyebrows my heart turned to leadin mybreast.
"Youdid not write this?" I saidpulling the letterfrom mypocket. "There is no sick Englishwoman in thehotel?"
"Certainlynot!" he cried. "But it has the hotel markupon it! Hait must have been written by that tallEnglishmanwho came in after you had gone. He said--"
But Iwaited for none of the landlord's explanations.In atingle of fear I was already running down thevillagestreetand making for the path which I had solatelydescended. It had taken me an hour to comedown. For all my efforts two more had passed before Ifoundmyself at the fall of Reichenbach once more.There wasHolmes's Alpine-stock still leaning againstthe rockby which I had left him. But there was nosign ofhimand it was in vain that I shouted. Myonlyanswer was my own voice reverberating in arollingecho from the cliffs around me.
It was thesight of that Alpine-stock which turned mecold andsick. He had not gone to Rosenlauithen.He hadremained on that three-foot pathwith sheerwall onone side and sheer drop on the otheruntilhis enemyhad overtaken him. The young Swiss had gonetoo. He had probably been in the pay of Moriartyandhad leftthe two men together. And then what hadhappened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?
I stoodfor a minute or two to collect myselffor Iwas dazedwith the horror of the thing. Then I beganto thinkof Holmes's own methods and to try topractisethem in reading this tragedy. It wasalasonly tooeasy to do. During our conversation we hadnot goneto the end of the pathand the Alpine-stockmarked theplace where we had stood. The blackishsoil iskept forever soft by the incessant drift ofsprayanda bird would leave its tread upon it. Twolines offootmarks were clearly marked along thefartherend of the pathboth leading away from me.There werenone returning. A few yards from the endthe soilwas all ploughed up into a patch of mudandthebranches and ferns which fringed the chasm weretorn andbedraggled. I lay upon my face and peeredover withthe spray spouting up all around me. It haddarkenedsince I leftand now I could only see hereand therethe glistening of moisture upon the blackwallsandfar away down at the end of the shaft thegleam ofthe broken water. I shouted; but only thesamehalf-human cry of the fall was borne back to myears.
But it wasdestined that I should after all have alast wordof greeting from my friend and comrade. Ihave saidthat his Alpine-stock had been left leaningagainst arock which jutted on to the path. From thetop ofthis bowlder the gleam of something brightcaught myeyeandraising my handI found that itcame fromthe silver cigarette-case which he used tocarry. As I took it up a small square of paper uponwhich ithad lain fluttered down on to the ground.UnfoldingitI found that it consisted of three pagestorn fromhis note-book and addressed to me. It wascharacteristicof the man that the direction was apreciseand the writing as firm and clearas thoughit hadbeen written in his study.
My dearWatson [it said]I write these few linesthroughthe courtesy of Mr. Moriartywho awaits myconveniencefor the final discussion of thosequestionswhich lie between us. He has been giving mea sketchof the methods by which he avoided theEnglishpolice and kept himself informed of ourmovements. They certainly confirm the very highopinionwhich I had formed of his abilities. I ampleased tothink that I shall be able to free societyfrom anyfurther effects of his presencethough Ifear thatit is at a cost which will give pain to myfriendsand especiallymy dear Watsonto you. Ihavealready explained to youhoweverthat my careerhad in anycase reached its crisisand that nopossibleconclusion to it could be more congenial tome thanthis. Indeedif I may make a full confessionto youIwas quite convinced that the letter fromMeiringenwas a hoaxand I allowed you to depart onthaterrand under the persuasion that some developmentof thissort would follow. Tell Inspector Pattersonthat thepapers which he needs to convict the gang areinpigeonhole M.done up in a blue envelope andinscribed"Moriarty." I made every disposition of mypropertybefore leaving Englandand handed it to mybrotherMycroft. Pray give my greetings to Mrs.Watsonand believe me to bemy dear fellow
A fewwords may suffice to tell the little thatremains. An examination by experts leaves littledoubt thata personal contest between the two menendedasit could hardly fail to end in such asituationin their reeling overlocked in eachother'sarms. Any attempt at recovering the bodieswasabsolutely hopelessand theredeep down in thatdreadfulcaldron of swirling water and seething foamwill liefor all time the most dangerous criminal andtheforemost champion of the law of their generation.The Swissyouth was never found againand there canbe nodoubt that he was one of the numerous agentswhomMoriarty kept in this employ. As to the gangitwill bewithin the memory of the public how completelytheevidence which Holmes had accumulated exposedtheirorganizationand how heavily the hand of thedead manweighted upon them. Of their terrible chieffewdetails came out during the proceedingsand if Ihave nowbeen compelled to make a clear statement ofhis careerit is due to those injudicious championswho haveendeavored to clear his memory by attacksupon himwhom I shall ever regard as the best and thewisest manwhom I have ever known.