THE ADVENTURE OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLANCHED SOLDIER
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAZARIN STONE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GABLES
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GARRIDEBS
THE PROBLEM OF THOR BRIDGE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE CREEPING MAN
THE ADVENTURE OF THE LIONS MANE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE VEILED LODGER
THE ADVENTURE OF SHOSCOMBE OLD PLACE
THE ADVENTURE OF THE RETIRED COLOURMAN
I fear that Mr. Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular
tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make
repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease
and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes
to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of
imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding
may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott's heroes
still may strut, Dickens's delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and
Thackeray's worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible
careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and
his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth
with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have
His career has been a long one--though it is possible to exaggerate
it; decrepit gentlemen who approach me and declare that his adventures
formed the reading of their boyhood do not meet the response from me
which they seem to expect. One is not anxious to have one's personal
dates handled so unkindly. As a matter of cold fact, Holmes made his
debut in A Study in Scarlet and in The Sign of Four, two small booklets
which appeared between 1887 and 1889. It was in 1891 that "A Scandal in
Bohemia," the first of the long series of short stories, appeared in
The Strand Magazine. The public seemed appreciative and desirous of
more, so that from that date, thirty-nine years ago, they have been
produced in a broken series which now contains no fewer than fifty-six
stories, republished in The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, and
His Last Bow. and there remain these twelve published during the last
few years which are here produced under the title of The Case Book of
Sherlock Holmes. He began his adventures in the very heart of the later
Victorian era, carried it through the all-too-short reign of Edward,
and has managed to hold his own little niche even in these feverish
days. Thus it would be true to say that those who first read of him, as
young men, have lived to see their own grown-up children following the
same adventures in the same magazine. It is a striking example of the
patience and loyalty of the British public.
I had fully determined at the conclusion of The Memoirs to bring Holmes
to an end, as I felt that my literary energies should not be directed
too much into one channel. That pale, clear-cut face and loose-limbed
figure were taking up an undue share of my imagination. I did the deed,
but fortunately no coroner had pronounced upon the remains, and so,
after a long interval, it was not difficult for me to respond to the
flattering demand and to explain my rash act away. I have never
regretted it, for I have not in actual practice found that these
lighter sketches have prevented me from exploring and finding my
limitations in such varied branches of literature as history, poetry,
historical novels, psychic research, and the drama. Had Holmes never
existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a
little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work.
And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your past
constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape
of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of
thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT
"It can't hurt now," was Mr. Sherlock Holmes's comment when, for the
tenth time in as many years, I asked his leave to reveal the following
narrative. So it was that at last I obtained permission to put on
record what was, in some ways, the supreme moment of my friend's
Both Holmes and I had a weakness for the Turkish bath. It was over a
smoke in the pleasant lassitude of the drying-room that I have found
him less reticent and more human than anywhere else. On the upper floor
of the Northumberland Avenue establishment there is an isolated corner
where two couches lie side by side, and it was on these that we lay
upon September 3, 1902, the day when my narrative begins. I had asked
him whether anything was stirring, and for answer he had shot his long,
thin, nervous arm out of the sheets which enveloped him and had drawn
an envelope from the inside pocket of the coat which hung beside him.
"It may be some fussy, self-important fool; it may be a matter of life
or death," said he as he handed me the note. "I know no more than this
message tells me."
It was from the Carlton Club and dated the evening before. This is what
Sir James Damery presents his compliments to Mr. Sherlock Holmes and
will call upon him at 4:30 to-morrow. Sir James begs to say that the
matter upon which he desires to consult Mr. Holmes is very delicate and
also very important. He trusts, therefore, that Mr. Holmes will make every
effort to grant this interview, and that he will confirm it over the
telephone to the Carlton Club.
"I need not say that I have confirmed it, Watson," said Holmes as I
returned the paper. "Do you know anything of this man Damery?"
"Only that this name is a household word in society."
"Well, I can tell you a little more than that. He has rather a
reputation for arranging delicate matters which are to be kept out of
the papers. You may remember his negotiations with Sir George Lewis
over the Hammerford Will case. He is a man of the world with a natural
turn for diplomacy. I am bound, therefore, to hope that it is not a
false scent and that he has some real need for our assistance."
"Well, if you will be so good, Watson."
"I shall be honoured."
"Then you have the hour--4:30. Until then we can put the matter out
of our heads."
I was living in my own rooms in Queen Anne Street at the time, but I
was round at Baker Street before the time named. Sharp to the
half-hour, Colonel Sir James Damery was announced. It is hardly
necessary to describe him, for many will remember that large, bluff,
honest personality, that broad, cleanshaven face, and, above all, that
pleasant, mellow voice. Frankness shone from his gray Irish eyes, and
good humour played round his mobile, smiling lips. His lucent top-hat,
his dark frock-coat, indeed, every detail, from the pearl pin in the
black satin cravat to the lavender spats over the varnished shoes,
spoke of the meticulous care in dress for which he was famous. The big,
masterful aristocrat dominated the little room.
"Of course, I was prepared to find Dr. Watson," he remarked with a
courteous bow. "His collaboration may be very necessary, for we are
dealing on this occasion, Mr. Holmes, with a man to whom violence is
familiar and who will, literally, stick at nothing. I should say that
there is no more dangerous man in Europe."
"I have had several opponents to whom that flattering term has been
applied," said Holmes with a smile. "Don't you smoke? Then you will
excuse me if I light my pipe. If your man is more dangerous than the
late Professor Moriarty, or than the living Colonel Sebastian Moran,
then he is indeed worth meeting. May I ask his name?"
"Have you ever heard of Baron Gruner?"
"You mean the Austrian murderer?"
Colonel Damery threw up his kid-gloved hands with a laugh. "There is no
getting past you, Mr. Holmes! Wonderful! So you have already sized him
up as a murderer?"
"It is my business to follow the details of Continental crime. Who
could possibly have read what happened at Prague and have any doubts as
to the man's guilt! It was a purely technical legal point and the
suspicious death of a witness that saved him! I am as sure that he
killed his wife when the socalled 'accident' happened in the Splugen
Pass as if I had seen him do it. I knew, also, that he had come to
England and had a presentiment that sooner or later he would find me
some work to do. Well, what has Baron Gruner been up to? I presume it
is not this old tragedy which has come up again?"
"No, it is more serious than that. To revenge crime is important, but
to prevent it is more so. It is a terrible thing, Mr. Holmes, to see a
dreadful event, an atrocious situation, preparing itself before your
eyes, to clearly understand whither it will lead and yet to be utterly
unable to avert it. Can a human being be placed in a more trying
"Then you will sympathize with the client in whose interests I am
"I did not understand that you were merely an intermediary. Who is the
"Mr. Holmes, I must beg you not to press that question. It is important
that I should be able to assure him that his honoured name has been in
no way dragged into the matter. His motives are, to the last degree,
honourable and chivalrous, but he prefers to remain unknown. I need not
say that your fees will be assured and that you will be given a
perfectly free hand. Surely the actual name of your client is
"I am sorry," said Holmes. "I am accustomed to have mystery at one end
of my cases, but to have it at both ends is too confusing. I fear, Sir
James, that I must decline to act."
Our visitor was greatly disturbed. His large, sensitive face was
darkened with emotion and disappointment.
"You hardly realize the effect of your own action, Mr. Holmes," said
he. "You place me in a most serious dilemma for I am perfectly certain
that you would be proud to take over the case if I could give you the
facts, and yet a promise forbids me from revealing them all. May I, at
least, lay all that I can before you?"
"By all means, so long as it is understood that I commit myself to
"That is understood. In the first place, you have no doubt heard of
General de Merville?"
"De Merville of Khyber fame? Yes, I have heard of him."
"He has a daughter, Violet de Merville, young, rich, beautiful,
accomplished, a wonder-woman in every way. It is this daughter, this
lovely, innocent girl, whom we are endeavouring to save from the
clutches of a fiend."
"Baron Gruner has some hold over her, then?"
"The strongest of all holds where a woman is concerned--the hold of
love. The fellow is, as you may have heard, extraordinarily handsome,
with a most fascinating manner. a gentle voice and that air of romance
and mystery which means so much to a woman. He is said to have the
whole sex at his mercy and to have made ample use of the fact."
"But how came such a man to meet a lady of the standing of Miss Violet
"It was on a Mediterranean yachting voyage. The company, though select,
paid their own passages. No doubt the promoters hardly realized the
Baron's true character until it was too late. The villain attached
himself to the lady, and with such effect that he has completely and
absolutely won her heart. To say that she loves him hardly expresses
it. She dotes upon him, she is obsessed by him. Outside of him there is
nothing on earth. She will not hear one word against him. Everything
has been done to cure her of her madness, but in vain. To sum up, she
proposes to marry him next month. As she is of age and has a will of
iron, it is hard to know how to prevent her."
"Does she know about the Austrian episode?"
"The cunning devil has told her every unsavoury public scandal of his
past life, but always in such a way as to make himself out to be an
innocent martyr. She absolutely accepts his version and will listen to
"Dear me! But surely you have inadvertently let out the name of your
client? It is no doubt General de Merville."
Our visitor fidgeted in his chair.
"I could deceive you by saying so, Mr. Holmes, but it would not be
true. De Merville is a broken man. The strong soldier has been utterly
demoralized by this incident. He has lost the nerve which never failed
him on the battlefield and has become a weak, doddering old man,
utterly incapable of contending with a brilliant, forceful rascal like
this Austrian. My client however is an old friend, one who has known
the General intimately for many years and taken a paternal interest in
this young girl since she wore short frocks. He cannot see this tragedy
consummated without some attempt to stop it. There is nothing in which
Scotland Yard can act. It was his own suggestion that you should be
called in, but it was, as I have said, on the express stipulation that
he should not be personally involved in the matter. I have no doubt,
Mr. Holmes, with your great powers you could easily trace my client
back through me, but I must ask you, as a point of honour, to refrain
from doing so, and not to break in upon his incognito."
Holmes gave a whimsical smile.
"I think I may safely promise that," said he. "I may add that your
problem interests me, and that I shall be prepared to look into it. How
shall I keep in touch with you?"
"The Carlton Club will find me. But in case of emergency, there is a
private telephone call, 'XX.31.'"
Holmes noted it down and sat, still smiling, with the open memorandum-book
upon his knee.
"The Baron's present address, please?"
"Vernon Lodge, near Kingston. It is a large house. He has been
fortunate in some rather shady speculations and is a rich man, which
naturally makes him a more dangerous antagonist."
"Is he at home at present?"
"Apart from what you have told me, can you give me any further
information about the man?"
"He has expensive tastes. He is a horse fancier. For a short time he
played polo at Hurlingham, but then this Prague affair got noised about
and he had to leave. He collects books and pictures. He is a man with a
considerable artistic side to his nature. He is, I believe, a
recognized authority upon Chinese pottery and has written a book upon
"A complex mind," said Holmes. "All great criminals have that. My old
friend Charlie Peace was a violin virtuoso. Wainwright was no mean
artist. I could quote many more. Well, Sir James, you will inform your
client that I am turning my mind upon Baron Gruner. I can say no more.
I have some sources of information of my own, and I dare say we may
find some means of opening the matter up."
When our visitor had left us Holmes sat so long in deep thought that it
seemed to me that he had forgotten my presence. At last, however, he
came briskly back to earth.
"Well, Watson, any views?" he asked.
"I should think you had better see the young lady herself."
"My dear Watson, if her poor old broken father cannot move her, how
shall I, a stranger, prevail? And yet there is something in the
suggestion if all else fails. But I think we must begin from a
different angle. I rather fancy that Shinwell Johnson might be a help."
I have not had occasion to mention Shinwell Johnson in these memoirs
because I have seldom drawn my cases from the latter phases of my
friend's career. During the first years of the century he became a
valuable assistant. Johnson, I grieve to say, made his name first as a
very dangerous villain and served two terms at Parkhurst. Finally he
repented and allied himself to Holmes, acting as his agent in the huge
criminal underworld of London and obtaining information which often
proved to be of vital importance. Had Johnson been a "nark" of the
police he would soon have been exposed, but as he dealt with cases
which never came directly into the courts, his activities were never
realized by his companions. With the glamour of his two convictions
upon him, he had the entree of every night-club, doss house, and
gamblingden in the town, and his quick observation and active brain
made him an ideal agent for gaining information. It was to him that
Sherlock Holmes now proposed to turn.
It was not possible for me to follow the immediate steps taken by my
friend, for I had some pressing professional business of my own, but I
met him by appointment that evening at Simpson's, where, sitting at a
small table in the front window and looking down at the rushing stream
of life in the Strand, he told me something of what had passed.
"Johnson is on the prowl," said he. "He may pick up some garbage in the
darker recesses of the underworld, for it is down there, amid the black
roots of crime, that we must hunt for this man's secrets."
"But if the lady will not accept what is already known, why should any
fresh discovery of yours turn her from her purpose?"
"Who knows, Watson? Woman's heart and mind are insoluble puzzles to the
male. Murder might be condoned or explained, and yet some smaller
offence might rankle. Baron Gruner remarked to me--"
"He remarked to you!"
"Oh, to be sure, I had not told you of my plans. Well, Watson, I love
to come to close grips with my man. I like to meet him eye to eye and
read for myself the stuff that he is made of. When I had given Johnson
his instructions I took a cab out to Kingston and found the Baron in a
most affable mood."
"Did he recognize you?"
"There was no difficulty about that, for I simply sent in my card. He
is an excellent antagonist, cool as ice, silky voiced and soothing as
one of your fashionable consultants, and poisonous as a cobra. He has
breeding in him--a real aristocrat of crime with a superficial
suggestion of afternoon tea and all the cruelty of the grave behind it.
Yes, I am glad to have had my attention called to Baron Adelbert
"You say he was affable?"
"A purring cat who thinks he sees prospective mice. Some people's
affability is more deadly than the violence of coarser souls. His
greeting was characteristic. 'I rather thought I should see you sooner
or later, Mr. Holmes,' said he. 'You have been engaged, no doubt by
General de Merville, to endeavour to stop my marriage with his
daughter, Violet. That is so, is it not?'
"'My dear man,' said he. 'you will only ruin your own well-deserved
reputation. It is not a case in which you can possibly succeed. You
will have barren work, to say nothing of incurring some danger. Let me
very strongly advise you to draw off at once.'
"'It is curious,' I answered, 'but that was the very advice which I
had intended to give you. I have a respect for your brains, Baron, and
the little which I have seen of your personality has not lessened it.
Let me put it to you as man to man. No one wants to rake up your past
and make you unduly uncomfortable. It is over, and you are now in
smooth waters, but if you persist in this marriage you will raise up a
swarm of powerful enemies who will never leave you alone until they
have made England too hot to hold you. Is the game worth it? Surely you
would be wiser if you left the lady alone. It would not be pleasant for
you if these facts of your past were brought to her notice.'
"The Baron has little waxed tips of hair under his nose, like the short
antennae of an insect. These quivered with amusement as he listened,
and he finally broke into a gentle chuckle.
"'Excuse my amusement, Mr. Holmes,' said he, 'but it is really funny
to see you trying to play a hand with no cards in it. I don't think
anyone could do it better, but it is rather pathetic all the same. Not
a colour card there, Mr. Holmes, nothing but the smallest of the
"'So you think.'
"'So I know. Let me make the thing clear to you, for my own hand is so
strong that I can afford to show it. I have been fortunate enough to
win the entire affection of this lady. This was given to me in spite of
the fact that I told her very clearly of all the unhappy incidents in
my past life. I also told her that certain wicked and designing persons
--I hope you recognize yourself--would come to her and tell her
these things. and I warned her how to treat them. You have heard of
post-hypnotic suggestion. Mr. Holmes. Well you will see how it works
for a man of personality can use hypnotism without any vulgar passes or
tomfoolery. So she is ready for you and, I have no doubt, would give
you an appointment, for she is quite amenable to her father's will--save
only in the one little matter.'
"Well, Watson, there seemed to be no more to say, so I took my leave
with as much cold dignity as I could summon, but, as I had my hand on
the door-handle, he stopped me.
"'By the way, Mr. Holmes,' said he, 'did you know Le Brun, the French
"'Yes,' said I.
"'Do you know what befell him?'
"'I heard that he was beaten by some Apaches in the Montmartre district
and crippled for life.'
"'Quite true, Mr. Holmes. By a curious coincidence he had been
inquiring into my affairs only a week before. Don't do it, Mr. Holmes;
it's not a lucky thing to do. Several have found that out. My last word
to you is, go your own way and let me go mine. Good-bye!'
"So there you are, Watson. You are up to date now."
"The fellow seems dangerous."
"Mighty dangerous. I disregard the blusterer, but this is the sort of
man who says rather less than he means."
"Must you interfere? Does it really matter if he marries the girl?"
"Considering that he undoubtedly murdered his last wife, I should say
it mattered very much. Besides, the client! Well, well, we need not
discuss that. When you have finished your coffee you had best come home
with me, for the blithe Shinwell will be there with his report."
We found him sure enough, a huge, coarse, red-faced, scorbutic man,
with a pair of vivid black eyes which were the only external sign of
the very cunning mind within. It seems that he had dived down into what
was peculiarly his kingdom, and beside him on the settee was a brand
which he had brought up in the shape of a slim, flame-like young woman
with a pale, intense face, youthful, and yet so worn with sin and
sorrow that one read the terrible years which had left their leprous
mark upon her.
"This is Miss Kitty Winter," said Shinwell Johnson, waving his fat hand
as an introduction. "What she don't know--well, there, she'll speak
for herself. Put my hand right on her, Mr. Holmes, within an hour of
"I'm easy to find," said the young woman. "Hell, London, gets me every
time. Same address for Porky Shinwell. We're old mates, Porky, you and
I. But, by cripes! there is another who ought to be down in a lower
hell than we if there was any justice in the world! That is the man you
are after, Mr. Holmes."
Holmes smiled. "I gather we have your good wishes, Miss Winter."
"If I can help to put him where he belongs, I'm yours to the rattle,"
said our visitor with fierce energy. There was an intensity of hatred
in her white, set face and her blazing eyes such as woman seldom and
man never can attain.
"You needn't go into my past, Mr. Holmes. That's neither here nor
there. But what I am Adelbert Gruner made me. If I could pull him
down!" She clutched frantically with her hands into the air. "Oh, if I
could only pull him into the pit where he has pushed so many!"
"You know how the matter stands?"
"Porky Shinwell has been telling me. He's after some other poor fool
and wants to marry her this time. You want to stop it. Well, you surely
know enough about this devil to prevent any decent girl in her senses
wanting to be in the same parish with him."
"She is not in her senses. She is madly in love. She has been told all
about him. She cares nothing."
"Told about the murder?"
"My Lord, she must have a nerve!"
"She puts them all down as slanders."
"Couldn't you lay proofs before her silly eyes?"
"Well, can you help us do so?"
"Ain't I a proof myself? If I stood before her and told her how he used
"Would you do this?"
"Would I? Would I not!"
"Well, it might be worth trying. But he has told her most of his sins
and had pardon from her, and I understand she will not reopen the
"I'll lay he didn't tell her all," said Miss Winter. "I caught a
glimpse of one or two murders besides the one that made such a fuss. He
would speak of someone in his velvet way and then look at me with a
steady eye and say: 'He died within a month.' It wasn't hot air,
either. But I took little notice--you see, I loved him myself at that
time. Whatever he did went with me, same as with this poor fool! There
was just one thing that shook me. Yes, by cripes! if it had not been
for his poisonous, lying tongue that explains and soothes. I'd have
left him that very night. It's a book he has--a brown leather book
with a lock, and his arms in gold on the outside. I think he was a bit
drunk that night, or he would not have shown it to me."
"What was it, then?"
"I tell you. Mr. Holmes. this man collects women, and takes a pride in
his collection. as some men collect moths or butterflies. He had it all
in that book. Snapshot photographs. names, details, everything about
them. It was a beastly book--a book no man, even if he had come from
the gutter, could have put together. But it was Adelbert Gruner's book
all the same. 'Souls I have ruined.' He could have put that on the
outside if he had been so minded. However, that's neither here nor
there, for the book would not serve you, and, if it would, you can't
"Where is it?"
"How can I tell you where it is now? It's more than a year since I left
him. I know where he kept it then. He's a precise, tidy cat of a man in
many of his ways, so maybe it is still in the pigeon-hole of the old
bureau in the inner study. Do you know his house?"
"I've been in the study," said Holmes.
"Have you. though? You haven't been slow on the job if you only started
this morning. Maybe dear Adelbert has met his match this time. The
outer study is the one with the Chinese crockery in it--big glass
cupboard between the windows. Then behind his desk is the door that
leads to the inner study--a small room where he keeps papers and
"Is he not afraid of burglars?"
"Adelbert is no coward. His worst enemy couldn't say that of him. He
can look after himself. There's a burglar alarm at night. Besides, what
is there for a burglar--unless they got away with all this fancy
"No good," said Shinwell Johnson with the decided voice of the expert.
"No fence wants stuff of that sort that you can neither melt nor sell."
"Quite so," said Holmes. "Well, now, Miss Winter. if you would call
here tomorrow evening at five. I would consider in the meanwhile
whether your suggestion of seeing this lady personally may not be
arranged. I am exceedingly obliged to you for your cooperation. I need
not say that my clients will consider liberally--"
"None of that, Mr. Holmes," cried the young woman. "I am not out for
money. Let me see this man in the mud, and I've got all I've worked for
--in the mud with my foot on his cursed face. That's my price. I'm
with you tomorrow or any other day so long as you are on his track.
Porky here can tell you always where to find me."
I did not see Holmes again until the following evening when we dined
once more at our Strand restaurant. He shrugged his shoulders when I
asked him what luck he had had in his interview. Then he told the
story, which I would repeat in this way. His hard, dry statement needs
some little editing to soften it into the terms of real life.
"There was no difficulty at all about the appointment," said Holmes,
"for the girl glories in showing abject filial obedience in all
secondary things in an attempt to atone for her flagrant breach of it
in her engagement. The General phoned that all was ready, and the fiery
Miss W. turned up according to schedule, so that at half-past five a
cab deposited us outside 104 Berkeley Square, where the old soldier
resides--one of those awful gray London castles which would make a
church seem frivolous. A footman showed us into a great
yellow-curtained drawing-room, and there was the lady awaiting us,
demure, pale, self-contained, as inflexible and remote as a snow image
on a mountain.
"I don't quite know how to make her clear to you, Watson. Perhaps you
may meet her before we are through, and you can use your own gift of
words. She is beautiful, but with the ethereal other-world beauty of
some fanatic whose thoughts are set on high. I have seen such faces in
the pictures of the old masters of the Middle Ages. How a beastman
could have laid his vile paws upon such a being of the beyond I cannot
imagine. You may have noticed how extremes call to each other, the
spiritual to the animal, the cave-man to the angel. You never saw a
worse case than this.
"She knew what we had come for, of course--that villain had lost no
time in poisoning her mind against us. Miss Winter's advent rather
amazed her, I think, but she waved us into our respective chairs like a
reverend abbess receiving two rather leprous mendicants. If your head
is inclined to swell. my dear Watson, take a course of Miss Violet de
"'Well, sir,' said she in a voice like the wind from an iceberg, 'your
name is familiar to me. You have called. as I understand, to malign my
fiance, Baron Gruner. It is only by my father's request that I see you
at all, and I warn you in advance that anything you can say could not
possibly have the slightest effect upon my mind.'
"I was sorry for her, Watson. I thought of her for the moment as I
would have thought of a daughter of my own. I am not often eloquent. I
use my head, not my heart. But I really did plead with her with all the
warmth of words that I could find in my nature. I pictured to her the
awful position of the woman who only wakes to a man's character after
she is his wife--a woman who has to submit to be caressed by bloody
hands and lecherous lips. I spared her nothing--the shame, the fear,
the agony, the hopelessness of it all. All my hot words could not bring
one tinge of colour to those ivory cheeks or one gleam of emotion to
those abstracted eyes. I thought of what the rascal had said about a
post-hypnotic influence. One could really believe that she was living
above the earth in some ecstatic dream. Yet there was nothing
indefinite in her replies.
"'I have listened to you with patience, Mr. Holmes,' said she. 'The
effect upon my mind is exactly as predicted. I am aware that Adelbert,
that my fiance, has had a stormy life in which he has incurred bitter
hatreds and most unjust aspersions. You are only the last of a series
who have brought their slanders before me. Possibly you mean well,
though I learn that you are a paid agent who would have been equally
willing to act for the Baron as against him. But in any case I wish you
to understand once for all that I love him and that he loves me, and
that the opinion of all the world is no more to me than the twitter of
those birds outside the window. If his noble nature has ever for an
instant fallen, it may be that I have been specially sent to raise it
to its true and lofty level. I am not clear'--here she turned eyes
upon my companion--'who this young lady may be.'
"I was about to answer when the girl broke in like a whirlwind. If ever
you saw flame and ice face to face, it was those two women.
"'I'll tell you who I am,' she cried, springing out of her chair, her
mouth all twisted with passion--'I am his last mistress. I am one of
a hundred that he has tempted and used and ruined and thrown into the
refuse heap, as he will you also. Your refuse heap is more likely to be
a grave, and maybe that's the best. I tell you, you foolish woman, if
you marry this man he'll be the death of you. It may be a broken heart
or it may be a broken neck, but he'll have you one way or the other.
It's not out of love for you I'm speaking. I don't care a tinker's
curse whether you live or die. It's out of hate for him and to spite
him and to get back on him for what he did to me. But it's all the
same, and you needn't look at me like that, my fine lady, for you may
be lower than I am before you are through with it.'
"'I should prefer not to discuss such matters,' said Miss de Merville
coldly. 'Let me say once for all that I am aware of three passages in
my fiance's life in which he became entangled with designing women, and
that I am assured of his hearty repentance for any evil that he may
"'Three passages!' screamed my companion. 'You fool! You unutterable
"'Mr. Holmes, I beg that you will bring this interview to an end,'
said the icy voice. 'I have obeyed my father's wish in seeing you, but
I am not compelled to listen to the ravings of this person.'
"With an oath Miss Winter darted forward, and if I had not caught her
wrist she would have clutched this maddening woman by the hair. I
dragged her towards the door and was lucky to get her back into the cab
without a public scene, for she was beside herself with rage. In a cold
way I felt pretty furious myself, Watson, for there was something
indescribably annoying in the calm aloofness and supreme
self-complaisance of the woman whom we were trying to save. So now once
again you know exactly how we stand, and it is clear that I must plan
some fresh opening move, for this gambit won't work. I'll keep in touch
with you, Watson, for it is more than likely that you will have your
part to play, though it is just possible that the next move may lie
with them rather than with us."
And it did. Their blow fell--or his blow rather, for never could I
believe that the lady was privy to it. I think I could show you the
very paving-stone upon which I stood when my eyes fell upon the
placard, and a pang of horror passed through my very soul. It was
between the Grand Hotel and Charing Cross Station, where a one-legged
news-vender displayed his evening papers. The date was just two days
after the last conversation. There, black upon yellow, was the terrible
MURDEROUS ATTACK UPON SHERLOCK HOLMES
I think I stood stunned for some moments. Then I have a confused
recollection of snatching at a paper. of the remonstrance of the man,
whom I had not paid, and, finally, of standing in the doorway of a
chemist's shop while I turned up the fateful paragraph. This was how it
We learn with regret that Mr. Sherlock Holmes, the well-known private
detective, was the victim this morning of a murderous assault which has
left him in a precarious position. There are no exact details to hand,
but the event seems to have occurred about twelve o'clock in Regent
Street, outside the Cafe Royal. The attack was made by two men armed with
sticks, and Mr. Holmes was beaten about the head and body, receiving
injuries which the doctors describe as most serious. He was carried to
Charing Cross Hospital and afterwards insisted upon being taken to his
rooms in Baker Street. The miscreants who attacked him appear to have
been respectably dressed men, who escaped from the bystanders by
passing through the Cafe Royal and out into Glasshouse Street behind it.
No doubt they belonged to that criminal fraternity which has so often had
occasion to bewail the activity and ingenuity of the injured man.
I need not say that my eyes had hardly glanced over the paragraph
before I had sprung into a hansom and was on my way to Baker Street. I
found Sir Leslie Oakshott, the famous surgeon, in the hall and his
brougham waiting at the curb.
"No immediate danger," was his report. "Two lacerated scalp wounds and
some considerable bruises. Several stitches have been necessary.
Morphine has been injected and quiet is essential, but an interview of
a few minutes would not be absolutely forbidden."
With this permission I stole into the darkened room. The sufferer was
wide awake, and I heard my name in a hoarse whisper. The blind was
three-quarters down, but one ray of sunlight slanted through and struck
the bandaged head of the injured man. A crimson patch had soaked
through the white linen compress. I sat beside him and bent my head.
"All right, Watson. Don't look so scared," he muttered in a very weak
voice. "It's not as bad as it seems."
"Thank God for that!"
"I'm a bit of a single-stick expert. as you know. I took most of them
on my guard. It was the second man that was too much for me."
"What can I do, Holmes? Of course, it was that damned fellow who set
them on. I'll go and thrash the hide off him if you give the word."
"Good old Watson! No, we can do nothing there unless the police lay
their hands on the men. But their get-away had been well prepared. We
may be sure of that. Wait a little. I have my plans. The first thing is
to exaggerate my injuries. They'll come to you for news. Put it on
thick, Watson. Lucky if I live the week out concussion delirium--what
you like! You can't overdo it."
"But Sir Leslie Oakshott?"
"Oh, he's all right. He shall see the worst side of me. I'll look after
"Yes. Tell Shinwell Johnson to get that girl out of the way. Those
beauties will be after her now. They know, of course, that she was with
me in the case. If they dared to do me in it is not likely they will
neglect her. That is urgent. Do it to-night."
"I'll go now. Anything more?"
"Put my pipe on the table--and the tobacco-slipper. Right! Come in
each morning and we will plan our campaign."
I arranged with Johnson that evening to take Miss Winter to a quiet
suburb and see that she lay low until the danger was past.
For six days the public were under the impression that Holmes was at
the door of death. The bulletins were very grave and there were
sinister paragraphs in the papers. My continual visits assured me that
it was not so bad as that. His wiry constitution and his determined
will were working wonders. He was recovering fast, and I had suspicions
at times that he was really finding himself faster than he pretended
even to me. There was a curious secretive streak in the man which led
to many dramatic effects, but left even his closest friend guessing as
to what his exact plans might be. He pushed to an extreme the axiom
that the only safe plotter was he who plotted alone. I was nearer him
than anyone else, and yet I was always conscious of the gap between.
On the seventh day the stitches were taken out, in spite of which there
was a report of erysipelas in the evening papers. The same evening
papers had an announcement which I was bound, sick or well, to carry to
my friend. It was simply that among the passengers on the Cunard boat
Ruritania, starting from Liverpool on Friday, was the Baron Adelbert
Gruner, who had some important financial business to settle in the
States before his impending wedding to Miss Violet de Merville, only
daughter of, etc., etc. Holmes listened to the news with a cold,
concentrated look upon his pale face, which told me that it hit him
"Friday!" he cried. "Only three clear days. I believe the rascal wants
to put himself out of danger's way. But he won't, Watson! By the Lord
Harry, he won't! Now, Watson, I want you to do something for me."
"I am here to be used, Holmes."
"Well, then, spend the next twenty-four hours in an intensive study of
He gave no explanations and I asked for none. By long experience I had
learned the wisdom of obedience. But when I had left his room I walked
down Baker Street, revolving in my head how on earth I was to carry out
so strange an order. Finally I drove to the London Library in St.
James's Square, put the matter to my friend Lomax, the sublibrarian,
and departed to my rooms with a goodly volume under my arm.
It is said that the barrister who crams up a case with such care that
he can examine an expert witness upon the Monday has forgotten all his
forced knowledge before the Saturday. Certainly I should not like now
to pose as an authority upon ceramics. And yet all that evening, and
all that night with a short interval for rest, and all next morning, I
was sucking in knowledge and committing names to memory. There I
learned of the hall-marks of the great artist-decorators, of the
mystery of cyclical dates, the marks of the Hung-wu and the beauties of
the Yung-lo, the writings of Tang-ying, and the glories of the
primitive period of the Sung and the Yuan. I was charged with all this
information when I called upon Holmes next evening. He was out of bed
now, though you would not have guessed it from the published reports,
and he sat with his much-bandaged head resting upon his hand in the
depth of his favourite armchair.
"Why, Holmes," I said, "if one believed the papers, you are dying."
"That," said he, "is the very impression which I intended to convey.
And now, Watson, have you learned your lessons?"
"At least I have tried to."
"Good. You could keep up an intelligent conversation on the subject?"
"I believe I could."
"Then hand me that little box from the mantelpiece."
He opened the lid and took out a small object most carefully wrapped in
some fine Eastern silk. This he unfolded, and disclosed a delicate
little saucer of the most beautiful deep-blue colour.
"It needs careful handling, Watson. This is the real egg-shell pottery
of the Ming dynasty. No finer piece ever passed through Christie's. A
complete set of this would be worth a king's ransom--in fact, it is
doubtful if there is a complete set outside the imperial palace of
Peking. The sight of this would drive a real connoisseur wild."
"What am I to do with it?"
Holmes handed me a card upon which was printed: "Dr. Hill Barton, 369
Half Moon Street."
"That is your name for the evening, Watson. You will call upon Baron
Gruner. I know something of his habits, and at half-past eight he would
probably be disengaged. A note will tell him in advance that you are
about to call, and you will say that you are bringing him a specimen of
an absolutely unique set of Ming china. You may as well be a medical
man, since that is a part which you can play without duplicity. You are
a collector this set has come your way, you have heard of the Baron's
interest in the subject, and you are not averse to selling at a price."
"Well asked, Watson. You would certainly fall down badly if you did not
know the value of your own wares. This saucer was got for me by Sir
James, and comes, I understand, from the collection of his client. You
will not exaggerate if you say that it could hardly be matched in the
"I could perhaps suggest that the set should be valued by an expert."
"Excellent, Watson! You scintillate to-day. Suggest Christie or
Sotheby. Your delicacy prevents your putting a price for yourself."
"But if he won't see me?"
"Oh, yes, he will see you. He has the collection mania in its most
acute form--and especially on this subject, on which he is an
acknowledged authority. Sit down, Watson, and I will dictate the
letter. No answer needed. You will merely say that you are coming, and
It was an admirable document, short, courteous, and stimulating to the
curiosity of the connoisseur. A district messenger was duly dispatched
with it. On the same evening, with the precious saucer in my hand and
the card of Dr. Hill Barton in my pocket, I set off on my own
The beautiful house and grounds indicated that Baron Gruner was, as Sir
James had said, a man of considerable wealth. A long winding drive,
with banks of rare shrubs on either side, opened out into a great
gravelled square adorned with statues. The place had been built by a
South African gold king in the days of the great boom, and the long,
low house with the turrets at the corners, though an architectural
nightmare, was imposing in its size and solidity. A butler, who would
have adorned a bench of bishops, showed me in and handed me over to a
plush-clad footman, who ushered me into the Baron's presence.
He was standing at the open front of a great case which stood between
the windows and which contained part of his Chinese collection. He
turned as I entered with a small brown vase in his hand.
"Pray sit down, Doctor," said he. "I was looking over my own treasures
and wondering whether I could really afford to add to them. This little
Tang specimen, which dates from the seventh century, would probably
interest you. I am sure you never saw finer workmanship or a richer
glaze. Have you the Ming saucer with you of which you spoke?"
I carefully unpacked it and handed it to him. He seated himself at his
desk, pulled over the lamp, for it was growing dark, and set himself to
examine it. As he did so the yellow light beat upon his own features,
and I was able to study them at my ease.
He was certainly a remarkably handsome man. His European reputation for
beauty was fully deserved. In figure he was not more than of middle
size, but was built upon graceful and active lines. His face was
swarthy, almost Oriental, with large, dark, languorous eyes which might
easily hold an irresistible fascination for women. His hair and
moustache were raven black, the latter short, pointed, and carefully
waxed. His features were regular and pleasing, save only his straight,
thin-lipped mouth. If ever I saw a murderer's mouth it was there--a
cruel, hard gash in the face, compressed, inexorable, and terrible. He
was ill-advised to train his moustache away from it, for it was
Nature's danger-signal, set as a warning to his victims. His voice was
engaging and his manners perfect. In age I should have put him at
little over thirty, though his record afterwards showed that he was
"Very fine--very fine indeed!" he said at last. "And you say you have
a set of six to correspond. What puzzles me is that I should not have
heard of such magnificent specimens. I only know of one in England to
match this, and it is certainly not likely to be in the market. Would
it be indiscreet if I were to ask you, Dr. Hill Barton, how you
"Does it really matter?" I asked with as careless an air as I could
"You can see that the piece is genuine, and, as to the value, I am
content to take an expert's valuation."
"Very mysterious," said he with a quick, suspicious flash of his dark
eyes. "In dealing with objects of such value, one naturally wishes to
know all about the transaction. That the piece is genuine is certain. I
have no doubts at all about that. But suppose--I am bound to take
every possibility into account--that it should prove afterwards that
you had no right to sell?"
"I would guarantee you against any claim of the son."
"That, of course, would open up the question as to what your guarantee
"My bankers would answer that."
"Quite so. And yet the whole transaction strikes me as rather unusual."
"You can do business or not," said I with indifference. "I have given
you the first offer as I understood that you were a connoisseur, but I
shall have no difficulty in other quaerers."
"Who told you I was a connoisseur?"
"I was aware that you had written a book upon the subject."
"Have you read the book?"
"Dear me, this becomes more and more difficult for me to understand!
You are a connoisseur and collector with a very valuable piece in your
collection, and yet you have never troubled to consult the one book
which would have told you of the real meaning and value of what you
held. How do you explain that?"
"I am a very busy man. I am a doctor in practice."
"That is no answer. If a man has a hobby he follows it up, whatever his
other pursuits may be. You said in your note that you were a
"So I am."
"Might I ask you a few questions to test you? I am obliged to tell you,
Doctor--if you are indeed a doctor--that the incident becomes more
and more suspicious. I would ask you what do you know of the Emperor
Shomu and how do you associate him with the Shoso-in near Nara? Dear
me, does that puzzle you? Tell me a little about the Nonhern Wei
dynasty and its place in the history of ceramics."
I sprang from my chair in simulated anger.
"This is intolerable, sir," said I. "I came here to do you a favour,
and not to be examined as if I were a schoolboy. My knowledge on these
subjects may be second only to your own, but I certainly shall not
answer questions which have been put in so offensive a way."
He looked at me steadily. The languor had gone from his eyes. They
suddenly glared. There was a gleam of teeth from between those cruel
"What is the game? You are here as a spy. You are an emissary of
Holmes. This is a trick that you are playing upon me. The fellow is
dying I hear, so he sends his tools to keep watch upon me. You've made
your way in here without leave, and, by God! you may find it harder to
get out than to get in."
He had sprung to his feet, and I stepped back, bracing myself for an
attack, for the man was beside himself with rage. He may have suspected
me from the first; certainly this cross-examination had shown him the
truth; but it was clear that I could not hope to deceive him. He dived
his hand into a side-drawer and rummaged furiously. Then something
struck upon his ear, for he stood listening intently.
"Ah!" he cried. "Ah!" and dashed into the room behind him.
Two steps took me to the open door, and my mind will ever carry a clear
picture of the scene within. The window leading out to the garden was
wide open. Beside it, looking like some terrible ghost, his head gin
with bloody bandages, his face drawn and white, stood Sherlock Holmes.
The next instant he was through the gap, and I heard the crash of his
body among the laurel bushes outside. With a howl of rage the master of
the house rushed after him to the open window.
And then! It was done in an instant, and yet I clearly saw it. An arm
--a woman's arm--shot out from among the leaves. At the same instant
the Baron uttered a horrible cry--a yell which will always ring in my
memory. He clapped his two hands to his face and rushed round the room,
beating his head horribly against the walls. Then he fell upon the
carpet, rolling and writhing, while scream after scream resounded
through the house.
"Water! For God's sake, water!" was his cry.
I seized a carafe from a side-table and rushed to his aid. At the same
moment the butler and several footmen ran in from the hall. I remember
that one of them fainted as I knelt by the injured man and turned that
awful face to the light of the lamp. The vitriol was eating into it
everywhere and dripping from the ears and the chin. One eye was already
white and glazed. The other was red and inflamed. The features which I
had admired a few minutes before were now like some beautiful painting
over which the artist has passed a wet and foul sponge. They were
blurred, discoloured, inhuman, terrible.
In a few words I explained exactly what had occurred, so far as the
vitriol attack was concerned. Some had climbed through the window and
others had rushed out on to the lawn, but it was dark and it had begun
to rain. Between his screams the victim raged and raved against the
avenger. "It was that hell-cat, Kitty Winter!" he cried. "Oh, the
she-devil! She shall pay for it! She shall pay! Oh, God in heaven, this
pain is more than I can bear!"
I bathed his face in oil, put cotton wadding on the raw surfaces, and
administered a hypodermic of morphia. All suspicion of me had passed
from his mind in the presence of this shock, and he clung to my hands
as if I might have the power even yet to clear those dead-fish eyes
which glazed up at me. I could have wept over the ruin had l not
remembered very clearly the vile life which had led up to so hideous a
change. It was loathsome to feel the pawing of his burning hands, and I
was relieved when his family surgeon, closely followed by a specialist,
came to relieve me of my charge. An inspector of police had also
arrived, and to him I handed my real card. It would have been useless
as well as foolish to do otherwise, for I was nearly as well known by
sight at the Yard as Holmes himself. Then I left that house of gloom
and terror. Within an hour I was at Baker Street.
Holmes was seated in his familiar chair, looking very pale and
exhausted. Apart from his injuries, even his iron nerves had been
shocked by the events of the evening, and he listened with horror to my
account of the Baron's transformation.
"The wages of sin, Watson--the wages of sin!" said he. "Sooner or
later it will always come. God knows, there was sin enough," he added,
taking up a brown volume from the table. "Here is the book the woman
talked of. If this will not break off the marriage, nothing ever could.
But it will, Watson. It must. No self-respecting woman could stand it."
"It is his love diary?"
"Or his lust diary. Call it what you will. The moment the woman told us
of it I realized what a tremendous weapon was there if we could but lay
our hands on it. I said nothing at the time to indicate my thoughts,
for this woman might have given it away. But I brooded over it. Then
this assault upon me gave me the chance of letting the Baron think that
no precautions need be taken against me. That was all to the good. I
would have waited a little longer, but his visit to America forced my
hand. He would never have left so compromising a document behind him.
Therefore we had to act at once. Burglary at night is impossible. He
takes precautions. But there was a chance in the evening if I could
only be sure that his attention was engaged. That was where you and
your blue saucer came in. But I had to be sure of the position of the
book, and I knew I had only a few minutes in which to act, for my time
was limited by your knowledge of Chinese pottery. Therefore I gathered
the girl up at the last moment. How could I guess what the little
packet was that she carried so carefully under her cloak? I thought she
had come altogether on my business, but it seems she had some of her
"He guessed I came from you."
"I feared he would. But you held him in play just long enough for me to
get the book, though not long enough for an unobserved escape. Ah, Sir
James, I am very glad you have come!"
Our courtly friend had appeared in answer to a previous summons. He
listened with the deepest attention to Holmes's account of what had
"You have done wonders--wonders!" he cried when he had heard the
narrative. "But if these injuries are as terrible as Dr. Watson
describes, then surely our purpose of thwarting the marriage is
sufficiently gained without the use of this horrible book."
Holmes shook his head.
"Women of the De Merville type do not act like that. She would love him
the more as a disfigured martyr. No, no. It is his moral side, not his
physical, which we have to destroy. That book will bring her back to
earth--and I know nothing else that could. It is in his own writing.
She cannot get past it."
Sir James carried away both it and the precious saucer. As I was myself
overdue, I went down with him into the street. A brougham was waiting
for him. He sprang in, gave a hurried order to the cockaded coachman,
and drove swiftly away. He flung his overcoat half out of the window to
cover the armorial bearings upon the panel, but I had seen them in the
glare of our fanlight none the less. I gasped with surprise. Then I
turned back and ascended the stair to Holmes's room.
"I have found out who our client is," I cried, bursting with my great
news. "Why, Holmes, it is--"
"It is a loyal friend and a chivalrous gentleman," said Holmes, holding
up a restraining hand. "Let that now and forever be enough for us."
I do not know how the incriminating book was used. Sir James may have
managed it. Or it is more probable that so delicate a task was
entrusted to the young lady's father. The effect, at any rate, was all
that could be desired.
Three days later appeared a paragraph in the Morning Post to say that
the marriage between Baron Adelbert Gruner and Miss Violet de Merville
would not take place. The same paper had the first police-court hearing
of the proceedings against Miss Kitty Winter on the grave charge of
vitriol-throwing. Such extenuating circumstances came out in the trial
that the sentence, as will be remembered was the lowest that was
possible for such an offence. Sherlock Holmes was threatened with a
prosecution for burglary, but when an object is good and a client is
sufficiently illustrious, even the rigid British law becomes human and
elastic. My friend has not yet stood in the dock.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE BLANCHED SOLDIER
The ideas of my friend Watson, though limited, are exceedingly
pertinacious. For a long time he has worried me to write an experience
of my own. Perhaps I have rather invited this persecution, since I have
often had occasion to point out to him how superficial are his own
accounts and to accuse him of pandering to popular taste instead of
confining himself rigidly to facts and figures. "Try it yourself,
Holmes!" he has retorted, and I am compelled to admit that, having
taken my pen in my hand, I do begin to realize that the matter must be
presented in such a way as may interest the reader. The following case
can hardly fail to do so, as it is among the strangest happenings in my
collection though it chanced that Watson had no note of it in his
collection. Speaking of my old friend and biographer, I would take this
opportunity to remark that if I burden myself with a companion in my
various little inquiries it is not done out of sentiment or caprice,
but it is that Watson has some remarkable characteristics of his own to
which in his modesty he has given small attention amid his exaggerated
estimates of my own performances. A confederate who foresees your
conclusions and course of action is always dangerous, but one to whom
each development comes as a perpetual surprise, and to whom the future
is always a closed book, is indeed an ideal helpmate.
I find from my notebook that it was in January, 1903, just after the
conclusion of the Boer War, that I had my visit from Mr. James M. Dodd,
a big, fresh, sunburned, upstanding Briton. The good Watson had at that
time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall
in our association. I was alone.
It is my habit to sit with my back to the window and to place my
visitors in the opposite chair, where the light falls full upon them.
Mr. James M. Dodd seemed somewhat at a loss how to begin the interview.
I did not attempt to help him, for his silence gave me more time for
observation. I have found it wise to impress clients with a sense of
power, and so I gave him some of my conclusions.
"From South Africa, sir, I perceive."
"Yes, sir," he answered, with some surprise.
"Imperial Yeomanry, I fancy."
"Middlesex Corps, no doubt."
"That is so. Mr. Holmes, you are a wizard."
I smiled at his bewildered expression.
"When a gentleman of virile appearance enters my room with such tan
upon his face as an English sun could never give, and with his
handkerchief in his sleeve instead of in his pocket, it is not
difficult to place him. You wear a short beard, which shows that you
were not a regular. You have the cut of a riding-man. As to Middlesex,
your card has already shown me that you are a stockbroker from
Throgmorton Street. What other regiment would you join?"
"You see everything."
"I see no more than you, but I have trained myself to notice what I
see. However, Mr. Dodd, it was not to discuss the science of
observation that you called upon me this morning. What has been
happening at Tuxbury Old Park?"
"My dear sir, there is no mystery. Your letter came with that heading,
and as you fixed this appointment in very pressing terms it was clear
that something sudden and important had occurred."
"Yes, indeed. But the letter was written in the afternoon, and a good
deal has happened since then. If Colonel Emsworth had not kicked me out
"Kicked you out!"
"Well, that was what it amounted to. He is a hard nail, is Colonel
Emsworth. The greatest martinet in the Army in his day, and it was a
day of rough language, too. I couldn't have stuck the colonel if it had
not been for Godfrey's sake."
I lit my pipe and leaned back in my chair.
"Perhaps you will explain what you are talking about."
My client grinned mischievously.
"I had got into the way of supposing that you knew everything without
being told," said he. "But I will give you the facts, and I hope to God
that you will be able to tell me what they mean. I've been awake all
night puzzling my brain, and the more I think the more incredible does
"When I joined up in January, 1901--just two years ago--young
Godfrey Emsworth had joined the same squadron. He was Colonel
Emsworth's only son--Emsworth the Crimean V. C.--and he had the
fighting blood in him, so it is no wonder he volunteered. There was not
a finer lad in the regiment. We formed a friendship--the sort of
friendship which can only be made when one lives the same life and
shares the same joys and sorrows. He was my mate--and that means a
good deal in the Army. We took the rough and the smooth together for a
year of hard fighting. Then he was hit with a bullet from an elephant
gun in the action near Diamond Hill outside-Pretoria. I got one letter
from the hospital at Cape Town and one from Southampton. Since then not
a word--not one word, Mr. Holmes, for six months and more, and he my
"Well, when the war was over, and we all got back, I wrote to his
father and asked where Godfrey was. No answer. I waited a bit and then
I wrote again. This time I had a reply, short and gruff. Godfrey had
gone on a voyage round the world, and it was not likely that he would
be back for a year. That was all.
"I wasn't satisfied, Mr. Holmes. The whole thing seemed to me so damned
unnatural. He was a good lad, and he would not drop a pal like that. It
was not like him. Then, again, I happened to know that he was heir to a
lot of money, and also that his father and he did not always hit it off
too well. The old man was sometimes a bully, and young Godfrey had too
much spirit to stand it. No, I wasn't satisfied, and I determined that
I would get to the root of the matter. It happened, however, that my
own affairs needed a lot of straightening out, after two years'
absence, and so it is only this week that I have been able to take up
Godfrey's case again. But since I have taken it up I mean to drop
everything in order to see it through."
Mr. James M. Dodd appeared to be the sort of person whom it would be
better to have as a friend than as an enemy. His blue eyes were stern
and his square jaw had set hard as he spoke.
"Well, what have you done?" I asked.
"My first move was to get down to his home, Tuxbury Old Park, near
Bedford, and to see for myself how the ground lay. I wrote to the
mother, therefore--I had had quite enough of the curmudgeon of a
father--and I made a clean frontal attack: Godfrey was my chum, I had
a great deal of interest which I might tell her of our common
experiences, I should be in the neighbourhood, would there be any
objection, et cetera? In reply I had quite an amiable answer from her
and an offer to put me up for the night. That was what took me down on
"Tuxbury Old Hall is inaccessible--five miles from anywhere. There
was no trap at the station, so I had to walk, carrying my suitcase, and
it was nearly dark before I arrived. It is a great wandering house,
standing in a considerable park. I should judge it was of all sorts of
ages and styles, starting on a half-timbered Elizabethan foundation and
ending in a Victorian portico. Inside it was all panelling and tapestry
and half-effaced old pictures, a house of shadows and mystery. There
was a butler, old Ralph, who seemed about the same age as the house,
and there was his wife, who might have been older. She had been
Godfrey's nurse, and I had heard him speak of her as second only to his
mother in his affections, so I was drawn to her in spite of her queer
appearance. The mother I liked also--a gentle little white mouse of a
woman. It was only the colonel himself whom I barred.
"We had a bit of barney right away, and I should have walked back to
the station if I had not felt that it might be playing his game for me
to do so. I was shown straight into his study, and there I found him, a
huge, bow-backed man with a smoky skin and a straggling gray beard,
seated behind his littered desk. A red-veined nose jutted out like a
vulture's beak, and two fierce gray eyes glared at me from under tufted
brows. I could understand now why Godfrey seldom spoke of his father.
"'Well, sir,' said he in a rasping voice, 'I should be interested to
know the real reasons for this visit.'
"I answered that I had explained them in my letter to his wife.
"'Yes, yes, you said that you had known Godfrey in Africa. We have, of
course, only your word for that.'
"'I have his letters to me in my pocket.'
"'Kindly let me see them.'
"He glanced at the two which I handed him, and then he tossed them
"'Well, what then?' he asked.
"'I was fond of your son Godfrey, sir. Many ties and memories united
us. Is it not natural that I should wonder at his sudden silence and
should wish to know what has become of him?'
"'I have some recollections, sir, that I had already corresponded with
you and had told you what had become of him. He has gone upon a voyage
round the world. His health was in a poor way after his African
experiences, and both his mother and I were of opinion that camplete
rest and change were needed. Kindly pass that explanation on to any
other friends who may be interested in the matter.'
"'Certainly,' I answered. 'But perhaps you would have the goodness to
let me have the name of the steamer and of the line by which he sailed,
together with the date. I have no doubt that I should be able to get a
letter through to him.'
"My request seemed both to puzzle and to irritate my host. His great
eyebrows came down over his eyes, and he tapped his fingers impatiently
on the table. He looked up at last with the expression of one who has
seen his adversary make a dangerous move at chess, and has decided how
to meet it.
"'Many people, Mr. Dodd,' said he, 'would take offence at your
infernal pertinacity and would think that this insistence had reached
the point of damned impertinence.'
"'You must put it down, sir, to my real love for your son.'
"'Exactly. I have already made every allowance upon that score. I must
ask you, however, to drop these inquiries. Every family has its own
inner knowledge and its own motives, which cannot always be made clear
to outsiders, however well-intentioned. My wife is anxious to hear
something of Godfrey's past which you are in a position to tell her,
but I would ask you to let the present and the future alone. Such
inquiries serve no useful purpose, sir, and place us in a delicate and
"So I came to a dead end, Mr. Holmes. There was no getting past it. I
could only pretend to accept the situation and register a vow inwardly
that I would never rest until my friend's fate had been cleared up. It
was a dull evening. We dined quietly, the three of us, in a gloomy,
faded old room. The lady questioned me eagerly about her son, but the
old man seemed morose and depressed. I was so bored by the whole
proceeding that I made an excuse as soon as I decently could and
retired to my bedroom. It was a large, bare room on the ground floor,
as gloomy as the rest of the house, but after a year of sleeping upon
the veldt, Mr. Holmes, one is not too particular about one's quarters.
I opened the curtains and looked out into the garden, remarking that it
was a fine night with a bright half-moon. Then I sat down by the
roaring fire with the lamp on a table beside me, and endeavoured to
distract my mind with a novel. I was interrupted, however, by Ralph,
the old butler, who came in with a fresh supply of coals.
"'I thought you might run short in the night-time, sir. It is bitter
weather and these rooms are cold.'
"He hesitated before leaving the room, and when I looked round he was
standing facing me with a wistful look upon his wrinkled face.
"'Beg your pardon, sir, but I could not help hearing what you said of
young Master Godfrey at dinner. You know, sir, that my wife nursed him,
and so I may say I am his foster-father. It's natural we should take an
interest. And you say he carried himself well, sir?'
"'There was no braver man in the regiment. He pulled me out once from
under the rifles of the Boers, or maybe I should not be here.'
"The old butler rubbed his skinny hands.
"'Yes, sir, yes, that is Master Godfrey all over. He was always
courageous. There's not a tree in the park, sir, that he has not
climbed. Nothing would stop him. He was a fine boy--and oh, sir, he
was a fine man.'
"I sprang to my feet.
"'Look here!' I cried. 'You say he was. You speak as if he were dead.
What is all this mystery? What has become of Godfrey Emsworth?'
"I gripped the old man by the shoulder, but he shrank away.
"'I don't know what you mean, sir. Ask the master about Master
Godfrey. He knows. It is not for me to interfere.'
"He was leaving the room, but I held his arm
"'Listen,' I said. 'You are going to answer one question before you
leave if I have to hold you all night. Is Godfrey dead?"
"He could not face my eyes. He was like a man hypnotized The answer was
dragged from his lips. It was a terrible and unexpected one.
"'I wish to God he was!' he cried, and, tearing himself free he dashed
from the room.
"You will think, Mr. Holmes, that I returned to my chair in no very
happy state of mind. The old man's words seemed to me to bear only one
interpretation. Clearly my poor friend had become involved in some
criminal or, at the least, disreputable transaction which touched the
family honour. That stern old man had sent his son away and hidden him
from the world lest some scandal should come to light. Godfrey was a
reckless fellow. He was easily influenced by those around him. No doubt
he had fallen into bad hands and been misled to his ruin. It was a
piteous business, if it was indeed so, but even now it was my duty to
hunt him out and see if I could aid him. I was anxiously pondering the
matter when I looked up, and there was Godfrey Emsworth standing before
My client had paused as one in deep emotion.
"Pray continue," I said. "Your problem presents some very unusual
"He was outside the window, Mr. Holmes, with his face pressed against
the glass. I have told you that I looked out at the night. When I did
so I left the curtains partly open. His figure was framed in this gap.
The window came down to the ground and I could see the whole length of
it, but it was his face which held my gaze. He was deadly pale--never
have I seen a man so white. I reckon ghosts may look like that; but his
eyes met mine, and they were the eyes of a living man. He sprang back
when he saw that I was looking at him, and he vanished into the
"There was something shocking about the man, Mr. Holmes. It wasn't
merely that ghastly face glimmering as white as cheese in the darkness.
It was more subtle than that--something slinking, something furtive,
something guilty--something very unlike the frank, manly lad that I
had known. It left a feeling of horror in my mind.
"But when a man has been soldiering for a year or two with brother Boer
as a playmate, he keeps his nerve and acts quickly. Godfrey had hardly
vanished before I was at the window. There was an awkward catch, and I
was some little time before I could throw it up. Then I nipped through
and ran down the garden path in the direction that I thought he might
"It was a long path and the light was not very good, but it seemed to
me something was moving ahead of me. I ran on and called his name, but
it was no use. When I got to the end of the path there were several
others branching in different directions to various outhouses. I stood
hesitating, and as I did so I heard distinctly the sound of a closing
door. It was not behind me in the house, but ahead of me, somewhere in
the darkness. That was enough, Mr. Holmes, to assure me that what I had
seen was not a vision. Godfrey had run away from me, and he had shut a
door behind him. Of that I was certain.
"There was nothing more I could do, and I spent an uneasy night turning
the matter over in my mind and trying to find some theory which would
cover the facts. Next day I found the colonel rather more conciliatory,
and as his wife remarked that there were some places of interest in the
neighbourhood, it gave me an opening to ask whether my presence for one
more night would incommode them. A somewhat grudging acquiescence from
the old man gave me a clear day in which to make my observations. I was
already perfectly convinced that Godfrey was in hiding somewhere near,
but where and why remained to be solved.
"The house was so large and so rambling that a regiment might be hid
away in it and no one the wiser. If the secret lay there it was
difficult for me to penetrate it. But the door which I had heard close
was certainly not in the house. I must explore the garden and see what
I could find. There was no difficulty in the way, for the old people
were busy in their own fashion and left me to my own devices.
"There were several small outhouses, but at the end of the garden there
was a detached building of some size--large enough for a gardener's
or a gamekeeper's residence. Could this be the place whence the sound
of that shutting door had come? I approached it in a careless fashion
as though I were strolling aimlessly round the grounds. As I did so, a
small, brisk, bearded man in a black coat and bowler hat--not at all
the gardener type--came out of the door. To my surprise, he locked it
after him and put the key in his pocket. Then he looked at me with some
surprise on his face.
"'Are you a visitor here?' he asked.
"I explained that I was and that I was a friend of Godfrey's.
"'What a pity that he should be away on his travels, for he would have
so liked to see me,' I continued.
"'Quite so. Exactly,' said he with a rather guilty air. 'No doubt you
will renew your visit at some more propitious time.' He passed on, but
when I turned I observed that he was standing watching me,
half-concealed by the laurels at the far end of the garden.
"I had a good look at the little house as I passed it, but the windows
were heavily curtained, and, so far as one could see, it was empty. I
might spoil my own game and even be ordered off the premises if I were
too audacious, for I was still conscious that I was being watched.
Therefore, I strolled back to the house and waited for night before I
went on with my inquiry. When all was dark and quiet I slipped out of
my window and made my way as silently as possible to the mysterious
"I have said that it was heavily curtained, but now I found that the
windows were shuttered as well. Some light, however, was breaking
through one of them, so I concentrated my attention upon this. I was in
luck, for the curtain had not been quite closed, and there was a crack
in the shutter, so that I could see the inside of the room. It was a
cheery place enough, a bright lamp and a blazing fire. Opposite to me
was seated the little man whom I had seen in the morning. He was
smoking a pipe and reading a paper."
"What paper?" I asked.
My client seemed annoyed at the interruption of his narrative.
"Can it matter?" he asked.
"It is most essential."
"I really took no notice."
"Possibly you observed whether it was a broad-leafed paper or of that
smaller type which one associates with weeklies."
"Now that you mention it, it was not large. It might have been the
Spectator. However, I had little thought to spare upon such details,
for a second man was seated with his back to the window, and I could
swear that this second man was Godfrey. I could not see his face, but I
knew the familiar slope of his shoulders. He was leaning upon his elbow
in an attitude of great melancholy, his body turned towards the fire. I
was hesitating as to what I should do when there was a sharp tap on my
shoulder, and there was Colonel Emsworth beside me.
"'This way, sir!' said he in a low voice. He walked in silence to the
house, and I followed him into my own bedroom. He had picked up a
time-table in the hall.
" There is a train to London at 8:30,' said he. 'The trap will be at
the door at eight.'
"He was white with rage, and, indeed, I felt myself in so difficult a
position that I could only stammer out a few incoherent apologies in
which I tried to excuse myself by urging my anxiety for my friend.
"'The matter will not bear discussion,' said he abruptly. 'You have
made a most damnable intrusion into the privacy of our family. You were
here as a guest and you have become a spy. I have nothing more to say,
sir, save that I have no wish ever to see you again.'
"At this I lost my temper, Mr. Holmes, and I spoke with some warmth.
"'I have seen your son, and I am convinced that for some reason of
your own you are concealing him from the world. I have no idea what
your motives are in cutting him off in this fashion, but I am sure that
he is no longer a free agent. I warn you, Colonel Emsworth, that until
I am assured as to the safety and well-being of my friend I shall never
desist in my efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery, and I shall
certainly not allow myself to be intimidated by anything which you may
say or do.'
"The old fellow looked diabolical, and I really thought he was about to
attack me. I have said that he was a gaunt, fierce old giant, and
though I am no weakling I might have been hard put to it to hold my own
against him. However, after a long glare of rage he turned upon his
heel and walked out of the room. For my part, I took the appointed
train in the morning, with the full intention of coming straight to you
and asking for your advice and assistance at the appointment for which
I had already written."
Such was the problem which my visitor laid before me. It presented, as
the astute reader will have already perceived, few difficulties in its
solution, for a very limited choice of alternatives must get to the
root of the matter. Still, elementary as it was, there were points of
interest and novelty about it which may excuse my placing it upon
record. I now proceeded, using my familiar method of logical analysis,
to narrow down the possible solutions.
"The servants," I asked; "how many were in the house?"
"To the best of my belief there were only the old butler and his wife.
They seemed to live in the simplest fashion."
"There was no servant, then, in the detached house?"
"None, unless the little man with the beard acted as such. He seemed,
however, to be quite a superior person."
"That seems very suggestive. Had you any indication that food was
conveyed from the one house to the other?"
"Now that you mention it, I did see old Ralph carrying a basket down
the garden walk and going in the direction of this house. The idea of
food did not occur to me at the moment."
"Did you make any local inquiries?"
"Yes, I did. I spoke to the station-master and also to the innkeeper in
the village. I simply asked if they knew anything of my old comrade,
Godfrey Emsworth. Both of them assured me that he had gone for a voyage
round the world. He had come home and then had almost at once started
off again. The story was evidently universally accepted."
"You said nothing of your suspicions?"
"That was very wise. The matter should certainly be inquired into. I
will go back with you to Tuxbury Old Park."
It happened that at the moment I was clearing up the case which my
friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the
Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved. I had also a commission
from the Sultan of Turkey which called for immediate action, as
political consequences of the gravest kind might arise from its
neglect. Therefore it was not until the beginning of the next week, as
my diary records, that I was able to start forth on my mission to
Bedfordshire in company with Mr. James M. Dodd. As we drove to Eustonn
we picked up a grave and tacitum gentleman of iron-gray aspect, with
whom I had made the necessary arrangements.
"This is an old friend," said I to Dodd. "It is possible that his
presence may be entirely unnecessary, and, on the other hand, it may be
essential. It is not necessary at the present stage to go further into
The narratives of Watson have accustomed the reader, no doubt, to the
fact that I do not waste words or disclose my thoughts while a case is
actually under consideration. Dodd seemed surprised, but nothing more
was said, and the three of us continued our journey together. In the
train I asked Dodd one more question which I wished our companion to
"You say that you saw your friend's face quite clearly at the window,
so clearly that you are sure of his identity?"
"I have no doubt about it whatever. His nose was pressed against the
glass. The lamplight shone full upon him."
"It could not have been someone resembling him?"
"No, no, it was he."
"But you say he was changed?"
"Only in colour. His face was--how shall I describe it?--it was of
a fish-belly whiteness. It was bleached."
"Was it equally pale all over?"
"I think not. It was his brow which I saw so clearly as it was pressed
against the window."
"Did you call to him?"
"I was too startled and horrified for the moment. Then I pursued him,
as I have told you, but without result."
My case was practically complete, and there was only one small incident
needed to round it off. When, after a considerable drive, we arrived at
the strange old rambling house which my client had described, it was
Ralph, the elderly butler, who opened the door. I had requisitioned the
carriage for the day and had asked my elderly friend to remain within
it unless we should summon him. Ralph, a little wrinkled old fellow,
was in the conventional costume of black coat and pepper-and-salt
trousers, with only one curious variant. He wore brown leather gloves,
which at sight of us he instantly shuffled off, laying them down on the
hall-table as we passed in. I have, as my friend Watson may have
remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses, and a faint but incisive
scent was apparent. It seemed to centre on the hall table. I turned,
placed my hat there, knocked it off, stooped to pick it up, and
contrived to bring my nose within a foot of the gloves. Yes, it was
undoubtedly from them that the curious tarry odour was oozing. I passed
on into the study with my case complete. Alas, that I should have to
show my hand so when I tell my own story! It was by concealing such
links in the chain that Watson was enabled to produce his meretricious
Colonel Emsworth was not in his room, but he came quickly enough on
receipt of Ralph's message. We heard his quick, heavy step in the
passage. The door was flung open and he rushed in with bristling beard
and twisted features, as terrible an old man as ever I have seen. He
held our cards in his hand, and he tore them up and stamped on the
"Have I not told you, you infernal busybody, that you are warned off
the premises? Never dare to show your damned face here again. If you
enter again without my leave I shall be within my rights if I use
violence. I'll shoot you, sir! By God, I will! As to you, sir," turning
upon me, "I extend the same warning to you. I am familiar with your
ignoble profession, but you must take your reputed talents to some
other field. There is no opening for them here."
"I cannot leave here," said my client firmly, "until I hear from
Godfrey's own lips that he is under no restraint."
Our involuntary host rang the bell.
"Ralph," he said, "telephone down to the county police and ask the
inspector to send up two constables. Tell him there are burglars in the
"One moment," said I. "You must be aware, Mr. Dodd, that Colonel
Emsworth is within his rights and that we have no legal status within
his house. On the other hand, he should recognize that your action is
prompted entirely by solicitude for his son. I venture to hope that if
I were allowed to have five minutes conversation with Colonel Emsworth
I could certainly alter his view of the matter."
"I am not so easily altered," said the old soldier. "Ralph, do what I
have told you. What the devil are you waiting for? Ring up the police!"
"Nothing of the sort," I said, putting my back to the door. "Any police
interference would bring about the very catastrophe which you dread." I
took out my notebook and scribbled one word upon a loose sheet. "That,"
said I as I handed it to Colonel Emsworth, "is what has brought us
He stared at the writing with a face from which every expression save
amazement had vanished.
"How do you know?" he gasped, sitting down heavily in his chair.
"It is my business to know things. That is my trade."
He sat in deep thought, his gaunt hand tugging at his straggling beard.
Then he made a gesture of resignation.
"Well, if you wish to see Godfrey, you shall. It is no doing of mine,
but you have forced my hand. Ralph, tell Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Kent that
in five minutes we shall be with them."
At the end of that time we passed down the garden path and found
ourselves in front of the mystery house at the end. A small bearded man
stood at the door with a look of considerable astonishment upon his
"This is very sudden, Colonel Emsworth," said he. "This will disarrange
all our plans."
"I can't help it, Mr. Kent. Our hands have been forced. Can Mr. Godfrey
"Yes, he is waiting inside." He turned and led us into a large plainly
furnished front room. A man was standing with his back to the fire, and
at the sight of him my client sprang forward with outstretched hand.
"Why, Godfrey, old man, this is fine!"
But the other waved him back.
"Don't touch me, Jimmie. Keep your distance. Yes, you may well stare! I
don't quite look the smart Lance-Corporal Emsworth, of B Squadron, do
His appearance was certainly extraordinary. One could see that he had
indeed been a handsome man with clear-cut features sunburned by an
African sun, but mottled in patches over this darker surface were
curious whitish patches which had bleached his skin.
"That's why I don't court visitors," said he. "I don't mind you,
Jimmie, but I could have done without your friend. I suppose there is
some good reason for it, but you have me at a disadvantage."
"I wanted to be sure that all was well with you, Godfrey. I saw you
that night when you looked into my window, and I could not let the
matter rest till I had cleared things up."
"Old Ralph told me you were there, and I couldn't help taking a peep at
you. I hoped you would not have seen me, and I had to run to my burrow
when I heard the window go up."
"But what in heaven's name is the matter?"
"Well, it's not a long story to tell," said he, lighting a cigarette.
"You remember that morning fight at Buffelsspruit, outside Pretoria, on
the Eastern railway line? You heard I was hit?"
"Yes, I heard that but I never got particulars."
"Three of us got separated from the others. It was very broken country,
you may remember. There was Simpson--the fellow we called Baldy
Simpson--and Anderson, and I. We were clearing brother Boer, but he
lay low and got the three of us. The other two were killed. I got an
elephant bullet through my shoulder. I stuck on to my horse, however,
and he galloped several miles before I fainted and rolled off the
"When I came to myself it was nightfall, and I raised myself up,
feeling very weak and ill. To my surprise there was a house close
beside me, a fairly large house with a broad stoep and many windows. It
was deadly cold. You remember the kind of numb cold which used to come
at evening, a deadly, sickening sort of cold, very different from a
crisp healthy frost. Well, I was chilled to the bone, and my only hope
seemed to lie in reaching that house. I staggered to my feet and
dragged myself along, hardly conscious of what I did. I have a dim
memory of slowly ascending the steps, entering a wide-opened door,
passing into a large room which contained several beds, and throwing
myself down with a gasp of satisfaction upon one of them. It was
unmade, but that troubled me not at all. I drew the clothes over my
shivering body and in a moment I was in a deep sleep.
"It was morning when I wakened, and it seemed to me that instead of
coming out into a world of sanity I had emerged into some extraordinary
nightmare. The African sun flooded through the big, curtainless
windows, and every detail of the great, bare, whitewashed dormitory
stood out hard and clear. In front of me was standing a small,
dwarf-like man with a huge, bulbous head, who was jabbering excitedly
in Dutch, waving two horrible hands which looked to me like brown
sponges. Behind him stood a group of people who seemed to be intensely
amused by the situation, but a chill came over me as I looked at them.
Not one of them was a normal human being. Every one was twisted or
swollen or disfigured in some strange way. The laughter of these
strange monstrosities was a dreadful thing to hear.
"It seemed that none of them could speak English, but the situation
wanted clearing up, for the creature with the big head was growing
furiously angry, and, uttering wild-beast cries, he had laid his
deformed hands upon me and was dragging me out of bed, regardless of
the fresh flow of blood from my wound. The little monster was as strong
as a bull, and I don't know what he might have done to me had not an
elderly man who was clearly in authority been attracted to the room by
the hubbub; He said a few stern words in Dutch, and my persecutor
shrank away. Then he turned upon me, gazing at me in the utmost
"'How in the world did you come here?' he asked in amazement. 'Wait a
bit! I see that you are tired out and that wounded shoulder of yours
wants looking after. I am a doctor, and I'll soon have you tied up.
But, man alive! you are in far greater danger here than ever you were
on the battlefield. You are in the Leper Hospital, and you have slept
in a leper's bed.'
"Need I tell you more, Jimmie? It seems that in view of the approaching
battle all these poor creatures had been evacuated the day before.
Then, as the British advanced, they had been brought back by this,
their medical superintendent, who assured me that, though he believed
he was immune to the disease, he would none the less never have dared
to do what I had done. He put me in a private room, treated me kindly,
and within a week or so I was removed to the general hospital at
"So there you have my tragedy. I hoped against hope, but it was not
until I had reached home that the terrible signs which you see upon my
face told me that I had not escaped. What was I to do? I was in this
lonely house. We had two servants whom we could utterly trust. There
was a house where I could live. Under pledge of secrecy, Mr. Kent, who
is a surgeon, was prepared to stay with me. It seemed simple enough on
those lines. The alternative was a dreadful one--segregation for life
among strangers with never a hope of release. But absolute secrecy was
necessary, or even in this quiet countryside there would have been an
outcry, and I should have been dragged to my horrible doom. Even you,
Jimmie--even you had to be kept in the dark. Why my father has
relented I cannot imagine."
Colonel Emsworth pointed to me.
"This is the gentleman who forced my hand." He unfolded the scrap of
paper on which I had written the word "Leprosy." "It seemed to me that
if he knew so much as that it was safer that he should know all."
"And so it was," said I. "Who knows but good may come of it? I
understand that only Mr. Kent has seen the patient. May I ask, sir, if
you are an authority on such complaints, which are, I understand,
tropical or semi-tropical in their nature?"
"I have the ordinary knowledge of the educated medical man," he
observed with some stiffness.
"I have no doubt, sir, that you are fully competent, but I am sure that
you will agree that in such a case a second opinion is valuable. You
have avoided this, I understand, for fear that pressure should be put
upon you to segregate the patient."
"That is so," said Colonel Emsworth.
"I foresaw this situation," I explained, "and I have brought with me a
friend whose discretion may absolutely be trusted. I was able once to
do him a professional service, and he is ready to advise as a friend
rather than as a specialist. His name is Sir James Saunders."
The prospect of an interview with Lord Roberts would not have excited
greater wonder and pleasure in a raw subaltern than was now reflected
upon the face of Mr. Kent.
"I shall indeed be proud," he murmured.
"Then I will ask Sir James to step this way. He is at present in the
carriage outside the door. Meanwhile, Colonel Emsworth, we may perhaps
assemble in your study, where I could give the necessary explanations."
And here it is that I miss my Watson. By cunning questions and
ejaculations of wonder he could elevate my simple art, which is but
systematized common sense, into a prodigy. When I tell my own story I
have no such aid. And yet I will give my process of thought even as I
gave it to my small audience, which included Godfrey's mother in the
study of Colonel Emsworth.
"That process," said I, "starts upon the supposition that when you have
eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however
improbable, must be the truth. It may well be that several explanations
remain, in which case one tries test after test until one or other of
them has a convincing amount of support. We will now apply this
principle to the case in point. As it was first presented to me, there
were three possible explanations of the seclusion or incarceration of
this gentleman in an outhouse of his father's mansion. There was the
explanation that he was in hiding for a crime, or that he was mad and
that they wished to avoid an asylum, or that he had some disease which
caused his segregation. I could think of no other adequate solutions.
These, then, had to be sifted and balanced against each other.
"The criminal solution would not bear inspection. No unsolved crime had
been reported from that district. I was sure of that. If it were some
crime not yet discovered, then clearly it would be to the interest of
the family to get rid of the delinquent and send him abroad rather than
keep him concealed at home. I could see no explanation for such a line
"Insanity was more plausible. The presence of the second person in the
outhouse suggested a keeper. The fact that he locked the door when he
came out strengthened the supposition and gave the idea of constraint.
On the other hand, this constraint could not be severe or the young man
could not have got loose and come down to have a look at his friend.
You will remember, Mr. Dodd, that I felt round for points, asking you,
for example, about the paper which Mr. Kent was reading. Had it been
the Lancet or the British Medical Journal it would have helped me. It
is not illegal, however, to keep a lunatic upon private premises so
long as there is a qualified person in attendance and that the
authorities have been duly notified. Why, then, all this desperate
desire for secrecy? Once again I could not get the theory to fit the
"There remained the third possibility, into which, rare and unlikely as
it was, everything seemed to fit. Leprosy is not uncommon in South
Africa. By some extraordinary chance this youth might have contracted
it. His people would be placed in a very dreadful position, since they
would desire to save him from segregation. Great secrecy would be
needed to prevent rumours from getting about and subsequent
interference by the authorities. A devoted medical man, if sufficiently
paid, would easily be found to take charge of the sufferer. There would
be no reason why the latter should not be allowed freedom after dark.
Bleaching of the skin is a common result of the disease. The case was a
strong one--so strong that I determined to act as if it were actually
proved. When on arriving here I noticed that Ralph, who carries out the
meals, had gloves which are impregnated with disinfectants, my last
doubts were removed. A single word showed you, sir, that your secret
was discovered, and if I wrote rather than said it, it was to prove to
you that my discretion was to be trusted."
I was finishing this little analysis of the case when the door was
opened and the austere figure of the great dermatologist was ushered
in. But for once his sphinx-like features had relaxed and there was a
warm humanity in his eyes. He strode up to Colonel Emsworth and shook
him by the hand.
"It is often my lot to bring ill-tidings and seldom good," said he.
"This occasion is the more welcome. It is not leprosy."
"A well-marked case of pseudo-leprosy or ichthyosis, a scalelike
affection of the skin, unsightly, obstinate, but possibly curable, and
certainly noninfective. Yes, Mr. Holmes, the coincidence is a
remarkable one. But is it coincidence? Are there not subtle forces at
work of which we know little? Are we assured that the apprehension from
which this young man has no doubt suffered terribly since his exposure
to its contagion may not produce a physical effect which simulates that
which it fears? At any rate, I pledge my professional reputation--But
the lady has fainted! I think that Mr. Kent had better be with her
until she recovers from this joyous shock."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE MAZARIN STONE
It was pleasant to Dr. Watson to find himself once more in the untidy
room of the first floor in Baker Street which had been the
starting-point of so many remarkable adventures. He looked round him at
the scientific charts upon the wall, the acid-charred bench of
chemicals, the violin-case leaning in the corner, the coal-scuttle,
which contained of old the pipes and tobacco. Finally, his eyes came
round to the fresh and smiling face of Billy, the young but very wise
and tactful page, who had helped a little to fill up the gap of
loneliness and isolation which surrounded the saturnine figure of the
"It all seems very unchanged, Billy. You don't change, either. I hope
the same can be said of him?"
Billy glanced with some solicitude at the closed door of the bedroom.
"I think he's in bed and asleep," he said.
It was seven in the evening of a lovely summer's day, but Dr. Watson
was sufficiently familiar with the irregularity of his old friend's
hours to feel no surprise at the idea.
"That means a case, I suppose?"
"Yes, sir, he is very hard at it just now. I'm frightened for his
health. He gets paler and thinner, and he eats nothing. 'When will you
be pleased to dine, Mr. Holmes?' Mrs. Hudson asked. 'Seven-thirty, the
day after to-morrow,' said he. You know his way when he is keen on a
"Yes, Billy, I know."
"He's following someone. Yesterday he was out as a workman looking for
a job. To-day he was an old woman. Fairly took me in, he did, and I
ought to know his ways by now." Billy pointed with a grin to a very
baggy parasol which leaned against the sofa. "That's part of the old
woman's outfit," he said.
"But what is it all about, Billy?"
Billy sank his voice, as one who discusses great secrets of State. "I
don't mind telling you, sir, but it should go no farther. It's this
case of the Crown diamond."
"What--the hundred-thousand-pound burglary?"
"Yes, sir. They must get it back, sir. Why, we had the Prime Minister
and the Home Secretary both sitting on that very sofa. Mr. Holmes was
very nice to them. He soon put them at their ease and promised he would
do all he could. Then there is Lord Cantlemere--"
"Yes, sir, you know what that means. He's a stiff'un, sir, if I may say
so. I can get along with the Prime Minister, and I've nothing against
the Home Secretary, who seemed a civil, obliging sort of man, but I
can't stand his Lordship. Neither can Mr. Holmes, sir. You see, he
don't believe in Mr. Holmes and he was against employing him. He'd
rather he failed."
"And Mr. Holmes knows it?"
"Mr. Holmes always knows whatever there is to know."
"Well, we'll hope he won't fail and that Lord Cantlemere will be
confounded. But I say, Billy, what is that curtain for across the
"Mr. Holmes had it put up there three days ago. We've got something
funny behind it."
Billy advanced and drew away the drapery which screened the alcove of
the bow window.
Dr. Watson could not restrain a cry of amazement. There was a facsimile
of his old friend, dressing-gown and all, the face turned
three-quarters towards the window and downward, as though reading an
invisible book, while the body was sunk deep in an armchair. Billy
detached the head and held it in the air.
"We put it at different angles, so that it may seem more lifelike. I
wouldn't dare touch it if the blind were not down. But when it's up you
can see this from across the way."
"We used something of the sort once before."
"Before my time," said Billy. He drew the window curtains apart and
looked out into the street. "There are folk who watch us from over
yonder. I can see a fellow now at the window. Have a look for
Watson had taken a step forward when the bedroom door opened, and the
long, thin form of Holmes emerged, his face pale and drawn, but his
step and bearing as active as ever. With a single spring he was at the
window, and had drawn the blind once more.
"That will do, Billy," said he. "You were in danger of your life then,
my boy, and I can't do without you just yet. Well, Watson, it is good
to see you in your old quarters once again. You come at a critical
"So I gather."
"You can go, Billy. That boy is a problem, Watson. How far am I
justified in allowing him to be in danger?"
"Danger of what, Holmes?"
"Of sudden death. I'm expecting something this evening."
"To be murdered, Watson."
"No, no, you are joking, Holmes!"
"Even my limited sense of humour could evolve a better joke than that.
But we may be comfortable in the meantime, may we not? Is alcohol
permitted? The gasogene and cigars are in the old place. Let me see you
once more in the customary armchair. You have not, I hope, learned to
despise my pipe and my lamentable tobacco? It has to take the place of
food these days."
"But why not eat?"
"Because the faculties become refined when you starve them. Why,
surely, as a doctor, my dear Watson, you must admit that what your
digestion gains in the way of blood supply is so much lost to the
brain. I am a brain, Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix.
Therefore, it is the brain I must consider."
"But this danger, Holmes?"
"Ah. yes, in case it should come off, it would perhaps be as well that
you should burden your memory with the name and address of the
murderer. You can give it to Scotland Yard, with my love and a parting
blessing. Sylvius is the name--Count Negretto Sylvius. Write it down,
man, write it down! 136 Moorside Gardens, N. W. Got it?"
Watson's honest face was twitching with anxiety. He knew only too well
the immense risks taken by Holmes and was well aware that what he said
was more likely to be under-statement than exaggeration. Watson was
always the man of action, and he rose to the occasion.
"Count me in, Holmes. I have nothing to do for a day or two."
"Your morals don't improve, Watson. You have added fibbing to your
other vices. You bear every sign of the busy medical man, with calls on
him every hour."
"Not such important ones. But can't you have this fellow arrested?"
"Yes, Watson, I could. That's what worries him so."
"But why don't you?"
"Because I don't know where the diamond is."
"Ah! Billy told me--the missing Crown jewel!"
"Yes, the great yellow Mazarin stone. I've cast my net and I have my
fish. But I have not got the stone. What is the use of taking them? We
can make the world a better place by laying them by the heels. But that
is not what I am out for. It's the stone I want."
"And is this Count Sylvius one of your fish?"
"Yes, and he's a shark. He bites. The other is Sam Merton the boxer.
Not a bad fellow, Sam, but the Count has used him. Sam's not a shark.
He is a great big silly bull-headed gudgeon. But he is flopping about
in my net all the same."
"Where is this Count Sylvius?"
"I've been at his very elbow all the morning. You've seen me as an old
lady, Watson. I was never more convincing. He actually picked up my
parasol for me once. 'By your leave, madame,' said he--half-ltalian,
you know, and with the Southern graces of manner when in the mood, but
a devil incarnate in the other mood. Life is full of whimsical
"It might have been tragedy."
"Well, perhaps it might. I followed him to old Straubenzee's workshop
in the Minories. Straubenzee made the air-gun--a very pretty bit of
work, as I understand, and I rather fancy it is in the opposite window
at the present moment. Have you seen the dummy? Of course, Billy showed
it to you. Well, it may get a bullet through its beautiful head at any
moment. Ah, Billy, what is it?"
The boy had reappeared in the room with a card upon a tray. Holmes
glanced at it with raised eyebrows and an amused smile.
"The man himself. I had hardly expected this. Grasp the nettle, Watson!
A man of nerve. Possibly you have heard of his reputation as a shooter
of big game. It would indeed be a triumphant ending to his excellent
sporting record if he added me to his bag. This is a proof that he
feels my toe very close behind his heel."
"Send for the police."
"I probably shall. But not just yet. Would you glance carefully out of
the window, Watson, and see if anyone is hanging about in the street?"
Watson looked warily round the edge of the curtain.
"Yes, there is one rough fellow near the door."
"That will be Sam Merton--the faithful but rather fatuous Sam. Where
is this gentleman, Billy?"
"In the waiting-room, sir."
"Show him up when I ring."
"If I am not in the room, show him in all the same."
Watson waited until the door was closed, and then he turned earnestly
to his companion.
"Look here, Holmes, this is simply impossible. This is a desperate man,
who sticks at nothing. He may have come to murder you."
"I should not be surprised."
"I insist upon staying with you."
"You would be horribly in the way."
"In his way?"
"No, my dear fellow--in my way."
"Well, I can't possibly leave you."
"Yes, you can, Watson. And you will, for you have never failed to play
the game. I am sure you will play it to the end. This man has come for
his own purpose, but he may stay for mine."
Holmes took out his notebook and scribbled a few lines. "Take a cab to
Scotland Yard and give this to Youghal of the C. I. D. Come back with
the police. The fellow's arrest will follow."
"I'll do that with joy.
"Before you return I may have just time enough to find out where the
stone is." He touched the bell. "I think we will go out through the
bedroom. This second exit is exceedingly useful. I rather want to see
my shark without his seeing me, and I have, as you will remember, my
own way of doing it."
It was, therefore, an empty room into which Billy, a minute later,
ushered Count Sylvius. The famous game-shot, sportsman, and
man-about-town was a big, swarthy fellow, with a formidable dark
moustache shading a cruel, thin-lipped mouth, and surmounted by a long,
curved nose like the beak of an eagle. He was well dressed, but his
brilliant necktie, shining pin, and glittering rings were flamboyant in
their effect. As the door closed behind him he looked round him with
fierce, startled eyes, like one who suspects a trap at every turn. Then
he gave a violent start as he saw the impassive head and the collar of
the dressing-gown which projected above the armchair in the window. At
first his expression was one of pure amazement. Then the light of a
horrible hope gleamed in his dark, murderous eyes. He took one more
glance round to see that there were no witnesses, and then, on tiptoe,
his thick stick half raised, he approached the silent figure. He was
crouching for his final spring and blow when a cool, sardonic voice
greeted him from the open bedroom door:
"Don't break it, Count! Don't break it!"
The assassin staggered back, amazement in his convulsed face. For an
instant he half raised his loaded cane once more, as if he would turn
his violence from the effigy to the original; but there was something
in that steady gray eye and mocking smile which caused his hand to sink
to his side.
"It's a pretty little thing," said Holmes, advancing towards the image.
"Tavernier, the French modeller, made it. He is as good at waxworks as
your friend Straubenzee is at air-guns."
"Air-guns, sir! What do you mean?"
"Put your hat and stick on the side-table. Thank you! Pray take a seat.
Would you care to put your revolver out also? Oh, very good, if you
prefer to sit upon it. Your visit is really most opportune, for I
wanted badly to have a few minutes' chat with you."
The Count scowled, with heavy, threatening eyebrows.
"I, too, wished to have some words with you, Holmes. That is why I am
here. I won't deny that I intended to assault you just now."
Holmes swung his leg on the edge of the table.
"I rather gathered that you had some idea of the sort in your head,"
said he. "But why these personal attentions?"
"Because you have gone out of your way to annoy me. Because you have
put your creatures upon my track."
"My creatures! I assure you no!"
"Nonsense! I have had them followed. Two can play at that game,
"It is a small point, Count Sylvius, but perhaps you would kindly give
me my prefix when you address me. You can understand that, with my
routine of work, I should find myself on familiar terms with half the
rogues' gallery, and you will agree that exceptions are invidious."
"Well, Mr. Holmes, then."
"Excellent! But I assure you you are mistaken about my alleged agents."
Count Sylvius laughed contemptuously.
"Other people can observe as well as you. Yesterday there was an old
sporting man. To-day it was an elderly woman. They held me in view all
"Really, sir, you compliment me. Old Baron Dowson said the night before
he was hanged that in my case what the law had gained the stage had
lost. And now you give my little impersonations your kindly praise?"
"It was you--you yourself?"
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "You can see in the corner the parasol
which you so politely handed to me in the Minories before you began to
"If I had known, you might never--"
"Have seen this humble home again. I was well aware of it. We all have
neglected opportunities to deplore. As it happens, you did not know, so
here we are!"
The Count's knotted brows gathered more heavily over his menacing eyes.
"What you say only makes the matter worse. It was not your agents but
your play-acting, busybody self! You admit that you have dogged me.
"Come now, Count. You used to shoot lions in Algeria."
"Why? The sport--the excitement--the danger!"
"And, no doubt, to free the country from a pest?"
"My reasons in a nutshell!"
The Count sprang to his feet, and his hand involuntarily moved back to
"Sit down, sir, sit down! There was another, more practical, reason. I
want that yellow diamond!"
Count Sylvius lay back in his chair with an evil smile.
"Upon my word!" said he.
"You knew that I was after you for that. The real reason why you are
here to-night is to find out how much I know about the matter and how
far my removal is absolutely essential. Well, I should say that, from
your point of view, it is absolutely essential, for I know all about
it, save only one thing, which you are about to tell me."
"Oh, indeed! And pray, what is this missing fact?"
"Where the Crown diamond now is."
The Count looked sharply at his companion. "Oh, you want to know that,
do you? How the devil should I be able to lell you where it is?"
"You can, and you will."
"You can't bluff me, Count Sylvius." Holmes's eyes, as he gazed at him,
contracted and lightened until they were like two menacing points of
steel. "You are absolute plate-glass. I see to the very back of your
"Then, of course, you see where the diamond is!"
Holmes clapped his hands with amusement, and then pointed a derisive
finger. "Then you do know. You have admitted it!"
"I admit nothing."
"Now, Count, if you will be reasonable we can do business. If not, you
will get hurt."
Count Sylvius threw up his eyes to the ceiling. "And you talk about
bluff!" said he.
Holmes looked at him thoughtfully like a master chess-player who
meditates his crowning move. Then he threw open the table drawer and
drew out a squat notebook.
"Do you know what I keep in this book?"
"No, sir, I do not!"
"Yes, sir, you! You are all here--every action of yor vile and
"Damn you, Holmes!" cried the Count with blazing eyes. "There are
limits to my patience!"
"It's all here, Count. The real facts as to the death of old Mrs.
Harold, who left you the Blymer estate, which you so rapidly gambled
"You are dreaming!"
"And the complete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender."
"Tut! You will make nothing of that!"
"Plenty more here, Count. Here is the robbery in the train de-luxe to
the Riviera on February 13, 1892. Here is the forged check in the same
year on the Credit Lyonnais."
"No, you're wrong there."
"Then I am right on the others! Now, Count, you are a card-player. When
the other fellow has all the trumps, it saves time to throw down your
"What has all this talk to do with the jewel of which you spoke?"
"Gently, Count. Restrain that eager mind! Let me get to the points in
my own humdrum fashion. I have all this against you; but, above all, I
have a clear case against both you and your fighting bully in the case
of the Crown diamond."
"I have the cabman who took you to Whitehall and the cabman who brought
you away. I have the commissionaire who saw you near the case. I have
Ikey Sanders, who refused to cut it up for you. Ikey has peached, and
the game is up."
The veins stood out on the Count's forehead. His dark, hairy hands were
clenched in a convulsion of restrained emotion. He tried to speak, but
the words would not shape themselves.
"That's the hand I play from," said Holmes. "I put it all upon the
table. But one card is missing. It's the king of diamonds. I don't know
where the stone is."
"You never shall know."
"No? Now, be reasonable, Count. Consider the situation. You are going
to be locked up for twenty years. So is Sam Merton. What good are you
going to get out of your diamond? None in the world. But if you hand it
over--well, I'll compound a felony. We don't want you or Sam. We want
the stone. Give that up, and so far as I am concerned you can go free
so long as you behave yourself in the future. If you make another slip
well, it will be the last. But this time my commission is to get the
stone, not you."
"But if I refuse?"
"Why, then--alas!--it must be you and not the stone."
Billy had appeared in answer to a ring.
"I think, Count, that it would be as well to have your friend Sam at
this conference. After all, his interests should be represented. Billy,
you will see a large and ugly gentleman outside the front door. Ask him
to come up."
"If he won't come, sir?"
"No violence, Billy. Don't be rough with him. If you tell him that
Count Sylvius wants him he will certainly come."
"What are you going to do now?" asked the Count as Billy disappeared.
"My friend Watson was with me just now. I told him that I had a shark
and a gudgeon in my net; now I am drawing the net and up they come
The Count had risen from his chair, and his hand was behind his back.
Holmes held something half protruding from the pocket of his
"You won't die in your bed, Holmes."
"I have often had the same idea. Does it matter very much? Aher all,
Count, your own exit is more likely to be perpendicular than
horizontal. But these anticipations of the future are morbid. Why not
give ourselves up to the unrestrained enjoyment of the present?"
A sudden wild-beast light sprang up in the dark, menacing eyes of the
master criminal. Holmes's figure seemed to grow taller as he grew tense
"It is no use your fingering your revolver, my friend," he said in a
quiet voice. "You know perfectly well that you dare not use it, even if
I gave you time to draw it. Nasty, noisy things, revolvers, Count.
Better stick to air-guns. Ah! I think I hear the fairy footstep of your
estimable partner. Good day, Mr. Merton. Rather dull in the street, is
The prize-fighter, a heavily built young man with a stupid, obstinate,
slab-sided face, stood awkwardly at the door, looking about him with a
puzzled expression. Holmes's debonair manner was a new experience, and
though he vaguely felt that it was hostile, he did not know how to
counter it. He turned to his more astute comrade for help.
"What's the game now, Count? What's this fellow want? What's up?" His
voice was deep and raucous.
The Count shrugged his shoulders, and it was Holmes who answered.
"If I may put it in a nutshell, Mr. Merton, I should say it was all
The boxer still addressed his remarks to his associate.
"Is this cove trying to be funny, or what? I'm not in the funny mood
"No, I expect not," said Holmes. "I think I can promise you that you
will feel even less humorous as the evening advances. Now, look here,
Count Sylvius. I'm a busy man and I can't waste time. I'm going into
that bedroom. Pray make yourselves quite at home in my absence. You can
explain to your friend how the matter lies without the restraint of my
presence. I shall try over the Hoffman 'Barcarole' upon my violin. In
five minutes I shall return for your final answer. You quite grasp the
alternative, do you not? Shall we take you, or shall we have the
Holmes withdrew, picking up his violin from the corner as he passed. A
few moments later the long-drawn, wailing notes of that most haunting
of tunes came faintly through the closed door of the bedroom.
"What is it, then?" asked Merton anxiously as his companion turned to
him. "Does he know about the stone?"
"He knows a damned sight too much about it. I'm not sure that he
doesn't know all about it."
"Good Lord!" The boxer's sallow face turned a shade whiter.
"Ikey Sanders has split on us."
"He has, has he? I'll do him down a thick 'un for that if I swing for
"That won't help us much. We've got to make up our minds what to do."
"Half a mo'," said the boxer, looking suspiciously at the bedroom door.
"He's a leary cove that wants watching. I suppose he's not listening?"
"How can he be listening with that music going?"
"That's right. Maybe somebody's behind a curtain. Too many curtains in
this room." As he looked round he suddenly saw for the first time the
effigy in the window, and stood staring and pointing, too amazed for
"Tut! it's only a dummy," said the Count.
"A fake, is it? Well, strike me! Madame Tussaud ain't in it. It's the
living spit of him, gown and all. But them curtains Count!"
"Oh, confound the curtains! We are wasting our time, and there is none
too much. He can lag us over this stone."
"The deuce he can!"
"But he'll let us slip if we only tell him where the swag is."
"What! Give it up? Give up a hundred thousand quid?"
"It's one or the other."
Merton scratched his short-cropped pate.
"He's alone in there. Let's do him in. If his light were out we should
have nothing to fear."
The Count shook his head.
"He is armed and ready. If we shot him we could hardly get away in a
place like this. Besides, it's likely enough that the police know
whatever evidence he has got. Hallo! What was that?"
There was a vague sound which seemed to come from the window. Both men
sprang round, but all was quiet. Save for the one strange figure seated
in the chair, the room was certainly empty.
"Something in the street," said Merton. "Now look here, guv'nor, you've
got the brains. Surely you can think a way out of it. If slugging is no
use then it's up to you."
"I've fooled better men than he," the Count answered. "The stone is
here in my secret pocket. I take no chances leaving it about. It can be
out of England to-night and cut into four pieces in Amsterdam before
Sunday. He knows nothing of Van Seddar."
"I thought Van Seddar was going next week."
"He was. But now he must get off by the next boat. One or other of us
must slip round with the stone to Lime Street and tell him."
"But the false bottom ain't ready."
"Well, he must take it as it is and chance it. There's not a moment to
lose." Again, with the sense of danger which becomes an instinct with
the sportsman, he paused and looked hard at the window. Yes, it was
surely from the street that the faint sound had come.
"As to Holmes," he continued, "we can fool him easily enough. You see,
the damned fool won't arrest us if he can get the stone. Well, we'll
promise him the stone. We'll put him on the wrong track about it, and
before he finds that it is the wrong track it will be in Holland and we
out of the country."
"That sounds good to me!" cried Sam Merton with a grin.
"You go on and tell the Dutchman to get a move on him. I'll see this
sucker and fill him up with a bogus confession. I'll tell him that the
stone is in Liverpool. Confound that whining music; it gets on my
nerves! By the time he finds it isn't in Liverpool it will be in
quarters and we on the blue water. Come back here, out of a line with
that keyhole. Here is the stone."
"I wonder you dare carry it."
"Where could I have it safer? If we could take it out of Whitehall
someone else could surely take it out of my lodgings."
"Let's have a look at it."
Count Sylvius cast a somewhat unflattering glance at his associate and
disregarded the unwashed hand which was extended towards him.
"What--d'ye think I'm going to snatch it off you? See here, mister,
I'm getting a bit tired of your ways."
"Well, well, no offence, Sam. We can't afford to quarrel. Come over to
the window if you want to see the beauty properly. Now hold it to the
With a single spring Holmes had leaped from the dummy's chair and had
grasped the precious jewel. He held it now in one hand, while his other
pointed a revolver at the Count's head. The two villains staggered back
in utter amazement. Before they had recovered Holmes had pressed the
"No violence, gentlemen--no violence, I beg of you! Consider the
furniture! It must be very clear to you that your position is an
impossible one. The police are waiting below."
The Count's bewilderment overmastered his rage and fear.
"But how the deuce--?" he gasped.
"Your surprise is very natural. You are not aware that a second door
from my bedroom leads behind that curtain. I fancied that you must have
heard me when I displaced the figure, but luck was on my side. It gave
me a chance of listening to your racy conversation which would have
been painfully constrained had you been aware of my presence."
The Count gave a gesture of resignation.
"We give you best, Holmes. I believe you are the devil himself."
"Not far from him, at any rate," Holmes answered with a polite smile.
Sam Merton's slow intellect had only gradually appreciated the
situation. Now, as the sound of heavy steps came from the stairs
outside, he broke silence at last.
"A fair cop!" said he. "But, I say, what about that bloomin' fiddle! I
hear it yet."
"Tut, tut!" Holmes answered. "You are perfectly right. Let it play!
These modern gramophones are a remarkable invention."
There was an inrush of police, the handcuffs clicked and the criminals
were led to the waiting cab. Watson lingered with Holmes,
congratulating him upon this fresh leaf added to his laurels. Once more
their conversation was interrupted by the imperturbable Billy with his
"Lord Cantlemere sir."
"Show him up, Billy. This is the eminent peer who represents the very
highest interests," said Holmes. "He is an excellent and loyal person,
but rather of the old regime. Shall we make him unbend? Dare we venture
upon a slight liberty? He knows, we may conjecture, nothing of what has
The door opened to admit a thin, austere figure with a hatchet face and
drooping mid-Victorian whiskers of a glossy blackness which hardly
corresponded with the rounded shoulders and feeble gait. Holmes
advanced affably, and shook an unresponsive hand.
"How do you do, Lord Cantlemere? It is chilly for the time of year, but
rather warm indoors. May I take your overcoat?"
"No, I thank you; I will not take it off."
Holmes laid his hand insistently upon the sleeve.
"Pray allow me! My friend Dr. Watson would assure you that these
changes of temperature are most insidious."
His Lordship shook himself free with some impatience.
"I am quite comfortable, sir. I have no need to stay. I have simply
looked in to know how your self-appointed task was progressing."
"It is difficult--very difficult."
"I feared that you would find it so."
There was a distinct sneer in the old courtier's words and manner.
"Every man finds his limitations, Mr. Holmes, but at least it cures us
of the weakness of self-satisfaction."
"Yes, sir, I have been much perplexed."
"Especially upon one point. Possibly you could help me upon
"You apply for my advice rather late in the day. I thought that you had
your own all-sufficient methods. Still, I am ready to help you."
"You see, Lord Cantlemere, we can no doubt frame a case against the
"When you have caught them."
"Exactly. But the question is--how shall we proceed against the
"Is this not rather premature?"
"It is as well to have our plans ready. Now, what would you regard as
final evidence against the receiver?"
"The actual possession of the stone."
"You would arrest him upon that?"
Holmes seldom laughed, but he got as near it as his old friend Watson
"In that case, my dear sir, I shall be under the painful necessity of
advising your arrest."
Lord Cantlemere was very angry. Some of the ancient fires flickered up
into his sallow cheeks.
"You take a great liberty, Mr. Holmes. In fifty years of official life
I cannot recall such a case. I am a busy man, sir engaged upon
important affairs, and I have no time or taste for foolish jokes. I may
tell you frankly, sir, that I have never been a believer in your
powers, and that I have always been of the opinion that the matter was
far safer in the hands of the regular police force. Your conduct
confirms all my conclusions. I have the honour, sir, to wish you
Holmes had swiftly changed his position and was between the peer and
"One moment, sir," said he. "To actually go off with the Mazarin stone
would be a more serious offence than to be found in temporary
possession of it."
"Sir, this is intolerable! Let me pass."
"Put your hand in the right-hand pocket of your overcoat."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Come--come, do what I ask."
An instant later the amazed peer was standing, blinking and stammering,
with the great yellow stone on his shaking palm.
"What! What! How is this, Mr. Holmes?"
"Too bad, Lord Cantlemere, too bad!" cried Holmes. "My old friend here
will tell you that I have an impish habit of practical joking. Also
that I can never resist a dramatic situation. I took the liberty--the
very great liberty, I admit--of putting the stone into your pocket at
the beginning of our interview."
The old peer stared from the stone to the smiling face before him.
"Sir, I am bewildered. But--yes--it is indeed the Mazarin stone. We
are greatly your debtors, Mr. Holmes. Your sense of humour may, as you
admit, be somewhat perverted, and its exhibition remarkably untimely,
but at least I withdraw any reflection I have made upon your amazing
professional powers. But how--"
"The case is but half finished; the details can wait. No doubt, Lord
Cantlemere, your pleasure in telling of this successful result in the
exalted circle to which you return will be some small atonement for my
practical joke. Billy, you will show his Lordship out, and tell Mrs.
Hudson that I should be glad if she would send up dinner for two as
soon as possible."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GABLES
I don't think that any of my adventures with Mr. Sherlock Holmes opened
quite so abruptly, or so dramatically, as that which I associate with
The Three Gables. I had not seen Holmes for some days and had no idea
of the new channel into which his activities had been directed. He was
in a chatty mood that morning, however, and had just settled me into
the well-worn low armchair on one side of the fire, while he had curled
down with his pipe in his mouth upon the opposite chair, when our
visitor arrived. If I had said that a mad bull had arrived it would
give a clearer impression of what occurred.
The door had flown open and a huge negro had burst into the room. He
would have been a comic figure if he had not been terrific, for he was
dressed in a very loud gray check suit with a flowing salmon-coloured
tie. His broad face and flattened nose were thrust forward, as his
sullen dark eyes, with a smouldering gleam of malice in them, turned
from one of us to the other.
"Which of you gen'l'men is Masser Holmes?" he asked.
Holmes raised his pipe with a languid smile.
"Oh! it's you, is it?" said our visitor, coming with an unpleasant,
stealthy step round the angle of the table. "See here, Masser Holmes,
you keep your hands out of other folks' business. Leave folks to manage
their own affairs. Got that, Masser Holmes?"
"Keep on talking," said Holmes. "It's fine."
"Oh! it's fine, is it?" growled the savage. "It won't be so damn fine
if I have to trim you up a bit. I've handled your kind before now, and
they didn't look fine when I was through with them. Look at that,
He swung a huge knotted lump of a fist under my friend's nose. Holmes
examined it closely with an air of great interest.
"Were you born so?" he asked. "Or did it come by degrees?"
It may have been the icy coolness of my friend, or it may have been the
slight clatter which I made as I picked up the poker. In any case, our
visitor's manner became less flamboyant.
"Well, I've given you fair warnin'," said he. "I've a friend that's
interested out Harrow way--you know what I'm meaning--and he don't
intend to have no buttin' in by you. Got that? You ain't the law, and I
ain't the law either, and if you come in I'll be on hand also. Don't
you forget it."
"I've wanted to meet you for some time," said Holmes. "I won't ask you
to sit down, for I don't like the smell of you, but aren't you Steve
Dixie, the bruiser?"
"That's my name, Masser Holmes, and you'll get put through it for sure
if you give me any lip."
"It is certainly the last thing you need," said Holmes, staring at our
visitor's hideous mouth. "But it was the killing of young Perkins
outside the Holborn--Bar What! you're not going?"
The negro had sprung back, and his face was leaden. "I won't listen to
no such talk," said he. "What have I to do with this 'ere Perkins,
Masser Holmes? I was trainin' at the Bull Ring in Birmingham when this
boy done gone get into trouble."
"Yes, you'll tell the magistrate about it, Steve," said Holmes. "I've
been watching you and Barney Stockdale--"
"So help me the Lord! Masser Holmes--"
"That's enough. Get out of it. I'll pick you up when I want you."
"Good-mornin', Masser Holmes. I hope there ain't no hard feelin's about
this 'ere visit?"
"There will be unless you tell me who sent you."
"Why, there ain't no secret about that, Masser Holmes. It was that same
gen'l'man that you have just done gone mention."
"And who set him on to it?"
"S'elp me. I don't know, Masser Holmes. He just say, 'Steve, you go see
Mr. Holmes, and tell him his life ain't safe if he go down Harrow way.'
That's the whole truth." Without waiting for any further questioning,
our visitor bolted out of the room almost as precipitately as he had
entered. Holmes knocked out the ashes of his pipe with a quiet chuckle.
"I am glad you were not forced to break his woolly head, Watson. I
observed your manoeuvres with the poker. But he is really rather a
harmless fellow, a great muscular, foolish, blustering baby, and easily
cowed, as you have seen. He is one of the Spencer John gang and has
taken part in some dirty work of late which I may clear up when I have
time. His immediate principal, Barney, is a more astute person. They
specialize in assaults, intimidation, and the like. What I want to know
is, who is at the back of them on this particular occasion?"
"But why do they want to intimidate you?"
"It is this Harrow Weald case. It decides me to look into the matter,
for if it is worth anyone's while to take so much trouble, there must
be something in it."
"But what is it?"
"I was going to tell you when we had this comic interlude. Here is Mrs.
Maberley's note. If you care to come with me we will wire her and go
out at once."
DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES [I read]:
I have had a succession of strange incidents occur to me in connection
with this house, and I should much value your advice. You would find me
at home any time to-morrow. The house is within a short walk of the
Weald Station. I believe that my late husband, Mortimer Maberley, was
one of your early clients.
Yours faithfully, MARY MABERLEY.
The address was "The Three Gables, Harrow Weald."
"So that's that!" said Holmes. "And now, if you can spare the time,
Watson, we will get upon our way."
A short railway journey, and a shorter drive, brought us to the house,
a brick and timber villa, standing in its own acre of undeveloped
grassland. Three small projections above. the upper windows made a
feeble attempt to justify its name. Behind was a grove of melancholy,
half-grown pines, and the whole aspect of the place was poor and
depressing. None the less, we found the house to be well furnished, and
the lady who received us was a most engaging elderly person, who bore
every mark of refinement and culture.
"I remember your husband well, madam," said Holmes, "though it is some
years since he used my services in some trifling matter."
"Probably you would be more familiar with the name of my son Douglas."
Holmes looked at her with great interest.
"Dear me! Are you the mother of Douglas Maberley? I knew him slightly.
But of course all London knew him. What a magnificent creature he was!
Where is he now?"
"Dead, Mr. Holmes, dead! He was attache at Rome, and he died there of
pneumonia last month."
"I am sorry. One could not connect death with such a man. I have never
known anyone so vitally alive. He lived intensely--every fibre of
"Too intensely, Mr. Holmes. That was the ruin of him. You remember him
as he was--debonair and splendid. You did not see the moody, morose,
brooding creature into which he developed. His heart was broken. In a
single month I seemed to see my gallant boy turn into a worn-out
"A love affair--a woman?"
"Or a fiend. Well, it was not to talk of my poor lad that I asked you
to come, Mr. Holmes."
"Dr. Watson and I are at your service."
"There have been some very strange happenings. I have been in this
house more than a year now, and as I wished to lead a retired life I
have seen little of my neighbours. Three days ago I had a call from a
man who said that he was a house agent. He said that this house would
exactly suit a client of his, and that if I would part with it money
would be no object. It seemed to me very strange as there are several
empty houses on the market which appear to be equally eligible, but
naturally I was interested in what he said. I therefore named a price
which was five hundred pounds more than I gave. He at once closed with
the offer, but added that his client desired to buy the furniture as
well and would I put a price upon it. Some of this furniture is from my
old home, and it is, as you see, very good, so that I named a good
round sum. To this also he at once agreed. I had always wanted to
travel, and the bargain was so good a one that it really seemed that I
should be my own mistress for the rest of my life.
"Yesterday the man arrived with the agreement all drawn out. Luckily I
showed it to Mr. Sutro, my lawyer, who lives in Harrow. He said to me,
'This is a very strange document. Are you aware that if you sign it you
could not legally take anything out of the house--not even your own
private possessions?' When the man came again in the evening I pointed
this out, and I said that I meant only to sell the furniture.
"'No, no, everything,' said he.
"'But my clothes? My jewels?'
"'Well, well, some concession might be made for your personal effects.
But nothing shall go out of the house unchecked. My client is a very
liberal man, but he has his fads and his own way of doing things. It is
everything or nothing with him.'
"'Then it must be nothing,' said I. And there the matter was left, but
the whole thing seemed to me to be so unusual that I thought--"
Here we had a very extraordinary interruption.
Holmes raised his hand for silence. Then he strode across the room,
flung open the door, and dragged in a great gaunt woman whom he had
seized by the shoulder. She entered with ungainly struggle like some
huge awkward chicken, torn, squawking, out of its coop.
"Leave me alone! What are you a-doin' of?" she screeched.
"Why, Susan, what is this?"
"Well, ma'am, I was comin' in to ask if the visitors was stayin' for
lunch when this man jumped out at me."
"I have been listening to her for the last five minutes, but did not
wish to interrupt your most interesting narrative. Just a little
wheezy, Susan, are you not? You breathe too heavily for that kind of
Susan turned a sulky but amazed face upon her captor. "Who be you,
anyhow, and what right have you a-pullin' me about like this?"
"It was merely that I wished to ask a question in your presence. Did
you, Mrs. Maberley, mention to anyone that you were going to write to
me and consult me?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, I did not."
"Who posted your letter?"
"Exactly. Now, Susan, to whom was it that you wrote or sent a message
to say that your mistress was asking advice from me?"
"It's a lie. I sent no message."
"Now, Susan, wheezy people may not live long, you know. It's a wicked
thing to tell fibs. Whom did you tell?"
"Susan!" cried her mistress, "I believe you are a bad, treacherous
woman. I remember now that I saw you speaking to someone over the
"That was my own business," said the woman sullenly.
"Suppose I tell you that it was Barney Stockdale to whom you spoke?"
"Well, if you know, what do you want to ask for?"
"I was not sure, but I know now. Well now, Susan, it will be worth ten
pounds to you if you will tell me who is at the back of Barney."
"Someone that could lay down a thousand pounds for every ten you have
in the world."
"So, a rich man? No; you smiled--a rich woman. Now we have got so
far, you may as well give the name and earn the tenner."
"I'll see you in hell first."
"Oh, Susan! Language!"
"I am clearing out of here. I've had enough of you all. I'll send for
my box to-morrow." She flounced for the door.
"Good-bye, Susan. Paregoric is the stuff.... Now," he continued,
turning suddenly from lively to severe when the door had closed behind
the flushed and angry woman, "this gang means business. Look how close
they play the game. Your letter to me had the 10 P.M. postmark. And yet
Susan passes the word to Barney. Barney has time to go to his employer
and get instructions; he or she--I incline to the latter from Susan's
grin when she thought I had blundered--forms a plan. Black Steve is
called in, and I am warned off by eleven o'clock next morning. That's
quick work, you know."
"But what do they want?"
"Yes, that's the question. Who had the house before you?"
"A retired sea captain called Ferguson."
"Anything remarkable about him?"
"Not that ever I heard of."
"I was wondering whether he could have buried something. Of course,
when people bury treasure nowadays they do it in the Post-Office bank.
But there are always some lunatics about. It would be a dull world
without them. At first I thought of some buried valuable. But why, in
that case, should they want your furniture? You don't happen to have a
Raphael or a first folio Shakespeare without knowing it?"
"No, I don't think I have anything rarer than a Crown Derby tea-set."
"That would hardly justify all this mystery. Besides, why should they
not openly state what they want? If they covet your tea-set, they can
surely offer a price for it without buying you out, lock, stock, and
barrel. No, as I read it, there is something which you do not know that
you have, and which you would not give up if you did know."
"That is how I read it," said I.
"Dr. Watson agrees, so that settles it."
"Well, Mr. Holmes, what can it be?"
"Let us see whether by this purely mental analysis we can get it to a
finer point. You have been in this house a year."
"All the better. During this long period no one wants anything from
you. Now suddenly within three or four days you have urgent demands.
What would you gather from that?"
"It can only mean," said I, "that the object, whatever it may be, has
only just come into the house."
"Settled once again," said Holmes. "Now, Mrs. Maberley has any object
"No, I have bought nothing new this year."
"Indeed! That is very remarkable. Well, I think we had best let matters
develop a little further until we have clearer data. Is that lawyer of
yours a capable man?"
"Mr. Sutro is most capable."
"Have you another maid, or was the fair Susan, who has just banged your
front door alone?"
"I have a young girl."
"Try and get Sutro to spend a night or two in the house. You might
possibly want protection."
"Who knows? The matter is certainly obscure. If I can't find what they
are after, I must approach the matter from the other end and try to get
at the principal. Did this house-agent man give any address?"
"Simply his card and occupation. Haines-Johnson, Auctioneer and
"I don't think we shall find him in the directory. Honest business men
don't conceal their place of business. Well, you will let me know any
fresh development. I have taken up your case, and you may rely upon it
that I shall see it through."
As we passed through the hall Holmes's eyes, which missed nothing,
lighted upon several trunks and cases which were piled in a corner. The
labels shone out upon them.
"'Milano.' 'Lucerne.' These are from Italy."
"They are poor Douglas's things."
"You have not unpacked them? How long have you had them?"
"They arrived last week."
"But you said--why, surely this might be the missing link. How do we
know that there is not something of value there?"
"There could not possibly be, Mr. Holmes. Poor Douglas had only his pay
and a small annuity. What could he have of value?"
Holmes was lost in thought.
"Delay no longer, Mrs. Maberley," he said at last. "Have these things
taken upstairs to your bedroom. Examine them as soon as possible and
see what they cohtain. I will come tomorrow and hear your report."
It was quite evident that The Three Gables was under very close
surveillance, for as we came round the high hedge at the end of the
lane there was the negro prize-fighter standing in the shadow. We came
on him quite suddenly, and a grim and menacing figure he looked in that
lonely place. Holmes clapped his hand to his pocket.
"Lookin' for your gun, Masser Holmes?"
"No, for my scent-bottle, Steve."
"You are funny, Masser Holmes, ain't you?"
"It won't be funny for you, Steve, if I get after you. I gave you fair
warning this morning."
"Well, Masser Holmes, I done gone think over what you said, and I don't
want no more talk about that affair of Masser Perkins. S'pose I can
help you, Masser Holmes, I will."
"Well, then, tell me who is behind you on this job."
"So help me the Lord! Masser Holmes, I told you the truth before. I
don't know. My boss Barney gives me orders and that's all."
"Well, just bear in mind, Steve, that the lady in that house, and
everything under that roof, is under my protection. Don't forget it."
"All right, Masser Holmes. I'll remember."
"I've got him thoroughly frightened for his own skin, Watson," Holmes
remarked as we walked on. "I think he would double-cross his employer
if he knew who he was. It was lucky I had some knowledge of the Spencer
John crowd, and that Steve was one of them. Now, Watson, this is a case
for Langdale Pike, and I am going to see him now. When I get back I may
be clearer in the matter."
I saw no more of Holmes during the day, but I could well imagine how he
spent it, for Langdale Pike was his human book of reference upon all
matters of social scandal. This strange, languid creature spent his
waking hours in the bow window of a St. James's Street club and was the
receivingstation as well as the transmitter for all the gossip of the
metropolis. He made, it was said, a four-figure income by the
paragraphs which he contributed every week to the garbage papers which
cater to an inquisitive public. If ever, far down in the turbid depths
of London life, there was some strange swirl or eddy, it was marked
with automatic exactness by this human dial upon the surface. Holmes
discreetly helped Langdale to knowledge, and on occasion was helped in
When I met my friend in his room early next morning, I was conscious
from his bearing that all was well, but none the less a most unpleasant
surprise was awaiting us. It took the shape of the following telegram.
Please come out at once. Client's house burgled in the night. Police in
Holmes whistled. "The drama has come to a crisis, and quicker than I
had expected. There is a great driving-power at the back of this
business, Watson, which does not surprise me after what I have heard.
This Sutro, of course, is her lawyer. I made a mistake, I fear, in not
asking you to spend the night on guard. This fellow has clearly proved
a broken reed. Well, there is nothing for it but another journey to
We found The Three Gables a very different establishment to the orderly
household of the previous day. A small group of idlers had assembled at
the garden gate, while a couple of constables were examining the
windows and the geranium beds. Within we met a gray old gentleman, who
introduced himself as the lawyer together with a bustling, rubicund
inspector, who greeted Hoimes as an old friend.
"Well, Mr. Holmes, no chance for you in this case, I'm afraid. Just a
common, ordinary burglary, and well within the capacity of the poor old
police. No experts need apply."
"I am sure the case is in very good hands," said Holmes. "Merely a
common burglary, you say?"
"Quite so. We know pretty well who the men are and where to find them.
It is that gang of Barney Stockdale, with the big nigger in it--
they've been seen about here."
"Excellent! What did they get?"
"Well, they don't seem to have got much. Mrs. Maberley was chloroformed
and the house was--Ah! here is the lady herself."
Our friend of yesterday, looking very pale and ill, had entered the
room, leaning upon a little maidservant.
"You gave me good advice, Mr. Holmes," said she, smiling ruefully.
"Alas, I did not take it! I did not wish to trouble Mr. Sutro, and so I
"I only heard of it this morning," the lawyer explained.
"Mr. Holmes advised me to have some friend in the house. I neglected
his advice, and I have paid for it."
"You look wretchedly ill," said Holmes. "Perhaps you are hardly equal
to telling me what occurred."
"It is all here," said the inspector, tapping a bulky notebook.
"Still, if the lady is not too exhausted--"
"There is really so little to tell. I have no doubt that wicked Susan
had planned an entrance for them. They must have known the house to an
inch. I was conscious for a moment of the chloroform rag which was
thrust over my mouth, but I have no notion how long I may have been
senseless. When I woke, one man was at the bedside and another was
rising with a bundle in his hand from among my son's baggage, which was
partially opened and littered over the floor. Before he could get away
I sprang up and seized him."
"You took a big risk," said the inspector.
"I clung to him, but he shook me off, and the other may have struck me,
for I can remember no more. Mary the maid heard the noise and began
screaming out of the window. That brought the police, but the rascals
had got away."
"What did they take?"
"Well, I don't think there is anything of value missing. I am sure
there was nothing in my son's trunks."
"Did the men leave no clue?"
"There was one sheet of paper which I may have torn from the man that I
grasped. It was lying all crumpled on the floor. It is in my son's
"Which means that it is not of much use," said the inspector. "Now if
it had been in the burglar's--"
"Exactly," said Holmes. "What rugged common sense! None the less, I
should be curious to see it."
The inspector drew a folded sheet of foolscap from his pocketbook.
"I never pass anything, however trifling," said he with some pomposity.
"That is my advice to you, Mr. Holmes. In twentyfive years' experience
I have learned my lesson. There is always the chance of finger-marks or
Holmes inspected the sheet of paper.
"What do you make of it, Inspector?"
"Seems to be the end of some queer novel, so far as I can see."
"It may certainly prove to be the end of a queer tale," said Holmes.
"You have noticed the number on the top of the page. It is two hundred
and forty-five. Where are the odd two hundred and forty-four pages?"
"Well, I suppose the burglars got those. Much good may it do them!"
"It seems a queer thing to break into a house in order to steal such
papers as that. Does it suggest anything to you, Inspector?"
"Yes, sir, it suggests that in their hurry the rascals just grabbed at
what came first to hand. I wish them joy of what they got."
"Why should they go to my son's things?" asked Mrs. Maberley.
"Well, they found nothing valuable downstairs, so they tried their luck
upstairs. That is how I read it. What do you make of it, Mr. Holmes?"
"I must think it over, Inspector. Come to the window, Watson." Then, as
we stood together, he read over the fragment of paper. It began in the
middle of a sentence and ran like this:
"...face bled considerably from the cuts and blows, but it was nothing
to the bleeding of his heart as he saw that lovely face, the face for
which he had been prepared to sacrifice his very life, looking out at
his agony and humiliation. She smiled--yes, by Heaven! she smiled,
like the heartless fiend she was, as he looked up at her. It was at
that moment that love died and hate was born. Man must live for
something. If it is not for your embrace, my lady, then it shall surely
be for your undoing and my complete revenge."
"Queer grammar!" said Holmes with a smile as he handed the paper back
to the inspector. "Did you notice how the 'he' suddenly changed to
'my'? The writer was so carried away by his own story that he imagined
himself at the supreme moment to be the hero."
"It seemed mighty poor stuff," said the inspector as he replaced it in
his book. "What! are you off, Mr. Holmes?"
"I don't think there is anything more for me to do now that the case is
in such capable hands. By the way, Mrs. Maberley, did you say you
wished to travel?"
"It has always been my dream, Mr. Holmes."
"Where would you like to go--Cairo, Madeira, the Riviera?"
"Oh if I had the money I would go round the world."
"Quite so. Round the world. Well, good-morning. I may drop you a line
in the evening." As we passed the window I caught a glimpse of the
inspector's smile and shake of the head. "These clever fellows have
always a touch of madness." That was what I read in the inspector's
"Now, Watson, we are at the last lap of our little journey," said
Holmes when we were back in the roar of central London once more. "I
think we had best clear the matter up at once, and it would be well
that you should come with me, for it is safer to have a witness when
you are dealing with such a lady as Isadora Klein."
We had taken a cab and were speeding to some address in Grosvenor
Square. Holmes had been sunk in thought, but he roused himself
"By the way, Watson, I suppose you see it all clearly?"
"No, I can't say that I do. I only gather that we are going to see the
lady who is behind all this mischief."
"Exactly! But does the name Isadora Klein convey nothing to you? She
was, of course, the celebrated beauty. There was never a woman to touch
her. She is pure Spanish, the real blood of the masterfui
Conquistadors, and her people have been leaders in Pernambuco for
generations. She married the aged German sugar king, Klein, and
presently found herself the richest as well as the most lovely widow
upon earth. Then there was an interval of adventure when she pleased
her own tastes. She had several lovers, and Douglas Maberley, one of
the most striking men in London, was one of them. It was by all
accounts more than an adventure with him. He was not a society
butterfly but a strong, proud man who gave and expected all. But she is
the 'belle dame sans merci' of fiction. When her caprice is satisfied
the matter is ended, and if the other party in the matter can't take
her word for it she knows how to bring it home to him."
"Then that was his own story--"
"Ah! you are piecing it together now. I hear that she is about to marry
the young Duke of Lomond, who might almost be her son. His Grace's ma
might overlook the age, but a big scandal would be a different matter,
so it is imperative--Ah! here we are."
It was one of the finest corner-houses of the West End. A machine-like
footman took up our cards and returned with word that the lady was not
at home. "Then we shall wait until she is," said Holmes cheerfully.
The machine broke down.
"Not at home means not at home to you," said the footman.
"Good," Holmes answered. "That means that we shall not have to wait.
Kindly give this note to your mistress."
He scribbled three or four words upon a sheet of his notebook, folded
it, and handed it to the man.
"What did you say, Holmes?" I asked.
"I simply wrote: 'Shall it be the police, then?' I think that should
pass us in."
It did--with amazing celerity. A minute later we were in an Arabian
Nights drawing-room, vast and wonderful, in a half gloom, picked out
with an occasional pink electric light. The lady had come, I felt, to
that time of life when even the proudest beauty finds the half light
more welcome. She rose from a settee as we entered: tall, queenly, a
perfect figure, a lovely mask-like face, with two wonderful Spanish
eyes which looked murder at us both.
"What is this intrusion--and this insulting message?" she asked,
holding up the slip of paper.
"I need not explain, madame. I have too much respect for your
intelligence to do so--though I confess that intelligence has been
surprisingly at fault of late."
"How so, sir?"
"By supposing that your hired bullies could frighten me from my work.
Surely no man would take up my profession if it were not that danger
attracts him. It was you, then, who forced me to examine the case of
"I have no idea what you are talking about. What have I to do with
Holmes turned away wearily.
"Yes, I have underrated your intelligence. Well, good-afternoon!"
"Stop! Where are you going?"
"To Scotland Yard."
We had not got halfway to the door before she had overtaken us and was
holding his arm. She had turned in a moment from steel to velvet.
"Come and sit down, gentlemen. Let us talk this matter over. I feel
that I may be frank with you, Mr. Holmes. You have the feelings of a
gentleman. How quick a woman's instinct is to find it out. I will treat
you as a friend."
"I cannot promise to reciprocate, madame. I am not the law, but I
represent justice so far as my feeble powers go. I am ready to listen,
and then I will tell you how I will act."
"No doubt it was foolish of me to threaten a brave man like yourself."
"What was really foolish, madame, is that you have placed yourself in
the power of a band of rascals who may blackmail or give you away."
"No, no! I am not so simple. Since I have promised to be frank, I may
say that no one, save Barney Stockdale and Susan, his wife, have the
least idea who their employer is. As to them, well, it is not the first
--" She smiled and nodded with a charming coquettish intimacy.
"I see. You've tested them before."
"They are good hounds who run silent."
"Such hounds have a way sooner or later of biting the hand that feeds
them. They will be arrested for this burglary. The police are already
"They will take what comes to them. That is what they are paid for. I
shall not appear in the matter."
"Unless I bring you into it."
"No, no, you would not. You are a gentleman. It is a woman's secret."
"In the first place, you must give back this manuscript."
She broke into a ripple of laughter and walked to the fireplace. There
was a calcined mass which she broke up with the poker. "Shall I give
this back?" she asked. So roguish and exquisite did she look as she
stood before us with a challenging smile that I felt of all Holmes's
criminals this was the one whom he would find it hardest to face.
However, he was immune from sentiment.
"That seals your fate," he said coldly. "You are very prompt in your
actions, madame, but you have overdone it on this occasion."
She threw the poker down with a clatter.
"How hard you are!" she cried. "May I tell you the whole story?"
"I fancy I could tell it to you."
"But you must look at it with my eyes, Mr. Holmes. You must realize it
from the point of view of a woman who sees all her life's ambition
about to be ruined at the last moment. Is such a woman to be blamed if
she protects herself?"
"The original sin was yours."
"Yes, yes! I admit it. He was a dear boy, Douglas, but it so chanced
that he could not fit into my plans. He wanted marriage--marriage,
Mr. Holmes--with a penniless commoner. Nothing less would serve him.
Then he became pertinacious. Because I had given he seemed to think
that I still must give, and to him only. It was intolerable. At last I
had to make him realize it."
"By hiring ruffians to beat him under your own window."
"You do indeed seem to know everything. Well, it is true. Barney and
the boys drove him away, and were, I admit, a little rough in doing so.
But what did he do then? Could I have believed that a gentleman would
do such an act? He wrote a book in which he described his own story. I,
of course, was the wolf; he the lamb. It was all there, under different
names, of course; but who in all London would have failed to recognize
it? What do you say to that, Mr. Holmes?"
"Well, he was within his rights."
"It was as if the air of Italy had got into his blood and brought with
it the old cruel Italian spirit. He wrote to me and sent me a copy of
his book that I might have the torture of anticipation. There were two
copies, he said--one for me, one for his publisher."
"How did you know the publisher's had not reached him?"
"I knew who his publisher was. It is not his only novel, you know. I
found out that he had not heard from Italy. Then came Douglas's sudden
death. So long as that other manuscript was in the world there was no
safety for me. Of course, it must be among his effects, and these would
be returned to his mother. I set the gang at work. One of them got into
the house as servant. I wanted to do the thing honestly. I really and
truly did. I was ready to buy the house and everything in it. I offered
any price she cared to ask. I only tried the other way when everything
else had failed. Now, Mr. Holmes, granting that I was too hard on
Douglas--and, God knows, I am sorry for it!--what else could I do
with my whole future at stake?"
Sherlock Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, well," said he, "I suppose I shall have to compound a felony as
usual. How much does it cost to go round the world in first-class
The lady stared in amazement.
"Could it be done on five thousand pounds?"
"Well, I should think so, indeed!"
"Very good. I think you will sign me a check for that, and I will see
that it comes to Mrs. Maberley. You owe her a little change of air.
Meantime, lady"--he wagged a cautionary forefinger--"have a care!
Have a care! You can't play with edged tools forever without cutting
those dainty hands."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE
Holmes had read carefully a note which the last post had brought him.
Then, with the dry chuckle which was his nearest approach to a laugh,
he tossed it over to me.
"For a mixture of the modern and the mediaeval, of the practical and of
the wildly fanciful, I think this is surely the limit," said he. "What
do you make of it, Watson?"
I read as follows:
46, OLD JEWRY,
Our client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of
Mincing Lane, has made some inquiry from us in a communication of even
date concerning vampires. As our firm specializes entirely upon the
assessment of machinery the matter hardly comes within our purview, and we
have therefore recommended Mr. Ferguson to call upon
you and lay the matter before you. We have not forgotten your successful
action in the case of Matilda Briggs.
We are, sir,
MORRISON, MORRISON, AND DODD.
per E. J. C.
"Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson," said Holmes
in a reminiscent voice. "It was a ship which is associated with the
giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.
But what do we know about vampires? Does it come within our purview
either? Anything is better than stagnation, but really we seem to have
been switched on to a Grimms' fairy tale. Make a long arm, Watson, and
see what V has to say."
I leaned back and took down the great index volume to which he
referred. Holmes balanced it on his knee, and his eyes moved slowly and
lovingly over the record of old cases, mixed with the accumulated
information of a lifetime.
"Voyage of the Gloria Scott," he read. "That was a bad business. I have
some recollection that you made a record of it, Watson, though I was
unable to congratulate you upon the result. Victor Lynch, the forger.
Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable case, that! Vittoria, the circus
belle. Vanderbilt and the Yeggman. Vipers. Vigor, the Hammersmith
wonder. Hullo! Hullo! Good old index. You can't beat it. Listen to
this, Watson. Vampirism in Hungary. And again, Vampires in
Transylvania." He turned over the pages with eagerness, but after a
short intent perusal he threw down the great book with a snarl of
"Rubbish, Watson, rubbish! What have we to do with walking corpses who
can only be held in their grave by stakes driven through their hearts?
It's pure lunacy."
"But surely," said I, "the vampire was not necessarily a dead man? A
living person might have the habit. I have read, for example, of the
old sucking the blood of the young in order to retain their youth."
"You are right, Watson. It mentions the legend in one of these
references. But are we to give serious attention to such things? This
agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain.
The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply. I fear that we
cannot take Mr. Robert Ferguson very seriously. Possibly this note may
be from him and may throw some light upon what is worrying him."
He took up a second letter which had lain unnoticed upon the table
while he had been absorbed with the first. This he began to read with a
smile of amusement upon his face which gradually faded away into an
expression of intense interest and concentration. When he had finished
he sat for some little time lost in thought with the letter dangling
from his fingers. Finally, with a start, he aroused himself from his
"Cheeseman's, Lamberley. Where is Lamberley, Watson?"
"It is in Sussex, South of Horsham."
"Not very far, eh? And Cheeseman's?"
"I know that country, Holmes. It is full of old houses which are named
after the men who built them centuries ago. You get Odley's and
Harvey's and Carriton's--the folk are forgotten but their names live
in their houses."
"Precisely," said Holmes coldly. It was one of the peculiarities of his
proud, self-contained nature that though he docketed any fresh
information very quietly and accurately in his brain, he seldom made
any acknowledgment to the giver. "I rather fancy we shall know a good
deal more about Cheeseman's, Lamberley, before we are through. The
letter is, as I had hoped, from Robert Ferguson. By the way, he claims
acquaintance with you."
"You had better read it."
He handed the letter across. It was headed with the address quoted.
DEAR MR HOLMES [it said]:
I have been recommended to you by my lawyers, but indeed the matter is so
extraordinarily delicate that it is most difficult to discuss. It concerns
a friend for whom I am acting. This gentleman married some five years ago
a Peruvian lady the daughter of a Peruvian merchant, whom he had met in
connection with the importation of nitrates. The lady was very beautiful,
but the fact of her foreign birth and of her alien religion always caused
a separation of interests and of feelings between husband and wife, so
that after a time his love may have cooled towards her and he may have
come to regard their union as a mistake. He felt there were sides of her
character which he could never explore or understand. This was the more
painful as she was as loving a wife as a man could have--to all appearance
Now for the point which I will make more plain when we meet. Indeed, this
note is merely to give you a general idea of the situation and to
ascertain whether you would care to interest yourself in the matter. The
lady began to show some curious traits quite alien to her ordinarily sweet
and gentle disposition. The gentleman had been married twice and he had
one son by the first wife. This boy was now fifteen, a very charming and
affectionate youth, though unhappily injured through an accident in
childhood. Twice the wife was caught in the act of assaulting this poor
lad in the most unprovoked way. Once she struck him with a stick and left
a great weal on his arm. This was a small matter, however, compared with
her conduct to her own child, a dear boy just under one year of age. On
one occasion about a month ago this child had been left by its nurse for
a few minutes. A loud cry from the baby, as of pain, called the nurse
back. As she ran into the room she saw her employer, the lady, leaning
over the baby and apparently biting his neck. There was a small wound in
the neck from which a stream of blood had escaped. The nurse was so
horrified that she wished to call the husband, but the lady implored her
not to do so and actually gave her five pounds as a price for her silence.
No explanation was ever given, and for the moment the matter was passed
over. It left, however, a terrible impression upon the nurse's mind, and
from that time she began to watch her mistress closely and to keep a
closer guard upon the baby, whom she tenderly loved. It seemed to her that
even as she watched the mother, so the mother watched her, and that every
time she was compelled to leave the baby alone the mother was waiting to
get at it. Day and night the nurse covered the child, and day and night
the silent, watchful mother seemed to be lying in wait as a wolf waits for
a lamb. It must read most incredible to you, and yet I beg you to take it
seriously, for a child's life and a man's sanity may depend upon it.
At last there came one dreadful day when the facts could no longer be
concealed from the husband. The nurse's nerve had given way; she could
stand the strain no longer, and she made a clean breast of it all to the
man. To him it seemed as wild a tale as it may now seem to you. He knew
his wife to be a loving wife, and, save for the assaults upon her stepson,
a loving mother. Why, then, should she wound her own dear little baby?
He told the nurse that she was dreaming, that her suspicions were those of
a lunatic, and that such libels upon her mistress were not to be
tolerated. While they were talking a sudden cry of pain was heard. Nurse
and master rushed together to the nursery. Imagine his feelings,
Mr. Holmes, as he saw his wife rise from a kneeling position beside the
cot and saw blood upon the child's exposed neck and upon the sheet. With a
cry of horror, he turned his wife's face to the light and saw blood all
round her lips. It was she--she beyond all question--who had drunk the
poor baby's blood. So the matter stands. She is now confined to her room.
There has been no explanation. The husband is half demented. He knows,
and I know, little of vampirism beyond the name. We had thought it was
some wild tale of foreign parts. And yet here in the very heart of the
English Sussex--well, all this can be discussed with you in the morning.
Will you see me? Will you use your great powers in aiding a distracted
man? If so, kindly wire to Ferguson, Cheeseman's, Lamberley, and I will be
at your rooms by ten o'clock.
P. S. I believe your friend Watson played Rugby for Blackheath when I was
three-quarter for Richmond. It is the only personal introduction which I
"Of course I remembered him," said I as I laid down the letter. "Big
Bob Ferguson, the finest three-quarter Richmond ever had. He was always
a good-natured chap. It's like him to be so concerned over a friend's
Holmes looked at me thoughtfully and shook his head.
"I never get your limits, Watson," said he. "There are unexplored
possibilities about you. Take a wire down, like a good fellow. 'Will
examine your case with pleasure.'"
"We must not let him think that this agency is a home for the
weak-minded. Of course it is his case. Send him that wire and let the
matter rest till morning."
Promptly at ten o'clock next morning Ferguson strode into our room. I
had remembered him as a long, slab-sided man with loose limbs and a
fine turn of speed which had carried him round many an opposing back.
There is surely nothing in life more painful than to meet the wreck of
a fine athlete whom one has known in his prime. His great frame had
fallen in, his flaxen hair was scanty, and his shoulders were bowed. I
fear that I roused corresponding emotions in him.
"Hullo, Watson," said he, and his voice was still deep and hearty. "You
don't look quite the man you did when I threw you over the ropes into
the crowd at the Old Deer Park. I expect I have changed a bit also. But
it's this last day or two that has aged me. I see by your telegram, Mr.
Holmes, that it is no use my pretending to be anyone's deputy.".
"It is simpler to deal direct," said Holmes.
"Of course it is. But you can imagine how difficult it is when you are
speaking of the one woman whom you are bound to protect and help. What
can I do? How am I to go to the police with such a story? And yet the
kiddies have got to be protected. Is it madness, Mr. Holmes? Is it
something in the blood? Have you any similar case in your experience?
For God's sake, give me some advice, for I am at my wit's end."
"Very naturally, Mr. Ferguson. Now sit here and pull yourself together
and give me a few clear answers. I can assure you that I am very far
from being at my wit's end, and that I am confident we shall find some
solution. First of all, tell me what steps you have taken. Is your wife
still near the children?"
"We had a dreadful scene. She is a most loving woman, Mr. Holmes. If
ever a woman loved a man with all her heart and soul, she loves me. She
was cut to the heart that I should have discovered this horrible, this
incredible, secret. She would not even speak. She gave no answer to my
reproaches, save to gaze at me with a sort of wild, despairing look in
her eyes. Then she rushed to her room and locked herself in. Since then
she has refused to see me. She has a maid who was with her before her
marriage, Dolores by name--a friend rather than a servant. She takes
her food to her."
"Then the child is in no immediate danger?"
"Mrs. Mason, the nurse, has sworn that she will not leave it night or
day. I can absolutely trust her. I am more uneasy about poor little
Jack, for, as I told you in my note, he has twice been assaulted by
"But never wounded?"
"No, she struck him savagely. It is the more terrible as he is a poor
little inoffensive cripple." Ferguson's gaunt features softened as he
spoke of his boy. "You would think that the dear lad's condition would
soften anyone's heart. A fall in childhood and a twisted spine, Mr.
Holmes. But the dearest, most loving heart within."
Holmes had picked up the letter of yesterday and was reading it over.
"What other inmates are there in your house, Mr. Ferguson?"
"Two servants who have not been long with us. One stablehand, Michael,
who sleeps in the house. My wife, myself, my boy Jack, baby, Dolores,
and Mrs. Mason. That is all."
"I gather that you did not know your wife well at the time of your
"I had only known her a few weeks."
"How long had this maid Dolores been with her?"
"Then your wife's character would really be better known by Dolores
than by you?"
"Yes, you may say so."
Holmes made a note.
"I fancy," said he, "that I may be of more use at Lamberley than here.
It is eminently a case for personal investigation. If the lady remains
in her room, our presence could not annoy or inconvenience her. Of
course, we would stay at the inn."
Ferguson gave a gesture of relief.
"It is what I hoped, Mr. Holmes. There is an excellent train at two
from Victoria if you could come."
"Of course we could come. There is a lull at present. I can give you my
undivided energies. Watson, of course, comes with us. But there are one
or two points upon which I wish to be very sure before I start. This
unhappy lady, as I understand it, has appeared to assault both the
children, her own baby and your little son?"
"That is so."
"But the assaults take different forms, do they not? She has beaten
"Once with a stick and once very savagely with her hands."
"Did she give no explanation why she struck him?"
"None save that she hated him. Again and again she said so."
"Well, that is not unknown among stepmothers. A posthumous jealousy, we
will say. Is the lady jealous by nature?"
"Yes, she is very jealous--jealous with all the strength of her fiery
"But the boy--he is fifteen, I understand, and probably very
developed in mind, since his body has been circumscribed in action. Did
he give you no explanation of these assaults?"
"No, he declared there was no reason."
"Were they good friends at other times?"
"No, there was never any love between them."
"Yet you say he is affectionate?"
"Never in the world could there be so devoted a son. My life is his
life. He is absorbed in what I say or do."
Once again Holmes made a note. For some time he sat lost in thought.
"No doubt you and the boy were great comrades before this second
marriage. You were thrown very close together, were you not?"
"Very much so."
"And the boy, having so affectionate a nature, was devoted, no doubt,
to the memory of his mother?"
"He would certainly seem to be a most interesting lad. There is one
other point about these assaults. Were the strange attacks upon the
baby and the assaults upon yow son at the same period?"
"In the first case it was so. It was as if some frenzy had seized her,
and she had vented her rage upon both. In the second case it was only
Jack who suffered. Mrs. Mason had no complaint to make about the baby."
"That certainly complicates matters."
"I don't quite follow you, Mr. Holmes."
"Possibly not. One forms provisional theories and waits for time or
fuller knowledge to explode them. A bad habit, Mr. Ferguson, but human
nature is weak. I fear that your old friend here has given an
exaggerated view of my scientific methods. However, I will only say at
the present stage that your problem does not appear to me to be
insoluble, and that you may expect to find us at Victoria at two
It was evening of a dull, foggy November day when, having left our bags
at the Chequers, Lamberley, we drove through the Sussex clay of a long
winding lane and finally reached the isolated and ancient farmhouse in
which Ferguson dwelt. It was a large, straggling building, very old in
the centre, very new at the wings with towering Tudor chimneys and a
lichen-spotted, high-pitched roof of Horsham slabs. The doorsteps were
worn into curves, and the ancient tiles which lined the porch were
marked with the rebus of a cheese and a man after the original builder.
Within, the ceilings were corrugated with heavy oaken beams, and the
uneven floors sagged into sharp curves. An odour of age and decay
pervaded the whole crumbling building.
There was one very large central room into which Ferguson led us. Here,
in a huge old-fashioned fireplace with an iron screen behind it dated
1670, there blazed and spluttered a splendid log fire.
The room, as I gazed round, was a most singular mixture of dates and of
places. The half-panelled walls may well have belonged to the original
yeoman farmer of the seventeenth century. They were ornamented,
however, on the lower part by a line of well-chosen modern
water-colours; while above, where yellow plaster took the place of oak,
there was hung a fine collection of South American utensils and
weapons, which had been brought, no doubt, by the Peruvian lady
upstairs. Holmes rose, with that quick curiosity which sprang from his
eager mind, and examined them with some care. He returned with his eyes
full of thought.
"Hullo!" he cried. "Hullo!"
A spaniel had lain in a basket in the corner. It came slowly forward
towards its master, walking with difficulty. Its hind legs moved
irregularly and its tail was on the ground. It licked Ferguson's hand.
"What is it, Mr. Holmes?"
"The dog. What's the matter with it?"
"That's what puzzled the vet. A sort of paralysis. Spinal meningitis,
he thought. But it is passing. He'll be all right soon--won't you,
A shiver of assent passed through the drooping tail. The dog's mournful
eyes passed from one of us to the other. He knew that we were
discussing his case.
"Did it come on suddenly?"
"In a single night."
"How long ago?"
"It may have been four months ago."
"Very remarkable. Very suggestive."
"What do you see in it, Mr. Holmes?"
"A confirmation of what I had already thought."
"For God's sake, what do you think, Mr. Holmes? It may be a mere
intellectual puzzle to you, but it is life and death to me! My wife a
would-be murderer--my child in constant danger! Don't play with me,
Mr. Holmes. It is too terribly serious."
The big Rugby three-quarter was trembling all over. Holmes put his hand
soothingly upon his arm.
"I fear that there is pain for you, Mr. Ferguson, whatever the solution
may be," said he. "I would spare you all I can. I cannot say more for
the instant, but before I leave this house I hope I may have something
"Please God you may! If you will excuse me, gentlemen, I will go up to
my wife's room and see if there has been any change."
He was away some minutes, during which Holmes resumed his examination
of the curiosities upon the wall. When our host returned it was clear
from his downcast face that he had made no progress. He brought with
him a tall, slim, brown-faced girl.
"The tea is ready, Dolores," said Ferguson. "See that your mistress has
everything she can wish."
"She verra ill," cried the girl, looking with indignant eyes at her
master. "She no ask for food. She verra ill. She need doctor. I
frightened stay alone with her without doctor."
Ferguson looked at me with a question in his eyes.
"I should be so glad if I could be of use."
"Would your mistress see Dr. Watson?"
"I take him. I no ask leave. She needs doctor."
"Then I'll come with you at once."
I followed the girl, who was quivering with strong emotion, up the
staircase and down an ancient corridor. At the end was an iron-clamped
and massive door. It struck me as I looked at it that if Ferguson tried
to force his way to his wife he would find it no easy matter. The girl
drew a key from her pocket, and the heavy oaken planks creaked upon
their old hinges. I passed in and she swiftly followed, fastening the
door behind her.
On the bed a woman was lying who was clearly in a high fever. She was
only half conscious, but as I entered she raised a pair of frightened
but beautiful eyes and glared at me in apprehension. Seeing a stranger,
she appeared to be relieved and sank back with a sigh upon the pillow.
I stepped up to her with a few reassuring words, and she lay still
while I took her pulse and temperature. Both were high, and yet my
impression was that the condition was rather that of mental and nervous
excitement than of any actual seizure.
"She lie like that one day, two day. I 'fraid she die," said the girl.
The woman turned her flushed and handsome face towards me.
"Where is my husband?"
"He is below and would wish to see you."
"I will not see him. I will not see him." Then she seemed to wander off
into delirium. "A fiend! A fiend! Oh, what shall I do with this devil?"
"Can I help you in any way?"
"No. No one can help. It is finished. All is destroyed. Do what I will,
all is destroyed."
The woman must have some strange delusion. I could not see honest Bob
Ferguson in the character of fiend or devil.
"Madame," I said, "your husband loves you dearly. He is deeply grieved
at this happening."
Again she turned on me those glorious eyes.
"He loves me. Yes. But do I not love him? Do I not love him even to
sacrifice myself rather than break his dear heart? That is how I love
him. And yet he could think of me--he could speak of me so."
"He is full of grief, but he cannot understand."
"No, he cannot understand. But he should trust."
"Will you not see him?" I suggested.
"No, no, I cannot forget those terrible words nor the look upon his
face. I will not see him. Go now. You can do nothing for me. Tell him
only one thing. I want my child. I have a right to my child. That is
the only message I can send him." She turned her face to the wall and
would say no more.
I returned to the room downstairs, where Ferguson and Holmes still sat
by the fire. Ferguson listened moodily to my account of the interview.
"How can I send her the child?" he said. "How do I know what strange
impulse might come upon her? How can I ever forget how she rose from
beside it with its blood upon her lips?" He shuddered at the
recollection. "The child is safe with Mrs. Mason, and there he must
A smart maid, the only modern thing which we had seen in the house, had
brought in some tea. As she was serving it the door opened and a youth
entered the room. He was a remarkable lad, pale-faced and fair-haired,
with excitable light blue eyes which blazed into a sudden flame of
emotion and joy as they rested upon his father. He rushed forward and
threw his arms round his neck with the abandon of a loving girl.
"Oh, daddy," he cried, "I did not know that you were due yet. I should
have been here to meet you. Oh, I am so glad to see you!"
Ferguson gently disengaged himself from the embrace with some little
show of embarrassment.
"Dear old chap," said he, patting the flaxen head with a very tender
hand. "I came early because my friends, Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, have
been persuaded to come down and spend an evening with us."
"Is that Mr. Holmes, the detective?"
The youth looked at us with a very penetrating and, as it seemed to me,
"What about your other child, Mr. Ferguson?" asked Holmes. "Might we
make the acquaintance of the baby?"
"Ask Mrs. Mason to bring baby down," said Ferguson. The boy went off
with a curious, shambling gait which told my surgical eyes that he was
suffering from a weak spine. Presently he returned, and behind him came
a tall, gaunt woman bearing in her arms a very beautiful child,
dark-eyed, golden-haired, a wonderful mixture of the Saxon and the
Latin. Ferguson was evidently devoted to it, for he took it into his
arms and fondled it most tenderly.
"Fancy anyone having the heart to hurt him," he muttered as he glanced
down at the small, angry red pucker upon the cherub throat.
It was at this moment that I chanced to glance at Holmes and saw a most
singular intentness in his expression. His face was as set as if it had
been carved out of old ivory, and his eyes, which had glanced for a
moment at father and child, were now fixed with eager curiosity upon
something at the other side of the room. Following his gaze I could
only guess that he was looking out through the window at the
melancholy, dripping garden. It is true that a shutter had half closed
outside and obstructed the view, but none the less it was certainly at
the window that Holmes was fixing his concentrated attention. Then he
smiled, and his eyes came back to the baby. On its chubby neck there
was this small puckered mark. Without speaking, Holmes examined it with
care. Finally he shook one of the dimpled fists which waved in front of
"Good-bye, little man. You have made a strange start in life. Nurse, I
should wish to have a word with you in private."
He took her aside and spoke earnestly for a few minutes. I only heard
the last words, which were: "Your anxiety will soon, I hope, be set at
rest." The woman, who seemed to be a sour, silent kind of creature,
withdrew with the child.
"What is Mrs. Mason like?" asked Holmes.
"Not very prepossessing externally, as you can see, but a heart of
gold, and devoted to the child."
"Do you like her, Jack?" Holmes turned suddenly upon the boy. His
expressive mobile face shadowed over, and he shook his head.
"Jacky has very strong likes and dislikes," said Ferguson, putting his
arm round the boy. "Luckily I am one of his likes."
The boy cooed and nestled his head upon his father's breast. Ferguson
gently disengaged him.
"Run away, little Jacky," said he, and he watched his son with loving
eyes until he disappeared. "Now, Mr. Holmes," he continued when the boy
was gone, "I really feel that I have brought you on a fool's errand,
for what can you possibly do save give me your sympathy? It must be an
exceedingly delicate and complex affair from your point of view."
"It is certainly delicate," said my friend with an amused smile, "but I
have not been struck up to now with its complexity. It has been a case
for intellectual deduction, but when this original intellectual
deduction is confirmed point by point by quite a number of independent
incidents, then the subjective becomes objective and we can say
confidently that we have reached our goal. I had, in fact, reached it
before we left Baker Street, and the rest has merely been observation
Ferguson put his big hand to his furrowed forehead.
"For heaven's sake, Holmes," he said hoarsely; "if you can see the
truth in this matter, do not keep me in suspense. How do I stand? What
shall I do? I care nothing as to how you have found your facts so long
as you have really got them."
"Certainly I owe you an explanation, and you shall have it. But you
will permit me to handle the matter in my own way? Is the lady capable
of seeing us, Watson?"
"She is ill, but she is quite rational."
"Very good. It is only in her presence that we can clear the matter up.
Let us go up to her."
"She will not see me," cried Ferguson.
"Oh, yes, she will," said Holmes. He scribbled a few lines upon a sheet
of paper. "You at least have the entree, Watson. Will you have the
goodness to give the lady this note?"
I ascended again and handed the note to Dolores, who cautiously opened
the door. A minute later I heard a cry from within, a cry in which joy
and surprise seemed to be blended. Dolores looked out.
"She will see them. She will leesten," said she.
At my summons Ferguson and Holmes came up. As we entered the room
Ferguson took a step or two towards his wife, who had raised herself in
the bed, but she held out her hand to repulse him. He sank into an
armchair, while Holmes seated himself beside him, after bowing to the
lady, who looked at him with wide-eyed amazement.
"I think we can dispense with Dolores," said Holmes. "Oh, very well,
madame, if you would rather she stayed I can see no objection. Now, Mr.
Ferguson, I am a busy man with many calls, and my methods have to be
short and direct. The swiftest surgery is the least painful. Let me
first say what will ease your mind. Your wife is a very good, a very
loving, and a very ill-used woman."
Ferguson sat up with a cry of joy.
"Prove that, Mr. Holmes, and I am your debtor forever."
"I will do so, but in doing so I must wound you deeply in another
"I care nothing so long as you clear my wife. Everything on earth is
insignificant compared to that."
"Let me tell you, then, the train of reasoning which passed through my
mind in Baker Street. The idea of a vampire was to me absurd. Such
things do not happen in criminal practice in England. And yet your
observation was precise. You had seen the lady rise from beside the
child's cot with the blood upon her lips."
"Did it not occur to you that a bleeding wound may be sucked for some
other purpose than to draw the blood from it? Was there not a queen in
English history who sucked such a wound to draw poison from it?"
"A South American household. My instinct felt the presence of those
weapons upon the wall before my eyes ever saw them. It might have been
other poison, but that was what occurred to me. When I saw that little
empty quiver beside the small birdbow, it was just what I expected to
see. If the child were pricked with one of those arrows dipped in
curare or some other devilish drug, it would mean death if the venom
were not sucked out.
"And the dog! If one were to use such a poison, would one not try it
first in order to see that it had not lost its power? I did not foresee
the dog, but at least I understand him and he fitted into my
"Now do you understand? Your wife feared such an attack. She saw it
made and saved the child's life, and yet she shrank from telling you
all the truth, for she knew how you loved the boy and feared lest it
break your heart."
"I watched him as you fondled the child just now. His face was clearly
reflected in the glass of the window where the shutter formed a
background. I saw such jealousy, such cruel hatred, as I have seldom
seen in a human face."
"You have to face it, Mr. Ferguson. It is the more painful because it
is a distorted love, a maniacal exaggerated love for you, and possibly
for his dead mother, which has prompted his action. His very soul is
consumed with hatred for this splendid child, whose health and beauty
are a contrast to his own weakness."
"Good God! It is incredible!"
"Have I spoken the truth, madame?"
The lady was sobbing, with her face buried in the pillows. Now she
turned to her husband.
"How could I tell you, Bob? I felt the blow it would be to you. It was
better that I should wait and that it should come from some other lips
than mine. When this gentleman, who seems to have powers of magic,
wrote that he knew all, I was glad."
"I think a year at sea would be my prescription for Master Jacky," said
Holmes, rising from his chair. "Only one thing is still clouded,
madame. We can quite understand your attacks upon Master Jacky. There
is a limit to a mother's patience. But how did you dare to leave the
child these last two days?"
"I had told Mrs. Mason. She knew."
"Exactly. So I imagined."
Ferguson was standing by the bed, choking, his hands outstretched and
"This, I fancy, is the time for our exit, Watson," said Holmes in a
whisper. "If you will take one elbow of the too faithful Dolores, I
will take the other. There, now," he added as he closed the door behind
him, "I think we may leave them to settle the rest among themselves."
I have only one further note of this case. It is the letter which
Holmes wrote in final answer to that with which the narrative begins.
It ran thus:
Referring to your letter of the 19th, I beg to state that I have looked
into the inquiry of your client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and
Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, and that the matter has been
brought to a satisfactory conclusion. With thanks for your recommendation,
I am, sir,
THE ADVENTURE OF THE THREE GARRIDEBS
It may have been a comedy, or it may have been a tragedy. It cost one
man his reason, it cost me a blood-letting, and it cost yet another man
the penalties of the law. Yet there was certainly an element of comedy.
Well, you shall judge for yourselves.
I remember the date very well, for it was in the same month that Holmes
refused a knighthood for services which may perhaps some day be
described. I only refer to the matter in passing, for in my position of
partner and confidant I am obliged to be particularly careful to avoid
any indiscretion. I repeat, however, that this enables me to fix the
date, which was the latter end of June, 1902, shortly after the
conclusion of the South African War. Holmes had spent several days in
bed, as was his habit from time to time, but he emerged that morning
with a long foolscap document in his hand and a twinkle of amusement in
his austere gray eyes.
"There is a chance for you to make some money. friend Watson," said he.
"Have you ever heard the name of Garrideb?"
I admitted that I had not.
"Well, if you can lay your hand upon a Garrideb, there's money in it."
"Ah, that's a long story--rather a whimsical one, too. I don't think
in all our explorations of human complexities we have ever come upon
anything more singular. The fellow will be here presently for
cross-examination, so I won't open the matter up till he comes. But,
meanwhile, that's the name we want."
The telephone directory lay on the table beside me, and I turned over
the pages in a rather hopeless quest. But to my amazement there was
this strange name in its due place. I gave a cry of triumph.
"Here you are, Holmes! Here it is!"
Holmes took the book from my hand.
"'Garrideb, N.,'" he read, "'136 Little Ryder Street, W.' Sorry to
disappoint you, my dear Watson, but this is the man himself. That is
the address upon his letter. We want another to match him."
Mrs. Hudson had come in with a card upon a tray. I took it up and
glanced at it.
"Why, here it is!" I cried in amazement. "This is a different initial.
John Garrideb, Counsellor at Law, Moorville, Kansas, U.S.A."
Holmes smiled as he looked at the card. "I am afraid you must make yet
another effort, Watson," said he. "This gentleman is also in the plot
already, though I certainly did not expect to see him this morning.
However, he is in a position to tell us a good deal which I want to
A moment later he was in the room. Mr. John Garrideb, Counsellor at
Law, was a short, powerful man with the round, fresh, clean-shaven face
characteristic of so many American men of affairs. The general effect
was chubby and rather childlike, so that one received the impression of
quite a young man with a broad set smile upon his face. His eyes,
however, were arresting. Seldom in any human head have I seen a pair
which bespoke a more intense inward life, so bright were they, so
alert, so responsive to every change of thought. His accent was
American, but was not accompanied by any eccentricity of speech.
"Mr. Holmes?" he asked, glancing from one to the other. "Ah, yes! Your
pictures are not unlike you, sir, if I may say so. I believe you have
had a letter from my namesake, Mr. Nathan Garrideb, have you not?"
"Pray sit down," said Sherlock Holmes. "We shall, I fancy, have a good
deal to discuss." He took up his sheets of foolscap. "You are, of
course, the Mr. John Garrideb mentioned in this document. But surely
you have been in England some time?"
"Why do you say that, Mr. Holmes?" I seemed to read sudden suspicion in
those expressive eyes.
"Your whole outfit is English."
Mr. Garrideb forced a laugh. "I've read of your tricks, Mr. Holmes, but
I never thought I would be the subject of them. Where do you read
"The shoulder cut of your coat, the toes of your boots--could anyone
"Well, well, I had no idea I was so obvious a Britisher. But business
brought me over here some time ago, and so, as you say, my outfit is
nearly all London. However, I guess your time is of value, and we did
not meet to talk about the cut of my socks. What about getting down to
that paper you hold in your hand?"
Holmes had in some way ruffled our visitor, whose chubby face had
assumed a far less amiable expression.
"Patience! Patience, Mr. Garrideb!" said my friend in a soothing voice.
"Dr. Watson would tell you that these little digressions of mine
sometimes prove in the end to have some bearing on the matter. But why
did Mr. Nathan Garrideb not come with you?"
"Why did he ever drag you into it at all?" asked our visitor with a
sudden outflame of anger. "What in thunder had you to do with it? Here
was a bit of professional business between two gentlemen, and one of
them must needs call in a detective! I saw him this morning, and he
told me this fool-trick he had played me, and that's why I am here. But
I feel bad about it, all the same."
"There was no reflection upon you, Mr. Garrideb. It was simply zeal
upon his part to gain your end--an end which is, I understand,
equally vital for both of you. He knew that I had means of getting
information, and, therefore, it was very natural that he should apply
Our visitor's angry face gradually cleared.
"Well, that puts it different," said he. "When I went to see him this
morning and he told me he had sent to a detective, I just asked for
your address and came right away. I don't want police butting into a
private matter. But if you are content just to help us find the man,
there can be no harm in that."
"Well, that is just how it stands," said Holmes. "And now, sir, since
you are here, we had best have a clear account from your own lips. My
friend here knows nothing of the details."
Mr. Garrideb surveyed me with not too friendly a gaze.
"Need he know?" he asked.
"We usually work together."
"Well, there's no reason it should be kept a secret. I'll give you the
facts as short as I can make them. If you came from Kansas I would not
need to explain to you who Alexander Hamilton Garrideb was. He made his
money in real estate, and afterwards in the wheat pit at Chicago, but
he spent it in buying up as much land as would make one of your
counties, lying along the Arkansas River, west of Fort Dodge. It's
grazing-land and lumber-land and arable-land and mineralized-land, and
just every sort of land that brings dollars to the man that owns it.
"He had no kith nor kin--or, if he had, I never heard of it. But he
took a kind of pride in the queerness of his name. That was what
brought us together. I was in the law at Topeka, and one day I had a
visit from the old man, and he was tickled to death to meet another man
with his own name. It was his pet fad, and he was dead set to find out
if there were any more Garridebs in the world. 'Find me another!' said
he. I told him I was a busy man and could not spend my life hiking
round the world in search of Garridebs. 'None the less,' said he, 'that
is just what you will do if things pan out as I planned them.' I
thought he was joking, but there was a powerful lot of meaning in the
words, as I was soon to discover.
"For he died within a year of saying them, and he left a will behind
him. It was the queerest will that has ever been filed in the State of
Kansas. His property was divided into three parts and I was to have one
on condition that I found two Garridebs who would share the remainder.
It's five million dollars for each if it is a cent, but we can't lay a
finger on it until we all three stand in a row.
"It was so big a chance that I just let my legal practice slide and I
set forth looking for Garridebs. There is not one in the United States.
I went through it, sir, with a fine-toothed comb and never a Garrideb
could I catch. Then I tried the old country. Sure enough there was the
name in the London telephone directory. I went after him two days ago
and explained the whole matter to him. But he is a lone man, like
myself, with some women relations, but no men. It says three adult men
in the will. So you see we still have a vacancy, and if you can help to
fill it we will be very ready to pay your charges."
"Well, Watson," said Holmes with a smile, "l said it was rather
whimsical, did I not? I should have thought, sir, that your obvious way
was to advertise in the agony columns of the papers."
"I have done that, Mr. Holmes. No replies."
"Dear me! Well, it is certainly a most curious little problem. I may
take a glance at it in my leisure. By the way, it is curious that you
should have come from Topeka. I used to have a correspondent--he is
dead now--old Dr. Lysander Starr, who was mayor in 1890."
"Good old Dr. Starr!" said our visitor. "His name is still honoured.
Well, Mr. Holmes, I suppose all we can do is to report to you and let
you know how we progress. I reckon you will hear within a day or two."
With this assurance our American bowed and departed.
Holmes had lit his pipe, and he sat for some time with a curious smile
upon his face.
"Well?" I asked at last.
"I am wondering, Watson--just wondering!"
Holmes took his pipe from his lips.
"I was wondering, Watson, what on earth could be the object of this man
in telling us such a rigmarole of lies. I nearly asked him so--for
there are times when a brutal frontal attack is the best policy--but
I judged it better to let him think he had fooled us. Here is a man
with an English coat frayed at the elbow and trousers bagged at the
knee with a year's wear, and yet by this document and by his own
account he is a provincial American lately landed in London. There have
been no advertisements in the agony columns. You know that I miss
nothing there. They are my favourite covert for putting up a bird, and
I would never have overlooked such a cock pheasant as that. I never
knew a Dr. Lysander Starr, of Topeka. Touch him where you would he was
false. I think the fellow is really an American, but he has worn his
accent smooth with years of London. What is his game, then, and what
motive lies behind this preposterous search for Garridebs? It's worth
our attention, for, granting that the man is a rascal, he is certainly
a complex and ingenious one. We must now find out if our other
correspondent is a fraud also. Just ring him up, Watson."
I did so, and heard a thin, quavering voice at the other end of the
"Yes, yes, I am Mr. Nathan Garrideb. Is Mr. Holmes there? I should very
much like to have a word with Mr. Holmes."
My friend took the instrument and I heard the usual syncopated
"Yes, he has been here. I understand that you don't know him.... How
long? ... Only two days! ... Yes, yes, of course, it is a most
captivating prospect. Will you be at home this evening? I suppose your
namesake will not be there? . . . Very good, we will come then, for I
would rather have a chat without him.... Dr. Watson will come with
me.... I understand from your note that you did not go out often....
Well, we shall be round about six. You need not mention it to the
American lawyer.... Very good. Good-bye!"
It was twilight of a lovely spring evening, and even Little Ryder
Street, one of the smaller offshoots from the Edgware Road, within a
stone-cast of old Tyburn Tree of evil memory, looked golden and
wonderful in the slanting rays of the setting sun. The particular house
to which we were directed was a large, old-fashioned, Early Georgian
edifice, with a flat brick face broken only by two deep bay windows on
the ground floor. It was on this ground floor that our client lived,
and, indeed, the low windows proved to be the front of the huge room in
which he spent his waking hours. Holmes pointed as we passed to the
small brass plate which bore the curious name.
"Up some years, Watson," he remarked, indicating its discoloured
surface. "It's his real name, anyhow, and that is something to note."
The house had a common stair, and there were a number of names painted
in the hall, some indicating offices and some private chambers. It was
not a collection of residential flats, but rather the abode of Bohemian
bachelors. Our client opened the door for us himself and apologized by
saying that the woman in charge left at four o'clock. Mr. Nathan
Garrideb proved to be a very tall, loosejointed, round-backed person,
gaunt and bald, some sixty-odd years of age. He had a cadaverous face,
with the dull dead skin of a man to whom exercise was unknown. Large
round spectacles and a small projecting goat's beard combined with his
stooping attitude to give him an expression of peering curiosity. The
general effect, however, was amiable, though eccentric.
The room was as curious as its occupant. It looked like a small museum.
It was both broad and deep, with cupboards and cabinets all round,
crowded with specimens, geological and anatomical. Cases of butterflies
and moths flanked each side of the entrance. A large table in the
centre was littered with all sorts of debris, while the tall brass tube
of a powerful microscope bristled up among them. As I glanced round I
was surprised at the universality of the man's interests. Here was a
case of ancient coins. There was a cabinet of flint instruments. Behind
his central table was a large cupboard of fossil bones. Above was a
line of plaster skulls with such names as "Neanderthal," "Heidelberg,"
"Cro-Magnon" printed beneath them. It was clear that he was a student
of many subjects. As he stood in front of us now, he held a piece of
chamois leather in his right hand with which he was polishing a coin.
"Syracusan--of the best period," he explained, holding it up. "They
degenerated greatly towards the end. At their best I hold them supreme,
though some prefer the Alexandrian school. You will find a chair here,
Mr. Holmes. Pray allow me to clear these bones. And you, sir--ah,
yes, Dr. Watson--if you would have the goodness to put the Japanese
vase to one side. You see round me my little interests in life. My
doctor lectures me about never going out, but why should I go out when
I have so much to hold me here? I can assure you that the adequate
cataloguing of one of those cabinets would take me three good months."
Holmes looked round him with curiosity.
"But do you tell me that you never go out?" he said.
"Now and again I drive down to Sotheby's or Christie's. Otherwise I
very seldom leave my room. I am not too strong, and my researches are
very absorbing. But you can imagine, Mr. Holmes, what a terrific shock
--pleasant but terrific--it was for me when I heard of this
unparalleled good fortune. It only needs one more Garrideb to complete
the matter, and surely we can find one. I had a brother, but he is
dead, and female relatives are disqualified. But there must surely be
others in the world. I had heard that you handled strange cases, and
that was why I sent to you. Of course, this American gentleman is quite
right, and I should have taken his advice first, but I acted for the
"I think you acted very wisely indeed," said Holmes. "But are you
really anxious to acquire an estate in America?"
"Certainly not, sir. Nothing would induce me to leave my collection.
But this gentleman has assured me that he will buy me out as soon as we
have established our claim. Five million dollars was the sum named.
There are a dozen specimens in the market at the present moment which
fill gaps in my collection, and which I am unable to purchase for want
of a few hundred pounds. Just think what I could do with five million
dollars. Why, I have the nucleus of a national collection. I shall be
the Hans Sloane of my age."
His eyes gleamed behind his great spectacles. It was very clear that no
pains would be spared by Mr. Nathan Garrideb in finding a namesake.
"I merely called to make your acquaintance, and there is no reason why
I should interrupt your studies," said Holmes. "I prefer to establish
personal touch with those with whom I do business. There are few
questions I need ask, for I have your very clear narrative in my
pocket, and I filled up the blanks when this American gentleman called.
I understand that up to this week you were unaware of his existence."
"That is so. He called last Tuesday."
"Did he tell you of our interview to-day?"
"Yes, he came straight back to me. He had been very angry."
"Why should he be angry?"
"He seemed to think it was some reflection on his honour. But he was
quite cheerful again when he returned."
"Did he suggest any course of action?"
"No, sir, he did not."
"Has he had, or asked for, any money from you?"
"No, sir, never!"
"You see no possible object he has in view?"
"None, except what he states."
"Did you tell him of our telephone appointment?"
"Yes, sir, I did."
Holmes was lost in thought. I could see that he was puzzled.
"Have you any articles of great value in your collection?"
"No, sir. I am not a rich man. It is a good collection, but not a very
"You have no fear of burglars?"
"Not the least."
"How long have you been in these rooms?"
"Nearly five years."
Holmes's cross-examination was interrupted by an imperative knocking at
the door. No sooner had our client unlatched it than the American
lawyer burst excitedly into the room.
"Here you are!" he cried, waving a paper over his head. "I thought I
should be in time to get you. Mr. Nathan Garrideb, my congratulations!
You are a rich man, sir. Our business is happily finished and all is
well. As to you, Mr. Holmes, we can only say we are sorry if we have
given you any useless trouble."
He handed over the paper to our client, who stood staring at a marked
advertisement. Holmes and I leaned forward and read it over his
shoulder. This is how it ran:
CONSTRUCTOR OF ACRICULTURAL MACHINERY
Binders, reapers, steam and hand plows, drills, harrows, farmer's carts,
buckboards, and all other appliances. Estimates for Artesian Wells.
Apply Grosvenor Buildings, Aston
"Glorious!" gasped our host. "That makes our third man."
"I had opened up inquiries in Birmingham," said the Americn, "and my
agent there has sent me this advertisement from a local paper. We must
hustle and put the thing through. I have written to this man and told
him that you will see him in his office to-morrow afternoon at four
"You want me to see him?"
"What do you say, Mr. Holmes? Don't you think it would be wiser? Here
am I, a wandering American with a wonderful tale. Why should he believe
what I tell him? But you are a Britisher with solid references, and he
is bound to take notice of what you say. I would go with you if you
wished, but I have a very busy day to-morrow, and I could always follow
you if you are in any trouble."
"Well, I have not made such a journey for years."
"It is nothing, Mr. Garrideb. I have figured out our connections. You
leave at twelve and should be there soon after two. Then you can be
back the same night. All you have to do is to see this man, explain the
matter, and get an affidavit of his existence. By the Lord!" he added
hotly, "considering I've come all the way from the centre of America,
it is surely little enough if you go a hundred miles in order to put
this matter through."
"Quite so," said Holmes. "I think what this gentleman says is very
Mr. Nathan Garrideb shrugged his shoulders with a disconsolate air.
"Well, if you insist I shall go," said he. "It is certainly hard for me
to refuse you anything, considering the glory of hope that you have
brought into my life."
"Then that is agreed," said Holmes, "and no doubt you will let me have
a report as soon as you can."
"I'll see to that," said the American. "Well," he added looking at his
watch, "I'll have to get on. I'll call to-morrow, Mr. Nathan, and see
you off to Birmingham. Coming my way, Mr. Holmes? Well, then, good-bye,
and we may have good news for you to-morrow night."
I noticed that my friend's face cleared when the American left the
room, and the look of thoughtful perplexity had vanished.
"I wish I could look over your collection, Mr. Garrideb," said he. "In
my profession all sorts of odd knowledge comes useful, and this room of
yours is a storehouse of it."
Our client shone with pleasure and his eyes gleamed from behind his big
"I had always heard, sir, that you were a very intelligent man," said
he. "I could take you round now if you have the time."
"Unfortunately, I have not. But these specimens are so well labelled
and classified that they hardly need your personal explanation. If I
should be able to look in to-morrow, I presume that there would be no
objection to my glancing over them?"
"None at all. You are most welcome. The place will, of course, be shut
up, but Mrs. Saunders is in the basement up to four o'clock and would
let you in with her key."
"Well, I happen to be clear to-morrow afternoon. If you would say a
word to Mrs. Saunders it would be quite in order. By the way, who is
Our client was amazed at the sudden question.
"Holloway and Steele, in the Edgware Road. But why?"
"I am a bit of an archaeologist myself when it comes to houses," said
Holmes, laughing. "I was wondering if this was Queen Anne or Georgian."
"Georgian, beyond doubt."
"Really. I should have thought a little earlier. However, it is easily
ascertained. Well, good-bye, Mr. Garrideb, and may you have every
success in your Birmingham journey."
The house-agent's was close by, but we found that it was closed for the
day, so we made our way back to Baker Street. It was not till after
dinner that Holmes reverted to the subject.
"Our little problem draws to a close," said he. "No doubt you have
outlined the solution in your own mind."
"I can make neither head nor tail of it."
"The head is surely clear enough and the tail we should see to-morrow.
Did you notice nothing curious about that advertisement?"
"I saw that the word 'plough' was misspelt."
"Oh, you did notice that, did you? Come, Watson, you improve all the
time. Yes, it was bad English but good American. The printer had set it
up as received. Then the buckboards. That is American also. And
artesian wells are commoner with them than with us. It was a typical
American advertisement, but purporting to be from an English firm. What
do you make of that?"
"I can only suppose that this American lawyer put it in himself. What
his object was I fail to understand."
"Well, there are alternative explanations. Anyhow, he wanted to get
this good old fossil up to Birmingham. That is very clear. I might have
told him that he was clearly going on a wild-goose chase, but, on
second thoughts, it seemed better to clear the stage by letting him go.
To-morrow, Watson--well, to-morrow will speak for itself."
Holmes was up and out early. When he returned at lunchtime I noticed
that his face was very grave.
"This is a more serious matter than I had expected, Watson," said he.
"It is fair to tell you so, though I know it will only be an additional
reason to you for running your head into danger. I should know my
Watson by now. But there is danger, and you should know it."
"Well, it is not the first we have shared, Holmes. I hope it may not be
the last. What is the particular danger this time?"
"We are up against a very hard case. I have identified Mr. John
Garrideb, Counsellor at Law. He is none other than 'Killer' Evans, of
sinister and murderous reputation."
"I fear I am none the wiser."
"Ah, it is not part of your profession to carry about a portable
Newgate Calendar in your memory. I have been down to see friend
Lestrade at the Yard. There may be an occasional want of imaginative
intuition down there, but they lead the world for thoroughness and
method. I had an idea that we might get on the track of our American
friend in their records. Sure enough, I found his chubby face smiling
up at me from the rogues' portrait gallery. 'James Winter, alias
Morecroft, alias Killer Evans,' was the inscription below." Holmes drew
an envelope from his pocket. "I scribbled down a few points from his
dossier: Aged forty-four. Native of Chicago. Known to have shot three
men in the States. Escaped from penitentiary through political
influence. Came to London in 1893. Shot a man over cards in a
night-club in the Waterloo Road in January, 1895. Man died, but he was
shown to have been the aggressor in the row. Dead man was identified as
Rodger Prescott, famous as forger and coiner in Chicago. Killer Evans
released in 1901. Has been under police supervision since, but so far
as known has led an honest life. Very dangerous man, usually carries
arms and is prepared to use them. That is our bird, Watson--a
sporting bird, as you must admit."
"But what is his game?"
"Well, it begins to define itself. I have been to the houseagent's. Our
client, as he told us, has been there five years. It was unlet for a
year before then. The previous tenant was a gentleman at large named
Waldron. Waldron's appearance was well remembered at the office. He had
suddenly vanished and nothing more been heard of him. He was a tall,
bearded man with very dark features. Now, Prescott, the man whom Killer
Evans had shot, was, according to Scotland Yard, a tall, dark man with
a beard. As a working hypothesis, I think we may take it that Prescott,
the American criminal, used to live in the very room which our innocent
friend now devotes to his museum. So at last we get a link, you see."
"And the next link?"
"Well, we must go now and look for that."
He took a revolver from the drawer and handed it to me.
"I have my old favourite with me. If our Wild West friend tries to live
up to his nickname, we must be ready for him. I'll give you an hour for
a siesta, Watson, and then I think it will be time for our Ryder Street
It was just four o'clock when we reached the curious apartment of
Nathan Garrideb. Mrs. Saunders, the caretaker, was about to leave, but
she had no hesitation in admitting us, for the door shut with a spring
lock, and Holmes promised to see that all was safe before we left.
Shortly afterwards the outer door closed, her bonnet passed the bow
window, and we knew that we were alone in the lower floor of the house.
Holmes made a rapid examination of the premises. There was one cupboard
in a dark corner which stood out a little from the wall. It was behind
this that we eventually crouched while Holmes in a whisper outlined his
"He wanted to get our amiable friend out of his room--that is very
clear, and, as the collector never went out, it took some planning to
do it. The whole of this Garrideb invention was apparently for no other
end. I must say, Watson, that there is a certain devilish ingenuity
about it, even if the queer name of the tenant did give him an opening
which he could hardly have expected. He wove his plot with remarkable
"But what did he want?"
"Well, that is what we are here to find out. It has nothing whatever to
do with our client, so far as I can read the situation. It is something
connected with the man he murdered--the man who may have been his
confederate in crime. There is some guilty secret in the room. That is
how I read it. At first I thought our friend might have something in
his collection more valuable than he knew--something worth the
attention of a big criminal. But the fact that Rodger Prescott of evil
memory inhabited these rooms points to some deeper reason. Well,
Watson, we can but possess our souls in patience and see what the hour
That hour was not long in striking. We crouched closer in the shadow as
we heard the outer door open and shut. Then came the sharp, metallic
snap of a key, and the American was in the room. He closed the door
softly behind him, took a sharp glance around him to see that all was
safe, threw off his overcoat, and walked up to the central table with
the brisk manner of one who knows exactly what he has to do and how to
do it. He pushed the table to one side, tore up the square of carpet on
which it rested, rolled it completely back, and then, drawing a jemmy
from his inside pocket, he knelt down and worked vigorously upon the
floor. Presently we heard the sound of sliding boards, and an instant
later a square had opened in the planks. Killer Evans struck a match,
lit a stump of candle, and vanished from our view.
Clearly our moment had come. Holmes touched my wrist as a signal, and
together we stole across to the open trap-door. Gently as we moved,
however, the old floor must have creaked under our feet, for the head
of our American, peering anxiously round, emerged suddenly from the
open space. His face turned upon us with a glare of baffled rage, which
gradually softened into a rather shamefaced grin as he realized that
two pistols were pointed at his head.
"Well, well!" said he coolly as he scrambled to the surface. "I guess
you have been one too many for me, Mr. Holmes. Saw through my game, I
suppose, and played me for a sucker from the first. Well, sir, I hand
it to you; you have me beat and--"
In an instant he had whisked out a revolver from his breast and had
fired two shots. I felt a sudden hot sear as if a red-hot iron had been
pressed to my thigh. There was a crash as Holmes's pistol came down on
the man's head. I had a vision of him sprawling upon the floor with
blood running down his face while Holmes rummaged him for weapons. Then
my friend's wiry arms were round me, and he was leading me to a chair.
"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"
It was worth a wound--it was worth many wounds--to know the depth
of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard
eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the
one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a
great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service
culminated in that moment of revelation.
"It's nothing, Holmes. It's a mere scratch."
He had ripped up my trousers with his pocket-knife.
"You are right," he cried with an immense sigh of relief. "It is quite
superficial." His face set like flint as he glared at our prisoner, who
was sitting up with a dazed face. "By the Lord, it is as well for you.
If you had killed Watson, you would not have got out of this room
alive. Now, sir, what have you to say for yourself?"
He had nothing to say for himself. He only sat and scowled. I leaned on
Holmes's arm, and together we looked down into the small cellar which
had been disclosed by the secret flap. It was still illuminated by the
candle which Evans had taken down with him. Our eyes fell upon a mass
of rusted machinery, great rolls of paper, a litter of bottles, and,
neatly arranged upon a small table, a number of neat little bundles.
"A printing press--a counterfeiter's outfit," said Holmes.
"Yes, sir," said our prisoner, staggering slowly to his feet and then
sinking into the chair. "The greatest counterfeiter London ever saw.
That's Prescott's machine, and those bundles on the table are two
thousand of Prescott's notes worth a hundred each and fit to pass
anywhere. Help yourselves, gentlemen. Call it a deal and let me beat
"We don't do things like that, Mr. Evans. There is no bolthole for you
in this country. You shot this man Prescott, did you not?"
"Yes, sir, and got five years for it, though it was he who pulled on
me. Five years--when I should have had a medal the size of a soup
plate. No living man could tell a Prescott from a Bank of England, and
if I hadn't put him out he would have flooded London with them. I was
the only one in the world who knew where he made them. Can you wonder
that I wanted to get to the place? And can you wonder that when I found
this crazy boob of a bug-hunter with the queer name squatting right on
the top of it, and never quitting his room, I had to do the best I
could to shift him? Maybe I would have been wiser if I had put him
away. It would have been easy enough, but I'm a soft-hearted guy that
can't begin shooting unless the other man has a gun also. But say, Mr.
Holmes, what have I done wrong, anyhow? I've not used this plant. I've
not hurt this old stiff. Where do you get me?"
"Only attempted murder, so far as I can see," said Holmes. "But that's
not our job. They take that at the next stage. What we wanted at
present was just your sweet self. Please give the Yard a call, Watson.
It won't be entirely unexpected."
So those were the facts about Killer Evans and his remarkable invention
of the three Garridebs. We heard later that our poor old friend never
got over the shock of his dissipated dreams. When his castle in the air
fell down, it buried him beneath the ruins. He was last heard of at a
nursing-home in Brixton. It was a glad day at the Yard when the
Prescott outfit was discovered, for, though they knew that it existed,
they had never been able, after the death of the man, to find out where
it was. Evans had indeed done great service and caused several worthy
C. I. D. men to sleep the sounder, for the counterfeiter stands in a
class by himself as a public danger. They would willingly have
subscribed to that soup-plate medal of which the criminal had spoken,
but an unappreciative bench took a less favourable view, and the Killer
returned to those shades from which he had just emerged.
THE PROBLEM OF THOR BRIDGE
Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross,
there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatchbox with my name, John
H. Watson, M. D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed
with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the
curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to
examine. Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures,
and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is
forthcoming. A problem without a solution may interest the student, but
can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader. Among these unfinished
tales is that of Mr. James Phillimore, who, stepping back into his own
house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world. No less
remarkable is that of the cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring
morning into a small patch of mist from where she never again emerged,
nor was anything further ever heard of herself and her crew. A third
case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known
journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a match
box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be
unknown to science. Apart from these unfathomed cases, there are some
which involve the secrets of private families to an extent which would
mean consternation in many exalted quarters if it were thought possible
that they might find their way into print. I need not say that such a
breach of confidence is unthinkable, and that these records will be
separated and destroyed now that my friend has time to turn his
energies to the matter. There remain a considerable residue of cases of
greater or less interest which I might have edited before had I not
feared to give the public a surfeit which might react upon the
reputation of the man whom above all others I revere. In some I was
myself concerned and can speak as an eye-witness, while in others I was
either not present or played so small a part that they could only be
told as by a third person. The following narrative is drawn from my own
It was a wild morning in October, and I observed as I was dressing how
the last remaining leaves were being whirled from the solitary plane
tree which graces the yard behind our house. I descended to breakfast
prepared to find my companion in depressed spirits, for, like all great
artists, he was easily impressed by his surroundings. On the contrary,
I found that he had nearly finished his meal, and that his mood was
particularly bright and joyous, with that somewhat sinister
cheerfulness which was characteristic of his lighter moments.
"You have a case, Holmes?" I remarked.
"The faculty of deduction is certainly contagious, Watson," he
answered. "It has enabled you to probe my secret. Yes, I have a case.
After a month of trivialities and stagnation the wheels move once
"Might I share it?"
"There is little to share, but we may discuss it when you have consumed
the two hard-boiled eggs with which our new cook has favoured us. Their
condition may not be unconnected with the copy of the Family Herald
which I observed yesterday upon the hall-table. Even so trivial a
matter as cooking an egg demands an attention which is conscious of the
passage of time and incompatible with the love romance in that
A quarter of an hour later the table had been cleared and we were face
to face. He had drawn a letter from his pocket.
"You have heard of Neil Gibson, the Gold King?" he said.
"You mean the American Senator?"
"Well, he was once Senator for some Western state, but is better known
as the greatest gold-mining magnate in the world."
"Yes, I know of him. He has surely lived in England for some time. His
name is very familiar."
"Yes, he bought a considerable estate in Hampshire some five years ago.
Possibly you have already heard of the tragic end of his wife?"
"Of course. I remember it now. That is why the name is familiar. But I
really know nothing of the details."
Holmes waved his hand towards some papers on a chair. "I had no idea
that the case was coming my way or I should have had my extracts
ready," said he. "The fact is that the problem, though exceedingly
sensational, appeared to present no difficulty. The interesting
personality of the accused does not obscure the clearness of the
evidence. That was the view taken by the coroner's jury and also in the
police-court proceedings. It is now referred to the Assizes at
Winchester. I fear it is a thankless business. I can discover facts,
Watson, but I cannot change them. Unless some entirely new and
unexpected ones come to light I do not see what my client can hope
"Ah, I forgot I had not told you. I am getting into your involved
habit, Watson, of telling a story backward. You had best read this
The letter which he handed to me, written in a bold, masterful hand,
ran as follows:
DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES:
I can't see the best woman God ever made go to her death without doing all
that is possible to save her. I can't explain things--I can't even try to
explain them, but I know beyond all doubt that Miss Dunbar is innocent.
You know the facts--who doesn't? It has been the gossip of the country.
And never a voice raised for her! It's the damned injustice of it all
that makes me crazy. That woman has a heart that wouldn't let her kill a
fly. Well, I'll come at eleven to-morrow and see if you can get some ray
of light in the dark. Maybe I have a clue and don't know it. Anyhow,
all I know and all I have and all I am are for your use if only you can
save her. If ever in your life you showed your powers, put them now into
J. NEIL GIBSON.
"There you have it," said Sherlock Holmes, knocking out the ashes of
his after-breakfast pipe and slowly refilling it. "That is the
gentleman I await. As to the story, you have hardly time to master all
these papers, so I must give it to you in a nutshell if you are to take
an intelligent interest in the proceedings. This man is the greatest
financial power in the world, and a man, as I understand, of most
violent and formidable character. He married a wife, the victim of this
tragedy, of whom I know nothing save that she was past her prime, which
was the more unfortunate as a very attractive governess superintended
the education of two young children. These are the three people
concerned, and the scene is a grand old manor house, the centre of a
historical English state. Then as to the tragedy. The wife was found in
the grounds nearly half a mile from the house, late at night, clad in
her dinner dress, with a shawl over her shoulders and a revolver bullet
through her brain. No weapon was found near her and there was no local
clue as to the murder. No weapon near her, Watson--mark that! The
crime seems to have been committed late in the evening, and the body
was found by a gamekeeper about eleven o'clock, when it was examined by
the police and by a doctor before being carried up to the house. Is
this too condensed, or can you follow it clearly?"
"It is all very clear. But why suspect the governess?"
"Well, in the first place there is some very direct evidence. A
revolver with one discharged chamber and a calibre which corresponded
with the bullet was found on the floor of her wardrobe." His eyes fixed
and he repeated in broken words, "On--the--floor--of--her--
wardrobe." Then he sank into silence, and I saw that some train of
thought had been set moving which I should be foolish to interrupt.
Suddenly with a start he emerged into brisk life once more. "Yes,
Watson, it was found. Pretty damning, eh? So the two juries thought.
Then the dead woman had a note upon her making an appointment at that
very place and signed by the governess. How's that? Finally there is
the motive. Senator Gibson is an attractive person. If his wife dies,
who more likely to succeed her than the young lady who had already by
all accounts received pressing attentions from her employer? Love,
fortune, power, all depending upon one middleaged life. Ugly, Watson--
"Yes, indeed, Holmes."
"Nor could she prove an alibi. On the contrary, she had to admit that
she was down near Thor Bridge--that was the scene of the tragedy--
about that hour. She couldn't deny it, for some passing villager had
seen her there."
"That really seems final."
"And yet, Watson--and yet! This bridge--a single broad span of
stone with balustraded sides--carries the drive over the narrowest
part of a long, deep, reed-girt sheet of water. Thor Mere it is called.
In the mouth of the bridge lay the dead woman. Such are the main facts.
But here, if I mistake not, is our client, considerably before his
Billy had opened the door, but the name which he announced was an
unexpected one. Mr. Marlow Bates was a stranger to both of us. He was a
thin, nervous wisp of a man with frightened eyes and a twitching,
hesitating manner--a man whom my own professional eye would judge to
be on the brink of an absolute nervous breakdown.
"You seem agitated, Mr. Bates," said Holmes. "Pray sit down. I fear I
can only give you a short time, for I have an appointment at eleven."
"I know you have," our visitor gasped, shooting out short sentences
like a man who is out of breath. "Mr. Gibson is coming. Mr. Gibson is
my employer. I am manager of his estate. Mr. Holmes, he is a villain--
an infernal villain."
"Strong language, Mr. Bates."
"I have to be emphatic, Mr. Holmes, for the time is so limited. I would
not have him find me here for the world. He is almost due now. But I
was so situated that I could not come earlier. His secretary, Mr.
Ferguson, only told me this morning of his appointment with you."
"And you are his manager?"
"I have given him notice. In a couple of weeks I shall have shaken off
his accursed slavery. A hard man, Mr. Holmes, hard to all about him.
Those public charities are a screen to cover his private iniquities.
But his wife was his chief victim. He was brutal to her--yes, sir,
brutal! How she came by her death I do not know, but I am sure that he
had made her life a misery to her. She was a creature of the tropics, a
Brazilian by birth, as no doubt you know."
"No, it had escaped me."
"Tropical by birth and tropical by nature. A child of the sun and of
passion. She had loved him as such women can love, but when her own
physical charms had faded--I am told that they once were great--
there was nothing to hold him. We all liked her and felt for her and
hated him for the way that he treated her. But he is plausible and
cunning. That is all I have to say to you. Don't take him at his face
value. There is more behind. Now I'll go. No, no, don't detain me! He
is almost due."
With a frightened look at the clock our strange visitor literally ran
to the door and disappeared.
"Well! Well!" said Holmes after an interval of silence. "Mr. Gibson
seems to have a nice loyal household. But the warning is a useful one,
and now we can only wait till the man himself appears."
Sharp at the hour we heard a heavy step upon the stairs, and the famous
millionaire was shown into the room. As I looked upon him I understood
not only the fears and dislike of his manager but also the execrations
which so many business rivals have heaped upon his head. If I were a
sculptor and desired to idealize the successful man of affairs, iron of
nerve and leathery of conscience, I should choose Mr. Neil Gibson as my
model. His tall, gaunt, craggy figure had a suggestion of hunger and
rapacity. An Abraham Lincoln keyed to base uses instead of high ones
would give some idea of the man. His face might have been chiselled in
granite, hard-set, craggy, remorseless, with deep lines upon it, the
scars of many a crisis. Cold gray eyes, looking shrewdly out from under
bristling brows, surveyed us each in turn. He bowed in perfunctory
fashion as Holmes mentioned my name, and then with a masterful air of
possession he drew a chair up to my companion and seated himself with
his bony knees almost touching him.
"Let me say right here, Mr. Holmes," he began, "that money is nothing
to me in this case. You can burn it if it's any use in lighting you to
the truth. This woman is innocent and this woman has to be cleared, and
it's up to you to do it. Name your figure!"
"My professional charges are upon a fixed scale," said Holmes coldly.
"I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether."
"Well, if dollars make no difference to you, think of the reputation.
If you pull this off every paper in England and America will be booming
you. You'll be the talk of two continents."
"Thank you, Mr. Gibson, I do not think that I am in need of booming. It
may surprise you to know that I prefer to work anonymously, and that it
is the problem itself which attracts me. But we are wasting time. Let
us get down to the facts."
"I think that you will find all the main ones in the press reports. I
don't know that I can add anything which will help you. But if there is
anything you would wish more light upon--well, I am here to give it."
"Well, there is just one point."
"What is it?"
"What were the exact relations between you and Miss Dunbar?"
The Gold King gave a violent start and half rose from his chair. Then
his massive calm came back to him.
"I suppose you are within your rights--and maybe doing your duty--
in asking such a question, Mr. Holmes."
"We will agree to suppose so," said Holmes.
"Then I can assure you that our relations were entirely and always
those of an employer towards a young lady whom he never conversed with,
or ever saw, save when she was in the company of his children."
Holmes rose from his chair.
"I am a rather busy man, Mr. Gibson," said he, "and I have no time or
taste for aimless conversations. I wish you goodmorning."
Our visitor had risen also, and his great loose figure towered above
Holmes. There was an angry gleam from under those bristling brows and a
tinge of colour in the sallow cheeks.
"What the devil do you mean by this, Mr. Holmes? Do you dismiss my
"Well, Mr. Gibson, at least I dismiss you. I should have thought my
words were plain."
"Plain enough, but what's at the back of it? Raising the price on me,
or afraid to tackle it, or what? I've a right to a plain answer."
"Well, perhaps you have," said Holmes. "I'll give you one. This case is
quite sufficiently complicated to start with without the further
difficulty of false information."
"Meaning that I lie."
"Well, I was trying to express it as delicately as I could, but if you
insist upon the word I will not contradict you."
I sprang to my feet, for the expression upon the millionaire's face was
fiendish in its intensity, and he had raised his great knotted fist.
Holmes smiled languidly and reached his hand out for his pipe.
"Don't be noisy, Mr. Gibson. I find that after breakfast even the
smallest argument is unsettling. I suggest that a stroll in the morning
air and a little quiet thought will be greatly to your advantage."
With an effort the Gold King mastered his fury. I could not but admire
him, for by a supreme self-command he had turned in a minute from a hot
flame of anger to a frigid and contemptuous indifference.
"Well, it's your choice. I guess you know how to run your own business.
I can't make you touch the case against your will. You've done yourself
no good this morning, Mr. Holmes, for I have broken stronger men than
you. No man ever crossed me and was the better for it."
"So many have said so, and yet here I am," said Holmes, smiling. "Well,
good-morning, Mr. Gibson. You have a good deal yet to learn."
Our visitor made a noisy exit, but Holmes smoked in imperturbable
silence with dreamy eyes fixed upon the ceiling.
"Any views, Watson?" he asked at last.
"Well, Holmes, I must confess that when I consider that this is a man
who would certainly brush any obstacle from his path, and when I
remember that his wife may have been an obstacle and an object of
dislike, as that man Bates plainly told us, it seems to me--"
"Exactly. And to me also."
"But what were his relations with the governess, and how did you
"Bluff, Watson, bluff! When I considered the passionate,
unconventional, unbusinesslike tone of his letter and contrasted it
with his self-contained manner and appearance, it was pretty clear that
there was some deep emotion which centred upon the accused woman rather
than upon the victim. We've got to understand the exact relations of
those three people if we are to reach the truth. You saw the frontal
attack which I made upon him, and how imperturbably he received it.
Then I bluffed him by giving him the impression that I was absolutely
certain, when in reality I was only extremely suspicious."
"Perhaps he will come back?"
"He is sure to come back. He must come back. He can't leave it where it
is. Ha! isn't that a ring? Yes, there is his footstep. Well, Mr.
Gibson, I was just saying to Dr. Watson that you were somewhat
The Gold King had reentered the room in a more chastened mood than he
had left it. His wounded pride still showed in his resentful eyes, but
his common sense had shown him that he must yield if he would attain
"I've been thinking it over, Mr. Holmes, and I feel that I have been
hasty in taking your remarks amiss. You are justified in getting down
to the facts, whatever they may be, and I think the more of you for it.
I can assure you, however, that the relations between Miss Dunbar and
me don't really touch this case."
"That is for me to decide, is it not?"
"Yes, I guess that is so. You're like a surgeon who wants every symptom
before he can give his diagnosis."
"Exactly. That expresses it. And it is only a patient who has an object
in deceiving his surgeon who would conceal the facts of his case."
"That may be so, but you will admit, Mr. Holmes, that most men would
shy off a bit when they are asked point-blank what their relations with
a woman may be--if there is really some serious feeling in the case.
I guess most men have a little private reserve of their own in some
corner of their souls where they don't welcome intruders. And you burst
suddenly into it. But the object excuses you, since it was to try and
save her. Well, the stakes are down and the reserve open, and you can
explore where you will. What is it you want?"
The Gold King paused for a moment as one who marshals his thoughts. His
grim, deep-lined face had become even sadder and more grave.
"I can give it to you in a very few words, Mr. Holmes," said he at
last. "There are some things that are painful as well as difficult to
say, so I won't go deeper than is needful. I met my wife when I was
gold-hunting in Brazil. Maria Pinto was the daughter of a government
official at Manaos, and she was very beautiful. I was young and ardent
in those days, but even now, as I look back with colder blood and a
more critical eye, I can see that she was rare and wonderful in her
beauty. It was a deep rich nature, too, passionate, whole-hearted,
tropical, ill-balanced, very different from the American women whom I
had known. Well, to make a long story short, I loved her and I married
her. It was only when the romance had passed--and it lingered for
years--that I realized that we had nothing--absolutely nothing--
in common. My love faded. If hers had faded also it might have been
easier. But you know the wonderful way of women! Do what I might,
nothing could turn her from me. If I have been harsh to her, even
brutal as some have said, it has been because I knew that if I could
kill her love, or if it turned to hate, it would be easier for both of
us. But nothing changed her. She adored me in those English woods as
she had adored me twenty years ago on the banks of the Amazon. Do what
I might, she was as devoted as ever.
"Then came Miss Grace Dunbar. She answered our advertisement and became
governess to our two children. Perhaps you have seen her portrait in
the papers. The whole world has proclaimed that she also is a very
beautiful woman. Now, I make no pretence to be more moral than my
neighbours, and I will admit to you that I could not live under the
same roof with such a woman and in daily contact with her without
feeling a passionate regard for her. Do you blame me, Mr. Holmes?"
"I do not blame you for feeling it. I should blame you if you expressed
it, since this young lady was in a sense under your protection."
"Well, maybe so," said the millionaire, though for a moment the reproof
had brought the old angry gleam into his eyes. "I'm not pretending to
be any better than I am. I guess all my life I've been a man that
reached out his hand for what he wanted, and I never wanted anything
more than the love and possession of that woman. I told her so."
"Oh, you did, did you?"
Holmes could look very formidable when he was moved.
"I said to her that if I could marry her I would, but that it was out
of my power. I said that money was no object and that all I could do to
make her happy and comfortable would be done."
"Very generous, I am sure," said Holmes with a sneer.
"See here, Mr. Holmes. I came to you on a question of evidence, not on
a question of morals. I'm not asking for your criticism."
"It is only for the young lady's sake that I touch your case at all,"
said Holmes sternly. "I don't know that anything she is accused of is
really worse than what you have yourself admitted, that you have tried
to ruin a defenceless girl who was under your roof. Some of you rich
men have to be taught that all the world cannot be bribed into
condoning your offences."
To my surprise the Gold King took the reproof with equanimity.
"That's how I feel myself about it now. I thank God that my plans did
not work out as I intended. She would have none of it, and she wanted
to leave the house instantly."
"Why did she not?"
"Well, in the first place, others were dependent upon her, and it was
no light matter for her to let them all down by sacrificing her living.
When I had sworn--as I did--that she should never be molested
again, she consented to remain. But there was another reason. She knew
the influence she had over me, and that it was stronger than any other
influence in the world. She wanted to use it for good."
"Well, she knew something of my affairs. They are large, Mr. Holmes--
large beyond the belief of an ordinary man. I can make or break--and
it is usually break. It wasn't individuals only. It was communities,
cities, even nations. Business is a hard game, and the weak go to the
wall. I played the game for all it was worth. I never squealed myself,
and I never cared if the other fellow squealed. But she saw it
different. I guess she was right. She believed and said that a fortune
for one man that was more than he needed should not be built on ten
thousand ruined men who were left without the means of life. That was
how she saw it, and I guess she could see past the dollars to something
that was more lasting. She found that I listened to what she said, and
she believed she was serving the world by influencing my actions. So
she stayed--and then this came along."
"Can you throw any light upon that?"
The Gold King paused for a minute or more, his head sunk in his hands,
lost in deep thought.
"It's very black against her. I can't deny that. And women lead an
inward life and may do things beyond the judgment of a man. At first I
was so rattled and taken aback that I was ready to think she had been
led away in some extraordinary fashion that was clean against her usual
nature. One explanation came into my head. I give it to you, Mr.
Holmes, for what it is worth. There is no doubt that my wife was
bitterly jealous. There is a soul-jealousy that can be as frantic as
any body-jealousy, and though my wife had no cause--and I think she
understood this--for the latter, she was aware that this English girl
exerted an influence upon my mind and my acts that she herself never
had. It was an influence for good, but that did not mend the matter.
She was crazy with hatred and the heat of the Amazon was always in her
blood. She might have planned to murder Miss Dunbar--or we will say
to threaten her with a gun and so frighten her into leaving us. Then
there might have been a scuffle and the gun gone off and shot the woman
who held it."
"That possibility had already occurred to me," said Holmes. "Indeed, it
is the only obvious alternative to deliberate murder."
"But she utterly denies it."
"Well, that is not final--is it? One can understand that a woman
placed in so awful a position might hurry home still in her
bewilderment holding the revolver. She might even throw it down among
her clothes, hardly knowing what she was doing, and when it was found
she might try to lie her way out by a total denial, since all
explanation was impossible. What is against such a supposition?"
"Miss Dunbar herself."
Holmes looked at his watch. "I have no doubt we can get the necessary
permits this morning and reach Winchester by the evening train. When I
have seen this young lady it is very possible that I may be of more use
to you in the matter, though I cannot promise that my conclusions will
necessarily be such as you desire."
There was some delay in the official pass, and instead of reaching
Winchester that day we went down to Thor Place, the Hampshire estate of
Mr. Neil Gibson. He did not accompany us himself, but we had the
address of Sergeant Coventry, of the local police, who had first
examined into the affair. He was a tall, thin, cadaverous man, with a
secretive and mysterious manner which conveyed the idea that he knew or
suspected a very great deal more than he dared say. He had a trick,
too, of suddenly sinking his voice to a whisper as if he had come upon
something of vital importance, though the information was usually
commonplace enough. Behind these tricks of manner he soon showed
himself to be a decent, honest fellow who was not too proud to admit
that he was out of his depth and would welcome any help.
"Anyhow, I'd rather have you than Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes," said he.
"If the Yard gets called into a case, then the local loses all credit
for success and may be blamed for failure. Now, you play straight, so
"I need not appear in the matter at all," said Holmes to the evident
relief of our melancholy acquaintance. "If I can clear it up I don't
ask to have my name mentioned."
"Well, it's very handsome of you, I am sure. And your friend, Dr.
Watson, can be trusted, I know. Now, Mr. Holmes, as we walk down to the
place there is one question I should like to ask you. I'd breathe it to
no soul but you." He looked round as though he hardly dare utter the
words. "Don't you think there might be a case against Mr. Neil Gibson
"I have been considering that."
"You've not seen Miss Dunbar. She is a wonderful fine woman in every
way. He may well have wished his wife out of the road. And these
Americans are readier with pistols than our folk are. It was his
pistol, you know."
"Was that clearly made out?"
"Yes, sir. It was one of a pair that he had."
"One of a pair? Where is the other?"
"Well, the gentleman has a lot of firearms of one sort and another. We
never quite matched that particular pistol--but the box was made for
"If it was one of a pair you should surely be able to match it."
"Well, we have them all laid out at the house if you would care to look
"Later, perhaps. I think we will walk down together and have a look at
the scene of the tragedy."
This conversation had taken place in the little front room of Sergeant
Coventry's humble cottage which served as the local police-station. A
walk of half a mile or so across a wind-swept heath, all gold and
bronze with the fading ferns, brought us to a side-gate opening into
the grounds of the Thor Place estate. A path led us through the
pheasant preserves, and then from a clearing we saw the widespread,
half-timbered house, half Tudor and half Georgian, upon the crest of
the hill. Beside us there was a long, reedy pool, constricted in the
centre where the main carriage drive passed over a stone bridge, but
swelling into small lakes on either side. Our guide paused at the mouth
of this bridge, and he pointed to the ground.
"That was where Mrs. Gibson's body lay. I marked it by that stone."
"I understand that you were there before it was moved?"
"Yes, they sent for me at once."
"Mr. Gibson himself. The moment the alarm was given and he had rushed
down with others from the house, he insisted that nothing should be
moved until the police should arrive."
"That was sensible. I gathered from the newspaper report that the shot
was fired from close quarters."
"Yes, sir, very close."
"Near the right temple?"
"Just behind it, sir."
"How did the body lie?"
"On the back, sir. No trace of a struggle. No marks. No weapon. The
short note from Miss Dunbar was clutched in her left hand."
"Clutched, you say?"
"Yes, sir, we could hardly open the fingers."
"That is of great importance. It excludes the idea that anyone could
have placed the note there after death in order to furnish a false
clue. Dear me! The note, as I remember, was quite short:
"'I will be at Thor Bridge at nine o'clock. G. DUNBAR.'
"Was that not so?"
"Did Miss Dunbar admit writing it?"
"What was her explanation?"
"Her defence was reserved for the Assizes. She would say nothing."
"The problem is certainly a very interesting one. The point of the
letter is very obscure, is it not?"
"Well, sir," said the guide, "it seemed, if I may be so bold as to say
so, the only really clear point in the whole case."
Holmes shook his head.
"Granting that the letter is genuine and was really written, it was
certainly received some time before--say one hour or two. Why, then,
was this lady still clasping it in her left hand? Why should she carry
it so carefully? She did not need to refer to it in the interview. Does
it not seem remarkable?"
"Well, sir, as you put it, perhaps it does."
"I think I should like to sit quietly for a few minutes and think it
out." He seated himself upon the stone ledge of the bridge, and I could
see his quick gray eyes darting their questioning glances in every
direction. Suddenly he sprang up again and ran across to the opposite
parapet, whipped his lens from his pocket, and began to examine the
"This is curious," said he.
"Yes, sir, we saw the chip on the ledge. I expect it's been done by
The stonework was gray, but at this one point it showed white for a
space not larger than a sixpence. When examined closely one could see
that the surface was chipped as by a sharp blow.
"It took some violence to do that," said Holmes thoughtfully. With his
cane he struck the ledge several times without leaving a mark. "Yes, it
was a hard knock. In a curious place, too. It was not from above but
from below, for you see that it is on the lower edge of the parapet."
"But it is at least fifteen feet from the body."
"Yes, it is fifteen feet from the body. It may have nothing to do with
the matter, but it is a point worth noting. I do not think that we have
anything more to learn here. There were no footsteps, you say?"
"The ground was iron hard, sir. There were no traces at all."
"Then we can go. We will go up to the house first and look over these
weapons of which you speak. Then we shall get on to Winchester, for I
should desire to see Miss Dunbar before we go farther."
Mr. Neil Gibson had not returned from town, but we saw in the house the
neurotic Mr. Bates who had called upon us in the morning. He showed us
with a sinister relish the formidable array of firearms of various
shapes and sizes which his employer had accumulated in the course of an
"Mr. Gibson has his enemies, as anyone would expect who knew him and
his methods," said he. "He sleeps with a loaded revolver in the drawer
beside his bed. He is a man of violence, sir, and there are times when
all of us are afraid of him. I am sure that the poor lady who has
passed was often terrified."
"Did you ever witness physical violence towards her?"
"No, I cannot say that. But I have heard words which were nearly as bad
--words of cold, cutting contempt, even before the servants."
"Our millionaire does not seem to shine in private life," remarked
Holmes as we made our way to the station. "Well, Watson, we have come
on a good many facts, some of them new ones, and yet I seem some way
from my conclusion. In spite of the very evident dislike which Mr.
Bates has to his employer, I gather from him that when the alarm came
he was undoubtedly in his library. Dinner was over at 8:30 and all was
normal up to then. It is true that the alarm was somewhat late in the
evening, but the tragedy certainly occurred about the hour named in the
note. There is no evidence at all that Mr. Gibson had been out of doors
since his return from town at five o'clock. On the other hand, Miss
Dunbar, as I understand it, admits that she had made an appointment to
meet Mrs. Gibson at the bridge. Beyond this she would say nothing, as
her lawyer had advised her to reserve her defence. We have several very
vital questions to ask that young lady, and my mind will not be easy
until we have seen her. I must confess that the case would seem to me
to be very black against her if it were not for one thing."
"And what is that, Holmes?"
"The finding of the pistol in her wardrobe."
"Dear me, Holmes!" I cried, "that seemed to me to be the most damning
incident of all."
"Not so, Watson. It had struck me even at my first perfunctory reading
as very strange, and now that I am in closer touch with the case it is
my only firm ground for hope. We must look for consistency. Where there
is a want of it we must suspect deception."
"I hardly follow you."
"Well now, Watson, suppose for a moment that we visualize you in the
character of a woman who, in a cold, premeditated fashion, is about to
get rid of a rival. You have planned it. A note has been written. The
victim has come. You have your weapon. The crime is done. It has been
workmanlike and complete. Do you tell me that after carrying out so
crafty a crime you would now ruin your reputation as a criminal by
forgetting to fling your weapon into those adjacent reed-beds which
would forever cover it, but you must needs carry it carefully home and
put it in your own wardrobe, the very first place that would be
searched? Your best friends would hardly call you a schemer, Watson,
and yet I could not picture you doing anything so crude as that."
"In the excitement of the moment."
"No, no, Watson, I will not admit that it is possible. Where a crime is
coolly premeditated, then the means of covering it are coolly
premeditated also. I hope, therefore, that we are in the presence of a
"But there is so much to explain."
"Well, we shall set about explaining it. When once your point of view
is changed, the very thing which was so damning becomes a clue to the
truth. For example, there is this revolver. Miss Dunbar disclaims all
knowledge of it. On our new theory she is speaking truth when she says
so. Therefore, it was placed in her wardrobe. Who placed it there?
Someone who wished to incriminate her. Was not that person the actual
criminal? You see how we come at once upon a most fruitful line of
We were compelled to spend the night at Winchester, as the formalities
had not yet been completed, but next morning, in the company of Mr.
Joyce Cummings, the rising barrister who was entrusted with the
defence, we were allowed to see the young lady in her cell. I had
expected from all that we had heard to see a beautiful woman, but I can
never forget the effect which Miss Dunbar produced upon me. It was no
wonder that even the masterful millionaire had found in her something
more powerful than himself--something which could control and guide
him. One felt, too, as one looked at the strong, clear-cut, and yet
sensitive face, that even should she be capable of some impetuous deed,
none the less there was an innate nobility of character which would
make her influence always for the good. She was a brunette, tall, with
a noble figure and commanding presence, but her dark eyes had in them
the appealing, helpless expression of the hunted creature who feels the
nets around it, but can see no way out from the toils. Now, as she
realized the presence and the help of my famous friend, there came a
touch of colour in her wan cheeks and a light of hope began to glimmer
in the glance which she turned upon us.
"Perhaps Mr. Neil Gibson has told you something of what occurred
between us?" she asked in a low, agitated voice.
"Yes," Holmes answered, "you need not pain yourself by entering into
that part of the story. After seeing you, I am prepared to accept Mr.
Gibson's statement both as to the influence which you had over him and
as to the innocence of your relations with him. But why was the whole
situation not brought out in court?"
"It seemed to me incredible that such a charge could be sustained. I
thought that if we waited the whole thing must clear itself up without
our being compelled to enter into painful details of the inner life of
the family. But I understand that far from clearing it has become even
"My dear young lady," cried Holmes earnestly, "I beg you to have no
illusions upon the point. Mr. Cummings here would assure you that all
the cards are at present against us, and that we must do everything
that is possible if we are to win clear. It would be a cruel deception
to pretend that you are not in very great danger. Give me all the help
you can, then, to get at the truth."
"I will conceal nothing."
"Tell us, then, of your true relations with Mr. Gibson's wife."
"She hated me, Mr. Holmes. She hated me with all the fervour of her
tropical nature. She was a woman who would do nothing by halves, and
the measure of her love for her husband was the measure also of her
hatred for me. It is probable that she misunderstood our relations. I
would not wish to wrong her, but she loved so vividly in a physical
sense that she could hardly understand the mental, and even spiritual,
tie which held her husband to me, or imagine that it was only my desire
to influence his power to good ends which kept me under his roof. I can
see now that I was wrong. Nothing could justify me in remaining where I
was a cause of unhappiness, and yet it is certain that the unhappiness
would have remained even if I had left the house."
"Now, Miss Dunbar," said Holmes, "I beg you to tell us exactly what
occurred that evening."
"I can tell you the truth so far as I know it, Mr. Holmes, but I am in
a position to prove nothing, and there are points--the most vital
points--which I can neither explain nor can I imagine any
"If you will find the facts, perhaps others may find the explanation."
"With regard, then, to my presence at Thor Bridge that night, I
received a note from Mrs. Gibson in the morning. It lay on the table of
the schoolroom, and it may have been left there by her own hand. It
implored me to see her there after dinner, said she had something
important to say to me, and asked me to leave an answer on the sundial
in the garden, as she desired no one to be in our confidence. I saw no
reason for such secrecy, but I did as she asked, accepting the
appointment. She asked me to destroy her note and I burned it in the
schoolroom grate. She was very much afraid of her husband, who treated
her with a harshness for which I frequently reproached him, and I could
only imagine that she acted in this way because she did not wish him to
know of our interview."
"Yet she kept your reply very carefully?"
"Yes. I was surprised to hear that she had it in her hand when she
"Well, what happened then?"
"I went down as I had promised. When I reached the bridge she was
waiting for me. Never did I realize till that moment how this poor
creature hated me. She was like a mad woman--indeed, I think she was
a mad woman, subtly mad with the deep power of deception which insane
people may have. How else could she have met me with unconcern every
day and yet had so raging a hatred of me in her heart? I will not say
what she said. She poured her whole wild fury out in burning and
horrible words. I did not even answer--I could not. It was dreadful
to see her. I put my hands to my ears and rushed away. When I left her
she was standing, still shrieking out her curses at me, in the mouth of
"Where she was afterwards found?"
"Within a few yards from the spot."
"And yet, presuming that she met her death shortly after you left her,
you heard no shot?"
"No, I heard nothing. But, indeed, Mr. Holmes, I was so agitated and
horrified by this terrible outbreak that I rushed to get back to the
peace of my own room, and I was incapable of noticing anything which
"You say that you returned to your room. Did you leave it again before
"Yes, when the alarm came that the poor creature had met her death I
ran out with the others."
"Did you see Mr. Gibson?"
"Yes, he had just returned from the bridge when I saw him. He had sent
for the doctor and the police."
"Did he seem to you much perturbed?"
"Mr. Gibson is a very strong, self-contained man. I do not think that
he would ever show his emotions on the surface. But I, who knew him so
well, could see that he was deeply concerned."
"Then we come to the all-important point. This pistol that was found in
your room. Had you ever seen it before?"
"Never, I swear it."
"When was it found?"
"Next morning, when the police made their search."
"Among your clothes?"
"Yes, on the floor of my wardrobe under my dresses."
"You could not guess how long it had been there?"
"It had not been there the morning before."
"How do you know?"
"Because I tidied out the wardrobe."
"That is final. Then someone came into your room and placed the pistol
there in order to inculpate you."
"It must have been so."
"It could only have been at meal-time, or else at the hours when I
would be in the schoolroom with the children."
"As you were when you got the note?"
"Yes, from that time onward for the whole morning."
"Thank you, Miss Dunbar. Is there any other point which could help me
in the investigation?"
"I can think of none."
"There was some sign of violence on the stonework of the bridge--a
perfectly fresh chip just opposite the body. Could you suggest any
possible explanation of that?"
"Surely it must be a mere coincidence."
"Curious, Miss Dunbar, very curious. Why should it appear at the very
time of the tragedy, and why at the very place?"
"But what could have caused it? Only great violence could have such an
Holmes did not answer. His pale, eager face had suddenly assumed that
tense, far-away expression which I had learned to associate with the
supreme manifestations of his genius. So evident was the crisis in his
mind that none of us dared to speak, and we sat, barrister, prisoner,
and myself, watching him in a concentrated and absorbed silence.
Suddenly he sprang from his chair, vibrating with nervous energy and
the pressing need for action.
"Come, Watson, come!" he cried.
"What is it, Mr. Holmes?"
"Never mind, my dear lady. You will hear from me, Mr. Cummings. With
the help of the god of justice I will give you a case which will make
England ring. You will get news by to-morrow, Miss Dunbar, and
meanwhile take my assurance that the clouds are lifting and that I have
every hope that the light of truth is breaking through."
It was not a long journey from Winchester to Thor Place, but it was
long to me in my impatience, while for Holmes it was evident that it
seemed endless; for, in his nervous restlessness he could not sit
still, but paced the carriage or drummed with his long, sensitive
fingers upon the cushions beside him. Suddenly, however, as we neared
our destination he seated himself opposite to me--we had a
first-class carriage to ourselves--and laying a hand upon each of my
knees he looked into my eyes with the peculiarly mischievous gaze which
was charactenstic of his more imp-like moods.
"Watson," said he, "I have some recollection that you go armed upon
these excursions of ours."
It was as well for him that I did so, for he took little care for his
own safety when his mind was once absorbed by a problem so that more
than once my revolver had been a good friend in need. I reminded him of
"Yes, yes, I am a little absent-minded in such matters. But have you
your revolver on you?"
I produced it from my hip-pocket, a short, handy, but very serviceable
little weapon. He undid the catch, shook out the cartridges, and
examined it with care.
"It's heavy--remarkably heavy," said he.
"Yes, it is a solid bit of work."
He mused over it for a minute.
"Do you know, Watson," said he, "I believe your revolver is going to
have a very intimate connection with the mystery which we are
"My dear Holmes, you are joking."
"No, Watson, I am very serious. There is a test before us. If the test
comes off, all will be clear. And the test will depend upon the conduct
of this little weapon. One cartridge out. Now we will replace the other
five and put on the safety-catch. So! That increases the weight and
makes it a better reproduction."
I had no glimmer of what was in his mind, nor did he enlighten me, but
sat lost in thought until we pulled up in the little Hampshire station.
We secured a ramshackle trap, and in a quarter of an hour were at the
house of our confidential friend, the sergeant.
"A clue, Mr. Holmes? What is it?"
"It all depends upon the behaviour of Dr. Watson's revolver," said my
friend. "Here it is. Now, officer, can you give me ten yards of
The village shop provided a ball of stout twine.
"I think that this is all we will need," said Holmes. "Now, if you
please, we will get off on what I hope is the last stage of our
The sun was setting and turning the rolling Hampshire moor into a
wonderful autumnal panorama. The sergeant, with many critical and
incredulous glances, which showed his deep doubts of the sanity of my
companion, lurched along beside us. As we approached the scene of the
crime I could see that my friend under all his habitual coolness was in
truth deeply agitated.
"Yes," he said in answer to my remark, "you have seen me miss my mark
before, Watson. I have an instinct for such things, and yet it has
sometimes played me false. It seemed a certainty when first it flashed
across my mind in the cell at Winchester, but one drawback of an active
mind is that one can always conceive alternative explanations which
would make our scent a false one. And yet--and yet--Well, Watson,
we can but try."
As he walked he had firmly tied one end of the string to the handle of
the revolver. We had now reached the scene of the tragedy. With great
care he marked out under the guidance of the policeman the exact spot
where the body had been stretched. He then hunted among the heather and
the ferns until he found a considerable stone. This he secured to the
other end of his line of string, and he hung it over the parapet of the
bridge so that it swung clear above the water. He then stood on the
fatal spot, some distance from the edge of the bridge, with my revolver
in his hand, the string being taut between the weapon and the heavy
stone on the farther side.
"Now for it!" he cried.
At the words he raised the pistol to his head, and then let go his
grip. In an instant it had been whisked away by the weight of the
stone, had struck with a sharp crack against the parapet, and had
vanished over the side into the water. It had hardly gone before Holmes
was kneeling beside the stonework, and a joyous cry showed that he had
found what he expected.
"Was there ever a more exact demonstration?" he cried. "See, Watson,
your revolver has solved the problem!" As he spoke he pointed to a
second chip of the exact size and shape of the first which had appeared
on the under edge of the stone balustrade.
"We'll stay at the inn to-night," he continued as he rose and faced the
astonished sergeant. "You will, of course, get a grappling-hook and you
will easily restore my friend's revolver. You will also find beside it
the revolver, string and weight with which this vindictive woman
attempted to disguise her own crime and to fasten a charge of murder
upon an innocent victim. You can let Mr. Gibson know that I will see
him in the morning, when steps can be taken for Miss Dunbar's
Late that evening, as we sat together smoking our pipes in the village
inn, Holmes gave me a brief review of what had passed.
"I fear, Watson," said he, "that you will not improve any reputation
which I may have acquired by adding the case of the Thor Bridge mystery
to your annals. I have been sluggish in mind and wanting in that
mixture of imagination and reality which is the basis of my art. I
confess that the chip in the stonework was a sufficient clue to suggest
the true solution, and that I blame myself for not having attained it
"It must be admitted that the workings of this unhappy woman's mind
were deep and subtle, so that it was no very simple matter to unravel
her plot. I do not think that in our adventures we have ever come
across a stranger example of what perverted love can bring about.
Whether Miss Dunbar was her rival in a physical or in a merely mental
sense seems to have been equally unforgivable in her eyes. No doubt she
blamed this innocent lady for all those harsh dealings and unkind words
with which her husband tried to repel her too demonstrative affection.
Her first resolution was to end her own life. Her second was to do it
in such a way as to involve her victim in a fate which was worse far
than any sudden death could be.
"We can follow the various steps quite clearly, and they show a
remarkable subtlety of mind. A note was extracted very cleverly from
Miss Dunbar which would make it appear that she had chosen the scene of
the crime. In her anxiety that it should be discovered she somewhat
overdid it by holding it in her hand to the last. This alone should
have excited my suspicions earlier than it did.
"Then she took one of her husband's revolvers--there was, as you saw,
an arsenal in the house--and kept it for her own use. A similar one
she concealed that morning in Miss Dunbar's wardrobe after discharging
one barrel, which she could easily do in the woods without attracting
attention. She then went down to the bridge where she had contrived
this exceedingly ingenious method for getting rid of her weapon. When
Miss Dunbar appeared she used her last breath in pouring out her
hatred, and then, when she was out of hearing, carried out her terrible
purpose. Every link is now in its place and the chain is complete. The
papers may ask why the mere was not dragged in the first instance, but
it is easy to be wise after the event, and in any case the expanse of a
reed-filled lake is no easy matter to drag unless you have a clear
perception of what you are looking for and where. Well, Watson, we have
helped a remarkable woman, and also a formidable man. Should they in
the future join their forces, as seems not unlikely, the financial
world may find that Mr. Neil Gibson has learned something in that
schoolroom of sorrow where our earthly lessons are taught."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE CREEPING MAN
Mr. Sherlock Holmes was always of opinion that I should publish the
singular facts connected with Professor Presbury, if only to dispel
once for all the ugly rumours which some twenty years ago agitated the
university and were echoed in the learned societies of London. There
were, however, certain obstacles in the way, and the true history of
this curious case remained entombed in the tin box which contains so
many records of my friend's adventures. Now we have at last obtained
permission to ventilate the facts which formed one of the very last
cases handled by Holmes before his retirement from practice. Even now a
certain reticence and discretion have to be observed in laying the
matter before the public.
It was one Sunday evening early in September of the year 1903 that I
received one of Holmes's laconic messages:
Come at once if convenient--if inconvenient come all the same. S.H.
The relations between us in those latter days were peculiar. He was a
man of habits, narrow and concentrated habits, and I had become one of
them. As an institution I was like the violin, the shag tobacco, the
old black pipe, the index books, and others perhaps less excusable.
When it was a case of active work and a comrade was needed upon whose
nerve he could place some reliance, my role was obvious. But apart from
this I had uses. I was a whetstone for his mind. I stimulated him. He
liked to think aloud in my presence. His remarks could hardly be said
to be made to me--many of them would have been as appropriately
addressed to his bedstead--but none the less, having formed the
habit, it had become in some way helpful that I should register and
interject. If I irritated him by a certain methodical slowness in my
mentality, that irritation served only to make his own flame-like
intuitions and impressions flash up the more vividly and swiftly. Such
was my humble role in our alliance.
When I arrived at Baker Street I found him huddled up in his armchair
with updrawn knees, his pipe in his mouth and his brow furrowed with
thought. It was clear that he was in the throes of some vexatious
problem. With a wave of his hand he indicated my old armchair, but
otherwise for half an hour he gave no sign that he was aware of my
presence. Then with a start he seemed to come from his reverie, and
with his usual whimsical smile he greeted me back to what had once been
"You will excuse a certain abstraction of mind, my dear Watson," said
he. "Some curious facts have been submitted to me within the last
twenty-four hours, and they in turn have given rise to some
speculations of a more general character. I have serious thoughts of
writing a small monograph upon the uses of dogs in the work of the
"But surely, Holmes, this has been explored," said I. "Bloodhounds--
"No, no, Watson, that side of the matter is, of course, obvious. But
there is another which is far more subtle. You may recollect that in
the case which you, in your sensational way, coupled with the Copper
Beeches, I was able, by watching the mind of the child, to form a
deduction as to the criminal habits of the very smug and respectable
"Yes, I remember it well."
"My line of thoughts about dogs is analogous. A dog reflects the family
life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a
happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have
dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods
I shook my head. "Surely, Holmes, this is a little far-fetched," said
He had refilled his pipe and resumed his seat, taking no notice of my
"The practical application of what I have said is very close to the
problem which I am investigating. It is a tangled skein, you
understand. and I am looking for a loose end. One possible loose end
lies in the question: Why does Professor Presbury's wolfhound, Roy,
endeavour to bite him?"
I sank back in my chair in some disappointment. Was it for so trivial a
question as this that I had been summoned from my work? Holmes glanced
across at me.
"The same old Watson!" said he. "You never learn that the gravest
issues may depend upon the smallest things. But is it not on the face
of it strange that a staid, elderly philosopher--you've heard of
Presbury, of course, the famous Camford physiologist?--that such a
man, whose friend has been his devoted wolfhound, should now have been
twice attacked by his own dog? What do you make of it?"
"The dog is ill."
"Well, that has to be considered. But he attacks no one else, nor does
he apparently molest his master, save on very special occasions.
Curious, Watson--very curious. But young Mr. Bennett is before his
time if that is his ring. I had hoped to have a longer chat with you
before he came."
There was a quick step on the stairs, a sharp tap at the door and a
moment later the new client presented himself. He was a tall, handsome
youth about thirty, well dressed and elegant, but with something in his
bearing which suggested the shyness of the student rather than the
self-possession of the man of the world. He shook hands with Holmes,
and then looked with some surprise at me.
"This matter is very delicate, Mr. Holmes," he said. "Consider the
relation in which I stand to Professor Presbury both privately and
publicly. I really can hardly justify myself if I speak before any
"Have no fear, Mr. Bennett. Dr. Watson is the very soul of discretion,
and I can assure you that this is a matter in which I am very likely to
need an assistant."
"As you like, Mr. Holmes. You will, I am sure, understand my having
some reserves in the matter."
"You will appreciate it, Watson, when I tell you that this gentleman,
Mr. Trevor Bennett, is professional assistant to the great scientist,
lives under his roof, and is engaged to his only daughter. Certainly we
must agree that the professor has every claim upon his loyalty and
devotion. But it may best be shown by taking the necessary steps to
clear up this strange mystery."
"I hope so, Mr. Holmes. That is my one object. Does Dr. Watson know the
"I have not had time to explain it."
"Then perhaps I had better go over the ground again before explaining
some fresh developments."
"I will do so myself," said Holmes, "in order to show that I have the
events in their due order. The professor, Watson, is a man of European
reputation. His life has been academic. There has never been a breath
of scandal. He is a widower with one daughter, Edith. He is, I gather,
a man of very virile and positive, one might almost say combative,
character. So the matter stood until a very few months ago.
"Then the current of his life was broken. He is sixty-one years of age,
but he became engaged to the daughter of Professor Morphy, his
colleague in the chair of comparative anatomy. It was not, as I
understand, the reasoned courting of an elderly man but rather the
passionate frenzy of youth, for no one could have shown himself a more
devoted lover. The lady, Alice Morphy, was a very perfect girl both in
mind and body, so that there was every excuse for the professor's
infatuation. None the less, it did not meet with full approval in his
"We thought it rather excessive," said our visitor.
"Exactly. Excessive and a little violent and unnatural. Professor
Presbury was rich, however, and there was no objection upon the part of
the father. The daughter, however, had other views, and there were
already several candidates for her hand, who, if they were less
eligible from a worldly point of view, were at least more of an age.
The girl seemed to like the professor in spite of his eccentricities.
It was only age which stood in the way.
"About this time a little mystery suddenly clouded the normal routine
of the professor's life. He did what he had never done before. He left
home and gave no indication where he was going. He was away a fortnight
and returned looking rather travel-worn. He made no allusion to where
he had been, although he was usually the frankest of men. It chanced,
however, that our client here, Mr. Bennett, received a letter from a
fellowstudent in Prague, who said that he was glad to have seen
Professor Presbury there, although he had not been able to talk to him.
Only in this way did his own household learn where he had been.
"Now comes the point. From that time onward a curious change came over
the professor. He became furtive and sly. Those around him had always
the feeling that he was not the man that they had known, but that he
was under some shadow which had darkened his higher qualities. His
intellect was not affected. His lectures were as brilliant as ever. But
always there was something new, something sinister and unexpected. His
daughter, who was devoted to him, tried again and again to resume the
old relations and to penetrate this mask which her father seemed to
have put on. You, sir, as I understand, did the same--but all was in
vain. And now, Mr. Bennett, tell in your own words the incident of the
"You must understand, Dr. Watson, that the professor had no secrets
from me. If I were his son or his younger brother I could not have more
completely enjoyed his confidence. As his secretary I handled every
paper which came to him, and I opened and subdivided his letters.
Shortly after his return all this was changed. He told me that certain
letters might come to him from London which would be marked by a cross
under the stamp. These were to be set aside for his own eyes only. I
may say that several of these did pass through my hands, that they had
the E. C. mark, and were in an illiterate handwriting. If he answered
them at all the answers did not pass through my hands nor into the
letterbasket in which our correspondence was collected."
"And the box," said Holmes.
"Ah, yes, the box. The professor brought back a little wooden box from
his travels. It was the one thing which suggested a Continental tour,
for it was one of those quaint carved things which one associates with
Germany. This he placed in his instrument cupboard. One day, in looking
for a canula, I took up the box. To my surprise he was very angry, and
reproved me in words which were quite savage for my curiosity. It was
the first time such a thing had happened, and I was deeply hurt. I
endeavoured to explain that it was a mere accident that I had touched
the box, but all the evening I was conscious that he looked at me
harshly and that the incident was rankling in his mind." Mr. Bennett
drew a little diary book from his pocket. "That was on July 2d," said
"You are certainly an admirable witness," said Holmes. "I may need some
of these dates which you have noted."
"I learned method among other things from my great teacher. From the
time that I observed abnormality in his behaviour I felt that it was my
duty to study his case. Thus I have it here that it was on that very
day, July 2d, that Roy attacked the professor as he came from his study
into the hall. Again, on July 11th, there was a scene of the same sort,
and then I have a note of yet another upon July 20th. After that we had
to banish Roy to the stables. He was a dear, affectionate animal--but
I fear I weary you."
Mr. Bennett spoke in a tone of reproach, for it was very clear that
Holmes was not listening. His face was rigid and his eyes gazed
abstractedly at the ceiling. With an effort he recovered himself.
"Singular! Most singular!" he murmured. "These details were new to me,
Mr. Bennett. I think we have now fairly gone over the old ground, have
we not? But you spoke of some fresh developments."
The pleasant, open face of our visitor clouded over, shadowed by some
grim remembrance. "What I speak of occurred the night before last,"
said he. "I was lying awake about two in the morning, when I was aware
of a dull muffled sound coming from the passage. I opened my door and
peeped out. I should explain that the professor sleeps at the end of
"The date being?" asked Holmes.
Our visitor was clearly annoyed at so irrelevant an interruption.
"I have said, sir, that it was the night before last--that is,
Holmes nodded and smiled.
"Pray continue," said he.
"He sleeps at the end of the passage and would have to pass my door in
order to reach the staircase. It was a really terrifying experience,
Mr. Holmes. I think that I am as strong-nerved as my neighbours, but I
was shaken by what I saw. The passage was dark save that one window
halfway along it threw a patch of light. I could see that something was
coming along the passage, something dark and crouching. Then suddenly
it emerged into the light, and I saw that it was he. He was crawling,
Mr. Holmes--crawling! He was not quite on his hands and knees. I
should rather say on his hands and feet, with his face sunk between his
hands. Yet he seemed to move with ease. I was so paralyzed by the sight
that it was not until he had reached my door that I was able to step
forward and ask if I could assist him. His answer was extraordinary. He
sprang up, spat out some atrocious word at me, and hurried on past me,
and down the staircase. I waited about for an hour, but he did not come
back. It must have been daylight before he regained his room."
"Well, Watson, what make you of that?" asked Holmes with the air of the
pathologist who presents a rare specimen.
"Lumbago, possibly. I have known a severe attack make a man walk in
just such a way, and nothing would be more trying to the temper."
"Good, Watson! You always keep us flat-footed on the ground. But we can
hardly accept lumbago, since he was able to stand erect in a moment."
"He was never better in health," said Bennett. "In fact, he is stronger
than I have known him for years. But there are the facts, Mr. Holmes.
It is not a case in which we can consult the police, and yet we are
utterly at our wit's end as to what to do, and we feel in some strange
way that we are drifting towards disaster. Edith--Miss Presbury--
feels as I do, that we cannot wait passively any longer."
"It is certainly a very curious and suggestive case. What do you think,
"Speaking as a medical man," said I, "it appears to be a case for an
alienist. The old gentleman's cerebral processes were disturbed by the
love affair. He made a journey abroad in the hope of breaking himself
of the passion. His letters and the box may be connected with some
other private transaction--a loan, perhaps, or share cenificates,
which are in the box."
"And the wolfhound no doubt disapproved of the financial bargain. No,
no, Watson, there is more in it than this. Now, I can only suggest--"
What Sherlock Holmes was about to suggest will never be known, for at
this moment the door opened and a young lady was shown into the room.
As she appeared Mr. Bennett sprang up with a cry and ran forward with
his hands out to meet those which she had herself outstretched.
"Edith, dear! Nothing the matter, I hope?"
"I felt I must follow you. Oh, Jack, I have been so dreadfully
frightened! It is awful to be there alone."
"Mr. Holmes, this is the young lady I spoke of. This is my fiancee."
"We were gradually coming to that conclusion, were we not, Watson?"
Holmes answered with a smile. "I take it, Miss Presbury, that there is
some fresh development in the case, and that you thought we should
Our new visitor, a bright, handsome girl of a conventional English
type, smiled back at Holmes as she seated herself beside Mr. Bennett.
"When I found Mr. Bennett had left his hotel I thought I should
probably find him here. Of course, he had told me that he would consult
you. But, oh, Mr. Holmes, can you do nothing for my poor father?"
"I have hopes, Miss Presbury, but the case is still obscure. Perhaps
what you have to say may throw some fresh light upon it."
"It was last night, Mr. Holmes. He had been very strange all day. I am
sure that there are times when he has no recollection of what he does.
He lives as in a strange dream. Yesterday was such a day. It was not my
father with whom I lived. His outward shell was there, but it was not
"Tell me what happened."
"I was awakened in the night by the dog barking most furiously. Poor
Roy, he is chained now near the stable. I may say that I always sleep
with my door locked; for, as Jack--as Mr. Bennett--will tell you,
we all have a feeling of impending danger. My room is on the second
floor. It happened that the blind was up in my window, and there was
bright moonlight outside. As I lay with my eyes fixed upon the square
of light, listening to the frenzied barkings of the dog, I was amazed
to see my father's face looking in at me. Mr. Holmes, I nearly died of
surprise and horror. There it was pressed against the windowpane, and
one hand seemed to be raised as if to push up the window. If that
window had opened, I think I should have gone mad. It was no delusion,
Mr. Holmes. Don't deceive yourself by thinking so. I dare say it was
twenty seconds or so that I lay paralyzed and watched the face. Then it
vanished, but I could not--I could not spring out of bed and look out
after it. I lay cold and shivering till morning. At breakfast he was
sharp and fierce in manner, and made no allusion to the adventure of
the night. Neither did I, but I gave an excuse for coming to town--
and here I am."
Holmes looked thoroughly surprised at Miss Presbury's narrative.
"My dear young lady, you say that your room is on the second floor. Is
there a long ladder in the garden?"
"No, Mr. Holmes, that is the amazing part of it. There is no possible
way of reaching the window--and yet he was there."
"The date being September 5th," said Holmes. "That certainly
It was the young lady's turn to look surprised. "This is the second
time that you have alluded to the date, Mr. Holmes," said Bennett. "Is
it possible that it has any bearing upon the case?"
"It is possible--very possible--and yet I have not my full material
"Possibly you are thinking of the connection between insanity and
phases of the moon?"
"No, I assure you. It was quite a different line of thought. Possibly
you can leave your notebook with me, and I will check the dates. Now I
think, Watson, that our line of action is perfectly clear. This young
lady has informed us--and I have the greatest confidence in her
intuition--that her father remembers little or nothing which occurs
upon certain dates. We will therefore call upon him as if he had given
us an appointment upon such a date. He will put it down to his own lack
of memory. Thus we will open our campaign by having a good close view
"That is excellent," said Mr. Bennett. "I warn you, however, that the
professor is irascible and violent at times."
Holmes smiled. "There are reasons why we should come at once--very
cogent reasons if my theories hold good. To-morrow, Mr. Bennett, will
certainly see us in Camford. There is, if I remember right, an inn
called the Chequers where the port used to be above mediocrity and the
linen was above reproach. I think, Watson, that our lot for the next
few days might lie in less pleasant places."
Monday morning found us on our way to the famous university town--an
easy effort on the part of Holmes, who had no roots to pull up, but one
which involved frantic planning and hurrying on my part, as my practice
was by this time not inconsiderable. Holmes made no allusion to the
case until after we had deposited our suitcases at the ancient hostel
of which he had spoken.
"I think, Watson, that we can catch the professor just before lunch. He
lectures at eleven and should have an interval at home."
"What possible excuse have we for calling?"
Holmes glanced at his notebook.
"There was a period of excitement upon August 26th. We will assume that
he is a little hazy as to what he does at such times. If we insist that
we are there by appointment I think he will hardly venture to
contradict us. Have you the effrontery necessary to put it through?"
"We can but try."
"Excellent, Watson! Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior. We can but
try--the motto of the firm. A friendly native will surely guide us."
Such a one on the back of a smart hansom swept us past a row of ancient
colleges and, finally turning into a tree-lined drive, pulled up at the
door of a charming house, girt round with lawns and covered with purple
wistaria. Professor Presbury was certainly surrounded with every sign
not only of comfort but of luxury. Even as we pulled up, a grizzled
head appeared at the front window, and we were aware of a pair of keen
eyes from under shaggy brows which surveyed us through large horn
glasses. A moment later we were actually in his sanctum, and the
mysterious scientist, whose vagaries had brought us from London, was
standing before us. There was certainly no sign of eccentricity either
in his manner or appearance, for he was a portly, largefeatured man,
grave, tall, and frock-coated, with the dignity of bearing which a
lecturer needs. His eyes were his most remarkable feature, keen,
observant, and clever to the verge of cunning.
He looked at our cards. "Pray sit down, gentlemen. What can I do for
Mr. Holmes smiled amiably.
"It was the question which I was about to put to you, Professor."
"To me, sir!"
"Possibly there is some mistake. I heard through a second person that
Professor Presbury of Camford had need of my services."
"Oh, indeed!" It seemed to me that there was a malicious sparkle in the
intense gray eyes. "You heard that, did you? May I ask the name of your
"I am sorry, Professor, but the matter was rather confidential. If I
have made a mistake there is no harm done. I can only express my
"Not at all. I should wish to go further into this matter. It interests
me. Have you any scrap of writing, any letter or telegram, to bear out
"No, I have not."
"I presume that you do not go so far as to assert that I summoned you?"
"I would rather answer no questions," said Holmes.
"No, I dare say not," said the professor with asperity. "However, that
particular one can be answered very easily without your aid."
He walked across the room to the bell. Our London friend Mr. Bennett,
answered the call.
"Come in, Mr. Bennett. These two gentlemen have come from London under
the impression that they have been summoned. You handle all my
correspondence. Have you a note of anything going to a person named
"No, sir," Bennett answered with a flush.
"That is conclusive," said the professor, glaring angrily at my
companion. "Now, sir"--he leaned forward with his two hands upon the
table--" it seems to me that your position is a very questionable
Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"I can only repeat that I am sorry that we have made a needless
"Hardly enough, Mr. Holmes!" the old man cried in a high screaming
voice, with extraordinary malignancy upon his face. He got between us
and the door as he spoke, and he shook his two hands at us with furious
passion. "You can hardly get out of it so easily as that." His face was
convulsed, and he grinned and gibbered at us in his senseless rage. I
am convinced that we should have had to fight our way out of the room
if Mr. Bennett had not intervened.
"My dear Professor," he cried, "consider your position! Consider the
scandal at the university! Mr. Holmes is a wellknown man. You cannot
possibly treat him with such discourtesy."
Sulkily our host--if I may call him so--cleared the path to the
door. We were glad to find ourselves outside the house and in the quiet
of the tree-lined drive. Holmes seemed greatly amused by the episode.
"Our learned friend's nerves are somewhat out of order," said he.
"Perhaps our intrusion was a little crude, and yet we have gained that
personal contact which I desired. But, dear me, Watson, he is surely at
our heels. The villain still pursues us."
There were the sounds of running feet behind, but it was, to my relief,
not the formidable professor but his assistant who appeared round the
curve of the drive. He came panting up to us.
"I am so sorry, Mr. Holmes. I wished to apologize."
"My dear sir, there is no need. It is all in the way of professional
"I have never seen him in a more dangerous mood. But he grows more
sinister. You can understand now why his daughter and I are alarmed.
And yet his mind is perfectly clear."
"Too clear!" said Holmes. "That was my miscalculation. It is evident
that his memory is much more reliable than I had thought. By the way,
can we, before we go, see the window of Miss Presbury's room?"
Mr. Bennett pushed his way through some shrubs, and we had a view of
the side of the house.
"It is there. The second on the left."
"Dear me, it seems hardly accessible. And yet you will observe that
there is a creeper below and a water-pipe above which give some
"I could not climb it myself," said Mr. Bennett.
"Very likely. It would certainly be a dangerous exploit for any normal
"There was one other thing I wish to tell you, Mr. Holmes. I have the
address of the man in London to whom the professor writes. He seems to
have written this morning, and I got it from his blotting-paper. It is
an ignoble position for a trusted secretary, but what else can I do?"
Holmes glanced at the paper and put it into his pocket.
"Dorak--a curious name. Slavonic, I imagine. Well, it is an important
link in the chain. We return to London this afternoon, Mr. Bennett. I
see no good purpose to be served by our remaining. We cannot arrest the
professor because he has done no crime, nor can we place him under
constraint, for he cannot be proved to be mad. No action is as yet
"Then what on earth are we to do?"
"A little patience, Mr. Bennett. Things will soon develop. Unless I am
mistaken, next Tuesday may mark a crisis. Certainly we shall be in
Camford on that day. Meanwhile, the general position is undeniably
unpleasant, and if Miss Presbury can prolong her visit"
"That is easy."
"Then let her stay till we can assure her that all danger is past.
Meanwhile, let him have his way and do not cross him. So long as he is
in a good humour all is well."
"There he is!" said Bennett in a startled whisper. Looking between the
branches we saw the tall, erect figure emerge from the hall door and
look around him. He stood leaning forward, his hands swinging straight
before him, his head turning from side to side. The secretary with a
last wave slipped off among the trees, and we saw him presently rejoin
his employer, the two entering the house together in what seemed to be
animated and even excited conversation.
"I expect the old gentleman has been putting two and two together,"
said Holmes as we walked hotelward. "He struck me as having a
particularly clear and logical brain from the little I saw of him.
Explosive, no doubt, but then from his point of view he has something
to explode about if detectives are put on his track and he suspects his
own household of doing it. I rather fancy that friend Bennett is in for
an uncomfortable time."
Holmes stopped at a post-office and sent off a telegram on our way. The
answer reached us in the evening, and he tossed it across to me.
Have visited the Commercial Road and seen Dorak. Suave person, Bohemian,
elderly. Keeps large general store. MERCER.
"Mercer is since your time," said Holmes. "He is my general utility man
who looks up routine business. It was important to know something of
the man with whom our professor was so secretly corresponding. His
nationality connects up with the Prague visit."
"Thank goodness that something connects with something," said I. "At
present we seem to be faced by a long series of inexplicable incidents
with no bearing upon each other. For example, what possible connection
can there be between an angry wolfhound and a visit to Bohemia, or
either of them with a man crawling down a passage at night? As to your
dates, that is the biggest mystification of all."
Holmes smiled and rubbed his hands. We were, I may say, seated in the
old sitting-room of the ancient hotel, with a bottle of the famous
vintage of which Holmes had spoken on the table between us.
"Well, now, let us take the dates first," said he, his fingertips
together and his manner as if he were addressing a class. "This
excellent young man's diary shows that there was trouble upon July 2d,
and from then onward it seems to have been at nine-day intervals, with,
so far as I remember, only one exception. Thus the last outbreak upon
Friday was on September 3d, which also falls into the series, as did
August 26th, which preceded it. The thing is beyond coincidence."
I was forced to agree.
"Let us, then, form the provisional theory that every nine days the
professor takes some strong drug which has a passing but highly
poisonous effect. His naturally violent nature is intensified by it. He
learned to take this drug while he was in Prague, and is now supplied
with it by a Bohemian intermediary in London. This all hangs together,
"But the dog, the face at the window, the creeping man in the passage?"
"Well, well, we have made a beginning. I should not expect any fresh
developments until next Tuesday. In the meantime we can only keep in
touch with friend Bennett and enjoy the amenities of this charming
In the morning Mr. Bennett slipped round to bring us the latest report.
As Holmes had imagined, times had not been easy with him. Without
exactly accusing him of being responsible for our presence, the
professor had been very rough and rude in his speech, and evidently
felt some strong grievance. This morning he was quite himself again,
however, and had delivered his usual brilliant lecture to a crowded
class. "Apart from his queer fits," said Bennett, "he has actually more
energy and vitality than I can ever remember, nor was his brain ever
clearer. But it's not he--it's never the man whom we have known."
"I don't think you have anything to fear now for a week at least,"
Holmes answered. "I am a busy man, and Dr. Watson has his patients to
attend to. Let us agree that we meet here at this hour next Tuesday,
and I shall be surprised if before we leave you again we are not able
to explain, even if we cannot perhaps put an end to, your troubles.
Meanwhile, keep us posted in what occurs."
I saw nothing of my friend for the next few days, but on the following
Monday evening I had a short note asking me to meet him next day at the
train. From what he told me as we travelled up to Camford all was well,
the peace of the professor's house had been unruffled, and his own
conduct perfectly normal. This also was the report which was given us
by Mr. Bennett himself when he called upon us that evening at our old
quarters in the Chequers. "He heard from his London correspondent
to-day. There was a letter and there was a small packet, each with the
cross under the stamp which warned me not to touch them. There has been
"That may prove quite enough," said Holmes grimly. "Now, Mr. Bennett,
we shall, I think, come to some conclusion tonight. If my deductions
are correct we should have an opportunity of bringing matters to a
head. In order to do so it is necessary to hold the professor under
observation. I would suggest, therefore, that you remain awake and on
the lookout. Should you hear him pass your door, do not interrupt him,
but follow him as discreetly as you can. Dr. Watson and I will not be
far off. By the way, where is the key of that little box of which you
"Upon his watch-chain."
"I fancy our researches must lie in that direction. At the worst the
lock should not be very formidable. Have you any other able-bodied man
on the premises?"
"There is the coachman, Macphail."
"Where does he sleep?"
"Over the stables."
"We might possibly want him. Well, we can do no more until we see how
things develop, Good-bye--but I expect that we shall see you before
It was nearly midnight before we took our station among some bushes
immediately opposite the hall door of the professor. It was a fine
night, but chilly, and we were glad of our warm overcoats. There was a
breeze, and clouds were scudding across the sky, obscuring from time to
time the half-moon. It would have been a dismal vigil were it not for
the expectation and excitement which carried us along, and the
assurance of my comrade that we had probably reached the end of the
strange sequence of events which had engaged our attention.
"If the cycle of nine days holds good then we shall have the professor
at his worst to-night," said Holmes. "The fact that these strange
symptoms began after his visit to Prague, that he is in secret
correspondence with a Bohemian dealer in London, who presumably
represents someone in Prague, and that he received a packet from him
this very day, all point in one direction. What he takes and why he
takes it are still beyond our ken, but that it emanates in some way
from Prague is clear enough. He takes it under definite directions
which regulate this ninth-day system, which was the first point which
attracted my attention. But his symptoms are most remarkable. Did you
observe his knuckles?"
I had to confess that I did not.
"Thick and horny in a way which is quite new in my experience. Always
look at the hands first, Watson. Then cuffs, trouserknees, and boots.
Very curious knuckles which can only be explained by the mode of
progression observed by--" Holmes paused and suddenly clapped his hand
to his forehead. "Oh, Watson, Watson, what a fool I have been! It seems
incredible, and yet it must be true. All points in one direction. How
could I miss seeing the connection of ideas? Those knuckles how could I
have passed those knuckles? And the dog! And the ivy! It's surely time
that I disappeared into that little farm of my dreams. Look out,
Watson! Here he is! We shall have the chance of seeing for ourselves."
The hall door had slowly opened, and against the lamplit background we
saw the tall figure of Professor Presbury. He was clad in his dressing
gown. As he stood outlined in the doorway he was erect but leaning
forward with dangling arms, as when we saw him last.
Now he stepped forward into the drive, and an extraordinary change came
over him. He sank down into a crouching position and moved along upon
his hands and feet, skipping every now and then as if he were
overflowing with energy and vitality. He moved along the face of the
house and then round the corner. As he disappeared Bennett slipped
through the hall door and softly followed him.
"Come, Watson, come!" cried Holmes, and we stole as softly as we could
through the bushes until we had gained a spot whence we could see the
other side of the house, which was bathed in the light of the
half-moon. The professor was clearly visible crouching at the foot of
the ivy-covered wall. As we watched him he suddenly began with
incredible agility to ascend it. From branch to branch he sprang, sure
of foot and firm of grasp, climbing apparently in mere joy at his own
powers, with no definite object in view. With his dressing-gown
flapping on each side of him, he looked like some huge bat glued
against the side of his own house, a great square dark patch upon the
moonlit wall. Presently he tired of this amusement, and, dropping from
branch to branch, he squatted down into the old attitude and moved
towards the stables, creeping along in the same strange way as before.
The wolfhound was out now, barking furiously, and more excited than
ever when it actually caught sight of its master. It was straining on
its chain and quivering with eagerness and rage. The professor squatted
down very deliberately just out of reach of the hound and began to
provoke it in every possible way. He took handfuls of pebbles from the
drive and threw them in the dog's face, prodded him with a stick which
he had picked up, flicked his hands about only a few inches from the
gaping mouth, and endeavoured in every way to increase the animal's
fury, which was already beyond all control. In all our adventures I do
not know that I have ever seen a more strange sight than this impassive
and still dignified figure crouching frog-like upon the ground and
goading to a wilder exhibition of passion the maddened hound, which
ramped and raged in front of him, by all manner of ingenious and
And then in a moment it happened! It was not the chain that broke, but
it was the collar that slipped, for it had been made for a thick-necked
Newfoundland. We heard the rattle of falling metal, and the next
instant dog and man were rolling on the ground together, the one
roaring in rage, the other screaming in a strange shrill falsetto of
terror. It was a very narrow thing for the professor's life. The savage
creature had him fairly by the throat, its fangs had bitten deep, and
he was senseless before we could reach them and drag the two apart. It
might have been a dangerous task for us, but Bennett's voice and
presence brought the great wolflhound instantly to reason. The uproar
had brought the sleepy and astonished coachman from his room above the
stables. "I'm not surprised," said he, shaking his head. "I've seen him
at it before. I knew the dog would get him sooner or later."
The hound was secured, and together we carried the professor up to his
room, where Bennett, who had a medical degree, helped me to dress his
torn throat. The sharp teeth had passed dangerously near the carotid
artery, and the haemorrhage was serious. In half an hour the danger was
past, I had given the patient an injection of morphia, and he had sunk
into deep sleep. Then, and only then, were we able to look at each
other and to take stock of the situation.
"I think a first-class surgeon should see him," said I.
"For God's sake, no!" cried Bennett. "At present the scandal is
confined to our own household. It is safe with us. If it gets beyond
these walls it will never stop. Consider his position at the
university, his European reputation, the feelings of his daughter."
"Quite so," said Holmes. "I think it may be quite possible to keep the
matter to ourselves, and also to prevent its recurrence now that we
have a free hand. The key from the watch-chain, Mr. Bennett. Macphail
will guard the patient and let us know if there is any change. Let us
see what we can find in the professor's mysterious box."
There was not much, but there was enough--an empty phial, another
nearly full, a hypodermic syringe, several letters in a crabbed,
foreign hand. The marks on the envelopes showed that they were those
which had disturbed the routine of the secretary, and each was dated
from the Commercial Road and signed "A. Dorak." They were mere invoices
to say that a fresh bottle was being sent to Professor Presbury, or
receipt to acknowledge money. There was one other envelope, however, in
a more educated hand and bearing the Austrian stamp with the postmark
of Prague. "Here we have our material!" cried Holmes as he tore out the
HONOURED COLLEAGUE [it ran]:
Since your esteemed visit I have thought much of your case, and though in
your circumstances there are some special reasons for the treatment,
I would none the less enjoin caution, as my results have shown that it is
not without danger of a kind. It is possible that the serum of anthropoid
would have been better. I have, as I explained to you, used black-faced
langur because a specimen was accessible. Langur is, of course, a crawler
and climber, while anthropoid walks erect and is in all ways nearer. I beg
you to take every possible precaution that there be no premature
revelation of the process. I have one other client in England, and Dorak
is my agent for both. Weekly reports will oblige.
Yours with high esteem,
Lowenstein! The name brought back to me the memory of some snippet from
a newspaper which spoke of an obscure scientist who was striving in
some unknown way for the secret of rejuvenescence and the elixir of
life. Lowenstein of Prague! Lowenstein with the wondrous
strength-giving serum, tabooed by the profession because he refused to
reveal its source. In a few words I said what I remembered. Bennett had
taken a manual of zoology from the shelves."'Langur,'" he read "'the
great black-faced monkey of the Himalayan slopes, biggest and most
human of climbing monkeys.' Many details are added. Well, thanks to you,
Mr. Holmes, it is very clear that we have traced the evil to its
"The real source," said Holmes, "lies, of course, in that untimely love
affair which gave our impetuous professor the idea that he could only
gain his wish by turning himself into a younger man. When one tries to
rise above Nature one is liable to fall below it. The highest type of
man may revert to the animal if he leaves the straight road of
destiny." He sat musing for a little with the phial in his hand,
looking at the clear liquid within. "When I have written to this man
and told him that I hold him criminally responsible for the poisons
which he circulates, we will have no more trouble. But it may recur.
Others may find a better way. There is danger there--a very real
danger to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual,
the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual
would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival
of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?"
Suddenly the dreamer disappeared, and Holmes, the man of action, sprang
from his chair. "I think there is nothing more to be said, Mr. Bennett.
The various incidents will now fit themselves easily into the general
scheme. The dog, of course, was aware of the change far more quickly
than you. His smell would insure that. It was the monkey, not the
professor, whom Roy attacked, just as it was the monkey who teased Roy.
Climbing was a joy to the creature, and it was a mere chance, I take
it, that the pastime brought him to the young lady's window. There is
an early train to town, Watson, but I think we shall just have time for
a cup of tea at the Chequers before we catch it."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE LION'S MANE
It is a most singular thing that a problem which was certainly as
abstruse and unusual as any which I have faced in my long professional
career should have come to me after my retirement, and be brought, as
it were, to my very door. It occurred after my withdrawal to my little
Sussex home, when I had given myself up entirely to that soothing life
of Nature for which I had so often yearned during the long years spent
amid the gloom of London. At this period of my life the good Watson had
passed almost beyond my ken. An occasional week-end visit was the most
that I ever saw of him. Thus I must act as my own chronicler. Ah! had
he but been with me, how much he might have made of so wonderful a
happening and of my eventual triumph against every difficulty! As it
is, however, I must needs tell my tale in my own plain way, showing by
my words each step upon the difficult road which lay before me as I
searched for the mystery of the Lion's Mane.
My villa is situated upon the southern slope of the downs, commanding a
great view of the Channel. At this point the coast-line is entirely of
chalk cliffs, which can only be descended by a single, long, tortuous
path, which is steep and slippery. At the bottom of the path lie a
hundred yards of pebbles and shingle, even when the tide is at full.
Here and there, however, there are curves and hollows which make
splendid swimmingpools filled afresh with each flow. This admirable
beach extends for some miles in each direction, save only at one point
where the little cove and village of Fulworth break the line.
My house is lonely. I, my old housekeeper, and my bees have the estate
all to ourselves. Half a mile off, however, is Harold Stackhurst's
well-known coaching establishment, The Gables, quite a large place,
which contains some score of young fellows preparing for various
professions, with a staff of several masters. Stackhurst himself was a
well-known rowing Blue in his day, and an excellent all-round scholar.
He and I were always friendly from the day I came to the coast, and he
was the one man who was on such terms with me that we could drop in on
each other in the evenings without an invitation.
Towards the end of July, 1907, there was a severe gale, the wind
blowing up-channel, heaping the seas to the base of the cliffs and
leaving a lagoon at the turn of the tide. On the morning of which I
speak the wind had abated, and all Nature was newly washed and fresh.
It was impossible to work upon so delightful a day, and I strolled out
before breakfast to enjoy the exquisite air. I walked along the cliff
path which led to the steep descent to the beach. As I walked I heard a
shout behind me, and there was Harold Stackhurst waving his hand in
"What a morning, Mr. Holmes! I thought I should see you out."
"Going for a swim, I see."
"At your old tricks again," he laughed, patting his bulging pocket.
"Yes. McPherson started early, and I expect I may find him there."
Fitzroy McPherson was the science master, a fine upstanding young
fellow whose life had been crippled by heart trouble following
rheumatic fever. He was a natural athlete, however, and excelled in
every game which did not throw too great a strain upon him. Summer and
winter he went for his swim, and, as I am a swimmer myself, I have
often joined him.
At this moment we saw the man himself. His head showed above the edge
of the cliff where the path ends. Then his whole figure appeared at the
top, staggering like a drunken man. The next instant he threw up his
hands and, with a terrible cry, fell upon his face. Stackhurst and I
rushed forward--it may have been fifty yards--and turned him on his
back. He was obviously dying. Those glazed sunken eyes and dreadful
livid cheeks could mean nothing else. One glimmer of life came into his
face for an instant, and he uttered two or three words with an eager
air of warning. They were slurred and indistinct, but to my ear the
last of them, which burst in a shriek from his lips, were "the Lion's
Mane." It was utterly irrelevant and unintelligible, and yet I could
twist the sound into no other sense. Then he half raised himself from
the ground, threw his arms into the air, and fell forward on his side.
He was dead.
My companion was paralyzed by the sudden horror of it, but I, as may
well be imagined, had every sense on the alert. And I had need, for it
was speedily evident that we were in the presence of an extraordinary
case. The man was dressed only in his Burberry overcoat, his trousers,
and an unlaced pair of canvas shoes. As he fell over, his Burberry,
which had been simply thrown round his shoulders, slipped off, exposing
his trunk. We stared at it in amazement. His back was covered with dark
red lines as though he had been terribly flogged by a thin wire
scourge. The instrument with which this punishment had been inflicted
was clearly flexible, for the long, angry weals curved round his
shoulders and ribs. There was blood dripping down his chin, for he had
bitten through his lower lip in the paroxysm of his agony. His drawn
and distorted face told how terrible that agony had been.
I was kneeling and Stackhurst standing by the body when a shadow fell
across us, and we found that Ian Murdoch was by our side. Murdoch was
the mathematical coach at the establishment, a tall, dark, thin man, so
taciturn and aloof that none can be said to have been his friend. He
seemed to live in some high abstract region of surds and conic
sections, with little to connect him with ordinary life. He was looked
upon as an oddity by the students, and would have been their butt, but
there was some strange outlandish blood in the man, which showed itself
not only in his coal-black eyes and swarthy face but also in occasional
outbreaks of temper, which could only be described as ferocious. On one
occasion, being plagued by a little dog belonging to McPherson, he had
caught the creature up and hurled it through the plate-glass window, an
action for which Stackhurst would certainly have given him his
dismissal had he not been a very valuable teacher. Such was the strange
complex man who now appeared beside us. He seemed to be honestly
shocked at the sight before him, though the incident of the dog may
show that there was no great sympathy between the dead man and himself.
"Poor fellow! Poor fellow! What can I do? How can I help?"
"Were you with him? Can you tell us what has happened?"
"No, no, I was late this morning. I was not on the beach at all. I have
come straight from The Gables. What can I do?"
"You can hurry to the police-station at Fulworth. Report the matter at
Without a word he made off at top speed, and I proceeded to take the
matter in hand, while Stackhurst, dazed at this tragedy, remained by
the body. My first task naturally was to note who was on the beach.
From the top of the path I could see the whole sweep of it, and it was
absolutely deserted save that two or three dark figures could be seen
far away moving towards the village of Fulworth. Having satisfied
myself upon this point, I walked slowly down the path. There was clay
or soft marl mixed with the chalk, and every here and there I saw the
same footstep, both ascending and descending. No one else had gone down
to the beach by this track that morning. At one place I observed the
print of an open hand with the fingers towards the incline. This could
only mean that poor McPherson had fallen as he ascended. There were
rounded depressions, too, which suggested that he had come down upon
his knees more than once. At the bottom of the path was the
considerable lagoon left by the retreating tide. At the side of it
McPherson had undressed, for there lay his towel on a rock. It was
folded and dry, so that it would seem that, after all, he had never
entered the water. Once or twice as I hunted round amid the hard
shingle I came on little patches of sand where the print of his canvas
shoe, and also of his naked foot, could be seen. The latter fact proved
that he had made all ready to bathe, though the towel indicated that he
had not actually done so.
And here was the problem clearly defined--as strange a one as had
ever confronted me. The man had not been on the beach more than a
quarter of an hour at the most. Stackhurst had followed him from The
Gables, so there could be no doubt about that. He had gone to bathe and
had stripped, as the naked footsteps showed. Then he had suddenly
huddled on his clothes again--they were all dishevelled and
unfastened--and he had returned without bathing, or at any rate
without drying himself. And the reason for his change of purpose had
been that he had been scourged in some savage, inhuman fashion,
tortured until he bit his lip through in his agony, and was left with
only strength enough to crawl away and to die. Who had done this
barbarous deed? There were, it is true, small grottos and caves in the
base of the cliffs, but the low sun shone directly into them, and there
was no place for concealment. Then, again, there were those distant
figures on the beach. They seemed too far away to have been connected
with the crime, and the broad lagoon in which McPherson had intended to
bathe lay between him and them, lapping up to the rocks. On the sea two
or three fishingboats were at no great distance. Their occupants might
be examined at our leisure. There were several roads for inquiry, but
none which led to any very obvious goal.
When I at last returned to the body I found that a little group of
wondering folk had gathered round it. Stackhurst was, of course, still
there, and Ian Murdoch had just arrived with Anderson, the village
constable, a big, ginger-moustached man of the slow, solid Sussex breed
--a breed which covers much good sense under a heavy, silent exterior.
He listened to everything, took note of all we said, and finally drew
"I'd be glad of your advice, Mr. Holmes. This is a big thing for me to
handle, and I'll hear of it from Lewes if I go wrong."
I advised him to send for his immediate superior, and for a doctor;
also to allow nothing to be moved, and as few fresh footmarks as
possible to be made, until they came. In the meantime I searched the
dead man's pockets. There were his handkerchief, a large knife, and a
small folding card-case. From this projected a slip of paper, which I
unfolded and handed to the constable. There was written on it in a
scrawling, feminine hand:
I will be there, you may be sure.
It read like a love affair, an assignation, though when and where were
a blank. The constable replaced it in the card-case and returned it
with the other things to the pockets of the Burberry. Then, as nothing
more suggested itself, I walked back to my house for breakfast, having
first arranged that the base of the cliffs should be thoroughly
Stackhurst was round in an hour or two to tell me that the body had
been removed to The Gables, where the inquest would be held. He brought
with him some serious and definite news. As I expected, nothing had
been found in the small caves below the cliff, but he had examined the
papers in McPherson's desk and there were several which showed an
intimate correspondence with a certain Miss Maud Bellamy, of Fulworth.
We had then established the identity of the writer of the note.
"The police have the letters," he explained. "I could not bring them.
But there is no doubt that it was a serious love affair. I see no
reason, however, to connect it with that horrible happening save,
indeed, that the lady had made an appointment with him."
"But hardly at a bathing-pool which all of you were in the habit of
using," I remarked.
"It is mere chance," said he, "that several of the students were not
"Was it mere chance?"
Stackhurst knit his brows in thought.
"Ian Murdoch held them back," said he. "He would insist upon some
algebraic demonstration before breakfast. Poor chap, he is dreadfully
cut up about it all."
"And yet I gather that they were not friends."
"At one time they were not. But for a year or more Murdoch has been as
near to McPherson as he ever could be to anyone. He is not of a very
sympathetic disposition by nature."
"So I understand. I seem to remember your telling me once about a
quarrel over the ill-usage of a dog."
"That blew over all right."
"But left some vindictive feeling, perhaps."
"No, no, I am sure they were real friends."
"Well, then, we must explore the matter of the girl. Do you know her?"
"Everyone knows her. She is the beauty of the neighbourhood--a real
beauty, Holmes, who would draw attention everywhere. I knew that
McPherson was attracted by her, but I had no notion that it had gone so
far as these letters would seem to indicate."
"But who is she?"
"She is the daughter of old Tom Bellamy who owns all the boats and
bathing-cots at Fulworth. He was a fisherman to start with, but is now
a man of some substance. He and his son William run the business."
"Shall we walk into Fulworth and see them?"
"On what pretext?"
"Oh, we can easily find a pretext. After all, this poor man did not
ill-use himself in this outrageous way. Some human hand was on the
handle of that scourge, if indeed it was a scourge which inflicted the
injuries. His circle of acquaintances in this lonely place was surely
limited. Let us follow it up in every direction and we can hardly fail
to come upon the motive, which in turn should lead us to the criminal."
It would have been a pleasant walk across the thyme-scented downs had
our minds not been poisoned by the tragedy we had witnessed. The
village of Fulworth lies in a hollow curving in a semicircle round the
bay. Behind the old-fashioned hamlet several modern houses have been
built upon the rising ground. It was to one of these that Stackhurst
"That's The Haven, as Bellamy called it. The one with the corner tower
and slate roof. Not bad for a man who started with nothing but--By
Jove, look at that!"
The garden gate of The Haven had opened and a man had emerged. There
was no mistaking that tall, angular, straggling figure. It was Ian
Murdoch, the mathematician. A moment later we confronted him upon the
"Hullo!" said Stackhurst. The man nodded, gave us a sideways glance
from his curious dark eyes, and would have-passed us, but his principal
pulled him up.
"What were you doing there?" he asked.
Murdoch's face flushed with anger. "I am your subordinate, sir, under
your roof. I am not aware that I owe you any account of my private
Stackhurst's nerves were near the surface after all he had endured.
Otherwise, perhaps, he would have waited. Now he lost his temper
"In the circumstances your answer is pure impertinence, Mr. Murdoch."
"Your own question might perhaps come under the same heading."
"This is not the first time that I have had to overlook your
insubordinate ways. It will certainly be the last. You will kindly make
fresh arrangements for your future as speedily as you can."
"I had intended to do so. I have lost to-day the only person who made
The Gables habitable."
He strode off upon his way, while Stackhurst, with angry eyes, stood
glaring after him. "Is he not an impossible, intolerable man?" he
The one thing that impressed itself forcibly upon my mind was that Mr.
Ian Murdoch was taking the first chance to open a path of escape from
the scene of the crime. Suspicion, vague and nebulous, was now
beginning to take outline in my mind. Perhaps the visit to the Bellamys
might throw some further light upon the matter. Stackhurst pulled
himself together, and we went forward to the house.
Mr. Bellamy proved to be a middle-aged man with a flaming red beard. He
seemed to be in a very angry mood, and his face was soon as florid as
"No, sir, I do not desire any particulars. My son here"--indicating a
powerful young man, with a heavy, sullen face, in the corner of the
sitting-room--"is of one mind with me that Mr. McPherson's attentions
to Maud were insulting. Yes, sir, the word 'marriage' was never
mentioned, and yet there were letters and meetings, and a great deal
more of which neither of us could approve. She has no mother, and we
are her only guardians. We are determined--"
But the words were taken from his mouth by the appearance of the lady
herself. There was no gainsaying that she would have graced any
assembly in the world. Who could have imagined that so rare a flower
would grow from such a root and in such an atmosphere? Women have
seldom been an attraction to me, for my brain has always governed my
heart, but I could not look upon her perfect clear-cut face, with all
the soft freshness of the downlands in her delicate colouring, without
realizing that no young man would cross her path unscathed. Such was
the girl who had pushed open the door and stood now, wide-eyed and
intense, in front of Harold Stackhurst.
"I know already that Fitzroy is dead," she said. "Do not be afraid to
tell me the particulars."
"This other gentleman of yours let us know the news," explained the
"There is no reason why my sister should be brought into the matter,"
growled the younger man.
The sister turned a sharp, fierce look upon him. "This is my business,
William. Kindly leave me to manage it in my own way. By all accounts
there has been a crime committed. If I can help to show who did it, it
is the least I can do for him who is gone."
She listened to a short account from my companion, with a composed
concentration which showed me that she possessed strong character as
well as great beauty. Maud Bellamy will always remain in my memory as a
most complete and remarkable woman. It seems that she already knew me
by sight, for she turned to me at the end.
"Bring them to justice, Mr. Holmes. You have my sympathy and my help,
whoever they may be." It seemed to me that she glanced defiantly at her
father and brother as she spoke.
"Thank you," said I. "I value a woman's instinct in such matters. You
use the word 'they.' You think that more than one was concerned?"
"I knew Mr. McPherson well enough to be aware that he was a brave and a
strong man. No single person could ever have inflicted such an outrage
"Might I have one word with you alone?"
"I tell you, Maud, not to mix yourself up in the matter," cried her
She looked at me helplessly. "What can I do?"
"The whole world will know the facts presently, so there can be no harm
if I discuss them here," said I. "I should have preferred privacy, but
if your father will not allow it he must share the deliberations." Then
I spoke of the note which had been found in the dead man's pocket. "It
is sure to be produced at the inquest. May I ask you to throw any light
upon it that you can?"
"I see no reason for mystery," she answered. "We were engaged to be
married, and we only kept it secret because Fitzroy's uncle, who is
very old and said to be dying, might have disinherited him if he had
married against his wish. There was no other reason."
"You could have told us," growled Mr. Bellamy.
"So I would, father, if you had ever shown sympathy."
"I object to my girl picking up with men outside her own station."
"It was your prejudice against him which prevented us from telling you.
As to this appointment"--she fumbled in her dress and produced a
crumpled note--"it was in answer to this."
DEAREST [ran the message]:
The old place on the beach just after sunset on Tuesday.
It is the only time I can get away.
"Tuesday was to-day, and I had meant to meet him to-night."
I turned over the paper. "This never came by post. How did you get it?"
"I would rather not answer that question. It has really nothing to do
with the matter which you are investigating. But anything which bears
upon that I will most freely answer."
She was as good as her word, but there was nothing which was helpful in
our investigation. She had no reason to think that her fiance had any
hidden enemy, but she admitted that she had had several warm admirers.
"May I ask if Mr. Ian Murdoch was one of them?"
She blushed and seemed confused.
"There was a time when I thought he was. But that was all changed when
he understood the relations between Fitzroy and myself."
Again the shadow round this strange man seemed to me to be taking more
definite shape. His record must be examined. His rooms must be
privately searched. Stackhurst was a willing collaborator, for in his
mind also suspicions were forming. We returned from our visit to The
Haven with the hope that one free end of this tangled skein was already
in our hands.
A week passed. The inquest had thrown no light upon the matter and had
been adjourned for further evidence. Stackhurst had made discreet
inquiry about his subordinate, and there had been a superficial search
of his room, but without result. Personally, I had gone over the whole
ground again, both physically and mentally, but with no new
conclusions. In all my chronicles the reader will find no case which
brought me so completely to the limit of my powers. Even my imagination
could conceive no solution to the mystery. And then there came the
incident of the dog.
It was my old housekeeper who heard of it first by that strange
wireless by which such people collect the news of the countryside.
"Sad story this, sir, about Mr. McPherson's dog," said she one evening.
I do not encourage such conversations, but the words arrested my
"What of Mr. McPherson's dog?"
"Dead, sir. Died of grief for its master."
"Who told you this?"
"Why, sir, everyone is talking of it. It took on terrible, and has
eaten nothing for a week. Then to-day two of the young gentlemen from
The Gables found it dead--down on the beach, sir, at the very place
where its master met his end."
"At the very place." The words stood out clear in my memory. Some dim
perception that the matter was vital rose in my mind. That the dog
should die was after the beautiful, faithful nature of dogs. But "in
the very place"! Why should this lonely beach be fatal to it? Was it
possible that it also had been sacrificed to some revengeful feud? Was
it possible--? Yes, the perception was dim, but already something was
building up in my mind. In a few minutes I was on my way to The Gables,
where I found Stackhurst in his study. At my request he sent for
Sudbury and Blount, the two students who had found the dog.
"Yes, it lay on the very edge of the pool," said one of them. "It must
have followed the trail of its dead master."
I saw the faithful little creature, an Airedale terrier, laid out upon
the mat in the hall. The body was stiff and rigid, the eyes projecting,
and the limbs contorted. There was agony in every line of it.
From The Gables I walked down to the bathing-pool. The sun had sunk and
the shadow of the great cliff lay black across the water, which
glimmered dully like a sheet of lead. The place was deserted and there
was no sign of life save for two sea-birds circling and screaming
overhead. In the fading light I could dimly make out the little dog's
spoor upon the sand round the very rock on which his master's towel had
been laid. For a long time I stood in deep meditation while the shadows
grew darker around me. My mind was filled with racing thoughts. You
have known what it was to be in a nightmare in which you feel that
there is some all-important thing for which you search and which you
know is there, though it remains forever just beyond your reach. That
was how I felt that evening as I stood alone by that place of death.
Then at last I turned and walked slowly homeward.
I had just reached the top of the path when it came to me. Like a
flash, I remembered the thing for which I had so eagerly and vainly
grasped. You will know, or Watson has written in vain, that I hold a
vast store of out-of-the-way knowledge without scientific system, but
very available for the needs of my work. My mind is like a crowded
box-room with packets of all sorts stowed away therein--so many that
I may well have but a vague perception of what was there. I had known
that there was something which might bear upon this matter. It was
still vague, but at least I knew how I could make it clear. It was
monstrous, incredible, and yet it was always a possibility. I would
test it to the full.
There is a great garret in my little house which is stuffed with books.
It was into this that I plunged and rummaged for an hour. At the end of
that time I emerged with a little chocolate and silver volume. Eagerly
I turned up the chapter of which I had a dim remembrance. Yes, it was
indeed a far-fetched and unlikely proposition, and yet I could not be
at rest until I had made sure if it might, indeed, be so. It was late
when I retired, with my mind eagerly awaiting the work of the morrow.
But that work met with an annoying interruption. I had hardly swallowed
my early cup of tea and was starting for the beach when I had a call
from Inspector Bardle of the Sussex Constabulary--a steady, solid,
bovine man with thoughtful eyes, which looked at me now with a very
"I know your immense experience, sir," said he. "This is quite
unofficial, of course, and need go no farther. But I am fairly up
against it in this McPherson case. The question is, shall I make an
arrest, or shall I not?"
"Meaning Mr. Ian Murdoch?"
"Yes, sir. There is really no one else when you come to think of it.
That's the advantage of this solitude. We narrow it down to a very
small compass. If he did not do it, then who did?"
"What have you against him?"
He had gleaned along the same furrows as I had. There was Murdoch's
character and the mystery which seemed to hang round the man. His
furious bursts of temper, as shown in the incident of the dog. The fact
that he had quarrelled with McPherson in the past, and that there was
some reason to think that he might have resented his attentions to Miss
Bellamy. He had all my points, but no fresh ones, save that Murdoch
seemed to be making every preparation for departure.
"What would my position be if I let him slip away with all this
evidence against him?" The burly, phlegmatic man was sorely troubled in
"Consider," I said, "all the essential gaps in your case. On the
morning of the crime he can surely prove an alibi. He had been with his
scholars till the last moment, and within a few minutes of McPherson's
appearance he came upon us from behind. Then bear in mind the absolute
impossibility that he could single-handed have inflicted this outrage
upon a man quite as strong as himself. Finally, there is this question
of the instrument with which these injuries were inflicted."
"What could it be but a scourge or flexible whip of some sort?"
"Have you examined the marks?" I asked.
"I have seen them. So has the doctor."
"But I have examined them very carefully with a lens. They have
"What are they, Mr. Holmes?"
I stepped to my bureau and brought out an enlarged photograph. "This is
my method in such cases," I explained.
"You certainly do things thoroughly, Mr. Holmes."
"I should hardly be what I am if I did not. Now let us consider this
weal which extends round the right shoulder. Do you observe nothing
"I can't say I do."
"Surely it is evident that it is unequal in its intensity. There is a
dot of extravasated blood here, and another there. There are similar
indications in this other weal down here. What can that mean?"
"I have no idea. Have you?"
"Perhaps I have. Perhaps I haven't. I may be able to say more soon.
Anything which will define what made that mark will bring us a long way
towards the criminal."
"It is, of course, an absurd idea," said the policeman, "but if a
red-hot net of wire had been laid across the back, then these better
marked points would represent where the meshes crossed each other."
"A most ingenious comparison. Or shall we say a very stiff
cat-o'-nine-tails with small hard knots upon it?"
"By Jove, Mr. Holmes, I think you have hit it."
"Or there may be some very different cause, Mr. Bardle. But your case
is far too weak for an arrest. Besides, we have those last words--the
"I have wondered whether Ian--"
"Yes, I have considered that. If the second word had borne any
resemblance to Murdoch--but it did not. He gave it almost in a
shriek. I am sure that it was 'Mane.'"
"Have you no alternative, Mr. Holmes?"
"Perhaps I have. But I do not care to discuss it until there is
something more solid to discuss."
"And when will that be?"
"In an hour--possibly less."
The inspector rubbed his chin and looked at me with dubious eyes.
"I wish I could see what was in your mind, Mr. Holmes. Perhaps it's
"No, no, they were too far out."
"Well, then, is it Bellamy and that big son of his? They were not too
sweet upon Mr. McPherson. Could they have done him a mischief?"
"No, no, you won't draw me until I am ready," said I with a smile.
"Now, Inspector, we each have our own work to do. Perhaps if you were
to meet me here at midday--"
So far we had got when there came the tremendous interruption which was
the beginning of the end.
My outer door was flung open, there were blundering footsteps in the
passage, and Ian Murdoch staggered into the room, pallid, dishevelled,
his clothes in wild disorder, clawing with his bony hands at the
furniture to hold himself erect. "Brandy! Brandy!" he gasped, and fell
groaning upon the sofa.
He was not alone. Behind him came Stackhurst, hatless and panting,
almost as distrait as his companion.
"Yes, yes, brandy!" he cried. "The man is at his last gasp. It was all
I could do to bring him here. He fainted twice upon the way."
Half a tumbler of the raw spirit brought about a wondrous change. He
pushed himself up on one arm and swung his coat from his shoulders.
"For God's sake oil, opium, morphia!" he cried. "Anything to ease this
The inspector and I cried out at the sight. There, crisscrossed upon
the man's naked shoulder, was the same strange reticulated pattern of
red, inflamed lines which had been the death-mark of Fitzroy McPherson.
The pain was evidently terrible and was more than local, for the
sufferer's breathing would stop for a time, his face would turn black,
and then with loud gasps he would clap his hand to his heart, while his
brow dropped beads of sweat. At any moment he might die. More and more
brandy was poured down his throat, each fresh dose bringing him back to
life. Pads of cotton-wool soaked in salad-oil seemed to take the agony
from the strange wounds. At last his head fell heavily upon the
cushion. Exhausted Nature had taken refuge in its last storehouse of
vitality. It was half a sleep and half a faint, but at least it was
ease from pain.
To question him had been impossible, but the moment we were assured of
his condition Stackhurst turned upon me.
"My God!" he cried, "what is it, Holmes? What is it?"
"Where did you find him?"
"Down on the beach. Exactly where poor McPherson met his end. If this
man's heart had been weak as McPherson's was, he would not be here now.
More than once I thought he was gone as I brought him up. It was too
far to The Gables, so I made for you."
"Did you see him on the beach?"
"I was walking on the cliff when I heard his cry. He was at the edge of
the water, reeling about like a drunken man. I ran down, threw some
clothes about him, and brought him up. For heaven's sake, Holmes, use
all the powers you have and spare no pains to lift the curse from this
place, for life is becoming unendurable. Can you, with all your
world-wide reputation, do nothing for us?"
"I think I can, Stackhurst. Come with me now! And you, Inspector, come
along! We will see if we cannot deliver this murderer into your hands."
Leaving the unconscious man in the charge of my housekeeper, we all
three went down to the deadly lagoon. On the shingle there was piled a
little heap of towels and clothes left by the stricken man. Slowly I
walked round the edge of the water, my comrades in Indian file behind
me. Most of the pool was quite shallow, but under the cliff where the
beach was hollowed out it was four or five feet deep. It was to this
part that a swimmer would naturally go, for it formed a beautiful
pellucid green pool as clear as crystal. A line of rocks lay above it
at the base of the cliff, and along this I led the way, peering eagerly
into the depths beneath me. I had reached the deepest and stillest pool
when my eyes caught that for which they were searching, and I burst
into a shout of triumph.
"Cyanea!" I cried. "Cyanea! Behold the Lion's Mane!"
The strange object at which I pointed did indeed look like a tangled
mass torn from the mane of a lion. It lay upon a rocky shelf some three
feet under the water, a curious waving, vibrating, hairy creature with
streaks of silver among its yellow tresses. It pulsated with a slow,
heavy dilation and contraction.
"It has done mischief enough. Its day is over!" I cried. "Help me,
Stackhurst! Let us end the murderer forever."
There was a big boulder just above the ledge, and we pushed it until it
fell with a tremendous splash into the water. When the ripples had
cleared we saw that it had settled upon the ledge below. One flapping
edge of yellow membrane showed that our victim was beneath it. A thick
oily scum oozed out from below the stone and stained the water round,
rising slowly to the surface.
"Well, this gets me!" cried the inspector. "What was it, Mr. Holmes?
I'm born and bred in these parts, but I never saw such a thing. It
don't belong to Sussex."
"Just as well for Sussex," I remarked. "It may have been the southwest
gale that brought it up. Come back to my house, both of you, and I will
give you the terrible experience of one who has good reason to remember
his own meeting with the same peril of the seas."
When we reached my study we found that Murdoch was so far recovered
that he could sit up. He was dazed in mind, and every now and then was
shaken by a paroxysm of pain. In broken words he explained that he had
no notion what had occurred to him, save that terrific pangs had
suddenly shot through him, and that it had taken all his fortitude to
reach the bank.
"Here is a book," I said, taking up the little volume, "which first
brought light into what might have been forever dark. It is 'Out of
Doors', by the famous observer, J. G. Wood. Wood himself very nearly
perished from contact with this vile creature, so he wrote with a very
full knowledge. Cyanea capillata is the miscreant's full name, and he
can be as dangerous to life as, and far more painful than, the bite of
the cobra. Let me briefly give this extract.
"'If the bather should see a loose roundish mass of tawny membranes and
fibres, something like very large handfuls of lion's mane and silver
paper, let him beware, for this is the fearful stinger, Cyanea capillata.'
"Could our sinister acquaintance be more clearly described?
"He goes on to tell of his own encounter with one when swimming off the
coast of Kent. He found that the creature radiated almost invisible
filaments to the distance of fifty feet, and that anyone within that
circumference from the deadly centre was in danger of death. Even at a
distance the effect upon Wood was almost fatal.
"'The multitudinous threads caused light scarlet lines upon the skin which
on closer examination resolved into minute dots or pustules, each dot
charged as it were with a red-hot needle making its way through the
"The local pain was, as he explains, the least part of the exquisite
"'Pangs shot through the chest, causing me to fall as if struck by a
bullet. The pulsation would cease, and then the heart would give six or
seven leaps as if it would force its way through the chest.'
"It nearly killed him, although he had only been exposed to it in the
disturbed ocean and not in the narrow calm waters of a bathing-pool. He
says that he could hardly recognize himself afterwards, so white,
wrinkled and shrivelled was his face. He gulped down brandy, a whole
bottleful, and it seems to have saved his life. There is the book,
Inspector. I leave it with you, and you cannot doubt that it contains a
full explanation of the tragedy of poor McPherson."
"And incidentally exonerates me," remarked Ian Murdoch with a wry
smile. "I do not blame you, Inspector, nor you, Mr. Holmes, for your
suspicions were natural. I feel that on the very eve of my arrest I
have only cleared myself by sharing the fate of my poor friend."
"No, Mr. Murdoch. I was already upon the track, and had I been out as
early as I intended I might well have saved you from this terrific
"But how did you know, Mr. Holmes?"
"I am an omnivorous reader with a strangely retentive memory for
trifles. That phrase 'the Lion's Mane' haunted my mind. I knew that I
had seen it somewhere in an unexpected context. You have seen that it
does describe the creature. I have no doubt that it was floating on the
water when McPherson saw it, and that this phrase was the only one by
which he could convey to us a warning as to the creature which had been
"Then I, at least, am cleared," said Murdoch, rising slowly to his
feet. "There are one or two words of explanation which I should give,
for I know the direction in which your inquiries have run. It is true
that I loved this lady, but from the day when she chose my friend
McPherson my one desire was to help her to happiness. I was well
content to stand aside and act as their go-between. Often I carried
their messages, and it was because I was in their confidence and
because she was so dear to me that I hastened to tell her of my
friend's death, lest someone should forestall me in a more sudden and
heartless manner. She would not tell you, sir, of our relations lest
you should disapprove and I might suffer. But with your leave I must
try to get back to The Gables, for my bed will be very welcome."
Stackhurst held out his hand. "Our nerves have all been at
concert-pitch," said he. "Forgive what is past, Murdoch. We shall
understand each other better in the future." They passed out together
with their arms linked in friendly fashion. The inspector remained,
staring at me in silence with his ox-like eyes.
"Well, you've done it!" he cried at last. "I had read of you, but I
never believed it. It's wonderful!"
I was forced to shake my head. To accept such praise was to lower one's
"I was slow at the outset--culpably slow. Had the body been found in
the water I could hardly have missed it. It was the towel which misled
me. The poor fellow had never thought to dry himself, and so I in turn
was led to believe that he had never been in the water. Why, then,
should the attack of any water creature suggest itself to me? That was
where I went astray. Well, well, Inspector, I often ventured to chaff
you gentlemen of the police force, but Cyanea capillata very nearly
avenged Scotland Yard."
THE ADVENTURE OF THE VEILED LODGER
When one considers that Mr. Sherlock Holmes was in active practice for
twenty-three years, and that during seventeen of these I was allowed to
cooperate with him and to keep notes of his doings, it will be clear
that I have a mass of material at my command. The problem has always
been not to find but to choose. There is the long row of year-books
which fill a shelf and there are the dispatch-cases filled with
documents, a perfect quarry for the student not only of crime but of
the social and official scandals of the late Victorian era. Concerning
these latter, I may say that the writers of agonized letters, who beg
that the honour of their families or the reputation of famous forebears
may not be touched, have nothing to fear. The discretion and high sense
of professional honour which have always distinguished my friend are
still at work in the choice of these memoirs, and no confidence will be
abused. I deprecate, however, in the strongest way the attempts which
have been made lately to get at and to destroy these papers. The source
of these outrages is known, and if they are repeated I have Mr.
Holmes's authority for saying that the whole story concerning the
politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to
the public. There is at least one reader who will understand.
It is not reasonable to suppose that every one of these cases gave
Holmes the opportunity of showing those curious gifts of instinct and
observation which I have endeavoured to set forth in these memoirs.
Sometimes he had with much effort to pick the fruit, sometimes it fell
easily into his lap. But the most terrible human tragedies were often
involved in those cases which brought him the fewest personal
opportunities, and it is one of these which I now desire to record. In
telling it, I have made a slight change of name and place, but
otherwise the facts are as stated.
One forenoon--it was late in 1896--I received a hurried note from
Holmes asking for my attendance. When I arrived I found him seated in a
smoke-laden atmosphere, with an elderly, motherly woman of the buxom
landlady type in the corresponding chair in front of him.
"This is Mrs. Merrilow, of South Brixton," said my friend with a wave
of the hand. "Mrs. Merrilow does not object to tobacco, Watson, if you
wish to indulge your filthy habits. Mrs. Merrilow has an interesting
story to tell which may well lead to further developments in which your
presence may be useful."
"Anything I can do--"
"You will understand, Mrs. Merrilow, that if I come to Mrs. Ronder I
should prefer to have a witness. You will make her understand that
before we arrive."
"Lord bless you, Mr. Holmes," said our visitor, "she is that anxious to
see you that you might bring the whole parish at your heels!"
"Then we shall come early in the afternoon. Let us see that we have our
facts correct before we start. If we go over them it will help Dr.
Watson to understand the situation. You say that Mrs. Ronder has been
your lodger for seven years and that you have only once seen her face."
"And I wish to God I had not!" said Mrs. Merrilow.
"It was, I understand, terribly mutilated."
"Well, Mr. Holmes, you would hardly say it was a face at all. That's
how it looked. Our milkman got a glimpse of her once peeping out of the
upper window, and he dropped his tin and the milk all over the front
garden. That is the kind of face it is. When I saw her--I happened on
her unawares--she covered up quick, and then she said, 'Now, Mrs.
Merrilow, you know at last why it is that I never raise my veil.'"
"Do you know anything about her history?"
"Nothing at all."
"Did she give references when she came?"
"No, sir, but she gave hard cash, and plenty of it. A quarter's rent
right down on the table in advance and no arguing about terms. In these
times a poor woman like me can't afford to turn down a chance like
"Did she give any reason for choosing your house?"
"Mine stands well back from the road and is more private than most.
Then, again, I only take the one, and I have no family of my own. I
reckon she had tried others and found that mine suited her best. It's
privacy she is after, and she is ready to pay for it."
"You say that she never showed her face from first to last save on the
one accidental occasion. Well, it is a very remarkable story, most
remarkable, and I don't wonder that you want it examined."
"I don't, Mr. Holmes. I am quite satisfied so long as I get my rent.
You could not have a quieter lodger, or one who gives less trouble."
"Then what has brought matters to a head?"
"Her health, Mr. Holmes. She seems to be wasting away. And there's
something terrible on her mind. 'Murder!' she cries. 'Murder!' And once
I heard her: 'You cruel beast! You monster!' she cried. It was in the
night, and it fair rang through the house and sent the shivers through
me. So I went to her in the morning. 'Mrs. Ronder,' I says, 'if you
have anything that is troubling your soul, there's the clergy,' I says,
'and there's the police. Between them you should get some help.' 'For
God's sake, not the police!' says she, 'and the clergy can't change
what is past. And yet,' she says, 'it would ease my mind if someone
knew the truth before I died.' 'Well,' says I, 'if you won't have the
regulars, there is this detective man what we read about'--beggin'
your pardon, Mr. Holmes. And she, she fair jumped at it. 'That's the
man,' says she. 'I wonder I never thought of it before. Bring him here,
Mrs. Merrilow, and if he won't come, tell him I am the wife of Ronder's
wild beast show. Say that, and give him the name Abbas Parva. Here it
is as she wrote it, Abbas Parva. 'That will bring him if he's the man I
think he is.'"
"And it will, too," remarked Holmes. "Very good, Mrs. Merrilow. I
should like to have a little chat with Dr. Watson. That will carry us
till lunch-time. About three o'clock you may expect to see us at your
house in Brixton."
Our visitor had no sooner waddled out of the room--no other verb can
describe Mrs. Merrilow's method of progression--than Sherlock Holmes
threw himself with fierce energy upon the pile of commonplace books in
the corner. For a few minutes there was a constant swish of the leaves,
and then with a grunt of satisfaction he came upon what he sought. So
excited was he that he did not rise, but sat upon the floor like some
strange Buddha, with crossed legs, the huge books all round him, and
one open upon his knees.
"The case worried me at the time, Watson. Here are my marginal notes to
prove it. I confess that I could make nothing of it. And yet I was
convinced that the coroner was wrong. Have you no recollection of the
Abbas Parva tragedy?"
"And yet you were with me then. But certainly my own impression was
very superficial. For there was nothing to go by, and none of the
parties had engaged my services. Perhaps you would care to read the
"Could you not give me the points?"
"That is very easily done. It will probably come back to your memory as
I talk. Ronder, of course, was a household word. He was the rival of
Wombwell, and of Sanger, one of the greatest showmen of his day. There
is evidence, however, that he took to drink, and that both he and his
show were on the down grade at the time of the great tragedy. The
caravan had halted for the night at Abbas Parva, which is a small
village in Berkshire, when this horror occurred. They were on their way
to Wimbledon, travelling by road, and they were simply camping and not
exhibiting, as the place is so small a one that it would not have paid
them to open.
"They had among their exhibits a very fine North African lion. Sahara
King was its name, and it was the habit, both of Ronder and his wife,
to give exhibitions inside its cage. Here, you see, is a photograph of
the performance by which you will perceive that Ronder was a huge
porcine person and that his wife was a very magnificent woman. It was
deposed at the inquest that there had been some signs that the lion was
dangerous, but, as usual, familiarity begat contempt, and no notice was
taken of the fact.
"It was usual for either Ronder or his wife to feed the lion at night.
Sometimes one went, sometimes both, but they never allowed anyone else
to do it, for they believed that so long as they were the food-carriers
he would regard them as benefactors and would never molest them. On
this particular night, seven years ago, they both went, and a very
terrible happening followed, the details of which have never been made
"It seems that the whole camp was roused near midnight by the roars of
the animal and the screams of the woman. The different grooms and
employees rushed from their tents, carrying lanterns, and by their
light an awful sight was revealed. Ronder lay, with the back of his
head crushed in and deep claw-marks across his scalp, some ten yards
from the cage, which was open. Close to the door of the cage lay Mrs.
Ronder upon her back, with the creature squatting and snarling above
her. It had torn her face in such a fashion that it was never thought
that she could live. Several of the circus men, headed by Leonardo, the
strong man, and Griggs, the clown, drove the creature off with poles,
upon which it sprang back into the cage and was at once locked in. How
it had got loose was a mystery. It was conjectured that the pair
intended to enter the cage, but that when the door was loosed the
creature bounded out upon them. There was no other point of interest in
the evidence save that the woman in a delirium of agony kept screaming,
'Coward! Coward!' as she was carried back to the van in which they
lived. It was six months before she was fit to give evidence, but the
inquest was duly held, with the obvious verdict of death from
"What alternative could be conceived?" said I.
"You may well say so. And yet there were one or two points which
worried young Edmunds, of the Berkshire Constabulary. A smart lad that!
He was sent later to Allahabad. That was how I came into the matter,
for he dropped in and smoked a pipe or two over it."
"A thin, yellow-haired man?"
"Exactly. I was sure you would pick up the trail presently."
"But what worried him?"
"Well, we were both worried. It was so deucedly difficult to
reconstruct the affair. Look at it from the lion's point of view. He is
liberated. What does he do? He takes half a dozen bounds forward, which
brings him to Ronder. Ronder turns to fly--the claw-marks were on the
back of his head--but the lion strikes him down. Then, instead of
bounding on and escaping, he returns to the woman, who was close to the
cage, and he knocks her over and chews her face up. Then, again, those
cries of hers would seem to imply that her husband had in some way
failed her. What could the poor devil have done to help her? You see
"And then there was another thing. It comes back to me now as I think
it over. There was some evidence that just at the time the lion roared
and the woman screamed, a man began shouting in terror."
"This man Ronder, no doubt."
"Well, if his skull was smashed in you would hardly expect to hear from
him again. There were at least two witnesses who spoke of the cries of
a man being mingled with those of a woman."
"I should think the whole camp was crying out by then. As to the other
points, I think I could suggest a solution."
"I should be glad to consider it."
"The two were together, ten yards from the cage, when the lion got
loose. The man turned and was struck down. The woman conceived the idea
of getting into the cage and shutting the door. It was her only refuge.
She made for it, and just as she reached it the beast bounded after her
and knocked her over. She was angry with her husband for having
encouraged the beast's rage by turning. If they had faced it they might
have cowed it. Hence her cries of 'Coward!'"
"Brilliant, Watson! Only one flaw in your diamond."
"What is the flaw, Holmes?"
"If they were both ten paces from the cage, how came the beast to get
"Is it possible that they had some enemy who loosed it?"
"And why should it attack them savagely when it was in the habit of
playing with them, and doing tricks with them inside the cage?"
"Possibly the same enemy had done something to enrage it."
Holmes looked thoughtful and remained in silence for some moments.
"Well, Watson, there is this to be said for your theory. Ronder was a
man of many enemies. Edmunds told me that in his cups he was horrible.
A huge bully of a man, he cursed and slashed at everyone who came in
his way. I expect those cries about a monster, of which our visitor has
spoken, were nocturnal reminiscences of the dear departed. However, our
speculations are futile until we have all the facts. There is a cold
partridge on the sideboard, Watson, and a bottle of Montrachet. Let us
renew our energies before we make a fresh call upon them."
When our hansom deposited us at the house of Mrs. Merrilow, we found
that plump lady blocking up the open door of her humble but retired
abode. It was very clear that her chief preoccupation was lest she
should lose a valuable lodger, and she implored us, before showing us
up, to say and do nothing which could lead to so undesirable an end.
Then, having reassured her, we followed her up the straight, badly
carpeted staircase and were shown into the room of the mysterious
It was a close, musty, ill-ventilated place, as might be expected,
since its inmate seldom left it. From keeping beasts in a cage, the
woman seemed, by some retribution of fate, to have become herself a
beast in a cage. She sat now in a broken armchair in the shadowy corner
of the room. Long years of inaction had coarsened the lines of her
figure, but at some period it must have been beautiful, and was still
full and voluptuous. A thick dark veil covered her face, but it was cut
off close at her upper lip and disclosed a perfectly shaped mouth and a
delicately rounded chin. I could well conceive that she had indeed been
a very remarkable woman. Her voice, too, was well modulated and
"My name is not unfamiliar to you, Mr. Holmes," said she. "I thought
that it would bring you."
"That is so, madam, though I do not know how you are aware that I was
interested in your case."
"I learned it when I had recovered my health and was examined by Mr.
Edmunds, the county detective. I fear I lied to him. Perhaps it would
have been wiser had I told the truth."
"It is usually wiser to tell the truth. But why did you lie to him?"
"Because the fate of someone else depended upon it. I know that he was
a very worthless being, and yet I would not have his destruction upon
my conscience. We had been so close--so close!"
"But has this impediment been removed?"
"Yes, sir. The person that I allude to is dead."
"Then why should you not now tell the police anything you know?"
"Because there is another person to be considered. That other person is
myself. I could not stand the scandal and publicity which would come
from a police examination. I have not long to live, but I wish to die
undisturbed. And yet I wanted to find one man of judgment to whom I
could tell my terrible story, so that when I am gone all might be
"You compliment me, madam. At the same time, I am a responsible person.
I do not promise you that when you have spoken I may not myself think
it my duty to refer the case to the police."
"I think not, Mr. Holmes. I know your character and methods too well,
for I have followed your work for some years. Reading is the only
pleasure which fate has left me, and I miss little which passes in the
world. But in any case, I will take my chance of the use which you may
make of my tragedy. It will ease my mind to tell it."
"My friend and I would be glad to hear it."
The woman rose and took from a drawer the photograph of a man. He was
clearly a professional acrobat, a man of magnificent physique, taken
with his huge arms folded across his swollen chest and a smile breaking
from under his heavy moustache--the self-satisfied smile of the man
of many conquests.
"That is Leonardo," she said.
"Leonardo, the strong man, who gave evidence?"
"The same. And this--this is my husband."
It was a dreadful face--a human pig, or rather a human wild boar, for
it was formidable in its bestiality. One could imagine that vile mouth
champing and foaming in its rage, and one could conceive those small,
vicious eyes darting pure malignancy as they looked forth upon the
world. Ruffian, bully, beast--it was all written on that heavy-jowled
"Those two pictures will help you, gentlemen, to understand the story.
I was a poor circus girl brought up on the sawdust, and doing springs
through the hoop before I was ten. When I became a woman this man loved
me, if such lust as his can be called love, and in an evil moment I
became his wife. From that day I was in hell, and he the devil who
tormented me. There was no one in the show who did not know of his
treatment. He deserted me for others. He tied me down and lashed me
with his ridingwhip when I complained. They all pitied me and they all
loathed him, but what could they do? They feared him, one and all. For
he was terrible at all times, and murderous when he was drunk. Again
and again he was had up for assault, and for cruelty to the beasts, but
he had plenty of money and the fines were nothing to him. The best men
all left us, and the show began to go downhill. It was only Leonardo
and I who kept it up--with little Jimmy Griggs, the clown. Poor
devil, he had not much to be funny about, but he did what he could to
hold things together.
"Then Leonardo came more and more into my life. You see what he was
like. I know now the poor spirit that was hidden in that splendid body,
but compared to my husband he seemed like the angel Gabriel. He pitied
me and helped me, till at last our intimacy turned to love--deep,
deep, passionate love, such love as I had dreamed of but never hoped to
feel. My husband suspected it, but I think that he was a coward as well
as a bully, and that Leonardo was the one man that he was afraid of. He
took revenge in his own way by torturing me more than ever. One night
my cries brought Leonardo to the door of our van. We were near tragedy
that night, and soon my lover and I understood that it could not be
avoided. My husband was not fit to live. We planned that he should die.
"Leonardo had a clever, scheming brain. It was he who planned it. I do
not say that to blame him, for I was ready to go with him every inch of
the way. But I should never have had the wit to think of such a plan.
We made a club--Leonardo made it--and in the leaden head he
fastened five long steel nails, the points outward, with just such a
spread as the lion's paw. This was to give my husband his death-blow,
and yet to leave the evidence that it was the lion which we would loose
who had done the deed.
"It was a pitch-dark night when my husband and I went down, as was our
custom, to feed the beast. We carried with us the raw meat in a zinc
pail. Leonardo was waiting at the corner of the big van which we should
have to pass before we reached the cage. He was too slow, and we walked
past him before he could strike, but he followed us on tiptoe and I
heard the crash as the club smashed my husband's skull. My heart leaped
with joy at the sound. I sprang forward, and I undid the catch which
held the door of the great lion's cage.
"And then the terrible thing happened. You may have heard how quick
these creatures are to scent human blood, and how it excites them. Some
strange instinct had told the creature in one instant that a human
being had been slain. As I slipped the bars it bounded out and was on
me in an instant. Leonardo could have saved me. If he had rushed
forward and struck the beast with his club he might have cowed it. But
the man lost his nerve. I heard him shout in his terror, and then I saw
him turn and fly. At the same instant the teeth of the lion met in my
face. Its hot, filthy breath had already poisoned me and I was hardly
conscious of pain. With the palms of my hands I tried to push the great
steaming, blood-stained jaws away from me, and I screamed for help. I
was conscious that the camp was stirring, and then dimly I remembered a
group of men. Leonardo, Griggs, and others, dragging me from under the
creature's paws. That was my last memory, Mr. Holmes, for many a weary
month. When I came to myself and saw myself in the mirror, I cursed
that lion--oh, how I cursed him!--not because he had torn away my
beauty but because he had not torn away my life. I had but one desire,
Mr. Holmes, and I had enough money to gratify it. It was that I should
cover myself so that my poor face should be seen by none, and that I
should dwell where none whom I had ever known should find me. That was
all that was left to me to do--and that is what I have done. A poor
wounded beast that has crawled into its hole to die--that is the end
of Eugenia Ronder."
We sat in silence for some time after the unhappy woman had told her
story. Then Holmes stretched out his long arm and patted her hand with
such a show of sympathy as I had seldom known him to exhibit.
"Poor girl!" he said. "Poor girl! The ways of fate are indeed hard to
understand. If there is not some compensation hereafter, then the world
is a cruel jest. But what of this man Leonardo?"
"I never saw him or heard from him again. Perhaps I have been wrong to
feel so bitterly against him. He might as soon have loved one of the
freaks whom we carried round the country as the thing which the lion
had left. But a woman's love is not so easily set aside. He had left me
under the beast's claws, he had deserted me in my need, and yet I could
not bring myself to give him to the gallows. For myself, I cared
nothing what became of me. What could be more dreadful than my actual
life? But I stood between Leonardo and his fate."
"And he is dead?"
"He was drowned last month when bathing near Margate. I saw his death
in the paper."
"And what did he do with this five-clawed club, which is the most
singular and ingenious part of all your story?"
"I cannot tell, Mr. Holmes. There is a chalk-pit by the camp, with a
deep green pool at the base of it. Perhaps in the depths of that pool
"Well, well, it is of little consequence now. The case is closed."
"Yes," said the woman, "the case is closed."
We had risen to go, but there was something in the woman's voice which
arrested Holmes's attention. He turned swiftly upon her.
"Your life is not your own," he said. "Keep your hands off it."
"What use is it to anyone?"
"How can you tell? The example of patient suffering is in itself the
most precious of all lessons to an impatient world."
The woman's answer was a terrible one. She raised her veil and stepped
forward into the light.
"I wonder if you would bear it," she said.
It was horrible. No words can describe the framework of a face when the
face itself is gone. Two living and beautiful brown eyes looking sadly
out from that grisly ruin did but make the view more awful. Holmes held
up his hand in a gesture of pity and protest, and together we left the
Two days later, when I called upon my friend, he pointed with some
pride to a small blue bottle upon his mantelpiece. I picked it up.
There was a red poison label. A pleasant almondy odour rose when I
"Prussic acid?" said I.
"Exactly. It came by post. 'I send you my temptation. I will follow
your advice.' That was the message. I think, Watson, we can guess the
name of the brave woman who sent it."
THE ADVENTURE OF SHOSCOMBE OLD PLACE
Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a low-power
microscope. Now he straightened himself up and looked round at me in
"It is glue, Watson," said he. "Unquestionably it is glue. Have a look
at these scattered objects in the field!"
I stooped to the eyepiece and focussed for my vision.
"Those hairs are threads from a tweed coat. The irregular gray masses
are dust. There are epithelial scales on the left. Those brown blobs in
the centre are undoubtedly glue."
"Well," I said, laughing, "I am prepared to take your word for it. Does
anything depend upon it?"
"It is a very fine demonstration," he answered. "In the St. Pancras
case you may remember that a cap was found beside the dead policeman.
The accused man denies that it is his. But he is a picture-frame maker
who habitually handles glue."
"Is it one of your cases?"
"No; my friend, Merivale, of the Yard, asked me to look into the case.
Since I ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper filings in the seam
of his cuff they have begun to realize the importance of the
microscope." He looked impatiently at his watch. "I had a new client
calling, but he is overdue. By the way, Watson, you know something of
"I ought to. I pay for it with about half my wound pension."
"Then I'll make you my 'Handy Guide to the Turf.' What about Sir Robert
Norberton? Does the name recall anything?"
"Well, I should say so. He lives at Shoscombe Old Place, and I know it
well, for my summer quarters were down there once. Norberton nearly
came within your province once."
"How was that?"
"It was when he horsewhipped Sam Brewer, the well-known Curzon Street
money-lender, on Newmarket Heath. He nearly killed the man."
"Ah, he sounds interesting! Does he often indulge in that way?"
"Well, he has the name of being a dangerous man. He is about the most
daredevil rider in England--second in the Grand National a few years
back. He is one of those men who have overshot their true generation.
He should have been a buck in the days of the Regency--a boxer, an
athlete, a plunger on the turf, a lover of fair ladies, and, by all
account, so far down Queer Street that he may never find his way back
"Capital, Watson! A thumb-nail sketch. I seem to know the man. Now, can
you give me some idea of Shoscombe Old Place?"
"Only that it is in the centre of Shoscombe Park, and that the famous
Shoscombe stud and training quarters are to be found there."
"And the head trainer," said Holmes, "is John Mason. You need not look
surprised at my knowledge, Watson, for this is a letter from him which
I am unfolding. But let us have some more about Shoscombe. I seem to
have struck a rich vein."
"There are the Shoscombe spaniels," said I. "You hear of them at every
dog show. The most exclusive breed in England. They are the special
pride of the lady of Shoscombe Old Place."
"Sir Robert Norberton's wife, I presume!"
"Sir Robert has never married. Just as well, I think, considering his
prospects. He lives with his widowed sister, Lady Beatrice Falder."
"You mean that she lives with him?"
"No, no. The place belonged to her late husband, Sir James. Norberton
has no claim on it at all. It is only a life interest and reverts to
her husband's brother. Meantime, she draws the rents every year."
"And brother Robert, I suppose, spends the said rents?"
"That is about the size of it. He is a devil of a fellow and must lead
her a most uneasy life. Yet I have heard that she is devoted to him.
But what is amiss at Shoscombe?"
"Ah, that is just what I want to know. And here, I expect, is the man
who can tell us."
The door had opened and the page had shown in a tall, clean-shaven man
with the firm, austere expression which is only seen upon those who
have to control horses or boys. Mr. John Mason had many of both under
his sway, and he looked equal to the task. He bowed with cold
self-possession and seated himself upon the chair to which Holmes had
"You had my note, Mr. Holmes?"
"Yes, but it explained nothing."
"It was too delicate a thing for me to put the details on paper. And
too complicated. It was only face to face I could do it."
"Well, we are at your disposal."
"First of all, Mr. Holmes, I think that my employer, Sir Robert, has
Holmes raised his eyebrows. "This is Baker Street, not Harley Street,"
said he. "But why do you say so?"
"Well, sir, when a man does one queer thing, or two queer things, there
may be a meaning to it, but when everything he does is queer, then you
begin to wonder. I believe Shoscombe Prince and the Derby have turned
"That is a colt you are running?"
"The best in England, Mr. Holmes. I should know, if anyone does. Now,
I'll be plain with you, for I know you are gentlemen of honour and that
it won't go beyond the room. Sir Robert has got to win this Derby. He's
up to the neck, and it's his last chance. Everything he could raise or
borrow is on the horse--and at fine odds, too! You can get forties
now, but it was nearer the hundred when he began to back him."
"But how is that if the horse is so good?"
"The public don't know how good he is. Sir Robert has been too clever
for the touts. He has the Prince's half-brother out for spins. You
can't tell 'em apart. But there are two lengths in a furlong between
them when it comes to a gallop. He thinks of nothing but the horse and
the race. His whole life is on it. He's holding off the Jews till then.
If the Prince fails him he is done."
"It seems a rather desperate gamble, but where does the madness come
"Well, first of all, you have only to look at him. I don't believe he
sleeps at night. He is down at the stables at all hours. His eyes are
wild. It has all been too much for his nerves. Then there is his
conduct to Lady Beatrice!"
"Ah! What is that?"
"They have always been the best of friends. They had the same tastes,
the two of them, and she loved the horses as much as he did. Every day
at the same hour she would drive down to see them--and, above all,
she loved the Prince. He would prick up his ears when he heard the
wheels on the gravel, and he would trot out each morning to the
carriage to get his lump of sugar. But that's all over now."
"Well, she seems to have lost all interest in the horses. For a week
now she has driven past the stables with never so much as
"You think there has been a quarrel?"
"And a bitter, savage, spitelful quarrel at that. Why else would he
give away her pet spaniel that she loved as if he were her child? He
gave it a few days ago to old Barnes, what keeps the Green Dragon,
three miles off, at Crendall."
"That certainly did seem strange."
"Of course, with her weak heart and dropsy one couldn't expect that she
could get about with him, but he spent two hours every evening in her
room. He might well do what he could, for she has been a rare good
friend to him. But that's all over, too. He never goes near her. And
she takes it to heart. She is brooding and sulky and drinking, Mr.
Holmes--drinking like a fish."
"Did she drink before this estrangement?"
"Well, she took her glass, but now it is often a whole bottle of an
evening. So Stephens, the butler, told me. It's all changed, Mr.
Holmes, and there is something damned rotten about it. But then, again,
what is master doing down at the old church crypt at night? And who is
the man that meets him there?"
Holmes rubbed his hands.
"Go on, Mr. Mason. You get more and more interesting."
"It was the butler who saw him go. Twelve o'clock at night and raining
hard. So next night I was up at the house and, sure enough, master was
off again. Stephens and I went after him, but it was jumpy work, for it
would have been a bad job if he had seen us. He's a terrible man with
his fists if he gets started, and no respecter of persons. So we were
shy of getting too near, but we marked him down all light. It was the
haunted crypt that he was making for, and there was a man waiting for
"What is this haunted cryp?"
"Well, sir, there is an old ruined chapel in the park. It is so old
that nobody could fix its date. And under it there's a crypt which has
a bad name among us. It's a dark, damp, lonely place by day, but there
are few in that county that would have the nerve to go near it at
night. But master's not afraid. He never feared anything in his life.
But what is he doing there in the night-time?"
"Wait a bit!" said Holmes. "You say there is another man there. It must
be one of your own stablemen, or someone from the house! Surely you
have only to spot who it is and question him?"
"It's no one I know."
"How can you say that?"
"Because I have seen him, Mr. Holmes. It was on that second night. Sir
Robert turned and passed us--me and Stephens, quaking in the bushes
like two bunny-rabbits, for there was a bit of moon that night. But we
could hear the other moving about behind. We were not afraid of him. So
we up when Sir Robert was gone and pretended we were just having a walk
like in the moonlight, and so we came right on him as casual and
innocent as you please. 'Hullo, mate! who may you be?' says I. I guess
he had not heard us coming, so he looked over his shoulder with a face
as if he had seen the devil coming out of hell. He let out a yell, and
away he went as hard as he could lick it in the darkness. He could run!
--I'll give him that. In a minute he was out of sight and hearing, and
who he was, or what he was, we never found."
"But you saw him clearly in the moonlight?"
"Yes, I would swear to his yellow face--a mean dog, I should say.
What could he have in common with Sir Robert?"
Holmes sat for some time lost in thought.
"Who keeps Lady Beatrice Falder company?" he asked at last.
"There is her maid, Carrie Evans. She has been with her this five
"And is, no doubt, devoted?"
Mr. Mason shuffled uncomfortably.
"She's devoted enough," he answered at last. "But I won't say to whom."
"Ah!" said Holmes.
"I can't tell tales out of school."
"I quite understand, Mr. Mason. Of course, the situation is clear
enough. From Dr. Watson's description of Sir Robert I can realize that
no woman is safe from him. Don't you think the quarrel between brother
and sister may lie there?"
"Well, the scandal has been pretty clear for a long time."
"But she may not have seen it before. Let us suppose that she has
suddenly found it out. She wants to get rid of the woman. Her brother
will not permit it. The invalid, with her weak heart and inability to
get about, has no means of enforcing her will. The hated maid is still
tied to her. The lady refuses to speak, sulks, takes to drink. Sir
Robert in his anger takes her pet spaniel away from her. Does not all
this hang together?"
"Well, it might do--so far as it goes."
"Exactly! As far as it goes. How would all that bear upon the visits by
night to the old crypt? We can't fit that into our plot."
"No, sir, and there is something more that I can't fit in. Why should
Sir Robert want to dig up a dead body?"
Holmes sat up abruptly.
"We only found it out yesterday--after I had written to you.
Yesterday Sir Robert had gone to London, so Stephens and I went down to
the crypt. It was all in order, sir, except that in one corner was a
bit of a human body."
"You informed the police, I suppose?"
Our visitor smiled grimly.
"Well, sir, I think it would hardly interest them. It was just the head
and a few bones of a mummy. It may have been a thousand years old. But
it wasn't there before. That I'll swear, and so will Stephens. It had
been stowed away in a corner and covered over with a board, but that
corner had always been empty before."
"What did you do with it?"
"Well, we just left it there."
"That was wise. You say Sir Robert was away yesterday. Has he
"We expect him back to-day."
"When did Sir Robert give away his sister's dog?"
"It was just a week ago to-day. The creature was howling outside the
old wellhouse, and Sir Robert was in one of his tantrums that morning.
He caught it up, and I thought he would have killed it. Then he gave it
to Sandy Bain, the jockey, and told him to take the dog to old Barnes
at the Green Dragon, for he never wished to see it again."
Holmes sat for some time in silent thought. He had lit the oldest and
foulest of his pipes.
"I am not clear yet what you want me to do in this matter, Mr. Mason,"
he said at last. "Can't you make it more definite?"
"Perhaps this will make it more definite, Mr. Holmes," said our
He took a paper from his pocket, and, unwrapping it carefully, he
exposed a charred fragment of bone.
Holmes examined it with interest.
"Where did you get it?"
"There is a central heating furnace in the cellar under Lady Beatrice's
room. It's been off for some time, but Sir Robert complained of cold
and had it on again.
"Harvey runs it--he's one of my lads. This very morning he came to me
with this which he found raking out the cinders. He didn't like the
look of it."
"Nor do I," said Holmes. "What do you make of it, Watson?"
It was burned to a black cinder, but there could be no question as to
its anatomical significance.
"It's the upper condyle of a human femur," said I.
"Exactly!" Holmes had become very serious. "When does this lad tend to
"He makes it up every evening and then leaves it."
"Then anyone could visit it during the night?"
"Can you enter it from outside?"
"There is one door from outside. There is another which leads up by a
stair to the passage in which Lady Beatrice's room is situated."
"These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty. You say that
Sir Robert was not at home last night?"
"Then, whoever was burning bones, it was not he."
"That's true. sir."
"What is the name of that inn you spoke of?"
"The Green Dragon."
"Is there good fishing in that part of Berkshire?" The honest trainer
showed very clearly upon his face that he was convinced that yet
another lunatic had come into his harassed life.
"Well, sir, I've heard there are trout in the mill-stream and pike in
the Hall lake."
"That's good enough. Watson and I are famous fishermen--are we not,
Watson? You may address us in future at the Green Dragon. We should
reach it to-night. I need not say that we don't want to see you, Mr.
Mason, but a note will reach us, and no doubt I could find you if I
want you. When we have gone a little farther into the matter I will let
you have a considered opinion."
Thus it was that on a bright May evening Holmes and I found ourselves
alone in a first-class carriage and bound for the little
"halt-on-demand" station of Shoscombe. The rack above us was covered
with a formidable litter of rods, reels, and baskets. On reaching our
destination a short drive took us to an old-fashioned tavern, where a
sporting host, Josiah Barnes, entered eagerly into our plans for the
extirpation of the fish of the neighbourhood.
"What about the Hall lake and the chance of a pike?" said Holmes.
The face of the innkeeper clouded.
"That wouldn't do, sir. You might chance to find yourself in the lake
before you were through."
"How's that, then?"
"It's Sir Robert, sir. He's terrible jealous of touts. If you two
strangers were as near his training quarters as that he'd be after you
as sure as fate. He ain't taking no chances, Sir Robert ain't."
"I've heard he has a horse entered for the Derby."
"Yes, and a good colt, too. He carries all our money for the race, and
all Sir Robert's into the bargain. By the way"--he looked at us with
thoughtful eyes--"I suppose you ain't on the turf yourselves?"
"No, indeed. Just two weary Londoners who badly need some good
"Well, you are in the right place for that. There is a deal of it lying
about. But mind what I have told you about Sir Robert. He's the sort
that strikes first and speaks afterwards. Keep clear of the park."
"Surely, Mr. Barnes! We certainly shall. By the way, that was a most
beautiful spaniel that was whining in the hall."
"I should say it was. That was the real Shoscombe breed. There ain't a
better in England."
"I am a dog-fancier myself," said Holmes. "Now, if it is a fair
question, what would a prize dog like that cost?"
"More than I could pay, sir. It was Sir Robert himself who gave me this
one. That's why I have to keep it on a lead. It would be off to the
Hall in a jiffy if I gave it its head."
"We are getting some cards in our hand, Watson," said Holmes when the
landlord had left us. "It's not an easy one to play, but we may see our
way in a day or two. By the way, Sir Robert is still in London, I hear.
We might, perhaps, enter the sacred domain to-night without fear of
bodily assault. There are one or two points on which I should like
"Have you any theory, Holmes?"
"Only this, Watson, that something happened a week or so ago which has
cut deep into the life of the Shoscombe household. What is that
something? We can only guess at it from its effects. They seem to be of
a curiously mixed character. But that should surely help us. It is only
the colourless, uneventful case which is hopeless.
"Let us consider our data. The brother no longer visits the beloved
invalid sister. He gives away her favourite dog. Her dog, Watson! Does
that suggest nothing to you?"
"Nothing but the brother's spite."
"Well, it might be so. Or--well, there is an alternative. Now to
continue our review of the situation from the time that the quarrel, if
there is a quarrel, began. The lady keeps her room, alters her habits,
is not seen save when she drives out with her maid, refuses to stop at
the stables to greet her favourite horse and apparently takes to drink.
That covers the case, does it not?"
"Save for the business in the crypt."
"That is another line of thought. There are two, and I beg you will not
tangle them. Line A, which concerns Lady Beatrice, has a vaguely
sinister flavour, has it not?"
"I can make nothing of it."
"Well, now, let us take up line B, which concerns Sir Robert. He is mad
keen upon winning the Derby. He is in the hands of the Jews, and may at
any moment be sold up and his racing stables seized by his creditors.
He is a daring and desperate man. He derives his income from his
sister. His sister's maid is his willing tool. So far we seem to be on
fairly safe ground, do we not?"
"But the crypt?"
"Ah, yes, the crypt! Let us suppose, Watson--it is merely a
scandalous supposition, a hypothesis put forward for argument's sake--
that Sir Robert has done away with his sister."
"My dear Holmes, it is out of the question."
"Very possibly, Watson. Sir Robert is a man of an honourable stock. But
you do occasionally find a carrion crow among the eagles. Let us for a
moment argue upon this supposition. He could not fly the country until
he had realized his fortune, and that fortune could only be realized by
bringing off this coup with Shoscombe Prince. Therefore, he has still
to stand his ground. To do this he would have to dispose of the body of
his victim, and he would also have to find a substitute who would
impersonate her. With the maid as his confidante that would not be
impossible. The woman's body might be conveyed to the crypt, which is a
place so seldom visited, and it might be secretly destroyed at night in
the furnace, leaving behind it such evidence as we have already seen.
What say you to that, Watson?"
"Well, it is all possible if you grant the original monstrous
"I think that there is a small experiment which we may try to-morrow,
Watson, in order to throw some light on the matter. Meanwhile, if we
mean to keep up our characters, I suggest that we have our host in for
a glass of his own wine and hold some high converse upon eels and dace,
which seems to be the straight road to his affections. We may chance to
come upon some useful local gossip in the process."
In the morning Holmes discovered that we had come without our
spoon-bait for jack, which absolved us from fishing for the day. About
eleven o'clock we started for a walk, and he obtained leave to take the
black spaniel with us.
"This is the place," said he as we came to two high park gates with
heraldic griffins towering above them. "About midday, Mr Barnes informs
me, the old lady takes a drive, and the carriage must slow down while
the gates are opened. When it comes through, and before it gathers
speed, I want you, Watson, to stop the coachman with some question.
Never mind me. I shall stand behind this holly-bush and see what I can
It was not a long vigil. Within a quarter of an hour we saw the big
open yellow barouche coming down the long avenue, with two splendid,
high-stepping gray carriage horses in the shafts. Holmes crouched
behind his bush with the dog. I stood unconcemedly swinging a cane in
the roadway. A keeper ran out and the gates swung open.
The carriage had slowed to a walk, and I was able to get a good look at
the occupants. A highly coloured young woman with flaxen hair and
impudent eyes sat on the left. At her right was an elderly person with
rounded back and a huddle of shawls about her face and shoulders which
proclaimed the invalid. When the horses reached the highroad I held up
my hand with an authoritative gesture, and as the coachman pulled up I
inquired if Sir Robert was at Shoscombe Old Place.
At the same moment Holmes stepped out and released the spaniel. With a
joyous cry it dashed forward to the carriage and sprang upon the step.
Then in a moment its eager greeting changed to furious rage, and it
snapped at the black skirt above it.
"Drive on! Drive on!" shrieked a harsh voice. The coachman lashed the
horses, and we were left standing in the roadway.
"Well, Watson, that's done it," said Holmes as he fastened the lead to
the neck of the excited spaniel. "He thought it was his mistress, and
he found it was a stranger. Dogs don't make mistakes."
"But it was the voice of a man!" I cried.
"Exactly! We have added one card to our hand, Watson, but it needs
careful playing, all the same."
My companion seemed to have no further plans for the day, and we did
actually use our fishing tackle in the mill-stream with the result that
we had a dish of trout for our supper. It was only after that meal that
Holmes showed signs of renewed activity. Once more we found ourselves
upon the same road as in the morning, which led us to the park gates. A
tall, dark figure was awaiting us there, who proved to be our London
acquaintance, Mr. John Mason, the trainer.
"Good-evening, gentlemen," said he. "I got your note, Mr. Holmes. Sir
Robert has not returned yet, but I hear that he is expected to-night."
"How far is this crypt from the house?" asked Holmes.
"A good quarter of a mile."
"Then I think we can disregard him altogether."
"I can't afford to do that, Mr. Holmes. The moment he arrives he will
want to see me to get the last news of Shoscombe Prince."
"I see! In that case we must work without you, Mr. Mason. You can show
us the crypt and then leave us."
It was pitch-dark and without a moon, but Mason led us over the
grass-lands until a dark mass loomed up in front of us which proved to
be the ancient chapel. We entered the broken gap which was once the
porch, and our guide, stumbling among heaps of loose masonry, picked
his way to the corner of the building, where a steep stair led down
into the crypt. Striking a match, he illuminated the melancholy place
--dismal and evil-smelling, with ancient crumbling walls of rough-hewn
stone, and piles of coffins, some of lead and some of stone, extending
upon one side right up to the arched and groined roof which lost itself
in the shadows above our heads. Holmes had lit his lantern, which shot
a tiny tunnel of vivid yellow light upon the mournful scene. Its rays
were reflected back from the coffin-plates, many of them adorned with
the griffin and coronet of this old family which carried its honours
even to the gate of Death.
"You spoke of some bones, Mr. Mason. Could you show them before you
"They are here in this corner." The trainer strode across and then
stood in silent surprise as our light was turned upon the place. "They
are gone," said he.
"So I expected," said Holmes, chuckling. "I fancy the ashes of them
might even now be found in that oven which had already consumed a
"But why in the world would anyone want to burn the bones of a man who
has been dead a thousand years?" asked John Mason.
"That is what we are here to find out," said Holmes. "It may mean a
long search, and we need not detain you. I fancy that we shall get our
solution before morning."
When John Mason had left us, Holmes set to work making a very careful
examination of the graves, ranging from a very ancient one, which
appeared to be Saxon, in the centre, through a long line of Norman
Hugos and Odos, until we reached the Sir William and Sir Denis Falder
of the eighteenth century. It was an hour or more before Holmes came to
a leaden coffin standing on end before the entrance to the vault. I
heard his little cry of satisfaction and was aware from his hurried but
purposeful movements that he had reached a goal. With his lens he was
eagerly examining the edges of the heavy lid. Then he drew from his
pocket a short jemmy, a box-opener, which he thrust into a chink,
levering back the whole front, which seemed to be secured by only a
couple of clamps. There was a rending, tearing sound as it gave way,
but it had hardly hinged back and partly revealed the contents before
we had an unforeseen interruption.
Someone was walking in the chapel above. It was the firm, rapid step of
one who came with a definite purpose and knew well the ground upon
which he walked. A light streamed down the stairs, and an instant later
the man who bore it was framed in the Gothic archway. He was a terrible
figure, huge in stature and fierce in manner. A large stable-lantern
which he held in front of him shone upward upon a strong, heavily
moustached face and angry eyes, which glared round him into every
recess of the vault, finally fixing themselves with a deadly stare upon
my companion and myself.
"Who the devil are you?" he thundered. "And what are you doing upon my
property?" Then, as Holmes returned no answer he took a couple of steps
forward and raised a heavy stick which he carried. "Do you hear me?" he
cried. "Who are you? What are you doing here?" His cudgel quivered in
But instead of shrinking Holmes advanced to meet him.
"I also have a question to ask you, Sir Robert," he said in his
sternest tone. "Who is this? And what is it doing here?"
He turned and tore open the coffin-lid behind him. In the glare of the
lantern I saw a body swathed in a sheet from head to foot with
dreadful, witch-like features, all nose and chin, projecting at one
end, the dim, glazed eyes staring from a discoloured and crumbling
The baronet had staggered back with a cry and supported himself against
a stone sarcophagus.
"How came you to know of this?" he cried. And then, with some return of
his truculent manner: "What business is it of yours?"
"My name is Sherlock Holmes," said my companion. "Possibly it is
familiar to you. In any case, my business is that of every other good
citizen--to uphold the law. It seems to me that you have much to
Sir Robert glared for a moment, but Holmes's quiet voice and cool,
assured manner had their effect.
"'Fore God, Mr. Holmes, it's all right," said he. "Appearances are
against me, I'll admit, but I could act no otherwise."
"I should be happy to think so, but I fear your explanations must be
before the police."
Sir Robert shrugged his broad shoulders.
"Well, if it must be, it must. Come up to the house and you can judge
for yourself how the matter stands."
A quarter of an hour later we found ourselves in what I judge, from the
lines of polished barrels behind glass covers, to be the gun-room of
the old house. It was comfortably furnished, and here Sir Robert left
us for a few moments. When he returned he had two companions with him;
the one, the florid young woman whom we had seen in the carriage; the
other, a small rat-faced man with a disagreeably furtive manner. These
two wore an appearance of utter bewilderment, which showed that the
baronet had not yet had time to explain to them the turn events had
"There," said Sir Robert with a wave of his hand, "are Mr. and Mrs.
Norlett. Mrs. Norlett, under her maiden name of Evans, has for some
years been my sister's confidential maid. I have brought them here
because I feel that my best course is to explain the true position to
you, and they are the two people upon earth who can substantiate what I
"Is this necessary, Sir Robert? Have you thought what you are doing?"
cried the woman.
"As to me, I entirely disclaim all responsibility," said her husband.
Sir Robert gave him a glance of contempt. "I will take all
responsibility," said he. "Now, Mr. Holmes, listen to a plain statement
of the facts.
"You have clearly gone pretty deeply into my affairs or I should not
have found you where I did. Therefore, you know already, in all
probability, that I am running a dark horse for the Derby and that
everything depends upon my success. If I win, all is easy. If I lose--
well, I dare not think of that!"
"I understand the position," said Holmes.
"I am dependent upon my sister, Lady Beatrice, for everything. But it
is well known that her interest in the estate is for her own life only.
For myself, I am deeply in the hands of the Jews. I have always known
that if my sister were to die my creditors would be on to my estate
like a flock of vultures. Everything would be seized--my stables, my
horses--everything. Well, Mr. Holmes, my sister did die just a week
"And you told no one!"
"What could I do? Absolute ruin faced me. If I could stave things off
for three weeks all would be well. Her maid's husband--this man here
--is an actor. It came into our heads--it came into my head--that
he could for that short period personate my sister. It was but a case
of appearing daily in the carriage, for no one need enter her room save
the maid. It was not difficult to arrange. My sister died of the dropsy
which had long afflicted her."
"That will be for a coroner to decide."
"Her doctor would certify that for months her symptoms have threatened
such an end."
"Well, what did you do?"
"The body could not remain there. On the first night Norlett and I
carried it out to the old well-house, which is now never used. We were
followed, however, by her pet spaniel, which yapped continually at the
door, so I felt some safer place was needed. I got rid of the spaniel,
and we carried the body to the crypt of the church. There was no
indignity or irreverence, Mr. Holmes. I do not feel that I have wronged
"Your conduct seems to me inexcusable, Sir Robert."
The baronet shook his head impatiently. "It is easy to preach," said
he. "Perhaps you would have felt differently if you had been in my
position. One cannot see all one's hopes and all one's plans shattered
at the last moment and make no effort to save them. It seemed to me
that it would be no unworthy resting-place if we put her for the time
in one of the coffins of her husband's ancestors lying in what is still
consecrated ground. We opened such a coffin, removed the contents, and
placed her as you have seen her. As to the old relics which we took
out, we could not leave them on the floor of the crypt. Norlett and I
removed them, and he descended at night and burned them in the central
furnace. There is my story, Mr. Holmes, though how you forced my hand
so that I have to tell it is more than I can say."
Holmes sat for some time lost in thought.
"There is one flaw in your narrative, Sir Robert," he said at last.
"Your bets on the race, and therefore your hopes for the future, would
hold good even if your creditors seized your estate."
"The horse would be part of the estate. What do they care for my bets?
As likely as not they would not run him at all. My chief creditor is,
unhappily, my most bitter enemy--a rascally fellow, Sam Brewer, whom
I was once compelled to horsewhip on Newmarket Heath. Do you suppose
that he would try to save me?"
"Well, Sir Robert," said Holmes, rising, "this matter must, of course,
be referred to the police. It was my duty to bring the facts to light,
and there I must leave it. As to the morality or decency of your
conduct, it is not for me to express an opinion. It is nearly midnight,
Watson, and I think we may make our way back to our humble abode."
It is generally known now that this singular episode ended upon a
happier note than Sir Robert's actions deserved. Shoscombe Prince did
win the Derby, the sporting owner did net eighty thousand pounds in
bets, and the creditors did hold their hand until the race was over,
when they were paid in full, and enough was left to reestablish Sir
Robert in a fair position in life. Both police and coroner took a
lenient view of the transaction, and beyond a mild censure for the
delay in registering the lady's decease, the lucky owner got away
scatheless from this strange incident in a career which has now
outlived its shadows and promises to end in an honoured old age.
THE ADVENTURE OF THE RETIRED COLOURMAN
Sherlock Holmes was in a melancholy and philosophic mood that morning.
His alert practical nature was subject to such reactions.
"Did you see him?" he asked.
"You mean the old fellow who has just gone out?"
"Yes, I met him at the door."
"What did you think of him?"
"A pathetic, futile, broken creature."
"Exactly, Watson. Pathetic and futile. But is not all life pathetic and
futile? Is not his story a microcosm of the whole? We reach. We grasp.
And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a
"Is he one of your clients?"
"Well, I suppose I may call him so. He has been sent on by the Yard.
Just as medical men occasionally send their incurables to a quack. They
argue that they can do nothing more, and that whatever happens the
patient can be no worse than he is."
"What is the matter?"
Holmes took a rather soiled card from the table. "Josiah Amberley. He
says he was junior partner of Brickfall and Amberley, who are
manufacturers of artistic materials. You will see their names upon
paint-boxes. He made his little pile, retired from business at the age
of sixty-one, bought a house at Lewisham. and settled down to rest
after a life of ceaseless grind. One would think his future was
Holmes glanced over some notes which he had scribbled upon the back of
"Retired in 1896, Watson. Early in 1897 he married a woman twenty years
younger than himself--a good-looking woman, too. if the photograph
does not flatter. A competence, a wife, leisure--it seemed a straight
road which lay before him. And yet within two years he is, as you have
seen, as broken and miserable a creature as crawls beneath the sun."
"But what has happened?"
"The old story, Watson. A treacherous friend and a fickle wife. It
would appear that Amberley has one hobby in life, and it is chess. Not
far from him at Lewisham there lives a young doctor who is also a
chess-player. I have noted his name as Dr. Ray Ernest. Ernest was
frequently in the house, and an intimacy between him and Mrs. Amberley
was a natural sequence, for you must admit that our unfortunate client
has few outward graces, whatever his inner virtues may be. The couple
went off together last week--destination untraced. What is more, the
faithless spouse carried off the old man's deed-box as her personal
luggage with a good part of his life's savings within. Can we find the
lady? Can we save the money? A commonplace problem so far as it has
developed, and yet a vital one for Josiah Amberley."
"What will you do about it?"
"Well, the immediate question, my dear Watson, happens to be, What will
you do?--if you will be good enough to understudy me. You know that I
am preoccupied with this case of the two Coptic Patriarchs, which
should come to a head to-day. I really have not time to go out to
Lewisham, and yet evidence taken on the spot has a special value. The
old fellow was quite insistent that I should go, but I explained my
difficulty. He is prepared to meet a representative."
"By all means," I answered. "I confess I don't see that I can be of
much service, but I am willing to do my best." And so it was that on a
summer afternoon I set forth to Lewisham, little dreaming that within a
week the affair in which I was engaging would be the eager debate of
It was late that evening before I returned to Baker Street and gave an
account of my mission. Holmes lay with his gaunt figure stretched in
his deep chair, his pipe curling forth slow wreaths of acrid tobacco,
while his eyelids drooped over his eyes so lazily that he might almost
have been asleep were it not that at any halt or questionable passage
of my narrative they half lifted, and two gray eyes, as bright and keen
as rapiers, transfixed me with their searching glance.
"The Haven is the name of Mr. Josiah Amberley's house," I explained. "I
think it would interest you, Holmes. It is like some penurious
patrician who has sunk into the company of his inferiors. You know that
particular quarter, the monotonous brick streets, the weary suburban
highways. Right in the middle of them, a little island of ancient
culture and comfort, lies this old home, surrounded by a high sun-baked
wall mottled with lichens and topped with moss, the sort of wall--"
"Cut out the poetry, Watson," said Holmes severely. "I note that it was
a high brick wall."
"Exactly. I should not have known which was The Haven had I not asked a
lounger who was smoking in the street. I have a reason for mentioning
him. He was a tall, dark, heavily moustached, rather military-looking
man. He nodded in answer to my inquiry and gave me a curiously
questioning glance, which came back to my memory a little later.
"I had hardly entered the gateway before I saw Mr. Amberley coming down
the drive. I only had a glimpse of him this morning, and he certainly
gave me the impression of a strange creature, but when I saw him in
full light his appearance was even more abnormal."
"I have, of course, studied it, and yet I should be interested to have
your impression," said Holmes.
"He seemed to me like a man who was literally bowed down by care. His
back was curved as though he carried a heavy burden. Yet he was not the
weakling that I had at first imagined, for his shoulders and chest have
the framework of a giant, though his figure tapers away into a pair of
"Left shoe wrinkled, right one smooth."
"I did not observe that."
"No, you wouldn't. I spotted his artificial limb. But proceed."
"I was struck by the snaky locks of grizzled hair which curled from
under his old straw hat, and his face with its fierce, eager expression
and the deeply lined features."
"Very good, Watson. What did he say?"
"He began pouring out the story of his grievances. We walked down the
drive together, and of course I took a good look round. I have never
seen a worse-kept place. The garden was all running to seed, giving me
an impression of wild neglect in which the plants had been allowed to
find the way of Nature rather than of art. How any decent woman could
have tolerated such a state of things, I don't know. The house, too,
was slatternly to the last degree, but the poor man seemed himself to
be aware of it and to be trying to remedy it, for a great pot of green
paint stood in the centre of the hall, and he was carrying a thick
brush in his left hand. He had been working on the woodwork.
"He took me into his dingy sanctum, and we had a long chat. Of course,
he was disappointed that you had not come yourself. 'I hardly
expected,' he said, 'that so humble an individual as myself, especially
after my heavy financial loss, could obtain the complete attention of
so famous a man as Mr. Sherlock Holmes.'
"I assured him that the financial question did not arise. 'No of
course, it is art for art's sake with him,' said he, 'but even on the
artistic side of crime he might have found something here to study. And
human nature, Dr. Watson--the black ingratitude of it all! When did I
ever refuse one of her requests? Was ever a woman so pampered? And that
young man--he might have been my own son. He had the run of my house.
And yet see how they have treated me! Oh, Dr. Watson, it is a dreadful,
"That was the burden of his song for an hour or more. He had, it seems,
no suspicion of an intrigue. They lived alone save for a woman who
comes in by the day and leaves every evening at six. On that particular
evening old Amberley, wishing to give his wife a treat, had taken two
upper circle seats at the Haymarket Theatre. At the last moment she had
complained of a headache and had refused to go. He had gone alone.
There seemed to be no doubt about the fact, for he produced the unused
ticket which he had taken for his wife."
"That is remarkable--most remarkable," said Holmes, whose interest in
the case seemed to be rising. "Pray continue, Watson. I find your
narrative most arresting. Did you personally examine this ticket? You
did not, perchance, take the number?"
"It so happens that I did," I answered with some pride. "It chanced to
be my old school number, thirty-one, and so is stuck in my head."
"Excellent, Watson! His seat, then, was either thirty or thirty-two."
"Quite so," I answered with some mystification. "And on B row."
"That is most satisfactory. What else did he tell you?"
"He showed me his strong-room, as he called it. It really is a
strong-room--like a bank--with iron door and shutter--
burglarproof, as he claimed. However, the woman seems to have had a
duplicate key, and between them they had carried off some seven
thousand pounds' worth of cash and securities."
"Securities! How could they dispose of those?"
"He said that he had given the police a list and that he hoped they
would be unsaleable. He had got back from the theatre about midnight
and found the place plundered, the door and window open, and the
fugitives gone. There was no letter or message, nor has he heard a word
since. He at once gave the alarm to the police."
Holmes brooded for some minutes.
"You say he was painting. What was he painting?"
"Well, he was painting the passage. But he had already painted the door
and woodwork of this room I spoke of."
"Does it not strike you as a strange occupation in the circumstances?"
"'One must do something to ease an aching heart.' That was his own
explanation. It was eccentric, no doubt, but he is clearly an eccentric
man. He tore up one of his wife's photographs in my presence--tore it
up furiously in a tempest of passion. 'I never wish to see her damned
face again,' he shrieked."
"Anything more, Watson?"
"Yes, one thing which struck me more than anything else. I had driven
to the Blackheath Station and had caught my train there when, just as
it was starting, I saw a man dart into the carriage next to my own. You
know that I have a quick eye for faces, Holmes. It was undoubtedly the
tall, dark man whom I had addressed in the street. I saw him once more
at London Bridge, and then I lost him in the crowd. But I am convinced
that he was following me."
"No doubt! No doubt!" said Holmes. "A tall, dark, heavily moustached
man, you say, with gray-tinted sun-glasses?"
"Holmes, you are a wizard. I did not say so, but he had gray-tinted
"And a Masonic tie-pin?"
"Quite simple, my dear Watson. But let us get down to what is
practical. I must admit to you that the case, which seemed to me to be
so absurdly simple as to be hardly worth my notice, is rapidly assuming
a very different aspect. It is true that though in your mission you
have missed everything of importance, yet even those things which have
obtruded themselves upon your notice give rise to serious thought."
"What have I missed?"
"Don't be hurt, my dear fellow. You know that I am quite impersonal. No
one else would have done better. Some possibly not so well. But clearly
you have missed some vital points. What is the opinion of the
neighbours about this man Amberley and his wife? That surely is of
importance. What of Dr. Ernest? Was he the gay Lothario one would
expect? With your natural advantages, Watson, every lady is your helper
and accomplice. What about the girl at the post-office, or the wife of
the greengrocer? I can picture you whispering soft nothings with the
young lady at the Blue Anchor, and receiving hard somethings in
exchange. All this you have left undone."
"It can still be done."
"It has been done. Thanks to the telephone and the help of the Yard, I
can usually get my essentials without leaving this room. As a matter of
fact, my information confirms the man's story. He has the local repute
of being a miser as well as a harsh and exacting husband. That he had a
large sum of money in that strong-room of his is certain. So also is it
that young Dr. Ernest, an unmarried man, played chess with Amberley,
and probably played the fool with his wife. All this seems plain
sailing, and one would think that there was no more to be said--and
"Where lies the difficulty?"
"In my imagination, perhaps. Well, leave it there, Watson. Let us
escape from this weary workaday world by the side door of music. Carina
sings to-night at the Albert Hall, and we still have time to dress,
dine, and enjoy."
In the morning I was up betimes, but some toast crumbs and two empty
eggshells told me that my companion was earlier still. I found a
scribbled note upon the table.
There are one or two points of contact which I should wish to establish
with Mr. Josiah Amberley. When I have done so we can dismiss the case--or
not. I would only ask you to be on hand about three o'clock, as I conceive
it possible that I may want you.
I saw nothing of Holmes all day, but at the hour named he returned,
grave, preoccupied, and aloof. At such times it was wiser to leave him
"Has Amberley been here yet?"
"Ah! I am expecting him."
He was not disappointed, for presently the old fellow arrived with a
very worried and puzzled expression upon his austere face.
"I've had a telegram, Mr. Holmes. I can make nothing of it." He handed
it over, and Holmes read it aloud.
"Come at once without fail. Can give you information as to your recent
loss. ELMAN. The Vicarage."
"Dispatched at 2:10 from Little Purlington," said Holmes. "Little
Purlington is in Essex, I believe, not far from Frinton. Well, of
course you will start at once. This is evidently from a responsible
person, the vicar of the place. Where is my Crockford? Yes, here we
have him: 'J. C. Elman, M. A., Living of Moosmoor cum Little
Purlington.' Look up the trains, Watson."
"There is one at 5:20 from Liverpool Street."
"Excellent. You had best go with him, Watson. He may need help or
advice. Clearly we have come to a crisis in this affair."
But our client seemed by no means eager to start.
"It's perfectly absurd, Mr. Holmes," he said. "What can this man
possibly know of what has occurred? It is waste of time and money."
"He would not have telegraphed to you if he did not know something.
Wire at once that you are coming."
"I don't think I shall go."
Holmes assumed his sternest aspect.
"It would make the worst possible impression both on the police and
upon myself, Mr. Amberley, if when so obvious a clue arose you should
refuse to follow it up. We should feel that you were not really in
earnest in this investigation."
Our client seemed horrified at the suggestion.
"Why, of course I shall go if you look at it in that way," said he. "On
the face of it, it seems absurd to suppose that this parson knows
anything, but if you think--"
"I do think," said Holmes with emphasis, and so we were launched upon
our journey. Holmes took me aside before we left the room and gave me
one word of counsel, which showed that he considered the matter to be
of importance. "Whatever you do, see that he really does go," said he.
"Should he break away or return, get to the nearest telephone exchange
and send the single word 'Bolted.' I will arrange here that it shall
reach me wherever I am."
Little Purlington is not an easy place to reach, for it is on a branch
line. My remembrance of the journey is not a pleasant one, for the
weather was hot, the train slow, and my companion sullen and silent,
hardly talking at all save to make an occasional sardonic remark as to
the futility of our proceedings. When we at last reached the little
station it was a two-mile drive before we came to the Vicarage, where a
big, solemn, rather pompous clergyman received us in his study. Our
telegram lay before him.
"Well, gentlemen," he asked, "what can I do for you?"
"We came," I explained, "in answer to your wire."
"My wire! I sent no wire."
"I mean the wire which you sent to Mr. Josiah Amberley about his wife
and his money."
"If this is a joke, sir, it is a very questionable one," said the vicar
angrily. "I have never heard of the gentleman you name, and I have not
sent a wire to anyone."
Our client and I looked at each other in amazement.
"Perhaps there is some mistake," said I; "are there perhaps two
vicarages? Here is the wire itself, signed Elman and dated from the
"There is only one vicarage, sir, and only one vicar, and this wire is
a scandalous forgery, the origin of which shall certainly be
investigated by the police. Meanwhile, I can see no possible object in
prolonging this interview."
So Mr. Amberley and I found ourselves on the roadside in what seemed to
me to be the most primitive village in England. We made for the
telegraph office, but it was already closed. There was a telephone,
however, at the little Railway Arms, and by it I got into touch with
Holmes, who shared in our amazement at the result of our journey.
"Most singular!" said the distant voice. "Most remarkable! I much fear,
my dear Watson, that there is no return train to-night. I have
unwittingly condemned you to the horrors of a country inn. However,
there is always Nature, Watson--Nature and Josiah Amberley--you can
be in close commune with both." I heard his dry chuckle as he turned
It was soon apparent to me that my companion's reputation as a miser
was not undeserved. He had grumbled at the expense of the journey, had
insisted upon travelling third-class, and was now clamorous in his
objections to the hotel bill. Next morning, when we did at last arrive
in London, it was hard to say which of us was in the worse humour.
"You had best take Baker Street as we pass," said I. "Mr. Holmes may
have some fresh instructions."
"If they are not worth more than the last ones they are not of much
use," said Amberley with a malevolent scowl. None the less, he kept me
company. I had already warned Holmes by telegram of the hour of our
arrival, but we found a message waiting that he was at Lewisham and
would expect us there. That was a surprise, but an even greater one was
to find that he was not alone in the sitting-room of our client. A
stern-looking, impassive man sat beside him, a dark man with
gray-tinted glasses and a large Masonic pin projecting from his tie.
"This is my friend Mr. Barker," said Holmes. "He has been interesting
himself also in your business, Mr. Josiah Amberley, though we have been
working independently. But we both have the same question to ask you!"
Mr. Amberley sat down heavily. He sensed impending danger. I read it in
his straining eyes and his twitching features.
"What is the question, Mr. Holmes?"
"Only this: What did you do with the bodies?"
The man sprang to his feet with a hoarse scream. He clawed into the air
with his bony hands. His mouth was open, and for the instant he looked
like some horrible bird of prey. In a flash we got a glimpse of the
real Josiah Amberley, a misshapen demon with a soul as distorted as his
body. As he fell back into his chair he clapped his hand to his lips as
if to stifle a cough. Holmes sprang at his throat like a tiger and
twisted his face towards the ground. A white pellet fell from between
his gasping lips.
"No short cuts, Josiah Amberley. Things must be done decently and in
order. What about it, Barker?"
"I have a cab at the door," said our taciturn companion.
"It is only a few hundred yards to the station. We will go together.
You can stay here, Watson. I shall be back within half an hour."
The old colourman had the strength of a lion in that great trunk of
his, but he was helpless in the hands of the two experienced
man-handlers. Wriggling and twisting he was dragged to the waiting cab,
and I was left to my solitary vigil in the ill-omened house. In less
time than he had named, however, Holmes was back, in company with a
smart young police inspector.
"I've left Barker to look after the formalities," said Holmes. "You had
not met Barker, Watson. He is my hated rival upon the Surrey shore.
When you said a tall dark man it was not difficult for me to complete
the picture. He has several good cases to his credit, has he not,
"He has certainly interfered several times," the inspector answered
"His methods are irregular, no doubt, like my own. The irregulars are
useful sometimes, you know. You, for example, with your compulsory
warning about whatever he said being used against him, could never have
bluffed this rascal into what is virtually a confession."
"Perhaps not. But we get there all the same, Mr. Holmes. Don't imagine
that we had not formed our own views of this case, and that we would
not have laid our hands on our man. You will excuse us for feeling sore
when you jump in with methods which we cannot use, and so rob us of the
"There shall be no such robbery, MacKinnon. I assure you that I efface
myself from now onward, and as to Barker, he has done nothing save what
I told him."
The inspector seemed considerably relieved.
"That is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. Praise or blame can matter
little to you, but it is very different to us when the newspapers begin
to ask questions."
"Quite so. But they are pretty sure to ask questions anyhow, so it
would be as well to have answers. What will you say, for example, when
the intelligent and enterprising reporter asks you what the exact
points were which aroused your suspicion, and finally gave you a
certain conviction as to the real facts?"
The inspector looked puzzled.
"We don't seem to have got any real facts yet, Mr. Holmes. You say that
the prisoner, in the presence of three witnesses, practically confessed
by trying to commit suicide, that he had murdered his wife and her
lover. What other facts have you?"
"Have you arranged for a search?"
"There are three constables on their way."
"Then you will soon get the clearest fact of all. The bodies cannot be
far away. Try the cellars and the garden. It should not take long to
dig up the likely places. This house is older than the water-pipes.
There must be a disused well somewhere. Try your luck there."
"But how did you know of it, and how was it done?"
"I'll show you first how it was done, and then I will give the
explanation which is due to you, and even more to my longsuffering
friend here, who has been invaluable throughout. But, first, I would
give you an insight into this man's mentality. It is a very unusual one
--so much so that I think his destination is more likely to be
Broadmoor than the scaffold. He has, to a high degree, the sort of mind
which one associates with the mediaeval Italian nature rather than with
the modern Briton. He was a miserable miser who made his wife so
wretched by his niggardly ways that she was a ready prey for any
adventurer. Such a one came upon the scene in the person of this
chess-playing doctor. Amberley excelled at chess--one mark, Watson,
of a scheming mind. Like all misers, he was a jealous man, and his
jealousy became a frantic mania. Rightly or wrongly, he suspected an
intrigue. He determined to have his revenge, and he planned it with
diabolical cleverness. Come here!"
Holmes led us along the passage with as much certainty as if he had
lived in the house and halted at the open door of the strong-room.
"Pooh! What an awful smell of paint!" cried the inspector.
"That was our first clue," said Holmes. "You can thank Dr. Watson's
observation for that, though he failed to draw the inference. It set my
foot upon the trail. Why should this man at such a time be filling his
house with strong odours? Obviously, to cover some other smell which he
wisfhed to conceal--some guilty smell which would suggest suspicions.
Then came the idea of a room such as you see here with iron door and
shutter--a hermetically sealed room. Put those two facts together,
and whither do they lead? I could only determine that by examining the
house myself. I was already certain that the case was serious, for I
had examined the box-office chart at the Haymarket Theatre--another
of Dr. Watson's bull's-eyes--and ascertained that neither B thirty
nor thirty-two of the upper circle had been occupied that night.
Therefore, Amberley had not been to the theatre, and his alibi fell to
the ground. He made a bad slip when he allowed my astute friend to
notice the number of the seat taken for his wife. The question now
arose how I might be able to examine the house. I sent an agent to the
most impossible village I could think of, and summoned my man to it at
such an hour that he could not possibly get back. To prevent any
miscarriage, Dr. Watson accompanied him. The good vicar's name I took,
of course, out of my Crockford. Do I make it all clear to you?"
"It is masterly," said the inspector in an awed voice.
"There being no fear of interruption I proceeded to burgle the house.
Burglary has always been an alternative profession had I cared to adopt
it, and I have little doubt that I should have come to the front.
Observe what I found. You see the gas-pipe along the skirting here.
Very good. It rises in the angle of the wall, and there is a tap here
in the corner. The pipe runs out into the strong-room, as you can see,
and ends in that plaster rose in the centre of the ceiling, where it is
concealed by the ornamentation. That end is wide open. At any moment by
turning the outside tap the room could be flooded with gas. With door
and shutter closed and the tap full on I would not give two minutes of
conscious sensation to anyone shut up in that little chamber. By what
devilish device he decoyed them there I do not know, but once inside
the door they were at his mercy."
The inspector examined the pipe with interest. "One of our officers
mentioned the smell of gas," said he, "but of course the window and
door were open then, and the paint--or some of it--was already
about. He had begun the work of painting the day before, according to
his story. But what next, Mr. Holmes?"
"Well, then came an incident which was rather unexpected to myself. I
was slipping through the pantry window in the early dawn when I felt a
hand inside my collar, and a voice said: 'Now, you rascal, what are you
doing in there?' When I could twist my head round I looked into the
tinted spectacles of my friend and rival, Mr. Barker. It was a curious
foregathering and set us both smiling. It seems that he had been
engaged by Dr. Ray Ernest's family to make some investigations and had
come to the same conclusion as to foul play. He had watched the house
for some days and had spotted Dr. Watson as one of the obviously
suspicious characters who had called there. He could hardly arrest
Watson, but when he saw a man actually climbing out of the pantry
window there came a limit to his restraint. Of course, I told him how
matters stood and we continued the case together."
"Why him? Why not us?"
"Because it was in my mind to put that little test which answered so
admirably. I fear you would not have gone so far."
The inspector smiled.
"Well, maybe not. I understand that I have your word, Mr. Holmes, that
you step right out of the case now and that you turn all your results
over to us."
"Certainly, that is always my custom."
"Well, in the name of the force I thank you. It seems a clear case, as
you put it, and there can't be much difficulty over the bodies."
"I'll show you a grim little bit of evidence," said Holmes, "and I am
sure Amberley himself never observed it. You'll get results, Inspector,
by always putting yourself in the other fellow's place, and thinking
what you would do yourself. It takes some imagination, but it pays.
Now, we will suppose that you were shut up in this little room, had not
two minutes to live, but wanted to get even with the fiend who was
probably mocking at you from the other side of the door. What would you
"Write a message."
"Exactly. You would like to tell people how you died. No use writing on
paper. That would be seen. If you wrote on the wall someone might rest
upon it. Now, look here! Just above the skirting is scribbled with a
purple indelible pencil: 'We we--' That's all.''
"What do you make of that?"
"Well, it's only a foot above the ground. The poor devil was on the
floor dying when he wrote it. He lost his senses before he could
"He was writing, 'We were murdered.'"
"That's how I read it. If you find an indelible pencil on the body--"
"We'll look out for it, you may be sure. But those securities? Clearly
there was no robbery at all. And yet he did possess those bonds. We
"You may be sure he has them hidden in a safe place. When the whole
elopement had passed into history, he would suddenly discover them and
announce that the guilty couple had relented and sent back the plunder
or had dropped it on the way."
"You certainly seem to have met every difficulty," said the inspector.
"Of course, he was bound to call us in, but why he should have gone to
you I can't understand."
"Pure swank!" Holmes answered. "He felt so clever and so sure of
himself that he imagined no one could touch him. He could say to any
suspicious neighbour, 'Look at the steps I have taken. I have consulted
not only the police but even Sherlock Holmes.'"
The inspector laughed.
"We must forgive you your 'even,' Mr. Holmes," said he "it's as
workmanlike a job as I can remember."
A couple of days later my friend tossed across to me a copy of the
bi-weekly North Surrey Observer. Under a series of flaming headlines,
which began with "The Haven Horror" and ended with "Brilliant Police
Investigation," there was a packed column of print which gave the first
consecutive account of the affair. The concluding paragraph is typical
of the whole. It ran thus:
The remarkable acumen by which Inspector MacKinnon
deduced from the smell of paint that some other smell, that
of gas, for example, might be concealed; the bold deduction
that the strong-room might also be the death-chamber, and
the subsequent inquiry which led to the discovery of the
bodies in a disused well, cleverly concealed by a dogkennel, should
live in the history of crime as a standing
example of the intelligence of our professional detectives.
"Well, well, MacKinnon is a good fellow," said Holmes with a tolerant
smile. "You can file it in our archives, Watson. Some day the true
story may be told."
Labels: good reads