"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes"
A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA
To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman. I have seldom heard him
mention her under any other name. In his eyes
she eclipses and predominates the whole of her
sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to
love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one
particularly, were abhorrent to his cold,
precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I
take it, the most perfect reasoning and
observing machine that the world has seen, but
as a lover he would have placed himself in a
false position. He never spoke of the softer
passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They
were admirable things for the
observer--excellent for drawing the veil from
men`s motives and actions. But for the trained
reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own
delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to
introduce a distracting factor which might throw
a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a
sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his
own high-power lenses, would not be more
disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature
such as his. And yet there was but one woman to
him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler, of
dubious and questionable memory.
I had seen little of Holmes lately. My
marriage had drifted us away from each other. My
own complete happiness, and the home-centred
interests which rise up around the man who first
finds himself master of his own establishment,
were sufficient to absorb all my attention,
while Holmes, who loathed every form of society
with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our
lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old
books, and alternating from week to week between
cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the
drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen
nature. He was still, as ever, deeply attracted
by the study of crime, and occupied his immense
faculties and extraordinary powers of
observation in following out those clues, and
clearing up those mysteries which had been
abandoned as hopeless by the official police.
From time to time I heard some vague account of
his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case
of the Trepoff murder, of his clearing up of the
singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at
Trincomalee, and finally of the mission which he
had accomplished so delicately and successfully
for the reigning family of Holland. Beyond these
signs of his activity, however, which I merely
shared with all the readers of the daily press,
I knew little of my former friend and companion.
One night--it was on the twentieth of March,
1888--I was returning from a journey to a
patient (for I had now returned to civil
practice), when my way led me through Baker
Street. As I passed the well-remembered door,
which must always be associated in my mind with
my wooing, and with the dark incidents of the
Study in Scarlet, I was seized with a keen
desire to see Holmes again, and to know how he
was employing his extraordinary powers. His
rooms were brilliantly lit, and, even as I
looked up, I saw his tall, spare figure pass
twice in a dark silhouette against the blind. He
was pacing the room swiftly, eagerly, with his
head sunk upon his chest and his hands clasped
behind him. To me, who knew his every mood and
habit, his attitude and manner told their own
story. He was at work again. He had risen out of
his drug-created dreams and was hot upon the
scent of some new problem. I rang the bell and
was shown up to the chamber which had formerly
been in part my own.
His manner was not effusive. It seldom was;
but he was glad, I think, to see me. With hardly
a word spoken, but with a kindly eye, he waved
me to an armchair, threw across his case of
cigars, and indicated a spirit case and a
gasogene in the corner. Then he stood before the
fire and looked me over in his singular
"Wedlock suits you," he remarked. "I think,
Watson, that you have put on seven and a half
pounds since I saw you."
"Seven!" I answered.
"Indeed, I should have thought a little more.
Just a trifle more, I fancy, Watson. And in
practice again, I observe. You did not tell me
that you intended to go into harness."
"Then, how do you know?"
"I see it, I deduce it. How do I know that
you have been getting yourself very wet lately,
and that you have a most clumsy and careless
"My dear Holmes," said I, "this is too much.
You would certainly have been burned, had you
lived a few centuries ago. It is true that I had
a country walk on Thursday and came home in a
dreadful mess, but as I have changed my clothes
I can`t imagine how you deduce it. As to Mary
Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given
her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how
you work it out."
He chuckled to himself and rubbed his long,
nervous hands together.
"It is simplicity itself," said he; "my eyes
tell me that on the inside of your left shoe,
just where the firelight strikes it, the leather
is scored by six almost parallel cuts. Obviously
they have been caused by someone who has very
carelessly scraped round the edges of the sole
in order to remove crusted mud from it. Hence,
you see, my double deduction that you had been
out in vile weather, and that you had a
particularly malignant boot-slitting specimen of
the London slavey. As to your practice, if a
gentleman walks into my rooms smelling of
iodoform, with a black mark of nitrate of silver
upon his right forefinger, and a bulge on the
right side of his top-hat to show where he has
secreted his stethoscope, I must be dull,
indeed, if I do not pronounce him to be an
active member of the medical profession."
I could not help laughing at the ease with
which he explained his process of deduction.
"When I hear you give your reasons," I remarked,
"the thing always appears to me to be so
ridiculously simple that I could easily do it
myself, though at each successive instance of
your reasoning I am baffled until you explain
your process. And yet I believe that my eyes are
as good as yours."
"Quite so," he answered, lighting a
cigarette, and throwing himself down into an
armchair. "You see, but you do not observe. The
distinction is clear. For example, you have
frequently seen the steps which lead up from the
hall to this room."
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many? I don`t know."
"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you
have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know
that there are seventeen steps, because I have
both seen and observed. By-the-way, since you
are interested in these little problems, and
since you are good enough to chronicle one or
two of my trifling experiences, you may be
interested in this." He threw over a sheet of
thick, pink-tinted note-paper which had been
lying open upon the table. "It came by the last
post," said he. "Read it aloud."
The note was undated, and without either
signature or address.
"There will call upon you to-night, at a
quarter to eight o`clock," it said, "a gentleman
who desires to consult you upon a matter of the
very deepest moment. Your recent services to one
of the royal houses of Europe have shown that
you are one who may safely be trusted with
matters which are of an importance which can
hardly be exaggerated. This account of you we
have from all quarters received. Be in your
chamber then at that hour, and do not take it
amiss if your visitor wear a mask."
"This is indeed a mystery," I remarked. "What
do you imagine that it means?"
"I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake
to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one
begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead
of theories to suit facts. But the note itself.
What do you deduce from it?"
I carefully examined the writing, and the
paper upon which it was written.
"The man who wrote it was presumably well to
do," I remarked, endeavouring to imitate my
companion`s processes. "Such paper could not be
bought under half a crown a packet. It is
peculiarly strong and stiff."
"Peculiar--that is the very word," said
Holmes. "It is not an English paper at all. Hold
it up to the light."
I did so, and saw a large "E" with a small
"g," a "P," and a large "G" with a small "t"
woven into the texture of the paper.
"What do you make of that?" asked Holmes.
"The name of the maker, no doubt; or his
"Not at all. The `G` with the small `t`
stands for `Gesellschaft,` which is the German
for `Company.` It is a customary contraction
like our `Co.` `P,` of course, stands for
`Papier.` Now for the `Eg.` Let us glance at our
Continental Gazetteer." He took down a heavy
brown volume from his shelves. "Eglow,
Eglonitz--here we are, Egria. It is in a
German-speaking country--in Bohemia, not far
from Carlsbad. `Remarkable as being the scene of
the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous
glass-factories and paper-mills.` Ha, ha, my
boy, what do you make of that?" His eyes
sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant
cloud from his cigarette.
"The paper was made in Bohemia," I said.
"Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is
a German. Do you note the peculiar construction
of the sentence--`This account of you we have
from all quarters received.` A Frenchman or
Russian could not have written that. It is the
German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It
only remains, therefore, to discover what is
wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian
paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing his
face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken,
to resolve all our doubts."
As he spoke there was the sharp sound of
horses` hoofs and grating wheels against the
curb, followed by a sharp pull at the bell.
"A pair, by the sound," said he. "Yes," he
continued, glancing out of the window. "A nice
little brougham and a pair of beauties. A
hundred and fifty guineas apiece. There`s money
in this case, Watson, if there is nothing else."
"I think that I had better go, Holmes."
"Not a bit, Doctor. Stay where you are. I am
lost without my Boswell. And this promises to be
interesting. It would be a pity to miss it."
"But your client--"
"Never mind him. I may want your help, and so
may he. Here he comes. Sit down in that
armchair, Doctor, and give us your best
A slow and heavy step, which had been heard
upon the stairs and in the passage, paused
immediately outside the door. Then there was a
loud and authoritative tap.
"Come in!" said Holmes.
A man entered who could hardly have been less
than six feet six inches in height, with the
chest and limbs of a Hercules. His dress was
rich with a richness which would, in England, be
looked upon as akin to bad taste. Heavy bands of
astrakhan were slashed across the sleeves and
fronts of his double-breasted coat, while the
deep blue cloak which was thrown over his
shoulders was lined with flame-coloured silk and
secured at the neck with a brooch which
consisted of a single flaming beryl. Boots which
extended halfway up his calves, and which were
trimmed at the tops with rich brown fur,
completed the impression of barbaric opulence
which was suggested by his whole appearance. He
carried a broad-brimmed hat in his hand, while
he wore across the upper part of his face,
extending down past the cheekbones, a black
vizard mask, which he had apparently adjusted
that very moment, for his hand was still raised
to it as he entered. From the lower part of the
face he appeared to be a man of strong
character, with a thick, hanging lip, and a
long, straight chin suggestive of resolution
pushed to the length of obstinacy.
"You had my note?" he asked with a deep harsh
voice and a strongly marked German accent. "I
told you that I would call." He looked from one
to the other of us, as if uncertain which to
"Pray take a seat," said Holmes. "This is my
friend and colleague, Dr. Watson, who is
occasionally good enough to help me in my cases.
Whom have I the honour to address?"
"You may address me as the Count Von Kramm, a
Bohemian nobleman. I understand that this
gentleman, your friend, is a man of honour and
discretion, whom I may trust with a matter of
the most extreme importance. If not, I should
much prefer to communicate with you alone."
I rose to go, but Holmes caught me by the
wrist and pushed me back into my chair. "It is
both, or none," said he. "You may say before
this gentleman anything which you may say to
The Count shrugged his broad shoulders. "Then
I must begin," said he, "by binding you both to
absolute secrecy for two years; at the end of
that time the matter will be of no importance.
At present it is not too much to say that it is
of such weight it may have an influence upon
"I promise," said Holmes.
"You will excuse this mask," continued our
strange visitor. "The august person who employs
me wishes his agent to be unknown to you, and I
may confess at once that the title by which I
have just called myself is not exactly my own."
"I was aware of it," said Holmes dryly.
"The circumstances are of great delicacy, and
every precaution has to be taken to quench what
might grow to be an immense scandal and
seriously compromise one of the reigning
families of Europe. To speak plainly, the matter
implicates the great House of Ormstein,
hereditary kings of Bohemia."
"I was also aware of that," murmured Holmes,
settling himself down in his armchair and
closing his eyes.
Our visitor glanced with some apparent
surprise at the languid, lounging figure of the
man who had been no doubt depicted to him as the
most incisive reasoner and most energetic agent
in Europe. Holmes slowly reopened his eyes and
looked impatiently at his gigantic client.
"If your Majesty would condescend to state
your case," he remarked, "I should be better
able to advise you."
The man sprang from his chair and paced up
and down the room in uncontrollable agitation.
Then, with a gesture of desperation, he tore the
mask from his face and hurled it upon the
ground. "You are right," he cried; "I am the
King. Why should I attempt to conceal it?"
"Why, indeed?" murmured Holmes. "Your Majesty
had not spoken before I was aware that I was
addressing Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von
Ormstein, Grand Duke of Cassel-Felstein, and
hereditary King of Bohemia."
"But you can understand," said our strange
visitor, sitting down once more and passing his
hand over his high white forehead, "you can
understand that I am not accustomed to doing
such business in my own person. Yet the matter
was so delicate that I could not confide it to
an agent without putting myself in his power. I
have come incognito from Prague for the purpose
of consulting you."
"Then, pray consult," said Holmes, shutting
his eyes once more.
"The facts are briefly these: Some five years
ago, during a lengthy visit to Warsaw, I made
the acquaintance of the well-known adventuress,
Irene Adler. The name is no doubt familiar to
"Kindly look her up in my index, Doctor,"
murmured Holmes without opening his eyes. For
many years he had adopted a system of docketing
all paragraphs concerning men and things, so
that it was difficult to name a subject or a
person on which he could not at once furnish
information. In this case I found her biography
sandwiched in between that of a Hebrew rabbi and
that of a staff-commander who had written a
monograph upon the deep-sea fishes.
"Let me see!" said Holmes. "Hum! Born in New
Jersey in the year 1858. Contralto--hum! La
Scala, hum! Prima donna Imperial Opera of
Warsaw--yes! Retired from operatic stage--ha!
Living in London--quite so! Your Majesty, as I
understand, became entangled with this young
person, wrote her some compromising letters, and
is now desirous of getting those letters back."
"Precisely so. But how--"
"Was there a secret marriage?"
"No legal papers or certificates?"
"Then I fail to follow your Majesty. If this
young person should produce her letters for
blackmailing or other purposes, how is she to
prove their authenticity?"
"There is the writing."
"Pooh, pooh! Forgery."
"My private note-paper."
"My own seal."
"We were both in the photograph."
"Oh, dear! That is very bad! Your Majesty has
indeed committed an indiscretion."
"I was mad--insane."
"You have compromised yourself seriously."
"I was only Crown Prince then. I was young. I
am but thirty now."
"It must be recovered."
"We have tried and failed."
"Your Majesty must pay. It must be bought."
"She will not sell."
"Five attempts have been made. Twice burglars
in my pay ransacked her house. Once we diverted
her luggage when she travelled. Twice she has
been waylaid. There has been no result."
"No sign of it?"
Holmes laughed. "It is quite a pretty little
problem," said he.
"But a very serious one to me," returned the
"Very, indeed. And what does she propose to
do with the photograph?"
"To ruin me."
"I am about to be married."
"So I have heard."
"To Clotilde Lothman von Saxe-Meningen,
second daughter of the King of Scandinavia. You
may know the strict principles of her family.
She is herself the very soul of delicacy. A
shadow of a doubt as to my conduct would bring
the matter to an end."
"And Irene Adler?"
"Threatens to send them the photograph. And
she will do it. I know that she will do it. You
do not know her, but she has a soul of steel.
She has the face of the most beautiful of women,
and the mind of the most resolute of men. Rather
than I should marry another woman, there are no
lengths to which she would not go--none."
"You are sure that she has not sent it yet?"
"I am sure."
"Because she has said that she would send it
on the day when the betrothal was publicly
proclaimed. That will be next Monday."
"Oh, then we have three days yet," said
Holmes with a yawn. "That is very fortunate, as
I have one or two matters of importance to look
into just at present. Your Majesty will, of
course, stay in London for the present?"
"Certainly. You will find me at the Langham
under the name of the Count Von Kramm."
"Then I shall drop you a line to let you know
how we progress."
"Pray do so. I shall be all anxiety."
"Then, as to money?"
"You have carte blanche."
"I tell you that I would give one of the
provinces of my kingdom to have that
"And for present expenses?"
The King took a heavy chamois leather bag
from under his cloak and laid it on the table.
"There are three hundred pounds in gold and
seven hundred in notes," he said.
Holmes scribbled a receipt upon a sheet of
his note-book and handed it to him.
"And Mademoiselle`s address?" he asked.
"Is Briony Lodge, Serpentine Avenue, St.
Holmes took a note of it. "One other
question," said he. "Was the photograph a
"Then, good-night, your Majesty, and I trust
that we shall soon have some good news for you.
And good-night, Watson," he added, as the wheels
of the royal brougham rolled down the street.
"If you will be good enough to call to-morrow
afternoon at three o`clock I should like to chat
this little matter over with you."
At three o`clock precisely I was at Baker Street, but Holmes had not
yet returned. The landlady informed me that he
had left the house shortly after eight o`clock
in the morning. I sat down beside the fire,
however, with the intention of awaiting him,
however long he might be. I was already deeply
interested in his inquiry, for, though it was
surrounded by none of the grim and strange
features which were associated with the two
crimes which I have already recorded, still, the
nature of the case and the exalted station of
his client gave it a character of its own.
Indeed, apart from the nature of the
investigation which my friend had on hand, there
was something in his masterly grasp of a
situation, and his keen, incisive reasoning,
which made it a pleasure to me to study his
system of work, and to follow the quick, subtle
methods by which he disentangled the most
inextricable mysteries. So accustomed was I to
his invariable success that the very possibility
of his failing had ceased to enter into my head.
It was close upon four before the door
opened, and a drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt
and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and
disreputable clothes, walked into the room.
Accustomed as I was to my friend`s amazing
powers in the use of disguises, I had to look
three times before I was certain that it was
indeed he. With a nod he vanished into the
bedroom, whence he emerged in five minutes
tweed-suited and respectable, as of old. Putting
his hands into his pockets, he stretched out his
legs in front of the fire and laughed heartily
for some minutes.
"Well, really!" he cried, and then he choked
and laughed again until he was obliged to lie
back, limp and helpless, in the chair.
"What is it?"
"It`s quite too funny. I am sure you could
never guess how I employed my morning, or what I
ended by doing."
"I can`t imagine. I suppose that you have
been watching the habits, and perhaps the house,
of Miss Irene Adler."
"Quite so; but the sequel was rather unusual.
I will tell you, however. I left the house a
little after eight o`clock this morning in the
character of a groom out of work. There is a
wonderful sympathy and freemasonry among horsey
men. Be one of them, and you will know all that
there is to know. I soon found Briony Lodge. It
is a bijou villa, with a garden at the back, but
built out in front right up to the road, two
stories. Chubb lock to the door. Large
sitting-room on the right side, well furnished,
with long windows almost to the floor, and those
preposterous English window fasteners which a
child could open. Behind there was nothing
remarkable, save that the passage window could
be reached from the top of the coach-house. I
walked round it and examined it closely from
every point of view, but without noting anything
else of interest.
"I then lounged down the street and found, as
I expected, that there was a mews in a lane
which runs down by one wall of the garden. I
lent the ostlers a hand in rubbing down their
horses, and received in exchange twopence, a
glass of half and half, two fills of shag
tobacco, and as much information as I could
desire about Miss Adler, to say nothing of half
a dozen other people in the neighbourhood in
whom I was not in the least interested, but
whose biographies I was compelled to listen to."
"And what of Irene Adler?" I asked.
"Oh, she has turned all the men`s heads down
in that part. She is the daintiest thing under a
bonnet on this planet. So say the
Serpentine-mews, to a man. She lives quietly,
sings at concerts, drives out at five every day,
and returns at seven sharp for dinner. Seldom
goes out at other times, except when she sings.
Has only one male visitor, but a good deal of
him. He is dark, handsome, and dashing, never
calls less than once a day, and often twice. He
is a Mr. Godfrey Norton, of the Inner Temple.
See the advantages of a cabman as a confidant.
They had driven him home a dozen times from
Serpentine-mews, and knew all about him. When I
had listened to all they had to tell, I began to
walk up and down near Briony Lodge once more,
and to think over my plan of campaign.
"This Godfrey Norton was evidently an
important factor in the matter. He was a lawyer.
That sounded ominous. What was the relation
between them, and what the object of his
repeated visits? Was she his client, his friend,
or his mistress? If the former, she had probably
transferred the photograph to his keeping. If
the latter, it was less likely. On the issue of
this question depended whether I should continue
my work at Briony Lodge, or turn my attention to
the gentleman`s chambers in the Temple. It was a
delicate point, and it widened the field of my
inquiry. I fear that I bore you with these
details, but I have to let you see my little
difficulties, if you are to understand the
"I am following you closely," I answered.
"I was still balancing the matter in my mind
when a hansom cab drove up to Briony Lodge, and
a gentleman sprang out. He was a remarkably
handsome man, dark, aquiline, and moustached--
evidently the man of whom I had heard. He
appeared to be in a great hurry, shouted to the
cabman to wait, and brushed past the maid who
opened the door with the air of a man who was
thoroughly at home.
"He was in the house about half an hour, and
I could catch glimpses of him in the windows of
the sitting-room, pacing up and down, talking
excitedly, and waving his arms. Of her I could
see nothing. Presently he emerged, looking even
more flurried than before. As he stepped up to
the cab, he pulled a gold watch from his pocket
and looked at it earnestly, `Drive like the
devil,` he shouted, `first to Gross & Hankey`s
in Regent Street, and then to the Church of St.
Monica in the Edgeware Road. Half a guinea if
you do it in twenty minutes!`
"Away they went, and I was just wondering
whether I should not do well to follow them when
up the lane came a neat little landau, the
coachman with his coat only half-buttoned, and
his tie under his ear, while all the tags of his
harness were sticking out of the buckles. It
hadn`t pulled up before she shot out of the hall
door and into it. I only caught a glimpse of her
at the moment, but she was a lovely woman, with
a face that a man might die for.
"`The Church of St. Monica, John,` she cried,
`and half a sovereign if you reach it in twenty
"This was quite too good to lose, Watson. I
was just balancing whether I should run for it,
or whether I should perch behind her landau when
a cab came through the street. The driver looked
twice at such a shabby fare, but I jumped in
before he could object. `The Church of St.
Monica,` said I, `and half a sovereign if you
reach it in twenty minutes.` It was twenty-five
minutes to twelve, and of course it was clear
enough what was in the wind.
"My cabby drove fast. I don`t think I ever
drove faster, but the others were there before
us. The cab and the landau with their steaming
horses were in front of the door when I arrived.
I paid the man and hurried into the church.
There was not a soul there save the two whom I
had followed and a surpliced clergyman, who
seemed to be expostulating with them. They were
all three standing in a knot in front of the
altar. I lounged up the side aisle like any
other idler who has dropped into a church.
Suddenly, to my surprise, the three at the altar
faced round to me, and Godfrey Norton came
running as hard as he could towards me.
"`Thank God,` he cried. `You`ll do. Come!
"`What then?` I asked.
"`Come, man, come, only three minutes, or it
won`t be legal.`
"I was half-dragged up to the altar, and
before I knew where I was I found myself
mumbling responses which were whispered in my
ear, and vouching for things of which I knew
nothing, and generally assisting in the secure
tying up of Irene Adler, spinster, to Godfrey
Norton, bachelor. It was all done in an instant,
and there was the gentleman thanking me on the
one side and the lady on the other, while the
clergyman beamed on me in front. It was the most
preposterous position in which I ever found
myself in my life, and it was the thought of it
that started me laughing just now. It seems that
there had been some informality about their
license, that the clergyman absolutely refused
to marry them without a witness of some sort,
and that my lucky appearance saved the
bridegroom from having to sally out into the
streets in search of a best man. The bride gave
me a sovereign, and I mean to wear it on my
watch-chain in memory of the occasion."
"This is a very unexpected turn of affairs,"
said I; "and what then?"
"Well, I found my plans very seriously
menaced. It looked as if the pair might take an
immediate departure, and so necessitate very
prompt and energetic measures on my part. At the
church door, however, they separated, he driving
back to the Temple, and she to her own house. `I
shall drive out in the park at five as usual,`
she said as she left him. I heard no more. They
drove away in different directions, and I went
off to make my own arrangements."
"Some cold beef and a glass of beer," he
answered, ringing the bell. "I have been too
busy to think of food, and I am likely to be
busier still this evening. By the way, Doctor, I
shall want your co-operation."
"I shall be delighted."
"You don`t mind breaking the law?"
"Not in the least."
"Nor running a chance of arrest?"
"Not in a good cause."
"Oh, the cause is excellent!"
"Then I am your man."
"I was sure that I might rely on you."
"But what is it you wish?"
"When Mrs. Turner has brought in the tray I
will make it clear to you. Now," he said as he
turned hungrily on the simple fare that our
landlady had provided, "I must discuss it while
I eat, for I have not much time. It is nearly
five now. In two hours we must be on the scene
of action. Miss Irene, or Madame, rather,
returns from her drive at seven. We must be at
Briony Lodge to meet her."
"And what then?"
"You must leave that to me. I have already
arranged what is to occur. There is only one
point on which I must insist. You must not
interfere, come what may. You understand?"
"I am to be neutral?"
"To do nothing whatever. There will probably
be some small unpleasantness. Do not join in it.
It will end in my being conveyed into the house.
Four or five minutes afterwards the sitting-room
window will open. You are to station yourself
close to that open window."
"You are to watch me, for I will be visible
"And when I raise my hand--so--you will throw
into the room what I give you to throw, and
will, at the same time, raise the cry of fire.
You quite follow me?"
"It is nothing very formidable," he said,
taking a long cigar- shaped roll from his
pocket. "It is an ordinary plumber`s smoke-
rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to make
it self-lighting. Your task is confined to that.
When you raise your cry of fire, it will be
taken up by quite a number of people. You may
then walk to the end of the street, and I will
rejoin you in ten minutes. I hope that I have
made myself clear?"
"I am to remain neutral, to get near the
window, to watch you, and at the signal to throw
in this object, then to raise the cry of fire,
and to wait you at the corner of the street."
"Then you may entirely rely on me."
"That is excellent. I think, perhaps, it is
almost time that I prepare for the new role I
have to play."
He disappeared into his bedroom and returned
in a few minutes in the character of an amiable
and simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman. His
broad black hat, his baggy trousers, his white
tie, his sympathetic smile, and general look of
peering and benevolent curiosity were such as
Mr. John Hare alone could have equalled. It was
not merely that Holmes changed his costume. His
expression, his manner, his very soul seemed to
vary with every fresh part that he assumed. The
stage lost a fine actor, even as science lost an
acute reasoner, when he became a specialist in
It was a quarter past six when we left Baker
Street, and it still wanted ten minutes to the
hour when we found ourselves in Serpentine
Avenue. It was already dusk, and the lamps were
just being lighted as we paced up and down in
front of Briony Lodge, waiting for the coming of
its occupant. The house was just such as I had
pictured it from Sherlock Holmes` succinct
description, but the locality appeared to be
less private than I expected. On the contrary,
for a small street in a quiet neighbourhood, it
was remarkably animated. There was a group of
shabbily dressed men smoking and laughing in a
corner, a scissors-grinder with his wheel, two
guardsmen who were flirting with a nurse-girl,
and several well-dressed young men who were
lounging up and down with cigars in their
"You see," remarked Holmes, as we paced to
and fro in front of the house, "this marriage
rather simplifies matters. The photograph
becomes a double-edged weapon now. The chances
are that she would be as averse to its being
seen by Mr. Godfrey Norton, as our client is to
its coming to the eyes of his princess. Now the
question is, Where are we to find the
"It is most unlikely that she carries it
about with her. It is cabinet size. Too large
for easy concealment about a woman`s dress. She
knows that the King is capable of having her
waylaid and searched. Two attempts of the sort
have already been made. We may take it, then,
that she does not carry it about with her."
"Her banker or her lawyer. There is that
double possibility. But I am inclined to think
neither. Women are naturally secretive, and they
like to do their own secreting. Why should she
hand it over to anyone else? She could trust her
own guardianship, but she could not tell what
indirect or political influence might be brought
to bear upon a business man. Besides, remember
that she had resolved to use it within a few
days. It must be where she can lay her hands
upon it. It must be in her own house."
"But it has twice been burgled."
"Pshaw! They did not know how to look."
"But how will you look?"
"I will not look."
"I will get her to show me."
"But she will refuse."
"She will not be able to. But I hear the
rumble of wheels. It is her carriage. Now carry
out my orders to the letter."
As he spoke the gleam of the side-lights of a
carriage came round the curve of the avenue. It
was a smart little landau which rattled up to
the door of Briony Lodge. As it pulled up, one
of the loafing men at the corner dashed forward
to open the door in the hope of earning a
copper, but was elbowed away by another loafer,
who had rushed up with the same intention. A
fierce quarrel broke out, which was increased by
the two guardsmen, who took sides with one of
the loungers, and by the scissors-grinder, who
was equally hot upon the other side. A blow was
struck, and in an instant the lady, who had
stepped from her carriage, was the centre of a
little knot of flushed and struggling men, who
struck savagely at each other with their fists
and sticks. Holmes dashed into the crowd to
protect the lady; but just as he reached her he
gave a cry and dropped to the ground, with the
blood running freely down his face. At his fall
the guardsmen took to their heels in one
direction and the loungers in the other, while a
number of better-dressed people, who had watched
the scuffle without taking part in it, crowded
in to help the lady and to attend to the injured
man. Irene Adler, as I will still call her, had
hurried up the steps; but she stood at the top
with her superb figure outlined against the
lights of the hall, looking back into the
"Is the poor gentleman much hurt?" she asked.
"He is dead," cried several voices.
"No, no, there`s life in him!" shouted
another. "But he`ll be gone before you can get
him to hospital."
"He`s a brave fellow," said a woman. "They
would have had the lady`s purse and watch if it
hadn`t been for him. They were a gang, and a
rough one, too. Ah, he`s breathing now."
"He can`t lie in the street. May we bring him
"Surely. Bring him into the sitting-room.
There is a comfortable sofa. This way, please!"
Slowly and solemnly he was borne into Briony
Lodge and laid out in the principal room, while
I still observed the proceedings from my post by
the window. The lamps had been lit, but the
blinds had not been drawn, so that I could see
Holmes as he lay upon the couch. I do not know
whether he was seized with compunction at that
moment for the part he was playing, but I know
that I never felt more heartily ashamed of
myself in my life than when I saw the beautiful
creature against whom I was conspiring, or the
grace and kindliness with which she waited upon
the injured man. And yet it would be the
blackest treachery to Holmes to draw back now
from the part which he had intrusted to me. I
hardened my heart, and took the smoke-rocket
from under my ulster. After all, I thought, we
are not injuring her. We are but preventing her
from injuring another.
Holmes had sat up upon the couch, and I saw
him motion like a man who is in need of air. A
maid rushed across and threw open the window. At
the same instant I saw him raise his hand and at
the signal I tossed my rocket into the room with
a cry of "Fire!" The word was no sooner out of
my mouth than the whole crowd of spectators,
well dressed and ill--gentlemen, ostlers, and
servant-maids--joined in a general shriek of
"Fire!" Thick clouds of smoke curled through the
room and out at the open window. I caught a
glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later
the voice of Holmes from within assuring them
that it was a false alarm. Slipping through the
shouting crowd I made my way to the corner of
the street, and in ten minutes was rejoiced to
find my friend`s arm in mine, and to get away
from the scene of uproar. He walked swiftly and
in silence for some few minutes until we had
turned down one of the quiet streets which lead
towards the Edgeware Road.
"You did it very nicely, Doctor," he
remarked. "Nothing could have been better. It is
"You have the photograph?"
"I know where it is."
"And how did you find out?"
"She showed me, as I told you she would."
"I am still in the dark."
"I do not wish to make a mystery," said he,
laughing. "The matter was perfectly simple. You,
of course, saw that everyone in the street was
an accomplice. They were all engaged for the
"I guessed as much."
"Then, when the row broke out, I had a little
moist red paint in the palm of my hand. I rushed
forward, fell down, clapped my hand to my face,
and became a piteous spectacle. It is an old
"That also I could fathom."
"Then they carried me in. She was bound to
have me in. What else could she do? And into her
sitting-room, which was the very room which I
suspected. It lay between that and her bedroom,
and I was determined to see which. They laid me
on a couch, I motioned for air, they were
compelled to open the window, and you had your
"How did that help you?"
"It was all-important. When a woman thinks
that her house is on fire, her instinct is at
once to rush to the thing which she values most.
It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and I
have more than once taken advantage of it. In
the case of the Darlington substitution scandal
it was of use to me, and also in the Arnsworth
Castle business. A married woman grabs at her
baby; an unmarried one reaches for her
jewel-box. Now it was clear to me that our lady
of to-day had nothing in the house more precious
to her than what we are in quest of. She would
rush to secure it. The alarm of fire was
admirably done. The smoke and shouting were
enough to shake nerves of steel. She responded
beautifully. The photograph is in a recess
behind a sliding panel just above the right
bell-pull. She was there in an instant, and I
caught a glimpse of it as she half-drew it out.
When I cried out that it was a false alarm, she
replaced it, glanced at the rocket, rushed from
the room, and I have not seen her since. I rose,
and, making my excuses, escaped from the house.
I hesitated whether to attempt to secure the
photograph at once; but the coachman had come
in, and as he was watching me narrowly it seemed
safer to wait. A little over-precipitance may
"And now?" I asked.
"Our quest is practically finished. I shall
call with the King to-morrow, and with you, if
you care to come with us. We will be shown into
the sitting-room to wait for the lady, but it is
probable that when she comes she may find
neither us nor the photograph. It might be a
satisfaction to his Majesty to regain it with
his own hands."
"And when will you call?"
"At eight in the morning. She will not be up,
so that we shall have a clear field. Besides, we
must be prompt, for this marriage may mean a
complete change in her life and habits. I must
wire to the King without delay."
We had reached Baker Street and had stopped
at the door. He was searching his pockets for
the key when someone passing said:
"Good-night, Mister Sherlock Holmes."
There were several people on the pavement at
the time, but the greeting appeared to come from
a slim youth in an ulster who had hurried by.
"I`ve heard that voice before," said Holmes,
staring down the dimly lit street. "Now, I
wonder who the deuce that could have been."
I slept at Baker Street that night, and we
were engaged upon our toast and coffee in the
morning when the King of Bohemia rushed into the
"You have really got it!" he cried, grasping
Sherlock Holmes by either shoulder and looking
eagerly into his face.
"But you have hopes?"
"I have hopes."
"Then, come. I am all impatience to be gone."
"We must have a cab."
"No, my brougham is waiting."
"Then that will simplify matters." We
descended and started off once more for Briony
"Irene Adler is married," remarked Holmes.
"But to whom?"
"To an English lawyer named Norton."
"But she could not love him."
"I am in hopes that she does."
"And why in hopes?"
"Because it would spare your Majesty all fear
of future annoyance. If the lady loves her
husband, she does not love your Majesty. If she
does not love your Majesty, there is no reason
why she should interfere with your Majesty`s
"It is true. And yet--Well! I wish she had
been of my own station! What a queen she would
have made!" He relapsed into a moody silence,
which was not broken until we drew up in
The door of Briony Lodge was open, and an
elderly woman stood upon the steps. She watched
us with a sardonic eye as we stepped from the
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I believe?" said she.
"I am Mr. Holmes," answered my companion,
looking at her with a questioning and rather
"Indeed! My mistress told me that you were
likely to call. She left this morning with her
husband by the 5:15 train from Charing Cross for
"What!" Sherlock Holmes staggered back, white
with chagrin and surprise. "Do you mean that she
has left England?"
"Never to return."
"And the papers?" asked the King hoarsely.
"All is lost."
"We shall see." He pushed past the servant
and rushed into the drawing-room, followed by
the King and myself. The furniture was scattered
about in every direction, with dismantled
shelves and open drawers, as if the lady had
hurriedly ransacked them before her flight.
Holmes rushed at the bell-pull, tore back a
small sliding shutter, and, plunging in his
hand, pulled out a photograph and a letter. The
photograph was of Irene Adler herself in evening
dress, the letter was superscribed to "Sherlock
Holmes, Esq. To be left till called for." My
friend tore it open and we all three read it
together. It was dated at midnight of the
preceding night and ran in this way:
"MY DEAR MR. SHERLOCK HOLMES,--You really did
it very well. You took me in completely. Until
after the alarm of fire, I had not a suspicion.
But then, when I found how I had betrayed
myself, I began to think. I had been warned
against you months ago. I had been told that if
the King employed an agent it would certainly be
you. And your address had been given me. Yet,
with all this, you made me reveal what you
wanted to know. Even after I became suspicious,
I found it hard to think evil of such a dear,
kind old clergyman. But, you know, I have been
trained as an actress myself. Male costume is
nothing new to me. I often take advantage of the
freedom which it gives. I sent John, the
coachman, to watch you, ran up stairs, got into
my walking-clothes, as I call them, and came
down just as you departed.
"Well, I followed you to your door, and so
made sure that I was really an object of
interest to the celebrated Mr. Sherlock Holmes.
Then I, rather imprudently, wished you
good-night, and started for the Temple to see my
"We both thought the best resource was
flight, when pursued by so formidable an
antagonist; so you will find the nest empty when
you call to-morrow. As to the photograph, your
client may rest in peace. I love and am loved by
a better man than he. The King may do what he
will without hindrance from one whom he has
cruelly wronged. I keep it only to safeguard
myself, and to preserve a weapon which will
always secure me from any steps which he might
take in the future. I leave a photograph which
he might care to possess; and I remain, dear Mr.
"Very truly yours, "IRENE
"What a woman--oh, what a woman!" cried the
King of Bohemia, when we had all three read this
epistle. "Did I not tell you how quick and
resolute she was? Would she not have made an
admirable queen? Is it not a pity that she was
not on my level?"
"From what I have seen of the lady she seems
indeed to be on a very different level to your
Majesty," said Holmes coldly. "I am sorry that I
have not been able to bring your Majesty`s
business to a more successful conclusion."
"On the contrary, my dear sir," cried the
King; "nothing could be more successful. I know
that her word is inviolate. The photograph is
now as safe as if it were in the fire."
"I am glad to hear your Majesty say so."
"I am immensely indebted to you. Pray tell me
in what way I can reward you. This ring--" He
slipped an emerald snake ring from his finger
and held it out upon the palm of his hand.
"Your Majesty has something which I should
value even more highly," said Holmes.
"You have but to name it."
The King stared at him in amazement.
"Irene`s photograph!" he cried. "Certainly,
if you wish it."
"I thank your Majesty. Then there is no more
to be done in the matter. I have the honour to
wish you a very good-morning." He bowed, and,
turning away without observing the hand which
the King had stretched out to him, he set off in
my company for his chambers.
And that was how a great scandal threatened
to affect the kingdom of Bohemia, and how the
best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by
a woman`s wit. He used to make merry over the
cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do
it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler,
or when he refers to her photograph, it is
always under the honourable title of the woman.
THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE
I had called upon my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, one day in the autumn
of last year and found him in deep conversation
with a very stout, florid-faced, elderly
gentleman with fiery red hair. With an apology
for my intrusion, I was about to withdraw when
Holmes pulled me abruptly into the room and
closed the door behind me.
"You could not possibly have come at a better
time, my dear Watson," he said cordially.
"I was afraid that you were engaged."
"So I am. Very much so."
"Then I can wait in the next room."
"Not at all. This gentleman, Mr. Wilson, has
been my partner and helper in many of my most
successful cases, and I have no doubt that he
will be of the utmost use to me in yours also."
The stout gentleman half rose from his chair
and gave a bob of greeting, with a quick little
questioning glance from his small fat-encircled
"Try the settee," said Holmes, relapsing into
his armchair and putting his fingertips
together, as was his custom when in judicial
moods. "I know, my dear Watson, that you share
my love of all that is bizarre and outside the
conventions and humdrum routine of everyday
life. You have shown your relish for it by the
enthusiasm which has prompted you to chronicle,
and, if you will excuse my saying so, somewhat
to embellish so many of my own little
"Your cases have indeed been of the greatest
interest to me," I observed.
"You will remember that I remarked the other
day, just before we went into the very simple
problem presented by Miss Mary Sutherland, that
for strange effects and extraordinary
combinations we must go to life itself, which is
always far more daring than any effort of the
"A proposition which I took the liberty of
"You did, Doctor, but none the less you must
come round to my view, for otherwise I shall
keep on piling fact upon fact on you until your
reason breaks down under them and acknowledges
me to be right. Now, Mr. Jabez Wilson here has
been good enough to call upon me this morning,
and to begin a narrative which promises to be
one of the most singular which I have listened
to for some time. You have heard me remark that
the strangest and most unique things are very
often connected not with the larger but with the
smaller crimes, and occasionally, indeed, where
there is room for doubt whether any positive
crime has been committed. As far as I have heard
it is impossible for me to say whether the
present case is an instance of crime or not, but
the course of events is certainly among the most
singular that I have ever listened to. Perhaps,
Mr. Wilson, you would have the great kindness to
recommence your narrative. I ask you not merely
because my friend Dr. Watson has not heard the
opening part but also because the peculiar
nature of the story makes me anxious to have
every possible detail from your lips. As a rule,
when I have heard some slight indication of the
course of events, I am able to guide myself by
the thousands of other similar cases which occur
to my memory. In the present instance I am
forced to admit that the facts are, to the best
of my belief, unique."
The portly client puffed out his chest with
an appearance of some little pride and pulled a
dirty and wrinkled newspaper from the inside
pocket of his greatcoat. As he glanced down the
advertisement column, with his head thrust
forward and the paper flattened out upon his
knee, I took a good look at the man and
endeavoured, after the fashion of my companion,
to read the indications which might be presented
by his dress or appearance.
I did not gain very much, however, by my
inspection. Our visitor bore every mark of being
an average commonplace British tradesman, obese,
pompous, and slow. He wore rather baggy grey
shepherd`s check trousers, a not over-clean
black frock-coat, unbuttoned in the front, and a
drab waistcoat with a heavy brassy Albert chain,
and a square pierced bit of metal dangling down
as an ornament. A frayed top-hat and a faded
brown overcoat with a wrinkled velvet collar lay
upon a chair beside him. Altogether, look as I
would, there was nothing remarkable about the
man save his blazing red head, and the
expression of extreme chagrin and discontent
upon his features.
Sherlock Holmes` quick eye took in my
occupation, and he shook his head with a smile
as he noticed my questioning glances. "Beyond
the obvious facts that he has at some time done
manual labour, that he takes snuff, that he is a
Freemason, that he has been in China, and that
he has done a considerable amount of writing
lately, I can deduce nothing else."
Mr. Jabez Wilson started up in his chair,
with his forefinger upon the paper, but his eyes
upon my companion.
"How, in the name of good-fortune, did you
know all that, Mr. Holmes?" he asked. "How did
you know, for example, that I did manual labour.
It`s as true as gospel, for I began as a ship`s
"Your hands, my dear sir. Your right hand is
quite a size larger than your left. You have
worked with it, and the muscles are more
"Well, the snuff, then, and the Freemasonry?"
"I won`t insult your intelligence by telling
you how I read that, especially as, rather
against the strict rules of your order, you use
an arc-and-compass breastpin."
"Ah, of course, I forgot that. But the
"What else can be indicated by that right
cuff so very shiny for five inches, and the left
one with the smooth patch near the elbow where
you rest it upon the desk?"
"Well, but China?"
"The fish that you have tattooed immediately
above your right wrist could only have been done
in China. I have made a small study of tattoo
marks and have even contributed to the
literature of the subject. That trick of
staining the fishes` scales of a delicate pink
is quite peculiar to China. When, in addition, I
see a Chinese coin hanging from your
watch-chain, the matter becomes even more
Mr. Jabez Wilson laughed heavily. "Well, I
never!" said he. "I thought at first that you
had done something clever, but I see that there
was nothing in it, after all."
"I begin to think, Watson," said Holmes,
"that I make a mistake in explaining. `Omne
ignotum pro magnifico,` you know, and my poor
little reputation, such as it is, will suffer
shipwreck if I am so candid. Can you not find
the advertisement, Mr. Wilson?"
"Yes, I have got it now," he answered with
his thick red finger planted halfway down the
column. "Here it is. This is what began it all.
You just read it for yourself, sir."
I took the paper from him and read as
"TO THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE: On account of the
bequest of the late Ezekiah Hopkins, of Lebanon,
Pennsylvania, U. S. A., there is now another
vacancy open which entitles a member of the
League to a salary of 4 pounds a week for purely
nominal services. All red-headed men who are
sound in body and mind and above the age of
twenty-one years, are eligible. Apply in person
on Monday, at eleven o`clock, to Duncan Ross, at
the offices of the League, 7 Pope`s Court, Fleet
"What on earth does this mean?" I ejaculated
after I had twice read over the extraordinary
Holmes chuckled and wriggled in his chair, as
was his habit when in high spirits. "It is a
little off the beaten track, isn`t it?" said he.
"And now, Mr. Wilson, off you go at scratch and
tell us all about yourself, your household, and
the effect which this advertisement had upon
your fortunes. You will first make a note,
Doctor, of the paper and the date."
"It is The Morning Chronicle of April 27,
1890. Just two months ago."
"Very good. Now, Mr. Wilson?"
"Well, it is just as I have been telling you,
Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said Jabez Wilson, mopping
his forehead; "I have a small pawnbroker`s
business at Coburg Square, near the City. It`s
not a very large affair, and of late years it
has not done more than just give me a living. I
used to be able to keep two assistants, but now
I only keep one; and I would have a job to pay
him but that he is willing to come for half
wages so as to learn the business."
"What is the name of this obliging youth?"
asked Sherlock Holmes.
"His name is Vincent Spaulding, and he`s not
such a youth, either. It`s hard to say his age.
I should not wish a smarter assistant, Mr.
Holmes; and I know very well that he could
better himself and earn twice what I am able to
give him. But, after all, if he is satisfied,
why should I put ideas in his head?"
"Why, indeed? You seem most fortunate in
having an employй ·ho comes under the full
market price. It is not a common experience
among employers in this age. I don`t know that
your assistant is not as remarkable as your
"Oh, he has his faults, too," said Mr.
Wilson. "Never was such a fellow for
photography. Snapping away with a camera when he
ought to be improving his mind, and then diving
down into the cellar like a rabbit into its hole
to develop his pictures. That is his main fault,
but on the whole he`s a good worker. There`s no
vice in him."
"He is still with you, I presume?"
"Yes, sir. He and a girl of fourteen, who
does a bit of simple cooking and keeps the place
clean--that`s all I have in the house, for I am
a widower and never had any family. We live very
quietly, sir, the three of us; and we keep a
roof over our heads and pay our debts, if we do
"The first thing that put us out was that
advertisement. Spaulding, he came down into the
office just this day eight weeks, with this very
paper in his hand, and he says:
"`I wish to the Lord, Mr. Wilson, that I was
a red-headed man.`
"`Why that?` I asks.
"`Why,` says he, `here`s another vacancy on
the League of the Red-headed Men. It`s worth
quite a little fortune to any man who gets it,
and I understand that there are more vacancies
than there are men, so that the trustees are at
their wits` end what to do with the money. If my
hair would only change colour, here`s a nice
little crib all ready for me to step into.`
"`Why, what is it, then?` I asked. You see,
Mr. Holmes, I am a very stay-at-home man, and as
my business came to me instead of my having to
go to it, I was often weeks on end without
putting my foot over the door-mat. In that way I
didn`t know much of what was going on outside,
and I was always glad of a bit of news.
"`Have you never heard of the League of the
Red-headed Men?` he asked with his eyes open.
"`Why, I wonder at that, for you are eligible
yourself for one of the vacancies.`
"`And what are they worth?` I asked.
"`Oh, merely a couple of hundred a year, but
the work is slight, and it need not interfere
very much with one`s other occupations.`
"Well, you can easily think that that made me
prick up my ears, for the business has not been
over-good for some years, and an extra couple of
hundred would have been very handy.
"`Tell me all about it,` said I.
"`Well,` said he, showing me the
advertisement, `you can see for yourself that
the League has a vacancy, and there is the
address where you should apply for particulars.
As far as I can make out, the League was founded
by an American millionaire, Ezekiah Hopkins, who
was very peculiar in his ways. He was himself
red-headed, and he had a great sympathy for all
red-headed men; so when he died it was found
that he had left his enormous fortune in the
hands of trustees, with instructions to apply
the interest to the providing of easy berths to
men whose hair is of that colour. From all I
hear it is splendid pay and very little to do.`
"`But,` said I, `there would be millions of
red-headed men who would apply.`
"`Not so many as you might think,` he
answered. `You see it is really confined to
Londoners, and to grown men. This American had
started from London when he was young, and he
wanted to do the old town a good turn. Then,
again, I have heard it is no use your applying
if your hair is light red, or dark red, or
anything but real bright, blazing, fiery red.
Now, if you cared to apply, Mr. Wilson, you
would just walk in; but perhaps it would hardly
be worth your while to put yourself out of the
way for the sake of a few hundred pounds.`
"Now, it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see
for yourselves, that my hair is of a very full
and rich tint, so that it seemed to me that if
there was to be any competition in the matter I
stood as good a chance as any man that I had
ever met. Vincent Spaulding seemed to know so
much about it that I thought he might prove
useful, so I just ordered him to put up the
shutters for the day and to come right away with
me. He was very willing to have a holiday, so we
shut the business up and started off for the
address that was given us in the advertisement.
"I never hope to see such a sight as that
again, Mr. Holmes. From north, south, east, and
west every man who had a shade of red in his
hair had tramped into the city to answer the
advertisement. Fleet Street was choked with
red-headed folk, and Pope`s Court looked like a
coster`s orange barrow. I should not have
thought there were so many in the whole country
as were brought together by that single
advertisement. Every shade of colour they
were--straw, lemon, orange, brick, Irish-setter,
liver, clay; but, as Spaulding said, there were
not many who had the real vivid flame-coloured
tint. When I saw how many were waiting, I would
have given it up in despair; but Spaulding would
not hear of it. How he did it I could not
imagine, but he pushed and pulled and butted
until he got me through the crowd, and right up
to the steps which led to the office. There was
a double stream upon the stair, some going up in
hope, and some coming back dejected; but we
wedged in as well as we could and soon found
ourselves in the office."
"Your experience has been a most entertaining
one," remarked Holmes as his client paused and
refreshed his memory with a huge pinch of snuff.
"Pray continue your very interesting statement."
"There was nothing in the office but a couple
of wooden chairs and a deal table, behind which
sat a small man with a head that was even redder
than mine. He said a few words to each candidate
as he came up, and then he always managed to
find some fault in them which would disqualify
them. Getting a vacancy did not seem to be such
a very easy matter, after all. However, when our
turn came the little man was much more
favourable to me than to any of the others, and
he closed the door as we entered, so that he
might have a private word with us.
"`This is Mr. Jabez Wilson,` said my
assistant, `and he is willing to fill a vacancy
in the League.`
"`And he is admirably suited for it,` the
other answered. `He has every requirement. I
cannot recall when I have seen anything so
fine.` He took a step backward, cocked his head
on one side, and gazed at my hair until I felt
quite bashful. Then suddenly he plunged forward,
wrung my hand, and congratulated me warmly on my
"`It would be injustice to hesitate,` said
he. `You will, however, I am sure, excuse me for
taking an obvious precaution.` With that he
seized my hair in both his hands, and tugged
until I yelled with the pain. `There is water in
your eyes,` said he as he released me. `I
perceive that all is as it should be. But we
have to be careful, for we have twice been
deceived by wigs and once by paint. I could tell
you tales of cobbler`s wax which would disgust
you with human nature.` He stepped over to the
window and shouted through it at the top of his
voice that the vacancy was filled. A groan of
disappointment came up from below, and the folk
all trooped away in different directions until
there was not a red-head to be seen except my
own and that of the manager.
"`My name,` said he, `is Mr. Duncan Ross, and
I am myself one of the pensioners upon the fund
left by our noble benefactor. Are you a married
man, Mr. Wilson? Have you a family?`
"I answered that I had not.
"His face fell immediately.
"`Dear me!` he said gravely, `that is very
serious indeed! I am sorry to hear you say that.
The fund was, of course, for the propagation and
spread of the red-heads as well as for their
maintenance. It is exceedingly unfortunate that
you should be a bachelor.`
"My face lengthened at this, Mr. Holmes, for
I thought that I was not to have the vacancy
after all; but after thinking it over for a few
minutes he said that it would be all right.
"`In the case of another,` said he, `the
objection might be fatal, but we must stretch a
point in favour of a man with such a head of
hair as yours. When shall you be able to enter
upon your new duties?`
"`Well, it is a little awkward, for I have a
business already,` said I.
"`Oh, never mind about that, Mr. Wilson!`
said Vincent Spaulding. `I should be able to
look after that for you.`
"`What would be the hours?` I asked.
"`Ten to two.`
"Now a pawnbroker`s business is mostly done
of an evening, Mr. Holmes, especially Thursday
and Friday evening, which is just before
pay-day; so it would suit me very well to earn a
little in the mornings. Besides, I knew that my
assistant was a good man, and that he would see
to anything that turned up.
"`That would suit me very well,` said I. `And
"`Is 4 pounds a week.`
"`And the work?`
"`Is purely nominal.`
"`What do you call purely nominal?`
"`Well, you have to be in the office, or at
least in the building, the whole time. If you
leave, you forfeit your whole position forever.
The will is very clear upon that point. You
don`t comply with the conditions if you budge
from the office during that time.`
"`It`s only four hours a day, and I should
not think of leaving,` said I.
"`No excuse will avail,` said Mr. Duncan
Ross; `neither sickness nor business nor
anything else. There you must stay, or you lose
"`And the work?`
"`Is to copy out the "Encyclopaedia
Britannica." There is the first volume of it in
that press. You must find your own ink, pens,
and blotting-paper, but we provide this table
and chair. Will you be ready to-morrow?`
"`Certainly,` I answered.
"`Then, good-bye, Mr. Jabez Wilson, and let
me congratulate you once more on the important
position which you have been fortunate enough to
gain.` He bowed me out of the room and I went
home with my assistant, hardly knowing what to
say or do, I was so pleased at my own good
"Well, I thought over the matter all day, and
by evening I was in low spirits again; for I had
quite persuaded myself that the whole affair
must be some great hoax or fraud, though what
its object might be I could not imagine. It
seemed altogether past belief that anyone could
make such a will, or that they would pay such a
sum for doing anything so simple as copying out
the `Encyclopaedia Britannica.` Vincent
Spaulding did what he could to cheer me up, but
by bedtime I had reasoned myself out of the
whole thing. However, in the morning I
determined to have a look at it anyhow, so I
bought a penny bottle of ink, and with a
quill-pen, and seven sheets of foolscap paper, I
started off for Pope`s Court.
"Well, to my surprise and delight, everything
was as right as possible. The table was set out
ready for me, and Mr. Duncan Ross was there to
see that I got fairly to work. He started me off
upon the letter A, and then he left me; but he
would drop in from time to time to see that all
was right with me. At two o`clock he bade me
good-day, complimented me upon the amount that I
had written, and locked the door of the office
"This went on day after day, Mr. Holmes, and
on Saturday the manager came in and planked down
four golden sovereigns for my week`s work. It
was the same next week, and the same the week
after. Every morning I was there at ten, and
every afternoon I left at two. By degrees Mr.
Duncan Ross took to coming in only once of a
morning, and then, after a time, he did not come
in at all. Still, of course, I never dared to
leave the room for an instant, for I was not
sure when he might come, and the billet was such
a good one, and suited me so well, that I would
not risk the loss of it.
"Eight weeks passed away like this, and I had
written about Abbots and Archery and Armour and
Architecture and Attica, and hoped with
diligence that I might get on to the B`s before
very long. It cost me something in foolscap, and
I had pretty nearly filled a shelf with my
writings. And then suddenly the whole business
came to an end."
"To an end?"
"Yes, sir. And no later than this morning. I
went to my work as usual at ten o`clock, but the
door was shut and locked, with a little square
of cardboard hammered on to the middle of the
panel with a tack. Here it is, and you can read
He held up a piece of white cardboard about
the size of a sheet of note-paper. It read in
THE RED-HEADED LEAGUE
October 9, 1890.
Sherlock Holmes and I surveyed this curt
announcement and the rueful face behind it,
until the comical side of the affair so
completely overtopped every other consideration
that we both burst out into a roar of laughter.
"I cannot see that there is anything very
funny," cried our client, flushing up to the
roots of his flaming head. "If you can do
nothing better than laugh at me, I can go
"No, no," cried Holmes, shoving him back into
the chair from which he had half risen. "I
really wouldn`t miss your case for the world. It
is most refreshingly unusual. But there is, if
you will excuse my saying so, something just a
little funny about it. Pray what steps did you
take when you found the card upon the door?"
"I was staggered, sir. I did not know what to
do. Then I called at the offices round, but none
of them seemed to know anything about it.
Finally, I went to the landlord, who is an
accountant living on the ground-floor, and I
asked him if he could tell me what had become of
the Red-headed League. He said that he had never
heard of any such body. Then I asked him who Mr.
Duncan Ross was. He answered that the name was
new to him.
"`Well,` said I, `the gentleman at No. 4.`
"`What, the red-headed man?`
"`Oh,` said he, `his name was William Morris.
He was a solicitor and was using my room as a
temporary convenience until his new premises
were ready. He moved out yesterday.`
"`Where could I find him?`
"`Oh, at his new offices. He did tell me the
address. Yes, 17 King Edward Street, near St.
"I started off, Mr. Holmes, but when I got to
that address it was a manufactory of artificial
knee-caps, and no one in it had ever heard of
either Mr. William Morris or Mr. Duncan Ross."
"And what did you do then?" asked Holmes.
"I went home to Saxe-Coburg Square, and I
took the advice of my assistant. But he could
not help me in any way. He could only say that
if I waited I should hear by post. But that was
not quite good enough, Mr. Holmes. I did not
wish to lose such a place without a struggle,
so, as I had heard that you were good enough to
give advice to poor folk who were in need of it,
I came right away to you."
"And you did very wisely," said Holmes. "Your
case is an exceedingly remarkable one, and I
shall be happy to look into it. From what you
have told me I think that it is possible that
graver issues hang from it than might at first
"Grave enough!" said Mr. Jabez Wilson. "Why,
I have lost four pound a week."
"As far as you are personally concerned,"
remarked Holmes, "I do not see that you have any
grievance against this extraordinary league. On
the contrary, you are, as I understand, richer
by some 30 pounds, to say nothing of the minute
knowledge which you have gained on every subject
which comes under the letter A. You have lost
nothing by them."
"No, sir. But I want to find out about them,
and who they are, and what their object was in
playing this prank--if it was a prank--upon me.
It was a pretty expensive joke for them, for it
cost them two and thirty pounds."
"We shall endeavour to clear up these points
for you. And, first, one or two questions, Mr.
Wilson. This assistant of yours who first called
your attention to the advertisement--how long
had he been with you?"
"About a month then."
"How did he come?"
"In answer to an advertisement."
"Was he the only applicant?"
"No, I had a dozen."
"Why did you pick him?"
"Because he was handy and would come cheap."
"At half-wages, in fact."
"What is he like, this Vincent Spaulding?"
"Small, stout-built, very quick in his ways,
no hair on his face, though he`s not short of
thirty. Has a white splash of acid upon his
Holmes sat up in his chair in considerable
excitement. "I thought as much," said he. "Have
you ever observed that his ears are pierced for
"Yes, sir. He told me that a gipsy had done
it for him when he was a lad."
"Hum!" said Holmes, sinking back in deep
thought. "He is still with you?"
"Oh, yes, sir; I have only just left him."
"And has your business been attended to in
"Nothing to complain of, sir. There`s never
very much to do of a morning."
"That will do, Mr. Wilson. I shall be happy
to give you an opinion upon the subject in the
course of a day or two. To-day is Saturday, and
I hope that by Monday we may come to a
"Well, Watson," said Holmes when our visitor
had left us, "what do you make of it all?"
"I make nothing of it," I answered frankly.
"It is a most mysterious business."
"As a rule," said Holmes, "the more bizarre a
thing is the less mysterious it proves to be. It
is your commonplace, featureless crimes which
are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face
is the most difficult to identify. But I must be
prompt over this matter."
"What are you going to do, then?" I asked.
"To smoke," he answered. "It is quite a three
pipe problem, and I beg that you won`t speak to
me for fifty minutes." He curled himself up in
his chair, with his thin knees drawn up to his
hawk-like nose, and there he sat with his eyes
closed and his black clay pipe thrusting out
like the bill of some strange bird. I had come
to the conclusion that he had dropped asleep,
and indeed was nodding myself, when he suddenly
sprang out of his chair with the gesture of a
man who has made up his mind and put his pipe
down upon the mantelpiece.
"Sarasate plays at the St. James`s Hall this
afternoon," he remarked. "What do you think,
Watson? Could your patients spare you for a few
"I have nothing to do to-day. My practice is
never very absorbing."
"Then put on your hat and come. I am going
through the City first, and we can have some
lunch on the way. I observe that there is a good
deal of German music on the programme, which is
rather more to my taste than Italian or French.
It is introspective, and I want to introspect.
We travelled by the Underground as far as
Aldersgate; and a short walk took us to
Saxe-Coburg Square, the scene of the singular
story which we had listened to in the morning.
It was a poky, little, shabby-genteel place,
where four lines of dingy two-storied brick
houses looked out into a small railed-in
enclosure, where a lawn of weedy grass and a few
clumps of faded laurel-bushes made a hard fight
against a smoke-laden and uncongenial
atmosphere. Three gilt balls and a brown board
with "JABEZ WILSON" in white letters, upon a
corner house, announced the place where our
red-headed client carried on his business.
Sherlock Holmes stopped in front of it with his
head on one side and looked it all over, with
his eyes shining brightly between puckered lids.
Then he walked slowly up the street, and then
down again to the corner, still looking keenly
at the houses. Finally he returned to the
pawnbroker`s, and, having thumped vigorously
upon the pavement with his stick two or three
times, he went up to the door and knocked. It
was instantly opened by a bright-looking,
clean-shaven young fellow, who asked him to step
"Thank you," said Holmes, "I only wished to
ask you how you would go from here to the
"Third right, fourth left," answered the
assistant promptly, closing the door.
"Smart fellow, that," observed Holmes as we
walked away. "He is, in my judgment, the fourth
smartest man in London, and for daring I am not
sure that he has not a claim to be third. I have
known something of him before."
"Evidently," said I, "Mr. Wilson`s assistant
counts for a good deal in this mystery of the
Red-headed League. I am sure that you inquired
your way merely in order that you might see
"The knees of his trousers."
"And what did you see?"
"What I expected to see."
"Why did you beat the pavement?"
"My dear doctor, this is a time for
observation, not for talk. We are spies in an
enemy`s country. We know something of
Saxe-Coburg Square. Let us now explore the parts
which lie behind it."
The road in which we found ourselves as we
turned round the corner from the retired
Saxe-Coburg Square presented as great a contrast
to it as the front of a picture does to the
back. It was one of the main arteries which
conveyed the traffic of the City to the north
and west. The roadway was blocked with the
immense stream of commerce flowing in a double
tide inward and outward, while the footpaths
were black with the hurrying swarm of
pedestrians. It was difficult to realise as we
looked at the line of fine shops and stately
business premises that they really abutted on
the other side upon the faded and stagnant
square which we had just quitted.
"Let me see," said Holmes, standing at the
corner and glancing along the line, "I should
like just to remember the order of the houses
here. It is a hobby of mine to have an exact
knowledge of London. There is Mortimer`s, the
tobacconist, the little newspaper shop, the
Coburg branch of the City and Suburban Bank, the
Vegetarian Restaurant, and McFarlane`s
carriage-building depot. That carries us right
on to the other block. And now, Doctor, we`ve
done our work, so it`s time we had some play. A
sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to
violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy
and harmony, and there are no red-headed clients
to vex us with their conundrums."
My friend was an enthusiastic musician, being
himself not only a very capable performer but a
composer of no ordinary merit. All the afternoon
he sat in the stalls wrapped in the most perfect
happiness, gently waving his long, thin fingers
in time to the music, while his gently smiling
face and his languid, dreamy eyes were as unlike
those of Holmes the sleuth-hound, Holmes the
relentless, keen-witted, ready-handed criminal
agent, as it was possible to conceive. In his
singular character the dual nature alternately
asserted itself, and his extreme exactness and
astuteness represented, as I have often thought,
the reaction against the poetic and
contemplative mood which occasionally
predominated in him. The swing of his nature
took him from extreme languor to devouring
energy; and, as I knew well, he was never so
truly formidable as when, for days on end, he
had been lounging in his armchair amid his
improvisations and his black-letter editions.
Then it was that the lust of the chase would
suddenly come upon him, and that his brilliant
reasoning power would rise to the level of
intuition, until those who were unacquainted
with his methods would look askance at him as on
a man whose knowledge was not that of other
mortals. When I saw him that afternoon so
enwrapped in the music at St. James`s Hall I
felt that an evil time might be coming upon
those whom he had set himself to hunt down.
"You want to go home, no doubt, Doctor," he
remarked as we emerged.
"Yes, it would be as well."
"And I have some business to do which will
take some hours. This business at Coburg Square
"A considerable crime is in contemplation. I
have every reason to believe that we shall be in
time to stop it. But to-day being Saturday
rather complicates matters. I shall want your
"At what time?"
"Ten will be early enough."
"I shall be at Baker Street at ten."
"Very well. And, I say, Doctor, there may be
some little danger, so kindly put your army
revolver in your pocket." He waved his hand,
turned on his heel, and disappeared in an
instant among the crowd.
I trust that I am not more dense than my
neighbours, but I was always oppressed with a
sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with
Sherlock Holmes. Here I had heard what he had
heard, I had seen what he had seen, and yet from
his words it was evident that he saw clearly not
only what had happened but what was about to
happen, while to me the whole business was still
confused and grotesque. As I drove home to my
house in Kensington I thought over it all, from
the extraordinary story of the red-headed copier
of the "Encyclopaedia" down to the visit to
Saxe-Coburg Square, and the ominous words with
which he had parted from me. What was this
nocturnal expedition, and why should I go armed?
Where were we going, and what were we to do? I
had the hint from Holmes that this smooth-faced
pawnbroker`s assistant was a formidable man--a
man who might play a deep game. I tried to
puzzle it out, but gave it up in despair and set
the matter aside until night should bring an
It was a quarter-past nine when I started
from home and made my way across the Park, and
so through Oxford Street to Baker Street. Two
hansoms were standing at the door, and as I
entered the passage I heard the sound of voices
from above. On entering his room I found Holmes
in animated conversation with two men, one of
whom I recognised as Peter Jones, the official
police agent, while the other was a long, thin,
sad-faced man, with a very shiny hat and
oppressively respectable frock-coat.
"Ha! Our party is complete," said Holmes,
buttoning up his pea-jacket and taking his heavy
hunting crop from the rack. "Watson, I think you
know Mr. Jones, of Scotland Yard? Let me
introduce you to Mr. Merryweather, who is to be
our companion in to-night`s adventure."
"We`re hunting in couples again, Doctor, you
see," said Jones in his consequential way. "Our
friend here is a wonderful man for starting a
chase. All he wants is an old dog to help him to
do the running down."
"I hope a wild goose may not prove to be the
end of our chase," observed Mr. Merryweather
"You may place considerable confidence in Mr.
Holmes, sir," said the police agent loftily. "He
has his own little methods, which are, if he
won`t mind my saying so, just a little too
theoretical and fantastic, but he has the
makings of a detective in him. It is not too
much to say that once or twice, as in that
business of the Sholto murder and the Agra
treasure, he has been more nearly correct than
the official force."
"Oh, if you say so, Mr. Jones, it is all
right," said the stranger with deference.
"Still, I confess that I miss my rubber. It is
the first Saturday night for seven-and-twenty
years that I have not had my rubber."
"I think you will find," said Sherlock
Holmes, "that you will play for a higher stake
to-night than you have ever done yet, and that
the play will be more exciting. For you, Mr.
Merryweather, the stake will be some 30,000
pounds; and for you, Jones, it will be the man
upon whom you wish to lay your hands."
"John Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and
forger. He`s a young man, Mr. Merryweather, but
he is at the head of his profession, and I would
rather have my bracelets on him than on any
criminal in London. He`s a remarkable man, is
young John Clay. His grandfather was a royal
duke, and he himself has been to Eton and
Oxford. His brain is as cunning as his fingers,
and though we meet signs of him at every turn,
we never know where to find the man himself.
He`ll crack a crib in Scotland one week, and be
raising money to build an orphanage in Cornwall
the next. I`ve been on his track for years and
have never set eyes on him yet."
"I hope that I may have the pleasure of
introducing you to-night. I`ve had one or two
little turns also with Mr. John Clay, and I
agree with you that he is at the head of his
profession. It is past ten, however, and quite
time that we started. If you two will take the
first hansom, Watson and I will follow in the
Sherlock Holmes was not very communicative
during the long drive and lay back in the cab
humming the tunes which he had heard in the
afternoon. We rattled through an endless
labyrinth of gas-lit streets until we emerged
into Farrington Street.
"We are close there now," my friend remarked.
"This fellow Merryweather is a bank director,
and personally interested in the matter. I
thought it as well to have Jones with us also.
He is not a bad fellow, though an absolute
imbecile in his profession. He has one positive
virtue. He is as brave as a bulldog and as
tenacious as a lobster if he gets his claws upon
anyone. Here we are, and they are waiting for
We had reached the same crowded thoroughfare
in which we had found ourselves in the morning.
Our cabs were dismissed, and, following the
guidance of Mr. Merryweather, we passed down a
narrow passage and through a side door, which he
opened for us. Within there was a small
corridor, which ended in a very massive iron
gate. This also was opened, and led down a
flight of winding stone steps, which terminated
at another formidable gate. Mr. Merryweather
stopped to light a lantern, and then conducted
us down a dark, earth-smelling passage, and so,
after opening a third door, into a huge vault or
cellar, which was piled all round with crates
and massive boxes.
"You are not very vulnerable from above,"
Holmes remarked as he held up the lantern and
gazed about him.
"Nor from below," said Mr. Merryweather,
striking his stick upon the flags which lined
the floor. "Why, dear me, it sounds quite
hollow!" he remarked, looking up in surprise.
"I must really ask you to be a little more
quiet!" said Holmes severely. "You have already
imperilled the whole success of our expedition.
Might I beg that you would have the goodness to
sit down upon one of those boxes, and not to
The solemn Mr. Merryweather perched himself
upon a crate, with a very injured expression
upon his face, while Holmes fell upon his knees
upon the floor and, with the lantern and a
magnifying lens, began to examine minutely the
cracks between the stones. A few seconds
sufficed to satisfy him, for he sprang to his
feet again and put his glass in his pocket.
"We have at least an hour before us," he
remarked, "for they can hardly take any steps
until the good pawnbroker is safely in bed. Then
they will not lose a minute, for the sooner they
do their work the longer time they will have for
their escape. We are at present, Doctor--as no
doubt you have divined--in the cellar of the
City branch of one of the principal London
banks. Mr. Merryweather is the chairman of
directors, and he will explain to you that there
are reasons why the more daring criminals of
London should take a considerable interest in
this cellar at present."
"It is our French gold," whispered the
director. "We have had several warnings that an
attempt might be made upon it."
"Your French gold?"
"Yes. We had occasion some months ago to
strengthen our resources and borrowed for that
purpose 30,000 napoleons from the Bank of
France. It has become known that we have never
had occasion to unpack the money, and that it is
still lying in our cellar. The crate upon which
I sit contains 2,000 napoleons packed between
layers of lead foil. Our reserve of bullion is
much larger at present than is usually kept in a
single branch office, and the directors have had
misgivings upon the subject."
"Which were very well justified," observed
Holmes. "And now it is time that we arranged our
little plans. I expect that within an hour
matters will come to a head. In the meantime Mr.
Merryweather, we must put the screen over that
"And sit in the dark?"
"I am afraid so. I had brought a pack of
cards in my pocket, and I thought that, as we
were a partie carr you might have your rubber
after all. But I see that the enemy`s
preparations have gone so far that we cannot
risk the presence of a light. And, first of all,
we must choose our positions. These are daring
men, and though we shall take them at a
disadvantage, they may do us some harm unless we
are careful. I shall stand behind this crate,
and do you conceal yourselves behind those.
Then, when I flash a light upon them, close in
swiftly. If they fire, Watson, have no
compunction about shooting them down."
I placed my revolver, cocked, upon the top of
the wooden case behind which I crouched. Holmes
shot the slide across the front of his lantern
and left us in pitch darkness--such an absolute
darkness as I have never before experienced. The
smell of hot metal remained to assure us that
the light was still there, ready to flash out at
a moment`s notice. To me, with my nerves worked
up to a pitch of expectancy, there was something
depressing and subduing in the sudden gloom, and
in the cold dank air of the vault.
"They have but one retreat," whispered
Holmes. "That is back through the house into
Saxe-Coburg Square. I hope that you have done
what I asked you, Jones?"
"I have an inspector and two officers waiting
at the front door."
"Then we have stopped all the holes. And now
we must be silent and wait."
What a time it seemed! From comparing notes
afterwards it was but an hour and a quarter, yet
it appeared to me that the night must have
almost gone and the dawn be breaking above us.
My limbs were weary and stiff, for I feared to
change my position; yet my nerves were worked up
to the highest pitch of tension, and my hearing
was so acute that I could not only hear the
gentle breathing of my companions, but I could
distinguish the deeper, heavier in-breath of the
bulky Jones from the thin, sighing note of the
bank director. From my position I could look
over the case in the direction of the floor.
Suddenly my eyes caught the glint of a light.
At first it was but a lurid spark upon the
stone pavement. Then it lengthened out until it
became a yellow line, and then, without any
warning or sound, a gash seemed to open and a
hand appeared, a white, almost womanly hand,
which felt about in the centre of the little
area of light. For a minute or more the hand,
with its writhing fingers, protruded out of the
floor. Then it was withdrawn as suddenly as it
appeared, and all was dark again save the single
lurid spark which marked a chink between the
Its disappearance, however, was but
momentary. With a rending, tearing sound, one of
the broad, white stones turned over upon its
side and left a square, gaping hole, through
which streamed the light of a lantern. Over the
edge there peeped a clean-cut, boyish face,
which looked keenly about it, and then, with a
hand on either side of the aperture, drew itself
shoulder-high and waist-high, until one knee
rested upon the edge. In another instant he
stood at the side of the hole and was hauling
after him a companion, lithe and small like
himself, with a pale face and a shock of very
"It`s all clear," he whispered. "Have you the
chisel and the bags? Great Scott! Jump, Archie,
jump, and I`ll swing for it!"
Sherlock Holmes had sprung out and seized the
intruder by the collar. The other dived down the
hole, and I heard the sound of rending cloth as
Jones clutched at his skirts. The light flashed
upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes`
hunting crop came down on the man`s wrist, and
the pistol clinked upon the stone floor.
"It`s no use, John Clay," said Holmes
blandly. "You have no chance at all."
"So I see," the other answered with the
utmost coolness. "I fancy that my pal is all
right, though I see you have got his
"There are three men waiting for him at the
door," said Holmes.
"Oh, indeed! You seem to have done the thing
very completely. I must compliment you."
"And I you," Holmes answered. "Your
red-headed idea was very new and effective."
"You`ll see your pal again presently," said
Jones. "He`s quicker at climbing down holes than
I am. Just hold out while I fix the derbies."
"I beg that you will not touch me with your
filthy hands," remarked our prisoner as the
handcuffs clattered upon his wrists. "You may
not be aware that I have royal blood in my
veins. Have the goodness, also, when you address
me always to say `sir` and `please.`"
"All right," said Jones with a stare and a
snigger. "Well, would you please, sir, march
upstairs, where we can get a cab to carry your
Highness to the police-station?"
"That is better," said John Clay serenely. He
made a sweeping bow to the three of us and
walked quietly off in the custody of the
"Really, Mr. Holmes," said Mr. Merryweather
as we followed them from the cellar, "I do not
know how the bank can thank you or repay you.
There is no doubt that you have detected and
defeated in the most complete manner one of the
most determined attempts at bank robbery that
have ever come within my experience."
"I have had one or two little scores of my
own to settle with Mr. John Clay," said Holmes.
"I have been at some small expense over this
matter, which I shall expect the bank to refund,
but beyond that I am amply repaid by having had
an experience which is in many ways unique, and
by hearing the very remarkable narrative of the
"You see, Watson," he explained in the early
hours of the morning as we sat over a glass of
whisky and soda in Baker Street, "it was
perfectly obvious from the first that the only
possible object of this rather fantastic
business of the advertisement of the League, and
the copying of the `Encyclopaedia,` must be to
get this not over-bright pawnbroker out of the
way for a number of hours every day. It was a
curious way of managing it, but, really, it
would be difficult to suggest a better. The
method was no doubt suggested to Clay`s
ingenious mind by the colour of his accomplice`s
hair. The 4 pounds a week was a lure which must
draw him, and what was it to them, who were
playing for thousands? They put in the
advertisement, one rogue has the temporary
office, the other rogue incites the man to apply
for it, and together they manage to secure his
absence every morning in the week. From the time
that I heard of the assistant having come for
half wages, it was obvious to me that he had
some strong motive for securing the situation."
"But how could you guess what the motive
"Had there been women in the house, I should
have suspected a mere vulgar intrigue. That,
however, was out of the question. The man`s
business was a small one, and there was nothing
in his house which could account for such
elaborate preparations, and such an expenditure
as they were at. It must, then, be something out
of the house. What could it be? I thought of the
assistant`s fondness for photography, and his
trick of vanishing into the cellar. The cellar!
There was the end of this tangled clue. Then I
made inquiries as to this mysterious assistant
and found that I had to deal with one of the
coolest and most daring criminals in London. He
was doing something in the cellar--something
which took many hours a day for months on end.
What could it be, once more? I could think of
nothing save that he was running a tunnel to
some other building.
"So far I had got when we went to visit the
scene of action. I surprised you by beating upon
the pavement with my stick. I was ascertaining
whether the cellar stretched out in front or
behind. It was not in front. Then I rang the
bell, and, as I hoped, the assistant answered
it. We have had some skirmishes, but we had
never set eyes upon each other before. I hardly
looked at his face. His knees were what I wished
to see. You must yourself have remarked how
worn, wrinkled, and stained they were. They
spoke of those hours of burrowing. The only
remaining point was what they were burrowing
for. I walked round the corner, saw the City and
Suburban Bank abutted on our friend`s premises,
and felt that I had solved my problem. When you
drove home after the concert I called upon
Scotland Yard and upon the chairman of the bank
directors, with the result that you have seen."
"And how could you tell that they would make
their attempt to-night?" I asked.
"Well, when they closed their League offices
that was a sign that they cared no longer about
Mr. Jabez Wilson`s presence--in other words,
that they had completed their tunnel. But it was
essential that they should use it soon, as it
might be discovered, or the bullion might be
removed. Saturday would suit them better than
any other day, as it would give them two days
for their escape. For all these reasons I
expected them to come to-night."
"You reasoned it out beautifully," I
exclaimed in unfeigned admiration. "It is so
long a chain, and yet every link rings true."
"It saved me from ennui," he answered,
yawning. "Alas! I already feel it closing in
upon me. My life is spent in one long effort to
escape from the commonplaces of existence. These
little problems help me to do so."
"And you are a benefactor of the race," said
He shrugged his shoulders. "Well, perhaps,
after all, it is of some little use," he
remarked. "`L`homme c`est rien--l`oeuvre c`est
tout,` as Gustave Flaubert wrote to George
A CASE OF IDENTITY
"My dear fellow," said Sherlock Holmes as we sat on either side of the
fire in his lodgings at Baker Street, "life is
infinitely stranger than anything which the mind
of man could invent. We would not dare to
conceive the things which are really mere
commonplaces of existence. If we could fly out
of that window hand in hand, hover over this
great city, gently remove the roofs, and peep in
at the queer things which are going on, the
strange coincidences, the plannings, the
cross-purposes, the wonderful chains of events,
working through generations, and leading to the
most outrй Іesults, it would make all fiction
with its conventionalities and foreseen
conclusions most stale and unprofitable."
"And yet I am not convinced of it," I
answered. "The cases which come to light in the
papers are, as a rule, bald enough, and vulgar
enough. We have in our police reports realism
pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result
is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating
"A certain selection and discretion must be
used in producing a realistic effect," remarked
Holmes. "This is wanting in the police report,
where more stress is laid, perhaps, upon the
platitudes of the magistrate than upon the
details, which to an observer contain the vital
essence of the whole matter. Depend upon it,
there is nothing so unnatural as the
I smiled and shook my head. "I can quite
understand your thinking so." I said. "Of
course, in your position of unofficial adviser
and helper to everybody who is absolutely
puzzled, throughout three continents, you are
brought in contact with all that is strange and
bizarre. But here"--I picked up the morning
paper from the ground--"let us put it to a
practical test. Here is the first heading upon
which I come. `A husband`s cruelty to his wife.`
There is half a column of print, but I know
without reading it that it is all perfectly
familiar to me. There is, of course, the other
woman, the drink, the push, the blow, the
bruise, the sympathetic sister or landlady. The
crudest of writers could invent nothing more
"Indeed, your example is an unfortunate one
for your argument," said Holmes, taking the
paper and glancing his eye down it. "This is the
Dundas separation case, and, as it happens, I
was engaged in clearing up some small points in
connection with it. The husband was a
teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the
conduct complained of was that he had drifted
into the habit of winding up every meal by
taking out his false teeth and hurling them at
his wife, which, you will allow, is not an
action likely to occur to the imagination of the
average story-teller. Take a pinch of snuff,
Doctor, and acknowledge that I have scored over
you in your example."
He held out his snuffbox of old gold, with a
great amethyst in the centre of the lid. Its
splendour was in such contrast to his homely
ways and simple life that I could not help
commenting upon it.
"Ah," said he, "I forgot that I had not seen
you for some weeks. It is a little souvenir from
the King of Bohemia in return for my assistance
in the case of the Irene Adler papers."
"And the ring?" I asked, glancing at a
remarkable brilliant which sparkled upon his
"It was from the reigning family of Holland,
though the matter in which I served them was of
such delicacy that I cannot confide it even to
you, who have been good enough to chronicle one
or two of my little problems."
"And have you any on hand just now?" I asked
"Some ten or twelve, but none which present
any feature of interest. They are important, you
understand, without being interesting. Indeed, I
have found that it is usually in unimportant
matters that there is a field for the
observation, and for the quick analysis of cause
and effect which gives the charm to an
investigation. The larger crimes are apt to be
the simpler, for the bigger the crime the more
obvious, as a rule, is the motive. In these
cases, save for one rather intricate matter
which has been referred to me from Marseilles,
there is nothing which presents any features of
interest. It is possible, however, that I may
have something better before very many minutes
are over, for this is one of my clients, or I am
He had risen from his chair and was standing
between the parted blinds gazing down into the
dull neutral-tinted London street. Looking over
his shoulder, I saw that on the pavement
opposite there stood a large woman with a heavy
fur boa round her neck, and a large curling red
feather in a broad-brimmed hat which was tilted
in a coquettish Duchess of Devonshire fashion
over her ear. From under this great panoply she
peeped up in a nervous, hesitating fashion at
our windows, while her body oscillated backward
and forward, and her fingers fidgeted with her
glove buttons. Suddenly, with a plunge, as of
the swimmer who leaves the bank, she hurried
across the road, and we heard the sharp clang of
"I have seen those symptoms before," said
Holmes, throwing his cigarette into the fire.
"Oscillation upon the pavement always means an
affaire de coeur. She would like advice, but is
not sure that the matter is not too delicate for
communication. And yet even here we may
discriminate. When a woman has been seriously
wronged by a man she no longer oscillates, and
the usual symptom is a broken bell wire. Here we
may take it that there is a love matter, but
that the maiden is not so much angry as
perplexed, or grieved. But here she comes in
person to resolve our doubts."
As he spoke there was a tap at the door, and
the boy in buttons entered to announce Miss Mary
Sutherland, while the lady herself loomed behind
his small black figure like a full-sailed
merchant-man behind a tiny pilot boat. Sherlock
Holmes welcomed her with the easy courtesy for
which he was remarkable, and, having closed the
door and bowed her into an armchair, he looked
her over in the minute and yet abstracted
fashion which was peculiar to him.
"Do you not find," he said, "that with your
short sight it is a little trying to do so much
"I did at first," she answered, "but now I
know where the letters are without looking."
Then, suddenly realising the full purport of his
words, she gave a violent start and looked up,
with fear and astonishment upon her broad,
good-humoured face. "You`ve heard about me, Mr.
Holmes," she cried, "else how could you know all
"Never mind," said Holmes, laughing; "it is
my business to know things. Perhaps I have
trained myself to see what others overlook. If
not, why should you come to consult me?"
"I came to you, sir, because I heard of you
from Mrs. Etherege, whose husband you found so
easy when the police and everyone had given him
up for dead. Oh, Mr. Holmes, I wish you would do
as much for me. I`m not rich, but still I have a
hundred a year in my own right, besides the
little that I make by the machine, and I would
give it all to know what has become of Mr.
"Why did you come away to consult me in such
a hurry?" asked Sherlock Holmes, with his
finger-tips together and his eyes to the
Again a startled look came over the somewhat
vacuous face of Miss Mary Sutherland. "Yes, I
did bang out of the house," she said, "for it
made me angry to see the easy way in which Mr.
Windibank--that is, my father--took it all. He
would not go to the police, and he would not go
to you, and so at last, as he would do nothing
and kept on saying that there was no harm done,
it made me mad, and I just on with my things and
came right away to you."
"Your father," said Holmes, "your stepfather,
surely, since the name is different."
"Yes, my stepfather. I call him father,
though it sounds funny, too, for he is only five
years and two months older than myself."
"And your mother is alive?"
"Oh, yes, mother is alive and well. I wasn`t
best pleased, Mr. Holmes, when she married again
so soon after father`s death, and a man who was
nearly fifteen years younger than herself.
Father was a plumber in the Tottenham Court
Road, and he left a tidy business behind him,
which mother carried on with Mr. Hardy, the
foreman; but when Mr. Windibank came he made her
sell the business, for he was very superior,
being a traveller in wines. They got 4700 pounds
for the goodwill and interest, which wasn`t near
as much as father could have got if he had been
I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes
impatient under this rambling and
inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary,
he had listened with the greatest concentration
"Your own little income," he asked, "does it
come out of the business?"
"Oh, no, sir. It is quite separate and was
left me by my uncle Ned in Auckland. It is in
New Zealand stock, paying 4 1/2 per cent. Two
thousand five hundred pounds was the amount, but
I can only touch the interest."
"You interest me extremely," said Holmes.
"And since you draw so large a sum as a hundred
a year, with what you earn into the bargain, you
no doubt travel a little and indulge yourself in
every way. I believe that a single lady can get
on very nicely upon an income of about 60
"I could do with much less than that, Mr.
Holmes, but you understand that as long as I
live at home I don`t wish to be a burden to
them, and so they have the use of the money just
while I am staying with them. Of course, that is
only just for the time. Mr. Windibank draws my
interest every quarter and pays it over to
mother, and I find that I can do pretty well
with what I earn at typewriting. It brings me
twopence a sheet, and I can often do from
fifteen to twenty sheets in a day."
"You have made your position very clear to
me," said Holmes. "This is my friend, Dr.
Watson, before whom you can speak as freely as
before myself. Kindly tell us now all about your
connection with Mr. Hosmer Angel."
A flush stole over Miss Sutherland`s face,
and she picked nervously at the fringe of her
jacket. "I met him first at the gasfitters`
ball," she said. "They used to send father
tickets when he was alive, and then afterwards
they remembered us, and sent them to mother. Mr.
Windibank did not wish us to go. He never did
wish us to go anywhere. He would get quite mad
if I wanted so much as to join a Sunday-school
treat. But this time I was set on going, and I
would go; for what right had he to prevent? He
said the folk were not fit for us to know, when
all father`s friends were to be there. And he
said that I had nothing fit to wear, when I had
my purple plush that I had never so much as
taken out of the drawer. At last, when nothing
else would do, he went off to France upon the
business of the firm, but we went, mother and I,
with Mr. Hardy, who used to be our foreman, and
it was there I met Mr. Hosmer Angel."
"I suppose," said Holmes, "that when Mr.
Windibank came back from France he was very
annoyed at your having gone to the ball."
"Oh, well, he was very good about it. He
laughed, I remember, and shrugged his shoulders,
and said there was no use denying anything to a
woman, for she would have her way."
"I see. Then at the gasfitters` ball you met,
as I understand, a gentleman called Mr. Hosmer
"Yes, sir. I met him that night, and he
called next day to ask if we had got home all
safe, and after that we met him--that is to say,
Mr. Holmes, I met him twice for walks, but after
that father came back again, and Mr. Hosmer
Angel could not come to the house any more."
"Well, you know father didn`t like anything
of the sort. He wouldn`t have any visitors if he
could help it, and he used to say that a woman
should be happy in her own family circle. But
then, as I used to say to mother, a woman wants
her own circle to begin with, and I had not got
"But how about Mr. Hosmer Angel? Did he make
no attempt to see you?"
"Well, father was going off to France again
in a week, and Hosmer wrote and said that it
would be safer and better not to see each other
until he had gone. We could write in the
meantime, and he used to write every day. I took
the letters in in the morning, so there was no
need for father to know."
"Were you engaged to the gentleman at this
"Oh, yes, Mr. Holmes. We were engaged after
the first walk that we took. Hosmer--Mr.
Angel--was a cashier in an office in Leadenhall
"That`s the worst of it, Mr. Holmes, I don`t
"Where did he live, then?"
"He slept on the premises."
"And you don`t know his address?"
"No--except that it was Leadenhall Street."
"Where did you address your letters, then?"
"To the Leadenhall Street Post Office, to be
left till called for. He said that if they were
sent to the office he would be chaffed by all
the other clerks about having letters from a
lady, so I offered to typewrite them, like he
did his, but he wouldn`t have that, for he said
that when I wrote them they seemed to come from
me, but when they were typewritten he always
felt that the machine had come between us. That
will just show you how fond he was of me, Mr.
Holmes, and the little things that he would
"It was most suggestive," said Holmes. "It
has long been an axiom of mine that the little
things are infinitely the most important. Can
you remember any other little things about Mr.
"He was a very shy man, Mr. Holmes. He would
rather walk with me in the evening than in the
daylight, for he said that he hated to be
conspicuous. Very retiring and gentlemanly he
was. Even his voice was gentle. He`d had the
quinsy and swollen glands when he was young, he
told me, and it had left him with a weak throat,
and a hesitating, whispering fashion of speech.
He was always well dressed, very neat and plain,
but his eyes were weak, just as mine are, and he
wore tinted glasses against the glare."
"Well, and what happened when Mr. Windibank,
your stepfather, returned to France?"
"Mr. Hosmer Angel came to the house again and
proposed that we should marry before father came
back. He was in dreadful earnest and made me
swear, with my hands on the Testament, that
whatever happened I would always be true to him.
Mother said he was quite right to make me swear,
and that it was a sign of his passion. Mother
was all in his favour from the first and was
even fonder of him than I was. Then, when they
talked of marrying within the week, I began to
ask about father; but they both said never to
mind about father, but just to tell him
afterwards, and mother said she would make it
all right with him. I didn`t quite like that,
Mr. Holmes. It seemed funny that I should ask
his leave, as he was only a few years older than
me; but I didn`t want to do anything on the sly,
so I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the
company has its French offices, but the letter
came back to me on the very morning of the
"It missed him, then?"
"Yes, sir; for he had started to England just
before it arrived."
"Ha! that was unfortunate. Your wedding was
arranged, then, for the Friday. Was it to be in
"Yes, sir, but very quietly. It was to be at
St. Saviour`s, near King`s Cross, and we were to
have breakfast afterwards at the St. Pancras
Hotel. Hosmer came for us in a hansom, but as
there were two of us he put us both into it and
stepped himself into a four-wheeler, which
happened to be the only other cab in the street.
We got to the church first, and when the
four-wheeler drove up we waited for him to step
out, but he never did, and when the cabman got
down from the box and looked there was no one
there! The cabman said that he could not imagine
what had become of him, for he had seen him get
in with his own eyes. That was last Friday, Mr.
Holmes, and I have never seen or heard anything
since then to throw any light upon what became
"It seems to me that you have been very
shamefully treated," said Holmes.
"Oh, no, sir! He was too good and kind to
leave me so. Why, all the morning he was saying
to me that, whatever happened, I was to be true;
and that even if something quite unforeseen
occurred to separate us, I was always to
remember that I was pledged to him, and that he
would claim his pledge sooner or later. It
seemed strange talk for a wedding-morning, but
what has happened since gives a meaning to it."
"Most certainly it does. Your own opinion is,
then, that some unforeseen catastrophe has
occurred to him?"
"Yes, sir. I believe that he foresaw some
danger, or else he would not have talked so. And
then I think that what he foresaw happened."
"But you have no notion as to what it could
"One more question. How did your mother take
"She was angry, and said that I was never to
speak of the matter again."
"And your father? Did you tell him?"
"Yes; and he seemed to think, with me, that
something had happened, and that I should hear
of Hosmer again. As he said, what interest could
anyone have in bringing me to the doors of the
church, and then leaving me? Now, if he had
borrowed my money, or if he had married me and
got my money settled on him, there might be some
reason, but Hosmer was very independent about
money and never would look at a shilling of
mine. And yet, what could have happened? And why
could he not write? Oh, it drives me half-mad to
think of it, and I can`t sleep a wink at night."
She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff
and began to sob heavily into it.
"I shall glance into the case for you," said
Holmes, rising, "and I have no doubt that we
shall reach some definite result. Let the weight
of the matter rest upon me now, and do not let
your mind dwell upon it further. Above all, try
to let Mr. Hosmer Angel vanish from your memory,
as he has done from your life."
"Then you don`t think I`ll see him again?"
"I fear not."
"Then what has happened to him?"
"You will leave that question in my hands. I
should like an accurate description of him and
any letters of his which you can spare."
"I advertised for him in last Saturday`s
Chronicle," said she. "Here is the slip and here
are four letters from him."
"Thank you. And your address?"
"No. 31 Lyon Place, Camberwell."
"Mr. Angel`s address you never had, I
understand. Where is your father`s place of
"He travels for Westhouse & Marbank, the
great claret importers of Fenchurch Street."
"Thank you. You have made your statement very
clearly. You will leave the papers here, and
remember the advice which I have given you. Let
the whole incident be a sealed book, and do not
allow it to affect your life."
"You are very kind, Mr. Holmes, but I cannot
do that. I shall be true to Hosmer. He shall
find me ready when he comes back."
For all the preposterous hat and the vacuous
face, there was something noble in the simple
faith of our visitor which compelled our
respect. She laid her little bundle of papers
upon the table and went her way, with a promise
to come again whenever she might be summoned.
Sherlock Holmes sat silent for a few minutes
with his fingertips still pressed together, his
legs stretched out in front of him, and his gaze
directed upward to the ceiling. Then he took
down from the rack the old and oily clay pipe,
which was to him as a counsellor, and, having
lit it, he leaned back in his chair, with the
thick blue cloud-wreaths spinning up from him,
and a look of infinite languor in his face.
"Quite an interesting study, that maiden," he
observed. "I found her more interesting than her
little problem, which, by the way, is rather a
trite one. You will find parallel cases, if you
consult my index, in Andover in `77, and there
was something of the sort at The Hague last
year. Old as is the idea, however, there were
one or two details which were new to me. But the
maiden herself was most instructive."
"You appeared to read a good deal upon her
which was quite invisible to me," I remarked.
"Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did
not know where to look, and so you missed all
that was important. I can never bring you to
realise the importance of sleeves, the
suggestiveness of thumb-nails, or the great
issues that may hang from a boot-lace. Now, what
did you gather from that woman`s appearance?
"Well, she had a slate-coloured,
broad-brimmed straw hat, with a feather of a
brickish red. Her jacket was black, with black
beads sewn upon it, and a fringe of little black
jet ornaments. Her dress was brown, rather
darker than coffee colour, with a little purple
plush at the neck and sleeves. Her gloves were
greyish and were worn through at the right
forefinger. Her boots I didn`t observe. She had
small round, hanging gold earrings, and a
general air of being fairly well-to-do in a
vulgar, comfortable, easy-going way."
Sherlock Holmes clapped his hands softly
together and chuckled.
"`Pon my word, Watson, you are coming along
wonderfully. You have really done very well
indeed. It is true that you have missed
everything of importance, but you have hit upon
the method, and you have a quick eye for colour.
Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but
concentrate yourself upon details. My first
glance is always at a woman`s sleeve. In a man
it is perhaps better first to take the knee of
the trouser. As you observe, this woman had
plush upon her sleeves, which is a most useful
material for showing traces. The double line a
little above the wrist, where the typewritist
presses against the table, was beautifully
defined. The sewing-machine, of the hand type,
leaves a similar mark, but only on the left arm,
and on the side of it farthest from the thumb,
instead of being right across the broadest part,
as this was. I then glanced at her face, and,
observing the dint of a pince-nez at either side
of her nose, I ventured a remark upon short
sight and typewriting, which seemed to surprise
"It surprised me."
"But, surely, it was obvious. I was then much
surprised and interested on glancing down to
observe that, though the boots which she was
wearing were not unlike each other, they were
really odd ones; the one having a slightly
decorated toe-cap, and the other a plain one.
One was buttoned only in the two lower buttons
out of five, and the other at the first, third,
and fifth. Now, when you see that a young lady,
otherwise neatly dressed, has come away from
home with odd boots, half-buttoned, it is no
great deduction to say that she came away in a
"And what else?" I asked, keenly interested,
as I always was, by my friend`s incisive
"I noted, in passing, that she had written a
note before leaving home but after being fully
dressed. You observed that her right glove was
torn at the forefinger, but you did not
apparently see that both glove and finger were
stained with violet ink. She had written in a
hurry and dipped her pen too deep. It must have
been this morning, or the mark would not remain
clear upon the finger. All this is amusing,
though rather elementary, but I must go back to
business, Watson. Would you mind reading me the
advertised description of Mr. Hosmer Angel?"
I held the little printed slip to the light.
"Missing," it said, "on the morning of the
fourteenth, a gentleman named Hosmer Angel.
About five ft. seven in. in height; strongly
built, sallow complexion, black hair, a little
bald in the centre, bushy, black side-whiskers
and moustache; tinted glasses, slight infirmity
of speech. Was dressed, when last seen, in black
frock-coat faced with silk, black waistcoat,
gold Albert chain, and grey Harris tweed
trousers, with brown gaiters over elastic-sided
boots. Known to have been employed in an office
in Leadenhall Street. Anybody bringing--"
"That will do," said Holmes. "As to the
letters," he continued, glancing over them,
"they are very commonplace. Absolutely no clue
in them to Mr. Angel, save that he quotes Balzac
once. There is one remarkable point, however,
which will no doubt strike you."
"They are typewritten," I remarked.
"Not only that, but the signature is
typewritten. Look at the neat little `Hosmer
Angel` at the bottom. There is a date, you see,
but no superscription except Leadenhall Street,
which is rather vague. The point about the
signature is very suggestive --in fact, we may
call it conclusive."
"My dear fellow, is it possible you do not
see how strongly it bears upon the case?"
"I cannot say that I do unless it were that
he wished to be able to deny his signature if an
action for breach of promise were instituted."
"No, that was not the point. However, I shall
write two letters, which should settle the
matter. One is to a firm in the City, the other
is to the young lady`s stepfather, Mr.
Windibank, asking him whether he could meet us
here at six o`clock tomorrow evening. It is just
as well that we should do business with the male
relatives. And now, Doctor, we can do nothing
until the answers to those letters come, so we
may put our little problem upon the shelf for
I had had so many reasons to believe in my
friend`s subtle powers of reasoning and
extraordinary energy in action that I felt that
he must have some solid grounds for the assured
and easy demeanour with which he treated the
singular mystery which he had been called upon
to fathom. Once only had I known him to fail, in
the case of the King of Bohemia and of the Irene
Adler photograph; but when I looked back to the
weird business of the Sign of Four, and the
extraordinary circumstances connected with the
Study in Scarlet, I felt that it would be a
strange tangle indeed which he could not
I left him then, still puffing at his black
clay pipe, with the conviction that when I came
again on the next evening I would find that he
held in his hands all the clues which would lead
up to the identity of the disappearing
bridegroom of Miss Mary Sutherland.
A professional case of great gravity was
engaging my own attention at the time, and the
whole of next day I was busy at the bedside of
the sufferer. It was not until close upon six
o`clock that I found myself free and was able to
spring into a hansom and drive to Baker Street,
half afraid that I might be too late to assist
at the dй®Їuement of the little mystery. I found
Sherlock Holmes alone, however, half asleep,
with his long, thin form curled up in the
recesses of his armchair. A formidable array of
bottles and test-tubes, with the pungent cleanly
smell of hydrochloric acid, told me that he had
spent his day in the chemical work which was so
dear to him.
"Well, have you solved it?" I asked as I
"Yes. It was the bisulphate of baryta."
"No, no, the mystery!" I cried.
"Oh, that! I thought of the salt that I have
been working upon. There was never any mystery
in the matter, though, as I said yesterday, some
of the details are of interest. The only
drawback is that there is no law, I fear, that
can touch the scoundrel."
"Who was he, then, and what was his object in
deserting Miss Sutherland?"
The question was hardly out of my mouth, and
Holmes had not yet opened his lips to reply,
when we heard a heavy footfall in the passage
and a tap at the door.
"This is the girl`s stepfather, Mr. James
Windibank," said Holmes. "He has written to me
to say that he would be here at six. Come in!"
The man who entered was a sturdy,
middle-sized fellow, some thirty years of age,
clean-shaven, and sallow-skinned, with a bland,
insinuating manner, and a pair of wonderfully
sharp and penetrating grey eyes. He shot a
questioning glance at each of us, placed his
shiny top-hat upon the sideboard, and with a
slight bow sidled down into the nearest chair.
"Good-evening, Mr. James Windibank," said
Holmes. "I think that this typewritten letter is
from you, in which you made an appointment with
me for six o`clock?"
"Yes, sir. I am afraid that I am a little
late, but I am not quite my own master, you
know. I am sorry that Miss Sutherland has
troubled you about this little matter, for I
think it is far better not to wash linen of the
sort in public. It was quite against my wishes
that she came, but she is a very excitable,
impulsive girl, as you may have noticed, and she
is not easily controlled when she has made up
her mind on a point. Of course, I did not mind
you so much, as you are not connected with the
official police, but it is not pleasant to have
a family misfortune like this noised abroad.
Besides, it is a useless expense, for how could
you possibly find this Hosmer Angel?"
"On the contrary," said Holmes quietly; "I
have every reason to believe that I will succeed
in discovering Mr. Hosmer Angel."
Mr. Windibank gave a violent start and
dropped his gloves. "I am delighted to hear it,"
"It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes,
"that a typewriter has really quite as much
individuality as a man`s handwriting. Unless
they are quite new, no two of them write exactly
alike. Some letters get more worn than others,
and some wear only on one side. Now, you remark
in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that in
every case there is some little slurring over of
the `e,` and a slight defect in the tail of the
`r.` There are fourteen other characteristics,
but those are the more obvious."
"We do all our correspondence with this
machine at the office, and no doubt it is a
little worn," our visitor answered, glancing
keenly at Holmes with his bright little eyes.
"And now I will show you what is really a
very interesting study, Mr. Windibank," Holmes
continued. "I think of writing another little
monograph some of these days on the typewriter
and its relation to crime. It is a subject to
which I have devoted some little attention. I
have here four letters which purport to come
from the missing man. They are all typewritten.
In each case, not only are the `e`s` slurred and
the `r`s` tailless, but you will observe, if you
care to use my magnifying lens, that the
fourteen other characteristics to which I have
alluded are there as well."
Mr. Windibank sprang out of his chair and
picked up his hat. "I cannot waste time over
this sort of fantastic talk, Mr. Holmes," he
said. "If you can catch the man, catch him, and
let me know when you have done it."
"Certainly," said Holmes, stepping over and
turning the key in the door. "I let you know,
then, that I have caught him!"
"What! where?" shouted Mr. Windibank, turning
white to his lips and glancing about him like a
rat in a trap.
"Oh, it won`t do--really it won`t," said
Holmes suavely. "There is no possible getting
out of it, Mr. Windibank. It is quite too
transparent, and it was a very bad compliment
when you said that it was impossible for me to
solve so simple a question. That`s right! Sit
down and let us talk it over."
Our visitor collapsed into a chair, with a
ghastly face and a glitter of moisture on his
brow. "It--it`s not actionable," he stammered.
"I am very much afraid that it is not. But
between ourselves, Windibank, it was as cruel
and selfish and heartless a trick in a petty way
as ever came before me. Now, let me just run
over the course of events, and you will
contradict me if I go wrong."
The man sat huddled up in his chair, with his
head sunk upon his breast, like one who is
utterly crushed. Holmes stuck his feet up on the
corner of the mantelpiece and, leaning back with
his hands in his pockets, began talking, rather
to himself, as it seemed, than to us.
"The man married a woman very much older than
himself for her money," said he, "and he enjoyed
the use of the money of the daughter as long as
she lived with them. It was a considerable sum,
for people in their position, and the loss of it
would have made a serious difference. It was
worth an effort to preserve it. The daughter was
of a good, amiable disposition, but affectionate
and warm-hearted in her ways, so that it was
evident that with her fair personal advantages,
and her little income, she would not be allowed
to remain single long. Now her marriage would
mean, of course, the loss of a hundred a year,
so what does her stepfather do to prevent it? He
takes the obvious course of keeping her at home
and forbidding her to seek the company of people
of her own age. But soon he found that that
would not answer forever. She became restive,
insisted upon her rights, and finally announced
her positive intention of going to a certain
ball. What does her clever stepfather do then?
He conceives an idea more creditable to his head
than to his heart. With the connivance and
assistance of his wife he disguised himself,
covered those keen eyes with tinted glasses,
masked the face with a moustache and a pair of
bushy whiskers, sunk that clear voice into an
insinuating whisper, and doubly secure on
account of the girl`s short sight, he appears as
Mr. Hosmer Angel, and keeps off other lovers by
making love himself."
"It was only a joke at first," groaned our
visitor. "We never thought that she would have
been so carried away."
"Very likely not. However that may be, the
young lady was very decidedly carried away, and,
having quite made up her mind that her
stepfather was in France, the suspicion of
treachery never for an instant entered her mind.
She was flattered by the gentleman`s attentions,
and the effect was increased by the loudly
expressed admiration of her mother. Then Mr.
Angel began to call, for it was obvious that the
matter should be pushed as far as it would go if
a real effect were to be produced. There were
meetings, and an engagement, which would finally
secure the girl`s affections from turning
towards anyone else. But the deception could not
be kept up forever. These pretended journeys to
France were rather cumbrous. The thing to do was
clearly to bring the business to an end in such
a dramatic manner that it would leave a
permanent impression upon the young lady`s mind
and prevent her from looking upon any other
suitor for some time to come. Hence those vows
of fidelity exacted upon a Testament, and hence
also the allusions to a possibility of something
happening on the very morning of the wedding.
James Windibank wished Miss Sutherland to be so
bound to Hosmer Angel, and so uncertain as to
his fate, that for ten years to come, at any
rate, she would not listen to another man. As
far as the church door he brought her, and then,
as he could go no farther, he conveniently
vanished away by the old trick of stepping in at
one door of a four-wheeler and out at the other.
I think that was the chain of events, Mr.
Our visitor had recovered something of his
assurance while Holmes had been talking, and he
rose from his chair now with a cold sneer upon
his pale face.
"It may be so, or it may not, Mr. Holmes,"
said he, "but if you are so very sharp you ought
to be sharp enough to know that it is you who
are breaking the law now, and not me. I have
done nothing actionable from the first, but as
long as you keep that door locked you lay
yourself open to an action for assault and
"The law cannot, as you say, touch you," said
Holmes, unlocking and throwing open the door,
"yet there never was a man who deserved
punishment more. If the young lady has a brother
or a friend, he ought to lay a whip across your
shoulders. By Jove!" he continued, flushing up
at the sight of the bitter sneer upon the man`s
face, "it is not part of my duties to my client,
but here`s a hunting crop handy, and I think I
shall just treat myself to--" He took two swift
steps to the whip, but before he could grasp it
there was a wild clatter of steps upon the
stairs, the heavy hall door banged, and from the
window we could see Mr. James Windibank running
at the top of his speed down the road.
"There`s a cold-blooded scoundrel!" said
Holmes, laughing, as he threw himself down into
his chair once more. "That fellow will rise from
crime to crime until he does something very bad,
and ends on a gallows. The case has, in some
respects, been not entirely devoid of interest."
"I cannot now entirely see all the steps of
your reasoning," I remarked.
"Well, of course it was obvious from the
first that this Mr. Hosmer Angel must have some
strong object for his curious conduct, and it
was equally clear that the only man who really
profited by the incident, as far as we could
see, was the stepfather. Then the fact that the
two men were never together, but that the one
always appeared when the other was away, was
suggestive. So were the tinted spectacles and
the curious voice, which both hinted at a
disguise, as did the bushy whiskers. My
suspicions were all confirmed by his peculiar
action in typewriting his signature, which, of
course, inferred that his handwriting was so
familiar to her that she would recognise even
the smallest sample of it. You see all these
isolated facts, together with many minor ones,
all pointed in the same direction."
"And how did you verify them?"
"Having once spotted my man, it was easy to
get corroboration. I knew the firm for which
this man worked. Having taken the printed
description. I eliminated everything from it
which could be the result of a disguise--the
whiskers, the glasses, the voice, and I sent it
to the firm, with a request that they would
inform me whether it answered to the description
of any of their travellers. I had already
noticed the peculiarities of the typewriter, and
I wrote to the man himself at his business
address asking him if he would come here. As I
expected, his reply was typewritten and revealed
the same trivial but characteristic defects. The
same post brought me a letter from Westhouse &
Marbank, of Fenchurch Street, to say that the
description tallied in every respect with that
of their employй¬Ќ James Windibank. Voilа ґout!"
"And Miss Sutherland?"
"If I tell her she will not believe me. You
may remember the old Persian saying, `There is
danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and
danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a
woman.` There is as much sense in Hafiz as in
Horace, and as much knowledge of the world."
THE BOSCOMBE VALLEY MYSTERY
We were seated at breakfast one morning, my wife and I, when the maid
brought in a telegram. It was from Sherlock
Holmes and ran in this way:
"Have you a couple of days to spare? Have
just been wired for from the west of England in
connection with Boscombe Valley tragedy. Shall
be glad if you will come with me. Air and
scenery perfect. Leave Paddington by the 11:15."
"What do you say, dear?" said my wife,
looking across at me. "Will you go?"
"I really don`t know what to say. I have a
fairly long list at present."
"Oh, Anstruther would do your work for you.
You have been looking a little pale lately. I
think that the change would do you good, and you
are always so interested in Mr. Sherlock Holmes`
"I should be ungrateful if I were not, seeing
what I gained through one of them," I answered.
"But if I am to go, I must pack at once, for I
have only half an hour."
My experience of camp life in Afghanistan had
at least had the effect of making me a prompt
and ready traveller. My wants were few and
simple, so that in less than the time stated I
was in a cab with my valise, rattling away to
Paddington Station. Sherlock Holmes was pacing
up and down the platform, his tall, gaunt figure
made even gaunter and taller by his long grey
travelling-cloak and close-fitting cloth cap.
"It is really very good of you to come,
Watson," said he. "It makes a considerable
difference to me, having someone with me on whom
I can thoroughly rely. Local aid is always
either worthless or else biassed. If you will
keep the two corner seats I shall get the
We had the carriage to ourselves save for an
immense litter of papers which Holmes had
brought with him. Among these he rummaged and
read, with intervals of note-taking and of
meditation, until we were past Reading. Then he
suddenly rolled them all into a gigantic ball
and tossed them up onto the rack.
"Have you heard anything of the case?" he
"Not a word. I have not seen a paper for some
"The London press has not had very full
accounts. I have just been looking through all
the recent papers in order to master the
particulars. It seems, from what I gather, to be
one of those simple cases which are so extremely
"That sounds a little paradoxical."
"But it is profoundly true. Singularity is
almost invariably a clue. The more featureless
and commonplace a crime is, the more difficult
it is to bring it home. In this case, however,
they have established a very serious case
against the son of the murdered man."
"It is a murder, then?"
"Well, it is conjectured to be so. I shall
take nothing for granted until I have the
opportunity of looking personally into it. I
will explain the state of things to you, as far
as I have been able to understand it, in a very
"Boscombe Valley is a country district not
very far from Ross, in Herefordshire. The
largest landed proprietor in that part is a Mr.
John Turner, who made his money in Australia and
returned some years ago to the old country. One
of the farms which he held, that of Hatherley,
was let to Mr. Charles McCarthy, who was also an
ex-Australian. The men had known each other in
the colonies, so that it was not unnatural that
when they came to settle down they should do so
as near each other as possible. Turner was
apparently the richer man, so McCarthy became
his tenant but still remained, it seems, upon
terms of perfect equality, as they were
frequently together. McCarthy had one son, a lad
of eighteen, and Turner had an only daughter of
the same age, but neither of them had wives
living. They appear to have avoided the society
of the neighbouring English families and to have
led retired lives, though both the McCarthys
were fond of sport and were frequently seen at
the race-meetings of the neighbourhood. McCarthy
kept two servants--a man and a girl. Turner had
a considerable household, some half-dozen at the
least. That is as much as I have been able to
gather about the families. Now for the facts.
"On June 3rd, that is, on Monday last,
McCarthy left his house at Hatherley about three
in the afternoon and walked down to the Boscombe
Pool, which is a small lake formed by the
spreading out of the stream which runs down the
Boscombe Valley. He had been out with his
serving-man in the morning at Ross, and he had
told the man that he must hurry, as he had an
appointment of importance to keep at three. From
that appointment he never came back alive.
"From Hatherley Farm-house to the Boscombe
Pool is a quarter of a mile, and two people saw
him as he passed over this ground. One was an
old woman, whose name is not mentioned, and the
other was William Crowder, a game-keeper in the
employ of Mr. Turner. Both these witnesses
depose that Mr. McCarthy was walking alone. The
game-keeper adds that within a few minutes of
his seeing Mr. McCarthy pass he had seen his
son, Mr. James McCarthy, going the same way with
a gun under his arm. To the best of his belief,
the father was actually in sight at the time,
and the son was following him. He thought no
more of the matter until he heard in the evening
of the tragedy that had occurred.
"The two McCarthys were seen after the time
when William Crowder, the game-keeper, lost
sight of them. The Boscombe Pool is thickly
wooded round, with just a fringe of grass and of
reeds round the edge. A girl of fourteen,
Patience Moran, who is the daughter of the
lodge-keeper of the Boscombe Valley estate, was
in one of the woods picking flowers. She states
that while she was there she saw, at the border
of the wood and close by the lake, Mr. McCarthy
and his son, and that they appeared to be having
a violent quarrel. She heard Mr. McCarthy the
elder using very strong language to his son, and
she saw the latter raise up his hand as if to
strike his father. She was so frightened by
their violence that she ran away and told her
mother when she reached home that she had left
the two McCarthys quarrelling near Boscombe
Pool, and that she was afraid that they were
going to fight. She had hardly said the words
when young Mr. McCarthy came running up to the
lodge to say that he had found his father dead
in the wood, and to ask for the help of the
lodge-keeper. He was much excited, without
either his gun or his hat, and his right hand
and sleeve were observed to be stained with
fresh blood. On following him they found the
dead body stretched out upon the grass beside
the pool. The head had been beaten in by
repeated blows of some heavy and blunt weapon.
The injuries were such as might very well have
been inflicted by the butt-end of his son`s gun,
which was found lying on the grass within a few
paces of the body. Under these circumstances the
young man was instantly arrested, and a verdict
of `wilful murder` having been returned at the
inquest on Tuesday, he was on Wednesday brought
before the magistrates at Ross, who have
referred the case to the next Assizes. Those are
the main facts of the case as they came out
before the coroner and the police-court."
"I could hardly imagine a more damning case,"
I remarked. "If ever circumstantial evidence
pointed to a criminal it does so here."
"Circumstantial evidence is a very tricky
thing," answered Holmes thoughtfully. "It may
seem to point very straight to one thing, but if
you shift your own point of view a little, you
may find it pointing in an equally
uncompromising manner to something entirely
different. It must be confessed, however, that
the case looks exceedingly grave against the
young man, and it is very possible that he is
indeed the culprit. There are several people in
the neighbourhood, however, and among them Miss
Turner, the daughter of the neighbouring
landowner, who believe in his innocence, and who
have retained Lestrade, whom you may recollect
in connection with the Study in Scarlet, to work
out the case in his interest. Lestrade, being
rather puzzled, has referred the case to me, and
hence it is that two middle-aged gentlemen are
flying westward at fifty miles an hour instead
of quietly digesting their breakfasts at home."
"I am afraid," said I, "that the facts are so
obvious that you will find little credit to be
gained out of this case."
"There is nothing more deceptive than an
obvious fact," he answered, laughing. "Besides,
we may chance to hit upon some other obvious
facts which may have been by no means obvious to
Mr. Lestrade. You know me too well to think that
I am boasting when I say that I shall either
confirm or destroy his theory by means which he
is quite incapable of employing, or even of
understanding. To take the first example to
hand, I very clearly perceive that in your
bedroom the window is upon the right-hand side,
and yet I question whether Mr. Lestrade would
have noted even so self-evident a thing as
"How on earth--"
"My dear fellow, I know you well. I know the
military neatness which characterises you. You
shave every morning, and in this season you
shave by the sunlight; but since your shaving is
less and less complete as we get farther back on
the left side, until it becomes positively
slovenly as we get round the angle of the jaw,
it is surely very clear that that side is less
illuminated than the other. I could not imagine
a man of your habits looking at himself in an
equal light and being satisfied with such a
result. I only quote this as a trivial example
of observation and inference. Therein lies my
mйґ©er, and it is just possible that it may be
of some service in the investigation which lies
before us. There are one or two minor points
which were brought out in the inquest, and which
are worth considering."
"What are they?"
"It appears that his arrest did not take
place at once, but after the return to Hatherley
Farm. On the inspector of constabulary informing
him that he was a prisoner, he remarked that he
was not surprised to hear it, and that it was no
more than his deserts. This observation of his
had the natural effect of removing any traces of
doubt which might have remained in the minds of
the coroner`s jury."
"It was a confession," I ejaculated.
"No, for it was followed by a protestation of
"Coming on the top of such a damning series
of events, it was at least a most suspicious
"On the contrary," said Holmes, "it is the
brightest rift which I can at present see in the
clouds. However innocent he might be, he could
not be such an absolute imbecile as not to see
that the circumstances were very black against
him. Had he appeared surprised at his own
arrest, or feigned indignation at it, I should
have looked upon it as highly suspicious,
because such surprise or anger would not be
natural under the circumstances, and yet might
appear to be the best policy to a scheming man.
His frank acceptance of the situation marks him
as either an innocent man, or else as a man of
considerable self-restraint and firmness. As to
his remark about his deserts, it was also not
unnatural if you consider that he stood beside
the dead body of his father, and that there is
no doubt that he had that very day so far
forgotten his filial duty as to bandy words with
him, and even, according to the little girl
whose evidence is so important, to raise his
hand as if to strike him. The self-reproach and
contrition which are displayed in his remark
appear to me to be the signs of a healthy mind
rather than of a guilty one."
I shook my head. "Many men have been hanged
on far slighter evidence," I remarked.
"So they have. And many men have been
"What is the young man`s own account of the
"It is, I am afraid, not very encouraging to
his supporters, though there are one or two
points in it which are suggestive. You will find
it here, and may read it for yourself."
He picked out from his bundle a copy of the
local Herefordshire paper, and having turned
down the sheet he pointed out the paragraph in
which the unfortunate young man had given his
own statement of what had occurred. I settled
myself down in the corner of the carriage and
read it very carefully. It ran in this way:
"Mr. James McCarthy, the only son of the
deceased, was then called and gave evidence as
follows: `I had been away from home for three
days at Bristol, and had only just returned upon
the morning of last Monday, the 3rd. My father
was absent from home at the time of my arrival,
and I was informed by the maid that he had
driven over to Ross with John Cobb, the groom.
Shortly after my return I heard the wheels of
his trap in the yard, and, looking out of my
window, I saw him get out and walk rapidly out
of the yard, though I was not aware in which
direction he was going. I then took my gun and
strolled out in the direction of the Boscombe
Pool, with the intention of visiting the rabbit
warren which is upon the other side. On my way I
saw William Crowder, the game-keeper, as he had
stated in his evidence; but he is mistaken in
thinking that I was following my father. I had
no idea that he was in front of me. When about a
hundred yards from the pool I heard a cry of
"Cooee!" which was a usual signal between my
father and myself. I then hurried forward, and
found him standing by the pool. He appeared to
be much surprised at seeing me and asked me
rather roughly what I was doing there. A
conversation ensued which led to high words and
almost to blows, for my father was a man of a
very violent temper. Seeing that his passion was
becoming ungovernable, I left him and returned
towards Hatherley Farm. I had not gone more than
150 yards, however, when I heard a hideous
outcry behind me, which caused me to run back
again. I found my father expiring upon the
ground, with his head terribly injured. I
dropped my gun and held him in my arms, but he
almost instantly expired. I knelt beside him for
some minutes, and then made my way to Mr.
Turner`s lodge-keeper, his house being the
nearest, to ask for assistance. I saw no one
near my father when I returned, and I have no
idea how he came by his injuries. He was not a
popular man, being somewhat cold and forbidding
in his manners, but he had, as far as I know, no
active enemies. I know nothing further of the
"The Coroner: Did your father make any
statement to you before he died?
"Witness: He mumbled a few words, but I could
only catch some allusion to a rat.
"The Coroner: What did you understand by
"Witness: It conveyed no meaning to me. I
thought that he was delirious.
"The Coroner: What was the point upon which
you and your father had this final quarrel?
"Witness: I should prefer not to answer.
"The Coroner: I am afraid that I must press
"Witness: It is really impossible for me to
tell you. I can assure you that it has nothing
to do with the sad tragedy which followed.
"The Coroner: That is for the court to
decide. I need not point out to you that your
refusal to answer will prejudice your case
considerably in any future proceedings which may
"Witness: I must still refuse.
"The Coroner: I understand that the cry of
`Cooee` was a common signal between you and your
"Witness: It was.
"The Coroner: How was it, then, that he
uttered it before he saw you, and before he even
knew that you had returned from Bristol?
"Witness (with considerable confusion): I do
"A Juryman: Did you see nothing which aroused
your suspicions when you returned on hearing the
cry and found your father fatally injured?
"Witness: Nothing definite.
"The Coroner: What do you mean?
"Witness: I was so disturbed and excited as I
rushed out into the open, that I could think of
nothing except of my father. Yet I have a vague
impression that as I ran forward something lay
upon the ground to the left of me. It seemed to
me to be something grey in colour, a coat of
some sort, or a plaid perhaps. When I rose from
my father I looked round for it, but it was
"`Do you mean that it disappeared before you
went for help?`
"`Yes, it was gone.`
"`You cannot say what it was?`
"`No, I had a feeling something was there.`
"`How far from the body?`
"`A dozen yards or so.`
"`And how far from the edge of the wood?`
"`About the same.`
"`Then if it was removed it was while you
were within a dozen yards of it?`
"`Yes, but with my back towards it.`
"This concluded the examination of the
"I see," said I as I glanced down the column,
"that the coroner in his concluding remarks was
rather severe upon young McCarthy. He calls
attention, and with reason, to the discrepancy
about his father having signalled to him before
seeing him, also to his refusal to give details
of his conversation with his father, and his
singular account of his father`s dying words.
They are all, as he remarks, very much against
Holmes laughed softly to himself and
stretched himself out upon the cushioned seat.
"Both you and the coroner have been at some
pains," said he, "to single out the very
strongest points in the young man`s favour.
Don`t you see that you alternately give him
credit for having too much imagination and too
little? Too little, if he could not invent a
cause of quarrel which would give him the
sympathy of the jury; too much, if he evolved
from his own inner consciousness anything so
outrй Ўs a dying reference to a rat, and the
incident of the vanishing cloth. No, sir, I
shall approach this case from the point of view
that what this young man says is true, and we
shall see whither that hypothesis will lead us.
And now here is my pocket Petrarch, and not
another word shall I say of this case until we
are on the scene of action. We lunch at Swindon,
and I see that we shall be there in twenty
It was nearly four o`clock when we at last,
after passing through the beautiful Stroud
Valley, and over the broad gleaming Severn,
found ourselves at the pretty little
country-town of Ross. A lean, ferret-like man,
furtive and sly-looking, was waiting for us upon
the platform. In spite of the light brown
dustcoat and leather-leggings which he wore in
deference to his rustic surroundings, I had no
difficulty in recognising Lestrade, of Scotland
Yard. With him we drove to the Hereford Arms
where a room had already been engaged for us.
"I have ordered a carriage," said Lestrade as
we sat over a cup of tea. "I knew your energetic
nature, and that you would not be happy until
you had been on the scene of the crime."
"It was very nice and complimentary of you,"
Holmes answered. "It is entirely a question of
Lestrade looked startled. "I do not quite
follow," he said.
"How is the glass? Twenty-nine, I see. No
wind, and not a cloud in the sky. I have a
caseful of cigarettes here which need smoking,
and the sofa is very much superior to the usual
country hotel abomination. I do not think that
it is probable that I shall use the carriage
Lestrade laughed indulgently. "You have, no
doubt, already formed your conclusions from the
newspapers," he said. "The case is as plain as a
pikestaff, and the more one goes into it the
plainer it becomes. Still, of course, one can`t
refuse a lady, and such a very positive one,
too. She has heard of you, and would have your
opinion, though I repeatedly told her that there
was nothing which you could do which I had not
already done. Why, bless my soul! here is her
carriage at the door."
He had hardly spoken before there rushed into
the room one of the most lovely young women that
I have ever seen in my life. Her violet eyes
shining, her lips parted, a pink flush upon her
cheeks, all thought of her natural reserve lost
in her overpowering excitement and concern.
"Oh, Mr. Sherlock Holmes!" she cried,
glancing from one to the other of us, and
finally, with a woman`s quick intuition,
fastening upon my companion, "I am so glad that
you have come. I have driven down to tell you
so. I know that James didn`t do it. I know it,
and I want you to start upon your work knowing
it, too. Never let yourself doubt upon that
point. We have known each other since we were
little children, and I know his faults as no one
else does; but he is too tender-hearted to hurt
a fly. Such a charge is absurd to anyone who
really knows him."
"I hope we may clear him, Miss Turner," said
Sherlock Holmes. "You may rely upon my doing all
that I can."
"But you have read the evidence. You have
formed some conclusion? Do you not see some
loophole, some flaw? Do you not yourself think
that he is innocent?"
"I think that it is very probable."
"There, now!" she cried, throwing back her
head and looking defiantly at Lestrade. "You
hear! He gives me hopes."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. "I am afraid
that my colleague has been a little quick in
forming his conclusions," he said.
"But he is right. Oh! I know that he is
right. James never did it. And about his quarrel
with his father, I am sure that the reason why
he would not speak about it to the coroner was
because I was concerned in it."
"In what way?" asked Holmes.
"It is no time for me to hide anything. James
and his father had many disagreements about me.
Mr. McCarthy was very anxious that there should
be a marriage between us. James and I have
always loved each other as brother and sister;
but of course he is young and has seen very
little of life yet, and--and--well, he naturally
did not wish to do anything like that yet. So
there were quarrels, and this, I am sure, was
one of them."
"And your father?" asked Holmes. "Was he in
favour of such a union?"
"No, he was averse to it also. No one but Mr.
McCarthy was in favour of it." A quick blush
passed over her fresh young face as Holmes shot
one of his keen, questioning glances at her.
"Thank you for this information," said he.
"May I see your father if I call to-morrow?"
"I am afraid the doctor won`t allow it."
"Yes, have you not heard? Poor father has
never been strong for years back, but this has
broken him down completely. He has taken to his
bed, and Dr. Willows says that he is a wreck and
that his nervous system is shattered. Mr.
McCarthy was the only man alive who had known
dad in the old days in Victoria."
"Ha! In Victoria! That is important."
"Yes, at the mines."
"Quite so; at the gold-mines, where, as I
understand, Mr. Turner made his money."
"Thank you, Miss Turner. You have been of
material assistance to me."
"You will tell me if you have any news
to-morrow. No doubt you will go to the prison to
see James. Oh, if you do, Mr. Holmes, do tell
him that I know him to be innocent."
"I will, Miss Turner."
"I must go home now, for dad is very ill, and
he misses me so if I leave him. Good-bye, and
God help you in your undertaking." She hurried
from the room as impulsively as she had entered,
and we heard the wheels of her carriage rattle
off down the street.
"I am ashamed of you, Holmes," said Lestrade
with dignity after a few minutes` silence. "Why
should you raise up hopes which you are bound to
disappoint? I am not over-tender of heart, but I
call it cruel."
"I think that I see my way to clearing James
McCarthy," said Holmes. "Have you an order to
see him in prison?"
"Yes, but only for you and me."
"Then I shall reconsider my resolution about
going out. We have still time to take a train to
Hereford and see him to-night?"
"Then let us do so. Watson, I fear that you
will find it very slow, but I shall only be away
a couple of hours."
I walked down to the station with them, and
then wandered through the streets of the little
town, finally returning to the hotel, where I
lay upon the sofa and tried to interest myself
in a yellow-backed novel. The puny plot of the
story was so thin, however, when compared to the
deep mystery through which we were groping, and
I found my attention wander so continually from
the action to the fact, that I at last flung it
across the room and gave myself up entirely to a
consideration of the events of the day.
Supposing that this unhappy young man`s story
were absolutely true, then what hellish thing,
what absolutely unforeseen and extraordinary
calamity could have occurred between the time
when he parted from his father, and the moment
when, drawn back by his screams, he rushed into
the glade? It was something terrible and deadly.
What could it be? Might not the nature of the
injuries reveal something to my medical
instincts? I rang the bell and called for the
weekly county paper, which contained a verbatim
account of the inquest. In the surgeon`s
deposition it was stated that the posterior
third of the left parietal bone and the left
half of the occipital bone had been shattered by
a heavy blow from a blunt weapon. I marked the
spot upon my own head. Clearly such a blow must
have been struck from behind. That was to some
extent in favour of the accused, as when seen
quarrelling he was face to face with his father.
Still, it did not go for very much, for the
older man might have turned his back before the
blow fell. Still, it might be worth while to
call Holmes` attention to it. Then there was the
peculiar dying reference to a rat. What could
that mean? It could not be delirium. A man dying
from a sudden blow does not commonly become
delirious. No, it was more likely to be an
attempt to explain how he met his fate. But what
could it indicate? I cudgelled my brains to find
some possible explanation. And then the incident
of the grey cloth seen by young McCarthy. If
that were true the murderer must have dropped
some part of his dress, presumably his overcoat,
in his flight, and must have had the hardihood
to return and to carry it away at the instant
when the son was kneeling with his back turned
not a dozen paces off. What a tissue of
mysteries and improbabilities the whole thing
was! I did not wonder at Lestrade`s opinion, and
yet I had so much faith in Sherlock Holmes`
insight that I could not lose hope as long as
every fresh fact seemed to strengthen his
conviction of young McCarthy`s innocence.
It was late before Sherlock Holmes returned.
He came back alone, for Lestrade was staying in
lodgings in the town.
"The glass still keeps very high," he
remarked as he sat down. "It is of importance
that it should not rain before we are able to go
over the ground. On the other hand, a man should
be at his very best and keenest for such nice
work as that, and I did not wish to do it when
fagged by a long journey. I have seen young
"And what did you learn from him?"
"Could he throw no light?"
"None at all. I was inclined to think at one
time that he knew who had done it and was
screening him or her, but I am convinced now
that he is as puzzled as everyone else. He is
not a very quick-witted youth, though comely to
look at and, I should think, sound at heart."
"I cannot admire his taste," I remarked, "if
it is indeed a fact that he was averse to a
marriage with so charming a young lady as this
"Ah, thereby hangs a rather painful tale.
This fellow is madly, insanely, in love with
her, but some two years ago, when he was only a
lad, and before he really knew her, for she had
been away five years at a boarding-school, what
does the idiot do but get into the clutches of a
barmaid in Bristol and marry her at a registry
office? No one knows a word of the matter, but
you can imagine how maddening it must be to him
to be upbraided for not doing what he would give
his very eyes to do, but what he knows to be
absolutely impossible. It was sheer frenzy of
this sort which made him throw his hands up into
the air when his father, at their last
interview, was goading him on to propose to Miss
Turner. On the other hand, he had no means of
supporting himself, and his father, who was by
all accounts a very hard man, would have thrown
him over utterly had he known the truth. It was
with his barmaid wife that he had spent the last
three days in Bristol, and his father did not
know where he was. Mark that point. It is of
importance. Good has come out of evil, however,
for the barmaid, finding from the papers that he
is in serious trouble and likely to be hanged,
has thrown him over utterly and has written to
him to say that she has a husband already in the
Bermuda Dockyard, so that there is really no tie
between them. I think that that bit of news has
consoled young McCarthy for all that he has
"But if he is innocent, who has done it?"
"Ah! who? I would call your attention very
particularly to two points. One is that the
murdered man had an appointment with someone at
the pool, and that the someone could not have
been his son, for his son was away, and he did
not know when he would return. The second is
that the murdered man was heard to cry `Cooee!`
before he knew that his son had returned. Those
are the crucial points upon which the case
depends. And now let us talk about George
Meredith, if you please, and we shall leave all
minor matters until to-morrow."
There was no rain, as Holmes had foretold,
and the morning broke bright and cloudless. At
nine o`clock Lestrade called for us with the
carriage, and we set off for Hatherley Farm and
the Boscombe Pool.
"There is serious news this morning,"
Lestrade observed. "It is said that Mr. Turner,
of the Hall, is so ill that his life is
"An elderly man, I presume?" said Holmes.
"About sixty; but his constitution has been
shattered by his life abroad, and he has been in
failing health for some time. This business has
had a very bad effect upon him. He was an old
friend of McCarthy`s, and, I may add, a great
benefactor to him, for I have learned that he
gave him Hatherley Farm rent free."
"Indeed! That is interesting," said Holmes.
"Oh, yes! In a hundred other ways he has
helped him. Everybody about here speaks of his
kindness to him."
"Really! Does it not strike you as a little
singular that this McCarthy, who appears to have
had little of his own, and to have been under
such obligations to Turner, should still talk of
marrying his son to Turner`s daughter, who is,
presumably, heiress to the estate, and that in
such a very cocksure manner, as if it were
merely a case of a proposal and all else would
follow? It is the more strange, since we know
that Turner himself was averse to the idea. The
daughter told us as much. Do you not deduce
something from that?"
"We have got to the deductions and the
inferences," said Lestrade, winking at me. "I
find it hard enough to tackle facts, Holmes,
without flying away after theories and fancies."
"You are right," said Holmes demurely; "you
do find it very hard to tackle the facts."
"Anyhow, I have grasped one fact which you
seem to find it difficult to get hold of,"
replied Lestrade with some warmth.
"And that is--"
"That McCarthy senior met his death from
McCarthy junior and that all theories to the
contrary are the merest moonshine."
"Well, moonshine is a brighter thing than
fog," said Holmes, laughing. "But I am very much
mistaken if this is not Hatherley Farm upon the
"Yes, that is it." It was a widespread,
comfortable-looking building, two-storied,
slate-roofed, with great yellow blotches of
lichen upon the grey walls. The drawn blinds and
the smokeless chimneys, however, gave it a
stricken look, as though the weight of this
horror still lay heavy upon it. We called at the
door, when the maid, at Holmes` request, showed
us the boots which her master wore at the time
of his death, and also a pair of the son`s,
though not the pair which he had then had.
Having measured these very carefully from seven
or eight different points, Holmes desired to be
led to the court-yard, from which we all
followed the winding track which led to Boscombe
Sherlock Holmes was transformed when he was
hot upon such a scent as this. Men who had only
known the quiet thinker and logician of Baker
Street would have failed to recognise him. His
face flushed and darkened. His brows were drawn
into two hard black lines, while his eyes shone
out from beneath them with a steely glitter. His
face was bent downward, his shoulders bowed, his
lips compressed, and the veins stood out like
whipcord in his long, sinewy neck. His nostrils
seemed to dilate with a purely animal lust for
the chase, and his mind was so absolutely
concentrated upon the matter before him that a
question or remark fell unheeded upon his ears,
or, at the most, only provoked a quick,
impatient snarl in reply. Swiftly and silently
he made his way along the track which ran
through the meadows, and so by way of the woods
to the Boscombe Pool. It was damp, marshy
ground, as is all that district, and there were
marks of many feet, both upon the path and amid
the short grass which bounded it on either side.
Sometimes Holmes would hurry on, sometimes stop
dead, and once he made quite a little detour
into the meadow. Lestrade and I walked behind
him, the detective indifferent and contemptuous,
while I watched my friend with the interest
which sprang from the conviction that every one
of his actions was directed towards a definite
The Boscombe Pool, which is a little
reed-girt sheet of water some fifty yards
across, is situated at the boundary between the
Hatherley Farm and the private park of the
wealthy Mr. Turner. Above the woods which lined
it upon the farther side we could see the red,
jutting pinnacles which marked the site of the
rich landowner`s dwelling. On the Hatherley side
of the pool the woods grew very thick, and there
was a narrow belt of sodden grass twenty paces
across between the edge of the trees and the
reeds which lined the lake. Lestrade showed us
the exact spot at which the body had been found,
and, indeed, so moist was the ground, that I
could plainly see the traces which had been left
by the fall of the stricken man. To Holmes, as I
could see by his eager face and peering eyes,
very many other things were to be read upon the
trampled grass. He ran round, like a dog who is
picking up a scent, and then turned upon my
"What did you go into the pool for?" he
"I fished about with a rake. I thought there
might be some weapon or other trace. But how on
"Oh, tut, tut! I have no time! That left foot
of yours with its inward twist is all over the
place. A mole could trace it, and there it
vanishes among the reeds. Oh, how simple it
would all have been had I been here before they
came like a herd of buffalo and wallowed all
over it. Here is where the party with the
lodge-keeper came, and they have covered all
tracks for six or eight feet round the body. But
here are three separate tracks of the same
feet." He drew out a lens and lay down upon his
waterproof to have a better view, talking all
the time rather to himself than to us. "These
are young McCarthy`s feet. Twice he was walking,
and once he ran swiftly, so that the soles are
deeply marked and the heels hardly visible. That
bears out his story. He ran when he saw his
father on the ground. Then here are the father`s
feet as he paced up and down. What is this,
then? It is the butt-end of the gun as the son
stood listening. And this? Ha, ha! What have we
here? Tiptoes! tiptoes! Square, too, quite
unusual boots! They come, they go, they come
again--of course that was for the cloak. Now
where did they come from?" He ran up and down,
sometimes losing, sometimes finding the track
until we were well within the edge of the wood
and under the shadow of a great beech, the
largest tree in the neighbourhood. Holmes traced
his way to the farther side of this and lay down
once more upon his face with a little cry of
satisfaction. For a long time he remained there,
turning over the leaves and dried sticks,
gathering up what seemed to me to be dust into
an envelope and examining with his lens not only
the ground but even the bark of the tree as far
as he could reach. A jagged stone was lying
among the moss, and this also he carefully
examined and retained. Then he followed a
pathway through the wood until he came to the
highroad, where all traces were lost.
"It has been a case of considerable
interest," he remarked, returning to his natural
manner. "I fancy that this grey house on the
right must be the lodge. I think that I will go
in and have a word with Moran, and perhaps write
a little note. Having done that, we may drive
back to our luncheon. You may walk to the cab,
and I shall be with you presently."
It was about ten minutes before we regained
our cab and drove back into Ross, Holmes still
carrying with him the stone which he had picked
up in the wood.
"This may interest you, Lestrade," he
remarked, holding it out. "The murder was done
"I see no marks."
"There are none."
"How do you know, then?"
"The grass was growing under it. It had only
lain there a few days. There was no sign of a
place whence it had been taken. It corresponds
with the injuries. There is no sign of any other
"And the murderer?"
"Is a tall man, left-handed, limps with the
right leg, wears thick-soled shooting-boots and
a grey cloak, smokes Indian cigars, uses a
cigar-holder, and carries a blunt pen-knife in
his pocket. There are several other indications,
but these may be enough to aid us in our
Lestrade laughed. "I am afraid that I am
still a sceptic," he said. "Theories are all
very well, but we have to deal with a
hard-headed British jury."
"Nous verrons," answered Holmes calmly. "You
work your own method, and I shall work mine. I
shall be busy this afternoon, and shall probably
return to London by the evening train."
"And leave your case unfinished?"
"But the mystery?"
"It is solved."
"Who was the criminal, then?"
"The gentleman I describe."
"But who is he?"
"Surely it would not be difficult to find
out. This is not such a populous neighbourhood."
Lestrade shrugged his shoulders. "I am a
practical man," he said, "and I really cannot
undertake to go about the country looking for a
left-handed gentleman with a game leg. I should
become the laughing-stock of Scotland Yard."
"All right," said Holmes quietly. "I have
given you the chance. Here are your lodgings.
Good-bye. I shall drop you a line before I
Having left Lestrade at his rooms, we drove
to our hotel, where we found lunch upon the
table. Holmes was silent and buried in thought
with a pained expression upon his face, as one
who finds himself in a perplexing position.
"Look here, Watson," he said when the cloth
was cleared "just sit down in this chair and let
me preach to you for a little. I don`t know
quite what to do, and I should value your
advice. Light a cigar and let me expound."
"Pray do so."
"Well, now, in considering this case there
are two points about young McCarthy`s narrative
which struck us both instantly, although they
impressed me in his favour and you against him.
One was the fact that his father should,
according to his account, cry `Cooee!` before
seeing him. The other was his singular dying
reference to a rat. He mumbled several words,
you understand, but that was all that caught the
son`s ear. Now from this double point our
research must commence, and we will begin it by
presuming that what the lad says is absolutely
"What of this `Cooee!` then?"
"Well, obviously it could not have been meant
for the son. The son, as far as he knew, was in
Bristol. It was mere chance that he was within
earshot. The `Cooee!` was meant to attract the
attention of whoever it was that he had the
appointment with. But `Cooee` is a distinctly
Australian cry, and one which is used between
Australians. There is a strong presumption that
the person whom McCarthy expected to meet him at
Boscombe Pool was someone who had been in
"What of the rat, then?"
Sherlock Holmes took a folded paper from his
pocket and flattened it out on the table. "This
is a map of the Colony of Victoria," he said. "I
wired to Bristol for it last night." He put his
hand over part of the map. "What do you read?"
"ARAT," I read.
"And now?" He raised his hand.
"Quite so. That was the word the man uttered,
and of which his son only caught the last two
syllables. He was trying to utter the name of
his murderer. So and so, of Ballarat."
"It is wonderful!" I exclaimed.
"It is obvious. And now, you see, I had
narrowed the field down considerably. The
possession of a grey garment was a third point
which, granting the son`s statement to be
correct, was a certainty. We have come now out
of mere vagueness to the definite conception of
an Australian from Ballarat with a grey cloak."
"And one who was at home in the district, for
the pool can only be approached by the farm or
by the estate, where strangers could hardly
"Then comes our expedition of to-day. By an
examination of the ground I gained the trifling
details which I gave to that imbecile Lestrade,
as to the personality of the criminal."
"But how did you gain them?"
"You know my method. It is founded upon the
observation of trifles."
"His height I know that you might roughly
judge from the length of his stride. His boots,
too, might be told from their traces."
"Yes, they were peculiar boots."
"But his lameness?"
"The impression of his right foot was always
less distinct than his left. He put less weight
upon it. Why? Because he limped--he was lame."
"But his left-handedness."
"You were yourself struck by the nature of
the injury as recorded by the surgeon at the
inquest. The blow was struck from immediately
behind, and yet was upon the left side. Now, how
can that be unless it were by a left-handed man?
He had stood behind that tree during the
interview between the father and son. He had
even smoked there. I found the ash of a cigar,
which my special knowledge of tobacco ashes
enables me to pronounce as an Indian cigar. I
have, as you know, devoted some attention to
this, and written a little monograph on the
ashes of 140 different varieties of pipe, cigar,
and cigarette tobacco. Having found the ash, I
then looked round and discovered the stump among
the moss where he had tossed it. It was an
Indian cigar, of the variety which are rolled in
"And the cigar-holder?"
"I could see that the end had not been in his
mouth. Therefore he used a holder. The tip had
been cut off, not bitten off, but the cut was
not a clean one, so I deduced a blunt
"Holmes," I said, "you have drawn a net round
this man from which he cannot escape, and you
have saved an innocent human life as truly as if
you had cut the cord which was hanging him. I
see the direction in which all this points. The
"Mr. John Turner," cried the hotel waiter,
opening the door of our sitting-room, and
ushering in a visitor.
The man who entered was a strange and
impressive figure. His slow, limping step and
bowed shoulders gave the appearance of
decrepitude, and yet his hard, deep-lined,
craggy features, and his enormous limbs showed
that he was possessed of unusual strength of
body and of character. His tangled beard,
grizzled hair, and outstanding, drooping
eyebrows combined to give an air of dignity and
power to his appearance, but his face was of an
ashen white, while his lips and the corners of
his nostrils were tinged with a shade of blue.
It was clear to me at a glance that he was in
the grip of some deadly and chronic disease.
"Pray sit down on the sofa," said Holmes
gently. "You had my note?"
"Yes, the lodge-keeper brought it up. You
said that you wished to see me here to avoid
"I thought people would talk if I went to the
"And why did you wish to see me?" He looked
across at my companion with despair in his weary
eyes, as though his question was already
"Yes," said Holmes, answering the look rather
than the words. "It is so. I know all about
The old man sank his face in his hands. "God
help me!" he cried. "But I would not have let
the young man come to harm. I give you my word
that I would have spoken out if it went against
him at the Assizes."
"I am glad to hear you say so," said Holmes
"I would have spoken now had it not been for
my dear girl. It would break her heart--it will
break her heart when she hears that I am
"It may not come to that," said Holmes.
"I am no official agent. I understand that it
was your daughter who required my presence here,
and I am acting in her interests. Young McCarthy
must be got off, however."
"I am a dying man," said old Turner. "I have
had diabetes for years. My doctor says it is a
question whether I shall live a month. Yet I
would rather die under my own roof than in a
Holmes rose and sat down at the table with
his pen in his hand and a bundle of paper before
him. "Just tell us the truth," he said. "I shall
jot down the facts. You will sign it, and Watson
here can witness it. Then I could produce your
confession at the last extremity to save young
McCarthy. I promise you that I shall not use it
unless it is absolutely needed."
"It`s as well," said the old man; "it`s a
question whether I shall live to the Assizes, so
it matters little to me, but I should wish to
spare Alice the shock. And now I will make the
thing clear to you; it has been a long time in
the acting, but will not take me long to tell.
"You didn`t know this dead man, McCarthy. He
was a devil incarnate. I tell you that. God keep
you out of the clutches of such a man as he. His
grip has been upon me these twenty years, and he
has blasted my life. I`ll tell you first how I
came to be in his power.
"It was in the early `60`s at the diggings. I
was a young chap then, hot-blooded and reckless,
ready to turn my hand at anything; I got among
bad companions, took to drink, had no luck with
my claim, took to the bush, and in a word became
what you would call over here a highway robber.
There were six of us, and we had a wild, free
life of it, sticking up a station from time to
time, or stopping the wagons on the road to the
diggings. Black Jack of Ballarat was the name I
went under, and our party is still remembered in
the colony as the Ballarat Gang.
"One day a gold convoy came down from
Ballarat to Melbourne, and we lay in wait for it
and attacked it. There were six troopers and six
of us, so it was a close thing, but we emptied
four of their saddles at the first volley. Three
of our boys were killed, however, before we got
the swag. I put my pistol to the head of the
wagon-driver, who was this very man McCarthy. I
wish to the Lord that I had shot him then, but I
spared him, though I saw his wicked little eyes
fixed on my face, as though to remember every
feature. We got away with the gold, became
wealthy men, and made our way over to England
without being suspected. There I parted from my
old pals and determined to settle down to a
quiet and respectable life. I bought this
estate, which chanced to be in the market, and I
set myself to do a little good with my money, to
make up for the way in which I had earned it. I
married, too, and though my wife died young she
left me my dear little Alice. Even when she was
just a baby her wee hand seemed to lead me down
the right path as nothing else had ever done. In
a word, I turned over a new leaf and did my best
to make up for the past. All was going well when
McCarthy laid his grip upon me.
"I had gone up to town about an investment,
and I met him in Regent Street with hardly a
coat to his back or a boot to his foot.
"`Here we are, Jack,` says he, touching me on
the arm; `we`ll be as good as a family to you.
There`s two of us, me and my son, and you can
have the keeping of us. If you don`t--it`s a
fine, law-abiding country is England, and
there`s always a policeman within hail.`
"Well, down they came to the west country,
there was no shaking them off, and there they
have lived rent free on my best land ever since.
There was no rest for me, no peace, no
forgetfulness; turn where I would, there was his
cunning, grinning face at my elbow. It grew
worse as Alice grew up, for he soon saw I was
more afraid of her knowing my past than of the
police. Whatever he wanted he must have, and
whatever it was I gave him without question,
land, money, houses, until at last he asked a
thing which I could not give. He asked for
"His son, you see, had grown up, and so had
my girl, and as I was known to be in weak
health, it seemed a fine stroke to him that his
lad should step into the whole property. But
there I was firm. I would not have his cursed
stock mixed with mine; not that I had any
dislike to the lad, but his blood was in him,
and that was enough. I stood firm. McCarthy
threatened. I braved him to do his worst. We
were to meet at the pool midway between our
houses to talk it over.
"When I went down there I found him talking
with his son, so I smoked a cigar and waited
behind a tree until he should be alone. But as I
listened to his talk all that was black and
bitter in me seemed to come uppermost. He was
urging his son to marry my daughter with as
little regard for what she might think as if she
were a slut from off the streets. It drove me
mad to think that I and all that I held most
dear should be in the power of such a man as
this. Could I not snap the bond? I was already a
dying and a desperate man. Though clear of mind
and fairly strong of limb, I knew that my own
fate was sealed. But my memory and my girl! Both
could be saved if I could but silence that foul
tongue. I did it, Mr. Holmes. I would do it
again. Deeply as I have sinned, I have led a
life of martyrdom to atone for it. But that my
girl should be entangled in the same meshes
which held me was more than I could suffer. I
struck him down with no more compunction than if
he had been some foul and venomous beast. His
cry brought back his son; but I had gained the
cover of the wood, though I was forced to go
back to fetch the cloak which I had dropped in
my flight. That is the true story, gentlemen, of
all that occurred."
"Well, it is not for me to judge you," said
Holmes as the old man signed the statement which
had been drawn out. "I pray that we may never be
exposed to such a temptation."
"I pray not, sir. And what do you intend to
"In view of your health, nothing. You are
yourself aware that you will soon have to answer
for your deed at a higher court than the
Assizes. I will keep your confession, and if
McCarthy is condemned I shall be forced to use
it. If not, it shall never be seen by mortal
eye; and your secret, whether you be alive or
dead, shall be safe with us."
"Farewell, then," said the old man solemnly.
"Your own deathbeds, when they come, will be the
easier for the thought of the peace which you
have given to mine." Tottering and shaking in
all his giant frame, he stumbled slowly from the
"God help us!" said Holmes after a long
silence. "Why does fate play such tricks with
poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a
case as this that I do not think of Baxter`s
words, and say, `There, but for the grace of
God, goes Sherlock Holmes.`"
James McCarthy was acquitted at the Assizes
on the strength of a number of objections which
had been drawn out by Holmes and submitted to
the defending counsel. Old Turner lived for
seven months after our interview, but he is now
dead; and there is every prospect that the son
and daughter may come to live happily together
in ignorance of the black cloud which rests upon
THE FIVE ORANGE PIPS
When I glance over my notes and records of the Sherlock Holmes cases
between the years `82 and `90, I am faced by so
many which present strange and interesting
features that it is no easy matter to know which
to choose and which to leave. Some, however,
have already gained publicity through the
papers, and others have not offered a field for
those peculiar qualities which my friend
possessed in so high a degree, and which it is
the object of these papers to illustrate. Some,
too, have baffled his analytical skill, and
would be, as narratives, beginnings without an
ending, while others have been but partially
cleared up, and have their explanations founded
rather upon conjecture and surmise than on that
absolute logical proof which was so dear to him.
There is, however, one of these last which was
so remarkable in its details and so startling in
its results that I am tempted to give some
account of it in spite of the fact that there
are points in connection with it which never
have been, and probably never will be, entirely
The year `87 furnished us with a long series
of cases of greater or less interest, of which I
retain the records. Among my headings under this
one twelve months I find an account of the
adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur
Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in
the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the
facts connected with the loss of the British
barque "Sophy Anderson", of the singular
adventures of the Grice Patersons in the island
of Uffa, and finally of the Camberwell poisoning
case. In the latter, as may be remembered,
Sherlock Holmes was able, by winding up the dead
man`s watch, to prove that it had been wound up
two hours before, and that therefore the
deceased had gone to bed within that time--a
deduction which was of the greatest importance
in clearing up the case. All these I may sketch
out at some future date, but none of them
present such singular features as the strange
train of circumstances which I have now taken up
my pen to describe.
It was in the latter days of September, and
the equinoctial gales had set in with
exceptional violence. All day the wind had
screamed and the rain had beaten against the
windows, so that even here in the heart of
great, hand-made London we were forced to raise
our minds for the instant from the routine of
life and to recognise the presence of those
great elemental forces which shriek at mankind
through the bars of his civilisation, like
untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in,
the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind
cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney.
Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the
fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime,
while I at the other was deep in one of Clark
Russell`s fine sea-stories until the howl of the
gale from without seemed to blend with the text,
and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into
the long swash of the sea waves. My wife was on
a visit to her mother`s, and for a few days I
was a dweller once more in my old quarters at
"Why," said I, glancing up at my companion,
"that was surely the bell. Who could come
to-night? Some friend of yours, perhaps?"
"Except yourself I have none," he answered.
"I do not encourage visitors."
"A client, then?"
"If so, it is a serious case. Nothing less
would bring a man out on such a day and at such
an hour. But I take it that it is more likely to
be some crony of the landlady`s."
Sherlock Holmes was wrong in his conjecture,
however, for there came a step in the passage
and a tapping at the door. He stretched out his
long arm to turn the lamp away from himself and
towards the vacant chair upon which a newcomer
"Come in!" said he.
The man who entered was young, some
two-and-twenty at the outside, well-groomed and
trimly clad, with something of refinement and
delicacy in his bearing. The streaming umbrella
which he held in his hand, and his long shining
waterproof told of the fierce weather through
which he had come. He looked about him anxiously
in the glare of the lamp, and I could see that
his face was pale and his eyes heavy, like those
of a man who is weighed down with some great
"I owe you an apology," he said, raising his
golden pince-nez to his eyes. "I trust that I am
not intruding. I fear that I have brought some
traces of the storm and rain into your snug
"Give me your coat and umbrella," said
Holmes. "They may rest here on the hook and will
be dry presently. You have come up from the
south-west, I see."
"Yes, from Horsham."
"That clay and chalk mixture which I see upon
your toe caps is quite distinctive."
"I have come for advice."
"That is easily got."
"That is not always so easy."
"I have heard of you, Mr. Holmes. I heard
from Major Prendergast how you saved him in the
Tankerville Club scandal."
"Ah, of course. He was wrongfully accused of
cheating at cards."
"He said that you could solve anything."
"He said too much."
"That you are never beaten."
"I have been beaten four times--three times
by men, and once by a woman."
"But what is that compared with the number of
"It is true that I have been generally
"Then you may be so with me."
"I beg that you will draw your chair up to
the fire and favour me with some details as to
"It is no ordinary one."
"None of those which come to me are. I am the
last court of appeal."
"And yet I question, sir, whether, in all
your experience, you have ever listened to a
more mysterious and inexplicable chain of events
than those which have happened in my own
"You fill me with interest," said Holmes.
"Pray give us the essential facts from the
commencement, and I can afterwards question you
as to those details which seem to me to be most
The young man pulled his chair up and pushed
his wet feet out towards the blaze.
"My name," said he, "is John Openshaw, but my
own affairs have, as far as I can understand,
little to do with this awful business. It is a
hereditary matter; so in order to give you an
idea of the facts, I must go back to the
commencement of the affair.
"You must know that my grandfather had two
sons--my uncle Elias and my father Joseph. My
father had a small factory at Coventry, which he
enlarged at the time of the invention of
bicycling. He was a patentee of the Openshaw
unbreakable tire, and his business met with such
success that he was able to sell it and to
retire upon a handsome competence.
"My uncle Elias emigrated to America when he
was a young man and became a planter in Florida,
where he was reported to have done very well. At
the time of the war he fought in Jackson`s army,
and afterwards under Hood, where he rose to be a
colonel. When Lee laid down his arms my uncle
returned to his plantation, where he remained
for three or four years. About 1869 or 1870 he
came back to Europe and took a small estate in
Sussex, near Horsham. He had made a very
considerable fortune in the States, and his
reason for leaving them was his aversion to the
negroes, and his dislike of the Republican
policy in extending the franchise to them. He
was a singular man, fierce and quick-tempered,
very foul-mouthed when he was angry, and of a
most retiring disposition. During all the years
that he lived at Horsham, I doubt if ever he set
foot in the town. He had a garden and two or
three fields round his house, and there he would
take his exercise, though very often for weeks
on end he would never leave his room. He drank a
great deal of brandy and smoked very heavily,
but he would see no society and did not want any
friends, not even his own brother.
"He didn`t mind me; in fact, he took a fancy
to me, for at the time when he saw me first I
was a youngster of twelve or so. This would be
in the year 1878, after he had been eight or
nine years in England. He begged my father to
let me live with him and he was very kind to me
in his way. When he was sober he used to be fond
of playing backgammon and draughts with me, and
he would make me his representative both with
the servants and with the tradespeople, so that
by the time that I was sixteen I was quite
master of the house. I kept all the keys and
could go where I liked and do what I liked, so
long as I did not disturb him in his privacy.
There was one singular exception, however, for
he had a single room, a lumber-room up among the
attics, which was invariably locked, and which
he would never permit either me or anyone else
to enter. With a boy`s curiosity I have peeped
through the keyhole, but I was never able to see
more than such a collection of old trunks and
bundles as would be expected in such a room.
"One day--it was in March, 1883--a letter
with a foreign stamp lay upon the table in front
of the colonel`s plate. It was not a common
thing for him to receive letters, for his bills
were all paid in ready money, and he had no
friends of any sort. `From India!` said he as he
took it up, `Pondicherry postmark! What can this
be?` Opening it hurriedly, out there jumped five
little dried orange pips, which pattered down
upon his plate. I began to laugh at this, but
the laugh was struck from my lips at the sight
of his face. His lip had fallen, his eyes were
protruding, his skin the colour of putty, and he
glared at the envelope which he still held in
his trembling hand, `K. K. K.!` he shrieked, and
then, `My God, my God, my sins have overtaken
"`What is it, uncle?` I cried.
"`Death,` said he, and rising from the table
he retired to his room, leaving me palpitating
with horror. I took up the envelope and saw
scrawled in red ink upon the inner flap, just
above the gum, the letter K three times
repeated. There was nothing else save the five
dried pips. What could be the reason of his
overpowering terror? I left the breakfast-table,
and as I ascended the stair I met him coming
down with an old rusty key, which must have
belonged to the attic, in one hand, and a small
brass box, like a cashbox, in the other.
"`They may do what they like, but I`ll
checkmate them still,` said he with an oath.
`Tell Mary that I shall want a fire in my room
to-day, and send down to Fordham, the Horsham
"I did as he ordered, and when the lawyer
arrived I was asked to step up to the room. The
fire was burning brightly, and in the grate
there was a mass of black, fluffy ashes, as of
burned paper, while the brass box stood open and
empty beside it. As I glanced at the box I
noticed, with a start, that upon the lid was
printed the treble K which I had read in the
morning upon the envelope.
"`I wish you, John,` said my uncle, `to
witness my will. I leave my estate, with all its
advantages and all its disadvantages, to my
brother, your father, whence it will, no doubt,
descend to you. If you can enjoy it in peace,
well and good! If you find you cannot, take my
advice, my boy, and leave it to your deadliest
enemy. I am sorry to give you such a two-edged
thing, but I can`t say what turn things are
going to take. Kindly sign the paper where Mr.
Fordham shows you.`
"I signed the paper as directed, and the
lawyer took it away with him. The singular
incident made, as you may think, the deepest
impression upon me, and I pondered over it and
turned it every way in my mind without being
able to make anything of it. Yet I could not
shake off the vague feeling of dread which it
left behind, though the sensation grew less keen
as the weeks passed and nothing happened to
disturb the usual routine of our lives. I could
see a change in my uncle, however. He drank more
than ever, and he was less inclined for any sort
of society. Most of his time he would spend in
his room, with the door locked upon the inside,
but sometimes he would emerge in a sort of
drunken frenzy and would burst out of the house
and tear about the garden with a revolver in his
hand, screaming out that he was afraid of no
man, and that he was not to be cooped up, like a
sheep in a pen, by man or devil. When these hot
fits were over, however, he would rush
tumultuously in at the door and lock and bar it
behind him, like a man who can brazen it out no
longer against the terror which lies at the
roots of his soul. At such times I have seen his
face, even on a cold day, glisten with moisture,
as though it were new raised from a basin.
"Well, to come to an end of the matter, Mr.
Holmes, and not to abuse your patience, there
came a night when he made one of those drunken
sallies from which he never came back. We found
him, when we went to search for him, face
downward in a little green-scummed pool, which
lay at the foot of the garden. There was no sign
of any violence, and the water was but two feet
deep, so that the jury, having regard to his
known eccentricity, brought in a verdict of
`suicide.` But I, who knew how he winced from
the very thought of death, had much ado to
persuade myself that he had gone out of his way
to meet it. The matter passed, however, and my
father entered into possession of the estate,
and of some 14,000 pounds, which lay to his
credit at the bank."
"One moment," Holmes interposed, "your
statement is, I foresee, one of the most
remarkable to which I have ever listened. Let me
have the date of the reception by your uncle of
the letter, and the date of his supposed
"The letter arrived on March 10, 1883. His
death was seven weeks later, upon the night of
"Thank you. Pray proceed."
"When my father took over the Horsham
property, he, at my request, made a careful
examination of the attic, which had been always
locked up. We found the brass box there,
although its contents had been destroyed. On the
inside of the cover was a paper label, with the
initials of K. K. K. repeated upon it, and
`Letters, memoranda, receipts, and a register`
written beneath. These, we presume, indicated
the nature of the papers which had been
destroyed by Colonel Openshaw. For the rest,
there was nothing of much importance in the
attic save a great many scattered papers and
note-books bearing upon my uncle`s life in
America. Some of them were of the war time and
showed that he had done his duty well and had
borne the repute of a brave soldier. Others were
of a date during the reconstruction of the
Southern states, and were mostly concerned with
politics, for he had evidently taken a strong
part in opposing the carpet-bag politicians who
had been sent down from the North.
"Well, it was the beginning of `84 when my
father came to live at Horsham, and all went as
well as possible with us until the January of
`85. On the fourth day after the new year I
heard my father give a sharp cry of surprise as
we sat together at the breakfast-table. There he
was, sitting with a newly opened envelope in one
hand and five dried orange pips in the
outstretched palm of the other one. He had
always laughed at what he called my
cock-and-bull story about the colonel, but he
looked very scared and puzzled now that the same
thing had come upon himself.
"`Why, what on earth does this mean, John?`
"My heart had turned to lead. `It is K. K.
K.,` said I.
"He looked inside the envelope. `So it is,`
he cried. `Here are the very letters. But what
is this written above them?`
"`Put the papers on the sundial,` I read,
peeping over his shoulder.
"`What papers? What sundial?` he asked.
"`The sundial in the garden. There is no
other,` said I; `but the papers must be those
that are destroyed.`
"`Pooh!` said he, gripping hard at his
courage. `We are in a civilised land here, and
we can`t have tomfoolery of this kind. Where
does the thing come from?`
"`From Dundee,` I answered, glancing at the
"`Some preposterous practical joke,` said he.
`What have I to do with sundials and papers? I
shall take no notice of such nonsense.`
"`I should certainly speak to the police,` I
"`And be laughed at for my pains. Nothing of
"`Then let me do so?`
"`No, I forbid you. I won`t have a fuss made
about such nonsense.`
"It was in vain to argue with him, for he was
a very obstinate man. I went about, however,
with a heart which was full of forebodings.
"On the third day after the coming of the
letter my father went from home to visit an old
friend of his, Major Freebody, who is in command
of one of the forts upon Portsdown Hill. I was
glad that he should go, for it seemed to me that
he was farther from danger when he was away from
home. In that, however, I was in error. Upon the
second day of his absence I received a telegram
from the major, imploring me to come at once. My
father had fallen over one of the deep
chalk-pits which abound in the neighbourhood,
and was lying senseless, with a shattered skull.
I hurried to him, but he passed away without
having ever recovered his consciousness. He had,
as it appears, been returning from Fareham in
the twilight, and as the country was unknown to
him, and the chalk-pit unfenced, the jury had no
hesitation in bringing in a verdict of `death
from accidental causes.` Carefully as I examined
every fact connected with his death, I was
unable to find anything which could suggest the
idea of murder. There were no signs of violence,
no footmarks, no robbery, no record of strangers
having been seen upon the roads. And yet I need
not tell you that my mind was far from at ease,
and that I was well-nigh certain that some foul
plot had been woven round him.
"In this sinister way I came into my
inheritance. You will ask me why I did not
dispose of it? I answer, because I was well
convinced that our troubles were in some way
dependent upon an incident in my uncle`s life,
and that the danger would be as pressing in one
house as in another.
"It was in January, `85, that my poor father
met his end, and two years and eight months have
elapsed since then. During that time I have
lived happily at Horsham, and I had begun to
hope that this curse had passed away from the
family, and that it had ended with the last
generation. I had begun to take comfort too
soon, however; yesterday morning the blow fell
in the very shape in which it had come upon my
The young man took from his waistcoat a
crumpled envelope, and turning to the table he
shook out upon it five little dried orange pips.
"This is the envelope," he continued. "The
postmark is London--eastern division. Within are
the very words which were upon my father`s last
message: `K. K. K.`; and then `Put the papers on
"What have you done?" asked Holmes.
"To tell the truth"--he sank his face into
his thin, white hands--"I have felt helpless. I
have felt like one of those poor rabbits when
the snake is writhing towards it. I seem to be
in the grasp of some resistless, inexorable
evil, which no foresight and no precautions can
"Tut! tut!" cried Sherlock Holmes. "You must
act, man, or you are lost. Nothing but energy
can save you. This is no time for despair."
"I have seen the police."
"But they listened to my story with a smile.
I am convinced that the inspector has formed the
opinion that the letters are all practical
jokes, and that the deaths of my relations were
really accidents, as the jury stated, and were
not to be connected with the warnings."
Holmes shook his clenched hands in the air.
"Incredible imbecility!" he cried.
"They have, however, allowed me a policeman,
who may remain in the house with me."
"Has he come with you to-night?"
"No. His orders were to stay in the house."
Again Holmes raved in the air.
"Why did you come to me," he cried, "and,
above all, why did you not come at once?"
"I did not know. It was only to-day that I
spoke to Major Prendergast about my troubles and
was advised by him to come to you."
"It is really two days since you had the
letter. We should have acted before this. You
have no further evidence, I suppose, than that
which you have placed before us--no suggestive
detail which might help us?"
"There is one thing," said John Openshaw. He
rummaged in his coat pocket, and, drawing out a
piece of discoloured, blue-tinted paper, he laid
it out upon the table. "I have some
remembrance," said he, "that on the day when my
uncle burned the papers I observed that the
small, unburned margins which lay amid the ashes
were of this particular colour. I found this
single sheet upon the floor of his room, and I
am inclined to think that it may be one of the
papers which has, perhaps, fluttered out from
among the others, and in that way has escaped
destruction. Beyond the mention of pips, I do
not see that it helps us much. I think myself
that it is a page from some private diary. The
writing is undoubtedly my uncle`s."
Holmes moved the lamp, and we both bent over
the sheet of paper, which showed by its ragged
edge that it had indeed been torn from a book.
It was headed, "March, 1869," and beneath were
the following enigmatical notices:
"4th. Hudson came. Same old platform.
"7th. Set the pips on McCauley, Paramore, and
John Swain, of St. Augustine.
"9th. McCauley cleared.
"10th. John Swain cleared.
"12th. Visited Paramore. All well."
"Thank you!" said Holmes, folding up the
paper and returning it to our visitor. "And now
you must on no account lose another instant. We
cannot spare time even to discuss what you have
told me. You must get home instantly and act."
"What shall I do?"
"There is but one thing to do. It must be
done at once. You must put this piece of paper
which you have shown us into the brass box which
you have described. You must also put in a note
to say that all the other papers were burned by
your uncle, and that this is the only one which
remains. You must assert that in such words as
will carry conviction with them. Having done
this, you must at once put the box out upon the
sundial, as directed. Do you understand?"
"Do not think of revenge, or anything of the
sort, at present. I think that we may gain that
by means of the law; but we have our web to
weave, while theirs is already woven. The first
consideration is to remove the pressing danger
which threatens you. The second is to clear up
the mystery and to punish the guilty parties."
"I thank you," said the young man, rising and
pulling on his overcoat. "You have given me
fresh life and hope. I shall certainly do as you
"Do not lose an instant. And, above all, take
care of yourself in the meanwhile, for I do not
think that there can be a doubt that you are
threatened by a very real and imminent danger.
How do you go back?"
"By train from Waterloo."
"It is not yet nine. The streets will be
crowded, so I trust that you may be in safety.
And yet you cannot guard yourself too closely."
"I am armed."
"That is well. To-morrow I shall set to work
upon your case."
"I shall see you at Horsham, then?"
"No, your secret lies in London. It is there
that I shall seek it."
"Then I shall call upon you in a day, or in
two days, with news as to the box and the
papers. I shall take your advice in every
particular." He shook hands with us and took his
leave. Outside the wind still screamed and the
rain splashed and pattered against the windows.
This strange, wild story seemed to have come to
us from amid the mad elements--blown in upon us
like a sheet of sea-weed in a gale--and now to
have been reabsorbed by them once more.
Sherlock Holmes sat for some time in silence,
with his head sunk forward and his eyes bent
upon the red glow of the fire. Then he lit his
pipe, and leaning back in his chair he watched
the blue smoke-rings as they chased each other
up to the ceiling.
"I think, Watson," he remarked at last, "that
of all our cases we have had none more fantastic
"Save, perhaps, the Sign of Four."
"Well, yes. Save, perhaps, that. And yet this
John Openshaw seems to me to be walking amid
even greater perils than did the Sholtos."
"But have you," I asked, "formed any definite
conception as to what these perils are?"
"There can be no question as to their
nature," he answered.
"Then what are they? Who is this K. K. K.,
and why does he pursue this unhappy family?"
Sherlock Holmes closed his eyes and placed
his elbows upon the arms of his chair, with his
finger-tips together. "The ideal reasoner," he
remarked, "would, when he had once been shown a
single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it
not only all the chain of events which led up to
it but also all the results which would follow
from it. As Cuvier could correctly describe a
whole animal by the contemplation of a single
bone, so the observer who has thoroughly
understood one link in a series of incidents
should be able to accurately state all the other
ones, both before and after. We have not yet
grasped the results which the reason alone can
attain to. Problems may be solved in the study
which have baffled all those who have sought a
solution by the aid of their senses. To carry
the art, however, to its highest pitch, it is
necessary that the reasoner should be able to
utilise all the facts which have come to his
knowledge; and this in itself implies, as you
will readily see, a possession of all knowledge,
which, even in these days of free education and
encyclopaedias, is a somewhat rare
accomplishment. It is not so impossible,
however, that a man should possess all knowledge
which is likely to be useful to him in his work,
and this I have endeavoured in my case to do. If
I remember rightly, you on one occasion, in the
early days of our friendship, defined my limits
in a very precise fashion."
"Yes," I answered, laughing. "It was a
singular document. Philosophy, astronomy, and
politics were marked at zero, I remember. Botany
variable, geology profound as regards the
mud-stains from any region within fifty miles of
town, chemistry eccentric, anatomy unsystematic,
sensational literature and crime records unique,
violin-player, boxer, swordsman, lawyer, and
self-poisoner by cocaine and tobacco. Those, I
think, were the main points of my analysis."
Holmes grinned at the last item. "Well," he
said, "I say now, as I said then, that a man
should keep his little brain-attic stocked with
all the furniture that he is likely to use, and
the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of
his library, where he can get it if he wants it.
Now, for such a case as the one which has been
submitted to us to-night, we need certainly to
muster all our resources. Kindly hand me down
the letter K of the `American Encyclopaedia`
which stands upon the shelf beside you. Thank
you. Now let us consider the situation and see
what may be deduced from it. In the first place,
we may start with a strong presumption that
Colonel Openshaw had some very strong reason for
leaving America. Men at his time of life do not
change all their habits and exchange willingly
the charming climate of Florida for the lonely
life of an English provincial town. His extreme
love of solitude in England suggests the idea
that he was in fear of someone or something, so
we may assume as a working hypothesis that it
was fear of someone or something which drove him
from America. As to what it was he feared, we
can only deduce that by considering the
formidable letters which were received by
himself and his successors. Did you remark the
postmarks of those letters?"
"The first was from Pondicherry, the second
from Dundee, and the third from London."
"From East London. What do you deduce from
"They are all seaports. That the writer was
on board of a ship."
"Excellent. We have already a clue. There can
be no doubt that the probability--the strong
probability--is that the writer was on board of
a ship. And now let us consider another point.
In the case of Pondicherry, seven weeks elapsed
between the threat and its fulfilment, in Dundee
it was only some three or four days. Does that
"A greater distance to travel."
"But the letter had also a greater distance
"Then I do not see the point."
"There is at least a presumption that the
vessel in which the man or men are is a
sailing-ship. It looks as if they always send
their singular warning or token before them when
starting upon their mission. You see how quickly
the deed followed the sign when it came from
Dundee. If they had come from Pondicherry in a
steamer they would have arrived almost as soon
as their letter. But, as a matter of fact, seven
weeks elapsed. I think that those seven weeks
represented the difference between the mail-boat
which brought the letter and the sailing vessel
which brought the writer."
"It is possible."
"More than that. It is probable. And now you
see the deadly urgency of this new case, and why
I urged young Openshaw to caution. The blow has
always fallen at the end of the time which it
would take the senders to travel the distance.
But this one comes from London, and therefore we
cannot count upon delay."
"Good God!" I cried. "What can it mean, this
"The papers which Openshaw carried are
obviously of vital importance to the person or
persons in the sailing-ship. I think that it is
quite clear that there must be more than one of
them. A single man could not have carried out
two deaths in such a way as to deceive a
coroner`s jury. There must have been several in
it, and they must have been men of resource and
determination. Their papers they mean to have,
be the holder of them who it may. In this way
you see K. K. K. ceases to be the initials of an
individual and becomes the badge of a society."
"But of what society?"
"Have you never--" said Sherlock Holmes,
bending forward and sinking his voice--"have you
never heard of the Ku Klux Klan?"
"I never have."
Holmes turned over the leaves of the book
upon his knee. "Here it is," said he presently:
"`Ku Klux Klan. A name derived from the
fanciful resemblance to the sound produced by
cocking a rifle. This terrible secret society
was formed by some ex-Confederate soldiers in
the Southern states after the Civil War, and it
rapidly formed local branches in different parts
of the country, notably in Tennessee, Louisiana,
the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Its power
was used for political purposes, principally for
the terrorising of the negro voters and the
murdering and driving from the country of those
who were opposed to its views. Its outrages were
usually preceded by a warning sent to the marked
man in some fantastic but generally recognised
shape--a sprig of oak-leaves in some parts,
melon seeds or orange pips in others. On
receiving this the victim might either openly
abjure his former ways, or might fly from the
country. If he braved the matter out, death
would unfailingly come upon him, and usually in
some strange and unforeseen manner. So perfect
was the organisation of the society, and so
systematic its methods, that there is hardly a
case upon record where any man succeeded in
braving it with impunity, or in which any of its
outrages were traced home to the perpetrators.
For some years the organisation flourished in
spite of the efforts of the United States
government and of the better classes of the
community in the South. Eventually, in the year
1869, the movement rather suddenly collapsed,
although there have been sporadic outbreaks of
the same sort since that date.`
"You will observe," said Holmes, laying down
the volume, "that the sudden breaking up of the
society was coincident with the disappearance of
Openshaw from America with their papers. It may
well have been cause and effect. It is no wonder
that he and his family have some of the more
implacable spirits upon their track. You can
understand that this register and diary may
implicate some of the first men in the South,
and that there may be many who will not sleep
easy at night until it is recovered."
"Then the page we have seen--"
"Is such as we might expect. It ran, if I
remember right, `sent the pips to A, B, and
C`--that is, sent the society`s warning to them.
Then there are successive entries that A and B
cleared, or left the country, and finally that C
was visited, with, I fear, a sinister result for
C. Well, I think, Doctor, that we may let some
light into this dark place, and I believe that
the only chance young Openshaw has in the
meantime is to do what I have told him. There is
nothing more to be said or to be done to-night,
so hand me over my violin and let us try to
forget for half an hour the miserable weather
and the still more miserable ways of our
It had cleared in the morning, and the sun
was shining with a subdued brightness through
the dim veil which hangs over the great city.
Sherlock Holmes was already at breakfast when I
"You will excuse me for not waiting for you,"
said he; "I have, I foresee, a very busy day
before me in looking into this case of young
"What steps will you take?" I asked.
"It will very much depend upon the results of
my first inquiries. I may have to go down to
Horsham, after all."
"You will not go there first?"
"No, I shall commence with the City. Just
ring the bell and the maid will bring up your
As I waited, I lifted the unopened newspaper
from the table and glanced my eye over it. It
rested upon a heading which sent a chill to my
"Holmes," I cried, "you are too late."
"Ah!" said he, laying down his cup, "I feared
as much. How was it done?" He spoke calmly, but
I could see that he was deeply moved.
"My eye caught the name of Openshaw, and the
heading `Tragedy Near Waterloo Bridge.` Here is
"Between nine and ten last night
Police-Constable Cook, of the H Division, on
duty near Waterloo Bridge, heard a cry for help
and a splash in the water. The night, however,
was extremely dark and stormy, so that, in spite
of the help of several passers-by, it was quite
impossible to effect a rescue. The alarm,
however, was given, and, by the aid of the
water-police, the body was eventually recovered.
It proved to be that of a young gentleman whose
name, as it appears from an envelope which was
found in his pocket, was John Openshaw, and
whose residence is near Horsham. It is
conjectured that he may have been hurrying down
to catch the last train from Waterloo Station,
and that in his haste and the extreme darkness
he missed his path and walked over the edge of
one of the small landing-places for river
steamboats. The body exhibited no traces of
violence, and there can be no doubt that the
deceased had been the victim of an unfortunate
accident, which should have the effect of
calling the attention of the authorities to the
condition of the riverside landing-stages."
We sat in silence for some minutes, Holmes
more depressed and shaken than I had ever seen
"That hurts my pride, Watson," he said at
last. "It is a petty feeling, no doubt, but it
hurts my pride. It becomes a personal matter
with me now, and, if God sends me health, I
shall set my hand upon this gang. That he should
come to me for help, and that I should send him
away to his death--!" He sprang from his chair
and paced about the room in uncontrollable
agitation, with a flush upon his sallow cheeks
and a nervous clasping and unclasping of his
long thin hands.
"They must be cunning devils," he exclaimed
at last. "How could they have decoyed him down
there? The Embankment is not on the direct line
to the station. The bridge, no doubt, was too
crowded, even on such a night, for their
purpose. Well, Watson, we shall see who will win
in the long run. I am going out now!"
"To the police?"
"No; I shall be my own police. When I have
spun the web they may take the flies, but not
All day I was engaged in my professional
work, and it was late in the evening before I
returned to Baker Street. Sherlock Holmes had
not come back yet. It was nearly ten o`clock
before he entered, looking pale and worn. He
walked up to the sideboard, and tearing a piece
from the loaf he devoured it voraciously,
washing it down with a long draught of water.
"You are hungry," I remarked.
"Starving. It had escaped my memory. I have
had nothing since breakfast."
"Not a bite. I had no time to think of it."
"And how have you succeeded?"
"You have a clue?"
"I have them in the hollow of my hand. Young
Openshaw shall not long remain unavenged. Why,
Watson, let us put their own devilish trade-mark
upon them. It is well thought of!"
"What do you mean?"
He took an orange from the cupboard, and
tearing it to pieces he squeezed out the pips
upon the table. Of these he took five and thrust
them into an envelope. On the inside of the flap
he wrote "S. H. for J. O." Then he sealed it and
addressed it to "Captain James Calhoun, Barque
`Lone Star,` Savannah, Georgia."
"That will await him when he enters port,"
said he, chuckling. "It may give him a sleepless
night. He will find it as sure a precursor of
his fate as Openshaw did before him."
"And who is this Captain Calhoun?"
"The leader of the gang. I shall have the
others, but he first."
"How did you trace it, then?"
He took a large sheet of paper from his
pocket, all covered with dates and names.
"I have spent the whole day," said he, "over
Lloyd`s registers and files of the old papers,
following the future career of every vessel
which touched at Pondicherry in January and
February in `83. There were thirty-six ships of
fair tonnage which were reported there during
those months. Of these, one, the `Lone Star,`
instantly attracted my attention, since,
although it was reported as having cleared from
London, the name is that which is given to one
of the states of the Union."
"Texas, I think."
"I was not and am not sure which; but I knew
that the ship must have an American origin."
"I searched the Dundee records, and when I
found that the barque `Lone Star` was there in
January, `85, my suspicion became a certainty. I
then inquired as to the vessels which lay at
present in the port of London."
"The `Lone Star` had arrived here last week.
I went down to the Albert Dock and found that
she had been taken down the river by the early
tide this morning, homeward bound to Savannah. I
wired to Gravesend and learned that she had
passed some time ago, and as the wind is
easterly I have no doubt that she is now past
the Goodwins and not very far from the Isle of
"What will you do, then?"
"Oh, I have my hand upon him. He and the two
mates, are as I learn, the only native-born
Americans in the ship. The others are Finns and
Germans. I know, also, that they were all three
away from the ship last night. I had it from the
stevedore who has been loading their cargo. By
the time that their sailing-ship reaches
Savannah the mail-boat will have carried this
letter, and the cable will have informed the
police of Savannah that these three gentlemen
are badly wanted here upon a charge of murder."
There is ever a flaw, however, in the best
laid of human plans, and the murderers of John
Openshaw were never to receive the orange pips
which would show them that another, as cunning
and as resolute as themselves, was upon their
track. Very long and very severe were the
equinoctial gales that year. We waited long for
news of the "Lone Star" of Savannah, but none
ever reached us. We did at last hear that
somewhere far out in the Atlantic a shattered
stern-post of a boat was seen swinging in the
trough of a wave, with the letters "L. S."
carved upon it, and that is all which we shall
ever know of the fate of the "Lone Star."
THE MAN WITH THE TWISTED LIP
Isa Whitney, brother of the late Elias Whitney, D.D., Principal of the
Theological College of St. George`s, was much
addicted to opium. The habit grew upon him, as I
understand, from some foolish freak when he was
at college; for having read De Quincey`s
description of his dreams and sensations, he had
drenched his tobacco with laudanum in an attempt
to produce the same effects. He found, as so
many more have done, that the practice is easier
to attain than to get rid of, and for many years
he continued to be a slave to the drug, an
object of mingled horror and pity to his friends
and relatives. I can see him now, with yellow,
pasty face, drooping lids, and pin-point pupils,
all huddled in a chair, the wreck and ruin of a
One night--it was in June, `89--there came a
ring to my bell, about the hour when a man gives
his first yawn and glances at the clock. I sat
up in my chair, and my wife laid her needle-work
down in her lap and made a little face of
"A patient!" said she. "You`ll have to go
I groaned, for I was newly come back from a
We heard the door open, a few hurried words,
and then quick steps upon the linoleum. Our own
door flew open, and a lady, clad in some
dark-coloured stuff, with a black veil, entered
"You will excuse my calling so late," she
began, and then, suddenly losing her
self-control, she ran forward, threw her arms
about my wife`s neck, and sobbed upon her
shoulder. "Oh, I`m in such trouble!" she cried;
"I do so want a little help."
"Why," said my wife, pulling up her veil, "it
is Kate Whitney. How you startled me, Kate! I
had not an idea who you were when you came in."
"I didn`t know what to do, so I came straight
to you." That was always the way. Folk who were
in grief came to my wife like birds to a
"It was very sweet of you to come. Now, you
must have some wine and water, and sit here
comfortably and tell us all about it. Or should
you rather that I sent James off to bed?"
"Oh, no, no! I want the doctor`s advice and
help, too. It`s about Isa. He has not been home
for two days. I am so frightened about him!"
It was not the first time that she had spoken
to us of her husband`s trouble, to me as a
doctor, to my wife as an old friend and school
companion. We soothed and comforted her by such
words as we could find. Did she know where her
husband was? Was it possible that we could bring
him back to her?
It seems that it was. She had the surest
information that of late he had, when the fit
was on him, made use of an opium den in the
farthest east of the City. Hitherto his orgies
had always been confined to one day, and he had
come back, twitching and shattered, in the
evening. But now the spell had been upon him
eight-and-forty hours, and he lay there,
doubtless among the dregs of the docks,
breathing in the poison or sleeping off the
effects. There he was to be found, she was sure
of it, at the Bar of Gold, in Upper Swandam
Lane. But what was she to do? How could she, a
young and timid woman, make her way into such a
place and pluck her husband out from among the
ruffians who surrounded him?
There was the case, and of course there was
but one way out of it. Might I not escort her to
this place? And then, as a second thought, why
should she come at all? I was Isa Whitney`s
medical adviser, and as such I had influence
over him. I could manage it better if I were
alone. I promised her on my word that I would
send him home in a cab within two hours if he
were indeed at the address which she had given
me. And so in ten minutes I had left my armchair
and cheery sitting-room behind me, and was
speeding eastward in a hansom on a strange
errand, as it seemed to me at the time, though
the future only could show how strange it was to
But there was no great difficulty in the
first stage of my adventure. Upper Swandam Lane
is a vile alley lurking behind the high wharves
which line the north side of the river to the
east of London Bridge. Between a slop-shop and a
gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps
leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a
cave, I found the den of which I was in search.
Ordering my cab to wait, I passed down the
steps, worn hollow in the centre by the
ceaseless tread of drunken feet; and by the
light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I
found the latch and made my way into a long, low
room, thick and heavy with the brown opium
smoke, and terraced with wooden berths, like the
forecastle of an emigrant ship.
Through the gloom one could dimly catch a
glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic
poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown
back, and chins pointing upward, with here and
there a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the
newcomer. Out of the black shadows there
glimmered little red circles of light, now
bright, now faint, as the burning poison waxed
or waned in the bowls of the metal pipes. The
most lay silent, but some muttered to
themselves, and others talked together in a
strange, low, monotonous voice, their
conversation coming in gushes, and then suddenly
tailing off into silence, each mumbling out his
own thoughts and paying little heed to the words
of his neighbour. At the farther end was a small
brazier of burning charcoal, beside which on a
three-legged wooden stool there sat a tall, thin
old man, with his jaw resting upon his two
fists, and his elbows upon his knees, staring
into the fire.
As I entered, a sallow Malay attendant had
hurried up with a pipe for me and a supply of
the drug, beckoning me to an empty berth.
"Thank you. I have not come to stay," said I.
"There is a friend of mine here, Mr. Isa
Whitney, and I wish to speak with him."
There was a movement and an exclamation from
my right, and peering through the gloom, I saw
Whitney, pale, haggard, and unkempt, staring out
"My God! It`s Watson," said he. He was in a
pitiable state of reaction, with every nerve in
a twitter. "I say, Watson, what o`clock is it?"
"Of what day?"
"Of Friday, June 19th."
"Good heavens! I thought it was Wednesday. It
is Wednesday. What d`you want to frighten a chap
for?" He sank his face onto his arms and began
to sob in a high treble key.
"I tell you that it is Friday, man. Your wife
has been waiting this two days for you. You
should be ashamed of yourself!"
"So I am. But you`ve got mixed, Watson, for I
have only been here a few hours, three pipes,
four pipes--I forget how many. But I`ll go home
with you. I wouldn`t frighten Kate--poor little
Kate. Give me your hand! Have you a cab?"
"Yes, I have one waiting."
"Then I shall go in it. But I must owe
something. Find what I owe, Watson. I am all off
colour. I can do nothing for myself."
I walked down the narrow passage between the
double row of sleepers, holding my breath to
keep out the vile, stupefying fumes of the drug,
and looking about for the manager. As I passed
the tall man who sat by the brazier I felt a
sudden pluck at my skirt, and a low voice
whispered, "Walk past me, and then look back at
me." The words fell quite distinctly upon my
ear. I glanced down. They could only have come
from the old man at my side, and yet he sat now
as absorbed as ever, very thin, very wrinkled,
bent with age, an opium pipe dangling down from
between his knees, as though it had dropped in
sheer lassitude from his fingers. I took two
steps forward and looked back. It took all my
self-control to prevent me from breaking out
into a cry of astonishment. He had turned his
back so that none could see him but I. His form
had filled out, his wrinkles were gone, the dull
eyes had regained their fire, and there, sitting
by the fire and grinning at my surprise, was
none other than Sherlock Holmes. He made a
slight motion to me to approach him, and
instantly, as he turned his face half round to
the company once more, subsided into a
doddering, loose-lipped senility.
"Holmes!" I whispered, "what on earth are you
doing in this den?"
"As low as you can," he answered; "I have
excellent ears. If you would have the great
kindness to get rid of that sottish friend of
yours I should be exceedingly glad to have a
little talk with you."
"I have a cab outside."
"Then pray send him home in it. You may
safely trust him, for he appears to be too limp
to get into any mischief. I should recommend you
also to send a note by the cabman to your wife
to say that you have thrown in your lot with me.
If you will wait outside, I shall be with you in
It was difficult to refuse any of Sherlock
Holmes` requests, for they were always so
exceedingly definite, and put forward with such
a quiet air of mastery. I felt, however, that
when Whitney was once confined in the cab my
mission was practically accomplished; and for
the rest, I could not wish anything better than
to be associated with my friend in one of those
singular adventures which were the normal
condition of his existence. In a few minutes I
had written my note, paid Whitney`s bill, led
him out to the cab, and seen him driven through
the darkness. In a very short time a decrepit
figure had emerged from the opium den, and I was
walking down the street with Sherlock Holmes.
For two streets he shuffled along with a bent
back and an uncertain foot. Then, glancing
quickly round, he straightened himself out and
burst into a hearty fit of laughter.
"I suppose, Watson," said he, "that you
imagine that I have added opium-smoking to
cocaine injections, and all the other little
weaknesses on which you have favoured me with
your medical views."
"I was certainly surprised to find you
"But not more so than I to find you."
"I came to find a friend."
"And I to find an enemy."
"Yes; one of my natural enemies, or, shall I
say, my natural prey. Briefly, Watson, I am in
the midst of a very remarkable inquiry, and I
have hoped to find a clue in the incoherent
ramblings of these sots, as I have done before
now. Had I been recognised in that den my life
would not have been worth an hour`s purchase;
for I have used it before now for my own
purposes, and the rascally Lascar who runs it
has sworn to have vengeance upon me. There is a
trap-door at the back of that building, near the
corner of Paul`s Wharf, which could tell some
strange tales of what has passed through it upon
the moonless nights."
"What! You do not mean bodies?"
"Ay, bodies, Watson. We should be rich men if
we had 1000 pounds for every poor devil who has
been done to death in that den. It is the vilest
murder-trap on the whole riverside, and I fear
that Neville St. Clair has entered it never to
leave it more. But our trap should be here." He
put his two forefingers between his teeth and
whistled shrilly--a signal which was answered by
a similar whistle from the distance, followed
shortly by the rattle of wheels and the clink of
"Now, Watson," said Holmes, as a tall
dog-cart dashed up through the gloom, throwing
out two golden tunnels of yellow light from its
side lanterns. "You`ll come with me, won`t you?"
"If I can be of use."
"Oh, a trusty comrade is always of use; and a
chronicler still more so. My room at The Cedars
is a double-bedded one."
"Yes; that is Mr. St. Clair`s house. I am
staying there while I conduct the inquiry."
"Where is it, then?"
"Near Lee, in Kent. We have a seven-mile
drive before us."
"But I am all in the dark."
"Of course you are. You`ll know all about it
presently. Jump up here. All right, John; we
shall not need you. Here`s half a crown. Look
out for me to-morrow, about eleven. Give her her
head. So long, then!"
He flicked the horse with his whip, and we
dashed away through the endless succession of
sombre and deserted streets, which widened
gradually, until we were flying across a broad
balustraded bridge, with the murky river flowing
sluggishly beneath us. Beyond lay another dull
wilderness of bricks and mortar, its silence
broken only by the heavy, regular footfall of
the policeman, or the songs and shouts of some
belated party of revellers. A dull wrack was
drifting slowly across the sky, and a star or
two twinkled dimly here and there through the
rifts of the clouds. Holmes drove in silence,
with his head sunk upon his breast, and the air
of a man who is lost in thought, while I sat
beside him, curious to learn what this new quest
might be which seemed to tax his powers so
sorely, and yet afraid to break in upon the
current of his thoughts. We had driven several
miles, and were beginning to get to the fringe
of the belt of suburban villas, when he shook
himself, shrugged his shoulders, and lit up his
pipe with the air of a man who has satisfied
himself that he is acting for the best.
"You have a grand gift of silence, Watson,"
said he. "It makes you quite invaluable as a
companion. `Pon my word, it is a great thing for
me to have someone to talk to, for my own
thoughts are not over-pleasant. I was wondering
what I should say to this dear little woman
to-night when she meets me at the door."
"You forget that I know nothing about it."
"I shall just have time to tell you the facts
of the case before we get to Lee. It seems
absurdly simple, and yet, somehow I can get
nothing to go upon. There`s plenty of thread, no
doubt, but I can`t get the end of it into my
hand. Now, I`ll state the case clearly and
concisely to you, Watson, and maybe you can see
a spark where all is dark to me."
"Some years ago--to be definite, in May,
1884--there came to Lee a gentleman, Neville St.
Clair by name, who appeared to have plenty of
money. He took a large villa, laid out the
grounds very nicely, and lived generally in good
style. By degrees he made friends in the
neighbourhood, and in 1887 he married the
daughter of a local brewer, by whom he now has
two children. He had no occupation, but was
interested in several companies and went into
town as a rule in the morning, returning by the
5:14 from Cannon Street every night. Mr. St.
Clair is now thirty-seven years of age, is a man
of temperate habits, a good husband, a very
affectionate father, and a man who is popular
with all who know him. I may add that his whole
debts at the present moment, as far as we have
been able to ascertain, amount to 88 pounds
10s., while he has 220 pounds standing to his
credit in the Capital and Counties Bank. There
is no reason, therefore, to think that money
troubles have been weighing upon his mind.
"Last Monday Mr. Neville St. Clair went into
town rather earlier than usual, remarking before
he started that he had two important commissions
to perform, and that he would bring his little
boy home a box of bricks. Now, by the merest
chance, his wife received a telegram upon this
same Monday, very shortly after his departure,
to the effect that a small parcel of
considerable value which she had been expecting
was waiting for her at the offices of the
Aberdeen Shipping Company. Now, if you are well
up in your London, you will know that the office
of the company is in Fresno Street, which
branches out of Upper Swandam Lane, where you
found me to-night. Mrs. St. Clair had her lunch,
started for the City, did some shopping,
proceeded to the company`s office, got her
packet, and found herself at exactly 4:35
walking through Swandam Lane on her way back to
the station. Have you followed me so far?"
"It is very clear."
"If you remember, Monday was an exceedingly
hot day, and Mrs. St. Clair walked slowly,
glancing about in the hope of seeing a cab, as
she did not like the neighbourhood in which she
found herself. While she was walking in this way
down Swandam Lane, she suddenly heard an
ejaculation or cry, and was struck cold to see
her husband looking down at her and, as it
seemed to her, beckoning to her from a
second-floor window. The window was open, and
she distinctly saw his face, which she describes
as being terribly agitated. He waved his hands
frantically to her, and then vanished from the
window so suddenly that it seemed to her that he
had been plucked back by some irresistible force
from behind. One singular point which struck her
quick feminine eye was that although he wore
some dark coat, such as he had started to town
in, he had on neither collar nor necktie.
"Convinced that something was amiss with him,
she rushed down the steps--for the house was
none other than the opium den in which you found
me to-night--and running through the front room
she attempted to ascend the stairs which led to
the first floor. At the foot of the stairs,
however, she met this Lascar scoundrel of whom I
have spoken, who thrust her back and, aided by a
Dane, who acts as assistant there, pushed her
out into the street. Filled with the most
maddening doubts and fears, she rushed down the
lane and, by rare good-fortune, met in Fresno
Street a number of constables with an inspector,
all on their way to their beat. The inspector
and two men accompanied her back, and in spite
of the continued resistance of the proprietor,
they made their way to the room in which Mr. St.
Clair had last been seen. There was no sign of
him there. In fact, in the whole of that floor
there was no one to be found save a crippled
wretch of hideous aspect, who, it seems, made
his home there. Both he and the Lascar stoutly
swore that no one else had been in the front
room during the afternoon. So determined was
their denial that the inspector was staggered,
and had almost come to believe that Mrs. St.
Clair had been deluded when, with a cry, she
sprang at a small deal box which lay upon the
table and tore the lid from it. Out there fell a
cascade of children`s bricks. It was the toy
which he had promised to bring home.
"This discovery, and the evident confusion
which the cripple showed, made the inspector
realise that the matter was serious. The rooms
were carefully examined, and results all pointed
to an abominable crime. The front room was
plainly furnished as a sitting-room and led into
a small bedroom, which looked out upon the back
of one of the wharves. Between the wharf and the
bedroom window is a narrow strip, which is dry
at low tide but is covered at high tide with at
least four and a half feet of water. The bedroom
window was a broad one and opened from below. On
examination traces of blood were to be seen upon
the windowsill, and several scattered drops were
visible upon the wooden floor of the bedroom.
Thrust away behind a curtain in the front room
were all the clothes of Mr. Neville St. Clair,
with the exception of his coat. His boots, his
socks, his hat, and his watch--all were there.
There were no signs of violence upon any of
these garments, and there were no other traces
of Mr. Neville St. Clair. Out of the window he
must apparently have gone for no other exit
could be discovered, and the ominous bloodstains
upon the sill gave little promise that he could
save himself by swimming, for the tide was at
its very highest at the moment of the tragedy.
"And now as to the villains who seemed to be
immediately implicated in the matter. The Lascar
was known to be a man of the vilest antecedents,
but as, by Mrs. St. Clair`s story, he was known
to have been at the foot of the stair within a
very few seconds of her husband`s appearance at
the window, he could hardly have been more than
an accessory to the crime. His defence was one
of absolute ignorance, and he protested that he
had no knowledge as to the doings of Hugh Boone,
his lodger, and that he could not account in any
way for the presence of the missing gentleman`s
"So much for the Lascar manager. Now for the
sinister cripple who lives upon the second floor
of the opium den, and who was certainly the last
human being whose eyes rested upon Neville St.
Clair. His name is Hugh Boone, and his hideous
face is one which is familiar to every man who
goes much to the City. He is a professional
beggar, though in order to avoid the police
regulations he pretends to a small trade in wax
vestas. Some little distance down Threadneedle
Street, upon the left-hand side, there is, as
you may have remarked, a small angle in the
wall. Here it is that this creature takes his
daily seat, cross-legged with his tiny stock of
matches on his lap, and as he is a piteous
spectacle a small rain of charity descends into
the greasy leather cap which lies upon the
pavement beside him. I have watched the fellow
more than once before ever I thought of making
his professional acquaintance, and I have been
surprised at the harvest which he has reaped in
a short time. His appearance, you see, is so
remarkable that no one can pass him without
observing him. A shock of orange hair, a pale
face disfigured by a horrible scar, which, by
its contraction, has turned up the outer edge of
his upper lip, a bulldog chin, and a pair of
very penetrating dark eyes, which present a
singular contrast to the colour of his hair, all
mark him out from amid the common crowd of
mendicants and so, too, does his wit, for he is
ever ready with a reply to any piece of chaff
which may be thrown at him by the passers-by.
This is the man whom we now learn to have been
the lodger at the opium den, and to have been
the last man to see the gentleman of whom we are
"But a cripple!" said I. "What could he have
done single-handed against a man in the prime of
"He is a cripple in the sense that he walks
with a limp; but in other respects he appears to
be a powerful and well-nurtured man. Surely your
medical experience would tell you, Watson, that
weakness in one limb is often compensated for by
exceptional strength in the others."
"Pray continue your narrative."
"Mrs. St. Clair had fainted at the sight of
the blood upon the window, and she was escorted
home in a cab by the police, as her presence
could be of no help to them in their
investigations. Inspector Barton, who had charge
of the case, made a very careful examination of
the premises, but without finding anything which
threw any light upon the matter. One mistake had
been made in not arresting Boone instantly, as
he was allowed some few minutes during which he
might have communicated with his friend the
Lascar, but this fault was soon remedied, and he
was seized and searched, without anything being
found which could incriminate him. There were,
it is true, some blood-stains upon his right
shirt-sleeve, but he pointed to his ring-finger,
which had been cut near the nail, and explained
that the bleeding came from there, adding that
he had been to the window not long before, and
that the stains which had been observed there
came doubtless from the same source. He denied
strenuously having ever seen Mr. Neville St.
Clair and swore that the presence of the clothes
in his room was as much a mystery to him as to
the police. As to Mrs. St. Clair`s assertion
that she had actually seen her husband at the
window, he declared that she must have been
either mad or dreaming. He was removed, loudly
protesting, to the police-station, while the
inspector remained upon the premises in the hope
that the ebbing tide might afford some fresh
"And it did, though they hardly found upon
the mud-bank what they had feared to find. It
was Neville St. Clair`s coat, and not Neville
St. Clair, which lay uncovered as the tide
receded. And what do you think they found in the
"I cannot imagine."
"No, I don`t think you would guess. Every
pocket stuffed with pennies and
half-pennies--421 pennies and 270 half-pennies.
It was no wonder that it had not been swept away
by the tide. But a human body is a different
matter. There is a fierce eddy between the wharf
and the house. It seemed likely enough that the
weighted coat had remained when the stripped
body had been sucked away into the river."
"But I understand that all the other clothes
were found in the room. Would the body be
dressed in a coat alone?"
"No, sir, but the facts might be met
speciously enough. Suppose that this man Boone
had thrust Neville St. Clair through the window,
there is no human eye which could have seen the
deed. What would he do then? It would of course
instantly strike him that he must get rid of the
tell-tale garments. He would seize the coat,
then, and be in the act of throwing it out, when
it would occur to him that it would swim and not
sink. He has little time, for he has heard the
scuffle downstairs when the wife tried to force
her way up, and perhaps he has already heard
from his Lascar confederate that the police are
hurrying up the street. There is not an instant
to be lost. He rushes to some secret hoard,
where he has accumulated the fruits of his
beggary, and he stuffs all the coins upon which
he can lay his hands into the pockets to make
sure of the coat`s sinking. He throws it out,
and would have done the same with the other
garments had not he heard the rush of steps
below, and only just had time to close the
window when the police appeared."
"It certainly sounds feasible."
"Well, we will take it as a working
hypothesis for want of a better. Boone, as I
have told you, was arrested and taken to the
station, but it could not be shown that there
had ever before been anything against him. He
had for years been known as a professional
beggar, but his life appeared to have been a
very quiet and innocent one. There the matter
stands at present, and the questions which have
to be solved--what Neville St. Clair was doing
in the opium den, what happened to him when
there, where is he now, and what Hugh Boone had
to do with his disappearance--are all as far
from a solution as ever. I confess that I cannot
recall any case within my experience which
looked at the first glance so simple and yet
which presented such difficulties."
While Sherlock Holmes had been detailing this
singular series of events, we had been whirling
through the outskirts of the great town until
the last straggling houses had been left behind,
and we rattled along with a country hedge upon
either side of us. Just as he finished, however,
we drove through two scattered villages, where a
few lights still glimmered in the windows.
"We are on the outskirts of Lee," said my
companion. "We have touched on three English
counties in our short drive, starting in
Middlesex, passing over an angle of Surrey, and
ending in Kent. See that light among the trees?
That is The Cedars, and beside that lamp sits a
woman whose anxious ears have already, I have
little doubt, caught the clink of our horse`s
"But why are you not conducting the case from
Baker Street?" I asked.
"Because there are many inquiries which must
be made out here. Mrs. St. Clair has most kindly
put two rooms at my disposal, and you may rest
assured that she will have nothing but a welcome
for my friend and colleague. I hate to meet her,
Watson, when I have no news of her husband. Here
we are. Whoa, there, whoa!"
We had pulled up in front of a large villa
which stood within its own grounds. A stable-boy
had run out to the horse`s head, and springing
down, I followed Holmes up the small, winding
gravel-drive which led to the house. As we
approached, the door flew open, and a little
blonde woman stood in the opening, clad in some
sort of light mousseline de soie, with a touch
of fluffy pink chiffon at her neck and wrists.
She stood with her figure outlined against the
flood of light, one hand upon the door, one
half-raised in her eagerness, her body slightly
bent, her head and face protruded, with eager
eyes and parted lips, a standing question.
"Well?" she cried, "well?" And then, seeing
that there were two of us, she gave a cry of
hope which sank into a groan as she saw that my
companion shook his head and shrugged his
"No good news?"
"Thank God for that. But come in. You must be
weary, for you have had a long day."
"This is my friend, Dr. Watson. He has been
of most vital use to me in several of my cases,
and a lucky chance has made it possible for me
to bring him out and associate him with this
"I am delighted to see you," said she,
pressing my hand warmly. "You will, I am sure,
forgive anything that may be wanting in our
arrangements, when you consider the blow which
has come so suddenly upon us."
"My dear madam," said I, "I am an old
campaigner, and if I were not I can very well
see that no apology is needed. If I can be of
any assistance, either to you or to my friend
here, I shall be indeed happy."
"Now, Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said the lady as
we entered a well-lit dining-room, upon the
table of which a cold supper had been laid out,
"I should very much like to ask you one or two
plain questions, to which I beg that you will
give a plain answer."
"Do not trouble about my feelings. I am not
hysterical, nor given to fainting. I simply wish
to hear your real, real opinion."
"Upon what point?"
"In your heart of hearts, do you think that
Neville is alive?"
Sherlock Holmes seemed to be embarrassed by
the question. "Frankly, now!" she repeated,
standing upon the rug and looking keenly down at
him as he leaned back in a basket-chair.
"Frankly, then, madam, I do not."
"You think that he is dead?"
"I don`t say that. Perhaps."
"And on what day did he meet his death?"
"Then perhaps, Mr. Holmes, you will be good
enough to explain how it is that I have received
a letter from him to-day."
Sherlock Holmes sprang out of his chair as if
he had been galvanised.
"What!" he roared.
"Yes, to-day." She stood smiling, holding up
a little slip of paper in the air.
"May I see it?"
He snatched it from her in his eagerness, and
smoothing it out upon the table he drew over the
lamp and examined it intently. I had left my
chair and was gazing at it over his shoulder.
The envelope was a very coarse one and was
stamped with the Gravesend postmark and with the
date of that very day, or rather of the day
before, for it was considerably after midnight.
"Coarse writing," murmured Holmes. "Surely
this is not your husband`s writing, madam."
"No, but the enclosure is."
"I perceive also that whoever addressed the
envelope had to go and inquire as to the
"How can you tell that?"
"The name, you see, is in perfectly black
ink, which has dried itself. The rest is of the
greyish colour, which shows that blotting-paper
has been used. If it had been written straight
off, and then blotted, none would be of a deep
black shade. This man has written the name, and
there has then been a pause before he wrote the
address, which can only mean that he was not
familiar with it. It is, of course, a trifle,
but there is nothing so important as trifles.
Let us now see the letter. Ha! there has been an
"Yes, there was a ring. His signet-ring."
"And you are sure that this is your husband`s
"One of his hands."
"His hand when he wrote hurriedly. It is very
unlike his usual writing, and yet I know it
"`Dearest do not be frightened. All will come
well. There is a huge error which it may take
some little time to rectify. Wait in
patience.--NEVILLE.` Written in pencil upon the
fly-leaf of a book, octavo size, no water-mark.
Hum! Posted to-day in Gravesend by a man with a
dirty thumb. Ha! And the flap has been gummed,
if I am not very much in error, by a person who
had been chewing tobacco. And you have no doubt
that it is your husband`s hand, madam?"
"None. Neville wrote those words."
"And they were posted to-day at Gravesend.
Well, Mrs. St. Clair, the clouds lighten, though
I should not venture to say that the danger is
"But he must be alive, Mr. Holmes."
"Unless this is a clever forgery to put us on
the wrong scent. The ring, after all, proves
nothing. It may have been taken from him."
"No, no; it is, it is his very own writing!"
"Very well. It may, however, have been
written on Monday and only posted to-day."
"That is possible."
"If so, much may have happened between."
"Oh, you must not discourage me, Mr. Holmes.
I know that all is well with him. There is so
keen a sympathy between us that I should know if
evil came upon him. On the very day that I saw
him last he cut himself in the bedroom, and yet
I in the dining-room rushed upstairs instantly
with the utmost certainty that something had
happened. Do you think that I would respond to
such a trifle and yet be ignorant of his death?"
"I have seen too much not to know that the
impression of a woman may be more valuable than
the conclusion of an analytical reasoner. And in
this letter you certainly have a very strong
piece of evidence to corroborate your view. But
if your husband is alive and able to write
letters, why should he remain away from you?"
"I cannot imagine. It is unthinkable."
"And on Monday he made no remarks before
"And you were surprised to see him in Swandam
"Very much so."
"Was the window open?"
"Then he might have called to you?"
"He only, as I understand, gave an
"A call for help, you thought?"
"Yes. He waved his hands."
"But it might have been a cry of surprise.
Astonishment at the unexpected sight of you
might cause him to throw up his hands?"
"It is possible."
"And you thought he was pulled back?"
"He disappeared so suddenly."
"He might have leaped back. You did not see
anyone else in the room?"
"No, but this horrible man confessed to
having been there, and the Lascar was at the
foot of the stairs."
"Quite so. Your husband, as far as you could
see, had his ordinary clothes on?"
"But without his collar or tie. I distinctly
saw his bare throat."
"Had he ever spoken of Swandam Lane?"
"Had he ever showed any signs of having taken
"Thank you, Mrs. St. Clair. Those are the
principal points about which I wished to be
absolutely clear. We shall now have a little
supper and then retire, for we may have a very
busy day to-morrow."
A large and comfortable double-bedded room
had been placed at our disposal, and I was
quickly between the sheets, for I was weary
after my night of adventure. Sherlock Holmes was
a man, however, who, when he had an unsolved
problem upon his mind, would go for days, and
even for a week, without rest, turning it over,
rearranging his facts, looking at it from every
point of view until he had either fathomed it or
convinced himself that his data were
insufficient. It was soon evident to me that he
was now preparing for an all-night sitting. He
took off his coat and waistcoat, put on a large
blue dressing-gown, and then wandered about the
room collecting pillows from his bed and
cushions from the sofa and armchairs. With these
he constructed a sort of Eastern divan, upon
which he perched himself cross-legged, with an
ounce of shag tobacco and a box of matches laid
out in front of him. In the dim light of the
lamp I saw him sitting there, an old briar pipe
between his lips, his eyes fixed vacantly upon
the corner of the ceiling, the blue smoke
curling up from him, silent, motionless, with
the light shining upon his strong-set aquiline
features. So he sat as I dropped off to sleep,
and so he sat when a sudden ejaculation caused
me to wake up, and I found the summer sun
shining into the apartment. The pipe was still
between his lips, the smoke still curled upward,
and the room was full of a dense tobacco haze,
but nothing remained of the heap of shag which I
had seen upon the previous night.
"Awake, Watson?" he asked.
"Game for a morning drive?"
"Then dress. No one is stirring yet, but I
know where the stable-boy sleeps, and we shall
soon have the trap out." He chuckled to himself
as he spoke, his eyes twinkled, and he seemed a
different man to the sombre thinker of the
As I dressed I glanced at my watch. It was no
wonder that no one was stirring. It was
twenty-five minutes past four. I had hardly
finished when Holmes returned with the news that
the boy was putting in the horse.
"I want to test a little theory of mine,"
said he, pulling on his boots. "I think, Watson,
that you are now standing in the presence of one
of the most absolute fools in Europe. I deserve
to be kicked from here to Charing Cross. But I
think I have the key of the affair now."
"And where is it?" I asked, smiling.
"In the bathroom," he answered. "Oh, yes, I
am not joking," he continued, seeing my look of
incredulity. "I have just been there, and I have
taken it out, and I have got it in this
Gladstone bag. Come on, my boy, and we shall see
whether it will not fit the lock."
We made our way downstairs as quietly as
possible, and out into the bright morning
sunshine. In the road stood our horse and trap,
with the half-clad stable-boy waiting at the
head. We both sprang in, and away we dashed down
the London Road. A few country carts were
stirring, bearing in vegetables to the
metropolis, but the lines of villas on either
side were as silent and lifeless as some city in
"It has been in some points a singular case,"
said Holmes, flicking the horse on into a
gallop. "I confess that I have been as blind as
a mole, but it is better to learn wisdom late
than never to learn it at all."
In town the earliest risers were just
beginning to look sleepily from their windows as
we drove through the streets of the Surrey side.
Passing down the Waterloo Bridge Road we crossed
over the river, and dashing up Wellington Street
wheeled sharply to the right and found ourselves
in Bow Street. Sherlock Holmes was well known to
the force, and the two constables at the door
saluted him. One of them held the horse`s head
while the other led us in.
"Who is on duty?" asked Holmes.
"Inspector Bradstreet, sir."
"Ah, Bradstreet, how are you?" A tall, stout
official had come down the stone-flagged
passage, in a peaked cap and frogged jacket. "I
wish to have a quiet word with you, Bradstreet."
"Certainly, Mr. Holmes. Step into my room here."
It was a small, office-like room, with a huge
ledger upon the table, and a telephone
projecting from the wall. The inspector sat down
at his desk.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Holmes?"
"I called about that beggarman, Boone--the
one who was charged with being concerned in the
disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair, of Lee."
"Yes. He was brought up and remanded for
"So I heard. You have him here?"
"In the cells."
"Is he quiet?"
"Oh, he gives no trouble. But he is a dirty
"Yes, it is all we can do to make him wash
his hands, and his face is as black as a
tinker`s. Well, when once his case has been
settled, he will have a regular prison bath; and
I think, if you saw him, you would agree with me
that he needed it."
"I should like to see him very much."
"Would you? That is easily done. Come this
way. You can leave your bag."
"No, I think that I`ll take it."
"Very good. Come this way, if you please." He
led us down a passage, opened a barred door,
passed down a winding stair, and brought us to a
whitewashed corridor with a line of doors on
"The third on the right is his," said the
inspector. "Here it is!" He quietly shot back a
panel in the upper part of the door and glanced
"He is asleep," said he. "You can see him
We both put our eyes to the grating. The
prisoner lay with his face towards us, in a very
deep sleep, breathing slowly and heavily. He was
a middle-sized man, coarsely clad as became his
calling, with a coloured shirt protruding
through the rent in his tattered coat. He was,
as the inspector had said, extremely dirty, but
the grime which covered his face could not
conceal its repulsive ugliness. A broad wheal
from an old scar ran right across it from eye to
chin, and by its contraction had turned up one
side of the upper lip, so that three teeth were
exposed in a perpetual snarl. A shock of very
bright red hair grew low over his eyes and
"He`s a beauty, isn`t he?" said the
"He certainly needs a wash," remarked Holmes.
"I had an idea that he might, and I took the
liberty of bringing the tools with me." He
opened the Gladstone bag as he spoke, and took
out, to my astonishment, a very large
"He! he! You are a funny one," chuckled the
"Now, if you will have the great goodness to
open that door very quietly, we will soon make
him cut a much more respectable figure."
"Well, I don`t know why not," said the
inspector. "He doesn`t look a credit to the Bow
Street cells, does he?" He slipped his key into
the lock, and we all very quietly entered the
cell. The sleeper half turned, and then settled
down once more into a deep slumber. Holmes
stooped to the water-jug, moistened his sponge,
and then rubbed it twice vigorously across and
down the prisoner`s face.
"Let me introduce you," he shouted, "to Mr.
Neville St. Clair, of Lee, in the county of
Never in my life have I seen such a sight.
The man`s face peeled off under the sponge like
the bark from a tree. Gone was the coarse brown
tint! Gone, too, was the horrid scar which had
seamed it across, and the twisted lip which had
given the repulsive sneer to the face! A twitch
brought away the tangled red hair, and there,
sitting up in his bed, was a pale, sad-faced,
refined-looking man, black-haired and
smooth-skinned, rubbing his eyes and staring
about him with sleepy bewilderment. Then
suddenly realising the exposure, he broke into a
scream and threw himself down with his face to
"Great heavens!" cried the inspector, "it is,
indeed, the missing man. I know him from the
The prisoner turned with the reckless air of
a man who abandons himself to his destiny. "Be
it so," said he. "And pray what am I charged
"With making away with Mr. Neville St.-- Oh,
come, you can`t be charged with that unless they
make a case of attempted suicide of it," said
the inspector with a grin. "Well, I have been
twenty-seven years in the force, but this really
takes the cake."
"If I am Mr. Neville St. Clair, then it is
obvious that no crime has been committed, and
that, therefore, I am illegally detained."
"No crime, but a very great error has been
committed," said Holmes. "You would have done
better to have trusted you wife."
"It was not the wife; it was the children,"
groaned the prisoner. "God help me, I would not
have them ashamed of their father. My God! What
an exposure! What can I do?"
Sherlock Holmes sat down beside him on the
couch and patted him kindly on the shoulder.
"If you leave it to a court of law to clear
the matter up," said he, "of course you can
hardly avoid publicity. On the other hand, if
you convince the police authorities that there
is no possible case against you, I do not know
that there is any reason that the details should
find their way into the papers. Inspector
Bradstreet would, I am sure, make notes upon
anything which you might tell us and submit it
to the proper authorities. The case would then
never go into court at all."
"God bless you!" cried the prisoner
passionately. "I would have endured
imprisonment, ay, even execution, rather than
have left my miserable secret as a family blot
to my children.
"You are the first who have ever heard my
story. My father was a schoolmaster in
Chesterfield, where I received an excellent
education. I travelled in my youth, took to the
stage, and finally became a reporter on an
evening paper in London. One day my editor
wished to have a series of articles upon begging
in the metropolis, and I volunteered to supply
them. There was the point from which all my
adventures started. It was only by trying
begging as an amateur that I could get the facts
upon which to base my articles. When an actor I
had, of course, learned all the secrets of
making up, and had been famous in the green-room
for my skill. I took advantage now of my
attainments. I painted my face, and to make
myself as pitiable as possible I made a good
scar and fixed one side of my lip in a twist by
the aid of a small slip of flesh-coloured
plaster. Then with a red head of hair, and an
appropriate dress, I took my station in the
business part of the city, ostensibly as a
match-seller but really as a beggar. For seven
hours I plied my trade, and when I returned home
in the evening I found to my surprise that I had
received no less than 26s. 4d.
"I wrote my articles and thought little more
of the matter until, some time later, I backed a
bill for a friend and had a writ served upon me
for 25 pounds. I was at my wit`s end where to
get the money, but a sudden idea came to me. I
begged a fortnight`s grace from the creditor,
asked for a holiday from my employers, and spent
the time in begging in the City under my
disguise. In ten days I had the money and had
paid the debt.
"Well, you can imagine how hard it was to
settle down to arduous work at 2 pounds a week
when I knew that I could earn as much in a day
by smearing my face with a little paint, laying
my cap on the ground, and sitting still. It was
a long fight between my pride and the money, but
the dollars won at last, and I threw up
reporting and sat day after day in the corner
which I had first chosen, inspiring pity by my
ghastly face and filling my pockets with
coppers. Only one man knew my secret. He was the
keeper of a low den in which I used to lodge in
Swandam Lane, where I could every morning emerge
as a squalid beggar and in the evenings
transform myself into a well-dressed man about
town. This fellow, a Lascar, was well paid by me
for his rooms, so that I knew that my secret was
safe in his possession.
"Well, very soon I found that I was saving
considerable sums of money. I do not mean that
any beggar in the streets of London could earn
700 pounds a year--which is less than my average
takings--but I had exceptional advantages in my
power of making up, and also in a facility of
repartee, which improved by practice and made me
quite a recognised character in the City. All
day a stream of pennies, varied by silver,
poured in upon me, and it was a very bad day in
which I failed to take 2 pounds.
"As I grew richer I grew more ambitious, took
a house in the country, and eventually married,
without anyone having a suspicion as to my real
occupation. My dear wife knew that I had
business in the City. She little knew what.
"Last Monday I had finished for the day and
was dressing in my room above the opium den when
I looked out of my window and saw, to my horror
and astonishment, that my wife was standing in
the street, with her eyes fixed full upon me. I
gave a cry of surprise, threw up my arms to
cover my face, and, rushing to my confidant, the
Lascar, entreated him to prevent anyone from
coming up to me. I heard her voice downstairs,
but I knew that she could not ascend. Swiftly I
threw off my clothes, pulled on those of a
beggar, and put on my pigments and wig. Even a
wife`s eyes could not pierce so complete a
disguise. But then it occurred to me that there
might be a search in the room, and that the
clothes might betray me. I threw open the
window, reopening by my violence a small cut
which I had inflicted upon myself in the bedroom
that morning. Then I seized my coat, which was
weighted by the coppers which I had just
transferred to it from the leather bag in which
I carried my takings. I hurled it out of the
window, and it disappeared into the Thames. The
other clothes would have followed, but at that
moment there was a rush of constables up the
stair, and a few minutes after I found, rather,
I confess, to my relief, that instead of being
identified as Mr. Neville St. Clair, I was
arrested as his murderer.
"I do not know that there is anything else
for me to explain. I was determined to preserve
my disguise as long as possible, and hence my
preference for a dirty face. Knowing that my
wife would be terribly anxious, I slipped off my
ring and confided it to the Lascar at a moment
when no constable was watching me, together with
a hurried scrawl, telling her that she had no
cause to fear."
"That note only reached her yesterday," said
"Good God! What a week she must have spent!"
"The police have watched this Lascar," said
Inspector Bradstreet, "and I can quite
understand that he might find it difficult to
post a letter unobserved. Probably he handed it
to some sailor customer of his, who forgot all
about it for some days."
"That was it," said Holmes, nodding
approvingly; "I have no doubt of it. But have
you never been prosecuted for begging?"
"Many times; but what was a fine to me?"
"It must stop here, however," said
Bradstreet. "If the police are to hush this
thing up, there must be no more of Hugh Boone."
"I have sworn it by the most solemn oaths
which a man can take."
"In that case I think that it is probable
that no further steps may be taken. But if you
are found again, then all must come out. I am
sure, Mr. Holmes, that we are very much indebted
to you for having cleared the matter up. I wish
I knew how you reach your results."
"I reached this one," said my friend, "by
sitting upon five pillows and consuming an ounce
of shag. I think, Watson, that if we drive to
Baker Street we shall just be in time for