"Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"
"I am afraid, Watson, that I shall have to go," said Holmes, as we sat
down together to our breakfast one morning.
"Go! Where to?"
"To Dartmoor; to King`s Pyland."
I was not surprised. Indeed, my only wonder
was that he had not already been mixed upon this
extraordinary case, which was the one topic of
conversation through the length and breadth of
England. For a whole day my companion had
rambled about the room with his chin upon his
chest and his brows knitted, charging and
recharging his pipe with the strongest black
tobacco, and absolutely deaf to any of my
questions or remarks. Fresh editions of every
paper had been sent up by our news agent, only
to be glanced over and tossed down into a
corner. Yet, silent as he was, I knew perfectly
well what it was over which he was brooding.
There was but one problem before the public
which could challenge his powers of analysis,
and that was the singular disappearance of the
favorite for the Wessex Cup, and the tragic
murder of its trainer. When, therefore, he
suddenly announced his intention of setting out
for the scene of the drama it was only what I
had both expected and hoped for.
"I should be most happy to go down with you
if I should not be in the way," said I.
"My dear Watson, you would confer a great
favor upon me by coming. And I think that your
time will not be misspent, for there are points
about the case which promise to make it an
absolutely unique one. We have, I think, just
time to catch our train at Paddington, and I
will go further into the matter upon our
journey. You would oblige me by bringing with
you your very excellent field-glass."
And so it happened that an hour or so later I
found myself in the corner of a first-class
carriage flying along en route for Exeter, while
Sherlock Holmes, with his sharp, eager face
framed in his ear-flapped travelling-cap, dipped
rapidly into the bundle of fresh papers which he
had procured at Paddington. We had left Reading
far behind us before he thrust the last one of
them under the seat, and offered me his
"We are going well," said he, looking out the
window and glancing at his watch. "Our rate at
present is fifty-three and a half miles an
"I have not observed the quarter-mile posts,"
"Nor have I. But the telegraph posts upon
this line are sixty yards apart, and the
calculation is a simple one. I presume that you
have looked into this matter of the murder of
John Straker and the disappearance of Silver
"I have seen what the Telegraph and the
Chronicle have to say."
"It is one of those cases where the art of
the reasoner should be used rather for the
sifting of details than for the acquiring of
fresh evidence. The tragedy has been so
uncommon, so complete and of such personal
importance to so many people, that we are
suffering from a plethora of surmise,
conjecture, and hypothesis. The difficulty is to
detach the framework of fact--of absolute
undeniable fact--from the embellishments of
theorists and reporters. Then, having
established ourselves upon this sound basis, it
is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn
and what are the special points upon which the
whole mystery turns. On Tuesday evening I
received telegrams from both Colonel Ross, the
owner of the horse, and from Inspector Gregory,
who is looking after the case, inviting my
"Tuesday evening!" I exclaimed. "And this is
Thursday morning. Why didn`t you go down
"Because I made a blunder, my dear
Watson--which is, I am afraid, a more common
occurrence than any one would think who only
knew me through your memoirs. The fact is that I
could not believe is possible that the most
remarkable horse in England could long remain
concealed, especially in so sparsely inhabited a
place as the north of Dartmoor. From hour to
hour yesterday I expected to hear that he had
been found, and that his abductor was the
murderer of John Straker. When, however, another
morning had come, and I found that beyond the
arrest of young Fitzroy Simpson nothing had been
done, I felt that it was time for me to take
action. Yet in some ways I feel that yesterday
has not been wasted."
"You have formed a theory, then?"
"At least I have got a grip of the essential
facts of the case. I shall enumerate them to
you, for nothing clears up a case so much as
stating it to another person, and I can hardly
expect your co-operation if I do not show you
the position from which we start."
I lay back against the cushions, puffing at
my cigar, while Holmes, leaning forward, with
his long, thin forefinger checking off the
points upon the palm of his left hand, gave me a
sketch of the events which had led to our
"Silver Blaze," said he, "is from the Somomy
stock, and holds as brilliant a record as his
famous ancestor. He is now in his fifth year,
and has brought in turn each of the prizes of
the turf to Colonel Ross, his fortunate owner.
Up to the time of the catastrophe he was the
first favorite for the Wessex Cup, the betting
being three to one on him. He has always,
however, been a prime favorite with the racing
public, and has never yet disappointed them, so
that even at those odds enormous sums of money
have been laid upon him. It is obvious,
therefore, that there were many people who had
the strongest interest in preventing Silver
Blaze from being there at the fall of the flag
"The fact was, of course, appreciated at
King`s Pyland, where the Colonel`s
training-stable is situated. Every precaution
was taken to guard the favorite. The trainer,
John Straker, is a retired jockey who rode in
Colonel Ross`s colors before he became too heavy
for the weighing-chair. He has served the
Colonel for five years as jockey and for seven
as trainer, and has always shown himself to be a
zealous and honest servant. Under him were three
lads; for the establishment was a small one,
containing only four horses in all. One of these
lads sat up each night in the stable, while the
others slept in the loft. All three bore
excellent characters. John Straker, who is a
married man, lived in a small villa about two
hundred yards from the stables. He has no
children, keeps one maid-servant, and is
comfortably off. The country round is very
lonely, but about half a mile to the north there
is a small cluster of villas which have been
built by a Tavistock contractor for the use of
invalids and others who may wish to enjoy the
pure Dartmoor air. Tavistock itself lies two
miles to the west, while across the moor, also
about two miles distant, is the larger training
establishment of Mapleton, which belongs to Lord
Backwater, and is managed by Silas Brown. In
every other direction the moor is a complete
wilderness, inhabited only by a few roaming
gypsies. Such was the general situation last
Monday night when the catastrophe occurred.
"On that evening the horses had been
exercised and watered as usual, and the stables
were locked up at nine o`clock. Two of the lads
walked up to the trainer`s house, where they had
supper in the kitchen, while the third, Ned
Hunter, remained on guard. At a few minutes
after nine the maid, Edith Baxter, carried down
to the stables his supper, which consisted of a
dish of curried mutton. She took no liquid, as
there was a water-tap in the stables, and it was
the rule that the lad on duty should drink
nothing else. The maid carried a lantern with
her, as it was very dark and the path ran across
the open moor.
"Edith Baxter was within thirty yards of the
stables, when a man appeared out of the darkness
and called to her to stop. As he stepped into
the circle of yellow light thrown by the lantern
she saw that he was a person of gentlemanly
bearing, dressed in a gray suit of tweeds, with
a cloth cap. He wore gaiters, and carried a
heavy stick with a knob to it. She was most
impressed, however, by the extreme pallor of his
face and by the nervousness of his manner. His
age, she thought, would be rather over thirty
than under it.
"`Can you tell me where I am?` he asked. `I
had almost made up my mind to sleep on the moor,
when I saw the light of your lantern.`
"`You are close to the King`s Pyland
training-stables,` said she.
"`Oh, indeed! What a stroke of luck!` he
cried. `I understand that a stable-boy sleeps
there alone every night. Perhaps that is his
supper which you are carrying to him. Now I am
sure that you would not be too proud to earn the
price of a new dress, would you?` He took a
piece of white paper folded up out of his
waistcoat pocket. `See that the boy has this
to-night, and you shall have the prettiest frock
that money can buy.`
"She was frightened by the earnestness of his
manner, and ran past him to the window through
which she was accustomed to hand the meals. It
was already opened, and Hunter was seated at the
small table inside. She had begun to tell him of
what had happened, when the stranger came up
"`Good-evening,` said he, looking through the
window. `I wanted to have a word with you.` The
girl has sworn that as he spoke she noticed the
corner of the little paper packet protruding
from his closed hand.
"`What business have you here?` asked the
"`It`s business that may put something into
your pocket,` said the other. `You`ve two horses
in for the Wessex Cup--Silver Blaze and Bayard.
Let me have the straight tip and you won`t be a
loser. Is it a fact that at the weights Bayard
could give the other a hundred yards in five
furlongs, and that the stable have put their
money on him?`
"`So, you`re one of those damned touts!`
cried the lad. `I`ll show you how we serve them
in King`s Pyland.` He sprang up and rushed
across the stable to unloose the dog. The girl
fled away to the house, but as she ran she
looked back and saw that the stranger was
leaning through the window. A minute later,
however, when Hunter rushed out with the hound
he was gone, and though he ran all round the
buildings he failed to find any trace of him."
"One moment," I asked. "Did the stable-boy,
when he ran out with the dog, leave the door
unlocked behind him?"
"Excellent, Watson, excellent!" murmured my
companion. "The importance of the point struck
me so forcibly that I sent a special wire to
Dartmoor yesterday to clear the matter up. The
boy locked the door before he left it. The
window, I may add, was not large enough for a
man to get through.
"Hunter waited until his fellow-grooms had
returned, when he sent a message to the trainer
and told him what had occurred. Straker was
excited at hearing the account, although he does
not seem to have quite realized its true
significance. It left him, however, vaguely
uneasy, and Mrs. Straker, waking at one in the
morning, found that he was dressing. In reply to
her inquiries, he said that he could not sleep
on account of his anxiety about the horses, and
that he intended to walk down to the stables to
see that all was well. She begged him to remain
at home, as she could hear the rain pattering
against the window, but in spite of her
entreaties he pulled on his large mackintosh and
left the house.
"Mrs. Straker awoke at seven in the morning,
to find that her husband had not yet returned.
She dressed herself hastily, called the maid,
and set off for the stables. The door was open;
inside, huddled together upon a chair, Hunter
was sunk in a state of absolute stupor, the
favorite`s stall was empty, and there were no
signs of his trainer.
"The two lads who slept in the chaff-cutting
loft above the harness-room were quickly
aroused. They had heard nothing during the
night, for they are both sound sleepers. Hunter
was obviously under the influence of some
powerful drug, and as no sense could be got out
of him, he was left to sleep it off while the
two lads and the two women ran out in search of
the absentees. They still had hopes that the
trainer had for some reason taken out the horse
for early exercise, but on ascending the knoll
near the house, from which all the neighboring
moors were visible, they not only could see no
signs of the missing favorite, but they
perceived something which warned them that they
were in the presence of a tragedy.
"About a quarter of a mile from the stables
John Straker`s overcoat was flapping from a
furze-bush. Immediately beyond there was a
bowl-shaped depression in the moor, and at the
bottom of this was found the dead body of the
unfortunate trainer. His head had been shattered
by a savage blow from some heavy weapon, and he
was wounded on the thigh, where there was a
long, clean cut, inflicted evidently by some
very sharp instrument. It was clear, however,
that Straker had defended himself vigorously
against his assailants, for in his right hand he
held a small knife, which was clotted with blood
up to the handle, while in his left he clasped a
red and black silk cravat, which was recognized
by the maid as having been worn on the preceding
evening by the stranger who had visited the
stables. Hunter, on recovering from his stupor,
was also quite positive as to the ownership of
the cravat. He was equally certain that the same
stranger had, while standing at the window,
drugged his curried mutton, and so deprived the
stables of their watchman. As to the missing
horse, there were abundant proofs in the mud
which lay at the bottom of the fatal hollow that
he had been there at the time of the struggle.
But from that morning he has disappeared, and
although a large reward has been offered, and
all the gypsies of Dartmoor are on the alert, no
news has come of him. Finally, an analysis has
shown that the remains of his supper left by the
stable-lad contain an appreciable quantity of
powdered opium, while the people at the house
partook of the same dish on the same night
without any ill effect.
"Those are the main facts of the case,
stripped of all surmise, and stated as baldly as
possible. I shall now recapitulate what the
police have done in the matter.
"Inspector Gregory, to whom the case has been
committed, is an extremely competent officer.
Were he but gifted with imagination he might
rise to great heights in his profession. On his
arrival he promptly found and arrested the man
upon whom suspicion naturally rested. There was
little difficulty in finding him, for he
inhabited one of those villas which I have
mentioned. His name, it appears, was Fitzroy
Simpson. He was a man of excellent birth and
education, who had squandered a fortune upon the
turf, and who lived now by doing a little quiet
and genteel book-making in the sporting clubs of
London. An examination of his betting-book shows
that bets to the amount of five thousand pounds
had been registered by him against the favorite.
On being arrested he volunteered that statement
that he had come down to Dartmoor in the hope of
getting some information about the King`s Pyland
horses, and also about Desborough, the second
favorite, which was in charge of Silas Brown at
the Mapleton stables. He did not attempt to deny
that he had acted as described upon the evening
before, but declared that he had no sinister
designs, and had simply wished to obtain
first-hand information. When confronted with his
cravat, he turned very pale, and was utterly
unable to account for its presence in the hand
of the murdered man. His wet clothing showed
that he had been out in the storm of the night
before, and his stick, which was a Penang-lawyer
weighted with lead, was just such a weapon as
might, by repeated blows, have inflicted the
terrible injuries to which the trainer had
succumbed. On the other hand, there was no wound
upon his person, while the state of Straker`s
knife would show that one at least of his
assailants must bear his mark upon him. There
you have it all in a nutshell, Watson, and if
you can give me any light I shall be infinitely
obliged to you."
I had listened with the greatest interest to
the statement which Holmes, with characteristic
clearness, had laid before me. Though most of
the facts were familiar to me, I had not
sufficiently appreciated their relative
importance, nor their connection to each other.
"Is in not possible," I suggested, "that the
incised would upon Straker may have been caused
by his own knife in the convulsive struggles
which follow any brain injury?"
"It is more than possible; it is probable,"
said Holmes. "In that case one of the main
points in favor of the accused disappears."
"And yet," said I, "even now I fail to
understand what the theory of the police can
"I am afraid that whatever theory we state
has very grave objections to it," returned my
companion. "The police imagine, I take it, that
this Fitzroy Simpson, having drugged the lad,
and having in some way obtained a duplicate key,
opened the stable door and took out the horse,
with the intention, apparently, of kidnapping
him altogether. His bridle is missing, so that
Simpson must have put this on. Then, having left
the door open behind him, he was leading the
horse away over the moor, when he was either met
or overtaken by the trainer. A row naturally
ensued. Simpson beat out the trainer`s brains
with his heavy stick without receiving any
injury from the small knife which Straker used
in self-defence, and then the thief either led
the horse on to some secret hiding-place, or
else it may have bolted during the struggle, and
be now wandering out on the moors. That is the
case as it appears to the police, and improbable
as it is, all other explanations are more
improbable still. However, I shall very quickly
test the matter when I am once upon the spot,
and until then I cannot really see how we can
get much further than our present position."
It was evening before we reached the little
town of Tavistock, which lies, like the boss of
a shield, in the middle of the huge circle of
Dartmoor. Two gentlemen were awaiting us in the
station--the one a tall, fair man with lion-like
hair and beard and curiously penetrating light
blue eyes; the other a small, alert person, very
neat and dapper, in a frock-coat and gaiters,
with trim little side-whiskers and an eye-glass.
The latter was Colonel Ross, the well-known
sportsman; the other, Inspector Gregory, a man
who was rapidly making his name in the English
"I am delighted that you have come down, Mr.
Holmes," said the Colonel. "The Inspector here
has done all that could possibly be suggested,
but I wish to leave no stone unturned in trying
to avenge poor Straker and in recovering my
"Have there been any fresh developments?"
"I am sorry to say that we have made very
little progress," said the Inspector. "We have
an open carriage outside, and as you would no
doubt like to see the place before the light
fails, we might talk it over as we drive."
A minute later we were all seated in a
comfortable landau, and were rattling through
the quaint old Devonshire city. Inspector
Gregory was full of his case, and poured out a
stream of remarks, while Holmes threw in an
occasional question or interjection. Colonel
Ross leaned back with his arms folded and his
hat tilted over his eyes, while I listened with
interest to the dialogue of the two detectives.
Gregory was formulating his theory, which was
almost exactly what Holmes had foretold in the
"The net is drawn pretty close round Fitzroy
Simpson," he remarked, "and I believe myself
that he is our man. At the same time I recognize
that the evidence is purely circumstantial, and
that some new development may upset it."
"How about Straker`s knife?"
"We have quite come to the conclusion that he
wounded himself in his fall."
"My friend Dr. Watson made that suggestion to
me as we came down. If so, it would tell against
this man Simpson."
"Undoubtedly. He has neither a knife nor any
sign of a wound. The evidence against him is
certainly very strong. He had a great interest
in the disappearance of the favorite. He lies
under suspicion of having poisoned the
stable-boy, he was undoubtedly out in the storm,
he was armed with a heavy stick, and his cravat
was found in the dead man`s hand. I really think
we have enough to go before a jury."
Holmes shook his head. "A clever counsel
would tear it all to rags," said he. "Why should
he take the horse out of the stable? If he
wished to injure it why could he not do it
there? Has a duplicate key been found in his
possession? What chemist sold him the powdered
opium? Above all, where could he, a stranger to
the district, hide a horse, and such a horse as
this? What is his own explanation as to the
paper which he wished the maid to give to the
"He says that it was a ten-pound note. One
was found in his purse. But your other
difficulties are not so formidable as they seem.
He is not a stranger to the district. He has
twice lodged at Tavistock in the summer. The
opium was probably brought from London. The key,
having served its purpose, would be hurled away.
The horse may be at the bottom of one of the
pits or old mines upon the moor."
"What does he say about the cravat?"
"He acknowledges that it is his, and declares
that he had lost it. But a new element has been
introduced into the case which may account for
his leading the horse from the stable."
Holmes pricked up his ears.
"We have found traces which show that a party
of gypsies encamped on Monday night within a
mile of the spot where the murder took place. On
Tuesday they were gone. Now, presuming that
there was some understanding between Simpson and
these gypsies, might he not have been leading
the horse to them when he was overtaken, and may
they not have him now?"
"It is certainly possible."
"The moor is being scoured for these gypsies.
I have also examined every stable and out-house
in Tavistock, and for a radius of ten miles."
"There is another training-stable quite
close, I understand?"
"Yes, and that is a factor which we must
certainly not neglect. As Desborough, their
horse, was second in the betting, they had an
interest in the disappearance of the favorite.
Silas Brown, the trainer, is known to have had
large bets upon the event, and he was no friend
to poor Straker. We have, however, examined the
stables, and there is nothing to connect him
with the affair."
"And nothing to connect this man Simpson with
the interests of the Mapleton stables?"
"Nothing at all."
Holmes leaned back in the carriage, and the
conversation ceased. A few minutes later our
driver pulled up at a neat little red-brick
villa with overhanging eaves which stood by the
road. Some distance off, across a paddock, lay a
long gray-tiled out-building. In every other
direction the low curves of the moor,
bronze-colored from the fading ferns, stretched
away to the sky-line, broken only by the
steeples of Tavistock, and by a cluster of
houses away to the westward which marked the
Mapleton stables. We all sprang out with the
exception of Holmes, who continued to lean back
with his eyes fixed upon the sky in front of
him, entirely absorbed in his own thoughts. It
was only when I touched his arm that he roused
himself with a violent start and stepped out of
"Excuse me," said he, turning to Colonel
Ross, who had looked at him in some surprise. "I
was day-dreaming." There was a gleam in his eyes
and a suppressed excitement in his manner which
convinced me, used as I was to his ways, that
his hand was upon a clue, though I could not
imagine where he had found it.
"Perhaps you would prefer at once to go on to
the scene of the crime, Mr. Holmes?" said
"I think that I should prefer to stay here a
little and go into one or two questions of
detail. Straker was brought back here, I
"Yes; he lies upstairs. The inquest is
"He has been in your service some years,
"I have always found him an excellent
"I presume that you made an inventory of what
he had in this pockets at the time of his death,
"I have the things themselves in the
sitting-room, if you would care to see them."
"I should be very glad." We all filed into
the front room and sat round the central table
while the Inspector unlocked a square tin box
and laid a small heap of things before us. There
was a box of vestas, two inches of tallow
candle, an A D P brier-root pipe, a pouch of
seal-skin with half an ounce of long-cut
Cavendish, a silver watch with a gold chain,
five sovereigns in gold, an aluminum
pencil-case, a few papers, and an ivory-handled
knife with a very delicate, inflexible bade
marked Weiss & Co., London.
"This is a very singular knife," said Holmes,
lifting it up and examining it minutely. "I
presume, as I see blood-stains upon it, that it
is the one which was found in the dead man`s
grasp. Watson, this knife is surely in your
"It is what we call a cataract knife," said
"I thought so. A very delicate blade devised
for very delicate work. A strange thing for a
man to carry with him upon a rough expedition,
especially as it would not shut in his pocket."
"The tip was guarded by a disk of cork which
we found beside his body," said the Inspector.
"His wife tells us that the knife had lain upon
the dressing-table, and that he had picked it up
as he left the room. It was a poor weapon, but
perhaps the best that he could lay his hands on
at the moment."
"Very possible. How about these papers?"
"Three of them are receipted hay-dealers`
accounts. One of them is a letter of
instructions from Colonel Ross. This other is a
milliner`s account for thirty-seven pounds
fifteen made out by Madame Lesurier, of Bond
Street, to William Derbyshire. Mrs. Straker
tells us that Derbyshire was a friend of her
husband`s and that occasionally his letters were
"Madam Derbyshire had somewhat expensive
tastes," remarked Holmes, glancing down the
account. "Twenty-two guineas is rather heavy for
a single costume. However there appears to be
nothing more to learn, and we may now go down to
the scene of the crime."
As we emerged from the sitting-room a woman,
who had been waiting in the passage, took a step
forward and laid her hand upon the Inspector`s
sleeve. Her face was haggard and thin and eager,
stamped with the print of a recent horror.
"Have you got them? Have you found them?" she
"No, Mrs. Straker. But Mr. Holmes here has
come from London to help us, and we shall do all
that is possible."
"Surely I met you in Plymouth at a
garden-party some little time ago, Mrs.
Straker?" said Holmes.
"No, sir; you are mistaken."
"Dear me! Why, I could have sworn to it. You
wore a costume of dove-colored silk with
"I never had such a dress, sir," answered the
"Ah, that quite settles it," said Holmes. And
with an apology he followed the Inspector
outside. A short walk across the moor took us to
the hollow in which the body had been found. At
the brink of it was the furze-bush upon which
the coat had been hung.
"There was no wind that night, I understand,"
"None; but very heavy rain."
"In that case the overcoat was not blown
against the furze-bush, but placed there."
"Yes, it was laid across the bush."
"You fill me with interest, I perceive that
the ground has been trampled up a good deal. No
doubt many feet have been here since Monday
"A piece of matting has been laid here at the
side, and we have all stood upon that."
"In this bag I have one of the boots which
Straker wore, one of Fitzroy Simpson`s shoes,
and a cast horseshoe of Silver Blaze."
"My dear Inspector, you surpass yourself!"
Homes took the bag, and, descending into the
hollow, he pushed the matting into a more
central position. Then stretching himself upon
his face and leaning his chin upon his hands, he
made a careful study of the trampled mud in
front of him. "Hullo!" said he, suddenly.
"What`s this?" It was a wax vesta half burned,
which was so coated with mud that it looked at
first like a little chip of wood.
"I cannot think how I came to overlook it,"
said the Inspector, with an expression of
"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only
saw it because I was looking for it."
"What! You expected to find it?"
"I thought it not unlikely."
He took the boots from the bag, and compared
the impressions of each of them with marks upon
the ground. Then he clambered up to the rim of
the hollow, and crawled about among the ferns
"I am afraid that there are no more tracks,"
said the Inspector. "I have examined the ground
very carefully for a hundred yards in each
"Indeed!" said Holmes, rising. "I should not
have the impertinence to do it again after what
you say. But I should like to take a little walk
over the moor before it grows dark, that I may
know my ground to-morrow, and I think that I
shall put this horseshoe into my pocket for
Colonel Ross, who had shown some signs of
impatience at my companion`s quiet and
systematic method of work, glanced at his watch.
"I wish you would come back with me, Inspector,"
said he. "There are several points on which I
should like your advice, and especially as to
whether we do not owe it to the public to remove
our horse`s name from the entries for the Cup."
"Certainly not," cried Holmes, with decision.
"I should let the name stand."
The Colonel bowed. "I am very glad to have
had your opinion, sir," said he. "You will find
us at poor Straker`s house when you have
finished your walk, and we can drive together
He turned back with the Inspector, while
Holmes and I walked slowly across the moor. The
sun was beginning to sink behind the stables of
Mapleton, and the long, sloping plain in front
of us was tinged with gold, deepening into rich,
ruddy browns where the faded ferns and brambles
caught the evening light. But the glories of the
landscape were all wasted upon my companion, who
was sunk in the deepest thought.
"It`s this way, Watson," said he at last. "We
may leave the question of who killed John
Straker for the instant, and confine ourselves
to finding out what has become of the horse.
Now, supposing that he broke away during or
after the tragedy, where could he have gone to?
The horse is a very gregarious creature. If left
to himself his instincts would have been either
to return to King`s Pyland or go over to
Mapleton. Why should he run wild upon the moor?
He would surely have been seen by now. And why
should gypsies kidnap him? These people always
clear out when they hear of trouble, for they do
not wish to be pestered by the police. They
could not hope to sell such a horse. They would
run a great risk and gain nothing by taking him.
Surely that is clear."
"Where is he, then?"
"I have already said that he must have gone
to King`s Pyland or to Mapleton. He is not at
King`s Pyland. Therefore he is at Mapleton. Let
us take that as a working hypothesis and see
what it leads us to. This part of the moor, as
the Inspector remarked, is very hard and dry.
But if falls away towards Mapleton, and you can
see from here that there is a long hollow over
yonder, which must have been very wet on Monday
night. If our supposition is correct, then the
horse must have crossed that, and there is the
point where we should look for his tracks."
We had been walking briskly during this
conversation, and a few more minutes brought us
to the hollow in question. At Holmes` request I
walked down the bank to the right, and he to the
left, but I had not taken fifty paces before I
heard him give a shout, and saw him waving his
hand to me. The track of a horse was plainly
outlined in the soft earth in front of him, and
the shoe which he took from his pocket exactly
fitted the impression.
"See the value of imagination," said Holmes.
"It is the one quality which Gregory lacks. We
imagined what might have happened, acted upon
the supposition, and find ourselves justified.
Let us proceed."
We crossed the marshy bottom and passed over
a quarter of a mile of dry, hard turf. Again the
ground sloped, and again we came on the tracks.
Then we lost them for half a mile, but only to
pick them up once more quite close to Mapleton.
It was Holmes who saw them first, and he stood
pointing with a look of triumph upon his face. A
man`s track was visible beside the horse`s.
"The horse was alone before," I cried.
"Quite so. It was alone before. Hullo, what
The double track turned sharp off and took
the direction of King`s Pyland. Homes whistled,
and we both followed along after it. His eyes
were on the trail, but I happened to look a
little to one side, and saw to my surprise the
same tracks coming back again in the opposite
"One for you, Watson," said Holmes, when I
pointed it out. "You have saved us a long walk,
which would have brought us back on our own
traces. Let us follow the return track."
We had not to go far. It ended at the paving
of asphalt which led up to the gates of the
Mapleton stables. As we approached, a groom ran
out from them.
"We don`t want any loiterers about here,"
"I only wished to ask a question," said
Holmes, with his finger and thumb in his
waistcoat pocket. "Should I be too early to see
your master, Mr. Silas Brown, if I were to call
at five o`clock to-morrow morning?"
"Bless you, sir, if any one is about he will
be, for he is always the first stirring. But
here he is, sir, to answer your questions for
himself. No, sir, no; it is as much as my place
is worth to let him see me touch your money.
Afterwards, if you like."
As Sherlock Holmes replaced the half-crown
which he had drawn from his pocket, a
fierce-looking elderly man strode out from the
gate with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand.
"What`s this, Dawson!" he cried. "No
gossiping! Go about your business! And you, what
the devil do you want here?"
"Ten minutes` talk with you, my good sir,"
said Holmes in the sweetest of voices.
"I`ve no time to talk to every gadabout. We
want no stranger here. Be off, or you may find a
dog at your heels."
Holmes leaned forward and whispered something
in the trainer`s ear. He started violently and
flushed to the temples.
"It`s a lie!" he shouted, "an infernal lie!"
"Very good. Shall we argue about it here in
public or talk it over in your parlor?"
"Oh, come in if you wish to."
Holmes smiled. "I shall not keep you more
than a few minutes, Watson," said he. "Now, Mr.
Brown, I am quite at your disposal."
It was twenty minutes, and the reds had all
faded into grays before Holmes and the trainer
reappeared. Never have I seen such a change as
had been brought about in Silas Brown in that
short time. His face was ashy pale, beads of
perspiration shone upon his brow, and his hands
shook until the hunting-crop wagged like a
branch in the wind. His bullying, overbearing
manner was all gone too, and he cringed along at
my companion`s side like a dog with its master.
"You instructions will be done. It shall all
be done," said he.
"There must be no mistake," said Holmes,
looking round at him. The other winced as he
read the menace in his eyes.
"Oh no, there shall be no mistake. It shall
be there. Should I change it first or not?"
Holmes thought a little and then burst out
laughing. "No, don`t," said he; "I shall write
to you about it. No tricks, now, or--"
"Oh, you can trust me, you can trust me!"
"Yes, I think I can. Well, you shall hear
from me to-morrow." He turned upon his heel,
disregarding the trembling hand which the other
held out to him, and we set off for King`s
"A more perfect compound of the bully,
coward, and sneak than Master Silas Brown I have
seldom met with," remarked Holmes as we trudged
"He has the horse, then?"
"He tried to bluster out of it, but I
described to him so exactly what his actions had
been upon that morning that he is convinced that
I was watching him. Of course you observed the
peculiarly square toes in the impressions, and
that his own boots exactly corresponded to them.
Again, of course no subordinate would have dared
to do such a thing. I described to him how, when
according to his custom he was the first down,
he perceived a strange horse wandering over the
moor. How he went out to it, and his
astonishment at recognizing, from the white
forehead which has given the favorite its name,
that chance had put in his power the only horse
which could beat the one upon which he had put
his money. Then I described how his first
impulse had been to lead him back to King`s
Pyland, and how the devil had shown him how he
could hide the horse until the race was over,
and how he had led it back and concealed it at
Mapleton. When I told him every detail he gave
it up and thought only of saving his own skin."
"But his stables had been searched?"
"Oh, and old horse-fakir like him has many a
"But are you not afraid to leave the horse in
his power now, since he has every interest in
"My dear fellow, he will guard it as the
apple of his eye. He knows that his only hope of
mercy is to produce it safe."
"Colonel Ross did not impress me as a man who
would be likely to show much mercy in any case."
"The matter does not rest with Colonel Ross.
I follow my own methods, and tell as much or as
little as I choose. That is the advantage of
being unofficial. I don`t know whether you
observed it, Watson, but the Colonel`s manner
has been just a trifle cavalier to me. I am
inclined now to have a little amusement at his
expense. Say nothing to him about the horse."
"Certainly not without your permission."
"And of course this is all quite a minor
point compared to the question of who killed
"And you will devote yourself to that?"
"On the contrary, we both go back to London
by the night train."
I was thunderstruck by my friend`s words. We
had only been a few hours in Devonshire, and
that he should give up an investigation which he
had begun so brilliantly was quite
incomprehensible to me. Not a word more could I
draw from him until we were back at the
trainer`s house. The Colonel and the Inspector
were awaiting us in the parlor.
"My friend and I return to town by the
night-express," said Holmes. "We have had a
charming little breath of your beautiful
The Inspector opened his eyes, and the
Colonel`s lip curled in a sneer.
"So you despair of arresting the murderer of
poor Straker," said he.
Holmes shrugged his shoulders. "There are
certainly grave difficulties in the way," said
he. "I have every hope, however, that your horse
will start upon Tuesday, and I beg that you will
have your jockey in readiness. Might I ask for a
photograph of Mr. John Straker?"
The Inspector took one from an envelope and
handed it to him.
"My dear Gregory, you anticipate all my
wants. If I might ask you to wait here for an
instant, I have a question which I should like
to put to the maid."
"I must say that I am rather disappointed in
our London consultant," said Colonel Ross,
bluntly, as my friend left the room. "I do not
see that we are any further than when he came."
"At least you have his assurance that your
horse will run," said I.
"Yes, I have his assurance," said the
Colonel, with a shrug of his shoulders. "I
should prefer to have the horse."
I was about to make some reply in defence of
my friend when he entered the room again.
"Now, gentlemen," said he, "I am quite ready
As we stepped into the carriage one of the
stable-lads held the door open for us. A sudden
idea seemed to occur to Holmes, for he leaned
forward and touched the lad upon the sleeve.
"You have a few sheep in the paddock," he
said. "Who attends to them?"
"I do, sir."
"Have you noticed anything amiss with them of
"Well, sir, not of much account; but three of
them have gone lame, sir."
I could see that Holmes was extremely
pleased, for he chuckled and rubbed his hands
"A long shot, Watson; a very long shot," said
he, pinching my arm. "Gregory, let me recommend
to your attention this singular epidemic among
the sheep. Drive on, coachman!"
Colonel Ross still wore an expression which
showed the poor opinion which he had formed of
my companion`s ability, but I saw by the
Inspector`s face that his attention had been
"You consider that to be important?" he
"Is there any point to which you would wish
to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked
Four days later Holmes and I were again in
the train, bound for Winchester to see the race
for the Wessex Cup. Colonel Ross met us by
appointment outside the station, and we drove in
his drag to the course beyond the town. His face
was grave, and his manner was cold in the
"I have seen nothing of my horse," said he.
"I suppose that you would know him when you
saw him?" asked Holmes.
The Colonel was very angry. "I have been on
the turf for twenty years, and never was asked
such a question as that before," said he. "A
child would know Silver Blaze, with his white
forehead and his mottled off-foreleg."
"How is the betting?"
"Well, that is the curious part of it. You
could have got fifteen to one yesterday, but the
price has become shorter and shorter, until you
can hardly get three to one now."
"Hum!" said Holmes. "Somebody knows
something, that is clear."
As the drag drew up in the enclosure near the
grand stand I glanced at the card to see the
Wessex Plate [it ran] 50 sovs each h ft with
1000 sovs added for four and five year olds.
Second, L300. Third, L200. New course (one mile
and five furlongs). Mr. Heath Newton`s The
Negro. Red cap. Cinnamon jacket. Colonel
Wardlaw`s Pugilist. Pink cap. Blue and black
jacket. Lord Backwater`s Desborough. Yellow cap
and sleeves. Colonel Ross`s Silver Blaze. Black
cap. Red jacket. Duke of Balmoral`s Iris. Yellow
and black stripes. Lord Singleford`s Rasper.
Purple cap. Black sleeves.
"We scratched our other one, and put all
hopes on your word," said the Colonel. "Why,
what is that? Silver Blaze favorite?"
"Five to four against Silver Blaze!" roared
the ring. "Five to four against Silver Blaze!
Five to fifteen against Desborough! Five to four
on the field!"
"There are the numbers up," I cried. "They
are all six there."
"All six there? Then my horse is running,"
cried the Colonel in great agitation. "But I
don`t see him. My colors have not passed."
"Only five have passed. This must be he."
As I spoke a powerful bay horse swept out
from the weighting enclosure and cantered past
us, bearing on it back the well-known black and
red of the Colonel.
"That`s not my horse," cried the owner. "That
beast has not a white hair upon its body. What
is this that you have done, Mr. Holmes?"
"Well, well, let us see how he gets on," said
my friend, imperturbably. For a few minutes he
gazed through my field-glass. "Capital! An
excellent start!" he cried suddenly. "There they
are, coming round the curve!"
From our drag we had a superb view as they
came up the straight. The six horses were so
close together that a carpet could have covered
them, but half way up the yellow of the Mapleton
stable showed to the front. Before they reached
us, however, Desborough`s bolt was shot, and the
Colonel`s horse, coming away with a rush, passed
the post a good six lengths before its rival,
the Duke of Balmoral`s Iris making a bad third.
"It`s my race, anyhow," gasped the Colonel,
passing his hand over his eyes. "I confess that
I can make neither head nor tail of it. Don`t
you think that you have kept up your mystery
long enough, Mr. Holmes?"
"Certainly, Colonel, you shall know
everything. Let us all go round and have a look
at the horse together. Here he is," he
continued, as we made our way into the weighing
enclosure, where only owners and their friends
find admittance. "You have only to wash his face
and his leg in spirits of wine, and you will
find that he is the same old Silver Blaze as
"You take my breath away!"
"I found him in the hands of a fakir, and
took the liberty of running him just as he was
"My dear sir, you have done wonders. The
horse looks very fit and well. It never went
better in its life. I owe you a thousand
apologies for having doubted your ability. You
have done me a great service by recovering my
horse. You would do me a greater still if you
could lay your hands on the murderer of John
"I have done so," said Holmes quietly.
The Colonel and I stared at him in amazement.
"You have got him! Where is he, then?"
"He is here."
"In my company at the present moment."
The Colonel flushed angrily. "I quite
recognize that I am under obligations to you,
Mr. Holmes," said he, "but I must regard what
you have just said as either a very bad joke or
Sherlock Holmes laughed. "I assure you that I
have not associated you with the crime,
Colonel," said he. "The real murderer is
standing immediately behind you." He stepped
past and laid his hand upon the glossy neck of
"The horse!" cried both the Colonel and
"Yes, the horse. And it may lessen his guilt
if I say that it was done in self-defence, and
that John Straker was a man who was entirely
unworthy of your confidence. But there goes the
bell, and as I stand to win a little on this
next race, I shall defer a lengthy explanation
until a more fitting time."
We had the corner of a Pullman car to
ourselves that evening as we whirled back to
London, and I fancy that the journey was a short
one to Colonel Ross as well as to myself, as we
listened to our companion`s narrative of the
events which had occurred at the Dartmoor
training-stables upon the Monday night, and the
means by which he had unravelled them.
"I confess," said he, "that any theories
which I had formed from the newspaper reports
were entirely erroneous. And yet there were
indications there, had they not been overlaid by
other details which concealed their true import.
I went to Devonshire with the conviction that
Fitzroy Simpson was the true culprit, although,
of course, I saw that the evidence against him
was by no means complete. It was while I was in
the carriage, just as we reached the trainer`s
house, that the immense significance of the
curried mutton occurred to me. You may remember
that I was distrait, and remained sitting after
you had all alighted. I was marvelling in my own
mind how I could possibly have overlooked so
obvious a clue."
"I confess," said the Colonel, "that even now
I cannot see how it helps us."
"It was the first link in my chain of
reasoning. Powdered opium is by no means
tasteless. The flavor is not disagreeable, but
it is perceptible. Were it mixed with any
ordinary dish the eater would undoubtedly detect
it, and would probably eat no more. A curry was
exactly the medium which would disguise this
taste. By no possible supposition could this
stranger, Fitzroy Simpson, have caused curry to
be served in the trainer`s family that night,
and it is surely too monstrous a coincidence to
suppose that he happened to come along with
powdered opium upon the very night when a dish
happened to be served which would disguise the
flavor. That is unthinkable. Therefore Simpson
becomes eliminated from the case, and our
attention centers upon Straker and his wife, the
only two people who could have chosen curried
mutton for supper that night. The opium was
added after the dish was set aside for the
stable-boy, for the others had the same for
supper with no ill effects. Which of them, then,
had access to that dish without the maid seeing
"Before deciding that question I had grasped
the significance of the silence of the dog, for
one true inference invariably suggests others.
The Simpson incident had shown me that a dog was
kept in the stables, and yet, though some one
had been in and had fetched out a horse, he had
not barked enough to arouse the two lads in the
loft. Obviously the midnight visitor was some
one whom the dog knew well.
"I was already convinced, or almost
convinced, that John Straker went down to the
stables in the dead of the night and took out
Silver Blaze. For what purpose? For a dishonest
one, obviously, or why should he drug his own
stable-boy? And yet I was at a loss to know why.
There have been cases before now where trainers
have made sure of great sums of money by laying
against their own horses, through agents, and
then preventing them from winning by fraud.
Sometimes it is a pulling jockey. Sometimes it
is some surer and subtler means. What was it
here? I hoped that the contents of his pockets
might help me to form a conclusion.
"And they did so. You cannot have forgotten
the singular knife which was found in the dead
man`s hand, a knife which certainly no sane man
would choose for a weapon. It was, as Dr. Watson
told us, a form of knife which is used for the
most delicate operations known in surgery. And
it was to be used for a delicate operation that
night. You must know, with your wide experience
of turf matters, Colonel Ross, that it is
possible to make a slight nick upon the tendons
of a horse`s ham, and to do it subcutaneously,
so as to leave absolutely no trace. A horse so
treated would develop a slight lameness, which
would be put down to a strain in exercise or a
touch of rheumatism, but never to foul play."
"Villain! Scoundrel!" cried the Colonel.
"We have here the explanation of why John
Straker wished to take the horse out on to the
moor. So spirited a creature would have
certainly roused the soundest of sleepers when
it felt the prick of the knife. It was
absolutely necessary to do it in the open air."
"I have been blind!" cried the Colonel. "Of
course that was why he needed the candle, and
struck the match."
"Undoubtedly. But in examining his belongings
I was fortunate enough to discover not only the
method of the crime, but even its motives. As a
man of the world, Colonel, you know that men do
not carry other people`s bills about in their
pockets. We have most of us quite enough to do
to settle our own. I at once concluded that
Straker was leading a double life, and keeping a
second establishment. The nature of the bill
showed that there was a lady in the case, and
one who had expensive tastes. Liberal as you are
with your servants, one can hardly expect that
they can buy twenty-guinea walking dresses for
their ladies. I questioned Mrs. Straker as to
the dress without her knowing it, and having
satisfied myself that it had never reached her,
I made a note of the milliner`s address, and
felt that by calling there with Straker`s
photograph I could easily dispose of the
"From that time on all was plain. Straker had
led out the horse to a hollow where his light
would be invisible. Simpson in his flight had
dropped his cravat, and Straker had picked it
up--with some idea, perhaps, that he might use
it in securing the horse`s leg. Once in the
hollow, he had got behind the horse and had
struck a light; but the creature frightened at
the sudden glare, and with the strange instinct
of animals feeling that some mischief was
intended, had lashed out, and the steel shoe had
struck Straker full on the forehead. He had
already, in spite of the rain, taken off his
overcoat in order to do his delicate task, and
so, as he fell, his knife gashed his thigh. Do I
make it clear?"
"Wonderful!" cried the Colonel. "Wonderful!
You might have been there!"
"My final shot was, I confess a very long
one. It struck me that so astute a man as
Straker would not undertake this delicate
tendon-nicking without a little practice. What
could he practice on? My eyes fell upon the
sheep, and I asked a question which, rather to
my surprise, showed that my surmise was correct.
"When I returned to London I called upon the
milliner, who had recognized Straker as an
excellent customer of the name of Derbyshire,
who had a very dashing wife, with a strong
partiality for expensive dresses. I have no
doubt that this woman had plunged him over head
and ears in debt, and so led him into this
"You have explained all but one thing," cried
the Colonel. "Where was the horse?"
"Ah, it bolted, and was cared for by one of
your neighbors. We must have an amnesty in that
direction, I think. This is Clapham Junction, if
I am not mistaken, and we shall be in Victoria
in less than ten minutes. If you care to smoke a
cigar in our rooms, Colonel, I shall be happy to
give you any other details which might interest
The Yellow Face
[In publishing these short sketches based upon the numerous cases in
which my companion`s singular gifts have made us
the listeners to, and eventually the actors in,
some strange drama, it is only natural that I
should dwell rather upon his successes than upon
his failures. And this not so much for the sake
of his reputations--for, indeed, it was when he
was at his wits` end that his energy and his
versatility were most admirable--but because
where he failed it happened too often that no
one else succeeded, and that the tale was left
forever without a conclusion. Now and again,
however, it chanced that even when he erred, the
truth was still discovered. I have noted of some
half-dozen cases of the kind the Adventure of
the Musgrave Ritual and that which I am about to
recount are the two which present the strongest
features of interest.]
Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took
exercise for exercise`s sake. Few men were
capable of greater muscular effort, and he was
undoubtedly one of the finest boxers of his
weight that I have ever seen; but he looked upon
aimless bodily exertion as a waste of energy,
and he seldom bestirred himself save when there
was some professional object to be served. Then
he was absolutely untiring and indefatigable.
That he should have kept himself in training
under such circumstances is remarkable, but his
diet was usually of the sparest, and his habits
were simple to the verge of austerity. Save for
the occasional use of cocaine, he had no vices,
and he only turned to the drug as a protest
against the monotony of existence when cases
were scanty and the papers uninteresting.
One day in early spring he had so far relaxed
as to go for a walk with me in the Park, where
the first faint shoots of green were breaking
out upon the elms, and the sticky spear-heads of
the chestnuts were just beginning to burst into
their five-fold leaves. For two hours we rambled
about together, in silence for the most part, as
befits two men who know each other intimately.
It was nearly five before we were back in Baker
Street once more.
"Beg pardon, sir," said our page-boy, as he
opened the door. "There`s been a gentleman here
asking for you, sir."
Holmes glanced reproachfully at me. "So much
for afternoon walks!" said he. "Has this
gentleman gone, then?"
"Didn`t you ask him in?"
"Yes, sir; he came in."
"How long did he wait?"
"Half an hour, sir. He was a very restless
gentleman, sir, a-walkin` and a-stampin` all the
time he was here. I was waitin` outside the
door, sir, and I could hear him. At last he outs
into the passage, and he cries, `Is that man
never goin` to come?` Those were his very words,
sir. `You`ll only need to wait a little longer,`
says I. `Then I`ll wait in the open air, for I
feel half choked,` says he. `I`ll be back before
long.` And with that he ups and he outs, and all
I could say wouldn`t hold him back."
"Well, well, you did you best," said Holmes,
as we walked into our room. "It`s very annoying,
though, Watson. I was badly in need of a case,
and this looks, from the man`s impatience, as if
it were of importance. Hullo! That`s not your
pipe on the table. He must have left his behind
him. A nice old brier with a good long stem of
what the tobacconists call amber. I wonder how
many real amber mouthpieces there are in London?
Some people think that a fly in it is a sign.
Well, he must have been disturbed in his mind to
leave a pipe behind him which he evidently
"How do you know that he values it highly?" I
"Well, I should put the original cost of the
pipe at seven and sixpence. Now it has, you see,
been twice mended, once in the wooden stem and
once in the amber. Each of these mends, done, as
you observe, with silver bands, must have cost
more than the pipe did originally. The man must
value the pipe highly when he prefers to patch
it up rather than buy a new one with the same
"Anything else?" I asked, for Holmes was
turning the pipe about in his hand, and staring
at it in his peculiar pensive way.
He held it up and tapped on it with his long,
thin fore-finger, as a professor might who was
lecturing on a bone.
"Pipes are occasionally of extraordinary
interest," said he. "Nothing has more
individuality, save perhaps watches and
bootlaces. The indications here, however, are
neither very marked nor very important. The
owner is obviously a muscular man, left-handed,
with an excellent set of teeth, careless in his
habits, and with no need to practise economy."
My friend threw out the information in a very
offhand way, but I saw that he cocked his eye at
me to see if I had followed his reasoning.
"You think a man must be well-to-do if he
smokes a seven-shilling pipe," said I.
"This is Grosvenor mixture at eightpence an
ounce," Holmes answered, knocking a little out
on his palm. "As he might get an excellent smoke
for half the price, he has no need to practise
"And the other points?"
"He has been in the habit of lighting his
pipe at lamps and gas-jets. You can see that it
is quite charred all down one side. Of course a
match could not have done that. Why should a man
hold a match to the side of his pipe? But you
cannot light it at a lamp without getting the
bowl charred. And it is all on the right side of
the pipe. From that I gather that he is a
left-handed man. You hold your own pipe to the
lamp, and see how naturally you, being
right-handed, hold the left side to the flame.
You might do it once the other way, but not as a
constancy. This has always been held so. Then he
has bitten through his amber. It takes a
muscular, energetic fellow, and one with a good
set of teeth, to do that. But if I am not
mistaken I hear him upon the stair, so we shall
have something more interesting than his pipe to
An instant later our door opened, and a tall
young man entered the room. He was well but
quietly dressed in a dark-gray suit, and carried
a brown wide-awake in his hand. I should have
put him at about thirty, though he was really
some years older.
"I beg your pardon," said he, with some
embarrassment; "I suppose I should have knocked.
Yes, of course I should have knocked. The fact
is that I am a little upset, and you must put it
all down to that." He passed his hand over his
forehead like a man who is half dazed, and then
fell rather than sat down upon a chair.
"I can see that you have not slept for a
night or two," said Holmes, in his easy, genial
way. "That tries a man`s nerves more than work,
and more even than pleasure. May I ask how I can
"I wanted your advice, sir. I don`t know what
to do and my whole life seems to have gone to
"You wish to employ me as a consulting
"Not that only. I want your opinion as a
judicious man--as a man of the world. I want to
know what I ought to do next. I hope to God
you`ll be able to tell me."
He spoke in little, sharp, jerky outbursts,
and it seemed to me that to speak at all was
very painful to him, and that his will all
through was overriding his inclinations.
"It`s a very delicate thing," said he. "One
does not like to speak of one`s domestic affairs
to strangers. It seems dreadful to discuss the
conduct of one`s wife with two men whom I have
never seen before. It`s horrible to have to do
it. But I`ve got to the end of my tether, and I
must have advice."
"My dear Mr. Grant Munro--" began Holmes.
Our visitor sprang from his char. "What!" he
cried, "you know my mane?"
"If you wish to preserve your incognito,`
said Holmes, smiling, "I would suggest that you
cease to write your name upon the lining of your
hat, or else that you turn the crown towards the
person whom you are addressing. I was about to
say that my friend and I have listened to a good
many strange secrets in this room, and that we
have had the good fortune to bring peace to many
troubled souls. I trust that we may do as much
for you. Might I beg you, as time may prove to
be of importance, to furnish me with the facts
of your case without further delay?"
Our visitor again passed his hand over his
forehead, as if he found it bitterly hard. From
every gesture and expression I could see that he
was a reserved, self-contained man, with a dash
of pride in his nature, more likely to hide his
wounds than to expose them. Then suddenly, with
a fierce gesture of his closed hand, like one
who throws reserve to the winds, he began.
"The facts are these, Mr. Holmes," said he.
"I am a married man, and have been so for three
years. During that time my wife and I have loved
each other as fondly and lived as happily as any
two that ever were joined. We have not had a
difference, not one, in thought or word or deed.
And now, since last Monday, there has suddenly
sprung up a barrier between us, and I find that
there is something in her life and in her
thought of which I know as little as if she were
the woman who brushes by me in the street. We
are estranged, and I want to know why.
"Now there is one thing that I want to
impress upon you before I go any further, Mr.
Holmes. Effie loves me. Don`t let there be any
mistake about that. She loves me with her whole
heart and soul, and never more than now. I know
it. I feel it. I don`t want to argue about that.
A man can tell easily enough when a woman loves
him. But there`s this secret between us, and we
can never be the same until it is cleared."
"Kindly let me have the facts, Mr. Munro,"
said Holmes, with some impatience.
"I`ll tell you what I know about Effie`s
history. She was a widow when I met her first,
though quite young--only twenty-five. Her name
then was Mrs. Hebron. She went out to America
when she was young, and lived in the town of
Atlanta, where she married this Hebron, who was
a lawyer with a good practice. They had one
child, but the yellow fever broke out badly in
the place, and both husband and child died of
it. I have seen his death certificate. This
sickened her of America, and she came back to
live with a maiden aunt at Pinner, in Middlesex.
I may mention that her husband had left her
comfortably off, and that she had a capital of
about four thousand five hundred pounds, which
had been so well invested by him that it
returned an average of seven per cent. She had
only been six months at Pinner when I met her;
we fell in love with each other, and we married
a few weeks afterwards.
"I am a hop merchant myself, and as I have an
income of seven or eight hundred, we found
ourselves comfortably off, and took a nice
eighty-pound-a-year villa at Norbury. Our little
place was very countrified, considering that it
is so close to town. We had an inn and two
houses a little above us, and a single cottage
at the other side of the field which faces us,
and except those there were no houses until you
got half way to the station. My business took me
into town at certain seasons, but in summer I
had less to do, and then in our country home my
wife and I were just as happy as could be
wished. I tell you that there never was a shadow
between us until this accursed affair began.
"There`s one thing I ought to tell you before
I go further. When we married, my wife made over
all her property to me--rather against my will,
for I saw how awkward it would be if my business
affairs went wrong. However, she would have it
so, and it was done. Well, about six weeks ago
she came to me.
"`Jack,` said she, `when you took my money
you said that if ever I wanted any I was to ask
you for it.`
"`Certainly,` said I. `It`s all your own.`
"`Well,` said she, `I want a hundred pounds.`
"I was a bit staggered at this, for I had
imagined it was simply a new dress or something
of the kind that she was after.
"`What on earth for?` I asked.
"`Oh,` said she, in her playful way, `you
said that you were only my banker, and bankers
never ask questions, you know.`
"`If you really mean it, of course you shall
have the money,` said I.
"`Oh, yes, I really mean it.`
"`And you won`t tell me what you want it
"`Some day, perhaps, but not just at present,
"So I had to be content with that, thought it
was the first time that there had ever been any
secret between us. I gave her a check, and I
never thought any more of the matter. It may
have nothing to do with what came afterwards,
but I thought it only right to mention it.
"Well, I told you just now that there is a
cottage not far from our house. There is just a
field between us, but to reach it you have to go
along the road and then turn down a lane. Just
beyond it is a nice little grove of Scotch firs,
and I used to be very fond of strolling down
there, for trees are always a neighborly kind of
things. The cottage had been standing empty this
eight months, and it was a pity, for it was a
pretty two storied place, with an old-fashioned
porch and honeysuckle about it. I have stood
many a time and thought what a neat little
homestead it would make.
"Well, last Monday evening I was taking a
stroll down that way, when I met an empty van
coming up the lane, and saw a pile of carpets
and things lying about on the grass-plot beside
the porch. It was clear that the cottage had at
last been let. I walked past it, and wondered
what sort of folk they were who had come to live
so near us. And as I looked I suddenly became
aware that a face was watching me out of one of
the upper windows.
"I don`t know what there was about that face,
Mr. Holmes, but it seemed to send a chill right
down my back. I was some little way off, so that
I could not make out the features, but there was
something unnatural and inhuman about the face.
That was the impression that I had, and I moved
quickly forwards to get a nearer view of the
person who was watching me. But as I did so the
face suddenly disappeared, so suddenly that it
seemed to have been plucked away into the
darkness of the room. I stood for five minutes
thinking the business over, and trying to
analyze my impressions. I could not tell if the
face were that of a man or a woman. It had been
too far from me for that. But its color was what
had impressed me most. It was of a livid chalky
white, and with something set and rigid about it
which was shockingly unnatural. So disturbed was
I that I determined to see a little more of the
new inmates of the cottage. I approached and
knocked at the door, which was instantly opened
by a tall, gaunt woman with a harsh, forbidding
"`What may you be wantin`?` she asked, in a
"`I am your neighbor over yonder,` said I,
nodding towards my house. `I see that you have
only just moved in, so I thought that if I could
be of any help to you in any--`
"`Ay, we`ll just ask ye when we want ye,`
said she, and shut the door in my face. Annoyed
at the churlish rebuff, I turned my back and
walked home. All evening, though I tried to
think of other things, my mind would still turn
to the apparition at the window and the rudeness
of the woman. I determined to say nothing about
the former to my wife, for she is a nervous,
highly strung woman, and I had no wish that she
would share the unpleasant impression which had
been produced upon myself. I remarked to her,
however, before I fell asleep, that the cottage
was now occupied, to which she returned no
"I am usually an extremely sound sleeper. It
has been a standing jest in the family that
nothing could ever wake me during the night. And
yet somehow on that particular night, whether it
may have been the slight excitement produced by
my little adventure or not I know not, but I
slept much more lightly than usual. Half in my
dreams I was dimly conscious that something was
going on in the room, and gradually became aware
that my wife had dressed herself and was
slipping on her mantle and her bonnet. My lips
were parted to murmur out some sleepy words of
surprise or remonstrance at this untimely
preparation, when suddenly my half-opened eyes
fell upon her face, illuminated by the
candle-light, and astonishment held me dumb. She
wore an expression such as I had never seen
before--such as I should have thought her
incapable of assuming. She was deadly pale and
breathing fast, glancing furtively towards the
bed as she fastened her mantle, to see if she
had disturbed me. Then, thinking that I was
still asleep, she slipped noiselessly from the
room, and an instant later I heard a sharp
creaking which could only come from the hinges
of the front door. I sat up in bed and rapped my
knuckles against the rail to make certain that I
was truly awake. Then I took my watch from under
the pillow. It was three in the morning. What on
this earth could my wife be doing out on the
country road at three in the morning?
"I had sat for about twenty minutes turning
the thing over in my mind and trying to find
some possible explanation. The more I thought,
the more extraordinary and inexplicable did it
appear. I was still puzzling over it when I
heard the door gently close again, and her
footsteps coming up the stairs.
"`Where in the world have you been, Effie?` I
asked as she entered.
"She gave a violent start and a kind of
gasping cry when I spoke, and that cry and start
troubled me more than all the rest, for there
was something indescribably guilty about them.
My wife had always been a woman of a frank, open
nature, and it gave me a chill to see her
slinking into her own room, and crying out and
wincing when her own husband spoke to her.
"`You awake, Jack!` she cried, with a nervous
laugh. `Why, I thought that nothing could awake
"`Where have you been?` I asked, more
"`I don`t wonder that you are surprised,`
said she, and I could see that her fingers were
trembling as she undid the fastenings of her
mantle. `Why, I never remember having done such
a thing in my life before. The fact is that I
felt as though I were choking, and had a perfect
longing for a breath of fresh air. I really
think that I should have fainted if I had not
gone out. I stood at the door for a few minutes,
and now I am quite myself again.`
"All the time that she was telling me this
story she never once looked in my direction, and
her voice was quite unlike her usual tones. It
was evident to me that she was saying what was
false. I said nothing in reply, but turned my
face to the wall, sick at heart, with my mind
filled with a thousand venomous doubts and
suspicions. What was it that my wife was
concealing from me? Where had she been during
that strange expedition? I felt that I should
have no peace until I knew, and yet I shrank
from asking her again after once she had told me
what was false. All the rest of the night I
tossed and tumbled, framing theory after theory,
each more unlikely than the last.
"I should have gone to the City that day, but
I was too disturbed in my mind to be able to pay
attention to business matters. My wife seemed to
be as upset as myself, and I could see from the
little questioning glances which she kept
shooting at me that she understood that I
disbelieved her statement, and that she was at
her wits` end what to do. We hardly exchanged a
word during breakfast, and immediately
afterwards I went out for a walk, that I might
think the matter out in the fresh morning air.
"I went as far as the Crystal Palace, spent
an hour in the grounds, and was back in Norbury
by one o`clock. It happened that my way took me
past the cottage, and I stopped for an instant
to look at the windows, and to see if I could
catch a glimpse of the strange face which had
looked out at me on the day before. As I stood
there, imagine my surprise, Mr. Holmes, when the
door suddenly opened and my wife walked out.
"I was struck dumb with astonishment at the
sight of her; but my emotions were nothing to
those which showed themselves upon her face when
our eyes met. She seemed for an instant to wish
to shrink back inside the house again; and then,
seeing how useless all concealment must be, she
came forward, with a very white face and
frightened eyes which belied the smile upon her
"`Ah, Jack,` she said, `I have just been in
to see if I can be of any assistance to our new
neighbors. Why do you look at me like that,
Jack? You are not angry with me?`
"`So,` said I, `this is where you went during
"`What do you mean?" she cried.
"`You came here. I am sure of it. Who are
these people, that you should visit them at such
"`I have not been here before.`
"`How can you tell me what you know is
false?` I cried. `Your very voice changes as you
speak. When have I ever had a secret from you? I
shall enter that cottage, and I shall probe the
matter to the bottom.`
"`No, no, Jack, for God`s sake!` she gasped,
in uncontrollable emotion. Then, as I approached
the door, she seized my sleeve and pulled me
back with convulsive strength.
"`I implore you not to do this, Jack,` she
cried. `I swear that I will tell you everything
some day, but nothing but misery can come of it
if you enter that cottage.` Then, as I tried to
shake her off, she clung to me in a frenzy of
"`Trust me, Jack!` she cried. `Trust me only
this once. You will never have cause to regret
it. You know that I would not have a secret from
you if it were not for your own sake. Our whole
lives are at stake in this. If you come home
with me, all will be well. If you force your way
into that cottage, all is over between us.`
"There was such earnestness, such despair, in
her manner that her words arrested me, and I
stood irresolute before the door.
"`I will trust you on one condition, and on
one condition only,` said I at last. `It is that
this mystery comes to an end from now. You are
at liberty to preserve your secret, but you must
promise me that there shall be no more nightly
visits, no more doings which are kept from my
knowledge. I am willing to forget those which
are passed if you will promise that there shall
be no more in the future.`
"`I was sure that you would trust me,` she
cried, with a great sigh of relief. `It shall be
just as you wish. Come away--oh, come away up to
"Still pulling at my sleeve, she led me away
from the cottage. As we went I glanced back, and
there was that yellow livid face watching us out
of the upper window. What link could there be
between that creature and my wife? Or how could
the coarse, rough woman whom I had seen the day
before be connected with her? It was a strange
puzzle, and yet I knew that my mind could never
know ease again until I had solved it.
"For two days after this I stayed at home,
and my wife appeared to abide loyally by our
engagement, for, as far as I know, she never
stirred out of the house. On the third day,
however, I had ample evidence that her solemn
promise was not enough to hold her back from
this secret influence which drew her away from
her husband and her duty.
"I had gone into town on that day, but I
returned by the 2.40 instead of the 3.36, which
is my usual train. As I entered the house the
maid ran into the hall with a startled face.
"`Where is your mistress?` I asked.
"`I think that she has gone out for a walk,`
"My mind was instantly filled with suspicion.
I rushed upstairs to make sure that she was not
in the house. As I did so I happened to glance
out of one of the upper windows, and saw the
maid with whom I had just been speaking running
across the field in the direction of the
cottage. Then of course I saw exactly what it
all meant. My wife had gone over there, and had
asked the servant to call her if I should
return. Tingling with anger, I rushed down and
hurried across, determined to end the matter
once and forever. I saw my wife and the maid
hurrying back along the lane, but I did not stop
to speak with them. In the cottage lay the
secret which was casting a shadow over my life.
I vowed that, come what might, it should be a
secret no longer. I did not even knock when I
reached it, but turned the handle and rushed
into the passage.
"It was all still and quiet upon the ground
floor. In the kitchen a kettle was singing on
the fire, and a large black cat lay coiled up in
the basket; but there was no sign of the woman
whom I had seen before. I ran into the other
room, but it was equally deserted. Then I rushed
up the stairs, only to find two other rooms
empty and deserted at the top. There was no one
at all in the whole house. The furniture and
pictures were of the most common and vulgar
description, save in the one chamber at the
window of which I had seen the strange face.
That was comfortable and elegant, and all my
suspicions rose into a fierce bitter flame when
I saw that on the mantelpiece stood a copy of a
fell-length photograph of my wife, which had
been taken at my request only three months ago.
"I stayed long enough to make certain that
the house was absolutely empty. Then I left it,
feeling a weight at my heart such as I had never
had before. My wife came out into the hall as I
entered my house; but I was too hurt and angry
to speak with her, and pushing past her, I made
my way into my study. She followed me, however,
before I could close the door.
"`I am sorry that I broke my promise, Jack,`
said she; `but if you knew all the circumstances
I am sure that you would forgive me.`
"`Tell me everything, then,` said I.
"`I cannot, Jack, I cannot,` she cried.
"`Until you tell me who it is that has been
living in that cottage, and who it is to whom
you have given that photograph, there can never
be any confidence between us,` said I, and
breaking away from her, I left the house. That
was yesterday, Mr. Holmes, and I have not seen
her since, nor do I know anything more about
this strange business. It is the first shadow
that has come between us, and it has so shaken
me that I do not know what I should do for the
best. Suddenly this morning it occurred to me
that you were the man to advise me, so I have
hurried to you now, and I place myself
unreservedly in your hands. If there is any
point which I have not made clear, pray question
me about it. But, above all, tell me quickly
what I am to do, for this misery is more than I
Holmes and I had listened with the utmost
interest to this extraordinary statement, which
had been delivered in the jerky, broken fashion
of a man who is under the influence of extreme
emotions. My companion sat silent for some time,
with his chin upon his hand, lost in thought.
"Tell me," said he at last, "could you swear
that this was a man`s face which you saw at the
"Each time that I saw it I was some distance
away from it, so that it is impossible for me to
"You appear, however, to have been
disagreeably impressed by it."
"It seemed to be of an unnatural color, and
to have a strange rigidity about the features.
When I approached, it vanished with a jerk."
"How long is it since your wife asked you for
a hundred pounds?"
"Nearly two months."
"Have you ever seen a photograph of her first
"No; there was a great fire at Atlanta very
shortly after his death, and all her papers were
"And yet she had a certificate of death. You
say that you saw it."
"Yes; she got a duplicate after the fire."
"Did you ever meet any one who knew her in
"Did she ever talk of revisiting the place?"
"Or get letters from it?"
"Thank you. I should like to think over the
matter a little now. If the cottage is now
permanently deserted we may have some
difficulty. If, on the other hand, as I fancy is
more likely, the inmates were warned of you
coming, and left before you entered yesterday,
then they may be back now, and we should clear
it all up easily. Let me advise you, then, to
return to Norbury, and to examine the windows of
the cottage again. If you have reason to believe
that is inhabited, do not force your way in, but
send a wire to my friend and me. We shall be
with you within an hour of receiving it, and we
shall then very soon get to the bottom of the
"And if it is still empty?"
"In that case I shall come out to-morrow and
talk it over with you. Good-by; and, above all,
do not fret until you know that you really have
a cause for it."
"I am afraid that this is a bad business,
Watson," said my companion, as he returned after
accompanying Mr. Grant Munro to the door. "What
do you make of it?"
"It had an ugly sound," I answered.
"Yes. There`s blackmail in it, or I am much
"And who is the blackmailer?"
"Well, it must be the creature who lives in
the only comfortable room in the place, and has
her photograph above his fireplace. Upon my
word, Watson, there is something very attractive
about that livid face at the window, and I would
not have missed the case for worlds."
"You have a theory?"
"Yes, a provisional one. But I shall be
surprised if it does not turn out to be correct.
This woman`s first husband is in that cottage."
"Why do you think so?"
"How else can we explain her frenzied anxiety
that her second one should not enter it? The
facts, as I read them, are something like this:
This woman was married in America. Her husband
developed some hateful qualities; or shall we
say that he contracted some loathsome disease,
and became a leper or an imbecile? She flies
from him at last, returns to England, changes
her name, and starts her life, as she thinks,
afresh. She has been married three years, and
believes that her position is quite secure,
having shown her husband the death certificate
of some man whose name she has assumed, when
suddenly her whereabouts is discovered by her
first husband; or, we may suppose, by some
unscrupulous woman who has attached herself to
the invalid. They write to the wife, and
threaten to come and expose her. She asks for a
hundred pounds, and endeavors to buy them off.
They come in spite of it, and when the husband
mentions casually to the wife that there a
new-comers in the cottage, she knows in some way
that they are her pursuers. She waits until her
husband is asleep, and then she rushes down to
endeavor to persuade them to leave her in peace.
Having no success, she goes again next morning,
and her husband meets her, as he has told us, as
she comes out. She promises him then not to go
there again, but two days afterwards the hope of
getting rid of those dreadful neighbors was too
strong for her, and she made another attempt,
taking down with her the photograph which had
probably been demanded from her. In the midst of
this interview the maid rushed in to say that
the master had come home, on which the wife,
knowing that he would come straight down to the
cottage, hurried the inmates out at the back
door, into the grove of fir-trees, probably,
which was mentioned as standing near. In this
way he found the place deserted. I shall be very
much surprised, however, if it still so when he
reconnoitres it this evening. What do you think
of my theory?"
"It is all surmise."
"But at least it covers all the facts. When
new facts come to our knowledge which cannot be
covered by it, it will be time enough to
reconsider it. We can do nothing more until we
have a message from our friend at Norbury."
But we had not a very long time to wait for
that. It came just as we had finished our tea.
"The cottage is still tenanted," it said. "Have
seen the face again at the window. Will meet the
seven o`clock train, and will take no steps
until you arrive."
He was waiting on the platform when we
stepped out, and we could see in the light of
the station lamps that he was very pale, and
quivering with agitation.
"They are still there, Mr. Holmes," said he,
laying his hand hard upon my friend`s sleeve. "I
saw lights in the cottage as I came down. We
shall settle it now once and for all."
"What is your plan, then?" asked Holmes, as
he walked down the dark tree-lined road.
"I am going to force my way in and see for
myself who is in the house. I wish you both to
be there as witnesses."
"You are quite determined to do this, in
spite of your wife`s warning that it is better
that you should not solve the mystery?"
"Yes, I am determined."
"Well, I think that you are in the right. Any
truth is better than indefinite doubt. We had
better go up at once. Of course, legally, we are
putting ourselves hopelessly in the wrong; but I
think that it is worth it."
It was a very dark night, and a thin rain
began to fall as we turned from the high road
into a narrow lane, deeply rutted, with hedges
on either side. Mr. Grant Munro pushed
impatiently forward, however, and we stumbled
after him as best we could.
"There are the lights of my house," he
murmured, pointing to a glimmer among the trees.
"And here is the cottage which I am going to
We turned a corner in the lane as he spoke,
and there was the building close beside us. A
yellow bar falling across the black foreground
showed that the door was not quite closed, and
one window in the upper story was brightly
illuminated. As we looked, we saw a dark blur
moving across the blind.
"There is that creature!" cried Grant Munro.
"You can see for yourselves that some one is
there. Now follow me, and we shall soon know
We approached the door; but suddenly a woman
appeared out of the shadow and stood in the
golden track of the lamp-light. I could not see
her face in the he darkness, but her arms were
thrown out in an attitude of entreaty.
"For God`s sake, don`t Jack!" she cried. "I
had a presentiment that you would come this
evening. Think better of it, dear! Trust me
again, and you will never have cause to regret
"I have trusted you tool long, Effie," he
cried, sternly. "Leave go of me! I must pass
you. My friends and I are going to settle this
matter once and forever!" He pushed her to one
side, and we followed closely after him. As he
threw the door open an old woman ran out in
front of him and tried to bar his passage, but
he thrust her back, and an instant afterwards we
were all upon the stairs. Grant Munro rushed
into the lighted room at the top, and we entered
at his heels.
It was a cosey, well-furnished apartment,
with two candles burning upon the table and two
upon the mantelpiece. In the corner, stooping
over a desk, there sat what appeared to be a
little girl. Her face was turned away as we
entered, but we could see that she was dressed
in a red frock, and that she had long white
gloves on. As she whisked round to us, I gave a
cry of surprise and horror. The face which she
turned towards us was of the strangest livid
tint, and the features were absolutely devoid of
any expression. An instant later the mystery was
explained. Holmes, with a laugh, passed his hand
behind the child`s ear, a mask peeled off from
her countenance, an there was a little coal
black negress, with all her white teeth flashing
in amusement at our amazed faces. I burst out
laughing, out of sympathy with her merriment;
but Grant Munro stood staring, with his hand
clutching his throat.
"My God!" he cried. "What can be the meaning
"I will tell you the meaning of it," cried
the lady, sweeping into the room with a proud,
set face. "You have forced me, against my own
judgment, to tell you, and now we must both make
the best of it. My husband died at Atlanta. My
She drew a large silver locket from her
bosom. "You have never seen this open."
"I understood that it did not open."
She touched a spring, and the front hinged
back. There was a portrait within of a man
strikingly handsome and intelligent-looking, but
bearing unmistakable signs upon his features of
his African descent.
"That is John Hebron, of Atlanta," said the
lady, "and a nobler man never walked the earth.
I cut myself off from my race in order to wed
him, but never once while he lived did I for an
instant regret it. It was our misfortune that
our only child took after his people rather than
mine. It is often so in such matches, and little
Lucy is darker far than ever her father was. But
dark or fair, she is my own dear little girlie,
and her mother`s pet." The little creature ran
across at the words and nestled up against the
lady`s dress. "When I left her in America," she
continued, "it was only because her health was
weak, and the change might have done her harm.
She was given to the care of a faithful Scotch
woman who had once been our servant. Never for
an instant did I dream of disowning her as my
child. But when chance threw you in my way,
Jack, and I learned to love you, I feared to
tell you about my child. God forgive me, I
feared that I should lose you, and I had not the
courage to tell you. I had to choose between
you, and in my weakness I turned away from my
own little girl. For three years I have kept her
existence a secret from you, but I heard from
the nurse, and I knew that all was well with
her. At last, however, there came an
overwhelming desire to see the child once more.
I struggled against it, but in vain. Though I
knew the danger, I determined to have the child
over, if it were but for a few weeks. I sent a
hundred pounds to the nurse, and I gave her
instructions about this cottage, so that she
might come as a neighbor, without my appearing
to be in any way connected with her. I pushed my
precautions so far as to order her to keep the
child in the house during the daytime, and to
cover up her little face and hands so that even
those who might see her at the window should not
gossip about there being a black child in the
neighborhood. If I had been less cautious I
might have been more wise, but I was half crazy
with fear that you should learn the truth.
"It was you who told me first that the
cottage was occupied. I should have waited for
the morning, but I could not sleep for
excitement, and so at last I slipped out,
knowing how difficult it is to awake you. But
you saw me go, and that was the beginning of my
troubles. Next day you had my secret at your
mercy, but you nobly refrained from pursuing
your advantage. Three days later, however, the
nurse and child only just escaped from the back
door as you rushed in at the front one. And now
to-night you at last know all, and I ask you
what is to become of us, my child and me?" She
clasped her hands and waited for an answer.
It was a long ten minutes before Grant Munro
broke the silence, and when his answer came it
was one of which I love to think. He lifted the
little child, kissed her, and then, still
carrying her, he held his other hand out to his
wife and turned towards the door.
"We can talk it over more comfortably at
home," said he. "I am not a very good man,
Effie, but I think that I am a better one than
you have given me credit for being."
Holmes and I followed them down the lane, and
my friend plucked at my sleeve as we came out.
"I think," said he, "that we shall be of more
use in London than in Norbury."
Not another word did he say of the case until
late that night, when he was turning away, with
his lighted candle, for his bedroom.
"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike
you that I am getting a little over-confident in
my powers, or giving less pains to a case than
it deserves, kindly whisper `Norbury` in my ear,
and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
The Stock-Broker`s Clerk
Shortly after my marriage I had bought a connection in the Paddington
district. Old Mr. Farquhar, from whom I
purchased it, had at one time an excellent
general practice; but his age, and an affliction
of the nature of St. Vitus`s dance from which he
suffered, had very much thinned it. The public
not unnaturally goes on the principle that he
who would heal others must himself be whole, and
looks askance at the curative powers of the man
whose own case is beyond the reach of his drugs.
Thus as my predecessor weakened his practice
declined, until when I purchased it from him it
had sunk from twelve hundred to little more than
three hundred a year. I had confidence, however,
in my own youth and energy, and was convinced
that in a very few years the concern would be as
flourishing as ever.
For three months after taking over the
practice I was kept very closely at work, and
saw little of my friend Sherlock Holmes, for I
was too busy to visit Baker Street, and he
seldom went anywhere himself save upon
professional business. I was surprised,
therefore, when, one morning in June, as I sat
reading the British Medical Journal after
breakfast, I heard a ring at the bell, followed
by the high, somewhat strident tones of my old
"Ah, my dear Watson," said he, striding into
the room, "I am very delighted to see you! I
trust that Mrs. Watson has entirely recovered
from all the little excitements connected with
our adventure of the Sign of Four."
"Thank you, we are both very well," said I,
shaking him warmly by the hand.
"And I hope, also," he continued, sitting
down in the rocking-chair, "that the cares of
medical practice have not entirely obliterated
the interest which you used to take in our
little deductive problems."
"On the contrary," I answered, "it was only
last night that I was looking over my old notes,
and classifying some of our past results."
"I trust that you don`t consider your
"Not at all. I should wish nothing better
than to have some more of such experiences."
"To-day, for example?"
"Yes, to-day, if you like."
"And as far off as Birmingham?"
"Certainly, if you wish it."
"And the practice?"
"I do my neighbor`s when he goes. He is
always ready to work off the debt."
"Ha! Nothing could be better," said Holmes,
leaning back in his chair and looking keenly at
me from under his half closed lids. "I perceive
that you have been unwell lately. Summer colds
are always a little trying."
"I was confined to the house by a sever chill
for three days last week. I thought, however,
that I had cast off every trace of it."
"So you have. You look remarkably robust."
"How, then, did you know of it?"
"My dear fellow, you know my methods."
"You deduced it, then?"
"And from what?"
"From your slippers."
I glanced down at the new patent leathers
which I was wearing. "How on earth--" I began,
but Holmes answered my question before it was
"Your slippers are new," he said. "You could
not have had them more than a few weeks. The
soles which you are at this moment presenting to
me are slightly scorched. For a moment I thought
they might have got wet and been burned in the
drying. But near the instep there is a small
circular wafer of paper with the shopman`s
hieroglyphics upon it. Damp would of course have
removed this. You had, then, been sitting with
our feet outstretched to the fire, which a man
would hardly do even in so wet a June as this if
he were in his full health."
Like all Holmes`s reasoning the thing seemed
simplicity itself when it was once explained. He
read the thought upon my features, and his smile
had a tinge of bitterness.
"I am afraid that I rather give myself away
when I explain," said he. "Results without
causes are much more impressive. You are ready
to come to Birmingham, then?"
"Certainly. What is the case?"
"You shall hear it all in the train. My
client is outside in a four-wheeler. Can you
come at once?"
"In an instant." I scribbled a note to my
neighbor, rushed upstairs to explain the matter
to my wife, and joined Holmes upon the
"Your neighbor is a doctor," said he, nodding
at the brass plate.
"Yes; he bought a practice as I did."
"An old-established one?"
"Just the same as mine. Both have been ever
since the houses were built."
"Ah! Then you got hold of the best of the
"I think I did. But how do you know?"
"By the steps, my boy. Yours are worn three
inches deeper than his. But this gentleman in
the cab is my client, Mr. Hall Pycroft. Allow me
to introduce you to him. Whip your horse up,
cabby, for we have only just time to catch our
The man whom I found myself facing was a well
built, fresh- complexioned young fellow, with a
frank, honest face and a slight, crisp, yellow
mustache. He wore a very shiny top hat and a
neat suit of sober black, which made him look
what he was--a smart young City man, of the
class who have been labeled cockneys, but who
give us our crack volunteer regiments, and who
turn out more fine athletes and sportsmen than
any body of men in these islands. His round,
ruddy face was naturally full of cheeriness, but
the corners of his mouth seemed to me to be
pulled down in a half-comical distress. It was
not, however, until we were all in a first-class
carriage and well started upon our journey to
Birmingham that I was able to learn what the
trouble was which had driven him to Sherlock
"We have a clear run here of seventy
minutes," Holmes remarked. "I want you, Mr. Hall
Pycroft, to tell my friend your very interesting
experience exactly as you have told it to me, or
with more detail if possible. It will be of use
to me to hear the succession of events again. It
is a case, Watson, which may prove to have
something in it, or may prove to have nothing,
but which, at least, presents those unusual and
outrйЌЉfeatures which are as dear to you as they
are to me. Now, Mr. Pycroft, I shall not
interrupt you again."
Our young companion looked at me with a
twinkle in his eye.
The worst of the story is, said he, that I
show myself up as such a confounded fool. Of
course it may work out all right, and I don`t
see that I could have done otherwise; but if I
have lost my crib and get nothing in exchange I
shall feel what a soft Johnnie I have been. I`m
not very good at telling a story, Dr. Watson,
but it is like this with me"
I used to have a billet at Coxon &
Woodhouse`s, of Draper`s Gardens, but they were
let in early in the spring through the
Venezuelan loan, as no doubt you remember, and
came a nasty cropper. I had been with them five
years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good
testimonial when the smash came, but of course
we clerks were all turned adrift, the
twenty-seven of us. I tried here and tried
there, but there were lots of other chaps on the
same lay as myself, and it was a perfect frost
for a long time. I had been taking three pounds
a week at Coxon`s, and I had saved about seventy
of them, but I soon worked my way through that
and out at the other end. I was fairly at the
end of my tether at last, and could hardly find
the stamps to answer the advertisements or the
envelopes to stick them to. I had worn out my
boots paddling up office stairs, and I seemed
just as far from getting a billet as ever.
At last I saw a vacancy at Mawson &
Williams`s, the great stock-broking firm in
Lombard Street. I dare say E. C. Is not much in
your line, but I can tell you that this is about
the richest house in London. The advertisement
was to be answered by letter only. I sent in my
testimonial and application, but without the
least hope of getting it. Back came an answer by
return, saying that if I would appear next
Monday I might take over my new duties at once,
provided that my appearance was satisfactory. No
one knows how these things are worked. Some
people say that the manager just plunges his
hand into the heap and takes the first that
comes. Anyhow it was my innings that time, and I
don`t ever wish to feel better pleased. The
screw was a pound a week rise, and the duties
just about the same as at Coxon`s.
And now I come to the queer part of the
business. I was in diggings out Hampstead way,
17 Potter`s Terrace. Well, I was sitting doing a
smoke that very evening after I had been
promised the appointment, when up came my
landlady with a card which had "Arthur Pinner,
Financial Agent," printed upon it. I had never
heard the name before and could not imagine what
he wanted with me; but, of course, I asked her
to show him up. In he walked, a middle-sized,
dark- haired, dark-eyed, black-bearded man, with
a touch of the Sheeny about his nose. He had a
brisk kind of way with him and spoke sharply,
like a man who knew the value of time.
"Mr. Hall Pycroft, I believe?" said he.
"Yes, sir," I answered, pushing a chair
"Lately engaged at Coxon & Woodhouse`s?"
"And now on the staff of Mawson`s."
"Well," said he, "the fact is that I have
heard some really extraordinary stories about
your financial ability. You remember Parker, who
used to be Coxon`s manager? He can never say
enough about it."
Of course I was pleased to hear this. I had
always been pretty sharp in the office, but I
had never dreamed that I was talked about in the
City in this fashion.
"You have a good memory?" said he.
"Pretty fair," I answered, modestly.
"Have you kept in touch with the market while
you have been out of work?" he asked.
"Yes. I read the stock exchange list every
"Now that shows real application!" he cried.
"That is the way to prosper! You won`t mind my
testing you, will you? Let me see. How are
"A hundred and six and a quarter to a hundred
and five and seven-eighths."
"And New Zealand consolidated?"
"A hundred and four."
"And British Broken Hills?"
"Seven to seven-and-six."
"Wonderful!" he cried, with his hands up.
"This quite fits in with all that I had heard.
My boy, my boy, you are very much too good to be
a clerk at Mawson`s!"
This outburst rather astonished me, as you
can think. "Well," said I, "other people don`t
think quite so much of me as you seem to do, Mr.
Pinner. I had a hard enough fight to get this
berth, and I am very glad to have it."
"Pooh, man; you should soar above it. You are
not in your true sphere. Now, I`ll tell you how
it stands with me. What I have to offer is
little enough when measured by your ability, but
when compared with Mawson`s, it`s light to dark.
Let me see. When do you go to Mawson`s?"
"Ha, ha! I think I would risk a little
sporting flutter that you don`t go there at
"Not go to Mawson`s?"
"No, sir. By that day you will be the
business manager of the Franco-Midland Hardware
Company, Limited, with a hundred and thirty-four
branches in the towns and villages of France,
not counting one in Brussels and one in San
This took my breath away. "I never heard of
it," said I.
"Very likely not. It has been kept very
quiet, for the capital was all privately
subscribed, and it`s too good a thing to let the
public into. My brother, Harry Pinner, is
promoter, and joins the board after allotment as
managing director. He knew I was in the swim
down here, and asked me to pick up a good man
cheap. A young, pushing man with plenty of snap
about him. Parker spoke of you, and that brought
me here tonight. We can only offer you a
beggarly five hundred to start with."
"Five hundred a year!" I shouted.
"Only that at the beginning; but you are to
have an overriding commission of one per cent on
all business done by your agents, and you may
take my word for it that this will come to more
than your salary."
"But I know nothing about hardware."
"Tut, my boy; you know about figures."
My head buzzed, and I could hardly sit still
in my chair. But suddenly a little chill of
doubt came upon me.
"I must be frank with you," said I. "Mawson
only gives me two hundred, but Mawson is safe.
Now, really, I know so little about your company
"Ah, smart, smart!" he cried, in a kind of
ecstasy of delight. "You are the very man for
us. You are not to be talked over, and quite
right, too. Now, here`s a note for a hundred
pounds, and if you think that we can do business
you may just slip it into your pocket as an
advance upon your salary."
"That is very handsome," said I. "When should
I take over my new duties?"
"Be in Birmingham to-morrow at one," said he.
"I have a note in my pocket here which you will
take to my brother. You will find him at 126b
Corporation Street, where the temporary offices
of the company are situated. Of course he must
confirm your engagement, but between ourselves
it will be all right."
"Really, I hardly know how to express my
gratitude, Mr. Pinner," said I.
"Not at all, my boy. You have only got your
desserts. There are one or two small
things--mere formalities--which I must arrange
with you. You have a bit of paper beside you
there. Kindly write upon it `I am perfectly
willing to act as business manager to the
Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited, at a
minimum salary of L500."
I did as he asked, and he put the paper in
"There is one other detail," said he. "What
do you intend to do about Mawson`s?"
I had forgotten all about Mawson`s in my joy.
"I`ll write and resign," said I.
"Precisely what I don`t want you to do. I had
a row over you with Mawson`s manager. I had gone
up to ask him about you, and he was very
offensive; accused me of coaxing you away from
the service of the firm, and that sort of thing.
At last I fairly lost my temper. `If you want
good men you should pay them a good price,` said
"`He would rather have our small price than
your big one,` said he.
"`I`ll lay you a fiver,` said I, `that when
he has my offer you`ll never so much as hear
from him again.`
"`Done!` said he. `We picked him out of the
gutter, and he won`t leave us so easily.` Those
were his very words."
"The impudent scoundrel!" I cried. "I`ve
never so much as seen him in my life. Why should
I consider him in any way? I shall certainly not
write if you would rather I didn`t."
"Good! That`s a promise," said he, rising
from his chair. "Well, I`m delighted to have got
so good a man for my brother. Here`s your
advance of a hundred pounds, and here is the
letter. Make a note of the address, 126b
Corporation Street, and remember that one
o`clock to-morrow is your appointment.
Good-night; and may you have all the fortune
that you deserve!"
That`s just about all that passed between us,
as near as I can remember. You can imagine, Dr.
Watson, how pleased I was at such an
extraordinary bit of good fortune. I sat up half
the night hugging myself over it, and next day I
was off to Birmingham in a train that would take
me in plenty time for my appointment. I took my
things to a hotel in New Street, and then I made
my way to the address which had been given me.
It was a quarter of an hour before my time,
but I thought that would make no difference.
126b was a passage between two large shops,
which led to a winding stone stair, from which
there were many flats, let as offices to
companies or professional men. The names of the
occupants were painted at the bottom on the
wall, but there was no such name as the
Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited. I
stood for a few minutes with my heart in my
boots, wondering whether the whole thing was an
elaborate hoax or not, when up came a man and
addressed me. He was very like the chap I had
seen the night before, the same figure and
voice, but he was clean shaven and his hair was
"Are you Mr. Hall Pycroft?" he asked.
"Yes," said I.
"Oh! I was expecting you, but you are a
trifle before your time. I had a note from my
brother this morning in which he sang your
praises very loudly."
"I was just looking for the offices when you
"We have not got our name up yet, for we only
secured these temporary premises last week. Come
up with me, and we will talk the matter over."
I followed him to the top of a very lofty
stair, and there, right under the slates, were a
couple of empty, dusty little rooms, uncarpeted
and uncurtained, into which he led me. I had
thought of a great office with shining tables
and rows of clerks, such as I was used to, and I
dare say I stared rather straight at the two
deal chairs and one little table, which, with a
ledger and a waste paper basket, made up the
"Don`t be disheartened, Mr. Pycroft," said my
new acquaintance, seeing the length of my face.
"Rome was not built in a day, and we have lots
of money at our backs, though we don`t cut much
dash yet in offices. Pray sit down, and let me
have your letter."
I gave it to him, and her read it over very
"You seem to have made a vast impression upon
my brother Arthur," said he; "and I know that he
is a pretty shrewd judge. Hew swears by London,
you know; and I by Birmingham; but this time I
shall follow his advice. Pray consider yourself
"What are my duties?" I asked.
"You will eventually manage the great depot
in Paris, which will pour a flood of English
crockery into the shops of a hundred and
thirty-four agents in France. The purchase will
be completed in a week, and meanwhile you will
remain in Birmingham and make yourself useful."
For answer, he took a big red book out of a
"This is a directory of Paris," said he,
"with the trades after the names of the people.
I want you to take it home with you, and to mark
off all the hardware sellers, with their
addresses. It would be of the greatest use to me
to have them."
"Surely there are classified lists?" I
"Not reliable ones. Their system is different
from ours. Stick at it, and let me have the
lists by Monday, at twelve. Good-day, Mr.
Pycroft. If you continue to show zeal and
intelligence you will find the company a good
I went back to the hotel with the big book
under my arm, and with very conflicting feelings
in my breast. On the one hand, I was definitely
engaged and had a hundred pounds in my pocket;
on the other, the look of the offices, the
absence of name on the wall, and other of the
points which would strike a business man had
left a bad impression as to the position of my
employers. However, come what might, I had my
money, so I settled down to my task. All Sunday
I was kept hard at work, and yet by Monday I had
only got as far as H. I went round to my
employer, found him in the same dismantled kind
of room, and was told to keep at it until
Wednesday, and then come again. On Wednesday it
was still unfinished, so I hammered away until
Friday--that is, yesterday. Then I brought it
round to Mr. Harry Pinner.
"Thank you very much," said he; "I fear that
I underrated the difficulty of the task. This
list will be of very material assistance to me."
"It took some time," said I.
"And now," said he, "I want you to make a
list of the furniture shops, for they all sell
"And you can come up to-morrow evening, at
seven, and let me know how you are getting on.
Don`t overwork yourself. A couple of hours at
Day`s Music Hall in the evening would do you no
harm after your labors." He laughed as he spoke,
and I saw with a thrill that his second tooth
upon the left-hand side had been very badly
stuffed with gold.
Sherlock Holmes rubbed his hands with
delight, and I stared with astonishment at our
"You may well look surprised, Dr. Watson; but
it is this way," said he: "When I was speaking
to the other chap in London, at the time that he
laughed at my not going to Mawson`s, I happened
to notice that his tooth was stuffed in this
very identical fashion. The glint of the gold in
each case caught my eye, you see. When I put
that with the voice and figure being the same,
and only those things altered which might be
changed by a razor or a wig, I could not doubt
that it was the same man. Of course you expect
two brothers to be alike, but not that they
should have the same tooth stuffed in the same
way. He bowed me out, and I found myself in the
street, hardly knowing whether I was on my head
or my heels. Back I went to my hotel, put my
head in a basin of cold water, and tried to
think it out. Why had he sent me from London to
Birmingham? Why had he got there before me? And
why had he written a letter from himself to
himself? It was altogether too much for me, and
I could make no sense of it. And then suddenly
it struck me that what was dark to me might be
very light to Mr. Sherlock Holmes. I had just
time to get up to town by the night train to see
him this morning, and to bring you both back
with me to Birmingham."
There was a pause after the stock-broker`s
clerk had concluded his surprising experience.
Then Sherlock Holmes cocked his eye at me,
leaning back on the cushions with a pleased and
yet critical face, like a connoisseur who has
just taken his first sip of a comet vintage.
"Rather fine, Watson, is it not?" said he.
"There are points in it which please me. I think
that you will agree with me that an interview
with Mr. Arthur Harry Pinner in the temporary
offices of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company,
Limited, would be a rather interesting
experience for both of us."
"But how can we do it?" I asked.
"Oh, easily enough," said Hall Pycroft,
cheerily. "You are two friends of mine who are
in want of a billet, and what could be more
natural than that I should bring you both round
to the managing director?"
"Quite so, of course," said Holmes. "I should
like to have a look at the gentleman, and see if
I can make anything of his little game. What
qualities have you, my friend, which would make
your services so valuable? or is it possible
that--" He began biting his nails and staring
blankly out of the window, and we hardly drew
another word from him until we were in New
At seven o`clock that evening we were
walking, the three of us, down Corporation
Street to the company`s offices.
"It is no use our being at all before our
time," said our client. "He only comes there to
see me, apparently, for the place is deserted up
to the very hour he names."
"That is suggestive," remarked Holmes.
"By Jove, I told you so!" cried the clerk.
"That`s he walking ahead of us there."
He pointed to a smallish, dark, well-dressed
man who was bustling along the other side of the
road. As we watched him he looked across at a
boy who was bawling out the latest edition of
the evening paper, and running over among the
cabs and busses, he bought one from him. Then,
clutching it in his hand, he vanished through a
"There he goes!" cried Hall Pycroft. "These
are the company`s offices into which he has
gone. Come with me, and I`ll fix it up as easily
Following his lead, we ascended five stories,
until we found ourselves outside a half-opened
door, at which our client tapped. A voice within
bade us enter, and we entered a bare,
unfurnished room such as Hall Pycroft had
described. At the single table sat the man whom
we had seen in the street, with his evening
paper spread out in front of him, and as he
looked up at us it seemed to me that I had never
looked upon a face which bore such marks of
grief, and of something beyond grief--of a
horror such as comes to few men in a lifetime.
His brow glistened with perspiration, his cheeks
were of the dull, dead white of a fish`s belly,
and his eyes were wild and staring. He looked at
his clerk as though he failed to recognize him,
and I could see by the astonishment depicted
upon our conductor`s face that this was by no
means the usual appearance of his employer.
"You look ill, Mr. Pinner!" he exclaimed.
"Yes, I am not very well," answered the
other, making obvious efforts to pull himself
together, and licking his dry lips before he
spoke. "Who are these gentlemen whom you have
brought with you?"
"One is Mr. Harris, of Bermondsey, and the
other is Mr. Price, of this town," said our
clerk, glibly. "They are friends of mine and
gentlemen of experience, but they have been out
of a place for some little time, and they hoped
that perhaps you might find an opening for them
in the company`s employment."
"Very possibly! Very possibly!" cried Mr.
Pinner with a ghastly smile. "Yes, I have no
doubt that we shall be able to do something for
you. What is your particular line, Mr. Harris?"
"I am an accountant," said Holmes.
"Ah yes, we shall want something of the sort.
And you, Mr. Price?"
"A clerk," said I.
"I have every hope that the company may
accommodate you. I will let you know about it as
soon as we come to any conclusion. And now I beg
that you will go. For God`s sake leave me to
These last words were shot out of him, as
though the constraint which he was evidently
setting upon himself had suddenly and utterly
burst asunder. Holmes and I glanced at each
other, and Hall Pycroft took a step towards the
"You forget, Mr. Pinner, that I am here by
appointment to receive some directions from
you," said he.
"Certainly, Mr. Pycroft, certainly," the
other resumed in a calmer tone. "You may wait
here a moment; and there is no reason why your
friends should not wait with you. I will be
entirely at your service in three minutes, if I
might trespass upon your patience so far." He
rose with a very courteous air, and, bowing to
us, he passed out through a door at the farther
end of the room, which he closed behind him.
"What now?" whispered Holmes. "Is he giving
us the slip?"
"Impossible," answered Pycroft.
"That door leads into an inner room."
"There is no exit?"
"Is it furnished?"
"It was empty yesterday."
"Then what on earth can he be doing? There is
something which I don`t understand in his
manner. If ever a man was three parts mad with
terror, that man`s name is Pinner. What can have
put the shivers on him?"
"He suspects that we are detectives," I
"That`s it," cried Pycroft.
Holmes shook his head. "He did not turn pale.
He was pale when we entered the room," said he.
"It is just possible that--"
His words were interrupted by a sharp rat-tat
from the direction of the inner door.
"What the deuce is he knocking at his own
door for?" cried the clerk.
Again and much louder cam the rat-tat-tat. We
all gazed expectantly at the closed door.
Glancing at Holmes, I saw his face turn rigid,
and he leaned forward in intense excitement.
Then suddenly came a low guggling, gargling
sound, and a brisk drumming upon woodwork.
Holmes sprang frantically across the room and
pushed at the door. It was fastened on the inner
side. Following his example, we threw ourselves
upon it with all our weight. One hinge snapped,
then the other, and down came the door with a
crash. Rushing over it, we found ourselves in
the inner room. It was empty.
But it was only for a moment that we were at
fault. At one corner, the corner nearest the
room which we had left, there was a second door.
Holmes sprang to it and pulled it open. A coat
and waistcoat were lying on the floor, and from
a hook behind the door, with his own braces
round his neck, was hanging the managing
director of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company.
His knees were drawn up, his head hung at a
dreadful angle to his body, and the clatter of
his heels against the door made the noise which
had broken in upon our conversation. In an
instant I had caught him round the waist, and
held him up while Holmes and Pycroft untied the
elastic bands which had disappeared between the
livid creases of skin. Then we carried him into
the other room, where he lay with a clay-colored
face, puffing his purple lips in and out with
every breath--a dreadful wreck of all that he
had been but five minutes before.
"What do you think of him, Watson?" asked
I stooped over him and examined him. His
pulse was feeble and intermittent, but his
breathing grew longer, and there was a little
shivering of his eyelids, which showed a thin
white slit of ball beneath.
"It has been touch and go with him," said I,
"but he`ll live now. Just open that window, and
hand me the water carafe." I undid his collar,
poured the cold water over his face, and raised
and sank his arms until he drew a long, natural
breath. "It`s only a question of time now," said
I, as I turned away from him.
Holmes stood by the table, with his hands
deep in his trouser`s pockets and his chin upon
"I suppose we ought to call the police in
now," said he. "And yet I confess that I`d like
to give them a complete case when they come."
"It`s a blessed mystery to me," cried
Pycroft, scratching his head. "Whatever they
wanted to bring me all the way up here for, and
"Pooh! All that is clear enough," said Holmes
impatiently. "It is this last sudden move."
"You understand the rest, then?"
"I think that it is fairly obvious. What do
you say, Watson?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "I must confess that
I am out of my depths," said I.
"Oh surely if you consider the events at
first they can only point to one conclusion."
"What do you make of them?"
"Well, the whole thing hinges upon two
points. The first is the making of Pycroft write
a declaration by which he entered the service of
this preposterous company. Do you not see how
very suggestive that is?"
"I am afraid I miss the point."
"Well, why did they want him to do it? Not as
a business matter, for these arrangements are
usually verbal, and there was no earthly
business reason why this should be an exception.
Don`t you see, my young friend, that they were
very anxious to obtain a specimen of your
handwriting, and had no other way of doing it?"
"Quite so. Why? When we answer that we have
made some progress with our little problem. Why?
There can be only one adequate reason. Some one
wanted to learn to imitate your writing, and had
to procure a specimen of it first. And now if we
pass on to the second point we find that each
throws light upon the other. That point is the
request made by Pinner that you should not
resign your place, but should leave the manager
of this important business in the full
expectation that a Mr. Hall Pycroft, whom he had
never seen, was about to enter the office upon
the Monday morning."
"My God!" cried our client, "what a blind
beetle I have been!"
"Now you see the point about the handwriting.
Suppose that some one turned up in your place
who wrote a completely different hand from that
in which you had applied for the vacancy, of
course the game would have been up. But in the
interval the rogue had learned to imitate you,
and his position was therefore secure, as I
presume that nobody in the office had ever set
eyes upon you."
"Not a soul," groaned Hall Pycroft.
"Very good. Of course it was of the utmost
importance to prevent you from thinking better
of it, and also to keep you from coming into
contact with any one who might tell you that
your double was at work in Mawson`s office.
Therefore they gave you a handsome advance on
your salary, and ran you off to the Midlands,
where they gave you enough work to do to prevent
your going to London, where you might have burst
their little game up. That is all plain enough."
"But why should this man pretend to be his
"Well, that is pretty clear also. There are
evidently only two of them in it. The other is
impersonating you at the office. This one acted
as your engager, and then found that he could
not find you an employer without admitting a
third person into his plot. That he was most
unwilling to do. He changed his appearance as
far as he could, and trusted that the likeness,
which you could not fail to observe, would be
put down to a family resemblance. But for the
happy chance of the gold stuffing, your
suspicions would probably never have been
Hall Pycroft shook his clinched hands in the
air. "Good Lord!" he cried, "while I have been
fooled in this way, what has this other Hall
Pycroft been doing at Mawson`s? What should we
do, Mr. Holmes? Tell me what to do."
"We must wire to Mawson`s."
"They shut at twelve on Saturdays."
"Never mind. There may be some door-keeper or
"Ah yes, they keep a permanent guard there on
account of the value of the securities that they
hold. I remember hearing it talked of in the
"Very good; we shall wire to him, and see if
all is well, and if a clerk of your name is
working there. That is clear enough; but what is
not so clear is why at sight of us one of the
rogues should instantly walk out of the room and
"The paper!" croaked a voice behind us. The
man was sitting up, blanched and ghastly, with
returning reason in his eyes, and hands which
rubbed nervously at the broad red band which
still encircled his throat.
"The paper! Of course!" yelled Holmes, in a
paroxysm of excitement. "Idiot that I was! I
thought so must of our visit that the paper
never entered my head for an instant. To be
sure, the secret must be there." He flattened it
out upon the table, and a cry of triumph burst
from his lips. "Look at this, Watson," he cried.
"It is a London paper, an early edition of the
Evening Standard. Here is what we want. Look at
the headlines: `Crime in the City. Murder at
Mawson & Williams`s. Gigantic attempted Robbery.
Capture of the Criminal.` Here, Watson, we are
all equally anxious to hear it, so kindly read
it aloud to us."
It appeared from its position in the paper to
have been the one event of importance in town,
and the account of it ran in this way:
"A desperate attempt at robbery, culminating
in the death of one man and the capture of the
criminal, occurred this afternoon in the City.
For some time back Mawson & Williams, the famous
financial house, have been the guardians of
securities which amount in the aggregate to a
sum of considerably over a million sterling. So
conscious was the manager of the responsibility
which devolved upon him in consequence of the
great interests at stake that safes of the very
latest construction have been employed, and an
armed watchman has been left day and night in
the building. It appears that last week a new
clerk named Hall Pycroft was engaged by the
firm. This person appears to have been none
other that Beddington, the famous forger and
cracksman, who, with his brother, had only
recently emerged from a five years` spell of
penal servitude. By some mean, which are not yet
clear, he succeeded in wining, under a false
name, this official position in the office,
which he utilized in order to obtain moulding of
various locks, and a thorough knowledge of the
position of the strong room and the safes.
"It is customary at Mawson`s for the clerks
to leave at midday on Saturday. Sergeant Tuson,
of the City Police, was somewhat surprised,
therefore to see a gentleman with a carpet bag
come down the steps at twenty minutes past one.
His suspicions being aroused, the sergeant
followed the man, and with the aid of Constable
Pollack succeeded, after a most desperate
resistance, in arresting him. It was at once
clear that a daring and gigantic robbery had
been committed. Nearly a hundred thousand
pounds` worth of American railway bonds, with a
large amount of scrip in mines and other
companies, was discovered in the bag. On
examining the premises the body of the
unfortunate watchman was found doubled up and
thrust into the largest of the safes, where it
would not have been discovered until Monday
morning had it not been for the prompt action of
Sergeant Tuson. The man`s skull had been
shattered by a blow from a poker delivered from
behind. There could be no doubt that Beddington
had obtained entrance by pretending that he had
left something behind him, and having murdered
the watchman, rapidly rifled the large safe, and
then made off with his booty. His brother, who
usually works with him, has not appeared in this
job as far as can at present be ascertained,
although the police are making energetic
inquiries as to his whereabouts."
"Well, we may save the police some little
trouble in that direction," said Holmes,
glancing at the haggard figure huddled up by the
window. "Human nature is a strange mixture,
Watson. You see that even a villain and murderer
can inspire such affection that his brother
turns to suicide when he learns that his neck is
forfeited. However, we have no choice as to our
action. The doctor and I will remain on guard,
Mr. Pycroft, if you will have the kindness to
step out for the police."
The "Gloria Scott"
I have some papers here," said my friend Sherlock Holmes, as we sat one
winter`s night on either side of the fire,
"which I really think, Watson, that it would be
worth your while to glance over. These are the
documents in the extraordinary case of the
Gloria Scott, and this is the message which
struck Justice of the Peace Trevor dead with
horror when he read it."
He had picked from a drawer a little
tarnished cylinder, and, undoing the tape, he
handed me a short note scrawled upon a
half-sheet of slate gray-paper.
"The supply of game for London is going
steadily up," it ran. "Head-keeper Hudson, we
believe, had been now told to receive all orders
for fly-paper and for preservation of your
As I glanced up from reading this enigmatical
message, I saw Holmes chuckling at the
expression upon my face.
"You look a little bewildered," said he.
"I cannot see how such a message as this
could inspire horror. It seems to me to be
rather grotesque than otherwise."
"Very likely. Yet the fact remains that the
reader, who was a fine, robust old man, was
knocked clean down by it as if it had been the
butt end of a pistol."
"You arouse my curiosity," said I. "But why
did you say just now that there were very
particular reasons why I should study this
"Because it was the first in which I was ever
I had often endeavored to elicit from my
companion what had first turned is mind in the
direction of criminal research, but had never
caught him before in a communicative humor. Now
he sat forward in this arm chair and spread out
the documents upon his knees. Then he lit his
pipe and sat for some time smoking and turning
"You never heard me talk of Victor Trevor?"
he asked. "He was the only friend I made during
the two years I was at college. I was never a
very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond
of moping in my rooms and working out my own
little methods of thought, so that I never mixed
much with the men of my year. Bar fencing and
boxing I had few athletic tastes, and then my
line of study was quite distinct from that of
the other fellows, so that we had no points of
contact at all. Trevor was the only man I knew,
and that only through the accident of his bull
terrier freezing on to my ankle one morning as I
went down to chapel.
"It was a prosaic way of forming a
friendship, but it was effective. I was laid by
the heels for ten days, but Trevor used to come
in to inquire after me. At first it was only a
minute`s chat, but soon his visits lengthened,
and before the end of the term we were close
friends. He was a hearty, full-blooded fellow,
full of spirits and energy, the very opposite to
me in most respects, but we had some subjects in
common, and it was a bond of union when I found
that he was as friendless as I. Finally, he
invited me down to his father`s place at
Donnithorpe, in Norfolk, and I accepted his
hospitality for a month of the long vacation.
"Old Trevor was evidently a man of some
wealth and consideration, a J.P., and a landed
proprietor. Donnithorpe is a little hamlet just
to the north of Langmere, in the country of the
Broads. The house was and old-fashioned,
wide-spread, oak-beamed brick building, with a
fine lime-lined avenue leading up to it. There
was excellent wild-duck shooting in the fens,
remarkably good fishing, a small but select
library, taken over, as I understood, from a
former occupant, and a tolerable cook, so that
he would be a fastidious man who could not put
in a pleasant month there.
"Trevor senior was a widower, and my friend
his only son.
"There had been a daughter, I heard, but she
had died of diphtheria while on a visit to
Birmingham. The father interested me extremely.
He was a man of little culture, but with a
considerable amount of rude strength, both
physically and mentally. He knew hardly any
books, but he had traveled far, had seen much of
the world. And had remembered all that he had
learned. In person he was a thick-set, burly man
with a shock of grizzled hair, a brown,
weather-beaten face, and blue eyes which were
keen to the verge of fierceness. Yet he had a
reputation for kindness and charity on the
country-side, and was noted for the leniency of
his sentences from the bench.
"One evening, shortly after my arrival, we
were sitting over a glass of port after dinner,
when young Trevor began to talk about those
habits of observation and inference which I had
already formed into a system, although I had not
yet appreciated the part which they were to play
in my life. The old man evidently thought that
his son was exaggerating in his description of
one or two trivial feats which I had performed.
"`Come, now, Mr. Holmes,` said he, laughing
good-humoredly. `I`m an excellent subject, if
you can deduce anything from me.`
"`I fear there is not very much,` I answered;
`I might suggest that you have gone about in
fear of some personal attack with the last
"The laugh faded from his lips, and he stared
at me in great surprise.
"`Well, that`s true enough,` said he. `You
know, Victor,` turning to his son, `when we
broke up that poaching gang they swore to knife
us, and Sir Edward Holly has actually been
attacked. I`ve always been on my guard since
then, though I have no idea how you know it.`
"`You have a very handsome stick,` I
answered. `By the inscription I observed that
you had not had it more than a year. But you
have taken some pains to bore the head of it and
pour melted lead into the hole so as to make it
a formidable weapon. I argued that you would not
take such precautions unless you had some danger
"`Anything else?` he asked, smiling.
"`You have boxed a good deal in your youth.`
"`Right again. How did you know it? Is my
nose knocked a little out of the straight?`
"`No,` said I. `It is your ears. They have
the peculiar flattening and thickening which
marks the boxing man.`
"`You have done a good deal of digging by
"`Made all my money at the gold fields.`
"`You have been in New Zealand.`
"`You have visited Japan.`
"`And you have been most intimately
associated with some one whose initials were J.
A., and whom you afterwards were eager to
"Mr. Trevor stood slowly up, fixed his large
blue eyes upon me with a strange wild stare, and
then pitched forward, with his face among the
nutshells which strewed the cloth, in a dead
"You can imagine, Watson, how shocked both
his son and I were. His attack did not last
long, however, for when we undid his collar, and
sprinkled the water from one of the
finger-glasses over his face, he gave a gasp or
two and sat up.
"`Ah, boys,` said he, forcing a smile, `I
hope I haven`t frightened you. Strong as I look,
there is a weak place in my heart, and it does
not take much to knock me over. I don`t know how
you manage this, Mr. Holmes, but it seems to me
that all the detectives of fact and of fancy
would be children in your hands. That`s your
line of life, sir, and you may take the word of
a man who has seen something of the world.`
"And that recommendation, with the
exaggerated estimate of my ability with which he
prefaced it, was, if you will believe me,
Watson, the very first thing which ever made me
feel that a profession might be made out of what
had up to that time been the merest hobby. At
the moment, however, I was too much concerned at
the sudden illness of my host to think of
"`I hope that I have said nothing to pain
you?` said I.
"`Well, you certainly touched upon rather a
tender point. Might I ask how you know, and how
much you know?` He spoke now in a half-jesting
fashion, but a look of terror still lurked at
the back of his eyes.
"`It is simplicity itself,` said I. `When you
bared your arm to draw that fish into the boat I
saw that J. A. Had been tattooed in the bend of
the elbow. The letters were still legible, but
it was perfectly clear from their blurred
appearance, and from the staining of the skin
round them, that efforts had been made to
obliterate them. It was obvious, then, that
those initials had once been very familiar to
you, and that you had afterwards wished to
"What an eye you have!" he cried, with a sigh
of relief. `It is just as you say. But we won`t
talk of it. Of all ghosts the ghosts of our old
lovers are the worst. Come into the
billiard-room and have a quiet cigar.`
"From that day, amid all his cordiality,
there was always a touch of suspicion in Mr.
Trevor`s manner towards me. Even his son
remarked it. `You`ve given the governor such a
turn,` said he, `that he`ll never be sure again
of what you know and what you don`t know.` He
did not mean to show it, I am sure, but it was
so strongly in his mind that it peeped out at
every action. At last I became so convinced that
I was causing him uneasiness that I drew my
visit to a close. On the very day, however,
before I left, and incident occurred which
proved in the sequel to be of importance.
"We were sitting out upon the lawn on garden
chairs, the three of us, basking in the sun and
admiring the view across the Broads, when a maid
came out to say that there was a man at the door
who wanted to see Mr. Trevor.
"`What is his name?` asked my host.
"`He would not give any.`
"`What does he want, then?`
"`He says that you know him, and that he only
wants a moment`s conversation.`
"`Show him round here.` An instant afterwards
there appeared a little wizened fellow with a
cringing manner and a shambling style of
walking. He wore an open jacket, with a splotch
of tar on the sleeve, a red-and-black check
shirt, dungaree trousers, and heavy boots badly
worn. His face was thin and brown and crafty,
with a perpetual smile upon it, which showed an
irregular line of yellow teeth, and his crinkled
hands were half closed in a way that is
distinctive of sailors. As he came slouching
across the lawn I heard Mr. Trevor make a sort
of hiccoughing noise in his throat, and jumping
out of his chair, he ran into the house. He was
back in a moment, and I smelt a strong reek of
brandy as he passed me.
"`Well, my man,` said he. `What can I do for
"The sailor stood looking at him with
puckered eyes, and with the same loose-lipped
smile upon his face.
"`You don`t know me?` he asked.
"`Why, dear me, it is surely Hudson,` said
Mr. Trevor in a tone of surprise.
"`Hudson it is, sir,` said the seaman. `Why,
it`s thirty year and more since I saw you last.
Here you are in your house, and me still picking
my salt meat out of the harness cask.`
"`Tut, you will find that I have not
forgotten old times,` cried Mr. Trevor, and,
walking towards the sailor, he said something in
a low voice. `Go into the kitchen,` he continued
out loud, `and you will get food and drink. I
have no doubt that I shall find you a
"`Thank you, sir,` said the seaman, touching
his fore-lock. `I`m just off a two-yearer in an
eight-knot tramp, short-handed at that, and I
wants a rest. I thought I`d get it either with
Mr. Beddoes or with you.`
"`Ah!` cried Trevor. `You know where Mr.
"`Bless you, sir, I know where all my old
friends are,` said the fellow with a sinister
smile, and he slouched off after the maid to the
kitchen. Mr. Trevor mumbled something to us
about having been shipmate with the man when he
was going back to the diggings, and then,
leaving us on the lawn, he went indoors. An hour
later, when we entered the house, we found him
stretched dead drunk upon the dining-room sofa.
The whole incident left a most ugly impression
upon my mind, and I was not sorry next day to
leave Donnithorpe behind me, for I felt that my
presence must be a source of embarrassment to my
"All this occurred during the first month of
the long vacation. I went up to my London rooms,
where I spent seven weeks working out a few
experiments in organic chemistry. On day,
however, when the autumn was far advanced and
the vacation drawing to a close, I received a
telegram from my friend imploring me to return
to Donnithorpe, and saying that he was in great
need of my advice and assistance. Of course I
dropped everything and set out for the North
"He met me with the dog-cart at the station,
and I saw at a glance that the last two months
had been very trying ones for him. He had grown
thin and careworn, and had lost the loud, cheery
manner for which he had been remarkable.
"`The governor is dying,` were the first
words he said.
"`Impossible!` I cried. `What is the matter?`
"`Apoplexy. Nervous shock, He`s been on the
verge all day. I doubt if we shall find him
"I was, as you may think, Watson, horrified
at this unexpected news.
"`What has caused it?` I asked.
"`Ah, that is the point. Jump in and we can
talk it over while we drive. You remember that
fellow who came upon the evening before you left
"`Do you know who it was that we let into the
house that day?`
"`I have no idea.`
"`It was the devil, Holmes,` he cried.
"I stared at him in astonishment.
"`Yes, it was the devil himself. We have not
had a peaceful hour since--not one. The governor
has never held up his head from that evening,
and now the life has been crushed out of him and
his heart broken, all through this accursed
"`What power had he, then?`
"`Ah, that is what I would give so much to
know. The kindly, charitable, good old
governor--how could he have fallen into the
clutches of such a ruffian! But I am so glad
that you have come, Holmes. I trust very much to
your judgment and discretion, and I know that
you will advise me for the best.`
"We were dashing along the smooth white
country road, with the long stretch of the
Broads in front of us glimmering in the red
light of the setting sun. From a grove upon our
left I could already see the high chimneys and
the flag-staff which marked the squire`s
"`My father made the fellow gardener,` said
my companion, `and then, as that did not satisfy
him, he was promoted to be butler. The house
seemed to be at his mercy, and he wandered about
and did what he chose in it. The maids
complained of his drunken habits and his vile
language. The dad raised their wages all round
to recompense them for the annoyance. The fellow
would take the boat and my father`s best gun and
treat himself to little shooting trips. And all
this with such a sneering, leering, insolent
face that I would have knocked him down twenty
times over if he had been a man of my own age. I
tell you, Holmes, I have had to keep a tight
hold upon myself all this time; and now I am
asking myself whether, if I had let myself go a
little more, I might not have been a wiser man.
"`Well, matters went from bad to worse with
us, and this animal Hudson became more and more
intrusive, until at last, on making some
insolent reply to my father in my presence one
day, I took him by the shoulders and turned him
out of the room. He slunk away with a livid face
and two venomous eyes which uttered more threats
than his tongue could do. I don`t know what
passed between the poor dad and him after that,
but the dad came to me next day and asked me
whether I would mind apologizing to Hudson. I
refused, as you can imagine, and asked my father
how he could allow such a wretch to take such
liberties with himself and his household.
"`"Ah, my boy," said he, "it is all very well
to talk, but you don`t know how I am placed. But
you shall know, Victor. I`ll see that you shall
know, come what may. You wouldn`t believe harm
of your poor old father, would you, lad?" He was
very much moved, and shut himself up in the
study all day, where I could see through the
window that he was writing busily.
"`That evening there came what seemed to me
to be a grand release, for Hudson told us that
he was going to leave us. He walked into the
dining-room as we sat after dinner, and
announced his intention in the thick voice of a
"`"I`ve had enough of Norfolk," said he.
"I`ll run down to Mr. Beddoes in Hampshire.
He`ll be as glad to see me as you were, I dare
"`"You`re not going away in any kind of
spirit, Hudson, I hope," said my father, with a
tameness which mad my blood boil.
"`"I`ve not had my `pology," said he sulkily,
glancing in my direction.
"`"Victor, you will acknowledge that you have
used this worthy fellow rather roughly," said
the dad, turning to me.
"`"On the contrary, I think that we have both
shown extraordinary patience towards him," I
"`"Oh, you do, do you?" he snarls. "Very
good, mate. We`ll see about that!"
"`He slouched out of the room, and half an
hour afterwards left the house, leaving my
father in a state of pitiable nervousness. Night
after night I heard him pacing his room, and it
was just as he was recovering his confidence
that the blow did at last fall.`
"`And how?` I asked eagerly.
"`In a most extraordinary fashion. A letter
arrived for my father yesterday evening, bearing
the Fordingbridge post-mark. My father read it,
clapped both his hands to his head, and began
running round the room in little circles like a
man who has been driven out of his senses. When
I at last drew him down on to the sofa, his
mouth and eyelids were all puckered on one side,
and I saw that he had a stroke. Dr. Fordham came
over at once. We put him to bed; but the
paralysis has spread, he has shown no sign of
returning consciousness, and I think that we
shall hardly find him alive.`
"`You horrify me, Trevor!` I cried. `What
then could have been in this letter to cause so
dreadful a result?`
"`Nothing. There lies the inexplicable part
of it. The message was absurd and trivial. Ah,
my God, it is as I feared!`
"As he spoke we came round the curve of the
avenue, and saw in the fading light that every
blind in the house had been drawn down. As we
dashed up to the door, my friend`s face
convulsed with grief, a gentleman in black
emerged from it.
"`When did it happen, doctor?` asked Trevor.
"`Almost immediately after you left.`
"`Did he recover consciousness?`
"`For an instant before the end.`
"`Any message for me.`
"`Only that the papers were in the back
drawer of the Japanese cabinet.`
"My friend ascended with the doctor to the
chamber of death, while I remained in the study,
turning the whole matter over and over in my
head, and feeling as sombre as ever I had done
in my life. What was the past of this Trevor,
pugilist, traveler, and gold-digger, and how had
he placed himself in the power of this
acid-faced seaman? Why, too, should he faint at
an allusion to the half-effaced initials upon
his arm, and die of fright when he had a letter
from Fordingham? Then I remembered that
Fordingham was in Hampshire, and that this Mr.
Beddoes, whom the seaman had gone to visit and
presumably to blackmail, had also been mentioned
as living in Hampshire. The letter, then, might
either come from Hudson, the seaman, saying that
he had betrayed the guilty secret which appeared
to exist, or it might come from Beddoes, warning
an old confederate that such a betrayal was
imminent. So far it seemed clear enough. But
then how could this letter be trivial and
grotesque, as describe by the son? He must have
misread it. If so, it must have been one of
those ingenious secret codes which mean one
thing while they seem to mean another. I must
see this letter. If there were a hidden meaning
in it, I was confident that I could pluck it
forth. For an hour I sat pondering over it in
the gloom, until at last a weeping maid brought
in a lamp, and close at her heels came my friend
Trevor, pale but composed, with these very
papers which lie upon my knee held in his grasp.
He sat down opposite to me, drew the lamp to the
edge of the table, and handed me a short note
scribbled, as you see, upon a single sheet of
gray paper. "The supply of game for London is
going steadily up,` it ran. `Head-keeper Hudson,
we believe, has been now told to receive all
orders for fly-paper and for preservation of
your hen-pheasant`s life.`
"I dare say my face looked as bewildered as
your did just now when first I read this
message. Then I reread it very carefully. It was
evidently as I had thought, and some secret
meaning must lie buried in this strange
combination of words. Or could it be that there
was a prearranged significance to such phrases
as `fly-paper` and hen-pheasant`? Such a meaning
would be arbitrary and could not be deduced in
any way. And yet I was loath to believe that
this was the case, and the presence of the word
Hudson seemed to show that the subject of the
message was as I had guessed, and that it was
from Beddoes rather than the sailor. I tried it
backwards, but the combination `life pheasant`s
hen` was not encouraging. Then I tried alternate
words, but neither `the of for` nor `supply game
London` promised to throw any light upon it.
"And then in an instant the key of the riddle
was in my hands, and I saw that every third
word, beginning with the first, would give a
message which might well drive old Trevor to
"It was short and terse, the warning, as I
now read it to my companion:
"`The game is up. Hudson has told all. Fly
for your life.`
"Victor Trevor sank his face into his shaking
hands, `It must be that, I suppose,` said he.
"This is worse than death, for it means disgrace
as well. But what is the meaning of these
"head-keepers" and "hen-pheasants"?
"`It means nothing to the message, but it
might mean a good deal to us if we had no other
means of discovering the sender. You see that he
has begun by writing "The...game...is," and so
on. Afterwards he had, to fulfill the
prearranged cipher, to fill in any two words in
each space. He would naturally use the first
words which came to his mind, and if there were
so many which referred to sport among them, you
may be tolerably sure that he is either an
ardent shot or interested in breeding. Do you
know anything of this Beddoes?`
"`Why, now that you mention it,` said he, `I
remember that my poor father used to have an
invitation from him to shoot over his preserves
"`Then it is undoubtedly from him that the
note comes,` said I. `It only remains for us to
find out what this secret was which the sailor
Hudson seems to have held over the heads of
these two wealthy and respected men.`
"`Alas, Holmes, I fear that it is one of sin
and shame!` cried my friend. `But from you I
shall have no secrets. Here is the statement
which was drawn up by my father when he knew
that the danger from Hudson had become imminent.
I found it in the Japanese cabinet, as he told
the doctor. Take it and read it to me, for I
have neither the strength nor the courage to do
"These are the very papers, Watson, which he
handed to me, and I will read them to you, as I
read them in the old study that night to him.
They are endorsed outside, as you see, `Some
particulars of the voyage of the bark Gloria
Scott, from her leaving Falmouth on the 8th
October, 1855, to her destruction in N. Lat. 15
degrees 20`, W. Long. 25 degrees 14` on Nov.
6th.` It is in the form of a letter, and runs in
"`My dear, dear son, now that approaching
disgrace begins to darken the closing years of
my life, I can write with all truth and honesty
that it is not the terror of the law, it is not
the loss of my position in the county, nor is it
my fall in the eyes of all who have known me,
which cuts me to the heart; but it is the
thought that you should come to blush for
me--you who love me and who have seldom, I hope,
had reason to do other than respect me. But if
the blow falls which is forever hanging over me,
then I should wish you to read this, that you
may know straight from me how far I have been to
blame. On the other hand, if all should go well
(which may kind God Almighty grant!), then if by
any chance this paper should be still
undestroyed and should fall into your hands, I
conjure you, by all you hold sacred, by the
memory of your dear mother, and by the love
which had been between us, to hurl it into the
fire and to never give one thought to it again.
"`If then your eye goes onto read this line,
I know that I shall already have been exposed
and dragged from my home, or as is more likely,
for you know that my heart is weak, by lying
with my tongue sealed forever in death. In
either case the time for suppression is past,
and every word which I tell you is the naked
truth, and this I swear as I hope for mercy.
"`My name, dear lad, is not Trevor. I was
James Armitage in my younger days, and you can
understand now the shock that it was to me a few
weeks ago when your college friend addressed me
in words which seemed to imply that he had
surprised my secret. As Armitage it was that I
entered a London banking-house, and as Armitage
I was convicted of breaking my country`s laws,
and was sentenced to transportation. Do not
think very harshly of me, laddie. It was a debt
of honor, so called, which I had to pay, and I
used money which was not my own to do it, in the
certainty that I could replace it before there
could be any possibility of its being missed.
But the most dreadful ill-luck pursued me. The
money which I had reckoned upon never came to
hand, and a premature examination of accounts
exposed my deficit. The case might have been
dealt leniently with, but the laws were more
harshly administered thirty years ago than now,
and on my twenty-third birthday I found myself
chained as a felon with thirty-seven other
convicts in `tween-decks of the bark Gloria
Scott, bound for Australia.
"`It was the year `55 when the Crimean war
was at its height, and the old convict ships had
been largely used as transports in the Black
Sea. The government was compelled, therefore, to
use smaller and less suitable vessels for
sending out their prisoners. The Gloria Scott
had been in the Chinese tea-trade, but she was
an old-fashioned, heavy-bowed, broad-beamed
craft, and the new clippers had cut her out. She
was a five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her
thirty-eight jail-birds, she carried twenty-six
of a crew, eighteen soldiers, a captain, three
mates, a doctor, a chaplain, and four warders.
Nearly a hundred souls were in her, all told,
when we set said from Falmouth.
"`The partitions between the cells of the
convicts, instead of being of thick oak, as is
usual in convict-ships, were quite thin and
frail. The man next to me, upon the aft side,
was one whom I had particularly noticed when we
were led down the quay. He was a young man with
a clear, hairless face, a long, thin nose, and
rather nut-cracker jaws. He carried his head
very jauntily in the air, had a swaggering style
of walking, and was, above all else, remarkable
for his extraordinary height. I don`t think any
of our heads would have come up to his shoulder,
and I am sure that he could not have measured
less than six and a half feet. It was strange
among so many sad and weary faces to see one
which was full of energy and resolution. The
sight of it was to me like a fire in a
snow-storm. I was glad, then, to find that he
was my neighbor, and gladder still when, in the
dead of the night, I heard a whisper close to my
ear, and found that he had managed to cut an
opening in the board which separated us.
"`"Hullo, chummy!" said he, "what`s your
name, and what are you here for?"
"`I answered him, and asked in turn who I was
"`"I`m Jack Prendergast," said he, "and by
God! You`ll learn to bless my name before you`ve
done with me."
"`I remembered hearing of his case, for it
was one which had made an immense sensation
throughout the country some time before my own
arrest. He was a man of good family and of great
ability, but on incurably vicious habits, who
had be an ingenious system of fraud obtained
huge sums of money from the leading London
"`"Ha, ha! You remember my case!" said he
"`"Very well, indeed."
"`"Then maybe you remember something queer
"`"What was that, then?"
"`"I`d had nearly a quarter of a million,
"`"So it was said."
"`"But none was recovered, eh?"
"`"Well, where d`ye suppose the balance is?"
"`"I have no idea," said I.
"`"Right between my finger and thumb," he
cried. "By God! I`ve go more pounds to my name
than you`ve hairs on your head. And if you`ve
money, my son, and know how to handle it and
spread it, you can do anything. Now, you don`t
think it likely that a man who could do anything
is going to wear his breeches out sitting in the
stinking hold of a rat-gutted, beetle-ridden,
mouldy old coffin of a Chin China coaster. No,
sir, such a man will look after himself and will
look after his chums. You may lay to that! You
hold on to him, and you may kiss the book that
he`ll haul you through."
"`That was his style of talk, and at first I
thought it meant nothing; but after a while,
when he had tested me and sworn me in with all
possible solemnity, he let me understand that
there really was a plot to gain command of the
vessel. A dozen of the prisoners had hatched it
before they came aboard, Prendergast was the
leader, and his money was the motive power.
"`"I`d a partner," said he, "a rare good man,
as true as a stock to a barrel. He`s got the
dibbs, he has, and where do you think he is at
this moment? Why, he`s the chaplain of this
ship--the chaplain, no less! He came aboard with
a black coat, and his papers right, and money
enough in his box to buy the thing right up from
keel to main-truck. The crew are his, body and
soul. He could buy `em at so much a gross with a
cash discount, and he did it before ever they
signed on. He`s got two of the warders and
Mereer, the second mate, and he`d get the
captain himself, if he thought him worth it."
"`"What are we to do, then?" I asked.
"`"What do you think?" said he. "We`ll make
the coats of some of these soldiers redder than
ever the tailor did."
"`"But they are armed," said I.
"`"And so shall we be, my boy. There`s a
brace of pistols for every mother`s son of us,
and if we can`t carry this ship, with the crew
at our back, it`s time we were all sent to a
young misses` boarding-school. You speak to your
mate upon the left to-night, and see if he is to
"`I did so, and found my other neighbor to be
a young fellow in much the same position as
myself, whose crime had been forgery. His name
was Evans, but he afterwards changed it, like
myself, and his is now a rich and prosperous man
in the south of England. He was ready enough to
join the conspiracy, as the only means of saving
ourselves, and before we had crossed the Bay
there were only two of the prisoners who were
not in the secret. One of these was of weak
mind, and we did not dare to trust him, and the
other was suffering from jaundice, and could not
be of any use to us.
"`From the beginning there was really nothing
to prevent us from taking possession of the
ship. The crew were a set of ruffians, specially
picked for the job. The sham chaplain came into
our cells to exhort us, carrying a black bag,
supposed to be full of tracts, and so often did
he come that by the third day we had each stowed
away at the foot of our beds a file, a brace of
pistols, a pound of powder, and twenty slugs.
Two of the warders were agents of Prendergast,
and the second mate was his right-hand man. The
captain, the two mates, two warders Lieutenant
Martin, his eighteen soldiers, and the doctor
were all that we had against us. Yet, safe as it
was, we determined to neglect no precaution, and
to make our attack suddenly by night. It came,
however, more quickly than we expected, and in
"`One evening, about the third week after our
start, the doctor had come down to see one of
the prisoners who was ill, and putting his hand
down on the bottom of his bunk he felt the
outline of the pistols. If he had been silent he
might have blown the whole thing, but he was a
nervous little chap, so he gave a cry of
surprise and turned so pale that the man knew
what was up in an instant and seized him. He was
gagged before he could give the alarm, and tied
down upon the bed. He had unlocked the door that
led to the deck, and we were through it in a
rush. The two sentries were shot down, and so
was a corporal who came running to see what was
the matter. There were two more soldiers at the
door of the state-room, and their muskets seemed
not to be loaded, for they never fired upon us,
and they were shot while trying to fix their
bayonets. Then we rushed on into the captain`s
cabin, but as we pushed open the door there was
an explosion from within, and there he lay wit
his brains smeared over the chart of the
Atlantic which was pinned upon the table, while
the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his
hand at his elbow. The two mates had both been
seized by the crew, and the whole business
seemed to be settled.
"`The state-room was next the cabin, and we
flocked in there and flopped down on the
settees, all speaking together, for we were just
mad with the feeling that we were free once
more. There were lockers all round, and Wilson,
the sham chaplain, knocked one of them in, and
pulled out a dozen of brown sherry. We cracked
off the necks of the bottles, poured the stuff
out into tumblers, and were just tossing them
off, when in an instant without warning there
came the roar of muskets in our ears, and the
saloon was so full of smoke that we could not
see across the table. When it cleared again the
place was a shambles. Wilson and eight others
were wriggling on the top of each other on the
floor, and the blood and the brown sherry on
that table turn me sick now when I think of it.
We were so cowed by the sight that I think we
should have given the job up if had not been for
Prendergast. He bellowed like a bull and rushed
for the door with all that were left alive at
his heels. Out we ran, and there on the poop
were the lieutenent and ten of his men. The
swing skylights above the saloon table had been
a bit open, and they had fired on us through the
slit. We got on them before they could load, and
they stood to it like men; but we had the upper
hand of them, and in five minutes it was all
over. My God! Was there ever a slaughter-house
like that ship! Predergast was like a raging
deveil, and he picked the soldiers up as if they
had been children and threw them overboard alive
or dead. There was one sergeant that was
horribly wounded and yet kept on swimming for a
surprising time, until some one in mercy blew
out his brains. When the fighting was over there
was no one left of our enemies except just the
warders the mates, and the doctor.
"`It was over them that the great quarrel
arose. There were many of us who were glad
enough to win back our freedom, and yet who had
no wish to have murder on our souls. It was one
thing to knock the soldiers over with their
muskets in their hands, and it was another to
stand by while men were being killed in cold
blood. Eight of us, five convicts and three
sailors, said that we would not see it done. But
there was no moving Predergast and those who
were with him. Our only chance of safety lay in
making a clean job of it, said he, and he would
not leave a tongue with power to wag in a
witness-box. It nearly came to our sharing the
fate of the prisoners, but at last he said that
if we wished we might take a boat and go. We
jumped at the offer, for we were already sick of
these blookthirsty doings, and we saw that there
would be worse before it was done. We were given
a suit of sailor togs each, a barrel of water,
two casks, one of junk and one of biscuits, and
a compass. Prendergast threw us over a chart,
told us that we were shipwrecked mariners whose
ship had foundered in Lat. 15 degrees and Long
25 degrees west, and then cut the painter and
let us go.
"`And now I come to the most surprising part
of my story, my dear son. The seamen had hauled
the fore-yard aback during the rising, but now
as we left them they brought it square again,
and as there was a light wind from the north and
east the bark began to draw slowly away from us.
Our boat lay, rising and falling, upon the long,
smooth rollers, and Evans and I, who were the
most educated of the party, were sitting in the
sheets working out our position and planning
what coast we should make for. It was a nice
question, for the Cape de Verds were about five
hundred miles to the north of us, and the
African coast about seven hundred to the east.
On the whole, as the wind was coming round to
the north, we thought that Sierra Leone might be
best, and turned our head in that direction, the
bark being at that time nearly hull down on our
starboard quarter. Suddenly as we looked at her
we saw a dense black cloud of smoke shoot up
from her, which hung like a monstrous tree upon
the sky line. A few seconds later a roar like
thunder burst upon our ears, and as the smoke
thinned away there was no sign left of the
Gloria Scott. In an instant we swept the boat`s
head round again and pulled with all our
strength for the place where the haze still
trailing over the water marked the scene of this
"`It was a long hour before we reached it,
and at first we feared that we had come too late
to save any one. A splintered boat and a number
of crates and fragments of spars rising and
falling on the waves showed us where the vessel
had foundered; but there was no sign of life,
and we had turned away in despair when we heard
a cry for help, and saw at some distance a piece
of wreckage with a man lying stretched across
it. When we pulled him aboard the boat he proved
to be a young seaman of the name of Hudson, who
was so burned and exhausted that he could give
us no account of what had happened until the
"`It seemed that after we had left,
Prendergast and his gang had proceeded to put to
death the five remaining prisoners. The two
warders had been shot and thrown overboard, and
so also had the third mate. Prendergast then
descended into the `tween-decks and with his own
hands cut the throat of the unfortunate surgeon.
There only remained the first mate, who was a
bold and active man. When he saw the convict
approaching him with the bloody knife in his
hand he kicked off his bonds, which he had
somehow contrived to loosen, and rushing down
the deck he plunged into the after-hold. A dozen
convicts, who descended with their pistols in
search of him, found him with a match-box in his
hand seated beside an open powder-barrel, which
was one of a hundred carried on board, and
swearing that he would blow all hands up if he
were in any way molested. An instant later the
explosion occurred, though Hudson thought it was
caused by the misdirected bullet of one of the
convicts rather than the mate`s match. Be the
cause what I may, it was the end of the Gloria
Scott and of the rabble who held command of her.
"`Such, in a few words, my dear boy, is the
history of this terrible business in which I was
involved. Next day we were picked up by the brig
Hotspur, bound for Australia, whose captain
found no difficulty in believing that we were
the survivors of a passenger ship which had
foundered. The transport ship Gloria Scott was
set down by the Admiralty as being lost at sea,
and no word has ever leaked out as to her true
fate. After an excellent voyage the Hotspur
landed us at Sydney, where Evans and I changed
our names and made our way to the diggings,
where, among the crowds who were gathered from
all nations, we had no difficulty in losing our
former identities. The rest I need not relate.
We prospered, we traveled, we came back as rich
colonials to England, and we bought country
estates. For more than twenty years we have led
peaceful and useful lives, and we hoped that our
past was forever buried. Imagine, then, my
feelings when in the seaman who came to us I
recognized instantly the man who had been picked
off the wreck. He had tracked us down somehow,
and had set himself to live upon our fears. You
will understand now how it was that I strove to
keep the peace with him, and you will in some
measure sympathize with me in the fears which
fill me, now that he has gone from me to his
other victim with threats upon his tongue.`
"Underneath is written in a hand so shaky as
to be hardly legible, `Beddoes writes in cipher
to say H. Has told all. Sweet Lord, have mercy
on our souls!`
"That was the narrative which I read that
night to young Trevor, and I think, Watson, that
under the circumstances it was a dramatic one.
The good fellow was heart-broken at it, and went
out to the Terai tea planting, where I hear that
he is doing well. As to the sailor and Beddoes,
neither of them was ever heard of again after
that day on which the letter of warning was
written. They both disappeared utterly and
completely. No complaint had been lodged with he
police, so that Beddoes had mistaken a threat
for a deed. Hudson had been seen lurking about,
and it was believed by the police that he had
done away with Beddoes and had fled. For myself
I believe that the truth was exactly the
opposite. I think that it is most probable that
Beddoes, pushed to desperation and believing
himself to have been already betrayed, had
revenged himself upon Hudson, and had fled from
the country with as much money as he could lay
his hands on. Those are the facts of the case,
Doctor, and if they are of any use to your
collection, I am sure that they are very
heartily at your service."
The Musgrave Ritual
An anomaly which often struck me in the character of my friend Sherlock
Holmes was that, although in his methods of
thought he was the neatest and most methodical
of mankind, and although also he affected a
certain quiet primness of dress, he was none the
less in his personal habits one of the most
untidy men that ever drove a fellow-lodger to
distraction. Not that I am in the least
conventional in that respect myself. The
rough-and-tumble work in Afghanistan, coming on
the top of a natural Bohemianism of disposition,
has made me rather more lax than befits a
medical man. But with me there is a limit, and
when I find a man who keeps his cigars in the
coal-scuttle, his tobacco in the toe end of a
Persian slipper, and his unanswered
correspondence transfixed by a jack-knife into
the very centre of his wooden mantelpiece, then
I begin to give myself virtuous airs. I have
always held, too, that pistol practice should be
distinctly an open-air pastime; and when Holmes,
in one of his queer humors, would sit in an
arm-chair with his hair-trigger and a hundred
Boxer cartridges, and proceed to adorn the
opposite wall with a patriotic V. R. done in
bullet-pocks, I felt strongly that neither the
atmosphere nor the appearance of our room was
improved by it.
Our chambers were always full of chemicals
and of criminal relics which had a way of
wandering into unlikely positions, and of
turning up in the butter-dish or in even less
desirable places. But his papers were my great
crux. He had a horror of destroying documents,
especially those which were connected with his
past cases, and yet it was only once in every
year or two that he would muster energy to
docket and arrange them; for, as I have
mentioned somewhere in these incoherent memoirs,
the outbursts of passionate energy when he
performed the remarkable feats with which his
name is associated were followed by reactions of
lethargy during which he would lie about with
his violin and his books, hardly moving save
from the sofa to the table. Thus month after
month his papers accumulated, until every corner
of the room was stacked with bundles of
manuscript which were on no account to be
burned, and which could not be put away save by
their owner. One winter`s night, as we sat
together by the fire, I ventured to suggest to
him that, as he had finished pasting extracts
into his common-place book, he might employ the
next two hours in making our room a little more
habitable. He could not deny the justice of my
request, so with a rather rueful face he went
off to his bedroom, from which he returned
presently pulling a large tin box behind him.
This he placed in the middle of the floor and,
squatting down upon a stool in front of it, he
threw back the lid. I could see that it was
already a third full of bundles of paper tied up
with red tape into separate packages.
"There are cases enough here, Watson," said
he, looking at me with mischievous eyes. "I
think that if you knew all that I had in this
box you would ask me to pull some out instead of
putting others in."
"These are the records of your early work,
then?" I asked. "I have often wished that I had
notes of those cases."
"Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely
before my biographer had come to glorify me." He
lifted bundle after bundle in a tender,
caressing sort of way. "They are not all
successes, Watson," said he. "But there are some
pretty little problems among them. Here`s the
record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of
Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure
of the old Russian woman, and the singular
affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a
full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and
his abominable wife. And here--ah, now, this
really is something a little recherchй®ў
He dived his arm down to the bottom of the
chest, and brought up a small wooden box with a
sliding lid, such as children`s toys are kept
in. From within he produced a crumpled piece of
paper, and old-fashioned brass key, a peg of
wood with a ball of string attached to it, and
three rusty old disks of metal.
"Well, my boy, what do you make of this lot?"
he asked, smiling at my expression.
"It is a curious collection."
"Very curious, and the story that hangs round
it will strike you as being more curious still."
"These relics have a history then?"
"So much so that they are history."
"What do you mean by that?"
Sherlock Holmes picked them up one by one,
and laid them along the edge of the table. Then
he reseated himself in his chair and looked them
over with a gleam of satisfaction in his eyes.
"These," said he, "are all that I have left
to remind me of the adventure of the Musgrave
I had heard him mention the case more than
once, though I had never been able to gather the
details. "I should be so glad," said I, "if you
would give me an account of it."
"And leave the litter as it is?" he cried,
mischievously. "Your tidiness won`t bear much
strain after all, Watson. But I should be glad
that you should add this case to your annals,
for there are points in it which make it quite
unique in the criminal records of this or, I
believe, of any other country. A collection of
my trifling achievements would certainly be
incomplete which contained no account of this
very singular business.
"You may remember how the affair of the
Gloria Scott, and my conversation with the
unhappy man whose fate I told you of, first
turned my attention in the direction of the
profession which has become my life`s work. You
see me now when my name has become known far and
wide, and when I am generally recognized both by
the public and by the official force as being a
final court of appeal in doubtful cases. Even
when you knew me first, at the time of the
affair which you have commemorated in `A Study
in Scarlet,` I had already established a
considerable, though not a very lucrative,
connection. You can hardly realize, then, how
difficult I found it at first, and how long I
had to wait before I succeeded in making any
"When I first came up to London I had rooms
in Montague Street, just round the corner from
the British Museum, and there I waited, filling
in my too abundant leisure time by studying all
those branches of science which might make me
more efficient. Now and again cases came in my
way, principally through the introduction of old
fellow-students, for during my last years at the
University there was a good deal of talk there
about myself and my methods. The third of these
cases was that of the Musgrave Ritual, and it is
to the interest which was aroused by that
singular chain of events, and the large issues
which proved to be at stake, that I trace my
first stride towards to position which I now
"Reginald Musgrave had been in the same
college as myself, and I had some slight
acquaintance with him. He was not generally
popular among the undergraduates, though it
always seemed to me that what was set down as
pride was really an attempt to cover extreme
natural diffidence. In appearance he was a man
of exceedingly aristocratic type, thin,
high-nosed, and large-eyed, with languid and yet
courtly manners. He was indeed a scion of one of
the very oldest families in the kingdom, though
his branch was a cadet one which had separated
from the northern Musgraves some time in the
sixteenth century, and had established itself in
western Sussex, where the Manor House of
Hurlstone is perhaps the oldest inhabited
building in the county. Something of his birth
place seemed to cling to the man, and I never
looked at his pale, keen face or the poise of
his head without associating him with gray
archways and mullioned windows and all the
venerable wreckage of a feudal keep. Once or
twice we drifted into talk, and I can remember
that more than once he expressed a keen interest
in my methods of observation and inference.
"For four years I had seen nothing of him
until one morning he walked into my room in
Montague Street. He had changed little, was
dressed like a young man of fashion--he was
always a bit of a dandy--and preserved the same
quiet, suave manner which had formerly
"`How has all gone with you Musgrave?" I
asked, after we had cordially shaken hands.
"`You probably heard of my poor father`s
death,` said he; `he was carried off about two
years ago. Since then I have of course had the
Hurlstone estates to manage, and as I am member
for my district as well, my life has been a busy
one. But I understand, Holmes, that you are
turning to practical ends those powers with
which you used to amaze us?"
"`Yes,` said I, `I have taken to living by my
"`I am delighted to hear it, for your advice
at present would be exceedingly valuable to me.
We have had some very strange doings at
Hurlstone, and the police have been able to
throw no light upon the matter. It is really the
most extraordinary and inexplicable business.`
"You can imagine with what eagerness I
listened to him, Watson, for the very chance for
which I had been panting during all those months
of inaction seemed to have come within my reach.
In my inmost heart I believed that I could
succeed where others failed, and now I had the
opportunity to test myself.
"`Pray, let me have the details,` I cried.
"Reginald Musgrave sat down opposite to me,
and lit the cigarette which I had pushed towards
"`You must know,` said he, `that though I am
a bachelor, I have to keep up a considerable
staff of servants at Hurlstone, for it is a
rambling old place, and takes a good deal of
looking after. I preserve, too, and in the
pheasant months I usually have a house-party, so
that it would not do to be short-handed.
Altogether there are eight maids, the cook, the
butler, two footmen, and a boy. The garden and
the stables of course have a separate staff.
"`Of these servants the one who had been
longest in our service was Brunton the butler.
He was a young school-master out of place when
he was first taken up by my father, but he was a
man of great energy and character, and he soon
became quite invaluable in the household. He was
a well-grown, handsome man, with a splendid
forehead, and though he has been with us for
twenty years he cannot be more than forty now.
With his personal advantages and his
extraordinary gifts--for he can speak several
languages and play nearly every musical
instrument--it is wonderful that he should have
been satisfied so long in such a position, but I
suppose that he was comfortable, and lacked
energy to make any change. The butler of
Hurlstone is always a thing that is remembered
by all who visit us.
"`But this paragon has one fault. He is a bit
of a Don Juan, and you can imagine that for a
man like him it is not a very difficult part to
play in a quiet country district. When he was
married it was all right, but since he has been
a widower we have had no end of trouble with
him. A few months ago we were in hopes that he
was about to settle down again for he became
engaged to Rachel Howells, our second
house-maid; but he has thrown her over since
then and taken up with Janet Tregellis, the
daughter of the head game-keeper. Rachel--who is
a very good girl, but of an excitable Welsh
temperament--had a sharp touch of brain-fever,
and goes about the house now--or did until
yesterday--like a black-eyed shadow of her
former self. That was our first drama at
Hurlstone; but a second one came to drive it
from our minds, and it was prefaced by the
disgrace and dismissal of butler Brunton.
"`This was how it came about. I have said
that the man was intelligent, and this very
intelligence has caused his ruin, for it seems
to have led to an insatiable curiosity about
things which did not in the least concern him. I
had no idea of the lengths to which this would
carry him, until the merest accident opened my
eyes to it.
"`I have said that the house is a rambling
one. One day last week--on Thursday night, to be
more exact--I found that I could not sleep,
having foolishly taken a cup of strong cafй ®oir
after my dinner. After struggling against it
until two in the morning, I felt that it was
quite hopeless, so I rose and lit the candle
with the intention of continuing a novel which I
was reading. The book, however, had been left in
the billiard-room, so I pulled on my
dressing-gown and started off to get it.
"`In order to reach the billiard-room I had
to descend a flight of stairs and then to cross
the head of a passage which led to the library
and the gun-room. You can imagine my surprise
when, as I looked down this corridor, I saw a
glimmer of light coming from the open door of
the library. I had myself extinguished the lamp
and closed the door before coming to bed.
Naturally my first thought was of burglars. The
corridors at Hurlstone have their walls largely
decorated with trophies of old weapons. From one
of these I picked a battle-axe, and then,
leaving my candle behind me, I crept on tiptoe
down the passage and peeped in at the open door.
"`Brunton, the butler, was in the library. He
was sitting, fully dressed, in an easy-chair,
with a slip of paper which looked like a map
upon his knee, and his forehead sunk forward
upon his hand in deep thought. I stood dumb with
astonishment, watching him from the darkness. A
small taper on the edge of the table shed a
feeble light which sufficed to show me that he
was fully dressed. Suddenly, as I looked, he
rose from his chair, and walking over to a
bureau at the side, he unlocked it and drew out
one of the drawers. From this he took a paper,
and returning to his seat he flattened it out
beside the taper on the edge of the table, and
began to study it with minute attention. My
indignation at this calm examination of our
family documents overcame me so far that I took
a step forward, and Brunton, looking up, saw me
standing in the doorway. He sprang to his feet,
his face turned livid with fear, and he thrust
into his breast the chart-like paper which he
had been originally studying.
"`"So!" said I. "This is how you repay the
trust which we have reposed in you. You will
leave my service to-morrow."
"`He bowed with the look of a man who is
utterly crushed, and slunk past me without a
word. The taper was still on the table, and by
its light I glanced to see what the paper was
which Brunton had taken from the bureau. To my
surprise it was nothing of any importance at
all, but simply a copy of the questions and
answers in the singular old observance called
the Musgrave Ritual. It is a sort of ceremony
peculiar to our family, which each Musgrave for
centuries past has gone through on his coming of
age--a thing of private interest, and perhaps of
some little importance to the archaeologist,
like our own blazonings and charges, but of no
practical use whatever.`
"`We had better come back to the paper
afterwards,` said I.
"`If you think it really necessary,` he
answered, with some hesitation. `To continue my
statement, however: I relocked the bureau, using
the key which Brunton had left, and I had turned
to go when I was surprised to find that the
butler had returned, and was standing before me.
"`"Mr. Musgrave, sir," he cried, in a voice
which was hoarse with emotion, "I can`t bear
disgrace, sir. I`ve always been proud above my
station in life, and disgrace would kill me. My
blood will be on your head, sir--it will,
indeed--if you drive me to despair. If you
cannot keep me after what has passed, then for
God`s sake let me give you notice and leave in a
month, as if of my own free will. I could stand
that, Mr. Musgrave, but not to be cast out
before all the folk that I know so well."
"`"You don`t deserve much consideration,
Brunton," I answered. "Your conduct has been
most infamous. However, as you have been a long
time in the family, I have no wish to bring
public disgrace upon you. A month, however is
too long. Take yourself away in a week, and give
what reason you like for going."
"`"Only a week, sir?" he cried, in a
despairing voice. "A fortnight--say at least a
"`"A week," I repeated, "and you may consider
yourself to have been very leniently dealt
"`He crept away, his face sunk upon his
breast, like a broken man, while I put out the
light and returned to my room.
""For two days after this Brunton was most
assiduous in his attention to his duties. I made
no allusion to what had passed, and waited with
some curiosity to see how he would cover his
disgrace. On the third morning, however he did
not appear, as was his custom, after breakfast
to receive my instructions for the day. As I
left the dining-room I happened to meet Rachel
Howells, the maid. I have told you that she had
only recently recovered from an illness, and was
looking so wretchedly pale and wan that I
remonstrated with her for being at work.
"`"You should be in bed," I said. "Come back
to your duties when you are stronger."
"`She looked at me with so strange an
expression that I began to suspect that her
brain was affected.
"`"I am strong enough, Mr. Musgrave," said
"`"We will see what the doctor says," I
answered. "You must stop work now, and when you
go downstairs just say that I wish to see
"`"The butler is gone," said she.
"`"Gone! Gone where?"
"`"He is gone. No one has seen him. He is not
in his room. Oh, yes, he is gone, he is gone!"
She fell back against the wall with shriek after
shriek of laughter, while I, horrified at this
sudden hysterical attack, rushed to the bell to
summon help. The girl was taken to her room,
still screaming and sobbing, while I made
inquiries about Brunton. There was no doubt
about it that he had disappeared. His bed had
not been slept in, he had been seen by no one
since he had retired to his room the night
before, and yet it was difficult to see how he
could have left the house, as both windows and
doors were found to be fastened in the morning.
His clothes, his watch, and even his money were
in his room, but the black suit which he usually
wore was missing. His slippers, too, were gone,
but his boots were left behind. Where then could
butler Brunton have gone in the night, and what
could have become of him now?
"`Of course we searched the house from cellar
to garret, but there was no trace of him. It is,
as I have said, a labyrinth of an old house,
especially the original wing, which is now
practically uninhabited; but we ransacked every
room and cellar without discovering the least
sign of the missing man. It was incredible to me
that he could have gone away leaving all his
property behind him, and yet where could he be?
I called in the local police, but without
success. Rain had fallen on the night before and
we examined the lawn and the paths all round the
house, but in vain. Matters were in this state,
when a new development quite drew our attention
away from the original mystery.
"`For two days Rachel Howells had been so
ill, sometimes delirious, sometimes hysterical,
that a nurse had been employed to sit up with
her at night. On the third night after Brunton`s
disappearance, the nurse, finding her patient
sleeping nicely, had dropped into a nap in the
arm-chair, when shoe woke in the early morning
to find the bed empty, the window open, and no
signs of the invalid. I was instantly aroused,
and, with the two footmen, started off at once
in search of the missing girl. It was not
difficult to tell the direction which she had
taken, for, starting from under her window, we
could follow her footmarks easily across the
lawn to the edge of the mere, where they
vanished close to the gravel path which leads
out of the grounds. The lake there is eight feet
deep, and you can imagine our feelings when we
saw that the trail of the poor demented girl
came to an end at the edge of it.
"`Of course, we had the drags at once, and
set to work to recover the remains, but no trace
of the body could we find. On the other hand, we
brought to the surface an object of a most
unexpected kind. It was a linen bag which
contained within it a mass of old rusted and
discolored metal and several dull-colored pieces
of pebble or glass. This strange find was all
that we could get from the mere, and, although
we made every possible search and inquiry
yesterday, we know nothing of the fate either of
Rachel Howells or of Richard Brunton. The county
police are at their wits` end, and I have come
up to you as a last resource.`
"You can imagine, Watson, with what eagerness
I listened to this extraordinary sequence of
events, and endeavored to piece them together,
and to devise some common thread upon which they
might all hang. The butler was gone. The maid
was gone. The maid had loved the butler, but had
afterwards had cause to hate him. She was of
Welsh blood, fiery and passionate. She had been
terribly excited immediately after his
disappearance. She had flung into the lake a bag
containing some curious contents. These were all
factors which had to be taken into
consideration, and yet none of them got quite to
the heart of the matter. What was the
starting-point of this chain of events? There
lay the end of this tangled line.
"`I must see that paper, Musgrave,` said I,
`which this butler of your thought it worth his
while to consult, even at the risk of the loss
of his place.`
"`It is rather an absurd business, this
ritual of ours,` he answered. `But it has at
least the saving grace of antiquity to excuse
it. I have a copy of the questions and answers
here if you care to run your eye over them.`
"He handed me the very paper which I have
here, Watson, and this is the strange catechism
to which each Musgrave had to submit when he
came to man`s estate. I will read you the
questions and answers as they stand.
"`Whose was it?`
"`His who is gone.`
"`Who shall have it?`
"`He who will come.`
"`Where was the sun?`
"`Over the oak.`
"`Where was the shadow?`
"`Under the elm.`
"How was it stepped?`
"`North by ten and by ten, east by five and
by five, south by two and by two, west by one
and by one, and so under.`
"`What shall we give for it?`
"`All that is ours.`
"`Why should we give it?`
"`For the sake of the trust.`
"`The original has no date, but is in the
spelling of the middle of the seventeenth
century,` remarked Musgrave. `I am afraid,
however, that it can be of little help to you in
solving this mystery.`
"`At least,` said I, `it gives us another
mystery, and one which is even more interesting
than the first. It may be that the solution of
the one may prove to be the solution of the
other. You will excuse me, Musgrave, if I say
that your butler appears to me to have been a
very clever man, and to have had a clearer
insight that ten generations of his masters.`
"`I hardly follow you,` said Musgrave. `The
paper seems to me to be of no practical
"`But to me it seems immensely practical, and
I fancy that Brunton took the same view. He had
probably seen it before that night on which you
"`It is very possible. We took no pains to
"`He simply wished, I should imagine, to
refresh his memory upon that last occasion. He
had, as I understand, some sort of map or chart
which he was comparing with the manuscript, and
which he thrust into his pocket when you
"`That is true. But what could he have to do
with this old family custom of ours, and what
does this rigmarole mean?`
"`I don`t think that we should have much
difficulty in determining that,` said I; `with
your permission we will take the first train
down to Sussex, and go a little more deeply into
the matter upon the spot.`
"The same afternoon saw us both at
Hurlstone. Possibly you have seen pictures and
read descriptions of the famous old building, so
I will confine my account of it to saying that
it is built in the shape of an L, the long arm
being the more modern portion, and the shorter
the ancient nucleus, from which the other had
developed. Over the low, heavily-lintelled door,
in the centre of this old part, is chiseled the
date, 1607, but experts are agreed that the
beams and stone-work are really much older than
this. The enormously thick walls and tiny
windows of this part had in the last century
driven the family into building the new wing,
and the old one was used now as a store-house
and a cellar, when it was used at all. A
splendid park with fine old timber surrounds the
house, and the lake, to which my client had
referred, lay close to the avenue, about two
hundred yards from the building.
"I was already firmly convinced, Watson, that
there were not three separate mysteries here,
but one only, and that if I could read the
Musgrave Ritual aright I should hold in my hand
the clue which would lead me to the truth
concerning both the butler Brunton and the maid
Howells. To that then I turned all my energies.
Why should this servant be so anxious to master
this old formula? Evidently because he saw
something in it which had escaped all those
generations of country squires, and from which
he expected some personal advantage. What was it
then, and how had it affected his fate?
"It was perfectly obvious to me, on reading
the ritual, that the measurements must refer to
some spot to which the rest of the document
alluded, and that if we could find that spot, we
should be in a fair way towards finding what the
secret was which the old Musgraves had thought
it necessary to embalm in so curious a fashion.
There were two guides given us to start with, an
oak and an elm. As to the oak there could be no
question at all. Right in front of the house,
upon the left-hand side of the drive, there
stood a patriarch among oaks, one of the most
magnificent trees that I have ever seen.
"`That was there when you ritual was drawn
up,` said I, as we drove past it.
"`It was there at the Norman Conquest in all
probability,` he answered. `It has a girth of
"`Have you any old elms?` I asked.
"`There used to be a very old one over yonder
but it was struck by lightning ten years ago,
and we cut down the stump,`
"`You can see where it used to be?`
"`There are no other elms?`
"`No old ones, but plenty of beeches.`
"`I should like to see where it grew.`
"We had driven up in a dogcart, and my client
led me away at once, without our entering the
house, to the scar on the lawn where the elm had
stood. It was nearly midway between the oak and
the house. My investigation seemed to be
"`I suppose it is impossible to find out how
high the elm was?` I asked.
"`I can give you it at once. It was
"`How do you come to know it?` I asked, in
"`When my old tutor used to give me an
exercise in trigonometry, it always took the
shape of measuring heights. When I was a lad I
worked out every tree and building in the
"This was an unexpected piece of luck. My
data were coming more quickly than I could have
"`Tell me,` I asked, `did your butler ever
ask you such a question?`
"Reginald Musgrave looked at me in
astonishment. `Now that you call it to my mind,`
he answered, `Brunton did ask me about the
height of the tree some months ago, in
connection with some little argument with the
"This was excellent news, Watson, for it
showed me that I was on the right road. I looked
up at the sun. It was low in the heavens, and I
calculated that in less than an hour it would
lie just above the topmost branches of the old
oak. One condition mentioned in the Ritual would
then be fulfilled. And the shadow of the elm
must mean the farther end of the shadow,
otherwise the trunk would have been chosen as
the guide. I had, then, to find where the far
end of the shadow would fall when the sun was
just clear of the oak."
"That must have been difficult, Holmes, when
the elm was no longer there."
"Well, at least I knew that if Brunton could
do it, I could also. Besides, there was no real
difficulty. I went with Musgrave to his study
and whittled myself this peg, to which I tied
this long string with a knot at each yard. Then
I took two lengths of a fishing-rod, which came
to just six feet, and I went back with my client
to where the elm had been. The sun was just
grazing the top of the oak. I fastened the rod
on end, marked out the direction of the shadow,
and measured it. It was nine feet in length.
"Of course the calculation now was a simple
one. If a rod of six feet threw a shadow of
nine, a tree of sixty-four feet would throw one
of ninety-six, and the line of the one would of
course the line of the other. I measured out the
distance, which brought me almost to the wall of
the house, and I thrust a peg into the spot. You
can imagine my exultation, Watson, when within
two inches of my peg I saw a conical depression
in the ground. I knew that it was the mark made
by Brunton in his measurements, and that I was
still upon his trail.
"From this starting-point I proceeded to
step, having first taken the cardinal points by
my pocket-compass. Ten steps with each foot took
me along parallel with the wall of the house,
and again I marked my spot with a peg. Then I
carefully paced off five to the east and two to
the south. It brought me to the very threshold
of the old door. Two steps to the west meant now
that I was to go two paces down the
stone-flagged passage, and this was the place
indicated by the Ritual.
"Never have I felt such a cold chill of
disappointment, Watson. For a moment is seemed
to me that there must be some radical mistake in
my calculations. The setting sun shone full upon
the passage floor, and I could see that the old,
foot-worn gray stones with which it was paved
were firmly cemented together, and had certainly
not been moved for many a long year. Brunton had
not been at work here. I tapped upon the floor,
but it sounded the same all over, and there was
no sign of any crack or crevice. But,
Fortunately, Musgrave, who had begun to
appreciate the meaning of my proceedings, and
who was now as excited as myself, took out his
manuscript to check my calculation.
"`And under,` he cried. `You have omitted the
"I had thought that it meant that we were to
dig, but now, of course, I saw at once that I
was wrong. `There is a cellar under this then?`
"`Yes, and as old as the house. Down here,
through this door.`
"We went down a winding stone stair, and my
companion, striking a match, lit a large lantern
which stood on a barrel in the corner. In an
instant it was obvious that we had at last come
upon the true place, and that we had not been
the only people to visit the spot recently.
"It had been used for the storage of wood,
but the billets, which had evidently been
littered over the floor, were now piled at the
sides, so as to leave a clear space in the
middle. In this space lay a large and heavy
flagstone with a rusted iron ring in the centre
to which a thick shepherd`s-check muffler was
"`By Jove!` cried my client. `That`s
Brunton`s muffler. I have seen it on him, and
could swear to it. What has the villain been
"At my suggestion a couple of the county
police were summoned to be present, and I then
endeavored to raise the stone by pulling on the
cravat. I could only move it slightly, and it
was with the aid of one of the constables that I
succeeded at last in carrying it to one side. A
black hole yawned beneath into which we all
peered, while Musgrave, kneeling at the side,
pushed down the lantern.
"A small chamber about seven feet deep and
four feet square lay open to us. At one side of
this was a squat, brass-bound wooden box, the
lid of which was hinged upwards, with this
curious old-fashioned key projecting from the
lock. It was furred outside by a thick layer of
dust, and damp and worms had eaten through the
wood, so that a crop of livid fungi was growing
on the inside of it. Several discs of metal, old
coins apparently, such as I hold here, were
scattered over the bottom of the box, but it
contained nothing else.
"At the moment, however, we had no thought
for the old chest, for our eyes were riveted
upon that which crouched beside it. It was the
figure of a man, clad in a suit of black, who
squatted down upon him hams with his forehead
sunk upon the edge of the box and his two arms
thrown out on each side of it. The attitude had
drawn all the stagnant blood to the face, and no
man could have recognized that distorted
liver-colored countenance; but his height, his
dress, and his hair were all sufficient to show
my client, when we had drawn the body up, that
it was indeed his missing butler. He had been
dead some days, but there was no wound or bruise
upon his person to show how he had met his
dreadful end. When his body had been carried
from the cellar we found ourselves still
confronted with a problem which was almost as
formidable as that with which we had started.
"I confess that so far, Watson, I had been
disappointed in my investigation. I had reckoned
upon solving the matter when once I had found
the place referred to in the Ritual; but now I
was there, and was apparently as far as ever
from knowing what it was which the family had
concealed with such elaborate precautions. It is
true that I had thrown a light upon the fate of
Brunton, but now I had to ascertain how that
fate had come upon him, and what part had been
played in the matter by the woman who had
disappeared. I sat down upon a keg in the corner
and thought the whole matter carefully over.
"You know my methods in such cases, Watson. I
put myself in the man`s place and, having first
gauged his intelligence, I try to imagine how I
should myself have proceeded under the same
circumstances. In this case the matter was
simplified by Brunton`s intelligence being quite
first-rate, so that it was unnecessary to make
any allowance for the personal equation, as the
astronomers have dubbed it. He know that
something valuable was concealed. He had spotted
the place. He found that the stone which covered
it was just too heavy for a man to move unaided.
What would he do next? He could not get help
from outside, even if he had some one whom he
could trust, without the unbarring of doors and
considerable risk of detection. It was better,
if he could, to have his helpmate inside the
house. But whom could he ask? This girl had been
devoted to him. A man always finds it hard to
realize that he may have finally lost a woman`s
love, however badly he may have treated her. He
would try by a few attentions to make his peace
with the girl Howells, and then would engage her
as his accomplice. Together they would come at
night to the cellar, and their united force
would suffice to raise the stone. So far I could
follow their actions as if I had actually seen
"But for two of them, and one a woman, it
must have been heavy work the raising of that
stone. A burly Sussex policeman and I had found
it no light job. What would they do to assist
them? Probably what I should have done myself. I
rose and examined carefully the different
billets of wood which were scattered round the
floor. Almost at once I came upon what I
expected. One piece, about three feet in length,
had a very marked indentation at one end, while
several were flattened at the sides as if they
had been compressed by some considerable weight.
Evidently, as they had dragged the stone up they
had thrust the chunks of wood into the chink,
until at last, when the opening was large enough
to crawl through, they would hold it open by a
billet placed lengthwise, which might very well
become indented at the lower end, since the
whole weight of the stone would press it down on
to the edge of this other slab. So far I was
still on safe ground.
"And now how was I to proceed to reconstruct
this midnight drama? Clearly, only one could fit
into the hole, and that one was Brunton. The
girl must have waited above. Brunton then
unlocked the box, handed up the contents
presumably--since they were not to be found--and
then--and then what happened?
"What smouldering fire of vengeance had
suddenly sprung into flame in this passionate
Celtic woman`s soul when she saw the man who had
wronged her--wronged her, perhaps, far more than
we suspected--in her power? Was it a chance that
the wood had slipped, and that the stone had
shut Brunton into what had become his sepulchre?
Had she only been guilty of silence as to his
fate? Or had some sudden blow from her hand
dashed the support away and sent the slab
crashing down into its place? Be that as it
might, I seemed to see that woman`s figure still
clutching at her treasure trove and flying
wildly up the winding stair, with her ears
ringing perhaps with the muffled screams from
behind her and with the drumming of frenzied
hands against the slab of stone which was
choking her faithless lover`s life out.
"Here was the secret of her blanched face,
her shaken nerves, her peals of hysterical
laughter on the next morning. But what had been
in the box? What had she done with that? Of
course, it must have been the old metal and
pebbles which my client had dragged from the
mere. She had thrown them in there at the first
opportunity to remove the last trace of her
"For twenty minutes I had sat motionless,
thinking the matter out. Musgrave still stood
with a very pale face, swinging his lantern and
peering down into the hole.
"`These are coins of Charles the First,` said
he, holding out the few which had been in the
box; `you see we were right in fixing our date
for the Ritual.`
"`We may find something else of Charles the
First,` I cried, as the probable meaning of the
first two question of the Ritual broke suddenly
upon me. `Let me see the contents of the bag
which you fished from the mere.`
"We ascended to his study, and he laid the
debris before me. I could understand his
regarding it as of small importance when I
looked at it, for the metal was almost black and
the stones lustreless and dull. I rubbed one of
them on my sleeve, however, and it glowed
afterwards like a spark in the dark hollow of my
hand. The metal work was in the form of a double
ring, but it had been bent and twisted out of
its original shape.
"`You must bear in mind,` said I, `that the
royal party made head in England even after the
death of the king, and that when they at last
fled they probably left many of their most
precious possessions buried behind them, with
the intention of returning for them in more
"`My ancestor, Sir Ralph Musgrave, as a
prominent Cavalier and the right-hand man of
Charles the Second in his wanderings,` said my
"`Ah, indeed!` I answered. `Well now, I think
that really should give us the last link that we
wanted. I must congratulate you on coming into
the possession, though in rather a tragic manner
of a relic which is of great intrinsic value,
but of even greater importance as an historical
"`What is it, then?` he gasped in
"`It is nothing less than the ancient crown
of the kings of England.`
"`Precisely. Consider what the Ritual says:
How does it run? "Whose was it?" "His who is
gone." That was after the execution of Charles.
Then, "Who shall have it?" "He who will come."
That was Charles the Second, whose advent was
already foreseen. There can, I think, be no
doubt that this battered and shapeless diadem
once encircled the brows of the royal Stuarts.`
"`And how came it in the pond?`
"`Ah, that is a question that will take some
time to answer.` And with that I sketched out to
him the whole long chain of surmise and of proof
which I had constructed. The twilight had closed
in and the moon was shining brightly in the sky
before my narrative was finished.
"`And how was it then that Charles did not
get his crown when he returned?` asked Musgrave,
pushing back the relic into its linen bag.
"`Ah, there you lay your finger upon the one
point which we shall probably never be able to
clear up. It is likely that the Musgrave who
held the secret died in the interval, and by
some oversight left this guide to his descendant
without explaining the meaning of it. From that
day to this it has been handed down from father
to son, until at last it came within reach of a
man who tore its secret out of it and lost his
life in the venture.`
"And that`s the story of the Musgrave
Ritual, Watson. They have the crown down at
Hurlstone--though they had some legal bother and
a considerable sum to pay before they were
allowed to retain it. I am sure that if you
mentioned my name they would be happy to show it
to you. Of the woman nothing was ever heard, and
the probability is that she got away out of
England and carried herself and the memory of
her crime to some land beyond the seas."
The Reigate Puzzle
It was some time before the health of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes
recovered from the strain caused by his immense
exertions in the spring of `87. The whole
question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and
of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis are
too recent in the minds of the public, and are
too intimately concerned with politics and
finance to be fitting subjects for this series
of sketches. They led, however, in an indirect
fashion to a singular and complex problem which
gave my friend an opportunity of demonstrating
the value of a fresh weapon among the many with
which he waged his life-long battle against
On referring to my notes I see that it was
upon the 14th of April that I received a
telegram from Lyons which informed me that
Holmes was lying ill in the Hotel Dulong. Within
twenty-four hours I was in his sick-room, and
was relieved to find that there was nothing
formidable in his symptoms. Even his iron
constitution, however, had broken down under the
strain of an investigation which had extended
over two months, during which period he had
never worked less than fifteen hours a day, and
had more than once, as he assured me, kept to
his task for five days at a stretch. Even the
triumphant issue of his labors could not save
him from reaction after so terrible an exertion,
and at a time when Europe was ringing with his
name and when his room was literally ankle-deep
with congratulatory telegrams I found him a prey
to the blackest depression. Even the knowledge
that he had succeeded where the police of three
countries had failed, and that he had
outmanoeuvred at every point the most
accomplished swindler in Europe, was
insufficient to rouse him from his nervous
Three days later we were back in Baker Street
together; but it was evident that my friend
would be much the better for a change, and the
thought of a week of spring time in the country
was full of attractions to me also. My old
friend, Colonel Hayter, who had come under my
professional care in Afghanistan, had now taken
a house near Reigate in Surrey, and had
frequently asked me to come down to him upon a
visit. On the last occasion he had remarked that
if my friend would only come with me he would be
glad to extend his hospitality to him also. A
little diplomacy was needed, but when Holmes
understood that the establishment was a bachelor
one, and that he would be allowed the fullest
freedom, he fell in with my plans and a week
after our return from Lyons we were under the
Colonel`s roof. Hayter was a fine old soldier
who had seen much of the world, and he soon
found, as I had expected, that Holmes and he had
much in common.
On the evening of our arrival we were sitting
in the Colonel`s gun-room after dinner, Holmes
stretched upon the sofa, while Hayter and I
looked over his little armory of Eastern
"By the way," said he suddenly, "I think I`ll
take one of these pistols upstairs with me in
case we have an alarm."
"An alarm!" said I.
"Yes, we`ve had a scare in this part lately.
Old Acton, who is one of our county magnates,
had his house broken into last Monday. No great
damage done, but the fellows are still at
"No clue?" asked Holmes, cocking his eye at
"None as yet. But the affair is a pretty one,
one of our little country crimes, which must
seem too small for your attention, Mr. Holmes,
after this great international affair."
Holmes waved away the compliment, though his
smile showed that it had pleased him.
"Was there any feature of interest?"
"I fancy not. The thieves ransacked the
library and got very little for their pains. The
whole place was turned upside down, drawers
burst open, and presses ransacked, with the
result that an odd volume of Pope`s `Homer,` two
plated candlesticks, an ivory letter-weight, a
small oak barometer, and a ball of twine are all
that have vanished."
"What an extraordinary assortment!" I
"Oh, the fellows evidently grabbed hold of
everything they could get."
Holmes grunted from the sofa.
"The county police ought to make something of
that," said he; "why, it is surely obvious
But I held up a warning finger.
"You are here for a rest, my dear fellow. For
Heaven`s sake don`t get started on a new problem
when your nerves are all in shreds."
Holmes shrugged his shoulders with a glance
of comic resignation towards the Colonel, and
the talk drifted away into less dangerous
It was destined, however, that all my
professional caution should be wasted, for next
morning the problem obtruded itself upon us in
such a way that it was impossible to ignore it,
and our country visit took a turn which neither
of us could have anticipated. We were at
breakfast when the Colonel`s butler rushed in
with all his propriety shaken out of him.
"Have you heard the news, sir?" he gasped.
"At the Cunningham`s sir!"
"Burglary!" cried the Colonel, with his
coffee-cup in mid-air.
The Colonel whistled. "By Jove!" said he.
"Who`s killed, then? The J.P. or his son?"
"Neither, sir. It was William the coachman.
Shot through the heart, sir, and never spoke
"Who shot him, then?"
"The burglar, sir. He was off like a shot and
got clean away. He`d just broke in at the pantry
window when William came on him and met his end
in saving his master`s property."
"It was last night, sir, somewhere about
"Ah, then, we`ll step over afterwards," said
the Colonel, coolly settling down to his
breakfast again. "It`s a baddish business," he
added when the butler had gone; "he`s our
leading man about here, is old Cunningham, and a
very decent fellow too. He`ll be cut up over
this, for the man has been in his service for
years and was a good servant. It`s evidently the
same villains who broke into Acton`s."
"And stole that very singular collection,"
said Holmes, thoughtfully.
"Hum! It may prove the simplest matter in the
world, but all the same at first glance this is
just a little curious, is it not? A gang of
burglars acting in the country might be expected
to vary the scene of their operations, and not
to crack two cribs in the same district within a
few days. When you spoke last night of taking
precautions I remember that it passed through my
mind that this was probably the last parish in
England to which the thief or thieves would be
likely to turn their attention--which shows that
I have still much to learn."
"I fancy it`s some local practitioner," said
the Colonel. "In that case, of course, Acton`s
and Cunningham`s are just the places he would go
for, since they are far the largest about here."
"Well, they ought to be, but they`ve had a
lawsuit for some years which has sucked the
blood out of both of them, I fancy. Old Acton
has some claim on half Cunningham`s estate, and
the lawyers have been at it with both hands."
"If it`s a local villain there should not be
much difficulty in running him down," said
Holmes with a yawn. "All right, Watson, I don`t
intend to meddle."
"Inspector Forrester, sir," said the butler,
throwing open the door.
The official, a smart, keen-faced young
fellow, stepped into the room. "Good-morning,
Colonel," said he; "I hope I don`t intrude, but
we hear that Mr. Holmes of Baker Street is
The Colonel waved his hand towards my friend,
and the Inspector bowed.
"We thought that perhaps you would care to
step across, Mr. Holmes."
"The fates are against you, Watson," said he,
laughing. "We were chatting about the matter
when you came in, Inspector. Perhaps you can let
us have a few details." As he leaned back in his
chair in the familiar attitude I knew that the
case was hopeless.
"We had no clue in the Acton affair. But here
we have plenty to go on, and there`s no doubt it
is the same party in each case. The man was
"Yes, sir. But he was off like a deer after
the shot that killed poor William Kirwan was
fired. Mr. Cunningham saw him from the bedroom
window, and Mr. Alec Cunningham saw him from the
back passage. It was quarter to twelve when the
alarm broke out. Mr. Cunningham had just got
into bed, and Mr. Alec was smoking a pipe in his
dressing-gown. They both heard William the
coachman calling for help, and Mr. Alec ran down
to see what was the matter. The back door was
open, and as he came to the foot of the stairs
he saw two men wrestling together outside. One
of them fired a shot, the other dropped, and the
murderer rushed across the garden and over the
hedge. Mr. Cunningham, looking out of his
bedroom, saw the fellow as he gained the road,
but lost sight of him at once. Mr. Alec stopped
to see if he could help the dying man, and so
the villain got clean away. Beyond the fact that
he was a middle-sized man and dressed in some
dark stuff, we have no personal clue; but we are
making energetic inquiries, and if he is a
stranger we shall soon find him out."
"What was this William doing there? Did he
say anything before he died?"
"Not a word. He lives at the lodge with his
mother, and as he was a very faithful fellow we
imagine that he walked up to the house with the
intention of seeing that all was right there. Of
course this Acton business has put every one on
their guard. The robber must have just burst
open the door--the lock has been forced--when
William came upon him."
"Did William say anything to his mother
before going out?"
"She is very old and deaf, and we can get no
information from her. The shock has made her
half-witted, but I understand that she was never
very bright. There is one very important
circumstance, however. Look at this!"
He took a small piece of torn paper from a
note-book and spread it out upon his knee.
"This was found between the finger and thumb
of the dead man. It appears to be a fragment
torn from a larger sheet. You will observe that
the hour mentioned upon it is the very time at
which the poor fellow met his fate. You see that
his murderer might have torn the rest of the
sheet from him or he might have taken this
fragment from the murderer. It reads almost as
though it were an appointment."
Holmes took up the scrap of paper, a
fac-simile of which is here reproduced.
d at quarter to twelve learn what maybe
"Presuming that it is an appointment,"
continued the Inspector, "it is of course a
conceivable theory that this William
Kirwan--though he had the reputation of being an
honest man, may have been in league with the
thief. He may have met him there, may even have
helped him to break in the door, and then they
may have fallen out between themselves."
"This writing is of extraordinary interest,"
said Holmes, who had been examining it with
intense concentration. "These are much deeper
waters than I had though." He sank his head upon
his hands, while the Inspector smiled at the
effect which his case had had upon the famous
"Your last remark," said Holmes, presently,
"as to the possibility of there being an
understanding between the burglar and the
servant, and this being a note of appointment
from one to the other, is an ingenious and not
entirely impossible supposition. But this
writing opens up--" He sank his head into his
hands again and remained for some minutes in the
deepest thought. When he raised his face again,
I was surprised to see that his cheek was tinged
with color, and his eyes as bright as before his
illness. He sprang to his feet with all his old
"I`ll tell you what," said he, "I should like
to have a quiet little glance into the details
of this case. There is something in it which
fascinates me extremely. If you will permit me,
Colonel, I will leave my friend Watson and you,
and I will step round with the Inspector to test
the truth of one or two little fancies of mine.
I will be with you again in half an hour."
An hour and half had elapsed before the
Inspector returned alone.
"Mr. Holmes is walking up and down in the
field outside," said he. "He wants us all four
to go up to the house together."
"To Mr. Cunningham`s?"
The Inspector shrugged his shoulders. "I
don`t quite know, sir. Between ourselves, I
think Mr. Holmes had not quite got over his
illness yet. He`s been behaving very queerly,
and he is very much excited."
"I don`t think you need alarm yourself," said
I. "I have usually found that there was method
in his madness."
"Some folks might say there was madness in
his method," muttered the Inspector. "But he`s
all on fire to start, Colonel, so we had best go
out if you are ready."
We found Holmes pacing up and down in the
field, his chin sunk upon his breast, and his
hands thrust into his trousers pockets.
"The matter grows in interest," said he.
"Watson, your country-trip has been a distinct
success. I have had a charming morning."
"You have been up to the scene of the crime,
I understand," said the Colonel.
"Yes; the Inspector and I have made quite a
little reconnaissance together."
"Well, we have seen some very interesting
things. I`ll tell you what we did as we walk.
First of all, we saw the body of this
unfortunate man. He certainly died from a
revolved wound as reported."
"Had you doubted it, then?"
"Oh, it is as well to test everything. Our
inspection was not wasted. We then had an
interview with Mr. Cunningham and his son, who
were able to point out the exact spot where the
murderer had broken through the garden-hedge in
his flight. That was of great interest."
"Then we had a look at this poor fellow`s
mother. We could get no information from her,
however, as she is very old and feeble."
"And what is the result of your
"The conviction that the crime is a very
peculiar one. Perhaps our visit now may do
something to make it less obscure. I think that
we are both agreed, Inspector that the fragment
of paper in the dead man`s hand, bearing, as it
does, the very hour of his death written upon
it, is of extreme importance."
"It should give a clue, Mr. Holmes."
"It does give a clue. Whoever wrote that note
was the man who brought William Kirwan out of
his bed at that hour. But where is the rest of
that sheet of paper?"
"I examined the ground carefully in the hope
of finding it," said the Inspector.
"It was torn out of the dead man`s hand. Why
was some one so anxious to get possession of it?
Because it incriminated him. And what would he
do with it? Thrust it into his pocket, most
likely, never noticing that a corner of it had
been left in the grip of the corpse. If we could
get the rest of that sheet it is obvious that we
should have gone a long way towards solving the
"Yes, but how can we get at the criminal`s
pocket before we catch the criminal?"
"Well, well, it was worth thinking over. Then
there is another obvious point. The note was
sent to William. The man who wrote it could not
have taken it; otherwise, of course, he might
have delivered his own message by word of mouth.
Who brought the note, then? Or did it come
through the post?"
"I have made inquiries," said the Inspector.
"William received a letter by the afternoon post
yesterday. The envelope was destroyed by him."
"Excellent!" cried Holmes, clapping the
Inspector on the back. "You`ve seen the postman.
It is a pleasure to work with you. Well, here is
the lodge, and if you will come up, Colonel, I
will show you the scene of the crime."
We passed the pretty cottage where the
murdered man had lived, and walked up an
oak-lined avenue to the fine old Queen Anne
house, which bears the date of Malplaquet upon
the lintel of the door. Holmes and the Inspector
led us round it until we came to the side gate,
which is separated by a stretch of garden from
the hedge which lines the road. A constable was
standing at the kitchen door.
"Throw the door open, officer," said Holmes.
"Now, it was on those stairs that young Mr.
Cunningham stood and saw the two men struggling
just where we are. Old Mr. Cunningham was at
that window--the second on the left--and he saw
the fellow get away just to the left of that
bush. Then Mr. Alec ran out and knelt beside the
wounded man. The ground is very hard, you see,
and there are no marks to guide us." As he spoke
two men came down the garden path, from round
the angle of the house. The one was an elderly
man, with a strong, deep-lined, heavy-eyed face;
the other a dashing young fellow, whose bright,
smiling expression and showy dress were in
strange contract with the business which had
brought us there.
"Still at it, then?" said he to Holmes. "I
thought you Londoners were never at fault. You
don`t seem to be so very quick, after all."
"Ah, you must give us a little time," said
"You`ll want it," said young Alec Cunningham.
"Why, I don`t see that we have any clue at all."
"There`s only one," answered the Inspector.
"We thought that if we could only find--Good
heavens, Mr. Holmes! What is the matter?"
My poor friend`s face had suddenly assumed
the most dreadful expression. His eyes rolled
upwards, his features writhed in agony, and with
a suppressed groan he dropped on his face upon
the ground. Horrified at the suddenness and
severity of the attack, we carried him into the
kitchen, where he lay back in a large chair, and
breathed heavily for some minutes. Finally, with
a shamefaced apology for his weakness, he rose
"Watson would tell you that I have only just
recovered from a severe illness," he explained.
"I am liable to these sudden nervous attacks."
"Shall I send you home in my trap?" asked old
"Well, since I am here, there is one point on
which I should like to feel sure. We can very
easily verify it."
"What was it?"
"Well, it seems to me that it is just
possible that the arrival of this poor fellow
William was not before, but after, the entrance
of the burglary into the house. You appear to
take it for granted that, although the door was
forced, the robber never got in."
"I fancy that is quite obvious," said Mr.
Cunningham, gravely. "Why, my son Alec had not
yet gone to bed, and he would certainly have
heard any one moving about."
"Where was he sitting?"
"I was smoking in my dressing-room."
"Which window is that?"
"The last on the left next my father`s."
"Both of your lamps were lit, of course?"
"There are some very singular points here,"
said Holmes, smiling. "Is it not extraordinary
that a burglary--and a burglar who had had some
previous experience--should deliberately break
into a house at a time when he could see from
the lights that two of the family were still
"He must have been a cool hand."
"Well, of course, if the case were not an odd
one we should not have been driven to ask you
for an explanation," said young Mr. Alec. "But
as to your ideas that the man had robbed the
house before William tackled him, I think it a
most absurd notion. Wouldn`t we have found the
place disarranged, and missed the things which
he had taken?"
"It depends on what the things were," said
Holmes. "You must remember that we are dealing
with a burglar who is a very peculiar fellow,
and who appears to work on lines of his own.
Look, for example, at the queer lot of things
which he took from Acton`s--what was it?--a ball
of string, a letter-weight, and I don`t know
what other odds and ends."
"Well, we are quite in your hands, Mr.
Holmes," said old Cunningham. "Anything which
you or the Inspector may suggest will most
certainly be done."
"In the first place," said Holmes, "I should
like you to offer a reward--coming from
yourself, for the officials may take a little
time before they would agree upon the sum, and
these things cannot be done too promptly. I have
jotted down the form here, if you would not mind
signing it. Fifty pound was quite enough, I
"I would willingly give five hundred," said
the J.P., taking the slip of paper and the
pencil which Holmes handed to him. "This is not
quite correct, however," he added, glancing over
"I wrote it rather hurriedly."
"You see you begin, `Whereas, at about a
quarter to one on Tuesday morning an attempt was
made,` and so on. It was at a quarter to twelve,
as a matter of fact."
I was pained at the mistake, for I knew how
keenly Holmes would feel any slip of the kind.
It was his specialty to be accurate as to fact,
but his recent illness had shaken him, and this
one little incident was enough to show me that
he was still far from being himself. He was
obviously embarrassed for an instant, while the
Inspector raised his eyebrows, and Alec
Cunningham burst into a laugh. The old gentleman
corrected the mistake, however, and handed the
paper back to Holmes.
"Get it printed as soon as possible," he
said; "I think your idea is an excellent one."
Holmes put the slip of paper carefully away
into his pocket-book.
"And now," said he, "it really would be a
good thing that we should all go over the house
together and make certain that this rather
erratic burglar did not, after all, carry
anything away with him."
Before entering, Holmes made an examination
of the door which had been forced. It was
evident that a chisel or strong knife had been
thrust in, and the lock forced back with it. We
could see the marks in the wood where it had
been pushed in.
"You don`t use bars, then?" he asked.
"We have never found it necessary."
"You don`t keep a dog?"
"Yes, but he is chained on the other side of
"When do the servants go to bed?"
"I understand that William was usually in bed
also at that hour."
"It is singular that on this particular night
he should have been up. Now, I should be very
glad if you would have the kindness to show us
over the house, Mr. Cunningham."
A stone-flagged passage, with the kitchens
branching away from it, led by a wooden
staircase directly to the first floor of the
house. It came out upon the landing opposite to
a second more ornamental stair which came up
from the front hall. Out of this landing opened
the drawing-room and several bedrooms, including
those of Mr. Cunningham and his son. Holmes
walked slowly, taking keen note of the
architecture of the house. I could tell from his
expression that he was on a hot scent, and yet I
could not in the least imagine in what direction
his inferences were leading him.
"My good sir," said Mr. Cunningham with some
impatience, "this is surely very unnecessary.
That is my room at the end of the stairs, and my
son`s is the one beyond it. I leave it to your
judgment whether it was possible for the thief
to have come up here without disturbing us."
"You must try round and get on a fresh scent,
I fancy," said the son with a rather malicious
"Still, I must ask you to humor me a little
further. I should like, for example, to see how
far the windows of the bedrooms command the
front. This, I understand is your son`s
room"--he pushed open the door--"and that, I
presume, is the dressing-room in which he sat
smoking when the alarm was given. Where does the
window of that look out to?" He stepped across
the bedroom, pushed open the door, and glanced
round the other chamber.
"I hope that you are satisfied now?" said Mr.
"Thank you, I think I have seen all that I
"Then if it is really necessary we can go
into my room."
"If it is not too much trouble."
The J. P. shrugged his shoulders, and led the
way into his own chamber, which was a plainly
furnished and commonplace room. As we moved
across it in the direction of the window, Holmes
fell back until he and I were the last of the
group. Near the foot of the bed stood a dish of
oranges and a carafe of water. As we passed it
Holmes, to my unutterable astonishment, leaned
over in front of me and deliberately knocked the
whole thing over. The glass smashed into a
thousand pieces and the fruit rolled about into
every corner of the room.
"You`ve done it now, Watson," said he,
coolly. "A pretty mess you`ve made of the
I stooped in some confusion and began to pick
up the fruit, understanding for some reason my
companion desired me to take the blame upon
myself. The others did the same, and set the
table on its legs again.
"Hullo!" cried the Inspector, "where`s he got
Holmes had disappeared.
"Wait here an instant," said young Alec
Cunningham. "The fellow is off his head, in my
opinion. Come with me, father, and see where he
has got to!"
They rushed out of the room, leaving the
Inspector, the Colonel, and me staring at each
"`Pon my word, I am inclined to agree with
Master Alec," said the official. "It may be the
effect of this illness, but it seems to me
His words were cut short by a sudden scream
of "Help! Help! Murder!" With a thrill I
recognized the voice of that of my friend. I
rushed madly from the room on to the landing.
The cries, which had sunk down into a hoarse,
inarticulate shouting, came from the room which
we had first visited. I dashed in, and on into
the dressing-room beyond. The two Cunninghams
were bending over the prostrate figure of
Sherlock Holmes, the younger clutching his
throat with both hands, while the elder seemed
to be twisting one of his wrists. In an instant
the three of us had torn them away from him, and
Holmes staggered to his feet, very pale and
evidently greatly exhausted.
"Arrest these men, Inspector," he gasped.
"On what charge?"
"That of murdering their coachman, William
The Inspector stared about him in
bewilderment. "Oh, come now, Mr. Holmes," said
he at last, "I`m sure you don`t really mean
"Tut, man, look at their faces!" cried
Never certainly have I seen a plainer
confession of guilt upon human countenances. The
older man seemed numbed and dazed with a heavy,
sullen expression upon his strongly-marked face.
The son, on the other hand, had dropped all that
jaunty, dashing style which had characterized
him, and the ferocity of a dangerous wild beast
gleamed in his dark eyes and distorted his
handsome features. The Inspector said nothing,
but, stepping to the door, he blew his whistle.
Two of his constables came at the call.
"I have no alternative, Mr. Cunningham," said
he. "I trust that this may all prove to be an
absurd mistake, but you can see that--Ah, would
you? Drop it!" He struck out with his hand, and
a revolver which the younger man was in the act
of cocking clattered down upon the floor.
"Keep that," said Holmes, quietly putting his
foot upon it; "you will find it useful at the
trial. But this is what we really wanted." He
held up a little crumpled piece of paper.
"The remainder of the sheet!" cried the
"And where was it?"
"Where I was sure it must be. I`ll make the
whole matter clear to you presently. I think,
Colonel, that you and Watson might return now,
and I will be with you again in an hour at the
furthest. The Inspector and I must have a word
with the prisoners, but you will certainly see
me back at luncheon time."
Sherlock Holmes was as good as his word, for
about one o`clock he rejoined us in the
Colonel`s smoking-room. He was accompanied by a
little elderly gentleman, who was introduced to
me as the Mr. Acton whose house had been the
scene of the original burglary.
"I wished Mr. Acton to be present while I
demonstrated this small matter to you," said
Holmes, "for it is natural that he should take a
keen interest in the details. I am afraid, my
dear Colonel, that you must regret the hour that
you took in such a stormy petrel as I am."
"On the contrary," answered the Colonel,
warmly, "I consider it the greatest privilege to
have been permitted to study your methods of
working. I confess that they quite surpass my
expectations, and that I am utterly unable to
account for you result. I have not yet seen the
vestige of a clue."
"I am afraid that my explanation may
disillusion you but it has always been my habit
to hide none of my methods, either from my
friend Watson or from any one who might take an
intelligent interest in them. But, first, as I
am rather shaken by the knocking about which I
had in the dressing-room, I think that I shall
help myself to a dash of your brandy, Colonel.
My strength had been rather tried of late."
"I trust that you had no more of those
Sherlock Holmes laughed heartily. "We will
come to that in its turn," said he. "I will lay
an account of the case before you in its due
order, showing you the various points which
guided me in my decision. Pray interrupt me if
there is any inference which is not perfectly
clear to you.
"It is of the highest importance in the art
of detection to be able to recognize, out of a
number of facts, which are incidental and which
vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must
be dissipated instead of being concentrated.
Now, in this case there was not the slightest
doubt in my mind from the first that the key of
the whole matter must be looked for in the scrap
of paper in the dead man`s hand.
"Before going into this, I would draw your
attention to the fact that, if Alec Cunningham`s
narrative was correct, and if the assailant,
after shooting William Kirwan, had instantly
fled, then it obviously could not be he who tore
the paper from the dead man`s hand. But if it
was not he, it must have been Alec Cunningham
himself, for by the time that the old man had
descended several servants were upon the scene.
The point is a simple one, but the Inspector had
overlooked it because he had started with the
supposition that these county magnates had had
nothing to do with the matter. Now, I make a
point of never having any prejudices, and of
following docilely wherever fact may lead me,
and so, in the very first stage of the
investigation, I found myself looking a little
askance at the part which had been played by Mr.
"And now I made a very careful examination of
the corner of paper which the Inspector had
submitted to us. It was at once clear to me that
it formed part of a very remarkable document.
Here it is. Do you not now observed something
very suggestive about it?"
"It has a very irregular look," said the
"My dear sir," cried Holmes, "there cannot be
the least doubt in the world that it has been
written by two persons doing alternate words.
When I draw your attention to the strong t`s of
`at` and `to`, and ask you to compare them with
the weak ones of `quarter` and `twelve,` you
will instantly recognize the fact. A very brief
analysis of these four words would enable you to
say with the utmost confidence that the `learn`
and the `maybe` are written in the stronger
hand, and the `what` in the weaker."
"By Jove, it`s as clear as day!" cried the
Colonel. "Why on earth should two men write a
letter in such a fashion?"
"Obviously the business was a bad one, and
one of the men who distrusted the other was
determined that, whatever was done, each should
have an equal hand in it. Now, of the two men,
it is clear that the one who wrote the `at` and
`to` was the ringleader."
"How do you get at that?"
"We might deduce it from the mere character
of the one hand as compared with the other. But
we have more assured reasons than that for
supposing it. If you examine this scrap with
attention you will come to the conclusion that
the man with the stronger hand wrote all his
words first, leaving blanks for the other to
fill up. These blanks were not always
sufficient, and you can see that the second man
had a squeeze to fit his `quarter` in between
the `at` and the `to,` showing that the latter
were already written. The man who wrote all his
words first in undoubtedly the man who planned
"Excellent!" cried Mr. Acton.
"But very superficial," said Holmes. "We come
now, however, to a point which is of importance.
You may not be aware that the deduction of a
man`s age from his writing is one which has
brought to considerable accuracy by experts. In
normal cases one can place a man in his true
decade with tolerable confidence. I say normal
cases, because ill-health and physical weakness
reproduce the signs of old age, even when the
invalid is a youth. In this case, looking at the
bold, strong hand of the one, and the rather
broken-backed appearance of the other, which
still retains its legibility although the t`s
have begun to lose their crossing, we can say
that the one was a young man and the other was
advanced in years without being positively
"Excellent!" cried Mr. Acton again.
"There is a further point, however, which is
subtler and of greater interest. There is
something in common between these hands. They
belong to men who are blood-relatives. It may be
most obvious to you in the Greek e`s, but to me
there are many small points which indicate the
same thing. I have no doubt at all that a family
mannerism can be traced in these two specimens
of writing. I am only, of course, giving you the
leading results now of my examination of the
paper. There were twenty-three other deductions
which would be of more interest to experts than
to you. They all tend to deepen the impression
upon my mind that the Cunninghams, father and
son, had written this letter.
"Having got so far, my next step was, of
course, to examine into the details of the
crime, and to see how far they would help us. I
went up to the house with the Inspector, and saw
all that was to be seen. The wound upon the dead
man was, as I was able to determine with
absolute confidence, fired from a revolver at
the distance of something over four yards. There
was no powder-blackening on the clothes.
Evidently, therefore, Alec Cunningham had lied
when he said that the two men were struggling
when the shot was fired. Again, both father and
son agreed as to the place where the man escaped
into the road. At that point, however, as it
happens, there is a broadish ditch, moist at the
bottom. As there were no indications of
bootmarks about this ditch, I was absolutely
sure not only that the Cunninghams had again
lied, but that there had never been any unknown
man upon the scene at all.
"And now I have to consider the motive of
this singular crime. To get at this, I
endeavored first of all to solve the reason of
the original burglary at Mr. Acton`s. I
understood, from something which the Colonel
told us, that a lawsuit had been going on
between you, Mr. Acton, and the Cunninghams. Of
course, it instantly occurred to me that they
had broken into your library with the intention
of getting at some document which might be of
importance in the case."
"Precisely so," said Mr. Acton. "There can be
no possible doubt as to their intentions. I have
the clearest claim upon half of their present
estate, and if they could have found a single
paper--which, fortunately, was in the strong-box
of my solicitors--they would undoubtedly have
crippled our case."
"There you are," said Holmes, smiling. "It
was a dangerous, reckless attempt, in which I
seem to trace the influence of young Alec.
Having found nothing they tried to divert
suspicion by making it appear to be an ordinary
burglary, to which end they carried off whatever
they could lay their hands upon. That is all
clear enough, but there was much that was still
obscure. What I wanted above all was to get the
missing part of that note. I was certain that
Alec had torn it out of the dead man`s hand, and
almost certain that he must have thrust it into
the pocket of his dressing-gown. Where else
could he have put it? The only question was
whether it was still there. It was worth an
effort to find out, and for that object we all
went up to the house.
"The Cunninghams joined us, as you doubtless
remember, outside the kitchen door. It was, of
course, of the very first importance that they
should not be reminded of the existence of this
paper, otherwise they would naturally destroy it
without delay. The Inspector was about to tell
them the importance which we attached to it
when, by the luckiest chance in the world, I
tumbled down in a sort of fit and so changed the
"Good heavens!" cried the Colonel, laughing,
"do you mean to say all our sympathy was wasted
and your fit an imposture?"
"Speaking professionally, it was admirably
done," cried I, looking in amazement at this man
who was forever confounding me with some new
phase of his astuteness.
"It is an art which is often useful," said
he. "When I recovered I managed, by a device
which had perhaps some little merit of
ingenuity, to get old Cunningham to write the
word `twelve,` so that I might compare it with
the `twelve` upon the paper."
"Oh, what an ass I have been!" I exclaimed.
"I could see that you were commiserating me
over my weakness," said Holmes, laughing. "I was
sorry to cause you the sympathetic pain which I
know that you felt. We then went upstairs
together, and having entered the room and seen
the dressing-gown hanging up behind the door, I
contrived, by upsetting a table, to engage their
attention for the moment, and slipped back to
examine the pockets. I had hardly got the paper,
however--which was, as I had expected, in one of
them--when the two Cunninghams were on me, and
would, I verily believe, have murdered me then
and there but for your prompt and friendly aid.
As it is, I feel that young man`s grip on my
throat now, and the father has twisted my wrist
round in the effort to get the paper out of my
hand. They saw that I must know all about it,
you see, and the sudden change from absolute
security to complete despair made them perfectly
"I had a little talk with old Cunningham
afterwards as to the motive of the crime. He was
tractable enough, though his son was a perfect
demon, ready to blow out his own or anybody
else`s brains if he could have got to his
revolver. When Cunningham saw that the case
against him was so strong he lost all heart and
made a clean breast of everything. It seems that
William had secretly followed his two masters on
the night when they made their raid upon Mr.
Acton`s, and having thus got them into his
power, proceeded, under threats of exposure, to
levy black-mail upon them. Mr. Alec, however,
was a dangerous man to play games of that sort
with. It was a stroke of positive genius on his
part to see in the burglary scare which was
convulsing the country side an opportunity of
plausibly getting rid of the man whom he feared.
William was decoyed up and shot, and had they
only got the whole of the note and paid a little
more attention to detail in the accessories, it
is very possible that suspicion might never have
"And the note?" I asked.
Sherlock Holmes placed the subjoined paper
If you will only come around to the east gate
you will will very much surprise you and be of
the greatest service to you and also to Annie
But say nothing to anyone upon the
"It is very much the sort of thing that I
expected," said he. "Of course, we do not yet
know what the relations may have been between
Alec Cunningham, William Kirwan, and Annie
Morrison. The results shows that the trap was
skillfully baited. I am sure that you cannot
fail to be delighted with the traces of heredity
shown in the p`s and in the tails of the g`s.
The absence of the i-dots in the old man`s
writing is also most characteristic. Watson, I
think our quiet rest in the country has been a
distinct success, and I shall certainly return
much invigorated to Baker Street to-morrow."