Part 2 - The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes Audiobook by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Adventures 05-08)


Uploaded by CCProse on 25.09.2011

Transcript:
Adventure V. 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 recherché."
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 Ritual."
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 headway.
"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 the position which I now hold.
"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
distinguished him.
"'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 wits.'
"'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 him.
"'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 café noir 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 fortnight!"
"'"A week," I repeated, "and you may consider yourself to have been very
leniently dealt with."
"'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 she.
"'"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
Brunton." "'"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 she 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 than ten generations of his
masters.'
"'I hardly follow you,' said Musgrave. 'The paper seems to me to be of no
practical importance.'
"'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 caught him.'
"'It is very possible. We took no pains to hide it.'
"'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 appeared.'
"'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 your 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 twenty-three feet.'
"'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?' "'Oh, yes.'
"'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 dog-cart, 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 progressing. "'I suppose it is impossible to find out
how high the elm was?'
I asked. "'I can give you it at once.
It was sixty-four feet.' "'How do you come to know it?'
I asked, in surprise.
"'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 estate.'
"This was an unexpected piece of luck. My data were coming more quickly than I
could have reasonably hoped. "'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 groom.'
"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 be 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 "and under."'
"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?' I cried.
"'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 attached.
"'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 doing here?'
"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 his 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 knew 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 them.
"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
crime. "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 questions 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 peaceful times.'
"'My ancestor, Sir Ralph Musgrave, was a prominent Cavalier and the right-hand man
of Charles the Second in his wanderings,' said my friend.
"'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 curiosity.'
"'What is it, then?' he gasped in astonishment.
"'It is nothing less than the ancient crown of the kings of England.'
"'The crown!'
"'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."
>
Adventure VI. 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 crime.
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 prostration.
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 weapons.
"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 large."
"No clue?" asked Holmes, cocking his eye at the Colonel.
"None as yet.
But the affair is a petty 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 exclaimed.
"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 that--" 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 channels.
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.
"Murder!"
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 again." "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."
"What time?"
"It was last night, sir, somewhere about twelve."
"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.
"Precisely."
"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."
"And richest?"
"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 here." 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 seen."
"Ah!"
"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
thought."
He sank his head upon his hands, while the Inspector smiled at the effect which his
case had had upon the famous London specialist.
"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 energy.
"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?" "Yes, sir."
"What for?"
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."
"Any success?"
"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 revolver 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." "Naturally."
"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 investigations?"
"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 mystery." "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 Holmes good-humoredly.
"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 once more.
"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 Cunningham.
"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?" "Undoubtedly."
"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 afoot?"
"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 pounds was quite enough, I thought."
"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 the document.
"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 the house."
"When do the servants go to bed?" "About ten."
"I understand that William was usually in bed also at that hour."
"Yes." "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 smile. "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. Cunningham, tartly.
"Thank you, I think I have seen all that I wished."
"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 carpet." 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 to?"
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 other. "'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 that--"
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
Kirwan." The Inspector stared about him in
bewilderment.
"Oh, come now, Mr. Holmes," said he at last, "I'm sure you don't really mean to--"
"Tut, man, look at their faces!" cried Holmes, curtly.
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 Inspector.
"Precisely."
"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 your 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 nervous attacks."
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. Alec Cunningham.
"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 observe something very
suggestive about it?"
"It has a very irregular look," said the Colonel.
"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 is undoubtedly the man who planned the
affair." "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 decrepit." "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
conversation.
"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 desperate.
"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 blackmail 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 been aroused."
"And the note?" I asked.
Sherlock Holmes placed the subjoined paper before us.
If you will only come around to the east gate you it will very much surprise you and
be of the greatest service to you and also to Annie Morrison.
But say nothing to anyone upon the matter.
"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."
>
Adventure VII. The Crooked Man
One summer night, a few months after my marriage, I was seated by my own hearth
smoking a last pipe and nodding over a novel, for my day's work had been an
exhausting one.
My wife had already gone upstairs, and the sound of the locking of the hall door some
time before told me that the servants had also retired.
I had risen from my seat and was knocking out the ashes of my pipe when I suddenly
heard the clang of the bell. I looked at the clock.
It was a quarter to twelve.
This could not be a visitor at so late an hour.
A patient, evidently, and possibly an all- night sitting.
With a wry face I went out into the hall and opened the door.
To my astonishment it was Sherlock Holmes who stood upon my step.
"Ah, Watson," said he, "I hoped that I might not be too late to catch you."
"My dear fellow, pray come in." "You look surprised, and no wonder!
Relieved, too, I fancy! Hum! You still smoke the Arcadia mixture of your bachelor
days then! There's no mistaking that fluffy ash upon
your coat.
It's easy to tell that you have been accustomed to wear a uniform, Watson.
You'll never pass as a pure-bred civilian as long as you keep that habit of carrying
your handkerchief in your sleeve.
Could you put me up to-night?" "With pleasure."
"You told me that you had bachelor quarters for one, and I see that you have no
gentleman visitor at present.
Your hat-stand proclaims as much." "I shall be delighted if you will stay."
"Thank you. I'll fill the vacant peg then.
Sorry to see that you've had the British workman in the house.
He's a token of evil. Not the drains, I hope?"
"No, the gas."
"Ah! He has left two nail-marks from his boot upon your linoleum just where the
light strikes it.
No, thank you, I had some supper at Waterloo, but I'll smoke a pipe with you
with pleasure."
I handed him my pouch, and he seated himself opposite to me and smoked for some
time in silence.
I was well aware that nothing but business of importance would have brought him to me
at such an hour, so I waited patiently until he should come round to it.
"I see that you are professionally rather busy just now," said he, glancing very
keenly across at me. "Yes, I've had a busy day," I answered.
"It may seem very foolish in your eyes," I added, "but really I don't know how you
deduced it." Holmes chuckled to himself.
"I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear Watson," said he.
"When your round is a short one you walk, and when it is a long one you use a hansom.
As I perceive that your boots, although used, are by no means dirty, I cannot doubt
that you are at present busy enough to justify the hansom."
"Excellent!"
I cried. "Elementary," said he.
"It is one of those instances where the reasoner can produce an effect which seems
remarkable to his neighbor, because the latter has missed the one little point
which is the basis of the deduction.
The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of some of these little sketches
of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your retaining in
your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader.
Now, at present I am in the position of these same readers, for I hold in this hand
several threads of one of the strangest cases which ever perplexed a man's brain,
and yet I lack the one or two which are needful to complete my theory.
But I'll have them, Watson, I'll have them!"
His eyes kindled and a slight flush sprang into his thin cheeks.
For an instant only.
When I glanced again his face had resumed that red-Indian composure which had made so
many regard him as a machine rather than a man.
"The problem presents features of interest," said he.
"I may even say exceptional features of interest.
I have already looked into the matter, and have come, as I think, within sight of my
solution.
If you could accompany me in that last step you might be of considerable service to
me." "I should be delighted."
"Could you go as far as Aldershot to- morrow?"
"I have no doubt Jackson would take my practice."
"Very good.
I want to start by the 11.10 from Waterloo."
"That would give me time."
"Then, if you are not too sleepy, I will give you a sketch of what has happened, and
of what remains to be done." "I was sleepy before you came.
I am quite wakeful now."
"I will compress the story as far as may be done without omitting anything vital to the
case. It is conceivable that you may even have
read some account of the matter.
It is the supposed murder of Colonel Barclay, of the Royal Munsters, at
Aldershot, which I am investigating." "I have heard nothing of it."
"It has not excited much attention yet, except locally.
The facts are only two days old. Briefly they are these:
"The Royal Munsters is, as you know, one of the most famous Irish regiments in the
British army.
It did wonders both in the Crimea and the Mutiny, and has since that time
distinguished itself upon every possible occasion.
It was commanded up to Monday night by James Barclay, a gallant veteran, who
started as a full private, was raised to commissioned rank for his bravery at the
time of the Mutiny, and so lived to command
the regiment in which he had once carried a musket.
"Colonel Barclay had married at the time when he was a sergeant, and his wife, whose
maiden name was Miss Nancy Devoy, was the daughter of a former color-sergeant in the
same corps.
There was, therefore, as can be imagined, some little social friction when the young
couple (for they were still young) found themselves in their new surroundings.
They appear, however, to have quickly adapted themselves, and Mrs. Barclay has
always, I understand, been as popular with the ladies of the regiment as her husband
was with his brother officers.
I may add that she was a woman of great beauty, and that even now, when she has
been married for upwards of thirty years, she is still of a striking and queenly
appearance.
"Colonel Barclay's family life appears to have been a uniformly happy one.
Major Murphy, to whom I owe most of my facts, assures me that he has never heard
of any misunderstanding between the pair.
On the whole, he thinks that Barclay's devotion to his wife was greater than his
wife's to Barclay. He was acutely uneasy if he were absent
from her for a day.
She, on the other hand, though devoted and faithful, was less obtrusively
affectionate. But they were regarded in the regiment as
the very model of a middle-aged couple.
There was absolutely nothing in their mutual relations to prepare people for the
tragedy which was to follow. "Colonel Barclay himself seems to have had
some singular traits in his character.
He was a dashing, jovial old soldier in his usual mood, but there were occasions on
which he seemed to show himself capable of considerable violence and vindictiveness.
This side of his nature, however, appears never to have been turned towards his wife.
Another fact, which had struck Major Murphy and three out of five of the other officers
with whom I conversed, was the singular sort of depression which came upon him at
times.
As the major expressed it, the smile had often been struck from his mouth, as if by
some invisible hand, when he has been joining the gayeties and chaff of the mess-
table.
For days on end, when the mood was on him, he has been sunk in the deepest gloom.
This and a certain tinge of superstition were the only unusual traits in his
character which his brother officers had observed.
The latter peculiarity took the form of a dislike to being left alone, especially
after dark.
This puerile feature in a nature which was conspicuously manly had often given rise to
comment and conjecture.
"The first battalion of the Royal Munsters (which is the old 117th) has been stationed
at Aldershot for some years.
The married officers live out of barracks, and the Colonel has during all this time
occupied a villa called Lachine, about half a mile from the north camp.
The house stands in its own grounds, but the west side of it is not more than thirty
yards from the high-road. A coachman and two maids form the staff of
servants.
These with their master and mistress were the sole occupants of Lachine, for the
Barclays had no children, nor was it usual for them to have resident visitors.
"Now for the events at Lachine between nine and ten on the evening of last Monday."
"Mrs. Barclay was, it appears, a member of the Roman Catholic Church, and had
interested herself very much in the establishment of the Guild of St. George,
which was formed in connection with the
Watt Street Chapel for the purpose of supplying the poor with cast-off clothing.
A meeting of the Guild had been held that evening at eight, and Mrs. Barclay had
hurried over her dinner in order to be present at it.
When leaving the house she was heard by the coachman to make some commonplace remark to
her husband, and to assure him that she would be back before very long.
She then called for Miss Morrison, a young lady who lives in the next villa, and the
two went off together to their meeting.
It lasted forty minutes, and at a quarter- past nine Mrs. Barclay returned home,
having left Miss Morrison at her door as she passed.
"There is a room which is used as a morning-room at Lachine.
This faces the road and opens by a large glass folding-door on to the lawn.
The lawn is thirty yards across, and is only divided from the highway by a low wall
with an iron rail above it. It was into this room that Mrs. Barclay
went upon her return.
The blinds were not down, for the room was seldom used in the evening, but Mrs.
Barclay herself lit the lamp and then rang the bell, asking Jane Stewart, the house-
maid, to bring her a cup of tea, which was quite contrary to her usual habits.
The Colonel had been sitting in the dining- room, but hearing that his wife had
returned he joined her in the morning-room.
The coachman saw him cross the hall and enter it.
He was never seen again alive.
"The tea which had been ordered was brought up at the end of ten minutes; but the maid,
as she approached the door, was surprised to hear the voices of her master and
mistress in furious altercation.
She knocked without receiving any answer, and even turned the handle, but only to
find that the door was locked upon the inside.
Naturally enough she ran down to tell the cook, and the two women with the coachman
came up into the hall and listened to the dispute which was still raging.
They all agreed that only two voices were to be heard, those of Barclay and of his
wife.
Barclay's remarks were subdued and abrupt, so that none of them were audible to the
listeners.
The lady's, on the other hand, were most bitter, and when she raised her voice could
be plainly heard. 'You coward!' she repeated over and over
again.
'What can be done now? What can be done now?
Give me back my life. I will never so much as breathe the same
air with you again!
You coward! You coward!'
Those were scraps of her conversation, ending in a sudden dreadful cry in the
man's voice, with a crash, and a piercing scream from the woman.
Convinced that some tragedy had occurred, the coachman rushed to the door and strove
to force it, while scream after scream issued from within.
He was unable, however, to make his way in, and the maids were too distracted with fear
to be of any assistance to him.
A sudden thought struck him, however, and he ran through the hall door and round to
the lawn upon which the long French windows open.
One side of the window was open, which I understand was quite usual in the summer-
time, and he passed without difficulty into the room.
His mistress had ceased to scream and was stretched insensible upon a couch, while
with his feet tilted over the side of an arm-chair, and his head upon the ground
near the corner of the fender, was lying
the unfortunate soldier stone dead in a pool of his own blood.
"Naturally, the coachman's first thought, on finding that he could do nothing for his
master, was to open the door.
But here an unexpected and singular difficulty presented itself.
The key was not in the inner side of the door, nor could he find it anywhere in the
room.
He went out again, therefore, through the window, and having obtained the help of a
policeman and of a medical man, he returned.
The lady, against whom naturally the strongest suspicion rested, was removed to
her room, still in a state of insensibility.
The Colonel's body was then placed upon the sofa, and a careful examination made of the
scene of the tragedy.
"The injury from which the unfortunate veteran was suffering was found to be a
jagged cut some two inches long at the back part of his head, which had evidently been
caused by a violent blow from a blunt weapon.
Nor was it difficult to guess what that weapon may have been.
Upon the floor, close to the body, was lying a singular club of hard carved wood
with a bone handle.
The Colonel possessed a varied collection of weapons brought from the different
countries in which he had fought, and it is conjectured by the police that his club was
among his trophies.
The servants deny having seen it before, but among the numerous curiosities in the
house it is possible that it may have been overlooked.
Nothing else of importance was discovered in the room by the police, save the
inexplicable fact that neither upon Mrs. Barclay's person nor upon that of the
victim nor in any part of the room was the missing key to be found.
The door had eventually to be opened by a locksmith from Aldershot.
"That was the state of things, Watson, when upon the Tuesday morning I, at the request
of Major Murphy, went down to Aldershot to supplement the efforts of the police.
I think that you will acknowledge that the problem was already one of interest, but my
observations soon made me realize that it was in truth much more extraordinary than
would at first sight appear.
"Before examining the room I cross- questioned the servants, but only succeeded
in eliciting the facts which I have already stated.
One other detail of interest was remembered by Jane Stewart, the housemaid.
You will remember that on hearing the sound of the quarrel she descended and returned
with the other servants.
On that first occasion, when she was alone, she says that the voices of her master and
mistress were sunk so low that she could hear hardly anything, and judged by their
tones rather than their words that they had fallen out.
On my pressing her, however, she remembered that she heard the word David uttered twice
by the lady.
The point is of the utmost importance as guiding us towards the reason of the sudden
quarrel. The Colonel's name, you remember, was
James.
"There was one thing in the case which had made the deepest impression both upon the
servants and the police. This was the contortion of the Colonel's
face.
It had set, according to their account, into the most dreadful expression of fear
and horror which a human countenance is capable of assuming.
More than one person fainted at the mere sight of him, so terrible was the effect.
It was quite certain that he had foreseen his fate, and that it had caused him the
utmost horror.
This, of course, fitted in well enough with the police theory, if the Colonel could
have seen his wife making a murderous attack upon him.
Nor was the fact of the wound being on the back of his head a fatal objection to this,
as he might have turned to avoid the blow.
No information could be got from the lady herself, who was temporarily insane from an
acute attack of brain-fever.
"From the police I learned that Miss Morrison, who you remember went out that
evening with Mrs. Barclay, denied having any knowledge of what it was which had
caused the ill-humor in which her companion had returned.
"Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several pipes over them, trying to
separate those which were crucial from others which were merely incidental.
There could be no question that the most distinctive and suggestive point in the
case was the singular disappearance of the door-key.
A most careful search had failed to discover it in the room.
Therefore it must have been taken from it. But neither the Colonel nor the Colonel's
wife could have taken it.
That was perfectly clear. Therefore a third person must have entered
the room. And that third person could only have come
in through the window.
It seemed to me that a careful examination of the room and the lawn might possibly
reveal some traces of this mysterious individual.
You know my methods, Watson.
There was not one of them which I did not apply to the inquiry.
And it ended by my discovering traces, but very different ones from those which I had
expected.
There had been a man in the room, and he had crossed the lawn coming from the road.
I was able to obtain five very clear impressions of his foot-marks: one in the
roadway itself, at the point where he had climbed the low wall, two on the lawn, and
two very faint ones upon the stained boards near the window where he had entered.
He had apparently rushed across the lawn, for his toe-marks were much deeper than his
heels.
But it was not the man who surprised me. It was his companion."
"His companion!"
Holmes pulled a large sheet of tissue-paper out of his pocket and carefully unfolded it
upon his knee. "What do you make of that?" he asked.
The paper was covered with he tracings of the foot-marks of some small animal.
It had five well-marked foot-pads, an indication of long nails, and the whole
print might be nearly as large as a dessert-spoon.
"It's a dog," said I.
"Did you ever hear of a dog running up a curtain?
I found distinct traces that this creature had done so."
"A monkey, then?"
"But it is not the print of a monkey." "What can it be, then?"
"Neither dog nor cat nor monkey nor any creature that we are familiar with.
I have tried to reconstruct it from the measurements.
Here are four prints where the beast has been standing motionless.
You see that it is no less than fifteen inches from fore-foot to hind.
Add to that the length of neck and head, and you get a creature not much less than
two feet long--probably more if there is any tail.
But now observe this other measurement.
The animal has been moving, and we have the length of its stride.
In each case it is only about three inches. You have an indication, you see, of a long
body with very short legs attached to it.
It has not been considerate enough to leave any of its hair behind it.
But its general shape must be what I have indicated, and it can run up a curtain, and
it is carnivorous."
"How do you deduce that?" "Because it ran up the curtain.
A canary's cage was hanging in the window, and its aim seems to have been to get at
the bird."
"Then what was the beast?" "Ah, if I could give it a name it might go
a long way towards solving the case.
On the whole, it was probably some creature of the weasel and stoat tribe--and yet it
is larger than any of these that I have seen."
"But what had it to do with the crime?"
"That, also, is still obscure. But we have learned a good deal, you
perceive.
We know that a man stood in the road looking at the quarrel between the
Barclays--the blinds were up and the room lighted.
We know, also, that he ran across the lawn, entered the room, accompanied by a strange
animal, and that he either struck the Colonel or, as is equally possible, that
the Colonel fell down from sheer fright at
the sight of him, and cut his head on the corner of the fender.
Finally, we have the curious fact that the intruder carried away the key with him when
he left."
"Your discoveries seem to have left the business more obscure that it was before,"
said I. "Quite so.
They undoubtedly showed that the affair was much deeper than was at first conjectured.
I thought the matter over, and I came to the conclusion that I must approach the
case from another aspect.
But really, Watson, I am keeping you up, and I might just as well tell you all this
on our way to Aldershot to-morrow." "Thank you, you have gone rather too far to
stop."
"It is quite certain that when Mrs. Barclay left the house at half-past seven she was
on good terms with her husband.
She was never, as I think I have said, ostentatiously affectionate, but she was
heard by the coachman chatting with the Colonel in a friendly fashion.
Now, it was equally certain that, immediately on her return, she had gone to
the room in which she was least likely to see her husband, had flown to tea as an
agitated woman will, and finally, on his
coming in to her, had broken into violent recriminations.
Therefore something had occurred between seven-thirty and nine o'clock which had
completely altered her feelings towards him.
But Miss Morrison had been with her during the whole of that hour and a half.
It was absolutely certain, therefore, in spite of her denial, that she must know
something of the matter.
"My first conjecture was, that possibly there had been some passages between this
young lady and the old soldier, which the former had now confessed to the wife.
That would account for the angry return, and also for the girl's denial that
anything had occurred. Nor would it be entirely incompatible with
most of the words overhead.
But there was the reference to David, and there was the known affection of the
Colonel for his wife, to weigh against it, to say nothing of the tragic intrusion of
this other man, which might, of course, be
entirely disconnected with what had gone before.
It was not easy to pick one's steps, but, on the whole, I was inclined to dismiss the
idea that there had been anything between the Colonel and Miss Morrison, but more
than ever convinced that the young lady
held the clue as to what it was which had turned Mrs. Barclay to hatred of her
husband.
I took the obvious course, therefore, of calling upon Miss M., of explaining to her
that I was perfectly certain that she held the facts in her possession, and of
assuring her that her friend, Mrs. Barclay,
might find herself in the dock upon a capital charge unless the matter were
cleared up.
"Miss Morrison is a little ethereal slip of a girl, with timid eyes and blond hair, but
I found her by no means wanting in shrewdness and common-sense.
She sat thinking for some time after I had spoken, and then, turning to me with a
brisk air of resolution, she broke into a remarkable statement which I will condense
for your benefit.
"'I promised my friend that I would say nothing of the matter, and a promise is a
promise,' said she; 'but if I can really help her when so serious a charge is laid
against her, and when her own mouth, poor
darling, is closed by illness, then I think I am absolved from my promise.
I will tell you exactly what happened upon Monday evening.
"'We were returning from the Watt Street Mission about a quarter to nine o'clock.
On our way we had to pass through Hudson Street, which is a very quiet thoroughfare.
There is only one lamp in it, upon the left-hand side, and as we approached this
lamp I saw a man coming towards us with his back very bent, and something like a box
slung over one of his shoulders.
He appeared to be deformed, for he carried his head low and walked with his knees
bent.
We were passing him when he raised his face to look at us in the circle of light thrown
by the lamp, and as he did so he stopped and screamed out in a dreadful voice, "My
God, it's Nancy!"
Mrs. Barclay turned as white as death, and would have fallen down had the dreadful-
looking creature not caught hold of her.
I was going to call for the police, but she, to my surprise, spoke quite civilly to
the fellow.
"'"I thought you had been dead this thirty years, Henry," said she, in a shaking
voice. "'"So I have," said he, and it was awful to
hear the tones that he said it in.
He had a very dark, fearsome face, and a gleam in his eyes that comes back to me in
my dreams.
His hair and whiskers were shot with gray, and his face was all crinkled and puckered
like a withered apple.
"'"Just walk on a little way, dear," said Mrs. Barclay; "I want to have a word with
this man. There is nothing to be afraid of."
She tried to speak boldly, but she was still deadly pale and could hardly get her
words out for the trembling of her lips. "'I did as she asked me, and they talked
together for a few minutes.
Then she came down the street with her eyes blazing, and I saw the crippled wretch
standing by the lamp-post and shaking his clenched fists in the air as if he were mad
with rage.
She never said a word until we were at the door here, when she took me by the hand and
begged me to tell no one what had happened. "'"It's an old acquaintance of mine who has
come down in the world," said she.
When I promised her I would say nothing she kissed me, and I have never seen her since.
I have told you now the whole truth, and if I withheld it from the police it is because
I did not realize then the danger in which my dear friend stood.
I know that it can only be to her advantage that everything should be known.'
"There was her statement, Watson, and to me, as you can imagine, it was like a light
on a dark night.
Everything which had been disconnected before began at once to assume its true
place, and I had a shadowy presentiment of the whole sequence of events.
My next step obviously was to find the man who had produced such a remarkable
impression upon Mrs. Barclay. If he were still in Aldershot it should not
be a very difficult matter.
There are not such a very great number of civilians, and a deformed man was sure to
have attracted attention.
I spent a day in the search, and by evening--this very evening, Watson--I had
run him down.
The man's name is Henry Wood, and he lives in lodgings in this same street in which
the ladies met him. He has only been five days in the place.
In the character of a registration-agent I had a most interesting gossip with his
landlady.
The man is by trade a conjurer and performer, going round the canteens after
nightfall, and giving a little entertainment at each.
He carries some creature about with him in that box; about which the landlady seemed
to be in considerable trepidation, for she had never seen an animal like it.
He uses it in some of his tricks according to her account.
So much the woman was able to tell me, and also that it was a wonder the man lived,
seeing how twisted he was, and that he spoke in a strange tongue sometimes, and
that for the last two nights she had heard him groaning and weeping in his bedroom.
He was all right, as far as money went, but in his deposit he had given her what looked
like a bad florin.
She showed it to me, Watson, and it was an Indian rupee.
"So now, my dear fellow, you see exactly how we stand and why it is I want you.
It is perfectly plain that after the ladies parted from this man he followed them at a
distance, that he saw the quarrel between husband and wife through the window, that
he rushed in, and that the creature which he carried in his box got loose.
That is all very certain.
But he is the only person in this world who can tell us exactly what happened in that
room." "And you intend to ask him?"
"Most certainly--but in the presence of a witness."
"And I am the witness?" "If you will be so good.
If he can clear the matter up, well and good.
If he refuses, we have no alternative but to apply for a warrant."
"But how do you know he'll be there when we return?"
"You may be sure that I took some precautions.
I have one of my Baker Street boys mounting guard over him who would stick to him like
a burr, go where he might.
We shall find him in Hudson Street to- morrow, Watson, and meanwhile I should be
the criminal myself if I kept you out of bed any longer."
It was midday when we found ourselves at the scene of the tragedy, and, under my
companion's guidance, we made our way at once to Hudson Street.
In spite of his capacity for concealing his emotions, I could easily see that Holmes
was in a state of suppressed excitement, while I was myself tingling with that half-
sporting, half-intellectual pleasure which
I invariably experienced when I associated myself with him in his investigations.
"This is the street," said he, as we turned into a short thoroughfare lined with plain
two-storied brick houses.
"Ah, here is Simpson to report." "He's in all right, Mr. Holmes," cried a
small street Arab, running up to us. "Good, Simpson!" said Holmes, patting him
on the head.
"Come along, Watson. This is the house."
He sent in his card with a message that he had come on important business, and a
moment later we were face to face with the man whom we had come to see.
In spite of the warm weather he was crouching over a fire, and the little room
was like an oven.
The man sat all twisted and huddled in his chair in a way which gave an indescribably
impression of deformity; but the face which he turned towards us, though worn and
swarthy, must at some time have been remarkable for its beauty.
He looked suspiciously at us now out of yellow-shot, bilious eyes, and, without
speaking or rising, he waved towards two chairs.
"Mr. Henry Wood, late of India, I believe," said Holmes, affably.
"I've come over this little matter of Colonel Barclay's death."
"What should I know about that?"
"That's what I want to ascertain. You know, I suppose, that unless the matter
is cleared up, Mrs. Barclay, who is an old friend of yours, will in all probability be
tried for murder."
The man gave a violent start. "I don't know who you are," he cried, "nor
how you come to know what you do know, but will you swear that this is true that you
tell me?"
"Why, they are only waiting for her to come to her senses to arrest her."
"My God! Are you in the police yourself?" "No."
"What business is it of yours, then?"
"It's every man's business to see justice done."
"You can take my word that she is innocent."
"Then you are guilty."
"No, I am not." "Who killed Colonel James Barclay, then?"
"It was a just providence that killed him.
But, mind you this, that if I had knocked his brains out, as it was in my heart to
do, he would have had no more than his due from my hands.
If his own guilty conscience had not struck him down it is likely enough that I might
have had his blood upon my soul. You want me to tell the story.
Well, I don't know why I shouldn't, for there's no cause for me to be ashamed of
it. "It was in this way, sir.
You see me now with my back like a camel and my ribs all awry, but there was a time
when Corporal Henry Wood was the smartest man in the 117th foot.
We were in India then, in cantonments, at a place we'll call Bhurtee.
Barclay, who died the other day, was sergeant in the same company as myself, and
the belle of the regiment, ay, and the finest girl that ever had the breath of
life between her lips, was Nancy Devoy, the daughter of the color-sergeant.
There were two men that loved her, and one that she loved, and you'll smile when you
look at this poor thing huddled before the fire, and hear me say that it was for my
good looks that she loved me.
"Well, though I had her heart, her father was set upon her marrying Barclay.
I was a harum-scarum, reckless lad, and he had had an education, and was already
marked for the sword-belt.
But the girl held true to me, and it seemed that I would have had her when the Mutiny
broke out, and all hell was loose in the country.
"We were shut up in Bhurtee, the regiment of us with half a battery of artillery, a
company of Sikhs, and a lot of civilians and women-folk.
There were ten thousand rebels round us, and they were as keen as a set of terriers
round a rat-cage.
About the second week of it our water gave out, and it was a question whether we could
communicate with General Neill's column, which was moving up country.
It was our only chance, for we could not hope to fight our way out with all the
women and children, so I volunteered to go out and to warn General Neill of our
danger.
My offer was accepted, and I talked it over with Sergeant Barclay, who was supposed to
know the ground better than any other man, and who drew up a route by which I might
get through the rebel lines.
At ten o'clock the same night I started off upon my journey.
There were a thousand lives to save, but it was of only one that I was thinking when I
dropped over the wall that night.
"My way ran down a dried-up watercourse, which we hoped would screen me from the
enemy's sentries; but as I crept round the corner of it I walked right into six of
them, who were crouching down in the dark waiting for me.
In an instant I was stunned with a blow and bound hand and foot.
But the real blow was to my heart and not to my head, for as I came to and listened
to as much as I could understand of their talk, I heard enough to tell me that my
comrade, the very man who had arranged the
way that I was to take, had betrayed me by means of a native servant into the hands of
the enemy. "Well, there's no need for me to dwell on
that part of it.
You know now what James Barclay was capable of.
Bhurtee was relieved by Neill next day, but the rebels took me away with them in their
retreat, and it was many a long year before ever I saw a white face again.
I was tortured and tried to get away, and was captured and tortured again.
You can see for yourselves the state in which I was left.
Some of them that fled into Nepaul took me with them, and then afterwards I was up
past Darjeeling.
The hill-folk up there murdered the rebels who had me, and I became their slave for a
time until I escaped; but instead of going south I had to go north, until I found
myself among the Afghans.
There I wandered about for many a year, and at last came back to the Punjab, where I
lived mostly among the natives and picked up a living by the conjuring tricks that I
had learned.
What use was it for me, a wretched cripple, to go back to England or to make myself
known to my old comrades? Even my wish for revenge would not make me
do that.
I had rather that Nancy and my old pals should think of Harry Wood as having died
with a straight back, than see him living and crawling with a stick like a
chimpanzee.
They never doubted that I was dead, and I meant that they never should.
I heard that Barclay had married Nancy, and that he was rising rapidly in the regiment,
but even that did not make me speak.
"But when one gets old one has a longing for home.
For years I've been dreaming of the bright green fields and the hedges of England.
At last I determined to see them before I died.
I saved enough to bring me across, and then I came here where the soldiers are, for I
know their ways and how to amuse them and so earn enough to keep me."
"Your narrative is most interesting," said Sherlock Holmes.
"I have already heard of your meeting with Mrs. Barclay, and your mutual recognition.
You then, as I understand, followed her home and saw through the window an
altercation between her husband and her, in which she doubtless cast his conduct to you
in his teeth.
Your own feelings overcame you, and you ran across the lawn and broke in upon them."
"I did, sir, and at the sight of me he looked as I have never seen a man look
before, and over he went with his head on the fender.
But he was dead before he fell.
I read death on his face as plain as I can read that text over the fire.
The bare sight of me was like a bullet through his guilty heart."
"And then?"
"Then Nancy fainted, and I caught up the key of the door from her hand, intending to
unlock it and get help.
But as I was doing it it seemed to me better to leave it alone and get away, for
the thing might look black against me, and any way my secret would be out if I were
taken.
In my haste I thrust the key into my pocket, and dropped my stick while I was
chasing Teddy, who had run up the curtain.
When I got him into his box, from which he had slipped, I was off as fast as I could
run." "Who's Teddy?" asked Holmes.
The man leaned over and pulled up the front of a kind of hutch in the corner.
In an instant out there slipped a beautiful reddish-brown creature, thin and lithe,
with the legs of a stoat, a long, thin nose, and a pair of the finest red eyes
that ever I saw in an animal's head.
"It's a mongoose," I cried. "Well, some call them that, and some call
them ichneumon," said the man. "Snake-catcher is what I call them, and
Teddy is amazing quick on cobras.
I have one here without the fangs, and Teddy catches it every night to please the
folk in the canteen. "Any other point, sir?"
"Well, we may have to apply to you again if Mrs. Barclay should prove to be in serious
trouble." "In that case, of course, I'd come
forward."
"But if not, there is no object in raking up this scandal against a dead man, foully
as he has acted.
You have at least the satisfaction of knowing that for thirty years of his life
his conscience bitterly reproached him for this wicked deed.
Ah, there goes Major Murphy on the other side of the street.
Good-by, Wood. I want to learn if anything has happened
since yesterday."
We were in time to overtake the major before he reached the corner.
"Ah, Holmes," he said: "I suppose you have heard that all this fuss has come to
nothing?"
"What then?" "The inquest is just over.
The medical evidence showed conclusively that death was due to apoplexy.
You see it was quite a simple case after all."
"Oh, remarkably superficial," said Holmes, smiling.
"Come, Watson, I don't think we shall be wanted in Aldershot any more."
"There's one thing," said I, as we walked down to the station.
"If the husband's name was James, and the other was Henry, what was this talk about
David?"
"That one word, my dear Watson, should have told me the whole story had I been the
ideal reasoner which you are so fond of depicting.
It was evidently a term of reproach."
"Of reproach?" "Yes; David strayed a little occasionally,
you know, and on one occasion in the same direction as Sergeant James Barclay.
You remember the small affair of Uriah and Bathsheba?
My biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, I fear, but you will find the story in the
first or second of Samuel."
>
Adventure VIII. The Resident Patient
Glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of Memoirs with which I have
endeavored to illustrate a few of the mental peculiarities of my friend Mr.
Sherlock Holmes, I have been struck by the
difficulty which I have experienced in picking out examples which shall in every
way answer my purpose.
For in those cases in which Holmes has performed some tour de force of analytical
reasoning, and has demonstrated the value of his peculiar methods of investigation,
the facts themselves have often been so
slight or so commonplace that I could not feel justified in laying them before the
public.
On the other hand, it has frequently happened that he has been concerned in some
research where the facts have been of the most remarkable and dramatic character, but
where the share which he has himself taken
in determining their causes has been less pronounced than I, as his biographer, could
wish.
The small matter which I have chronicled under the heading of "A Study in Scarlet,"
and that other later one connected with the loss of the Gloria Scott, may serve as
examples of this Scylla and Charybdis which are forever threatening the historian.
It may be that in the business of which I am now about to write the part which my
friend played is not sufficiently accentuated; and yet the whole train of
circumstances is so remarkable that I
cannot bring myself to omit it entirely from this series.
It had been a close, rainy day in October.
Our blinds were half-drawn, and Holmes lay curled upon the sofa, reading and re-
reading a letter which he had received by the morning post.
For myself, my term of service in India had trained me to stand heat better than cold,
and a thermometer of 90 was no hardship. But the paper was uninteresting.
Parliament had risen.
Everybody was out of town, and I yearned for the glades of the New Forest or the
shingle of Southsea.
A depleted bank account had caused me to postpone my holiday, and as to my
companion, neither the country nor the sea presented the slightest attraction to him.
He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments
stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumor or
suspicion of unsolved crime.
Appreciation of Nature found no place among his many gifts, and his only change was
when he turned his mind from the evil-doer of the town to track down his brother of
the country.
Finding that Holmes was too absorbed for conversation, I had tossed aside the barren
paper, and leaning back in my chair, I fell into a brown study.
Suddenly my companion's voice broke in upon my thoughts.
"You are right, Watson," said he. "It does seem a very preposterous way of
settling a dispute."
"Most preposterous!" I exclaimed, and then, suddenly realizing
how he had echoed the inmost thought of my soul, I sat up in my chair and stared at
him in blank amazement.
"What is this, Holmes?" I cried.
"This is beyond anything which I could have imagined."
He laughed heartily at my perplexity.
"You remember," said he, "that some little time ago, when I read you the passage in
one of Poe's sketches, in which a close reasoner follows the unspoken thought of
his companion, you were inclined to treat
the matter as a mere tour de force of the author.
On my remarking that I was constantly in the habit of doing the same thing you
expressed incredulity."
"Oh, no!" "Perhaps not with your tongue, my dear
Watson, but certainly with your eyebrows.
So when I saw you throw down your paper and enter upon a train of thought, I was very
happy to have the opportunity of reading it off, and eventually of breaking into it, as
a proof that I had been in rapport with you."
But I was still far from satisfied.
"In the example which you read to me," said I, "the reasoner drew his conclusions from
the actions of the man whom he observed.
If I remember right, he stumbled over a heap of stones, looked up at the stars, and
so on. But I have been seated quietly in my chair,
and what clues can I have given you?"
"You do yourself an injustice. The features are given to man as the means
by which he shall express his emotions, and yours are faithful servants."
"Do you mean to say that you read my train of thoughts from my features?"
"Your features, and especially your eyes. Perhaps you cannot yourself recall how your
reverie commenced?"
"No, I cannot." "Then I will tell you.
After throwing down your paper, which was the action which drew my attention to you,
you sat for half a minute with a vacant expression.
Then your eyes fixed themselves upon your newly-framed picture of General Gordon, and
I saw by the alteration in your face that a train of thought had been started.
But it did not lead very far.
Your eyes turned across to the unframed portrait of Henry Ward Beecher which stands
upon the top of your books. You then glanced up at the wall, and of
course your meaning was obvious.
You were thinking that if the portrait were framed it would just cover that bare space
and correspond with Gordon's picture over there."
"You have followed me wonderfully!"
I exclaimed. "So far I could hardly have gone astray.
But now your thoughts went back to Beecher, and you looked hard across as if you were
studying the character in his features.
Then your eyes ceased to pucker, but you continued to look across, and your face was
thoughtful. You were recalling the incidents of
Beecher's career.
I was well aware that you could not do this without thinking of the mission which he
undertook on behalf of the North at the time of the Civil War, for I remember you
expressing your passionate indignation at
the way in which he was received by the more turbulent of our people.
You felt so strongly about it that I knew you could not think of Beecher without
thinking of that also.
When a moment later I saw your eyes wander away from the picture, I suspected that
your mind had now turned to the Civil War, and when I observed that your lips set,
your eyes sparkled, and your hands
clinched, I was positive that you were indeed thinking of the gallantry which was
shown by both sides in that desperate struggle.
But then, again, your face grew sadder; you shook your head.
You were dwelling upon the sadness and horror and useless waste of life.
Your hand stole towards your own old wound, and a smile quivered on your lips, which
showed me that the ridiculous side of this method of settling international questions
had forced itself upon your mind.
At this point I agreed with you that it was preposterous, and was glad to find that all
my deductions had been correct." "Absolutely!" said I.
"And now that you have explained it, I confess that I am as amazed as before."
"It was very superficial, my dear Watson, I assure you.
I should not have intruded it upon your attention had you not shown some
incredulity the other day. But the evening has brought a breeze with
it.
What do you say to a ramble through London?"
I was weary of our little sitting-room and gladly acquiesced.
For three hours we strolled about together, watching the ever-changing kaleidoscope of
life as it ebbs and flows through Fleet Street and the Strand.
His characteristic talk, with its keen observance of detail and subtle power of
inference held me amused and enthralled. It was ten o'clock before we reached Baker
Street again.
A brougham was waiting at our door. "Hum! A doctor's--general practitioner, I
perceive," said Holmes. "Not been long in practice, but has had a
good deal to do.
Come to consult us, I fancy! Lucky we came back!"
I was sufficiently conversant with Holmes's methods to be able to follow his reasoning,
and to see that the nature and state of the various medical instruments in the wicker
basket which hung in the lamplight inside
the brougham had given him the data for his swift deduction.
The light in our window above showed that this late visit was indeed intended for us.
With some curiosity as to what could have sent a brother medico to us at such an
hour, I followed Holmes into our sanctum.
A pale, taper-faced man with sandy whiskers rose up from a chair by the fire as we
entered.
His age may not have been more than three or four and thirty, but his haggard
expression and unhealthy hue told of a life which has sapped his strength and robbed
him of his youth.
His manner was nervous and shy, like that of a sensitive gentleman, and the thin
white hand which he laid on the mantelpiece as he rose was that of an artist rather
than of a surgeon.
His dress was quiet and sombre--a black frock-coat, dark trousers, and a touch of
color about his necktie. "Good-evening, doctor," said Holmes,
cheerily.
"I am glad to see that you have only been waiting a very few minutes."
"You spoke to my coachman, then?" "No, it was the candle on the side-table
that told me.
Pray resume your seat and let me know how I can serve you."
"My name is Doctor Percy Trevelyan," said our visitor, "and I live at 403 Brook
Street."
"Are you not the author of a monograph upon obscure nervous lesions?"
I asked. His pale cheeks flushed with pleasure at
hearing that his work was known to me.
"I so seldom hear of the work that I thought it was quite dead," said he.
"My publishers gave me a most discouraging account of its sale.
You are yourself, I presume, a medical man?"
"A retired army surgeon." "My own hobby has always been nervous
disease.
I should wish to make it an absolute specialty, but, of course, a man must take
what he can get at first.
This, however, is beside the question, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I quite appreciate how
valuable your time is.
The fact is that a very singular train of events has occurred recently at my house in
Brook Street, and to-night they came to such a head that I felt it was quite
impossible for me to wait another hour
before asking for your advice and assistance."
Sherlock Holmes sat down and lit his pipe. "You are very welcome to both," said he.
"Pray let me have a detailed account of what the circumstances are which have
disturbed you."
"One or two of them are so trivial," said Dr. Trevelyan, "that really I am almost
ashamed to mention them.
But the matter is so inexplicable, and the recent turn which it has taken is so
elaborate, that I shall lay it all before you, and you shall judge what is essential
and what is not.
"I am compelled, to begin with, to say something of my own college career.
I am a London University man, you know, and I am sure that your will not think that I
am unduly singing my own praises if I say that my student career was considered by my
professors to be a very promising one.
After I had graduated I continued to devote myself to research, occupying a minor
position in King's College Hospital, and I was fortunate enough to excite considerable
interest by my research into the pathology
of catalepsy, and finally to win the Bruce Pinkerton prize and medal by the monograph
on nervous lesions to which your friend has just alluded.
I should not go too far if I were to say that there was a general impression at that
time that a distinguished career lay before me.
"But the one great stumbling-block lay in my want of capital.
As you will readily understand, a specialist who aims high is compelled to
start in one of a dozen streets in the Cavendish Square quarter, all of which
entail enormous rents and furnishing expenses.
Besides this preliminary outlay, he must be prepared to keep himself for some years,
and to hire a presentable carriage and horse.
To do this was quite beyond my power, and I could only hope that by economy I might in
ten years' time save enough to enable me to put up my plate.
Suddenly, however, an unexpected incident opened up quite a new prospect to me.
"This was a visit from a gentleman of the name of Blessington, who was a complete
stranger to me.
He came up to my room one morning, and plunged into business in an instant.
"'You are the same Percy Trevelyan who has had so distinguished a career and won a
great prize lately?' said he.
"I bowed. "'Answer me frankly,' he continued, 'for
you will find it to your interest to do so. You have all the cleverness which makes a
successful man.
Have you the tact?' "I could not help smiling at the abruptness
of the question. "'I trust that I have my share,' I said.
"'Any bad habits?
Not drawn towards drink, eh?' "'Really, sir!'
I cried. "'Quite right!
That's all right!
But I was bound to ask. With all these qualities, why are you not
in practice?' "I shrugged my shoulders.
"'Come, come!' said he, in his bustling way.
'It's the old story. More in your brains than in your pocket,
eh?
What would you say if I were to start you in Brook Street?'
"I stared at him in astonishment. "'Oh, it's for my sake, not for yours,' he
cried.
'I'll be perfectly frank with you, and if it suits you it will suit me very well.
I have a few thousands to invest, d'ye see, and I think I'll sink them in you.'
"'But why?'
I gasped. "'Well, it's just like any other
speculation, and safer than most.' "'What am I to do, then?'
"'I'll tell you.
I'll take the house, furnish it, pay the maids, and run the whole place.
All you have to do is just to wear out your chair in the consulting-room.
I'll let you have pocket-money and everything.
Then you hand over to me three quarters of what you earn, and you keep the other
quarter for yourself.'
"This was the strange proposal, Mr. Holmes, with which the man Blessington approached
me. I won't weary you with the account of how
we bargained and negotiated.
It ended in my moving into the house next Lady-day, and starting in practice on very
much the same conditions as he had suggested.
He came himself to live with me in the character of a resident patient.
His heart was weak, it appears, and he needed constant medical supervision.
He turned the two best rooms of the first floor into a sitting-room and bedroom for
himself. He was a man of singular habits, shunning
company and very seldom going out.
His life was irregular, but in one respect he was regularity itself.
Every evening, at the same hour, he walked into the consulting-room, examined the
books, put down five and three-pence for every guinea that I had earned, and carried
the rest off to the strong-box in his own room.
"I may say with confidence that he never had occasion to regret his speculation.
From the first it was a success.
A few good cases and the reputation which I had won in the hospital brought me rapidly
to the front, and during the last few years I have made him a rich man.
"So much, Mr. Holmes, for my past history and my relations with Mr. Blessington.
It only remains for me now to tell you what has occurred to bring me here to-night.
"Some weeks ago Mr. Blessington came down to me in, as it seemed to me, a state of
considerable agitation.
He spoke of some burglary which, he said, had been committed in the West End, and he
appeared, I remember, to be quite unnecessarily excited about it, declaring
that a day should not pass before we should
add stronger bolts to our windows and doors.
For a week he continued to be in a peculiar state of restlessness, peering continually
out of the windows, and ceasing to take the short walk which had usually been the
prelude to his dinner.
From his manner it struck me that he was in mortal dread of something or somebody, but
when I questioned him upon the point he became so offensive that I was compelled to
drop the subject.
Gradually, as time passed, his fears appeared to die away, and he had renewed
his former habits, when a fresh event reduced him to the pitiable state of
prostration in which he now lies.
"What happened was this. Two days ago I received the letter which I
now read to you. Neither address nor date is attached to it.
"'A Russian nobleman who is now resident in England,' it runs, 'would be glad to avail
himself of the professional assistance of Dr. Percy Trevelyan.
He has been for some years a victim to cataleptic attacks, on which, as is well
known, Dr. Trevelyan is an authority.
He proposes to call at about quarter past six to-morrow evening, if Dr. Trevelyan
will make it convenient to be at home.'
"This letter interested me deeply, because the chief difficulty in the study of
catalepsy is the rareness of the disease.
You may believe, then, that I was in my consulting-room when, at the appointed
hour, the page showed in the patient.
"He was an elderly man, thin, demure, and commonplace--by no means the conception one
forms of a Russian nobleman. I was much more struck by the appearance of
his companion.
This was a tall young man, surprisingly handsome, with a dark, fierce face, and the
limbs and chest of a Hercules.
He had his hand under the other's arm as they entered, and helped him to a chair
with a tenderness which one would hardly have expected from his appearance.
"'You will excuse my coming in, doctor,' said he to me, speaking English with a
slight lisp.
'This is my father, and his health is a matter of the most overwhelming importance
to me.' "I was touched by this filial anxiety.
'You would, perhaps, care to remain during the consultation?' said I.
"'Not for the world,' he cried with a gesture of horror.
'It is more painful to me than I can express.
If I were to see my father in one of these dreadful seizures I am convinced that I
should never survive it.
My own nervous system is an exceptionally sensitive one.
With your permission, I will remain in the waiting-room while you go into my father's
case.'
"To this, of course, I assented, and the young man withdrew.
The patient and I then plunged into a discussion of his case, of which I took
exhaustive notes.
He was not remarkable for intelligence, and his answers were frequently obscure, which
I attributed to his limited acquaintance with our language.
Suddenly, however, as I sat writing, he ceased to give any answer at all to my
inquiries, and on my turning towards him I was shocked to see that he was sitting bolt
upright in his chair, staring at me with a perfectly blank and rigid face.
He was again in the grip of his mysterious malady.
"My first feeling, as I have just said, was one of pity and horror.
My second, I fear, was rather one of professional satisfaction.
I made notes of my patient's pulse and temperature, tested the rigidity of his
muscles, and examined his reflexes.
There was nothing markedly abnormal in any of these conditions, which harmonized with
my former experiences.
I had obtained good results in such cases by the inhalation of nitrite of amyl, and
the present seemed an admirable opportunity of testing its virtues.
The bottle was downstairs in my laboratory, so leaving my patient seated in his chair,
I ran down to get it.
There was some little delay in finding it-- five minutes, let us say--and then I
returned. Imagine my amazement to find the room empty
and the patient gone.
"Of course, my first act was to run into the waiting-room.
The son had gone also. The hall door had been closed, but not
shut.
My page who admits patients is a new boy and by no means quick.
He waits downstairs, and runs up to show patients out when I ring the consulting-
room bell.
He had heard nothing, and the affair remained a complete mystery.
Mr. Blessington came in from his walk shortly afterwards, but I did not say
anything to him upon the subject, for, to tell the truth, I have got in the way of
late of holding as little communication with him as possible.
"Well, I never thought that I should see anything more of the Russian and his son,
so you can imagine my amazement when, at the very same hour this evening, they both
came marching into my consulting-room, just as they had done before.
"'I feel that I owe you a great many apologies for my abrupt departure
yesterday, doctor,' said my patient.
"'I confess that I was very much surprised at it,' said I.
"'Well, the fact is,' he remarked, 'that when I recover from these attacks my mind
is always very clouded as to all that has gone before.
I woke up in a strange room, as it seemed to me, and made my way out into the street
in a sort of dazed way when you were absent.'
"'And I,' said the son, 'seeing my father pass the door of the waiting-room,
naturally thought that the consultation had come to an end.
It was not until we had reached home that I began to realize the true state of
affairs.'
"'Well,' said I, laughing, 'there is no harm done except that you puzzled me
terribly; so if you, sir, would kindly step into the waiting-room I shall be happy to
continue our consultation which was brought to so abrupt an ending.'
"'For half an hour or so I discussed that old gentleman's symptoms with him, and
then, having prescribed for him, I saw him go off upon the arm of his son.
"I have told you that Mr. Blessington generally chose this hour of the day for
his exercise. He came in shortly afterwards and passed
upstairs.
An instant later I heard him running down, and he burst into my consulting-room like a
man who is mad with panic. "'Who has been in my room?' he cried.
"'No one,' said I.
"'It's a lie! He yelled.
'Come up and look!'
"I passed over the grossness of his language, as he seemed half out of his mind
with fear. When I went upstairs with him he pointed to
several footprints upon the light carpet.
"'D'you mean to say those are mine?' he cried.
"They were certainly very much larger than any which he could have made, and were
evidently quite fresh.
It rained hard this afternoon, as you know, and my patients were the only people who
called.
It must have been the case, then, that the man in the waiting-room had, for some
unknown reason, while I was busy with the other, ascended to the room of my resident
patient.
Nothing had been touched or taken, but there were the footprints to prove that the
intrusion was an undoubted fact.
"Mr. Blessington seemed more excited over the matter than I should have thought
possible, though of course it was enough to disturb anybody's peace of mind.
He actually sat crying in an arm-chair, and I could hardly get him to speak coherently.
It was his suggestion that I should come round to you, and of course I at once saw
the propriety of it, for certainly the incident is a very singular one, though he
appears to completely overrate its importance.
If you would only come back with me in my brougham, you would at least be able to
soothe him, though I can hardly hope that you will be able to explain this remarkable
occurrence."
Sherlock Holmes had listened to this long narrative with an intentness which showed
me that his interest was keenly aroused.
His face was as impassive as ever, but his lids had drooped more heavily over his
eyes, and his smoke had curled up more thickly from his pipe to emphasize each
curious episode in the doctor's tale.
As our visitor concluded, Holmes sprang up without a word, handed me my hat, picked
his own from the table, and followed Dr. Trevelyan to the door.
Within a quarter of an hour we had been dropped at the door of the physician's
residence in Brook Street, one of those sombre, flat-faced houses which one
associates with a West-End practice.
A small page admitted us, and we began at once to ascend the broad, well-carpeted
stair. But a singular interruption brought us to a
standstill.
The light at the top was suddenly whisked out, and from the darkness came a reedy,
quivering voice. "I have a pistol," it cried.
"I give you my word that I'll fire if you come any nearer."
"This really grows outrageous, Mr. Blessington," cried Dr. Trevelyan.
"Oh, then it is you, doctor," said the voice, with a great heave of relief.
"But those other gentlemen, are they what they pretend to be?"
We were conscious of a long scrutiny out of the darkness.
"Yes, yes, it's all right," said the voice at last.
"You can come up, and I am sorry if my precautions have annoyed you."
He relit the stair gas as he spoke, and we saw before us a singular-looking man, whose
appearance, as well as his voice, testified to his jangled nerves.
He was very fat, but had apparently at some time been much fatter, so that the skin
hung about his face in loose pouches, like the cheeks of a blood-hound.
He was of a sickly color, and his thin, sandy hair seemed to bristle up with the
intensity of his emotion. In his hand he held a pistol, but he thrust
it into his pocket as we advanced.
"Good-evening, Mr. Holmes," said he. "I am sure I am very much obliged to you
for coming round. No one ever needed your advice more than I
do.
I suppose that Dr. Trevelyan has told you of this most unwarrantable intrusion into
my rooms." "Quite so," said Holmes.
"Who are these two men Mr. Blessington, and why do they wish to molest you?"
"Well, well," said the resident patient, in a nervous fashion, "of course it is hard to
say that.
You can hardly expect me to answer that, Mr. Holmes."
"Do you mean that you don't know?" "Come in here, if you please.
Just have the kindness to step in here."
He led the way into his bedroom, which was large and comfortably furnished.
"You see that," said he, pointing to a big black box at the end of his bed.
"I have never been a very rich man, Mr. Holmes--never made but one investment in my
life, as Dr. Trevelyan would tell you. But I don't believe in bankers.
I would never trust a banker, Mr. Holmes.
Between ourselves, what little I have is in that box, so you can understand what it
means to me when unknown people force themselves into my rooms."
Holmes looked at Blessington in his questioning way and shook his head.
"I cannot possibly advise you if you try to deceive me," said he.
"But I have told you everything."
Holmes turned on his heel with a gesture of disgust.
"Good-night, Dr. Trevelyan," said he. "And no advice for me?" cried Blessington,
in a breaking voice.
"My advice to you, sir, is to speak the truth."
A minute later we were in the street and walking for home.
We had crossed Oxford Street and were half way down Harley Street before I could get a
word from my companion. "Sorry to bring you out on such a fool's
errand, Watson," he said at last.
"It is an interesting case, too, at the bottom of it."
"I can make little of it," I confessed.
"Well, it is quite evident that there are two men--more, perhaps, but at least two--
who are determined for some reason to get at this fellow Blessington.
I have no doubt in my mind that both on the first and on the second occasion that young
man penetrated to Blessington's room, while his confederate, by an ingenious device,
kept the doctor from interfering."
"And the catalepsy?" "A fraudulent imitation, Watson, though I
should hardly dare to hint as much to our specialist.
It is a very easy complaint to imitate.
I have done it myself." "And then?"
"By the purest chance Blessington was out on each occasion.
Their reason for choosing so unusual an hour for a consultation was obviously to
insure that there should be no other patient in the waiting-room.
It just happened, however, that this hour coincided with Blessington's
constitutional, which seems to show that they were not very well acquainted with his
daily routine.
Of course, if they had been merely after plunder they would at least have made some
attempt to search for it. Besides, I can read in a man's eye when it
is his own skin that he is frightened for.
It is inconceivable that this fellow could have made two such vindictive enemies as
these appear to be without knowing of it.
I hold it, therefore, to be certain that he does know who these men are, and that for
reasons of his own he suppresses it. It is just possible that to-morrow may find
him in a more communicative mood."
"Is there not one alternative," I suggested, "grotesquely improbably, no
doubt, but still just conceivable?
Might the whole story of the cataleptic Russian and his son be a concoction of Dr.
Trevelyan's, who has, for his own purposes, been in Blessington's rooms?"
I saw in the gaslight that Holmes wore an amused smile at this brilliant departure of
mine.
"My dear fellow," said he, "it was one of the first solutions which occurred to me,
but I was soon able to corroborate the doctor's tale.
This young man has left prints upon the stair-carpet which made it quite
superfluous for me to ask to see those which he had made in the room.
When I tell you that his shoes were square- toed instead of being pointed like
Blessington's, and were quite an inch and a third longer than the doctor's, you will
acknowledge that there can be no doubt as to his individuality.
But we may sleep on it now, for I shall be surprised if we do not hear something
further from Brook Street in the morning."
Sherlock Holmes's prophecy was soon fulfilled, and in a dramatic fashion.
At half-past seven next morning, in the first glimmer of daylight, I found him
standing by my bedside in his dressing- gown.
"There's a brougham waiting for us, Watson," said he.
"What's the matter, then?" "The Brook Street business."
"Any fresh news?"
"Tragic, but ambiguous," said he, pulling up the blind.
"Look at this--a sheet from a note-book, with 'For God's sake come at once--P.T.,'
scrawled upon it in pencil.
Our friend, the doctor, was hard put to it when he wrote this.
Come along, my dear fellow, for it's an urgent call."
In a quarter of an hour or so we were back at the physician's house.
He came running out to meet us with a face of horror.
"Oh, such a business!" he cried, with his hands to his temples.
"What then?" "Blessington has committed suicide!"
Holmes whistled.
"Yes, he hanged himself during the night." We had entered, and the doctor had preceded
us into what was evidently his waiting- room.
"I really hardly know what I am doing," he cried.
"The police are already upstairs. It has shaken me most dreadfully."
"When did you find it out?"
"He has a cup of tea taken in to him early every morning.
When the maid entered, about seven, there the unfortunate fellow was hanging in the
middle of the room.
He had tied his cord to the hook on which the heavy lamp used to hang, and he had
jumped off from the top of the very box that he showed us yesterday."
Holmes stood for a moment in deep thought.
"With your permission," said he at last, "I should like to go upstairs and look into
the matter." We both ascended, followed by the doctor.
It was a dreadful sight which met us as we entered the bedroom door.
I have spoken of the impression of flabbiness which this man Blessington
conveyed.
As he dangled from the hook it was exaggerated and intensified until he was
scarce human in his appearance.
The neck was drawn out like a plucked chicken's, making the rest of him seem the
more obese and unnatural by the contrast.
He was clad only in his long night-dress, and his swollen ankles and ungainly feet
protruded starkly from beneath it.
Beside him stood a smart-looking police- inspector, who was taking notes in a
pocket-book.
"Ah, Mr. Holmes," said he, heartily, as my friend entered, "I am delighted to see
you." "Good-morning, Lanner," answered Holmes;
"you won't think me an intruder, I am sure.
Have you heard of the events which led up to this affair?"
"Yes, I heard something of them." "Have you formed any opinion?"
"As far as I can see, the man has been driven out of his senses by fright.
The bed has been well slept in, you see. There's his impression deep enough.
It's about five in the morning, you know, that suicides are most common.
That would be about his time for hanging himself.
It seems to have been a very deliberate affair."
"I should say that he has been dead about three hours, judging by the rigidity of the
muscles," said I.
"Noticed anything peculiar about the room?" asked Holmes.
"Found a screw-driver and some screws on the wash-hand stand.
Seems to have smoked heavily during the night, too.
Here are four cigar-ends that I picked out of the fireplace."
"Hum!" said Holmes, "have you got his cigar-holder?"
"No, I have seen none." "His cigar-case, then?"
"Yes, it was in his coat-pocket."
Holmes opened it and smelled the single cigar which it contained.
"Oh, this is an Havana, and these others are cigars of the peculiar sort which are
imported by the Dutch from their East Indian colonies.
They are usually wrapped in straw, you know, and are thinner for their length than
any other brand." He picked up the four ends and examined
them with his pocket-lens.
"Two of these have been smoked from a holder and two without," said he.
"Two have been cut by a not very sharp knife, and two have had the ends bitten off
by a set of excellent teeth.
This is no suicide, Mr. Lanner. It is a very deeply planned and cold-
blooded murder." "Impossible!" cried the inspector.
"And why?"
"Why should any one murder a man in so clumsy a fashion as by hanging him?"
"That is what we have to find out." "How could they get in?"
"Through the front door."
"It was barred in the morning." "Then it was barred after them."
"How do you know?" "I saw their traces.
Excuse me a moment, and I may be able to give you some further information about
it." He went over to the door, and turning the
lock he examined it in his methodical way.
Then he took out the key, which was on the inside, and inspected that also.
The bed, the carpet, the chairs the mantelpiece, the dead body, and the rope
were each in turn examined, until at last he professed himself satisfied, and with my
aid and that of the inspector cut down the
wretched object and laid it reverently under a sheet.
"How about this rope?" he asked. "It is cut off this," said Dr. Trevelyan,
drawing a large coil from under the bed.
"He was morbidly nervous of fire, and always kept this beside him, so that he
might escape by the window in case the stairs were burning."
"That must have saved them trouble," said Holmes, thoughtfully.
"Yes, the actual facts are very plain, and I shall be surprised if by the afternoon I
cannot give you the reasons for them as well.
I will take this photograph of Blessington, which I see upon the mantelpiece, as it may
help me in my inquiries." "But you have told us nothing!" cried the
doctor.
"Oh, there can be no doubt as to the sequence of events," said Holmes.
"There were three of them in it: the young man, the old man, and a third, to whose
identity I have no clue.
The first two, I need hardly remark, are the same who masqueraded as the Russian
count and his son, so we can give a very full description of them.
They were admitted by a confederate inside the house.
If I might offer you a word of advice, Inspector, it would be to arrest the page,
who, as I understand, has only recently come into your service, Doctor."
"The young imp cannot be found," said Dr. Trevelyan; "the maid and the cook have just
been searching for him." Holmes shrugged his shoulders.
"He has played a not unimportant part in this drama," said he.
"The three men having ascended the stairs, which they did on tiptoe, the elder man
first, the younger man second, and the unknown man in the rear--"
"My dear Holmes!"
I ejaculated. "Oh, there could be no question as to the
superimposing of the footmarks. I had the advantage of learning which was
which last night.
They ascended, then, to Mr. Blessington's room, the door of which they found to be
locked. With the help of a wire, however, they
forced round the key.
Even without the lens you will perceive, by the scratches on this ward, where the
pressure was applied.
"On entering the room their first proceeding must have been to gag Mr.
Blessington.
He may have been asleep, or he may have been so paralyzed with terror as to have
been unable to cry out.
These walls are thick, and it is conceivable that his shriek, if he had time
to utter one, was unheard. "Having secured him, it is evident to me
that a consultation of some sort was held.
Probably it was something in the nature of a judicial proceeding.
It must have lasted for some time, for it was then that these cigars were smoked.
The older man sat in that wicker chair; it was he who used the cigar-holder.
The younger man sat over yonder; he knocked his ash off against the chest of drawers.
The third fellow paced up and down.
Blessington, I think, sat upright in the bed, but of that I cannot be absolutely
certain. "Well, it ended by their taking Blessington
and hanging him.
The matter was so prearranged that it is my belief that they brought with them some
sort of block or pulley which might serve as a gallows.
That screw-driver and those screws were, as I conceive, for fixing it up.
Seeing the hook, however they naturally saved themselves the trouble.
Having finished their work they made off, and the door was barred behind them by
their confederate."
We had all listened with the deepest interest to this sketch of the night's
doings, which Holmes had deduced from signs so subtle and minute that, even when he had
pointed them out to us, we could scarcely follow him in his reasoning.
The inspector hurried away on the instant to make inquiries about the page, while
Holmes and I returned to Baker Street for breakfast.
"I'll be back by three," said he, when we had finished our meal.
"Both the inspector and the doctor will meet me here at that hour, and I hope by
that time to have cleared up any little obscurity which the case may still
present."
Our visitors arrived at the appointed time, but it was a quarter to four before my
friend put in an appearance.
From his expression as he entered, however, I could see that all had gone well with
him. "Any news, Inspector?"
"We have got the boy, sir."
"Excellent, and I have got the men." "You have got them!" we cried, all three.
"Well, at least I have got their identity.
This so-called Blessington is, as I expected, well known at headquarters, and
so are his assailants. Their names are Biddle, Hayward, and
Moffat."
"The Worthingdon bank gang," cried the inspector.
"Precisely," said Holmes. "Then Blessington must have been Sutton."
"Exactly," said Holmes.
"Why, that makes it as clear as crystal," said the inspector.
But Trevelyan and I looked at each other in bewilderment.
"You must surely remember the great Worthingdon bank business," said Holmes.
"Five men were in it--these four and a fifth called Cartwright.
Tobin, the care-taker, was murdered, and the thieves got away with seven thousand
pounds. This was in 1875.
They were all five arrested, but the evidence against them was by no means
conclusive. This Blessington or Sutton, who was the
worst of the gang, turned informer.
On his evidence Cartwright was hanged and the other three got fifteen years apiece.
When they got out the other day, which was some years before their full term, they set
themselves, as you perceive, to hunt down the traitor and to avenge the death of
their comrade upon him.
Twice they tried to get at him and failed; a third time, you see, it came off.
Is there anything further which I can explain, Dr. Trevelyan?"
"I think you have made it all remarkable clear," said the doctor.
"No doubt the day on which he was perturbed was the day when he had seen of their
release in the newspapers."
"Quite so. His talk about a burglary was the merest
blind." "But why could he not tell you this?"
"Well, my dear sir, knowing the vindictive character of his old associates, he was
trying to hide his own identity from everybody as long as he could.
His secret was a shameful one, and he could not bring himself to divulge it.
However, wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and
I have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that shield may fail to
guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge."
Such were the singular circumstances in connection with the Resident Patient and
the Brook Street Doctor.
From that night nothing has been seen of the three murderers by the police, and it
is surmised at Scotland Yard that they were among the passengers of the ill-fated
steamer Norah Creina, which was lost some
years ago with all hands upon the Portuguese coast, some leagues to the north
of Oporto.
The proceedings against the page broke down for want of evidence, and the Brook Street
Mystery, as it was called, has never until now been fully dealt with in any public
print.
>