Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Author Conan Doyle
Part 4 out of 7
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.
"And where was it?"
"Where I was sure it must be. I'll make the whole
matter clear to you presently. I think, Colonel, that
you and Watson might return now, and I will be with
you again in an hour at the furthest. The Inspector
and I must have a word with the prisoners, but you
will certainly see me back at luncheon time."
Sherlock Holmes was as good as his word, for about one
o'clock he rejoined us in the Colonel's smoking-room.
He was accompanied by a little elderly gentleman, who
was introduced to me as the Mr. Acton whose house had
been the scene of the original burglary.
"I wished Mr. Acton to be present while I demonstrated
this small matter to you," said Holmes, "for it is
natural that he should take a keen interest in the
details. I am afraid, my dear Colonel, that you must
regret the hour that you took in such a stormy petrel
as I am."
"On the contrary," answered the Colonel, warmly, "I
consider it the greatest privilege to have been
permitted to study your methods of working. I confess
that they quite surpass my expectations, and that I am
utterly unable to account for you result. I have not
yet seen the vestige of a clue."
"I am afraid that my explanation may disillusion you
but it has always been my habit to hide none of my
methods, either from my friend Watson or from any one
who might take an intelligent interest in them. But,
first, as I am rather shaken by the knocking about
which I had in the dressing-room, I think that I shall
help myself to a dash of your brandy, Colonel. My
strength had been rather tried of late."
"I trust that you had no more of those nervous
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 observed 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
"Obviously the business was a bad one, and one of the
men who distrusted the other was determined that,
whatever was done, each should have an equal hand in
it. Now, of the two men, it is clear that the one who
wrote the 'at' and 'to' was the ringleader."
"How do you get at that?"
"We might deduce it from the mere character of the one
hand as compared with the other. But we have more
assured reasons than that for supposing it. If you
examine this scrap with attention you will come to the
conclusion that the man with the stronger hand wrote
all his words first, leaving blanks for the other to
fill up. These blanks were not always sufficient, and
you can see that the second man had a squeeze to fit
his 'quarter' in between the 'at' and the 'to,'
showing that the latter were already written. The man
who wrote all his words first in undoubtedly the man
who planned 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
"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
"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
"There you are," said Holmes, smiling. "It was a
dangerous, reckless attempt, in which I seem to trace
the influence of young Alec. Having found nothing
they tried to divert suspicion by making it appear to
be an ordinary burglary, to which end they carried off
whatever they could lay their hands upon. That is all
clear enough, but there was much that was still
obscure. What I wanted above all was to get the
missing part of that note. I was certain that Alec
had torn it out of the dead man's hand, and almost
certain that he must have thrust it into the pocket of
his dressing-gown. Where else could he have put it?
The only question was whether it was still there. It
was worth an effort to find out, and for that object
we all went up to the house.
"The Cunninghams joined us, as you doubtless remember,
outside the kitchen door. It was, of course, of the
very first importance that they should not be reminded
of the existence of this paper, otherwise they would
naturally destroy it without delay. The Inspector was
about to tell them the importance which we attached to
it when, by the luckiest chance in the world, I
tumbled down in a sort of fit and so changed the
"Good heavens!" cried the Colonel, laughing, "do you
mean to say all our sympathy was wasted and your fit
"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
"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
"I had a little talk with old Cunningham afterwards as
to the motive of the crime. He was tractable enough,
though his son was a perfect demon, ready to blow out
his own or anybody else's brains if he could have got
to his revolver. When Cunningham saw that the case
against him was so strong he lost all heart and made a
clean breast of everything. It seems that William had
secretly followed his two masters on the night when
they made their raid upon Mr. Acton's, and having thus
got them into his power, proceeded, under threats of
exposure, to levy black-mail upon them. Mr. Alec,
however, was a dangerous man to play games of that
sort with. It was a stroke of positive genius on his
part to see in the burglary scare which was convulsing
the country side an opportunity of plausibly getting
rid of the man whom he feared. William was decoyed up
and shot, and had they only got the whole of the note
and paid a little more attention to detail in the
accessories, it is very possible that suspicion might
never have 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 will
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
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 tonight?"
"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
"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
"I was sleepy before you came. I am quite wakeful
"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
"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
"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
"Colonel Barclay himself seems to have had some
singular traits in his character. He was a dashing,
jovial old solder 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"'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 is 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 made 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
"'"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?"
"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 by 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
"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
"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
"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 Punjaub, 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."
"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?"
"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
"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."
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
"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."
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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 own a great prize lately?'
"'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
"I could not help smiling at the abruptness of the
"'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
"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
"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
"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 her
"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 interest me deeply, because the chief
difficulty in the study of catalepsy is the rareness
of the disease. You may believe, than, 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
common-place--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
"'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
"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,'
"'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
"'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
"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 has 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 overtake 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
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,
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"My advice to your, 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
"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
"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
"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
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