Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Author Conan Doyle
Part 5 out of 7
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
"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
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
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
"Blessington has committed suicide!"
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Impossible!" cried the inspector.
"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
"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
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 smoke. 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
"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
But Trevelyan and I looked at each other in
"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.
"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
"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.
The Greek Interpreter
During my long and intimate acquaintance with Mr.
Sherlock Holmes I had never heard him refer to his
relations, and hardly ever to his own early life.
This reticence upon his part had increased the
somewhat inhuman effect which he produced upon me,
until sometimes I found myself regarding him as an
isolated phenomenon, a brain without a heart, as
deficient in human sympathy as he was pre-eminent in
intelligence. His aversion to women and his
disinclination to form new friendships were both
typical of his unemotional character, but not more so
than his complete suppression of every reference to
his own people. I had come to believe that he was an
orphan with no relatives living, but one day, to my
very great surprise, he began to talk to me about his
It was after tea on a summer evening, and the
conversation, which had roamed in a desultory,
spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes of the
change in the obliquity of the ecliptic, came round at
last to the question of atavism and hereditary
aptitudes. The point under discussion was, how far
any singular gift in an individual was due to his
ancestry and how far to his own early training.
"In your own case," said I, "from all that you have
told me, it seems obvious that your faculty of
observation and your peculiar facility for deduction
are due to your own systematic training."
"To some extent," he answered, thoughtfully. "My
ancestors were country squires, who appear to have led
much the same life as is natural to their class. But,
none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and
may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister
of Vernet, the French artist. Art in the blood is
liable to take the strangest forms."
"But how do you know that it is hereditary?"
"Because my brother Mycroft possesses it in a larger
degree than I do."
This was news to me indeed. If there were another man
with such singular powers in England, how was it that
neither police nor public had heard of him? I put the
question, with a hint that it was my companion's
modesty which made him acknowledge his brother as his
superior. Holmes laughed at my suggestion.
"My dear Watson," said he, "I cannot agree with those
who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician
all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to
underestimate one's self is as much a departure from
truth as to exaggerate one's own powers. When I say,
therefore, that Mycroft has better powers of
observation than I, you may take it that I am speaking
the exact and literal truth."
"Is he your junior?"
"Seven years my senior."
"How comes it that he is unknown?"
"Oh, he is very well known in his own circle."
"Well, in the Diogenes Club, for example."
I had never heard of the institution, and my face must
have proclaimed as much, for Sherlock Holmes pulled
out his watch.
"The Diogenes Club is the queerest club in London, and
Mycroft one of the queerest men. He's always there
from quarter to five to twenty to eight. It's six
now, so if you care for a stroll this beautiful
evening I shall be very happy to introduce you to two
"Five minutes later we were in the street, walking
towards Regent's Circus.
"You wonder," said my companion, "why it is that
Mycroft does not use his powers for detective work.
He is incapable of it."
"But I thought you said--"
"I said that he was my superior in observation and
deduction. If the art of the detective began and
ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would
be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived. But
he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go
out of his way to verify his own solution, and would
rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to
prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a
problem to him, and have received an explanation which
has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet
he was absolutely incapable of working out the
practical points which must be gone into before a case
could be laid before a judge or jury."
"It is not his profession, then?"
"By no means. What is to me a means of livelihood is
to him the merest hobby of a dilettante. He has an
extraordinary faculty for figures, and audits the
books in some of the government departments. Mycroft
lodges in Pall Mall, and he walks round the corner
into Whitehall every morning and back every evening.
From year's end to year's end he takes no other
exercise, and is seen nowhere else, except only in the
Diogenes Club, which is just opposite his rooms."
"I cannot recall the name."
"Very likely not. There are many men in London, you
know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy,
have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet
they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the
latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of
these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now
contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in
town. No member is permitted to take the least notice
of any other one. Save in the Stranger's Room, no
talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and
three offences, if brought to the notice of the
committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. My
brother was one of the founders, and I have myself
found it a very soothing atmosphere."
We had reached Pall Mall as we talked, and were
walking down it from the St. James's end. Sherlock
Holmes stopped at a door some little distance from the
Carlton, and, cautioning me not to speak, he led the
way into the hall. Through the glass paneling I
caught a glimpse of a large and luxurious room, in
which a considerable number of men were sitting about
and reading papers, each in his own little nook.
Holmes showed me into a small chamber which looked out
into Pall Mall, and then, leaving me for a minute, he
came back with a companion whom I knew could only be
Mycroft Holmes was a much larger and stouter man than
Sherlock. His body was absolutely corpulent, but is
face, though massive, had preserved something of the
sharpness of expression which was so remarkable in
that of his brother. His eyes, which were of a
peculiarly light, watery gray, seemed to always retain
that far-away, introspective look which I had only
observed in Sherlock's when he was exerting his full
"I am glad to meet you, sir," said he, putting out a
broad, fat hand like the flipper of a seal. "I hear
of Sherlock everywhere since you became his
chronicler. By the way, Sherlock, I expected to see
you round last week, to consult me over that Manor
House case. I thought you might be a little out of
"No, I solved it," said my friend, smiling.
"It was Adams, of course."
"Yes, it was Adams."
"I was sure of it from the first." The two sat down
together in the bow-window of the club. "To any one
who wishes to study mankind this is the spot," said
Mycroft. "Look at the magnificent types! Look at
these two men who are coming towards us, for example."
"The billiard-marker and the other?"
"Precisely. What do you make of the other?"
The two men had stopped opposite the window. Some
chalk marks over the waistcoat pocket were the only
signs of billiards which I could see in one of them.
The other was a very small, dark fellow, with his hat
pushed back and several packages under his arm.
"An old soldier, I perceive," said Sherlock.
"And very recently discharged," remarked the brother.
"Served in India, I see."
"And a non-commissioned officer."
"Royal Artillery, I fancy," said Sherlock.
"And a widower."
"But with a child."
"Children, my dear boy, children."
"Come," said I, laughing, "this is a little too much."
"Surely," answered Holmes, "it is not hard to say that
a man with that bearing, expression of authority, and
sunbaked skin, is a soldier, is more than a private,
and is not long from India."
"That he has not left the service long is shown by his
still wearing is ammunition boots, as they are
called," observed Mycroft.
"He had not the cavalry stride, yet he wore his hat on
one side, as is shown by the lighter skin of that side
of his brow. His weight is against his being a
sapper. He is in the artillery."
"Then, of course, his complete mourning shows that he
has lost some one very dear. The fact that he is
doing his own shopping looks as though it were his
wife. He has been buying things for children, you
perceive. There is a rattle, which shows that one of
them is very young. The wife probably died in
childbed. The fact that he has a picture-book under
his arm shows that there is another child to be
I began to understand what my friend meant when he
said that his brother possessed even keener faculties
that he did himself. He glanced across at me and
smiled. Mycroft took snuff from a tortoise-shell box,
and brushed away the wandering grains from his coat
front with a large, red silk handkerchief.
"By the way, Sherlock," said he, "I have had something
quite after your own heart--a most singular
problem--submitted to my judgment. I really had not
the energy to follow it up save in a very incomplete
fashion, but it gave me a basis for some pleasing
speculation. If you would care to hear the facts--"
"My dear Mycroft, I should be delighted."
The brother scribbled a note upon a leaf of his
pocket-book, and, ringing the bell, he handed it to
"I have asked Mr. Melas to step across," said he. "He
lodges on the floor above me, and I have some slight
acquaintance with him, which led him to come to me in
his perplexity. Mr. Melas is a Greek by extraction,
as I understand, and he is a remarkable linguist. He
earns his living partly as interpreter in the law
courts and partly by acting as guide to any wealthy
Orientals who may visit the Northumberland Avenue
hotels. I think I will leave him to tell his very
remarkable experience in his own fashion."
A few minutes later we were joined by a short, stout
man whose olive face and coal-black hair proclaimed
his Southern origin, though his speech was that of an
educated Englishman. He shook hands eagerly with
Sherlock Holmes, and his dark eyes sparkled with
pleasure when he understood that the specialist was
anxious to hear his story.
"I do not believe that the police credit me--on my
word, I do not," said he in a wailing voice. "Just
because they have never heard of it before, they think
that such a thing cannot be. But I know that I shall
never be easy in my mind until I know what has become
of my poor man with the sticking-plaster upon his
"I am all attention," said Sherlock Holmes.
"This is Wednesday evening," said Mr. Melas. "Well
then, it was Monday night--only two days ago, you
understand--that all this happened. I am an
interpreter, as perhaps my neighbor there has told
you. I interpret all languages--or nearly all--but as
I am a Greek by birth and with a Grecian name, it is
with that particular tongue that I am principally
associated. For many years I have been the chief
Greek interpreter in London, and my name is very well
known in the hotels.
It happens not unfrequently that I am sent for at
strange hours by foreigners who get into difficulties,
or by travelers who arrive late and wish my services.
I was not surprised, therefore, on Monday night when a
Mr. Latimer, a very fashionably dressed young man,
came up to my rooms and asked me to accompany him in a
cab which was waiting at the door. A Greek friend had
come to see him upon business, he said, and as he
could speak nothing but his own tongue, the services
of an interpreter were indispensable. He gave me to
understand that his house was some little distance
off, in Kensington, and he seemed to be in a great
hurry, bustling me rapidly into the cab when we had
descended to the street.
"I say into the cab, but I soon became doubtful as to
whether it was not a carriage in which I found myself.
It was certainly more roomy than the ordinary
four-wheeled disgrace to London, and the fittings,
though frayed, were of rich quality. Mr. Latimer
seated himself opposite to me and we started off
through Charing Cross and up the Shaftesbury Avenue.
We had come out upon Oxford Street and I had ventured
some remark as to this being a roundabout way to
Kensington, when my words were arrested by the
extraordinary conduct of my companion.
"He began by drawing a most formidable-looking
bludgeon loaded with lead from his pocket, and
switching it backward and forward several times, as if
to test its weight and strength. Then he placed it
without a word upon the seat beside him. Having done
this, he drew up the windows on each side, and I found
to my astonishment that they were covered with paper
so as to prevent my seeing through them.
"'I am sorry to cut off your view, Mr. Melas,' said
he. 'The fact is that I have no intention that you
should see what the place is to which we are driving.
It might possibly be inconvenient to me if you could
find your way there again.'
"As you can imagine, I was utterly taken aback by such
an address. My companion was a powerful,
broad-shouldered young fellow, and, apart from the
weapon, I should not have had the slightest chance in
a struggle with him.
"'This is very extraordinary conduct, Mr. Latimer,' I
stammered. 'You must be aware that what you are doing
is quite illegal.'
"'It is somewhat of a liberty, no doubt,' said he,
'but we'll make it up to you. I must warn you,
however, Mr. Melas, that if at any time to-night you
attempt to raise an alarm or do anything which is
against my interests, you will find it a very serious
thing. I beg you to remember that no one knows where
you are, and that, whether you are in this carriage or
in my house, you are equally in my power.'
"His words were quiet, but he had a rasping way of
saying them which was very menacing. I sat in silence
wondering what on earth could be his reason for
kidnapping me in this extraordinary fashion. Whatever
it might be, it was perfectly clear that there was no
possible use in my resisting, and that I could only
wait to see what might befall.
"For nearly two hours we drove without my having the
least clue as to where we were going. Sometimes the
rattle of the stones told of a paved causeway, and at
others our smooth, silent course suggested asphalt;
but, save by this variation in sound, there was
nothing at all which could in the remotest way help me
to form a guess as to where we were. The paper over
each window was impenetrable to light, and a blue
curtain was drawn across the glass work in front. It
was a quarter-past seven when we left Pall Mall, and
my watch showed me that it was ten minutes to nine
when we at last came to a standstill. My companion
let down the window, and I caught a glimpse of a low,
arched doorway with a lamp burning above it. As I was
hurried from the carriage it swung open, and I found
myself inside the house, with a vague impression of a
lawn and trees on each side of me as I entered.
Whether these were private grounds, however, or
bona-fide country was more than I could possibly
venture to say.
"There was a colored gas-lamp inside which was turned
so low that I could see little save that the hall was
of some size and hung with pictures. In the dim light
I could make out that the person who had opened the
door was a small, mean-looking, middle-aged man with
rounded shoulders. As he turned towards us the glint
of the light showed me that he was wearing glasses.
"'Is this Mr. Melas, Harold?' said he.
"'Well done, well done! No ill-will, Mr. Melas, I
hope, but we could not get on without you. If you
deal fair with us you'll not regret it, but if you try
any tricks, God help you!' He spoke in a nervous,
jerky fashion, and with little giggling laughs in
between, but somehow he impressed me with fear more
than the other.
"'What do you want with me?' I asked.
"'Only to ask a few questions of a Greek gentleman who
is visiting us, and to let us have the answers. But
say no more than you are told to say, or--' here came
the nervous giggle again--'you had better never have
"As he spoke he opened a door and showed the way into
a room which appeared to be very richly furnished, but
again the only light was afforded by a single lamp
half-turned down. The chamber was certainly large,
and the way in which my feet sank into the carpet as I
stepped across it told me of its richness. I caught
glimpses of velvet chairs, a high white marble
mantel-piece, and what seemed to be a suit of Japanese
armor at one side of it. There was a chair just under
the lamp, and the elderly man motioned that I should
sit in it. The younger had left us, but he suddenly
returned through another door, leading with him a
gentleman clad in some sort of loose dressing-gown who
moved slowly towards us. As he came into the circle
of dim light which enables me to see him more clearly
I was thrilled with horror at his appearance. He was
deadly pale and terribly emaciated, with the
protruding, brilliant eyes of a man whose spirit was
greater than his strength. But what shocked me more
than any signs of physical weakness was that his face
was grotesquely criss-crossed with sticking-plaster,
and that one large pad of it was fastened over his
"'Have you the slate, Harold?' cried the older man, as
this strange being fell rather than sat down into a
chair. 'Are his hands loose? Now, then, give him the
pencil. You are to ask the questions, Mr. Melas, and
he will write the answers. Ask him first of all
whether he is prepared to sign the papers?'
"The man's eyes flashed fire.
"'Never!' he wrote in Greek upon the slate.
"'On no condition?' I asked, at the bidding of our
"'Only if I see her married in my presence by a Greek
priest whom I know.'
"The man giggled in his venomous way.
"'You know what awaits you, then?'
"'I care nothing for myself.'
"These are samples of the questions and answers which
made up our strange half-spoken, half-written
conversation. Again and again I had to ask him
whether he would give in and sign the documents.
Again and again I had the same indignant reply. But
soon a happy thought came to me. I took to adding on
little sentences of my own to each question, innocent
ones at first, to test whether either of our
companions knew anything of the matter, and then, as I
found that they showed no signs I played a more
dangerous game. Our conversation ran something like
"'You can do no good by this obstinacy. Who are you?'
"'I care not. I am a stranger in London.'
"'Your fate will be upon your own head. How long have
you been here?'
"'Let it be so. Three weeks.'
"'The property can never be yours. What ails you?'
"'It shall not go to villains. They are starving me.'
"'You shall go free if you sign. What house is this?'
"'I will never sign. I do not know.'
"'You are not doing her any service. What is your
"'Let me hear her say so. Kratides.'
"'You shall see her if you sign. Where are you from?'
"'Then I shall never see her. Athens.'
"Another five minutes, Mr. Holmes, and I should have
wormed out the whole story under their very noses. My
very next question might have cleared the matter up,
but at that instant the door opened and a woman
stepped into the room. I could not see her clearly
enough to know more than that she was tall and
graceful, with black hair, and clad in some sort of
loose white gown.
"'Harold,' said she, speaking English with a broken
accent. 'I could not stay away longer. It is so
lonely up there with only--Oh, my God, it is Paul!'
"These last words were in Greek, and at the same
instant the man with a convulsive effort tore the
plaster from his lips, and screaming out 'Sophy!
Sophy!' rushed into the woman's arms. Their embrace
was but for an instant, however, for the younger man
seized the woman and pushed her out of the room, while
the elder easily overpowered his emaciated victim, and
dragged him away through the other door. For a moment
I was left alone in the room, and I sprang to my feet
with some vague idea that I might in some way get a
clue to what this house was in which I found myself.
Fortunately, however, I took no steps, for looking up
I saw that the older man was standing in the door-way
with his eyes fixed upon me.
"'That will do, Mr. Melas,' said he. 'You perceive
that we have taken you into our confidence over some
very private business. We should not have troubled
you, only that our friend who speaks Greek and who
began these negotiations has been forced to return to
the East. It was quite necessary for us to find some
one to take his place, and we were fortunate in
hearing of your powers.'
"'There are five sovereigns here,' said he, walking up
to me, 'which will, I hope, be a sufficient fee. But
remember,' he added, tapping me lightly on the chest
and giggling, 'if you speak to a human soul about
this--one human soul, mind--well, may God have mercy
upon your soul!"
"I cannot tell you the loathing and horror with which
this insignificant-looking man inspired me. I could
see him better now as the lamp-light shone upon him.
His features were peaky and sallow, and his little
pointed beard was thready and ill-nourished. He
pushed his face forward as he spoke and his lips and
eyelids were continually twitching like a man with St.
Vitus's dance. I could not help thinking that his
strange, catchy little laugh was also a symptom of
some nervous malady. The terror of his face lay in
his eyes, however, steel gray, and glistening coldly
with a malignant, inexorable cruelty in their depths.
"'We shall know if you speak of this,' said he. 'We
have our own means of information. Now you will find
the carriage waiting, and my friend will see you on
"I was hurried through the hall and into the vehicle,
again obtaining that momentary glimpse of trees and a
garden. Mr. Latimer followed closely at my heels, and
took his place opposite to me without a word. In
silence we again drove for an interminable distance
with the windows raised, until at last, just after
midnight, the carriage pulled up.
"'You will get down here, Mr. Melas,' said my
companion. 'I am sorry to leave you so far from your
house, but there is no alternative. Any attempt upon
your part to follow the carriage can only end in
injury to yourself.'
"He opened the door as he spoke, and I had hardly time
to spring out when the coachman lashed the horse and
the carriage rattled away. I looked around me in
astonishment. I was on some sort of a heathy common
mottled over with dark clumps of furze-bushes. Far
away stretched a line of houses, with a light here and
there in the upper windows. On the other side I saw
the red signal-lamps of a railway.
"The carriage which had brought me was already out of
sight. I stood gazing round and wondering where on
earth I might be, when I saw some one coming towards
me in the darkness. As he came up to me I made out
that he was a railway porter.
"'Can you tell me what place this is?' I asked.
"'Wandsworth Common,' said he.
"'Can I get a train into town?'
"'If you walk on a mile or so to Clapham Junction,'
said he, 'you'll just be in time for the last to
"So that was the end of my adventure, Mr. Holmes. I
do not know where I was, nor whom I spoke with, nor
anything save what I have told you. But I know that
there is foul play going on, and I want to help that
unhappy man if I can. I told the whole story to Mr.
Mycroft Holmes next morning, and subsequently to the
We all sat in silence for some little time after
listening to this extraordinary narrative. Then
Sherlock looked across at his brother.
"Any steps?" he asked.
Mycroft picked up the Daily News, which was lying on
"'Anybody supplying any information to the whereabouts
of a Greek gentleman named Paul Kratides, from Athens,
who is unable to speak English, will be rewarded. A
similar reward paid to any one giving information
about a Greek lady whose first name is Sophy. X
2473.' That was in all the dailies. No answer."
"How about the Greek Legation?"
"I have inquired. They know nothing."
"A wire to the head of the Athens police, then?"
"Sherlock has all the energy of the family," said
Mycroft, turning to me. "Well, you take the case up
by all means, and let me know if you do any good."
"Certainly," answered my friend, rising from his
chair. "I'll let you know, and Mr. Melas also. In
the meantime, Mr. Melas, I should certainly be on my
guard, if I were you, for of course they must know
through these advertisements that you have betrayed
As we walked home together, Holmes stopped at a
telegraph office and sent off several wires.
"You see, Watson," he remarked, "our evening has been
by no means wasted. Some of my most interesting cases
have come to me in this way through Mycroft. The
problem which we have just listened to, although it
can admit of but one explanation, has still some
"You have hopes of solving it?"
"Well, knowing as much as we do, it will be singular
indeed if we fail to discover the rest. You must
yourself have formed some theory which will explain
the facts to which we have listened."
"In a vague way, yes."
"What was your idea, then?"
"It seemed to me to be obvious that this Greek girl
had been carried off by the young Englishman named
"Carried off from where?"
Sherlock Holmes shook his head. "This young man could
not talk a word of Greek. The lady could talk English
fairly well. Inference--that she had been in England
some little time, but he had not been in Greece."
"Well, then, we will presume that she had come on a
visit to England, and that this Harold had persuaded
her to fly with him."
"That is more probable."
"Then the brother--for that, I fancy, must be the
relationship--comes over from Greece to interfere. He
imprudently puts himself into the power of the young
man and his older associate. They seize him and use
violence towards him in order to make him sign some
papers to make over the girl's fortune--of which he
may be trustee--to them. This he refuses to do. In
order to negotiate with him they have to get an
interpreter , and they pitch upon this Mr. Melas,
having used some other one before. The girl is not
told of the arrival of her brother, and finds it out
by the merest accident."
"Excellent, Watson!" cried Holmes. "I really fancy
that you are not far from the truth. You see that we
hold all the cards, and we have only to fear some
sudden act of violence on their part. If they give us
time we must have them."
"But how can we find where this house lies?"
"Well, if our conjecture is correct and the girl's
name is or was Sophy Kratides, we should have no
difficulty in tracing her. That must be our main
hope, for the brother is, of course, a complete
stranger. It is clear that some time has elapsed
since this Harold established these relations with the
girl--some weeks, at any rate--since the brother in
Greece has had time to hear of it and come across. If
they have been living in the same place during this
time, it is probable that we shall have some answer to
We had reached our house in Baker Street while we had
been talking. Holmes ascended the stair first, and as
he opened the door of our room he gave a start of
surprise. Looking over his shoulder, I was equally
astonished. His brother Mycroft was sitting smoking
in the arm-chair.
"Come in, Sherlock! Come in, sir," said he blandly,
smiling at our surprised faces. "You don't expect
such energy from me, do you, Sherlock? But somehow
this case attracts me."
"How did you get here?"
"I passed you in a hansom."
"There has been some new development?"
"I had an answer to my advertisement."
"Yes, it came within a few minutes of your leaving."
"And to what effect?"
Mycroft Holmes took out a sheet of paper.
"Here it is," said he, "written with a J pen on royal
cream paper by a middle-aged man with a weak
constitution. 'Sir,' he says, 'in answer to your
advertisement of to-day's date, I beg to inform you
that I know the young lady in question very well. If
you should care to call upon me I could give you some
particulars as to her painful history. She is living
at present at The Myrtles, Beckenham. Yours
faithfully, J. Davenport.'
"He writes from Lower Brixton," said Mycroft Holmes.
"Do you not think that we might drive to him now,
Sherlock, and learn these particulars?"
"My dear Mycroft, the brother's life is more valuable
than the sister's story. I think we should call at
Scotland Yard for Inspector Gregson, and go straight
out to Beckenham. We know that a man is being done to
death, and every hour may be vital."
"Better pick up Mr. Melas on our way," I suggested.
"We may need an interpreter."
"Excellent," said Sherlock Holmes. "Send the boy for
a four-wheeler, and we shall be off at once." He
opened the table-drawer as he spoke, and I noticed
that he slipped his revolver into his pocket. "Yes,"
said he, in answer to my glance; "I should say from
what we have heard, that we are dealing with a
particularly dangerous gang."
It was almost dark before we found ourselves in Pall
Mall, at the rooms of Mr. Melas. A gentleman had just
called for him, and he was gone.
"Can you tell me where?" asked Mycroft Holmes.
"I don't know, sir," answered the woman who had opened
the door; "I only know that he drove away with the
gentleman in a carriage."
"Did the gentleman give a name?"
"He wasn't a tall, handsome, dark young man?"
"Oh, no, sir. He was a little gentleman, with
glasses, thin in the face, but very pleasant in his
ways, for he was laughing al the time that he was
"Come along!" cried Sherlock Holmes, abruptly. "This
grows serious," he observed, as we drove to Scotland
Yard. "These men have got hold of Melas again. He is
a man of no physical courage, as they are well aware
from their experience the other night. This villain
was able to terrorize him the instant that he got into
his presence. No doubt they want his professional
services, but, having used him, they may be inclined
to punish him for what they will regard as his
Our hope was that, by taking train, we might get to
Beckenham as soon or sooner than the carriage. On
reaching Scotland Yard, however, it was more than an
hour before we could get Inspector Gregson and comply
with the legal formalities which would enable us to
enter the house. It was a quarter to ten before we
reached London Bridge, and half past before the four
of us alighted on the Beckenham platform. A drive of
half a mile brought us to The Myrtles--a large, dark
house standing back from the road in its own grounds.
Here we dismissed our cab, and made our way up the
"The windows are all dark," remarked the inspector.
"The house seems deserted."
"Our birds are flown and the nest empty," said Holmes.
"Why do you say so?"
"A carriage heavily loaded with luggage has passed out
during the last hour."
The inspector laughed. "I saw the wheel-tracks in the
light of the gate-lamp, but where does the luggage
"You may have observed the same wheel-tracks going the
other way. But the outward-bound ones were very much
deeper--so much so that we can say for a certainty
that there was a very considerable weight on the
"You get a trifle beyond me there," said the
inspector, shrugging his shoulder. "It will not be an
easy door to force, but we will try if we cannot make
some one hear us."
He hammered loudly at the knocker and pulled at the
bell, but without any success. Holmes had slipped
away, but he came back in a few minutes.
"I have a window open," said he.
"It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force,
and not against it, Mr. Holmes," remarked the
inspector, as he noted the clever way in which my
friend had forced back the catch. "Well, I think that
under the circumstances we may enter without an
One after the other we made our way into a large
apartment, which was evidently that in which Mr. Melas
had found himself. The inspector had lit his lantern,
and by its light we could see the two doors, the
curtain, the lamp, and the suit of Japanese mail as he
had described them. On the table lay two glasses, and
empty brandy-bottle, and the remains of a meal.
"What is that?" asked Holmes, suddenly.
We all stood still and listened. A low moaning sound
was coming from somewhere over our heads. Holmes
rushed to the door and out into the hall. The dismal
noise came from upstairs. He dashed up, the inspector
and I at his heels, while his brother Mycroft followed
as quickly as his great bulk would permit.
Three doors faced up upon the second floor, and it was
from the central of these that the sinister sounds
were issuing, sinking sometimes into a dull mumble and
rising again into a shrill whine. It was locked, but
the key had been left on the outside. Holmes flung
open the door and rushed in, but he was out again in
an instant, with his hand to his throat."
"It's charcoal," he cried. "Give it time. It will
Peering in, we could see that the only light in the
room came from a dull blue flame which flickered from
a small brass tripod in the centre. It threw a livid,
unnatural circle upon the floor, while in the shadows
beyond we saw the vague loom of two figures which
crouched against the wall. From the open door there
reeked a horrible poisonous exhalation which set us
gasping and coughing. Holmes rushed to the top of the
stairs to draw in the fresh air, and then, dashing
into the room, he threw up the window and hurled the
brazen tripod out into the garden.
"We can enter in a minute," he gasped, darting out
again. "Where is a candle? I doubt if we could
strike a match in that atmosphere. Hold the light at
the door and we shall get them out, Mycroft, now!"
With a rush we got to the poisoned men and dragged
them out into the well-lit hall. Both of them were
blue-lipped and insensible, with swollen, congested
faces and protruding eyes. Indeed, so distorted were
their features that, save for his black beard and
stout figure, we might have failed to recognize in one
of them the Greek interpreter who had parted from us
only a few hours before at the Diogenes Club. His
hands and feet were securely strapped together, and he
bore over one eye the marks of a violent blow. The
other, who was secured in a similar fashion, was a
tall man in the last stage of emaciation, with several
strips of sticking-plaster arranged in a grotesque
pattern over his face. He had ceased to moan as we
laid him down, and a glance showed me that for him at
least our aid had come too late. Mr. Melas, however,
still lived, and in less than an hour, with the aid of
ammonia and brandy I had the satisfaction of seeing
him open his eyes, and of knowing that my hand had
drawn him back from that dark valley in which all
It was a simple story which he had to tell, and one
which did but confirm our own deductions. His
visitor, on entering his rooms, had drawn a
life-preserver from his sleeve, and had so impressed
him with the fear of instant and inevitable death that
he had kidnapped him for the second time. Indeed, it
was almost mesmeric, the effect which this giggling
ruffian had produced upon the unfortunate linguist,
for he could not speak of him save with trembling
hands and a blanched cheek. He had been taken swiftly
to Beckenham, and had acted as interpreter in a second
interview, even more dramatic than the first, in which
the two Englishmen had menaced their prisoner with
instant death if he did not comply with their demands.
Finally, finding him proof against every threat, they
had hurled him back into his prison, and after
reproaching Melas with his treachery, which appeared
from the newspaper advertisement, they had stunned him
with a blow from a stick, and he remembered nothing
more until he found us bending over him.
And this was the singular case of the Grecian
Interpreter, the explanation of which is still
involved in some mystery. We were able to find out,
by communicating with the gentleman who had answered
the advertisement, that the unfortunate young lady
came of a wealthy Grecian family, and that she had
been on a visit to some friends in England. While
there she had met a young man named Harold Latimer,
who had acquired an ascendancy over he and had
eventually persuaded her to fly with him. Her
friends, shocked at the event, had contented
themselves with informing her brother at Athens, and
had then washed their hands of the matter. The
brother, on his arrival in England, had imprudently
placed himself in the power of Latimer and of his
associate, whose name was Wilson Kemp--that through
his ignorance of the language he was helpless in their
hands, had kept him a prisoner, and had endeavored by
cruelty and starvation to make him sign away his own
and his sister's property. They had kept him in the
house without the girl's knowledge, and the plaster
over the face had been for the purpose of making
recognition difficult in case she should ever catch a
glimpse of him. Her feminine perception, however, had
instantly seen through the disguise when, on the
occasion of the interpreter's visit, she had seen him
for the first time. The poor girl, however, was
herself a prisoner, for there was no one about the
house except the man who acted as coachman, and his
wife, both of whom were tools of the conspirators.
Finding that their secret was out, and that their
prisoner was not to be coerced, the two villains with
the girl had fled away at a few hours' notice from the
furnished house which they had hired, having first, as
they thought, taken vengeance both upon the man who
had defied and the one who had betrayed them.
Months afterwards a curious newspaper cutting reached
us from Buda-Pesth. It told how two Englishmen who
had been traveling with a woman had met with a tragic
end. They had each been stabbed, it seems, and the
Hungarian police were of opinion that they had
quarreled and had inflicted mortal injuries upon each
other. Holmes, however, is, I fancy, of a different
way of thinking, and holds to this day that, if one
could find the Grecian girl, one might learn how the
wrongs of herself and her brother came to be avenged.
The Naval Treaty
The July which immediately succeeded my marriage was
made memorable by three cases of interest, in which I
had the privilege of being associated with Sherlock
Holmes and of studying his methods. I find them
recorded in my notes under the headings of "The
Adventure of the Second Stain," "The Adventure of the
Naval Treaty," and "The Adventure of the Tired
Captain." The first of these, however, deals with
interest of such importance and implicates so many of
the first families in the kingdom that for many years
it will be impossible to make it public. No case,
however, in which Holmes was engaged has ever
illustrated the value of his analytical methods so
clearly or has impressed those who were associated
with him so deeply. I still retain an almost verbatim
report of the interview in which he demonstrated the
true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the
Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known
specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their
energies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new
century will have come, however, before the story can
be safely told. Meanwhile I pass on to the second on
my list, which promised also at one time to be of
national importance, and was marked by several
incidents which give it a quite unique character.
During my school-days I had been intimately associated
with a lad named Percy Phelps, who was of much the
same age as myself, though he was two classes ahead of
me. He was a very brilliant boy, and carried away
every prize which the school had to offer, finished
his exploits by winning a scholarship which sent him
on to continue his triumphant career at Cambridge. He
was, I remember, extremely well connected, and even
when we were all little boys together we knew that his
mother's brother was Lord Holdhurst, the great
conservative politician. This gaudy relationship did
him little good at school. On the contrary, it seemed
rather a piquant thing to us to chevy him about the
playground and hit him over the shins with a wicket.
But it was another thing when he came out into the
world. I heard vaguely that his abilities and the
influences which he commanded had won him a good
position at the Foreign Office, and then he passed
completely out of my mind until the following letter
recalled his existence:
My dear Watson,--I have no doubt that you can remember
"Tadpole" Phelps, who was in the fifth form when you
were in the third. It is possible even that you may
have heard that through my uncle's influence I
obtained a good appointment at the Foreign Office, and
that I was in a situation of trust and honor until a
horrible misfortune came suddenly to blast my career.
There is no use writing of the details of that
dreadful event. In the event of your acceding to my
request it is probably that I shall have to narrate
them to you. I have only just recovered from nine
weeks of brain-fever, and am still exceedingly weak.
Do you think that you could bring your friend Mr.
Holmes down to see me? I should like to have his
opinion of the case, though the authorities assure me
that nothing more can be done. Do try to bring him
down, and as soon as possible. Every minute seems an
hour while I live in this state of horrible suspense.
Assure him that if I have not asked his advice sooner
it was not because I did not appreciate his talents,
but because I have been off my head ever since the
blow fell. Now I am clear again, though I dare not
think of it too much for fear of a relapse. I am still
so weak that I have to write, as you see, by dictating.
Do try to bring him.
Your old school-fellow,
There was something that touched me as I read this
letter, something pitiable in the reiterated appeals
to bring Holmes. So moved was I that even had it been
a difficult matter I should have tried it, but of
course I knew well that Holmes loved his art, so that
he was ever as ready to bring his aid as his client
could be to receive it. My wife agreed with me that
not a moment should be lost in laying the matter
before him, and so within an hour of breakfast-time I
found myself back once more in the old rooms in Baker
Holmes was seated at his side-table clad in his
dressing-gown, and working hard over a chemical
investigation. A large curved retort was boiling
furiously in the bluish flame of a Bunsen burner, and
the distilled drops were condensing into a two-litre
measure. My friend hardly glanced up as I entered,
and I, seeing that his investigation must be of
importance, seated myself in an arm-chair and waited.
He dipped into this bottle or that, drawing out a few
drops of each with his glass pipette, and finally
brought a test-tube containing a solution over to the
table. In his right hand he held a slip of
"You come at a crisis, Watson," said he. "If this
paper remains blue, all is well. If it turns red, it
means a man's life." He dipped it into the test-tube
and it flushed at once into a dull, dirty crimson.
"Hum! I thought as much!" he cried. "I will be at
your service in an instant, Watson. You will find
tobacco in the Persian slipper." He turned to his
desk and scribbled off several telegrams, which were
handed over to the page-boy. Then he threw himself
down into the chair opposite, and drew up his knees
until his fingers clasped round his long, thin shins.
"A very commonplace little murder," said he. "You've
got something better, I fancy. You are the stormy
petrel of crime, Watson. What is it?"
I handed him the letter, which he read with the most
"It does not tell us very much, does it?" he remarked,
as he handed it back to me.
"And yet the writing is of interest."
"But the writing is not his own."
"Precisely. It is a woman's."
"A man's surely," I cried.
"No, a woman's, and a woman of rare character. You
see, at the commencement of an investigation it is
something to know that your client is in close contact
with some one who, for good or evil, has an
exceptional nature. My interest is already awakened
in the case. If you are ready we will start at once
for Woking, and see this diplomatist who is in such
evil case, and the lady to whom he dictates his
We were fortunate enough to catch an early train at
Waterloo, and in a little under an hour we found
ourselves among the fir-woods and the heather of
Woking. Briarbrae proved to be a large detached house
standing in extensive grounds within a few minutes'
walk of the station. On sending in our cards we were
shown into an elegantly appointed drawing-room, where
we were joined in a few minutes by a rather stout man
who received us with much hospitality. His age may
have been nearer forty than thirty, but his cheeks
were so ruddy and his eyes so merry that he still
conveyed the impression of a plump and mischievous
"I am so glad that you have come," said he, shaking
our hands with effusion. "Percy has been inquiring
for you all morning. Ah, poor old chap, he clings to
any straw! His father and his mother asked me to see
you, for the mere mention of the subject is very
painful to them."
"We have had no details yet," observed Holmes. "I
perceive that you are not yourself a member of the
Our acquaintance looked surprised, and then, glancing
down, he began to laugh.
"Of course you saw the J H monogram on my locket,"
said he. "For a moment I thought you had done
something clever. Joseph Harrison is my name, and as
Percy is to marry my sister Annie I shall at least be
a relation by marriage. You will find my sister in
his room, for she has nursed him hand-and-foot this
two months back. Perhaps we'd better go in at once,
for I know how impatient he is."
The chamber in which we were shown was on the same
floor as the drawing-room. It was furnished partly as
a sitting and partly as a bedroom, with flowers
arranged daintily in every nook and corner. A young
man, very pale and worn, was lying upon a sofa near
the open window, through which came the rich scent of
the garden and the balmy summer air. A woman was
sitting beside him, who rose as we entered.
"Shall I leave, Percy?" she asked.
He clutched her hand to detain her. "How are you,
Watson?" said he, cordially. "I should never have
known you under that moustache, and I dare say you
would not be prepared to swear to me. This I presume
is your celebrated friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
I introduced him in a few words, and we both sat down.
The stout young man had left us, but his sister still
remained with her hand in that of the invalid. She
was a striking-looking woman, a little short and thick
for symmetry, but with a beautiful olive complexion,
large, dark, Italian eyes, and a wealth of deep black
hair. Her rich tints made the white face of her
companion the more worn and haggard by the contrast.
"I won't waste your time," said he, raising himself
upon the sofa. "I'll plunge into the matter without
further preamble. I was a happy and successful man,
Mr. Holmes, and on the eve of being married, when a
sudden and dreadful misfortune wrecked all my
prospects in life.
"I was, as Watson may have told you, in the Foreign
Office, and through the influences of my uncle, Lord
Holdhurst, I rose rapidly to a responsible position.
When my uncle became foreign minister in this
administration he gave me several missions of trust,
and as I always brought them to a successful
conclusion, he came at last to have the utmost
confidence in my ability and tact.
"Nearly ten weeks ago--to be more accurate, on the 23d
of May--he called me into his private room, and, after
complimenting me on the good work which I had done, he
informed me that he had a new commission of trust for
me to execute.
"'This,' said he, taking a gray roll of paper from his
bureau, 'is the original of that secret treaty between
England and Italy of which, I regret to say, some
rumors have already got into the public press. It is
of enormous importance that nothing further should
leak out. The French or the Russian embassy would pay
an immense sum to learn the contents of these papers.
They should not leave my bureau were it not that it is
absolutely necessary to have them copied. You have a
desk in your office?"
"'Then take the treaty and lock it up there. I shall
give directions that you may remain behind when the
others go, so that you may copy it at your leisure
without fear of being overlooked. When you have
finished, relock both the original and the draft in
the desk, and hand them over to me personally
"I took the papers and--"
"Excuse me an instant," said Holmes. "Were you alone
during this conversation?"
"In a large room?"
"Thirty feet each way."
"In the centre?"
"Yes, about it."
"And speaking low?"
"My uncle's voice is always remarkably low. I hardly
spoke at all."
"Thank you," said Holmes, shutting his eyes; "pray go
"I did exactly what he indicated, and waited until the
other clerks had departed. One of them in my room,
Charles Gorot, had some arrears of work to make up, so
I left him there and went out to dine. When I
returned he was gone. I was anxious to hurry my work,
for I knew that Joseph--the Mr. Harrison whom you saw
just now--was in town, and that he would travel down
to Woking by the eleven-o'clock train, and I wanted if
possible to catch it.
"When I came to examine the treaty I saw at once that
it was of such importance that my uncle had been
guilty of no exaggeration in what he had said.
Without going into details, I may say that it defined
the position of Great Britain towards the Triple
Alliance, and fore-shadowed the policy which this
country would pursue in the event of the French fleet
gaining a complete ascendancy over that of Italy in
the Mediterranean. The questions treated in it were
purely naval. At the end were the signatures of the
high dignitaries who had signed it. I glanced my eyes
over it, and then settled down to my task of copying.
"It was a long document, written in the French
language, and containing twenty-six separate articles.
I copied as quickly as I could, but at nine o'clock I
had only done nine articles, and it seemed hopeless
for me to attempt to catch my train. I was feeling
drowsy and stupid, partly from my dinner and also from
the effects of a long day's work. A cup of coffee
would clear my brain. A commissionnaire remains all
night in a little lodge at the foot of the stairs, and
is in the habit of making coffee at his spirit-lamp
for any of the officials who may be working over time.
I rang the bell, therefore, to summon him.
"To my surprise, it was a woman who answered the
summons, a large, coarse-faced, elderly woman, in an
apron. She explained that she was the
commissionnaire's wife, who did the charing, and I
gave her the order for the coffee.
"I wrote two more articles and then, feeling more
drowsy than ever, I rose and walked up and down the
room to stretch my legs. My coffee had not yet come,
and I wondered what was the cause of the delay could
be. Opening the door, I started down the corridor to
find out. There was a straight passage, dimly
lighted, which led from the room in which I had been
working, and was the only exit from it. It ended in a
curving staircase, with the commissionnaire's lodge in
the passage at the bottom. Half way down this
staircase is a small landing, with another passage
running into it at right angles. This second one
leads by means of a second small stair to a side door,
used by servants, and also as a short cut by clerks
when coming from Charles Street. Here is a rough
chart of the place."
"Thank you. I think that I quite follow you," said
"It is of the utmost importance that you should notice
this point. I went down the stairs and into the hall,
where I found the commissionnaire fast asleep in his
box, with the kettle boiling furiously upon the
spirit-lamp. I took off the kettle and blew out the
lamp, for the water was spurting over the floor. Then
I put out my hand and was about to shake the man, who
was still sleeping soundly, when a bell over his head
rang loudly, and he woke with a start.
"'Mr. Phelps, sir!' said he, looking at me in
"'I came down to see if my coffee was ready.'
"'I was boiling the kettle when I fell asleep, sir.'
He looked at me and then up at the still quivering
bell with an ever-growing astonishment upon his face.
"'If you was here, sir, then who rang the bell?' he
"'The bell!' I cried. 'What bell is it?'
"'It's the bell of the room you were working in.'
"A cold hand seemed to close round my heart. Some
one, then, was in that room where my precious treaty
lay upon the table. I ran frantically up the stair
and along the passage. There was no one in the
corridors, Mr. Holmes. There was no one in the room.
All was exactly as I left it, save only that the
papers which had been committed to my care had been
taken from the desk on which they lay. The copy was
there, and the original was gone."
Holmes sat up in his chair and rubbed his hands. I
could see that the problem was entirely to his heart.
"Pray, what did you do then?" he murmured.
"I recognized in an instant that the thief must have
come up the stairs from the side door. Of course I
must have met him if he had come the other way."
"You were satisfied that he could not have been
concealed in the room all the time, or in the corridor
which you have just described as dimly lighted?"
"It is absolutely impossible. A rat could not conceal
himself either in the room or the corridor. There is
no cover at all."
"Thank you. Pray proceed."
"The commissionnaire, seeing by my pale face that
something was to be feared, had followed me upstairs.
Now we both rushed along the corridor and down the
steep steps which led to Charles Street. The door at
the bottom was closed, but unlocked. We flung it open
and rushed out. I can distinctly remember that as we
did so there came three chimes from a neighboring
clock. It was quarter to ten."
"That is of enormous importance," said Holmes, making
a note upon his shirt-cuff.
"The night was very dark, and a thin, warm rain was
falling. There was no one in Charles Street, but a
great traffic was going on, as usual, in Whitehall, at
the extremity. We rushed along the pavement,
bare-headed as we were, and at the far corner we found
a policeman standing.
"'A robbery has been committed,' I gasped. 'A
document of immense value has been stolen from the
Foreign Office. Has any one passed this way?'
"'I have been standing here for a quarter of an hour,
sir,' said he; 'only one person has passed during that
time--a woman, tall and elderly, with a Paisley
"'Ah, that is only my wife,' cried the
commissionnaire; 'has no one else passed?'
"'Then it must be the other way that the thief took,'
cried the fellow, tugging at my sleeve.
"'But I was not satisfied, and the attempts which he
made to draw me away increased my suspicions.
"'Which way did the woman go?' I cried.
"'I don't know, sir. I noticed her pass, but I had no
special reason for watching her. She seemed to be in
"'How long ago was it?'
"'Oh, not very many minutes.'
"'Within the last five?'
"'Well, it could not be more than five.'
"'You're only wasting your time, sir, and every minute
now is of importance,' cried the commissionnaire;
'take my word for it that my old woman has nothing to
do with it, and come down to the other end of the
street. Well, if you won't, I will.' And with that
he rushed off in the other direction.
"But I was after him in an instant and caught him by
"'Where do you live?' said I.
"'16 Ivy Lane, Brixton,' he answered. 'But don't let
yourself be drawn away upon a false scent, Mr. Phelps.
Come to the other end of the street and let us see if
we can hear of anything.'
"Nothing was to be lost by following his advice. With
the policeman we both hurried down, but only to find
the street full of traffic, many people coming and
going, but all only too eager to get to a place of
safety upon so wet a night. There was no lounger who
could tell us who had passed.
"Then we returned to the office, and searched the
stairs and the passage without result. The corridor
which led to the room was laid down with a kind of
creamy linoleum which shows an impression very easily.
We examined it very carefully, but found no outline of
"Had it been raining all evening?"
"Since about seven."
"How is it, then, that the woman who came into the
room about nine left no traces with her muddy boots?"
"I am glad you raised the point. It occurred to me at
the time. The charwomen are in the habit of taking
off their boots at the commissionnaire's office, and
putting on list slippers."
"That is very clear. There were no marks, then,
though the night was a wet one? The chain of events
is certainly one of extraordinary interest. What did
you do next?
"We examined the room also. There is no possibility
of a secret door, and the windows are quite thirty
feet from the ground. Both of them were fastened on
the inside. The carpet prevents any possibility of a
trap-door, and the ceiling is of the ordinary
whitewashed kind. I will pledge my life that whoever
stole my papers could only have come through the
"How about the fireplace?"
"They use none. There is a stove. The bell-rope
hangs from the wire just to the right of my desk.
Whoever rang it must have come right up to the desk to
do it. But why should any criminal wish to ring the
bell? It is a most insoluble mystery."
""Certainly the incident was unusual. What were your
next steps? You examined the room, I presume, to see
if the intruder had left any traces--any cigar-end or
dropped glove or hairpin or other trifle?"
"There was nothing of the sort."
"Well, we never thought of that."
"Ah, a scent of tobacco would have been worth a great
deal to us in such an investigation."
"I never smoke myself, so I think I should have
observed it if there had been any smell of tobacco.
There was absolutely no clue of any kind. The only
tangible fact was that the commissionnaire's wife-Mrs.
Tangey was the name--had hurried out of the place. He
could give no explanation save that it was about the
time when the woman always went home. The policeman
and I agreed that our best plan would be to seize the
woman before she could get rid of the papers,
presuming that she had them.
"The alarm had reached Scotland Yard by this time, and
Mr. Forbes, the detective, came round at once and took
up the case with a great deal of energy. We hired a
hansom, and in half an hour we were at the address
which had been given to us. A young woman opened the
door, who proved to be Mrs. Tangey's eldest daughter.
Her mother had not come back yet, and we were shown
into the front room to wait.
"About ten minutes later a knock came at the door, and
here we made the one serious mistake for which I blame
myself. Instead of opening the door ourselves, we
allowed the girl to do so. We heard her say, 'Mother,
there are two men in the house waiting to see you,'
and an instant afterwards we heard the patter of feet
rushing down the passage. Forbes flung open the door,
and we both ran into the back room or kitchen, but the
woman had got there before us. She stared at us with
defiant eyes, and then, suddenly recognizing me, an
expression of absolute astonishment came over her
"'Why, if it isn't Mr. Phelps, of the office!' she
"'Come, come, who did you think we were when you ran
away from us?' asked my companion.
"'I thought you were the brokers,' said she, 'we have
had some trouble with a tradesman.'
"'That's not quite good enough,' answered Forbes. 'We
have reason to believe that you have taken a paper of
importance fro the Foreign Office, and that you ran in
here to dispose of it. You must come back with us to
Scotland Yard to be searched.'
"It was in vain that she protested and resisted. A
four-wheeler was brought, and we all three drove back
in it. We had first made an examination of the
kitchen, and especially of the kitchen fire, to see
whether she might have made away with the papers
during the instant that she was alone. There were no
signs, however, of any ashes or scraps. When we
reached Scotland Yard she was handed over at once to
the female searcher. I waited in an agony of suspense
until she came back with her report. There were no
signs of the papers.
"Then for the first time the horror of my situation
came in its full force. Hitherto I had been acting,
and action had numbed thought. I had been so
confident of regaining the treaty at once that I had
not dared to think of what would be the consequence if
I failed to do so. But now there was nothing more to
be done, and I had leisure to realize my position. It
was horrible. Watson there would tell you that I was
a nervous, sensitive boy at school. It is my nature.
I thought of my uncle and of his colleagues in the
Cabinet, of the shame which I had brought upon him,
upon myself, upon every one connected with me. What
though I was the victim of an extraordinary accident?
No allowance is made for accidents where diplomatic
interests are at stake. I was ruined, shamefully,
hopelessly ruined. I don't know what I did. I fancy
I must have made a scene. I have a dim recollection
of a group of officials who crowded round me,
endeavoring to soothe me. One of them drove down with
me to Waterloo, and saw me into the Woking train. I
believe that he would have come all the way had it not
been that Dr. Ferrier, who lives near me, was going
down by that very train. The doctor most kindly took
charge of me, and it was well he did so, for I had a
fit in the station, and before we reached home I was
practically a raving maniac.
"You can imagine the state of things here when they
were roused from their beds by the doctor's ringing
and found me in this condition. Poor Annie here and
my mother were broken-hearted. Dr. Ferrier had just
heard enough from the detective at the station to be
able to give an idea of what had happened, and his
story did not mend matters. It was evident to all
that I was in for a long illness, so Joseph was
bundled out of this cheery bedroom, and it was turned
into a sick-room for me. Here I have lain, Mr.
Holmes, for over nine weeks, unconscious, and raving
with brain-fever. If it had not been for Miss
Harrison here and for the doctor's care I should not
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