The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Part 5 out of 7

gentle creaking sound came to our ears. The window was being
opened. The noise ceased, and again there was a long silence.
The fellow was making his way into the house. We saw the sudden
flash of a dark lantern inside the room. What he sought was
evidently not there, for again we saw the flash through another
blind, and then through another.

"Let us get to the open window. We will nab him as he climbs
out," Lestrade whispered.

But before we could move, the man had emerged again. As he came
out into the glimmering patch of light, we saw that he carried
something white under his arm. He looked stealthily all round
him. The silence of the deserted street reassured him. Turning
his back upon us he laid down his burden, and the next instant
there was the sound of a sharp tap, followed by a clatter and
rattle. The man was so intent upon what he was doing that he
never heard our steps as we stole across the grass plot. With
the bound of a tiger Holmes was on his back, and an instant
later Lestrade and I had him by either wrist, and the handcuffs
had been fastened. As we turned him over I saw a hideous, sallow
face, with writhing, furious features, glaring up at us, and I
knew that it was indeed the man of the photograph whom we had

But it was not our prisoner to whom Holmes was giving his
attention. Squatted on the doorstep, he was engaged in most
carefully examining that which the man had brought from the
house. It was a bust of Napoleon, like the one which we had seen
that morning, and it had been broken into similar fragments.
Carefully Holmes held each separate shard to the light, but in
no way did it differ from any other shattered piece of plaster.
He had just completed his examination when the hall lights flew
up, the door opened, and the owner of the house, a jovial,
rotund figure in shirt and trousers, presented himself.

"Mr. Josiah Brown, I suppose?" said Holmes.

"Yes, sir; and you, no doubt, are Mr. Sherlock Holmes? I had the
note which you sent by the express messenger, and I did exactly
what you told me. We locked every door on the inside and awaited
developments. Well, I'm very glad to see that you have got the
rascal. I hope, gentlemen, that you will come in and have some

However, Lestrade was anxious to get his man into safe quarters,
so within a few minutes our cab had been summoned and we were
all four upon our way to London. Not a word would our captive
say, but he glared at us from the shadow of his matted hair, and
once, when my hand seemed within his reach, he snapped at it
like a hungry wolf. We stayed long enough at the police-station
to learn that a search of his clothing revealed nothing save a
few shillings and a long sheath knife, the handle of which bore
copious traces of recent blood.

"That's all right," said Lestrade, as we parted. "Hill knows all
these gentry, and he will give a name to him. You'll find that
my theory of the Mafia will work out all right. But I'm sure I
am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Holmes, for the workmanlike
way in which you laid hands upon him. I don't quite understand
it all yet."

"I fear it is rather too late an hour for explanations," said
Holmes. "Besides, there are one or two details which are not
finished off, and it is one of those cases which are worth
working out to the very end. If you will come round once more to
my rooms at six o'clock to-morrow, I think I shall be able to
show you that even now you have not grasped the entire meaning
of this business, which presents some features which make it
absolutely original in the history of crime. If ever I permit
you to chronicle any more of my little problems, Watson, I
foresee that you will enliven your pages by an account of the
singular adventure of the Napoleonic busts."

When we met again next evening, Lestrade was furnished with much
information concerning our prisoner. His name, it appeared, was
Beppo, second name unknown. He was a well-known ne'er-do-well
among the Italian colony. He had once been a skilful sculptor
and had earned an honest living, but he had taken to evil
courses and had twice already been in jail--once for a petty
theft, and once, as we had already heard, for stabbing a
fellow-countryman. He could talk English perfectly well. His
reasons for destroying the busts were still unknown, and he
refused to answer any questions upon the subject, but the police
had discovered that these same busts might very well have been
made by his own hands, since he was engaged in this class of
work at the establishment of Gelder & Co. To all this
information, much of which we already knew, Holmes listened with
polite attention, but I, who knew him so well, could clearly see
that his thoughts were elsewhere, and I detected a mixture of
mingled uneasiness and expectation beneath that mask which he
was wont to assume. At last he started in his chair, and his
eyes brightened. There had been a ring at the bell. A minute
later we heard steps upon the stairs, and an elderly red-faced
man with grizzled side-whiskers was ushered in. In his right
hand he carried an old-fashioned carpet-bag, which he placed
upon the table.

"Is Mr. Sherlock Holmes here?"

My friend bowed and smiled. "Mr. Sandeford, of Reading, I
suppose?" said he.

"Yes, sir, I fear that I am a little late, but the trains were
awkward. You wrote to me about a bust that is in my possession."


"I have your letter here. You said, `I desire to possess a copy
of Devine's Napoleon, and am prepared to pay you ten pounds for
the one which is in your possession.' Is that right?"


"I was very much surprised at your letter, for I could not
imagine how you knew that I owned such a thing."

"Of course you must have been surprised, but the explanation is
very simple. Mr. Harding, of Harding Brothers, said that they
had sold you their last copy, and he gave me your address."

"Oh, that was it, was it? Did he tell you what I paid for it?"

"No, he did not."

"Well, I am an honest man, though not a very rich one. I only
gave fifteen shillings for the bust, and I think you ought to
know that before I take ten pounds from you.

"I am sure the scruple does you honour, Mr. Sandeford. But I
have named that price, so I intend to stick to it."

"Well, it is very handsome of you, Mr. Holmes. I brought the
bust up with me, as you asked me to do. Here it is!" He opened
his bag, and at last we saw placed upon our table a complete
specimen of that bust which we had already seen more than once
in fragments.

Holmes took a paper from his pocket and laid a ten-pound note
upon the table.

"You will kindly sign that paper, Mr. Sandeford, in the presence
of these witnesses. It is simply to say that you transfer every
possible right that you ever had in the bust to me. I am a
methodical man, you see, and you never know what turn events
might take afterwards. Thank you, Mr. Sandeford; here is your
money, and I wish you a very good evening."

When our visitor had disappeared, Sherlock Holmes's movements
were such as to rivet our attention. He began by taking a clean
white cloth from a drawer and laying it over the table. Then he
placed his newly acquired bust in the centre of the cloth.
Finally, he picked up his hunting-crop and struck Napoleon a
sharp blow on the top of the head. The figure broke into
fragments, and Holmes bent eagerly over the shattered remains.
Next instant, with a loud shout of triumph he held up one
splinter, in which a round, dark object was fixed like a plum in
a pudding.

"Gentlemen," he cried, "let me introduce you to the famous black
pearl of the Borgias."

Lestrade and I sat silent for a moment, and then, with a
spontaneous impulse, we both broke at clapping, as at the
well-wrought crisis of a play. A flush of colour sprang to
Holmes's pale cheeks, and he bowed to us like the master
dramatist who receives the homage of his audience. It was
at such moments that for an instant he ceased to be a
reasoning machine, and betrayed his human love for admiration
and applause. The same singularly proud and reserved nature
which turned away with disdain from popular notoriety was
capable of being moved to its depths by spontaneous wonder
and praise from a friend.

"Yes, gentlemen," said he, "it is the most famous pearl now
existing in the world, and it has been my good fortune, by a
connected chain of inductive reasoning, to trace it from the
Prince of Colonna's bedroom at the Dacre Hotel, where it was
lost, to the interior of this, the last of the six busts of
Napoleon which were manufactured by Gelder & Co., of Stepney.
You will remember, Lestrade, the sensation caused by the
disappearance of this valuable jewel and the vain efforts of the
London police to recover it. I was myself consulted upon the
case, but I was unable to throw any light upon it. Suspicion
fell upon the maid of the Princess, who was an Italian, and it
was proved that she had a brother in London, but we failed to
trace any connection between them. The maid's name was Lucretia
Venucci, and there is no doubt in my mind that this Pietro who
was murdered two nights ago was the brother. I have been looking
up the dates in the old files of the paper, and I find that the
disappearance of the pearl was exactly two days before the arrest
of Beppo, for some crime of violence--an event which took place in
the factory of Gelder & Co., at the very moment when these busts
were being made. Now you clearly see the sequence of events,
though you see them, of course, in the inverse order to the way
in which they presented themselves to me. Beppo had the pearl in
his possession. He may have stolen it from Pietro, he may have
been Pietro's confederate, he may have been the go-between of
Pietro and his sister. It is of no consequence to us which is
the correct solution.

"The main fact is that he HAD the pearl, and at that moment,
when it was on his person, he was pursued by the police. He made
for the factory in which he worked, and he knew that he had only a
few minutes in which to conceal this enormously valuable prize,
which would otherwise be found on him when he was searched. Six
plaster casts of Napoleon were drying in the passage. One of
them was still soft. In an instant Beppo, a skilful workman,
made a small hole in the wet plaster, dropped in the pearl, and
with a few touches covered over the aperture once more. It was
an admirable hiding-place. No one could possibly find it. But
Beppo was condemned to a year's imprisonment, and in the
meanwhile his six busts were scattered over London. He could not
tell which contained his treasure. Only by breaking them could
he see. Even shaking would tell him nothing, for as the plaster
was wet it was probable that the pearl would adhere to it--as, in
fact, it has done. Beppo did not despair, and he conducted his
search with considerable ingenuity and perseverance. Through a
cousin who works with Gelder, he found out the retail firms who
had bought the busts. He managed to find employment with Morse
Hudson, and in that way tracked down three of them. The pearl
was not there. Then, with the help of some Italian employe, he
succeeded in finding out where the other three busts had gone.
The first was at Harker's. There he was dogged by his
confederate, who held Beppo responsible for the loss of the
pearl, and he stabbed him in the scuffle which followed."

"If he was his confederate, why should he carry his photograph?"
I asked.

"As a means of tracing him, if he wished to inquire about him
from any third person. That was the obvious reason. Well, after
the murder I calculated that Beppo would probably hurry rather
than delay his movements. He would fear that the police would
read his secret, and so he hastened on before they should get
ahead of him. Of course, I could not say that he had not found
the pearl in Harker's bust. I had not even concluded for certain
that it was the pearl, but it was evident to me that he was
looking for something, since he carried the bust past the other
houses in order to break it in the garden which had a lamp
overlooking it. Since Harker's bust was one in three, the
chances were exactly as I told you--two to one against the pearl
being inside it. There remained two busts, and it was obvious
that he would go for the London one first. I warned the inmates
of the house, so as to avoid a second tragedy, and we went down,
with the happiest results. By that time, of course, I knew for
certain that it was the Borgia pearl that we were after. The
name of the murdered man linked the one event with the other.
There only remained a single bust--the Reading one--and the
pearl must be there. I bought it in your presence from the
owner--and there it lies."

We sat in silence for a moment.

"Well," said Lestrade, "I've seen you handle a good many cases,
Mr. Holmes, but I don't know that I ever knew a more workmanlike
one than that. We're not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No,
sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow,
there's not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest
constable, who wouldn't be glad to shake you by the hand."

"Thank you!" said Holmes. "Thank you!" and as he turned away, it
seemed to me that he was more nearly moved by the softer human
emotions than I had ever seen him. A moment later he was the
cold and practical thinker once more. "Put the pearl in the
safe, Watson," said he, "and get out the papers of the
Conk-Singleton forgery case. Good-bye, Lestrade. If any little
problem comes your way, I shall be happy, if I can, to give you
a hint or two as to its solution."


It was in the year '95 that a combination of events, into which
I need not enter, caused Mr. Sherlock Holmes and myself to spend
some weeks in one of our great university towns, and it was
during this time that the small but instructive adventure which
I am about to relate befell us. It will be obvious that any
details which would help the reader exactly to identify the
college or the criminal would be injudicious and offensive. So
painful a scandal may well be allowed to die out. With due
discretion the incident itself may, however, be described, since
it serves to illustrate some of those qualities for which my
friend was remarkable. I will endeavour, in my statement, to
avoid such terms as would serve to limit the events to any
particular place, or give a clue as to the people concerned.

We were residing at the time in furnished lodgings close to a
library where Sherlock Holmes was pursuing some laborious
researches in early English charters--researches which led to
results so striking that they may be the subject of one of my
future narratives. Here it was that one evening we received a
visit from an acquaintance, Mr. Hilton Soames, tutor and
lecturer at the College of St. Luke's. Mr. Soames was a tall,
spare man, of a nervous and excitable temperament. I had always
known him to be restless in his manner, but on this particular
occasion he was in such a state of uncontrollable agitation that
it was clear something very unusual had occurred.

"I trust, Mr. Holmes, that you can spare me a few hours of your
valuable time. We have had a very painful incident at St.
Luke's, and really, but for the happy chance of your being in
town, I should have been at a loss what to do."

"I am very busy just now, and I desire no distractions," my
friend answered. "I should much prefer that you called in the
aid of the police."

"No, no, my dear sir; such a course is utterly impossible. When
once the law is evoked it cannot be stayed again, and this is
just one of those cases where, for the credit of the college, it
is most essential to avoid scandal. Your discretion is as well
known as your powers, and you are the one man in the world who
can help me. I beg you, Mr. Holmes, to do what you can."

My friend's temper had not improved since he had been deprived
of the congenial surroundings of Baker Street. Without his
scrapbooks, his chemicals, and his homely untidiness, he was an
uncomfortable man. He shrugged his shoulders in ungracious
acquiescence, while our visitor in hurried words and with much
excitable gesticulation poured forth his story.

"I must explain to you, Mr. Holmes, that to-morrow is the first
day of the examination for the Fortescue Scholarship. I am one
of the examiners. My subject is Greek, and the first of the
papers consists of a large passage of Greek translation which
the candidate has not seen. This passage is printed on the
examination paper, and it would naturally be an immense
advantage if the candidate could prepare it in advance. For this
reason, great care is taken to keep the paper secret.

"To-day, about three o'clock, the proofs of this paper arrived
from the printers. The exercise consists of half a chapter of
Thucydides. I had to read it over carefully, as the text must be
absolutely correct. At four-thirty my task was not yet
completed. I had, however, promised to take tea in a friend's
rooms, so I left the proof upon my desk. I was absent rather
more than an hour.

"You are aware, Mr. Holmes, that our college doors are double--a
green baize one within and a heavy oak one without. As I
approached my outer door, I was amazed to see a key in it. For
an instant I imagined that I had left my own there, but on
feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. The only
duplicate which existed, so far as I knew, was that which
belonged to my servant, Bannister--a man who has looked after my
room for ten years, and whose honesty is absolutely above
suspicion. I found that the key was indeed his, that he had
entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that he had very
carelessly left the key in the door when he came out. His visit
to my room must have been within a very few minutes of my
leaving it. His forgetfulness about the key would have mattered
little upon any other occasion, but on this one day it has
produced the most deplorable consequences.

"The moment I looked at my table, I was aware that someone had
rummaged among my papers. The proof was in three long slips. I
had left them all together. Now, I found that one of them was
lying on the floor, one was on the side table near the window,
and the third was where I had left it."

Holmes stirred for the first time.

"The first page on the floor, the second in the window, the
third where you left it," said he.

"Exactly, Mr. Holmes. You amaze me. How could you possibly know that?"

"Pray continue your very interesting statement."

"For an instant I imagined that Bannister had taken the
unpardonable liberty of examining my papers. He denied it,
however, with the utmost earnestness, and I am convinced that he
was speaking the truth. The alternative was that someone passing
had observed the key in the door, had known that I was out, and
had entered to look at the papers. A large sum of money is at
stake, for the scholarship is a very valuable one, and an
unscrupulous man might very well run a risk in order to gain an
advantage over his fellows.

"Bannister was very much upset by the incident. He had nearly
fainted when we found that the papers had undoubtedly been
tampered with. I gave him a little brandy and left him collapsed
in a chair, while I made a most careful examination of the room.
I soon saw that the intruder had left other traces of his
presence besides the rumpled papers. On the table in the window
were several shreds from a pencil which had been sharpened. A
broken tip of lead was lying there also. Evidently the rascal
had copied the paper in a great hurry, had broken his pencil,
and had been compelled to put a fresh point to it."

"Excellent!" said Holmes, who was recovering his good-humour as
his attention became more engrossed by the case. "Fortune has
been your friend."

"This was not all. I have a new writing-table with a fine
surface of red leather. I am prepared to swear, and so is
Bannister, that it was smooth and unstained. Now I found a clean
cut in it about three inches long--not a mere scratch, but a
positive cut. Not only this, but on the table I found a small
ball of black dough or clay, with specks of something which
looks like sawdust in it. I am convinced that these marks were
left by the man who rifled the papers. There were no footmarks
and no other evidence as to his identity. I was at my wit's end,
when suddenly the happy thought occurred to me that you were in
the town, and I came straight round to put the matter into your
hands. Do help me, Mr. Holmes. You see my dilemma. Either I must
find the man or else the examination must be postponed until
fresh papers are prepared, and since this cannot be done without
explanation, there will ensue a hideous scandal, which will
throw a cloud not only on the college, but on the university.
Above all things, I desire to settle the matter quietly and

"I shall be happy to look into it and to give you such advice as
I can," said Holmes, rising and putting on his overcoat. "The
case is not entirely devoid of interest. Had anyone visited you
in your room after the papers came to you?"

"Yes, young Daulat Ras, an Indian student, who lives on the same
stair, came in to ask me some particulars about the examination."

"For which he was entered?"


"And the papers were on your table?"

"To the best of my belief, they were rolled up."

"But might be recognized as proofs?"


"No one else in your room?"


"Did anyone know that these proofs would be there?"

"No one save the printer."

"Did this man Bannister know?"

"No, certainly not. No one knew."

"Where is Bannister now?"

"He was very ill, poor fellow. I left him collapsed in the
chair. I was in such a hurry to come to you."

"You left your door open?"

"I locked up the papers first."

"Then it amounts to this, Mr. Soames: that, unless the Indian
student recognized the roll as being proofs, the man who
tampered with them came upon them accidentally without knowing
that they were there."

"So it seems to me."

Holmes gave an enigmatic smile.

"Well," said he, "let us go round. Not one of your cases,
Watson--mental, not physical. All right; come if you want to.
Now, Mr. Soames--at your disposal!"

The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low, latticed
window on to the ancient lichen-tinted court of the old college.
A Gothic arched door led to a worn stone staircase. On the
ground floor was the tutor's room. Above were three students,
one on each story. It was already twilight when we reached the
scene of our problem. Holmes halted and looked earnestly at the
window. Then he approached it, and, standing on tiptoe with his
neck craned, he looked into the room.

"He must have entered through the door. There is no opening
except the one pane," said our learned guide.

"Dear me!" said Holmes, and he smiled in a singular way as he
glanced at our companion. "Well, if there is nothing to be
learned here, we had best go inside."

The lecturer unlocked the outer door and ushered us into his
room. We stood at the entrance while Holmes made an examination
of the carpet.

"I am afraid there are no signs here," said he. "One could
hardly hope for any upon so dry a day. Your servant seems to
have quite recovered. You left him in a chair, you say. Which

"By the window there."

"I see. Near this little table. You can come in now. I have
finished with the carpet. Let us take the little table first. Of
course, what has happened is very clear. The man entered and
took the papers, sheet by sheet, from the central table. He
carried them over to the window table, because from there he
could see if you came across the courtyard, and so could effect
an escape."

"As a matter of fact, he could not," said Soames, "for I entered
by the side door."

"Ah, that's good! Well, anyhow, that was in his mind. Let me see
the three strips. No finger impressions--no! Well, he carried
over this one first, and he copied it. How long would it take
him to do that, using every possible contraction? A quarter of
an hour, not less. Then he tossed it down and seized the next.
He was in the midst of that when your return caused him to make
a very hurried retreat--VERY hurried, since he had not time to
replace the papers which would tell you that he had been there.
You were not aware of any hurrying feet on the stair as you
entered the outer door?"

"No, I can't say I was."

"Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil, and had,
as you observe, to sharpen it again. This is of interest,
Watson. The pencil was not an ordinary one. It was above the
usual size, with a soft lead, the outer colour was dark blue,
the maker's name was printed in silver lettering, and the piece
remaining is only about an inch and a half long. Look for such
a pencil, Mr. Soames, and you have got your man. When I add that
he possesses a large and very blunt knife, you have an
additional aid."

Mr. Soames was somewhat overwhelmed by this flood of
information. "I can follow the other points," said he, "but
really, in this matter of the length----"

Holmes held out a small chip with the letters NN and a space of
clear wood after them.

"You see?"

"No, I fear that even now----"

"Watson, I have always done you an injustice. There are others.
What could this NN be? It is at the end of a word. You are aware
that Johann Faber is the most common maker's name. Is it not
clear that there is just as much of the pencil left as usually
follows the Johann?" He held the small table sideways to the
electric light. "I was hoping that if the paper on which he
wrote was thin, some trace of it might come through upon this
polished surface. No, I see nothing. I don't think there is
anything more to be learned here. Now for the central table.
This small pellet is, I presume, the black, doughy mass you
spoke of. Roughly pyramidal in shape and hollowed out, I
perceive. As you say, there appear to be grains of sawdust in
it. Dear me, this is very interesting. And the cut--a positive
tear, I see. It began with a thin scratch and ended in a jagged
hole. I am much indebted to you for directing my attention to
this case, Mr. Soames. Where does that door lead to?"

"To my bedroom."

"Have you been in it since your adventure?"

"No, I came straight away for you."

"I should like to have a glance round. What a charming,
old-fashioned room! Perhaps you will kindly wait a minute, until
I have examined the floor. No, I see nothing. What about this
curtain? You hang your clothes behind it. If anyone were forced
to conceal himself in this room he must do it there, since the
bed is too low and the wardrobe too shallow. No one there, I

As Holmes drew the curtain I was aware, from some little
rigidity and alertness of his attitude, that he was prepared for
an emergency. As a matter of fact, the drawn curtain disclosed
nothing but three or four suits of clothes hanging from a line
of pegs. Holmes turned away, and stooped suddenly to the floor.

"Halloa! What's this?" said he.

It was a small pyramid of black, putty-like stuff, exactly like
the one upon the table of the study. Holmes held it out on his
open palm in the glare of the electric light.

"Your visitor seems to have left traces in your bedroom as well
as in your sitting-room, Mr. Soames."

"What could he have wanted there?"

"I think it is clear enough. You came back by an unexpected way,
and so he had no warning until you were at the very door. What
could he do? He caught up everything which would betray him, and
he rushed into your bedroom to conceal himself"

"Good gracious, Mr. Holmes, do you mean to tell me that, all the
time I was talking to Bannister in this room, we had the man
prisoner if we had only known it?"

"So I read it."

"Surely there is another alternative, Mr. Holmes. I don't know
whether you observed my bedroom window?"

"Lattice-paned, lead framework, three separate windows, one
swinging on hinge, and large enough to admit a man."

"Exactly. And it looks out on an angle of the courtyard so as to
be partly invisible. The man might have effected his entrance
there, left traces as he passed through the bedroom, and
finally, finding the door open, have escaped that way."

Holmes shook his head impatiently.

"Let us be practical," said he. "I understand you to say that
there are three students who use this stair, and are in the
habit of passing your door?"

"Yes, there are."

"And they are all in for this examination?"


"Have you any reason to suspect any one of them more than the others?"

Soames hesitated.

"It is a very delicate question," said he. "One hardly likes to
throw suspicion where there are no proofs."

"Let us hear the suspicions. I will look after the proofs."

"I will tell you, then, in a few words the character of the
three men who inhabit these rooms. The lower of the three is
Gilchrist, a fine scholar and athlete, plays in the Rugby team
and the cricket team for the college, and got his Blue for the
hurdles and the long jump. He is a fine, manly fellow. His
father was the notorious Sir Jabez Gilchrist, who ruined himself
on the turf. My scholar has been left very poor, but he is
hard-working and industrious. He will do well.

"The second floor is inhabited by Daulat Ras, the Indian. He is
a quiet, inscrutable fellow; as most of those Indians are. He is
well up in his work, though his Greek is his weak subject. He is
steady and methodical.

"The top floor belongs to Miles McLaren. He is a brilliant
fellow when he chooses to work--one of the brightest intellects
of the university; but he is wayward, dissipated, and
unprincipled. He was nearly expelled over a card scandal in his
first year. He has been idling all this term, and he must look
forward with dread to the examination."

"Then it is he whom you suspect?"

"I dare not go so far as that. But, of the three, he is perhaps
the least unlikely."

"Exactly. Now, Mr. Soames, let us have a look at your servant,

He was a little, white-faced, clean-shaven, grizzly-haired
fellow of fifty. He was still suffering from this sudden
disturbance of the quiet routine of his life. His plump face was
twitching with his nervousness, and his fingers could not keep still.

"We are investigating this unhappy business, Bannister," said
his master.

"Yes, sir."

"I understand," said Holmes, "that you left your key in the door?"

"Yes, sir."

"Was it not very extraordinary that you should do this on the
very day when there were these papers inside?"

"It was most unfortunate, sir. But I have occasionally done the
same thing at other times."

"When did you enter the room?"

"It was about half-past four. That is Mr. Soames' tea time."

"How long did you stay?"

"When I saw that he was absent, I withdrew at once."

"Did you look at these papers on the table?"

"No, sir--certainly not."

"How came you to leave the key in the door?"

"I had the tea-tray in my hand. I thought I would come back for
the key. Then I forgot."

"Has the outer door a spring lock?"

"No, sir."

"Then it was open all the time?"

"Yes, sir."

"Anyone in the room could get out?"

"Yes, sir."

"When Mr. Soames returned and called for you, you were very much

"Yes, sir. Such a thing has never happened during the many years
that I have been here. I nearly fainted, sir."

"So I understand. Where were you when you began to feel bad?"

"Where was I, sir? Why, here, near the door."

"That is singular, because you sat down in that chair over
yonder near the corner. Why did you pass these other chairs?"

"I don't know, sir, it didn't matter to me where I sat."

"I really don't think he knew much about it, Mr. Holmes. He was
looking very bad--quite ghastly."

"You stayed here when your master left?"

"Only for a minute or so. Then I locked the door and went to my room."

"Whom do you suspect?"

"Oh, I would not venture to say, sir. I don't believe there is
any gentleman in this university who is capable of profiting by
such an action. No, sir, I'll not believe it."

"Thank you, that will do," said Holmes. "Oh, one more word. You
have not mentioned to any of the three gentlemen whom you attend
that anything is amiss?"

"No, sir--not a word."

"You haven't seen any of them?"

"No, sir."

"Very good. Now, Mr. Soames, we will take a walk in the
quadrangle, if you please."

Three yellow squares of light shone above us in the gathering gloom.

"Your three birds are all in their nests," said Holmes, looking
up. "Halloa! What's that? One of them seems restless enough."

It was the Indian, whose dark silhouette appeared suddenly upon
his blind. He was pacing swiftly up and down his room.

"I should like to have a peep at each of them," said Holmes. "Is
it possible?"

"No difficulty in the world," Soames answered. "This set of
rooms is quite the oldest in the college, and it is not unusual
for visitors to go over them. Come along, and I will personally
conduct you."

"No names, please!" said Holmes, as we knocked at Gilchrist's
door. A tall, flaxen-haired, slim young fellow opened it, and
made us welcome when he understood our errand. There were some
really curious pieces of mediaeval domestic architecture within.
Holmes was so charmed with one of them that he insisted on
drawing it in his notebook, broke his pencil, had to borrow one
from our host and finally borrowed a knife to sharpen his own.
The same curious accident happened to him in the rooms of the
Indian--a silent, little, hook-nosed fellow, who eyed us
askance, and was obviously glad when Holmes's architectural
studies had come to an end. I could not see that in either case
Holmes had come upon the clue for which he was searching. Only
at the third did our visit prove abortive. The outer door would
not open to our knock, and nothing more substantial than a
torrent of bad language came from behind it. "I don't care who
you are. You can go to blazes!" roared the angry voice.
"Tomorrow's the exam, and I won't be drawn by anyone."

"A rude fellow," said our guide, flushing with anger as we
withdrew down the stair. "Of course, he did not realize that it
was I who was knocking, but none the less his conduct was very
uncourteous, and, indeed, under the circumstances rather suspicious."

Holmes's response was a curious one.

"Can you tell me his exact height?" he asked.

"Really, Mr. Holmes, I cannot undertake to say. He is taller
than the Indian, not so tall as Gilchrist. I suppose five foot
six would be about it."

"That is very important," said Holmes. "And now, Mr. Soames, I
wish you good-night."

Our guide cried aloud in his astonishment and dismay. "Good
gracious, Mr. Holmes, you are surely not going to leave me in
this abrupt fashion! You don't seem to realize the position.
To-morrow is the examination. I must take some definite action
to-night. I cannot allow the examination to be held if one of
the papers has been tampered with. The situation must be faced."

"You must leave it as it is. I shall drop round early to-morrow
morning and chat the matter over. It is possible that I may be
in a position then to indicate some course of action. Meanwhile,
you change nothing--nothing at all."

"Very good, Mr. Holmes."

"You can be perfectly easy in your mind. We shall certainly find
some way out of your difficulties. I will take the black clay
with me, also the pencil cuttings. Good-bye."

When we were out in the darkness of the quadrangle, we again
looked up at the windows. The Indian still paced his room. The
others were invisible.

"Well, Watson, what do you think of it?" Holmes asked, as we
came out into the main street. "Quite a little parlour game--
sort of three-card trick, is it not? There are your three men.
It must be one of them. You take your choice. Which is yours?"

"The foul-mouthed fellow at the top. He is the one with the
worst record. And yet that Indian was a sly fellow also. Why
should he be pacing his room all the time?"

"There is nothing in that. Many men do it when they are trying
to learn anything by heart."

"He looked at us in a queer way."

"So would you, if a flock of strangers came in on you when you
were preparing for an examination next day, and every moment was
of value. No, I see nothing in that. Pencils, too, and knives--
all was satisfactory. But that fellow DOES puzzle me."


"Why, Bannister, the servant. What's his game in the matter?"

"He impressed me as being a perfectly honest man."

"So he did me. That's the puzzling part. Why should a perfectly
honest man--Well, well, here's a large stationer's. We shall
begin our researches here."

There were only four stationers of any consequences in the town,
and at each Holmes produced his pencil chips, and bid high for
a duplicate. All were agreed that one could be ordered, but that
it was not a usual size of pencil and that it was seldom kept in
stock. My friend did not appear to be depressed by his failure,
but shrugged his shoulders in half-humorous resignation.

"No good, my dear Watson. This, the best and only final clue,
has run to nothing. But, indeed, I have little doubt that we can
build up a sufficient case without it. By Jove! my dear fellow,
it is nearly nine, and the landlady babbled of green peas at
seven-thirty. What with your eternal tobacco, Watson, and your
irregularity at meals, I expect that you will get notice to
quit, and that I shall share your downfall--not, however, before
we have solved the problem of the nervous tutor, the careless
servant, and the three enterprising students."

Holmes made no further allusion to the matter that day, though
he sat lost in thought for a long time after our belated dinner.
At eight in the morning, he came into my room just as I finished
my toilet.

"Well, Watson," said he, "it is time we went down to St. Luke's.
Can you do without breakfast?"


"Soames will be in a dreadful fidget until we are able to tell
him something positive."

"Have you anything positive to tell him?"

"I think so."

"You have formed a conclusion?"

"Yes, my dear Watson, I have solved the mystery."

"But what fresh evidence could you have got?"

"Aha! It is not for nothing that I have turned myself out of bed
at the untimely hour of six. I have put in two hours' hard work
and covered at least five miles, with something to show for it.
Look at that!"

He held out his hand. On the palm were three little pyramids of
black, doughy clay.

"Why, Holmes, you had only two yesterday."

"And one more this morning. It is a fair argument that wherever
No. 3 came from is also the source of Nos. 1 and 2. Eh, Watson?
Well, come along and put friend Soames out of his pain."

The unfortunate tutor was certainly in a state of pitiable
agitation when we found him in his chambers. In a few hours
the examination would commence, and he was still in the dilemma
between making the facts public and allowing the culprit to
compete for the valuable scholarship. He could hardly stand
still so great was his mental agitation, and he ran towards
Holmes with two eager hands outstretched.

"Thank heaven that you have come! I feared that you had given it
up in despair. What am I to do? Shall the examination proceed?"

"Yes, let it proceed, by all means."

"But this rascal?"

"He shall not compete."

"You know him?"

"I think so. If this matter is not to become public, we must
give ourselves certain powers and resolve ourselves into a small
private court-martial. You there, if you please, Soames! Watson
you here! I'll take the armchair in the middle. I think that we
are now sufficiently imposing to strike terror into a guilty
breast. Kindly ring the bell!"

Bannister entered, and shrank back in evident surprise and fear
at our judicial appearance.

"You will kindly close the door," said Holmes. "Now, Bannister,
will you please tell us the truth about yesterday's incident?"

The man turned white to the roots of his hair.

"I have told you everything, sir."

"Nothing to add?"

"Nothing at all, sir."

"Well, then, I must make some suggestions to you. When you sat
down on that chair yesterday, did you do so in order to conceal
some object which would have shown who had been in the room?"

Bannister's face was ghastly.

"No, sir, certainly not."

"It is only a suggestion," said Holmes, suavely. "I frankly
admit that I am unable to prove it. But it seems probable
enough, since the moment that Mr. Soames's back was turned, you
released the man who was hiding in that bedroom."

Bannister licked his dry lips.

"There was no man, sir."

"Ah, that's a pity, Bannister. Up to now you may have spoken the
truth, but now I know that you have lied."

The man's face set in sullen defiance.

"There was no man, sir."

"Come, come, Bannister!"

"No, sir, there was no one."

"In that case, you can give us no further information. Would you
please remain in the room? Stand over there near the bedroom
door. Now, Soames, I am going to ask you to have the great
kindness to go up to the room of young Gilchrist, and to ask him
to step down into yours."

An instant later the tutor returned, bringing with him the
student. He was a fine figure of a man, tall, lithe, and agile,
with a springy step and a pleasant, open face. His troubled blue
eyes glanced at each of us, and finally rested with an
expression of blank dismay upon Bannister in the farther corner.

"Just close the door," said Holmes. "Now, Mr. Gilchrist, we are
all quite alone here, and no one need ever know one word of what
passes between us. We can be perfectly frank with each other. We
want to know, Mr. Gilchrist, how you, an honourable man, ever
came to commit such an action as that of yesterday?"

The unfortunate young man staggered back, and cast a look full
of horror and reproach at Bannister.

"No, no, Mr. Gilchrist, sir, I never said a word--never one
word!" cried the servant.

"No, but you have now," said Holmes. "Now, sir, you must see
that after Bannister's words your position is hopeless, and that
your only chance lies in a frank confession."

For a moment Gilchrist, with upraised hand, tried to control his
writhing features. The next he had thrown himself on his knees
beside the table, and burying his face in his hands, he had
burst into a storm of passionate sobbing.

"Come, come," said Holmes, kindly, "it is human to err, and at
least no one can accuse you of being a callous criminal. Perhaps
it would be easier for you if I were to tell Mr. Soames what
occurred, and you can check me where I am wrong. Shall I do so?
Well, well, don't trouble to answer. Listen, and see that I do
you no injustice.

"From the moment, Mr. Soames, that you said to me that no one,
not even Bannister, could have told that the papers were in your
room, the case began to take a definite shape in my mind. The
printer one could, of course, dismiss. He could examine the
papers in his own office. The Indian I also thought nothing of.
If the proofs were in a roll, he could not possibly know what
they were. On the other hand, it seemed an unthinkable
coincidence that a man should dare to enter the room, and that
by chance on that very day the papers were on the table. I
dismissed that. The man who entered knew that the papers were
there. How did he know?

"When I approached your room, I examined the window. You amused
me by supposing that I was contemplating the possibility of
someone having in broad daylight, under the eyes of all these
opposite rooms, forced himself through it. Such an idea was
absurd. I was measuring how tall a man would need to be in order
to see, as he passed, what papers were on the central table. I
am six feet high, and I could do it with an effort. No one less
than that would have a chance. Already you see I had reason to
think that, if one of your three students was a man of unusual
height, he was the most worth watching of the three.

"I entered, and I took you into my confidence as to the
suggestions of the side table. Of the centre table I could make
nothing, until in your description of Gilchrist you mentioned
that he was a long-distance jumper. Then the whole thing came to
me in an instant, and I only needed certain corroborative
proofs, which I speedily obtained.

"What happened with{sic} this: This young fellow had employed his
afternoon at the athletic grounds, where he had been practising
the jump. He returned carrying his jumping-shoes, which are
provided, as you are aware, with several sharp spikes. As he
passed your window he saw, by means of his great height, these
proofs upon your table, and conjectured what they were. No
harm would have been done had it not been that, as he passed
your door, he perceived the key which had been left by the
carelessness of your servant. A sudden impulse came over him to
enter, and see if they were indeed the proofs. It was not a
dangerous exploit for he could always pretend that he had simply
looked in to ask a question.

"Well, when he saw that they were indeed the proofs, it was then
that he yielded to temptation. He put his shoes on the table.
What was it you put on that chair near the window?"

"Gloves," said the young man.

Holmes looked triumphantly at Bannister. "He put his gloves on
the chair, and he took the proofs, sheet by sheet, to copy them.
He thought the tutor must return by the main gate and that he
would see him. As we know, he came back by the side gate.
Suddenly he heard him at the very door. There was no possible
escape. He forgot his gloves but he caught up his shoes and
darted into the bedroom. You observe that the scratch on that
table is slight at one side, but deepens in the direction of the
bedroom door. That in itself is enough to show us that the shoe
had been drawn in that direction, and that the culprit had taken
refuge there. The earth round the spike had been left on the
table, and a second sample was loosened and fell in the bedroom.
I may add that I walked out to the athletic grounds this
morning, saw that tenacious black clay is used in the
jumping-pit and carried away a specimen of it, together with
some of the fine tan or sawdust which is strewn over it to
prevent the athlete from slipping. Have I told the truth, Mr.

The student had drawn himself erect.

"Yes, sir, it is true," said he.

"Good heavens! have you nothing to add?" cried Soames.

"Yes, sir, I have, but the shock of this disgraceful exposure
has bewildered me. I have a letter here, Mr. Soames, which I
wrote to you early this morning in the middle of a restless
night. It was before I knew that my sin had found me out. Here
it is, sir. You will see that I have said, `I have determined
not to go in for the examination. I have been offered a
commission in the Rhodesian Police, and I am going out to South
Africa at once.'"

"I am indeed pleased to hear that you did not intend to profit
by your unfair advantage," said Soames. "But why did you change
your purpose?"

Gilchrist pointed to Bannister.

"There is the man who set me in the right path," said he.

"Come now, Bannister," said Holmes. "It will be clear to you,
from what I have said, that only you could have let this young
man out, since you were left in the room, and must have locked
the door when you went out. As to his escaping by that window,
it was incredible. Can you not clear up the last point in this
mystery, and tell us the reasons for your action?"

"It was simple enough, sir, if you only had known, but, with all
your cleverness, it was impossible that you could know. Time
was, sir, when I was butler to old Sir Jabez Gilchrist, this
young gentleman's father. When he was ruined I came to the
college as servant, but I never forgot my old employer because
he was down in the world. I watched his son all I could for the
sake of the old days. Well, sir, when I came into this room
yesterday, when the alarm was given, the very first thing I saw
was Mr. Gilchrist's tan gloves a-lying in that chair. I knew those
gloves well, and I understood their message. If Mr. Soames saw
them, the game was up. I flopped down into that chair, and
nothing would budge me until Mr. Soames he went for you. Then out
came my poor young master, whom I had dandled on my knee, and
confessed it all to me. Wasn't it natural, sir, that I should
save him, and wasn't it natural also that I should try to speak
to him as his dead father would have done, and make him
understand that he could not profit by such a deed? Could you
blame me, sir?"

"No, indeed," said Holmes, heartily, springing to his feet.
"Well, Soames, I think we have cleared your little problem up,
and our breakfast awaits us at home. Come, Watson! As to you,
sir, I trust that a bright future awaits you in Rhodesia. For
once you have fallen low. Let us see, in the future, how high
you can rise."


When I look at the three massive manuscript volumes which
contain our work for the year 1894, I confess that it is very
difficult for me, out of such a wealth of material, to select
the cases which are most interesting in themselves, and at the
same time most conducive to a display of those peculiar powers
for which my friend was famous. As I turn over the pages, I see
my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the
terrible death of Crosby, the banker. Here also I find an
account of the Addleton tragedy, and the singular contents of
the ancient British barrow. The famous Smith-Mortimer succession
case comes also within this period, and so does the tracking and
arrest of Huret, the Boulevard assassin--an exploit which won
for Holmes an autograph letter of thanks from the French
President and the Order of the Legion of Honour. Each of these
would furnish a narrative, but on the whole I am of opinion that
none of them unites so many singular points of interest as the
episode of Yoxley Old Place, which includes not only the
lamentable death of young Willoughby Smith, but also those
subsequent developments which threw so curious a light upon the
causes of the crime.

It was a wild, tempestuous night, towards the close of November.
Holmes and I sat together in silence all the evening, he engaged
with a powerful lens deciphering the remains of the original
inscription upon a palimpsest, I deep in a recent treatise upon
surgery. Outside the wind howled down Baker Street, while the
rain beat fiercely against the windows. It was strange there, in
the very depths of the town, with ten miles of man's handiwork
on every side of us, to feel the iron grip of Nature, and to be
conscious that to the huge elemental forces all London was no
more than the molehills that dot the fields. I walked to the
window, and looked out on the deserted street. The occasional
lamps gleamed on the expanse of muddy road and shining pavement.
A single cab was splashing its way from the Oxford Street end.

"Well, Watson, it's as well we have not to turn out to-night,"
said Holmes, laying aside his lens and rolling up the
palimpsest. "I've done enough for one sitting. It is trying work
for the eyes. So far as I can make out, it is nothing more
exciting than an Abbey's accounts dating from the second half of
the fifteenth century. Halloa! halloa! halloa! What's this?"

Amid the droning of the wind there had come the stamping of a
horse's hoofs, and the long grind of a wheel as it rasped against
the curb. The cab which I had seen had pulled up at our door.

"What can he want?" I ejaculated, as a man stepped out of it.

"Want? He wants us. And we, my poor Watson, want overcoats and
cravats and goloshes, and every aid that man ever invented to
fight the weather. Wait a bit, though! There's the cab off
again! There's hope yet. He'd have kept it if he had wanted us
to come. Run down, my dear fellow, and open the door, for all
virtuous folk have been long in bed."

When the light of the hall lamp fell upon our midnight visitor,
I had no difficulty in recognizing him. It was young Stanley
Hopkins, a promising detective, in whose career Holmes had
several times shown a very practical interest.

"Is he in?" he asked, eagerly.

"Come up, my dear sir," said Holmes's voice from above. "I hope
you have no designs upon us such a night as this."

The detective mounted the stairs, and our lamp gleamed upon his
shining waterproof. I helped him out of it, while Holmes knocked
a blaze out of the logs in the grate.

"Now, my dear Hopkins, draw up and warm your toes," said he.
"Here's a cigar, and the doctor has a prescription containing
hot water and a lemon, which is good medicine on a night like
this. It must be something important which has brought you out
in such a gale."

"It is indeed, Mr. Holmes. I've had a bustling afternoon, I
promise you. Did you see anything of the Yoxley case in the
latest editions?"

"I've seen nothing later than the fifteenth century to-day."

"Well, it was only a paragraph, and all wrong at that, so you
have not missed anything. I haven't let the grass grow under my
feet. It's down in Kent, seven miles from Chatham and three from
the railway line. I was wired for at 3:15, reached Yoxley Old
Place at 5, conducted my investigation, was back at Charing
Cross by the last train, and straight to you by cab."

"Which means, I suppose, that you are not quite clear about your case?"

"It means that I can make neither head nor tail of it. So far as
I can see, it is just as tangled a business as ever I handled,
and yet at first it seemed so simple that one couldn't go wrong.
There's no motive, Mr. Holmes. That's what bothers me--I can't
put my hand on a motive. Here's a man dead--there's no denying
that--but, so far as I can see, no reason on earth why anyone
should wish him harm."

Holmes lit his cigar and leaned back in his chair.

"Let us hear about it," said he.

"I've got my facts pretty clear," said Stanley Hopkins. "All I
want now is to know what they all mean. The story, so far as I
can make it out, is like this. Some years ago this country
house, Yoxley Old Place, was taken by an elderly man, who gave
the name of Professor Coram. He was an invalid, keeping his bed
half the time, and the other half hobbling round the house with
a stick or being pushed about the grounds by the gardener in a
Bath chair. He was well liked by the few neighbours who called
upon him, and he has the reputation down there of being a very
learned man. His household used to consist of an elderly
housekeeper, Mrs. Marker, and of a maid, Susan Tarlton. These
have both been with him since his arrival, and they seem to be
women of excellent character. The professor is writing a learned
book, and he found it necessary, about a year ago, to engage a
secretary. The first two that he tried were not successes, but
the third, Mr. Willoughby Smith, a very young man straight from
the university, seems to have been just what his employer
wanted. His work consisted in writing all the morning to the
professor's dictation, and he usually spent the evening in
hunting up references and passages which bore upon the next
day's work. This Willoughby Smith has nothing against him,
either as a boy at Uppingham or as a young man at Cambridge. I
have seen his testimonials, and from the first he was a decent,
quiet, hard-working fellow, with no weak spot in him at all.
And yet this is the lad who has met his death this morning in
the professor's study under circumstances which can point only
to murder."

The wind howled and screamed at the windows. Holmes and I drew
closer to the fire, while the young inspector slowly and point
by point developed his singular narrative.

"If you were to search all England," said he, "I don't suppose
you could find a household more self-contained or freer from
outside influences. Whole weeks would pass, and not one of them
go past the garden gate. The professor was buried in his work
and existed for nothing else. Young Smith knew nobody in the
neighbourhood, and lived very much as his employer did. The two
women had nothing to take them from the house. Mortimer, the
gardener, who wheels the Bath chair, is an army pensioner--an
old Crimean man of excellent character. He does not live in the
house, but in a three-roomed cottage at the other end of the
garden. Those are the only people that you would find within the
grounds of Yoxley Old Place. At the same time, the gate of the
garden is a hundred yards from the main London to Chatham road.
It opens with a latch, and there is nothing to prevent anyone
from walking in.

"Now I will give you the evidence of Susan Tarlton, who is the
only person who can say anything positive about the matter. It
was in the forenoon, between eleven and twelve. She was engaged
at the moment in hanging some curtains in the upstairs front
bedroom. Professor Coram was still in bed, for when the weather
is bad he seldom rises before midday. The housekeeper was busied
with some work in the back of the house. Willoughby Smith had
been in his bedroom, which he uses as a sitting-room, but the
maid heard him at that moment pass along the passage and descend
to the study immediately below her. She did not see him, but she
says that she could not be mistaken in his quick, firm tread.
She did not hear the study door close, but a minute or so later
there was a dreadful cry in the room below. It was a wild,
hoarse scream, so strange and unnatural that it might have come
either from a man or a woman. At the same instant there was a
heavy thud, which shook the old house, and then all was silence.
The maid stood petrified for a moment, and then, recovering her
courage, she ran downstairs. The study door was shut and she
opened it. Inside, young Mr. Willoughby Smith was stretched upon
the floor. At first she could see no injury, but as she tried to
raise him she saw that blood was pouring from the underside of
his neck. It was pierced by a very small but very deep wound,
which had divided the carotid artery. The instrument with which
the injury had been inflicted lay upon the carpet beside him. It
was one of those small sealing-wax knives to be found on
old-fashioned writing-tables, with an ivory handle and a stiff
blade. It was part of the fittings of the professor's own desk.

"At first the maid thought that young Smith was already dead,
but on pouring some water from the carafe over his forehead he
opened his eyes for an instant. `The professor,' he
murmured--`it was she.' The maid is prepared to swear that those
were the exact words. He tried desperately to say something
else, and he held his right hand up in the air. Then he fell
back dead.

"In the meantime the housekeeper had also arrived upon the
scene, but she was just too late to catch the young man's dying
words. Leaving Susan with the body, she hurried to the
professors room. He was sitting up in bed, horribly agitated,
for he had heard enough to convince him that something terrible
had occurred. Mrs. Marker is prepared to swear that the
professor was still in his night-clothes, and indeed it was
impossible for him to dress without the help of Mortimer, whose
orders were to come at twelve o'clock. The professor declares
that he heard the distant cry, but that he knows nothing more.
He can give no explanation of the young man's last words, `The
professor--it was she,' but imagines that they were the outcome
of delirium. He believes that Willoughby Smith had not an enemy
in the world, and can give no reason for the crime. His first
action was to send Mortimer, the gardener, for the local police.
A little later the chief constable sent for me. Nothing was
moved before I got there, and strict orders were given that no
one should walk upon the paths leading to the house. It was a
splendid chance of putting your theories into practice, Mr.
Sherlock Holmes. There was really nothing wanting."

"Except Mr. Sherlock Holmes," said my companion, with a somewhat
bitter smile. "Well, let us hear about it. What sort of a job
did you make of it?"

"I must ask you first, Mr. Holmes, to glance at this rough plan,
which will give you a general idea of the position of the
professor's study and the various points of the case. It will
help you in following my investigation."

He unfolded the rough chart, which I here reproduce,


and he laid it across Holmes's knee. I rose and, standing
behind Holmes, studied it over his shoulder.

"It is very rough, of course, and it only deals with the points
which seem to me to be essential. All the rest you will see
later for yourself. Now, first of all, presuming that the
assassin entered the house, how did he or she come in?
Undoubtedly by the garden path and the back door, from which
there is direct access to the study. Any other way would have
been exceedingly complicated. The escape must have also been
made along that line, for of the two other exits from the room
one was blocked by Susan as she ran downstairs and the other
leads straight to the professor's bedroom. I therefore directed
my attention at once to the garden path, which was saturated
with recent rain, and would certainly show any footmarks.

"My examination showed me that I was dealing with a cautious and
expert criminal. No footmarks were to be found on the path.
There could be no question, however, that someone had passed
along the grass border which lines the path, and that he had
done so in order to avoid leaving a track. I could not find
anything in the nature of a distinct impression, but the grass
was trodden down, and someone had undoubtedly passed. It could
only have been the murderer, since neither the gardener nor
anyone else had been there that morning, and the rain had only
begun during the night."

"One moment," said Holmes. "Where does this path lead to?"

"To the road."

"How long is it?"

"A hundred yards or so."

"At the point where the path passes through the gate, you could
surely pick up the tracks?"

"Unfortunately, the path was tiled at that point."

"Well, on the road itself?"

"No, it was all trodden into mire."

"Tut-tut! Well, then, these tracks upon the grass, were they
coming or going?"

"It was impossible to say. There was never any outline."

"A large foot or a small?"

"You could not distinguish."

Holmes gave an ejaculation of impatience.

"It has been pouring rain and blowing a hurricane ever since,"
said he. "It will be harder to read now than that palimpsest.
Well, well, it can't be helped. What did you do, Hopkins, after
you had made certain that you had made certain of nothing?"

"I think I made certain of a good deal, Mr. Holmes. I knew that
someone had entered the house cautiously from without. I next
examined the corridor. It is lined with cocoanut matting and had
taken no impression of any kind. This brought me into the study
itself. It is a scantily furnished room. The main article is a
large writing-table with a fixed bureau. This bureau consists of
a double column of drawers, with a central small cupboard
between them. The drawers were open, the cupboard locked. The
drawers, it seems, were always open, and nothing of value was
kept in them. There were some papers of importance in the
cupboard, but there were no signs that this had been tampered
with, and the professor assures me that nothing was missing. It
is certain that no robbery has been committed.

"I come now to the body of the young man. It was found near the
bureau, and just to the left of it, as marked upon that chart.
The stab was on the right side of the neck and from behind
forward, so that it is almost impossible that it could have been

"Unless he fell upon the knife," said Holmes.

"Exactly. The idea crossed my mind. But we found the knife some
feet away from the body, so that seems impossible. Then, of
course, there are the man's own dying words. And, finally, there
was this very important piece of evidence which was found
clasped in the dead man's right hand."

From his pocket Stanley Hopkins drew a small paper packet. He
unfolded it and disclosed a golden pince-nez, with two broken
ends of black silk cord dangling from the end of it. "Willoughby
Smith had excellent sight," he added. "There can be no question
that this was snatched from the face or the person of the assassin."

Sherlock Holmes took the glasses into his hand, and examined
them with the utmost attention and interest. He held them on his
nose, endeavoured to read through them, went to the window and
stared up the street with them, looked at them most minutely in
the full light of the lamp, and finally, with a chuckle, seated
himself at the table and wrote a few lines upon a sheet of
paper, which he tossed across to Stanley Hopkins.

"That's the best I can do for you," said he. "It may prove to be
of some use."

The astonished detective read the note aloud. It ran as follows:

"Wanted, a woman of good address, attired like a lady. She has
a remarkably thick nose, with eyes which are set close upon
either side of it. She has a puckered forehead, a peering
expression, and probably rounded shoulders. There are
indications that she has had recourse to an optician at least
twice during the last few months. As her glasses are of
remarkable strength, and as opticians are not very numerous,
there should be no difficulty in tracing her."

Holmes smiled at the astonishment of Hopkins, which must have
been reflected upon my features. "Surely my deductions are
simplicity itself," said he. "It would be difficult to name any
articles which afford a finer field for inference than a pair of
glasses, especially so remarkable a pair as these. That they
belong to a woman I infer from their delicacy, and also, of
course, from the last words of the dying man. As to her being a
person of refinement and well dressed, they are, as you
perceive, handsomely mounted in solid gold, and it is
inconceivable that anyone who wore such glasses could be
slatternly in other respects. You will find that the clips are
too wide for your nose, showing that the lady's nose was very
broad at the base. This sort of nose is usually a short and
coarse one, but there is a sufficient number of exceptions to
prevent me from being dogmatic or from insisting upon this point
in my description. My own face is a narrow one, and yet I find
that I cannot get my eyes into the centre, nor near the centre,
of these glasses. Therefore, the lady's eyes are set very near
to the sides of the nose. You will perceive, Watson, that the
glasses are concave and of unusual strength. A lady whose vision
has been so extremely contracted all her life is sure to have
the physical characteristics of such vision, which are seen in
the forehead, the eyelids, and the shoulders."

"Yes," I said, "I can follow each of your arguments. I confess,
however, that I am unable to understand how you arrive at the
double visit to the optician."

Holmes took the glasses in his hand.

"You will perceive," he said, "that the clips are lined with
tiny bands of cork to soften the pressure upon the nose. One of
these is discoloured and worn to some slight extent, but the
other is new. Evidently one has fallen off and been replaced. I
should judge that the older of them has not been there more than
a few months. They exactly correspond, so I gather that the lady
went back to the same establishment for the second."

"By George, it's marvellous!" cried Hopkins, in an ecstasy of
admiration. "To think that I had all that evidence in my hand
and never knew it! I had intended, however, to go the round of
the London opticians."

"Of course you would. Meanwhile, have you anything more to tell
us about the case?"

"Nothing, Mr. Holmes. I think that you know as much as I do
now--probably more. We have had inquiries made as to any
stranger seen on the country roads or at the railway station. We
have heard of none. What beats me is the utter want of all
object in the crime. Not a ghost of a motive can anyone suggest."

"Ah! there I am not in a position to help you. But I suppose you
want us to come out to-morrow?"

"If it is not asking too much, Mr. Holmes. There's a train from
Charing Cross to Chatham at six in the morning, and we should be
at Yoxley Old Place between eight and nine."

"Then we shall take it. Your case has certainly some features of
great interest, and I shall be delighted to look into it. Well,
it's nearly one, and we had best get a few hours' sleep. I
daresay you can manage all right on the sofa in front of the
fire. I'll light my spirit lamp, and give you a cup of coffee
before we start."

The gale had blown itself out next day, but it was a bitter
morning when we started upon our journey. We saw the cold winter
sun rise over the dreary marshes of the Thames and the long,
sullen reaches of the river, which I shall ever associate with
our pursuit of the Andaman Islander in the earlier days of our
career. After a long and weary journey, we alighted at a small
station some miles from Chatham. While a horse was being put
into a trap at the local inn, we snatched a hurried breakfast,
and so we were all ready for business when we at last arrived at
Yoxley Old Place. A constable met us at the garden gate.

"Well, Wilson, any news?"

"No, sir--nothing."

"No reports of any stranger seen?"

"No, sir. Down at the station they are certain that no stranger
either came or went yesterday."

"Have you had inquiries made at inns and lodgings?"

"Yes, sir: there is no one that we cannot account for."

"Well, it's only a reasonable walk to Chatham. Anyone might stay
there or take a train without being observed. This is the garden
path of which I spoke, Mr. Holmes. I'll pledge my word there was
no mark on it yesterday."

"On which side were the marks on the grass?"

"This side, sir. This narrow margin of grass between the path
and the flower-bed. I can't see the traces now, but they were
clear to me then."

"Yes, yes: someone has passed along," said Holmes, stooping over
the grass border. "Our lady must have picked her steps
carefully, must she not, since on the one side she would leave
a track on the path, and on the other an even clearer one on the
soft bed?"

"Yes, sir, she must have been a cool hand."

I saw an intent look pass over Holmes's face.

"You say that she must have come back this way?"

"Yes, sir, there is no other."

"On this strip of grass?"

"Certainly, Mr. Holmes."

"Hum! It was a very remarkable performance--very remarkable.
Well, I think we have exhausted the path. Let us go farther.
This garden door is usually kept open, I suppose? Then this
visitor had nothing to do but to walk in. The idea of murder was
not in her mind, or she would have provided herself with some
sort of weapon, instead of having to pick this knife off the
writing-table. She advanced along this corridor, leaving no
traces upon the cocoanut matting. Then she found herself in this
study. How long was she there? We have no means of judging."

"Not more than a few minutes, sir. I forgot to tell you that
Mrs. Marker, the housekeeper, had been in there tidying not
very long before--about a quarter of an hour, she says."

"Well, that gives us a limit. Our lady enters this room, and
what does she do? She goes over to the writing-table. What for?
Not for anything in the drawers. If there had been anything
worth her taking, it would surely have been locked up. No, it
was for something in that wooden bureau. Halloa! what is that
scratch upon the face of it? Just hold a match, Watson. Why did
you not tell me of this, Hopkins?"

The mark which he was examining began upon the brass-work on the
right-hand side of the keyhole, and extended for about four
inches, where it had scratched the varnish from the surface.

"I noticed it, Mr. Holmes, but you'll always find scratches
round a keyhole."

"This is recent, quite recent. See how the brass shines where it
is cut. An old scratch would be the same colour as the surface.
Look at it through my lens. There's the varnish, too, like earth
on each side of a furrow. Is Mrs. Marker there?"

A sad-faced, elderly woman came into the room.

"Did you dust this bureau yesterday morning?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you notice this scratch?"

"No, sir, I did not."

"I am sure you did not, for a duster would have swept away these
shreds of varnish. Who has the key of this bureau?"

"The Professor keeps it on his watch-chain."

"Is it a simple key?"

"No, sir, it is a Chubb's key."

"Very good. Mrs. Marker, you can go. Now we are making a little
progress. Our lady enters the room, advances to the bureau, and
either opens it or tries to do so. While she is thus engaged,
young Willoughby Smith enters the room. In her hurry to withdraw
the key, she makes this scratch upon the door. He seizes her,
and she, snatching up the nearest object, which happens to be
this knife, strikes at him in order to make him let go his hold.
The blow is a fatal one. He falls and she escapes, either with
or without the object for which she has come. Is Susan, the
maid, there? Could anyone have got away through that door after
the time that you heard the cry, Susan?"

"No sir, it is impossible. Before I got down the stair, I'd have
seen anyone in the passage. Besides, the door never opened, or
I would have heard it."

"That settles this exit. Then no doubt the lady went out the way
she came. I understand that this other passage leads only to the
professor's room. There is no exit that way?"

"No, sir."

"We shall go down it and make the acquaintance of the professor.
Halloa, Hopkins! this is very important, very important indeed.
The professor's corridor is also lined with cocoanut matting."

"Well, sir, what of that?"

"Don't you see any bearing upon the case? Well, well. I don't
insist upon it. No doubt I am wrong. And yet it seems to me to
be suggestive. Come with me and introduce me."

We passed down the passage, which was of the same length as that
which led to the garden. At the end was a short flight of steps
ending in a door. Our guide knocked, and then ushered us into
the professor's bedroom.

It was a very large chamber, lined with innumerable volumes,
which had overflowed from the shelves and lay in piles in the
corners, or were stacked all round at the base of the cases. The
bed was in the centre of the room, and in it, propped up with
pillows, was the owner of the house. I have seldom seen a more
remarkable-looking person. It was a gaunt, aquiline face which
was turned towards us, with piercing dark eyes, which lurked in
deep hollows under overhung and tufted brows. His hair and beard
were white, save that the latter was curiously stained with
yellow around his mouth. A cigarette glowed amid the tangle of
white hair, and the air of the room was fetid with stale tobacco
smoke. As he held out his hand to Holmes, I perceived that it
was also stained with yellow nicotine.

"A smoker, Mr. Holmes?" said he, speaking in well-chosen
English, with a curious little mincing accent. "Pray take a
cigarette. And you, sir? I can recommend them, for I have them
especially prepared by Ionides, of Alexandria. He sends me a
thousand at a time, and I grieve to say that I have to arrange
for a fresh supply every fortnight. Bad, sir, very bad, but an
old man has few pleasures. Tobacco and my work--that is all that
is left to me."

Holmes had lit a cigarette and was shooting little darting
glances all over the room.

"Tobacco and my work, but now only tobacco," the old man
exclaimed. "Alas! what a fatal interruption! Who could have
foreseen such a terrible catastrophe? So estimable a young man!
I assure you that, after a few months' training, he was an
admirable assistant. What do you think of the matter, Mr. Holmes?"

"I have not yet made up my mind."

"I shall indeed be indebted to you if you can throw a light
where all is so dark to us. To a poor bookworm and invalid like
myself such a blow is paralyzing. I seem to have lost the
faculty of thought. But you are a man of action--you are a man
of affairs. It is part of the everyday routine of your life. You
can preserve your balance in every emergency. We are fortunate,
indeed, in having you at our side."

Holmes was pacing up and down one side of the room whilst the
old professor was talking. I observed that he was smoking with
extraordinary rapidity. It was evident that he shared our host's
liking for the fresh Alexandrian cigarettes.

"Yes, sir, it is a crushing blow," said the old man. "That is my
MAGNUM OPUS--the pile of papers on the side table yonder. It is
my analysis of the documents found in the Coptic monasteries of
Syria and Egypt, a work which will cut deep at the very
foundation of revealed religion. With my enfeebled health I do
not know whether I shall ever be able to complete it, now that
my assistant has been taken from me. Dear me! Mr. Holmes, why,
you are even a quicker smoker than I am myself."

Holmes smiled.

"I am a connoisseur," said he, taking another cigarette from the
box--his fourth--and lighting it from the stub of that which he
had finished. "I will not trouble you with any lengthy
cross-examination, Professor Coram, since I gather that you were
in bed at the time of the crime, and could know nothing about
it. I would only ask this: What do you imagine that this poor
fellow meant by his last words: `The professor--it was she'?"

The professor shook his head.

"Susan is a country girl," said he, "and you know the incredible
stupidity of that class. I fancy that the poor fellow murmured
some incoherent delirious words, and that she twisted them into
this meaningless message."

"I see. You have no explanation yourself of the tragedy?"

"Possibly an accident, possibly--I only breathe it among
ourselves--a suicide. Young men have their hidden troubles--some
affair of the heart, perhaps, which we have never known. It is
a more probable supposition than murder."

"But the eyeglasses?"

"Ah! I am only a student--a man of dreams. I cannot explain the
practical things of life. But still, we are aware, my friend,
that love-gages may take strange shapes. By all means take
another cigarette. It is a pleasure to see anyone appreciate
them so. A fan, a glove, glasses--who knows what article may be
carried as a token or treasured when a man puts an end to his
life? This gentleman speaks of footsteps in the grass, but,
after all, it is easy to be mistaken on such a point. As to the
knife, it might well be thrown far from the unfortunate man as
he fell. It is possible that I speak as a child, but to me it
seems that Willoughby Smith has met his fate by his own hand."

Holmes seemed struck by the theory thus put forward, and he
continued to walk up and down for some time, lost in thought and
consuming cigarette after cigarette.

"Tell me, Professor Coram," he said, at last, "what is in that
cupboard in the bureau?"

"Nothing that would help a thief. Family papers, letters from my
poor wife, diplomas of universities which have done me honour.
Here is the key. You can look for yourself."

Holmes picked up the key, and looked at it for an instant, then
he handed it back.

"No, I hardly think that it would help me," said he. "I should
prefer to go quietly down to your garden, and turn the whole
matter over in my head. There is something to be said for the
theory of suicide which you have put forward. We must apologize
for having intruded upon you, Professor Coram, and I promise
that we won't disturb you until after lunch. At two o'clock we
will come again, and report to you anything which may have
happened in the interval."

Holmes was curiously distrait, and we walked up and down the
garden path for some time in silence.

"Have you a clue?" I asked, at last.

"It depends upon those cigarettes that I smoked," said he. "It is
possible that I am utterly mistaken. The cigarettes will show me."

"My dear Holmes," I exclaimed, "how on earth----"

"Well, well, you may see for yourself. If not, there's no harm
done. Of course, we always have the optician clue to fall back
upon, but I take a short cut when I can get it. Ah, here is the
good Mrs. Marker! Let us enjoy five minutes of instructive
conversation with her."

I may have remarked before that Holmes had, when he liked, a
peculiarly ingratiating way with women, and that he very readily
established terms of confidence with them. In half the time
which he had named, he had captured the housekeeper's goodwill
and was chatting with her as if he had known her for years.

"Yes, Mr. Holmes, it is as you say, sir. He does smoke something
terrible. All day and sometimes all night, sir. I've seen that
room of a morning--well, sir, you'd have thought it was a London
fog. Poor young Mr. Smith, he was a smoker also, but not as bad
as the professor. His health--well, I don't know that it's
better nor worse for the smoking."

"Ah!" said Holmes, "but it kills the appetite."

"Well, I don't know about that, sir."

"I suppose the professor eats hardly anything?"

"Well, he is variable. I'll say that for him."

"I'll wager he took no breakfast this morning, and won't face
his lunch after all the cigarettes I saw him consume."

"Well, you're out there, sir, as it happens, for he ate a
remarkable big breakfast this morning. I don't know when I've
known him make a better one, and he's ordered a good dish of
cutlets for his lunch. I'm surprised myself, for since I came
into that room yesterday and saw young Mr. Smith lying there on
the floor, I couldn't bear to look at food. Well, it takes all
sorts to make a world, and the professor hasn't let it take his
appetite away."

We loitered the morning away in the garden. Stanley Hopkins had
gone down to the village to look into some rumours of a strange
woman who had been seen by some children on the Chatham Road the
previous morning. As to my friend, all his usual energy seemed
to have deserted him. I had never known him handle a case in
such a half-hearted fashion. Even the news brought back by
Hopkins that he had found the children, and that they had
undoubtedly seen a woman exactly corresponding with Holmes's
description, and wearing either spectacles or eyeglasses, failed
to rouse any sign of keen interest. He was more attentive when
Susan, who waited upon us at lunch, volunteered the information
that she believed Mr. Smith had been out for a walk yesterday
morning, and that he had only returned half an hour before the
tragedy occurred. I could not myself see the bearing of this
incident, but I clearly perceived that Holmes was weaving it
into the general scheme which he had formed in his brain.
Suddenly he sprang from his chair and glanced at his watch. "Two
o'clock, gentlemen," said he. "We must go up and have it out
with our friend, the professor."

The old man had just finished his lunch, and certainly his empty
dish bore evidence to the good appetite with which his
housekeeper had credited him. He was, indeed, a weird figure as
he turned his white mane and his glowing eyes towards us. The
eternal cigarette smouldered in his mouth. He had been dressed
and was seated in an armchair by the fire.

"Well, Mr. Holmes, have you solved this mystery yet?" He shoved
the large tin of cigarettes which stood on a table beside him
towards my companion. Holmes stretched out his hand at the same
moment, and between them they tipped the box over the edge. For
a minute or two we were all on our knees retrieving stray
cigarettes from impossible places. When we rose again, I
observed Holmes's eyes were shining and his cheeks tinged with
colour. Only at a crisis have I seen those battle-signals flying.

"Yes," said he, "I have solved it."

Stanley Hopkins and I stared in amazement. Something like a
sneer quivered over the gaunt features of the old professor.

"Indeed! In the garden?"

"No, here."

"Here! When?"

"This instant."

"You are surely joking, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. You compel me to
tell you that this is too serious a matter to be treated in such
a fashion."

"I have forged and tested every link of my chain, Professor
Coram, and I am sure that it is sound. What your motives are, or
what exact part you play in this strange business, I am not yet
able to say. In a few minutes I shall probably hear it from your
own lips. Meanwhile I will reconstruct what is past for your
benefit, so that you may know the information which I still require.

"A lady yesterday entered your study. She came with the
intention of possessing herself of certain documents which were
in your bureau. She had a key of her own. I have had an
opportunity of examining yours, and I do not find that slight
discolouration which the scratch made upon the varnish would
have produced. You were not an accessory, therefore, and she
came, so far as I can read the evidence, without your knowledge
to rob you."

The professor blew a cloud from his lips. "This is most
interesting and instructive," said he. "Have you no more to add?
Surely, having traced this lady so far, you can also say what
has become of her."

"I will endeavour to do so. In the first place she was seized by
your secretary, and stabbed him in order to escape. This
catastrophe I am inclined to regard as an unhappy accident, for
I am convinced that the lady had no intention of inflicting so
grievous an injury. An assassin does not come unarmed. Horrified
by what she had done, she rushed wildly away from the scene of
the tragedy. Unfortunately for her, she had lost her glasses in
the scuffle, and as she was extremely short-sighted she was
really helpless without them. She ran down a corridor, which she
imagined to be that by which she had come--both were lined with
cocoanut matting--and it was only when it was too late that she
understood that she had taken the wrong passage, and that her
retreat was cut off behind her. What was she to do? She could
not go back. She could not remain where she was. She must go on.
She went on. She mounted a stair, pushed open a door, and found
herself in your room."

The old man sat with his mouth open, staring wildly at Holmes.
Amazement and fear were stamped upon his expressive features.
Now, with an effort, he shrugged his shoulders and burst into
insincere laughter.

"All very fine, Mr. Holmes," said he. "But there is one little
flaw in your splendid theory. I was myself in my room, and I
never left it during the day."

"I am aware of that, Professor Coram."

"And you mean to say that I could lie upon that bed and not be
aware that a woman had entered my room?"

"I never said so. You WERE aware of it. You spoke with her. You
recognized her. You aided her to escape."

Again the professor burst into high-keyed laughter. He had risen
to his feet, and his eyes glowed like embers.

"You are mad!" he cried. "You are talking insanely. I helped her
to escape? Where is she now?"

"She is there," said Holmes, and he pointed to a high bookcase
in the corner of the room.

I saw the old man throw up his arms, a terrible convulsion
passed over his grim face, and he fell back in his chair. At the
same instant the bookcase at which Holmes pointed swung round
upon a hinge, and a woman rushed out into the room. "You are
right!" she cried, in a strange foreign voice. "You are right!
I am here."

She was brown with the dust and draped with the cobwebs which
had come from the walls of her hiding-place. Her face, too, was
streaked with grime, and at the best she could never have been
handsome, for she had the exact physical characteristics which
Holmes had divined, with, in addition, a long and obstinate
chin. What with her natural blindness, and what with the change
from dark to light, she stood as one dazed, blinking about her
to see where and who we were. And yet, in spite of all these
disadvantages, there was a certain nobility in the woman's
bearing--a gallantry in the defiant chin and in the upraised
head, which compelled something of respect and admiration.

Stanley Hopkins had laid his hand upon her arm and claimed her


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