The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Part 6 out of 7
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
"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 recognised 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 as his prisoner, but she
waved him aside gently, and yet with an overmastering dignity
which compelled obedience. The old man lay back in his chair,
with a twitching face, and stared at her with brooding eyes.
"Yes, sir, I am your prisoner," she said. "From where I stood
I could hear everything, and I know that you have learned the
truth. I confess it all. It was I who killed the young man.
But you are right, you who say it was an accident. I did not
even know that it was a knife which I held in my hand, for in my
despair I snatched anything from the table and struck at him to
make him let me go. It is the truth that I tell."
"Madam," said Holmes, "I am sure that it is the truth.
I fear that you are far from well."
She had turned a dreadful colour, the more ghastly under the
dark dust-streaks upon her face. She seated herself on the
side of the bed; then she resumed.
"I have only a little time here," she said, "but I would have
you to know the whole truth. I am this man's wife. He is not
an Englishman. He is a Russian. His name I will not tell."
For the first time the old man stirred. "God bless you, Anna!"
he cried. "God bless you!"
She cast a look of the deepest disdain in his direction.
"Why should you cling so hard to that wretched life of yours,
Sergius?" said she. "It has done harm to many and good to
none -- not even to yourself. However, it is not for me to
cause the frail thread to be snapped before God's time.
I have enough already upon my soul since I crossed the threshold
of this cursed house. But I must speak or I shall be too late.
"I have said, gentlemen, that I am this man's wife. He was
fifty and I a foolish girl of twenty when we married. It was
in a city of Russia, a University -- I will not name the place."
"God bless you, Anna!" murmured the old man again.
"We were reformers -- revolutionists -- Nihilists, you understand.
He and I and many more. Then there came a time of trouble,
a police officer was killed, many were arrested, evidence was
wanted, and in order to save his own life and to earn a great
reward my husband betrayed his own wife and his companions.
Yes, we were all arrested upon his confession. Some of us found
our way to the gallows and some to Siberia. I was among these
last, but my term was not for life. My husband came to England
with his ill-gotten gains, and has lived in quiet ever since,
knowing well that if the Brotherhood knew where he was not
a week would pass before justice would be done."
The old man reached out a trembling hand and helped himself
to a cigarette. "I am in your hands, Anna," said he.
"You were always good to me."
"I have not yet told you the height of his villainy," said she.
"Among our comrades of the Order there was one who was the
friend of my heart. He was noble, unselfish, loving -- all that
my husband was not. He hated violence. We were all guilty --
if that is guilt -- but he was not. He wrote for ever dissuading
us from such a course. These letters would have saved him.
So would my diary, in which from day to day I had entered both
my feelings towards him and the view which each of us had taken.
My husband found and kept both diary and letters. He hid them,
and he tried hard to swear away the young man's life. In this
he failed, but Alexis was sent a convict to Siberia, where now,
at this moment, he works in a salt mine. Think of that, you
villain, you villain; now, now, at this very moment, Alexis,
a man whose name you are not worthy to speak, works and lives like
a slave, and yet I have your life in my hands and I let you go."
"You were always a noble woman, Anna," said the old man, puffing
at his cigarette.
She had risen, but she fell back again with a little cry of pain.
"I must finish," she said. "When my term was over I set myself
to get the diary and letters which, if sent to the Russian
Government, would procure my friend's release. I knew that my
husband had come to England. After months of searching I
discovered where he was. I knew that he still had the diary,
for when I was in Siberia I had a letter from him once
reproaching me and quoting some passages from its pages.
Yet I was sure that with his revengeful nature he would never
give it to me of his own free will. I must get it for myself.
With this object I engaged an agent from a private detective firm,
who entered my husband's house as secretary -- it was your
second secretary, Sergius, the one who left you so hurriedly.
He found that papers were kept in the cupboard, and he got an
impression of the key. He would not go farther. He furnished
me with a plan of the house, and he told me that in the forenoon
the study was always empty, as the secretary was employed up here.
So at last I took my courage in both hands and I came down to
get the papers for myself. I succeeded, but at what a cost!
"I had just taken the papers and was locking the cupboard when
the young man seized me. I had seen him already that morning.
He had met me in the road and I had asked him to tell me where
Professor Coram lived, not knowing that he was in his employ."
"Exactly! exactly!" said Holmes. "The secretary came back and
told his employer of the woman he had met. Then in his last
breath he tried to send a message that it was she -- the she whom
he had just discussed with him."
"You must let me speak," said the woman, in an imperative voice,
and her face contracted as if in pain. "When he had fallen
I rushed from the room, chose the wrong door, and found myself
in my husband's room. He spoke of giving me up. I showed him
that if he did so his life was in my hands. If he gave me to
the law I could give him to the Brotherhood. It was not that
I wished to live for my own sake, but it was that I desired to
accomplish my purpose. He knew that I would do what I said --
that his own fate was involved in mine. For that reason
and for no other he shielded me. He thrust me into that dark
hiding-place, a relic of old days, known only to himself.
He took his meals in his own room, and so was able to give me
part of his food. It was agreed that when the police left
the house I should slip away by night and come back no more.
But in some way you have read our plans." She tore from the
bosom of her dress a small packet. "These are my last words,"
said she; "here is the packet which will save Alexis.
I confide it to your honour and to your love of justice.
Take it! You will deliver it at the Russian Embassy.
Now I have done my duty, and ----"
"Stop her!" cried Holmes. He had bounded across the room
and had wrenched a small phial from her hand.
"Too late!" she said, sinking back on the bed. "Too late!
I took the poison before I left my hiding-place. My head swims!
I am going! I charge you, sir, to remember the packet."
"A simple case, and yet in some ways an instructive one,"
Holmes remarked, as we travelled back to town. "It hinged from
the outset upon the pince-nez. But for the fortunate chance of
the dying man having seized these I am not sure that we could
ever have reached our solution. It was clear to me from the
strength of the glasses that the wearer must have been very
blind and helpless when deprived of them. When you asked me to
believe that she walked along a narrow strip of grass without
once making a false step I remarked, as you may remember, that
it was a noteworthy performance. In my mind I set it down as an
impossible performance, save in the unlikely case that she had a
second pair of glasses. I was forced, therefore, to seriously
consider the hypothesis that she had remained within the house.
On perceiving the similarity of the two corridors it became
clear that she might very easily have made such a mistake,
and in that case it was evident that she must have entered
the Professor's room. I was keenly on the alert, therefore,
for whatever would bear out this supposition, and I examined
the room narrowly for anything in the shape of a hiding-place.
The carpet seemed continuous and firmly nailed, so I dismissed
the idea of a trap-door. There might well be a recess behind
the books. As you are aware, such devices are common in old
libraries. I observed that books were piled on the floor at all
other points, but that one bookcase was left clear. This, then,
might be the door. I could see no marks to guide me, but the
carpet was of a dun colour, which lends itself very well to
examination. I therefore smoked a great number of those
excellent cigarettes, and I dropped the ash all over the space
in front of the suspected bookcase. It was a simple trick, but
exceedingly effective. I then went downstairs and I ascertained,
in your presence, Watson, without your perceiving the drift of my
remarks, that Professor Coram's consumption of food had increased
-- as one would expect when he is supplying a second person.
We then ascended to the room again, when, by upsetting the
cigarette-box, I obtained a very excellent view of the floor,
and was able to see quite clearly, from the traces upon the
cigarette ash, that the prisoner had, in our absence, come out
from her retreat. Well, Hopkins, here we are at Charing Cross,
and I congratulate you on having brought your case to a successful
conclusion. You are going to head-quarters, no doubt. I think,
Watson, you and I will drive together to the Russian Embassy."
THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 28 AUGUST, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
XI. --- The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.
WE were fairly accustomed to receive weird telegrams at Baker
Street, but I have a particular recollection of one which reached
us on a gloomy February morning some seven or eight years ago and
gave Mr. Sherlock Holmes a puzzled quarter of an hour. It was
addressed to him, and ran thus:--
"Please await me. Terrible misfortune. Right wing three-quarter
missing; indispensable to morrow. -- OVERTON."
"Strand post-mark and dispatched ten-thirty-six," said Holmes,
reading it over and over. "Mr. Overton was evidently considerably
excited when he sent it, and somewhat incoherent in consequence.
Well, well, he will be here, I dare say, by the time I have looked
through the TIMES, and then we shall know all about it. Even the
most insignificant problem would be welcome in these stagnant days."
Things had indeed been very slow with us, and I had learned
to dread such periods of inaction, for I knew by experience
that my companion's brain was so abnormally active that it was
dangerous to leave it without material upon which to work.
For years I had gradually weaned him from that drug mania which
had threatened once to check his remarkable career. Now I knew
that under ordinary conditions he no longer craved for this
artificial stimulus, but I was well aware that the fiend was
not dead, but sleeping; and I have known that the sleep was a
light one and the waking near when in periods of idleness I have
seen the drawn look upon Holmes's ascetic face, and the brooding
of his deep-set and inscrutable eyes. Therefore I blessed this
Mr. Overton, whoever he might be, since he had come with his
enigmatic message to break that dangerous calm which brought more
peril to my friend than all the storms of his tempestuous life.
As we had expected, the telegram was soon followed by its
sender, and the card of Mr. Cyril Overton, of Trinity College,
Cambridge, announced the arrival of an enormous young man,
sixteen stone of solid bone and muscle, who spanned the doorway
with his broad shoulders and looked from one of us to the other
with a comely face which was haggard with anxiety.
"Mr. Sherlock Holmes?"
My companion bowed.
"I've been down to Scotland Yard, Mr. Holmes.
I saw Inspector Stanley Hopkins. He advised me to come to you.
He said the case, so far as he could see, was more in your line
than in that of the regular police."
"Pray sit down and tell me what is the matter."
"It's awful, Mr. Holmes, simply awful! I wonder my hair isn't grey.
Godfrey Staunton -- you've heard of him, of course? He's simply the
hinge that the whole team turns on. I'd rather spare two from the
pack and have Godfrey for my three-quarter line. Whether it's
passing, or tackling, or dribbling, there's no one to touch him;
and then, he's got the head and can hold us all together.
What am I to do? That's what I ask you, Mr. Holmes.
There's Moorhouse, first reserve, but he is trained as a half,
and he always edges right in on to the scrum instead of keeping
out on the touch-line. He's a fine place-kick, it's true, but,
then, he has no judgment, and he can't sprint for nuts.
Why, Morton or Johnson, the Oxford fliers, could romp round him.
Stevenson is fast enough, but he couldn't drop from the twenty-five
line, and a three-quarter who can't either punt or drop isn't worth
a place for pace alone. No, Mr. Holmes, we are done unless you can
help me to find Godfrey Staunton."
My friend had listened with amused surprise to this long speech,
which was poured forth with extraordinary vigour and earnestness,
every point being driven home by the slapping of a brawny hand
upon the speaker's knee. When our visitor was silent Holmes
stretched out his hand and took down letter "S" of his
commonplace book. For once he dug in vain into that mine of
"There is Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger,"
said he, "and there was Henry Staunton, whom I helped to hang,
but Godfrey Staunton is a new name to me."
It was our visitor's turn to look surprised.
"Why, Mr. Holmes, I thought you knew things," said he.
"I suppose, then, if you have never heard of Godfrey Staunton
you don't know Cyril Overton either?"
Holmes shook his head good-humouredly.
"Great Scot!" cried the athlete. "Why, I was first reserve
for England against Wales, and I've skippered the 'Varsity all
this year. But that's nothing! I didn't think there was a
soul in England who didn't know Godfrey Staunton, the crack
three-quarter, Cambridge, Blackheath, and five Internationals.
Good Lord! Mr. Holmes, where HAVE you lived?"
Holmes laughed at the young giant's naive astonishment.
"You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton, a sweeter
and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many
sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur
sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England. However,
your unexpected visit this morning shows me that even in that
world of fresh air and fair play there may be work for me to do;
so now, my good sir, I beg you to sit down and to tell me slowly
and quietly exactly what it is that has occurred, and how you
desire that I should help you."
Young Overton's face assumed the bothered look of the man who
is more accustomed to using his muscles than his wits; but by
degrees, with many repetitions and obscurities which I may omit
from his narrative, he laid his strange story before us.
"It's this way, Mr. Holmes. As I have said, I am the skipper
of the Rugger team of Cambridge 'Varsity, and Godfrey Staunton
is my best man. To-morrow we play Oxford. Yesterday we
all came up and we settled at Bentley's private hotel. At ten
o'clock I went round and saw that all the fellows had gone to
roost, for I believe in strict training and plenty of sleep to
keep a team fit. I had a word or two with Godfrey before he
turned in. He seemed to me to be pale and bothered. I asked him
what was the matter. He said he was all right -- just a touch
of headache. I bade him good-night and left him. Half an hour
later the porter tells me that a rough-looking man with a beard
called with a note for Godfrey. He had not gone to bed and the
note was taken to his room. Godfrey read it and fell back in a
chair as if he had been pole-axed. The porter was so scared that
he was going to fetch me, but Godfrey stopped him, had a drink of
water, and pulled himself together. Then he went downstairs,
said a few words to the man who was waiting in the hall, and the
two of them went off together. The last that the porter saw of
them, they were almost running down the street in the direction
of the Strand. This morning Godfrey's room was empty, his bed
had never been slept in, and his things were all just as I had
seen them the night before. He had gone off at a moment's notice
with this stranger, and no word has come from him since. I don't
believe he will ever come back. He was a sportsman, was Godfrey,
down to his marrow, and he wouldn't have stopped his training and
let in his skipper if it were not for some cause that was too
strong for him. No; I feel as if he were gone for good and we
should never see him again."
Sherlock Holmes listened with the deepest attention to this
"What did you do?" he asked.
"I wired to Cambridge to learn if anything had been heard
of him there. I have had an answer. No one has seen him."
"Could he have got back to Cambridge?"
"Yes, there is a late train -- quarter-past eleven."
"But so far as you can ascertain he did not take it?"
"No, he has not been seen."
"What did you do next?"
"I wired to Lord Mount-James."
"Why to Lord Mount-James?"
"Godfrey is an orphan, and Lord Mount-James is his nearest
relative -- his uncle, I believe."
"Indeed. This throws new light upon the matter.
Lord Mount-James is one of the richest men in England."
"So I've heard Godfrey say."
"And your friend was closely related?"
"Yes, he was his heir, and the old boy is nearly eighty --
cram full of gout, too. They say he could chalk his billiard-cue
with his knuckles. He never allowed Godfrey a shilling in his
life, for he is an absolute miser, but it will all come to him
"Have you heard from Lord Mount-James?"
"What motive could your friend have in going to Lord Mount-James?"
"Well, something was worrying him the night before, and if
it was to do with money it is possible that he would make for his
nearest relative who had so much of it, though from all I have
heard he would not have much chance of getting it. Godfrey was
not fond of the old man. He would not go if he could help it."
"Well, we can soon determine that. If your friend was going
to his relative, Lord Mount-James, you have then to explain
the visit of this rough-looking fellow at so late an hour,
and the agitation that was caused by his coming."
Cyril Overton pressed his hands to his head. "I can make
nothing of it," said he.
"Well, well, I have a clear day, and I shall be happy to look
into the matter," said Holmes. "I should strongly recommend
you to make your preparations for your match without reference
to this young gentleman. It must, as you say, have been an
overpowering necessity which tore him away in such a fashion,
and the same necessity is likely to hold him away. Let us step
round together to this hotel, and see if the porter can throw
any fresh light upon the matter."
Sherlock Holmes was a past-master in the art of putting a
humble witness at his ease, and very soon, in the privacy of
Godfrey Staunton's abandoned room, he had extracted all that
the porter had to tell. The visitor of the night before was not
a gentleman, neither was he a working man. He was simply what
the porter described as a "medium-looking chap"; a man of fifty,
beard grizzled, pale face, quietly dressed. He seemed himself
to be agitated. The porter had observed his hand trembling when
he had held out the note. Godfrey Staunton had crammed the note
into his pocket. Staunton had not shaken hands with the man in
the hall. They had exchanged a few sentences, of which the
porter had only distinguished the one word "time." Then they
had hurried off in the manner described. It was just half-past
ten by the hall clock.
"Let me see," said Holmes, seating himself on Staunton's bed.
"You are the day porter, are you not?"
"Yes, sir; I go off duty at eleven."
"The night porter saw nothing, I suppose?"
"No, sir; one theatre party came in late. No one else."
"Were you on duty all day yesterday?"
"Did you take any messages to Mr. Staunton?"
"Yes, sir; one telegram."
"Ah! that's interesting. What o'clock was this?"
"Where was Mr. Staunton when he received it?"
"Here in his room."
"Were you present when he opened it?"
"Yes, sir; I waited to see if there was an answer."
"Well, was there?"
"Yes, sir. He wrote an answer."
"Did you take it?"
"No; he took it himself."
"But he wrote it in your presence?"
"Yes, sir. I was standing by the door, and he with his
back turned at that table. When he had written it he said,
`All right, porter, I will take this myself.'"
"What did he write it with?"
"A pen, sir."
"Was the telegraphic form one of these on the table?"
"Yes, sir; it was the top one."
Holmes rose. Taking the forms he carried them over to the
window and carefully examined that which was uppermost.
"It is a pity he did not write in pencil," said he, throwing
them down again with a shrug of disappointment. "As you have no
doubt frequently observed, Watson, the impression usually goes
through -- a fact which has dissolved many a happy marriage.
However, I can find no trace here. I rejoice, however,
to perceive that he wrote with a broad-pointed quill pen,
and I can hardly doubt that we will find some impression upon
this blotting-pad. Ah, yes, surely this is the very thing!"
He tore off a strip of the blotting-paper and turned towards
us the following hieroglyphic:--
Cyril Overton was much excited. "Hold it to the glass!" he cried.
"That is unnecessary," said Holmes. "The paper is thin,
and the reverse will give the message. Here it is."
He turned it over and we read:--
"So that is the tail end of the telegram which Godfrey Staunton
dispatched within a few hours of his disappearance.
There are at least six words of the message which have escaped us;
but what remains -- `Stand by us for God's sake!' -- proves that
this young man saw a formidable danger which approached him,
and from which someone else could protect him. `US,' mark you!
Another person was involved. Who should it be but the pale-faced,
bearded man, who seemed himself in so nervous a state?
What, then, is the connection between Godfrey Staunton and the
bearded man? And what is the third source from which each of
them sought for help against pressing danger? Our inquiry has
already narrowed down to that."
"We have only to find to whom that telegram is addressed,"
"Exactly, my dear Watson. Your reflection, though profound,
had already crossed my mind. But I dare say it may have come to
your notice that if you walk into a post-office and demand to
see the counterfoil of another man's message there may be some
disinclination on the part of the officials to oblige you. There
is so much red tape in these matters! However, I have no doubt
that with a little delicacy and finesse the end may be attained.
Meanwhile, I should like in your presence, Mr. Overton, to go
through these papers which have been left upon the table."
There were a number of letters, bills, and note-books, which
Holmes turned over and examined with quick, nervous fingers and
darting, penetrating eyes. "Nothing here," he said, at last.
"By the way, I suppose your friend was a healthy young fellow --
nothing amiss with him?"
"Sound as a bell."
"Have you ever known him ill?"
"Not a day. He has been laid up with a hack, and once he
slipped his knee-cap, but that was nothing."
"Perhaps he was not so strong as you suppose. I should think
he may have had some secret trouble. With your assent I will
put one or two of these papers in my pocket, in case they
should bear upon our future inquiry."
"One moment! one moment!" cried a querulous voice, and we
looked up to find a queer little old man, jerking and twitching
in the doorway. He was dressed in rusty black, with a very
broad brimmed top-hat and a loose white necktie -- the whole
effect being that of a very rustic parson or of an undertaker's
mute. Yet, in spite of his shabby and even absurd appearance,
his voice had a sharp crackle, and his manner a quick intensity
which commanded attention.
"Who are you, sir, and by what right do you touch this
gentleman's papers?" he asked.
"I am a private detective, and I am endeavouring to explain
"Oh, you are, are you? And who instructed you, eh?"
"This gentleman, Mr. Staunton's friend, was referred to me
by Scotland Yard."
"Who are you, sir?"
"I am Cyril Overton."
"Then it is you who sent me a telegram. My name is Lord Mount-James.
I came round as quickly as the Bayswater 'bus would bring me.
So you have instructed a detective?"
"And are you prepared to meet the cost?"
"I have no doubt, sir, that my friend Godfrey, when we find him,
will be prepared to do that."
"But if he is never found, eh? Answer me that!"
"In that case no doubt his family ----"
"Nothing of the sort, sir!" screamed the little man.
"Don't look to me for a penny -- not a penny! You understand that,
Mr. Detective! I am all the family that this young man has got,
and I tell you that I am not responsible. If he has any expectations
it is due to the fact that I have never wasted money, and I do
not propose to begin to do so now. As to those papers with which
you are making so free, I may tell you that in case there should
be anything of any value among them you will be held strictly
to account for what you do with them."
"Very good, sir," said Sherlock Holmes. "May I ask in the
meanwhile whether you have yourself any theory to account for
this young man's disappearance?"
"No, sir, I have not. He is big enough and old enough to look
after himself, and if he is so foolish as to lose himself I
entirely refuse to accept the responsibility of hunting for him."
"I quite understand your position," said Holmes, with a
mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "Perhaps you don't quite
understand mine. Godfrey Staunton appears to have been a poor
man. If he has been kidnapped it could not have been for
anything which he himself possesses. The fame of your wealth has
gone abroad, Lord Mount-James, and it is entirely possible that a
gang of thieves have secured your nephew in order to gain from him
some information as to your house, your habits, and your treasure."
The face of our unpleasant little visitor turned as white as
"Heavens, sir, what an idea! I never thought of such villainy!
What inhuman rogues there are in the world! But Godfrey is a
fine lad -- a staunch lad. Nothing would induce him to give
his old uncle away. I'll have the plate moved over to the bank
this evening. In the meantime spare no pains, Mr. Detective!
I beg you to leave no stone unturned to bring him safely back.
As to money, well, so far as a fiver, or even a tenner, goes,
you can always look to me."
Even in his chastened frame of mind the noble miser could give
us no information which could help us, for he knew little of
the private life of his nephew. Our only clue lay in the
truncated telegram, and with a copy of this in his hand Holmes
set forth to find a second link for his chain. We had shaken off
Lord Mount-James, and Overton had gone to consult with the other
members of his team over the misfortune which had befallen them.
There was a telegraph-office at a short distance from the hotel.
We halted outside it.
"It's worth trying, Watson," said Holmes. "Of course, with
a warrant we could demand to see the counterfoils, but we have
not reached that stage yet. I don't suppose they remember faces
in so busy a place. Let us venture it."
"I am sorry to trouble you," said he, in his blandest manner,
to the young woman behind the grating; "there is some small
mistake about a telegram I sent yesterday. I have had no answer,
and I very much fear that I must have omitted to put my name
at the end. Could you tell me if this was so?"
The young woman turned over a sheaf of counterfoils.
"What o'clock was it?" she asked.
"A little after six."
"Whom was it to?"
Holmes put his finger to his lips and glanced at me.
"The last words in it were `for God's sake,'" he whispered,
confidentially; "I am very anxious at getting no answer."
The young woman separated one of the forms.
"This is it. There is no name," said she, smoothing it out
upon the counter.
"Then that, of course, accounts for my getting no answer,"
said Holmes. "Dear me, how very stupid of me, to be sure!
Good morning, miss, and many thanks for having relieved my mind."
He chuckled and rubbed his hands when we found ourselves in the
street once more.
"Well?" I asked.
"We progress, my dear Watson, we progress. I had seven
different schemes for getting a glimpse of that telegram,
but I could hardly hope to succeed the very first time."
"And what have you gained?"
"A starting-point for our investigation." He hailed a cab.
"King's Cross Station," said he.
"We have a journey, then?"
"Yes; I think we must run down to Cambridge together.
All the indications seem to me to point in that direction."
"Tell me," I asked, as we rattled up Gray's Inn Road,
"have you any suspicion yet as to the cause of the disappearance?
I don't think that among all our cases I have known one where the
motives are more obscure. Surely you don't really imagine that
he may be kidnapped in order to give information against his
"I confess, my dear Watson, that that does not appeal to
me as a very probable explanation. It struck me, however,
as being the one which was most likely to interest that
exceedingly unpleasant old person."
"It certainly did that. But what are your alternatives?"
"I could mention several. You must admit that it is curious
and suggestive that this incident should occur on the eve of this
important match, and should involve the only man whose presence
seems essential to the success of the side. It may, of course,
be coincidence, but it is interesting. Amateur sport is free
from betting, but a good deal of outside betting goes on among
the public, and it is possible that it might be worth someone's
while to get at a player as the ruffians of the turf get at a
race-horse. There is one explanation. A second very obvious one
is that this young man really is the heir of a great property,
however modest his means may at present be, and it is not
impossible that a plot to hold him for ransom might be concocted."
"These theories take no account of the telegram."
"Quite true, Watson. The telegram still remains the only
solid thing with which we have to deal, and we must not permit
our attention to wander away from it. It is to gain light upon
the purpose of this telegram that we are now upon our way to
Cambridge. The path of our investigation is at present obscure,
but I shall be very much surprised if before evening we have not
cleared it up or made a considerable advance along it."
It was already dark when we reached the old University city.
Holmes took a cab at the station, and ordered the man to drive to
the house of Dr. Leslie Armstrong. A few minutes later we had
stopped at a large mansion in the busiest thoroughfare. We were
shown in, and after a long wait were at last admitted into the
consulting-room, where we found the doctor seated behind his table.
It argues the degree in which I had lost touch with my
profession that the name of Leslie Armstrong was unknown to me.
Now I am aware that he is not only one of the heads of the
medical school of the University, but a thinker of European
reputation in more than one branch of science. Yet even without
knowing his brilliant record one could not fail to be impressed
by a mere glance at the man, the square, massive face, the
brooding eyes under the thatched brows, and the granite moulding
of the inflexible jaw. A man of deep character, a man with an
alert mind, grim, ascetic, self-contained, formidable -- so I read
Dr. Leslie Armstrong. He held my friend's card in his hand, and
he looked up with no very pleased expression upon his dour features.
"I have heard your name, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and I am aware
of your profession, one of which I by no means approve."
"In that, doctor, you will find yourself in agreement with
every criminal in the country," said my friend, quietly.
"So far as your efforts are directed towards the suppression
of crime, sir, they must have the support of every reasonable
member of the community, though I cannot doubt that the official
machinery is amply sufficient for the purpose. Where your
calling is more open to criticism is when you pry into the
secrets of private individuals, when you rake up family matters
which are better hidden, and when you incidentally waste the time
of men who are more busy than yourself. At the present moment,
for example, I should be writing a treatise instead of conversing
"No doubt, doctor; and yet the conversation may prove more
important than the treatise. Incidentally I may tell you that
we are doing the reverse of what you very justly blame, and that
we are endeavouring to prevent anything like public exposure of
private matters which must necessarily follow when once the case
is fairly in the hands of the official police. You may look
upon me simply as an irregular pioneer who goes in front of the
regular forces of the country. I have come to ask you about
Mr. Godfrey Staunton."
"What about him?"
"You know him, do you not?"
"He is an intimate friend of mine."
"You are aware that he has disappeared?"
"Ah, indeed!" There was no change of expression in the
rugged features of the doctor.
"He left his hotel last night. He has not been heard of."
"No doubt he will return."
"To-morrow is the 'Varsity football match."
"I have no sympathy with these childish games. The young
man's fate interests me deeply, since I know him and like him.
The football match does not come within my horizon at all."
"I claim your sympathy, then, in my investigation of Mr.
Staunton's fate. Do you know where he is?"
"You have not seen him since yesterday?"
"No, I have not."
"Was Mr. Staunton a healthy man?"
"Did you ever know him ill?"
Holmes popped a sheet of paper before the doctor's eyes.
"Then perhaps you will explain this receipted bill for thirteen
guineas, paid by Mr. Godfrey Staunton last month to Dr. Leslie
Armstrong of Cambridge. I picked it out from among the papers
upon his desk."
The doctor flushed with anger.
"I do not feel that there is any reason why I should render
an explanation to you, Mr. Holmes."
Holmes replaced the bill in his note-book. "If you prefer
a public explanation it must come sooner or later," said he.
"I have already told you that I can hush up that which others
will be bound to publish, and you would really be wiser to
take me into your complete confidence."
"I know nothing about it."
"Did you hear from Mr. Staunton in London?"
"Dear me, dear me; the post-office again!" Holmes sighed,
wearily. "A most urgent telegram was dispatched to you from
London by Godfrey Staunton at six-fifteen yesterday evening --
a telegram which is undoubtedly associated with his disappearance
-- and yet you have not had it. It is most culpable. I shall
certainly go down to the office here and register a complaint."
Dr. Leslie Armstrong sprang up from behind his desk, and his
dark face was crimson with fury.
"I'll trouble you to walk out of my house, sir," said he.
"You can tell your employer, Lord Mount-James, that I do not
wish to have anything to do either with him or with his agents.
No, sir, not another word!" He rang the bell furiously.
"John, show these gentlemen out!" A pompous butler ushered
us severely to the door, and we found ourselves in the street.
Holmes burst out laughing.
"Dr. Leslie Armstrong is certainly a man of energy and
character," said he. "I have not seen a man who, if he turned
his talents that way, was more calculated to fill the gap left by
the illustrious Moriarty. And now, my poor Watson, here we are,
stranded and friendless in this inhospitable town, which we
cannot leave without abandoning our case. This little inn just
opposite Armstrong's house is singularly adapted to our needs.
If you would engage a front room and purchase the necessaries
for the night, I may have time to make a few inquiries."
These few inquiries proved, however, to be a more lengthy
proceeding than Holmes had imagined, for he did not return to
the inn until nearly nine o'clock. He was pale and dejected,
stained with dust, and exhausted with hunger and fatigue.
A cold supper was ready upon the table, and when his needs were
satisfied and his pipe alight he was ready to take that half comic
and wholly philosophic view which was natural to him when his
affairs were going awry. The sound of carriage wheels caused him
to rise and glance out of the window. A brougham and pair of greys
under the glare of a gas-lamp stood before the doctor's door.
"It's been out three hours," said Holmes; "started at half-past
six, and here it is back again. That gives a radius of ten or
twelve miles, and he does it once, or sometimes twice, a day."
"No unusual thing for a doctor in practice."
"But Armstrong is not really a doctor in practice. He is a
lecturer and a consultant, but he does not care for general
practice, which distracts him from his literary work.
Why, then, does he make these long journeys, which must be
exceedingly irksome to him, and who is it that he visits?"
"His coachman ----"
"My dear Watson, can you doubt that it was to him that I
first applied? I do not know whether it came from his own innate
depravity or from the promptings of his master, but he was rude
enough to set a dog at me. Neither dog nor man liked the look of
my stick, however, and the matter fell through. Relations were
strained after that, and further inquiries out of the question.
All that I have learned I got from a friendly native in the yard
of our own inn. It was he who told me of the doctor's habits and
of his daily journey. At that instant, to give point to his
words, the carriage came round to the door."
"Could you not follow it?"
"Excellent, Watson! You are scintillating this evening.
The idea did cross my mind. There is, as you may have observed,
a bicycle shop next to our inn. Into this I rushed, engaged a
bicycle, and was able to get started before the carriage was
quite out of sight. I rapidly overtook it, and then, keeping at
a discreet distance of a hundred yards or so, I followed its
lights until we were clear of the town. We had got well out on
the country road when a somewhat mortifying incident occurred.
The carriage stopped, the doctor alighted, walked swiftly back to
where I had also halted, and told me in an excellent sardonic
fashion that he feared the road was narrow, and that he hoped his
carriage did not impede the passage of my bicycle. Nothing could
have been more admirable than his way of putting it. I at once
rode past the carriage, and, keeping to the main road, I went on
for a few miles, and then halted in a convenient place to see if
the carriage passed. There was no sign of it, however, and so it
became evident that it had turned down one of several side roads
which I had observed. I rode back, but again saw nothing of the
carriage, and now, as you perceive, it has returned after me.
Of course, I had at the outset no particular reason to connect
these journeys with the disappearance of Godfrey Staunton,
and was only inclined to investigate them on the general grounds
that everything which concerns Dr. Armstrong is at present of
interest to us; but, now that I find he keeps so keen a look-out
upon anyone who may follow him on these excursions, the affair
appears more important, and I shall not be satisfied until
I have made the matter clear."
"We can follow him to-morrow."
"Can we? It is not so easy as you seem to think. You are
not familiar with Cambridgeshire scenery, are you? It does not
lend itself to concealment. All this country that I passed over
to-night is as flat and clean as the palm of your hand, and the
man we are following is no fool, as he very clearly showed
to-night. I have wired to Overton to let us know any fresh
London developments at this address, and in the meantime we can
only concentrate our attention upon Dr. Armstrong, whose name
the obliging young lady at the office allowed me to read upon
the counterfoil of Staunton's urgent message. He knows where
the young man is -- to that I'll swear -- and if he knows,
then it must be our own fault if we cannot manage to know also.
At present it must be admitted that the odd trick is in his
possession, and, as you are aware, Watson, it is not my habit
to leave the game in that condition."
And yet the next day brought us no nearer to the solution of
the mystery. A note was handed in after breakfast, which Holmes
passed across to me with a smile.
"Sir," it ran, "I can assure you that you are wasting your time
in dogging my movements. I have, as you discovered last night,
a window at the back of my brougham, and if you desire a
twenty-mile ride which will lead you to the spot from which you
started, you have only to follow me. Meanwhile, I can inform you
that no spying upon me can in any way help Mr. Godfrey Staunton,
and I am convinced that the best service you can do to that
gentleman is to return at once to London and to report to your
employer that you are unable to trace him. Your time in
Cambridge will certainly be wasted.
"An outspoken, honest antagonist is the doctor," said Holmes.
"Well, well, he excites my curiosity, and I must really know
more before I leave him."
"His carriage is at his door now," said I. "There he is stepping
into it. I saw him glance up at our window as he did so.
Suppose I try my luck upon the bicycle?"
"No, no, my dear Watson! With all respect for your natural
acumen I do not think that you are quite a match for the worthy
doctor. I think that possibly I can attain our end by some
independent explorations of my own. I am afraid that I must
leave you to your own devices, as the appearance of TWO inquiring
strangers upon a sleepy countryside might excite more gossip than
I care for. No doubt you will find some sights to amuse you in
this venerable city, and I hope to bring back a more favourable
report to you before evening."
Once more, however, my friend was destined to be disappointed.
He came back at night weary and unsuccessful.
"I have had a blank day, Watson. Having got the doctor's
general direction, I spent the day in visiting all the villages
upon that side of Cambridge, and comparing notes with publicans
and other local news agencies. I have covered some ground:
Chesterton, Histon, Waterbeach, and Oakington have each been
explored and have each proved disappointing. The daily
appearance of a brougham and pair could hardly have been
overlooked in such Sleepy Hollows. The doctor has scored once
more. Is there a telegram for me?"
"Yes; I opened it. Here it is: `Ask for Pompey from Jeremy
Dixon, Trinity College.' I don't understand it."
"Oh, it is clear enough. It is from our friend Overton,
and is in answer to a question from me. I'll just send round
a note to Mr. Jeremy Dixon, and then I have no doubt that our
luck will turn. By the way, is there any news of the match?"
"Yes, the local evening paper has an excellent account in its
last edition. Oxford won by a goal and two tries. The last
sentences of the description say: `The defeat of the Light Blues
may be entirely attributed to the unfortunate absence of the crack
International, Godfrey Staunton, whose want was felt at every
instant of the game. The lack of combination in the three-quarter
line and their weakness both in attack and defence more than
neutralized the efforts of a heavy and hard-working pack.'"
"Then our friend Overton's forebodings have been justified,"
said Holmes. "Personally I am in agreement with Dr. Armstrong,
and football does not come within my horizon. Early to bed to-night,
Watson, for I foresee that to-morrow may be an eventful day."
I was horrified by my first glimpse of Holmes next morning,
for he sat by the fire holding his tiny hypodermic syringe.
I associated that instrument with the single weakness of his
nature, and I feared the worst when I saw it glittering in his
hand. He laughed at my expression of dismay, and laid it upon
"No, no, my dear fellow, there is no cause for alarm. It is
not upon this occasion the instrument of evil, but it will rather
prove to be the key which will unlock our mystery. On this
syringe I base all my hopes. I have just returned from a small
scouting expedition and everything is favourable. Eat a good
breakfast, Watson, for I propose to get upon Dr. Armstrong's
trail to-day, and once on it I will not stop for rest or food
until I run him to his burrow."
"In that case," said I, "we had best carry our breakfast with us,
for he is making an early start. His carriage is at the door."
"Never mind. Let him go. He will be clever if he can drive
where I cannot follow him. When you have finished come
downstairs with me, and I will introduce you to a detective who
is a very eminent specialist in the work that lies before us."
When we descended I followed Holmes into the stable yard, where
he opened the door of a loose-box and led out a squat, lop-eared,
white-and-tan dog, something between a beagle and a foxhound.
"Let me introduce you to Pompey," said he. "Pompey is the
pride of the local draghounds, no very great flier, as his build
will show, but a staunch hound on a scent. Well, Pompey, you may
not be fast, but I expect you will be too fast for a couple of
middle-aged London gentlemen, so I will take the liberty of
fastening this leather leash to your collar. Now, boy, come
along, and show what you can do." He led him across to the
doctor's door. The dog sniffed round for an instant, and then
with a shrill whine of excitement started off down the street,
tugging at his leash in his efforts to go faster. In half an hour,
we were clear of the town and hastening down a country road.
"What have you done, Holmes?" I asked.
"A threadbare and venerable device, but useful upon occasion.
I walked into the doctor's yard this morning and shot my
syringe full of aniseed over the hind wheel. A draghound will
follow aniseed from here to John o' Groat's, and our friend
Armstrong would have to drive through the Cam before he would
shake Pompey off his trail. Oh, the cunning rascal!
This is how he gave me the slip the other night."
The dog had suddenly turned out of the main road into a
grass-grown lane. Half a mile farther this opened into another
broad road, and the trail turned hard to the right in the
direction of the town, which we had just quitted. The road took
a sweep to the south of the town and continued in the opposite
direction to that in which we started.
"This DETOUR has been entirely for our benefit, then?" said
Holmes. "No wonder that my inquiries among those villages led
to nothing. The doctor has certainly played the game for all
it is worth, and one would like to know the reason for such
elaborate deception. This should be the village of Trumpington
to the right of us. And, by Jove! here is the brougham coming
round the corner. Quick, Watson, quick, or we are done!"
He sprang through a gate into a field, dragging the
reluctant Pompey after him. We had hardly got under the shelter
of the hedge when the carriage rattled past. I caught a glimpse
of Dr. Armstrong within, his shoulders bowed, his head sunk on
his hands, the very image of distress. I could tell by my
companion's graver face that he also had seen.
"I fear there is some dark ending to our quest," said he.
"It cannot be long before we know it. Come, Pompey!
Ah, it is the cottage in the field!"
There could be no doubt that we had reached the end of our
journey. Pompey ran about and whined eagerly outside the gate
where the marks of the brougham's wheels were still to be seen.
A footpath led across to the lonely cottage. Holmes tied the dog
to the hedge, and we hastened onwards. My friend knocked at the
little rustic door, and knocked again without response. And yet
the cottage was not deserted, for a low sound came to our ears --
a kind of drone of misery and despair, which was indescribably
melancholy. Holmes paused irresolute, and then he glanced back
at the road which we had just traversed. A brougham was coming
down it, and there could be no mistaking those grey horses.
"By Jove, the doctor is coming back!" cried Holmes. "That
settles it. We are bound to see what it means before he comes."
He opened the door and we stepped into the hall. The droning
sound swelled louder upon our ears until it became one long,
deep wail of distress. It came from upstairs. Holmes darted
up and I followed him. He pushed open a half-closed door
and we both stood appalled at the sight before us.
A woman, young and beautiful, was lying dead upon the bed.
Her calm, pale face, with dim, wide-opened blue eyes, looked
upward from amid a great tangle of golden hair. At the foot of
the bed, half sitting, half kneeling, his face buried in the
clothes, was a young man, whose frame was racked by his sobs.
So absorbed was he by his bitter grief that he never looked
up until Holmes's hand was on his shoulder.
"Are you Mr. Godfrey Staunton?"
"Yes, yes; I am -- but you are too late. She is dead."
The man was so dazed that he could not be made to understand
that we were anything but doctors who had been sent to his
assistance. Holmes was endeavouring to utter a few words of
consolation, and to explain the alarm which had been caused to
his friends by his sudden disappearance, when there was a step
upon the stairs, and there was the heavy, stern, questioning
face of Dr. Armstrong at the door.
"So, gentlemen," said he, "you have attained your end, and
have certainly chosen a particularly delicate moment for your
intrusion. I would not brawl in the presence of death, but I can
assure you that if I were a younger man your monstrous conduct
would not pass with impunity."
"Excuse me, Dr. Armstrong, I think we are a little at
cross-purposes," said my friend, with dignity. "If you could
step downstairs with us we may each be able to give some light
to the other upon this miserable affair."
A minute later the grim doctor and ourselves were in the
"Well, sir?" said he.
"I wish you to understand, in the first place, that I am not
employed by Lord Mount-James, and that my sympathies in this
matter are entirely against that nobleman. When a man is lost it
is my duty to ascertain his fate, but having done so the matter
ends so far as I am concerned; and so long as there is nothing
criminal, I am much more anxious to hush up private scandals than
to give them publicity. If, as I imagine, there is no breach of
the law in this matter, you can absolutely depend upon my discretion
and my co-operation in keeping the facts out of the papers."
Dr. Armstrong took a quick step forward and wrung Holmes by the hand.
"You are a good fellow," said he. "I had misjudged you.
I thank Heaven that my compunction at leaving poor Staunton
all alone in this plight caused me to turn my carriage back,
and so to make your acquaintance. Knowing as much as you do,
the situation is very easily explained. A year ago Godfrey Staunton
lodged in London for a time, and became passionately attached to
his landlady's daughter, whom he married. She was as good as she
was beautiful, and as intelligent as she was good. No man need
be ashamed of such a wife. But Godfrey was the heir to this
crabbed old nobleman, and it was quite certain that the news of
his marriage would have been the end of his inheritance. I knew
the lad well, and I loved him for his many excellent qualities.
I did all I could to help him to keep things straight. We did
our very best to keep the thing from everyone, for when once such
a whisper gets about it is not long before everyone has heard it.
Thanks to this lonely cottage and his own discretion, Godfrey has
up to now succeeded. Their secret was known to no one save to me
and to one excellent servant who has at present gone for
assistance to Trumpington. But at last there came a terrible
blow in the shape of dangerous illness to his wife. It was
consumption of the most virulent kind. The poor boy was half
crazed with grief, and yet he had to go to London to play this
match, for he could not get out of it without explanations which
would expose his secret. I tried to cheer him up by a wire, and
he sent me one in reply imploring me to do all I could. This was
the telegram which you appear in some inexplicable way to have
seen. I did not tell him how urgent the danger was, for I knew
that he could do no good here, but I sent the truth to the girl's
father, and he very injudiciously communicated it to Godfrey.
The result was that he came straight away in a state bordering on
frenzy, and has remained in the same state, kneeling at the end
of her bed, until this morning death put an end to her sufferings.
That is all, Mr. Holmes, and I am sure that I can rely upon your
discretion and that of your friend."
Holmes grasped the doctor's hand.
"Come, Watson," said he, and we passed from that house of grief
into the pale sunlight of the winter day.
THE STRAND MAGAZINE
Vol. 28 SEPTEMBER, 1904
THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.
By ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
XII. --- The Adventure of the Abbey Grange.
It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning during the winter
of '97 that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was
Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping
face and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
"Come, Watson, come!" he cried. "The game is afoot. Not a word!
Into your clothes and come!"
Ten minutes later we were both in a cab and rattling through the
silent streets on our way to Charing Cross Station. The first
faint winter's dawn was beginning to appear, and we could dimly
see the occasional figure of an early workman as he passed us,
blurred and indistinct in the opalescent London reek. Holmes
nestled in silence into his heavy coat, and I was glad to do the
same, for the air was most bitter and neither of us had broken
our fast. It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at the
station, and taken our places in the Kentish train, that we were
sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to listen. Holmes drew a
note from his pocket and read it aloud:--
"Abbey Grange, Marsham, Kent,
"MY DEAR MR. HOLMES, --- I should be very glad of your immediate
assistance in what promises to be a most remarkable case.
It is something quite in your line. Except for releasing the lady
I will see that everything is kept exactly as I have found it,
but I beg you not to lose an instant, as it is difficult to leave
Sir Eustace there.
"Yours faithfully, STANLEY HOPKINS."
"Hopkins has called me in seven times, and on each occasion
his summons has been entirely justified," said Holmes.
"I fancy that every one of his cases has found its way into your
collection, and I must admit, Watson, that you have some power
of selection which atones for much which I deplore in your
narratives. Your fatal habit of looking at everything from the
point of view of a story instead of as a scientific exercise has
ruined what might have been an instructive and even classical
series of demonstrations. You slur over work of the utmost
finesse and delicacy in order to dwell upon sensational details
which may excite, but cannot possibly instruct, the reader."
"Why do you not write them yourself?" I said, with some bitterness.
"I will, my dear Watson, I will. At present I am, as you know,
fairly busy, but I propose to devote my declining years to the
composition of a text-book which shall focus the whole art of
detection into one volume. Our present research appears to be
a case of murder."
"You think this Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
"I should say so. Hopkins's writing shows considerable
agitation, and he is not an emotional man. Yes, I gather there
has been violence, and that the body is left for our inspection.
A mere suicide would not have caused him to send for me.
As to the release of the lady, it would appear that she has been
locked in her room during the tragedy. We are moving in high life,
Watson; crackling paper, `E.B.' monogram, coat-of-arms,
picturesque address. I think that friend Hopkins will live up
to his reputation and that we shall have an interesting
morning. The crime was committed before twelve last night."
"How can you possibly tell?"
"By an inspection of the trains and by reckoning the time.
The local police had to be called in, they had to communicate
with Scotland Yard, Hopkins had to go out, and he in turn had
to send for me. All that makes a fair night's work.
Well, here we are at Chislehurst Station, and we shall soon
set our doubts at rest."
A drive of a couple of miles through narrow country lanes
brought us to a park gate, which was opened for us by an old
lodge-keeper, whose haggard face bore the reflection of some
great disaster. The avenue ran through a noble park, between
lines of ancient elms, and ended in a low, widespread house,
pillared in front after the fashion of Palladio. The central
part was evidently of a great age and shrouded in ivy, but the
large windows showed that modern changes had been carried out,
and one wing of the house appeared to be entirely new.
The youthful figure and alert, eager face of Inspector Stanley
Hopkins confronted us in the open doorway.
"I'm very glad you have come, Mr. Holmes. And you too,
Dr. Watson! But, indeed, if I had my time over again I
should not have troubled you, for since the lady has come to
herself she has given so clear an account of the affair that
there is not much left for us to do. You remember that
Lewisham gang of burglars?"
"What, the three Randalls?"
"Exactly; the father and two sons. It's their work.
I have not a doubt of it. They did a job at Sydenham a
fortnight ago, and were seen and described. Rather cool
to do another so soon and so near, but it is they,
beyond all doubt. It's a hanging matter this time."
"Sir Eustace is dead, then?"
"Yes; his head was knocked in with his own poker."
"Sir Eustace Brackenstall, the driver tells me."
"Exactly -- one of the richest men in Kent.
Lady Brackenstall is in the morning-room. Poor lady,
she has had a most dreadful experience. She seemed half
dead when I saw her first. I think you had best see her
and hear her account of the facts. Then we will examine
the dining-room together."
Lady Brackenstall was no ordinary person. Seldom have I seen
so graceful a figure, so womanly a presence, and so beautiful
a face. She was a blonde, golden-haired, blue-eyed, and would,
no doubt, have had the perfect complexion which goes with such
colouring had not her recent experience left her drawn and
haggard. Her sufferings were physical as well as mental, for
over one eye rose a hideous, plum-coloured swelling, which her
maid, a tall, austere woman, was bathing assiduously with
vinegar and water. The lady lay back exhausted upon a couch,
but her quick, observant gaze as we entered the room, and the
alert expression of her beautiful features, showed that neither
her wits nor her courage had been shaken by her terrible
experience. She was enveloped in a loose dressing-gown of blue
and silver, but a black sequin-covered dinner-dress was hung
upon the couch beside her.
"I have told you all that happened, Mr. Hopkins," she said,
wearily; "could you not repeat it for me? Well, if you think
it necessary, I will tell these gentlemen what occurred.
Have they been in the dining-room yet?"
"I thought they had better hear your ladyship's story first."
"I shall be glad when you can arrange matters. It is horrible
to me to think of him still lying there." She shuddered and
buried her face in her hands. As she did so the loose gown
fell back from her forearms. Holmes uttered an exclamation.
"You have other injuries, madam! What is this?"
Two vivid red spots stood out on one of the white, round limbs.
She hastily covered it.
"It is nothing. It has no connection with the hideous business
of last night. If you and your friend will sit down I will
tell you all I can.
"I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been married
about a year. I suppose that it is no use my attempting to
conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one.
I fear that all our neighbours would tell you that, even if I
were to attempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine.
I was brought up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of
South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties and
its primness, is not congenial to me. But the main reason lies
in the one fact which is notorious to everyone, and that is that
Sir Eustace was a confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for
an hour is unpleasant. Can you imagine what it means for a
sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day and
night? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such
a marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours
will bring a curse upon the land -- Heaven will not let such
wickedness endure." For an instant she sat up, her cheeks flushed,
and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark upon her brow.
Then the strong, soothing hand of the austere maid drew her head
down on to the cushion, and the wild anger died away into
passionate sobbing. At last she continued:--
"I will tell you about last night. You are aware, perhaps,
that in this house all servants sleep in the modern wing.
This central block is made up of the dwelling-rooms, with the
kitchen behind and our bedroom above. My maid Theresa sleeps
above my room. There is no one else, and no sound could alarm
those who are in the farther wing. This must have been well
known to the robbers, or they would not have acted as they did.
"Sir Eustace retired about half-past ten. The servants had
already gone to their quarters. Only my maid was up, and she
had remained in her room at the top of the house until I needed
her services. I sat until after eleven in this room, absorbed
in a book. Then I walked round to see that all was right before
I went upstairs. It was my custom to do this myself, for,
as I have explained, Sir Eustace was not always to be trusted.
I went into the kitchen, the butler's pantry, the gun-room,
the billiard-room, the drawing-room, and finally the dining-room.
As I approached the window, which is covered with thick curtains,
I suddenly felt the wind blow upon my face and realized that it
was open. I flung the curtain aside and found myself face to
face with a broad-shouldered, elderly man who had just stepped
into the room. The window is a long French one, which really
forms a door leading to the lawn. I held my bedroom candle
lit in my hand, and, by its light, behind the first man I saw
two others, who were in the act of entering. I stepped back,
but the fellow was on me in an instant. He caught me first by
the wrist and then by the throat. I opened my mouth to scream,
but he struck me a savage blow with his fist over the eye,
and felled me to the ground. I must have been unconscious for
a few minutes, for when I came to myself I found that they
had torn down the bell-rope and had secured me tightly to the
oaken chair which stands at the head of the dining-room table.
I was so firmly bound that I could not move, and a handkerchief
round my mouth prevented me from uttering any sound. It was at
this instant that my unfortunate husband entered the room.
He had evidently heard some suspicious sounds, and he came
prepared for such a scene as he found. He was dressed in his
shirt and trousers, with his favourite blackthorn cudgel in his
hand. He rushed at one of the burglars, but another -- it was
the elderly man -- stooped, picked the poker out of the grate,
and struck him a horrible blow as he passed. He fell without
a groan, and never moved again. I fainted once more, but again
it could only have been a very few minutes during which I was
insensible. When I opened my eyes I found that they had
collected the silver from the sideboard, and they had drawn
a bottle of wine which stood there. Each of them had a glass
in his hand. I have already told you, have I not, that one
was elderly, with a beard, and the others young, hairless lads.
They might have been a father with his two sons. They talked
together in whispers. Then they came over and made sure that
I was still securely bound. Finally they withdrew, closing
the window after them. It was quite a quarter of an hour
before I got my mouth free. When I did so my screams brought
the maid to my assistance. The other servants were soon alarmed,
and we sent for the local police, who instantly communicated
with London. That is really all that I can tell you, gentlemen,
and I trust that it will not be necessary for me to go over so
painful a story again."
"Any questions, Mr. Holmes?" asked Hopkins.
"I will not impose any further tax upon Lady Brackenstall's
patience and time," said Holmes. "Before I go into the
dining-room I should like to hear your experience."
He looked at the maid.
"I saw the men before ever they came into the house," said she.
"As I sat by my bedroom window I saw three men in the moonlight
down by the lodge gate yonder, but I thought nothing of it at
the time. It was more than an hour after that I heard my
mistress scream, and down I ran, to find her, poor lamb, just as
she says, and him on the floor with his blood and brains over
the room. It was enough to drive a woman out of her wits, tied
there, and her very dress spotted with him; but she never wanted
courage, did Miss Mary Fraser of Adelaide, and Lady Brackenstall
of Abbey Grange hasn't learned new ways. You've questioned her
long enough, you gentlemen, and now she is coming to her own room,
just with her old Theresa, to get the rest that she badly needs."
With a motherly tenderness the gaunt woman put her arm round her
mistress and led her from the room.
"She has been with her all her life," said Hopkins.
"Nursed her as a baby, and came with her to England
when they first left Australia eighteen months ago.
Theresa Wright is her name, and the kind of maid you don't
pick up nowadays. This way, Mr. Holmes, if you please!"
The keen interest had passed out of Holmes's expressive face,
and I knew that with the mystery all the charm of the case had
departed. There still remained an arrest to be effected,
but what were these commonplace rogues that he should soil his
hands with them? An abstruse and learned specialist who finds
that he has been called in for a case of measles would experience
something of the annoyance which I read in my friend's eyes.
Yet the scene in the dining-room of the Abbey Grange was
sufficiently strange to arrest his attention and to recall
his waning interest.
It was a very large and high chamber, with carved oak ceiling,
oaken panelling, and a fine array of deer's heads and ancient
weapons around the walls. At the farther end from the door was
the high French window of which we had heard. Three smaller
windows on the right-hand side filled the apartment with cold
winter sunshine. On the left was a large, deep fireplace, with
a massive, over-hanging oak mantelpiece. Beside the fireplace
was a heavy oaken chair with arms and cross-bars at the bottom.
In and out through the open woodwork was woven a crimson cord,
which was secured at each side to the crosspiece below.
In releasing the lady the cord had been slipped off her,
but the knots with which it had been secured still remained.
These details only struck our attention afterwards, for our
thoughts were entirely absorbed by the terrible object which
lay upon the tiger-skin hearthrug in front of the fire.
It was the body of a tall, well-made man, about forty years of
age. He lay upon his back, his face upturned, with his white
teeth grinning through his short black beard. His two clenched
hands were raised above his head, and a heavy blackthorn stick
lay across them. His dark, handsome, aquiline features were
convulsed into a spasm of vindictive hatred, which had set his
dead face in a terribly fiendish expression. He had evidently
been in his bed when the alarm had broken out, for he wore a
foppish embroidered night-shirt, and his bare feet projected from
his trousers. His head was horribly injured, and the whole room
bore witness to the savage ferocity of the blow which had struck
him down. Beside him lay the heavy poker, bent into a curve by
the concussion. Holmes examined both it and the indescribable
wreck which it had wrought.
"He must be a powerful man, this elder Randall," he remarked.
"Yes," said Hopkins. "I have some record of the fellow,
and he is a rough customer."
"You should have no difficulty in getting him."
"Not the slightest. We have been on the look-out for him,
and there was some idea that he had got away to America.
Now that we know the gang are here I don't see how they
can escape. We have the news at every seaport already,
and a reward will be offered before evening. What beats
me is how they could have done so mad a thing, knowing
that the lady could describe them, and that we could not
fail to recognise the description."
"Exactly. One would have expected that they would have
silenced Lady Brackenstall as well."
"They may not have realized," I suggested, "that she had
recovered from her faint."
"That is likely enough. If she seemed to be senseless they
would not take her life. What about this poor fellow, Hopkins?
I seem to have heard some queer stories about him."
"He was a good-hearted man when he was sober, but a perfect
fiend when he was drunk, or rather when he was half drunk,
for he seldom really went the whole way. The devil seemed
to be in him at such times, and he was capable of anything.
From what I hear, in spite of all his wealth and his title,
he very nearly came our way once or twice. There was a
scandal about his drenching a dog with petroleum and setting
it on fire -- her ladyship's dog, to make the matter worse --
and that was only hushed up with difficulty. Then he threw
a decanter at that maid, Theresa Wright; there was trouble
about that. On the whole, and between ourselves, it will be
a brighter house without him. What are you looking at now?"
Holmes was down on his knees examining with great attention the
knots upon the red cord with which the lady had been secured.
Then he carefully scrutinized the broken and frayed end where
it had snapped off when the burglar had dragged it down.
"When this was pulled down the bell in the kitchen must have
rung loudly," he remarked.
"No one could hear it. The kitchen stands right at the back
of the house."
"How did the burglar know no one would hear it? How dared he
pull at a bell-rope in that reckless fashion?"
"Exactly, Mr. Holmes, exactly. You put the very question which
I have asked myself again and again. There can be no doubt that
this fellow must have known the house and its habits. He must
have perfectly understood that the servants would all be in bed
at that comparatively early hour, and that no one could possibly
hear a bell ring in the kitchen. Therefore he must have been in
close league with one of the servants. Surely that is evident.
But there are eight servants, and all of good character."
"Other things being equal," said Holmes, "one would suspect the
one at whose head the master threw a decanter. And yet that
would involve treachery towards the mistress to whom this woman
seems devoted. Well, well, the point is a minor one, and when
you have Randall you will probably find no difficulty in
securing his accomplice. The lady's story certainly seems to be
corroborated, if it needed corroboration, by every detail which
we see before us." He walked to the French window and threw it
open. "There are no signs here, but the ground is iron hard,
and one would not expect them. I see that these candles on the
mantelpiece have been lighted."
"Yes; it was by their light and that of the lady's bedroom
candle that the burglars saw their way about."
"And what did they take?"
"Well, they did not take much -- only half-a-dozen articles of
plate off the sideboard. Lady Brackenstall thinks that they
were themselves so disturbed by the death of Sir Eustace that
they did not ransack the house as they would otherwise have done."
"No doubt that is true. And yet they drank some wine, I understand."
"To steady their own nerves."
"Exactly. These three glasses upon the sideboard have been
untouched, I suppose?"
"Yes; and the bottle stands as they left it."
"Let us look at it. Halloa! halloa! what is this?"
The three glasses were grouped together, all of them tinged
with wine, and one of them containing some dregs of bees-wing.
The bottle stood near them, two-thirds full, and beside it lay
a long, deeply-stained cork. Its appearance and the dust upon
the bottle showed that it was no common vintage which the
murderers had enjoyed.
A change had come over Holmes's manner. He had lost his listless
expression, and again I saw an alert light of interest in his keen,
deep-set eyes. He raised the cork and examined it minutely.
"How did they draw it?" he asked.
Hopkins pointed to a half-opened drawer. In it lay some table
linen and a large cork-screw.
"Did Lady Brackenstall say that screw was used?"
"No; you remember that she was senseless at the moment when the
bottle was opened."
"Quite so. As a matter of fact that screw was NOT used.
This bottle was opened by a pocket-screw, probably contained
in a knife, and not more than an inch and a half long. If you
examine the top of the cork you will observe that the screw was
driven in three times before the cork was extracted. It has never
been transfixed. This long screw would have transfixed it and
drawn it with a single pull. When you catch this fellow you will
find that he has one of these multiplex knives in his possession."
"Excellent!" said Hopkins.
"But these glasses do puzzle me, I confess. Lady Brackenstall
actually SAW the three men drinking, did she not?"
"Yes; she was clear about that."
"Then there is an end of it. What more is to be said?
And yet you must admit that the three glasses are very
remarkable, Hopkins. What, you see nothing remarkable!
Well, well, let it pass. Perhaps when a man has special
knowledge and special powers like my own it rather encourages
him to seek a complex explanation when a simpler one is at hand.
Of course, it must be a mere chance about the glasses.
Well, good morning, Hopkins. I don't see that I can be of
any use to you, and you appear to have your case very clear.
You will let me know when Randall is arrested, and any further
developments which may occur. I trust that I shall soon have
to congratulate you upon a successful conclusion. Come, Watson,
I fancy that we may employ ourselves more profitably at home."
During our return journey I could see by Holmes's face that
he was much puzzled by something which he had observed.
Every now and then, by an effort, he would throw off the
impression and talk as if the matter were clear, but then his
doubts would settle down upon him again, and his knitted brows
and abstracted eyes would show that his thoughts had gone back
once more to the great dining-room of the Abbey Grange in which
this midnight tragedy had been enacted. At last, by a sudden
impulse, just as our train was crawling out of a suburban station,
he sprang on to the platform and pulled me out after him.
"Excuse me, my dear fellow," said he, as we watched the rear
carriages of our train disappearing round a curve; "I am sorry
to make you the victim of what may seem a mere whim, but on my
life, Watson, I simply CAN'T leave that case in this condition.
Every instinct that I possess cries out against it.
It's wrong -- it's all wrong -- I'll swear that it's wrong.
And yet the lady's story was complete, the maid's corroboration
was sufficient, the detail was fairly exact. What have I to put
against that? Three wine-glasses, that is all. But if I had
not taken things for granted, if I had examined everything with
care which I would have shown had we approached the case DE NOVO
and had no cut-and-dried story to warp my mind, would I not then
have found something more definite to go upon? Of course I should.
Sit down on this bench, Watson, until a train for Chislehurst
arrives, and allow me to lay the evidence before you, imploring
you in the first instance to dismiss from your mind the idea that
anything which the maid or her mistress may have said must
necessarily be true. The lady's charming personality must not
be permitted to warp our judgment.
"Surely there are details in her story which, if we looked at it
in cold blood, would excite our suspicion. These burglars made
a considerable haul at Sydenham a fortnight ago. Some account
of them and of their appearance was in the papers, and would
naturally occur to anyone who wished to invent a story in which
imaginary robbers should play a part. As a matter of fact,
burglars who have done a good stroke of business are, as a rule,
only too glad to enjoy the proceeds in peace and quiet without
embarking on another perilous undertaking. Again, it is unusual
for burglars to operate at so early an hour; it is unusual for
burglars to strike a lady to prevent her screaming, since one
would imagine that was the sure way to make her scream; it is
unusual for them to commit murder when their numbers are
sufficient to overpower one man; it is unusual for them to be
content with a limited plunder when there is much more within
their reach; and finally I should say that it was very unusual
for such men to leave a bottle half empty. How do all these
unusuals strike you, Watson?"
"Their cumulative effect is certainly considerable, and yet each
of them is quite possible in itself. The most unusual thing of all,
as it seems to me, is that the lady should be tied to the chair."
"Well, I am not so clear about that, Watson; for it is evident
that they must either kill her or else secure her in such a
way that she could not give immediate notice of their escape.
But at any rate I have shown, have I not, that there is a certain
element of improbability about the lady's story? And now
on the top of this comes the incident of the wine-glasses."
"What about the wine-glasses?"
"Can you see them in your mind's eye?"
"I see them clearly."
"We are told that three men drank from them.
Does that strike you as likely?"
"Why not? There was wine in each glass."
"Exactly; but there was bees-wing only in one glass. You must
have noticed that fact. What does that suggest to your mind?"
"The last glass filled would be most likely to contain bees-wing."
"Not at all. The bottle was full of it, and it is inconceivable
that the first two glasses were clear and the third heavily
charged with it. There are two possible explanations, and only
two. One is that after the second glass was filled the bottle
was violently agitated, and so the third glass received the
bees-wing. That does not appear probable. No, no; I am sure
that I am right."
"What, then, do you suppose?"
"That only two glasses were used, and that the dregs of
both were poured into a third glass, so as to give the false
impression that three people had been here. In that way all
the bees-wing would be in the last glass, would it not? Yes,
I am convinced that this is so. But if I have hit upon the true
explanation of this one small phenomenon, then in an instant the
case rises from the commonplace to the exceedingly remarkable,
for it can only mean that Lady Brackenstall and her maid have
deliberately lied to us, that not one word of their story is to
be believed, that they have some very strong reason for covering
the real criminal, and that we must construct our case for
ourselves without any help from them. That is the mission which
now lies before us, and here, Watson, is the Chislehurst train."
The household of the Abbey Grange were much surprised at our
return, but Sherlock Holmes, finding that Stanley Hopkins had
gone off to report to head-quarters, took possession of the
dining-room, locked the door upon the inside, and devoted
himself for two hours to one of those minute and laborious
investigations which formed the solid basis on which his
brilliant edifices of deduction were reared. Seated in a
corner like an interested student who observes the demonstration
of his professor, I followed every step of that remarkable research.
The window, the curtains, the carpet, the chair, the rope -- each
in turn was minutely examined and duly pondered. The body of
the unfortunate baronet had been removed, but all else remained
as we had seen it in the morning. Then, to my astonishment,
Holmes climbed up on to the massive mantelpiece. Far above his
head hung the few inches of red cord which were still attached
to the wire. For a long time he gazed upward at it, and then in
an attempt to get nearer to it he rested his knee upon a wooden
bracket on the wall. This brought his hand within a few inches
of the broken end of the rope, but it was not this so much as
the bracket itself which seemed to engage his attention.
Finally he sprang down with an ejaculation of satisfaction.
"It's all right, Watson," said he. "We have got our case --
one of the most remarkable in our collection. But, dear me,
how slow-witted I have been, and how nearly I have committed
the blunder of my lifetime! Now, I think that with a few
missing links my chain is almost complete."
"You have got your men?"
"Man, Watson, man. Only one, but a very formidable person.
Strong as a lion -- witness the blow that bent that poker.
Six foot three in height, active as a squirrel, dexterous
with his fingers; finally, remarkably quick-witted, for this
whole ingenious story is of his concoction. Yes, Watson,
we have come upon the handiwork of a very remarkable individual.
And yet in that bell-rope he has given us a clue which should
not have left us a doubt."
"Where was the clue?"
"Well, if you were to pull down a bell-rope, Watson, where would
you expect it to break? Surely at the spot where it is attached
to the wire. Why should it break three inches from the top as
this one has done?"
"Because it is frayed there?"
"Exactly. This end, which we can examine, is frayed. He was
cunning enough to do that with his knife. But the other end is
not frayed. You could not observe that from here, but if you
were on the mantelpiece you would see that it is cut clean off
without any mark of fraying whatever. You can reconstruct what
occurred. The man needed the rope. He would not tear it down
for fear of giving the alarm by ringing the bell. What did he do?
He sprang up on the mantelpiece, could not quite reach it,
put his knee on the bracket -- you will see the impression in the
dust -- and so got his knife to bear upon the cord. I could not
reach the place by at least three inches, from which I infer
that he is at least three inches a bigger man than I. Look at
that mark upon the seat of the oaken chair! What is it?"
"Undoubtedly it is blood. This alone puts the lady's story out
of court. If she were seated on the chair when the crime was
done, how comes that mark? No, no; she was placed in the chair
AFTER the death of her husband. I'll wager that the black dress
shows a corresponding mark to this. We have not yet met our
Waterloo, Watson, but this is our Marengo, for it begins in
defeat and ends in victory. I should like now to have a few
words with the nurse Theresa. We must be wary for awhile,
if we are to get the information which we want."
She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse.
Taciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before
Holmes's pleasant manner and frank acceptance of all that she
said thawed her into a corresponding amiability. She did not
attempt to conceal her hatred for her late employer.
"Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me.
I heard him call my mistress a name, and I told him that he
would not dare to speak so if her brother had been there.
Then it was that he threw it at me. He might have thrown a
dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone. He was for ever
illtreating her, and she too proud to complain. She will not
even tell me all that he has done to her. She never told me
of those marks on her arm that you saw this morning, but I know
very well that they come from a stab with a hat-pin.
The sly fiend -- Heaven forgive me that I should speak of him so,
now that he is dead, but a fiend he was if ever one walked the earth.
He was all honey when first we met him, only eighteen months ago,
and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. She had only just
arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage -- she had never
been from home before. He won her with his title and his money
and his false London ways. If she made a mistake she has paid
for it, if ever a woman did. What month did we meet him? Well,
I tell you it was just after we arrived. We arrived in June,
and it was July. They were married in January of last year.
Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, and I have no doubt
she will see you, but you must not ask too much of her, for she
has gone through all that flesh and blood will stand."
Lady Brackenstall was reclining on the same couch, but looked
brighter than before. The maid had entered with us, and began
once more to foment the bruise upon her mistress's brow.
"I hope," said the lady, "that you have not come to
cross-examine me again?"
"No," Holmes answered, in his gentlest voice, "I will not cause
you any unnecessary trouble, Lady Brackenstall, and my whole
desire is to make things easy for you, for I am convinced that
you are a much-tried woman. If you will treat me as a friend
and trust me you may find that I will justify your trust."
"What do you want me to do?"
"To tell me the truth."
"No, no, Lady Brackenstall, it is no use. You may have heard
of any little reputation which I possess. I will stake it all
on the fact that your story is an absolute fabrication."
Mistress and maid were both staring at Holmes with pale faces
and frightened eyes.
"You are an impudent fellow!" cried Theresa. "Do you mean to
say that my mistress has told a lie?"
Holmes rose from his chair.
"Have you nothing to tell me?"
"I have told you everything."
"Think once more, Lady Brackenstall. Would it not be better
to be frank?"
For an instant there was hesitation in her beautiful face.
Then some new strong thought caused it to set like a mask.
"I have told you all I know."
Holmes took his hat and shrugged his shoulders. "I am sorry,"
he said, and without another word we left the room and the
house. There was a pond in the park, and to this my friend
led the way. It was frozen over, but a single hole was left
for the convenience of a solitary swan. Holmes gazed at it and
then passed on to the lodge gate. There he scribbled a short
note for Stanley Hopkins and left it with the lodge-keeper.
"It may be a hit or it may be a miss, but we are bound to do
something for friend Hopkins, just to justify this second visit,"
said he. "I will not quite take him into my confidence yet.
I think our next scene of operations must be the shipping office
of the Adelaide-Southampton line, which stands at the end of
Pall Mall, if I remember right. There is a second line of
steamers which connect South Australia with England, but we
will draw the larger cover first."
Holmes's card sent in to the manager ensured instant attention,
and he was not long in acquiring all the information which he
needed. In June of '95 only one of their line had reached a
home port. It was the ROCK OF GIBRALTAR, their largest and best
boat. A reference to the passenger list showed that Miss Fraser
of Adelaide, with her maid, had made the voyage in her. The
boat was now on her way to Australia, somewhere to the south of
the Suez Canal. Her officers were the same as in '95, with one
exception. The first officer, Mr. Jack Croker, had been made a
captain and was to take charge of their new ship, the BASS ROCK,
sailing in two days' time from Southampton. He lived at Sydenham,
but he was likely to be in that morning for instructions, if we
cared to wait for him.
No; Mr. Holmes had no desire to see him, but would be glad to
know more about his record and character.
His record was magnificent. There was not an officer in the
fleet to touch him. As to his character, he was reliable on
duty, but a wild, desperate fellow off the deck of his ship,
hot-headed, excitable, but loyal, honest, and kind-hearted.
That was the pith of the information with which Holmes left the
office of the Adelaide-Southampton company. Thence he drove to
Scotland Yard, but instead of entering he sat in his cab with
his brows drawn down, lost in profound thought. Finally he
drove round to the Charing Cross telegraph office, sent off a
message, and then, at last, we made for Baker Street once more.
"No, I couldn't do it, Watson," said he, as we re-entered our
room. "Once that warrant was made out nothing on earth would
save him. Once or twice in my career I feel that I have done
more real harm by my discovery of the criminal than ever he had
done by his crime. I have learned caution now, and I had rather
play tricks with the law of England than with my own conscience.
Let us know a little more before we act."
Before evening we had a visit from Inspector Stanley Hopkins.
Things were not going very well with him.
"I believe that you are a wizard, Mr. Holmes. I really do
sometimes think that you have powers that are not human.
Now, how on earth could you know that the stolen silver was
at the bottom of that pond?"
"I didn't know it."
"But you told me to examine it."
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